That’s A Belief! (Luke 7:1-10)

For five seasons in the 70’s and 80’s, Charlie’s Angels followed the adventures of groups of female detectives who had been recruited into the Charles Townsend Agency. In 115 episodes, viewers never saw Charlie’s face. Quite unusual to have the person whose name is in the title of the show not appear on the screen. Even so, Charlie’s angels carried out their missions every week.

There’s a remarkable person in Luke 7. The heading in your Bible probably says something like, “A centurion’s faith,” yet, the centurion never appears on the page. All the action, all the messages come through people he sent on a mission. And even though we never see his face, at the end of the story we’re told that Jesus was astounded at this man’s faith.

Sometimes our culture uses the word “faith” to talk about spirituality in a non-specific, benign way. When an interviewer doesn’t want a confrontation, they’ll talk about faith instead of saying the word Christian or Hindu or Muslim. It can be a group-everyone-together kind of word.

Our secular culture is generally fine with you having “faith” in some far-off sense – something you do when you’re on your own time – but keep it to yourself. Don’t bring it to work with you.

But for a Christian, faith is the most crucial aspect of who we are, what we think, and what we do.

Here are a few of the things the Bible tells us about our Christian faith:

We’ve been justified by faith.[1] We’re saved by grace through faith.[2] We cannot please God without faith.[3] We walk by faith.[4] We live by faith.[5]

Faith should absolutely define a Christian’s whole life. In this text, we’ll see how this centurion’s faith changed his understanding, shaped his attitudes, and motivated his actions. It made him who he was and made life-changing differences for the people around him.

Luke 7:1 – When [Jesus] had concluded saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum.

Jesus had just completed what we sometimes call the Sermon on the Plain. It’s the Sermon on the Mount, but in Luke we’re told that the Lord gave it after coming down from a hilltop and standing in a level place. Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount multiple times in different places. After this delivery, He and His disciples and a large crowd walked with Him into Capernaum.

This sermon is maybe the most important teaching in all of Jesus’ ministry and all of church history. In it we are confronted with what faith really means and what it really does in the life of a Christian. We learn about how Christians have joy in suffering, how we totally redefine what is important in this life, how we must love our enemies and show them mercy because God our Father is merciful.

After preaching this message, Jesus had a chance to practice what He preached – to show those who had been “listening” the reality of these commands and how to live the sermon out.

Luke 7:2 – A centurion’s servant, who was highly valued by him, was sick and about to die.

Centurions were serious warriors – “prestigious members of a relatively small class of military leaders,” some ranking like a knight in the empire.[6]

This particular centurion had a servant who was very sick. Matthew’s Gospel uses a term that indicates the servant was just a boy[7] and he tells us the servant was paralyzed and in “terrible agony.” The word used there is one that means being tortured.[8]

This servant was highly valued by the centurion. He wasn’t valuable as property but as a person.[9] This was genuine care – the servant boy was precious to the centurion. He wasn’t just some stone-cold killer, but a man with a heart beating in his chest. Not what you’d expect from a Roman centurion, but that’s because this man had been transformed from the inside out.

Luke 7:3 – When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, requesting him to come and save the life of his servant.

What did the centurion hear? First of all, he heard that Jesus was back in town. But it’s clear he had heard a lot more about Jesus. We discover that the centurion had heard a lot of things but he made his own decision about what he thought about Jesus.

Here’s what we know: We know he had contact and relationship with the Jewish elders in the area. We know he paid to build a synagogue for the Jews. That’s probably a good indicator that this centurion was what was called a “God-fearer,” meaning a Gentile who believed in the Jewish God and embraced much of the Jewish religion, though they weren’t circumcised. They would attend synagogue and worship there, but they didn’t follow all of the purity laws.[10]

What would this centurion have heard about Jesus in the synagogue, from the Jewish elders? Capernaum served as Jesus’ headquarters at the time.[11] He would’ve been well-known there, but the news of Jesus’ miracles had already spread far and wide,[12] but as that news spread, so did the resistance among the Jewish religious elite. By this time, Jesus had already been labeled a blasphemer by the scribes and Pharisees.[13] They were already following Jesus around to complain that He ate with tax collectors and that His followers didn’t fast the way they did.[14] And as recently as Luke chapter 6, we are told the scribes and Pharisees were “filled with rage” after Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath and were actively conspiring against Him.[15]

So, the centurion would’ve heard a lot of things. But then he considered the truth on his own. He did not allow the local elders or the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem to determine what he thought. We’ll find he had a remarkably robust understanding of Christ, but in the moment he might say, “Ok, I know you don’t like this Guy, but I’m pretty sure He can save the life of my dying servant.”

Don’t let other people decide truth for you. Jesus once said to those who believed in Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”[16] We live in a time where it’s commonplace to let someone else tell you what to think. But, God invites you to seek His wisdom, and He promises that it will not be withheld from you.[17] The centurion heard a lot of things about Jesus, but he sought the truth of these things himself.

In the second part of the verse: “He sent some Jewish elders to [Jesus].” Now, I find this funny because these guys did not like Jesus, did not believe in Jesus, were part of the greater conspiracy to kill Jesus, but, they felt indebted to the centurion and wouldn’t deny his request.

The message they were asked to deliver was, “Come save the life of this servant.” Maybe the story is giving us a hint about how upset they were, because they didn’t actually get the message right. The centurion never asked Jesus to come to his house, but just if He would heal this boy.

Luke 7:4-5 – When they reached Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy for you to grant this, because he loves our nation and has built us a synagogue.”

Some linguists suggest that the Jewish elders were sharp and demanding of Jesus. They say the Elders didn’t request at all, but were summoning Jesus,[18] and kept on hastily beseeching Him.[19] The literal rendering of what they said to Jesus was, “He for whom you will do this is deserving.”[20] Now, why? Why did they categorize the centurion as worthy? “Because he did things for us.”

Isn’t it telling – the Jewish elders hated that Jesus spent time with tax collectors, or when He said Gentiles were worth saving, but it was ok for them to like this Gentile, because, after all, he shelled out for their building.

People love to show grace to some but not others. We’ll overlook a thousand flaws in a friend or someone we think will get us something, but that other guy? Oh I hate that guy! Look at those flaws. Look at the mistakes he’s made. He is not worth kindness or grace or the time of day.

Jesus showed grace to Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot and Nicodemus the Pharisee and the woman caught in adultery and the rich young ruler and the Syrophoenician woman and the lepers and Jairus, the leader of the synagogue in Capernaum, whose daughter had not yet been raised from the dead. He very well may have been part of this delegation.

Jesus cares about you, not because of what you can do for Him, but because He has loved you from before the earth was created.[21] Now grace doesn’t mean He’s fine with the life we’re living. Whether someone was a wealthy Pharisee or a penniless sinner, Christ called all to repentance and to forsake their sin and to devote themselves to God. But grace is extended freely to all.

Luke 7:6 – Jesus went with them, and when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to tell him, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, since I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.

Have you ever prayed, “Oh, Lord, You’re doing too much for me. Don’t worry about helping me out so much.” I certainly haven’t! But, in a sense, that’s exactly what the centurion said. This time he sent some friends out, making sure they got the message right.

It must have been a comical scene. We have to speculate a bit, but Jesus and the Jewish elders…they aren’t buddies, but there they are walking together. And now this other delegation comes up and says, “No, stop, you don’t need to actually come. It’s too much hassle for You.”

Let’s notice what the centurion did. First, he didn’t send a message berating the Jews he sent. They messed up, but he wasn’t mad about it. He didn’t try to distance himself from them or call them out. He was gracious even though they made a mistake.

Second, he acknowledged that Jesus is Lord. Now, maybe he was just being respectful, but what he said next indicated that he had a faith in Jesus as the Christ.

His belief in Jesus not only gave him hope that his servant might not die, but it shaped the way he thought of himself. From the human perspective, he’s a great warrior, a great leader, wealthy and successful, respected by friends and foes alike. The leaders of the Jews said, “This guy is worthy!” But he considered Christ and evaluated himself and said, “Oh, I’m not worthy at all. Who am I that Jesus would come to my house? I have no place to demand anything from God.”

Faith in a heart grows fruit in a life. Everyone worships something. Everyone puts their hope for the future in something. And, like a tree, that faith grows and produces fruit. In the centurion’s heart we see the fruit of humility, kindness, meekness, a willingness to trouble himself on behalf of a servant.

The centurion was the total opposite of Naaman. Remember Naaman? He was another Gentile military commander in need of healing. When the man of God didn’t come out to meet him, he pitched a fit. “Do you know who I am?!?” But here, the centurion says, “I know who I am. I don’t deserve it. I’m not clean enough. I’m inadequate.” And, on a spiritual level, he was absolutely right.

C.S. Lewis once wrote this to a friend: “The one essential symptom of the regenerate life is a permanently horrified perception of one’s natural and (it seems) unalterable corruption. The true Christian’s nostril is to be continually attentive to the inner cesspool.”[22]

The centurion’s message continued:

Luke 7:7 – That is why I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.

His faith was his own, not determined by what other people said. His faith had shaped his heart and his attitude toward himself and others. And here we see a glimpse of how big this man’s faith was. The centurion believed that Jesus speaks and the cosmos obeys. And he belied that though he was unworthy, God desires to save. Do we believe these things? Do we really think that Jesus’ love and righteousness and grace and power are the answer to the problems in this world?

Luke 7:8 –  For I too am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under my command. I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

The centurion acknowledged that Jesus commands everything! He’s not summoning Jesus, even though the centurion has a lot of earthly authority. Instead, he put himself under the authority of this Teacher from Nazareth and in his request submits to whatever Jesus’ decision would be.

In his analogy, he assumes that Jesus’ commands are good and that they are compassionate. “Say the word. Give the command. And when You do, compassion and mercy and goodness will be the result.” The unbelieving world sneers at the commands of God. It accuses God of arbitrariness and repressiveness, but God’s commands are good because He is a God of love and compassion.

And now, the response:

Luke 7:9 – Jesus heard this and was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found so great a faith even in Israel.”

There are only two times that we’re told Jesus was astounded like this (your version may say He marveled). One is at the great faith of the centurion and the other is at the lack of faith in Nazareth.[23] Where He should have found faith, it wasn’t there.

Many people had a very hard time believing Jesus. The scribes and Pharisee struggled of course. But so did the disciples. Even John the Baptist, Jesus’ own cousin, the forerunner of the Messiah sent by God, in a few verses would say, “Hey…are You really the Christ?”

How’s our faith? What group might we fall into on this spectrum? The centurion wasn’t better than us. He didn’t have some special understanding. In fact, we have way more revelation and understanding than he did. It’s not a question of cleverness or specialness, it’s a matter of willingness. The centurion, despite the cultural, relational, personal pressures, decided to surrender to the truth that had been revealed to him and to live by faith. He allowed his living faith to shape his mind, his perspective on life, and his activities.

And because of that, Jesus had the opportunity to do something unique: to heal from a distance. “Well, big deal, of course Jesus can do that.” It was a big deal. We know Jesus can do that, but they needed to see that He could do that. To see that He was even greater than Elisha. Remember how Jesus pointed out that He was greater than Solomon, greater than Jonah. He wanted the Jewish people to understand that He really was the Messiah they had been waiting for and here the Lord has this special opportunity to heal from a distance because of the centurion’s faith.

Luke 7:10 – 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant in good health.

Luke leaves out a few last details. Matthew records that Jesus said, “Go. As you have believed, let it be done for you.” And the servant was healed that very moment.[24] The centurion didn’t have to buy his way into relationship with Jesus. He didn’t have to prove his “deserved” it. He agreed that he didn’t deserve it. And the Lord was so excited to minister to him and his dying servant.

This kind of faith is possible for any of us. And our lives are each an opportunity for God to do something unique for His glory – to reveal His love and kindness to a needy world. If faith is alive and well in our hearts, we will be more like the centurion, less like everyone else in the scene. Living faith keeps a proper understanding of how poor in spirit we really are, but holds confidently to what we know is true about our Savior – His power, His grace, His desire to work in and through our lives. It’s not always easy. I find myself feeling like the disciples in Luke 17 saying, “Lord, increase our faith! I don’t think I can live out the Christian life.” But we can. And God is with us to accomplish it in us if we are willing to surrender to Him, exercise our faith, being strengthened and encouraged in it as we walk by faith and live in faith.


1 Romans 5:1-2
2 Ephesians 2:8
3 Hebrews 11:6
4 2 Corinthians 5:7
5 Romans 1:17
6 Harper’s Bible Dictionary
7 Bob Utley   The Gospel According To Luke
8 Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words
9 The NET Bible First Edition Notes
10 The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary
11 Utley
12 Luke 4:14, 37
13 Luke 5:21
14 Luke 5:29-33
15 Luke 6:11
16 John 8:31-32
17 James 1:5
18 John T. Carroll   Luke: A Commentary
19 A.T. Robertson   Word Pictures In the New Testament
20 Carroll
21 Ephesians 1:4
22 C.S. Lewis   Letters To Malcom: Chiefly On Prayer
23 Mark 6:6
24 Matthew 8:13

One ClayNation, Under God, Impressionable, With Synergy & Atonement For All. (Isaiah 63:7-64:12)

What is the everyday object Biblical archaeology most depends upon?


David Chapman, Professor of Biblical Archaeology, writes, “Archaeologists get very excited about pottery as very few people elsewhere in the world do because it’s one of our main ways of dating.”

The potter & the clay is a biblical illustration.

Psalms, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Zechariah, Matthew, Romans, and the Revelation make use of the illustration. And of course, Isaiah.

Isaiah appeals to the potter working with clay four times, including once in our text: “We are the clay, and You our Potter; And all we are the work of Your hand” (64:8).

The long passage in Jeremiah provides the interpretation of the illustration. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it” (18:6-10).

  • In the finish of chapter sixty-three we will see that the nation of Israel did “evil in [God’s] sight so that it [did] not obey [God’s] voice.” God therefore relented “concerning the good with which [He] said [He] would benefit it.”
  • Then, suddenly, Isaiah’s vision is of Israel in the future. We are with the remnant of Jews who have survived the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. Jesus is about to return to Earth to save Israel. They repent! God “Relent[s] of the disaster that [He] thought to bring upon [Israel].”

I’ll organize my comments around two attention-getting points: #1If Your Nation Is Unrighteous, Then God Will Relent Concerning The Good With Which He Said He Would Benefit It, and #2 If Your Nation Is Repentant, God Will Relent Of The Disaster That He Thought To Bring Upon It.

#1 – If Your Nation Is Unrighteous, Then God Will Relent Concerning The Good With Which He Said He Would Benefit It (63:7-12)

National unrighteousness is characteristic of Israel’s  history. Read the Book of Judges if you don’t believe me.

Isaiah starts by reminding his audience that the LORD would rather be blessing them.

Isa 63:7  I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD And the praises of the LORD, According to all that the LORD has bestowed on us, And the great goodness toward the house of Israel, Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, According to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses.

Isa 63:8  For He said, “Surely they are My people, Children who will not lie.” So He became their Savior.

In the OT Book of Deuteronomy we read, “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. ‘Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments’ ” (7:7-9).

Despite the difficulties they might face, and the consequences of their sin, God would remain faithful to the covenants He had made to their ancestors.

Aren’t there worse things than lying? The word for “lie” can be translated, deceit or deceitfulness. Think of your kids. Lying is sin; deceitfulness is on another level. It is evil.

Isa 63:9  In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; And He bore them and carried them All the days of old.

The “Angel” is none other than Jesus in a pre-incarnate appearance. When He so appears, we call it a Theophany or a Christophany.

The event descriptions seem to generally fit their time in Egypt, followed by their Exodus out of Egypt. Their Savior fully identified with them, redeemed them, and was their protector.

Isa 63:10  But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; So He turned Himself against them as an enemy, And He fought against them.

It isn’t a fight to destroy Israel. This match is a struggle with Israel to bring them to repentance. R. Kent Hughes calls it, “The grip of God’s relentless grace.”

The Jews “grieved His Spirit.” In the NT letter the apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus, he said, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (4:30-32).

The wilderness wandering of the Jews was the quintessential example of bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander and malice. From the moment the Hebrews refused to enter the land of the giants until that generation died, they were grumblers & mumblers.

By those same behaviors we grieve the Holy Spirit Who indwells us. We’re told, “Do not.”

  • Sometimes we say, I CAN’T not do them.”
  • God says you CAN not do them.

Sin obviously grieves a Person with the first name “Holy.” I think what most grieves the Holy Spirit is a disbelief that He is your Helper, your Counselor, your Teacher. Of course you are weak, frail, prone to wander. Go to God, not the world, for grace.

Isa 63:11  Then he remembered the days of old, Moses and his people, saying: “Where is He who brought them up out of the sea With the shepherd of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them,

Isa 63:12  Who led them by the right hand of Moses, With His glorious arm, Dividing the water before them To make for Himself an everlasting name,

Isa 63:13  Who led them through the deep, As a horse in the wilderness, That they might not stumble?”

Isa 63:14  As a beast goes down into the valley, And the Spirit of the LORD causes him to rest, So You lead Your people, To make Yourself a glorious name.

Through Moses, the LORD shepherded His nation, with the intent of pasturing them in the plenty of the Promised Land.

Isa 63:15  Look down from Heaven, And see from Your habitation, holy and glorious. Where are Your zeal and Your strength, The yearning of Your heart and Your mercies toward me? Are they restrained?

The “me” is the nation of Israel. The 7th century Jews were struggling with the problem of their suffering. “Where is God when it hurts?” “Why, God? “Why me?” His abundant love, expressed in His “mercies,” seem “restrained.”

The answer, in their case, is all too obvious: They were totally backslidden in sin.

What about us? What if suffering isn’t the consequence of our sin?

Some of God’s mercies are going to be severe mercies because we remain in our unredeemed bodies that interact with an evil world system.

Isa 63:16  Doubtless You are our Father, Though Abraham was ignorant of us, And Israel does not acknowledge us. You, O LORD, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name.

  • We might call Abraham the Founding Father of the nation of Israel.
  • Israel was Abraham’s grandson and the father of the twelve sons who would be the twelve tribal patriarchs of the nation of Israel.

They seem to be complaining that God formerly helped Israel, but isn’t helping them now. If He really is Father & Redeemer, then prove it.

Isa 63:17  O LORD, why have You made us stray from Your ways, And hardened our heart from Your fear? Return for Your servants’ sake, The tribes of Your inheritance.

A ton of ink is wasted trying to explain God ‘making’ a person ‘stray,’ and ‘hardening’ his or her heart.

Carefully note this: This is what the backslidders were saying to the LORD. These were not God’s words. It is their accusation. It is their false accusation. God does nothing of the kind.

Isa 63:18  Your holy people have possessed it but a little while; Our adversaries have trodden down Your sanctuary.

The glorious, promise-filled life in the land flowing with milk and honey seemed a pipe dream. In their current predicaments, it seemed they were out of their land longer than they were ever in it! It would worsen:

  • From the destruction of the Temple in AD70 until 1948, the Jews were dispossessed.
  • Even though back in their land, adversaries are still treading down their Temple – by not allowing them to have their Temple!

Isa 63:19  We have become like those of old, over whom You never ruled, Those who were never called by Your name.

Another accusation hurled at God – He had disowned them. Have you ever hurled that one, terrible comment, meant to hurt someone? That is what Israel did here… To God.   

Israel has had a long history of unrighteousness.

It continues today. They are in their land, but in unbelief in their Messiah. In 2018 Israel passed legislation declaring that it was a Jewish nation. It is a powerful reminder that the Jews have not received Jesus as their Savior.

Is the United States a righteous nation?

No; not by any standard we might apply. I’m not talking about our founding, but rather our floundering. I’m talking about the Father, not the founding fathers.

People are asking, “Is God going to judge us?” He isn’t going to judge us… He IS already judging us.

This is what judgment looks like when God gives a nation over to the sin it demands.

#2 – If Your Nation Is Repentant, God Will Relent Of The Disaster That He Thought To Bring Upon It (64:1-12)

We are transported to the future, when the 7yr Time of Jacob’s Trouble is nearly ended. The antichrist’s forces have surrounded the Jews holed-up in Bozrah. It is a seemingly hopeless situation. They call upon the Lord, repenting of their sin. Wouldn’t you know it – God receives them, returns, and ends their enemies.

Isa 64:1  Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence –

Isa 64:2  As fire burns brushwood, As fire causes water to boil – To make Your name known to Your adversaries, That the nations may tremble at Your presence!

This is future-talk. It started in 63:1-6. “Come down” is the cry. This is the Second Coming.

Isa 64:3  When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down, The mountains shook at Your presence.

When did the Lord come down and mountains shake at His presence? In the future! The Lord and His prophets can speak of the future as if it is fulfilled.

Isa 64:4  For since the beginning of the world Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, Nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him.

In 6000 years of human history there has been no god or man comparable to the uniquely prophesied and qualified God-man, Jesus Christ. All the posers ask you to “act” for them – to work and sacrifice for them. There is only One who came as a Servant to save you. God waits, not willing any should perish.

Isa 64:5  You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned – In these ways we continue; And we need to be saved.

Isa 64:6  But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

Isa 64:7  And there is no one who calls on Your name, Who stirs himself up to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us, And have consumed us because of our iniquities.

This is a spiritual 180 from the previous chapter. You probably recognize wording here that sounds familiar. That’s because the apostle Paul quotes it in the NT Book of Romans. This is the ‘Roman’s Road to Salvation’ in its unpaved beginnings: “we have sinned… No one calls upon [God’s] Name… our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.”

Isa 64:8  But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.

There is a fact about the Potter & the clay we sometimes overlook. The illustration is always, only used of God’s molding and shaping nations. It is not used of molding and shaping individuals.

This is not insignificant. Certain aggressive but disturbing theologies teach that the Master Potter makes some ‘people-pottery’ that will definitely be saved, AND He makes some ‘people-pottery’ that cannot be saved. If you object to that awful depiction of God, they will look at you with their cold, steely eyes and say three words they believe will render you subdued and compliant: “God is sovereign.” God’s sovereignty becomes like ‘nuclear fire’ in a game of rock- scissors – paper.

Of course God is sovereign! His sovereignty doesn’t mean God can behave in ways that are contrary to His nature. If something would be immoral for us to do, how much more terrible if God does it?

That approach to sovereignty reminds me of the famous Richard Nixon quote, “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

God is so sovereign that He can (and does) allow for my free will.

Isa 64:9  Do not be furious, O LORD, Nor remember iniquity forever; Indeed, please look – we all are Your people!

When has or will all Israel be saved?? At the Second Coming of Jesus.

Isa 64:10  Your holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.

Isa 64:11  Our holy and beautiful temple, Where our fathers praised You, Is burned up with fire; And all our pleasant things are laid waste.

There are admittedly various times that these two verses can be said to have been fulfilled. One of those times is in the future Temple in the Great Tribulation. That seems to fit the context best here.

Isa 64:12  Will You restrain Yourself because of these things, O LORD? Will You hold Your peace, and afflict us very severely?

Dr. J. Vernon McGee writes, “The prophet closes this chapter with a question: Will God refuse to act? The remainder of Isaiah’s prophecy is God’s answer to this question. God rejected Israel only after they rejected Him, but it did not thwart His plan and purpose for them and for the Earth. God has carried through with His program, which is yet to be finalized.”

More than a few scholars suggest that this prayer in chapter 64 is the prayer of repentance that the Jewish remnant will pray while holed-up in Bozrah and under attack by the antichrist. We looked last week at a passage in Hosea that indicated they would repent, over a period of three days, looking upon the One they pierced as Jesus returns. All Israel will thus be saved!

The Master Potter has made it clear: “O United States, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “The instant I speak to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy the US, if you turn from evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. The instant I speak concerning the US, to build and to plant it, if you do evil in My sight so that you do not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit you.”

Prophecy Update #791 – Gait-Way

We reserve a few minutes to discuss current trends that you’d expect from reading Bible prophecy.

We are futurists. We interpret all unfulfilled prophetic passages as future events that will occur in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context.

Biometrics, Artificial Intelligence, cashless commerce, the manipulation of human DNA, global government, the exponential growth of human knowledge, instantaneous communication, and the rebirth of national Israel are End Times phenomena the Bible predicts.

Taken together, the prophecies we most discuss are those that predict global government that features a cashless, global economy, that is accessed by a biometric identifier. During the future 7yr Great Tribulation, the world leader we call the antichrist will control every aspect of the lives of his citizens.

I came across an advance in biometrics. It’s called, Behavioral Biometrics.

“Behavioral biometrics measures and uniquely distinguishes patterns in the behavior of device users. These are habits and proclivities humans develop over time, given their interactions with different devices. The related techniques used to capture and evaluate biometric behaviors can be extremely effective in evaluating whether the correct individual is logging into an account, or whether the individual’s behavior is consistent with that person’s normal patterns as opposed to those of a fraudster.”

It monitors phone movement, keyboard behavior, touchscreen behavior, and mouse behavior, to determine your behavioral profile. Your gestures & your gait, too, can be profiled.

Bulgaria is going fully biometric in developing access control systems for mass gatherings. No tickets or wristbands; just scans biometric info as you approach a door or an entrance. It’s the future.

I’m not saying that behavioral biometrics is, or will be part of, the Mark of the Beast. I am saying that things you would expect from reading the Bible are developing right before our eyes. The stage is being set for the Great Tribulation.

In His incarnation, Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom promised Israel had come. When the Jewish leadership rejected Jesus as their King, Jesus went to Heaven. The physical kingdom on Earth went on standby.

We live in the Church Age. It began on the day of Pentecost fifty days after Jesus Christ rose from the dead. It precedes the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, more commonly known as the seven-year Great Tribulation.

The Tribulation will not begin until something fantastic happens. The Lord said He would return for us, the Church, raising the dead in Christ, then catching up, rapturing, believers who are alive when He comes. He promised His Church Age believers, “I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Rev 3:10).

The resurrection and rapture of the church is always imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

A Crush To Judgment (Isaiah 63:1-6)

“I am Groot.”

In Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1, StarLord gets annoyed because those are the only words spoken by Groot. Rocket explains,“He don’t know talkin’ good like me and you, so his vocabulistics is limited to ‘I’ and ‘am’ and ‘Groot,’ exclusively in that order.”

Actor Vin Diesel ‘voiced’ Groot. Since all he says is “I am Groot,” he did so each time with subtle differences in his tone of voice, its inflections, its timber, etc.

He recorded the line over a thousand times. Something I didn’t know – he additionally did the voice in 15 languages!  Maybe he earned the $54mil he was compensated.

If I had to choose a verse that communicated a great deal of information about God with an economy of words, Isaiah 63:1 would be in the top five.

“I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”

From beginning to end, from Genesis to the Revelation, creation to consummation, God has spoken to mankind “in righteousness mighty to save.” We see it in our text. Isaiah makes it clear that the Messiah will come to save a remnant of Jews, and when He does, He will establish the promised kingdom of God on earth with Israel as the spiritual and political capital of the Earth.

  • Righteousness is mighty to save the Jews for all  eternity.
  • Righteousness is mighty to save the Jews from all Earthly enemies.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 “Righteousness Mighty To Save” Is Your Only Eternal Hope, and #2 “Righteousness Mighty To Save” Is Your Only Earthly Help.

#1 – “Righteousness Mighty To Save” Is Your Only Eternal Hope  (v1)

President Ronald Regan was given the nickname, the Great Communicator.

The greatest communicator is the God of the Bible. His vocabulistics are unparalleled:

  • His Word can be understood by a child, while simultaneously humbling the highest intellect.
  • He chose, inspired, and sovereignly guided the biblical authors who were equipped by Him to write the very words of scripture. He did it without changing the author’s personality or understanding while doing so.
  • He is constantly speaking without words, through His Creation, so much so that He says, “There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard” (Psalm 19:3).

Isa 63:1  Who is this who comes from Edom, With dyed garments from Bozrah, This One who is glorious in His apparel, Traveling in the greatness of His strength? – “I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”

“Righteousness” is a word that can be used different ways in different contexts. The good folks over at point out, “The Bible’s standard of human righteousness is God’s own perfection in every attribute, every attitude, every behavior, and every word. Thus, God’s laws, as given in the Bible, both describe His own character and constitute the plumb line by which He measures human righteousness.”

For our purposes today, think of righteousness as perfectness, perfection, being perfect as God is perfect, in your every thought, every behavior, and every word.

God is perfect. We are definitely not perfect. That is a problem; that is THE problem. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:23 & 10).

This is going to sound strange, but the people to blame are your parents. Not your biological parents, but your OG parents – Adam & Eve. All they had to do was not eat figs; how hard is that?? With a little push from the Devil, however, they ate.

We are just coming out of the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day season. Gifts were given to express love and appreciation. God is our Father, deserving of gifts. What do you give to God? Adam & Eve ought to have given Him obedience as a gift to

Show their love and gratitude.

God sought them out. The LORD had new vocabulistics. He  spoke words they had never heard before: Curse… Thorns… Pain… Toil… Sweat… Sorrow.

He also “spoke righteousness mighty to save.”

He said to the Devil, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15).

Scholars have labeled this the protoevangelium. It means the ‘First Good News,’ or, the “First Gospel.” The LORD promised to defeat the Devil, restore creation, and redeem mankind.

If you don’t see all that in the verse, it’s OK. The LORD let His plan be known progressively, over six-thousand or so years. These words in Genesis are foundational for what is to come. You can at the very least understand from the protoevangelium that Someone very unique & special was going to come. He would be sent by God, to resolve the cosmic conflict.

That Person was Jesus. He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

He came as promised in Genesis – the Seed of the woman. How does that help us?

It enabled God to place the sins of the world on Jesus so that, in turn, His righteousness could be given those who believe Him and are thus in Him.

The apostle Paul gives us this summary of that spiritual transaction. He said, “God made [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become [perfect].” (Second Corinthians 5:21).

“I speak righteousness, mighty to save.” God’s entire, wonderful, fragile but providence-guaranteed, plan of salvation is communicated in that phrase. He provides the necessary righteousness needed to be saved. He provides it for “whosoever will believe.”

Is there any other Almighty God Who became a man? One that was fully God and fully man? Jesus is your only hope for eternal life.

I came across a quote: “Our biblical hope is not a hope-so, it is a hope-sure.”

A passage in the NT Book of Titus extols our hope-sure: “Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

#2 – Righteousness Mighty To Save Is Your Only Earthly Help (v2-6)

Isaiah’s audience are Jews in Judah in the 7th century BC. He excitedly wrote to them about the coming of their Messiah. Not His first coming. No, these are the vocabulistics of the Second Coming.

In His First Coming, Jesus made the nation of Israel a sincere offer to establish the Kingdom of God on the Earth. He came to His own, but they refused.

Since God must keep His unconditional promises to Israel, Jesus will come again, a second time. This time the Jews will receive Him.

Notice something in verse one. Jesus will come “from Edom, from Bozrah, with His garments stained crimson” (NIV).

Popular belief is that Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives to an immediate confrontation of nations in Megiddo. “Armageddon” is a compound word meaning Hill of Megiddo, hence the Battle of Armageddon.

What we call the Battle of Armageddon is better called the Campaign of Armageddon; It isn’t a single battle fought in one location.

Isaiah says that the Lord will return to Edom, and comes to Bozrah. Edom is southern Jordan, while Bozrah is the Hebrew name for the city of Petra.

In a great prophetic passage, Jesus alerts the Jews who will be living in and around Jerusalem to flee into the wilderness when the Antichrist desecrates their rebuilt Temple. Scholars suggest they will flee to Petra to be kept safe while the worst part of the Great Tribulation takes place on Earth.

Micah 2:12, “I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel. I will put them together like sheep in the fold; Like a flock in the midst of its pasture They will be noisy with men.”

Don’t see Bozrah in that verse? It isn’t translated that way in the NKJV. The answer is found in the phrase “sheep in the fold.” That is a translation of the Hebrew word Bozrah. The Lord returns to Bozrah.

Something incredible happens in Bozrah. We read in Hosea 6:1-3, “Come, and let us return to the LORD; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, That we may live in His sight. Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, Like the latter and former rain to the earth.”

Over a three-day period, the remnant of Jews holed up in Petra will repent, returning to the Lord. The Bible tells us, “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10).

The Jews will receive the Lord, Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul will later write, “all Israel will be saved.”

The Campaign of Armageddon looks something like this:

  1. At the mid-point of the tribulation the faithful remnant of Israel heeds Jesus’ words and flee to the vicinity of Petra.
  2. The forces of the Antichrist attacks the remnant.
  3. The remnant remembers Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:39 and call for their Messiah.
  4. Jesus responds and returns to the area of Bozrah to rescue His people and initiate world-wide judgment that will bring the Great Tribulation to an end.
  5. Having rescued the remnant in the area of Bozrah Jesus then leads a campaign to rescue Jerusalem.
  6. Jesus arrives at Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives from Bozrah.
  7. The siege of Jerusalem comes to a sudden and spectacular end.

Isa 63:2  Why is Your apparel red, And Your garments like one who treads in the winepress?

Isa 63:3  “I have trodden the winepress alone, And from the peoples no one was with Me. For I have trodden them in My anger, And trampled them in My fury; Their blood is sprinkled upon My garments, And I have stained all My robes.

Jesus wasn’t talking about a visit to a winery where you can have a feets-on experience crushing grapes. He will be bloodstained from crushing the enemies of Israel. In the Book of the Revelation, it is described this way: “He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God” (19:13).

He isn’t upset that He will do it alone. No one else could. This is similar to the experience of the apostle John when it seemed like no one was able to take & open the scroll in Heaven. No one, that is, until Jesus stepped forward.

We understand the words “anger” and “fury” to derive from His righteousness. He was mighty to save, but these refused, and sought to take it out by attempting genocide against the Jews.

Jerry Bridges comments: “God, by the very perfection of His moral nature, cannot but be angry at sin – not only because of its destructiveness to humans, but, more important, because of its assault on His divine majesty. This is not the mere petulance of an offended deity because His commands are not obeyed. It is rather the necessary response of God to uphold His moral authority in His universe. And though God’s wrath does not contain the sinful emotions associated with human wrath, it does contain a fierce intensity arising from His settled opposition to sin and His determination to punish it to the utmost.”

Isa 63:4  For the day of vengeance is in My heart, And the year of My redeemed has come.

God is longsuffering, waiting to return because He does not wish that anyone would perish. There is coming a day when His longsuffering will – it must – end.

Gentile martyrs of the Great Tribulation “[Cry] with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth? Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed” (6:10-11).

His longsuffering waits, but it ends.

God maximizes opportunities to save by having perfect timing. He keeps time in our lives, too. By that I mean He is always on time.

Isa 63:5  I looked, but there was no one to help, And I wondered That there was no one to uphold; Therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; And My own fury, it sustained Me.

Is Buddha mighty to save? Confucius? Joseph Smith? Muhammad? Karl Marx? Vishnu? Krishna?

Isa 63:6  I have trodden down the peoples in My anger, Made them drunk in My fury, And brought down their strength to the Earth.”

One commentator noticed the following: In one passage His wrath, in the other passage His righteousness. Both are available to every human being ever created. This is everyone’s personal choice – We must choose either Christ’s wrath or Christ’s righteousness! Have you chosen dear listener?”

If you are not in Christ, how do you plan on defeating Death when it comes? Especially if it comes suddenly? You need to be declared righteous believing in Jesus. He remains mighty to save.

Christian – What are you dealing with? Is it a season of blessing… or buffeting? Plenty… or want? Health… or sickness?

Christ’s righteousness is for more than your initial salvation. It is for your daily interactions in a hostile cosmos. This everyday help is your sanctification.

One of the things Jesus uses to sanctify us is the Word of God. To put it another way, sanctification is a result of obeying God’s Word.

Let’s use the illustration of a bad situation at work. Examine your own heart, to see if you are the problem. If you are… Repent and change your attitude.

Let’s say you are not to blame. When that’s the case, He is “mighty to save” can mean He will deliver you from the situation. It’s been my experience that Jesus more often wants to deliver you by going through the trial with you. When that is the case, He will speak to you, through the Word & the Spirit. He will speak your righteous response so that the world may see Jesus at work.

In one of the Airplane movies, the stewardess was having a hard time communicating with a passenger. He spoke jive. An elderly Caucasian woman came to the rescue, telling the stewardess, “I speak jive.” A hilarious exchange took place.

We “speak righteousness” in at least three ways:

  1. By growing in the Lord after our initial salvation.
  2. By sharing with unbelievers that God is mighty to save them, too.
  3. And by reminding each other in our fellowship that He who has begun to perfect us has promised to complete the work.

My hope [and help] is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

Prophecy Update #790 – Every Keystroke You Make, I’ll Be Watching You

The Bible is estimated to be 25%-35% prophecy. It’s very specific prophecies have thus far been 100% accurate.

There is much Bible prophecy that is yet unfulfilled. For example, beginning in chapter four, everything in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is future to us. That is why we are called futurists. We believe that these yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecies will be fulfilled in a physical, literal, global, apocalyptic context.

It makes sense that the world would be moving in the direction that the prophecies predict. Biometrics, Artificial Intelligence, cashless commerce, the manipulation of human DNA, global government, the exponential growth of human knowledge, and the rebirth of national Israel are End Times phenomena the Bible predicts. All of these are increasingly trending in the news.

  1. We are careful to use recognized, reliable sources for news. Sensationalism about the future is detrimental.
  2. We’re not saying the things we report are the fulfillment of prophecy. We’re saying that they are the things you’d expect to be happening in the build-up to the future Great Tribulation.

Just about anyone who studies Bible prophecy agrees that the reign of the antichrist will be a nightmarish surveillance state. Privacy will be a casualty.

Along those lines, I came across an article titled, Microsoft Is Giving Windows a Memory and It Might Change Everything.


Microsoft has tried multiple times to make interacting with artificial intelligence an essential part of using Windows, but Recall, a new memory-focused feature it announced alongside its new Copilot+ PCs might be the first time it could actually stick.

This turns your computer, not just into a place where you deliberately store things, but a memory for everything you’ve done and will do on it.[1]

It works by taking continuous screen shots.

CEO Satya Nadella said, “We’re entering this new era where computers not only understand us, but can actually anticipate what we want and our intent.”

How many dystopian SyFy stories involve predictive behavior? The authorities acting upon what you will do according to some algorithm? It is very Last Days.

In His incarnation, Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom promised Israel had come. When the Jewish leadership rejected Jesus as their King, Jesus went to Heaven. The physical kingdom on earth went on standby.

We live in the Church Age. It began on the day of Pentecost fifty days after Jesus Christ rose from the dead. It precedes the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, more commonly known as the seven-year Great Tribulation.

The Tribulation will not begin until something fantastic happens. The Lord said He would return for us, the Church, raising the dead in Christ, then catching up, rapturing, believers who are alive when He comes. He promised His Church Age believers, “I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Rev 3:10).

The resurrection and rapture of the church is always imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!



Lifestyles Of The Rich And Restless (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11)

You can fly to Israel and visit the historic Pools of Solomon about 2 miles from Bethlehem. They’re an amazing feat of civic engineering. With a capacity of more than 75 million gallons, they fed the aqueducts supplying Jerusalem with water off and on for more than 2,000 years.[1]

Some argue that these pools are not the ones discussed in Ecclesiastes chapter 2, but Josephus said they were, in fact, built by Solomon. Why did he build them? Naturally, Jerusalem needed water. On top of that, tradition states that it was a place where Solomon’s many wives would bathe and that the king would pass by the spot while riding in his chariot.

But the real reason is in our text. He built it for himself. He hoped this project might give him satisfaction. It was one more desperate attempt to discover meaning in his life. A reason for living.

Tonight, we’ll see the many avenues he took in his pursuit for meaning. We’ll see that he lived “the good life” to an extreme no one could ever approximate. But no matter how much he had, how far he went, how good it felt, it was never enough. Day after day he woke up empty and unfulfilled.

Ecclesiastes 2:1 – I said to myself, “Go ahead, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy what is good.” But it turned out to be futile.

At the start of his experiments, the Teacher tries a variety of personal pleasures. Personal is the operative word. Everything we’ll read tonight was for self. He uses the word “I” 21 times in 11 verses. Not to mention the me’s, myself’s, and my’s. “I said to myself” is the opening phrase.

He decided to live a purely hedonistic lifestyle.[2] Self-indulgence. Self-fulfillment. Unrestrained luxury and experience. All the promises made to us on casino billboards, in cruise vacation brochures, and junk mail with the words “one lucky winner…” all those things the Teacher did for himself. And he did it all without even going into debt!

Now, the pleasure pursuits weren’t all necessarily sinful.[3] The term pleasure can mean simply joy or gladness.[4] But we see that his efforts were physical, temporal, and personal. Under the sun.

As usual, he gives us the bottom line up front: It turned out to be hevel. Smoke. He was surprised to find out how hevel a life of pleasure is. Where it says, “but” there, it means, “Behold!”[5] “Take a look at this!” We don’t expect this outcome. In fact, we still have a hard time believing it today, no matter how many times we’re told it’s true. We think maybe we know how to beat the system. We don’t.

Ecclesiastes 2:2 – I said about laughter, “It is madness,” and about pleasure, “What does this accomplish?”

They say laughter is the best medicine…but better keep taking your insulin. It’s not that the Teacher is against laughter – laughter and whimsy are great things. But can you feed a family with laughs?

You can love a good joke, but imagine if your favorite comedian told a great bit, everyone cracks up, then once the crowd is quiet again, they told the exact same joke. No one is going to laugh a second time. We’d be confused because there needs to be a new joke. That first laugh is gone.

Man’s humor can really help in day-to-day circumstances. We love to laugh. But, it cannot solve the basic problems of life.[6] It improves experience but doesn’t give meaning to existence.

Ecclesiastes 2:3 – I explored with my mind the pull of wine on my body—my mind still guiding me with wisdom—and how to grasp folly, until I could see what is good for people to do under heaven during the few days of their lives.

The Teacher left the laugh factory feeling more crazy than content, so he ditched comedy and gave chemicals a try. He became a great expert on wine. Later we’ll see he didn’t just imbibe, he founded great wineries, too.

He wasn’t blacking out every night. We see the caveat that his mind still guided him with wisdom. But he experimented with intoxication, different states of mind through chemical agents.

Have you heard of 2021’s Best International Picture winner Another Round? It’s about four friends who embark on an experiment where they will maintain a certain blood alcohol level throughout the workday. In fact, there have been scientific studies on constant “micro-dosing” of alcohol.[7] An article I read on it suggested a few positive effects, though you have to watch out for addiction, cancers, digestive diseases, “and other health and social harms to both the drinker and others.”

The Teacher asks, “is this good? Will this do for me what I want it to in the long run?” He references the brevity of life and the fact that we’re all headed toward death. So, is this a meaningful way to live out my life? He’s trying to grasp an answer, but the hevel drifts away with his buzz.

Comedy and chemicals weren’t the solve he longed for, so he turned next to great civic endeavors.

Ecclesiastes 2:4-6 – I increased my achievements. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself and planted every kind of fruit tree in them. I constructed reservoirs for myself from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees.

Everything here is in the plural.[8] When the Teacher built, he built a lot and he built big. Palaces, storehouses, fortresses, halls, chariot cities.[9] Orchards and gardens and reservoirs to water them.

But it wasn’t for his people, not primarily. See what he says in verse 4? “I built and planted…for myself.” He’s going to use that phrase five times in these verses.

Now this is interesting: The word for “parks” is the word from which the Greeks got “paradise.”[10]

We can see what he’s doing: Building a fruitful garden paradise with every comfort and fortification possible. He wants to solve his spiritual angst by constructing the perfect society. He wants to get back to Eden – back before the world was ruined by sin, hounded by death, full of thorns.

The problem is: He wants to jump back into Genesis 2 without doing anything about Genesis 3. There’s nothing the Teacher can build or design that fixes the problem of sin. He wants Eden, he wants that perfect, harmonious creation, but refuses to deal with the problem of the heart. Instead he wants to build his way out of sin. He’ll make his own kingdom and maybe that will be enough.

And you know what? His efforts yield a lot of earthly success. The groves flourish. The palaces sparkle. The chariot cities make other nations tremble in fear. But the Teacher’s utopia won’t list. It’s just another failed attempt by mankind to create an ideal society without God. It’s a long and sorry list. Brook Farm. Soul City. Drop City. Silkville. Fordlandia. Jonestown.[11]

Right now tech billionaires are moving forward with their plan for a new utopian[12] city between San Francisco and Sacramento, one that will be affordable and sustainable and walkable. They say it will “open up a new path for the state.”[13] The leader of the effort says, “I’m going to make this happen no matter what!” They’re calling it California Forever. So far, they’ve bought $800,000,000 of land.

Solomon’s utopia was greater than any of these other attempts. The physical results were impressive: Extreme wealth, great production, impressive development. But hevel always wins under the sun. The more he built, the more he needed to build it. You plant a grove, well now you need a reservoir to water the trees. The pools of Solomon are still surrounded by a grove of pine trees today, by the way.

Where would he get the labor he needed for his garden paradise?

Ecclesiastes 2:7 – I acquired male and female servants and had slaves who were born in my house. I also owned livestock—large herds and flocks—more than all who were before me in Jerusalem.

Apparently people weren’t lining up to volunteer for the Teacher’s building project. Instead, he had to enslave thousands of people. It was his dream, not theirs.

Utopia was populated with slaves.[14] But where there are slaves, there are hungry bellies. Now he needed flocks and herds to maintain the workforce. Of course, the more cattle he had, the more people he needed to manage the cattle. From the human perspective it looks like greatness and power, but in reality is a never-ending cycle that can’t be satisfied. Hevel.

Solomon had a huge number of servants, slaves, and livestock. At the dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem we’re told he sacrificed 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats. At one point we’re told how much food his court ate every day. Given the menu, there would’ve been thousands of workers and servants in the lunch line.[15] An astonishing, productive society.

The point is that Teacher did work on a scale unlike anything we’ve ever known, but it wasn’t enough. His heart still ached. And as soon as buildings went up, they started to break down.

His pools were magnificent but now are completely obsolete. Worse, since 1993 at least 6 people have drowned in the pools.[16] It’s hevel. Our best efforts plagued by time, death, and chance.

Ecclesiastes 2:8a – I also amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces.

How do you get the treasure of kings? Either through war or threat of war. Kings don’t typically want to part with their treasures. So we’ve gone from comedy to chemicals to civics to control, now to conflict. Solomon generally experienced peace on every side, but he also actively developed Israel’s arms. In fact, he became an arms dealer to the Hittites and Arameans.[17]

Whimsy wasn’t satisfying. Neither was work or weapons. So how about wealth? Maybe that would be the thing. But he was still empty. He was still looking for the answer.

Ecclesiastes 2:8b – I gathered male and female singers for myself,

Maybe entertainment! A waltz or a symphony or a big, lavish show. Maybe he could be exhilarated by the spectacle of performing arts. But once the curtain fell, he felt the same as before.

Ecclesiastes 2:8c – and many concubines, the delights of men.

He had tried pleasures of the mind, pleasures of stature, the pleasure of power, pleasures from the finer things of life. Now he went to pleasures of the body.

Solomon, of course, had 700 wives and 300 concubines. As with all these pursuits, he went to a further extreme than anyone else possibly could. But his heart was never bettered for any of it.

Ecclesiastes 2:9-10 – So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; my wisdom also remained with me. 10 All that my eyes desired, I did not deny them. I did not refuse myself any pleasure, for I took pleasure in all my struggles. This was my reward for all my struggles.

These were not quick projects. It took him thirteen years to build just his palace. In these verses, he has briefly described decades of pursuits. He did become great. There has never been a greater earthly king. He gave himself everything he wanted. He was Howard Hughes without the insanity and J.P. Morgan and Jeff Bezos and Gustave Eiffel and Ernest Gallo.

He’s honest about the fact that he did experience a lot of moments of pleasure. He felt the buzz. He felt the exhilaration. He felt the pride and the delights. He says here, “I lived ‘the good life.’”


Ecclesiastes 2:11 – 11 When I considered all that I had accomplished and what I had labored to achieve, I found everything to be futile and a pursuit of the wind. There was nothing to be gained under the sun.

“Considered” literally means, “when I faced the facts.”[18] When he took a look at all he experienced, all he could say was I have laughed. I was buzzed. I was excited. But none of the physical pleasures or pursuits solved his need. Nothing was gained. A lot was spent, but he was still empty.

The experiences of pleasure or the accomplishment of great human feats cannot ultimately satisfy. They cannot give us ultimate meaning. They cannot do anything about the problem of death. We have such a hard time believing this to be true, no matter who tries to tell us.

Jim Carrey: “I think everybody should get rich and famous and everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that that’s not the answer.”[19]

Leonardo DiCaprio: “I’ve been very lucky to have achieved a lot of the things that I dreamt of achieving…but, at the end of the day – and I truly believe this – it is not about achieving great wealth or success. Because they don’t bring happiness ultimately. They really don’t.” [20]

Tom Brady: “Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think, ‘… It’s got to be more than this.’ I mean this isn’t, this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.” When the interviewer asked him, “What’s the answer?” Brady could only say, “I wish I knew. I wish I knew.”[21]

All these fellows feel the same way the Teacher felt because all of them made the same mistake: They all forget the spiritual. Oh, they may say they do transcendental meditation or try out different religions or philosophies, but none of them are taking the right medicine for what ails them.

At the start of this chapter, the Teacher said, “I’m looking for what is good.” Where can he find it?

Micah 6:8 – Mankind, [the Lord] has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.

The answer for your life is not whimsy or work or wealth or wine or women. It’s withness with God. God Who made you and loves you and calls to you and has put eternity in your heart so that you would seek Him, find Him, and be in a forever relationship with Him. California forever? No, it’s koinania forever! Fellowship and communion with God your Creator and Savior and King.

Now, as Christians, we tend to think we can beat the system. We’ll have a relationship with God and all these other things. Sometimes we try to pursue both. We allow ourselves to put too great an emphasis on wealth or on personal pleasure or on finding our identity in the work we do. But we can only have one Master. There can only be one king in your heart.

“Ok, then I guess we can’t laugh or have a good time or if we’re paid well, we must not be spiritual.” No. What we’ll learn later in Ecclesiastes is that we’re supposed to enjoy life – not just in the house of worship, but at meal times, too. We’ll learn that these are gifts God gives us as we walk with Him. Because it is His delight to give us joy. The joy of the Lord is our strength! And God does gift some believers with a great deal of earthly resources so they can enjoy them and so they can bless others. God wants you to laugh. He wants you to enjoy your food. He wants you to enjoy intimacy with your spouse. He wants you work with excellence at your job and to bless your efforts.

Do we trust Him enough to say to ourselves, “Ok, self, this is not about me, me, me, I, I, I, my pleasure, my comfort, my dreams. This is about me walking with God. Withness with Him. His purposes, His priorities, His provision.” That is what is good. That is what fulfills. That is answer the Teacher and Tom Brady and Jim Carry and DiCaprio haven’t discovered yet, but we have. And so, let’s live with the Lord in faithfulness and service and humility and trust and enjoy the fullness of that withness.


2 Robert Alter   The Hebrew Bible: A Translation With Commentary
3 James Smith   The Wisdom Literature And Psalms
4 Iain Provan   The NIV Application Commentary: Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs
5 The NET Bible First Edition: Notes
6 Duane A. Garrett   The New American Commentary: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs
8 Philip Ryken   Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters
9 1 Kings 7, 9,   2 Chronicles 8
10 David Hubbard   The Communicator’s Commentary: Ecclesiastes, Song Of Solomon
14 Provan
15 Walter Kaiser Jr.   Ecclesiastes: Total Life
16 Dima Srouji   Solomon’s pools: A patient Framework Awaiting Its potential
17 1 Kings 10:29
18 Eaton
19 2005 December 16, The Ottawa Citizen, Carrey’s been busted, Continuation title: Carrey—Being rich not the answer by Jay Stone

You Can Take The Jew Out Of Zion, But You Can’t Take Zion Out Of The Jew (Isaiah 62:1-12)

“You know you’re from San Bernardino if…”

It’s a FaceBook Group I joined with 5K members. I’m also on, “You might be from Hanford if you…” Almost 16K members on that site. Why would little Hanford have three times the membership? Because the murder rate in Berdoo is 23 per hundred thousand.

I’m thinking of starting a site for Riverdale. I’ve got to work out the name. So far I’ve got, “You can’t prove I’m from Riverdale because…”

Believers are part of a city group: Jerusalem.

In the Bible, in the letter written to the Hebrew Christians, Abraham “waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (11:10).

The writer continues, describing the life of the believer as a journey of faith towards the city. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the Earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland… a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (11:13-16).

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1You Can Have “I Won’t Hold My Peace” Excitement About Jesus, and #2 Jesus Has “I Won’t Hold My Peace” Excitement About You.   

#1 – You Can Have “I Won’t Hold My Peace” Excitement About Jesus (v1-5)

  • Right out of the gate, Isaiah promises, “For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest.”
  • Then in verses 6&7 we read, “I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; They shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent, And give Him no rest…”

The Lord challenges us to examine ourselves in light of the revealed future. Are we excited about where we are going? If we are, we won’t be able to “hold our peace” about it; and there is no time to “rest” along the way.

At the time he wrote, Isaiah’s time on Earth was getting short. In an apocryphal document titled, The Martyrdom of Isaiah, the prophet addresses King Hezekiah and predicts, “by Manasseh thy son, and through the agency of his hands I shall depart mid the torture of my body… by his hands I shall be

sawn asunder.” This is alluded to in Hebrews 11:37.

Isa 62:1  For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns.

“Zion” refers to both a hill in the city of Jerusalem and to the city on the hill. It is also synonymous with the nation of Israel.

Isaiah is showing us Jerusalem after the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (aka, The Great Tribulation) in the one thousand year Kingdom of God on Earth.

He is not going to “hold his peace” means he will talk about future Jerusalem constantly. The remainder of his book does just that.

He promised not to “rest.” Do you remember when it was popular to call Christians ‘pew potatoes’? (It’s a variation of ‘couch potato’).

How many of you had Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head for a toy? How many of you had them before 1964? You would know if you did because for the first 12 years Mr. Potato Head was offered as separate plastic parts to be affixed to a real potato (or other vegetable). Due to complaints regarding rotting vegetables and new government safety regulations, Hasbro introduced the plastic potato body in 1964.

“Rest.” I dare say most of us, as believers, get too much rest when it comes to our work & walk with Jesus. If you want to immediately anger me, tell me about a pastor who is taking a Sabbatical.

But having said that, let us agree that it is too easy to judge others:

  • Somebody who attends every meeting of the church may be may be carnal.
  • Those who seem less involved may have a full prayer closet.

In Romans 14:4 we are told, “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”

Tom Bodett promised, “We’ll leave the light on” at his chain of Motel 6’s. If Isaiah had made advertisements, he’d have said, “Look for the lamps of righteousness & salvation.”

Isa 62:2  The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the LORD will name.

Bible “righteousness” can refer to doing what is right. Mostly we think of it in conjunction with salvation. A sinner believes God. He then “puts it into your account as righteousness” (BBE). You are not actually righteous; you still sin on account of your mortal body. God declares you righteous because Jesus died in your place. You are thereby justified. God remains just and is the justifier of sinners.

Thanks to Ezekiel, we know Jerusalem’s future name: “And the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE” (48:35). (Jehovah Shama).

(Sounds like the start of a “Who’s on first?” skit. Where are we going? There. Where? Can’t you Hear? We are going There. I feel like this is going Nowhere. Are we There yet?).

“There” will be many Gentile nations on Earth during the Millennium. It appears they will be monarchies. Wait a minute! What happened to democracy?

Theocracy overrules democracy (and our republic and any form of government man has attempted). In the future, that is. Not now.

Isa 62:3  You shall also be a crown of glory In the hand of the LORD, And a royal diadem In the hand of your God.

The “crown” is worn by a king. The “diadem” or “turban” is worn by a priest.

  • As to the crown, the nation of Israel was unconditionally promised that a descendant of David would sit on the throne in Jerusalem forever.
  • As to the turban, Israel will be a kingdom of priests, ministering to Gentiles who make pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Do you ever play the game of asking a child which hand the candy is in, and making them choose? God’s version is that either hand, anytime you pick, opens to a blessing.

Isa 62:4  You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; For the LORD delights in you…

According to one source, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. I don’t think that count includes everything in the modern age.

  • “Hephzibah” means something like, My delight is in her.
  • “Beulah” means married.

He is describing a last-minute rescue of Israel, motivated by His deep & abiding love for her. The LORD has a very particular set of skills. He will save the Jews.

  • Israel is referred to as the wife of the LORD (Isaiah 54:6).
  • The Church is called the Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7).

Though these two references are similar, they are not the same. The Church is never called a wife. The Bride of Christ (or just bride) is always used in reference to the (primarily Gentile) Church of the New Testament. These are the ones who have been saved since Pentecost and remain until the Church is removed from Earth at the Resurrection & Rapture.

One commentator explains, “These two references reflect the two-part nature of God’s plan of redemption for the world. Salvation comes to the Jew first, but the Gentiles are also given opportunity through their association with Israel and the promises made to that nation. Both groups are ‘wedded’ to the Lord in that both are included in a single covenant given to Abraham and fulfilled in Christ.”

Isa 62:5 (CEV) Your people will take the land, just as a young man takes a bride. The LORD will be pleased because of you, just as a husband is pleased with his bride.

Sometimes the mention of marriage, brides & the bridegroom is a simple illustration. Life in the future Millennial Jerusalem will be joyous, like marriage as it was meant to be. Israel will be so thoroughly cleansed and purified of her sin that she will be looked upon as a virgin. Just as a groom rejoices over a bride, so will God rejoice over them. This is a way of saying, “The honeymoon never ends!”

The Bible says “Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). Over the period of his life walking with God, he went through many cities on Earth, but in the end knew exactly where he was going – Jerusalem.

You have exactly that same testimony to share.

You don’t know where you’re going on Earth; not really. Let God lead. Eventually, we get to Jerusalem.

People are leaving California. They get pretty excited about it:

  • No more unaffordable vehicle registration; in fact, they pay you in the state you are going to, because they can’t wait to have Californians.
  • You can buy 10 houses with acreage and a lake for the price of a one-bedroom California home that has a communal neighborhood bathroom.
  • You can fish & hunt simultaneously, without a license, using mortars or shoulder mounted missiles – which are sold in any mini-mart. They give every Californian a bump stock as a welcoming gift.

That’s all good, but let’s get & stay excited about the Lord’s coming.

#2 – Jesus Has “I Won’t Hold My Peace” Excitement About You (v6-12)   

Do you set reminders? God does!

They are called “watchmen” by Isaiah.

Isa 62:6  I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; They shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent,

Most likely these “watchmen” are angelic beings:

  • They have a 24/7, 360 ministry.
  • They make their announcement to the LORD, not to the Jews.
  • It isn’t wrong to suggest they’ve constantly been making this announcement from at least the 7th century – even though Jews were dispersed from Jerusalem for centuries and there were no towers.

The Talmud is the collection of rabbinical writings compiled in the 5th century BC. Jews consider it authoritative. These watchmen are identified as angels in the Talmud.

What do they say to the LORD?

Isa 62:7  And give Him no rest till He establishes And till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.

Is Jerusalem established as “a praise in the Earth?” Hardly! We are seeing maybe the greatest outpouring of hatred for the Jews to ever occur at once.

When Jerusalem is established as “a praise in the Earth,” it will mean that Jesus has returned and is ruling over the Kingdom of God on Earth.

God doesn’t need angelic watchmen to remind Him of His promises to Israel. Whatever else might be going on, in Heaven or on Earth, there is, for lack of a better word, an atmosphere of expectation that the Lord is going to finalize the redemption & restoration plan He announced in the Garden of Eden. It may seem delayed, but be assured there are angels who keep it at the top of the agenda.

Isa 62:8  The LORD has sworn by His right hand And by the arm of His strength: “Surely I will no longer give your grain As food for your enemies; And the sons of the foreigner shall not drink your new wine, For which you have labored.

Isa 62:9  But those who have gathered it shall eat it, And praise the LORD; Those who have brought it together shall drink it in My holy courts.”

It is a basic tenet of government that those governed are free, and protected, to enjoy their own labors. The Millennium will be such a time for Israel.

Isa 62:10  Go through, Go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, Build up the highway! Take out the stones, Lift up a banner for the peoples!

Isa 62:11  Indeed the LORD has proclaimed To the end of the world: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him.’ ”

When citizens knew that their King was coming, they’d prepare for it, working night & day if needed. Working joyfully, I might add.

Israel’s King did come! Jesus was “salvation” to Israel. He was their Savior. He would have rewarded them with the fulfillment of the covenants God made them over the centuries. The “work before Him” of redeeming His creatures & restoring His creation would have commenced.

Sadly, Israel was not prepared – even though they were warned to be. I’m talking, of course, about John the Baptist announcing that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, and then presenting Jesus as the King.

Isa 62:12  And they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; And you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.

There is a lot of evil ‘name-calling’ against God’s chosen nation. It won’t permanently end until the Lord, Jesus, is ruling from Jerusalem.

You can recognize it when someone is genuinely excited to see you, either every time or after a long time. For one thing, they don’t duck down the aisles at Save Mart.

Jesus is described in the Gospels and elsewhere as being genuinely excited to be with us. I think one strong example should be enough. The Revelation of Jesus Christ closes out God’s story of redemption and restoration:

  • Jesus returns in chapter 19. He returns with us I might add.
  • Chapter 20 – We are assured that the 1000 year Kingdom of Heaven on Earth is a reality.
  • Chapters 21 and 22 are dedicated to showing us as much of eternity as we can stand as human beings in our mortal bodies. Those chapters are filled with excitement and anticipation. Like being told that there won’t be any temple in eternity because “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

Twice in chapter twenty-two Jesus let’s us know, “Behold, I am coming quickly.”

An excited Holy Spirit joins with an enthusiastic bride to respond, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (v17).

If that’s not enough to convince you, Jesus shouts out, “Surely I am coming quickly.” To which we exclaim,  “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

A.W. Tozer said, “Let us be alert to the season in which we are living. It is the season of the Blessed Hope, calling for us to cut our ties with the world and build ourselves on this One who will soon appear. He is our hope – a Blessed Hope enabling us to rise above our times and fix our gaze upon Him.”

Prophecy Update #789 – Ballot Bot

The Bible is estimated to be 25%-35% prophecy. It’s very specific prophecies have thus far been 100% accurate.

There is much Bible prophecy that is yet unfulfilled. For example, beginning in chapter four, everything in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is future to us. That is why we are called futurists. We believe that these yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecies will be fulfilled in a physical, literal, global, apocalyptic context.

It makes sense that the world would be moving in the direction that the prophecies predict. Biometrics, Artificial Intelligence, cashless commerce, the manipulation of human DNA, global government, the exponential growth of human knowledge, and the rebirth of national Israel are End Times phenomena the Bible predicts. All of these are increasingly trending in the news.

  1. We are careful to use recognized, reliable sources for news. Sensationalism about the future is detrimental.
  2. We’re not saying the things we report are the fulfillment of prophecy. We’re saying that they are the things you’d expect to be happening in the build-up to the future Great Tribulation.

In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, in the future, we read about a fascinating and terrifying “image.” A man we call the False Prophet oversees the making of this “image,” which by its description seems to possess sentient life.

“[The False Prophet] causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship [the Antichrist], whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. [He tells] those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the [Antichrist]… He was granted power to give breath to the image… that the image… should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image… to be killed.”

What could animate this “image,” rendering it sentient and deadly? Artificial Intelligence.

I was sent an article this week titled, AI candidate running for Parliament in the U.K. says AI can humanize politics.


An artificial intelligence candidate is on the ballot for the United Kingdom’s general election next month.

“AI Steve,” represented by Sussex businessman Steve Endacott, will appear on the ballot alongside non-AI candidates running to represent constituents in the Brighton Pavilion area of Brighton and Hove, a city on England’s southern coast.

Endacott is the chairman of Neural Voice, a company that creates personalized voice assistants for businesses in the form of an AI avatar.

He said the idea is to use AI to create a politician who is always around to talk with constituents and who can take their views into consideration.[1]

Another source reported that AI Steve can chat with 10,000 people at once.

Will AI power the image? We’re not saying that. We are simply pointing out trends you’d expect from your reading of prophecy.

In His incarnation, Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom promised Israel had come. When the Jewish leadership rejected Jesus as their King, Jesus went to Heaven. The physical kingdom on earth went on standby.

We live in the Church Age. It began on the day of Pentecost fifty days after Jesus Christ rose from the dead. It precedes the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, more commonly known as the seven-year Great Tribulation.

The Tribulation will not begin until something fantastic happens. The Lord said He would return for us, the Church, raising the dead in Christ, then catching up, rapturing, believers who are alive when He comes. He promised His Church Age believers, “I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Rev 3:10).

The resurrection and rapture of the church is always imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it.

Are you ready for the rapture? If not, Get ready; Stay ready; Keep looking up.

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!



Oh, A Wise Guy, Eh? (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18)

I found a fun list this week: The Dumbest Research Studies Of 2016.[1] One found “a healthy diet helps you live longer.” Another discovered “most of your Facebook friends aren’t really your friends.” My favorite was, “Spiderman doesn’t exist.” Researchers at Cambridge have conclusively determined that it is “virtually impossible for a normal sized human being to have the characteristics of Spiderman.”

Tonight the Teacher invites us into his lab where he has been running incredibly important experiments for a lifetime. As researchers often do, he gives us the abstract up front: Hevel, hevel, everything is hevel. His work has left him frustrated and still full of questions.

His research project wasn’t dumb – he was asking the questions every human being wrestles with at some point. In fact, this is maybe the must needful study ever conducted.

And his problem wasn’t that he was out of his depth. In our verses tonight, the Teacher gives his credentials and reveals his methodology, showing the impeccable quality of his research. He’s not just a hobbyist trying to divert himself. He’s capable and well-funded – fully qualified.

On top of that, he’s driven by desperation. Like all people, he has a need for meaning and purpose. To his credit, he’s unwilling to simply ignore the problem. Instead, he dedicated his life to finding the meaning of life. And what he found is that these answers elude us, like smoke in the wind.

Ecclesiastes 1:12 – 12 I, the Teacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.

Ecclesiastes never specifically names Solomon as the writer, though it’s obvious the book wants us to assume it is Solomon speaking.[2] Many modern commentaries say it’s definitely not Solomon – that it’s some later writer, after the exile, who is writing a “fictional royal autobiography.”[3] The problem with that idea is that if the Teacher is not Solomon – if he’s just some guy doing a thought experiment or speaking from his own theoretical philosophy – then his findings can’t be trusted. Do you want a pilot who never really went to flight school?

He was the king over all Israel (not a divided kingdom) in Jerusalem. That alone narrows it down to Solomon, not to mention the other clues in the book.

Solomon speaks with credibility.[4] As king he had total ability, complete privilege, all the funds necessary, to explore these questions to the fullest possible extent and then some. So if there was anyone out there who had the time, the resources, the knowhow, the freedom, and the capability to get to the bottom of these questions, it was him.

Ecclesiastes 1:13 – 13 I applied my mind to examine and explore through wisdom all that is done under heaven. God has given people this miserable task to keep them occupied.

Twice tonight, the Teacher will explain that he “applied his mind” in these pursuits. Your version may say heart instead of mind. Linguists tell us the Hebrew phrase is, “I gave my heart…the whole self”[5] to finding these answers – to finding the meaning of life.

This wasn’t just a weekend whim. It wasn’t like one of those scenes where the spoiled prince shows up to the battlefield in pristine armor while everyone knows he’ll never do any real fighting. The Teacher was disciplined and purposeful. He was “deliberate, not dabbling.”[6]

He said he was going to examine and explore wisdom, which here could be defined as “the art of success.”[7] He did it more than anyone who came before or after him. But his study left him frustrated and unfulfilled. He described all his intellectual pursuits as “miserable tasks” – heavy bags God puts on us to weigh us down and waste our lives. Wow.

How could the Solomon of Proverbs say such a thing about wisdom? In Proverbs 3 he said, “Happy is the man who finds wisdom.”[8]

It’s because the wisdom of Proverbs 3:13 is not the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 1:13. Notice, the wisdom here is “under heaven.” Philip Ryken writes, “The kind of wisdom the Preacher had in mind was not divine wisdom but human wisdom—the very best that human beings have ever thought or said. The question is, how far will such wisdom take us? Will it lead us in the way of life everlasting? Will it help us understand why everything matters?”[9] The answer, the Teacher finally realized, is no.

He wanted to understand the meaning of life, he wanted to get his hands on success, fulfillment, achieving purposes that would make life worth living, but his mistake was made in the very first step. He gave his heart to self: Self-fulfillment, self-actualization, self-determination, self-purpose.

The problem is: You are not made for self. You were made for God’s purposes. You belong to Him. When we divorce ourselves from God’s purposes, then the result is what the Teacher says here. “All my wisdom and exploration was a miserable frustration, a lousy job, a hopeless task.”[10]

The other Psalmists may not have been as smart as Solomon, but they understood how to find the fulfillment we all long for:

Psalm 84:5 – Happy are the people whose strength is in [the living God], whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

God made us, He bought us, He loves us, and He has purposes for us to discover and walk in. When we walk with God and fulfill His purposes, life is full of fruitful multiplication. When we wander away from God and reduce our lives to “under the sun,” then no matter what we do, in the end it will become frustrated misery. That’s the bottom line of the Teacher’s studies.

Ecclesiastes 1:14 – 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun and have found everything to be futile, a pursuit of the wind.

The Teacher doubles down again. It won’t be the last time because he’s run the numbers. He knows we’re not going to make it. We sense his exasperation because he knows we don’t want to believe what he’s found. But he looks us in the eyes and says, “I’ve been to the end of the road. Everything you’re trying to do apart from a relationship with God is like trying to shepherd a flock of wind.”[11]

Ecclesiastes 1:15 – 15 What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.

This is the first of two little proverbs the Teacher will share with us tonight. This one points out two harsh realities in life.

“What is crooked cannot be straightened.” Under the sun, some problems will never be solved. There will never be a human government totally free from corruption. There will never be a society with total fairness and equality. There will always be deficits and potholes.

“What is lacking cannot be counted.” One of the reasons why we can’t ultimately solve every problem is because we are working with insufficient information.[12] There’s always something we don’t know, something we can’t anticipate, something the defies our human logic.

My favorite example of this proverb is what is called the Cobra Effect. When the British ruled India, they were concerned about the number of venomous cobras in Delhi. So, the government offered a bounty for every dead cobra. That should lead to the eradication of cobras and the problem solved, right? Wrong! What it led to was an explosion of cobra breeding. When the government figured out people were breeding cobras, they said, “Ok, we’re not going to pay you anymore.” So then all these cobra ranchers thought, “Well…I don’t want to have a bunch of cobras at my house anymore, they’re dangerous!” And many of them just turned the cobras loose, leading to a great increase in the wild cobra population![13] It’s hevel. That’s what the Teacher is talking about.

Ecclesiastes 1:16 – 16 I said to myself, “See, I have amassed wisdom far beyond all those who were over Jerusalem before me, and my mind has thoroughly grasped wisdom and knowledge.”

It’s not a brag, this is simply a statement of fact. We’re talking about the GOAT when it comes to knowledge and understanding and intelligence.

The Teacher is a very careful researcher. He said, “Ok, here’s the problem I want to solve. I’m going to plan, I’m going to assess everything I see, I’m going to evaluate my methods and audit myself.” He’s not some absent-minded professor. He’s fully aware of everything going on and his part in it.

After his initial failure in verses 13-15, he goes back to the drawing board and starts again.[14] He’s checking his methods and his tools and his calibration to make sure he’s getting true results.

Ecclesiastes 1:17 – 17 I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly; I learned that this too is a pursuit of the wind.

He started with pursuing earthly wisdom, but the results weren’t what he hoped. So, he said, “Let’s go all the way to the other end. Since my pursuit of human wisdom left me miserable, maybe I’ll find peace and happiness at the opposite end in madness and folly.” And we’ll see all these different avenues along the spectrum he took trying to find what he was looking for.

In his quest for purpose, for fulfillment, to discover the meaning of life, the Teacher was willing to go a lot of places. But where didn’t he go? He didn’t go to prayer, the way Nehemiah did. He didn’t go to praise, like David did. He didn’t go to God’s Word the way the Psalmists did. He went down human avenues – each of which made great promises, but ultimately left the Teacher only hevel. Trying to shepherd smoke.

Ecclesiastes 1:18 – 18 For with much wisdom is much sorrow; as knowledge increases, grief increases.

Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell wrote, “We have found that the men who know the most are the most gloomy.”[15] That comes from a paper they wrote with other scientists and intellectuals in an effort to save the humanity from nuclear war.

Their big “answer” was this line: “Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.”

But any 90 second study of humanity, whether through history, sociology, anthropology, or personal experience will show that “answer” is empty. Humanity is defined by selfishness, violence, greed, opportunism, jealousy, stubbornness. Humanity is obviously never going to renounce war on its own. Humanity not only must have laws dictating what is acceptable, but we must have those who enforce the laws since there are so many people who do not want to obey the laws.

The Teacher was the wisest person to ever live – at least when it comes to wisdom under the sun. But that wisdom is not enough. In fact, that wisdom is so inferior it will one day be destroyed.

In 1 Corinthians Paul quotes Isaiah where God says:

1 Corinthians 1:19 – 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the intelligence of the intelligent.

What we need is something better than wisdom under the sun. So God offers His wisdom instead. And in the New Testament we discover that God’s wisdom is Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:24-25 – 24 Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, 25 because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

You see, the Teacher is trying to carry a load that is too heavy for him. He’s nowhere near strong enough to lift this burden of finding the meaning of life, of ultimate purpose, of true fulfillment. It’s too much, it’s too heavy, and it’s bolted to the bedrock of the earth. All his efforts are like herding cats – shepherding smoke. And he realized it was a meaningless, miserable, hopeless task.

But then God comes along and says, “You don’t need to shepherd the wind. Why don’t you let Me shepherd you?” When we are shepherded by God and follow Him, He not only leads us into the purposes He’s designed for us but also to contentment and fulfillment – green pastures and still waters. And, along the way, He straightens what is crooked for us! Check this out:

Psalm 5:8 – Lord, lead me in your righteousness because of my adversaries; make your way straight before me.

God does what “can’t” be done! He does the impossible on our behalf.

Hebrews 12 tell us that, as we submit to the Father, our tired hands and weakened knees are strengthened and the paths are straightened for our feet.[16] He doesn’t weigh us down with misery.

Instead of being a frustrating misery, life becomes full of fruitful multiplication. There are still difficulties, still hardships, still things that don’t make total sense to us, but God gives us beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, firmness instead of hevel. Real purpose. Real meaning. Real fulfillment found in Jesus Christ, Who offers us life everlasting, life more abundantly, a life full of holy delight, glory and joy.

I came across a website this week: This fellow has been living in Hawaii since the 80’s and now defines himself by challenging others to go live there, too. His about page says, “I’ve been living the dream…[are you] ready to live the dream?”

In one eye-catching article titled, “What IS The Meaning Of Life? Fun? God? [Money]?” he wrote:

“I guess I’m on a quest for the meaning of life. I’m 42 and it’s time I figured it all out. I’m giving myself until December this year, then I’ve got to have the answer.

I’ve said in the past that fun is the entire meaning of life…but having fun most of your life doesn’t prepare you for the future at all.

Some people live their lives for God. Whatever god they choose is irrelevant. Gods have nothing to do with the meaning of life except that if they created this world and gave me life then they must have had some idea for human beings in mind. They must have had some sort of point to creating us. They must have had some idea how our time living could be best spent.

What affects me is the nagging question about why I’m going through this life as I am. What is the point of me going through this life?

For myself I’ve found various meanings of life. Some last me one or two years, some 10. Right now I’m more interested in the ultimate meaning of life – one that might be shared by everyone. Is there such a thing?

The meaning of life is living in Hawaii with family and friends… that’s it!”[17]

I wonder what someone living through the Lahaina Fires on Maui thinks about that? Or why Hawaii has a higher suicide rate than 26 other states?[18] Or why, on average, 12 people move out of Hawaii every single day?[19] There has to be more than sun and sand.

There is. It’s life in Christ. A life offered to anyone anywhere. One we get to experience day by day as we walk with Him.


2 Choon-Leong Seow   Ecclesiastes
3 Douglas Miller   Ecclesiastes
4 Duane A. Garrett   The New American Commentary: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs
5 The NET Bible First Edition Notes
6 David Hubbard   The Communicator’s Commentary: Ecclesiastes, Song Of Solomon
7 Hubbard
8 Proverbs 3:13
9, 14 Ryken
10 NAC
11 Robert Alter   The Hebrew Bible: A Translation With Commentary
12 CSB Study Bible: Notes
15 Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell   The Russell-Einstein Manifesto
16 Hebrews 12:9-13

The Man From U.N.C.T.I.O.N. (Isaiah 61:1-11)

If you want to start a church it will set you back $198.00.

That is the price of The Church Planting Guide, published by StartCHURCH. “This easy-to-follow guide will take you week-by-week for 20 weeks through the process of starting your Church on a solid foundation.”

  • Week 1 is dedicated to naming the church, logo development, inviting Board Members, defining the spousal role, creating a vision, and writing a Mission Statement.
  • By Week 3 you will finalize the Church Board, draft & file the Articles of Incorporation, obtain your Federal Employee ID number, and create your Corporate Records notebook.
  • By Week 8 you have started fundraising in what they describe as “an atmosphere of generosity.”
  • Week 11 is rest, ‘cause you’re going to be exhausted from all the paperwork. 
  • Week 18 you start writing your first sermon, develop a children’s ministry, and choose your worship team.

In our text, we will see Jesus StartKINGDOM.

Even if one existed, the Lord would not have had the funds to purchase a guide book. It isn’t an exaggeration to say He had zero material resources. He had nothing the Jews would recognize as important & necessary to start their Kingdom on Earth.

What and Who Jesus did have is identified as the anointing of God the Holy Spirit.

We – the Church – don’t make an appearance in this chapter. That is to be expected. We are a mystery revealed in the NT.

We can glean a few things about anointing because the NT says that we, too, have God’s anointing:

  • The apostle John said to us, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things” (First John 2:20).
  • The apostle Paul wrote,“Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God” (Second Corinthians 1:21).

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1You Are Anointed To Be Like First Coming Jesus, and #2 You’ll Be Anointed To Be Like Second Coming Jesus.

What is the anointing?

Apologist & author Don Stewart breaks it down Scripturally as well as anyone. I’ll cut right to his conclusions:

  • It is God who anoints the believer with His Holy Spirit. We do not anoint ourselves. Thus, it is entirely a work of God.
  • This anointing of the Holy Spirit remains forever with the believer. It never leaves those who receive it.
  • The purpose of this anointing of the Holy Spirit is that the believer might be taught of God. He anoints us to teach us His truths so that we can please Him by doing the work of the ministry.
  • We find that the Holy Spirit anoints the believer in spiritual discernment and the understanding of the Word of God. In fact, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be the Teacher of those who believed in Him.

Some see the anointing of the Spirit as another way of saying the believer has already received the Holy Spirit while others think it is for a special ministry that the Spirit of God has in the life of each believer. It is  both.

I’ve been talking a lot about Jesus. Where is He in this chapter? I’ll let Him tell you, by way of the Gospel of Luke.

Luk 4:16  So [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.

Luk 4:17  And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:



Luk 4:20  Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.

Jesus was reading Isaiah 61. He abruptly stopped in the middle of verse two. Perhaps the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him because this was odd. Why stop mid-verse?

These words were troublesome for the Jewish scholars. How could the same person “proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,” And “the day of vengeance of our God?” Isn’t that contradictory?

As tension built in the Synagogue, “He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (4:21).

If Scripture was being “fulfilled,” it meant that the words Isaiah wrote 700yrs earlier were about Him. Jesus of Nazareth was claiming to be the Servant in Isaiah. No wonder that the Jews “were filled with wrath,” and attempted to throw Jesus off a cliff.

Isa 61:1  “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me…

Our analysis of anointing was accurate and informative, but it seems a little sterile for something so intimate as a Person indwelling us.

Dr. Michael Svigel reminds us, “A lot of modern biblical commentaries and systematic theologies do nothing for my love of the Word of God, or the God of the Word. Their intricate analyses and critical exegesis function like a complex machine that spins gold into straw.”

I do not want that to be true of our discussion of God the Holy Spirit. It will be if we are not humble to realize we are not immune from reducing Him to straw.

It has been my armchair observation over these past 40 years of pastoring that dependence upon the Holy Spirit’s anointing is too easily ignored in favor of, well, just about anything else! We had a good laugh at StartCHURCH. It isn’t sarcasm from The Babylon Bee. It is a methodology being promoted as biblical.

The Bible is a supernatural book, and the Holy Spirit is a supernatural Person. One commentator, using the word “filled” in place of anointed, said, “We are not filled with an influence; we are not filled with a sensation; we are not filled with a set of ideas and truth; we are not filled with a blessing, but we are filled with a Person… and its very essence is the indwelling life of Jesus Christ Himself.”

Jesus could not have accomplished His mission on Earth without the anointing of God the Holy Spirit. What does that say about us? “God does His work by the operation of the Spirit. We should not attempt to do ours by the power of trained and devoted intellect.”

Isa 61:1  “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

Isa 61:2  To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD…

This is a gracious offer by ‘First Coming’ Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth promised to the nation of Israel. It was “the acceptable year,” it was exactly the right time.

The things He would do after anointed (some listed here) would prove He was their Messiah.

Isa 61:2  … And the day of vengeance of our God…

Geno was teaching about the power of punctuation in the Bible. The comma between “the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God…” has so far spanned twenty centuries. On one side is the Lord’s First Coming; on the other, His Second Coming – after the Church Age & after the Great Tribulation.

You do know that Jesus is returning, don’t you?

The delay was a result of the nation of Israel officially rejecting the King’s offer to establish the Kingdom.

Isa 61:2  … To comfort all who mourn,

Isa 61:3  To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

The mourning, the ashes, the heaviness – those are conditions in the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (aka, the Great Tribulation). The Time of Jacob’s Trouble is necessary in order that spiritually blinded Jews will recognize their Messiah, Jesus. It’s awful, but not as awful as eternal separation from God in conscious torment.

These are beautiful descriptions of conditions in the future Millennial Kingdom. After all the centuries from the Garden of Eden until the Second Coming, “the Lord’s will” will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

There are five things listed here that Jesus did in His First Coming. We shouldn’t try to do them so much as to realize we are doing them led by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

It is normal and orthodox to point out that God the Holy Spirit is a Person. I want to remind us that He is a very complex person. We will never fully enjoy His indwelling if we only make lists of the things He can do, and then put them into what we feel is the logical, rational order of how He does them.

Being filled with the Word of God is not the same as being filled with the Spirit of God. The person who proves that to us is Jesus. Could there be any human more filled with the Word of God than Jesus Christ? If we had any doubt, we see Him wielding it in His desert temptings by Satan.

Nevertheless, Jesus was not ready to embark on His ministry until the Spirit’s anointing.

This is off-topic, but we need to acknowledge Jesus did no healings, no exorcisms, no raisings from the dead for His first 30 years on Earth. Sure it would have temporarily benefited many people. But in the long run, Jesus came to be the Savior of the world. And His heavenly Father had a plan for that. Part of that plan was for people to look upon Jesus’ life and understand the vital part that the Holy Spirit played. He was anointed and Bam! For 3 ½ years He did so much that it could never be compiled in books.

The remaining verses of chapter sixty-one transport us to life on the Millennial Earth. It is after the Second Coming. Though not told here, the Church will return with Jesus, having been resurrected & raptured 7yrs earlier.

Isa 61:4  And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.

Isa 61:5  Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, And the sons of the foreigner Shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.

Before we go on, I should explain who these “strangers” and “foreigners” are. At His Second Coming, Jews who survive the 7yrs will all be saved by looking upon Jesus and repenting. There will also be multitudes of saved Gentiles who have endured til the end. These and their children born during the thousand years are the Gentile “strangers” and “foreigners.”

These Gentiles will serve the Jews. Not as slaves or anything weird like that. It will be a blessing.

Isa 61:6  But you shall be named the priests of the LORD, They shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, And in their glory you shall boast.

  • Just as the descendants of Aaron performed priestly service for all the people of Israel, so in the future all the people of Israel will perform priestly service for the nations.
  • Just as the priests used to live from all that the people of Israel brought them, tithes and sacrifices, so Israel as a whole will live from all that the nations will bring them.

Isa 61:7  Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs.

We are privileged to be alive in the time that God has reestablished the nation of Israel, after centuries of dispersion. It is obviously a first step to fulfilling the promises of a double portion and everlasting joy.

Isa 61:8  “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering; I will direct their work in truth, And will make with them an everlasting covenant.

God will reverse the injustices forced upon Israel through the centuries. His love of “justice” will be on display.

Twice a day, everyday, morning & evening, two lambs were to be sacrificed in the Temple. The nations who troubled Israel, dispossessing them, robbed them of their burnt offering. The last burnt offering would have been sometime in 70AD when the Romans destroyed the Temple.

Isa 61:9  Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, And their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, That they are the posterity whom the LORD has blessed.”

This verse describes how the Gentile nations will look upon Israel with admiration and awe. Stop and contemplate that while thinking about the antisemitism currently sweeping the globe.

Future Israel chimes in:

Isa 61:10  I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

I am in love with this verse. It has become my go-to for explaining salvation. It’s also great for funerals.

Heaven has a dress code. The Bible presents humans as dressed in filthy rags. We need a robe, the “robe of righteousness,” to get into Heaven. When we believe God, Jesus takes upon Himself our filthy garments and freely gives us the robe of righteousness.

Isa 61:11  For as the earth brings forth its bud, As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

If you were asked to describe conditions in the future Kingdom… Righteousness & praise springing up as the fruit of the nations would do it.

Tony Stark gave Peter Parker an Amazing Spider-Man suit. Most of its power, however, was locked-up. Only as Peter matured would he earn more of its abilities. He had to deserve the suit.

Don’t think of the anointing of God as if it is locked-up, waiting for you to do something to earn it or deserve it. If you believe that, you will end up in one of two camps:

  • There are those who are not interested in a full experience of the suit. They immediately subordinate the anointing of God the Holy Spirit to their own wisdom of walking in obedience to God’s Word. They equate the word of God and the Spirit of God as one in the same. Maybe not in their doctrine, but in their practice for sure.They gleefully limit God the Holy Spirit, talking about the cessation of the Holy Spirit’s power and manifestations.
  • On the other end, there are those who are convinced that the suit does require hacking. They seek experience after experience because they believe it is the way to unlock the Holy Spirit. Their experiences get weirder and weirder, farther and farther from genuine.

You already have His anointing to live the Christian life. You can receive particular ‘anointing’ for specific tasks.

How should we then live? Be hospitable!

As a Person who indwells us, we are encouraged to show hospitality to the Holy Spirit by holding three things in our minds:

  1. Yield to Him.
  2. Don’t grieve Him.
  3. Don’t quench Him.