Fitted for Hard Times (1 of 3)

Please read Matthew 10:1-15 in your Bible.  Part One: The Conditions of Discipleship

Fitted for Hard Times (1)Image by James Best, (C) 2020, https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020

In the white collar world of professional businessmen, there has been a lot of popular press written on the subject of leadership.  In the Bible, a lot is said about discipleship and service.  How’s that for an illustration of the clash of cultures?

The subject of discipleship, of training and being trained in following Jesus, is so important we’ll devote the next three weeks to studying Jesus’ method of discipleship in Matthew 10.  It is a rich vein of teaching, so we are going to sink a deep shaft into it.

To stimulate our thinking, it want to share a few insights into the subject of discipleship, representing varied viewpoints.

Nineteenth century Danish theologian Soren Kierkagaard wrote, “I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, “If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and follow me.”  Kierkagaard’s comment?  “And no one laughed.”

The reformer Martin Luther wrote, “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.”

American evangelist Dwight L. Moody said, “It is better to train ten people than to do the work of ten people. But it is harder.”

These three men all observed, in their different ways, the essential nature of discipleship in the Christian life.  Real belief is manifest in spiritual growth, as haphazard as it may look from the outside.  There is no choice in this matter; Jesus’ followers are disciples or they follow someone else.

CONTEXT: In Matthew 9, Jesus has called Matthew to be a disciple.  He is the last one to be called to follow Jesus.  Then, at the end of the chapter, Jesus looked compassionately on the crowd gathered before Him and urged His disciples to pray to the Lord of the Harvest for more workers in the field.  These two chapters have a focus on Jesus’ disciples, His partners in ministry.

Jesus prepared His disciples for service and witness.

  1. To be a disciple you must first be named as one of His people (vs. 2-4).

The Twelve are named four times in the New Testament.  The four lists are here in Matthew 10, Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:13; there is no listing in John.

This is the only time in Matthew and Mark they are called APOSTLES. The word itself has a specific meaning: “messenger, envoy, ambassador.”  Hebrews 13:1 refers to Jesus as an APOSTLE.

When the word came into use as a title for a church officer, its meaning widened.  At first, only the Twelve were called Apostles.  Then Paul and five others were called APOSTLES.  Then leaders over groups of churches got the title.

Regardless of one’s title, every believer is first called by God.  We are saved because God decided to offer salvation to us.  Here are some general observations about the original twelve Apostles.

– The Twelve were all laymen; there were no priests among them.

– They were not chosen because they gave Jesus any advantage.

– They were a mix of personalities w/ some opposites.  (For example, the opposing political views of Matthew the tax collector versus Simon the Zealot, the opposite personalities of Peter and the “Sons of Thunder” versus “Doubting Thomas.”)

– They were called to follow Jesus, they didn’t volunteer.  Some of Jesus’ followers did volunteer, but they are not called APOSTLES.

The Apostles were ordinary men whom God empowered to extra-ordinary things.  They were so important to the plan of God that Revelation 21:14 tells us that the foundation stones of the heavenly city are inscribed with their names!

  1. To be a disciple you must come under Jesus’ authority (v. 1)

JESUS CALLED HIS DISCIPLES TO HIM: Jesus, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, called each of these men individually.  It was His decision that made them disciples; it was their decision to accept.

To be CALLED is to be invited by God to accept His will.  Everyone is CALLED to be saved.  In 2 Peter 2:9 we are told it is God’s will that no one should perish, that all should repent.  This is a universal calling.

Those who accept God’s call to salvation receive an additional calling to do a specific kind of ministry in a specific time and place.  In the modern Church we have mistakenly used the language of “calling” for professional church leaders.  That is unbiblical.  All disciples are CALLED to minister for Jesus.

HE…GAVE THEM AUTHORITY = On this occasion, Jesus delegated to the Twelve His AUTHORITY to do two things in particular.  One: TO DRIVE OUT EVIL (“unclean”) SPIRITS.  These spirits are in opposition to God.  They do evil and tempt people to do evil.  They were to be driven out because their evil is toxic to humans, separating their victims from God.

Two: TO HEAL EVERY DISEASE AND ILLNESS.  As Jesus gave the Twelve AUTHORITY to do these two different things, it is plain that not every physical illness is a result of demonic activity.  Matthew Henry’s comment is good: “The design of the gospel is to conquer the devil and cure the world.”  Last week we saw Jesus doing both these things in Luke 4.

On other occasions (i.e., Matthew 19:28) Jesus’ delegated authority would take other forms.  What’s important for us here is to note that His disciples do not exercise their own authority.  Instead, they minister under His.

  1. As a disciple you must do service and witness at the same time (vs. 5-8).

Jesus sent out the Twelve after giving them INSTRUCTIONS.  This is a potent word, used in a variety of situations: the commands given by military leaders to their subordinates, the rules or principles given by a teacher to their students, and the word of a king or emperor as laws put upon the people.

This emphasis on service and witness means the object of ministry is not self or other believers, but others, and particularly the LOST.  In this case Jesus’ command was to minister only to their fellow Jews: the Gentiles and Samaritans would be reached at another time.  Jesus’ command to GO… TO THE LOST SHEEP OF ISRAEL fulfilled the Old Testament promises that a Messiah would be sent to Israel.  This is an example to us that ministry is not about gratifying self, but is focused on meeting the needs of others.

Our ministry of witness is to PREACH…THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS NEAR.  Repentance is the response for which we’re aiming as we witness, because repentance is necessary for salvation (Mark 6:12).  THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN refers to the people of God, distinguished by true faith.

To say t KINGDOM is NEAR means two things.  One, it is close enough to be recognized by those who have faith and the Spirit to see it.  Two, that a decision is demanded: don’t procrastinate.  The KINGDOM is NEAR in time; the opportunity to join it is now.

Our ministry of service is to relieve all kinds of distress.  SICK…DEAD…LEPROSY…DEMONS are a representative sample of all the kinds of ills human beings can suffer.  Jesus gave His disciples AUTHORITY over them all!  Following the example of the Apostles, we are to provide the material and spiritual service that results in healing other’s suffering.  The Apostles returned later and testified that they had received power to accomplish these works of service.

Witness and service are to be given generously.  As Jesus said, “FREELY YOU HAVE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE.”  God gives to us with grace and generosity; it reveals a lot about the true state of our faith when we don’t show that same kind of grace and generosity to others.  In this, the apostles were to follow God’s example and thereby set an example for us to follow.  This instruction also helps us avoid the temptation to build our own ”empire” instead of building God’s Kingdom.

  1. As a disciple you must depend on God, not yourself (vs. 9-11).

This requires you to not trust in your worldly resources.  There is a personal reason Jesus gave this command: the Apostles were to trust God to provide for their material needs.  To teach them this, Jesus instructed them to take no provisions for themselves: no money, no bag for carrying an extra tunic or sandals, nor even a staff.  If they took it along, they were depending on their own resources, not on God.  The phrase TAKE ALONG meant “procure.”  It was about going out to get all the stuff a person might need for a life on the road.

Jesus had a theological reason for this teaching.  If you and I do only the things we know we can do, then we get the glory.  On the other hand, if we do the things that only God could do, He gets the glory.

Jesus had two practical reasons.  First, if you know you’re going to depend on others for all your material needs, you have an obvious motive for ministry.  If your next meal depends on you witnessing, you’ve got some urgency in your belly that doesn’t depend on “willpower.”

Second, this was a short-term “training” mission, not an extended trip.  They were not going to the Gentiles or Samaritans.  There was no need for the extensive preparations that a lengthier journey would require.  Ministry was the priority.

Disciples trust God to equip them through the people He has prepared.  Notice the principle behind Jesus’ instruction in vs. 9-11: worthiness.  The worker is a worthy person.  FOR THE WORKER IS WORTHY OF HIS KEEP.  Those who sacrifice themselves to do the work of ministry deserve our support.

The worker is to search for a WORTHY PERSON to supply His needs and stick with them.  The worthiness of this person would be spirituality first and material support second.  Also, because the Apostles would be associating with that person throughout their stay, their worthiness would be measured by their reputation in the community: would association with them help or hinder their witness?  Jesus told them to STAY AT HIS HOUSE UNTIL YOU LEAVE.  It would be tempting to “trade up” to a nicer house or better food, but that would be ungrateful to someone who’d been generous and might have impaired the reputation of the Apostles.

  1. As a disciple you must practice peace and judgment (vs. 11-15).

Begin new relationships with peace, but be prepared to render judgment.  Remember that the home in this example belongs to a WORTHY PERSON, so it is reasonable to expect a peaceful greeting.

The first step, then, is to give the household a peaceful GREETING (12).  In Jewish culture, that was “Peace to this house” or “Shalom.”

The second step was determined by the response of the household.  If they responded to the greeting of PEACE with PEACE, then they were deserving of PEACE.  In that case, the Apostles were to STAY AT THAT HOUSE until they left, and allow their PEACE to REST ON IT too.

On the other hand, if they responded to the greeting of PEACE by not welcoming them or not listening to them (v. 14), then the Apostles were to LET their PEACE RETURN to them and shake the dust of that house or town off their feet.  In Jewish culture, shaking the dust off one’s feet or clothing was a nonverbal curse (Nehemiah 5:13; Acts 18:6).  For example, it was their habit to shake the dust off before entering Gentile lands so as not to carry any of the soil of the Promised Land with them.  Before leaving Gentile lands, they would shake the dust off to avoid bringing any of that unclean soil with them into the Promised Land.  This was a curse that would come to pass ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT.

Realize that not everyone will accept your witness and service.  These instructions make the most sense when we remember Jesus was preparing His disciples for the possibility of rejection and acceptance.  He was sending them out of the safety of their group and the world was as likely to show them the back of its hand as offer a hand in fellowship.

His other purpose is to demonstrate this is serious business.  To reject God’s ambassadors is a rejection of God; to reject God is to put one’s self under a curse that will come to full and deadly fruition on Judgment Day.  As Jesus explained in verse 40, “HE WHO RECEIVES YOU RECEIVES ME, AND HE WHO RECEIVES ME RECEIVES THE ONE WHO SENT ME.”

Though we come peaceably to witness and serve, there is no guarantee we will be received peaceably.  When people make up their own minds, their response is their responsibility, not ours.

Jesus prepared His disciples for service and witness.

We observed earlier the Twelve were called to follow Jesus, they did not volunteer.  The difference between the two is instructive:

  • Disciples surrender their rights in service to their master, but volunteers retain their rights and some are quite likely to bellyache at perceived violations of their rights.
  • Discipleship is an act of complete self-sacrifice while volunteers offer only a portion of their resources, often what they can easily spare.
  • Discipleship is a way of life while volunteerism is more like a hobby; something we enjoy but is not central to our survival or growth.
  • Disciples live to serve while volunteers expect to be rewarded for their service.

While it is true that the church needs workers, God calls all of us to be disciples.  The difference between the two makes all the difference.  A person can be a volunteer in the church without being a disciple, but a disciple will always be a gracious volunteer.

 

Part Two: The Cost of Discipleship

Part Three: The Courage to be a Disciple

 

RESOURCES:

Message #1321

http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/d/discipleship.htm

The Matthew Henry Commentary, Matthew Henry

He’s Something Else

liverbirds

Please read Revelation 1:4-20 in your Bible.  I’ve used the NIV (1984) as my resource for this article.  This is the second of three articles in a series.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the phrase “he’s something else” (the title of today’s message) can mean, “unusual; extremely good or extremely bad.”  (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/something-else) As I’m pointing to Jesus and saying “He’s something else,” I feel it’s necessary to make it perfectly plain that Jesus is SO unusual He’s one of a kind, and so extremely good He’s God.  So – make no mistake about that.

I also want to make certain that no one thinks I’m applying to Jesus the hit song “He’s Something Else,” made famous by the all-girl band, the Liverbirds.  Like some other rock group I won’t mention, the Liverbirds were from Liverpool, England, performing from 1963-1968.  They took their name from a mythical bird, a symbol of Liverpool.  In 2009 Irene Cara covered the song, changing the title to “My Baby.”  That song has nothing to do with Jesus either.

Now that we’ve got all that settled, let me tell you what I DO mean when I say “He’s something else.”  We will continue our look at Jesus in Revelation one to see Him in a different light, to emphasize the divine side of His absolutely unique existence as both God and man.  We will also, along the way, be reminded that when He comes the second time, it will not be as a helpless peasant child, but as the All-conquering Hero, the One who restores creation to its perfection, according to the plan of God the Father.  This is the second in a series of three messages to view Jesus in this way.  Yes, I think it’s that important.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

  1. The descriptions of Jesus in Revelation 1 point to a powerful being.

REVIEW

Vs.  4 + 8 = HIM WHO IS, WHO WAS, WHO IS TO COME.

  1. 4 = He is enthroned = He exercises His authority.
  2. 5 = THE FAITHFUL WITNESS = He is trustworthy and truthful.
  3. 5 = FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD = He leads us to life.
  4. 5 = RULER OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH = He triumphs.
  5. 6 = He MADE US TO BE A KINGDOM AND PRIESTS TO SERVE HIS GOD AND FATHER = He delegates power for service.
  6. 6 = TO HIM BE GLORY AND POWER FOR EVER AND EVER!
  7. 7 = HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS = Just as He ascended.

NEW

Verse seven = ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE EARTH WILL MOURN BECAUSE OF HIM.  This sounds very negative but consider this: in Revelation, a SIMILAR phrase – INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH – is a euphemism for wicked, self-condemned, unbelieving folk (Revelation 3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 12, 14; 17:2, 8).  They are OF THE EARTH, not of heaven in their spirituality and moral life.

They will MOURN because only at the end they will see they’ve rejected Jesus at their peril.  They may cry out, but it will be too late.  Zechariah 12:10-14 speaks of mourning, but there it is a cry of repentance provoked by the Holy Spirit, not at all what John records.

Verse eight = Jesus is the ALPHA & OMEGA, FIRST & LAST (v. 17). The words “I AM” remind us of God’s declaration to Moses, naming Himself as the “I AM,” or Yahweh.  ALPHA/FIRST refers to Jesus activity in the creation of the world (see Colossians 1:16).  He is the source, the beginning of all that exists.  OMEGA/LAST = His Second Coming is the event signaling the end of the universe, Jesus is also the end of all that exists.  This proclamation is repeated twice at the end of John’s vision; Revelation 21:6 & 22:13.

Verse Eight = Jesus is THE ALMIGHTY.  This is how the Hebrew words Yahweh Sebaoth are translated; “Lord of Hosts.”  The Leader of the Angels is one aspect of God’s complete power over His creation.  God is all powerful but He chooses to not use His power to negate the free will of the people He’s created.  Instead, He relies on the guiding power of love.  We do well to follow His example, using love to influence others.

Verse thirteen = “LIKE A SON OF MAN.”  According to the Gospels, Jesus used the title “Son of Man” more than any other to refer to Himself.  It is important we understand this choice.  It may sound less powerful than “Son of God,” but it is a title no less divine.  The title SON OF MAN originates in Ezekiel 2:1, where an angel addressed the prophet in this way and repeated it dozens of times in the book.  In Daniel 7:13, a figure endowed with divine power is said to be LIKE A SON OF MAN.  In Daniel 8:17, Daniel himself is called a SON OF MAN.  This phrase is repeated in Revelation 1:13 in a description of Jesus and in 14:14 as a description of an angel.

This title is used for prophets, angels and Jesus Christ.  It refers to someone endowed with a message from God and the divine power to make it known to all people in miraculous ways.  I assume Jesus saw this as His ministry and that is why He referred to Himself in this way.

Verse thirteen = He was DRESSED IN A ROBE REACHING DOWN TO HIS FEET.  Wearing a full-length robe was a sign of wealth and/or authority.  Persons so dressed did not do menial work for a living; they would be the ancient equivalent of what we call a “white collar” laborer.  This is yet another symbol of Jesus’ personal authority.

Verse thirteen = WITH A GOLD SASH AROUND HIS CHEST.  In Old Testament times, the high priest wore a gold breastplate adorned with twelve semi-precious stones.  Perhaps this SASH is meant to remind us that Jesus is our High Priest.

In Revelation 15:6 the seven angels who carried the plagues wore gold sashes.  The image of a gold sash is an ancient equivalent of having a badge or ID.  It verified the person wearing it had authority.  Whether high priest or angel, they represented God and enacted His will.

Verse fourteen = HIS HEAD AND HAIR WERE WHITE LIKE WOOL, AS WHITE AS SNOW.  White is a biblical symbol of purity.  The fact that His head is white indicates a purity of Jesus’ inner man.  This also directly associates Jesus with the Ancient of Days described in Daniel 7:9, whose head of hair is also WHITE LIKE WOOL and whose clothing was as WHITE AS SNOW.

Verse fourteen = HIS EYES WERE LIKE A BLAZING FIRE.  Fire is, among other things, a biblical symbol of judgment.  That His eyes are ablaze indicates that Jesus sees accurately and judges fairly.  This description is repeated in Revelation 2:18 & 19:12, marking it as important.

The phrase EYES OF THE LORD is repeated over 100 times in Scripture, it refers to God’s omniscience, His attention to His people, and whether or not they obey His moral law.  For example, in 2 Chronicles 16:9 it is written, FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD RANGE ALL OVER THE EARTH TO STRENGTHEN THOSE WHOSE HEARTS ARE FULLY COMMITTED TO HIM.  This is also seen in Hebrews 4:13; NOTHING IN ALL CREATION IS HIDDEN FROM GOD’S SIGHT.  EVERYTHING IS UNCOVERED AND LAID BARE BEFORE THE EYES OF HIM TO WHOM WE MUST GIVE AN ACCOUNT.

Verse fifteen = HIS FEET WERE LIKE BRONZE GLOWING IN A FURNACE.  FEET were considered the lowliest part of the human body; washing the feet of others was done by the lowest slave.  To sit at someone’s feet was a place for a learner, showing their humility before their teacher (Deuteronomy 33:3; Luke 10:39).  To be under someone’s feet was to be utterly defeated (Joshua 10:24; Psalm 8:6).  Given this cultural understanding, how extreme is this statement? HOW BEAUTIFUL ON THE MOUNTAINS ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD TIDINGS, WHO PROCLAIM SALVATION, WHO SAY TO THOSE IN ZION, “YOUR GOD REIGNS!” (Isaiah 52:7).  I mean, beautiful FEET?  Really?

The prophet Ezekiel described FOUR LIVING CREATURES he saw in a vision.  One detail is that they had feet that BEAMED LIKE BURNISHED BRONZE (1:7), but theirs were calf-like (hooved?).

In the Bible, BRONZE is a sacred metal.  Many of the furnishings of the tabernacle were to be made of bronze.  When a plague of snakes killed many of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, God commanded Moses to raise up a bronze snake and all who beheld it were saved (Numbers 21).

GLOWING IN A FURNACE = a FURNANCE is a biblical symbol of judgment, a place where fire melted metals to refine them.

Put all these elements together and in this one detail you get a picture of God defeating the enemies of His people, one of the things that will happen in connection with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Paul wrote of this in 1 Corinthians 15:25 = FOR HE MUST REIGN UNTIL HE HAS PUT ALL ENEMIES UNDER HIS FEET.

Verse fifteen = HIS VOICE WAS LIKE THE SOUND OF RUSHING WATERS.  In Ezekiel 43, the prophet was given a vision of the glory of God returning to His temple.  He wrote that the VOICE of the glory WAS LIKE THE ROAR OF RUSHING WATERS; a sound that commanded attention.  Like a mighty waterfall, no one should miss the message of God or His commands.  This image requires us to sit up and take notice!

Verse sixteen = IN HIS RIGHT HAND HE HELD SEVEN STARS.  The RIGHT HAND is a symbol of authority; a king’s scepter was held in his right hand.  Verse twenty explains the SEVEN STARS as being the ANGELS OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES to whom the letters of chapters 2+3 are addressed.  In some way, the angels represent these churches and are responsible for their condition.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

          “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” is the witness of the writer of Proverbs (9:10).  “Fear” in this sense is the realization that God is all-powerful.  He can do as He wills and it is only because He wills good for us that we are able to stand.

My prayer is that this study of John’s vision will reintroduce some awe and wonder, some reverence and holy fear back into our conception of Jesus.  While He is the Gentle Shepherd and the Great Physician, He is also the Conquering King of Kings and Divine Judge.  Both sides of Jesus are necessary, not just for biblical accuracy, but for a balanced view that promotes salvation.

 

RESOURCES:

Harper’s New Testament Commentaries, G.B. Caird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please read Revelation 1:4-20 in your Bible.  I’ve used the NIV (1984) as my resource for this article.  This is the second of three articles in a series.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the phrase “he’s something else” (the title of today’s message) can mean, “unusual; extremely good or extremely bad.”  (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/something-else) As I’m pointing to Jesus and saying “He’s something else,” I feel it’s necessary to make it perfectly plain that Jesus is SO unusual He’s one of a kind, and so extremely good He’s God.  So – make no mistake about that.

I also want to make certain that no one thinks I’m applying to Jesus the hit song “He’s Something Else,” made famous by the all-girl band, the Liverbirds.  Like some other rock group I won’t mention, the Liverbirds were from Liverpool, England, performing from 1963-1968.  They took their name from a mythical bird, a symbol of Liverpool.  In 2009 Irene Cara covered the song, changing the title to “My Baby.”  That song has nothing to do with Jesus either.

Now that we’ve got all that settled, let me tell you what I DO mean when I say “He’s something else.”  We will continue our look at Jesus in Revelation one to see Him in a different light, to emphasize the divine side of His absolutely unique existence as both God and man.  We will also, along the way, be reminded that when He comes the second time, it will not be as a helpless peasant child, but as the All-conquering Hero, the One who restores creation to its perfection, according to the plan of God the Father.  This is the second in a series of three messages to view Jesus in this way.  Yes, I think it’s that important.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

  1. The descriptions of Jesus in Revelation 1 point to a powerful being.

REVIEW

Vs.  4 + 8 = HIM WHO IS, WHO WAS, WHO IS TO COME.

  1. 4 = He is enthroned = He exercises His authority.
  2. 5 = THE FAITHFUL WITNESS = He is trustworthy and truthful.
  3. 5 = FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD = He leads us to life.
  4. 5 = RULER OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH = He triumphs.
  5. 6 = He MADE US TO BE A KINGDOM AND PRIESTS TO SERVE HIS GOD AND FATHER = He delegates power for service.
  6. 6 = TO HIM BE GLORY AND POWER FOR EVER AND EVER!
  7. 7 = HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS = Just as He ascended.

NEW

Verse seven = ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE EARTH WILL MOURN BECAUSE OF HIM.  This sounds very negative but consider this: in Revelation, a SIMILAR phrase – INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH – is a euphemism for wicked, self-condemned, unbelieving folk (Revelation 3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 12, 14; 17:2, 8).  They are OF THE EARTH, not of heaven in their spirituality and moral life.

They will MOURN because only at the end they will see they’ve rejected Jesus at their peril.  They may cry out, but it will be too late.  Zechariah 12:10-14 speaks of mourning, but there it is a cry of repentance provoked by the Holy Spirit, not at all what John records.

Verse eight = Jesus is the ALPHA & OMEGA, FIRST & LAST (v. 17). The words “I AM” remind us of God’s declaration to Moses, naming Himself as the “I AM,” or Yahweh.  ALPHA/FIRST refers to Jesus activity in the creation of the world (see Colossians 1:16).  He is the source, the beginning of all that exists.  OMEGA/LAST = His Second Coming is the event signaling the end of the universe, Jesus is also the end of all that exists.  This proclamation is repeated twice at the end of John’s vision; Revelation 21:6 & 22:13.

Verse Eight = Jesus is THE ALMIGHTY.  This is how the Hebrew words Yahweh Sebaoth are translated; “Lord of Hosts.”  The Leader of the Angels is one aspect of God’s complete power over His creation.  God is all powerful but He chooses to not use His power to negate the free will of the people He’s created.  Instead, He relies on the guiding power of love.  We do well to follow His example, using love to influence others.

Verse thirteen = “LIKE A SON OF MAN.”  According to the Gospels, Jesus used the title “Son of Man” more than any other to refer to Himself.  It is important we understand this choice.  It may sound less powerful than “Son of God,” but it is a title no less divine.  The title SON OF MAN originates in Ezekiel 2:1, where an angel addressed the prophet in this way and repeated it dozens of times in the book.  In Daniel 7:13, a figure endowed with divine power is said to be LIKE A SON OF MAN.  In Daniel 8:17, Daniel himself is called a SON OF MAN.  This phrase is repeated in Revelation 1:13 in a description of Jesus and in 14:14 as a description of an angel.

This title is used for prophets, angels and Jesus Christ.  It refers to someone endowed with a message from God and the divine power to make it known to all people in miraculous ways.  I assume Jesus saw this as His ministry and that is why He referred to Himself in this way.

Verse thirteen = He was DRESSED IN A ROBE REACHING DOWN TO HIS FEET.  Wearing a full-length robe was a sign of wealth and/or authority.  Persons so dressed did not do menial work for a living; they would be the ancient equivalent of what we call a “white collar” laborer.  This is yet another symbol of Jesus’ personal authority.

Verse thirteen = WITH A GOLD SASH AROUND HIS CHEST.  In Old Testament times, the high priest wore a gold breastplate adorned with twelve semi-precious stones.  Perhaps this SASH is meant to remind us that Jesus is our High Priest.

In Revelation 15:6 the seven angels who carried the plagues wore gold sashes.  The image of a gold sash is an ancient equivalent of having a badge or ID.  It verified the person wearing it had authority.  Whether high priest or angel, they represented God and enacted His will.

Verse fourteen = HIS HEAD AND HAIR WERE WHITE LIKE WOOL, AS WHITE AS SNOW.  White is a biblical symbol of purity.  The fact that His head is white indicates a purity of Jesus’ inner man.  This also directly associates Jesus with the Ancient of Days described in Daniel 7:9, whose head of hair is also WHITE LIKE WOOL and whose clothing was as WHITE AS SNOW.

Verse fourteen = HIS EYES WERE LIKE A BLAZING FIRE.  Fire is, among other things, a biblical symbol of judgment.  That His eyes are ablaze indicates that Jesus sees accurately and judges fairly.  This description is repeated in Revelation 2:18 & 19:12, marking it as important.

The phrase EYES OF THE LORD is repeated over 100 times in Scripture, it refers to God’s omniscience, His attention to His people, and whether or not they obey His moral law.  For example, in 2 Chronicles 16:9 it is written, FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD RANGE ALL OVER THE EARTH TO STRENGTHEN THOSE WHOSE HEARTS ARE FULLY COMMITTED TO HIM.  This is also seen in Hebrews 4:13; NOTHING IN ALL CREATION IS HIDDEN FROM GOD’S SIGHT.  EVERYTHING IS UNCOVERED AND LAID BARE BEFORE THE EYES OF HIM TO WHOM WE MUST GIVE AN ACCOUNT.

Verse fifteen = HIS FEET WERE LIKE BRONZE GLOWING IN A FURNACE.  FEET were considered the lowliest part of the human body; washing the feet of others was done by the lowest slave.  To sit at someone’s feet was a place for a learner, showing their humility before their teacher (Deuteronomy 33:3; Luke 10:39).  To be under someone’s feet was to be utterly defeated (Joshua 10:24; Psalm 8:6).  Given this cultural understanding, how extreme is this statement? HOW BEAUTIFUL ON THE MOUNTAINS ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD TIDINGS, WHO PROCLAIM SALVATION, WHO SAY TO THOSE IN ZION, “YOUR GOD REIGNS!” (Isaiah 52:7).  I mean, beautiful FEET?  Really?

The prophet Ezekiel described FOUR LIVING CREATURES he saw in a vision.  One detail is that they had feet that BEAMED LIKE BURNISHED BRONZE (1:7), but theirs were calf-like (hooved?).

In the Bible, BRONZE is a sacred metal.  Many of the furnishings of the tabernacle were to be made of bronze.  When a plague of snakes killed many of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, God commanded Moses to raise up a bronze snake and all who beheld it were saved (Numbers 21).

GLOWING IN A FURNACE = a FURNANCE is a biblical symbol of judgment, a place where fire melted metals to refine them.

Put all these elements together and in this one detail you get a picture of God defeating the enemies of His people, one of the things that will happen in connection with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Paul wrote of this in 1 Corinthians 15:25 = FOR HE MUST REIGN UNTIL HE HAS PUT ALL ENEMIES UNDER HIS FEET.

Verse fifteen = HIS VOICE WAS LIKE THE SOUND OF RUSHING WATERS.  In Ezekiel 43, the prophet was given a vision of the glory of God returning to His temple.  He wrote that the VOICE of the glory WAS LIKE THE ROAR OF RUSHING WATERS; a sound that commanded attention.  Like a mighty waterfall, no one should miss the message of God or His commands.  This image requires us to sit up and take notice!

Verse sixteen = IN HIS RIGHT HAND HE HELD SEVEN STARS.  The RIGHT HAND is a symbol of authority; a king’s scepter was held in his right hand.  Verse twenty explains the SEVEN STARS as being the ANGELS OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES to whom the letters of chapters 2+3 are addressed.  In some way, the angels represent these churches and are responsible for their condition.

Only the Son of Man is powerful enough to save us.

“Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” is the witness of the writer of Proverbs (9:10).  “Fear” in this sense is the realization that God is all-powerful.  He can do as He wills and it is only because He wills good for us that we are able to stand.

My prayer is that this study of John’s vision will reintroduce some awe and wonder, some reverence and holy fear back into our conception of Jesus.  While He is the Gentle Shepherd and the Great Physician, He is also the Conquering King of Kings and Divine Judge.  Both sides of Jesus are necessary, not just for biblical accuracy, but for a balanced view that promotes salvation.

 

RESOURCES:

Harper’s New Testament Commentaries, G.B. Caird

a

 

The Real Deal

(Please read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 in your go-to Bible.  I used the NIV to prepare these remarks.)

Our common life is founded on the reality of God.

We’ve been talking about real life the last couple Sundays and we will continue to look at topic today as we delve one more time into 1 Corinthians 3.  But last Sunday something happened in Texas that made life seem unreal.  You all realize that I am referring to the horrible massacre at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas.

The savagery of the attack has shattered our illusions of safety.  In an almost superstitious way we believed that a cross on the building and worship inside the building made us bullet-proof.  We have been forcefully reminded that our safety is in God alone.   No measure of false confidence, no amount of earthly material, is going to make us feel safe.  Again, our safety is in God alone.

To illustrate this fact, I learned that in Prince William County – the place where FBC, Sutherland Springs is located – the police had scheduled a “Worship Watch” event aimed at training faith leaders on how to create a safer house of worship.  It was scheduled to take place November 21st.
We can and should take steps to protect our house of worship and the precious people who gather inside.  We can no longer assume that people will respect sacred places or that any place is safe because it is too small to attraction attention.

While we do this, real life must continue.  We must continue to build our faith in Christ.  Love manifest in spiritual growth must remain our priority.  True security comes from knowing we are in God’s hands and from being united in that assurance.

REVIEW:

Realistic Identity = Who are we?

   1. We must not be worldly (vs. 1-4, 18-20).

   2. We must be godly (vs. 16-17, 21-23).

Realistic Expectations = What can we do?

NEW:

  1. We must build on a good foundation (vs. 10-15).

In verse ten, Paul identifies himself as a foundation-builder.  Here he is writing about starting the church in Corinth.  He spent 18 months there, getting the church going.

Though he identifies himself as a WISE BUILDER, Paul is not boasting.  From the start, he acknowledges that his ministry has depended on the GRACE of God.  When he added, SOMEONE ELSE IS BUILDING UPON IT, Paul acknowledged he founded the church in Corinth, but had since turned its leadership over to others.  Whether leaders or followers, everyone who attempts to build up the church must do so carefully, not selfishly or aimlessly, but in deliberately Christ-like fashion.

In verse eleven, Paul identifies Jesus as the only foundation-builder.  Here he is writing about our faith as a whole, the world-wide Church of which Jesus is the Founder and Head.  The FOUNDATION of all the churches was laid by Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5).

Anything built on that foundation must be done in the character and spirit of the Founder, following His teaching.  After all, good builders follow the blueprints.  If anything contrary to the foundation is attempted, it will not stand.  Paul delivers this warning because a false foundation is worse than no foundation at all.

In verses twelve through fifteen Paul illustrates Judgment Day (see 1 Thessalonians 5:4; Hebrews 10:25) as the time when what every person has built on the foundation will be tested by fire. The quality of each person’s building materials will be tested.

– GOLD, SILVER, and COSTLY STONES are not typical building materials.  The temple that existed in Paul’s time was adorned with precious metals and stones and it may be that he wants the reader to envision the temple.  We assume Paul meant to contrast valuable and enduring materials with the cheap and temporary stuff.  Perhaps the point was something like, “We’ve all seen ornate, beautiful buildings that have stood for generations.  We’ve also seen simple huts that last for a few seasons.  Where would you like to live?”

– WOOD, HAY, and STRAW were more widely used at that time.  I suppose someone could make a quick shelter with this stuff, but a real home would have to be made of more durable material.

– There’s no mention of stone or brick, the most common material for permanent structures.  There’s another thing missing too; Paul does not guarantee any of the six materials he mentions will automatically survive the fire.  My guess is this means that we shouldn’t be fooled by outward appearances.  Like buildings, people and churches can have impressive facades but inwardly are firetraps, doomed to destruction.

The means of testing will be by FIRE (see 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8; 2:8; Daniel 7:9+; Malachi 4:1), presuming that everything we’ve built in life that is NOT of the Lord will be destroyed.  What is of the LORD, built with His help, will SURVIVE.  (See 1 Peter 1:7; fire improves faith.)

In the Bible, FIRE is a symbol of purification and destruction.  Either could be implied here.  But FIRE is also a symbol of God’s presence (the pillar of fire that lead the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt).  In this case, all of the above can be appropriate.

The person’s eternal reward is determined by what survives the flames.  Paul indicated two possible outcomes:

– NOTHING SURVIVES = The person is SAVED (they will go to heaven) but will receive no further REWARD; he will SUFFER LOSS, the loss of heavenly rewards.  Picture here the person whose home is destroyed by fire and they escape only with the clothes on their back.  The person is glad to be alive but wishes the result was different.

– SOMETHING SURVIVES = The person is SAVED and receives additional rewards while in heaven.

The word REWARD can also be translated as “wages.” Paul wrote extensively in chapter nine of this letter that he had a right to receive material and financial support from the Corinthians when he worked among them.  As an act of grace, he did not press this right, but worked outside the church to provide for his own needs.

This testing is obviously done only on believers; the unbelieving and unrepentant have no foundation in Christ and will not have any place in heaven; they are not SAVED.

PREVIEW:

   2. We must be faithful builders (vs. 5-9).

You don’t have to be a great carpenter to realize that either a poor foundation or use of inferior building materials will shorten the useful life of a structure, maybe make it unsafe.  A skilled carpenter can easily spot these kinds of defects.

When we were house-hunting in Illinois, we leaned heavily on the advice of a professional carpenter in our congregation.  I called Jack a “Forensic Carpenter” because he could look at a house and tell you not only the quality of materials and workmanship, but also the order in which the work had been done.  He could compile a history of the structure on the basis of his inspections.  We ended up with a nice home and Jack was one to thank for that.

Similarly, all Christians are to be builders.  Our daily living – if we live for Christ – will develop our building skills in relation to building up our church, our relationships, and our selves.  Our objective is to become, like Paul, an EXPERT BUILDER where things of faith are concerned.

The means of building each other up are found in being positive, being biblical, and being loving to one another.  We must be creative and sensitive in the ways we reach out to one another because our ultimate objective is to point out Jesus.

Let me offer an example as we conclude.  Think of someone in your life who needs to be built up.  Either buy or craft a Thanksgiving card that points to Jesus.  On the card, write all the things you can think of that make you thank God for that person.  Write a prayer for their well-being.  Mail it or deliver it in person.

Do What is Due

(Please read Romans 13:1-7 in your favorite Bible.  I studied the NIV to make these remarks.)

I read the following article at NEWSER.com 

“’If they were going to inconvenience me then I was going to inconvenience them,’ says Nick Stafford of employees at his local DMV, which received 298,745 unrolled pennies weighing 1,548 pounds on Wednesday. Stafford’s payment came after months of butting heads with DMV workers. The Cedar Bluff, Va., man says he attempted to call the Lebanon DMV in September with a ‘30-second question’—an inquiry about registering a new car—but reached a call center in Richmond and was put on hold for more than an hour. He then got a number for the Lebanon DMV through a Freedom of Information Act request, but was told it wasn’t for public use. Employees answered his question, but wouldn’t give up the numbers to nine other local DMVs, Stafford says—so he sued for them.

“The suits were dismissed Tuesday, but Stafford ended up getting those numbers, which he posted online. As a further protest, he paid $2,987.45 in sales tax for two cars with pennies—five wheelbarrows full of them. He bought the wheelbarrows for $400 and paid 11 people $10 per hour to break open rolls of pennies over four hours, meaning the scheme cost him $840.

“DMV workers spent 12 hours counting his pennies, which jammed a coin-counting machine. Considering such an enormous task, they were

surprisingly ‘respectful and accommodating,’

Stafford says on his website. Moral of the story, NEVER, ever, tell a slightly rebellious, yet knowledgeable and well informed tax paying citizen… he is not ‘allowed’ to call a phone number that HE is already paying for.”

<Retrieved from http://www.newser.com/story/236811/to-inconvenience-dmv-guy-pays-in-300kpennies.html?utm_source=8at8&utm_medium=email&utm_content=1636199079483677525&utm_campaign=20170113 on 01/13/17.>

Obviously, this man’s vengeful and possibly publicity-driven stunt is NOT the kind of relations we as Christians want to have with our government.  And please, don’t make your tithe or offering in wheelbarrows full of pennies.  Let’s talk first!

Rushing in where angels fear to tread – mixing politics and religion this morning – I felt this was the most appropriate moment all year to look at Romans 13:1-7.  Consider that this week holds a celebration of the civil rights legacy and life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Sanctity of Human Life Day, and the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.  What other week in all of 2017 will evidence the entire spectrum of American political life than this?  In what other week will we be so obviously challenged to be one nation, under God?

Christian, where do we fit in the body politic?  Is there a place at the conference table for people of faith?  I believe God is telling us to be good citizens, exercising our freedom in Christ in responsible, righteous and respectful ways.

  1. The Principle: Voluntary submission to authority.

Let’s set this passage in context.  Paul was a Jew.  He grew up under the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. The empire and its officials held the power of life and death, could tax with prejudice, and there was no appeal for most of the decisions handed down.  There were the “one percenters” as always, only 2-5% middle class, and the remaining 94+% of humanity were reduced to subsistence living at or near the level of slavery.  Imagine what it cost Paul to pen these words in the world in which he lived.

The command is to SUBMIT.  In the Greek language in which Romans was written, this word is hupotasso, which means to subject one’s self.  It is a voluntary submission to authority that is typically motivated by a sense of devotion.  This is what you want to do.

This is NOT the word hupakuo, which can also be translated as SUBMIT, but is a submission motivated by a sense of duty.  It may not be what we want to do, but what we have to do.  The distinction is important because motive is one of the key parts of determining the ethics of an action.  Devotion is generally preferable.

There are six reasons to keep this command.

One, it is God who establishes AUTHORITY (1-2).  When we studied the creation chapters in Genesis we learned that God is a God of order.  Creativity is brining order out of chaos.  From the Old Testament prophets we learn that even evil governments bring a kind of order and further that they are instruments in God’s hands.

Two, rebellion brings one under JUDGMENT (2).  The warning is clear and the terms absolute: rebellion against AUTHORITY is rebellion against God.  Rebels bring judgment on themselves.  We will talk later about instances when rebellion may be the most moral choice.

Three, wrong-doing results in fear of authority (3).  The only people who need to FEAR the authorities are persons doing evil.  Think about yourself out driving.  What happens when you see a police car?  Are they merely part of the scenery, just another vehicle on the road?  Or do you immediately check your speedometer, put on the safety belt you forgot before, or give thought to what you might be doing wrong?  Worse, how do you feel when you see the flashing lights behind you?

Four, righteousness brings commendation (3).  Don’t you wish this were true?  Too often it feels like “No good deed goes unpunished.”  Here’s a place we need to trust God rather than our experience and believe that sooner or later, in this life or the next, that our good works will be rewarded.

Fifth, to avoid punishment (4-5).  Wanting to avoid punishment may not be the most unselfish motive in the world, but as it is sufficient to keep us from evil, it’s good enough.  Paul uses very serious language here: Authorities BEAR THE SWORD.  That sounds threatening.  They have the power to punish evil doers.  They are AGENTS OF WRATH.  Whether they are good or evil, God is so powerful He routinely uses them to protect the innocent and punish the guilty.

Sixth, to keep a good CONSCIENCE (5).  The Bible teaches that every person is created with a conscience.  Like other parts of our humanity, the conscience needs development as we mature.  Not everyone’s conscience develops well. The best way to develop and maintain a good CONSCIENCE is to do what is right.

Paul expresses a realistic but radical view of authority that follows the teaching of Jesus.  Its “realistic” in the sense of being practical and reflects the universal human experience that life is easier and better when we SUBMIT to the authorities God has put in place over us.  Its “radical” in the sense that he uses unconditional language and calls followers of Jesus to a standard that seems impractical in the world as we have experienced it.

I believe this passage elaborates the principle Paul set forth in the preceding verse: DO NOT BE OVERCOME BY EVIL, BUT OVERCOME EVIL WITH GOOD. (Romans 12:21)  There is another thing we need to remember.  Scripture must be combined with other Scripture to form beliefs that validate all of the parts.  If this were the only passage that spoke to the believer’s relation to authority, then these unconditional statements would be more troubling.  We’ll talk more on that later.  We must also remember that Paul is not just talking about governmental authorities, but all persons who have an authoritative role in our lives.  From parents to presidents, submitting to authority figures is part of our devotion to God.

  1. An application of the principle: taxes.

Taxes have always been a sore subject.

Paul offers 3 reasons a disciple must pay taxes.

First, AUTHORITIES ARE GOD’S SERVANTS (6).  SERVANTS can also be translated as “ministers.”  This means that like a priest, the governing authorities represent God in the world.  They function in His role of bringing order to chaos.  It may help us to think of God delegating some of His supreme authority to these people so their governing actions bring about His will in the world.

Second, GIVE THEIR FULL TIME TO GOVERNING (6).  Not only do the AUTHORITIES deserve our cooperation, they deserve our support.  One reason we pay taxes is the very practical reason that it enables those who govern to work FULL TIME at their governing.  This is similar to what God commanded for the support of the priests in the Old Testament.  They did not do any other work to support themselves and did not own land.  The nation of Israel gave offerings to God and the offerings supported the priests.

Third, GIVE EVERYONE WHAT YOU OWE HIM (7).  This is an expansion of the principle of taxes being given to support authorities.  Paul is generalizing the principle, saying, “In the same way you should pay the taxes you owe to the government, you pay the worker what his labor is worth, not whatever you feel you can afford.”

This is about money, but it is also, as Paul makes clear, about all kinds of obligations.  Note that along with TAXES and REVENUE, he also mentions RESPECT and HONOR.  It makes sense that these emotional components would accompany submission that is based on devotion, not duty.  So, for example, being in compliance with your TAXES and REVENUE is good, but that’s not the whole picture of submission to authorities.  A true follower of Jesus will also show RESPECT and give HONOR to those who lead.

  1. The test of the principle: evil government.

It feels like Paul is only writing about an ideal situation, a government that is good.  Remember what I said about the Roman government and life in his culture.  Know that Paul personally suffered beatings and imprisonment at the hands of governmental authorities.  This is personal, not philosophical or theological.  If anyone had motive to resist the government, Paul did.  But he taught just the opposite.

Remember the teaching of Jesus that supported this radical submission.  For example, Roman soldiers could order civilians to carry their kits up to a mile.  Those who refused could be killed on the spot.  Commenting on this, Jesus said, “IF SOMEONE FORCES YOU TO GO ONE MILE, GO WITH HIM TWO.” (Matthew 5:41)  He also affirmed the duty of citizens to pay their taxes and obey the authorities.  On the other hand, He also confronted the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and the system that oppressed the poor (see Matthew 23:2-3 as an example).

Notice Paul wrote about governments not cultures nor any other kind of human system.  Understand Paul’s teaching here is consistent with what he taught elsewhere (see 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Titus 3:1) and in agreement with Peter (1 Peter 2:13-17).

Reconcile this teaching with the actions of the apostles.  When he was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, Peter respectfully refused to obey their order to speak the name of Jesus no more.  He said to those religious leaders, “WE MUST OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN.” (Acts 5:29)  When we put all this together, the teaching is clear but maybe a bit more complicated: Our default attitude is to respectfully SUBMIT to the authorities in our life until they make demands that are contrary to the will of God.  Like Peter, we must obey God first and lesser authorities second.

This is simple in theory but more complicated in practice because of our tendency toward self-deception and excuse-making.  We need to be certain of our facts and our motives before we take on city hall or any other AUTHORITY God has put in the world.

Note the key word in the first point: VOLUNTARY.  Though it is mandated by God’s law and man’s law, submission is still voluntary.  Also in his reference to the conscience in verse 5, Paul reminds us that this whole subject is on an individual level.

Historically, this is an essential point for us as Baptists; every individual’s right and responsibility to weigh his own conscience against the demands of the governing authorities.  While in the short term we may have to answer to human authorities, in the long term we will definitely have to answer to God as our Righteous Judge.  For those of us who know that, we are more motivated to please our Heavenly Judge than any earthly one.

We have seen in the Bible that God is telling us to be good citizens, exercising our freedom in Christ in responsible, righteous and respectful ways.

As we conclude, may I remind you that this is not a philosophical discussion in all places in the world?  We need to be in prayer for our brothers and sisters around the world who live under governments that sponsor or at least tolerate violent persecution of Christians.

I mention all this to give us a little perspective. While it is easy to let politics drive us apart, we need to remember that there are more important matters to bring us together.  For example, equality of opportunity, justice, and affirmation of life are goals that all Americans should support in our common political life.

The Just Judge

(Please read Isaiah 11:1-5 and Acts 10:34-38.)

            A New Yorker was forced to take a day off from work to appear for a minor traffic summons. He grew increasingly restless as he waited hour after endless hour for his case to be heard.

When his name was called late in the afternoon, he stood before the judge, only to hear that court would be adjourned for the rest of the afternoon and he would have to return the next day.

“What for?!?!?” he snapped at the judge.

His honor, equally irked by a tedious day and sharp query, roared out loud: “Twenty dollars contempt of court! That’s why!”

Then, noticing the man checking his wallet, the judge relented: “That’s all right. You don’t have to pay now.”

The young man replied, “I know. But I’m just seeing if I have enough for two more words.” Read more: http://www.ajokeaday.com/Clasificacion.asp?ID=40#ixzz3TcNoDGA6

A Charlotte, North Carolina man, having purchased a case of rare, very expensive cigars, insured them against …. get this …. fire. Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of fabulous cigars, and having yet to make a single premium payment on the policy, the man filed a claim against the insurance company. In his claim, the man stated that he had lost the cigars in “a series of small fires.”   The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason that the man had consumed the cigars in a normal fashion. The man sued … and won!! In delivering his ruling, the judge stated that since the man held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable, and also guaranteed that it would insure the cigars against fire, without defining what it considered to be “unaccep-table fire,” it was obligated to compensate the insured for his loss.

Rather than endure a lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the judge’s ruling and paid the man $15,000 for the rare cigars he lost in “the fires.” After the man cashed his check, however, the insurance company had him arrested… on 24 counts of arson! With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used as evidence against him, the man was convicted of intentionally burning the rare cigars and sentenced to 24 consecutive one year terms. Read more: http://www.ajokeaday.com/Clasificacion.asp?ID=40#ixzz3TcORaAmH

Examples of unjust judges and jokes about them abound.  In Scripture, one of the things God hates in injustice.  The abuse of power is a violation of the trust God and people invest in those in authority.  For example, in Leviticus 19:15, the LORD is quoted as saying, “DO NOT PERVERT JUSTICE; DO NOT SHOW PARTIALITY TO THE POOR OR FAVORITISM TO THE GREAT, BUT JUDGE YOUR NEIGHBOR FAIRLY.”

Get the Message = Isaiah predicted the Messiah would be a Just Judge; Peter announced Jesus Christ is the Just Judge.

  1. The Son of Jesse would be a Just Judge. (Isaiah 11:1-5)

CONTEXT: Isaiah has just written about how a remnant of Israel will survive all their tribulations and return to the land (ch. 10).   In chapter 11, he explains that one of the descendants of King David’s father Jesse will be the agent of saving the remnant.  In chapter 12, he pauses briefly to compose a song of praise for God’s salvation action.

COMMENT:

As a human being, the Messiah would be an eternal version of a king in the dynasty of David (v. 1).  This is important because most of David’s descendants were lousy kings – either idolatrous or cowardly.  (This may be why Isaiah made no mention of David but jumped back to Jesse.)  The Messiah will dramatically break out of that pattern.

Isaiah used an arbroreal image to depict this prophecy of hope: A SHOOT…F/T STUMP OF JESSE.  It is a continuation of an imagery that appeared earlier in this book:  In chapter six, the burned-down forest symbolized the downfall of prideful Israel.  In chapter ten, the forest representing mighty Assyria grew up to replace Israel but was cut down. Now the imagery goes full circle as a SHOOT grows from the STUMP of the failed monarchy.

By the time Jesus was born, no king of the line of David had reigned over Judah for 600 years.  But, through Isaiah God promised that a fruitful BRANCH would grow FROM HIS ROOTS.  God worked powerfully to restore His people.

The Holy Spirit would empower His rule (v. 2).  In the Old Testament, when people do things that normal people couldn’t do, the explanation is always that the Spirit of the Lord empowered them to do it.  The prophet elaborated extensively on this point because, as we saw last week, it is crucial

– THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD WILL REST ON HIM.  (This prophecy was very literally fulfilled on the occasion of Jesus’ baptism, when the Holy Spirit, in the form of a DOVE, rested on Jesus.  Even more miraculously, a voice from heaven explained the meaning behind the event: “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.”  (See Matthew 3:17.)

(Notice that five of the six elaborations are things that occur between the ears.  This underscores the importance of the mind as the place where our life of faith is realized and sensed.)

– THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND OF UNDERSTANDING.

– THE SPIRIT OF COUNSEL AND OF POWER.

– THE SPIRIT OF KNOWLEDGE AND OF FEAR OF THE LORD.

This is summed up with a statement of the Just Judge’s character.  His would be the kind of life that makes justice possible and at the same time is a work of the Spirit = HE WILL DELIGHT IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD.  The kind of powerful but righteous individual, the perfect ruler described here, must be both divine and human.

As a divine being with perfect character, the Messiah will judge with perfect justice (vs. 3-5).  In the Old Testament, pronouncing wise judgments in court is the “acid test” of all authority, whether it is good or evil.

His godly character empowers His just judgment.  How the authorities treat the most vulnerable members of society reveals where their hearts and heads are.

– WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS HE WILL JUDGE THE NEEDY.

– WITH JUSTICE HE WILL GIVE DECISIONS FOR THE POOR OF THE EARTH.

Judgment is both recognition of the truth and an appropriate response: reward for the righteous AND wrath for the wicked.  Notice that it is the Just Judge’s WORDS that will accomplish this.  His judicial pronouncements have the authority to make the will of God occur.

– HE WILL STRIKE THE EARTH WITH THE ROD OF HIS MOUTH.

– WITH THE BREATH OF HIS LIPS HE WILL SLAY THE WICKED.

RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL BE HIS BELT AND FAITHFULNESS THE SASH AROUND HIS WAIST.  The words BELT and SASH miss the imagery of the original language; the virtues just listed are like the undergarments of the Messiah.  When all outward appearances are stripped away, He is still righteous and faithful.  He does not go by appearances as people do, He is righteous all the way beneath outward appearances.

  1. Jesus is the Just Judge. (Acts 10:34-38)

CONTEXT: Acts 10 is an important transitional event in the history of the Church.  Peter received a vision and an experience in which God revealed that salvation is for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  Our verses are Peter’s testimony about Jesus as he summarizes what he has learned.

COMMENT:

The Just Judge will not show favoritism (vs. 34-35).  To the poor and oppressed, justice is equated with salvation; at last their cause will be vindicated.  PETER BEGAN TO SPEAK is a formulaic way to introduce an important address.

“I NOW REALIZE,” Peter began.  After the visions he and Cornelius had, Peter sees God at work to change his mind about the Gentiles.

“GOD DOES NOT SHOW FAVORITISM,” the word translated as FAVORITISM literally means “face-taking.”  God does not put on a smiley face for one set of people and condemn another based on arbitrary factors like nationality.

Here is a point on which Peter and Paul agreed.  In Romans 2:11 it is written, FOR GOD DOES NOT SHOW FAVORITISM.  (The context for this verse is what Paul wrote on the subject of God’s righteous judgment.)

“HE ACCEPTS MEN FROM EVERY NATION,” but NOT from every religion.  This text can’t be used to justify our culture’s indifference about religion, our studied attempt to overlook the differences or understand which faith is true.

This same point has already been revealed in Acts:

– Acts 1:8 = Jesus promised His disciples would be His witnesses “TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.”

– Acts 2:17 = In his Pentecost sermon, Peter himself quoted the prophecy of Joel that the Spirit would be “POURED OUT ON ALL PEOPLE.”

– Acts 8:26-40 = An Ethiopian had already been saved and received baptism at Philip’s hand.

Also, prior to Jesus’ ministry, Luke 2:32 records Simeon declaring that Jesus would be “A LIGHT FOR REVELATION TO THE GENTILES AND FOR GLORY TO YOUR PEOPLE ISRAEL.”  In spite of these warnings, it required this experience to move Peter to an understanding of this revelation of God’s plan.

Persons who have made an acceptable response to God have two qualities.

– The FEAR God.  The oft-repeated teaching of the Proverbs is that FEAR OF THE LORD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM.

– Because we tend to associate FEAR with negative things, this rubs us the wrong way.  BUT, it makes sense to fear God as He is our Judge.  Whether it takes the form of respect or anxiety, FEAR is a perfectly acceptable motivator to DO WHAT IS RIGHT =

In verses 36-38, we see that Jesus demonstrated He is the Just Judge.  For starters, He took the message went to Israel first: THROUGHOUT JUDEA, BEGINNING IN GALILEE; predominantly Jewish areas of the Roman Empire.  This was the plan of God, to offer salvation first to His people, and through them, to the world.

AFTER He had received THE BAPTISM JOHN PREACHED, Jesus began His public ministry.

GOD ANOINTED JESUS OF NAZARETH WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT AND POWER, which He used to…

– …do GOOD.  It’s incredible that though all Jesus ever did was good, He had to endure such opposition.

– HEALING ALL WHO WERE UNDER THE POWER OF THE DEVIL.  This explains part of the opposition He suffered.  The devil arouse opponent because Jesus delivered people from his influence.

All this was possible because GOD WAS WITH HIM.  May this be our greatest ambition, our most fervent hope.

At the height of a political corruption trial, the prosecuting attorney attacked a witness. “Isn’t it true,” he bellowed, “that you accepted five thousand dollars to compromise this case?”

The witness stared out the window, as though he hadn’t heard the question.

“Isn’t it true that you accepted five thousand dollars to compromise this case?” the lawyer repeated.

The witness still did not respond.

Finally, the judge leaned over and said, “Sir, please answer the question.”

“Oh,” the startled witness said, “I thought he was talking to you.”

Justice is not something that just happens.  It is too contrary to our sin nature and human nature, the things that dominate our thinking otherwise.  Fortunately, we have Jesus as our example as the Just Judge.  We are given the same Holy Spirit by God the Father, so we have everything we need to obey His will and exercise His will.  In the name of the One who IS Justice, let us go forth and live justly.