Speaking the Truth

Jeremiah 11:18-23

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God warned Jeremiah that there were men in his community who threatened to kill him if he didn’t stop prophesying against them.  It wasn’t because Jeremiah was a false prophet.  They knew that he was prophesying in the name of the Lord.  It was because they didn’t want to hear the truth.  And they didn’t want to hear it from one of their own.  Anathoth was Jeremiah’s hometown and just as the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus, the people were rejecting Jeremiah.  They didn’t like what he had to say and they didn’t appreciate it coming from a member of their community.

Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house” (Matthew 13:57).  When the people heard what He had to say, they were filled with wrath, rose up and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff (Luke 4:16-30).  This was the Son of the carpenter, who was He to talk to them like this?  Same thing with Jeremiah.  Who was he to be telling the people these terrible things?

These people are much like some of us today.  We are doing things that are contrary to God’s Word and when God sends someone to point this out to us, we get upset.  We don’t like what they are saying.  It makes us uncomfortable.  It hits too close to home.  We would rather hear what we want to hear instead of what we need to hear.  We don’t want to hear the truth.  It hurts.  It cuts into us like a knife.  Some of us have cherished sins we don’t want to give up.

The men of Anathoth loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil (John 3:19).  In order to hold onto their sinful and corrupt desires, they were willing to go as far as killing God’s prophet.  However, God was not about to let them get away with anything.  He was going to punish them.  This teaches us that we are to obey God and leave the consequences to Him.  We are not to allow people to intimidate us into keeping quiet when we have a message to share or work to do for the Lord.  We do what we are called to do and let God take care of the rest.

Jeremiah spoke the truth no matter the cost.  We need to do the same.  When we see someone doing something wrong, we need to say something instead of keeping quiet because we don’t want to ruffle features or upset the person.  And when someone tells us the truth, we ought to swallow our pride and listen.  Remember this person might have been sent by God to straighten us out and if we reject what he or she is telling us, we are really rejecting Him.

Bottom line:  Don’t be afraid to speak the truth.  Don’t be afraid to hear the truth.

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Jesus Rejected At Nazareth

“Truly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country”  – Luke 4:24, MEV

Read Luke 4:16-30

jesus-in-nazarethJesus is in the synagogue in Nazareth where as, His custom was, He went there on the Sabbath day.  He stood up to read. He read what Isaiah prophesied about Him in 61:1, 2.

After He finished reading, He sat down and all eyes were on Him.  It was then that He told them that the scripture He had just read was fulfilled that very day in their hearing.

At first they marvelled at His gracious words but that soon changed when Jesus got to the heart of the matter.  He told them the truth which was that no prophet was accepted in his own country.  He quoted the proverb, “Physician, heal yourself, whatever we have heard you do in Capernaum, do it here too.”  In other words, do these things in your own country.

Jesus reminded them that although there were many widows in Israel during the three and a half years of no rain and famine, the prophet Elijah was sent to a Gentile widow.  The widow did as he told her and make a cake for him although she but only a handful of meal in a barrel and a little oil in a jar.  Her act of faith resulted in her, Elijah and her household ate for many days and the barrel of meal did not run out, nor did the jar of oil empty, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke by Elijah (1 Kings 17:7-16, MEV).

There were many lepers in Israel but Elisha cleansed none of them except Naaman, the Syrian.  Naaman was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master because by him, the Lord had given victory to Syria.  He was a mighty man of valor (2 Kings 5:1).

John 3:19 – “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

We see how fickle the people are.  They were fine where Jesus quoted Isaiah but when He rebuked them, their reaction was violent.  They had heard of His miracles and wonders and were thrilled that He had returned to His home town.  That’s why they said, “Is this not Joseph’s Son?”  We know Him, they seemed to say.  We know His family.  We heard of all the great things He has done in other places.  Perhaps they thought He would perform some of those miracles there.  He was accepted throughout Galilee before He went to Nazareth and news of Him went through all the surrounding region which is most likely how the people of Nazareth heard about Him.

Jesus taught in the synagogues in Galilee and was glorified by all.  Not so in Nazareth.  Once He pointed out, using examples of Elijah and Elisha, that prophets, are more welcomed, accepted by others and not by their own, the people of Nazareth were filled with wrath.  Jesus hit a nerve.  No one likes when their true motives, nature, or spiritual condition are brought to light.  They tried to push Him off a hill but Jesus slipped away.

How do we react when someone points out sin in our lives or bring to light something in our lives that we need to change? Do we reject them?  Do we turn against them?  Do we run them out of our lives?  What is it about truth that make people get so bent out of shape?

What condition would Jesus find you in when He comes into your life? Will you turn to Him?  He promised that, “While you have light, believe in the light that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35, MEV).  Or will you turn away from Him because you prefer your life the way it is? I pray that you will choose to accept Him.

Testimony of John the Baptist

BaptismOfJesusJohn the Baptist, when he saw Jesus, testified that He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.  He mentions that Jesus is the One whom he had spoken of before.  He knew Him not but that He should be revealed to Israel and that he, John, comes baptizing with water.  His baptisms are his way of preparing Israel for the Messiah who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Luke’s Gospel elaborates on John’s role.  He was to come before Jesus in the manner of an earlier prophet–Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to wisdom of the just; to make people ready–to prepare them for the Lord.

John the Baptist was called the prophet of the Highest because he was to go before Jesus to prepare His way.  He was to let the people know about salvation by the remission of their sins.  John went about saying, “Repent you: for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  He was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah.  God revealed Jesus to John, for John testified that he had seen the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove and settle on Him.  God had told John that the person he saw the Spirit descend and remain on was the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.  John witnessed this phenomenon and testified that Jesus was the Son of God.

Like John the Baptist, Jesus is revealed to us and it is up to us to share this revelation with others.  We can declare to others that Jesus is the Son of God and through Him we receive the Holy Spirit.  After Jesus came, baptism was done in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  As in Jesus’ case, we too receive the Holy Spirit in baptism.

Slow to Speak

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19, 20).

person-listening-300x200James is saying that sometimes we need to listen more and speak less or say nothing.  King Solomon says in Proverbs 10:19, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”

There are times when we speak instead of listening and later regret it because our words lead to bitter quarrels and fights.  Feelings can get hurt and relationships can be jeopardized or destroyed because of words spoken in a fit of anger.  There are times when we ought to just listen and other times when we ought to speak.  We have to have the wisdom to know when to do which.

Problems arise when we stop listening to God and to each other.  Whether in the home, at work, or in the church, arguments ensue when listening stops.  When that happens, talking begins to accelerate and anger builds.  This slippery slope of sinful communication, like the uncontrolled inward desires of James 1:14, 15, can never produce the righteousness of God.  That is why James juxtaposes God’s righteousness with human wrath.  As long as we rely on what bubbles up naturally from our sinful nature, the creative power of God’s Word is blocked, and our own unhelpful or even hurtful words arise instead (The Book of James Sabbath School Quarterly, p. 26)

Notice James advises us to be “swift to hear”.  We must be quick to hear what the other person has to say first before we have our say.  In doing so, we might learn something and diffuse an otherwise volatile situation.   How many times have we been quick to speak and slow to listen and gotten ourselves in trouble?  It takes wisdom to hold our tongue.  It takes maturity to listen. 

We have to be careful of what we say.  If we have nothing good or helpful to say in a situation , it is best to keep quiet.

Proverbs 15:1 says, “a soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.  When we respond to something someone says in a quiet, non-combative way, it will diffuse the situation or prevent it from getting worse.  Once when my husband, Dave made a request, he didn’t like the tone of his co-worker’s reply but he responded in an agreeable manner.  The co-worker, initially surprised, responded positively.  Dave chose a gentle answer instead of a harsh one and turned what could have led to a bad situation into a peaceful resolution.  Both men benefitted from Dave’s wise handling of the problem.

The prophet Isaiah tells us that we should know how to speak and when to speak (Isaiah 50:4).  Paul encourages us to speak only words that will encourage and benefit others.  Our words must not be corrupt or harmful (Ephesians 4:29).  Our words should not be filthy, foolish or coarse.  They should be fitting and full of thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:4).  Our words should always be filled with grace, seasoned with salt so that we know how to answer people appropriately (Colossians 4:6). 

Be a good listener.  Hear what the other person has to say.  The same rule applies to God.  Too often when we spend time with Him, we have our say but don’t wait to hear what He has to say.  Be still and listen for that small, still voice.

He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction (Proverbs 13:3)

 

 

 

The Berean Way

bible and glassesOn the morning of February 25, 2013, my husband and I were talking about the encounter between Saul and whom he perceived to be the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 28. We recalled a broadcast of In Touch some time ago when Dr. Charles Stanley taught that it was God who spoke through “Samuel” whom the witch had seen coming up from the ground. Some commentators talk about how the woman seemed startled when she saw an old man with a mantle rising from the earth. Some intimate that she was a fraud and got a shock when a spirit actually came up. I wouldn’t speculate on why she was startled or how she found out that it was Saul in a disguise. What shocked me was that Dr. Stanley would preach that God would speak through the very means which He forbade His people from using. In Moses’ time mediums and those who consulted the dead were put to death (Leviticus 20:27).

God warned His people, “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards,to be defiled by them: I [am] the LORD your God.” Why then would God who is holy defile Himself by speaking through what Saul perceived as the spirit of Samuel? If God engaged in the very practice which He prohibited, He would be a hypocrite.

Most people believe that when a person dies, they go to heaven if they are righteous and to hell if they are wicked. Does it make sense then that Samuel would be coming up from the earth if he were supposed to be in heaven? And would why would he say to Saul, “And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me” (verse 19). Would wicked Saul really be where Samuel, a man of God was? And why is “Samuel” who died and was buried in the city Ramah show up in Endor?

Consider what “Samuel” said to Saul in verses 15-19 and then consider Samuel’s behavior when the Lord rejected Saul as king. 1 Samuel 15:11 and 35 state: “And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night. And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.” Does this Samuel sound like the one who spoke to Saul in Endor? Even the witch showed Saul more compassion (verses 21-25).

1 Chronicles 10:13-14 say: “So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the LORD, because he did not keep the word of the LORD, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But [he] did not inquire of the LORD; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” Saul sought the Lord but the Lord did not answer him in dreams or by Urim or the prophets (1 Samuel 28:6).

Saul’s heart was not in the right place. He had been disobedient to God for such a long time that the Lord’s Spirit had left him. And it proved that Saul’s heart was not in the right place because in his desperation, he sought the help of a witch. As one commentator rightly puts it, “He had done so in form ( 1 Sa 28:6 ), but not in the spirit of a humble penitent, nor with the believing confidence of a sincere worshipper. His enquiry was, in fact, a mere mockery, and his total want of all right religious impressions was manifested by his rushing from God to a wretched impostor in the service of the devil [ 1 Sa 28:7 ].”

The manner in which Saul sought the Lord explains why he received no answer. David knew how to approach the God of his fathers. ”The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart–These, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). What Saul needed was a broken spirit and a contrite heart and God would have responded to him.

This sad chapter in Saul’s life demonstrates just how important it is to read the Word of God for ourselves instead of simply relying on pastors and ministers. We ought to be like the Bereans who after listening to the apostle Paul’s sermon and readily receiving it, still consulted the Scriptures to make sure that what they were heard was in harmony. Once they were satisfied that it was, they believed.

So many Christians are being led astray by pastors and ministers who believe in what they are teaching but whose teaching are contrary to what is in the Bible. We encourage Christians seek the Word of God and prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into God’s truth. Don’t be surprised if the truth that is revealed to you is different from what you have been taught.

It is so easy to misinterpret or misunderstand God’s Word but the Holy Spirit is there to guide us. Jesus used the Scriptures to teach His disciples and show them the way. The disciples encountered a lot of opposition from people who did not believe in the Gospel. They challenged their beliefs and teaching but the disciples stood their ground because they had the Word of God on their side. Jesus used the Word of God to defeat the enemy who was trying to tempt Him. The enemy quoted from scripture but used it in the wrong context. This goes to show you that a person may know the Bible and quote scores of scripture from it but it doesn’t mean that the person knows what he or she is talking about.

In his letter to the Christians in Galatia, Paul wrote, “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is important to search the Word diligently, prayerfully and without any preconceived notions. Be open to the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Don’t resist the truth because it is different from what you have believed for years. God once encouraged me to embrace the truth. Remember what Jesus said about the truth setting you free.

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” – Acts 17:11.

2 Kings 18:28-35-2 Kings 19

PP-HezekiahPraying_JS_0015The Rabshakeh whom the king of Assyria sent to the king of Judah and the Israelites and tried to persuade the people into doubting their king and their God.  He tried to convince them that since the gods of the other nations that Assyria conquered couldn’t defeat them why would the God of Israel be any different?  He tried to persuade them to trust in him instead and in return all will be well with them.

There are times when people will cast doubt on God’s power or His ability to help us through tough situations.  They may even criticize those who give us godly counsel.  They might try to convince us that they have the solution or that they are the solution.

How do we deal with these negative, discouraging people?  Should we hold our peace and not say anything like the Israelites?

King Hezekiah dealt with this problem in two ways.  First, he consulted Isaiah, the prophet.  God spoke through Isaiah, telling Hezekiah not to be afraid of the words he heard from the Assyrian king’s messenger.  God assured Hezekiah that He would send a spirit on the king of Assyria who will hear a rumor and return to his own land where he will fall by the sword.

King Hezekiah prayed to God, asking for His help.  In his prayer he acknowledged the following things about God:

  • the One who dwells between the cherubim
  • You are God, You alone, of all kingdoms of the earth
  • You have made heaven and earth
  • You are the Lord God, You alone

He recognized the other gods were not gods but the work of men’s hands.  He wanted God to save the Jewish people from the king of Assyria so that all the kingdoms of the earth will know that God is the Lord God.

God responded to Hezekiah through the prophet Isaiah.  He said, “Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib, king of Assyria, I have heard.”  God outlined how the king would be defeated.  He promised that He would defend Jerusalem, save it for His (God’s) sake and David’s sake.

Just as God promised, an angel went out and killed 185,000 Assyrians in their camp.  King of Assyria left and returned to his home in Nineveh.  As he was worshipping in the temple of his god, his two sons killed him.

King Hezekiah trusted in God to save them from the Assyrian king and his vast army.  God came through for the Israelites because of Hezekiah’s faith in Him.  God delivered His people from their enemies.

God’s prophecy regarding the king of Assyria came true.  He caused him to return to his own land where he fell by the sword (verse 7).  The king’s god couldn’t save him because as Hezekiah pointed out, the other gods were not gods–they were made of wood and stone–the products of men’s hands and imaginations.  The God of Israel, on the other hand, is living, breathing and existed long before man was created. This reminds me of what Paul said to the Greeks in Athens (Acts 17:22-31).

Isaiah 1:2

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!
For the Lord has spoken:
“I have nourished and brought up children,
And they have rebelled against Me – Isaiah 1:2

week2-largeThe prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 1:2 depicts a courtroom scene charging Israel with covenant unfaithfulness and calls on heaven and earth to testify to the truth of God’s accusation against His people and the rightness of His judgment– since they were witnesses to His covenant.

The message here is that God has taken care of His children all their lives, nourishing them, delivering them, providing for their every need and still, they have rebelled against Him.

God’s faithfulness was rewarded with disobedience and disloyalty so now He is calling to His two witnesses–heaven and earth.  They have seen all that He had done for the nation and how they have behaved so when God punishes them, it is rightly deserved.  His judgment is necessary.

Throughout history we have seen God come through for His people, taking great care of them and all He asked for in return was their obedience and loyalty but they continually rebelled against Him.  Despite His many warnings they continued to rebel so judgment was passed.

Today, we must still expect God’s to act when people continue to rebel against Him.  The only difference is that He has reserved a day for judgment.

Overcoming Emotional Hurdles

Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage” – Joshua 10:25

Insecurity, doubt or fear prevents us from following God’s will.  We see throughout the Bible that God used people to fulfil His plans—His work when He could have easily done it on His own.  God likes to do great things through people.  He used Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egyptand through him He performed great wonders.  However, when God first approached Moses, Moses was insecure and doubted his ability to speak to Pharaoh and do God’s work.  “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

God assured Moses that he would not be alone, that He would be with him.  Still, Moses protested.  He argued that he was slow of speech so God said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth?  Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing or the blind?  Have not I, the Lord?  Now therefore go and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 11-12)  After much protesting from Moses and persuading from God, Moses finally agreed to do as he was commanded.  And he delivered the Israelites and led them to the Promised Land.  He was known as the great deliverer and lawgiver ofIsrael.  There was never another prophet like Moses.

Jonah ran away instead of going to Nineveh as God commanded him because he was afraid.  As a result, a large fish swallowed him where he spent three days and three nights.  From the fish’s belly, Jonah prayed.  The Lord spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.  God spoke to Jonah again, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the preaching that I bid you.”  This time Jonah obeyed.  The message was, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”  The people of Nineveh repented and God in His mercy did not bring disaster on them.

Jonah was not happy about this.  It is as if he felt that he had wasted his time going toNineveh, telling them that they would be destroyed for their wickedness yet, because they had repented, they were saved.  He wondered why God had bothered to send him in the first place when He could have delivered His own message and shown mercy to the people when they turned from their evil ways.

To prove to Jonah how irrational his anger was, God prepared a plant and had it come up over Jonah to shade his head.  Then, He prepared a worm and it damaged the plant and it withered.  Then, He prepared a heavy east wind and the sun beat on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint.  Jonah wished for death.  Then, God asked him if it was right for him to be angry about the plant.  Jonah’s reply was that it right for him to be angry, even to death.  God’s response was, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not laboured, nor made it grow, which came up in the night and perished in a night.  And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jonah 1:2-3, 17, 2:1-10, 3:1-11)

What we learn from these two examples is that when God wants you to do something don’t argue or run away, just do it.  God uses people to do His will when He could easily do it on His own.  Once people repent of their sins, God shows His mercy and saves them.  We should praise God and rejoice when He is gracious to those who sin against Him and repent instead of getting angry.  God’s love is not reserved for some people but for ALL people.  Jonah failed to recognise God’s love for all people—Jews and Gentiles alike because of the animosity between the two.  The story of Jonah teaches, much like Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, that we should put aside our differences and help those who are hurt spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman at a time when Jews did not associated with Samaritans.  He wanted her to know that there would come a time when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth instead of on the mountain where the Samaritans worshipped or in Jerusalemwhere the Jews worshipped.  We can worship Him anywhere and anytime.  God wants all people to know him.  As Paul points out, “Or is He the God of the Jews only?  Is He not also the god of the Gentiles also?  Yes, of The Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” (Romans 3:29-30)

Everything to God in Prayer

Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth” – Psalm 54:2

When we pray to God, we should kneel before Him, an act of humility for He is sovereign.  We should revere Him and remember that He is almighty.  When we pray we do so with the knowledge that God desires to show us His compassion and goodness because He is a loving God.  The love of Christ is so profound that He gave His life for us.  When we pray to God we should thank Him and acknowledge that He is able “to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

When we come to God in prayer we should remember to whom we are praying.  Hannah wanted a child and she turned to the Lord because she knew that He was her only hope.  She prayed continually and in her heart.  She was pouring out her soul to God and she believed that He would answer her prayer because her face was no longer downcast.  And God answered her prayer.  He remembered her and she conceived and gave birth to a son.  “For this child I prayed and the Lord has granted me my petition which I asked of Him.”  (1 Samuel 1:12-13, 18, 19, 20, 27)

Samuel is recognised as a prophet in all of Israel.  He Lord was with him and his mother too because she gave birth to more children.  God gave Hannah above and beyond what she asked for.  Hannah praised God and acknowledged His goodness.  “My heart rejoices in the Lord.” (1 Samuel 2:1a)  “There is no one holy like the Lord, there is no one besides You, there is no Rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 2:2)

I have learned that for prayers to be effective they must be specific, such as asking for understanding, strength or for the healing of a loved one.  We should ask for things only God can give you as nothing is impossible for Him.  We must be humble, submissive and unselfish when petitioning God.  “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10)  We must be like the publican who recognized that he needed God instead of the Pharisee who felt he didn’t need God.  We must recognise and give thanks to God for His faithfulness and glorify Him in our prayers.

 This was how Paul prayed for the Colossians who were new to the faith.  He asked God that they be filled with knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. (Colossians 1:9)

This was how Hannah prayed.  She was barren and longed for a child.  She prayed to God asking for a male child whom she would dedicate to Him.  She knew only God could open her womb.  She was humble, weeping and praying with all her heart and from the depths of her soul.  She was willing to give up her son to serve the Lord once He granted her request.  Praying to God lifted Hannah’s spirits and she went home, confident that her prayer had been answered.  She recognised that there was none besides God and she rejoiced in His salvation (1 Samuel 2:1).

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