Welcome to yet another book! In Philippians 1, I think that Paul gives us some great perspective on related what it means to be with Christ.
Php 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Php 1:22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
Php 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
Php 1:24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
Paul had no fear of dying. He did not need to worry about it because he understood that being with Christ was the best possible experience. At the same time, he did not want to leave Earth because he was helping the Philippian church among others.
I think this is a great perspective. On one hand, it is always positive. No matter what happens, there is something good we can be doing. As we live, we live for Jesus. If something happens along the way, we get to be with Him for all eternity. There is really no bad option.
I wonder if this is a message that might resonate particularly strongly with our world today. We have people who are obsessed with youth, and they are afraid of the fact that life might someday come to an end. For Christians, then there is no reason to be afraid of that. Actually, we should look forward to that event. It makes me think of the line at the end of The Last Battle by CS Lewis.
“All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
Jesus was an interesting man to say the least, and in Mark 5 we see His power on display as He raised the daughter of Jairus. Today though, I want to focus on what happened at the end of this episode.
Mar 5:39 And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.
Mar 5:40 And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.
Mar 5:41 And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
Mar 5:42 And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.
Mar 5:43 And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.
I know that this is not a modern story, but the people would have known that the daughter was dead. I know that maybe there could be some type of counterargument that when Jesus said his daughter was sleeping, she really was. However, even without modern technology, it is rather easy to tell if someone is dead or alive, and you do not tell a child’s parents that their child has died unless you have confirmed that.
I think that is why the people laughed at Jesus and doubted. As we have always said about the resurrection of Jesus Christ Himself, dead people do not normally rise. They certainly would have known that the girl was dead.
That is why this story is so powerful. Everyone in that room would have understood death. You watch someone for a few minutes, and if they have not taken any type of breath during that time, it is pretty obvious that he or she has passed on. It does not take remarkable scientific knowledge to figure that out.
Therefore, if everyone understood death, then they also would have been forced to understand the power that Jesus brought to the situation. How else do you explain that people are agreed she was dead and then agreed that she was alive?
It is one of those stories that is hard to label as some type of trickery. All the witnesses would have clearly understood the natural order of life and death, so to see it messed up like this would have made them question who this Jesus really was. Who had that kind of power?
I think that we have in general become wrapped up in our condition here on earth, and Psalms 56 advises us not to worry about what earthly life brings because God is in control of our souls.
Psa 56:11 In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.
Psa 56:12 Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee.
Psa 56:13 For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?
I know that, because I live in America, I have no firsthand experience with living in an environment where I might be killed for my faith. Believing Christianity might bring other consequences in our culture, but it is not like we are living in life or death peril.
That being said, I think that this passage must be a tremendous encouragement to people who do a live in hostile environments. Their physical bodies are in constant danger, and their lives could possibly end at almost any time.
It is incredibly comforting to know that we don’t need to worry about what might happen on earth. Yes, it might be terrifying at the time, and it certainly might not be what we would want to happen, but we do know that if we are children of God, He has indeed delivered our souls from death.
No matter what may happen on earth, if we are children of God, we will live eternally with Him. That is a pretty amazing thing.
What does that mean for all of us though practically?
Well, for me, if I don’t need to worry about anything that people can do to me or say about me, I ought to be a lot more courageous. Even from my American perspective, if I don’t need to worry about what people think about me as a Christian and what it might do to my reputation, I probably should speak even more boldly. If people think I am crazy for believing Christianity, that shouldn’t worry me. If anything, that should motivate me even more to continue trying to help people understand why Jesus is indeed the way to salvation. I shouldn’t shrink in my seat because I am worried about my precious reputation.
I hope that this passage creates a similar reaction in all of you as well. Anything that might happen on earth is secondary. We need to be concerned with serving God and praising him like David did, and it doesn’t matter what people might do to us or might think about this. This is certainly easier said than done, but it did start the wheels turning in my head.
David decided that he wanted to try to bring Israel back together in 1 Chronicles 13.
1Ch 13:2 And David said unto all the congregation of Israel, If it seem good unto you, and that it be of the LORD our God, let us send abroad unto our brethren every where, that are left in all the land of Israel, and with them also to the priests and Levites which are in their cities and suburbs, that they may gather themselves unto us:
1Ch 13:3 And let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we enquired not at it in the days of Saul.
He also wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant along because it was obviously a very powerful symbol that symbolized the relationship that Israel had with God.
However, it was unfortunate that there was a little bit of tragedy as the Ark was being moved.
1Ch 13:9 And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled.
1Ch 13:10 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.
It is a tough one. Obviously, people were not allowed to touch the Ark. Unfortunately, Uzza did indeed touch it. Honestly, you might expect some type of exception here. After all, he only grabbed it because the oxen stumbled. He didn’t even plan on touching it, but he was saving it from falling over. You would think that was a good thing.
Nevertheless, there was no exception here, and Uzza paid the price because he did break a rule technically. When God tells us to do something, it is rarely a life or death thing. However, we have one decision that will this type of deal, and there will not be any negotiation.
That one decision is naturally accepting Jesus as our Savior. It will determine our eternal destiny.
At the beginning of 2 Samuel 19, David is still distraught over the death of his son. Even though Absalom was technically an enemy, yesterday we talked about how David had so much unconditional love for his son regardless of what happened.
I can understand why he was still upset, but not everyone thought that all of this grief was necessary.
2Sa 19:5 And Joab came into the house to the king, and said, Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters, and the lives of thy wives, and the lives of thy concubines;
2Sa 19:6 In that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well.
2Sa 19:7 Now therefore arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the LORD, if thou go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee this night: and that will be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now.
Joab as you will recall was the guy who actually killed Absalom, so I can understand why it was a little bit difficult for him to have any sympathy in this situation.
He was basically telling David that the people were not entirely thrilled that he seemed more upset about a victory than he would have been about a hypothetical defeat.
You might not necessarily agree with his message and have you delivered it, but I think that we can learn something from Joab here.
I have read about many leaders who complained that they are surrounded by people who only say what they want to hear. For example, if I was running a business, I don’t think I’d be very happy if everyone around me always said that I was always doing everything right.
You want someone honest. You want someone who will tell you whether or not you have entirely lost your mind. Joab was that type of advisor.
Of course, we always need to be sure that what we say is always for the benefit of the other person in love, but we do need to be honest. David took his advice and regained his composure, so I guess it was pretty convincing.
1 Samuel 31 brings about the end of the reign of Saul. The Israelites were fighting against the Philistines again near Gilboa. First, Jonathan and Malchishua, Saul’s two sons, were killed, and then Saul was fatally wounded.
However, he did not want to be taken alive by the enemy, so he fell on his own sword. He wanted to die rather than have to deal with all of the atrocities that would probably come with his capture.
Unfortunately, when the Philistines found his dead body the next day, he still suffered a great indignity.
1Sa 31:8 And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in mount Gilboa.
1Sa 31:9 And they cut off his head, and stripped off his armour, and sent into the land of the Philistines round about, to publish it in the house of their idols, and among the people.
1Sa 31:10 And they put his armour in the house of Ashtaroth: and they fastened his body to the wall of Bethshan.
Obviously, the people in Israel saw this as a major problem. Many people were still loyal to Saul, and even if they were not, this was still kind of a slap in the face for Israel.
1Sa 31:11 And when the inhabitants of Jabeshgilead heard of that which the Philistines had done to Saul;
1Sa 31:12 All the valiant men arose, and went all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and came to Jabesh, and burnt them there.
1Sa 31:13 And they took their bones, and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
I think that is a picture of what human life is worth. Whether living or dead, we need to make sure that we respect other people. When something bad happens to them, like Saul passed away in battle, we really should not be celebrating it. If we are going to show the love of God to other people like we are commanded to, we need to start by respecting them.
Deuteronomy 13 is a very strong passage. Essentially, God was telling the Israelites that they should have absolutely no tolerance for false teachers. In fact, death is the recommended punishment if someone who rises from within the Israelites tries to mislead the people. These people had known God and saw His power, yet they were still trying to turn their kinsman away from the Truth. That was a serious offense.
Deu 13:1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
Deu 13:2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
Deu 13:3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Deu 13:4 Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
Sometimes I wonder if we do not take false teachers seriously enough. Obviously this passage in Deuteronomy is talking about a very specific type of false teacher that should sentenced to death, but even in the New Testament, there are plenty of references to steer clear of any type of false teacher. Some people are false teachers out of ignorance, so death would obviously not be prescribed for them. However, we still need to keep our eyes open.
Act 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
Act 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
We need to be on the watch and not allow false doctrine to cause us to stumble. Many people have been swayed by other doctrine and wander off the path. Jesus wasn’t joking when He said that He was the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Because He is the only Way, if we follow any other path, we are sorely mistaken.
God leaves little room for negotiation when it comes to our obedience especially in Deuteronomy chapter eight.
Deu 8:19 And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.
Deu 8:20 As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.
These are strong words, but they explain the high value that God places on our obedience.
Now, there is an interesting implication of this passage.
It is obvious that there are millions of people in the world today who give God virtually no value and follow their own idols.
Does this passage apply to them as well?
One thing that we can safely assume from this passage is that we are not talking about physical death here. After all, it is not like people immediately die because they are not followers of God.
It could mean that He is talking about nations that either follow God or do not. That seems to be the general theme of the chapter here. There are several nations around the world that are not Christian and are thriving, but I think that Israel was held to such a high standard because they had witnessed God firsthand.
This nation had been blessed in so many ways beginning with their miraculous escape from Egypt and continuing through the years of wandering in the desert. They had so much proof that God was looking out for them that to leave at that point would at the very least be ungrateful.
So, even though it seems as if at this this passage is clearly pointing to the nation of Israel, I do think that there can be an application on the individual level.
If you look at this from a spiritual perspective, if we do not live in obedience to God by putting our faith and trust in Him, there will be a spiritual death. I know this is not a very happy thought to end on, but I think that the encouraging part lies in the fact that the spiritual depth can be avoided.
Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
It is pretty simple.
Merry Christmas! I hope that you all have an excellent holiday and remember the True Reason for our celebration!
Deuteronomy chapter 3 might not seem like a very Christmasy passage, but I assure you that it is. After all, isn’t Jesus everywhere in history? He might not have physically been on earth in His earthly body, but He has been intricately involved with everything for all time. God is as active and alive today as He ever was or will be.
Still, to returned to Deuteronomy, we are being reminded by Moses how the power of God was exhibited through the Israelites.
Deu 3:4 And we took all his cities at that time, there was not a city which we took not from them, threescore cities, all the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan.
Deu 3:5 All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside unwalled towns a great many.
Through the power of God, the Israelites were able to overtake all of these seemingly insurmountable foes. They took down fortresses through His divine might.
Now, we are called to also take on an enemy that might seem overwhelming. Just like the Israelites, we need the power of God to conquer our opposition.
Mat 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
As we are attacking the gates of hell, we know that we will win. In fact, we know that we will win because the Rock that the church is built upon is salvation through Jesus Christ. Because Jesus died, we have been given the gift of salvation, and through that salvation, we are no longer slaves to sin.
How were we given this gift?
Jesus needed to die on the cross and take on the sins of the world, but He needed to be born first.
That is why we celebrate Christmas.
The miraculous virgin birth started a sinless life that qualified Jesus as the perfect Sacrifice capable of atoning for every mistake you or I have ever made. We don’t deserve mercy, but we have been given it.
I encourage you to think about this as you celebrate today. The festivities are fun, and I think that we all can say that we love spending time with family or friends.
However, I would encourage you to think behind the tinsel. Think about how God came to earth to provide the final blow to Satan. Just like the Israelites conquered their enemies, Jesus was born to conquer Satan and death. That is why we will never forget this day.
I was kind of surprised to find a little bit more about Balaam in Numbers 31 (although I guess that he is referenced a few more times in the future). I thought we were done with the story.
Num 31:6 And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of every tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand.
Num 31:7 And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.
Num 31:8 And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.
This was the end of Balaam, and I guess it has been quite a journey. If you are reading along with me, you will remember all of the back story, but, in summary, he had to keep blessing Israel even though his boss wanted him to say anything else.
That is what I found particularly interesting about Balaam.
Even though he was not an Israelite, he had the opportunity to hear directly from God, but he still hung out with bad company. He wanted to stay with the enemies of Israel, and that is ultimately what did him in.
You know the old phrase that talks about getting burned when you play with fire. In a way, Balaam continued keeping dangerous company, and eventually it caught up to him.
He himself had prophesied the destruction of parts of Moab in Numbers 24:17, and we found out that the Moabites and the Midianites were in a pretty tight alliance through Numbers 22. Consequently, it doesn’t take an awful lot of deduction to realize that there might be problems for Midian as well. Being a friend of an enemy generally makes you an enemy as well.
God will always forgive us when we mess up, and I don’t want to discount that at all. However, sometimes we do make choices that put us in situations where bad things might happen. They don’t always result in death, but we have all made choices that have hurt other people or our relationship with them.
We need to make sure that we are watching our decisions. Every day, we are faced with thousands of them, and we do have to face the consequences of those decisions. Balaam apparently made the decision to ignore his own warning and live with people who he knew would be conquered by Israel. Whether that decision was the result of a lack of wisdom or a lack of faith, he eventually had to be responsible for what he had chosen.
I hope we choose to follow God.