Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Proclaiming the Gospel amidst 21st century paganism/witchcraft/occult

1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

Brief definition of paganism
What is paganism?  According to Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner: "Paganism may be referred to as a religion of spirituality without any reference to an authoritative, revealed revelation.  It emphasizes the adoration and appeasement of also generally involves superstitious folk rituals and other elements that attempt to charm and to acquire power for the Pagan or Wiccan."1

The Church, then an now, called to proclaim the Gospel amidst a Pagan culture
When we consider the background of the Corinthian church to which Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, paganism was rampant.   According to the great Biblical commentator R.C.H Lenski, Corinth had the temple of the Roman goddess Venus (Greek equivalent Apophrodite) and several other temples devoted to Egyptian Deities.2  The Corinthians were a people of culture, of art and of education - but also of deep seated pagan superstitions and excessive immorality.  The church of Corinth was small and young, with converts saved directly out of the pagan background. 

The Paganism of ancient Corinth and the Paganism in 21st century, though different in form and detail, nonetheless have these 5 common traits:

1. Belief in multiple gods or impersonal forces that are limited in power and easily influenced by human beings or

2. Denial of an Ultimate all powerful, all knowing God

3. Denial of a centralized body of Divine revelation.  Authority resides more within the person or in a scattered collection of myths

4. No basis for objective right and wrong, hence a perfect atmosphere for increased immorality over time

5. Superstitious and fear based belief system that opens itself up to the demonic realm

No doubt Paul's word to the Church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 8 goes beyond merely dealing with food.  His issue is ultimately equipping his readers and present day Christians with the tools for combatting Paganism and asserting the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a Pagan Culture.

The Gospel that must be affirmed in 21st century paganized culture
We can note how Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 the key points the church of today must communicate if she is to not only survive but thrive amidst an increasingly paganized culture.  Note how the three-fold emphasis of 1 Corinthians 8 answers the five traits mentioned earlier concerning the worldview of paganism/witchcraft:

1. Affirming that God is Personal and that knowing Him means knowing His Love. 1 Corinthians 8:1-5
This answers to point #3 above regarding paganism's denial of Divine Revelation or the need for centralized Divine authority.  Another name often assigned to paganism is the term "occult".  The term "occult" comes from the Latin "occultus" meaning "hidden".  When we describe Paganism as as being Occult in its understanding of things - we are chiefly describing how the Pagan or Wiccan acquires their knowledge.  Any survey of the literature tells us that an occultic worldview views knowledge as hidden, needing to be discovered by subtle means by select human beings operating apart from God.  Therefore knowledge and understanding is by nature hidden, with the discovery of it leading the pagan to possess power.

Occultism's manner of pursuit of "secret" knowledge leads to self-sufficiency, pride and incompleteness, since the person is viewed on an endless journey of trying to fulfill their drives and desires.  Generally, in paganism, power is valued more than love.  The Gospel on the other hand tells me that the only fulfilling pursuit is knowing God, and that God through scripture reveals Jesus Christ.  The end result is the discovery of God's great love poured out on the cross.  Paul reveals the Christian emphasis on knowledge and love in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 "Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. 2If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; 3but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him."

2. Affirmation of God's Sovereignty. 1 Corinthians 8:6
This answers to points #1 and #2 above regarding Paganism's/Witchcraft's belief in various deities or impersonal force that can be controlled by people. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8:6 "yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him."   The Bible affirms the existence and identity of the God of Revelation, while denying the interpretation assigned by paganism to the existence of multiple gods and goddesses.  Later on in 1 Corinthians 10:19-20 we see the true identity of the idols and deities worshipped by paganism - demons in disguise.  God and God alone is in control and on the throne.

3. Affirming objective morality being rooted in God's character and reinforced in the conscience. 1 Corinthians 8:7-13
This answers to points #4 and #5 above regarding paganism's views on morality and its vulnerability to the demonic realm.  Three times do we see reference to concern over ruining another fellow believer's "conscience".  When we speak of the conscience, the way I have described it is that it is like a superhighway between the mind and the heart.  The heart is the causal center of the human being, the sum of all the emotions and convictions.  The mind of course is the thinker of the soul.  In order for thoughts to become convictions of the heart, they have to travel by way of the conscience.  Conversely, in order for the heart to receive direction on which way to act in motivating the human will to choose, the conscience must link it to the human mind. 

Whenever a conscience is weakened by repeated overt violation of moral norms, the ability of the heart to act rightly is impaired and hardened.  In unbelievers, though they have a conscience and a heart, their mind thinks in a selfward direction.  Likewise the heart is inclined in a direction that aims to please self, even in people who are otherwise outstanding citizens.  Only conversion of the person by grace through faith in Christ can change a person from being self-ward to Godward in their outlook. 

Paul's point is to not to do anything that would hurt the conscience.  When a Christian harms the conscience, it will be very difficult to receive or apply spiritual truth from God's Word.3  It is in the conscience that we also see God's Law written, meaning that human beings possess an innate understanding of God's existence and judgment. (Romans 2:15) By suppressing that testimony, the person falls into greater levels of darkness and greater vulnerability to the kingdom of darkness. (Ephesians 2:1-2, 12)

Paganism insists that the person determines their own value of right and wrong.  Hence in the Pagan worldview there is a far greater opportunity to violate one's conscience.4  This is why the system is so hostile to the Gospel, since it denies the existence of an all powerful Creator, objective morality and need for Biblical revelation.  Furthermore, by denying objective right and wrong, Paganism denies the reality of sin and final judgment. 

More than ever the Gospel must be proclaimed, emphasizing God's Personal Revelation of Himself in loving redemption through His Son and His Word, His Sovereignty and how He alone is the Ground for objective morality - thus obligating human beings to repent and believe on Jesus Christ in order to escape the judgment to come. (Romans 5:6-10)

End Notes_____________
1. Ed Hindson and Ergun Caner. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Harvest House Publishers. 2008 

2. R.C.H Lenski.  Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Page 11

3.  Paganism asserts among other things the one rule of their moral system summarized by what is termed "The Wiccan Rede": "An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will". 

4.  A more thorough treatment of this subject is found in "The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics", edited by Norm Geisler.  For sake of simplicity in today's post I used the term "paganism", even though the technical term is "neo-paganism". 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Let your light so shine: Reclaiming October 31st for Jesus Christ

Galatians 3:11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”

In yesterday’s blog we began to explore what took place nearly 500 years ago when a monk by the name of Martin Luther re-discovered how a man is made right with God – faith alone. We noted that Luther was protesting the Catholic Church’s practice of selling various ways of accessing the ability to be right with God.  The movement which God sparked through his writing and preaching came to be known as the Protestant Reformation (since it "protested" the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church system).  Luther re-discovered from Galatians 3:11 that the “just shall live by faith”, meaning that a man is made right with God through faith alone.

What we mean when we say "By Faith Alone"

Being made right with God through faith alone was the first reason for rejoicing on October 31. Today we will briefly look at the four other biblical doctrines that came to be reaffirmed by Luther and others in the Protestant Reformation. It was not that the Gospel message had been totally lost in the 1500 years leading up to the Reformation - for there were groups and individuals whom God used to keep it and live it out.  Rather in terms of an organized and focus movement to push forth the much needed reform and to re-affirm in a clear way the Biblical Gospel, none had done it as effectively until Luther.  It is not by any faith alone, but by a specific faith, the biblical gifting of faith alone, that a person is made right with God. The core doctrine that characterizes “faith alone” is what we call “justification by faith”. The Bible tells us in Romans 4:3 that the Old Testament figure Abraham “believed God, and it was counted unto Him as righteousness”.

Another way of understand justification is by noting that it is God’s legal declaration of my innocence at the moment I believe the Gospel. Quite literally, when I am justified by faith, its “just-as-if-I” never sinned. Four other truths flow from this central feature of the gospel. Below we will briefly summarize them, since each of them answer a particular question about how a human being is made right with God.

1. How is a man made right with God? Faith Alone. Romans 3:4 “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”

2. What leads a man to see his need to be made right? Grace Alone. Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

3. Whose righteousness is counted to me for righteousness the moment I believe? Christ Alone. 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

4. Where do I find out about being saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? The Bible alone. 2 Timothy 3:15 “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”

5. What is the purpose of being saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone of the Bible alone? For the Glory of God alone. Ephesians 1:12 that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.”

Like five mountain peaks do these five truths stand to make visible God’s saving glory. What is clearly in the Bible, what was re-discovered by Martin Luther and what is perhaps the clearest summary of the gospel are five reasons for rejoicing on October 31st, and every day. Have you received God’s gift of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone of the Bible alone for the glory of God alone?

Reclaiming October 31st for the Glory of Jesus Christ
With the above five statements, we can see why it is more effective to "light the Gospel candle than merely curse the darkness".  As we think about how many people in our culture observe Ocotober 31st, I believe this is your opportunity as a Christian to take what you have learned about the Reformation, and more importantly the Gospel, and let your light so shine.  Consider the verses below as we close out today's blog:

Matthew 5:16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

Romans 13:11-12 "Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light."

Philippians 2:15-16 "so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Reclaiming October 31st for the Glory of Jesus Christ

Galatians 3:6-9 6Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. 7Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” 9So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.”

I want to share with you today why I find so much joy over October 31st. One of the Greatest Revivals occurred almost 500 years ago, altering and realligning Christianity back to the Bible. In today's post I want to urge every Christian to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with at least one person over the next week.  We will be surveying what took place in a move of God that began on October 31, 1517 called the Reformation.  There are five reasons to rejoice over October 31st, the first of which I will mention below. 

495 years ago the Roman Catholic Church had a repressive system of religion that had people buying what was in their minds a right standing with God. Over the centuries a whole system of church tradition had accumulated, telling people that in order to be right with God, they had to make pilgrimages to certain churches and make financial contributions to achieve salvation. In addition, the church also manipulated people to make contributions, alledging that once paid, their dead relatives would be freed from an imagined place called purgatory, and thus go to heaven.


One man, a monk, a "holy man" in the Roman Catholic system of religion, was very troubled in his soul. He had dedicated his life to achieving the salvation promised by the Roman Catholic church. Despite his best efforts, he felt more guilty and alienated from God, even though he confessed to the priests, prayed hours a day and went on long fasts. That man's name was Martin Luther.


Martin Luther was so troubled that he began searching the scriptures and read these words in Galatians 3:11 - "The just shall live by faith". God's Grace was at work, and suddenly Martin Luther saw that all of the pilgrimages, the contributions to the churches, the confessions, fastings, being baptized into the church, even being a Monk - all of it - contributed nothing to his salvation. Alas, Luther rediscovered the heart of the Christian Gospel that all but a faithful few had forgotten over the centuries - that a man is made right before God by faith alone in Christ Alone. After this discovery, Luther began to research


Luther did a 16th century equivalent of facebook - He made a post. Only this post was pen and paper nailed to the door of a church (much like if we were to post on facebook or announcements on a bulletin board). Luther wanted to make a public announcement for all to see, posting what was called his "95 theses" on a church door in Wittenberg Germany. These 95 reasons or "theses" aimed to protest the Roman Catholic system to which the Bible revealed to be corrupt. Luther did this on October 31, 1517, sparking the greatest move of God in the past 500 years - The Protestant Reformation.


Soon the then newly invented printing press was utilized to distribute copies of Luther's document all over Germany.  Out of the movement would come five phrases that would describe the gospel rediscovered by Martin Luther. The first phrase is the most fundamental - namely that a man or woman is made right with God by faith alone. This is the first reason to rejoice over October 31. Because of God's movement in the life of one man, the Gospel, preached by the prophets, Christ and the apostles, would once again shine.1  How is it that a man is made right with God? Paul states in Ephesians 2:8-9 that faith is a gift of God, that salvation is not earned by what one does, lest there would be grounds for boasting. Faith alone is sufficient grounds for receiving God's free gift of salvation. It is not faith plus baptism, nor faith plus church membership nor faith plus anything.


It is time to take back October 31, and use this day to proclaim the truth of scripture and the reformation, sparked on October 31, 1517.  October 31st has been for years by Wiccans and people of the Pagan/Witchcraft worldview to observe one of the so-called two "spirit nights" on their yearly calendar.  Rather than promoting a day of darkness and wickedness, witches and ghosts, Christians need to take a God-centered event like the Reformation and remind themselves of how God led His church back to the Bible and salvation through faith alone in Christ alone.  

The Reformation was about calling forth people from spiritual darkness into the light of Jesus Christ.  Someone once said: "It is more effective to light a candle than merely curse the darkness".  Lets light the Gospel light and shine the glory of the Gospel.  As Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 - “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."   Tomorrow we will look at four other reasons to rejoice over October 31, and look at the four other statements coming out of the Reformation. As you will see, these statements further clarify the richness of the Gospel message.

End Notes______________
1 As with all major movements of God, the Protestant Reformation was not without God having moved upon prior people annd groups who lived before Martin Luther.  Men like John Wycliff and John Huss, who both lived and ministered at the end of the 1300's.  John Wycliffe produced the first complete English translation of the Bible from what was then the prevailing Bible of the Roman Catholic Church - the Latin Vulgate.  John Huss preached 100 years before Luther came on the scene and ended up dying in Martyrdom.  Men such as these are referred to as the "morningstar" of the Reformation, since they signalled a precursor of the cry for Reformation that would ring throughout Europe in the 16th century.   


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Evangelism Tool - F.A.I.T.H

2 Corinthians 5:20  20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Last week I shared with you a tool of Evangelism called "The Hand" that I had learned years ago.  Today I want to share with you another tool that was developed by the Southern Baptist Convention years ago called "F.A.I.T.H".  As you can tell, the letters of the word "faith" give you a five-point outline for sharing the Gospel.  This tool has proven to be very helpful in knowing how to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  May the Lord bless you as you think about those with whom God may be leading you to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

F.  Forgiveness.  Everyone has sinned and needs God's forgiveness.  Romans 3:23 "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  God's forgiveness is in Jesus only. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace." Ephesians 1:7

A. Available. Forgiveness is available to all.  "For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."  However, it is not automatic.  "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, not only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 7:21

I. Impossible. The Bible tells us it is impossible for us to get to heaven on our own. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

T. Turn.  If we are going down a dead end street, what do we do? We turn our car around.  To turn is to change direction.  Turn means to repent, to turn away from our sin and our self.  " Unless you repent, you will all perish as well."  Luke 13:3 Turn to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

"that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" Romans 10:9

H. Heaven is a place where we will live with God forever.
“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." John 14:3

It doesn't end at prayer.  To follow Christ and grow in the faith you need to find a good Bible believing church, read the Bible daily and have prayer times regularly. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

P3 - Biblically evaluating mediums, witchcraft and ghosts

1 Samuel 28:19 “Moreover the LORD will also give over Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines, therefore tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. Indeed the LORD will give over the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines!”

We have observed in the past couple of posts the following facts about mediums, witchcraft and "ghosts":

1. Mediums and Witchcraft flourishes in times of fear

2. Mediums and Witchcraft feed off of error

3. Mediums and Witchcraft fall prey to spiritual deception

4. Mediums and Witchcraft fail in accurately defining the supernatural realm

5. Mediums and witchcraft is flawed in its view of ghosts

We have been working our way through the account of King Saul's encounter with the witch at Endor in 1 Samuel 28.  In today's blog we aim to investigate the claims by mediums and witchcraft concerning the ability to predict the future.  We will see as with the other five points already explored that what the worldview of Witchcraft claims to deliver is simply not the case.
Mediums and Witchcraft fails to deliver accurate predictions
What Saul and this witch were doing was not talking to a departed Samuel, but a well-disguised demonic spirit whom God permitted to speak with words and disguise like Samuel. 1 Corinthians 10:19-20 states - "19What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons."

Many people today are fascinated by Mediums such as Sylvia Brown, John Edwards and Nostradomas for their supposed ability to foretell the future. It will be contended that the mark of a false prophet is either vague and explainable observations or predictions that are a mixture of demonic power with guessing and incomplete knowledge. Neither one constitutes genuine knowledge of the future leading to the glory of God as we see in true Bible prophecy. (compare the tests of true predictive prophecy and admonitions for discernment in Deuteronomy 13:6-14; Isaiah 41:21-23; Galatians 1:6-9; 1 John 4:1-4)  

As you go down through the text, the spirit named Samuel tells Saul in 1 Samuel 28:19 that not only Saul, but his sons and the entire army of Israel would be handed over to the Philistines. A prediction was made. However what took place? Saul was indeed killed in battle along with his sons. (1 Samuel 31) Saul killed himself and the next day the Philistines came and took his body, along with the bodies of his sons (beheaded of course). 

But now the armies of Israel fled from the Philistines, departing from their cities, contrary to the prediction given by this spirit. According to the spirit's prediction, it sounded like all of Israel's army would be destroyed. Instead, a large portion was destroyed - with the remainder fleeing. (1 Samuel 31:7) We find out later on in 2 Samuel 5 that King David and the army of Israel would actually defeat the Philistines - a detail that the spirit did not see. Scripture accurately relates the inaccuracy of witchcraft in knowing future events.

As we can see, the spiritual forces of darkness operating behind witchcraft and Mediums are limited to seeing no further ahead than the present moment. Scripture gives tests for determining whether a prediction of the future is from God or a wicked source, tests which reveal witchcraft and practices like it to fail and be found wanting. (Deuteronomy 13:6-14; Isaiah 41:21-23) Unless God granting special permission for any creature to see the future, no creature possess power enough to go beyond the limits of the immediate present. 

They can certainly give good guesses, since the demonic realm has had centuries to observe human beings and the trends of culture.  In still possessing an angelic nature (albeit a fallen one), they still possess superior cunning and insight, however warped. (Job 4:12-21; Mark 5:9-21; Ephesians 6:10-11; Revelation 12:4) Despite these facts, they do not possess comprehensively accurate knowledge of the future - God alone is all knowing. (Psalm 147:5; Romans 11:33-36)

Thus in mixing a part truth/part error message, we know that what Saul was talking to was not God, nor a prophet of God, but an evil spirit. God Sovereignly allowed these extreme circumstances to warn an unbelieving Saul of his demise - however it was already in Saul to ignore the fact He broke God's laws regarding the prohibition of witchcraft, as well as his own decree. (compare a similar account in 2 Chronicles 18:22-27)

Anytime people dabble in practices such as witchcraft, the ultimate end is deception and confusion. We have observed the following facts about mediums, witchcraft and "ghosts":

1. Mediums and witchcraft flourishes in times of fear

2. Mediums and Witchcraft feed off of error

3. Mediums and Witchcraft fall prey to spiritual deception

4. Mediums and Witchcraft fail in accurately defining the supernatural realm

5. Mediums and Witchcraft is flawed in its view of ghosts

6. Mediums and Witchcraft fail to deliver accurate predictions

As a final thought, it is vital to keep focused on the Sovereignty and authority of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 8:4-7 is excellent counsel in knowing how to deal with the world of Mediums and Witchcraft: "Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him."

Friday, October 26, 2012

P2 - Biblically evaluating mediums, witchcraft and ghosts

1 Samuel 28:11-13 11Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul.” 13The king said to her, “Do not be afraid; but what do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a divine being coming up out of the earth.”

Yesterday we began evaluating mediums, witchcraft and ghosts in light of Saul's encounter with the witch of Endor in 1 Samuel 28.  We noted the following observations:

Mediums and witchcraft flourishes in times of fear
Mediums and witchcraft feed off of error
Mediums and witchcraft fall prey to spiritual deception

Today we continue on with further points of evaluating this particular worldview in light of 1 Samuel 28. 

1. Mediums and Witchcraft fail in accurately defining the supernatural realm
Other scripture aids us in understanding what is really going on regarding what is being observed in this text. To understand the Old Testament teaching on the supernatural realm, we look briefly at 1 Kings 22.  In 1 Kings 22 we read of two kings - Ahab and Jehoshaphat, consulting various prophets concerning whether or not they should go to war. Jehoshaphat, the Godly King of Judah, requests that the true prophet of God, Miciaiah, be brought forward.  Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, detests the prophet of God, since God's man does not condone nor advocate his spiritual treachery.  Finally Micaiah is brought forward.  

Following inquiry by both kings, Micaiah relays to them a heavenly scene before God's throne. God is in heaven, the Righteous Judge.  He is ready to judge Ahab who has rejected repeated ministry from another Godly prophet Elijah.   God's throne has gathered before it "the host of heaven" or angelic spirits.  Upon asking who would go an entice Ahab to go into battle to be slain, one of the angelic spirits says he will go and be a decieiving spirit in the mouths of the false prophets gathered before the two kings - Jehoshaphat and Ahab. (1 Kings 22:20-21).  God grants permission to a lying spirit to go and put false words in the mouths of the false prophets. 

From what we can gather:
1. God is Sovereign on His throne
2. Angels who are good pass before his throne. 
3. Bad angels, or demons, are with Sovereign permission allowed to go and excercise judgment on Ahab in accords with Ahab's already warped decisions to follow deception rather than truth
4. The invisible realm is separate but interracting with the visible realm

By going back to 1 Samuel 28, we see this woman as a consulter of spirits.  We know from other passages such as Job 4 and 2 Peter 2:4 that such a spirit can come and intimidate people, and that such a spirit is a fallen angel or a demon.

In the Biblical understanding of the supernatural realm, God and God alone is Sovereign and all powerful. He exercises authority over the angelic realm. (Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:1-14) Even Satan and the demonic realm cannot act unless they have sought permission from God. (Job 1-2; Mark 5:12-13) Truly when the kingdom of darkness does act by permission, God has in mind an ultimate good purpose, even though the malevolent forces are the ones perpetrating the act. God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness. (1 John 1:5)  We must remember that God permits what He hates in order to accomplish the good He intends. (Genesis 50:20; John 13:27; Romans 8:28)

God indicates that when a person has set up idols in their heart, and that they have given themselves over to deception, He will Sovereignly allow them to be deceived further by the kingdom of darkness in accordance to their own desires. (Ezekiel 14:4-5 and Romans 1:24-25).

Contrary to Mediums and witchcraft, who deny the existence of One all-powerful God, there is One Sovereign God (1 Corinthians 8:6). Secondly, a real, albeit less powerful fallen angel called Satan truly exists. (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28; 1 Peter 5:8) Thirdly, the spirits that they think they can control are actually controlling and manipulating them.(Acts 16:16-21) Fourthly, only through Jesus Christ can truth be known. (John 1:17)  Finally, only through Jesus Christ can one be set free of bondage to the fear and power of such forces. (Acts 16:16-21; Hebrews 2:14) 

2. Mediums and witchcraft is flawed in its view of ghosts
Often on T.V shows or movies we see people claiming their to be such things as ghosts. The question is: are ghosts real? If we're talking about supposed departed human beings coming back in spirit form - the answer is no. Scripture tells us that departed non-Christian people go directly to hell to await final judgment. (Luke 16:19-31), whereas Christian people die an go immediately into the presence of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:1-6) Once human beings, believer or non-believer, die and leave this world, their soul/spirit cannot cross back into this visible realm.

So if these alleged ghosts (ghost comes from the Old English word "gast" and German "geist" meaning "spirit") are not departed human spirits that hover around or return to "haunt", then what is it that we see here in 1 Samuel 28 as well as today? Scripture is plain - "ghosts" are demons in disguise. Even so-called "good ghosts" or "friendly ghosts" (spirits) that people commonly use as "spirit-guides" are demons. 2 Corinthians 12:14-15 explains - "14No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds."

It is important for a Christian to be aware of the culture and the influences circulating in today's world.  1 Timothy 4:1 tells us of how people in these last days will be more prone to falling away from the faith and follow after what appeals to their desires and doctrines of demons.  With that said, Paul also tells Timothy, the pastor to whom he is writing, these words in 1 Timothy 4:6 -  "In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following."

More tomorrow....

Thursday, October 25, 2012

P1 - Biblically evaluating mediums, witchcraft and ghosts

1 Samuel 28:7-8  7Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a woman who is a medium at En-dor.” 8Then Saul disguised himself by putting on other clothes, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night; and he said, “Conjure up for me, please, and bring up for me whom I shall name to you.”

It is alleged that since King Saul of Israel went to a witch, and the witch allegedly called up the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel, then the pagan worldview of witchcraft / paranormalism must be legitimate.  Is this the case?  What can we observe about this text concerning the subject of mediums, witchcraft and ghosts?  It will be contended in today's blog that the understanding of the supernatural advocated by Mediums and witchcraft is inaccurate and dangerous for anyone, especially Christians, to dabble in or consider.  Below are some thoughts on this worldview from 1 Samuel 28.

1. Mediums and witchcraft flourishes in times of fear
As you go down through the passage, we read these words in 1 Samuel 28:9-10 "But the woman said to him, “Behold, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off those who are mediums and spiritists from the land. Why are you then laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?” 10Saul vowed to her by the LORD, saying, “As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.”

King Saul had earlier issued a decree in 1 Samuel 28:3 that forbade the practice of witchcraft and the removal of those who did.  Since Samuel was dead, King Saul in supposed honor of the prophet made it law.  However the sworn enemies of Israel, the Philistines, came to threaten war against Israel.  When Saul saw the camp of the Philistines, the Bible states in 1 Samuel 28:5 "he was afraid and his heart trembled greatly".  Being that Saul was spiritually not in fellowship with the Lord, he was incapable of receiving direction from the Lord - hence prompting him to consult a witch at Endor.  In an ironic twist, fear drove Saul to consult this Medium - the very type of person he had but days before banished from Israel.

2. Mediums and Witchcraft feed off of error
Upon meeting with her, Saul requested in 1 Samuel 28:5 for this witch to conjure up the spirit of Samuel.  Saul was operating out of fear, not faith.  Saul should had known better - since the scripture earlier condemns the practice and worldview of witchcraft among God's people. (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10-12)  Nonetheless he ignores God's Law and the witch soon discovers that the one inquiring her in disguise is none other than King Saul himself!  At first she hesitates, ironically having more of a conscience than the King!  However she does as Saul requests, and conjures up a spirit. 

Clearly this episode is occuring at a time where much fear was prevailing in the land and where the concern for biblical fidelity was at a low-point.  Our day and age is clearly marked by much fear and little or no understanding of scripture.  Passages such as 1 Timothy 4:1 state - "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons."

3. Mediums and witchcraft fall prey to spiritual deception
So did this witch at endor see Samuel?  1 Samuel 28:11-14 records the episode - "11Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul.” 13The king said to her, “Do not be afraid; but what do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a divine being coming up out of the earth.” 14He said to her, “What is his form?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped with a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and did homage.

Now the text in verse 12 indicates that the woman saw what appeared to be Samuel.  However her response to Saul is one of surprise, since she realizes it is Saul in disguise.  Furthermore, verses 13-14 tells us what she is really seeing: a "divine being" coming up out of the earth.  The word translated "divine being" is used in this instance to describe "gods" or demonic beings in the Old Testament. (Deuteronomy 32:16-17)  When the text tells us in verse 14 that Saul "knew it was Samuel", we then understand that the scripture is giving us the view of these events from an already deceived Saul's vantage point. 

Matthew Henry, the great Bible Commentator notes: "But, if people will be deceived, it is just with God to say, "Let them be deceived." That the devil, by the divine permission, should be able to personate Samuel is not strange, since he can transform himself into an angel of light! nor is it strange that he should be permitted to do it upon this occasion, that Saul might be driven to despair, by enquiring of the devil, since he would not, in a right manner, enquire of the Lord, by which he might have had comfort."

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Evangelism tool - The Hand

Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Today's Blog is featuring an evangelism tool that I had learned years ago.  The tool is called "Hand to Hand" and utilizes the human hand in presenting a six-point outline of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have over the years used this technique and have found it helpful and easy to remember, since we always have our hands with us.  Perhaps some of you reading today may have heard of this method (or something similar to it).  Below is a summary of this method and I would encourage you to try it out. 

1. Thumb - The Bible begins with bad news
Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"
This is the one change I made to the technique, since the Bible begins by telling us about our sin-problem.  We are law breakers and are spiritually separated from God at birth.  So for me I would start by saying to the person how I usually want to hear the bad news first so that I can then have relief with the good news.

2. Index Finger - However the Bible tells us Good News
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life"
With the bad news of my sin functioning as a black silken cloth, you can now lay out before the person the diamond of the Gospel.  Once we know our problem, we are prepared for the solution.  Once you hear the diagnosis and understand its seriousness, only then will you be ready for the cure.

3. Middle Finger - The Bible tells what God did for you
Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
This takes us to the center of the presentation - the cross.  This is the event of salvation - without which no salvation could be offered.

4. Ring Finger - The Bible states you must make a committment to Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord and Treasure
Romans 10:9  "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved"
With Christ having accomplished salvation, now the event must become an experience in the person's life.  They must repent and believe on Jesus Christ in order to have the accomplishment of salvation applied to their heart. 

5. Little Finger - The Bible tells us that all you need to receive Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord and Treasure is faith
Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."
The little finger reminds us that faith alone is not only necessary, but sufficient to receive the gift of Eternal life through Jesus Christ

6. Palm of your hand - The Bible says that all who believe on Jesus Christ are Eternally secure
John 10:28 "and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand."
This final point is the clincher to your presentation.  What I'll do is take my little finger (the faith alone finger) and place it in the palm of my other hand, enclosing my hand completely over it.  This is to show the person that once they trust in Jesus Christ, He will not let them go - ever.   Furthermore, for all who truly have trusted in Jesus Christ, not only will they not ever be lost, they cannot persist with contentment in a mindset that would ever want to be lost.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jesus Christ the Forever Present Mediator

Numbers 18:1 "So the LORD said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your father’s household with you shall bear the guilt in connection with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the guilt in connection with your priesthood."

Numbers 18:32 ‘You will bear no sin by reason of it when you have offered the best of it. But you shall not profane the sacred gifts of the sons of Israel, or you will die.’”

For the past several days we have been comparing Aaron, the first high priest of Israel to the ministry and Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In nearly 30 spots in the book of Hebrews, parallels and pictures are drawn in showing how Aaron's life and ministry functions as a faint shadow of the substance of Christ's everlasting priesthood. (Hebrews 5:4-5)  We have seen how Aaron foreshadows Jesus Christ as the Forever standing and living Mediator.  Today we want to consider how Aaron and his sons ministries as the officiating priests of Israel picture Jesus Christ as the believer's Forever Present Mediator.

Picturing the Present Mediator bearing the burdens of the people
Aaron had stood as the people's mediator in Numbers 16, literally standing between the living and the dead - shutting down the wrath of God in the plague that killed nearly 15,000 Israelites.  In Numbers 17 Aaron was confirmed by God to be the living mediator, with the miracle of the rod budding in the tent of meeting.  God reveals in Numbers 18:1 that Aaron and his sons were to function as the guilt bearers "in connection with" the people and the tabernacle.

When we consider the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did in coming to earth, His work on the cross no doubt bore the sins of the people. 

1. Isaiah 53:5 predicted Christ bearing our guilt - "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed."

2.Hebrews 2:17 "Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people."

Having said that, we also know that following His resurrection and ascension, Jesus Christ is our Present mediator bearing the burdens of the people.   

3. Hebrews 4:14-16 states: "14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

We could cite many other passages, but the point is made: Jesus Christ is the Forever Present Mediator who bore the people's burdens, fulfilling the pattern pictured for us by Aaron. 

Picturing the Present Mediator with possessions bought with a price
Numbers 18:16 states - “As to their redemption price, from a month old you shall redeem them, by your valuation, five shekels in silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs."  Whenever an Israelite came to the sanctuary, they were to pay a price on behalf of every firstborn male on their household in the prescribed amount of silver.  The reason being was because every firstborn in every home belonged to the Lord. Rather than having those boys be given to the service of the tabernacle, God prescribed the Jews to give money - redemption money - instead. 

This money was to be used for the upkeep of the temple and to aid in the feeding and clothing of the priests who served.  This was necessary, since Aaron and his sons did not have land and holdings like the rest of the tribes and clans of Israel. (Numbers 18:24)  Quite literally every bit of food and provision that Aaron and his sons had was "redeemed", "bought with a price".  As it was given to God, it was reckoned as belonging to Aaron and His sons. (Numbers 18:19)

When Jesus Christ came to die on the cross and rise from the dead, He had purchased sinners with His blood.  Ephesians 1:7 states: "in whom we have redemption in His blood, the forgiveness of sins".  According to Acts 20:28, the church, His bride, was purchased by the giving of His life.  Ephesians 5:22-25 and others texts also bear out the fact that as Christians, we belong to the Lord, we have been bought with a price. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:17-18)  Every single believer as been bought and paid for by Christ.  Christians are His inheritance according to Ephesians 1:12 - "to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory."

So having seen how Aaron pictures a present mediator bearing the people's burdens and with possessions bought and paid for, we consider the third pattern of the Eternal Present mediator...

Picturing the Present Mediator's work as the best offering to God
As much as Aaron and his sons were to bear the guilt of the people, we also read another truth in Numbers 18:32 - ‘You will bear no sin by reason of it when you have offered the best of it. But you shall not profane the sacred gifts of the sons of Israel, or you will die.’” As the people brought their gifts and tithes to the Levites, the Levites in turn would tithe that amount to Aaron and his sons.  It would be from those tithes that Aaron and his sons would be offering the "best of the best" to God.  

This sacred set of gifts would enable the sons of Aaron to be deemed blameless in God's sight.  If in anyway the gifts were profaned by Aaron or his sons - death would result.  Clearly the limitations of even the best of gifts was looking forward to an ultimate gift, given by an Ultimate High Priest, that would never have the stigma of guilt or profaning by the Giver.

Thanks be to God when Jesus Christ offered Himself, He offered the Best that could be given.  Furthermore, when He offered Himself on the cross, it was an offering incapable of being profaned, since the One offering was without spot nor blemish. (1 Peter 1:17-18).  In fact we read these words in Hebrews 7:26-27  "For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself."

Conclusion: Jesus Christ is the Forever Present Mediator
As we close out today's blog, we have looked at the ministry of Aaron once again.  We have noted how he pictures Jesus Christ as the believer's Forever Present Mediator.  We have noted three characteristics of Jesus Christ as the Forever Present Mediator, namely....

1. He bears the burdens of the people, both in the past on the cross and currently for believers at the Father's right hand in Heaven. (1 John 2:1-2)

2. He has bought us with a price.  We are His redeemed possession, His inheritance, saved to bring Him glory and pleasure. (Ephesians 1:12)

3. He gave His life as the Best offering possible to God. (Romans 5:6-10)

Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ, the Forever Present Mediator!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jesus Christ the forever living mediator

Numbers 17:8 Now on the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.

Numbers 17 is a rich chapter in that it not only has something to say to the Christian with regards to the Lord being for them, but moreso in pointing us to the ministry of Jesus Christ.  We have already seen how Aaron's ministry and person is a type or pattern of the ministry and Person of Jesus Christ.  Numbers 16:41-50 gave us a pattern of Christ the forever standing mediator.  Just as Aaron stood in place of the people before Holy God, making atonement and shutting down the plague, Christ has moreso done the same in making atonement by the cross and staying the wrath of God on all who believe on Him.

Today we want to consider the significance of the rod of Aaron that budded as revealing to us Christ the Forever Living mediator.

The Rod that Budded - its significance and meaning
In Numbers 17 God had Moses tell the leaders fo the twelve tribes to bring forth their staffs or rods.  Each man was to writer their name on their respective rod, with Aaron writing his name upon the rod of Levi.  Moses was then to place all the rods in the tent of testimony and retrieve them the next morning.  When he did that, the eleven rods remained as they had the day before - dead sticks.  However Aaron's rod had budded almond leaves, flowers and fruit. 

We know from the design of the tabernacle itself that almond nuts, buds and flowers were incorporated in the design.  For example in Exodus 25:31-40 the design of the Golden Lampstand featured such detail.  Undoubtedly God was tying Aaron's identity to the tabernacle in which he ministered. 

Later on in biblical history the prophet Jeremiah, at the onset of his ministry, is shown a vision of an almond tree in Jeremiah 1:11-12 - "The word of the LORD came to me saying, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “I see a rod of an almond tree.” 12Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it.”  Undoubtedly God was validating Aaron's future place in His overall redemptive plan for His people. 

Almond trees were usually one of the first trees to bud and sprout in the springtime.  They were marked by showing forth their fruit and flowers before their leaves, a feature quite different from many other plants which put forth their leaves before their fruit.  Furthermore, the word for Almond in the Hebrew language literally means: "to hasten, to quicken", thus God made Aaron's rod to have life that would put forth fruit haralding life and hope amidst death.

Aaron's ministry was being validated by God in the eyes of the people.  His rod alone budded, reminding the people that only through Aaron and his descendants could the nation have the proper representation needed to stand before Holy God. 

How Aaron's Rod points us to Christ, the Forever Living Mediator
We have pointed out in prior blogs that Aaron is a pattern or "type" of Jesus Christ.  Hebrews 5:4-5 states this typology - And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was. 5So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him, “YOU ARE MY SON,
TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”.  In other words, when we look at the historical figure of Aaron the High Priest, we can gain a pattern and faint outline of the far superior Priesthood of Jesus Christ.

In Hebrews 9:4 and 11 we see mention of Aaron's rod that budded: "Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary.  4having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant".  According to the writer of Hebrews, these details were used by the Holy Spirit to signify the truth revealed in Hebrews 9:11 "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation."  Thus the rod of Aaron says something to us about Jesus Christ and His ministry as the believer's Forever Living Mediator. 

Why Aaron's Rod?  Note from the details we brought out already how this episode in Numbers 17 points the way to Christ the Forever Living Mediator:

1. Resurrection Life.
What is ressurrection life?  It is life that is marked by incorruption and unfading power.  When Moses found that rod, it had life in and of itself.  Christ described how His ressurrection from the dead would be of His own accord. (John 10:17).  We can also note that the Rod of Aaron was placed as a testimony against the rebels. From what we can tell, those leaves, buds and fruit did not wither.  Whenever you take a branch off of a tree, it withers - but Aaron's rod had life in itself.  Ressurrection life is also Divine life.  Moses did not infuse the rod, nor did Aaron.  It was God who did the work. 

2. Resurrection Life is at the heart of faith
When Moses placed that rod at the doorway of the tent of testimony, it convicted the unbelief of the rebels. (Numbers 17:12-13)  Biblical faith has at its heart the very essence of resurrection life.  Romans 6:8-11states - "Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

Just as Aaron's rod had the miraculous power of God flowing through it, a power that was not part of it before, so it is with the Christian.  Faith had to come to us.  Galatians 3:25-26 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus."  It was by grace through faith we believed on Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord and Treasure. (Ephesians 2:8-9)  This faith is tied to the resurrection life that so raised Jesus from the dead - 1 Peter 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."

3. Resurrection life at the heart of faith points us to our Forever Living Mediator
Once Moses put Aaron's Rod in front of the Tent of Testimony, the congregation got the point: Aaron is the representative before God, and that they had better be careful how the treat Him.  The people realized that without proper representation, they were exposed, without a means of defense.  The miracle was used by God to affirm and confirm the identity of Aaron as the rightful mediator between God and the people of that time.  The heart of faith recognizes the constant need for reliance upon Jesus Christ.  Scripture and faith affirm and confirm the forever identity of Jesus Christ as the living mediator between believers and God:

-1 Timothy 2:5-6  "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time."

-1 John 2:1-2 "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

-Hebrews 7:24-25 "but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

How God validates you His servants

Numbers 17:1-5 "Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2“Speak to the sons of Israel, and get from them a rod for each father’s household: twelve rods, from all their leaders according to their fathers’ households. You shall write each name on his rod, 3and write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi; for there is one rod for the head of each of their fathers’ households. 4“You shall then deposit them in the tent of meeting in front of the testimony, where I meet with you. 5“It will come about that the rod of the man whom I choose will sprout. Thus I will lessen from upon Myself the grumblings of the sons of Israel, who are grumbling against you.” 

Perhaps you have come to today's blog, disappointed with life or disillusioned.  You are a Christian, you read your Bible and are doing all you can to serve the Lord - and yet it seems as if everything is against you.  Aaron in Numbers 16 and 17 would know what you are going through.  He had survived two major attacks on his character and ministry.  God speaks forth here in Numbers 17.  Nearly 15,000 people lost their lives as a result of the twin mutinies recorded in Numbers 16.  What God does for Aaron can truly offer encouragement to those who have been on the receiving end of attempted character assassinations. 

How does God validate those who serve Him?

1. God identifies with His servants.   Numbers 17:1-5
Notice what God says in Numbers 17:5 "Thus I will lessen from upon Myself the grumblings of the sons of Israel, who are grumbling against you."  You and I have to remember that when people attack God's servants, they are attacking Him.  Jesus said that as much as is done to the least of His people, it is tantamount to being a direct attack upon Himself. (Matthew 18:1-10)  God has not hung you out to dry - He is fighting for you and will stand by your side through your difficult circumstance.  The Lord does not merely sympathize for you at a distance, he empathizes with you in close proximity to where you are at.  He is there with you.  At times he will speak loud and clear, and at other times His voice will be still and small, like with Elijah. (1 Kings 19:9-21)  He is there with you no matter what.  Remembers, Jesus said: "I'll never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)

2. God indicates His servants.  Numbers 17:6-8
What God did to validate Aaron in front of the people was to have each of the twelve tribes bring a rod to place in the tent of testimony.  Each one was to write their name on the rod, with Aaron writing his name on the rod of Levi. (Numbers 17:3)  Moses did as God commanded and placed all of those rods as dead sticks in the tabernacle of God.  The next day when he went to retrieve them, eleven of them remained dead wood - however Aarons rod had budded!

God indicated his servant Aaron as a testimony to the whole nation!  Aaron's calling and ministry had the life and favor of God running through it.  His claims as Israel's High Priest were reinforced.  God was not ashamed of his man.  Woe to the others who would dare lay a hand on God's chosen man!  2 Corinthians 3:4-6 is a great verse to you who feel inadequate: "Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. 5Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, 6who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

3. God immobilizes attacks upon His servants Numbers 17:9-13
The text tells us that when Moses' placed Aaron's rod before the Tent of Testimony as a sign against the rebels, they got the point! (Numbers 17:17:9-11).  As a matter of fact, the people stated in Numbers 17:12-13 "Then the sons of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, “Behold, we perish, we are dying, we are all dying! 13“Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the LORD, must die. Are we to perish completely?”

God totally immobilized the naysayers, he fought Aaron's battle - Aaron won in the Lord!  The great preacher Warren Wiersby has made this observation of the outcome of Aaron's Rod and the people's response here in Numbers 17: "The people were fearful after they they had seen this demonstration of God's power.  What the death of nearly 15,000 people could not do, the sole blossoming of a dead stick did accomplish."  What was the accomplishment?  The silencing of the enemy's lips. 

We know after this episode in Israel's history, Aaron was never spoken against ever again.  God demonstrated He was for Aaron, and understand He is for you too!  My prayer today is that this blog has encouraged you.  Do not fear, nor be dismayed, for greater is He (the Lord) in you who believes on Him, than he (Satan) that is in the world.