Jesus' Footprints

Archive for June 2011

Nobody likes to fail.  I remember how awful I felt when I failed my driver’s road test.  I felt like a complete failure.  I called my mother and I was in tears.  She comforted me.  I got over my feelings and moved on. 

When we fail at something, we feel crushed but God is there, ready to comfort us.  He wants to lift our spirits.  He wants to assure us that we are not failures.  He wants to encourage us to try again–to keep trying.  He doesn’t want us to give up. 

Sometimes we fail at something because we take it for granted.  A fellow church member failed a physical exam which he had taken many times before.  He said it was because he figured that he would pass it and didn’t really prepare for it.  He had to take it again.  He prepared for it and this time he passed with flying colors. 

Failure is nothing to be disheartened or ashamed about.  It happens to the best of us.  Famous writers have had manuscripts rejected.  Recording artists have had their first record flop.  Movies fail at box offices.  Marriages fail.  Relationships fail.  At some point in our lives we will all face failure but it is how we handle it is what counts.  We can either feel sorry for ourselves or we can get up, brush ourselves off and try again.

Failure is not the end of the world.  It should make us all the more determined.  We should not allow it to discourage us.  God urges us to “be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” 

God wants us to believe that we can succeed the next time.  Like Paul, we can declare, “For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need” (Philippians 4:13).

The next time you fail, don’t let it get you down.   “Remember the good man does not escape all troubles—he has them too.  But the Lord helps him in each and every one (Psalm 34:19).  You’re not alone.  God is right there with you.  Even though you might feel like a failure—God will never fail you.

Yesterday I read about the Roman soldiers casting lots for Jesus’ clothing.  John 19:23, 24 state:  Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece.  They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says:  “ They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”   Therefore the soldiers did these things.  John was quoting Psalm 22:18

It is interesting that the heading for John 19:17-24 says King on the Cross.  Earlier in this chapter, the soldiers mocked Jesus.  They put a crown of thorns and a purple robe on Him.    They said to Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And then they struck Him with their hands.   These soldiers might have been the same ones who were gambling for His robe. 

Why would these soldiers want Jesus’ robe?  My husband thinks that it is because of Jesus’ popularity.  It’s interesting that they didn’t want to tear it.  The robe was a special one.  John gave us a description of it.  It was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.  I know that they couldn’t tear it because they had to fulfill the scriptures.  They had to cast lots for it.

As Jesus hung on the cross, He watched prophecy being fulfilled as the soldiers threw dice for His clothing.  “This easily could have given Him extra courage to endure what He was facing on the cross.   This easily could have given Him extra courage to endure what He was facing on the cross. These actions by the soldiers were more evidence that, no matter how terrible His trial, no matter how dreadful the suffering, prophecy was being fulfilled, His earthly ministry was nearing its grand climax, and the provision would be made that would give salvation to any human being who claimed it by faith. Thus, Jesus had to endure, and He did” (http://www.ssnet.org/qrtrly/eng/11b/less12.html#thur).

The soldiers who mocked Jesus and the ones who gambled for His garments all acted in ignorance.  They had pierced the hands and feet of the King.  Ellen G. White wrote, “The enemies of Jesus now awaited His death with impatient hope. That event they imagined would forever hush the rumors of His divine power and the wonders of His miracles. They flattered themselves that they should then no longer tremble because of His influence. The unfeeling soldiers who had stretched the body of Jesus on the cross, divided His clothing among themselves, contending over one garment, which was woven without seam. They finally decided the matter by casting lots for it. The pen of inspiration had accurately described this scene hundreds of years before it took place: ‘For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. . . . They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.’ Ps. 22:16, 18.” —Ellen G. White, The Story of Redemption, pp. 223, 224.

Does this ignorance of what these soldiers did excuse their actions?  Should they be punished for something they did without knowing exactly what it was?

This morning I was studying my Sabbath School Quarterly which was based on Matthew 26:59-68 where the High Priest Caiaphas rended his garments.  Why?  It was because Jesus said in response to the demand, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.”  Jesus said, “Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

Then, Caiaphas tore his clothes, saying, “He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.”

The high priest tore his clothes to symbolize that Jesus was to be put to death.  It also symbolized Caiaphas’s righteous indignation and horror over what he thought was a blasphemous claim by Jesus that He was the Son of God.   I learned that the law of Moses forbade the high priest from tearing his clothes and doing so can bring a death sentence.  Moses said to Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, “Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people” (Leviticus 10:6).

It is interesting that Caiaphas is condemning Jesus to death for blasphemy yet he did something that in Moses day would have brought death to him and God’s wrath on the people he was suppose to intercede for.  Caiaphas was breaking the law which clearly stated, “And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes” (Leviticus 21:10).  Ironically, he thought that Jesus who had done nothing wrong should be put to death yet he, Caiaphas, in rending his ecclesiastical robes, deserved death because he had broken the very law he was supposed to be upholding.

The tearing of the robe has an ever deeper meaning.  It signified the beginning of the end of the old sacrificial system and priesthood.  This system ended when Jesus died on the cross.  Mark 15:38-39 described how it ended.  And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.  And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.  The centurion bore witness that Jesus was indeed the Son of God–so, Jesus’ words to Caiaphas were a true testimony of who He was.  He had not committed blasphemy.  He had not done anything deserving of death.

Caiaphas, in tearing his clothes was signifying that a new and better sacrificial system was about to be set up.  The earthly one which he and his clothes symbolized was about to come to an end.  Christ would be the new High Priest ministering in a sanctuary not made of hands.  “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;  For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, [which are] the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:11, 24).

In rending his garments, Caiaphas disqualified himself as the High Priest.  The people needed a better High Priest.  One who understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  One who is not self-righteous and blinded by hatred and jealousy.  These things blinded the religious leaders from seeing that their whole religion pointed to Christ, God’s Anointed.

I read a little history about Caiaphas.  He was appointed to the  office of high priest by Valerius Gratus, governor of Judaea, after removal of Simon, son of Camith, A.D. 18, and was removed A.D. 36 by Vitellius, governor of Syria, who appointed Jonathan, son of Ananus (Annus, father-in-law of Caiaphas), his successor.  It’s interesting that Caiaphas was appointed by man while Jesus was appointed by God after the order of Melchizedek.

There was a need for a new priesthood.  Hebrews 7:14-19 state:  For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.  And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life.  For He testifies:  “You are a priest forever  According to the order of Melchizedek.”  For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness,  for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.

The writer continues:  And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.  Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them (Hebrws 7:23-25).  Our High Priest is currently interceding on our behalf.  His priesthood is a better one than that of the earthly one.  Unlike the earthly priesthood in which sacrifices had to be made more than once, Jesus offered Himself once and for all.  His blood atoned for our sins so the sacrifice of animals was no longer necessary.  The earthly sanctuary pointed to the heavenly one where Jesus is now interceding for all who go to the Father through Him.

Praise God for this new priesthood and our High Priest who shed His blood for our sins and is now ministering to our needs in the sanctuary, making it possible for us to boldly approach the throne of grace.

I was reading 1 Samuel 28 again.  I paid particular attention to verses 14:11-14.

Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.

And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.

And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.

And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.

Samuel had died and was buried in his hometown, Ramah.  Everyone mourned him.   And Saul had banned all mediums and those who consulted the spirits of the dead from the land of Israel . 

When the Philistine army set up camp at Shunem, and Saul gathered all the army of Israel and camped at Gilboa, Saul panicked when he saw how vast the Philistine army was.  He consulted the Lord but the Lord refused to answer him, either by dreams or by sacred lots or by the prophets.   Desperate, Saul turned to a medium even though God said, “A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood [shall be] upon them.”

Saul had banned these people from practicing their witchcraft in the land and yet here he was lifting that ban because he couldn’t get an answer from God.  Why was he seeking God’s counsel?  Was it to find out what God’s will was as other kings like David (1 Samuel 23:2, 4; 30:8; 2 Samuel 2:1; 5:19, 23; Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:5).  These kings were interested in knowing what God’s will was in each of these situations.  They were asking Him for His advice not out of fear of the enemy.  And their seeking was done from the heart as we are told to do.  Saul’s was not.  He seldom sought the Lord for anything and now be cause he was afraid, he was running to the Lord like a scared child.

God promised, “And you will seek Me and find [Me], when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).  Saul did not search for God with all his heart.  It’s like getting in touch with a parent only when you need something.  When we seek God we must do this in sincerity and uprightness.  David knew this for he said, “I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there. You know I have done all this with good motives” (1 Chronicles 29:17, NLT).  David was acknowledging that “everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us” (verse 14).

Saul’s motives were not right and that’s why God didn’t answer him and we see this for ourselves when Saul decides to consult a medium. 

I call it as séance because the witch calls up a dead spirit.  Saul doesn’t see anything.  He relies on the witch to tell him what she sees.  She told him, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.”  Saul asked the woman what the god looked like and she replied, “He is an old man wrapped in a robe.”  Based on this description, Saul assumed that it was Samuel.  And he fell to the ground before the spirit he couldn’t see.

It doesn’t make sense that Samuel who was dead and buried in Ramah would end up coming up from the ground in Endor.  If the dead go to heaven as many believe, why is Samuel coming up from the earth?  And Paul assured us that when the dead are raised, they, like the living would have new bodies, not corruptible ones (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, they were afraid because they thought He was a spirit.  Jesus said to them, “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39).  Yet, “Samuel” who seem to be have flesh and bones but was invisible to Saul.  Even spirits can be seen.  Why was the witch the only one who saw it? 

The spirit said to Saul,  “So why do you ask me, seeing the LORD has departed from you and has become your enemy?  And the LORD has done for Himself as He spoke by me. For the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David.  Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day.  Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.”

What stood out for me were the words, “And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.”  Saul committed suicide on the battlefield the next day.  How is it possible for someone wicked like Saul to be with Samuel?  Were they going to be in the same place?  This doesn’t make sense if you believe that the wicked dead go to hell and the righteous dead go to heaven.  The dead go to the grave where they sleep until they are resurrected.  Jesus Himself said, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28, 29).

Saul was deceived by the very practice he had banned.  The devil had fooled him into thinking that he was talking to the prophet Samuel.  What a sad ending to Saul’s life.  So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it; And enquired not of the LORD: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse (1 Chronicles 10:13, 14).  Saul did not keep the word of the Lord which stated in clear terms, “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I [am] the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:31).

Today, we would do well to heed these words Isaiah 8:19, 20:  “Someone may say to you, “Let’s ask the mediums and those who consult the spirits of the dead. With their whisperings and mutterings, they will tell us what to do.” But shouldn’t people ask God for guidance? Should the living seek guidance from the dead? Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark” (NLT).

Always seek God for advice and make sure that your heart is in the right place– that your motives are not selfish.

Yesterday, my husband and I were studying Matthew 22.  It is a parable about a wedding.  The king was preparing a wedding for his son.  He sent his servants to invite people but they would not come.  Again the king tried.  He sent other servants with a message.  “Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.”  This was an attractive offer.  The king had made all of the arrangements so all the people had to do was show up. 

What was the response?  Some of the people made light of the king’s invitation.  They didn’t think the wedding was important so they went their ways–one to his farm and the other to his merchandise.  One Bible commentator said that in this parable Jesus was giving an accurate description of how people respond to the Gospel.  Many make light of it while others return to their business.  They reject the message of salvation.  They are not interested in what God has to offer. The rest of the invited guests mistreated the servants.  They even killed them. 

When the king heard about this, he was understandably angry.  He sent his armies to destroy these murderers and burn up their city.  The king dealt with these people justly because not only had they rejected his invitation but they also murdered his messengers.  Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.”  It was a privelege, an honor for a king to invite anyone to his son’s wedding but those whom he invited didn’t see it that way.  So, they were not worthy of his invitation.  A Bible commentator puts it this way, “for how should those be deemed worthy to sit down at His table who had affronted Him by their treatment of His gracious invitation?”

The king is determined to have people at his son’s wedding.  He sends his servants out into the streets and this time, the invitation is extended to as many as they could find.  So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.  Now, the wedding banquet is full.

What my husband and I found interesting is the next couple of verses.  “And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:  And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.” 

This man showed up to the wedding without a wedding garment.  What is the wedding garment?  It’s the garment or robe of righteousness that Christ has freely offered to all.  In one of their study lessons, Cyberspace Ministry explains it this way:  “The white robe, which is Jesus’ righteousness, is the wedding garment that each guest must put on before taking part in the marriage supper of the Lamb.  In the parable of the wedding feast, Jesus indicated that, before the beginning of the feast, God will examine each guest, and cast out all those who won’t be clothed with this precious wedding garment.”

Isaiah 61:10 also mentions the robe of righteousness which the man at the wedding was not wearing.  “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”

This man was someone who had just come to the feast.  He represents a member of a church who has all the appearance of righteousness but did not reflect someone who was wearing Christ’s robe of righteousness.  The other guests were sinners saved by the righteousness of Christ. 

It is interesting that no one else noticed that this man was not dressed for the wedding.  It was the king who did. And when he called the man out on this, the man was speechless.  He couldn’t say a word.  My husband believes that the reason the man couldn’t say anything was he had all the opportunities to be truly covered in Jesus’ righteousness–to be a true follower and not one who professed to follow Him.  Upon self examination I had to ask myself these questions, “Am I this person?”  How can I find out if I am?”  I have all the opportunities that this man had to be truly converted.

When the king said to the servants, “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” he was separating the tare from among the wheat or the sheep from the goats.

This parable draws a significant distinction between being a member of a church and being a sinner saved by the righteousness of Christ. They clearly aren’t the same thing, are they? Look at your life, your deeds, your actions, your words, your thoughts, your attitude toward friends and enemies. Do they reflect someone wearing Christ’s robe of righteousness or someone who has just come to the feast? (http://www.ssnet.org/qrtrly/eng/11b/less11.html).  

We are instructed by God’s Word how to live according to His will and according to Jesus those who hear and do the Word of God are His brethren.

It is not enough to say that we follow Jesus.  We have to reflect this in all areas of our lives.  Remember our works will not save us.  Going to church every week will not save us.  It is how we live outside of church that makes the difference.  God knows who His true followers are.  Just as the king knew which guest(s) did not belong at the wedding so does God know which of followers do not belong in His kingdom.

Ellen G. White makes it clear that Christ’s robe represents the righteousness of Jesus which not only covers or justifies us but also changes us into His image and allows us to reflect His character in our lives.  This is the vital difference between true and false followers.  True followers are transformed and reflect Christ’s character.  They have become a new creation.  They have put off the old man. 

Jesus said that “many are called, but few are chosen”.  Many are invited to the wedding but few will be in the condition that will make them worthy to partake in it.

“Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: …” (Revelation 14:7).  This angel’s message tells us why we are to fear God and give Him glory.  The hour of His judgment has now come.  What does that mean?  It means that the case of each believer is presently being judged in the heavenly sanctuary.  This is to determine the genuineness of each conversion.  I learned this in an online bible study I am currently doing. 

God has a book in which all of our names are written.  It’s first mentioned in Exodus 32:32, 33. Moses said to him, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.  Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.”

This was after the people worshipped the gold calf Aaron carved.  Their idolatry was in direct violation of God’s commandment which forbids the worship of idols and images–the worship of anyone or anything but the Creator Himself. I think this scene in Exodus reflects the message of the angel.  The people were not genuine converts even though they had seen the power of God.  They did not fear Him as they should have.  They did not give Him the glory for bringing them out of captivity in the land of Egypt.  They did not obey His commandment which stated, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Exodus 20:3-5).

This is why God said to Moses, “Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” (Exodus 32:33).  Genuine converts will respect God by giving Him glory and honor and living in obedience to His law which represents Him.

Solomon said, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man.  For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether [it be] good, or whether [it be] evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14).  Solomon makes it clear here that fear of God, keeping His commandments are linked to His judgment.  This judgment is described in detail in Revelation 15:4-6:

Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.

And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened:

And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, clothed in pure and white linen, and having their breasts girded with golden girdles.

These plagues of God’s wrath would fall on those whose names are not in the Book of Life.  God will blot out the names of the untrue converts from the Book of Life and then execute judgment on those who didn’t give Him glory.  This is why the angel is warning us to fear God, give Him glory and worship Him.  He is calling us to obey the entire message.  Revelation 4:11 says, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”  We fear, give glory and honor to the Creator. 

The angel’s message brings the fourth commandment to mind.  It says, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:11).  The word used here for LORD is Jehovah which means, “the existing One”.  It is the proper name of the one true God.  When we keep the seventh day Sabbath, we are honoring the one true God.  We express our reverential fear of God by putting all of His commandments, including the one for the Sabbath into practice.

When Jesus was here, He glorified the Father (John 17:4).  He lived in obedience to the Father, even unto death.  He honored the Father by the way He lived and conducted Himself and the work He did.  He completed the work the Father gave Him to do.  So, likewise, we are to glorify God while we are here on earth by bearing good fruit and finishing the work we are given to do.  While we wait for Jesus to return, we work, motivated by love for God and others.

There will come a time when believers who recognize God as their Creator and pay Him honor and respect and give Him glory will face persecution from those who choose not to glorify Him but Jesus offers us these encouraging words, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Revelation 3:5).

Look around you, the invisible things of God since the creation of the world is there for us to see.  We have no excuse.  God’s handiwork is all around us to appreciate.  Let’s not make the same mistake as the people Paul wrote about in Romans 1:20, 21, who when they knew God did not glorify Him as the Creator God.  Give God the glory He deserves, fear Him and keep His commandments.



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