Contention Over the Chosen

One man wrote, “Not from the world’s ‘beautiful people,’ but for the most part from the lower classes, the ‘nobodies,’ God chose those who would make up God’s new people” (Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT, 82). Early on in church history, Christianity was deemed the religion of slaves, women, and children. Many unbelieving people today look at Christians as weak-minded, not willing to face the cold, brutal world in front of them.

On the other hand, when I watch American believers politically interact, I see them moving toward the same direction as the early Christians in Corinth. The irony is that the Corinthians were ‘nobodies’ when God called and chose them. But now they want to be the ‘somebodies’ who are rejecting them (and God).

1 Corinthians 18-25 emphasized contention among three groups of people. The Jews sought for power, the Greeks sought for wisdom, and believers found a true understanding of power and wisdom in Christ crucified. The cross of Christ was a curse and an instrument of shame for the Jews. It was utter foolishness to the Greeks. Therefore, both groups are perishing. However, for those being saved, we see the wisdom of God and the power of God in the contention among all three groups at the cross. This contention still exists today.

1 Corinthians 1.26-31 focuses on the people who find refuge in the cross. If the cross and its message proclaiming Christ crucified seems weak and foolish in our world, what can we say of the people who identify with it? What kind of people will God choose?

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” – 1 Corinthians 1:26–31

God has not chosen many wise, mighty, or noble people to fill the church at Corinth. Instead, God has chosen the weak, base, and despised. These are described as “the things which are not,” the ‘nobodies’ of the world. They are not the ‘beautiful’ people. Right at the end of our passage, we find out why God has made such a contentious choice. Paul partially quotes from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah.

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD. – Jeremiah 9:23–24

He who glories, let him glory in the Lord!

So, where is our self-worth as believers once we better understand God’s contentious choice? Hopefully we conclude that it is shattered and broken. What makes Christianity such a contentious message in our world today is that it accurately describes the human condition as utterly lost in total darkness and sin. Contention peaks because we want to hold onto autonomy. We desire a far-rosier outlook of the human condition. But God will not allow for this. Once we acknowledge a need for a Savior, we are admitting something about ourselves. We don’t just need God to help us get up because we’ve been knocked down. We are absolutely wrecked, dead in our trespasses and sins. Then comes the Good News!

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” – 1 Corinthians 1.30-31

Photo: Sue Oesterwind

Those prepositions in verse 30 are important. God is choosing in verse 28. We are in Christ Jesus because of the action of God in v. 30. God the Father gives true wisdom or salvation in Christ crucified, namely righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. God chose us in Christ. The only person who ever lived that deserved to be chosen by the Father is Jesus Christ the Son, God’s Elect One.

So, this is how this 1 Corinthians 1.26-31 progress:

  1. Most called are not wise, mighty, and noble (26).
  2. Instead, God has chosen the foolish, weak, and base to put to shame the wise and mighty (27-28).
  3. God does this so that no one would glory in His presence (29).
  4. God made Christ to become true wisdom for us in that salvation is all from Him and expressed by three theological terms: righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (30).
  5. This is the death-knell of human boasting and self-sufficiency. It leads to complete trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ (31).

Christ became for us true wisdom from God. But this true wisdom is not about a burgeoning intellect, a high social status, or persuasive rhetorical skills. These appealed to the Corinthians and many people in our day. This is what makes God’s choice contentious. God makes sinners whole, and He doesn’t need their help. Those who are well need no physician. So, only the sick come to Jesus. Are you willing to be number among those infected by the pandemic of sin? There is only one true ground found for boasting and it’s not found in the people who cling to the cross. It’s found in the Savior who went to the cross to die for our sins.

What does this say about us as believers today?

Overall, it says that we were groping around in the darkness, ignorant of true wisdom. What can we really know when we are separated from Christ? Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked.

  • “There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God” (Romans 3.11).
  • “God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. Every one of them has turned aside; they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one” (Psalm 52.2-3).
  • Christ became for us wisdom from God because God was in none of our thoughts (Psalm 10.4).

What did we really know of the depths of our sin and the beauty of His holiness? We saw ourselves as rich, wealthy, and in need of nothing. He saw us as we are: wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (see Revelation 3.17). We need righteousness, sanctification, and redemption because we are condemned, defiled, and enslaved.

  1. We are condemned. We are found guilty before God. Remember, we are lawbreakers. “We know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3.19).
  2. We are defiled. We refuse to conform to the will of God. We pursue pleasure and sensuality at every turn. “We all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just at the others” (Ephesians 2.3).
  3. We are enslaved. This is why we must come to our senses “and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2.26). We have no power of our own to break free from our bondage.

Yes, we need true wisdom from God. We need righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. We cannot get this wisdom on our own or find it in the world. God gives real wisdom.

  • “From His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2.6).
  • The Holy Spirit opens the eyes of our understanding. He enlightens us (Ephesians 1.18).
  • Paul will say in 1 Corinthians 2.14: “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.”
  • Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 3.19, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness.’”

Why are we so needy?

  1. We cannot remove our guilt. We cannot remove the scars of our sin with self-righteous religion. We cannot produce sorrow and tears that will wash away sin. We can’t even stop sinning. So we compound our guilt before God. The very best works we produce in this world are stench in the nostrils of God. Even our repentance needs to be repented of. Trust God’s Word when He says that we do not want to be found in our own righteousness.
  2. We cannot remove the stain of our defilement. Can you put to death all of the illicit passions of your flesh? Can you remove every ounce of your love for this present world? Can you transform yourself into God’s image in righteousness and true holiness? You will create something from nothing before you will be able to produce a life of holiness (sanctification).
  3. We cannot remove the chains of our bondage. Right up until the day we die, we will cry out, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” (Romans 7.24)? Only Christ can set us free! He alone has purchased our redemption.

“But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (v. 30).

Wisdom Is Salvation

Christ Jesus became for us wisdom from God. Through such wisdom we are “able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and the length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3.18-19).

  • “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5.5).
  • God commanded light to shine out of darkness. That light penetrates our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4.6).

Wisdom and Full Salvation

  1. We have righteousness. It comes through Christ. We are pronounced guiltless because we are robed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We are holy and without blemish as the bride of Christ. The righteousness of God belongs to all who believe (Romans 3.22). There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8.1). Not guilty!
  2. We have sanctification. It comes through Christ. We “put off, concerning [our] former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and [we are] renewed in the spirit of [our] mind, and …[we] put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4.22-24). When we see Christ, the God of peace will have sanctified us completely at His coming (1 Thessalonians 5.23). The Holy Spirit is working even now to bring us from one level of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3.18). We are set apart for God!
  3. We have redemption. It comes through Christ. He alone delivers us from the bondage of corruption and brings us into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. If Jesus makes us free, we are free indeed. We are free to be right and live right. We are free to know Christ and live an eternal quality of life. The Scriptures open for us. The avenue of prayer is given to us. We are loosed!

Are you safely in Christ Jesus? Do you have an accurate self-image? Do you see yourself as utterly incapable of pleasing God with self-produced righteousness through moralism and religion? If so, then you are in a position to receive the righteousness of God through the work of Jesus Christ (grace) by faith alone. Undeserving and unmerited favor from God is always received by faith. If you die without wisdom from God, void of Christ’s righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, it would be better if you had never been born.

If you are safely in Christ Jesus, know that He alone is God’s Elect One. This is God’s contentious choice. No one else could do the saving. No one deserves to be saved. God’s choice is contentious because man wants autonomy and glory. Instead, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.” (1.31) God forbid that any of us should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (see Galatians 6.14)!

The Subtlety of Self-Deception

“Samuel went to Saul, and Saul said to him, ‘Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord.’ But Samuel said, ‘What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?’ And Saul said, ‘They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen, to sacrifice to the Lord your God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.’ Then Samuel said to Saul, ‘Be quiet! And I will tell you what the Lord said to me last night.’ And he said to him, ‘Speak on.’” (1 Samuel 15:13–16)

1 Samuel 15.12 states Samuel, the prophet, rose early in the morning to meet up with Saul, Israel’s first king. Instead, Samuel heard that Saul went to celebrate at Carmel by erecting a monument for himself. Since Saul went to Gilgal instead of Ramah, he was probably attempting to avoid Samuel.

So, Samuel went to Saul for the purpose of confronting him. When they meet, Saul states that he kept the commandment of the Lord. It’s as if he knew that he would have to give an account of himself to Samuel, but he would rather put up monuments for himself than answer to the LORD’s prophet.

Samuel asks, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen I hear?” Samuel knows, but the question is meant to bring conviction upon the king.

Saul responds to the question in a way which shows he is self-deceived. He was commanded to kill the livestock belonging to the Amalekites. The LORD didn’t say anything about keeping the livestock in order to offer the animals for sacrifices.

Saul is very manipulative with his reply. That’s how we are when we don’t want to admit we are wrong. He says that he did destroy the rest of the animals as he was instructed, but the best of the sheep and oxen were saved. Only the best were saved and the rest, the great majority of the animals, were destroyed. Saul also is maintaining that the decision to keep the sheep and oxen wasn’t really his decision, but the people decided to spare them. He was basically saying, “Hey, Samuel, this was really out of my hands.” Saul didn’t see why he was wrong. He was a self-deceived manipulator and didn’t see it.

Samuel has had enough in the text. He tells Saul to be quiet. Samuel had cried out to the LORD all night. Now he will reveal to Saul what the LORD had said to him. Then, Saul replies with, “Speak on.” I will save the rest of what Samuel says for my next entry on this critical chapter in the Old Testament. I want to confine my thoughts here on self-deception. There are four clear warning signs of self-deception in our lives:

Misplaced Confidence

Saul really believed that he had kept the commandment of the LORD. However, his confidence was misplaced. We often display the same sense of misplaced confidence. Are we really putting to death all sin in our lives? We are commanded in the same way by the same God as Saul: “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts” (Romans 6.12). Jesus said that if you right eye cause you to sin, pluck it out. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off. That’s how radical we should be about all sinful thoughts and sinful activity in our lives (Matthew 5.29-30). But often, we have the same misplaced confidence that Saul had about sin. We actually believe we’re fine the way we are. We say what Saul said in self-deceit: “I have performed the commandment of the LORD.” It’s amazing to think that we can deceive ourselves into believing that we are doing what we should do and not doing what we shouldn’t. There is really no shame or sorrow for personal sin in our lives because we believe we are doing God’s will. Our confidence is misplaced.

Obvious Inconsistency

The fact that some of the animals were spared should have indicated that Saul is inconsistent. But self-deceit is misleading. The sounds of the animals betrayed him. His disobedience cannot be denied. Yet he does deny it. Samuel could say to you and me: “What then is this worldliness which is rampant in your churches today?” So many of us think we are consistently obeying the LORD. But our focus is temporal. It is on material things and useless information. We are addicted to social media. We squander time away with external activity and leave no time for inward reflection. We might not be involved in terrible sins, but we worry about the mortgage or what people think. We cannot see the obvious inconsistency in us.

Empty Excuses

Saul decided to shift blame on the people. He cannot control them as a leader. As a matter of fact, he says that they are the ones who disobeyed God. “The people took of the plunder” (21) and “I feared the people” (24) indicate that Saul believed he had to go along with them. We offer similar excuses. We obey the whims of people in opposition to the will of God. We run with the crowd and do the same evil they do. Will we offer these empty excuses and really be able to deceive the Lord Jesus at His judgment seat? Self-deceived people offer empty excuses for their behavior.

Powerless Lives

The Lord Jesus was rejected by men; Saul was rejected by God. It’s not up to Saul to decide how to obey God. Nothing was left up to him. We don’t get to call the shots either. If we do, we can expect God will reject us as well. We don’t have liberty to pervert the will and word of God. We are bound to the will and word of God so that we might have freedom over sin. Powerless lives are the norm in our world today. We are so accustomed to a powerless life, we wonder what a powerful life looks like. Verse 23 gives us the final outcome: “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.” What a lonely isolated place for us to be. So far from God and His liberating will for our lives. At first, we believe the voices telling us that our views of God’s commands are too strict and narrow, too difficult to keep. It’s a dangerous thing to dispute God when you’re supposed to obey Him. Our obedience can never go half-way; it needs to go all the way.

 

Praise and Thanksgiving

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” – Psalm 107.8-9

Gratitude is characteristic of genuine, mature Christianity. It’s one thing to be obligated to our Creator, but it’s quite another to be obligated AND thankful for His Presence in us. The trouble with most religious activity today is that it is not merely a vehicle but an end in and of itself. It confined by the temporal activities of men. It is the form of godliness while denying its power. Once we taste and see that the Lord is good, then gratitude genuinely overwhelms the heart.

There are two aspects of praise and our relationship to it in Psalm 107:

It is absolutely necessary.

Gratitude is something you see in an expression, hear in the tone of one’s voice, or recognize in the whole demeanor of a person.  I’m saying that it is external, but it begins, as everything does, within the heart. A heart for God leads to a grateful life for God.

  • “The four living creatures who cried, ‘Holy, holy, holy!’ give glory and honor and thanks to the LORD” in Revelation 4.9.
  • Psalm 63.5 speaks of the satisfied soul who praises the Lord with joyful lips.
  • “It is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful” (Psalm 147.1).
  • It is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5.18).
  • We should be giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5.20).
  • The ungodly are unthankful and have the wrath of God abiding upon them (Romans 1.21).
  • Great and awful consequences come upon those who fail to serve the LORD with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything (Deuteronomy 28.47).
  • However, “whoever offers praise glorifies [God]; and to him who orders his conduct aright” will see His salvation (Psalm 50.23).
  • The Psalms end with six verses which repeat praise to the LORD no less than 13 different times.  That’s more than twice per verse.

So, first of all, praise is absolutely necessary.  However, there is a second aspect to praise and our relationship with it.  As necessary as it is to praise God, we often…

Neglect to do so.

We look to the gift and forget the Giver. Actually, we don’t even know what we have until we have lost it. We fail to acknowledge God’s grace, mercy, and kindness toward us to our own peril. Our ingratitude leads to presumption and great sin against His great mercy. We live as if God is so far away. We constantly call out for mercy or just a sense of thankfulness, when our lives should be so much more than this.

We should meditate on who God is, on the excellency of Christ, and on the blessedness of His abiding presence. We tend to have too much of this world in our hearts. Our faith rests in the wrong object. Glorifying God means reflecting His character. We can hardly do that when our thoughts are chained to this earth. We must show our gratitude generally and specifically.

First, gratitude is expressed generally because God is too great and overwhelming to do otherwise.  

God has been so good to us. He provides for us even though we have rebelled against Him. We are often so unfaithful.  Yet He has preserved our lives from destruction from the first day of our existence until now. God is gracious to be so longsuffering and patient with us. He withholds our hand from greater evil and rebellion against Him.

God has redeemed us through the gift of His only-begotten Son sent to die for us. He has given us the gift of His Spirit to illuminate us and to ignite right desire within us. He has promised lives of grace, mercy, and peace. An eternal inheritance is reserved for us in Heaven. Are the fallen angels extended mercy like this? Shouldn’t we praise God for these great principles of Christianity?

Second, our gratitude is specific as well.  

It is well-honed by the experiences of life. The Lord satisfies the hungry soul with goodness. We hunger and thirst for righteousness. We enjoy God. We have put to rest the anxiety of our destiny. These are our experiences.

Others who have no such experiences do not know what can be done with their guilt and rapidly deteriorating condition. But we know the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  “Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD” (Ps 107.43).

Most Christians want to praise the LORD. Maybe we can praise the LORD for His goodness. But why the discontentment, grief, and anger when God offers satisfaction and rejoicing? Maybe we spend too much time looking at our own corruption and too much time looking within ourselves instead of looking to Christ at the right hand of the Father.

We meditate on our own unfulfilled desires but ignore the Lord’s satisfying promises. We anticipate future trials but forget past victories. We often cannot praise God as we would like because we forget those benefits loaded daily upon us.

You cannot praise God from a heart filled with disappointment and discontentment. See the disillusionment in this and begin to look at God’s fresh daily mercy. Praise Him in the heart privately; then testify of His greatness publicly. That is powerful worship!

Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
Sing praises with understanding.

-Psalm 47.6-7

Phinehas

Numbers records the story of Balak and Balaam. Balaam wanted the wages of unrighteousness. He was a prophet of the LORD but sold out his office for material gain. God would not allow Balaam to curse Israel, but Balak hired him to do so. Balaam was sent away without his reward.

Balaam could not curse God’s people, but he knew another way for Balak to have what he wanted. If Israel could be entrapped and led away from God, they would lose God’s favor and protection. If Balak could get Israelite men to commit sexual immorality with Moabite women and form alliances with Moab, then these men could be drawn away from the LORD. Balaam’s advice was sound and also evil. He would have succeeded if it had not been for one man.

The history behind Phinehas is recorded in Numbers 25. Israel’s men intermingled with the women of Moab. Israel also bowed down to Moabite gods and aroused the anger of the LORD. The LORD ordered that all the offenders be hanged out in the sun so that the anger of the LORD would turn away from Israel. An Israelite man presented his Midianite woman to his brethren in the sight of Moses and the congregation of Israel. These men were weeping over God’s judgment.

Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, saw this. He came out from the congregation, took a javelin, and pursued the man and his Midianite woman into the tent. There he thrust the spear through both the man and woman. A plague of judgment had broken out. It only stopped when Phinehas acted. 24,000 people had died by that point.

The LORD said that Phinehas turned back His wrath from Israel “because he was zealous with [the LORD’s] zeal among them.” He was zealous for his God (Numbers 25.13).

Psalm 106 recounts Phinehas’ history:

“Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stopped. And that was accounted to him for righteousness to all generations forevermore”

– Psalm 106.30-31

The operative concept taught in this man’s life is zeal. Phinehas was jealous for his God. Zeal or godly jealousy is a characteristic that can either be good or bad. It is more often bad in people. It all depends on what drives zeal in our lives. It’s good to be zealous in doing good, but it must be remembered that evil people are zealous in doing evil.

If a man or woman does not have zeal, as soon as the road gets tough, they will quit. Nothing difficult can be accomplished without zeal. Indifference and apathy produce nothing but laziness.

Sometimes you run into a very bright, gifted individual who can do much without much effort. But that person is superficial in the long run. There will come a time when everyone will recognize that they need to be more diligent. Not all diligence meets with success, but if a great work is accomplished, we are sure to know that zeal has been poured into it.

The best sermons require a lot of time, thought, prayer, study, and preparation. The greatest cures in medicine require great effort, expense, and research. Olympians monitor what they eat and practice self-discipline and great rigor in their exercise program in order to obtain a corruptible medal. If we are going to prove beneficial to others, godly zeal will be the impetus for it.

Phinehas saw how God was dishonored by this nameless man. He saw what it would do to the nation, and he avenged God’s cause with great zeal. His zeal for God elevated him above his countryman and solidified his eternal testimony in God’s Word. The actions still shock us even though we are told they were godly. Verse 31 says it is accounted to him for righteousness to all generations forevermore. What was accounted to him for righteousness? The fact that he ran his spear through both the man and the woman? Yes, but more importantly, the zeal and godly jealousy that motivated him to do so! But there’s more to it.

We know Phinehas was a righteous man because of the fruit of his zeal for his God. His zeal did not make him righteous, but it proved he was righteous. And it continues to prove that. It will to all generations forevermore.

Zeal for the Father’s house consumed our Lord Jesus (John 2.17). The zeal of the Corinthian church for Paul moved him to rejoice (2 Corinthians 7.7). And yet the Jewish people had a zeal for the true God, but it was not fortified with knowledge. It was misdirected and misinformed.

Jesus’ zeal moved him to steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem and then to His death. The early church had a zeal that compelled them to continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, communion, and prayer. Let us continue steadfastly in prayer. Let us be steadfast, immovable, and always abound in the work of the Lord. Don’t fall from your own steadfastness and zeal. If you do, you’ll be led away with the error of the wicked.

Our Greatest Patriotic Duty

He saved them from the hand of him who hated them,
And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.
The waters covered their enemies;
There was not one of them left.
Then they believed His words;
They sang His praise.

Psalm 106.10–12

Psalm 103 declares the everlasting mercies of God. Everlasting mercy governs the character of man while glorifying the character of God. Either we acknowledge God’s mercy by showing gratitude, or we ignore God’s mercy and take it for granted.

This is true of individual people and nations. As the history of Israel is rehearsed in the Psalm 106, we are reminded of the fragile condition they were in. They camped by the Red Sea. Pharaoh came upon them with his army. There was no way for them to escape or defend themselves. From a human perspective, all hope was lost.

But God delivered them in a miraculous way. This is replayed throughout the Old Testament. The LORD kept Pharaoh and his army at bay with His presence, radiating as a pillar of fire. He made a way through the Red Sea and upon dry land for the Israelites to cross over. He allowed every Israelite to pass over safely, and then He swept the waters over the Egyptian army in judgment. How did this affect the nation of Israel? We see it in two collective responses: 1) Belief and 2) Gratitude.

  1. They believed the words of God. They acknowledged God’s power and faithfulness because they could not deny what He had done for them. It would have been inconceivable for them to think that they would ever disbelieve His words.
  2. They gratefully sang God’s praises. There is no way they could overlook what God had done.  Some say even today, “That was a Red Sea experience” to denote the great and miraculous deliverance of God.

But notice the phrase in Psalm 106.21: “They forgot God their Savior.” They were ungrateful. Ingratitude is one of the great and heinous sins of mankind. Scripture speaks about how terrible it is to be unthankful. Romans 1.21 says, “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” The Old Testament speaks of Hezekiah’s response to a miracle he personally experienced: “Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 32.25).

There is nothing so great as a Red Sea experience. Yet the nation forgot God their Savior. We expect God’s consuming wrath to devour His people. We marvel at His patience toward them. Why has God not consumed our own nation?  Even as Moses interceded for Israel, believers in the United States intercede for their own country.

  1. Pray for the United States of America. God commands us to intercede for our country. We must pray for kings and presidents and all those in authority. So many people are willing to defend their understanding of freedom, but they fail to pray for their country. The greatest way to defend the Constitution and the United States of America is to pray for her. There is a lot of protesting and complaining, but what about intercession? We still enjoy great freedom and prosperity in America. It’s not that authorities deserve prayer; it is simply what we are commanded to pray. Pray for the preservation of freedom to worship the one true God. Pray for revival. Genuine revival is foundational in our country’s battle against injustice, racism, poverty, and immorality.
  2. Pray in earnest for the United States of America. As we approach the next big election, prayer and fasting are the most important spiritual weapons wielded. The battle is not ours but the LORD’s. God may relent from the disaster that He has planned to bring upon our nation. One man named Moses interceded for the entire nation, and God heard him. Therefore, we must pray.
  3. Pray for revival in the United States of America. God’s everlasting mercies are new every day. Great is His faithfulness. And great is the danger of neglecting Him as individuals and as a nation. The bondage of sin is very great. The deliverance from sin is a Red Sea Miracle. We will either gratefully acknowledge this or we don’t. It is a miracle far greater than water heaping up to form walls. It is a miracle purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. He is God our Savior. Will we forget Him?  “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”  Thank the LORD for your personal deliverance. Pray for the deliverance of others in our nation. We may be closed up in our homes, but God’s Word is not bound. May He bring personal revival and power into all of our lives.

God promised Israel: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7.14). Who knows what God would do for our country if we would but humble ourselves as Christians, pray, seek His face, and turn for our wicked ways. I believe God is merciful. Do you? I will gratefully sing His praises in the wake of revival. Will you?

Fulfilled Desires

Praise the LORD!

Oh, give thanks for the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

Who can utter the mighty acts of the LORD?
Who can declare all His praise?

Blessed are those who keep justice,
And he who does righteousness at all times!

Remember me, O LORD, with the favor You have toward Your people. Oh, visit me with Your salvation,

That I may see the benefit of Your chosen ones,
That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nations,
That I may glory with Your inheritance.

-Psalm 106.1-5

These opening verses of Psalm 106 praise the LORD for the following three characteristics: goodness, mercy, and power. So, the psalmist asks for God to remember Him by pouring out grace and delivering him. The psalmist desires the benefit, joy, and glory which belongs to every child of God.

When studying the Psalms, we study the heart. The Psalms are essential experiential literature. When we understand them as such, we are able to rightly apply what we are reading. We are looking into the heart of a human author and his relationship with his great God. While this is the inspired Word of God, inspiration has a human component that cannot be denied. Therefore, we profit greatly as we study the heart-desires of each psalmist. The first key desire is expressed by the words…

Remember Me with the Favor

This is the definitive favor God gives to His people, His chosen ones, and those of His inheritance.  Our context makes it clear that these people consist of the nation of Israel. Christians find the definitive favor of God in Christ Jesus. We, too, are God’s people, His chosen ones, and those of His inheritance. We share in the faith of our father, Abraham (Romans 4). 1 Peter 2.9 says that we “are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.” Paul reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the “guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1.14). Therefore, we pray for God to remember His favor and grace which come through Jesus Christ.

A second key desire is found in…

The Benefit of God’s Chosen Ones

Our idea of what is truly beneficial in life is different from what God deems beneficial. Men of the world have their portion in this life. God fills their belly with hidden treasure, satisfies them, and provides for their children (Psalm 17.14).  “Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish,” according to Asaph (Psalm 73.7).

True riches and honor are with Wisdom personified in Christ. He has enduring riches and righteousness (Proverbs 8.18). Our God visits us with His salvation and deliverance – not only temporal salvation but eternal salvation.

A third key desire is expressed by the words…

That I May Rejoice and Glory

We greatly rejoice even while grieved by various trials (1 Peter 1.6). We do not yet see Jesus, “yet believing, [we] rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1.8).  “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance” (Romans 5.3). Even “in the multitude of my anxieties within me, [the LORD’s] comforts delight my soul” (Psalm 94.19).  Imagine the joy and glory which awaits us!

So, these three desires of the psalmist find parallels for readers today. God received the prayer of the psalmist and preserved it as a pattern for His people today. We desire God’s favor and a satisfying, happy life. God wants us to pray for this. We must pray and not lose heart.

  • “Open your mouth wide, and [the LORD] will fill it” (Psalm 81.10).
  • “O You who hear prayer, to You all flesh will come” (Psalm 65.2).
  • “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight” (Proverbs 15.8).

There is nothing you cannot bring to God. Ask believing from a broken and contrite heart, and you will find God willing and able to provide it. May God visit us with His salvation daily. May we desire it daily.

  1. Do I have an inordinate desire for the things of this world? This world cannot make a child of God satisfied or happy. I will never have as much as Solomon had. He concluded that wealth was vain and empty. I look toward an incorruptible and undefined, uncontainable inheritance that does not fade away. It is reserved in heaven not on earth (1 Peter 1.4).
  2. Am I laboring in God’s vineyard for an eternal reward? I shouldn’t dwell upon my unworthiness. I acknowledge it as a reality and call upon God to remember me, to remember His favor toward me. His favor is undeserved and unmerited. It is granted to me in Christ.  I need only believe. I must not waver in unbelief. I shall have my desires as I dwell and abide in Him. I must delight myself in the Lord, and He will give me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37.4).

Perspectives on Proverbs: The Fear of the LORD

In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence,
And His children will have a place of refuge.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
To turn one away from the snares of death.
– Proverbs 14.26-27

Proverbs 14.2a reveals that the one “who walks in his uprightness fears the LORD.” It’s important to note that the fear of the LORD feeds upright conduct not the other way around. That is, the person who is walking in his uprightness is the person already fearing the LORD. It is by the fear of the LORD that one departs from evil (Proverbs 16.6).

The fear of the LORD in Proverbs is the path to wisdom and righteous conduct. “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom” (Proverbs 15.33a). It is “by humility and the fear of the LORD” that one gains riches, honor, and life (Proverbs 22.4).

The theme of Proverbs could be summed up in Proverbs 1.7: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” We find our starting place in the fear of the LORD. So, note the following general observations about the fear of the LORD:

  • The fear of the LORD is not bound within Proverbs alone. It permeates the entire Bible.
  • When the Law was given to Moses, the people trembled as Moses brought them out of the camp to meet with God (Ex 19.16-17).
  • The holiness of God is so awesome (think the true sense of this word – to fill one with awe and terror) that to look upon His glory means certain death (Ex 33.20).
  • We connect the concept of holiness and fear. God transcends our human existence in that He cannot even look upon sin much less to dwell in the presence of sin.
  • Isaiah was ushered into the throne room of the LORD. The experience was terrifying for him. He saw himself as unclean and undone (Isaiah 6.1-7). Still, the LORD purified Isaiah for the purpose of serving Him.
  • The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. This means it is the proving ground that leads out to wisdom. Wisdom and right conduct find a starting point in the fear of the LORD.

Fear of the LORD in Proverbs

  • “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (1.7). This is a key verse. It tells us what Proverbs is about. Knowledge, wisdom, and instruction come to those who fear the LORD. The way of wisdom is the way of holiness. It includes my responsibility before God to maintain a virtuous, holy life.
  • “Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them; for their heart devises violence, and their lips talk of trouble making” (24.1-2). One who fears the LORD is separated from evil men according to this passage. Those who fear the LORD separate from those who hate knowledge and do “not choose the fear of the LORD” (1.29).
  • Knowledge is paired with the fear of the LORD (2.5). It leads to an understanding of righteousness, justice, equity, and every good path (2.9).
  • If we fear the LORD, we will depart from evil. We see the danger of being wise in our own eyes (3.7). “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (26.12). It is by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil (16.6).
  • How important is the concept of the fear of the LORD? “He who has it will abide in satisfaction; he will not be visited with evil” (19.23).

Proverbs 14.27 reveals that the fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn us away from the snares of death. To fear the LORD is to so reverence and respect Him that you obey His will and seek to glorify His name in your life. To fear the LORD is to live an eternal quality of life. It is the opposite of testing the LORD by deliberately disobeying Him and daring Him to intervene in your life. That is truly a terrifying concept. This is why we work our salvation in fear and trembling. We serve the LORD with fear while rejoicing with trembling.

The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life. It is the source of spiritual life for us as believers. Verse 26 indicates that it gives us security. We find true hope and even a long life in the fear of the LORD.

Those who do not fear the LORD feed on foolishness (15.14). If we will not fear the LORD, we will not have moral courage and strength. We will lack both spiritual and intellectual nourishment.

Warren Wiersbe wrote, “The soil of the heart must be prepared and the seed of the Word planted, or the water won’t do us much good.” The fear of the LORD is the instrument of preparation and planting. Maybe the intake of God’s Word (watering) fails us because there is little understanding of the LORD’s nearness to us in daily life. If we are living as if God does not exist, we cannot expect a close relationship with Him on Sundays. God is near all the time. My private and public moments must closely align in the fear of the LORD.

Touch Not My Anointed!

“Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.”

Psalm 105.15

Israel traveled from one Canaanite nation to another under Joshua’s leadership. They went from one kingdom to another, and God protected them. He did not allow anyone to do them wrong. His kings and priests (anointed ones) along with His prophets were protected from harm. God’s providential hand preserved the leadership of Israel. These were God’s anointed ones, God’s prophets.

The Misuse of Psalm 105.15

Today, all those chosen in Christ cannot be harmed. Enemies may kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul. But Psalm 105.15 has been mistreated by would-be followers of Christ today. Many so-called Bible teachers have utilized this verse to stifle those who criticize their teaching and preaching ministry. They believe people are dead or have cancer today because they criticized God’s anointed one, namely the Bible teacher himself. They identify as God’s anointed one for the purpose making certain they are no open to rebuke or censure when they sin or spread false teaching.

All Christians Are God’s Anointed Ones

What these supposed leaders fail to realize is that every single believer is an anointed one today. As children of God, we are anointed with the Spirit of Christ. Our goal is to live a life that is sober, realizing the great joy of our position in Christ.

Reigning Kings

Kings, prophets, and priests were anointed by God in the Old Testament. Yet all things are ours as New Testament saints. “All are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3.21-23). We will reign as kings with Christ because we submit to Christ. 

Every Believer a Priest

We have access to God through Christ. In this sense we are all anointed priests. We need no earthly mediator to intervene for us. Our only Mediator is Christ Himself at the right hand of the Father. So, every Christian is God’s anointed one. Every Christian will live as long as God deems fit for him or her to live.

Thus Saith the LORD!

As God’s anointed, we must speak even as the prophets of old spoke. But we are not prophets. We are not providing the world with new revelation from God. We are simply speaking what God has already revealed. Those who have Christ in them, will also have Christ come out of them.

The Irony of Misinterpretation

No one can really do us any harm. God works all things together for good to those who love Him, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Sorrow, pain, sickness, trial, and difficulties all become vehicles God uses to transport us safely to our destination in the Father’s house.

Evil exists in this world, but it cannot really harm us. Peter was delivered out of prison just before being executed. James was beheaded and never released. Are they not both the anointed of the Lord? Did either one suffer harm? Did God protect and love Peter in a way that He didn’t protect and love James? Who was harmed? Neither. One just happened to be transported into the Savior’s presence faster than the other.

What a shame that Psalm 105.15 is used to abuse and fleece the sheep by supposed shepherds! Often, supposed Christian leaders use this verse as a crook to beat sheep into submission and keep themselves in a position of prosperity and luxury. When in truth, these leaders are seeking to harm the very anointed ones God is protecting. What irony! A very scary thought for these would-be followers to be sure.

Let’s make sure we understand our position as beloved children. Let’s make sure our condition reflects that position.

Perspectives on Proverbs: Avoid Assuming Apprehension

“A true witness delivers souls, but a deceitful witness speaks lies.”

Proverbs 14.25

The word ‘souls’ in this verse is another way of saying ‘lives’. The witness is the person testifying before some judicial authority. It is important that person speaks truth so that the innocent will go free and the guilty will be convicted. The contrasting element in the proverb is a deceitful witness. Such people speak lies and pervert the cause of justice. Earlier in Proverbs 14, the same principle is communicated:

“A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness will utter lies.”

Proverbs 14.5

Some might explain the verse in the context of soul winning. This can be very dangerous at times and innocuous at other times. Regretfully, I have done this myself. But it is dangerous. We must rightly divide the Word of God and avoid assuming apprehension of a passage. Application might justifiably broaden to soul winning in this text, but I would begin with what the text actually means.

The 37th Anniversary of Heritage Baptist Church 

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1994 – When our church moved from an interim facility after about 10 years on East 18th Street

Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob and set him before Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How old are you?”

And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.’ So Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.” – Genesis 47.7-10

“How old are you?”

This can be a penetrating question if we divest it of all the baggage that comes with it in our present-day context. Old age is rarely respected in our climate. But it should be. It is akin to pointing out the maturity and the advancement of an elderly person. We see the wisdom in them as time flies. How much water has gone under the bridge? How much time do we ourselves have left? How can we invest in someone who is just beginning or in the prime of life? Can we help them avoid pitfalls, temptation, and adversity that we experienced? The discouragement and disappointment faced by those more advanced in years become very instructive for the young who will listen. And the young are still listening.

Jacob blesses Pharaoh and leaves his presence (47.10). Jacob was thankful for what Pharaoh and his kingdom had done to help his family. Certainly, this would leave an impression upon Pharaoh. Even as it should leave an impression upon us as a church. Many churches are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, but they can sometimes be overbearing and belligerent with that gospel. Other times, they back away from the gospel and compromise the message of Christ crucified.

Our church must make disciples of all the nations, but we must do so gently, persuasively, lovingly, and compassionately in the years ahead. We will surely be a sweet-smelling fragrance to those who will receive the gospel but a foul, pungent, offensive odor to those who don’t.

Unfortunately, sometimes that foul smell is something for which we are all responsible. It has nothing to do with the offense of the gospel and everything to do with the offense of its messengers. We need the challenge of God’s Word to make the gospel the offense and not the messenger, the local church here in Antioch. I love people too much to needlessly drive them away from us.

How old are you, Heritage Baptist Church? What a great question when we consider the end of our lives as individuals. There remains a promise of entering the rest Christ secured for us. The gospel was preached to us as well as to them, but they did not profit from it. It was not mixed with faith. Yet a rest remains. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4.16). Let us do this together as a church.

Jacob did not attain to the years of his fathers. We may not attain to the years of 200-year-old historic churches. We have not by any means attained to the resurrection from the dead. Yet we press on, laying hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of us. As a church, we shouldn’t count ourselves to have apprehended anything. Instead, we will forget those things which are behind and reach forward to those things which are ahead. Press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

How old are you, Heritage Baptist Church? That is, how mature have we become? As many of us as are mature, let us have this mind of pressing on toward the goal. If in anything we think otherwise, God will reveal even this to us. To the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind (see Philippians 3.11 ff.).

Jacob lived 17 additional years in Egypt. The time was drawing near for his life to end. He requested that Joseph bury him in the Promised Land. Joseph promised he would do as requested by his father. The days of Jacob’s pilgrimage total 147 years. There is no reason to believe that his outlook had changed from the day they totaled 130.

Genesis will end with death of Joseph. Jacob’s family will become a nation within the incubator called Egypt. Israel will have spent over 400 years in Egypt. Exodus 12.37 tells us that when this 430-year period ends, the 70 become 600,000 men besides the women and children. Time flies.

The end is coming for one generation in our church as a previous one is already moving toward its reward. Will another rise up? I believe it will. Time flies, Heritage Baptist Church. Let us endeavor to press on in keeping the Great Commands of our Savior so that we might fulfill His Great Commission. Let’s pass that responsibility to the next generation with eager hope for the Lord Jesus to return and bring us to be with Him!