24 Reasons Why (Psalm 147)

Entrepreneur shares one good reason to start a business. House Digest has a good reason for keeping only one kind of seed in your bird feeder. The Law Office Of Joel R. Spivak offers one good reason to file for bankruptcy during the holidays, and Simba tells Scar to give him one good reason he shouldn’t tear him apart.

Psalm 147 is all about reasons we should praise God. In each of its three stanzas, we are told to worship God, then given the reasons why. Not just one reason, but two dozen springing from God’s power and His goodness and His activity and His tender love for the people of earth.

We don’t know who wrote this Psalm or the historical setting, but it references the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of Israel. It may be from Nehemiah’s time, when God’s people endured a great deal of hardship and uncertainty, but they were also able to see the Lord move on their behalf and draw them back into closeness and communion with Him.

Psalm 147:1 – Hallelujah! How good it is to sing to our God, for praise is pleasant and lovely.

Praising God is not just about singing but it is about singing. In worship, we bring together our voices, our hearts, our spirits, our minds, our hope, and our faith to proclaim what is true about God. We mobilize melody for the glory of God – adorning the air with honor and awe. To praise means to be deeply thankful, to magnify and exalt Him, to express joy, to shout and brag and boast about Who God is. It can be done in the quiet of our hearts, but Psalms calls us to more – to actually make music together with our voices and with instruments and even our posture.

It’s a good thing to do – pleasant and lovely. One translation says: “It is good to hymn to our God…it is sweet to adorn with praise.” Not only is God worthy of praise, but worship is good for us, too. In worship, we fulfill our priestly duties. God is looking for worshippers. It is a good thing, a pleasant thing, a lovely thing. Matthew Henry called praising God, “work that is its own wages.”

Psalm 147:2 – The Lord rebuilds Jerusalem; he gathers Israel’s exiled people.

Jerusalem was a special city to the Lord, Israel His special people. So we ask: Why was Jerusalem destroyed? Why was Israel exiled? It was because the people turned away from God. They refused to listen to Him for hundreds of years. After many warnings, after generations of long-suffering mercy, judgment came and the people were taken to Babylon. Their defiant unfaithfulness brought that disaster. And yet, God was still faithful. God still loved them and He would not abandon His promises to them. So, 70 years later, He provided for Israel to be regathered and the city of Zion to be rebuilt.

You may not know Adrian Smith, but you probably know his work. He’s the architect behind some of the most famous buildings in the world, like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It is currently the world’s tallest building, featured prominently in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. The Burj Khalifa won’t be the tallest building for much longer. That title will go to Adrian Smith’s newest megatall skyscraper, the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, which will stand 3,281 feet tall, with 165 floors.

God is a builder. Psalm 147 pictures Him building Jerusalem. What does He build today? Well, He’s building a New Jerusalem, which His people will inhabit for all eternity. You can learn about its design and structure in Revelation 21. But God is also building His Church. If you’re a Christian, the New Testament explains that you are a living stone in His construction – carefully selected, shaped, and installed among other living stones for the best harmony and growth of the Body of Christ.

God still builds using exiles. The outcasts – those driven away by an unloving world, God receives with open arms and tender care. Look at verse 3.

Psalm 147:3 – He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.

A lot of shocking footage came out of the tragic fires on Maui this summer. The worst I saw was an injured or dying woman lying by the side of the road while cars drove past. In the video, a man in a car was filming while his fellow passengers said “Just go – we can’t do nothing for her.”

There’s no footage of another woman’s experience. Flames were closing in on Lani Williams and her mother. Their only hope was to climb a seawall and wade out into the waves. But the wall was too high. Time was running out. Then a stranger appeared out of the smoke and carried the ladies over the seawall to safety. He told them, “Trust me…put your weight on me…I promise I got you.”

God loves you. He sees your hurts. He knows your wounds. Others may pass by, but He leans down to bear your burdens with His own strength. He has come to save and to rescue the broken.

One day, Jesus entered a synagogue in His home town. He opened the scroll of Isaiah and read Isaiah 61:1. “The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners.” Then He said, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”

Jesus is the Great Physician. He is the Healer, sent from heaven to bind up our wounds and heal our broken hearts. He offers you salvation, liberty, spiritual healing.

Psalm 147:4 – He counts the number of the stars; he gives names to all of them.

Scientists say there are 100 billion stars in a typical galaxy and that there are 2 trillion or so galaxies. One million earths could fit inside of our sun and five billion of our suns could fit inside the largest known star.

We are awestruck at the power of God. With a word He created these 200 billion trillion stars. He names each one and holds their atoms together. At the same time, this verse shows how great God’s care is for you. The stars were not made in His image – you were. The stars are not the special object of His attention – you are. In fact, the Bible uses the stars, all 200 billion trillion of them, as a reference for the work the Lord wants to do in your life and a marker of His love for you.

You were handcrafted by God in your mother’s womb. You are known and loved by Him. He has a special name for you. He’s numbered the hairs on your head and saves your tears in His bottle. He created the universe, vast as it is, so you might be His friend, a child in His family.

Psalm 147:5 – Our Lord is great, vast in power; his understanding is infinite.

We marvel at the skill of great athletes. I’m sure some of you have strong opinions about who the greatest to ever play your sport of choice is. We can’t help but praise their excellence. The Lord holds the cosmos together. His strength, His wisdom, His goodness cannot be measured. It’s marvelous!

Psalm 147:6 – The Lord helps the oppressed but brings the wicked to the ground.

“God helps those who help themselves” is a phrase made famous by Benjamin Franklin. The saying can be traced back as far as Sophocles in 409 B.C. But Poor Richard and the Greeks were wrong. The truth is, God helps those who cannot help themselves.

The term used for ‘help’ can mean “bind,” or “surround with ropes.” How does that help? In Hosea, the Lord tell us He binds us with ropes of love, easing our burdens, taking us by the hand. The Lord’s ropes are never meant to imprison, but to relieve and sustain – to hold us together.

But, not everyone receives this help. Psalms is very clear that there are two paths leading to two destinations: The Lord’s way, leading to life and the way of the wicked, leading to destruction.

As we look at the world, it’s easy to feel like evil people are always high above, ahead of the rest of us. But God will bring them down. He will sink their ship. The day is coming when the wrath of God will consume the wicked. Those who are not walking with God should look to the Lord for rescue from their inevitable destruction. He will save them if they will humble themselves.

Psalm 147:7 – Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; play the lyre to our God,

The “lyre” was a kinnor, which was a small harp, usually 10 strings, played with a pick. You can get a “Levite-made, Temple quality” kinnor, handcrafted in Jerusalem, carved from Israeli olivewood, inlaid with the jewels of the 12 tribes of Israel. It’ll only set you back $9,700 (plus $320 shipping).

The Psalms last mentioned lyres in chapter 137 when the exiles “hung up their lyres in the poplar trees.” Instead of worship in the Temple there was weeping in Babylon. But the Lord brings beauty from ashes. He gave His people chance to sing to Him again, to worship with their lyres.

There are Christians who say that it is wrong to use instruments in church worship. The argument is that we have no specific examples or prescriptions in the New Testament to use instruments, therefore it’s unbiblical to use them. Ephesians 5:19 is cited as proof: “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord.”

Here’s a quote from a Church of Christ pastor: “It is clear that there is no authority from God for the church to worship with a mechanical instrument of music.”

This isn’t an essential issue to us, but I will say: The Psalms are quoted dozens of times in the New Testament and, in Ephesians and Colossians, we are commanded to use the Psalms in the exercise of our Christian faith and in our church life. The Psalms were set to music, using instruments from every section of the orchestra. Not everyone plays a mechanical instrument, but we all have an instrument – our voice – and those who do play an instrument can do so to the glory of God.

Psalm 147:8-9 – who covers the sky with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, and causes grass to grow on the hills. He provides the animals with their food, and the young ravens what they cry for.

The Lord is a tender God. His care is thorough and comprehensive. One commentator points out how humans wouldn’t cultivate up on the hills, so the Lord takes it on Himself to make food for animals there. Of course, ravens don’t eat grass, so the Lord has to address their needs in a different way. But the Lord has it covered. He cares even for young ravens.

But you sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, “you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Psalm 147:10 – 10 He is not impressed by the strength of a horse; he does not value the power of a warrior.

We are impressed with horses. We still measure a car’s engine by horsepower. Man is infatuated with strength and physique. But God is not interested in those things. What is He interested in?

Psalm 147:11 – 11 The Lord values those who fear him, those who put their hope in his faithful love.

Fearing God is explained in the second line of this verse. It means to put our hope in His faithful love. Deuteronomy 10 says: “fear the Lord your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul.”

We’re invited to put our hope in God’s hesed. That’s a special term for God’s love in the Old Testament. It speaks of His merciful, compassionate, covenant love that is freely given. God values the people who accept this covenant love.

People value strange things. I found a list of odd collections. Graham Baker takes the cake with the Guinness World Record for largest collection of belly button lint. After 30 years, he has 22 grams.

God values you. He values people who accept His hesed love and love Him in return.

Psalm 147:12 – 12 Exalt the Lord, Jerusalem; praise your God, Zion!

Verse 12 turns personal: Exalt your God, Zion. You’re here, listening to this song. Is this God, so great, so good, so loving – is He your God? Do you know Him? Have you pledged yourself to Him? Have you become a citizen in His Kingdom? To be a citizen of Zion meant you were part of God’s covenant. As Christians, we, too, are members of a covenant – the new covenant brought by the blood of Jesus. We are His and He is ours.

Psalm 147:13-14 – 13 For he strengthens the bars of your city gates and blesses your children within you. 14 He endows your territory with prosperity; he satisfies you with the finest wheat.

God’s activity causes us not just to survive, but to thrive. We see pictured here civic life, family life, personal need, communal protection. Agriculture and economy and generations.

The rescued exiles would still face difficulties and enemies. They would still have needs and hardships. The Lord promised to look after them and to endow them with shalom. That’s the word that comes to us as “prosperity” there in verse 14. Your version may say “makes peace.”

God does not promise New Testament Christians that they will always be healthy and wealthy in a life of ease. But He does promise shalom from the Prince of Peace. Scholars call shalom “one of the most important theological words in the Old Testament,” and define it as “completeness, wholeness, harmony, fulfillment. That is what God wants to grow in your life. Strength and peace and satisfaction rooted in Christ Jesus, Who cares for you day by day.

Psalm 147:15 – 15 He sends his command throughout the earth; his word runs swiftly.

The Word of God is powerful. It can penetrate to the deepest part of a human heart or the furthest corner of space. It is a light for our feet and works healings among the broken. The swiftness gives us the impression of a God Who is eager to accomplish His gracious purposes on the earth. And now we Christians are enlisted to be a part of the spread of the Word of God throughout the earth.

Psalm 147:16-18 – 16 He spreads snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes; 17 he throws his hailstones like crumbs. Who can withstand his cold? 18 He sends his word and melts them; he unleashes his winds, and the water flows.

I read that some ancients referred to snow as “wooly water.” We see here a God Who is continually active in the affairs of the world. He didn’t “set it and forget it.”

Though His power is astounding, notice how He uses it at the end of verse 18: Water flows. His desire is to sustain. God wants to take your life and make it like a tree planted by rivers of water. He said to the woman at the well, “If you knew Who I was, you’d ask and I would give you living water.”

Psalm 147:19-20 – 19 He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and judgments to Israel. 20 He has not done this for every nation; they do not know his judgments. Hallelujah!

This great and active God has a special relationship with certain people. It was Israel He set apart to be His special possession among the nations. And now, we Christians have been grafted into the work. God revealed His Word and His judgments to His people. In the Bible, God’s “judgments” include all the functions of government. It means His justice, His manners and customs, His ordinances. We are not only recipients of this revelation, we are also custodians of it. We are sent to spread the word, to herald what has been revealed.

The other nations of the world, the unbelievers around us, do not know these truths. Rather than resent them for it, we should reveal to them what has been revealed to us: The living Word of God – the truth of Who God is and what He does.

Why did God call out the family of Abraham as a special group? So they could be a blessing to all the nations of the world. And now we are included in that opportunity to be light in the dark, heralds of good news in a world full of suffering and hate.

There are a lot of good reasons to praise the Lord. Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Our God is great and worthy of praise. This song which fills our mind with snow and seasons and satisfaction and stars and salvation only begins to count the reasons why we can praise our God.

But one good reason is reason enough, and we have dozens. Thousands! Day after day we can learn more of God’s graciousness, kindness, power, and love as we walk with Him and filled full with His everlasting life. And day after day we have more reason and more opportunity to praise the Lord.

Carry Off My Wayward Sons (Isaiah 38-39)

🎬 Han Solo is killed and Princess Leia continues fighting against the Empire.

🎬 John Connor becomes a new US Senator as Sarah Connor cheers for him.

🎬 Alan, Ellie and the children finally make their way to a helicopter. But the hungry T-Rex arrives just in time to kill them all in an absolute bloodbath.

Those are the proposed alternate endings to The Return of the Jedi, Terminator 2, and Jurassic Park.

Our text in Isaiah is famous for its alternate ending.

  • The LORD sent the prophet Isaiah to announce to King Hezekiah of Judah, “Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live’ ” (38:1).
  • Hezekiah prayed, and the LORD sent Isaiah back to say, “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years” (38:4-5).

The LORD chose an alternate ending in which Hezekiah doesn’t die for 15 years.

By the time we dismiss, you might think it would have been better for Hezekiah to die.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 It Is Far Better For You To Die, and #2 It Can Be Far Worse For You To Live.

#1 – It Is Better For You To Die (Chapter 38)

Before you think I’ve gone too far, remember the apostle Paul said, “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23).

King Hezekiah of Judah, a good king, was on his deathbed. I feel sorry for him – not because he was dying, but because he knew so little about death. He feared it, and that fear stoked his fervency to live.   

Isa 38:1  In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death…

“Those days” are before the LORD defeated the Assyrian army in chapter thirty-seven. Look at verse six: “I will [in the future] deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria.”

Isa 38:1  … And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’ ”

Isaiah was blunt. He worded his announcement in a way it was impossible to misunderstand. “You will die; you won’t live.”

When you talk about death, be blunt. Not rude, but straightforward and without euphemisms like, “Passed away,” or “No longer with us,” or “Gone to a better place.”

Isa 38:2  Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD,

It was the only posture Hezekiah could assume, since he was confined to his bed.

Isa 38:3  and said, “Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

God’s chosen nation of Israel was promised earthly blessings for obedience. They were promised a king and a kingdom. The kingdom promises involve real estate in the Holy Land and a physical descendant of David to sit on the throne in Jerusalem. He will rule nations of the Earth. It was therefore quite right for Hezekiah to pray as he did. He wasn’t boasting.

Hezekiah’s prayer is not a good model for us.

In the Church Age in which we live, we should not expect material and physical blessing for obedience. Our blessings are spiritual blessings in the heavenlies. God provides all we need to live godly lives as His martyrs.

We, too, anticipate the future, physical kingdom. In fact, we are told in several spots that we will rule with the Lord. But for now we are living stones, being built up as a spiritual house.

Isa 38:4  And the word of the LORD came to Isaiah, saying,

Isa 38:5  “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years.

Isa 38:6  I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city.” ’

In the parallel account in Second Kings we’re told, “And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him” (20:4).

Isa 38:7  And this is the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing which He has spoken:

Isa 38:8  Behold, I will bring the shadow on the sundial, which has gone down with the sun on the sundial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward.” So the sun returned ten degrees on the dial by which it had gone down.’

Asking for signs was common in Old Testament times. We talk more about being led as we seek the Lord in prayer and the Word.

  • God told Hezekiah he was going to die. Not just eventually, but from this illness, and soon.
  • God told Hezekiah he was not going to die; he’d be healed and have fifteen more years to live.

If you meditate on this long enough, smoke will start coming out of your ears. That might be an exaggeration; but it is quite the conundrum. There are deep theological truths to be pondered. Divine healing is one. We also see effective prayer… God’s sovereignty… God’s foreknowledge and foreordination… And God’s providence. There is a miracle thrown in, too, just for good measure.

Any attempt to reconcile “You’re going to die, You’re not going to die,” must allow for two things:

  1. Hezekiah’s condition was terminal. It was his time to die. This wasn’t a test to see what he would do or say. It wasn’t a close call, or a wake-up call. The LORD wasn’t trying to psyche him out. There is no other way to read Isaiah’s blunt announcement.
  2. God acted on Hezekiah’s prayer. He decided to add 15 years to Hezekiah’s life. His doing so was not a matter of some kind of meticulous pre-determinism. It was not inevitable, but evitable! It was, in fact, choosing an alternate ending.

Alternate endings are not infrequent in God’s Word. Jonah delivered God’s message to the city of Nineveh. “He cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

The king of Assyria led the people in repentance.  “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (3:10). It wasn’t he alternate ending Jonah wanted.

If God cannot “relent” from what He says He is going to do, does it diminish Him? It does. It means everything that happens is God’s will. Gordon H. Clark puts it like this: “If a man gets drunk and shoots his family, it was the will of God that he should do it.”

If God can “relent” from what He says He is going to do, does it diminish Him? It doesn’t. It enhances Him. It reveals that He is so GOD that His sovereignty can allow for mankind’s free will without affecting the overall program of redemption.

I don’t want to be someone who diminishes God because I need to fit Him into a system of theology.

BTW: When faced with two or more biblical alternatives on something that is nonessential, do yourself and everyone else a favor and choose one that promotes the Lord as compassionate, long-suffering with sinners, not willing that any would perish, but that all would come to eternal life.

Isa 38:9  This is the writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:

I forget that Hezekiah was musical. Some scholars believe he wrote as many as ten of the Psalms. This “writing” may be meant to be sung.

Hezekiah’s “writing” about his healing needs little commentary. I’ll highlight a few ways the Church  differs from Hezekiah’s understanding of death.

Isa 38:10  I said, “In the prime of my life I shall go to the gates of Sheol; I am deprived of the remainder of my years.”

If a believer dies young, is he or she is deprived? Entering Heaven is no deprivation. We have the revelation that God prepares a grand entrance for us.

Isa 38:11  I said, “I shall not see YAH, The LORD in the land of the living; I shall observe man no more among the inhabitants of the world.

He regretted he would no longer see God “in the land of the living.” We can’t wait until we don’t see through a glass darkly but are face-to-face with Jesus.

Hezekiah was sad because he would not “observe man… among the inhabitants of the world.” He didn’t know that he would see and fellowship with David and Abraham and Noah, etc.

Isa 38:12  My life span is gone, Taken from me like a shepherd’s tent; I have cut off my life like a weaver. He cuts me off from the loom; From day until night You make an end of me.

His life was like a well-used “shepherd’s tent.” We are all about thinking we are tents. That is, our current bodies. Unlike Hezekiah, we can’t wait to be rid of our current bodies for the new & improved eternal model. “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven” (First Corinthians 5:1-2).

When a believer dies in the Church Age, he or she is absent from their physical body, but immediately present with the Lord. We have an excitement to move on to Heaven. It is home.

Isa 38:13  I have considered until morning – Like a lion, So He breaks all my bones; From day until night You make an end of me.

One of the ways I do not want to die is having a “lion” crush my bones.

Hezekiah was experiencing 24/7 pain. He felt as though God were giving him a slow death.

Life is a slow death that can become sudden death.

We are always one heartbeat away from either death or the rapture:

  • Both can be said to be imminent.
  • Both immediately usher us into the physical presence of Jesus.

Isa 38:14  Like a crane or a swallow, so I chattered; I mourned like a dove; My eyes fail from looking upward. O LORD, I am oppressed; Undertake for me!

If you were to ask him, “How are you today?” he’d answer, “Oppressed,” as he moaned.

In verses fifteen through twenty, Hezekiah notes his response to the LORD healing him.

Isa 38:15  “What shall I say? He has both spoken to me, And He Himself has done it. I shall walk carefully all my years In the bitterness of my soul.

Isa 38:16  O Lord, by these things men live; And in all these things is the life of my spirit; So You will restore me and make me live.

Isa 38:17  Indeed it was for my own peace That I had great bitterness; But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.

Isa 38:18  For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth.

Isa 38:19  The living, the living man, he shall praise You, As I do this day; The father shall make known Your truth to the children.

Isa 38:20  “The LORD was ready to save me; Therefore we will sing my songs with stringed instruments All the days of our life, in the house of the LORD.”

Tucked away in this lyric are a number of promises Hezekiah made as his response to the LORD’s graciousness:

  • He says he will “walk carefully” in “bitterness of soul.” That is, he will take his walk seriously, and not waste the extra years God granted. Yeah, that didn’t happen.
  • He repents that “it was for his own peace” that he wanted to be healed, not for the good of the nation. Yeah, we’ll see he cares little for the nation.
  • As a “father” he would “make known” the LORD to his children. Nope. He was a complete failure there. His son Manasseh would be maybe the worst king ever, reigning for 55 years.

Isa 38:21  Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a lump of figs, and apply it as a poultice on the boil, and he shall recover.”

I have to believe they had already tried this common treatment. The LORD’s prescription, coupled with a sign, is what makes it miraculous.   

Isa 38:22  And Hezekiah had [before this] said, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?”

We’ll see the “sign” in a moment.

Hezekiah said that death cannot praise God, only a living man can (v18-19). Sure, once you’re dead, someone needs to take your place in the choir. It doesn’t mean that death is a defeat. The voices of martyrs cry out in every generation.

Our NT attitude is much different. We are to adopt the advice given by the apostle Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:21&23).

Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Never fear dying, beloved. Dying is the last, but the least matter that a Christian has to be anxious about. Fear living – that is a hard battle to fight, a stern discipline to endure, a rough voyage to undergo.”

#2 – Healing You Might Be A Problem For You (Chapter 39)

Bo Jackson, Mark Spitz, Bjorn Borg, and Joe Lewis have something in common.

They each were failures in their comeback attempts.

Hezekiah wasn’t the same after getting up from his deathbed. Knowing he had fifteen more years had a decidedly negative affect on him. He committed a huge foreign policy gaffe, and his attitude about it should shock us. As suggested earlier, it might have been better if he had died.

Isa 39:1  At that time Merodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered.

Babylon would conquer Assyria and replace her as God’s hand of discipline against the nations, including Israel.

Isa 39:2  And Hezekiah was pleased with them, and showed them the house of his treasures – the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory – all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.

US presidents are known for their policies. The New Deal, the New Frontier, the Great Society, etc. We could accurately call Hezekiah’s, the Pride Policy.

Isa 39:3  Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say, and from where did they come to you?” So Hezekiah said, “They came to me from a far country, from Babylon.”

Isa 39:4  And he said, “What have they seen in your house?” So Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them.”

He asked probing questions. Hezekiah was thus made to confess what he had done.

Isa 39:5  Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts:

Isa 39:6  ‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD.

Looking forward almost 200 years, Isaiah said Babylon would conquer Judah. The Angel of the LORD and His mighty “hosts” of angels would not engage.

Isa 39:7  ‘And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’ ”

Think about some idolatrous Babylonian monarch taking your boys, making them eunuchs, feeding them food forbidden by the Law of Moses, and demanding they worship idols. Would you be enraged? Not Hezekiah. He was ‘as cool as the other side of the pillow.’

Isa 39:8  So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!” For he said, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.”

This is top five, at least, in most selfish statements in the Bible.

What happened to the Hezekiah who went face-to-the-wall in prayer? That guy was gone. He coasted for the next fifteen years. He had guaranteed security.

  1. Have you ever said, “If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything?” You are one symptom away from a life-altering diagnosis.
  2. How about this one: “I’ve been poor, and I’ve been rich. Rich is better!” There is no security in money; not really.

Physical security can hinder your relationship with God. Prosperity is a trap.

God heals. Pray for healing, but in the context of believing that “to die is gain.”

I want to mention another, fantastic alternate ending. The apostle Paul, in First Corinthians, said: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1:9-11).

God’s gift of salvation is the alternate ending He desires for every one of us.

Prophecy Update #757 – Take Me To Your CEO

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 six, 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 potential End Times phenomena the Bible predicts. All of these are increasingly trending in the news.

I always give two disclaimers:

  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.

A recent article posted to the internet was titled, The humanoid-robot CEO of a drinks company says it doesn’t have weekends and is “always on 24/7.”


The CEO of the Polish drinks company Dictador is an AI-powered humanoid robot.

Dictador appointed the AI-powered robot, named Mika, as its experimental chief executive in August last year, and it’s not afraid to put in the hours to help the company “take over the world.”

Dictador is not the first company to make a bot its CEO. Last year, a Chinese gaming firm appointed an “AI-powered virtual humanoid robot” named Tang Yu as the chief executive of a subsidiary, Fujian NetDragon Websoft.”

The Chinese company said in their press release, “We believe AI is the future of corporate management, and our appointment of Ms. Tang Yu represents our commitment to truly embrace the use of AI to transform the way we operate our business, and ultimately drive our future strategic growth.”

AI robots were spotted hanging out among the crowd at the Week 1 NFL game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Miami Dolphins at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. These robots are not actors or people in suits, but they are real characters from the upcoming movie The Creator. Some were placed on the sideline, others were in the concourse and some simply sat in seats throughout the stadium.

One report said, “The human fans didn’t know what to think of their fellow fans, but their curiosity turned into fascination after watching them act like human fans – cheering, high-fives, back-and-forth talk – during the game.” One fan tweeted, “Got a high-five from the robot seated next to me.”

AI satisfies another last days prediction. In the last chapter of the Book of Daniel we are told that human knowledge will explode at an exponential rate. That is true of AI. So true that many are warning we will be conquered by AI.

What’s going to happen? 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!

Growing Up Godly (Ephesians 4:14-16)

Ephesians 4:14-16 – 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ. 16 From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building itself up in love by the proper working of each individual part.

Grow up! Usually, those words, come in angry or cynical tones. J.M. Barrie called growing up a “barbarous business, full of inconvenience and pimples.” If you’re at least my age you remember the happy song: “I don’t wanna grow up, ‘cuz maybe if I did, I couldn’t be a Toys-R-Us kid.”

In some ways, it seems the modern Church has decided to not grow up. The pervading style and substance of the wider Church culture is elementary, even frivolous at times – desperately youthful.

But God’s plan for us doesn’t stop at spiritual childhood. Paul says that we must grow into spiritual adulthood – we must advance to maturity, leaving childishness behind. It is essential for your spiritual safety and success. But also, the Lord tells us through His servant Paul that your maturity is vital not only for you, but for the person sitting next to you.

A church is healthy when individual members are growing together in love, truth, and application of their gifts. As they do, their lives become infused and intertwined in such a way that they strengthen and support one another and become together what a Christian cannot be alone.

Ephesians 4:14 – 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.

Just above this verse, Paul explained how, in the Church, God provides what we need to grow in our faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ and be equipped for the work of ministry.

As we apprehend what the Lord wants to do and present ourselves in cooperation, we mature. That’s how it works for every Christian. Paul includes himself here. “Then we will no longer be little children.” He didn’t class himself differently than the rest of us.

Now, you might raise your hand and say, “Aren’t we supposed to be like children? Didn’t Jesus say, ‘whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’?” He did.

Ray Stedman reminds us that there is a difference between being childish and childlike. John Stott clarifies the difference. We need to be like children in humility and innocence but not in ignorance and instability.

It’s childish ignorance and instability that Paul has in mind. It’s dangerous for us to stay spiritually childish – to be spiritually ignorant and unstable and gullible – because of the wind and the waves and the adversaries we face.

Paul begins with a picture of a ship at sea. The voyage is hard and long. In life, we sail into the unknown, trusting the heading and equipment our Father supplies. But there are troubles that slam against us on the way. If we’re not prepared for them, if we’re not spiritually strong and resilient, we’ll be blown off course. The term Paul uses for blown around means to be spun like a top.

At our extended family gatherings, we have a little one year old niece. She recently started walking. So now, she likes to traverse the living room. But it’s not terribly safe for her. We’ve got to cover up the corners of furniture with our hands. The smallest things will send her tumbling down. A sock on the rug or, sometimes, even someone just walking by her. When it’s time bring out the birthday cake with flickering candles, we don’t hand it to our niece to carry. It would be a disaster.

There are regular waves in life and rogue waves that come out of nowhere. We can’t avoid them, so we need to be ready for them. In Disney’s Moana, you may recall that Moana first tried to head out beyond the reef in her little boat. It wasn’t strong enough and she was immediately capsized. She needed a stronger ship that could handle the voyage.

God’s desire is that we grow in strength and capacity and equipment. That we be men and women who are sea-worthy and ready for the crossing, ready to be laden with spiritual freight.

After the waves, Paul warns us of winds of teaching. Throughout Church history there has been wind after wind of false teaching. The early Church had to grapple with the blowing of Gnosticism and the teachings of the Nicolaitans. There were those who demanded all Christians follow the Mosaic law. There have been many other false teachings that sweep in and blow saints off course.

It’s not just out-and-out false teachings that can cause a problem. Sometimes there are “gusts of doctrine” that hit the Church. Sometimes you can identify those by what books are super popular among Christians. In some cases, Believers can be blown around by a hyper-focus on some specific doctrine and become unbalanced in their walk with the Lord.

At those family gatherings I mentioned, we also have a four year old nephew named Charlie. I love talking to Charlie because he will believe anything I say. He’s gets excited about the birthday cake coming out and I tell him it’s a broccoli cake. I see the concern wash over his face. Right now I’m trying to convince Charlie that his elementary school needs to develop a call for their mascot. They’re the Owls, so I keep talking to him about how he needs to tell his teacher that they should have the students call out, “Mighty Owls! HOO HOO!”

On the spiritual level, these things can be very serious. One commentator notes, “There are ideas and modes of life [that lead] to shipwreck.” Paul certainly thought so. And there are adversaries actively trying to take advantage of people. Cunning, cheating, deceivers. Paul had warned the Ephesian elders to be on guard against these types in Acts 20, and it seems they took it to heart.

Decades later, when Jesus wrote another letter to this church, He said, “You guys have done a great job testing those who claim to be apostles and are not.”

False doctrine stunts growth. And we cannot afford to be stunted. Waves and wars are coming. Later in Ephesians Paul is going to talk to us about putting on armor and joining the fight against evil forces in the heavens. Toddlers can’t wear armor or swing a sword. Remember that bleak moment in The Two Towers where they have to outfit the young boys for the fight against the terrible armies of darkness? Paul says, “We need to leave spiritual childhood behind.” We need to grow up.

Of course, you can’t make yourself grow. God is the One Who will accomplish this work, but we submit to it. We present ourselves for it. We participate in it. How? Here’s some shoe leather for us:

Ephesians 4:15 – 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into him who is the head—Christ.

Paul says, “Let us grow.” It’s about being more than doing. There are things to do, but the message of Ephesians is primarily about what God has done, is doing, and is still going to do in our lives, not what we have to do to be “good Christians.” To the Philippians, Paul would write, “Let the mind of Christ be in you.” Let it happen. Don’t resist the work of the Spirit. Don’t distract yourself from God’s leading and prompting. Don’t drift toward temptations or traps along the way.

John Mackay writes, “The secret of Christian thought and life consists in the constant maintenance of closeness to Jesus Christ.” If we are close to Jesus, then He is able to do all these things He wants to do. He grows us. He equips us. He directs and sends us. He roots us. He assigns us. It all happens as we walk with Him. As we align our attitudes and actions and articulations with Christ, He grows us. Not the Christ of our own imagination, but the Christ revealed in the Living Word of God. Jesus said He came in the volume of the Book.

Paul does give a practical directive for us to cooperate with the Lord. He says, “speaking the truth in love.” Scholars tell us the words literally say, “Truthing in love, let us grow…” It involves verbal testimony, but it also means that we cherish the truth, dealing truly, and incarnating truth. Think of how Jesus is God Incarnate. Here we’re called to a life of truth incarnate. God’s truth.

If the term didn’t have so much baggage, we could say we are “truthers.” We live it out. We speak it. We cherish it. But, notice here: God’s truth is never to be used as a cudgel to attack people. Think of every political YouTube video whose title is “Liberal college student DESTROYED.” Or, “watch this person get WRECKED for their beliefs.” That approach isn’t helpful and it isn’t Godly. It feels good to our sinful hearts – that’s why our culture is saturated with hatred and disputes and altercations. Everyone wants to destroy everyone else. But, as one author notes, that kind of adversarial truth flatters our own pride. It’s a truth gone mad. It does not unite, it divides. It does not build up, it tears down. It does not include, it excludes. Our culture loves that approach to truth.

Christians are called to truth in agape. As far as God is concerned, you cannot separate one from the other. Gospel truth is always motivated by and accomplished in love- a love that always seeks the benefit of others.

A growing Christian, a believer who is walking with the Lord and having the Lord develop all the strength and joy and spiritual power that Paul has been talking about, that Christian will be someone who loves the truth and cherishes it. They will defend the truth and verbalize it to others. But their truthing will always be done in love.

We live in a time where the truth is constantly under attack. Even basic truths of reality are being besieged. How should we respond? How can we really truth in love when the attacks are so vile and so vicious? We must remember that our goal is not to destroy but to deliver. God delivered you from the lies of sin and Satan. He wants to deliver others through you, as you incarnate the truth of the Gospel, as you live it out in word and deed and attitude. That leads to deliverance.

As we grow, we develop into the image of Jesus Christ. Jesus does not need to change, we do. He is the perfect Son of God. He is the Head. It is the head where the person is found. The authority, the character, the distinctiveness is sourced from the head. And so, it is we who conform to Him.

Ephesians 4:16 – 16 From him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building itself up in love by the proper working of each individual part.

If you’ve ever watched a cooking competition show, at some point you’ve heard one of the chefs say, “It was made with love.” Unfortunately while they were mixing in ‘love’ they forgot salt. But, as God makes us, He makes us with love.

We truth in love. We’re built up in love. We are rooted and established in love. If love is lacking in our relationships with other believers or in our perspective on the unsaved, something has become disconnected in our walk with the Lord. We can’t properly work if not energized by God’s love.

Paul again highlights the importance of each other in the Church. This plan God is accomplishing has an individual aspect, but it simultaneously has an interconnected, communal aspect. God wants you to grow, but He also wants to use you to help others around you grow.

As we each develop and mature, it helps the rest of the Body of Christ function. Our maturity helps the Body be supported and gain strength and compensate for weaker members and endure difficulties. The goal of Christian maturity is building up, not tearing down. It’s so much easier to tear down, but God wants to build us up together.

Have you heard someone talk about deconstruction? Most often it refers to evangelical Christians getting rid of the truths they used to believe, getting rid of the church, and then redefining their faith, often in an individualistic sense and, usually, changing the ‘truths’ they believe to be more in step with the world’s culture. Deconstruction is not God’s goal. Self-centered, isolated Christianity is not God’s goal for you. His goal for me you and the person sitting next to you is unified growth, where individually and corporately we become more and more like the GodMan, Jesus Christ.

It’s an ongoing process. In another letter, Paul said that he hadn’t crossed the finish line yet. But knowing that this is the plan helps us stay mindful and careful. Your spiritual maturity isn’t just about you. It’s about the whole Body. Romans 12 tells us, “we are individually members of one another.”

But the good news is that the pressure isn’t on us. The pressure is on the Lord. It’s His work. It’s His project. “From Him,” Paul says, the Body is supplied with what it needs to grow. The term Paul uses refers to someone who pays the cost for a chorus at a public festival or to making provisions for an army or an expedition.

We are Christ’s Body left on earth as a chorus of praise, as an army of light, sent on an expedition to the corners of the earth proclaiming the truth, making disciples and becoming stronger as we go.

I have a part in this unfolding work. So do you. Together we are a new humanity, the “third race.” It’s time to grow up. God wants each of us and all of us to develop in our understanding, our knowledge of spiritual things, our stability in Christ, our power to endure the winds and the waves. He will do it if we’ll let Him. And we’ll all be the better as each is made better by His work.

My God’s Better Than Your gods, My God’s Better Than Yours My God’s Better ‘Cause He Rules Over Nations My God’s Better Than Yours (Ephesians 37:21-38)

It was the only two-part episode in the original Star Trek series.

The Menagerie told the story of Captain Christopher Pike’s encounter with the Talosians – humanoid aliens with the power to create illusions indistinguishable from reality.

They kidnap Pike hoping he will mate with a beautiful woman, Vina, and produce a race of slaves who will reclaim the war-damaged surface of their planet, Talos IV.

Pike outsmarts them. Before he beams back to the USS Enterprise, Pike is shown that Vina’s beautiful appearance is an illusion. In reality she was severely injured in a crash and was terribly deformed. Vina elects to stay on the planet where she will continue in the illusion.

Fast forward a few years. Pike suffers an accident that leaves him a scarred head sticking out of a fully enclosed wheelchair. He can answer“Yes” or “No” with the aid of a device operated by his brainwaves. Mr. Spock risks his career to return Pike to Talos IV where he and Vina can be together enjoyng the illusion of perfect health.

Pike looked upon Vina and did not see her true condition; He saw her as beautiful.

In verse twenty-two God is talking to the King of Assyria and says, “The virgin, the daughter of Zion, Has despised you, laughed you to scorn; The daughter of Jerusalem Has shaken her head behind your back!”

The LORD compares the Jews to a beautiful virgin who has the maturity to reject King Sennacherib of Assyria as a thoroughly unworthy suitor.

God looked upon the Jews and did not see them in their true condition; He saw  them as beautiful, pure, and virginal.

In their case, it was no illusion. In response to King Hezekiah’s repentance for himself and the nation the LORD cleansed them and restored them.

Concerning us, one commentator put it this way: “When we come to Jesus for salvation, we are made completely new. We are said to be ‘in’ Christ. We are reconciled with God and counted as righteous before Him. Rather than seeing our sinfulness, God sees the righteousness of His Son.”

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Will Be The Object Of The World’s Rage, and #2 You Are The Object Of The Lord’s Rapture.

#1 – You Will Be The Object Of The World’s Rage (v21-29)

Unruly airline passengers, disorderly customers, enraged drivers – it’s all on easily accessible video.

  • The last time I was at the DMV there were notices posted about what will happen if you become unruly.
  • At our veterinarian’s office there are notices to remain calm lest you be asked to leave and never return.

Psalm 2 asks and answers, “Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed” (v1&2).

King Sennacherib was angry. Twice in these verses God mentioned his “rage” (v28&29). He is typical of both the anger of nations against God and of individual unbelievers who think themselves as their own ‘gods.’

Let’s get up to speed. The Assyrian army was camped outside the walls of Jerusalem. Their negotiator had urged them to surrender, mocking and ridiculing the idea the the LORD would deliver them. A second contact was made by a letter sent from Sennacherib to Hezekiah. It was full of boasting, bloviating, blathering, blustering, braggadocio, bravado, bragging, bullying, blithering, babbling, and blasphemy.

Hezekiah sent his team to see Isaiah and get the LORD’s direction. He took Sennacherib’s letter and spread it out before the LORD. He prayed, wearing sackcloth, indicating his repentance.   

Isa 37:21  Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria,

Isa 37:22  this is the word which the LORD has spoken concerning him: “The virgin, the daughter of Zion, Has despised you, laughed you to scorn; The daughter of Jerusalem Has shaken her head behind your back!

We’ve talked about God’s seemingly off-topic answers to prayer and queries. When Joshua asked the Angel of the Lord if He was for or against Israel in the battle for Jericho, He answered, “No.”

In His typically wonderful way, the LORD’s answer to Hezekiah was, “You are my beautiful virgin daughter.”

If you think about it, that was an answer. It was the most incredible answer. Since God saw Judah that way, of course He was going to intervene to keep His promises to them.

We’ve all heard some variation of, “God always answers your prayers one of three ways: Yes, No, or Wait.” That’s not wrong. Better is to expect the Lord to answer with some articulation of His love for you, His mercy, His grace, and your future with Him.

Isa 37:23  “Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice, And lifted up your eyes on high? Against the Holy One of Israel.

Sennacherib did not make the blunder of getting involved in a land war in Asia. But he did err in thinking the God of Israel was another local deity, no different from the so-called ‘gods’ of the nations he had easily conquered.

Isa 37:24  By your servants you have reproached the Lord, And said, ‘By the multitude of my chariots I have come up to the height of the mountains, To the limits of Lebanon; I will cut down its tall cedars And its choice cypress trees; I will enter its farthest height, To its fruitful forest.

Isa 37:25  I have dug and drunk water, And with the soles of my feet I have dried up All the brooks of defense.’

Sennacherib was starting to see himself as what we would call a demigod:

  • He pictured himself using all the best cedars of Lebanon to build his kingdom.
  • He pictured himself stepping into the rivers associated with nations, e.g., the Nile, and absorbing their power.

Isa 37:26  “Did you not hear long ago How I made it, From ancient times that I formed it? Now I have brought it to pass, That you should be For crushing fortified cities into heaps of ruins.

Isa 37:27  Therefore their inhabitants had little power; They were dismayed and confounded; They were as the grass of the field And the green herb, As the grass on the housetops And grain blighted before it is grown.

Clubber Lang was a hungry-for-a-shot-at-the-title boxer. He accused Rocky of ducking a title fight with him, calling the champs opponents “chumps.” Rocky’s manager, Mick, reluctantly confirmed it.

The LORD told Sennacherib that all the nations he had defeated were chumps. Not only that, verse twenty-six establishes that the reason Assyria had been successful was because the LORD chose her at His discretion to discipline other nations.

Isa 37:28  “But I know your dwelling place, Your going out and your coming in, And your rage against Me.

Isa 37:29  Because your rage against Me and your tumult Have come up to My ears, Therefore I will put My hook in your nose And My bridle in your lips, And I will turn you back By the way which you came.” ’

Instead of being humbled that the LORD had chosen him to serve as His arm of discipline, Sennacherib turned against Him. His “rage” grew. God would deal with him.

The LORD describes His efforts to direct Sennacherib two ways: “A hook in the nose,” and a “bridle” in his lips. It’s what you would have seen from Heaven’s point of view.

In the previous verses, Sennacherib heard a rumor and a spirit from the LORD troubled him. He thus returned to Nineveh. It is a picture for us of God’s interventions into human history to accomplish the program of redeeming the human race.

God is over every nation. That does not mean nations have no free will or responsibility. I’ve referred to Jeremiah 18:7-10 many times in our studies in Isaiah. Jeremiah conveys that God’s actions toward a nation or people are contingent on their behavior, implying that if they turn from evil, He may relent from harm, but if they do evil, He may reconsider blessings promised to them.

The Lord is coming to establish a physical, one thousand year rule over the nations. We call it the Millennium, or the Millennial Kingdom. We are premillennial, meaning the Lord will return before those thousand years.

Jesus is not currently ruling the way He will when He physically returns. For one thing, it is very obvious that the devil is not confined the way he will be during the Millennium. Nevertheless He is over the nations when it comes to furthering and fulfilling His plan of redeeming the human race and His creation.

Have you heard of the ‘Romans Road to Salvation’? It is a set of verses from the Book of Romans that many believers share when witnessing.

Unbelievers can develop severe ‘Romans road rage’ against us.

#2 – You Are The Object Of The Lord’s Rapture (v30-38)

“Rapture” is how we describe Jesus returning to take the Church home before the 7yr Time of Jacob’s Trouble that is more commonly called the Great Tribulation.

Today we are using the word in its ordinary meaning, ecstatic joy or delight; joyful ecstasy. A variant is “enraptured,” meaning delight beyond measure.

You are the delight of Jesus; He is enraptured with you.

Isa 37:30  “This shall be a sign to you: You shall eat this year such as grows of itself, And the second year what springs from the same; Also in the third year sow and reap, Plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them.

Life would get back to normal. Normal is good. The final line in The Lord of the Rings, uttered by Sam, is, “Well, I’m back.” Back to normal.

Isa 37:31  And the remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah Shall again take root downward, And bear fruit upward.

Their most important growth would not be agricultural. It would be spiritual and individual. Their spiritual “roots” will go “downward” and deep, and they will bear much “fruit”

It’s fun to play with the wording:

  1. “If you’re rooted, you’ll be fruited.”
  2. “No root, no fruit.”
  3. “Take root, Bear fruit.”
  4. “If you’re root-n’, you’ll be fruit-tootin’ ”

Isa 37:32  For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, And those who escape from Mount Zion. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

This verse seems out of context. The LORD has been describing the 8th century invasion of Assyria. In the next verse, thirty-three, He clearly continues to address the current situation. But in verse thirty-two the “remnant” is going “out” from “Mount Zion” to “escape.”

We jump forward to a future time when a remnant of Jews will need to make a rapid escape from Jerusalem. Jesus told it this way:

Mat 24:15  “Therefore when you see the ‘ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand),

Mat 24:16  “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

Mat 24:17  Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.

Mat 24:18  And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

Mat 24:19  But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

Mat 24:20  And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

Mat 24:21  For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

In the Revelation we are told that at that future time, the devil will be cast down to earth and being “enraged” he seeks to exterminate the Jews (12:12-17). “Why do the nations rage?” They take on the likeness of the god of this world

For the space of one verse, Isaiah transports the Jews to their far-future, to the last 1260 days prior to the return of the King. At the very mid-point of the Tribulation, the antichrist reveals his intention to murder every Jew. God protects them – a remnant. At His return, “all Israel is saved.”

Isa 37:33  “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not come into this city, Nor shoot an arrow there, Nor come before it with shield, Nor build a siege mound against it.

Isa 37:34  By the way that he came, By the same shall he return; And he shall not come into this city,’ Says the LORD.

Isa 37:35  ‘For I will defend this city, to save it For My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’ ”

What does King David have to do with this? God made an unconditional covenant with David. God promised David and Israel that the Messiah would come from the lineage of David and the tribe of Judah and would establish a kingdom that would endure forever. The LORD’s intervention in the 8th century kept this and the other covenants intact.

Isa 37:36  Then the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses – all dead.

The “Angel of the LORD” was an appearance of Jesus before His incarnation as the God-man.

My favorite non-explanation of what occurred is that there was an infestation of rats, carrying something like the Plague. They fatally bit the soldiers.

Could that be what happened? Sure. It’s too bad we always think we need to have a natural explanation for the miraculous.

Isa 37:37  So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh.

Isa 37:38  Now it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place.

What does Ararat suggest to you? It is the traditional resting place of Noah’s Ark.

Get this: Rabbis have passed down a story that “Nisroch” is said to be derived from the Hebrew word “neser.” “Neser” was the name given to a plank of wood discovered by Sennacherib on his return to Assyria. As the legend goes, the plank was originally part of Noah’s Ark. Upon his return, Sennacherib worshiped it as an idol.

On her wedding day, quadriplegic Joni Eareckson felt terribly awkward. Her bridesmaids struggled to get her paralyzed body into her wedding gown. This is how she described it:

“No amount of corseting and binding my body gave me a perfect shape. The dress just didn’t fit well. Then, as I was wheeling into the church, I glanced down and noticed that I’d accidentally run over the hem of my dress, leaving a greasy tire mark. My paralyzed hands couldn’t hold the bouquet of daisies that lay off-center on my lap. And my chair, though decorated for the wedding, was still a big, clunky gray machine with belts, gears, and ball bearings. I certainly didn’t feel like the picture-perfect bride in a bridal magazine.

“I inched my chair closer to the last pew to catch a glimpse of Ken in front. There he was, standing tall and stately in his formal attire. I saw him looking for me, craning his neck to look up the aisle. My face flushed, and I suddenly couldn’t wait to be with him. I had seen my beloved. The love in Ken’s face had washed away all my feelings of unworthiness. I was his pure and perfect bride.”

Jesus is more than waiting for you:

  • He is, right now, “[sanctifying] and [cleansing you] with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26).
  • He is at any moment coming for you, to “present [you] to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that [you] should be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27).   
  • He will return with us. William MacDonald writes, “When He returns with you, amazed onlookers will gasp as they see what He has been able to do with such unpromising human beings!”

I once called the ‘Romans Road’ an on-ramp. It gets you onto the narrow way that is life. If you are not a believer, listen carefully to these directions to Heaven: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Prophecy Update #756 – The G

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 six, 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 potential End Times phenomena the Bible predicts. All of these are increasingly trending in the news.

I always give two disclaimers:

  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.

Two-thousand years ago the Bible predicted that there will be a global, totalitarian government. The global economy will be cashless, accessed by a personal identifier involving the hand or forehead. At the mid-point of the 7yr Great Tribulation, the leader we know as the antichrist will demand that everyone acknowledge that he is ‘God.’ Those who refuse will be unable to participate in the system of commerce and government. They will, in fact, be hunted and killed.

All of those predictions seem to be converging.

The G20, or “Group of 20,” is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 sovereign countries, the European Union (EU), and the African Union (AU). It works to address major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial and climate change.

A recent article was titled, G20 Announces Plan to Impose Digital Currencies and IDs Worldwide.


The leaders of the Group of 20 nations have agreed to a plan to eventually impose digital currencies and digital IDs on their respective populations, amid concern that governments might use them to monitor their people’s spending and crush dissent.

The G20, which is made up of the world’s leading rich and developing nations and is currently under India’s presidency, adopted a final declaration on the subject over the weekend in New Delhi.

The group announced last week that they had agreed to build the necessary infrastructure to implement digital currencies and IDs. The European Union is currently trying to introduce a bloc-wide “digital identity” app that would consolidate various personal information, including passports, driver’s licenses, and medical history.

In the first sentence the reporter said there is “a plan to eventually impose” this on everyone. A forced system of global commerce and citizenship is exactly what is predicted in the Bible.

The British are imposing climate change mandates upon its citizens. If you have been to London recently you saw signs for Ulez. It stands for “Ultra low emissions zone.” The authorities publish a list of vehicles that meet the emissions and safety standards required to drive in London. If your car does not, you must pay a little over $15.00 per day. To monitor the new zone, Transport for London (TfL) said it would install 2,750 cameras across outer London. As of mid-August, 1,900 cameras had been placed, almost 70% of the total number planned.

President Biden said he plans to request additional funding from Congress for the development of a new COVID19 vaccine, adding he may require everyone to take it whether they previously received a vaccine or not.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has determined that we have fewer than 10 years to reduce global emissions by half to avoid the worst impacts of catastrophic climate change. To tackle this urgent need, they say we must align food policy with climate policy and drastically reduce the amount of meat and dairy produced. This is especially true for countries with high consumption, like the United States. Cutting 90% of beef consumption and replacing 50% of other animal-based foods with plant-based foods in the United States would save more than 2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions from being released into our atmosphere by 2030.

We are rushing headlong into the tyrannical

one-world that is predicted in the Bible

If polls are correct, most of the people in the world favor it. How much more of this trend will we see? That is impossible to predict.

What we do know is this: 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 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!

He Thinks You’re God’s Gift To Mankind (Ephesians 4:7-13)

Ephesians 4:7-13 – Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. For it says:  When he ascended on high, he took the captives captive; he gave gifts to people. But what does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower parts of the earth?, 10 The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, to fill all things. 11 And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

Do you know someone who acts like they’re God’s gift to mankind? Usually they have an inflated ego and overestimate their contribution to the world around them.

Paul has been describing the wealth of our salvation and our membership in the Body of Christ. We find ourselves in a curious position because, on the one hand, he just finished saying we should be humble – not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. But tonight he explains that you are God’s gift to the Church and to mankind by extension.

This knowledge shouldn’t result in human arrogance, but in heavenly activity. Paul alluded to this back in chapter 3 where he said, “God has given me as a gift on your behalf. My imprisonment, the mysteries revealed to me, my preaching in Ephesus, is all part of God’s gracious gifting.”

If you are a member of the Body, you are a special part in God’s plan – a specially tailored gift prepared for the benefit of the Church.

Ephesians 4:7 – Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

We’ve been learning about how we are part of a great, unified work God accomplishes through history. But, that doesn’t mean you’re simply a cog in His cosmic machine or some a worker ant carrying your load. The queen ant doesn’t care when a few of her workers get stepped on. They’re immediately replaced and forgotten.

But that’s not God’s mindset toward you. Verse 7 brings out the distinct specificity of God’s plan.

The New Living Translation brings us verse 7 this way: “He has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.” There is no Christian who God does not give a special, personalized gift. Not buffet style. Not out of the leftover bin. Handcrafted and designed for you.

Why does God gift us? He gifts us for the common good – so we can bless others and build the Church. That’s the message of Ephesians 4 and Romans 12 and 1 Peter 4. There Peter says:

1 Peter 4:10a – 10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others

In those passages we find that there are all sorts of different gifts. Different activities that enhance our lives but are primarily for others. They are given out of God’s grace.

We think of the wonderful generosity of God’s saving grace. Paul talked a lot about it in the opening chapters of this book. But not only is there saving grace, there is also serving grace. Just as powerful, just as loving, just as precious as God’s grace that washes away our sin.

When God gives a gift, it is not according to your ability. What did Karl Marx teach? “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” If you don’t have ability, you’ve got problems. That’s not how God operates. He gives based off the measure of Christ’s gift. He gives from His stores of grace. In chapter 3, we were told that God’s riches are incalculable. In chapter 1 we were told that the Lord lavishly pours out His gifts on us.

As you walk with God you are overflowed with His matchless grace to do all He has for you to do.

Ephesians 4:8 – For it says: When he ascended on high, he took the captives captive; he gave gifts to people.

Scholars spend a lot of pages arguing about verses 8 through 13. There’s disagreement over just about every phrase. Sometimes they can’t even agree on how many disagreements there are! Who are the captives? What is meant by ascended and descended? Are pastors and teachers one group or two groups or a group within another group?

The main controversy is in verse 8 and it’s worth mentioning because it looks like Paul purposefully misquotes the Scripture he’s referencing. In your Bible, you undoubtedly have a little note telling you that Paul is quoting Psalm 68:18. The problem is, it looks like Paul made 5 minor and 2 major changes to the verse. For example, it looks like he changed “received” gifts to “gave” gifts.

Messing with Scripture is a big no-no. You don’t add or take away from the Word of God. Paul warned the Ephesians about false teachers coming in and “distorting” the truth. Peter also warned about people twisting the Scriptures. So what’s going on here?

Some say he was quoting an early hymn. Some say he was quoting a traditional paraphrase influenced by rabbinic tradition. Some suggest Paul just remembered the verse wrong!

The most reasonable explanation is that Paul is not specifically quoting Psalm 68:18, but is summarizing the whole Psalm. At its end, we’re told that God give gifts in addition to receiving them. So Paul is absolutely in line with what the Holy Spirit inspired David to write.

The important idea in the Psalm and in Paul’s usage of it is that Christ is absolutely victorious over all enemies and He has total power and authority to rule this universe according to His will.

In verse 8, we see Christ victorious in a triumphal parade. In the Roman empire, after a great military victory, they would host a celebration parade called a triumph. The commander would lead wearing a crown and a purple garment in a four-horse chariot. Behind him came his army, his captives, and the spoils of war.

Are the captives Satan and his minions, forever defeated? Or is it us, those who were once enslaved to sin, doomed to die, now liberated by the King of kings? Both are realities of Christ’s triumph. We are His plunder – bought with His blood – wrenched from the grip of sin and ushered into the Kingdom of Righteousness. We who were once enemies now citizens and sons.

There’s a sweet thing here. Where we read “He took captives captive,” the words can be translated, “[He] captured a catch.” You are a catch in God’s eyes! A pearl of great price. Worth all He has to make His own.

He catches you with His love, gives you gifts, and then gifts you as a gift to others.

Ephesians 4:9-10 – But what does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower parts of the earth?, 10 The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, to fill all things.

Paul is speaking about Christ here. In chapter 1 Christ is identified as the One who fills all things.

Where did Jesus “descend” to? Not to hell. If you’re familiar with the Apostle’s Creed, you know that it says, “[Christ] was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell.” That gives the wrong impression that Christ suffered in the Lake of Fire. That’s not what hell means in the Creed.

In the Bible there are different terms for what might be generally called the underworld or the abode of the dead. There is Gehenna, which is the Lake of Fire. There is also Hades, which is a place where dead but not-yet-resurrected people go or used to go. It was divided into two parts, one for the righteous, one for the wicked. The wicked side is still inhabited. The righteous side is empty.

After His crucifixion, Jesus went to the good side of Hades, called Paradise. Remember what He said to the thief beside him: “Today you will be with Me in paradise.”

Why did Jesus descend from heaven? Why did He ascend back to heaven? Wouldn’t in be better for Him to just live in power with us here and now? Well, one day He will. But first He has ascended above all the heavens. He has done these things to save us. To bridge the gap.

There is such a wide separation between holy God and sinful man. We have no hope, no future, unless God Himself closes that gap. And so, out of love, He came down, made a way, provides a path for us and now prepares a place for us in eternity.

Sometimes it’s hard for us to get up off the couch for the ones we love, isn’t it? But, oh the things God has done for you and me. He descended from heaven itself, came to a devastated earth, descended into the grave, defeated death, all so that we could be saved from our guilt.

He did the impossible and now continues His work to fill all things. He doesn’t hang out a sign that says “Gone fishin’!” He says, “Still filling!”

Are you filled? Are you reconciled with this Savior? Are you on a the path that leads to life?

Paul reveals not only the selfless love of God, but also His singular power. You see, in the Roman mind, there was a tenuous balance of power between the gods who didn’t really like each other and didn’t necessarily like human beings. Sometimes the gods would invade and do things. For example, in Roman mythology, the god Hades once invaded the overworld in order to kidnap Persephone, the daughter of Zeus. This led to famine for mankind.

Paul cuts through all of that and says, “This is the deal: There is an underworld, but it’s not what your mythology teaches. There’s One God. He rules everything. He descended, He ascended, and nothing can stop Him. There’s no instability in His power. In fact, Jesus’ resurrection and ascension proves once and for all that He is exactly Who He said He was and He is now at the right hand of the Father, ruling and reigning forever and ever.”

Ephesians 4:11 – 11 And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,

We sometimes refer to these as offices in the Church, but let’s remember how Paul has been describing things. He wants us to think about the Church as a body. Every Christian is a member of this Body, which has all sorts of purposes and functions. Paul uses this list as an example of some of the gifts God gives to His people. It’s not a comprehensive list. Where are the deacons? Where are the elders? Where are the miracles? Where is the hospitality?

It’s not meant to be a rigid list. Instead, we can think of the organs of a body. Each one has a special function, but it must be integrated into the whole. We may have great affection for the heart, but the heart is of no use if you have no lungs. Each is needful and special and works with its own ability but as part of the harmonious whole.

We should note that everyone on Paul’s list is involved in proclaiming the Word of God. So we must always come back to that. The world needs a lot of help. Our fellow Christians need a lot of help. But we always have to come back to the primacy of the preaching of the Word of God. That is the greatest activity we can be involved in.

Paul’s list isn’t comprehensive, and it also isn’t mutually exclusive. Paul could be given every one of the titles he listed. And it’s not something you pick, like a major in college. It is Christ Who gives these gifts to the Church. It’s His decision. It’s His design. You do not pick your calling, you hear your calling and answer it and walk worthy of it.

God gifts people and fashions a life for them as a gift to the Church because He knows what is needed in a certain time and place. This is the way he has decided to advance His work. Through people like you and me who He fills up with grace and then tailors to certain good works in a certain time and a certain place among certain people. People who are called and sent and live in the power of His salvation, which operates in love and grace and truth.

Here’s why God gifts people to the Church:

Ephesians 4:12 – 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,

You come to church for a variety of reasons. You come to offer worship to God. You come to be encouraged by the company of your spiritual family. But God says a major reason why you and I come to church is so that we can be equipped to do the work of ministry.

Equipped is a rich term. It can mean mended or restored. Outside the New Testament, it was used in medical writings for the straightening or setting of a joint or broken bone. It describes a the preparation of the weaving of a garment. It also can be translated as “perfected.”

It is absolutely mind-blowing that God uses you and me in His work of perfecting His people. We are agents of His sanctification in the lives of others. This is another reason why actually being connected to a local church fellowship is so essential. You can’t do this part of Christianity alone!

We need to be equipped for the work of ministry. The term he uses for ministry is diakonia. THERE are the deacons! All of us! All called to be like Stephen and Phoebe and the others listed in the New Testament. People who had a good reputation and were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, who proclaimed the Word of God boldly, and were given special duties of serving those in need in their community.

All of us are meant to be growing in that ministry, that walk of faith. Paul says God gifts each of us to the Church so that it can grow and strengthen and develop in these grace-filled ways.

Ministry is not about magnifying an individual. It’s about Church growth. What kind of Church growth?

Ephesians 4:13 – until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

This is the goal. Not a bigger building. Not a beefier bank account. Church growth is about the health of the Body (capital B), not the number of bodies in seats. Now, there’s nothing wrong with God adding to the Church as He sees fit. But our ministry goal is given to us right here: Unity in faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ and growing into maturity.

We’re to measure our health using Christ as the standard, not worldly standards of growth. The goal is that we would be growing into Him, and that we would be doing it with others. This takes us back to what Paul said about unity in the previous verses. If I’m not being built up in my faith and knowledge of God’s Son, if I’m not maturing, on some level the whole body suffers.

So I’m part of the whole, but I’m an individual, specific part. A special part. I have this individual duty, a personal walk to walk, and as I do that I not only get filled up with grace and strength, but I then become a beneficial organ in the Body of Christ. I become part of the mission to reach unity. That’s a term the book of Acts uses to describe travelers arriving at their destination. I become part of the equipping process that God accomplishes through His people, one to another. It cannot be done in isolation. It cannot be done if I detach myself from the assembly of Believers. It is done in the Body, for the Body, by the Body as the grace and power of God unites and infuses us.

God has gifted you. He’s carved out a path for your life. But, we’ve seen here, God has tailored you as a gift to His Church. He’s gone to considerable trouble to install power and purpose in your life. To not only deliver you from sin, but to deliver you as a blessing to His Body.

While we recognize that it’s all the Lord’s doing and cultivate humility, it is important to understand that you are God’s gift to the Church. Just like Paul was important to the Ephesians, like Stephen was important to the Hellenistic widows of Jerusalem, like Phoebe was important to the church in Cenchreae, you are important to the life of the Church where God wants you to attach yourself.

Fearful Days Are Gone, He’s-a-Goin’ Home, Sennacherib Just-a Wrote Me A Letter (Isaiah 37:1-20)

Bud Light took a beating over its decision to partner with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

It is one of the more dramatic examples of the phenomena that is Cancel Culture. One definition of it explains, “Cancel Culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (thereby canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive. Cancel Culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming.”

It may be a recent social media phenomena but Cancel Culture got its start  6000 years ago in the Garden of Eden.

The devil came to our parents and challenged God’s Word. He accusingly asked, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ ” He answered his own accusation, saying, “God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Adam and Eve didn’t know the extent of their disobedience, but it was an attempt to cancel God and be like Him. Instead they became more like the devil.

King Sennacherib of Assyria wrote a letter to King Hezekiah of Judah. The pagan king announced his intention to ‘cancel’ the Jews.

The LORD intervened in a big way. Hezekiah exercised a simple faith in the LORD. We’re going to call it, Conquer Culture.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 The Devil Wants To Cancel You, and #2 The Lord Wants To Conquer-ize You.

#1 – The Devil Wants To Cancel You (v1-13)

The devil is acknowledged as the god of this world. As if that isn’t bad enough, we see evidence in the Bible that of created angels threw in with him in his rebellion against God. He is aided & abetted by “principalities… powers… the rulers of the darkness of this age… [and] spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 6:12).

Previously in Isaiah… The Assyrian army marched to Jerusalem, destroying 46 outlying cities along their way. They surrounded the city with 185,000 of the most savage, barbaric warriors ever fielded. A spokesman for the King of Assyria, titled “the Rabshakeh,” had parleyed with representatives of King Hezekiah of Judah. The Assyrian taunted, ridiculed, mocked, and in every way possible belittled the Jews and any trust they might put in God.

Believers in Jesus Christ are constantly besieged. Human wisdom in the form of religions, philosophies, politics, and psychologies continue to announce the supposed cancellation of biblical Christianity.

King Hezekiah’s representatives returned and reported to him what had occurred.

Isa 37:1  And so it was, when King Hezekiah heard it, that he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD.

  • The tearing of clothing is an outward representation of the rending of your heart.
  • Sackcloth was a type of cloth made of black goat’s hair that was thick, rough, and coarse material.

I came across a 2022 article in which the author said, “I believe that it is time to revive this ancient practice of wearing sackcloth.” He went on to suggest a way we can do it:

“One way to begin with wearing sackcloth is to cut out a small square of sackcloth and attach it to your clothing with a safety pin, much in the way that small ribbons have been worn at different times to raise awareness.”

What do you think?

Isa 37:2  Then he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz.

Isa 37:3  And they said to him, “Thus says Hezekiah: ‘This day is a day of trouble and rebuke and blasphemy; for the children have come to birth, but there is no strength to bring them forth.

They sought out God’s prophet. Remember when US presidents sought out Billy Graham? From Harry Truman to Barack Obama – 12 presidents, spanning an almost unbelievable 67yrs. He warned of judgment if we failed to repent as a nation.

He had an anointing. It is troubling that there was no one to take up his ‘mantle’ (so to speak). President Trump’s spiritual advisor was Paula White, a woman pastor who teaches the health & wealth false gospel. That troubles me.

If God did not intervene against Assyria, it would constitute a failed birth. It’s more than an illustration. In the Book of the Revelation, there is a terrifying scene in which a great red dragon seeks to devour a child that was to be born. The child is born and caught-up to Heaven. The woman flees into the wilderness where she is kept safe for the next 3½yrs, despite the dragon’s best efforts to murder her (12:1-6).

The Bible identifies the dragon as Satan; the woman as the nation of Israel; her child as Jesus; the 3½yrs as the last half of the Great Tribulation. Satan will try one more time to exterminate every Jew. God preserves His remnant. When that time ends, and Jesus returns, all Israel who survives will be saved.

If the 8th century Jews fell to Assyria, the future birth depicted in the Revelation would be in jeopardy.

Isa 37:4  It may be that the LORD your God will hear the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to reproach the living God, and will rebuke the words which the LORD your God has heard. Therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.’ ”

Don’t make too much of Hezekiah identifying the LORD as “your God.” He was saved. “Your God” acknowledges the truth that Isaiah had been faithful for many decades, while the Jews were stiff-necked idol worshippers.

God always acts to spare a “remnant” of Jews. National, ethnic Israel is central to human history and a future Kingdom of God on the Earth.

Isa 37:5  So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah.

Isa 37:6  And Isaiah said to them, “Thus you shall say to your master, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me.

“Do not fear,” or “fear not,” or “do not be afraid” occur a lot in the Bible. It ought to become easier & easier for us to believe it.

Everyone knows the famous presidential encouragement, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Is that true? It sounds like something the Sphinx would say in the film, Mystery Men.

Jesus gave us His bottom line on fear when He said, “Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into Hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5). If you are not in Christ, you should lose control of your muscles and bodily functions at the prospect of an eternity of conscious torment in the Lake of Fire.

Isa 37:7  Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.”

God sent a spirit:

  1. First, the spirit did not possess him. It influenced him.
  2. Second, this was a war-time secret operation that the LORD green lit.

How many films have you seen, or documentaries, about wartime secret missions that trick the enemy?There’s one out now, Operation Mincemeat. It depicts the successful British WWII deception operation disguising the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily.

Isa 37:8  Then the Rabshakeh returned [home], and found the king of Assyria warring against Libnah, for he heard that he had departed from Lachish.

Isa 37:9  And the king heard concerning Tirhakah king of Ethiopia, “He has come out to make war with you.” So when he heard it, he sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying,

Isa 37:10  “Thus you shall speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying: ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, “Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.”

Isa 37:11  Look! You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by utterly destroying them; and shall you be delivered?

Isa 37:12  Have the gods of the nations delivered those whom my fathers have destroyed, Gozan and Haran and Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar?

Isa 37:13  Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?’ ”

Sennacherib’s return to Nineveh was a sign to Judah that God’s prophecy of Jerusalem’s safety was trustworthy.

I’d bet most of us have received a letter that troubled us deeply:

  • Maybe it was a notice of Eviction or Foreclosure.
  • Maybe it was a proverbial ‘pink slip’ in your paycheck, informing you that your employment was terminated.
  • Maybe you were served with divorce papers.
  • Maybe it was your medical test results, confirming a terminal diagnosis.

Have you ever used the designation, In care of? It means you are sending the letter or package to an addressee that is accepting it for someone else. People often use the abbreviation c/o.

These types of letters are addressed to Jesus c/o His followers.

They are attacks on Him – on His character, on His nature. The enemy wants to get at Him through you. Times I have faith, if I receive, say, a pink slip, I immediately go to the Lord and say, “This is for You!”

Cast your cares upon Jesus, because He cares for you.

#2 – The Lord Will Conquer-ize You (v14-20)

Read verse thirty-six. “Then the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses – all dead” (v36).

That’s some successful Conquer Culture!

If you are saved in Christ, the apostle Paul proclaimed, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Wow! I’m a conqueror. Gene the Conqueror.

But what are “all these things” I conquer?

Paul listed “Tribulation… distress… persecution… famine… nakedness… peril, or sword? As it is written: “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE KILLED ALL DAY LONG; WE ARE ACCOUNTED AS SHEEP FOR THE SLAUGHTER” (8:35-36).

These things, and others like them, are not conquered by avoidance. They are conquered by acceptance. Paul wrote about a severe trial, calling it a thorn in his flesh. When God told Paul it was His Will for him, Paul enjoyed the Lord’s enabling to have joy and testify of His everlasting love. That’s why I coined the word, conquer-ized. I don’t conquer apart from God’s empowering & enabling. I am rendered a conqueror, made one, by Jesus.

Take the case of the first Church Age martyr, Stephen the Deacon. As rocks pelted his body, “he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:59-60).

Stephen acted like a believer. He could because he received the Holy Spirit’s permanent indwelling when he believed.

We have, too! (More on that in a minute)

Isa 37:14  And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD.

He put on his best sackcloth, then took it to the Temple and said, “LORD, this came in care of me for You!”

Isa 37:15  Then Hezekiah prayed to the LORD, saying:

Isa 37:16  “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.

Hezekiah reminds us that God dwelt with His nation – His glory that is – in the Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant was there, with a lid called the Mercy Seat. Cherubim were carved into the lid, one on each end.

Isa 37:17  Incline Your ear, O LORD, and hear; open Your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God.

King Hezekiah reinforces the truth that this was really against God – on the “living God.”

The people who persecute Christians are doing it to Jesus. He’s not on earth right now; we are. Its open season on believers.

Every enemy in a movie worth his or her salt at some point jeopardizes the people that the hero loves. You are so beloved of the Lord Jesus that the devil trains his weapons on you.

Isa 37:18  Truly, LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands,

Isa 37:19  and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands – wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them.

The Assyrian’s made it a point to enter the temple or holy place of their enemies and burn the idols that represented the gods of those cultures they had cancelled.

The real power in Judah was the living God. The real power in any nation ought to be the living God.

Isa 37:20  Now therefore, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the LORD, You alone.”

History is headed toward a time described this way by a mighty angel in the Revelation: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (11:15).

Speaking of nations… In the future Kingdom, and in eternity, there will continue to be identifiable “nations.”

  • In Revelation 12:5 we are told Jesus will “rule all nations.”
  • In Revelation 15:4 we are told “all nations shall come and worship” Jesus.
  • In Revelation 21:4 we read about the “nations of those who are saved.”
  • In Revelation 22:2 we read, “In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

I just began reading a book on the future Kingdom & eternity by Michael Vlach (rhymes with block). He is a well-respected conservative dispensational professor. He writes: “In addition to the individual and spiritual, God is working to restore every area of creation. And eternal life is embodied existence on a restored earth where God’s people live and thrive in His presence and experience vibrant social and cultural interactions with each other.”

We will be talking more about this as we go on in Isaiah.

How are we conquer-ized? On the Day of Pentecost after Jesus rose from the dead, He sent the Church a promised gift. He sent them the permanent indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. It is one of the promises of the New Covenant God made with the nation of Israel. Moses, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all mention the New Covenant. Ezekiel says it promises a new heart, a new spirit, and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

If the permanent indwelling of God the Holy Spirit was a future promise to Israel, then Israelites in the OT did not have the experience His permanent indwelling. You don’t promise a future blessing if everyone already has access to it.

When Israel’s leaders rejected their Messiah, the New Covenant promises to them were put on hold. Mean time, the Church has begun to partake of the promises. We do not replace or supersede Israel in doing so. They will enter into the New Covenant blessings as well, in the future.

There is an episode in the Book of Acts in which the apostle Paul encounters some disciples of John the Baptist. He can sense that something is not quite right about them. He issues this challenge question: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (19:2). They “believed,” and were thus saved by grace through faith, but they had not received the permanent indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. Paul “laid hands on them, [and] the Holy Spirit came upon them” (v6).

The Gospel is always the same: You are saved by grace through faith; not by works. But it is crystal clear that the Holy Spirit’s operation in the world is not always the same.

Why is this important? It is not simply important, it is vital. When you & I believed, we received the permanent indwelling of God the Holy Spirit. We are thereby enabled and empowered by Him to obey God.

I mentioned Stephen. The Bible says that he had the “face of an angel” as he was being persecuted and martyred. You can’t make ‘angel face.’ It isn’t make-up. It comes from within, from the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Stephen was no more, no less, saintly than any other believer. Since the Holy Spirit is a Person, not a force, you have Him in the same measure as Stephen.

Think on this: At the time of his martyrdom Stephen had walked with Jesus for only 4yrs.

Don’t be discouraged. Even Paul said he had not attained, but he was pressing forward.

R. A. Torrey wrote, “If we think of the Holy Spirit only as an impersonal power or influence, then our thought will constantly be, ‘How can I get hold of and use the Holy Spirit?’ But if we think of Him in the biblical way as a divine Person, infinitely wise, infinitely holy, infinitely tender, then our thought will constantly be, ‘How can the Holy Spirit get hold of and use me?’”

Prophecy Update #755 – Let’s Get Digital, Digital

Near the end of the first century, an 80+ year old man was banished to a 13 square mile island in the Aegean Sea, 158 nautical miles from the Greek coast. He was guilty of preaching the Gospel. He was the apostle John.

Before banishment, the Romans often flogged or beat the accused. However, according to Tertullian, who lived only decades after John, he was initially plunged into boiling oil while in Rome, but after surviving this ordeal, he was subsequently banished for a period of one to three years.

“I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ… I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this” (1:9 & 4:1).

One thing John was shown about the future was a cashless, global system of commerce. He described it this way:

Rev 13:16  … both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, [will] receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads,

Rev 13:17  and… no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Doesn’t that sound more than a little like Amazon One? It is a cashless payment system that utilizes your hand.

Governments are pushing a global, cashless economy. “FedNow is here!” That was the July announcement made by our federal government. What is it? One article said,

FedNow is the Federal Reserve’s new instant payment service that will enable customers at participating banks and credit unions to send and receive money within seconds, 24/7 and every day. You’d be able to complete payments or transfers on weekends, holidays and after banks’ business hours.

It is similar to PayPal, Venmo, Cash App, and Zelle. But it is already more flexible, with more options.

We are on the verge of a global, completely cashless economy that will be accessed by a personal biometric identifier.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. calls trend “the slippery slope to financial slavery and political tyranny.” That’s an extreme statement, but you can see how it is true. Once you must rely upon an all digital economy, the government will most assuredly gain access to your account to punish you, or to force behaviors they deem necessary.

I’m not commenting on the politics of a cashless global economy accessed by a ‘mark.’ I’m pointing out that two thousand years ago an aging disciple of Jesus was shown the future, and we are seeing the stage being set for it to unfold exactly as the Lord told John it would.

Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom promised Israel had come. When the nation’s 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 after Jesus Christ rose from the dead. It precedes the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, more commonly known as the seven-year Great Tribulation. You can read all about that terrible time in chapters six through nineteen of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

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!

Muscle Harmony (Ephesians 4:2-6)

Ephesians 4:1-6 – Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope, at your calling—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Every time you take a step, 200 muscles flex and stretch and operate together in harmonious unity. It’s good that it’s so natural, because we each take thousands of step every day.

In Ephesians 4, Paul talks to us about how to walk worthy. In our last study we looked at verse 1. Walking worthy is our operating principle in the Christian life. That’s our goal, that’s our heading.

Tonight, Paul describes the muscles that facilitate our walk. He reminds us that the exercise of our faith happens in tandem with other Christians whose lives are knit close with ours. So, the smooth operation of all of those parts is very important. Any of you who have a trick knee know why.

In verses 2 through 6, we get the impression that the trail of faith will not always be easy. We have to balance and bear weight and compensate for those we’re walking alongside. We are one body, part of one plan in the Lord’s work, so unity is not just a pleasant ideal, it’s an absolute essential.

So, let’s look at some of the muscles of Christianity, starting in verse 2.

Ephesians 4:2 – with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

In athletics, form matters. Whether it’s swinging a bat, shooting a free-throw, or diving from the block, a good coach will talk you through the mechanics of the motion. Paul talks about mechanics in these verses. If you want to walk worthy, it’s going to look like this.

His emphasis in these verses is the unity of the Body. And, he says the best way to maintain unity is for each of us to bear with one another. The phrase means, “put up with each other,” or, “make allowance for each other’s faults.”

The Church is a magnificent creation: God, brings together people from all backgrounds, all social status, all ethnicities, into one, harmonious family of grace and power and purpose. But, the Church at large and churches individually are comprised of imperfect people. That means there will be interpersonal friction, conflicts, clashes, irritations, annoyances. You are going to annoy someone and they are going to annoy you. It’s part of the human condition.

Walking worthy means we find a way to put up with one another. How? Paul gives us a few medications. First, he says we do it “with all humility.” Humility doesn’t mean disliking yourself. It doesn’t mean constantly trashing yourself. That is often a synthetic humility.

Paul defined humility in Romans 12:3, where he said, “don’t think of yourself more highly than you should.” Humility is having an appropriate mindset of who we are and our place in God’s plan.

Humility is not a natural way of thinking. In fact, it was considered a vice to be avoided in Greek and Roman culture – something only for slaves. But aren’t we slaves to the Lord? Aren’t we called to follow in the steps of Jesus Christ, Who emptied Himself and took the form of a servant, a washer of feet? This calling into Christianity is a calling out of the world’s culture and the world’s values.

Humility isn’t natural, but it is optional. In Colossians 3, Paul says we can “put it on” like a garment. James puts the choice to us: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Next, gentleness. The term means meekness, considerateness, strength under control. In the Bible, this word is often used in the context of dealing with conflict. In the Church, conflict is not about me winning or me being right. It’s about how we reconcile brothers and sisters back together.

Christians are not supposed to use their strength to tear down. We’re to use our strength the way Jesus did, the gentlest of all, the meekest of all. That strength was used to gather, to heal, to direct back to the Father. To reveal the truth with an end goal of restoration and redemption.

Next, patience. Patience means long tempered, or, the ability to endure over time. In the context, Paul means patiently enduring the weakness and faults of others around you in God’s Body. Not driving people away, not beating them down, but staying close even when you’re irritated or annoyed or disappointed by them in some way.

Patience, like gentleness, is a fruit of the Spirit, which means that I don’t have to do these things in order to become a good Christian. This supernatural equipment is continually provided for me and can infuse my actions and activities and attitudes as I choose to put them on and operate in the Spirit rather than in my natural, human mindset.

Now, Paul is saying, “You need to put up with one another,” but God’s intent is never that we do it begrudgingly, with resentment in our hearts. Paul says there to bear with one another in love. In agape. It’s a supernatural love. Agape is special because it is always a choice.

Some things we love just out of urge. I’m guessing there are some of you out there who love black licorice, even though you shouldn’t! Agape is choosing to love how and what God loves.

Ephesians 4:3 – making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Scholars tells us that the English translation loses the urgency of Paul’s words here. One commentator writes, “Yours is the initiative! Do it now! Mean it! You are to do it! I mean it!—such are the overtones in verse 3.”

Paul implores us to keep the unity of the Spirit. What does he mean by unity? In all the New Testament, this Greek word is only used in this verse and once again in verse 13. The term itself is defined as “oneness.” That’s pretty vague.

Unity does not mean we all do the same things. Christians sometimes act like unity means every church does the same thing. Every Christian reads the same book. Everybody gathers together in the same spot to present a ‘united’ front. But that’s not what Paul means.

Paul didn’t follow up verse 3 with, “By the way, here’s what the Church in Jerusalem is doing, so you guys need to do that, too.”  Martyn Lloyd-Jones put it this way: It’s unity not uniformity. Think of the analogy he’s been using of a body. Your eyes are doing one thing right now, your hands are doing something different. Your feet something different still. They’re all needful things.

Paul defines unity as a gracious and loving attachment one to another through the bond of peace. In chapters 1 through 3, Paul talked at length about how God has reconciled us to Himself and all of us to one another, Jews and Gentiles, everybody welcomed in and now we’re called to walk in that reconciliation – staying attached to the Gospel and the Lord and the family of Believers.

Paul says keep this unity. That means it’s not something we attain, it’s something we maintain. God has already done it. We don’t have to build a monument of unity through some cooperative activity. We simply walk in the arrangement God has given us.

Paul said, “make every effort.” This is important for spiritual health. A friend of mine from northern California was having trouble with the video distribution at their new church campus. So we were sending each other texts trying to troubleshoot together. Try this, try this, try this. Nothing was really working, but we were trying to make every effort to get the system functioning again. Finally he figured it out. Now, I wasn’t physically there to help, I played a different part.

Christian unity, Paul says, starts with my mindset. I should care about staying bound to other believers. Sometimes that requires effort, but if I understand the value, if I allow God’s perspective to become my perspective, then it is no longer a chore, but a joyful endeavor.

Of course, keeping this unity is not always possible. Paul said in Romans 12, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The point in Ephesians is that unity in the Body is something that I should value and invest energy into.

Ephesians 4:4 – There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling

In verses 2 and 3, Paul showed us the muscles of walking worthy. In verses 4 through 6 he’s giving us the frame it’s all built upon – the skeletal structure God has provided so that we can walk.

He gives 7 elements that unity is based on. It’s not based on what we do, but it is rooted in understanding Who God is and what He has created us to be – that there is a Head and a heavenly design that has been established by God and we get to walk in obedience according to the plan.

Many scholars believe that verses 4 through 6 are part of a first-century creed or hymn that the churches may have recited. It’s good to remind ourselves again and again of what is true.

As we stay attached to the Head, we will stay attached to others. As we are vivified by the Spirit, we are able to exercise our faith and be fruitful toward others.

There is one body. Paul means that there is one, universal Church. But, the New Testament is clear that each local gathering of Christians is a legitimate and meaningful representation of the whole.

This is a body and I am a member. I am a part. God has scattered me into a specific time and place on purpose. He has gifted me in certain ways and prepared good works for me to discover and walk in, so my calling is to find my part and then operate appropriately in the power of the Spirit.

But it’s important that we remember there are lots of parts that do lots of things. Scientists aren’t sure why humans swing their arms when they walk. They don’t have to, but they do. I suppose if the legs could talk, on a grumpy day they might say, “Since you’re just swinging around, how about you arms take some of the weight for awhile?” But that’s not the job. Arms have other parts to play.

Some research shows that the arms swinging somehow reduces the amount of energy the legs have to use up in order to walk. You wouldn’t think that by looking at it, but some very complicated things are going on. Each part impacting the overall enterprise.

In the Church, we’re all headed toward one hope, and thanks to God’s enabling, we’re going to get there. Along the way, it’s easy for us to become frustrated at others or assume that they’re not pulling their weight or think that real unity means they do what we’re doing. But God has many parts to His Body and is accomplishing profoundly complex things through His people, by His Spirit. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” Unity means we understand this diversity and the bigger picture and say, “I’m doing what God asks me to do. You do what God asks you to do.” And to stay connected by the love of God and the power of His Spirit.

Ephesians 4:5 – —one Lord, one faith, one baptism,

It’s sad that there is so much division on these basic elements of Christianity. If you want to get into a fight with a Christian, start talking about one of these items.

Paul says there is one Lord. If you open up social media today, you’ll see people all over the political spectrum claiming Jesus Christ as their emblem. One person will have on a shirt that says, “Jesus was a refugee.” The next will have a shirt that says, “Proud Christian nationalist.” Who’s right?

God forbid that we make the Messiah in our own image. There is one Lord. Who He is, what He said, what He’s done, what He’s going to do has been revealed to us on the pages of Scripture. If we want to be thriving Christians who walk worthy, we need to base our lives on the Biblical Jesus, not any sort of cultural Jesus. Not a Jesus that reinforces my desires or is wielded like a talisman.

“One Lord” is a controversial statement to our human hearts and human culture. A inscription from the time of Ephesians has been found which read, “Nero, Lord of the universe.” But it’s not true. Jesus is King and no one else. Jesus is Lord and there is no other. Not Nero, not you, Jesus is Lord.

There is one faith. Jude talks about contending for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. Unity doesn’t mean compromising what we believe just to keep relational peace. There are essentials that we must hold to, no matter what. Paul was very concerned about false teachings and doctrinal errors in all the churches he wrote to. “No, salvation wasn’t faith plus circumcision. It wasn’t faith plus ceremonial law.” Paul would not back down on essentials and neither should we.

What is the faith? It’s not just what we feel is good or things that are emotionally pleasing to us. The faith is what has been revealed and taught in the Word of God. That’s why we study the Bible.

There is one baptism. Scholars divide over whether Paul is referring to being baptized into the Holy Spirit at salvation or actual water baptism. It doesn’t really matter because water baptism is simply the outward sign of the inward reality. It is a very important part of our walk with the Lord. If you’re a Christian and you haven’t been water baptized, you need to be. Jesus commanded it. It is the public testimony of the inward work of salvation in your heart.

One Lord, one faith, one baptism. These are all things that have been revealed and we can find in the Scriptures. So, we can unify around God’s Word, around studying it and writing it on our hearts and applying it to our lives. We can enjoy greater unity when we’re all on the same page, Biblically.

Ephesians 4:6 – one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

All, all, all, all. Paul drives home God’s power and transcendence. This is the deal, this is how God has designed His Church and it is an unstoppable work that will come to fruition. He is in charge. He is providentially accomplishing His will. He intends to include every single one of us in this Master plan of His.

So, my imperative is to walk worthy in this plan God has called me into. And a big part of walking worthy is to maintain the unity God has given in the Church.

What we find in these verses is that unity is not really about what others do, it’s about me. It’s about my treatment of the believers around me. I can’t just write people off or reject them because they annoy me or aren’t as excited about some service or ministry as I am. Unity, to Paul, is not about all of us building some monument together, it’s about my attitude toward brothers and sisters near and far. Do I love them? Do I value them? Do I put on humility and gentleness and patience, knowing that God is working out His plan through the whole Body?

When I have the urge to think, “That person needs to step up,” the better thought is, “I just need to be in step with the Lord.”  I help maintain unity as I understand what God is doing, keep an appropriate perspective on my own part to play, and remember that God loves and values the Christian next to me as much as He loves and values me.

Having this perspective doesn’t lead us to compromise or look the other way when a Christian is out of joint. But it causes us to be strengthened in grace, which will make us stronger for the walk, more able to strengthen the weak members around us, and be built up and equipped for the trail ahead.