The Irony and Significance of Names

A name can speak volumes about a person. A name can reflect one’s individuality and identity. A name can also reflect one’s familial, cultural, or religious heritage. In ancient biblical times, one’s name was often indicative of that person’s character and reputation. What is interesting is how many people in the Bible lived up or down to their names. The twelve spies sent out by Moses serve as a perfect example of the importance of a name.

The Israelites were on the doorstep of the Promised Land when God told Moses to send out people to inspect it. Moses picked one leader from each tribe and told them to gather information about the land’s people, defenses, natural resources, and agriculture. Moses also told the spies to bring back fruit of the land.

If you have ever heard this story taught in church or Sunday school, you can probably name only two of the spies: Joshua and Caleb. What about the other ten men? Here is the full list of the twelve spies and the meaning of their names:

*Shammua- “One who was heard.”

*Shaphat- “He has established justice.”

*Caleb- “Wholehearted.”

*Igal- “He redeems.”

*Joshua- “The Lord is salvation/the Lord saves.”

*Palti- “My deliverance.”

*Gaddiel- “God is my good fortune.”

*Gaddi- “My good fortune.”

*Ammiel- “People of God.”

*Sethur- “Hidden.”

*Nahbi- “Hidden/timid.”

*Geuel- “Pride of God.”

What is of particular interest is that ten of the twelve names reflect some aspect of God’s character and personality, while two names mean timidity and hiding. This is a bit of foreshadowing for what comes next.

The spies came back after forty days and brought back a cluster of grapes so large is had to be carried with staffs. The spies also brought back pomegranates and figs. The Bible does not say specifically, who gave the report, but what started out as confirmation of God’s word turned into complaining and discouragement.

“They [the spies] gave Moses this account: ‘We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.’” (Numbers 13:27-29, NIV).

People in the crowd began to murmur amongst themselves when Caleb spoke up:

“We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Numbers 13:30b, NIV).

God said of Caleb in Numbers 14:24 that he had a “different spirit and follows Me whole-heartily,” however, the people did not listen to Caleb as the other ten spies went on:

“’We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ And the spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’” (Numbers13:31b-33, NIV, emphasis mine).

People will often respond more to negativity than they will a positive message. Sometimes all it takes is one person with a rotten attitude to change the course of everyone’s day. The Israelites talked of rebelling and replacing Moses and going back to Egypt. Keep in mind this is the same generation that saw the Red Sea parted, the defeat of the most formidable army on the earth, water come out of rocks, and God supernaturally feeding them, yet they had a “grasshopper” mentality and could not see the giant God they served.

Moses and Caleb stood up before the crowd and encouraged them: “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:7b-9, NIV).

However, the people still refused to listen and rebelled further. It was only Moses’ intercession that saved the Israelites from being destroyed on the spot. God decided that the Israelites would not enter the Promised Land until the rebellious generation died, save for Joshua and Caleb. Because of their rebellion, the Israelites had to wander the desert for forty years. Joshua succeeded Moses in leading the people to the land and Caleb sought to take a mountain from giants in his well advanced age.

As we go through this life, we will face our share of giants and obstacles. Many of these giants and obstacles will seem unassailable. We must remember that God is with us. No matter what our name is or means, believers in Christ have a new name: Christians. Our God is known by many names: Jesus, Yahweh, Jehovah, Elohim, Deliverer, Savior, Healer, Redeemer, Rock, Strong Tower, Shepherd, and many more. With the Lord on your side, you shall overcome. God bless you all.

Gideon: God’s Unlikely Leader

The results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election literally shocked the world. All of the data from political experts, pollsters, and pundits indicated a victory for Hillary Clinton. However, Donald Trump was able to win a resounding victory. Though these results unsettled the financial markets, God was not caught off guard by this or any other election. I believe God in His sovereignty would use either Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump to fulfill His purposes.

In my lifetime, I do not remember an election that featured two such polarizing figures, whose personal, financial, moral, and political failures were well documented, yet both candidates rose above all party challengers. I am neither a prophet nor can I speak definitively concerning the next four years. However, I like other Christians believe that Jesus Christ is still on the throne regardless of who sits in the White House or any other presidential palace or government building.

During this election cycle, like others, questions arise as if a particular candidate looks, acts, or sounds “presidential.” All of us like to think that we can spot a leader or know what qualities a leader should have, but God tends to call up unlikely leaders. The story of Gideon comes to mind. During this particular scene in the Book of Judges, the Israelites were being oppressed by the Midianites and they cried out for deliverance.

Gideon was hiding wheat in a wine press when he encountered an angel. God used the angel to speak to Gideon’s potential as a leader, though he was hiding wheat from the Midianites.

“When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” (Judges 6:12, NIV).

Gideon then questions God and dismisses his own ability to lead.

“‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all His wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.’” (Judges 6:13, NIV).

“The Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?’” (Judges 6:14, NIV).

Gideon once again questions God.

“’Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family.’” (Judges 6:15, NIV).

“The Lord answered, I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” (Judges 6:16, NIV).

After confirming His will through multiple signs, God put Gideon in charge of 32,000 men. However, God decided Gideon had too many people and eventually narrowed down the army from 32,000 to 300. Gideon and his 300 men defeated the Midianites and freed Israel from oppression.

The point of the story is that we truly do not know who or how God will use someone for His purposes. The Bible, history, and everyday life are full of examples of God using ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. David was a shepherd who became king. David’s fighting men were men on the fringes of society, yet they became a formidable force. Jesus’ disciples were fishermen, tax collectors, and other everyday people. God speaks to our potential. We have to seek Him to find that potential. God has gifted each of us for specific purposes. God positions people for purposes as well. As we go forward with the new direction of the United States and the world, let us remember to seek God’s will. We may not have all of the details nor we may not have all of the resources we had at the beginning, but God will work it out. God bless you all.

Do Not Dwell on the Former Things

Nostalgia is a double-edged sword. While we can look back fondly on childhood memories and the “good ol’ days” in general, nostalgia often clouds our judgment of past events and can be exploited by others. In the United States, politicians and political movements rise because of nostalgia. In a world of increasing technological, social, and political change, these politicians play upon the fears of people, speaking in general terms of how if elected, the country will go back to a simpler time, before all of these changes happened. In essence, they will turn back the clock twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years.

Nostalgia is also big business. One of the constant complaints about Hollywood is “They’ve run out of ideas. It’s all sequels, reboots, and comic book movies.” Of course, not every film will be financially successful, but marketers know that if there is a built-in audience for a movie, that audience will go see it and maybe bring along the next generation. It becomes a vicious circle when audiences reject movies with new and different themes or stories, so Hollywood then has to go back to what makes money. For me personally I too am film nostalgic, as I grew up in the late 1970s/1980s and watched the original Star Wars trilogy over and over. To this day, I can almost quote the movies word for word and I look forward to the new movies in the upcoming years.

If we are not careful, we can fall victim to a “spiritual nostalgia,” where we long for our days before Christ. I know in my personal life the circumstances that brought me to Christ seem less daunting today than what I have gone through with Christ. I do not long to go back to a time when Christ was not in my life. If you are honest with yourself, was high school really that great? Do you really want to go back to the days of brokenness, pain, addiction, hopelessness, and frustration? Probably not. In your “BC” days, you were comfortable in your slavery to sin. Satan had you where he wanted you.

The Israelites complained about how they had it better in Egypt, they had food and water, and how Moses led them out to the desert to die. While the Israelites complained about their current situation, their nostalgia glossed over the fact they were slaves back in Egypt. For over 400 years, the Israelites and their ancestors broke their bodies building monuments of Egypt’s power and glory. Everyday served as a reminder of “We’re great, you’re slaves.” Why would they want to go back to that? Keep in mind that these are the same people who crossed the Red Sea. We must not allow nostalgia for the past to override the present moment. Even in your days before Christ, God’s prevenient grace allowed you to get through the hard times and you will get through this. Once we have crossed our Red Sea, there is no going back to Egypt.

The Apostle Peter fell prey to spiritual nostalgia. John 21 tells the story about how Peter decided to go fishing. Some of the other disciples joined Peter. Keep in mind that this event occurs after Jesus’ resurrection and previous appearances to the disciples. The Bible does not give us details about Peter’s inner dialogue, but maybe it went something like this:

This whole thing with Jesus was nice while it lasted. I left my livelihood and gave up three years of my life to follow Him. What am I supposed to do now? I failed. I failed miserably. I denied Him just like He said I would. One time He even told me ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ Maybe I’m not cut out for this whole ministry thing. I’ll go back to being a fisherman. If nothing else, I know how to fish.

However, Peter had an encounter with Jesus and his life and the world has not been the same since. Just weeks after seemingly giving up, the Holy Spirit empowered Peter to preach a sermon that led to 3,000 people to Christ. Peter was also the first apostle to share the Gospel with the Gentiles.

As Christians and as the Church, we must understand that while God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He also does not want to get caught up in the religious bondage of man’s past traditions. We must be spiritually attuned to God’s voice and what He wants to do today. God’s methods may change, just as Jesus did not always heal people or raise people from the dead the same way every time.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV).

As we go forward with God, let us not long for the past nor fear the future at the expense of the current moment. Let us be mindful and present as to what God is saying to us now. God bless you all.

Finding Comfort in Sorrow

A common theme throughout both the Old and New Testaments is how God seeks to comfort His people. Just as the ancient Israelites awaited the arrival of the Messiah, so Christians await the return of Christ. The Book of Revelation describes how Christ will wipe away all our tears and restore all things; the Old Testament also eludes to this fact.

In my previous post, we took a deeper look into the Hebrew word, Nacham (Strong’s #5162), which means “to repent or comfort” from the perspective of how we can draw comfort when we repent and show the strength to take a new course of action. To read the previous post, click here https://triumphantinchrist.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/finding-comfort-in-our-repentance/. In this post, we will examine Nacham from the comforting or consoling aspect of the word. Once again, I will be quoting exclusively from the King James Version.

 

Job’s Well-Intentioned Friends

When tragedy or difficulties strike our family and friends, our heart aches for them. We often feel so powerless and overwhelmed when we realize nothing we do or say is going to take away their pain. Our hurting loved ones need our presence more than social clichés. We do not have to say anything. Just be there. Give them a hug. Tell them you love them.

 Perhaps no one in the Old Testament suffered more than Job. In a quick succession of time, Job’s ten children died, he became ill, he lost his livelihood, and his wife, out of her pain, told him to “curse God and die.” Job, to the best of his knowledge, could not think of anything he did to bring on such suffering and tragedy. Up till the end of the book, God remained silent. When God did speak, Job was not given an explanation for his suffering, but was blessed in the end with more than he had before. Job’s three friends went to comfort him.

 “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came everyone from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent everyone his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.” (Job 2:11-13, KJV, emphasis mine).

Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar started out with noble intentions, as all three decided to visit their friend. The three men also joined Job in his mourning by following the Hebrew customs of weeping openly, tearing their clothes, and sprinkling dust on their heads, which were all signs of mourning. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar offered no condolences or words of wisdom, they simply sat on the ground in silence for a week, covered in dirt and torn clothes. Job’s grief was so great that his friends did not recognize him at first.

During times of tragedy, we can find ourselves trying to explain why God would allow something to happen. However, the truth is that we cannot fully know God’s reasons nor even begin to understand His ways. Therefore, we do need to speak for God. If we say the wrong thing, we will only add to someone’s grief, which is what Job’s three friends did. If Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, had remained silent when Job began to speak, they would not have added to Job’s grief. However, Job’s three friends accused him of harboring a secret sin and that sin brought on his troubles. In multiple debates, the three friends reasoned with Job that he brought this on himself. This frustrated Job to no end.

“Then Job answered and said, I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all. Shall vain words have an end? Or what emboldeneth thee that thou answerest? I also could speak as ye do; if your soul were in my soul’s stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you. But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should assuage your grief.” (Job 16: 1-5, KJV, emphasis mine).

 At the end of the Book of Job, he received the comfort he needed not only from his submission to God, but also from everyone who came out to see him and blessed him.

When the Grief is too much

The pain of yesterday and the uncertainty of the future only adds to the grief in the current moment. When we cannot see past the pain, life becomes too and we fall into despair. If you have reached despair, hold on to hope. There will be difficult days, but you will get through them. If you question “Where is God in the midst of all of this?” do not fret, because the Bible addresses this as well, showing us that we are not alone in how we feel.

“My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word. Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, ‘When wilt thou comfort me?’” (Psalms 119:81-82, KJV, emphasis mine).

“So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of the oppressors there was power, but they had no comforter.” (Ecclesiastes 4:1, KJV, emphasis mine).

 “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.” (Psalm 69:20, KJV, emphasis mine).

Comfort is on the Way

Though we often picture the Old Testament prophets as bearers of “gloom and doom,” and pronouncing “Woe unto you,” God makes beautiful statements concerning a day when His children will be comforted, even in the midst of famine, suffering, grief, or an invading army. We too can take solace in these beautiful words found in Isaiah.

“Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away. I, even I, am He that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass.” (Isaiah 51:11-12, KJV, emphasis mine).

 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint them that mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3, KJV, emphasis mine).

If you are experiencing grief and loss, please do not give up hope. This is a process and will take time. There is no set timeframe for this. You do not have to go on this journey alone. In fact, you are not on this journey alone. Though you may have days of darkness and doubt, know that God still loves you. God bless you all.

Finding Comfort in our Repentance

It is a natural human desire to seek comfort in the midst of tragic or difficult circumstances. When we know of someone who has suffered a devastating event such as the loss of a loved one or is dealing with the aftermath of a natural disaster, we pray that God would comfort their hearts, souls, and minds. Comfort can bring us a peace that transcends understanding. We can also pursue comfort by seeking a certain financial and/or material standard of living.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 4th edition defines Comfort as “1. (V) To soothe in time of affliction or distress. 2. (V) To ease physically, relieve. 3. (N). A condition of feeling or pleasurable ease, well-being, or contentment.” The Bible, of course, has much to say concerning comfort in the sense of consolation and providing solace and support, but we will examine comfort in the sense of strength and repentance. For this post, I will be conducting this word study using the King James Version.

The Hebrew word most often used for comfort is the word, Nacham (Strong’s #5162), which means “to repent, comfort.” More specifically, Nacham means “to make a strong turning to a new course of action.” Repentance simply means going in a different direction. For instance, if you repent of a sin, you go in a different direction by not committing that sin. Comfort is derived from the words Com (with) and Fort (strength). Strong’s Concordance goes on to explain: “When one repents, he exerts strength to change, re-grasp the situation, and exert effort for the situation to take a different course of action.” Thus, repentance and comfort in this particular instance does not place the emphasis on God’s grace, but on our responses and the actions we take concerning our circumstances.

Before we go further, let me state that there are times when God allows difficult circumstances in our lives and what we go through is not always a direct result of our sin. Hence, I am not condemning anyone. We will examine biblical people who brought comfort by turning the situation around, examples of personal strength, and how God brought comfort to wayward ancient Israel.

Noah

From Adam to Noah, humanity grew excessively wicked and God sought to cleanse the world with the Flood. God chose Noah to bring repentance to humanity.

“And Lamech lived a hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: And he called his name Noah, saying ‘This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.” (Genesis 5:28-29, KJV, emphasis mine). Here is the first instance of the link between repentance and comfort.

Joseph

If anyone had a right to carry a chip on their shoulder, it would be Joseph. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, falsely accused of attacking Potiphar’s wife and subsequently falsely imprisoned.  Joseph was forgotten about in prison and stayed there longer than he should have been. However, God brought Joseph to prominence and placed him in a position of authority to save countless people during a famine. This famine was used to unite Joseph with his brothers and his father, Jacob. After Jacob died, Joseph’s brothers feared for their lives, that Joseph was biding his time and would take his revenge after their father died. Joseph’s brothers repented before him, pleading for mercy. Joseph, showed strength and comforted his brothers and explained to them the greater good of what happened:

“And Joseph said unto them, ‘Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me: but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones.’ And he comforted them, and spake kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:19-21, KJV, emphasis mine).

Comfort and Repentance in the Psalms

The Psalms, for me, have always been a source of hope and inspiration. Though some of the Psalms deal with Israel as a nation, the vast majority of the Psalms are personal reflections of people as they dealt with the harshness and trials of life. The writers of the Psalms gave an honest acknowledgement of their sins and the comfort brought on by repentance.

“He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:3-4, KJV, emphasis mine).

“Thou, which hast showed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.” (Psalm 71:20-21, KJV, emphasis mine).

“Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.” (Psalm 119:49-50, KJV, emphasis mine).

“I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.” (Psalm 119:75-76, KJV, emphasis mine).

Comfort and God’s Judgment of Israel

From the Book of Judges on, a pattern is established in the Old Testament where Israel would fall into sin and idolatry, then God would raise up a prophet, judge, or king to urge Israel to repent of their sins and avoid God’s judgments. There were times when Israel refused to repent and God’s judgments came in the forms of invading armies such as the Assyrians or Babylonians. In the words of the Prophets, you can hear the heart of God, pleading to bring comfort to his suffering children. God would bring comfort when his people repented of their sins, thus, placing the onus on Israel and Judah to change their ways.

“And in that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:1-2, KJV, emphasis mine).

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1, KJV, emphasis mine).

“What thing shall I take to witness for thee? What thing shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion? For thy breach is great like the sea: who can heal thee?” (Lamentations 2:13, KJV, emphasis mine).

“Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.” (Jeremiah 31:13, KJV, emphasis mine).

In these words, we have covered only one aspect of comfort, with the emphasis on repentance. There are numerous examples of Nacham being used in the traditional sense of comfort, which I will cover later, Lord willing. If you are going through a painful season, please keep in mind that God has given you all of the tools and opportunities to start anew. Although it cannot change what happened, we do not have to stay where we are at and we can go forward with grace and strength. God bless you all.

The Restoration of Joy

My dad’s hobby is restoring old cars, mainly cars from the 1920s and 1930s. Anyone who has restored something old, whether it be a car, a house, or an antique piece of furniture knows that it is a process. In regards to restoring old cars, the process may involve repairing a steel body that has suffered years of corrosion and rust, replacing or rebuilding an engine, replacing the interior and repainting the car, all of which involve the resources of time and money. When the car is restored, it brings a sense of joy to the owner.

Our God is in the restoration business- restoring the lives of people. Of course, God’s greatest restorative act was sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for humanity’s sins. However, God not only seeks our eternal redemption, He wants a personal relationship with us. God wants us to seek and worship Him in our everyday lives. Going back to the car in need of restoration, what has brought “corrosion and rust” into your life? What needs to be rebuilt? What needs to be replaced? Do the rough edges need to be sanded down and made smooth? If we allow God to take us through His restorative process, it will bring great joy in our lives. God will replace our rusted out “jalopy” of a life with a life of joyous “show room quality.”

The restoration of Israel is a thread woven deep within the pages of the Old Testament. As Israel would fall away from God and worship the pagan idols, God would bring judgment upon Israel, often in the form of an invading foreign nation. God would relent when Israel would repent of its sins. Even in the midst of their rebellion and coming judgment, God never gave up on Israel. God sent prophets not only to warn Israel, but to encourage them with future days of joy and restoration, which would culminate with the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of His kingdom.

“Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11, KJV).

“Break forth into joy, singing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:9-10, KJV).

“For the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. Therefore, they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all. Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together; for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.” (Jeremiah 31:11-13, KJV).

The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied before the Babylonian Exile, where the Israelites spent seventy years in Babylon as punishment for their continued disobedience to God. As Christians, we have a better covenant with better promises (Hebrews 8:6) and we are forgiven of our sins past, present, and future. However, there may be times when we will have to deal with the consequences of our sins. We may go through a sorrowful season, but there is joy and restoration on the other side.

The seventy years of exile in Babylon came to an end and the Israelites were allowed to go home. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah deal with the issue of the Israelites returning home to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the temple. For some, the rebuilding of the Temple was a time of sorrow, as they remembered the glory of the first Temple (Ezra 3:12-13). However, for many coming back to Jerusalem was a time of great rejoicing, for God had once again showed His faithfulness to Israel.

“And the children of Israel, the priest, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy…And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy; for the Lord had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.” (Ezra 6:16, 22, KJV).

Concerning the dedication of Jerusalem’s walls, Nehemiah 12:43 states: “Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.” (KJV).

All of us will go through difficult times. There will be times of pain and suffering, but we must rejoice in those times because we know that our God is faithful. God will restore us, bringing us eternal glory and joy after we have gone through our “momentary” trials.

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18, KJV).

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:17, KJV).

“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:13, KJV).

Whatever you are facing, this shall pass. Your personal Babylon will not last forever. God will restore what you have lost. To paraphrase the Psalm, you have spent the night in sorrow, but joy is coming in the morning. God bless you all.

The Horn of our Salvation

There’s a popular expression in the United States that says, “You have to grab the bull by the horns.” The expression is not meant to be taken literally because grabbing a bull by its horns would be a dangerous- if not deadly proposition. Rather, “take the bull by the horns” symbolizes taking control of a situation. However, as we all know, there are situations we cannot take control of, but we must place our faith in God and let Him guide us.

             In Scripture, horns represent many things including:

             *Ram’s horns were used to make shofars.

             *Horns were used to carry anointing oil.

             *Horns symbolized a ruler or nation’s authority or power.

             *Horns indicated physical strength.

For any horned animal-whether it be a bull, a ram, a goat, an elk, or deer, horns can represent strength. In the Old Testament, there is an expression “The horn of my salvation” that we will examine. Throughout the Old Testament and even in the New Testament, people such as Moses, Miriam, Deborah and Barak, Hannah, and even Mary, the Mother of Jesus, sang songs of victory and deliverance that the Lord had provided.

Hannah, after many years of being barren, gave birth to a son named Samuel, who became the last judge of Israel. After Hannah dedicated Samuel to the service of the priesthood, she sang a song, rejoicing in what the Lord had done

 “And Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.” (1 Samuel 2:1, NKJV, emphasis mine).

Hannah realized that her strength did not come from within herself, but her strength was exalted in the Lord. As Hannah prayed and praised God, God strengthened her and brought forth the miracle of Samuel’s birth.

King David was another person who relied and trusted in God during difficult times in his life. Anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel after God rejected Saul, David spent a decade on the run from Saul, who wanted to kill him. David wrote songs and psalms to the Lord, praising Him for all He had done. David, like Hannah, realized that his strength did not rest in his abilities, but depended upon the Lord.

“The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Samuel 22:3, NKJV, emphasis mine).

 “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2, NKJV, emphasis mine).

“For You are the glory of their strength, and in Your favor our horn is exalted…But My faithfulness and My mercy shall be with him, and in My name his horn shall be exalted.” (Psalm 89:17, 24, NKJV, emphasis mine).

There are also other places in the Psalms, where the word “horn” is mentioned concerning strength and our salvation.

“But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil.” (Psalm 92:10, NKJV, emphasis mine).

 Speaking of the person who fears the Lord, Psalm 112:9 states, “He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted with honor.” (NKJV, emphasis mine).

“And He has exalted the horn of His people, the praise of all His saints- of the children of Israel, a people near to Him. Praise the Lord.” (Psalm 148:14, NKJV, emphasis mine).

As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, how much more do we have to celebrate and rejoice in what our Lord has done for us? No matter the trial- whether you have been battling it for a long time or you were blindsided by it- God will strengthen you. Lift up His Name. Pray. Seek His Face. God‘s presence dwells in the praises of His people. Grace and peace to all of you.

Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah- Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part series on Leadership Principles from Nehemiah. To read part 1, click here https://triumphantinchrist.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/leadership-lessons-from-nehemiah-part-1/ or go to the “October 2015 archives.”

Leadership Principle #5- Expect to have critics

Whether it is in our personal lives, our jobs, inside the church, we will run into people who seem to criticize our every move, try to make us second guess our work and to discourage us. Though Nehemiah had obtained favor with the king to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, he encountered opposition from two men, Sanballat and Tobiah, who opposed Nehemiah at every turn.

“When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, [rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls] they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.” (Nehemiah 2:10, NIV). Brackets mine.

“But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. ‘What is this you are doing?’ they asked. ‘Are you rebelling against the king?’” (Nehemiah 2:19, NIV).

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, ‘What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall” Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble- burned as they are?’ Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, ‘What are they building- even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!’” (Nehemiah 4:1-3, NIV).

Leadership Principle #6- Don’t argue with critics- stay focused on the Lord and the work

Nehemiah and those rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem faced constant opposition from Sanballat and Tobiah, yet Nehemiah did not waste time getting into useless debates and arguments with his critics, instead he spoke the Word of God over the situation, focused on the work at hand and prayed for those who were ridiculed him.

“I answered them by saying, ‘The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” (Nehemiah 2:20, NIV).

“’Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.’ So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” (Nehemiah 4:4-6, NIV).

Leadership Principle #7- Deal with problems decisively

Besides the opposition he faced in rebuilding the walls, Nehemiah also had to deal with rumors of armies trying to invade and plots to kill him. In these cases, Nehemiah acted quickly to arm the people working on the wall and discerned when people wanted to harm him. Nehemiah also acted decisively when he found out when Israelites were charging interest to their fellow Jews- which was forbidden in the Law. Because of the interest charged, people had to mortgage their homes, fields, and vineyards just to buy the necessities and to pay the required taxes, which placed hardships on people and their families.

“When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, ‘You are charging your own people interest!’ So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said: ‘As far as possible, we have brought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!’ They kept quiet because they had nothing to say. So I continued, ‘What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?’” (Nehemiah 4:6-9, NIV).

Nehemiah held demanded that they stop charging interest and made the nobles and priests swear an oath to God. The nobles declared they would give back the money, which they did. Leaders must make difficult decisions daily and must take action when a problem arises because it can create larger problems down the road.

Leadership Principle #8- Don’t demand of your position, be a servant

Nehemiah was appointed governor of Judah and was entitled to an allotment of food. However, Nehemiah new that his allotment of food would cause a hardship on the people to provide, so Nehemiah refused his allotment of food as governor (Nehemiah 5:18). Here, Nehemiah demonstrates the principle of servant leadership in that one should never demand from their position of leadership. Just as Jesus stated that He came to serve and not to be served. As Christians and as leaders, we must live out our leadership responsibilities as servants of Christ.

The Bible tells us that Nehemiah and his people completed rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in fifty-two days. Nehemiah did not allow opposition and obstacles to stand in his way of completing the task the Lord called him to complete. We must remember that God will be with us and guide us during the rebuilding times of our lives as He did with Nehemiah.

Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah- Part 1

The term “rebuilding” is often associated with professional sports, when a formerly great team has to go through losing seasons with younger players due to star players retiring or moving on to different teams. In ancient times, cities were rebuilt upon the foundations of previous civilizations. In modern times, one building is demolished to make way for a new, usually bigger building. However, rebuilding is not exclusive to the worlds of professional sports or architecture. All of us at one point or another may find ourselves in a state of rebuilding- whether it be from the death of a loved one, a divorce, a financial bankruptcy, illness, addiction, job loss, or anything else that may come our way. Surviving those times will require faith and strength along with God’s grace. In addition to faith, strength, and grace, there are biblical leadership skills we can apply to our situations.

The Old Testament Book of Nehemiah is a prime example of leadership in action during a time of rebuilding. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC, which included the destruction of the first Temple and the city walls being destroyed. Eventually, the Medo-Persian Empire supplanted the Babylonians as the dominant world power and the Persian king Cyrus issued a decree for the exiled Jews to return to Israel. Nehemiah served as the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes and received devastating news about Jerusalem.

“In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” (Nehemiah 1:1-3, NIV).

Leadership Principle #1- A problem is a perfect time for prayer

“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:4, NIV).

 Nehemiah goes on to intercede for the nation of Israel, asking God to forgive them of their sins. Throughout Nehemiah, Nehemiah’s first response to a crisis is prayer. When we are faced with a crisis, we must not cower in fear, but we should come boldly to God’s throne of grace. It is through prayer and fasting, that God will give us the direction we need in a situation.

Leadership Principle #2- God will give us the resources we need

Nehemiah was still very distraught over the state of Jerusalem when he went before the king. The king sensed Nehemiah’s distress and asked him what was wrong. (Keep in mind that anyone who was sad in front of the king could be executed).

 “I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, ‘May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’” The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and answered the king, ‘If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so I can rebuild it.’” (Nehemiah 2:2b-5, NIV).

I believe the Lord placed Nehemiah in such a position of trust and prominence to the king for the sole purpose of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. Nehemiah chapter two goes on to state that the king granted Nehemiah’s request and gave him letters to grant him safe passage, all of the timber he needed, and also sent a military escort to accompany him.

 It is important to remember that we cannot overlook the way in which God provides for our needs. For example, say someone wants to go to college and they do not have the personal means to do so. Someone may get discouraged if they do not receive a miracle check in the mail, but they overlook financial aid, scholarships, grants, and other ways to raise money. If the Lord has placed a task on your heart, He will provide you with everything you need to complete it.

Leadership Principle #3- Give God the glory

If we are not careful, pride can sneak in our hearts and we will believe that our abilities accomplished the task. Just as Nehemiah gave the glory to God, so must we give Him the all of the glory.

“And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my request.” (Nehemiah 2:8b, NIV).

  “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.” (Nehemiah 6:16, NIV).

Leadership Principle #4- Be an encourager

When the Lord calls us to complete a task, He does not call us to go at it alone, but will send people around us. Just as Jesus had his disciples and Paul mentored Timothy, so too did the Lord call people around Nehemiah to help him rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. Though leadership of any kind can be a difficult task, the best leaders will try their best to encourage those around them. As a leader encouragement involves others “buying into” the vision God has laid out before you.

 “Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.’ I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began the good work.” (Nehemiah 2:17-18, NIV).

  “After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember, the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.’” (Nehemiah 4:14, NIV).

            The remaining principles will be shared in the next post.

Healing in the Old Testament

The subject of healing is a controversial topic. Some churches teach that healing and the other spiritual gifts are for today, while others teach that the gifts ended with the death of the Apostles. To those outside of the Church, the word healing may bring to mind images disgraced televangelists with their theatrics and “miracle” products such as oils and cloths. I believe that God in His sovereignty can heal someone supernaturally or through modern medicine- instantly or over time. It may also be God’s will for someone not to be healed, which could result in death or lifelong illness. We as mere people cannot begin to understand the ways and thoughts of God because His ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). The purpose of this post is to simply show what the Bible teaches on the subject of healing. More specifically, this post will examine healing in the Old Testament. 

Our Relationship with God and His Word

Before we go any further, let me state that not all physical sickness is a direct result of sin. Though sickness came into the world because of sin, not everybody is sick because they sinned. As we know from modern science and medicine that sicknesses are caused by germs, bacteria, and viruses. There are also genetic and environmental factors that can play a role in sickness. People may also be afflicted with sickness so they glory of God can be revealed (John 9:1-3).  However, all of us are sick with the sickness of sin. God has sent us the cure for our sin sickness when His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth to pay the penalty for our sins on the cross. Once we accept Christ as Savior, we come into relationship with God. The best way to get to know God is through His Word. Though we may not be able to avoid all germs, bacteria, and viruses, we can avoid major problems if we study the Word of God. For example, if we study what the Word says about sex outside of marriage, gluttony, drunkenness, etc., we can avoid health problems that are associated with such sins. What does the Bible say about God’s Word and our spiritual and physical health?

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5, NKJV).

“He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” (Psalm 107:20, NKJV).

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:6-8, NKJV).

“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.” (Proverbs 4:20-22, NKJV).

The Hebrew word used the most to describe healing is the word Raphah (Strong’s #7495), which means to heal or restore to normal. Of course there are examples in the Old Testament of people who were healed and even raised from the dead, but we will focus on the relationship between Israel and God.

Sickness and the Spiritual Condition of Israel

Throughout the Old Testament, especially in the Prophets, Israel’s constant backsliding and rebellion towards God is compared with an incurable sickness.

“Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Indeed we do come to You, for You are the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 3:22, NKJV).

“For thus says the Lord: ‘Your affliction is incurable, your wound is severe. There is no one to plead your cause that you may be bound up; you have no healing medicines. All your lovers have forgotten you; they do not seek you; for I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of your iniquities, because your sins have increased.’” (Jeremiah 30:13-14, NKJV).

“Your injury has no healing, your wound is severe. All who hear news of you will clap their hands over you, for upon whom has not your wickedness passed continually? (Nahum 3:19, NKJV).

God’s Desire to Restore Israel

Through sending His word to the prophets, God desired for Israel to repent of their sins, just as He desires for us to repent of our sins and accept Christ.

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV).

“’Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured; and all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; those who plunder you shall become plunder, and all who prey upon you I will make a prey. For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds, says the Lord, ‘Because they called you an outcast saying: ‘this is Zion; no one seeks her.’” (Jeremiah 30:16-17, NKJV).

The Messiah

God’s ultimate healing for the sickness of sin for Israel and all of the world was to send His Only begotten Son, the Messiah Jesus Christ into the world. The Old Testament prophets looked forward to the day of Christ because of the healing and restoration.

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5, NKJV).

“Come, and let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.” (Hosea 6:1-2, NKJV).

“But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings…” (Malachi 4:2a, NKJV).

Though we will battle physical bouts of physical sickness while we are in these bodies and in this sin-stricken world, we must make sure that are spiritual health is in order by allowing the sacrifice and shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ to heal us of our sins. Grace and peace to you all.