Christ and Culture,Teachings

Peace In the Midst of a Pandemic: An Interview with Ted Bradshaw

28 Sep , 2020  

Nine months into the global pandemic of COVID-19, on September 28, 2020, Brian Dickison, Pastor of Gold Creek Church in Woodinville, WA, hosted and interviewed Ted Bradshaw, Founder of The Shepherd’s Fool Ministry, during the Sunday Worship service.

He asked for Ted’s perspective on finding peace during a time of anxiety and fear for many.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.   (Philippians 4:4-9)

Peace vs. Anxiety and Fear

1) Why do you have such a positive outlook in the midst of a pandemic?

The Shepherd's Fool Man looking at lake and Mountain Being at Peace

TB: I read the end of The Book, and we win!

Our God is Sovereign. Life and death are in His hands. I have surrendered my life to my Lord Christ. I’d like to say with Paul,

For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.   (Philippians 1:21)

I can say the last part, but I fail to live up to the first part. I am a fallen, but redeemed man. As I have aged, I have come to realize the truth that Paul proclaimed.

Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?   (Romans 7:24)

The answer is that our Savior shed His blood to cover my sins. Jesus is the life of Christ in me.

Job proclaimed,

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself,
And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!  (Job 19:25-27

The second part of the answer is that early in the declaration of a pandemic, we claimed God’s Word:

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler

And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and [b]buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.   (Psalms 91:3-7)

On a material basis: the pestilence is not as serious as they initially gave us to believe. For those who are afflicted, the vast majority recover with no discoverable harm. The deaths occur among “those at risk – specifically among the aged with some other serious lung affliction.” We are discovering the death count has been inflated, in the state of Washington by 13%.

When You are Struggling and Need Peace

2) What do you do when you feel anxious?

The Shepherd's Fool Woman looking at trees in the sun Being at Peace

TB: I refer to the Word of the Lord!

Early in our walk with Jesus, Ruth and I were put in an anxious position, not knowing what the future held for us. Yet our faith in the Lord was firm. We knelt down and listed all our needs and gave them to our Almighty, loving Father. He carried us through in great peace, peace that the world cannot give.

It was not until months later we discovered that we were living out God’s word through Paul to the Philippians,

“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.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Pray for Peace and Repentance

3) In your perspective, what is God trying to teach us through Covid19?

TB: America! Wake up! You are racing away from God to a precipice of disaster!

You have driven the One True God and Jesus the Savior out of Government, out of our schools, out of the workplace, out of the media, out of entertainment.

We have slaughtered about 63,000,000 of our babies. America is worse than Stalin, who murdered 20,000,000 of his own people, than Hitler who murdered 6,000,000 Jews and ca. 4,000,000 other “unacceptables”, than Mao Zedong who murdered about 60,000,000 of his people.

We have codified in law the abomination of homosexuality. This has opened the door to persecution of faithful believers who, to honor God, will not participate in their celebrations.

Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable. (Leviticus 18:22)

Hurricanes, school shootings, massive forest fires, earthquakes, financial reverses, homelessness, unemployment and pandemics are God’s warnings for America to repent and turn back to Christ.

God sent Prophets to the Chosen People of God in Old Testament times. Today we have the Scriptures to make us wise unto salvation. We have pastors to call us to pray together.

United prayer is more powerful then we can conceive. Unite with other believers to agree in prayer for a Holy Spirit revival that will turn America back from the brink of disaster. It is never too early and it may soon be too late to prevent America the most blessed nation in history from ending on the ash heap of history.

A Peaceful Life

4) What is your advice to us as an 80+ year old?

TB: My advice is the same as your Pastors have been adjuring you:

  1. Start each day in sequestering yourself with Jesus. Spend quality time with Him–not just concentrating on him, but for an hour or more. Yes, I know it is a sacrifice to get up early enough to love on Jesus. It means less time with your family, but it is worth it.
  2. Next, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Spend time in the evening praying with your spouse and children. Relationships are built up by shared experience. You will not only build up your relationship with Jesus, but with one another and with your children. You teach, by example, that time with the Lord takes precedence over worldly evening entertainment.
  3. Third, at whatever age you are, prepare for death. We do not know when God will call us home, or when Jesus will return. For most people death comes as a surprise. Thus, it is important to keep short accounts with the Lord.

There is a story about a Jewish Rabbi who was training students. He said, “Never forget, repent the day before you die! The students were assiduously taking notes, when one looked up and asked, “Rabbi, we don’t know the day of our death!” The rabbi looked piercingly at the student under bushy eyebrows, “Therefore, repent every day!”

Know and communicate your desires for a funeral or a memorial, for the disposition of your remains. Prepare a will if you have not yet done so, and periodically update it.

Theodore Roosevelt, our nation’s 26th President, said, “What you are to be, you are now becoming.” You cannot count on your youthful metabolism to keep you fit forever. If you carry extra pounds into middle age it will wreak a long-term harm. If you let your muscles atrophy after youthful sports activities are over, you will pay a price in your latter years.

Live, Learn and Love God

To sum up:

  • Live in obedience to Almighty God.
  • Learn the voice of the Good Shepherd and follow Him precisely. Then, when you don’t, confess quickly and submit uncomplainingly to His correction.
  • Finally, you are the steward of the Life God has given you. At the Last Day, He will call you to account for your stewardship of what He has given.

I pray that the Holy Spirit will anoint each person here for the ministry He has for you—that He will endow you with his fruit of the Spirit growing to maturity in your lives. And that each of you will come to the end of your days far more deeply in love with God the Father, Jesus your Savior and the Holy Spirit than you are this day.

To the glory of Christ, Amen.


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Glad Tidings

Love in Marriage

5 May , 2020  

Married Love

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote Sonnet 43 as a poem of love for the person she cherished. It was dedicated to her husband, poet Robert Browning.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.    (1850)

This is an impressive expression of love. The breadth and scope she describes are total commitment to her loved husband. It springs from a magnificent passion.

Over the last several centuries, romantic love has dominated among the “loves”, i.e. love of God, love of country, love of parents, love of friends. For the centuries before romantic love has only been in the background. Marriages were arranged by parents, who tended to consider romance a distraction. Fathers would seek a “profitable match” for each of his daughters. That meant a man of good prospects; which meant he would be able to support his wife and family.

In mostly agrarian societies, the prospective husband needed a grant of land from his father. Then He would build a dwelling for his wife. Often there was a bride price to pay; likely in the form of livestock.

Land, a dwelling and livestock were tokens of a responsible man, who could take care of the father’s daughter and ensuing grandchildren, providing for them well. Most importantly, the husband would provide the basic necessities for his family. Secondarily, that the groom was responsible and capable enough, so that the bride and the children did not have to come back to be an additional burden on her father.

Thus, marriage was, foremost, a practical matter. Romance was a luxury that agrarian societies could most often not afford. Survival was always tenuous, so a young man’s abilities were the singular concern and a girl’s romantic ideas were of no account.    dove-vector-clipart

Married Love Today

We are no longer an agrarian society. Survival is not tenuous (in case you hadn’t noticed). We are by any reasonable measure a rich society. The vast majority of families may have working parents, so they have the income to provide the basic necessities. There are many luxuries that today are considered “necessities”, but they could be eliminated, saving the family a significant amount of money. The family would still be able to have the necessary (please note the word) food, clothing and shelter.

Because of our wealth we have the luxury of romantic love that seems to dominate all the kinds of love. In romance movies a young woman will be asked about her fiance. She responds, “Oh, he’s got a great job with opportunity for advancement. He really is good to me. He is good with children (all important qualifications).” The best friend presses, “Good, but do you love him?!” That is the single most important qualification. Forget the fact that he has never had a steady job, lives in a basement room of his parents’ home; mostly plays video games.

While I do no seek to toss away romantic love, I do insist that it is far overrated and needs to become the crust on a meat pie, good to have, tasty, but the important part is the healthy filling.

Commitment in Marriage

Love is not “hearts and flowers”. True love is commitment.

The traditional vows are a solid commitment and surrender through thick and thin, war and peace, ups and downs. “I, (Name), take thee, (Name), to be my wedded (husband/wife), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance: and thereto I (give/plight) my troth.”

Can you see the length, width and depth of the commitment a couple affirms to one another, the community and to Almighty God?

One of the modern bastardizations of these solemn vows is to change “so long as we both shall live” into, “so long as we both shall love”. By that they define it as romantic love that is not permanent, but is emotional and flies away at a whim.  dove-vector-clipart

For Better Or Worse

In any human relationship differences crop up; tares are sown among the wheat.

During the dating and engagement, a man and a woman are on their best behavior. They are displaying their attractive qualities. They either hide or explain away any negative characteristics. The attraction to the other puts pressure on one to avoid anything that would make the other think again about continuing in the relationship.

Once married, the security of the commitment allows greater freedom to be “yourself”. Time wears away the effort to project “sweetness and light”. Overlooked differences during courtship become sharp differences, that lead to serious arguments. If the commitment is not strong the marriage can be broken off as soon as the honeymoon period is over.

When the relationship is based on a firm commitment, true love will rise above sharp differences. The first several years are the “shakedown cruise”. Those are the times when the “gloves come off” and the “warts show”. “I am angry with you, now, but I love you and I will not leave you.” A couple in real love enjoy the making up, because of the contrast of the loving sweetness to the separation caused by the broken fellowship.

Working Together in Marriage

There is a deep joy in working together, each sharing strengths to accomplish an important goal. The mutual thanks for one another’s contribution invigorate their love and deepens and enhances their intimacy.

Loving intimacy in a secure marriage commitment make procreation a deep and exhilarating joy. The companionship of the birth of a child supercharges the mutual admiration of the one for the other. A man’s wife needs her husband’s strength, love and concern to weather the agony of the birth process. The husband’s deep concern for her struggle breaks forth into amazing gratitude to her, when he holds that baby, she suffered to present to him and to the world. They have been partners in creation and birthing. Their bond of love is not romantic, but transformational.

As the decades pass, children and care for them often interferes with the relationship of the wife and husband. Committed love, seeks ways in the midst of an overfull life to reconnect on a foundational level. Once the children are launched, the couple can recapture the interrupted relationship. They are able in a more mature way to build their intimacy. For many (but I fear too few) they become “Golden Years” of working together, recreating together, laughing together, planning together. Through it all, they have satisfaction in what they have accomplished together. They rejoice together in one another’s awards for the works each has done separately

Toward the end of life, the diminishing ability and the struggles with infirmity and sickness place a heavy burden on each. The extra care one must have for the other in a deeply committed love is not a burden on the soul. It is a joy to care for the treasured one. In ways far beyond words, the gift the needy one gives is to receive the ministrations of the healthier one. Even the knowing that it cannot be repaid in kind, is a gift. This is love that is pure, strong and to be treasured as something far more precious than “houses or lands”.  dove-vector-clipart

For Richer Or Poorer

When I was a teen and contemplating marriage – off somewhere in the dim outer reaches of life, one of the things I was aware of was that a man needed to have a good-paying job to afford a wife. The “two can lie as cheaply as one” was a romantic fallacy. It is the reality of youth that most married couples do not have the income to be comfortable.

When I married Ruth, the ethos was that the man provided for the family. The wife was not expected to work. Thus, the pay of the Man set the standard of life for the beginning family. Newly married young couples generally struggled financially, during the early years, until the man worked his way up to a pay level that makes life more comfortable.

When Ruth and I got married, I was selling real estate. Laura was born shortly before our first anniversary. Susan came two years later. I was struggling financially. I could not make sales often enough. I was able to change jobs to obtain a regular salary that did provide adequately for our family.

Through the years, we have been both rich and poor. We have learned to live as the Apostle Paul,

I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound: in everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want.   (Philippians 4:12).

Money in Marriage

Controversy over finances is one of the sources of acrimony in marriages. The increasing needs of a growing family often outstrips the ability of the parents to provide. The decisions over spending of scarce resources can lead to acrimony; and too often they become continuing tension, separating the couple.

On the other hand, riches can also be a separating influence in the life of the couple. A man in a high-powered job brings home an enormous paycheck and provides a large house with swimming pool and all the extras. But he is never home. The woman becomes engaged in a social circle and in her husband’s absence, looks for companionship elsewhere. Riches do strain the commitment.

We must submit to God’s plan for our lives. We must come back again and again to Paul’s affirmation of contentment, stated above.  dove-vector-clipart

Until Death Parts Us

Our Sovereign Lord God planned for Marriage to be the foundation of Civilization. He brought Eve to Adam, and they loved and worked together. They had children and they became a family. As family groups increased, that became the genesis of civilization. They built relationships among the various family groups and began the complexity of interrelationships.

This is where God’s laws of love modified frictions between groups. The learning process began in families, starting with the interrelationship between man and woman in marriage.

God purposed that “these two become one flesh”. His desire is that they unite in agreement over life’s direction, shared purposes, combined goals. He has revealed the truth of strength in numbers.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, and hath not another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have warmth; but how can one be warm alone? And if a man prevail against him that is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.   (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

The Wife and Husband are the basic church.

Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father who is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.   (Matthew 18:19-20)

God’s will is for mutual submission, at the same time a wife is to defer to her husband.

… subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ. Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything.   (Ephesians 5: 21-24)

This submission of the wife seems to our culture very hard duty. Until we look at God’s directive for husbands,

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it;   (Ephesians 5:25).

He is to sacrifice himself for her. He is to nourish and cherish” her. This is a mutual collaboration, a covenant relationship with strong demands laid on both husband and wife by our Righteous God.

Submitting to One Another

It has been said that the woman has been given command to submit to her husband because she, being more spiritually attuned would tend to take over the spiritual leadership. Without the command to submit, forcing the man to be the spiritual leader, many men would and do drop out, spiritually.

On the other hand, husbands have been commanded to love their wives, sacrificially. Men tend to love their work most. Peter gives husbands further instruction,

Ye husbands, in like manner, dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint-heirs of the grace of life; to the end that your prayers be not hindered.   (1 Peter 3:7)

In this mutual relationship of loving commitment, couples grow into that “one flesh” relationship”– shared hopes, dreams, ideals, purposes. All are indications of the “one flesh” that a married wife and husband share. As they age together, they ripen in their love and understanding of one another. Their psyches are so attuned that they can finish one another’s sentences. They agree on all the major issues in their lives. They are synchronized in their absolute trust in God’s love and provision.

God becomes the glue that holds them together. As they each grow closer to Jesus through the decades of their lives together, they grow closer to one another. Jesus is the one who lives in both and is the buffer that smooths the rough edges of each to make them an increasingly better fit as life together prolongs.

There comes a time that each is aware of the approaching end of life. It is rare that both die at the same time. Therefore, there is a growing concern of one being left alone. The three-fold mutual love is so strong that the thought of separation can be devastating.

However, God steps in and gives the believing couple assurance that the separation will be brief. The rejoining in Paradise will be joyful beyond imagining. Further, the marriage that lasts a lifetime gives each and both a preview of the love that awaits around their loving God’s throne.

God promises the surviving spouse the comfort of the Holy Spirit. God fills the hole left by the departing spouse. He surrounds the grief and mutes the anguish. He gives the one left a new direction that steps off from the foundation laid by the married love. Our Father knows our need and has already put in place what is needed to compensate for the loss of a life-long love.

God gives us the Grace for each day and joy in the remaining life that buoys the spirit. Anticipation grows in the meantime; anticipation of being unshackled by the flesh; anticipation of being reunited not only with the spouse, but also with all the loved ones that have gone on before; and then the anticipation of the glorious, magnificent entry into the Presence of God!  dove-vector-clipart

Questions Demanding Answers

This is a recurring feature. I pose a question in this issue. You have the opportunity to send me answers. I will publish the best ones in the next issue. Please cite Biblical authority, and keep you answer within 250 words.

QUESTION: Why did Abraham lie to Pharaoh, saying, Sarah was his sister?  (Genesis 12:10-20)

ANSWER: Because he was afraid. He and Sarah (and household) fled famine in Canaan for the breadbasket of Egypt. Abraham looked at the reality of the situation. His household was powerless against the might of Pharaoh. Sarah was beautiful. Pharaoh was an absolute monarch. The ethos of the broader culture was against stealing a man’s wife, but not against killing him and then taking her. So, to protect himself, he sacrificed Sarah. The lie was a half-truth. He had married his half-sister.

But his action raises several issues. A man ought to protect his wife at the risk of his own. He could have slipped into the large nation of Egypt and remained unnoticed. He should have trusted Go to protect both Sarah and him.

First, we must not expect A.D. 21st Century mores out of 20th Century B.C. people. That culture put a lower value on women, so the sacrifice of one’s wife was the natural thing to do.

Second, Scripture does not say, and I can find nothing that requires, immigrants had to check in with the local constabulary, bringing one to the notice of Pharaoh.

Third, Abraham had experienced יהוה, Jehovah, for only a short time, so he may not have been aware of God’s intimate care of each individual.

Pharaoh did take Sarah into his Harim. God protected Sarah from being molested and he sent a plague on Pharaoh’s household. Some scholars think it was a plague of barrenness in both women and animals. We do not have a time frame, so perhaps the evidence was a rash of stillborn sheep and cattle.

Apparently, God had spoken the truth to Pharaoh, that he had usurped another man’s wife and that was the cause of the plague.

Pharaoh was furious. He had given Abraham sheep, oxen, he asses, menservants, maidservants, she asses and camels in exchange for Sarah. To get rid of Abraham and the plague, Pharaoh sent him away, demanding back none of his gifts to Abraham.

The moral of this story is NOT “Honesty is NOT the best policy.” We learn from Abraham’s mistake that we can trust God in even the most threatening situations. God not only takes care of us but rewards us.

Unhappily, Abraham did not learn to trust God. Ca. 23 years later (Ch. 20), the King of Gerar, Abimelech had eyes for Sarah. Abraham again lied. Again, Sarah was taken into a Harim, again the king was plagued, again, God punished the king and demanded Sarah’s return and insisted that gifts be given to Abraham. Some of us are slow learners.

QUESTION: Why is fear a faith-betraying emotion?

The Holy of Holies

Join me in bowing before our God in gratitude that we can speak directly and personally to Him. He is our loving Father, so we can embrace Him boldly, but respectfully.

Father, our nation and our world are in a serious state due to the corona virus. Is this Your judgment poured out on us for our rejecting You? You sent plagues as punishment among the Children of Israel. They were seriously afflicted, but You sent release each time. You sent a plague as judgment against Israel because of King David’s sin. Upon His repentance You stayed the plague.

Lord, our Righteous God we have sinned in thought, word and deed. We have sinned against Your divine Majesty. Have mercy upon us for rejecting You and putting our trust in man’s abilities. We have embraced materialism and rejected spirituality. We have legislated against praying to God publicly in government, in schools. Business for fear of law suits has proscribed prayer and even saying Your name, unless it is a swear word. We are stripping our nation of any reference to God. We have made our schools into indoctrination institutions against faith in You. We have presided over the slaughter of innocents, legislating ever broadening the legal aborting. We have legally codified the abomination of homosexuality. We have made divorce, which You hate, easy. We have legalized the “marriage” of homosexuals. We have embraced “recreational sex” and made fornication and adultery common as peanuts.

“There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine indignation; Neither is there any health in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over my head: As a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds are loathsome and corrupt, Because of my foolishness.” (Psalms 38:3-5)

We, through our own fault, have wandered away from You, our One and only God. We have become altogether corrupt. We have no ability to make restitution for our flagrant sin.

Have mercy upon us, Almighty God. Have pity on our weaknesses. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot even turn away from sin and turn to embrace You, for our own strength is leached away by our egregious sin,

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, That the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, And blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with a willing spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; And sinners shall be converted unto thee. (Psalms 51:7-12)

Have mercy on us. Deliver us from our unrighteousness. I worship You, o, most holy One. Unworthy as we are, honor us with deliverance, as we continue to praise Your holiness. Hallelujah!! Hallelujah! Amen!

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Glad Tidings

Hearing God’s Voice in the New Year!

1 Jan , 2020  

GT—Volume 17 Issue 1

Joseph Chooses to Honor Mary

Joseph was a spiritually attuned man. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was apparently an adulteress. When he thought in his own generosity, instead of accusing her publicly, he chose to put her away quietly. Not muss, no fuss, no publicity. I’m sure her parents (Joachim and Anne, according to tradition) were relieved, since a public denouncement would have meant stoning.

But, when Joseph had a prophetic dream, everything changed for him. He was obedient. He embraced Mary in marriage. He embraced her pregnancy. He embraced the reality that he was to be the earthly father of a child of the Holy Spirit. It is clear that Joseph was a godly man. He was sensitive to God’s leading. He, unwillingly, but submissively took his late-stage pregnant wife on a 70-mile donkey ride to pay the required taxes. The ride precipitated Mary’s labor.

Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, he urgently sought a room where her baby could be born. Urgency forced Joseph to accept an otherwise unacceptable stable for animals. Cleanliness was a problem, but the body heat of the animals brought warmth to an otherwise chill night. Scripture doesn’t give us word of the birth, but I suspect with importance of the child, birth went according to nature and the mother and child did fine.

Mary and baby were somewhat recovered from the process, when Joseph was confronted with shepherds who rattled excitedly about an Angelic announcement about the baby. His first inclination was to drive those trespassers away. But Mary invited them in, so Joseph relented. Their joy was contagious, so by the time they left, the atmosphere in the stable was ebullient. dove-vector-clipart

Three Royal Visitors

Mary and the Baby Jesus could not travel the 70 miles back to Nazareth for several weeks, while they grew stronger. They had to have a better place to stay and they had to eat. Joseph began searching for a home and work. Likely his carpentry skills were needed in the town so he was able to obtain work. His skills became known so his part-time soon became full-time. I suspect he was able to rent a small house for the three of them and rig an outdoor “shop”.

It was a year and a half later, while he was planing a door he was making, when he heard, “Carpenter!” Joseph turned to see several richly attired men on camels. A camel driver was speaking to him.

“The star,” he pointed up. Yes, there was that beautiful, magnificent star overhead. It had been there night and day for all these months. People had gotten used to it and stopped remarking about it.

“May I assist, you?” Joseph responded.

He began in a strange language, but switched to Greek which was the trade language. His accent and Joseph’s rudimentary knowledge of Greek were making communication difficult, but not impossible.

“Yes, we have a baby boy,… You want to see him?” People had long since stopped asking about the Baby, since he was just like all babies, except precocious and quite perceptive to human feelings.

“Please wait, while I speak with my wife.” Joseph placed the plane on the work bench, wiped his hands on a clean rag, brushed sawdust and chips off, before going into the house. “Mary, there are several rich strangers who want to see Jesus.”

The Baby began to dance around and chanted “Let me see!” Let me see!”

“Joseph, my beloved, it appears that we must bring them in,” Mary smiled in answer.

The personages crowded into the small room, and while they nodded and greeted Mary respectfully with long flowery (and somewhat indecipherable) phrases, their eyes kept darting to the Child that was their main interest. With a wave of her hand toward little Jesus, she gave permission for them to concentrate on the Child. They clustered around and volubly, but unintelligibly to Mary and Joseph, conversed. They nodded and fell to their knees and obvious prayer. Joseph couldn’t tell whether they were praying to Jesus or about Him to God.

Jesus stood calmly, excepting their adulation, smiling. As they quieted down, He reached out His tiny hand and touched each one on the cheek. Joseph could tell that each one felt resoundingly blessed. There were a few moments of silence then the Christ Child said laughingly, “Go home.”

It was as if they had awakened from a beatific dream. They reluctantly rose. One went to the door and called to the camel driver. In a few moments he came in with three containers. One of the personages took from the camel driver a cruse that appeared to contain about a log (ca. one pint) of oil. Another man took a pot (ca. 1 pint) of ointment. A third took a coin cask. They turned to Joseph, handing each gift in turn. They saluted Joseph and Mary, and did obeisance to the Christ Child, and then left.

After thanking the men Joseph had set the gifts aside and formally bowed in thanksgiving. With them gone it was time to examine the gifts they had left. He opened the log. “Mary this is frankincense! This much is worthy about 30 years labor!” Next, he reached for the pot. This one has myrrh!” This, too is a fortune!” Setting the pot down he picked up the cask, “This one is heavy.” As he tipped back the lid, his eyes got big. “There must be one hundred shekels of gold here!” He sat down on the floor, in a daze.

“What does it mean, Joseph?” Mary asked.

“It means I’ll never have to work again,” but he thought a minute. “I like working, making things with my hands.” He looked at his wife, “My dearest, I’ll never stop working. But one thing sure. We’ll never go hungry!”

Joseph Dreams and Angels Speak

It was several nights later that his peace was disturbed. Unaccountably even with his new-found riches, Joseph felt apprehension. He expected to feel satisfied, even complaisant, but instead it felt like a warning. He did not speak of his confusion to Mary. He fell into a deep sleep. He dreamed that the same angel that had assured Joseph to take Mary for his wife, came again. But this time with a warning. The angel warned that Herod was a severe threat to the Christ Child. Joseph must pack and immediately take his family to safety in Egypt.

When he awoke, shortly before dawn, Joseph began planning. It was 35 miles to the sea coast and to connect with the “Way of the Sea”, the shortest way to Egypt. Then it was nearly 200 miles to the  in the Nile delta. By easy stages it would be nearly a month journey, traveling every day but the Sabbath. He had enough money to get to the coast and the city of Ashdod, where he could exchange one of the gold shekels for 15 silver shekels, much easier to use to pay and would raise fewer questions, thus drawing no attention. That would be enough ready money to get them to a home in Egypt. Thus, Joseph again listened to God and saved his family and the Messiah. dove-vector-clipart

Listening To God

At the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew we have repetitions of the lesson to listen to and obey God. But first we must turn to Luke. There Zechariah, an old priest had a visit from the Archangel, Gabriel. Zechariah was not open to hear of a miraculous birth to his wife, without a sign. He had been a priest for many decades, so the vision of an angel should have opened his heart to listen, believe and obey. Instead, he questioned and asked for a sign. Much to his embarrassment, the sign he was given was to be mute for nine months, (Luke 1)

In contrast, Mary a teen-age virgin, in simple faith said to Gabriel, “I am God’s serving girl. He may do with me what He desires.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it happen to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.  (Luke 1:38)

Simple surrender to God’s will. Her heart belonged to God, so she was submissive and obedient.

“and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

The young have far fewer learned preconditions to faith.

Whereas, older more educated and experienced in the world have more baggage to overcome in seeking to be in relationship with Christ. They have learned to test everything to see if it is true. Too many bad experiences taint the simple faith of youth.

Joseph was a mature man, perhaps middle age (which in those years meant over 30). Nevertheless, his openness to listen to the angel made him obedient to strange, inconvenient, and uncomfortable commands of God. Joseph did not dither. He did not test the waters or tempt God, asking for “fleeces”. His simple faith led him to obey. As a result, he first saved Mary, and then he saved the Messiah.

As Mordecai said to Esther,

“For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father’s house will perish: and who knoweth whether thou art not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

God’s will be done! If His will is done by you in obedience, you will be blessed, as was Esther and Joseph. But if not by you, and God has to pass on to someone else, then, at least you will lose your blessing and, at worst, you will suffer for your disobedience.

Hesitating to Obey

Too many believers today are more afraid of what “people will think” than what God thinks. They are concerned that they may be taken as a fool, so they do not act on God’s promptings. When we turn a deaf ear, we train ourselves not to listen to The Holy Spirit’s promptings.

One of the understandings of habits is that reinforcement increases learning. If we say, “Yes,” to anything, it is easier to say, “Yes,” the next time and harder to say, “No”. If, after a string of yeses, a “No” breaks the string, it weakens the impetus to say, “Yes”, the next time. The reverse is also true. A string of not listening to the Lord, makes it harder to hear Him next time.

Remember, God is Omnipresent. He is here all the time! The Holy Spirit dwells in the spirits of believers. He is speaking to guide us all the time. Listen to His direction and follow it.

Sure, you will make some (many!) mistakes and feel a fool. But pour the salve of Christ’s forgiveness on your wounded ego and smile broadly and declare that you are a fool for Christ.

Keep trying to live under the immediate directions of your Master. In so doing you will soon learn to recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd,

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.”   (John 10:27-28dove-vector-clipart

Obeying God

The Believer who hears, but does not obey, has not really heard God’s voice. God does not speak in, “If you, please?” or “When you have a mind to.” His word is LAW!

I once heard a missionary say, when he was a teen he was at a meeting when a visiting missionary gave an altar call, “If the Lord is calling you to the mission field, step down front. I want to pray for you.” The missionary I was listening to said, “I hid under the piano, hoping the Lord would not see me.” Obviously, since he was a missionary, the piano was an ineffective hiding place from God’s missionary call.

“Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, And thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall overwhelm me, And the light about me shall be night; Even the darkness hideth not from thee, But the night shineth as the day:” (Psalms 139:7-12)

God calls each believer to life-long holy work. God’s retirement is “outta sight!” “it’s Heavenly!”, but not in this world. He is a severe taskmaster,

“But who is there of you, having a servant plowing or keeping sheep, that will say unto him, when he is come in from the field, Come straightway and sit down to meat; and will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank the servant because he did the things that were commanded? Even so ye also, when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:7-10)

We have been saved because God loves us. He has given us release from the burden of sin, robed us in Christ’s righteousness. Our war with God is at an end and we have peace with God. Nevertheless, while we are in this world, God has work for us to do. Jesus said

“Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. It is as when a man, sojourning in another country, having left his house, and given authority to his servants, to each one his work, commanded also the porter to watch. Watch therefore: for ye know not when the lord of the house cometh, whether at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” (Mark 13:33-37)

When we apply this Parable to all of us, we must generalize the application. Jesus used the porter as the example. He was to keep watch diligently, since the master likely would return unexpectedly and catch the porter slacking off. The application is that God has assigned us believers (each and every one) work to do, according to each one’s ability. Our job differs from one another, but we are our brother’s keepers.

A Habit of Obedience

As long as we have breath, we are to be attentive listeners to God’s directions and to do as God calls us. Our Lord knows our strengths and weaknesses. In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus stated the Master gave out Talents “according to his several ability”.

“And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his several ability; and he went on his journey.” (Matthew 25:15, cf.14-30)

Jesus knows what you are capable of doing. He will give you responsibilities to carry out that will stretch you, test you and give you great satisfaction in their accomplishments.

In fact, we are less confident of our capabilities than Jesus is. We are more apt to give in too quickly.

Life is hard. We live in a fallen world. We are strangers in a strange land. After being born again, we are remade for God’s Kingdom of love, kindness, mercy, generosity; whereas, we live in a material world that is broken and we live in a culture of, “Me first, and the devil take the hindmost!”

Thus, to walk with Jesus takes concentration and effort, because we are fighting upstream against the current of the world, the flesh and the devil. Everything around us tells us we are going the wrong way. It is hard to persevere, impossible on our own. Holding tight to Jesus’ hand we can carry on, if we keep holding on.

So, settle it in your heart and engage your will to listen carefully to Jesus. Learn to filter out all the static of the material and the negative spiritual world. Remember, “My sheep know My voice.” Focus on what your spirit knows. Then do it.

Love God and Love Others

Basic ground rules are Love God & Love others!” Jesus wants you to acknowledge Him in all you do. Then He wants you to care for the needy, minister to the sick, and to proclaim the Good News that Jesus still saves, so all may come to Christ.

As you kneel to pray, give your heart wholly over to Jesus. Set aside all your activities and cares, while you humble yourself before Almighty God to worship our Great God and praise Him without reservation. Then arise from your knees equipped to minister in His name. Build up other believers by always praying for them and giving them what God requires of you. Always leave them with a blessing.

Look for opportunities to lend a helping hand, particularly with the aged and invalid. There are more opportunities around you than you will see in just living your life. In Christ “Lift up your eyes, for the fields are ripe unto harvest,” and you are the laborer the Master has sent into the fields to reap what He has sown. Hear and obey. dove-vector-clipart

Questions Demanding Answers

This is a recurring feature. I pose a question in this issue. You have the opportunity to send me answers. I will publish the best ones in the next issue. Please cite Biblical authority, and keep you answer within 250 words.

QUESTION: What does it mean to be a saint?

ANSWER: We have a confusion of terms because in the 10th Century, Ulrich, bishop of Augsburg was a great man of God. When he died in A.D. 973, John XV, Pope of the Catholic Church canonized him as an especially godly man.

That began the Roman Catholic Church policy of recognizing significantly holy men and women, declaring that they were credited with more merit than they needed to achieve heaven, thus, there was a bank of “Merit” that accumulated and that Roman Catholics could tap into it to seek for answers to prayer. Thus, began the practice of appealing to the “saints” for help in life.

In the Bible the term “saint” occurs often, 20 times in Psalms and 8 times elsewhere in the O.T.

In Romans 8 times, Ephesians 9 times and The Revelation 14 times, plus 29 times more in the N.T.

Hebrew language has two primary words for “saint” – 1st, “khaw-seed” = “kind, i.e. religiously, pious (a saint) a godly (man, good, holy (one), merciful, saint. 2nd, “kaw-doshe” = “sacred” (ceremonially or morally), “God” (by eminence), an “angel”, a “saint”, a “sanctuary”, “a holy” (one).

The Greek has only one word – “hagios” = “an awful thing”, sacred (physically) “pure’, blameless” or “religious”, “consecrated”, (most) “holy” (one, thing), “saint”.

Both languages treat the word “saint” as a general term, i.e. anyone can be a saint, whose life comports to godliness.

In the New Testament, the term pertains to all believers. Jesus died as the perfect sacrifice for all the sins for all of mankind. Everyone, regardless of race, sex national origin, or position in society, can come and surrender to Jesus as Lord. He washes their sins away in His blood. Further He justifies them and covers each one with His robe of Righteousness! Their surrender and His action transform each one into a saint., a sanctified one.

No special merit; the most heinous criminal in all the world, if at the moment of death repents and asks Jesus to save him, in the next moment is a saint.

Now, in human terms, that does not seem fair. “How come he or she gets rewarded after living a life of crime?”

God is not interested in what we have done, but where our hearts are. When our hearts turn to embrace Jesus, that is all God requires.

In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus told of a Master who paid workers the same amount, regardless of how long they labored. This was a picture of life. Everyone who comes to “work” with Jesus is rewarded by becoming a saint.

QUESTION: Who was the fourth King of Israel?

The Holy of Holies

Join me in bowing before our God in gratitude that we can speak directly and personally to Him. He is our loving Father, so we can embrace Him boldly, but respectfully.

Lord Jesus, You are gracious beyond what I can understand. You, Who are the Son of God, You Who were instrumental in Creation, You Who will be the Judge of all men at the Last Day, have offered salvation to mankind. Fickle, ungrateful, rebellious, people disdain Your offer. Despite the affront, You continue to offer it.

As Sovereign Lord God You could force us to take Your offer of salvation. You could cut off everyone who refuses Your first offer. Either response for the rebuff, would be understandable and is Your prerogative. But Your love is not peevish. It is not vengeful. Your Love is unconditional, in that You continue to offer forgiveness and salvation as long as a person lives.

America is 243 year-old. In our advanced years we have to a large extent decided we do not need You any more. We have declared You, Lord Jesus as a persona non grata. We have made You the untouchable of our society

Your name cannot be mentioned in government, schools or in entertainment (unless it is used in blasphemy).

Despite our blindness, we desperately need You to govern us. We have made an effort to govern our nation without You for the last half century, or so. We have made a perfect mess of this nation. Our peoples that were a melting pot of cohesive nationalities and cultures have fragmented into national, racial, political cliques, vying for supremacy. We have thrown away Your morality of loving all people, preserving life, respecting others and others property. We have traded godly love for fleshly lust. We have rebranded what is true, and real and natural and made our own definitions, arrogantly declaring we are what we are not.

Have mercy on our stupidity. Have mercy on our delusions of grandeur. Forgive our usurpation of Your prerogatives. Forgive our displacing You in the temple of our lives with statues of ourselves. Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts with the blood of Christ, strip us of our sin-filthed rags and reclothe us in Your righteousness.

Renew a right spirit, a godly attitude of seeking after You, “as the hart thirsteth after the water brooks”. Give us a spirit to acknowledge You, a heart to praise You and a will to glorify You in all we think, say and do. Help us our God! Help us God Almighty!

 Hallelujah! You are worthy of all honor glory and praise!


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Messianic Hanukkah Worship

28 Dec , 2019  

Celebration of Lights

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.”

The Maccabees

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:

  • The kingdom of Seleucus (later the Seleucid Empire), comprised present-day Iran, Iraq, Syria, and parts of Central Asia.
  • The kingdom of Cassander, consisted of Macedonia, most of Greece, and parts of Thrace.
  • The kingdom of Lysimachus, included Lydia, Ionia, Phrygia, and other parts of present-day Turkey.
  • The kingdom of Ptolemy I, included Egypt and neighboring regions.

Wojciech Stattler’s “Machabeusze” (“The Maccabees”), 1844

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)

Bust of Antiochus IV at the Altes Museum in Berlin

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.

Applying the Lessons of Hanukkah

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.

Gideon Trusted God

Gideon, ca. 1150 B.C.

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.

  • An angel of the Lord brought fire out of the rock to consume the food he had offered, so Gideon saw the power of Adonai. Gideon was directed to tear down the altar to Baal that the Israelites had built. Did he bravely tear it down in full view? No, he snuck in at night and tore it down, taking a few of his cohorts to help. His valor had the staying power of a snowflake on the palm of your hand.

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?

  • No, he said to Adonai, “If you really want me to save Israel, then here’s this fleece. Overnight make the fleece wet and the ground around dry.” The next morning, he was able to wring water out of the fleece that was laying on dry ground. Did He attack?
  • No, he put out another fleece. “Make the ground wet and fleece dry, and I’ll attack.” The next morning the fleece was dry and the ground wet. Was he confident in leading the Israeli onto battle? Sort of, until Adonai changed the rules.

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!

  • Gideon’s valor got shaky again. So, Adonai understandingly had him sneak into the Midianite camp and heard that the enemy soldiers were fearful, too.

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.

Jehoshaphat Trusted God

Valley of the Tombs of Jehoshaphat, Jerusalem, Holy Land

Jehoshaphat, ca. 853 B.C.

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.

King Hezekiah Trusted God

Hezekiah, ca. 701 B.C.

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 from Trusting God

Lessons we can learn:

  1. There is no power that is able to resist Adonai
  2. People, in their own strength, are no match for worldly power
  3. Our Lord Almighty will defend His own people

Our responsibility is to

  • Be surrendered to Adonai
  • Know Him and His way
  • Pray in confident belief and expectation.
  • Obey His directions
  • Not wander outside his sphere of protection

We must first discover Adonai’s will and seize tightly to it. We must be flexible to change directions as our Lord commands

  • Adonai commanded Gideon to winnow his forces down to 300, then used strategy to defeat the enemy
  • Adonai Commanded Jehoshaphat to march into battle with the musicians leading in praise
  • Adonai commanded Hezekiah to patiently watch while Adonai defeated Assyria

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.

Hanukkah Prayer

Please pray with me

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.

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Obedience is Better Than Sacrifice

5 Mar , 2017  

King Saul Disobeys God

Stay Close to God Through Obedience

Sermon Delivered at Bookdale Senior Living – January 29, 2017

1 Chronicles 10

The Death of Saul and His Sons

"Death of King Saul", 1848, Elie_Marcuse_saul

“Death of King Saul”, 1848, by Elie Marcuse

The Philistines were fighting against Israel, and each soldier of Israel fled before the Philistines. They fell slain on the mountain of Gilboa. The Philistines followed after Saul and after his sons, and the Philistines struck down Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchi-shua, Saul’s sons.  The heaviest fighting was against Saul and when the archers who were shooting located Saul, he was gravely wounded by them.

Saul ordered his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through with it, or these uncircumcised people will come and abuse me.”

But his armor bearer did not want to do it because he was very frightened, so Saul took the sword and fell on it. When his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword and died. Therefore Saul, his three sons, and all his entire household died together. When that part of the army  of Israel that was in the valley saw that the rest of the army of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their cities and fled, and the Philistines came and occupied them.

The Philistines Desecrate Saul’s Body

The Philistines came to strip the dead the next day, and they found Saul dead on Gilboa mountain, along with his sons. They stripped him, took his head and armor, and sent messengers throughout the territory of the Philistines to report the news to their idols and to the people.  Then they put Saul’s  armor in the temple of their gods and fastened his skull to the wall of  the temple of Dagon.

The People of Jabesh-gilead Give Saul a Proper Burial

When all the residents of Jabesh-gilead heard everything that the Philistines had done to Saul,  every valiant soldier  got up, removed the bodies of Saul and his sons, took them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the tamarisk  tree in Jabesh. Then they fasted for seven days. So Saul died for his transgressions; that is, he acted unfaithfully to the Lord by transgressing the message from the Lord (which he did not keep), by consulting a medium for advice,  and by not seeking counsel from the Lord, who therefore put him to death and turned the kingdom over to Jesse’s son David.

King Saul in Crisis

Saul 1878 by Ernst Josephson

Saul 1878 by Ernst Josephson

King Saul had abandoned God, so he was without God’s resources when he engaged the Philistines. Israel was defeated and the Israeli soldiers fled from the battlefield, abandoning king Saul and his sons. The enemy caught and killed the three of Saul’s sons that were in the battle.

Saul had four sons:

And Ner begat Kish; and Kish begat Saul; and Saul begat Jonathan, and Malchishua, and Abinadab, and Eshbaal.  (Chronicles 9:39)

As the battle turned against Saul, the Philistine archers wounded the king of Israel so he could not flee. Saul sought refuge from torture at the hands of the Philistines in death. His armor bearer could not raise his hand against the anointed king, despite the fact that killing Saul was a grisly part of his duty, in this extremity. Therefore, Saul placed the hilt of his sword securely into the ground, his scale breastplate, and then fell upon his sword. This either killed him outright or mortally wounded him so that he died before the Philistines could reach him.

Had the armorbearer fled upon Saul’s death, he would be accused of abandoning his chief and lived in dishonor. Instead, he chose to die alongside his lord king.

Saul’s Heir to the Throne

“All his house” would normally mean that his line was terminated. However, that was not the case, since Ishbosheth survived to be declared king. Eshbaal (meaning “man of Baal or an epithet for יהוה, i.e. Lord or Master) was renamed Ishbosheth (meaning “man of shame”). Because he was not in the battle, he may have been too young, or as his renaming implies he was a coward and refused to go into battle.

I assume this means that all Saul’s sons that were in the battle were slain.

Knowing that the Philistines would have no further resistance all the Israeli people living in the vicinity became refugees, fleeing the conquered territory with what they could carry.

The battle had lasted until late in the day. The Philistine army likely went into the abandoned villages nearby and celebrated with the spoil. The next morning, they went back to the battlefield to strip the bodies of all that had value. They discovered the bodies of the Israeli king, Saul, and his sons. Again, they celebrated. As trophies of war, they took Saul’s armor and beheaded Saul.

They sent the grisly trophy through the cities to proclaim their victory over Israel. They placed Saul’s armor in their temple in honor of their nothingnesses.


The tragic death of King Saul of Israel portrayed by Gustave Dore’.

In 1 Samuel 31:10 it gives an alternative version. Instead of placing Saul’s head in the temple of Dagon,

And they put his armor in the house of the Ashtaroth; and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan.   (1 Samuel 31:10)

The People of Jabesh-Gilead Give Saul a Proper Burial

When the residents of Jabesh-gilead heard what[a] the Philistines had done to Saul, every valiant soldier[b] got up, traveled all night, and removed Saul’s body and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan. Then they went to Jabesh and cremated the bodies[c] there. They took their bones, buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh, and fasted for seven days.  (1 Samuel 31:11-13)

Consider the dedication of these men. They did not want the bodies of Saul and his sons desecrated, displayed as war trophies. The wanted to honor these men by respectfully disposing of their bodies.

Their heroism was magnificent, sneaking into the enemy’s city and into the temple of their nothingness and sequestering the bodies of four men, carrying them out of Beth-shan to Jabesh-Gilead, ca. 15 miles; round trip 30 miles. That meant ca. 3 hours running one way and ca. 5 hours walking back carrying the bodies.

King Saul’s Crimes

  • Saul usurped the priest’s office

Now he waited seven days, according to the appointed time set by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering from him. And Saul said, Bring hither the burnt-offering to me, and the peace-offerings. And he offered the burnt-offering.   (1 Samuel 13:8-9)

And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly; thou hast not kept the commandment of Jehovah thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would Jehovah have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: Jehovah hath sought him a man after his own heart, and Jehovah hath appointed him to be prince over his people because thou hast not kept that which Jehovah commanded thee.   (I Samuel 13:13-14)

  • Saul did not slay king Agag and all the cattle as God directed (15:3 & 9)

Now go and smite Amalek, andutterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.   (1 Samuel 15:3)

But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but everything that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.   (I Samuel 15:9)

  • Witch of Endor

    Witch of Endor by Nikolai Ge, 1857.

    Saul sought out the witch of Endor for counsel (28:7 & 15-16)

Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at En-dor.  (I Samuel 28:7)

And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.16 And Samuel said, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing Jehovah is departed from thee, and is become thine adversary?   (1 Samuel 28:15-16)

Saul Lost God’s Blessing

God removed His hand of blessing from Saul, so he was at the mercies of his enemy, the Philistines… who had no mercy.

  • Obedience is the key to open the door to God’s favor and to receive His blessings of His bounty and protection.

We must quell our urges to control the events in our lives. Instead, we must defer to Almighty God and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In so doing, we can walk with confidence through all the troubles of this life and live at peace, when all the world around us is confusedly going to “hell in a handbasket”.

A significant part of worship is obedience to God when we are not worshiping!


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