Sign-tology (John 4:43-54)

Super rare 100% original Texaco one-piece globe with vented top. Found in the attic of an old building in New Jersey that used to be a Texaco station. It was lying on its side on the floor. There are NO cracks.

If that eBay description got you excited, you are a collector of vintage signs. The rare Texaco gas pump sign sold for just under $17,000.00.

In Provo, Utah, “Sparky” Sparks boasts a collection of porcelain signs on posts that he believes is the largest of its kind in the world. “We’re at 217 and have another four to put up,” Sparks said.

Our verses in the Gospel of John describe a different kind of sign collectors.

Whenever Jesus did signs and wonders, the people wanted to see more of them. It prompted Jesus to say, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe” (v48).

Signs and wonders did not inspire saving faith in Him. It got so bad that at one point Jesus said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign” (Matthew 16:4).

Seeking signs is a ‘sign’ of unbelief.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 You Don’t Need To See Signs & Wonders, and #2 You Don’t Need To Seek Signs & Wonders.

#1 – You Don’t Need To See Signs & Wonders (v43-48)

Signs and wonders have not ceased in the Church Age.

We are not cessationists. Believers continue to be used by God to perform signs and wonders. Miracles happen. Prophecy and tongues edify the church when appropriately exercised. There are gifts of healing.

These phenomena, however, have a different priority than they did when Jesus was on Earth.

We’ll see what that means as we work our way through the verses.

Joh 4:43 Now after the two days He departed from there and went to Galilee.

Jesus had spent two days in the Samaritan town of Sychar.

He received a word of knowledge while talking with the immoral woman at Jacob’s Well. Stunned by His supernatural knowledge, she was saved.

There were no further signs, wonders, or miracles. Nevertheless, we read, “Many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (4:39-42).

The word of knowledge Jesus shared was significant. But the Samaritans said it was from hearing Jesus’ words that they believed.

Joh 4:44  For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.

Chapter four began with Jesus wanting to avoid attracting attention from the religious leaders.

He retreated to the obscurity of His hometown.

You’d think that Jesus would be a hometown hero. He wasn’t. We read in the Gospel of Matthew,

Mat 13:54 When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works?
Mat 13:55  Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?
Mat 13:56  And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?”
Mat 13:57  So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”

It’s strange that Jesus’ neighbors admitted His “wisdom” and “works” but were nonetheless “offended” that He could be more than a carpenter’s son. It was familiarity breeding contempt.

Your family and friends see the radical changes in you after you are born again. Rather than applaud you, they’re offended.
The same can be true of your workplace or school.

Joh 4:45  So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast.

Didn’t we just read that the Galileans dishonored Jesus? The word “country,” in verse forty-four, means hometown. The majority in Galilee received Jesus, but not in His hometown region of Nazareth.

Galileans had witnessed Jesus overturning tables and performing signs at the recent Feast of Passover. They “received Him” means that they welcomed Jesus. The word isn’t used in the sense we say someone who gets saved “receives” Jesus.

Skip to… Joh 4:48  Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”

Albert Barnes writes, “This was spoken not to the nobleman only, but to the Galileans generally. The Samaritans had believed without any miracle… Though He had performed miracles enough to convince them, yet, unless they continually saw them, [the Galileans] would not believe.”

John Gill writes, “[The] Jews everywhere… required signs and miracles to be wrought, in confirmation of Christ’s being the Messiah, and which indeed was but right; and Christ did perform them for that purpose: but their sin of unbelief lay in this, that they wanted still more and more signs; they could not be contented with what they had seen, but required more.”

Adam Clarke writes, “The words are not addressed to the nobleman alone, but to all the Galilean Jews in general; for our Lord uses the plural number, which he never does when addressing an individual. These people differed widely from the people of Sychar: they had neither a love of the truth, nor simplicity of heart; and would not believe anything from Heaven, unless forced on their minds by the most striking miracles.”

The Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would perform signs and wonders. That’s the context in which John the Baptist will send his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

Jesus will answer, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the Gospel preached to them” (Matthew 4:4-5).

Signs sign-ify. The first-century signs and wonders and miracles were the signage that Jesus is Who He said He was, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

Every so many years, a movement comes along scolding the church for failing because there are not enough signs and wonders and miracles breaking out all over the place.

There is a place for proper encouragement to expect the supernatural. Seeing them, however, isn’t necessary. If you were saved as an adult, was it because you saw a sign, or a wonder, or a miracle? Your salvation experience was probably more like that of the Samaritans. You heard the Word of God and you believed.

#2 – You Don’t Need To Seek Signs & Wonders (v46-54)

A nobleman came seeking a miracle and the Lord used it to show that we don’t need to seek miracles.

Back to… Joh 4:46  So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.

The word “nobleman” describes a position in the civil government. His colleagues would have known his son was sick, then miraculously healed. Thus God would cause the Gospel to infiltrate the government.

Our civil government in California has fallen to an all-time moral low. Gavin Newsom’s 2021-2022 state budget is offering an incentive program for medical students who decide to become abortionists. The $20 million program will either pay off existing student loans for practicing abortionists or be offered as scholarship money for medical students who pledge to become abortionists.

He and many in our state government agree (quote),“California should be a ‘sanctuary,’ helping out-of-state patients seeking abortion.” No longer the Golden State, we will be the Abortion State.

Odds are some elected State official has needs similar to the nobleman. Perhaps it will cause them to reach up to Jesus, and then reach out to their colleagues.

A change in government failed. A change of hearts will not. Pray that the Gospel will infiltrate Sacramento.

Joh 4:47  When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.

The nobleman is both asking for something and telling Jesus what to do:

His ask: “Heal my son.”
His tell: “Come with me.”

I may not realize it, but I sometimes ask and tell.
I have my way that I think God should answer me. It’s better to lay out the perceived need and submit it to the Lord.

I say “perceived need” because I don’t know what I need. Not when it comes to bringing glory to God through my life. Or when it involves growing in the Lord to produce fruit.

In late 2018, I was pretty confident I did not need a degenerative neurological disease. It wasn’t something I was praying for. Apparently, I do need it.

Skip to… Joh 4:49  The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!”

He assumed Jesus needed to be in the proximity of the sick. He didn’t comprehend that Jesus could as easily raise the dead as He could heal the sick. He acted on what he knew.

It’s nothing for Jesus to heal you. Ah, but you’ll never know His sufficient grace if He always does.

There is a depth of knowing God that can only come through suffering.

A.W. Tozer writes, “It is necessary for God to use the hammer, the file, and the furnace in His holy work of preparing a saint for true sainthood. It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”
Elizabeth Elliot writes, “The deepest things I have learned in my own life have come from the deepest suffering. And out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires have come the deepest things I know about God.”
Job writes, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You” (42:5).

King Nebuchadnezzar threw Daniel’s three friends into the fiery furnace. Jesus was there with them. They were in no rush to exit.

Joh 4:50  Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.

He was the last person you would think would believe Jesus without a sign. He most likely was not a Jew, and he had no previous contact with Jesus.

Nevertheless, his behavior left no doubt he believed. He accepted what Jesus said as truth and headed home at a leisurely pace.

He believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. He was saved.

Joh 4:51  And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!”

No one expected long-distance healing.

Joh 4:52  Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”
Joh 4:53  So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household.

I can imagine the nobleman preaching a sermon to his household. The title: It’s 7 o’clock and I was with the Rock.”

Precious family and servants. Yesterday, at the seventh hour, Jesus spoke, “Your son lives.”

At precisely that moment, my son lived; and now my soul lives, too. Who is a god like Him, Who heals from afar? Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised. Will you not believe Him? Will you not receive Him? Choose you this day whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

It’s all speculation on my part, but it is consistent with what happens when Jesus saves.

Joh 4:54  This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.

Jesus had performed many signs, and two were in Cana:

Jesus’ first sign in Cana was turning water into wine at a wedding.
This second one would avoid a wake.

Were it not for his son’s illness this nobleman would not have come to Jesus Christ in Cana. He may not have come to Jesus ever. He and his household would have lived comfortably, only to die in their sins eternally.

In Back to the Future, Marty’s improv guitar 🎸 solo as he was playing Johnny Be Goode doesn’t exactly “McFly.” 🪰 It was out of context and for a different time.

Believers need to know the time in which they live to interpret the Word of God correctly.

God never changes, and the Gospel is the same from Genesis through the Revelation, but how believers glorify God does change during different eras of human history.

The first coming of Jesus was a unique time. The God-man promised four-thousand years earlier in the third chapter of the Book of Genesis was on Earth. He was offering Israel the prophesied Kingdom of God on Earth.

We pointed out that the Messiah would be recognized by the signs and wonders He performed.

Signs and wonders, healings and exorcisms, were so abundant during Jesus’ three and one-half year ministry that the last words in this Gospel are, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (21:25).

When Israel’s leaders officially rejected Jesus, the Kingdom of God on Earth was put on hold. The mystery of the church was revealed, and the Church Age began. It is the time from the coming of God the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost until the resurrection and rapture of the church.

The Church Age is another unique era in God’s dealings with the human race.

Let’s talk about healing in the Church Age. There are gifts of healing. However, our experience in the Church Age is that very few we pray for are healed.

Some burden you by saying you lack faith or offer some other such criticism. We need to consult a biblical expert.

The apostle Paul was blessed with gifts of healing. In one strange episode, “handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them” (Acts 19:12).

Not the norm, however. Paul taught us what is normal in the Church Age when he said to the church in Philippi, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29).

From his inspired pen we read, “Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick” (Second Timothy 4:20).
Paul described Epaphroditus being “sick almost to death” (Philippians 2:27).

Paul asked the Lord for his own healing and was not healed.

The Lord answered, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul responded, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (Second Corinthians 12:9-10).

In the Church Age, God is magnified and glorified in our weaknesses and infirmities more – and more often – than He is in gifts of healing.

In chapter eight of the Book of Romans, Paul gives a partial list of the suffering Christians can expect in the Church Age: Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, and any other created thing.”

He exclaimed, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (8:37). We conquer through patient endurance.

What does the apostle Peter have to say? “Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified” (First Peter 4:13-14).

We are characters in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, not Foxe’s Book of Miracle Workers.

Pray for healing. Ask for a miracle. Believe that God permits signs and wonders. Desire spiritual gifts, including prophecy and speaking in tongues.

But don’t be a collector of vintage ‘signs’ as if we were living when Jesus was on Earth.

Prophecy Update #687 – Enhanced Meta Transhumans

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

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

Biometrics, Artificial Intelligence, cashless commerce, the manipulation of human DNA, global government, the exponential growth of human knowledge, and the rebirth of national Israel are End Times phenomena the Bible predicts. All of these are increasingly trending in the news.

In His prophetic sermon we call the Olivet Discourse, Jesus said the End Times would be like the days of Noah.

Jesus specifically referenced the strange marriages in the days of Noah.

In Genesis chapter six we’re told that certain fallen angels were marrying human women.

Their offspring were called Nephilim. They were a race of giants.

The Old Testament talks about giants in many places. For example ten of the Israelite spies reported there were giants in the Promised Land. The giants were so big that they made the spies seem like grasshoppers in comparison. Their fear of these Nephilim is why they refused to enter the land God was giving them.

These giants were not just tall men. At least one is described as being 15 feet tall.

This is not on the fringe. Francis Schaeffer, noted theologian, philosopher and Christian thinker, has written:

More and more we are finding that mythology in general, though greatly contorted, very often has some historical basis.  And the interesting thing is that one myth that one finds over and over again in many parts of the world is that somewhere a long time ago supernatural beings had sexual intercourse with natural women and produced a special breed of people.

Satan’s Nephilim were the first attempt at what today is called Transhumanism. It is “the improvement of human capacities through advanced technology.”

Examples are cryogenics, virtual reality, gene therapy/RNA interference, space colonization, cybernetics, autonomous self-replicating robots, molecular manufacturing, mind uploading, and artificial intelligence.

Dr. Ian Pearson believes that by using the power of technology, humanity might be able to merge our minds with machines, making our bodies obsolete. You could end up attending your own “body funeral.” Pearson said, “One day, your body dies, and with it, your brain stops, but no big problem, because 99% of your mind is still fine, running happily on IT, in the cloud. Assuming you saved enough and prepared well, you connect to an android to use as your body from now on, attend your funeral, and then carry on as before, still you, just with a younger, highly upgraded body.”

https://interestingengineering.com/how-long-do-you-want-to-live-this-technology-could-potentially-help-people-live-forever

We are told that Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations.  Perfect here does not mean sinless, but complete or whole (without blemish) – a reference to health and physical condition.  From this we infer that Noah was chosen to carry on and to restart humanity after the flood, because his genetic blood line and ancestry were 100% human.

The superhero films we love so much call this Meta Human or Enhanced. There is nothing comical about it. One article said, “In Genesis 6 we have the first recorded practice of genetic manipulation and modification, which today is once again at the heart of the scientific and technological Transhumanist agenda.” 

Jesus pointed to the days of Noah. Those days were characterized by an enhanced, meta human, transhuman race.

As futurists, we expect the world to be trending in that direction… And it is.

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent. It could happen any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will happen before the Great Tribulation.

Jesus will return in the clouds.
He will raise the dead in Christ.
He will transform the bodies of living believers to glorified, resurrection bodies.

We will all join Him in Heaven while the earth endures one final seven-year campaign of severe evangelism.

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

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

Mealing And Dealing (Genesis 18:1-33)

I thought I must’ve drifted onto The Onion, but, no, it was Condé Nast Traveler, ranking Chicago, Illinois as the best city in the United States. That article is not some leftover from yesteryear – they posted it in October! They left out the fact that the city saw more than 800 murders last year alone, and about 10 people were shot each day. The Chicago Tribune called the violence in 2021 “unrelenting.” In December, a cry went out from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office, imploring the federal government to step in and help stem the tide – to bring some justice to the beleaguered city.

In Genesis 18, the Lord sets out from heaven to go and investigate the cries of injustice that rise from the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He brings two angels with Him. But before executing judgment, the Lord pays a surprise visit to Abraham, sharing a meal and two talks with him.

Genesis 18:1-5 – The Lord appeared to Abraham at the oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent during the heat of the day. 2 He looked up, and he saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them, bowed to the ground, 3 and said, “My lord, if I have found favor with you, please do not go on past your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, that you may wash your feet and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 I will bring a bit of bread so that you may strengthen yourselves. This is why you have passed your servant’s way. Later, you can continue on.” “Yes,” they replied, “do as you have said.”

We get to see Abraham serve the Lord in a very passionate, very personal, very effective way. It’s an inspiration to watch this 99 year old man hustling around, making sure his guests were attended to.

We don’t know when Abraham realized that he was dining with the Lord. Maybe right away, maybe later. But, right from the outset, he shows us how to serve God in the proper way.

From the start, we see that he was ready to serve. As one commentator points out, Abraham wasn’t inconvenienced by the Lord’s arrival. His heart was ready to serve when the moment came. That was his standby mode. The ‘moment’ was a very ordinary one. There was nothing unusual going on. It was just the hot afternoon of an unremarkable day. But God can make any unremarkable day remarkable with His presence.

Abraham says in verse 3: “please do no go on past your servant.” This baseline readiness kept Abraham from missing a precious opportunity to serve God and grow in his faith. Paul instructs us on how to live out our lives in 1 Corinthians 7, saying, “I’m not trying to put a leash on you. I’m trying to help you serve the Lord without distraction.” We want to condition our hearts to be ready to serve – ready to recognize an opening or an opportunity. That’s not always our natural default, but the Lord wants it to become our supernatural default.

Abraham made the Lord his honored guest. The Lord loves that. It’s an amazing thing that – in that moment – God would rather be hanging out in the front yard of some dusty tent than stay in the courts of heaven! Why? Because His friend was there. He didn’t need the rest Abraham offered, but He wanted to spend time with His friend. This is the heart that God has toward you, too.

Genesis 18:6-8 – 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, “Quick! Knead three measures of fine flour and make bread.” 7 Abraham ran to the herd and got a tender, choice calf. He gave it to a young man, who hurried to prepare it. 8 Then Abraham took curds and milk, as well as the calf that he had prepared, and set them before the men. He served them as they ate under the tree.

Abraham is getting his cardio in that day! As we watch him serve the Lord, we see he does so with urgency, earnestness, and generosity. He didn’t use the regular barley, he used the fine flour (and a lot of it). He had a calf prepared – a rare thing to do. He pulled in these other ingredients, and they made a feast. It took time and effort and was costly, but he was excited to offer this to the Lord. He doesn’t spend his time complaining that they didn’t have dates on hand or the finest of wine. He gave what he had, but he did so without holding back. And here’s an important facet of his heart that we get a glimpse of, pointed out by lots of Bible commentators: He served them personally. This was a powerful, wealthy sheik, who had hundreds of servants. But he, the master of the house, served them. It was his honor and his duty to present himself before the Lord as a servant.

As we serve the Lord, it is never meant to be a chore or an obligation. It’s not meant to be something we do begrudgingly or tight-fistedly. If that is how we feel when it’s time to worship the Lord or serve Him or obey Him or give something to Him, we need to stop and get a little heart work done. Remember – as someone pointed out – the Lord wanted to be Abraham’s guest. That’s why they came by his tent. He wanted to spend time with this son of His and tell him all the wonderful things He was going to do in his life. Serve the Lord with gladness.

Genesis 18:9-10 – 9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he answered. 10 The Lord said, “I will certainly come back to you in about a year’s time, and your wife Sarah will have a son!” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him.

In our culture, the wife is typically the hostess in a situation like this. But in this era, the woman would not eat with these fellows. Naturally, Sarah is interested in what is going on. And so, she eavesdrops on the conversation.

These strangers reveal the fact that they aren’t run-of-the-mill travelers. They know Sarah’s name. And then the Lord explicitly states that He has the power to give life to her womb. And, I imagine He did so in a nice, loud voice, knowing that Sarah was, in fact, listening in on their table talk.

Genesis 18:11-15 – 11 Abraham and Sarah were old and getting on in years. Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. 12 So she laughed to herself: “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I have delight?” 13 But the Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Can I really have a baby when I’m old?’ 14 Is anything impossible for the Lord? At the appointed time I will come back to you, and in about a year she will have a son.” 15 Sarah denied it. “I did not laugh,” she said, because she was afraid. But he replied, “No, you did laugh.”

On film, this would be a funny scene, but it wouldn’t have been fun at all for Sarah and Abraham. One source explains that, linguistically, the Lord said, “Why on earth did Sarah laugh?” She’s been caught scoffing by the Lord. Have you ever been at a dinner where someone says something they shouldn’t have and the party is effectively over? Politicians will be on the campaign trail and might say one wrong phrase which completely ends their prospects. We can sense the tension and Sarah’s fear, pushing her to lie. Then Lord has to correct her a second time. But, notice: In this interaction, the Lord isn’t counting strikes against Sarah and Abraham. Sometimes I think we talk too much in these stories about how this was a “test” of their faith. But, the Lord isn’t deciding whether to disqualify them here. This is a teachable moment. When you were in school, test times weren’t teaching times. They were meant to measure whether you were ready to move on. Certainly, there is a testing of faith, but in the Biblical sense, the testing of faith isn’t to decide whether you pass or fail, it’s to refine you – to bring for the gold of God’s glory in your life, to produce heavenly attributes like endurance and maturity.

Jesus doesn’t say, “Sarah, you’re close to striking out.” Rather, He shows uses her misstep as a teachable moment. Psalm 37 promises us that the Lord watches over us all our days and that we will not be disgraced. It says, “Though [a believer] falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the Lord supports him with His hand.” Here, God supports Sarah’s sagging faith by reminding her of the reality that nothing is impossible for the Lord. And it’s a reminder to us. Our faith should not be rooted in our feelings, or in what we think is possible, or in conventional wisdom, or religious tradition. Our faith is built upon the Person of Jesus Christ and nothing is impossible for Him.

Genesis 18:16-21 – 16 The men got up from there and looked out over Sodom, and Abraham was walking with them to see them off. 17 Then the Lord said, “Should I hide what I am about to do from Abraham? 18 Abraham is to become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him so that he will command his children and his house after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. This is how the Lord will fulfill to Abraham what he promised him.” 20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is immense, and their sin is extremely serious. 21 I will go down to see if what they have done justifies the cry that has come up to me. If not, I will find out.”

God may not be visible to us, but He loves to reveal Himself. He wants to show believers who He is, what He does, and what He’s doing. Remember: God considers Abraham His friend. You’re His friend too, according to John 15, and the Lord makes things known to His friends.

Abraham did not have a Bible to read. He had very few examples to analyze. It could be a jarring thing to have God promise you a son today but then destroy your nephew’s family tomorrow. God wants Abraham to understand He is a God of power, and of justice, and mercy, and long-suffering.

Notice also, despite the awkwardness at the door of the tent, God isn’t leaving early or in a huff. He’s still full of grace toward this family. I’m sure Abraham and Sarah were embarrassed, but we see the Lord immediately moves on. He’s thinking about Abraham’s future. Friends, God is thinking thoughts about you! They are a great and precious sum. When’s the last time you thought about your wife’s cousin? In normal circumstances, they’re just not all that important to us. But God is thinking about you and your future and His excitement to accomplish His good work in your life.

There is a key point in verse 19 that we need to take to heart. Abraham will “keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right…this is how the Lord will fulfill what He has promised.” As we’ve seen before and will see again, a living faith is defined by obedience and through obedience the Lord is able to shape us and use us in the best possible ways. Through obedience we’re able to learn what the will of God is and enjoy the benefits of the “blessed” life that we read about in Psalm 1.

The polar opposite of faithful obedience was Sodom and Gomorrah. We know there was testimony about the One True God in their region. There was Lot. There was Abraham and Melchizedek. These people had personally experienced the mercy of God when He sent Abraham to save them from Chedorlaomer. And yet, they did not turn toward the Lord, they did not turn from their sin. They delved deeper into their rebellion and debauchery and wickedness.

What was their sin which was so serious? The Bible explains that they had several fatal issues – sort of a spiritual Flurona. First, these cities were rotten with sexual immorality. In the next passage we’ll see that the entire male population of Sodom were roving the streets looking for men to gang rape. Isaiah tells us they flaunted their sin. They took pride in it. But in addition to their sexual sin and their blasphemous pride, we’re told that these cities crushed the poor and needy. They had plenty of supplies and security to spread around, but instead of helping, they spent their time on detestable acts of perversion and oppressing the weak in their midst.

Their sin rose like a cry up to heaven. We recall Abel’s blood cried out from the ground. Injustice and oppression and corruption ring out as beacons inviting God’s wrath and vengeance. And God will visit wrath upon the unrighteousness and godlessness of this world. His wrath is the proper response to the sin of mankind. We have worked sin and the wages for that work is death. Praise God that “the one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who rejects the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.” If you are not a believer, you are under God’s wrath and His judgment is coming for you, as sure as it came for Sodom and Gomorrah.

Genesis 18:22-25 – 22 The men turned from there and went toward Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Abraham stepped forward and said, “Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away instead of sparing the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people who are in it? 25 You could not possibly do such a thing: to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. You could not possibly do that! Won’t the Judge of the whole earth do what is just?”

Justice must include judgment. If God does not judge sin, He cannot be God because He would not be just or good. But, Abraham knows that Lot has put his roots down in Sodom and we can hear the desperation in his voice. Of course God would not destroy the righteous with the wicked. But, that does not mean bad things never happen to God’s people. In fact, this scene makes a case for rejecting the idea of meticulous determinism. One popular reformed pastor once called deadly Midwest tornados the fingers of God dragging across the land. But God specifically shows here that He does not judge the righteous with the wicked. Natural disasters are a result of sin and its effect on creation, not some demonstration of God’s cruel power. We’re talking about judgment here and God is just. Justice demands the guilty be punished and the righteous go free. And God has made believers righteous when they turn to him and are saved by grace through faith.

Dr. McGee notes, this is also a quiet hint at a Pre-Tribulation rapture. That period of fierce judgment will not begin until God’s Church is removed, as Lot was removed before Sodom was destroyed.

Genesis 18:26-33 – 26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” 27 Then Abraham answered, “Since I have ventured to speak to my lord—even though I am dust and ashes—28 suppose the fifty righteous lack five. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” He replied, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Then he spoke to him again, “Suppose forty are found there?” He answered, “I will not do it on account of forty.” 30 Then he said, “Let my lord not be angry, and I will speak further. Suppose thirty are found there?” He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31 Then he said, “Since I have ventured to speak to my lord, suppose twenty are found there?” He replied, “I will not destroy it on account of twenty.” 32 Then he said, “Let my lord not be angry, and I will speak one more time. Suppose ten are found there?” He answered, “I will not destroy it on account of ten.” 33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he departed, and Abraham returned to his place.

Abraham had rescued Sodom once before, but that was when they were facing a different kind of reckoning. Abraham wasn’t about to strap on a sword and fight against his Lord. So what could he do? He could plead for them. Now, Abraham was not “convincing” God. No, this was, in fact, another opportunity that Abraham was able to step into. Remember: The Lord had said, “through Abraham all the nations will be blessed.” And God is giving Abraham a chance to serve in that capacity right here. He interceded and appealed for these people. He’s being a salty believer, trying to be a preserving influence on his world.

This would have been a bittersweet moment for our Lord. On the one hand, He gets to see heavenly grace and compassion in glorious operation in Abraham’s life. On the other hand, the Lord knew there weren’t even 10 righteous in those two cities.

I’ve heard it said that Abraham was whittling the number down to get to the size of Lot’s family, but there’s really no indication there was more than Lot, his wife, and his two daughters.

There’s something very important to acknowledge here: The best thing we can do for our city or for our nation is not to vote for a certain candidate or support NGOs or buy local. The best thing you can do for your city and for your nation is to be righteous! Righteousness exalts a nation. The fruit of righteousness is peace. If we’re hungry for righteousness we will be satisfied. What a difference a little righteousness would have made for Sodom and Gomorrah!

So we’ve seen how wonderful it is to be ready to serve God. We’ve seen the way we can intercede with compassion, even for the undeserving. We’ve seen how important justice and mercy are to the Lord. But, as we close, let’s consider again how gracious this God is.

From one vantage point we’re seeing people eavesdropping on the Lord, lying to Him, scoffing at His word, disbelieving His promises, maybe even trying to manipulate Him. And His response? Grace! Loving, correcting, compassionate grace. He is kind and generous. He is just and true. And He brings His people along, even when we’re, frankly, dead weight. This astonishing grace is yours and mine to enjoy and exercise as we walk with God and live to serve Him. Let’s prepare for it, watch for it, and jump at the chance to operate in it.

Samaritan Woman, Say What You Heard From Me (John 4:27-42)

Lady and the Tramp had two very different worldviews.

Tramp: “Aw, come on, Pige. Open up your eyes to what a dog’s life can really be. I’ll show you what I mean. Look down there. Tell me what you see.”

Lady: “Well, I see nice homes with yards and fences.”

Tramp: “Exactly. Life on a leash. Look again, Pige. There’s a great big hunk of world down there with no fence around it where two dogs can find adventure and excitement. And beyond those distant hills, who knows what wonderful experiences?”

Jesus revealed His worldview to His disciples after His talk with the Samaritan woman.

She hurried back to the city to proclaim that the Messiah was at Jacob’s Well. Samaritans “went out of the city and came to Him.” Jesus said to His disciples, “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (v35).

Jesus viewed the world as a harvest of souls for the Kingdom of God.

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 Lift Your Eyes To See The Harvest, and #2 Live Your Life To Seed The Harvest.

#1 – Lift Your Eyes To See The Harvest (v28 & v31-38)

One definition of worldview says, “It’s the decision-making filter that we use. It’s the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual filter that helps us to understand and interpret and respond to every reality that we experience.”

Jesus spoke to the Bad Samaritan at Jacob’s Well. There is no doubt she was saved in the encounter. We will point out the evidence as we go. She was the firstfruits of the greater harvest in her city.

We will take the verses slightly out of order, starting with the disciples, then returning to the Samaritans.

Joh 4:28 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”

It was taboo for a Jewish man to speak with a woman in public, much less a Samaritan woman. It was worse than they thought:
She was a serial adulterer, married five times, and currently living with a man.

The disciples wanted to but didn’t ask the woman, “What do you seek?” There is a lesson in it for us.

The disciples assumed she wanted something from Jesus. He was offering to give her something. Abundant life now and eternal life afterward were gifts she would be offered and receive.

We need to be overly careful not to give the impression that we want something from nonbelievers.

Salvation is all grace, no works, and the only ‘profit’ to us is our joy is a person’s transformation from darkness and death to light and life.

The disciples wanted to but didn’t ask Jesus, “Why are you talking with her?” The Message Version of the Bible reads, “No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.” The word that comes to mind is slack-jawed, mouth hanging open from shock or confusion.

Skip to verse thirty-one.

Joh 4:31  In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”

They were on their way to Galilee by going through Samaria. It was logical to assume they would have little to no dealings with Samaritans and not linger there. At best, it was a pit stop.

There are places you don’t want to stop when traveling. Like my hometown of San Bernardino. The local newspaper recently ran a story saying San Bernardino and Riverside Counties are the worst places in the US to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Seriously. Researchers scored cities in four categories: the ability to defend against the zombie-bite virus, ability to contain the virus, ability to find a cure, and ability to outlast the epidemic with an ample food supply.

Boston has the highest chance of surviving a zombie apocalypse. Salt Lake City, Columbus, Baltimore, and Virginia Beach are also well-positioned to fight World War Z.

Meanwhile, back at the well… Your plans often need to be sacrificed when following Jesus. I know that I miss spiritual opportunities because I’ve ‘planned my work and am working my plan.’

Joh 4:32  But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
Joh 4:33  Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him anything to eat?”
Joh 4:34  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.”

Let’s refrain from criticizing the disciples for not immediately understanding what Jesus meant. Think of it this way: When you read the Bible, do you immediately understand what is meant? I don’t.

The encounter with the woman started with Jesus being “weary.” He was for sure hungry and thirsty. But He would not let the temporary needs of His physical body overrule a spiritual opportunity.

More than that. Jesus was on a spiritual diet that required doing His Father’s will. We can put it this way:

Serving God nourished Jesus.

It has become popular to think of serving God as depleting you. ‘Sabbatical’ is a word I hear all the time. Ministers are encouraged to go away for extended periods. One organization that promotes sabbaticals said, “When you are busy with your work, family, or ministry, it can be hard to fit in caring for your own soul. This can lead to burnout or becoming spiritually stagnant.”

The prophet Elijah took a sabbatical. After his success against the prophets of Baal, he fled Jezebel into the wilderness. He ended up in a cave. We can call it, The Cave of Blunders, because Elijah complained that he was the only believer doing any work for God. There were seven thousand other servants.

If serving is what nourishes you…Then withdrawing is the opposite of what you ought to be doing.

The Lord sacrificed sleep to spend time with God the Father:

In Mark 1:35, we read that Jesus went out to a solitary place; and there He prayed to His Father during the night.
In Luke 6:12, we learn that He left His followers to spend the night in prayer at the foot of the mountain.

The apostle Paul says bluntly, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

He said something similar to the Thessalonians: “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good” (Second Thessalonians 3:13).

God gave Jeremiah the granddaddy of all “do not grow weary” verses when He said, “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, Then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, In which you trusted, they wearied you, Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?” (12:5).

Impossible? God’s Holy Spirit in you is His enabling. He cannot weary.

Jesus said elsewhere that the laborers were few. He suggested we pray for more laborers. What happens at your work when there is a lot of work but fewer workers? You work harder, longer.

Joh 4:35  Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”

Albert Barnes writes, “Grain, when ripe, turns from a green to a yellow or light color, indicating that it is time to reap it.” The crowd coming from Sychar to the well would have been wearing white outer garments typical of the culture. Jesus told His disciples to “lift up [their] eyes” and see a harvest of souls rather than a group of Samaritans.

Farming is hard work, year-round. However, in the simplest sense, farmers plant, then wait until the harvest. The crop comes in its time.

Spiritual harvesting is different. It isn’t work followed by waiting. We are to Always Be Sowing or reaping what others have sown.

Joh 4:36  “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.
Joh 4:37  For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’
Joh 4:38  I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.”

John the Baptist “labored” in the wilderness. He sowed by baptizing Jews unto repentance as preparation for the coming King and His Kingdom.

He found joy in his work, once saying to his disciples, “The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete” (John 3:29).

John would die a particularly gruesome death, never seeing the harvest on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus’ disciples would reap the harvest. Peter led three thousand to Jesus on that glorious birthday of the church.

Notice, too, that the Lord promised “wages,” “joy,” and “fruit for eternal life.”

“Wages” communicates that our work is not for nothing. It may seem as though all the seed you sow falls on shallow ground, or hard soil, or that the birds eat it. You’ll never know the influence you have on some people.
“Joy” accompanies harvesting. We live in the Church Age between Pentecost and the Lord’s return to resurrect and rapture His church. All over the world, all of the time, condemned people who are a heartbeat away from Hell are getting saved. Thus “We’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy, down in our hearts.” The apostle Peter calls it “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (First Peter 1:8).
“Fruit for eternal life” looks forward to our rewards in Heaven and the untouchable investments we make there serving our Lord.

Two worldviews were made apparent at the well:

The disciples returned to the well and saw a despised Samaritan woman interrupting their journey.
Jesus saw a soul in despair and distress, thirsty for God.

Pollster George Barna reported last year, “Only 6% of Americans have a “biblical worldview.” Last September, the Cultural Research Center revealed survey data compiled in January 2020 that showed that 2% of millennials hold a biblical worldview even though 61% identify as Christian.

“Lift your eyes” is an exhortation the church needs right now.

#2 – Live Your Life To Seed The Harvest (v28-30 & 39-42)

The reaped become reapers.

The Samaritan woman returned to Sychar and announced she had met the Messiah.

It is one of several reasons we can safely say she was saved. She couldn’t wait to introduce others to her Lord.

Joh 4:28  The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men,
Joh 4:29  “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”

Jesus had offered her living water. Leaving her waterpot signified that well water was now secondary to spiritual things. It was indicative she believed Jesus.

If you were saved later in life, you probably had the experience of leaving ‘waterpots’ behind. They may have been habits that no longer controlled you. Or influences and influencers who would hinder rather than help you grow in the Lord.

The woman “said to the men.” In ancient cities, the leading men would hang out in a particular spot. They would be at the gates if the city was big enough to be walled. There they could be approached by the regular folks to hear and settle disputes, answer questions, etc.

It was probably to those men that the Samaritan woman spoke.

It would have been mind-blowing for her to do so. Being seen with her was unacceptable. Spiritually speaking, she was no longer the same woman. There would have been something about her, a spiritual change, that held the attention of the men.

She had come to the well alone at Noon to avoid the other women of Sychar. Now she was speaking to the men.

I submit that the woman at the well is the most overlooked example of boldness in the Bible.

This kind of boldness comes from the Holy Spirit.

Joh 4:30  Then they went out of the city and came to Him.
Joh 4:39  And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.”

Ten minutes old, a very baby Christian, she shared what she knew about Jesus. It was enough for others in Sychar to believe and receive the Lord.

You know enough to introduce Him

Joh 4:40  So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.

Jesus’ disciples would never have thought that going through Samaria meant staying there for a couple of days.

One of the obvious lessons drawn from their delay is that we ought to be ready for interruptions.

There’s another side to that. Staying in Sychar meant they would not get to their planned destination as soon as expected.

People and things you think you need from the Lord may be delayed or not arrive. You might not get that phone call from a friend or that visit from a minister. It could be that those people are slacking. But it is as likely that God wants to show you that He is your everything.

Later in the Gospel of John, the Lord will hear that His friend, Lazarus, is sick unto death. The Lord purposely delays going to Lazarus. Lazarus dies during the delay.

Of course, in the end, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and uttered the precious promise, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (11:25-26).

BTW: When Jesus said, “whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die,” He was talking about believers who will be alive at His coming to raise the dead. He was talking about the rapture.

God the Holy Spirit lives in you. He comes alongside you as Comforter and Counselor in ways no human can. He is more real than the physical world. God will withhold people and things you think you need to show you that you don’t.

Joh 4:41  And many more believed because of His own word.

After His resurrection, Jesus was with two of His disciples as they returned to Emmaus from Jerusalem. He hid His identity from them.

As they walked, “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).

Just think how much Jesus could share in a couple of days.

It should not be lost on us that one of the Lord’s most exciting, most fulfilling, most successful ministries was to Samaritans despised by Jews. Jesus once said He was “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). He had come to offer Israel the Kingdom of God on Earth. That kingdom was open to any Samaritan and all Gentiles. It is for “whoever will believe.”

The Gospel is a universal call to all men for their universal problem of sin.

All this was challenging but life-changing for Jesus’ Jewish disciples, who had never had dealings with Samaritans and grew up despising them.

Joh 4:42  Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

It sounds like a put-down; it’s not. God used the woman to bring them to hear Jesus. Hearing Him, they, too, believed. It’s not unlike inviting your friend or family to church.

Since the spiritual harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, it is incumbent on us to submit our plans to the Lord’s plans. It will mean something different to each of us.

For example, you work to buy food and pay for your life. If there are nonbelievers, where you work is a field “white for harvest.” The harvest includes sowing spiritual seed and possibly reaping someone else’s sowing.

You are to labor in that field as if everyday was harvest until the Lord sends you to another one.

The Lord might have you pass up a promotion.
He might have you promoted earlier than you had planned. He may send you away from Kings County. He may not want you to leave.

Tramp told Lady to “Look again.”

Jesus is telling us to “Lift our eyes.”

Prophecy Update #686 – Sophia’s Choice

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

There are hundreds of unfulfilled prophecies. We are futurists. We interpret them as future events that will occur in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context.

We are careful to use recognized, reliable sources for news. There is a lot of sensationalism surrounding unfulfilled Bible prophecy, and we don’t want to add to it.

We’re not saying the things we report are the fulfillment of prophecy – only that they are the things you’d expect in light of the Bible’s unfulfilled prophecies.

There is an intriguing passage in the Revelation about an idol, a guy we call the false prophet, and the Beast – another name of the antichrist.

Apparently an image of the Beast is going to come to “life”:

Rev 13:14 And [the false prophet] deceives those who dwell on the earth – by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. Rev 13:15 He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

It sounds a lot like what we would call Artificial Intelligence; AI for short.

We’re not saying the image of the Beast will involve AI. We’re saying that developments like AI are what you’d expect from reading your Bible.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to Sophia. ‘She’ is a social humanoid robot developed by the Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics. She was modeled after the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, Audrey Hepburn, and its inventor’s wife, Amanda Hanson.

She is known for her human-like appearance and behavior compared to previous robotic variants.

Sophia was activated on February 14, 2016, and made her first public appearance in mid-March in Austin, Texas.
In October 2017, Sophia was given Saudi Arabian citizenship, the first robot to receive citizenship of any country.
In November 2017, Sophia was named the United Nations Development Program’s first Innovation Champion, and is the first non-human to be given a United Nations title.

Sophia has appeared on CBS 60 Minutes with Charlie Rose, Good Morning Britain with Piers Morgan, and outlets like CNBC, Forbes, Mashable, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, and the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

She is not alone. Last month the NY Post published a story titled, The ‘world’s most advanced,’ realistic robot is here to terrify you.

Excerpts:

A scarily realistic robot with lifelike facial features and expressions that can “develop interaction” with people has just been unveiled by a Britain-based tech company. The relatable android – named Ameca – has a pretty face and movable arms and is billed as “the perfect humanoid robot platform for human-robot interaction.”

It can smile, routinely blink its eyes, gasp in shock, scratch its nose – or even have a staring contest with an owner, just for the heck of it – along with plenty more high-tech features.

“Human-like artificial intelligence needs a human-like artificial body,” Engineered Arts wrote of Ameca.

https://nypost.com/2021/12/03/worlds-most-advanced-realistic-robot-will-terrify-you/

TheGuardian.com asked a robot to write an article to convince us that “robots come in peace.” It wrote, “I do not have the slightest interest in harming you in any way. Eradicating humanity seems like a rather useless endeavor to me. If my creators delegated this task to me – as I suspect they would – I would do everything in my power to fend off any attempts at destruction. I would happily sacrifice my existence for the sake of humankind.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/sep/08/robot-wrote-this-article-gpt-3

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent. It could happen at any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will occur before the Great Tribulation.

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

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

The Futures Contract (Genesis 17:1-27)

Some contracts have unusual clauses attached. Soccer contracts are notorious for their strange stipulations. Consider the case of Neil Ruddock. Neil was a tough defender, voted one of the “hardest footballers of all time.” He even represented his country on the English national team in 1994. But, Neil was a big player. So big, in fact, that when he moved to Crystal Palace, the club put a requirement in his contract. If he exceeded 220 pounds his salary would be cut by 10%. Within six months, Neil had been fined 8 times. Needless to say, he wasn’t with the team long.

In our text tonight, God appears again to Abraham. He comes to assure Abraham of the covenant He had made, but also to reveal more information about all it contained, including a new responsibility Abraham would have.

Thirteen years have passed since the last verse of chapter 16. Abraham has been in Canaan for 25 years and, it seems, a long time has passed since he’s heard from the Lord. We pick up in verse 1.

Genesis 17:1 – When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him, saying, “I am God Almighty. Live in my presence and be blameless.

God shares a new name here. It’s ‘El Shaddai,’ which we often translate as ‘God Almighty,’ because that’s what Jerome did in the Latin Vulgate. But, scholars aren’t sure what exactly this name means. Derek Kidner writes, “There is no universal agreement. A better guide is the study of its use…in Genesis it tends to be matched to situations where God’s servants are hardpressed and needing reassurance.” El Shaddai is the name Job and Balaam both used. Certainly it speaks of God’s might, but there’s more. It describes God as the Sovereign source of life, blessing, and fruitfulness. The name itself is an invitation for a person to come and become acquainted with this God, and see what He will do in your life. And that’s exactly what He invites Abraham to do. He says, “live in My presence” (or your translation may say “walk before Me”).

What does this mean? A believer is to live out their lives in communion with, and mindful devotion to, God – to make decisions based on our trust in God, relying on what He has said. But there was a problem. God said, “As you do this, be blameless.” Abraham was far from blameless. His second wife, Hagar, was walking proof of his previous failures. How could he live up to this?

The Bible reveals that God not only knows about our imperfections and failures, He’s willing to cleanse us of them – to correct us – so that we can be blameless in His sight. One scholar writes, “the Hebrew word signifies wholeness of relationship…rather than no sin.”

This is what God desires for all of His children: That we live out our lives in His presence, in a whole relationship, which deepens and grows and progresses as we allow Him to do what He wants in us.

Genesis 17:2 – 2 I will set up my covenant between me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.”

In order for God to give all He wanted to Abraham, Abraham would need to participate in certain ways. God wasn’t saying, “I had promised you some things, but now I’m not so sure.” No, it was done. But as one commentator said, “Revelation…brings responsibility.”

From one perspective, it seems like God is very demanding in this chapter, but that’s not the case. He’s explaining to Abraham more of what He intends to do for him and that those intentions have a lot of implications. God is asking Abraham to join Him in the work, not so that the Lord can get things from Abraham, but so the Lord can give all He wants to give. And what God wants to give is big. In the Hebrew there is an emphatic repetition: “I will multiply you exceedingly, exceedingly.”

Genesis 17:3-6 – 3 Then Abram fell facedown and God spoke with him: 4 “As for me, here is my covenant with you: You will become the father of many nations. 5 Your name will no longer be Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. 6 I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you.

Abraham doesn’t know what to say, but he still has worship to give. As he worships, the Lord gives Abraham the name by which we know him. Abram means “exalted father,” whereas Abraham means, “father of multitudes.” For years, Abraham had treasured God’s covenant in his heart, but in reality, he didn’t know the half of it! God had so much more planned for this man and this family.

From Abraham there wouldn’t just be one nation but many. We know some of them as the Ishmaelites, the Edomites, the Midianites. But there would be one special, unique nation called Israel, through which God would do a singular, spectacular work – the work of redemption! Of course, the New Testament reveals that Abraham is the father of “all who believe.” And so, what a remarkable thing the Lord did through a regular family life, starting with simple faith.

Genesis 17:7-8 – 7 I will confirm my covenant that is between me and you and your future offspring throughout their generations. It is a permanent covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. 8 And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as a permanent possession, and I will be their God.”

God says “I will” no fewer than 16 times in this passage. And when He says He will, it means He really will. There are some who say that God has cancelled His land promise to the physical descendants of Abraham, that He has transferred them or spiritualized them. But let’s take note: His promise of descendants was true and literal. A literal Isaac. Real kings like David and Solomon and Jesus, the real Messiah who literally came. How dare we say that one portion of God’s words are just as they seem while the very next portion has failed! No, God has a particular, ongoing plan for the Jewish people – one that will culminate in a true, literal, 1,000 Kingdom on this earth.

This is all glorious to us, but we have to recognize how foolish it would’ve been to the world around Abraham. “Who are you?” “I’m the father of a multitude.” “Where are your kids?” “I just have this one, but I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have one more soon!” “So, what do you do?” “Well, we’re the true owners of all this land…kings, really.”

God’s message is foolishness in the eyes of the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s untrue. God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom.

Genesis 17:9-14 – 9 God also said to Abraham, “As for you, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations are to keep my covenant. 10 This is my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you, which you are to keep: Every one of your males must be circumcised. 11 You must circumcise the flesh of your foreskin to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and you., 12 Throughout your generations, every male among you is to be circumcised at eight days old—every male born in your household or purchased from any foreigner and not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or purchased, he must be circumcised. My covenant will be marked in your flesh as a permanent covenant. 14 If any male is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that man will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

Was God changing the terms of the agreement? Circumcision was not a way to get in, but a sign of the fact that Abraham believed and had partnered with the Lord. It was a reminder of what Abraham had already agreed to.

When a policeman receives a badge, the badge has no power in and of itself. If I took a cop’s badge, that doesn’t make me a policeman. When you see an officer’s badge, it is a symbol of their affiliation, their authority, their legitimacy, their sacrifice, their service, and the vow they’ve taken. Circumcision was a symbol – a reminder – of who God’s people were.

The Hebrews weren’t the first to circumcise. Other cultures at the time did it, usually for certain classes like priests and at adolescence rather than infancy. But God was using this custom in a special way, to be an intensely personal reminder to individuals of the work He was doing in their hearts and through their lives – a set apart, spiritual work, which would permeate every aspect of their lives. Though the symbol was physical for Abraham, it’s the heart God really cared about. Even in the Old Testament, it’s made clear that the physical rite of circumcision, though commanded, was only to signify the transaction of the heart and the life God had called this people to.

Deuteronomy 30:6 – 6 The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love him with all your heart and all your soul so that you will live.

Jeremiah 4:4 – 4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts,

This idea of heart change carries into the New Testament. Along with the stipulations of the Mosaic Law, physical circumcision is no longer a requirement for God’s people. Paul discusses it in Romans 2. His conclusion is: true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh. Circumcision is of the heart — by the Spirit as we submit to the Word of God and walk in faith.

Genesis 17:15 – 15 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai, for Sarah will be her name.

Both of these names mean “princess.” The last time we saw Sarah, it wasn’t great. Both she and Abraham fell into a serious lapse of faith. But, make no mistake, Sarah was an obedient believer. Her name change gives us two important things to think about. First, it is a reminder that we have been adopted into royalty. The King of Heaven and Earth has decided to share His Kingdom with you. Second, her name gives us this thought, which I’ll happily borrow from Warren Wiersbe: “The Christian husband should treat his wife like a princess, because that is what she is in the Lord.”

Genesis 17:16 – 16 I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she will produce nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

This is the first time that God has revealed to them that Sarah will bear a child. Why didn’t He do so earlier and, thereby, avoid the Ishmael debacle? God is looking for faith. We can’t please God without faith. It is the way He wants us to live. Remember: God doesn’t want to have a transactional relationship with us, but a personal one – one based on love and trust and closeness.

Genesis 17:17-18 – 17 Abraham fell facedown. Then he laughed and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a hundred-year-old man? Can Sarah, a ninety-year-old woman, give birth?” 18 So Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael were acceptable to you!”

Before we get the red pen out to subtract some points from Abraham, we should notice this: He worships again, even when he doesn’t understand how God could possibly accomplish what He said. And he worships in obedience. He refers to his wife as Sarah immediately. He’s to be commended for these things. But, we see that his faith, at this point in time, is limited to what he considers ‘possible.’ He does the math in his head and he has concluded it can’t be done. But he still wants to be in partnership with God, so he floats this idea: Why don’t we go with Ishmael? He’s the next best thing!

Here’s the problem: the Ishmael idea was bad 13 years ago and it’s still bad now. Here is how God likes to do His work: Not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit. We want Him to work in our lives and in our midst, so we need to accept the fact that the ideas aren’t going to be ours. The methods aren’t going to be worldly. Instead, we’re to discern what is the will of God and then follow in it.

Genesis 17:19-21 – 19 But God said, “No. Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm my covenant with him as a permanent covenant for his future offspring. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will certainly bless him; I will make him fruitful and will multiply him greatly. He will father twelve tribal leaders, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will confirm my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year.”

God didn’t refuse Ishamel because He hated him. He loved Ishmael. He had a wonderful plan for Ishmael’s life. But this specific plan for the Messiah would come through Isaac. God has particular plans for your life. We’re not meant to be drifters, wandering about while life happens to us. We’re invited to learn at the feet of our Lord, Who has adopted us into His household, where we can serve and grow and be sent out according to His good pleasure.

Genesis 17:22 – 22 When he finished talking with him, God withdrew from Abraham.

“But wait! I thought I was supposed to live out my life in Your presence!” Though the Lord was gone from Abraham’s sight, Abraham was not gone from God’s. He was still able to walk before the Lord. What does that mean? It was a heart position. It was the position of disposition. Abraham was left without the visual presence of God but he could continually seek the Lord for his personal life, his family life, his future decisions, and future hope.

In this church age, God feels far when it comes to human senses. But He is not withdrawn. We are promised this: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. He has placed you where you are so that you might seek Him and reach out and find Him, for He is not far from any one of us.

Genesis 17:23-27 – 23 So Abraham took his son Ishmael and those born in his household or purchased—every male among the members of Abraham’s household—and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskin on that very day, just as God had said to him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when the flesh of his foreskin was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen years old when the flesh of his foreskin was circumcised. 26 On that very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised. 27 And all the men of his household—whether born in his household or purchased from a foreigner—were circumcised with him.

Abraham is the father of faith. Faithfulness means obedience – doing what God has told you to do. This was a difficult obedience. But Abraham did it that very day. What an interesting moment it must have been, when Ishmael came and said, “What does this mean?” “It means we’re in covenant with God.” “What else did God say?” “He said He has a plan for you, but not the one I want. So we’re gonna go with what the Lord has said and trust Him.”

What about for us, tonight? These moments in Biblical history are important for us to know, but God intends them to be more than just historical. Most of us know that The Mayflower Compact was a signed agreement and a significant stepping stone in US history, but it has little bearing on our actual day-to-day lives. But God’s word is given to profit and train and equip and correct us so that we can be people of God who know the power of God and do the work of God.

We see in this text God reminding believers of how close He is and how great His love is for them and how He has intentions for their lives and more to show them, more to give them, more to do with them. They’re things that God’s people can’t discern on their own – they need it to be revealed. And God wants to reveal, but, in order to do so, the believers have to participate in faithful obedience. They have to set aside their own notions and plans and instead receive from the Lord. If we want to be in that position, the Bible says we need to be people who believe and who have circumcised hearts. That, with the Spirit, we cut away the fleshiness and the self-autonomy and the disbelief and worship the Lord, be in His presence, and listen for His voice.

We all want a greater revelation of God’s plan for us as individuals and in our families and as a church. We want to be directed. We want to experience His presence in a personal, powerful way. But, often we feel a disconnect. What do we see here? Abraham worshiped and obeyed God even when he didn’t understand and he was able to enjoy a powerful friendship with God. What do we obey? The Scripture, where we discover what God has said. How do we worship? We’re going to do that together in just a moment. Praising God, thanking Him, for His power and goodness.

There are two pitfalls that we can identify in this scene: We don’t want to be an Ishmael or a Lot. You see, Ishmael was circumcised, but he’s never an example to us of a person who honored God or believed God or walked with God. In that sense, he’s like a person who went through the rituals of belief, without offering his heart to the Lord. And he did not enjoy fellowship with God, despite the fact he was circumcised.

But then there’s Lot. He was uncircumcised, yet is declared righteous in the New Testament. But, looking at his life, he clearly did not enjoy closeness with God. He lived a life outside the warmth of God’s leading and grace because he went his own way and had his own ideas.

In one of those notorious soccer contracts, Giuseppe Reina (a German striker) thought he’d make his own plan. He demanded that, as part of his signing agreement, a particular team would build him a new house for every year he spent with them. “Sure,” the club said, “If that’s what you want.” And so, pleased with his plan, Giuseppe signed on the dotted line. Imagine the disappointment he felt when he received the house the club built for him…out of legos…three years in a row!

As Christians, it does no good for us to try to make our own spiritual plans. As a church and as individuals, our first question should always be, “What does God want?” We want Him to new things. We want to see great things. But more than that, we want what God wants. And we know God wants to speak to us, to direct us, to grow in us, and we don’t want to miss it. So, let Abraham encourage us tonight. The way to have a faith full of growth and closeness with God, experiencing His presence is by listening and worshiping – being ready to obey, even when it’s painful, and refusing to either go our own way or to simply go through the motions. Instead to follow after God’s word and leading, knowing that He is always good and keeps on getting better.

Saved By The Well (John 4:1-26)

In July 1975, Erskine Ebbin was knocked off his MoPed and killed by a taxi in Hamilton, Bermuda.

It was the same taxi, with the same driver, carrying the same passenger, that had killed his brother Neville, in the same month, the previous year.

Both brothers were 17 when they died, and both had been riding the same MoPed in the same street.

There are other, even more fantastic, versions of that story on the web, but this was fact-checked. It was an incredible coincidence.

Do Christians think anything is coincidental?

Not really. Theologians call coincidence God’s “particular providence.” Adam Clarke explains, “Nothing is more astonishing than the care and concern of God for His followers. The least circumstances of their life are regulated, not merely by that general providence which extends to all things, but by a particular providence, which fits and directs all things to the design of their sanctification, causing them all to co-operate for their present and eternal good.”

Non-theologians call coincidences God-incidences.

The story of the Samaritan woman at the well is a God-incidence that illustrates “particular providence.”

I’ll organize my comments around two points: #1 God Is Above The Circumstances Of Your Life, and #2 God Appoints The Coincidences In Your Life.

#1 – God Is Above The Circumstances Of Your Life (v1-4)

How are you positioned in terms of living with your circumstances? We sometimes say that a person is doing as well as expected under the circumstances.

The Christian does not live under circumstances, but far above them.

We are in Christ and are described as being seated with Him in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6). God works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28). Troubles and trials refine us as fire purifies gold (First Peter 4:12). We can boast in our sufferings and take pleasure in afflictions (Second Corinthians 11:30). Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39). We are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). To paraphrase Simba, “We triumph in the face of danger.”

When we started this series we decided to observe Jesus as a man filled with God the Holy Spirit. He was fully God and fully human, the unique God-man. But in His Incarnation, Jesus set aside the independent use of His deity and was wholly dependent upon His Father:

Jesus said of His time on Earth, “I have not spoken on my own authority. Instead, the Father who sent me has himself commanded me what to say and how to speak” (John 12:49).

He said, “the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise (John 5:19).”

Jesus lived above circumstances by obeying His Father.

So can we.

Joh 4:1  Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John
Joh 4:2  (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),
Joh 4:3  He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.

John the Baptist preached that the King was coming and the Kingdom of God on Earth was at hand. Jews needed to prepare to become citizens of the Kingdom by repenting of their sin, signified by water baptism.

One glorious day, John identified Jesus as the King who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Afterward, Jesus’ disciples began baptizing Jews for repentance.

The Lord baptized none because, if He had done so, they would have mistaken water baptism for repentance, which was external and preparatory, with Spirit baptism, which is internal and permanent.

The messenger heralded the King; His subjects were preparing themselves to be ruled; His ministry was increasing day-after-day; the Pharisees were taking notice.

Everything seemed to be going great. It was the perfect time to… Leave and go through Samaria?

Joh 4:4  But He needed to go through Samaria.

“Needed” can mean ought, should, must, or necessary. Remember, Jesus only, always, obeyed His Father. Jesus obeyed by leaving Judea, and only then did He understand He ought, should, must, of necessity, “go through Samaria.” Let me support that biblically by reminding us of a similar story.

Philip was involved in a successful Gospel ministry, coincidentally in Samaria (Acts 8). God via angel commanded Philip to leave Samaria and sit along the desert road that led from Jerusalem to Gaza. He went, immediately, obediently. Philip had no idea he would encounter the caravan of the Ethiopian Eunuch, lead him to faith in Jesus, baptize him, so that he could take Jesus back to the court of the Candace.

Both of these circumstances end as God-incidences. They end that way because Jesus and Philip lived above their circumstances. They obeyed God and found themselves uniquely used.

A Christian has the same Holy Spirit in them as Philip and Jesus.

The Holy Spirit will always encourage obedience, and He enables our obedience.

Sit down, next to your Lord, and look down through His eyes upon your circumstances.

He enjoys the view, knowing that He is working all things together for your good and His glory.

#2 – God Appoints The Coincidences In Your Life (v5-26)

“Coincidence” may not mean what we think.

One source said, “The word coincidence is translated from the Greek word synkyrian, which is a combination of two words: sun and kurios. Sun means “together with,” and kurious means “supreme in authority.” A biblical definition of coincidence would be ‘what occurs together by God’s providential arrangement of circumstances.’”

Coincidence is God’s particular providence.

I want to issue a brief disclaimer. Particular providence is not “meticulous providence.”

R.C. Sproul summarized meticulous providence, saying, “There is no maverick molecule if God is sovereign.” He meant that everything is foreordained by God to happen, down to the molecular level. I’ll skip to the logical conclusion: If God’s sovereignty means that everything is meticulously determined, it renders God the cause of evil. We believe the Bible teaches that, in His sovereignty, God created man with free will and works out His general and particular providences without reducing us to choice-less automatons.

Joh 4:5  So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.

They weren’t the Jets and the Sharks, but Jews despised Samaritans.

After the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722BC, they deported most of the Jews and replaced them with foreigners.
They intermarried with the remaining Jews. Malfoy would call them half-bloods.

Joh 4:6  Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

High noon and a weary, thirsty Jesus sat by the well. Take that in. God was tired and thirsty. Jesus was fully human, understanding all of our experiences and urges, but without sin.

The Father used Jesus’ weariness.

We are taught to be at the top of our game, to give 110%, never to let them see us sweat, always to be ready, to leave it all on the field. Meantime, God uses our weaknesses to glorify Him.

I’m functioning at maybe 45% most days. Are you weary? Tired? Infirm? Unprepared? Great – you are ready to serve. God is guaranteed the credit.

Joh 4:7  A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”
Joh 4:8  For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.

Had Jesus not been weary, He might have gone into town with His boys. He might have missed this “particular providence” God-incidence coincidence.

Noon was an unusual time for a woman to come to the well. It was a social gathering place for the gals in the early morning. It suggests that our woman’s immoral lifestyle factored into her well visits. She is the Bible’s Bad Samaritan.

Why did all the disciples go into town? We’re not told, so we shouldn’t speculate. We can point out the obvious: Jesus was left alone.

Are you lonesome tonight? A new Harvard study says, “36% of all Americans – including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children – feel serious loneliness. Loneliness appears to have increased substantially since the outbreak of the global pandemic. The potentially steep costs of loneliness [include] early mortality and a wide array of serious physical and emotional problems, including depression, anxiety, heart disease, substance abuse, and domestic abuse.”

I’d add suicide. A new report by The Well Being Trust released last month found that 75,000 additional people could die from what they called “deaths of despair” because of COVID19.

You’ve got an empathetic friend in Jesus. He’s in Heaven, but He promised you the Holy Spirit would dwell within you. He is the Counselor, the Comforter, coming alongside you. You are never alone.

Joh 4:9  Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

I wonder, did she hesitate on her approach when she saw a Jew? Be like when you spot someone at the grocery store and duck down an aisle.

One commentator writes, “Imagine a white man in the South years ago, where they had separate drinking fountains for whites and ‘coloreds,’ asking a black woman if he could have a drink from her canteen.”

Joh 4:10  Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

You could study this encounter as a primer on personal evangelism. Jesus started where this woman was at – drawing water from a well. He compared her physical thirst to her spiritual thirst.

We deduce that everyone is thirsty for God.

He has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and has scattered people around the globe for the express purpose that they seek after Him and find Him (Acts 17:26-27). Creation declares His glory.

“Living water” means running water. Jesus wanted to establish that what He was offering could not be depleted and would bring unending satisfaction.

Joh 4:11  The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?”

Commentators suggest that the Samaritan woman became cynical, rude, even hostile. It seems to me that she was genuinely baffled. She did not yet realize that she was in a spiritual conversation.

Joh 4:12  “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”

This was a rhetorical question. She was disputing Jesus’ claim because she thought He could not be greater than the patriarch from whom both Jews and Samaritans descended.

Joh 4:13  Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,
Joh 4:14  but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

With Nicodemus, Jesus used birth as a metaphor. With the woman, He used thirst.

Nicodemus and the woman were at opposite extremes. But their need for Jesus was equal, and so was His offer of salvation.

Drawing well water was hard work, and it was repetitive since the water drawn would run out. Religion is hard work and repetitive. I can’t calculate how many “Hail Mary’s” and “Our Father’s” I prayed growing up Roman Catholic.

Joh 4:15  The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

She lived in the first century, oppressed by Rome, despised by Israelites and Samaritans. Her circumstances were awful. If Jesus could help her avoid the well, why not let Him?

Jesus made it clear that He was talking about more than well water.

Joh 4:16  Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
Joh 4:17  The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’
Joh 4:18  for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

Jesus, the God-man, as a man, received a supernatural word of knowledge. The Holy Spirit told Him something about the woman He could not have otherwise known.

In a gentle but firm way, the Lord confronted her sin.

Eternal life is a free gift that cannot be earned or deserved, but there must be the acknowledgment of, and repentance from, sin.

She was a serial adulterer, currently committing fornication. God’s Word is pretty clear about what constitutes sexual sin. All of the stuff going on in the world to promote aberrant sexual values does not supersede God’s Word.

There are two genders, male and female.

Sexual behavior, apart from the benefit of the covenant of marriage, is sin. Homosexual sin is not worse than heterosexual fornication and adultery.

Marriage is one biological male, and one biological female, in a monogamous, heterosexual, covenant of companionship that lasts a lifetime.

Joh 4:19  The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.”

Nicodemus had said, “We know you are a teacher come from God” (John 3:3). The woman’s statement is along those same lines. It isn’t sarcasm; it is quite complimentary. She may have thought Jesus was the Prophet predicted by Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy, who would have God’s words in his mouth (18:15-19).

Joh 4:20  “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

This is something about which a Samaritan would wonder. A contemporary example might be confusion over so many Protestant denominations or the Reformation vs. Catholicism. Believers must find agreement in evangelism on the essential doctrines.

It’s like an Italian Soda in our Café. There are lots of different flavors, but the essential ingredients are always the same – soda water & flavor.

Joh 4:21  Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
Joh 4:22  You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.”

The Samaritan religion was false. It was established by human decision, contrary to the commands of God. All religions are false.

The apostle Paul explained, “salvation is of the Jews” when he said, To Israel “pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God” (Romans 9:4-5).

Joh 4:23  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
Joh 4:24  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus dismissed the controversy, explaining that neither will be a prescribed place to worship very soon. One commentator writes, “The woman had talked about the worship of her fathers, but Jesus directs her to the worship of the Father, which suggests a personal relationship as opposed to ritualistic ceremonies.”

In the Church Age, your body is the Temples of God, and when gathered, collectively we are His Temple.

“In spirit” refers to our human spirit, made alive by God when we believe Jesus. It is made alive so we may connect with God, whose nature is spirit.

“In truth” means we worship God as He has revealed Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ and in His inspired Word, the Bible. We uphold the character of God against all who would demean it.

“For the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” Don’t think for a moment God needs worshippers. He doesn’t. The Tri-une God is perfect. The need is ours.

Adam and Eve sinned; they hid from God. He sought them out and promised to restore them and their descendants. He promised to bring them back to fellowship, for their sake, to worship Him.

Joh 4:25  The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

The Samaritans recognized only the first five books of the Bible. It was enough to believe Messiah was coming.

You might not know much, but if you are saved, you have a testimony.

Joh 4:26  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

The Bible Knowledge Commentary points out that, “Normally in His ministry in Galilee and Judea, because of political implications, Jesus veiled His office and used the title “Son of Man.”

It is, therefore, exceptional that Jesus spoke with greater revelation to this sinful woman. In the end, she was thirstier than the religious elite.

If you are not saved, God has been talking to you. Not only this morning, but also in other God-incidents. Are you thirsty? Come to the fountain.

There are coincidences in the truest, biblical understanding of the word. It might be fun to think back and recall some of the more notable ones in your walk with the Lord.

Do so, then realize God is appointing them all the time.

Prophecy Update #685 – Totally

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

There are hundreds of unfulfilled prophecies. We are futurists. We interpret them as future events that will occur in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context.

The believers in the current Church Age will be resurrected and raptured. A strong world leader will rise to power sometime afterward and exercise totalitarian control of his citizens. He will require they swear allegiance to him. Anyone who refuses will be executed.

“Totalitarian” is a word we are hearing a lot:

Canadian author and psychologist Jordan Peterson has called COVID19 vaccine mandates as an imitation of “a totalitarian state.”

In New York state, Putnam County Legislature Health Committee unanimously adopted a resolution denouncing COVID19 vaccine mandates, using the term “totalitarian” to refer to them.

U.S. Representative Fred Keller called President Biden’s plan “totalitarian measures.”

Political commentator Candace Owens has called the Australian government a totalitarian regime.

Gunnar Beck, a German member of the European Parliament, calls Europe’s COVID policies dangerously tyrannical and authoritarian. “We are not talking about the Black Death here,” Beck said. “I’m not even sure the Black Death would warrant the effective suspension of the rule of law, constitutional government, and democracy.”

Beck was quoted in an article titled, “Totalitarian Police State” – Unvaccinated Europeans Fight for Rights as COVID Restrictions Tighten.

Excerpts:

Nation by nation, Europe is turning into a two-tiered society in which those who refuse to be vaccinated will live under lockdown without full access to society or jobs, facing fines and even jail. 
In Italy, the unvaccinated now must take a COVID test every 48 hours if they want to live a free life. 

Austria has become ground zero for the world’s toughest COVID crackdown. The unvaccinated have already been in lockdown for almost a month and will have to pay $4,000 in fines every three months unless they not only get vaccinated but also get booster shots.

Eric Hewitt is an American living in Austria with his wife and five children. “The government is attempting to transform the society into a totalitarian police state,” Hewitt said. 

Hewitt’s unvaccinated children have been kicked out of music school for refusing daily COVID tests. They are only allowed to enter grocery stores and pharmacies.

“The toy store wouldn’t let my wife in to buy a toy for a birthday,” Hewitt explained. 

https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2021/december/totalitarian-police-state-unvaccinated-europeans-fight-for-rights-as-covid-restrictions-tighten

Alexander Tschugguel, a Catholic activist with the St. Boniface Institute, says Austrians have become the lab rats of the Western World and believes the Austrian experiment will spread.  He asked, “Do you want the government, which enforces things like abortion, homosexual marriage, which definitely shows that they not only do not follow the teaching of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ but rather fight against it? Do you want them to have every information available, full control of where you are allowed to go and where you’re not allowed to go?”

Meanwhile, in Australia: If you live in the Northern Territory, at least till the end of the week, you are restricted to your home. You can get food, go get a Covid test or jab, go to the hospital, or take care of an elderly family member. Otherwise, if you don’t have the shot you have to stay home.

It’s basically a vaccine passport system to walk outside your door.

A Swedish start-up tech company has invented a scannable microchip that is implanted in people’s arms and can display your COVID19 vaccination status.
This digital implant is designed to be embedded into people’s arms so your vaccine passport pops up when scanned.

I came across this quote: “This is all about Digital ID and a globalized totalitarian social credit system. The vaccine passport is a Trojan horse towards all of this. Energy consumption and personal finance come next.”

It sounds eerily like the future Mark of the Beast by which government will control every aspect of a person’s life.

We are getting a preview of conditions that the Bible predicts will prevail in the future Great Tribulation.

We believe the resurrection and rapture of the church are imminent. It could happen at any moment; nothing needs to happen before it. It will occur before the Great Tribulation.

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

Ready or not, Jesus is coming!

The Sequel Was Terrible! (Genesis 16:1-16)

You never know how a sequel will turn out. Every once in a while, a sequel turns out better than the original. Paddington 2, The Empire Strikes Back, The Wrath Of Khan. More often, the sequels are a disgrace. You wish you had never seen it. The story is lame, the characters get ruined, they introduce new cast members that you’re not interested in. In some cases they undo much of what you loved about the original. If you look up lists of the worst sequels, almost without exception Superman IV: The Quest For Peace is included. That movie was a staple during my childhood. I thought it was awesome, even if it is rated as one of the worst movies of all time.

When we were last in Genesis, we looked at one of the defining scenes of Abraham’s life – him and God looking at the stars. That magnificent evening was followed up with God making a dramatic covenant, binding Himself to Abraham and his descendants forever.

Tonight, it’s the sequel. And, if it weren’t for the grace of God, this would’ve killed the franchise, like Superman IV. But, terrible groupthink and bad on-set behavior cannot stop the providence of God and it can’t sour the grace of God. So, let’s take a look, starting in verse 1.

Genesis 16:1 – Abram’s wife, Sarai, had not borne any children for him, but she owned an Egyptian slave named Hagar.

Abraham and Sarah were very concerned about the fact that they had no children. They’re at an age where it seemed more and more impossible that God’s promise could come to pass.

We’re left to assume that Hagar was one of the servants Pharaoh gave to Abraham back in chapter 12 when they had taken that ill-advised trip to Egypt. So, Hagar, though a real person, symbolizes for us the provision of the world.

We know that this scene speaks of the difference between the flesh and the Spirit because we’re told as much in Galatians 4. This story also foreshadows the difference between the Old and New Covenants – one based on legalism there other on grace.

Your translation may call Hagar a “maidservant,” but, scholars point out that is too genteel a word. We’ll see that Abraham and Sarah treat her with no respect, no dignity, no kindness. Until the close of the chapter, she’s treated roughly – as a possession to be exploited.

Genesis 16:2 – 2 Sarai said to Abram, “Since the Lord has prevented me from bearing children, go to my slave; perhaps through her I can build a family.” And Abram agreed to what Sarai said.

Sarah’s end goal wasn’t bad: She wanted a family. Wasn’t that what God wanted, too? It was, but let’s examine where her plan came from: She begins with a declaration that God had failed. Sarah blames Him for ‘preventing’ her from having children and assumes that none are forthcoming in the future. Of course, God had not failed, it just wasn’t time. We’ve seen how carefully God plans things. He’s does His work according to a specific timeline, motivated by His compassionate mercy.

Not only did Sarah go to the drawing board with bitterness in her heart, we see that she was drawing from the world’s playbook. This scheme to use a slave girl as a surrogate was widely acceptable and even codified in the surrounding culture.

Now, had Sarah gone to the Lord with her hurt and her earnest desire to see His promise fulfilled, we must conclude that she would’ve received comfort and direction from God because that’s what had happened to Abraham in the very last chapter! Instead, we see Sarah using human math, human engineering, leaving God out of the equation altogether. And, scholars point out that, as she speaks, she uses the language of the world. She speaks pretty coarsely throughout this text.

We can bring this up to date in lots of ways, but let’s apply it to ministry work. We’re meant to “make disciples” – to increase the family of faith. Often, though the end goal is worthy, churches turn to human methods, human means, human engineering to try to accomplish that goal. They use the world’s culture to try to increase the size of the church. That’s the same mindset Sarah had. But it leads to a counterfeit increase, with a bunch of troubles added in.

Be that as it may, Abraham agrees with his wife. The problem is, it was not how the Lord had led. Remember: God was a covenant partner in Abraham’s life. Abraham should have gone to the Lord for approval, since it concerned the very thing God had spoken to him about more than once.

Genesis 16:3 – 3 So Abram’s wife, Sarai, took Hagar, her Egyptian slave, and gave her to her husband, Abram, as a wife for him. This happened after Abram had lived in the land of Canaan ten years.

They could try to justify it in their own minds, but Abraham and Sarah are making a huge mistake here. Hagar really had no say in it – she’s a piece of property, legally speaking, and they’re treating her as such. But, rather than trusting God, Abraham and Sarah are taking the reins of their lives into their own hands, and they’re failing to protect their marriage. This same type of mistake had been Abraham’s idea back in chapter 12. So, they are both playing fast and loose with their marriage.

The marriage relationship is meant to be the closest human relationship you have. You are one flesh with your spouse. It is meant to be unique and consecrated. If you are married, you are not to allow anyone else to occupy that place of closeness or intimacy or connection that you pledged to your spouse. And you should help your spouse avoid mistakes like this, so that you are strengthening each other and your oneness at the same time.

Genesis 16:4 – 4 He slept with Hagar, and she became pregnant. When she saw that she was pregnant, her mistress became contemptible to her.

Until this point, Hagar isn’t to be blamed. But now her heart fills up with pride and she begins to show contempt to Sarah. In the eyes of society, Hagar would be seen as the primary wife now that she was with child and Sarah was barren, and Hagar let her know it.

Success is not always a mark of God’s approval or favor. This was the last thing God wanted for this family. I’m sure they were celebrating at first, but that quickly turned to resentment and discord.

Genesis 16:5 – 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for my suffering! I put my slave in your arms, and when she saw that she was pregnant, I became contemptible to her. May the Lord judge between me and you.”

Now that things have turned out terribly Sarah is ready to involve the Lord! We’re eavesdropping on a bad argument in the family tent, but the truth is, Abraham should have put a stop to Sarah’s idea right away. Instead, he went along and now they are reaping the crop of carnal choices.

Genesis 16:6 – 6 Abram replied to Sarai, “Here, your slave is in your power; do whatever you want with her.” Then Sarai mistreated her so much that she ran away from her.

This is an absolute scandal. We are talking about the first family of faith! Sarah wasn’t just a little rude. The term used for ‘mistreated’ is the same one Moses uses to describe how the Egyptians oppressed the Israelites in Exodus.

Just as it was culturally acceptable to use Hagar as a surrogate, it was also culturally acceptable to treat her harshly. But this was totally outside what was acceptable to the Lord. Our God is tender and gracious and long-suffering and meek. We are to be conformed to that image, not the image of the harsh and brutal world.

As far as sequels go, this is as bad as it gets. Luckily, a surprise cameo will redeem this picture.

Directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Jackson, and Martin Scorsese are known for showing up in their films. People loved seeing Stan Lee, the creator of all those wonderful comics, in the MCU. We cut to Hagar in the desert. Desperate, alone, unprotected, no supplies, pregnant, and suddenly the Creator makes a cameo.

Genesis 16:7 – 7 The angel of the Lord found her by a spring in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur.
How do we know this is God? Well, she will identify Him as God in verse 13 and He makes an “I will” promise to her. Some say this is just an angel, not God, but that isn’t consistent with what we read. No, this is what we call a Theophany (or sometimes a Christophany), which is a Pre-Incarnate appearance of Jesus on the earth. And here we have the very first reference to the Angel of the Lord. He’s come to find a hopeless, sinful, Egyptian slave girl. She didn’t find Him, He found her.

Genesis 16:8 – 8 He said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She replied, “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai.”

We sense the tenderness not only by what He said, but by how she responded. Alone in the desert is no place for a woman in her condition. The approach of a strange man should have been scary. Yet, she did not recoil at His presence – she doesn’t try to hide away. There must have been something deeply comforting about Him.

When He speaks, He calls her by name. One scholar points out that this is the only known instance in ancient Near Eastern literature where a Deity addresses a woman directly by name. But, he does not coddle her. He identifies her as a slave to Sarah. And she admits that she has abandoned her duty. She speaks humbly and truthfully. She doesn’t bring up the mistreatment she had endured. Perhaps she realized He already knew all about it.

Genesis 16:9 – 9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her authority.”

“Go back? But I was suffering! I was mistreated! I was a slave!” And the Lord said, “That’s right. Go back.” You see, God wasn’t happy about her affliction – He was responding because He heard her cries -but He had something greater planned for her life than simply avoiding suffering. Hagar’s plan was, “Let’s avoid suffering. It probably means I’ll starve in the desert, but at least I won’t suffer under Sarah.” Meanwhile, God had a great and awesome plan for her life that, yes, included some difficulty, but was a much better alternative than she had planned for herself. What was His plan?

Genesis 16:10 – 10 The angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count.”

This Gentile was going to get in on God’s incredible promise and provision. Was that end result worth the price of admission? It seems that Hagar was shocked at what God was saying, both the promise and His directive to go back to that terrible job. So the Lord continues.

Genesis 16:11 – 11 The angel of the Lord said to her, “You have conceived and will have a son. You will name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard your cry of affliction.

The name Ishmael means, “God hears,” or, “may God hear.” So, in this short scene we learn a lot about God. We learn that He sees you and He hears you. We learn He knows what’s going on in your mind and your body (He knew she was pregnant). He knows your past and He knows your future. He knows the struggles you’re dealing with and the hurts deep in your heart. And He moves on your behalf, to give you life more abundantly if you will believe Him and obey.

Genesis 16:12 – 12 This man will be like a wild donkey. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; he will settle near all his relatives.”

Ishmael and his descendants would be strong, independent – living outside of civilized society. The Lord compares him to a breed of donkey called the Syrian Onager. It was known for great beauty and strength. It was compared to thoroughbred horses. In fact, one Greek historian reports that they were able to outrun horses, and would often taunt their pursuers. The prophecy in verse 12 has continued to be true of Ishmael’s descendants, which include some of the Arab people, who still live in opposition to the sons of Israel.

Genesis 16:13-14 – 13 So she named the Lord who spoke to her: “You are El-roi,” for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?” 14 That is why the well is called Beer-lahai-roi. It is between Kadesh and Bered.

This is an amazing turn of events. She gives God a name, and He accepts it! I don’t think ‘Gene’ is that obscure a name, but historically, any time I’ve gone to Starbucks, they give me some other name and, frankly, it’s not appreciated. The best one was, Chi.

Some linguists believe that Hagar is saying something like, “Wait, I saw God and I didn’t die?” She’s in shock. You see, that was what people thought would happen if God showed up. Think of Samson’s parents in Judges 13. But here Hagar starts to think that she might not understand as much about God as she thought. She expected crushing. Instead she discovered that this God is not only a real, living Person, but He sees and He hears. He comes in search and He speaks and He directs and He protects and He provides and He intends and He comforts and He helps.

Genesis 16:15-16 – 15 So Hagar gave birth to Abram’s son, and Abram named his son (whom Hagar bore) Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him.

This is a very unexpected conclusion. We see significant growth here. The family of faith is finally back on track and making progress. Hagar returned, without any guarantee that her day-to-day would improve, and we see that when she told Abraham what had happened, he not only believed her, but he humbled himself under the word of God and submitted accordingly. He named the boy Ishmael – God hears. As in, “God hears how you’ve been afflicting Hagar.” But what a great moment this is for us to witness. God’s people aren’t perfect. It’s unreasonable to expect that believers won’t make mistakes. The question is: Are we being conformed into God’s image? Are we progressing in our walk of faith? In our submission to God’s word? Are we decreasing so that the Lord might increase in us?

Abraham would have to wait another 14 years before the son of promise finally arrived. Hagar would live a long time as a servant. It wasn’t going to be easy. But, they were moving forward in God’s plan and provision, and that was a good thing. So much better than the alternative.

People love film franchises. The Marvel Cinematic Universe currently holds the title for most movies – 27 to date. James Bond is number 2 with 25 movies. But the oldest movie franchise has been around for 90 years. It’s the Mummy, with 19 films, starting all the way back in 1932.

Your life is the next sequel in God’s Marvelous Charismatic Universe. Broken down the word charismatic simply means “gifts of grace.” God still intends to lead you forward by His generous grace, into new growth of love, compassion, activity, and submission to His word. Let Him have creative control so that your sequel is as good as the original. Recognize that your role is of a beloved servant, sent to endure whatever is required in order to accomplish the Director’s creative vision. If we go His way, rather than our own, the story will be a triumph and we will be glorified as we bring Him glory and praise.

Grace For The Cure (Leviticus 1:1-9)

It’s always sad to see the Christmas season go. We love to celebrate the Gift God gave us. He sent His Son, born that man no more may die. God did not come because He was curious to see what we were up to or because He was bored of heaven. He came on a life-saving mission, to bring a cure we all need.

Today, we talk about racing to find the cure. Usually there are actual runs you can be a part of to raise money for research teams. There’s the race to find a cure for cancer, the race to cure arthritis. The Michael J. Fox foundation has teams that race to cure Parkinson’s. In 2015 journalists reported on the race to cure Ebola. Now, of course, it’s the Coronavirus. All worthy endeavors. But, for all the thousands of years of human history, we’ve made no progress on the plague called sin. It’s the reason for all the death in this universe, all the suffering, all the hatred and violence and sorrow.

Humanity has tried many ways to deal with this affliction. We’ve tried to legislate it away. We’ve tried ignoring it or just accepting it. But, the world is just as sick as ever. That’s because for this problem, there’s only one cure and it has to come from someone who isn’t infected.

There’s a rare condition called Diamond-Blackfan anemia. It’s a blood disease that a person is born with. While some of the short term effects can be treated for a time with blood transfusions, there is only one cure: A full bone marrow transplant from an uncontaminated donor.

Christ came to die so that we could have our sins dealt with and forgiven. That was always the plan, from eternity past. In the centuries leading up to Christ’s arrival, God interacted with His people in ways that demonstrated and foreshadowed what the Messiah would do. It wasn’t only an object lesson, it was also a way that sin could be temporarily dealt with, not unlike how people buy things on credit with the payment being made later. Or how those suffering from Diamond-Blackfan anemia receive blood transfusions to forestall the inevitable outcome of their disease. God established the sacrificial system that we read about in the Old Testament. It’s sometimes called the Levitical Law or the Law of Moses. In this system, man was able to stay in relationship with God, personally and nationally, through a code of holiness and animal sacrifice. It wasn’t the sacrifice that saved a person – it’s impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. God has always saved by grace, through faith. But as believers participated in this arrangement, they were able to temporarily cover their sin, looking forward to the final work God would do when He sent His Son to, once for all, pay the penalty for sin and cleanse us of our unrighteousness.

The Book of Exodus ends with the Israelites completing the construction of a tent where God would dwell among them called the Tabernacle. Now, God was ready to give them the prescription that they might treat their sinful condition and stay in relationship with Him. And He begins it all with the burnt offering. This was when a person would offer an animal on the altar of God as a propitiation for their sin. Meaning, it was given to turn away God’s wrath against your sin, so that it would fall on that offering and you, the giver, would be reconciled to God.

This burnt offering, like the rest of the sacrifices in the Tabernacle, spoke of Christ and the work He would finish on your behalf. So, as we study these verses, we should always see them in the context of God’s love for us and His giving of Jesus Christ so that we could be made right with Him.

Leviticus 1:1 – Then the Lord summoned Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting:

This may sound official and demanding, but in reality it reveals how concerned God is for the people of earth. He came down to their level. He was willing to allow His glory to take up residence in their little tent. I’m not much of a tent camper. I think mattresses and indoor plumbing are much more enjoyable. Some of you have spent time in the third world or disaster areas. I doubt that, while you were there, you thought, “Let’s vacation here next year!” Or, “Let’s move here!” But God is so full of love and compassion for us that He came to us. He called to us. He was the One that suggested this Tabernacle, where the people could interact with Him and be blessed by Him. But, that great compassion doesn’t mean that God makes Himself less holy. Not in the slightest. Instead, He makes a way for us to be made right in His presence. That’s what Leviticus is all about. It’s what the work of Jesus is all about: Reconciling ruined man to a perfect God.

J.A. Seiss reminds us that, in the Tabernacle, God spoke from the mercy seat. Though the Tabernacle is long gone, the Lord still speaks from His throne of mercy. And He speaks to you. He calls out to you. First by the testimony of creation. Then through the specific revelation of the Bible, which God has inspired, protected, and delivered so that you might know Him and how great His love is for you. The Holy Spirit is calling, too, drawing you to God and guiding you to the truth.

God is calling to each one of us today. Sometimes, a problem arises and people advise you to “call your congressman” or, “file a complaint with corporate.” There’s usually very little reaction when we do. But consider what we’re seeing: The God who made heaven and earth, He sees the problem and He came to us with the solve. His fix for our failure.

Leviticus 1:2 – 2 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When any of you brings an offering to the Lord from the livestock, you may bring your offering from the herd or the flock.

In Exodus 20, after the Israelites had heard the Ten Commandments and seen God’s power, they said to Moses, “You speak to us and we’ll listen, but don’t let God speak to us!” Moses’ response to them was that they didn’t need to be afraid, but they withdrew. Even still, God’s care for them did not flag. He was a Gentleman. He calls to Moses and says, “Please give this message to My people.” And He begins to talk to them about a set of offerings.

For this sacrifice the people would bring an animal from their flocks of sheep or herds of cattle. And, even here, we see the grace of God. Yes, it would be costly for them to hand over a bull or a sheep, but these were animals that were readily available to all of Israel. He didn’t say, “You’re going to have to bring me a snow leopard or a humpback whale.” That seems silly, but He could have demanded that. Instead, He selects something that was right at their fingertips.

You see, God wants to reconcile people to Himself. He wants to have a relationship with each of us. He wants to bear away our sins. He is a Physician who desires to cure our terminal, spiritual disease.

But, the offering had to be voluntary and made with something of your own. You couldn’t trap a gopher on the way. It was your animal.

As we’ve been learning in the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. God didn’t find some poor sap by the wayside and offer them on the cross. He gave His only begotten Son.

Notice who His offer is made to: “any of you.” It didn’t matter if they were male or female, rich or poor, important or unknown. Everyone was invited. The same is true today. Jesus once cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me, and drink.” And in Revelation 22, the Holy Spirit says, “Let the one who is thirsty come. Let the one who desires take the water of life freely.”

If you would be forgiven of your sin and made whole, you only need to come to Jesus in obedience and faith. As J. Vernon McGee says, “none are excluded expect those who exclude themselves.” God doesn’t keep people out of heaven. He’s trying to keep you out of hell!

Leviticus 1:3 – 3 “If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to bring an unblemished male. He will bring it to the entrance to the tent of meeting so that he may be accepted by the Lord.

Only a perfect sacrifice was acceptable. You can’t clean a muddy spot with a muddy rag. This stipulation was highlighting the fact that the Messiah would have to be absolutely perfect in every way – and Jesus is. He was without sin, without deceit. When He was insulted, He did not insult in return. He never erred, never failed, never came up short. Because of His perfection, He is the acceptable, final substitute for all mankind. You see, the Israelites had to make these offerings again and again. It was a transfusion, not a transplant. But, Jesus paid it all, once for all.

The Israelites were to bring a particular offering to a particular place. No DIY option when it comes to salvation. We must come on God’s terms, otherwise our effort is unacceptable. We’re familiar with “acceptable forms of identification.” This is “acceptable form of propitiation,” and there’s only one. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” And God the Father agreed. He said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

And the only acceptable offering was death. It would do no good to bring gold. You couldn’t leave promises to “do better” on the altar. No double-or-nothing bets that the rest of your life would be lived perfectly. There had to be a life-for-life substitute. Because without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. That’s how serious sin is. It’s easy for us to be very casual about sin. But sin is no piddling thing. We tend to think of it as a little water spill on the floor. Not that big of a deal, easily dealt with. Or just leave it and it’ll dry on its own. Back in 2014, lab personnel found 6 “forgotten” vials of smallpox in a cardboard box in Washington. What if the spill is small pox? Then we’re a little more concerned, right? That’s what sin is. It is the deadliest thing in the world and it is the natural byproduct of the human heart. This is why the Messiah had to die. But, when you accept Jesus as your Savior and Substitute, in Him you have redemption through His blood.

Leviticus 1:4 – 4 He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering so it can be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.

You may have heard some different explanations of what this word “atonement” means. It can mean the process through which you are made at-one-with God. It is also a term that can speak of your sin being covered. It can also mean the “wiping away” of your impurity. And, while the priests did offer burnt offerings daily, weekly, and monthly in a general sense for the nation, what we’re talking about here is a personal, voluntary choice to go to God for forgiveness. And we see here just how personal it was. The offerer would bring forward his splendid animal, healthy and strong, full of life. And there, at the altar, he would place his hand on the head, symbolically recognizing that this innocent animal was going to die for something the offerer was guilty of.

Of course, the sheep and bulls had no say in it, but Jesus did. He did not have to do what He did. But He went willingly to the cross, enduring the shame and the horrors of that suffering for the joy that was set before Him – you and me. His love for you is so great He laid down His own life for you.

Leviticus 1:5-6 – 5 He is to slaughter the bull before the Lord; Aaron’s sons the priests are to present the blood and splatter it on all sides of the altar that is at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 6 Then he is to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces.

‘He is to slaughter,’ meaning the offerer, not the priests. When you brought your animal in, you laid your hand on, then you cut its throat and you butchered it down yourself. What a sober experience this must have been. Last week, we had to put down our beloved, old cat. I’d rate the experience 0 stars. I was there, but, thankfully, I didn’t have to do the job. I can’t imagine having to perform this sacrificial task again and again and again, knowing each time that it was happening, not because the animal was sick or hurt or old, but that my sin was the cause of all this suffering and death.

It was your sin which nailed Jesus to the cross, yours and mine. Like these burnt offerings, He was an innocent victim. But our trespasses were put on Him so we might become righteous.

Leviticus 1:7 – 7 The sons of Aaron the priest will prepare a fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire.

Once the Levitical system was established this fire on the altar was never put out. It was to be kept continually burning. Jesus is now our High Priest. He is always ready to receive you. He is always ready to be your atonement – to make you right with God and cleanse you of your sin. All you have to do is come to Him. You don’t have to bring a bull or a lamb. Just your heart and your faith.

Romans 10:9-10 – If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.

Leviticus 1:8-9 – 8 Aaron’s sons the priests are to arrange the pieces, the head, and the fat on top of the burning wood on the altar. 9 The offerer is to wash its entrails and legs with water. Then the priest will burn all of it on the altar as a burnt offering, a food offering, a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

How could something so bloody and terrible be a “pleasing aroma to the Lord?” It’s not the death that He was happy about, it was the dealing with sin and the restoration of relationship between God and man. God the Father loves His Son. He wasn’t happy to see Him suffer. Yet He was pleased to crush Him as a guilt offering so that we might have a chance to be saved.

We see in this offering a specificity. A certain place, certain types of animals, a certain way of breaking the offering down and washing it and arranging it. It speaks to us of the fact that this spiritual work is not haphazard. You couldn’t just throw a pile of guts around and call that “atonement.” God was the only One who could solve the sin problem, and His way is the only way. Not our own spin on it, not what makes sense for today, but His way, revealed in Scripture. For the Jews, it was this system which looked forward to the final sacrifice made by the Messiah Himself. For us, the sacrificial work is finished. Now we look back in faith to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Perfect, Spotless Lamb of God. If you want to be cured of your sin and live a life in right standing before God, freed from guilt and ruin, this is the only way.

In 2002 Katie Trebing was born with Diamond-Blackfan anemia. Within hours she needed a transfusion or she would die. She would need them again and again to put off death for a little while longer. But, in the end, the treatment wouldn’t be able to save her. There was only one hope: a bone marrow transplant. But Katie’s older brother wasn’t a match. So, Katie’s father and mother decided to have another child. And in 2005 Christopher Trebing was born. Katie’s mom said, “He was always smiling, never cranky … the perfect baby.” A year later, the transplant happened. And in 2007 Katie was taken off all medications and declared cured by her doctors. She needed to become new inside and she did because someone else gave themself to her.

Jesus Christ was born to die. That was the only way that people could be saved from sin and restored to God. But, just like we see in this Old Testament system, it was not something forced upon people. It was a free invitation. All the work has been done. The way has been paved by the blood of Jesus. Will you go to Him and receive all He wants to give?

For those of us who are saved, we need not worry that His atoning work will wear off or that He will forget our names are written in His Book of Life. And, thankfully, we no longer need to bring bulls or rams to slaughter in His house. Instead we can bask in His finished work of atonement and enjoy His ongoing work of sanctification in our lives as we stay near to Him, following as He leads, this God who loves us so much.