There is a story in the Bible about a very gifted and competent leader who wasn’t working smart.
Scripture: Exodus 18:1-27
There is a story in the Bible about a very gifted and competent leader who wasn’t working smart. And with some basic adjustments, took his game to a whole new level. That leader was Moses, and the story is found in Exodus 18.
In Exodus 18 the people of Israel had now been liberated from the tyranny of Egypt and were headed to the Promised Land. Moses had been separated from his wife and boys, so his father-in-law, Jethro, brought them home. The following day Jethro went to work with Moses. It must have been “Take Your Father-In-Law To Work” day in Israel.
The Bible says that Moses took his seat and from morning until evening settled all the disputes and served as the only judge for more than two million people. Think of all the wasted time spent waiting in line to get a few minutes with Moses. It was worse than the DMV office. This was very inefficient and ineffective.
Any dispute that could not be settled was brought to him, no matter how small or big. When Jethro watched this for a day, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” That’s a nice way of saying, “Have you lost your mind?”
Listen to Moses’ response: “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will.” Translation: “That’s just how we roll here. There are a lot of needs, and people come to me looking for help. I just stay at it and work until everyone gets an answer.” Sometimes we are so accustomed to doing things one way that we can’t see how broken our thinking is.
What was painfully obvious to Jethro was oblivious to Moses. This wasn’t about heart or sincerity or that he was an incompetent leader. He just wasn’t working smart.
Jethro’s assessment was “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out.” Moses was the bottleneck of a system that was broken and creating dysfunction. It was wasting time and energy and wearing everyone out.
When we have poorly devised plan for getting our work done, we will wear out ourselves and our team. You’ll end up spending a lot of sideways energy managing the problems of an inefficient approach to your work. At times it might be wise to consult an outsider like Jethro who can see things more clearly and objectively.
I love that Moses listened to his father-in-law. He was teachable. He didn’t bow up or become defensive. And he didn’t pull rank or remind Jethro that he was the anointed leader of Israel.
The system Jethro proposed was three-pronged: Pray. Teach. Delegate. Moses was to pray and take the people’s needs before God He was to teach the people so they would know God’s laws and be able to settle most disputes themselves. And, he was to find faithful men and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundred, fifties, and tens.
Moses had 4 issues that were keeping him stuck, exhausted, and ineffective. He had a…
1. Priority issue (he wasn’t doing the thing that was most important to his role, which was interceding for the people)
2. Training issue (instead of making every decision, he needed to train the people so they could make most decisions for themselves)
3. System issue (Moses WAS the system)
4. Delegation issue (He needed to find faithful men and delegate. Jethro encouraged him to appoint leaders over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens)
Moses needed to learn how to better manage himself, his work, and others.
The first step is to get clear about your PRIORITIES.
We often mistake activity for productivity. I need to regularly ask myself “Are the activities, programs and tasks I am working on really helping us move toward the accomplishment of our mission?” “Am I investing my time in the highest priorities?”
A “to-do” list is not the same as a “must-do” list. As John Maxwell says “you cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”
Clear priorities help me say “no” to secondary things so that I can say “yes” to primary things.
One of the tools you might want to consider using is something Bill Hybels developed so that he could be more focused and effective. It is his 6×6 card. It identifies the 6 key priorities he is focused on in the next 6 weeks. There is nothing magical about having 6 priorities or working on them over 6 weeks. The magic is in the clarity of focus. For you it might be 4×4… the top 4 priorities over the next 4 weeks. Find a tool that helps you and those you manage to have laser focus on what is most important.
Before you leave this article, I want to encourage you to spend a few moments answering the following two questions.
What are your 3 highest priorities right now?
What is something you need to stop doing because it is not the best use of your gifts or your time?
I remember the night I met the woman who would become my wife. I was at a friend’s apartment in Southern California, and I saw her from across the room. She confidently walked up to me, put out her hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Lenya.” On our first date, she told me about her background, her hopes, and her dreams. Thus started a long, lasting, and very satisfying relationship.
The best way to get acquainted with someone is to get firsthand knowledge from them about who they are. Essentially, that is what Moses did to God in Exodus 34. Moses asked to see God’s glory, and God answered his request not with an appearance, but with a list of attributes. In this foundational passage about who God is, we see two aspects of His personality: His designation, or who He says He is, and His description, what He says about Himself.
First is His designation: God began by naming Himself. “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God'” (v. 6)—or Yahweh, Yahweh El in Hebrew. El is the generic term for God, but Yahweh is specific, and it means I am. This is the name God used when He introduced Himself to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3: “I AM WHO I AM” (v. 14). The repetition here was to emphasize to Moses that this was the same God who spoke to him back then.
What does the name I am tell us about God? It means He is the self-existent one, the only noncontingent being in the universe—that is, He doesn’t depend on anybody else for His existence. It also refers to his eternal nature. God is not the great I was or I used to be; He is the great I am. And it highlights His active existence—that He is involved with humanity, not detached or aloof.
In the Bible, a person’s name was far more than just an identity tag. The Hebrew people believed there was a connection between a person’s name and a person’s nature. Whatever they were named was often brought to bear with their character. So this is God’s character, reputation, and authority—His designation: Yahweh, Yahweh El.
That brings us to God’s description of who He is: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (vv. 6-7). What a description, isn’t it?
Here’s how Moses responded: he “made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped” (v. 8). God introduced Himself to Moses—”Hi, I’m God. Here’s what I’m like”—and Moses worshiped. All teaching of the Scriptures should lead to this; good theology is the foundation and impetus for true worship. That’s why I tell worship leaders every chance I get, “Make sure your songs are filled with good theology.”
Do you, like Moses, make haste to worship the Lord every time you learn more about Him? It’s the fitting response, and it’s one of the keys to a long, lasting, and satisfying relationship with Him.
‘He stood between the dead and the living and the plague stopped’ ~ Numbers 16:48
The distance between man and God is the deepest deep and the widest breadth. Adding rebellion and unrepentance to the chasm, the deeper and wider it gets. When Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and 250 of their followers opposed and rebelled against God’s appointed, Moses simply tells them, ‘In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will make that person come near him. The man he has chosen he will cause to come near him’ (Numbers 16:5). The distance between man and God can only be bridged by God. It is only God Himself who causes one to draw near Him. However, it remains obvious that rebellion and grumbling about God’s sovereign will, sets one against God. That is why Moses tells the rebels, ‘It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should murmur against him?’ (v11).
God seeing the rebellion says to Moses, ‘Separate yourselves from this assembly so that I can put an end to them at once’ (v21). But Moses stands in the gap and petitions God to spare the lives of the people saying, ‘O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?’ (v22). But God knew the hearts of the people, because even after they were spared, they also grumbled against Moses and Aaron. But in hearing Moses, God spared the people, and the earth opened and swallowed the three rebellious men and fire from heaven only consumed their followers. Soon after, the rest of the people spoke against Moses and Aaron saying, ‘You have killed the Lord’s people’ (v41). They set themselves against God, and again, God wanted to put an end to all of them. He sent a plague, but ‘Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them’ (v47), and the plague stopped. Aaron stood between the gap of the living God and the rebellious dead people by making atonement. The plague stopped because Aaron and Moses could come near God, and intercede on behalf of the rebellious people.
‘Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully’ (Psalm 24:4). Again, it is God who determines what clean hands and a pure heart looks like, and when He considered mankind, He observed that, ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God’ (Romans 3:10-11). There was no one to stand in the gap between a rebellious and sinful humanity and a Holy God. As a result, God’s wrath was reserved for us. But, ‘The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, and wondered that there was no intercessor, and his own righteousness sustained him’ (Isaiah 59:15-16). God Himself came in human form to stand in the gap and atone for our sins. ‘During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears’ (Hebrews 5:7). Jesus interceded for us and made an ultimate sacrifice for our sins by dying on the cross. He stood in the gap for us since our first father, Adam, rebelled and sinned against God. Jesus ‘forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross’ (Colossians 2:13-14).
Those who attempt to come near to God without Jesus, do so in futility. Those who also attempt to use their good deeds, staged worship, and piety to merit God’s closeness should consider Job who was ‘blameless and upright’ (Job 1:1), in the real sense of the word. Yet, even in his genuine uprightness, Job says of God, ‘He is not a man like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there was someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot’ (9:v32-35). And as it also stands with us, without Jesus our mediator and righteousness, we cannot stand before God, for ‘all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags’ (Isaiah 64:6). Those who still insist that they do not need Jesus because they believe in ‘God’ and are generally ‘good people’, are simply delusional. In fact, Jesus who ‘came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near’ (Ephesians 2:17) warns such; ‘I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins’ (John 8:24).
Those who believe in Jesus are considered near to God, the God ‘who reconciled us to himself through Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:18). Our belief, however, does not end there because, God ‘gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation’ (v18-19). The ministry of reconciliation or standing in the gap, is a commission to all Believers, for we have the divine power to reconcile the lost to God- because we are those near to God. We are to petition God on behalf of lost souls and point them to Jesus with our lives, so that they can be saved. Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Matthew 5:9). Solomon also writes, ‘He who wins souls is wise’ (Proverbs 11:30). Though a person may be lost, ‘Yet if there is an angel on his side as a mediator, one out of a thousand, to tell a man what is right for him, to be gracious to him and say, ‘Spare him from going down the pit’ (Job 33:23-24), then when God hears the petitioning, he accepts the lost soul. When the lost is brought back to God, he then ‘prays to God and finds favour with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy’ (v26). He is spared from eternal wrath. All because someone stood in the gap for them. Those who stand in the gap for the lost are considered like Phinehas who ‘stood up and intervened, and the plague was checked. This was credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come’ (Psalm 106:30-31).
‘I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone . . . This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’ ~ 1 Timothy 2:1,3-4
‘Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend’ ~ Job 16:19-21
‘But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the enmity, even the law with its commandments and regulations’ ~ Ephesians 2:13-15
‘For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus’ ~ 1 Timothy 2:5
Personally, I would prefer to stay alert and enjoy success and not loss.
I remember my first job ever.
I was supposed to learn a bit of accounting, but I did not take it too seriously. To facilitate my on-boarding the company arranged an experienced Chartered Accountant, a friend of the business owner from another city and sent him to train me to manage the accounts.
Youthful, with no prior experience I did not realise this individual’s expertise nor willingness to coach an inexperienced new employee and treated the incident with a matter-of-fact approach.
After the first lesson, I did not get what he explained because I obviously did not immerse myself into what was shared.
So, the expert tore the page from the accounting book on which he had done the explanation. He then went ahead to repeat the explanation, a little more slowly and deliberately this time.
I didn’t’ get it the second time either.
So, he tore out the page again, crumpled it and threw it aside.
The third time, before he began, he looked straight into my eyes and said sternly ‘If you don’t get it right this time I am not interested in wasting another page or my time. I am out of here.’
The warning woke me up.
It made me realise that there was a definite lack of intent from my side, a slothful spirit, a carelessness to realise the importance of what was being imparted and by who it was being done and this negligence was going to cost me big time.
As I pondered in those few moments, I deliberated the consequences of the outcome.
What if the trainer left in anger?
I would be left feeling humiliated. I would be termed unintelligent and dumb. I would be reprimanded that I could not get what an expert had taken the trouble and time to teach. And worse still, the incident threatened to destroy my confidence, my reputation and could make me lose a good job as well.
The warning needed attention if I did not wish anything negative to happen.
I decided to set myself up for the challenge. I had to tell my mind to get alert. I had to get everything inside to cooperate with me to win and not lose the opportunity that was presented.
No prizes for guessing what happened next. Yes, I got it right the third time around.
I had just avoided a potentially huge impending loss simply by asking my mind to get some sense and stay alert.
I believe we all have that special intuitive sense to respond to a warning and get alert, no matter how difficult the threat.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. Sometimes it is not other people or circumstances but we ourselves who open the door for trouble, often with dumb, ignorant, silly, and careless mistakes we make.
Dumbness, ignorance and carelessness can cost us much.
In the book of Exodus, the Bible mentions about God spending time with Moses to personally write down the ten commandments. These were oracles for His people to live a more successful life. Here was God who had decided to come down on Mount Horeb, lowering down to man’s level, scripting a great destiny with His own Jehovah-Jireh-hands. However, the people were acting dumb. They never seemed to get the point. They were busy grumbling and murmuring against Moses. They were busy creating idols for themselves. Deceiving themselves that a man-made idol that cannot speak that cannot write their destiny that cannot move was going to be their God.
And why was God going out of His way? Not for Himself but for their good, to get them out of a slave mindset.
But what was stopping these folks from receiving a great blessing?
The fact that they cannot get themselves to stop grumbling about their present circumstances. The fact that they are refusing to shift their minds from the I-want-it-right-now mentality. That is what is stopping them from a great testimony that lies ahead.
Their attitude upset God so much that He wanted to finish them off.
Bible Reference: Exodus 32:1-10
After the people saw that Moses had been on the mountain for a long time, they went to Aaron and said, “Make us an image of a god who will lead and protect us. Moses brought us out of Egypt, but nobody knows what has happened to him.”
Aaron told them, “Bring me the gold earrings that your wives and sons and daughters are wearing.” 3 Everybody took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron, 4 then he melted them and made an idol in the shape of a young bull.
All the people said to one another, “This is the God who brought us out of Egypt!”
The Lord said to Moses: Hurry back down! Those people you led out of Egypt are acting like fools. 8 They have already stopped obeying me and have made themselves an idol in the shape of a young bull. They have bowed down to it, offered sacrifices, and said that it is the god who brought them out of Egypt. 9 Moses, I have seen how stubborn these people are, 10 and I’m angry enough to destroy them, so don’t try to stop me. But I will make your descendants into a great nation.
But being a God of Justice, He decides to warn them first.
God gives them time to gather some sense and make corrections so He could still write a great destiny for them and see them blessed.
How do we apply the lesson from Exodus into our practical life today?
Some people have created idols for themselves. Idols that are placed above God, some literal and some not.
The reason they have gone after things apart from the Living God is to attempt to seek a shortcut to success, on their own.
In the bargain, many have forgotten or have been ignoring the fact that it is God who is more concerned about ensuring man enjoys success in everything pertaining to life and Godliness.
Is there anything that can be greater than a destiny that is scripted by the very Hand of The Great I Am, the Savior of the World?
An eloquent preacher is one who is persuasive in his speech. Weak believers are easily captivated by the eloquence of preachers. There are examples of believers who spoke well but fell away. It’s critical we do not love the person more than the word of God. Many hearers have fallen away in the process too.
Apollos was an eloquent and cultured man. A talented and blessed young man who could have chosen to do whatever he wanted with his life. Yet, he chose to preach the gospel – he did not know the full gospel. Whatever he knew he preached fearlessly.
And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. (Acts 18:24,25)
What can we learn from Apollos? Though eloquent in speech, he was ready to be corrected in his journey as a preacher of the Word. Aquila and Priscilla, having noticed he lacked the whole truth, taught Apollos the right way. He humbled himself and learnt the full gospel under their tutelage.
Who qualifies to be God’s Eloquent Preacher?
God chose Moses to be His preacher, to lead Israel. What was Moses’ state? By Moses own admission and our current earthly standards, he was unfit to lead.
Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I am not a man of words (eloquent, fluent), neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am [a]slow of speech and tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)
Now, I told you a couple of weeks ago that we had finished the New Testament. Doesn’t mean I’ll never go back there again. I will. I have some plans to. But the natural assumption is that we’re going to take a look at the Old Testament. And I do have some plans for that. I’m working on kind of putting together a sort of a long series that could last the rest of our lives together, that you could – you could sort of call “The Road to Emmaus.”
You remember in Luke 24, Jesus on the road to Emmaus said to the disciples, it says that he said to them, “Beginning at Moses and the prophets and in all the holy writings, He spoke to them of the things concerning Himself.” Well, Moses, that’s the law; the prophets, the prophets; the holy writings, all the other books. Those are the three categories of the Old Testament.
So Jesus went to the Old Testament and taught them the things from the Old Testament that were about Him. So I can’t cover everything in the Old Testament, but I think we’ll go on a road-to-Emmaus journey and we’ll go through the Old Testament and find all the things that refer to Christ there. And there are many of them, and you might be surprised to know that Christ appears first in the Old Testament in Genesis 1:1. And last, in the last chapter of the Old Testament, in Malachi. So He is the beginning and the end of the Old Testament and whole lot of places in between. So that’s one of the things I want to do, among several others, and I’m kind of working on that as I attempt to reinvent myself this summer.
Now, I want to demonstrate to you that I do really know there is an Old Testament, and I am actually willing to teach the Old Testament to you. So let’s get a sample, all right? Open your Bible to Jeremiah – open your Bible to Jeremiah, the remarkable prophecy of the man known as the weeping prophet. He wrote this great prophecy of fifty-two chapters, and in addition to that, of course, he is responsible for the wonderful, deep, and insightful book of Lamentations. Jeremiah.
And I want to talk about Jeremiah because I think Jeremiah is a man for a time like our time. The Old Testament prophets were historical figures, real figures living in real events that are laid out for us in their prophecies and in their histories. But they are not unique in the sense that the times and the seasons and the issues that faced them were somehow never repeated. They are, in fact, the same cycles that are repeated through all of human history. Jeremiah lived in a time in a nation that is very instructive for us, living in the time and the nation in which we live today.
I think you are pretty much aware, if you are at all attuned to the character of our culture, that naturalism dominates our society. You might say there was a time in America when supernaturalism dominated our thinking. In other words, we were a nation under God. And you know they’re deleting that from the Pledge of Allegiance, I understand even at a golf tournament, trying to figure out how to get it off our coins. But there was a time when we were happy to say we are a nation under God, we are supernaturalists.
We believe in a Creator. We believe in God as a sovereign ruler of the universe. But we have abandoned that and we are essentially now rapidly becoming a nation of naturalists. The most influential intellectuals, philosophers, scientists, educators, politicians, judges in America are mostly naturalists.
Naturalists assume that God exists only in the imagination of religious people, that the idea of God is, frankly, a superstition, an irrational superstition that is created out of a pre-scientific era to meet certain anxieties of the human heart. The truth is, however, there is no God and everything is simply a consequence of natural effects. Naturalism is the idea that nature is all there is, that virtually everything that exists is simply the product of unplanned, uncontrolled accidents. Life is based on this assumption, that we have just randomly evolved into what we are today.
Creation, then, is the result, as we know it, life as we know it is the result of unconscious forces randomly mutating. Man says evolutionary science is the purposeless end of a purposeless process that did not have him in mind. Oops, he just showed up. This is what is taught in the universities and then this is what is learned by the students. Those students then become the next generation of educators, the next generation of politicians, the next generation of social architects, the next generation of judges who make their legal decisions. They become the next generation of journalists who interpret things that are going on in the world from a naturalist perspective. It is a form of atheism.
And while not all of them would deny the existence of some god, they are almost all very anxious to deny the existence of the biblical God. Those who believe in God are seen as irrational. Those who believe in the biblical God are seen as dangerous and must be kept out of the public discourse. And in the name of separation of church and state, we cannot have people who believe the Bible and the biblical God to be the true God have anything to say about public policy, public life, education, government, social order, law, courts, or morality.
All this rejection of God is purported to be based on science. It is called for by intellectualism. It is demanded by freedom and tolerance and mutual respect. There’s no place for anybody being an authority, anybody saying there is one God who is the absolute ruler who has written one book in which is contained all His will and all truth pertaining to Him and life in His world that is necessary. That is absolutely objectionable. There is this wholesale rejection of God. It is, however, not intellectual, it is the product of the love of iniquity. That’s all it is. Not a love of freedom, not a love of intellectualism, it’s not a love for science, it is a love for sin that drives this.
If you get rid of the God of the Bible, you get rid of the Bible. If you get rid of the Bible, you get rid of biblical morality. If you get rid of biblical morality, you can live any way you want with the assumption that there would be no consequences. So all the supposed intellectual naturalists are nothing but Hedonists wanting to express their lust in an unbridled way. Anybody with half a brain knows that all of this didn’t come from no one. Spurgeon said, “I can scarcely conceive a heart so callous that it feels no awe or a human mind so dull and destitute of understanding as fairly to view the tokens of God’s omnipotent power and then turn aside without some sense of wonder and obedience.”
How can you look at what exists and not be in awe of the source of it? How can we sin against so great a reality by denying it and then sin against the will of the very God we deny against the greatness of the Almighty? Well, our instruction today is going to come from the prophet Jeremiah as to how we respond to a society like ours which is very much like his.
Turn to Jeremiah chapter 5 – Jeremiah chapter 5. In a 52-chapter book, obviously there’s a lot more than we would attempt to cover, but I think I can give you a feel for the man and his time that will relate to how we approach the time and the place where we find ourselves today. Chapter 5 and verse 20 is one of the sermons of Jeremiah that comes from the Lord, and it gives us a good insight into the way things were.
Jeremiah is told by the Lord to say these things. “Declare this in the house of Jacob and proclaim it in Judah, saying,” – here is the message that God gives him – ‘Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear. Do you not fear me?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do you not tremble in my presence? For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, an eternal decree so that it cannot cross over it. Though the waters toss, yet they cannot prevail. Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.
“‘But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart. They have turned aside and departed. They do not say in their heart, “Now let us fear the Lord our God who gives rain in its season, both the autumn rain and the spring rain, who keeps for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.” Your iniquities have turned these away and your sins have withheld good from you.’”
Now, what is this saying? It’s really a very, very clear statement. He is saying that the people of God, the men of Judah, the people of Jacob, the Jews have looked at the creation, they have seen the ocean and the land that bounds it, they have understood the rain at the appropriate season and the seasons and the rain that together produced the food that sustains life. They have seen the enduring consistency of all of this. They have seen the power of these provisions and the wonder of them – that is to say, the majesty of God in creation is on display. The providence of God is manifest, and it ought to stir up their hearts in worship. That’s why he says in verse 22, “Do you not fear me or worship me? Do you not tremble in my presence?”
On the contrary. They say in their heart, “Let us” – verse 24 – “not really fear the Lord.” It should say, “Let us fear the Lord now.” But they don’t. Their wills do not submit to Him. They don’t even give Him honor as the Creator and the provider. The almighty power of Jehovah is manifest, it is visible in the works of His creation, that should constrain His covenant people, Israel, and any people in any era of history to fear His name, to be in awe of Him as the Creator, to reverence Him as the source of provision, the One who controls the sea, provides the land and the seasons and the food.
How can we contemplate this God and not worship Him and not give Him honor and not turn to Him and not obey Him? That is the question that God tells Jeremiah to pose to Judah, the southern kingdom, the remaining people in the land of Israel. The northern kingdom already had been taken into captivity for their own apostasy.
But there’s more here than fact. There is an analogy here, and I want you to see the analogy. The analogy appears in verse 22. It is a fact that God places sand as a boundary for the sea. It is a fact that the waves toss and yet they cannot prevail, they roar yet they cannot cross over. It is a fact that God controls the oceans with the shore. The sea, then, Jeremiah says, never breaks its boundary. It obeys me in all its movements. It may toss and turn, there may be an occasional tidal wave, there may be an occasional tsunami, but the sea will go back to its ordered place.
However, on the contrary, verse 23, “This people has a stubborn and rebellious heart. They have turned aside and departed. They will not be bound. They will not stay within the confines of God’s will and purpose. They are a revolting and rebellious people. They go astray. They break all the boundaries. This pure, puny, sinful man, this little creature that God could crush like a moth under your shoe, this man will resist the restraints of God and overrun all his boundaries. Man in his fallenness cannot be held in check, either individually or collectively. The sea tosses and turns but it obeys. It is restrained by a little belt of sand. Its mighty powers are held back.”
But people, says God, who have stronger restraints than sand are rebellious and overrun the borders that God has established. That’s what the people of the nation Israel had done. The borders, the boundaries, His promises, His threats, His judgments, His commands, His Covenants, and they overran them all. Man is hellbent on revolt. It’s just the way it is. That is how, God says, Jeremiah must see His people.
Now, into this situation in the southern kingdom of Judah, God drops this prophet, and he’s a remarkable man. His message is the judgment that is coming and it is coming fast. In fact, the judgment came in his lifetime. About a century earlier, there was another very familiar prophet, Isaiah, who said the same thing, “Judgment is coming, judgment is coming, judgment is coming,” and he was referring to the Babylonian captivity, the holocaust of the arrival of the Babylonian-Chaldean army to desecrate the temple, destroy the temple, conquer Jerusalem, massacre multiple thousands of people, and carry the rest off captive into a pagan culture. That particular holocaust, among many in the life of Israel, Isaiah said would come. About a century later, Jeremiah arrives, and it’s during his lifetime that it actually does come.
Jeremiah was a preacher for about the same length of time as I have been here, 42 years – 42 years. He preached during the reign of five kings. The first king was a man named Josiah – Josiah. The end of the reign of Josiah was a time of reformation and a time of revival. The law was recovered, and Josiah sought to bring the law to the people, and it produced a revival.
However, a prophetess named Huldah showed up and said, “This is superficial. This is man-centered. This is not going to last. This will have no permanent reformation.” That was true. The superficial revival under Josiah didn’t last. What Josiah did was right, he did all the right things, but the people’s response was surfeited and superficial.
Josiah’s reign was followed by the second king during the ministry of Jeremiah, a man by the name of Jehoahaz. He only lasted three months. He was followed by Jehoiakim and he returned the people to corruption. He led them right back into idolatry and the worship of false gods.
He was followed by Jehoiachin, who also lasted three months. And Jehoiachin was followed by the final king during the time of Jeremiah and the last king of the southern kingdom before the captivity, a man named Zedekiah, who was a vacillating weakling, saw the nation more swiftly down the steep slide of depravity that led to absolute ruin and deportation. He had tough going.
The first king, superficial revival; the next four, rapid decline. And through 42 years of these five kings, Jeremiah’s message never changed – never, ever changed. He was always the voice of God to that society, as any faithful preacher must be. His preaching in no way deterred the idolatry. His preaching in no way stopped the slide. His preaching in no way eliminated the judgment. He never saw, essentially, any impact on a national level through 40 years of his efforts. He was faithful and he was despised, and eventually they threw him in a pit to try to shut him up.
I see so many parallels between Jeremiah’s time and Jeremiah and our time and faithful preachers today. We stand near the holocaust. We have to be on the brink of a devastating judgment in this nation. We have gone through some quasi revivals. There are people who would argue that we’ve had some revivals, that the gospel has spread, that Bibles have spread, that we’re on television and radio and through all kinds of media, the gospel is going out and yet we see no – no reversing of the direction of this nation. We see no lasting results.
The church seems superficial and shallow and consumed with self-fulfillment and self-gratification. So we come to a place in the life of Jeremiah that parallels our own time, and we ask this question: How do we approach a nation on the brink of judgment? Let’s learn from Jeremiah. I’m going to show you three elements.
Number one, Jeremiah understood that he had a divine mission – a divine mission. I’m sure there were people in those days who were calling for all kinds of social reform, all kinds of political action, all kinds of educational advancement. But none of those had anything to do with the calling of Jeremiah, nor did they have anything to do with our calling. Ours is a divine mission – a divine mission.
In other words, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” That becomes clear to us in the commission of Jeremiah. Let’s go back to chapter 1. It’s one of the most fascinating callings that any man of God has ever had and here, Jeremiah is informed of things about which he had no knowledge. Verse 4, “The Word of the Lord came to me,” he says. “The Word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you. I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.’” Wow.
Here’s the first thing to understand about a divine mission: Your life is predestined by God – your life is predestined by God. Long before Jeremiah was ever conceived in the womb of his mother, long before Hilkiah, his father, and his mother came together to bring him life, long before that, sometime not only before the birth of Jeremiah, before the conception of Jeremiah, but probably before the foundation of the world, Jeremiah was chosen and appointed as a prophet, not only to Judah but to the nations. His message extended beyond Judah and it’s still extending even today, across the globe wherever the prophet is read.
Long before life ever was given to this man, God had determined to separate him, put him in a unique place at a unique time as a consecrated prophet of God to speak for God – predestination. Here, in this brief beginning with eleven short Hebrew words, God gives Jeremiah his own biography. Beginning in eternity past, the timeless eons of eternity, right on through until there are no more nations left for him to preach, God sums up his calling as predestined. He is an intensely human personality, this Jeremiah, and if you read the book and read it and read it and read it, you’re going to learn to love this man.
He is very human, and yet his humanity does not explain the power of his preaching and the relentless endurance of his faithfulness. He is a man who is mysteriously endowed with power from on high to survive the rejection that marked his entire life. He is so humanly weak that he can’t stop crying, and yet he is so unassailably strong that he will not yield and compromise. He is a powerful personality. He is a lovable personality.
Now let me tell you something. When there is a crisis, people look for a program, but God looks for a man. When there is a crisis, people look for some system to fix it, and God looks for a man and God looks for a woman. When God wanted to deal with a crisis, He started with a baby. In this case, Jeremiah was that baby. And He designed him in the womb. And He put him together to have the human capabilities that he needed to do this. He also endowed him with the spiritual equipment to fulfill his appointment by God.
Jeremiah knew this, and this was the bottom line, he was sovereignly ordained by God to do what he did. And it was never a matter of results. It was never a matter of his will. In fact, to show you that, look at verse 6, “Then I said, ‘Alas, Lord God’” – sounds like Isaiah, “Woe is me.” Are you kidding? “Alas, Lord God, I don’t know how to speak, I’m no speaker, and I’m just a youth.” You’re looking at the wrong guy. I’m inadequate, I’m not qualified, I can’t do this.
How did he overcome that sense of insufficiency, inadequacy? What took him beyond that was the clear indication that he had been predestined by God to this calling. By the way, whoever doesn’t have a sense of being predestined by God to service will never lead a spiritual revolution. Most people living in the church today have no sense of divine mission, they’re just bouncing from job to job and event to event and engagement to engagement and activity to activity. That’s the way they live, that’s the way they raise their kids.
There’s no sense of an overarching divine mission. There’s no sense – and this is tragic – in the life of believers that the birth of every believer was ordained by God, the death of every believer was ordained by God, which means the middle was ordained by God and for purposes that advance the name of Christ and the glory of the kingdom, and that’s the last thing on our priority list. Not Jeremiah. He knew that he had been called by God from before he was born, designed in the womb, separated from the womb, separated from the society, appointed to be a prophet, and he had been called to fulfill his mission.
Not only was he predestined by God but he was provided by God what he needed. He says, “I don’t know how to speak and I’m a youth.” So the Lord says to him, “Don’t say ‘I’m a youth,’ because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak.”
Now, the first thing you would say is, “What am I going to say? What am I going to say?” The educators say that the greatest fear that humans have is the fear of public speaking. Well, the reason people have a fear of public speaking is very often related to the fact that they have no idea what to say or they think that what they have to say isn’t important and most of the time they’re exactly right. In fact, some of the people who do most of the public speaking have the least to say and should be embarrassed about speaking.
But when you have the most important message, that hesitancy has a way of disappearing, does it not? When you see the children on the brink of being consumed in the house fire, you really don’t stumble over the fact of whether you should publicly yell, “Fire, get out” and grab somebody. It’s about the passion of it. You don’t have to worry about what you’re going to say because you’re not going to have to invent it – you’re not going to have to come up with it. I’m going to provide it.
I’m going to give you the words to say. You’re going to speak for me. You’re going to have divine wisdom. All that I command you, you shall speak, and everywhere I send you, you shall go. That’s how any true minister, any true preacher that represents God has to approach ministry. I am predestined to this and I am provided the message. Jeremiah was resisted and hated and despised and abused.
That leads to the third aspect of his calling, not only predestination and provision but protection. Verse 8, “Don’t be afraid of them, I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord. You have nothing to fear. You are called by me. You are empowered by me. You’re going to face opposition. You’re going to face antagonism, and he certainly did, constantly.
Nobody listened to him. Nobody paid attention to him. The nation didn’t turn. It was a very hard, discouraging 42 years, and people hated what he said and hated him for saying it. If you want to do an interesting study sometime in your Bible, find all the places where it says, “Fear not,” and it’s not said just to little widows who didn’t know where their next meal was coming from or orphaned children who didn’t know who was going to care for them and protect them.
“Fear not” is said by God to Abraham and Moses and Daniel and Mary and Peter and Paul because any human being, even the strongest leaders, face the fear that comes with confronting people with a message they don’t want to hear. But you’ll have protection from God.
There’s a fourth component here, verses 9 and 10, power. “The Lord stretched out His hand, touched my mouth and the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.’” Verse 10, “‘I have appointed you this day over the nations, over the kingdoms, to pluck up, to break down, to destroy, to overthrow, to build’ and to plant.’”
That is amazing. Jeremiah feared he was nobody. He was young, he wasn’t effective as a communicator, he was unskilled in oratory. The divine answer is, “Don’t worry about it. I am going to give you the words to speak. Don’t worry about the reaction, I will protect you from the enemies of that truth. And know this, that the words that come out of your mouth will shatter and build. They will tear down and they will plant. Your words will be destruction to people and nations and construction to other people and nations.”
This is the power that belongs to the one who proclaims the truth. The great power brokers in our world, the kings and potentates and the rulers, have no power – they have no power. The power they do have is the weakness of human power or even worse, the power of the kingdom of darkness, neither of which can even approach the power of God. Kings, nations, empires boast of their power, yet the power in the world belongs to the mouths of the messengers of heaven. God picks up this obscure young man of about 30 years of age from a tiny, little, obscure country and says, “I will set you over nations, over kingdoms of the earth. Your Word will destroy and your Word will build.”
So this was his calling. He was on a divine mission. And, people, we live in a nation in a dire crisis of abandonment of God, headed for a holocaust of judgment. We’re already under the judgment of Romans 1, we’ve been turned over to our immorality, our homosexuality, and a reprobate mind. We’re on the brink of divine judgment, and what is needed is that the kingdom of God. And the representatives of that kingdom understand that our mission is divine. The reason for your birth, the reason for your death and your conversion in the middle is so that you can speak the Word of God to this culture on the brink of a holocaust. It’s a divine mission, it’s why we live.
Secondly, what characterized Jeremiah was a direct message – a direct message. He didn’t pull any punches, we would say. He didn’t pamper, cajole, soft-soap, skirt issues. He didn’t say, “Well, we don’t really want to talk about sin,” and he paid for it. Chapters 30 to 33, he wrote when he was in prison. He didn’t spend his life trying to avoid controversy, trying to make everybody happy. If you read chapter 14 and verse 7, you will hear him say, “We have sinned against God as a nation.”
If you read chapter 17 and verse 9, you will hear him say, “Your hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” He preached against sin. He indicted the nation. He indicted the sinners for their sin categorically in chapter 3, chapter 9, chapter 11, chapter 19. He accused them of being involved in false religion – false religion. You have turned to idols from the true God.
Chapter 2, verse 12, “Be appalled, O heavens, at this. Shudder, be very desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils. They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” – that’s false religion. They have turned away from the fountainhead of life, the Lord God, the One who made His Son the living water to quench the thirst of the soul of every penitent sinner.
This wicked thing they have done, turning from the fountainhead and trying to fill up their broken buckets, concocted and created by themselves as if they could hold the water of life. Labor long, do they, in false religion, hewing out cisterns, man-made, collecting dirt and dead animals but holding no water. That’s false religion.
If you are to be a faithful prophet in a nation in decline and crisis, you must expose false religion where it exists. This is not a time for tolerance, this is not a time for embracing everybody and saying, “It doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you follow your heart.” Listen, this world is full of damning false religion. I have been accused through the years of being intolerant and I accept that as a compliment. Of course I’m intolerant, I am as intolerant as God is, as Christ is, as the Bible is of anything that damns people’s souls while promising them heaven. It is a direct message. We’re not just talking about making people feel good, we confront lies.
In the seventh chapter of Jeremiah, Jeremiah indicts them for worshiping the queen of heaven, who is now cast under the name of Mary, the mother of Jesus. And so we confront Roman Catholicism and Mormonism and every other ism and spasm and schism and whatever it is, any of it, all of it, because we have no choice but to confront and expose false religion. That’s what Jeremiah did. He did it all the way through chapter 19 and beyond that.
He also confronted corrupt spiritual leadership. Go to chapter 5, where we were, and we’re just looking briefly at these, but chapter 5, verse 30, an appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land. What is it? The prophets prophesy falsely, the priests rule on their own authority. He confronted the false prophets. He confronted the deceivers and the liars who had infiltrated Judaism. So on the one hand, he attacked the idolatry of false religion, and then he attacked the corrupt infiltrators of the true religion.
You cannot be the prophet of God, you cannot be the mouthpiece of God, you cannot be the representative of God unless you have a direct message that goes at false religion as it exists contrary to the truth and as it exists inside the categories of the truth. Jeremiah 23 says the same thing. Jeremiah 25 says the same thing.
These were false teachers who were saying whatever they wanted to say, whatever satisfied them, and the people loved it. Sure, they fill up those places where false teachers tell them what they want to hear, how good they are, how wise they are, how powerful their thoughts and their words are and how they can create their own euphoria in this world. All those liars find people who love to hear that, but what will you do at the end of it? What’s going to happen at the end when you face the judgment?
This is a direct message. He addressed wickedness in general in chapter 3. Chapter 3, verse 24 and 25, will be a sufficient illustration. “The shameful thing has consumed the labor of our fathers since our youth, their flocks, their herds, their sons, and their daughters.” It’s just – the whole society is immoral. Shame describes all conduct. Verse 25 talks about lying down in our shame. We have sinned against the Lord our God and our fathers from our youth, even to this day have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.
There’s overtones of sexual deviation, sexual perversion, sexual immorality, all about the book of Jeremiah. Perversion of marriage in chapter 3, sexual perversion there and elsewhere as well, the sexual perversion coming physically as a part of the spiritual perversion of worshiping idols. They were a wicked, wicked people.
They were also dishonest, chapter 5. This is really an indictment that we can identify with. Aren’t you weary of being lied to by people in power? Listen to what Jeremiah says in chapter 5, verse 1, “Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem. Go everywhere in Jerusalem, look now and take notes, seek in her open squares. If you can find a man, if there’s one who does justice, who seeks truth, and I’ll pardon her.” Huh. I’ll halt the judgment if you can find one guy who tells the truth – one person.
Liars, deceivers, “O, Lord,” verse 2, although they say as the Lord lives” – as the Lord lives, that’s a way to swear. I swear I’m telling you the truth, God is my witness, as the Lord lives, I’m telling you the truth – they still lie, they still swear falsely. “O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?”
Sounds so much like our society. Corrupt religion abounds everywhere. False prophets have infiltrated Christianity everywhere. Moral corruption abounds on every front. Dishonesty is everywhere. There’s a rejection of Scripture.
Look at chapter 11, and we’ll wrap this up in a minute. Chapter 11, verses 8 to 10, “They didn’t obey or incline their ear but walked each one in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore, I brought on them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do; they did not. The Lord said to me, ‘A conspiracy has been found among the men of Judah, among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. They have turned back to their iniquities of their ancestors who refused to hear my words. They have gone after other gods to serve them. The house of Israel, the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers.’”
Pull one statement out, “They refused to hear my words.” Characteristically, they rejected the Word of God. They rejected the Word of God. They deliberately abandoned the Word of God. You know, that’s characteristic of our culture. There’s no place in our society for the Word of God, the truth of God, the Scripture, the Bible. It’s an amazing thing. And then in chapter 13, just to kind of summarize this second point, God does a very interesting thing. It’s a visual aid. You don’t need to read it, I’m just going to tell you what happened.
He tells Jeremiah, “Go get a pair of shorts” – underwear – “and put it on and wear it and don’t wash it.” You’ve heard of wash-and-wear, this is wear-and-don’t-wash. “Wear it and don’t wash it.” And then He comes to him and says, after he’s done that, “Go take that pair of shorts and go far away, go” – according to chapter 13, verse 4 – “up to the Euphrates River and hide it. Bury it in the crevice of a rock.” What? That’s two hundred miles. And by the way, two hundred miles is a long trip when you’re walking.
Go two hundred miles and bury dirty shorts? What is this? Well, he goes and does it, and the Lord tells him later, “Go back and get it.” What? “Go back, get those dirty shorts.” And when he goes back, by the time he digs them out, they’re horrible, disintegrated. And He says, “That’s my people. I drew them to myself as intimately as I could, and they became more foul and more foul and more foul, and I separated myself from them, and they corrupted, and they’re under judgment.” God doesn’t change the rules, right? And we don’t have covenant protection. Jeremiah was a man who had a divine mission and a very direct message – very, very direct.
There’s a third thing, and I’ll close with this. He was characterized by a deep mourning. He’s known as the weeping prophet, chapter 13, verse 17, “If you will not listen, my soul will sob in secret for such pride. My eyes will bitterly weep and flow down with tears because a flock of the Lord has been taken captive.” This is God weeping, and God wept through the eyes of Jeremiah. God wept through the eyes of Jeremiah. Jeremiah says, “O, that my head were a fountain of waters, that my head were a spring that just kept gushing water so that my tears could continually flow for my people.”
We don’t ever want to get to a place where, as we go to a nation on the brink of a holocaust of divine judgment, we become indifferent or callous. We want to have the heart of Jesus, who saw the city of Jerusalem that He was going to judge and wept over the city of Jerusalem. We want to have the heart of Jeremiah. I’ll read that to you, chapter 9, “O that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.” I just wish my head was a fountain of unending tears. He even calls, in chapter 9, later in the chapter, for mourning women to come out and mourn with Him over the condition of His people.
So for 42 years, he followed his divine mission. preached his direct message, and was characterized by deep mourning. What was the result? What was the result? Chapter 7 – quickly – the result, verse 23, I’ve already told you, “This is what I commanded them saying, ‘Obey my voice and I’ll be your God and you’ll be my people and walk in all the ways I command you, that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart and went backward and not forward.” Wow. Discouraging – discouraging. Why do you do this if nobody listens?
I’m going to close with the twenty-fourth chapter – twenty-fourth chapter and the fourth verse. “Then the Word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Like these good figs’” – that had been illustrated on a fig tree – “‘Like these good figs, I will regard as good the captives of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans. I will set my eyes on them for good. I will bring them again to this land. I will build them up and not overthrow them. I will plant them and not pluck them up. I will give them a heart to know me, for I am the Lord, and they will be my people and I will be their God, for they will return to me with their whole heart.’”
What is that saying? There is a remnant. There is a remnant. After the destruction and the devastation and the judgment and the purification of the captivity, there is a remnant that God will save.
Why do we preach if nobody listens? Because the nobody is qualified. Within that vast number of rejecters, there is a remnant that God will save, that God will forgive, whose hearts He will change. That’s why we do what we do. You, dear ones, are that remnant, part of that remnant in a nation on the way to judgment.
Father, thank you for your Word to us. We are so grateful for its richness. It’s life-giving to us. Thank you for this precious church. I pray for those here who have not come to Christ. O Lord, would you give them that new heart? Would you cleanse them? Would you love them and seek them and draw them to yourself and save them? Thank you for all that you’re doing here and will continue to do as we’re faithful to you, and we’ll thank you in your Son’s name. Amen.
I’m glad I don’t know the future. It would be very troubling to always know what will happen next. And of course, if I knew certain things were going to happen, I’d do my best to make sure they didn’t happen. Not only that, but there would be other things I’d try to make happen sooner, and I’d mess everything up.
Jesus, being God, had complete foreknowledge. He knew exactly what was ahead of Him. He knew that His disciples would forsake Him. Worst of all, He knew that although He was sinless, He would take all the sin, corruption, and filth of the world upon Himself and be momentarily separated from God the Father when He became the sin sacrifice for humanity.
Jesus wasn’t looking forward to this, but He knew it had to be done. And at the halfway point on His difficult journey, He experienced a significant event.
Leading up to this moment, a conversation took place between Jesus and the disciples at Caesarea Philippi, where He asked them, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13 NLT).
They offered various answers, and finally Peter got it right, saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (verse 16). So Jesus commended Peter for his insightful statement.
From that point on, Jesus began to declare to the disciples how He must suffer many things at the hands of the elders and chief priests, be crucified, and rise from the dead on the third day. This was a new movement in the ministry of Jesus where He openly and clearly addressed His certain future.
And Jesus apparently believed the time was right for some of His disciples, specifically Peter, James, and John, to have a greater glimpse of His glory.
I find it interesting that Jesus singled out these three on a number of occasions. It might lead us to believe they were sort of the spiritual elite. And that’s one way to look at it.
But here’s another perspective: maybe they just needed spiritual attention. For instance, when I was in school and got into trouble, the teacher would say, “Greg Laurie, come up here and sit right next to my desk so I can keep my eye on you.”
I wonder if Jesus thought, “I want to keep an eye on you boys.”
Don’t forget that James and John wanted to call fire down on people who weren’t hospitable toward them. That’s why they were known as the Sons of Thunder. And of course Peter needed attention as well.
Whatever the reason, Jesus singled out Peter, James, and John for a rare privilege: to witness His transfiguration. There on the mountaintop, Jesus’s garments “became as white as light” (Matthew 17:2 NLT). His face shined like the sun. And the fact that Moses and Elijah were there speaking with Him only added to the drama of that wonderful day.
We might think the miracle was that Jesus shined like the sun. That was a supernatural demonstration, but I don’t think it was a miracle. I think the real miracle was what happened on all the other days when Jesus didn’t shine like that.
The Transfiguration wasn’t so much a new miracle. Rather, it was the temporary ceasing of a habitual one. In other words, Jesus was God. For Him to shine was not a great feat. A greater feat was for Him not to shine all the time. Jesus veiled His glory.
In the New Testament book of Philippians, we read that Jesus “gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (2:7–8 NLT).
Jesus never stopped being God. But He laid aside the privileges of deity and walked among us as a man.
So at the Transfiguration, He was effectively saying to Peter, James, and John, “Take a look and see who I really am.” He let His glory shine out.
And who wouldn’t be dazzled by such a display? It was so wonderful, so awe-inspiring, in fact, that Peter wanted the moment to last forever. He blurted out, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (verse 4 NLT).
When something wonderful happens, our natural inclination is to hold on to it, to freeze it in time and never let it go. But God doesn’t want us to build our tabernacles in the place of glory when the world is in flames.
Waiting for Peter, James, and John at the bottom of the mountain was cold, hard reality. They learned that we can’t always have mountaintop experiences. On those occasions when we do, they’re preparing us to live in the valleys.
The real character that God develops in our lives usually doesn’t happen in those great moments when we bask in glory as much as when we’re in the valley of reality, putting into practice what we’ve learned.
As this world grows darker, our tendency is to want to withdraw into our own subculture instead of realizing there’s a world out there in need. We may think, “Oh, I wish I could find a Christian city. We could have a Christian mayor, Christians on the city council and Christians on the police force. Everyone would be Christians, and that would just be wonderful.”
But God doesn’t want us to build a Christian city on this Earth; rather, He wants us to reach the world with the gospel. So we have to come down from our mountaintops. We have to come down from our emotional experiences and live this Christian life in the real world.
Often after the great works of God in our lives, there will be challenges. But don’t dread them. Just keep moving, keep growing, and keep learning.
For our small faith to become great faith, we must apply it. We must use it and stretch it. And we must avoid the temptation of spiritual slumber and laziness so we don’t miss out on what God is doing.
Persecution for U.S. Christians Could Come Quicker Than You Think
“Come on man,” get with the program. Joe Biden and his congressional allies on Capitol Hill hope to pass a new domestic anti-terror law. Guess who it may soon be targeting. Rod Dreher explains on this segment of “Where in the World.”
MacArthur to Biden: “You’d better be careful when you put your hand on God”
On 1 24 2021 #JohnMacArthur gave a scathing rebuke of #Biden ‘s Inaugural address, a rebuke that all Christians should affirm and defend. [ We affirm and defend the rebuke]
Elijah: Overcoming an Intimidating Culture | Dr. David Jeremiah
Our society is tolerant of almost everything except biblical Christianity, and that can put us on the defensive. Today, Dr. David Jeremiah studies the life of Elijah and shows us how we can overcome our timidity as we follow Christ.
Hello dear readers! I am grateful to God could come back again with “Man of Faith” series. This time I’m not writing alone but I wrote this post with my dearest blog friend, Lauren Heiligenthal. Now I chose Moses as the 3rd figure. Like Abraham and Noah, Moses also mentioned many times in the Old and New Testament. After took study of Moses’ story, I conclude that Moses had two contradictory life sides i.e. side of successful and failure. Let’s have a look to the first side.
GET OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE
Moses was a great prophet with a winding life. He was born when Egypt felt threatened by the very high soaring population growth of Israelite and the threat made Pharaoh scared and issued an order to the all midwife to kill all of baby boy. (Exodus 1:16) Because Moses’ mother think she no longer hid Moses, then she decided to took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank. (Exodus 2:3) In short, the daughter of Pharaoh saw the baby and eventually took him as his son and called his name Moses. (Exodus 2: 5-8) Then Moses lived in luxury in the palace. But what happened? Turned out Moses didn’t forget his origin. Seeing his nation lived in oppression, his conscience revolted. He also acted and opting out of his enjoyment. He decided to get out of his comfort zone in the palace. Moses chose to fulfill God’s calling to bring the Israelites out of Egypt.
Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10)
Although Moses had some doubts and fears (Exodus 4:1), eventually he chose to trust and obey to God, leaving his comfort and willing to suffer just for God’s calling. This was Moses’ great faith step. He moved from the comfort zone to the faith zone. Was written in Hebrews 11:24-25:
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.
Moses used by God amazingly to bring the Israelite to the Promise Land though he had to suffer in the wilderness for 40 years together with the people who never grew up, never stop complaining, never be grateful, and never satisfied. By faith, Moses successfully made it out of the comfort zone that he fully realized it all came from sin.
In our daily lives, there are times we must be willing to leave our comfort zone. We have to decide to leave all the pleasures and choose God’s calling to bear the cross to follow Jesus. We would probably suffer. But in the bigger “frame”, it would be much more beneficial for our future later. God never reneged on his promises. God will never abandon us. Though In distress and difficulty God remains with us, guided us who obedient to bear His cross. Life is full of choices and we have full of authority to decide it. But God said:
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
Moses was choosing to leave his comfort zone to obey God’s voice and cling to Him to live in the Promise Land. What about us? Whether we’ve been dare to come out of our comfort zone? If we dare to pay the price to leave all of worldly pleasant things that will bring us into the sin? Do we believe though there may be suffering and there’s something must be sacrificed but at the end we will receive all of God’s promise? The world offer temporary comfort and pleasure but God promises the “Eternal Land”. Today let’s learn from Moses who dares to leave worldly pleasure follow God’s call to get into the Promise Land.
Now we come to the second side of Moses, a contradict with his first side. Why I say contradict? Let’s take look. This time Moses did some fatal errors and made him got a very bitter consequence. Has been nearly 40 years Moses led a big, complicated and obstinate nation to keep on the right path. Turned out the Israelite attitude made Moses frustrated and affects his emotional state. Moses’ frustration and emotional peaks occurred when the Israelite angered and complained about the lack of water when they came into the wilderness of Zin and stayed in Kadesh. (Numbers 20:1-13) After he faced the Israelite’s anger then he spoke to God in the door of tabernacle of meeting and God said to Moses:
““Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.” (Numbers 20:8)
At this point Moses couldn’t hold back his emotion, he cannot control his temper and made some fatal errors! Let’s have a look what Moses said in the front of Israelites:
“Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. (Number 20:10-11)
Let’s pay attention to the word “Must we…” This was the first fatal mistake carried out by Moses. He didn’t suppose said “we…” Moses was supposed to say “God…” This showed that in his annoyance to the Israelites he spoke rashly. Was written in Psalm 106:3,
For they rebelledagainst the Spiritof God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips.
Beside his rash word, Moses had wrong motive, stolen God’s holiness and glory by Mentioned “We…” Make a miracle is God’s work but Moses took credit of miracle himself, instead of attributing to God.
The second error of Moses was his disobedience. This is what I mean about contradictive side of Moses. When for the first time he decided to leave Egypt, he totally trust and obey to God’s calling but this time Moses stumbled and slipped disobeyed to God’s command. God clearly commanded to speak to the rock but Moses struck the rock twice. This was disobedience form of Moses and even worse, Moses showed his disobedience before the Israelites. His has done intolerant thing by as if disparaged God in the front of Israelites. (Numbers 27:14) God not pleased and then He punished Moses:
“Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” (Numbers 20:12)
My dear friends, what we could take as a lesson from Moses’ errors? The first important thing we could learn from is, if a great prophet like Moses even called as very humble man more than all men on the earth (Numbers 12:3) can be stumbled and slipped into the sin, what about us? Moses’ error is a warning for all of us that anytime what happened with Moses could be happen anytime to us as well.
The second is about self-control. Because of frustrated and temper, then Moses loss of his self-control and it made him fall into the sin. It’s very important for Christians especially for Christian leaders. Self-control is a part of fruits of Spirit and wraps the other fruits. Without self-control then the other fruits will be in vain and we will be fall into the sin. It’s written in Proverbs 16:32: Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city. And: Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25:28) As a great leader Moses stumbled not hallows God caused of his lack of self-control. This should be an important lesson for many Christian leaders though have full authority but must take control ourselves, control each statement and command that come out from our mouth so that always uphold God’s holiness above of all and reflect His glory to others.
The last, we have to trust and obey to every God’s given tasks and have the right motivation behind our actions. Trust that God will always provide the way to complete the task though the task seems impossible to do and we doubt with our own ability. Obey to every God’s command because God never gives wrong command. Although it may give the same outcome, don’t do anything other than God’s command because it would make God not pleased and we will get the bad consequence.
My dear friends, last but not least, although Moses stumbled and got the consequence, yet he stayed faithful until the end. Accompanied by formidable signs and miracles he remains led the Israelites get into the Promise Land. His failure didn’t diminish the greatness of his name. Moses still known as a great prophet throughout the ages and he still received the honor of “entry” into the Promise Land when he appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration and talk with Jesus. (Matthew 17:3) Let’s learn from Moses’ life both about his faith also his failure. Life is always full of choices and because God really loves us, He gives us a chance to make a choice freely. But we’ve to realize that there’s always a consequence of what we choose. As clearly written in Deuteronomy 30:19, God gives us some option but He wants us to choose life and we will have live. Let’s keep our heart diligently, keep learning to control ourselves, trust and obey to God’s voice and always cling to Him so we aren’t easily stumbling and slip into the sin. God said: Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:23) Amen
Karina – Lauren Heiligenthal
My great honor to Lauren Heiligenthal who willing to be co – writer on this post.
More than three-thousand years ago, Moses urged the children of Israel to “choose life.” He said to them:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life—if you and your offspring would live” (Deuteronomy 30:19, NJPS).
But why would anyone choose death? Why would anyone choose to be cursed rather than blessed?
The answer is that God’s ways lead to life and blessing, but many people would rather die than follow Him.
They view God’s ways as restrictive. Oppressive. Antiquated. Harmful.
In reality, God’s ways lead to human thriving. To liberty. To freedom. To fullness.
As Jesus said:
“I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
To be sure, God’s ways require discipline. And obedience. And denial of the flesh.
But fleshly habits bring bondage. Discipline sets us free.
Indulging our earthly desires brings dullness and addiction. Obedience lifts us into a higher realm, far above our animal appetites.
God is a God of life, and in Him is life beyond description. That’s why Jesus could say:
“I am the resurrection and the life. . . . I am the bread of life. . . . . Whoever follows Me . . . will have the light of life” (John 11:24; 6:35; 8:12). And that’s why John called Him “the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).
Tragically, in recent decades, America has increasingly chosen a path of death, from abortion to violent video games, and from euthanasia to TV shows glorifying vampires and zombies. How can we turn the tide?
Here are some practical suggestions.
First, go about your normal daily activities, watching and reading and listening to what you normally watch and read and listen to, but this time take note of how much death is involved. How many images of the dead and dying? How many corpses? How much graphic violence? How much death are you seeing (by choice, not by necessity) over the course of a week?
Second, if you realize that you’re being influenced by a culture of death, then take a thirty-day break from all forms of death-related media entertainment, be it video games or favorite TV shows or gratuitously violent novels.
Third, immerse yourself in words of life. I would encourage you to read several chapters from Proverbs and the Gospel of John each day, noticing the constant emphasis on life. As the voice of wisdom says in Proverbs 8:
“For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death” (Prov. 8:35-36).
Fourth, when you spend time in prayer, ask God to flood your heart with His life and to give you the perspective of life, to see the world as He would have you see it.
Fifth, after thirty days, ask the Lord how He would have you to live. You might be surprised to see how your perspectives have changed. In the words of Paul:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things (Phil. 4:8, NIV).
If you’d like to take this even further, then consider three more steps.
First, get involved in the pro-life movement and work against abortion on demand in our nation. If Mother Teresa and others are right, this strikes at a major root of our culture of death, and by joining together as pro-life Christians, we can see the nation impacted.
Second, we can affirm the dignity of every human life by reaching out to the elderly, who are some of the most forgotten and neglected people in our society.
Third, get involved with another group that society discards, the poor and the hurting. Many churches have ministries to the poor and the needy, and every city has feeding programs and the like, and for the most part, they are greatly understaffed.
We celebrate life when we bring meaning and hope into the lives of the hurting, and we reaffirm that they too are created in the image of God, therefore of inestimable value and worth. It is something near and dear to the Lord’s heart.
The good news is that, across our nation, Americans are choosing life. In fact, already in March, a New York Times headline declared:
“Georgia Is Latest State to Pass Fetal Heartbeat Bill as Part of Growing Trend.”
The article noted that:
“The governors in Mississippi and Kentucky signed fetal heartbeat measures into law in recent weeks, and other states — including Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas — are expected to approve similar measures this year.”
May our nation choose life, that we and our offspring might live!
As I approach this season of pilgrimage, Scripture offers me a theology of travel.
My husband, Daryl, experiences more wanderlust than I do. He grew up in Southern California, traveling across the valley for high school basketball games, taking class field trips up the coastline, and loading up the church van for missions to Tijuana. On our family Sabbath, it’s Daryl who takes us out on the roads of Orange County. When I ask where we’re headed, he smiles and nearly always says, “I’m not sure. Let’s just have an adventure.”
In particular, our trips to visit extended family bring out the differences in our travel methods. I plan ahead while Daryl enjoys serendipity; I prepare for every eventuality while he prefers to throw a few diapers and a bag of tortilla chips in the car and hope for the best. But since my husband’s side of the family lives in Los Angeles—a thriving metropolis with all manner of convenience stores and restaurants—I’m learning to hang loose on these local treks.
As these drives to LA become more common, God is faithfully teaching me that my rigid, planned-up-to-the-minute travel method isn’t always the best one. In fact, the biblical model for following Jesus is much more Spirit-led than plotted in advance. It isn’t that preparation isn’t necessary or helpful, it’s that openness to the Spirit of God is more important still. “The wind blows where it wills,” Jesus tells Nicodemus in John’s gospel.
Paul’s journeys were continually interrupted by storms, bandits, imprisonments, and mobs, and once, when he made it all the way to the outskirts of the province of Asia, the Spirit of God turned him away at the last minute. Perhaps that’s why when God speaks to individuals in Scripture, his first call is often for them to step out in faith, to follow a new and previously unsought path. Much of the time God doesn’t even give the destination. The command is simple (and, if you’re a homebody like me, perhaps a little unsettling): “Go,” he says. “Go.”
God uses this word with Abraham, Moses, and Elijah. “Go,” he says to Jonah. Simeon is “moved by the Spirit” to go to the temple, where he welcomes and blesses the infant Jesus. “Get up,” an angel says to Joseph in a dream, warning him to flee from King Herod’s murderous rage and go to Egypt.
As pilgrim people, we, too, are called to travel with our eyes open to the work of the Lord in the world around us. As N. T. Wright puts it, “A pilgrim is someone who goes on a journey in the hope of encountering God or meeting him in a new way.” Whether we fly across the country or simply drive an hour to visit a friend, travel provides us with a unique opportunity to experience God anew by approaching our journey not just as travelers but pilgrims—people on the lookout for God at work and opportunities to join him.
Jesus was the ultimate pilgrim, after all, leaving his heavenly climes to not only visit with but live among humanity. He faced all the usual obstacles to comfort that plague us when we travel—difficulty in finding food and shelter, misreading the vibe of a particular place, and having to rely on the hospitality and grace of strangers, family, and friends. “Foxes have dens,” Jesus said, “and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Jesus leans into this discomfort, telling his disciples to “take nothing for the journey.” He invites us to do likewise. (Though, to be fair, none of the disciples was toting a two-year-old. Surely then even Jesus would have advised bringing an extra snack or two.) Away from our usual environment, at the mercy of the road or the airlines or the weather or the host home, we are given the opportunity to see the world with new eyes: to receive welcome, to develop compassion, to grow in faith and trust that God will care for us throughout the journey and see us safely home at its end.
In my upcoming summer travels, I want to practice Christlike pilgrimage, watching for God as our family journeys, looking for opportunities to love those in my path with the love of Christ, and doing my best to accept discomfort and even disaster as means of discipleship and grace.
I also need to seek ways to slow down and listen—something that doesn’t come naturally to me. One of the lessons God offers to us in travel is to find peace amid the storm, to leave behind the intensity of our work lives and schedules and family pandemonium and settle into the quieter days of travel. As Carlo Carretto puts it, “That is the truth we must learn through faith: to wait on God. And this attitude of mind is not easy. This ‘waiting,’ this ‘not making plans,’ this ‘searching the heavens,’ this ‘being silent’ is one of the most important things we have to learn.”
This insight comes home to me every time I visit my parents in the northern woods of Wisconsin, where I’m cut off from the busyness of my normal life. My parents’ internet is spotty; my cellphone works only intermittently; the last time I heard a siren of any kind was at the town Fourth of July parade half a decade ago.
Back home, Daryl and I often fall asleep watching The West Wing or The Office in an effort to still our ping-ponging thoughts. Here, however, any digital streaming takes literal hours to download, so we simply don’t. At night we open the windows to hear the oak and maple leaves blow in the wind, falling asleep with books on our chests. When we spend these days in the quiet of the northern forests, it’s as if Jesus stands at the helm of our proverbial boats during the storm of the usual daily grind—ministry, school, appointments, errands, household chores—and says, “Peace. Be still.”
In these pilgrimage moments, I’m ever so slowly learning to listen. I’m learning, too, that the journey, provision, and destination all belong to God.