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6. O Livro Profético

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Revelação (Apocalipse)

Introdução

Com o livro da Revelação, temos a conclusão e consumação da Bíblia enquanto revelação de Deus ao homem. Do mesmo modo que Génesis é o livro dos primórdios, Revelação é o livro da consumação, antecipando os eventos do fim dos tempos, o regresso do Senhor, o Seu reinado final e o estado eterno. Ao avançar-se na Bíblia, vai sendo introduzido e desenvolvido um conjunto de grandes temas, começando com Génesis e ideias como o céu e a terra; o pecado, sua maldição e a tristeza; o homem e sua salvação; Satanás, sua queda e condenação; Israel, sua eleição, bênção e disciplina; as nações, Babilónia e o babilonianismo; os reinos e o Reino. Porém, em última análise, todos estes encontram o seu cumprimento e resolução no Livro da Revelação. Os evangelhos e as epístolas começam a unir estes pontos, mas é apenas quando chegamos a Revelação que todos convergem numa grande consumação. Podemos esquematizar isto como se segue:

Autor e Título:

De acordo com o próprio livro, o nome do autor era João (1:4, 9; 22:8). Era um profeta (22:9) e líder, conhecido nas igrejas da Ásia Menor, a quem escreveu o livro da Revelação (1:4).

Tradicionalmente, este João tem sido identificado como o Apóstolo João, um dos discípulos de Nosso Senhor. A diferença de estilo relativamente ao Evangelho de João deve-se apenas à diferença na natureza deste livro, enquanto literatura apocalíptica.

Um pai da Igreja primitiva, Ireneu, afirma que João se instalou primeiro em Éfeso, sendo mais tarde preso e banido para a Ilha de Patmos, no Mar Egeu, para trabalhar nas minas, e que tal ocorreu durante o reinado do imperador romano Domiciano. Isto apoia a declaração do próprio autor quanto a escrever a partir de Patmos por causa do seu testemunho de Cristo (1:9).

Data: 90s d.C.

Domiciano reinou em Roma de 81 a 96 d.C.. Uma vez que Ireneu nos diz que João escreveu a partir de Patmos durante o reinado de Domiciano, e dado que tal é confirmado por outros escritores da Igreja primitiva, tais como Clemente de Alexandria e Eusébio, a maioria dos estudiosos conservadores acredita que o livro foi redigido entre 81-96 d.C.. Tal faria dele o último livro do Novo Testamento, logo após o Evangelho de João e suas epístolas (1, 2 e 3 João). Outros estudiosos conservadores crêem que foi escrito muito antes, por volta de 68, ou antes da destruição de Jerusalém.

Tema e Propósito:

A compreensão que se faz do tema depende, em certo grau, do método de interpretação de Revelação (confira abaixo). Segundo a perspectiva futurista de interpretação, o tema proeminente do livro diz respeito ao conflito com o mal, sob a forma de personalidades humanas energizadas por Satanás e respectivo sistema mundial, bem como à vitória triunfante do Senhor, que derrubará estes inimigos de modo a estabelecer o Seu reino, tanto no Milénio (os 1,000 anos de Revelação 20) como na eternidade.

Tal é conseguido levando o leitor e os ouvintes (1:3) aos bastidores, através das visões dadas a João, de modo a demonstrar a natureza demoníaca e a fonte do mal terrível que existe no mundo. Porém, Revelação demonstra ainda o poder conquistador que repousa no Leão da tribo de Judá, a Raiz de David. Este Leão é também o Cordeiro de pé, como que imolado, mas vivo, zangado, trazendo o julgamento da imponente santidade de Deus contra um mundo rebelde e pecaminoso.

Contudo, no estudo deste livro, a verdadeira questão é a forma como a pessoa o interpreta. Ryrie sintetiza as quatro perspectivas principais quanto à interpretação de Revelação, escrevendo:

Existem quatro pontos de vista principais a respeito da interpretação deste livro: (1) preterista, que olha as profecias do livro como já cumpridas durante a história antiga da Igreja; (2) histórica, que entende o livro como retratando o panorama da história da Igreja, desde os dias de João até ao fim dos tempos; (3) idealista, que considera o livro como sendo uma revelação ilustrada de grandes princípios em conflito constante, sem referência a eventos concretos; e (4) futurista, vendo a maioria do livro (Rv. 4-22) como uma profecia a aguardar cumprimento. A perspectiva futurista é a que se utiliza nestas notas, com base no princípio de interpretação literal do texto.1

Para mais acerca da interpretação deste livro e sua importância, consulte Studies in Revelation, disponível no website da Biblical Studies Foundation em www.bible.org.

Independentemente do método de interpretação, a maioria reconhece que foi redigido para assegurar os destinatários acerca do derradeiro triunfo de Cristo sobre todos os que se levantam contra Ele e o Seu povo.

Palavras-Chave:

Conforme declarado no título do livro, e uma vez que o mesmo revela a pessoa e obra de Cristo no Seu serviço à Igreja actual (capítulos 1-3) e futura (4-22), a palavra ou conceito-chave é a Revelação de Jesus Cristo.

Versículos-Chave:

  • 1:7. Eis que vem com as nuvens, e todo o olho o verá, até os mesmos que o trespassaram; e todas as tribos da terra se lamentarão sobre ele. Sim. Ámen.
  • 1:19-20. Escreve as coisas que tens visto, e as que são, e as que, depois destas, hão de acontecer: 1:20 o mistério das sete estrelas, que viste na minha dextra, e dos sete castiçais de ouro. As sete estrelas são os anjos das sete igrejas, e os sete castiçais, que viste, são as sete igrejas.
  • 19:11-16. E vi o céu aberto, e eis um cavalo branco; e o que estava assentado sobre ele chama-se Fiel e Verdadeiro; e julga e peleja com justiça. 19:12 E os seus olhos eram como chama de fogo; e sobre a sua cabeça havia muitos diademas; e tinha um nome escrito, que ninguém sabia senão ele mesmo; 19:13 e estava vestido de uma veste salpicada de sangue; e o nome pelo qual se chama é a Palavra de Deus; 19:14 e seguiam-no os exércitos no céu, em cavalos brancos, e vestidos de linho fino, branco e puro; 19:15 e da sua boca saía uma aguda espada, para ferir com ela as nações; e ele as regerá com vara de ferro; e ele mesmo é o que pisa o lagar do vinho do furor e da ira do Deus Todo-Poderoso; 19:16 e no vestido e na sua coxa tem escrito este nome: Rei dos reis, e Senhor dos senhores.

Capítulos-Chave:

Decidir quais os capítulos-chave num livro como Revelação não é fácil, mas os capítulos 2-3, contendo as mensagens de promessas e avisos enviadas às sete igrejas, são certamente capítulos-chave. Adicionalmente, os capítulos 4-5, que preparam o leitor para o grande conflito revelado nos capítulos que se seguem, são também fundamentais. Neles vemos como apenas o Senhor Jesus, o Leão e o Cordeiro, é digno de abrir o livro dos selos, derramando o seu conteúdo sobre a terra. Por fim, os capítulos 19-22 são importantes na medida em que nos apresentam o fim da história, radicalmente diferente daquilo que vemos hoje em dia.

...Em Revelação 19-22, os planos de Deus para os últimos dias e para toda a eternidade são registados com termos explícitos. O estudo cuidadoso e a obediência aos mesmos trarão as bênçãos prometidas (1:3). As palavras de Jesus, "Eis que venho cedo", deverão ser guardadas no lugar mais alto da mente e no fundo do coração.2

Intervenientes-Chave:

Dado os papeis que desempenham, há um conjunto de intervenientes-chave neste livro. Tais são, antes de tudo, o Senhor Jesus, seguido de João, o autor, e também as duas testemunhas, a besta que sai do mar e o falso profeta. Finalmente, estas personagens formam um grupo importante em conjunto com a esposa que, no capítulo 19, regressa com o Senhor.

Como Cristo É Visto em Revelação:

Uma vez que Revelação é, de facto, "A Revelação de Jesus Cristo", demonstra a Sua glória, sabedoria e poder (1), retrata a Sua autoridade sobre a Igreja (2-3) e o Seu poder e direito de julgar o mundo (5-19). Enquanto revelação de Cristo, está carregada de títulos descritivos. Em particular, descreve Jesus Cristo (1:1) como a testemunha fiel, o primogénito de entre os mortos, o soberano dos reis da terra (1:5), o primeiro e o último (1:17), aquele que vive (1:18), o Filho de Deus (2:18), santo e verdadeiro (3:7), o Ámen, a Testemunha fiel e verdadeira, o Princípio da criação de Deus (3:14), o Leão da tribo de Judá, o Descendente de David (5:5), um Cordeiro (5:6), Fiel e Verdadeiro (19:11), o Verbo de Deus (19:13), Rei dos reis e Senhor dos senhores (19:16), Alfa e Ómega (22:13), a Estrela Radiosa da Manhã (22:16) e o Senhor Jesus Cristo (22:21).

Plano Geral:

I. Prólogo (1:1-8)

II. As Coisas Passadas (1:9-20)

III. As Coisas Presentes (2-3)

A. A Mensagem para Éfeso (2:1-7)

B. A Mensagem para Esmirna (2:8-11)

C. A Mensagem para Pérgamo (2:12-17)

D. A Mensagem para Tiatira (2:18-29)

E. A Mensagem para Sardes (3:1-6)

F. A Mensagem para Filadélfia (3:7-13)

G. A Mensagem para Laodiceia (3:14-22)

IV. As Coisas Preditas (4:1-22:5)

A. O Período de Tribulação (4:1-19:21)

1. O Trono no Céu (4:1-11)

2. O Livro Selado com Sete Selos e o Leão Que Também É um Cordeiro (5:1-14)

3. Os Juízos Selados (6:1-17)

4. Interlúdio: Os Redimidos da Tribulação (7:1-17)

5. Os Primeiros Quatro Juízos da Trombeta (8:1-13)

6. A Quinta e Sexta Trombetas e os Primeiros Dois Ais (9:1-20)

7. O Anjo e o Pequeno Livro (10:1-11)

8. O Templo, as Duas Testemunhas e a Sétima Trombeta (11:1-19)

9. O Conflito Angélico (12:1-17)

10. A Besta e o Falso Profeta (13:1-18)

11. Anúncios Especiais (14:1-20)

12. Prelúdio às Últimas Sete Pragas (15:1-8)

13. Os Juízos das Taças (16:1-21)

14. O Juízo da Babilónia Religiosa (17:1-18)

15. O Juízo da Babilónia Comercial (18:1-24)

16. A Segunda Vinda de Cristo (19:1-21)

B. O Reinado de Cristo (Milénio) e o Grande Trono Branco (20:1-15)

1. Satanás Aprisionado (20:1-3)

2. Santos Ressuscitados (20:4-6)

3. Pecadores em Rebelião (20:7-9)

4. Satanás Condenado (20:10)

5. Pecadores Julgados (20:11-15)

C. O Estado Eterno (21:1-22:5)

1. A Descida da Nova Jerusalém (21:1-8)

2. A Descrição da Nova Jerusalém (21:9-27)

3. As Alegrias da Nova Jerusalém (22:1-5)

D. Epílogo (22:6-21)


1 Ryrie, p. 2009.

2 Wilkinson/Boa, p. 513.

Related Topics: Canon, Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Prophecy/Revelation

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13. Raining Bread from Heaven (Exodus 16:1-36)

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Life of Moses (13)

May 13, 2018

Ed Bulkley begins his book, Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology [Harvest House, 1993] with a fictional story of a young pastor who delivers a zinger of a sermon based on 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which says that Scripture equips us for every good work, and 2 Peter 1:3-4, which promises that through the promises in His Word, God has given us all that we need for life and godliness. Everyone in the church congratulated him for such a powerful message.

But that week, a woman about 30 years old who had visited the church for the first time, came to see him. She proceeded to tell him her troubled history of being sexually abused by her father and by other men when she was a child. The trauma of her upbringing was affecting all of her life and threatening her marriage.

The pastor explained to her that he was not trained to counsel such difficult cases, but he would refer her to a professional Christian counselor who could help her. She replied that she had been to numerous Christian psychologists and psychiatrists who had recommended various therapies and prescribed various drugs. But none of this had helped. When she heard his sermon, she was hopeful that he could show her how the Bible could help her. But he didn’t know what to say. She left his office without hope.

Pastor Bulkley goes on to show how Scripture really is able to do what it promises: to equip believers for every good deed and to provide us with all that we need for life and godliness. He refutes the modern myth that it requires a trained, licensed psychotherapist to give competent counsel to troubled believers.

I believe that that story illustrates the main point of the story of God raining bread from heaven to feed His people in the wilderness for 40 years:

God has infinite supplies of grace in Christ to meet all your needs, but you must daily make the effort to lay hold of Him.

The manna which God supplied for Israel clearly points to Jesus Christ, who said (John 6:35), “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” Either that claim is true or it is a nice “spiritual” thought that has no application to how we actually live.

But the Bible repeatedly claims to provide what Francis Schaeffer called “substantial healing” for psychological problems and for the total person (True Spirituality [Tyndale House], chapters 10 & 11). Or, as John MacArthur argued (Our Sufficiency in Christ [Word Publishing], 1991, p. 20):

“My grace is sufficient for you,” the Lord said to the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12:9). The average Christian in our culture cynically views that kind of counsel as simplistic, unsophisticated, and naïve. Can you imagine one of today’s professional radio counselors simply telling a hurting caller that God’s grace is enough to meet the need? … Many Christians seeking a sense of fulfillment have turned away from the rich resources of God’s all-sufficient grace and are engrossed instead in a fruitless search for contentment in hollow human teachings.

Exodus 16 provides four main truths for us:

1. God leads you into places of need so that you will look to Him to meet those needs.

Note Exodus 16:1-2:

Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.

At Elim, Israel enjoyed twelve springs of water and seventy date palms (Exod. 15:27). The Bible does not report any grumbling there, but Israel wasn’t in need there, so they didn’t need to trust God. But as soon as they headed out into the wilderness of Sin (the Hebrew word has nothing to do with the English word “sin”), the whole congregation grumbled again. This time their need was not water, but food. They accused Moses of bringing them into the wilderness to kill them with hunger. Note four practical truths:

A. When you recognize a need in your life, your choices are to grumble or to go to the Lord in thankful prayer.

Clearly, God led Israel into this wilderness where there was no food, just as He had been leading them at every step since their departure from Egypt (Exod. 13:17, 18, 21; 14:15). But the Israelites blamed Moses of bringing them into the wilderness (v. 3). So he told them (v. 6) that when God met their need for food that evening, they would know that it was the Lord, not Moses, who led them out of Egypt.

When we face a need in our lives, we can blame some person or circumstance for our problem, just as Israel blamed Moses. Or, we can acknowledge that the Lord brought us into this situation of need and go to Him in thankful prayer, asking Him to be our sufficiency in meeting our need.

Many of you know that when I first began serving this church, I faced a difficult time where some elders were trying to fire me because I opposed one of them for his pro-choice position on abortion. As I walked toward the church door for a showdown meeting that would determine my future here, I was praying for God’s peace, but I was still anxious in spite of a gracious confirmation that the Lord had given me that He would take care of me.

I was silently reciting Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Two words in verse 6 jumped out at me: “with thanksgiving.” The Lord pointed out, “I haven’t heard you thank Me for this trial!” I paused and thanked the Lord for this opportunity to trust Him to supply my needs. At that meeting, all four of the elders who opposed me resigned and left the church. So when we face a need, whether major or minor, our only choices are to grumble or to go to the Lord in thankful prayer.

B. Grumbling reveals the inward condition of your heart.

If you’ve got a cup full of coffee and the cup gets bumped, what spills out? Coffee! If you’ve got a heart full of discontentment and a difficult person or situation bumps your life, what comes out? Discontentment, or grumbling. In other words, your grumbling is symptomatic of a deeper issue, namely, that you’re not learning how to be content whether you’re being filled or going hungry (Phil. 4:11-12). George Muller used to say that the first business of every morning should be to secure happiness in God (A. T. Pierson, George Muller of Bristol [Revell], p. 314-315). A grumbling heart reveals that you’re not doing that!

C. Grumbling has a way of spreading among God’s people, so be on guard.

Verse 2 says that “the whole congregation” grumbled against Moses and Aaron. That doesn’t mean that every person was grumbling, but it does mean that most of them were. Grumbling has a way of spreading among God’s people. Someone shares a gripe about something in the church and it reminds you of something else that you don’t like. You pass on to someone else the first person’s complaint and then add yours to it. Pretty soon the complaints snowball and the whole church is grumbling.

Although grumbling is usually against some individual or especially against the leaders, it really is against the Lord (Exod. 16:2, 7, 8), who hears it all (four times: Exod. 16:7, 8, 9, 12). Of course, there is a proper way to bring legitimate concerns to church leaders. We’re not perfect leaders and this isn’t a perfect church, so if there is a problem, we need to know about it. But grumblers, as I said, reveal the state of their hearts. They aren’t looking for solutions; they’re just venting. In Exodus 15, their complaint was bitter water. God met that need. In chapter 16, it’s no food. The Lord rained bread from heaven. In chapter 17, it will again be no water. The Lord provides water from the rock. But the people kept on grumbling. So if you’re tempted to grumble, check your heart and be on guard because it spreads and contaminates many.

D. Grumblers often exaggerate how good life was when they were enslaved to sin and don’t see the eternal benefits of trusting in God.

The grumblers compared their lack of food in the wilderness with the pots of meat and bread to the full that they enjoyed in Egypt (Exod. 16:3). Hello? They were slaves in Egypt, but they make it sound as if things were great back then! But life wasn’t as idyllic as they’re making it sound!

But, let’s assume for the sake of argument, that life was smoother when you were an unbeliever. Maybe your job was going well, but when you became a Christian, you got fired and now are in a crummy job or no job. Maybe your romantic life was satisfying, but now you can’t find a suitable Christian girl or guy to date. Maybe your relationship with your parents was okay back then, but now it’s strained. You feel like life was a lot better back then and you’re tempted to “go back to Egypt”!

Does the Bible address that situation? Read Psalm 73! The psalmist was despairing as he saw the prosperity of the wicked, while he was encountering new problems every day since he had begun to follow the Lord. He says that he almost stumbled, until he went into the sanctuary of God. There he gained the eternal focus: He realized that God would cast down the wicked to destruction, but He would receive the psalmist into eternal glory. So if you’re grumbling and tempted to go back to the world, get to “the sanctuary.” Get alone with God and His Word and regain the eternal perspective! God leads you into places of need so that you will look to Him to meet those needs.

2. When you look to the Lord, you’ll see His grace and glory to be your sufficiency.

The Lord responded to the people’s grumbling with His amazing grace: He promised to rain bread from heaven on them and to provide meat that evening (Exod. 16:4, 6, 8). Then as Aaron spoke to the congregation, they all looked toward the wilderness and saw the glory of the Lord in the cloud (Exod. 16:10). The Lord told Moses to tell the people that at twilight they would eat meat and in the morning they would be filled with bread. And the point of this was not merely to meet their need for food. Rather (Exod. 16:12), it was so that “you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” Greater than your need for food is the need to know that the Lord is your God.

God’s meeting the needs of this grumbling congregation without their even asking Him shows the importance of knowing experientially that He deals with you in His grace. Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:1), “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” To be strong in His grace, you must be clear and stand firmly on the gospel of God’s grace: that He freely gives us eternal life apart from anything we are or anything we do. It is not merited. In fact, God gives His grace to undeserving, ungodly enemies (Rom. 4:5; 5:6-10; 1 Tim. 1:13-15)! And you must live daily in His grace, not falling into the trap of legalism, where you base your relationship with God on your outward performance of manmade rules.

But God was not only incredibly gracious to these grumbling people, He also showed them His glory (Exod. 16:10). This was probably a light in the cloud, brighter than the usual light that shone from it. God’s glory was a revelation of His greatness and power. Whenever in the Bible people got a glimpse of God’s glory, the uniform response was fear. When Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, “they fell face down to the ground and were terrified” (Matt. 17:6). When John later saw the risen Savior in His glory, he reports (Rev. 1:17), “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man.” In his Gospel, he wrote (John 1:14), “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus reveals God’s grace and glory to us. When we see all that He is for us, it’s enough. We have in Him all that we need.

Exodus 16 repeatedly emphasizes the sufficiency of God’s provision for these needy, grumbling people. He would rain bread from heaven on them (v. 4). He would give them “bread to the full” (v. 8). They would be “filled with bread” (v. 12). They were to gather “every man as much as he should eat” (v. 16). “Every man gathered as much as he should eat” (v. 18). Morning by morning every man gathered “as much as he should eat” (v. 21). Apparently, the manna was nutritionally sufficient, like breast milk for an infant. The quail only came twice, but the manna met their nutritional needs for 40 years (v. 35).

This repeated emphasis shows that God is not stingy with His resources. He “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20)! He “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3)! “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).

Also, Moses tells us what the manna tasted like (Exod.16:31): “wafers with honey.” That description satisfies our curiosity, but also it teaches us an important lesson: Psalm 19:10 says that God’s Word is “sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.” Psalm 34:8 puts it, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Or (Ps. 119:103), “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Moses later explained (Deut. 8:3), “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.” He went on to promise them that the Lord would bring them into a good land of abundance, where they would eat and be satisfied. God’s word is sufficient and satisfying for life and godliness!

So the manna teaches us that we are to look to the Lord to satisfy our every need and that when we taste of His grace and glory, we are satisfied with His goodness. This is because …

3. The manna points to Jesus Christ, the true bread of life that comes down out of heaven to satisfy your soul.

After Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000, John 6 reports that the Jews challenged Jesus to give them a sign so that they might believe in Him (as if He hadn’t given them a great enough sign already!). Referring to Exodus 16, they said (John 6:31), “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” Jesus replied (John 6:32-33):

“Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”

For the wrong reason they replied (John 6:34), “Lord, always give us this bread.” Jesus responded (John 6:35), “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”

Don’t miss the staggering magnitude of that claim! Whoever comes to Jesus will not hunger and the one who believes in Him will never thirst! No mere man could make such an amazing claim! He will satisfy all who come to Him and believe on Him! But the Jews responded by grumbling. Jesus rebuked them and added (John 6:48-51):

“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

He was not talking about eating the communion bread, but rather about personally trusting in Him and His death on the cross for eternal life. And He was pointing to the truth that as we truly feed on Him for all of our daily needs, we enjoy sweet, nourishing bread even as we walk in a barren wilderness. Do you know the satisfaction of daily feeding on Jesus as your bread of life?

Thus, God leads you into places of need so that you will look to Him to meet those needs. When you look to the Lord, you see His grace and glory to be your sufficiency. The manna points to Jesus Christ, the true bread of life that comes down out of heaven to satisfy your soul. Finally,

4. You must daily make the effort to lay hold of Christ as bread for your soul.

The manna didn’t just float down into everyone’s mouth. It was free and abundant, but the people had to get up and gather it every day before the sun melted it. It was a test of faith to see whether they would obey God or not (Exod. 16:4, 19-20, 27-29). They were to gather about two liters each every morning, but on Friday morning, they were to gather four liters so that they didn’t need to gather any on the Sabbath. This wasn’t the full instruction regarding the Sabbath that would follow later, but it was a test to see if Israel would obey God’s command and trust Him to provide each day and twice as much for the Sabbath. The Sabbath was God’s gift so that the people could rest that day (Exod. 16:29-30).

We’re not under the Old Testament Sabbath laws, but there is a principle that we would be wise to follow: set aside one day each week to gather with God’s people for worship and edification (Heb. 10:24-25). God commanded Moses to put some of the manna in a jar in front of the Ark of the Testimony after the Tabernacle was constructed so that later generations would be reminded of how He fed them with the manna (Exod. 16:32-34). Of course, the people couldn’t go into the holy of holies and see the jar of manna, but the high priest could tell them that it was there. The Ark was where the atoning blood was sprinkled. In a similar way, we are to come before the Lord often to remember His provision for us at the cross as we eat the bread representing His body and drink the wine representing His shed blood.

Also, I can’t think of a more important habit for you to develop than daily to feed on the Lord Jesus Christ through His Word. As Peter exhorted (1 Pet. 2:2-3), “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” Make the effort every day to feed on the Lord Jesus Christ, the living bread.

Conclusion

John MacArthur states (ibid.):

Evangelicalism is infatuated with psychotherapy. Emotional and psychological disorders supposedly requiring prolonged analysis have become almost fashionable… Virtually everywhere you look in the evangelical subculture, you can find evidence that Christians are becoming more and more dependent on therapists, support groups and other similar groups.

This shift in the church’s focus did not grow out of some new insight gained from Scripture. Rather, it has seeped into the church from the world. It is an attack at the most basic level, challenging Christians’ confidence in the sufficiency of Christ.

Or, as Philip Ryken puts it (Exodus [Crossway], p. 430), “The meaning of the manna is that all we need is Jesus.” God has unlimited supplies of grace in Christ, but you must daily make the effort to lay hold of Him.

Application Questions

  1. Some argue, “We go to medical doctors for physical needs; why not go to psychologists for our emotional needs.” Why is this invalid? (See my “Christians & Psychology” article.)
  2. Meditate on Jesus’ claim (John 6:35) that if we come to Him and believe on Him we will never hunger or thirst. How can you apply this to your personal needs?
  3. God told Paul (2 Cor. 12:9), “My grace is sufficient for you.” What does that promise really mean? How did Paul apply it?
  4. What would you need to change in your schedule to make your first business every day to secure happiness in God? Do it!

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2018, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Christian Life, Grace

Q. Is It Right To Ask God For A Sign?

Answer

Dear *****,

Interesting question. Let me take a stab at it.

Overall, asking God for a sign is not presented in a positive light. This would be the case with Gideon in the Old Testament. It is interesting to note, however, that God gave Gideon a confirming sign (or indication of His fulfilled promise) in Judges 2:9-14, knowing that his faith was weak.

Wrongly asking for signs was typical for the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees in the New Testament:

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:38-40).

14 And He was casting out a demon, and it was mute; when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” 16 Others, to test Him, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven (Luke 11:14-16).

Even Herod was hoping for a sign from Jesus:

8 Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him (Luke 23:8).

When the disciples asked Jesus what sign would precede His coming, Jesus did not answer directly (see Matthew 24:3ff.).

We know that Paul did not present sign-seeking in a positive light:

21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:21-24).

We should likewise remember that there are false signs and wonders, produced by Satan and his minions to draw people away (Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:11-14; 19:20).

Having said this, signs are not always presented negatively:

God told Ahaz to ask for a sign, and not doing so was viewed as commendable (Isaiah 7:10-16).

Repeatedly in the Old and New Testaments God performed signs which were meant to prompt faith and obedience (see Exodus 4:1-9, 28-31; Deuteronomy 4:32-35; Joshua 24:16-18, etc.).

Jesus repeatedly performed signs to authenticate His claim to be Israel’s Messiah (John 2:11, 23, etc.). Likewise, the apostles performed many signs as well (see Acts 2:2-4, 43; 6:8, etc.). In order to validate the gospel, the apostles did ask God to perform signs through them, so that many would be saved (Acts 4:24-31).

When asking for a sign is “putting God to the test” (demanding that God jump through our hoops), then it is clearly sin (see Numbers 14:22; Deuteronomy 6:16; Psalm 78:18), which is exactly what Satan attempted to prompt Jesus to do (Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12).

I think it is less than commendable for a saint to ask for a sign when God has already given a promise, or directed our steps through His Word. But when God’s will is not clear, I don’t think it is wrong to ask God to make His will clear to us. That might result in a sign, or in some other means of His confirming His Will.

I hope this helps,

Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Christian Life

Q. Did God Turn His Back On Jesus?

Answer

Dear Brother,

Thanks for your note and the spirit with which it was written. My understanding is that Jesus bore our punishment, which was due to our sin. Every unbeliever must bear the wrath of God for their sin, because they reject the payment Jesus has made. They are, as is often said, separated from God eternally. I believe you can rightly say that God turns His back on guilty sinners. When Jesus took our place, He bore the penalty that was due us. Thus, God turned His back on Jesus (in our place). That is what I understand is being said not only in Psalm 22:2, but as it is quoted by our Lord on the cross:

46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” Matthew 27:46

If you can say that God rejected Christ, who became sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21), we must also say that by means of the resurrection God showed His satisfaction with the sacrifice of Christ and thus His approval. God may have turned His back on Jesus on the cross, but His face (so to speak) is shining on Him in the resurrection and ever after.

I hope this is helpful,

Bob

Related Topics: Atonement, Character of God, Hamartiology (Sin)

God’s Sustaining Grace

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Having pled with the Lord for His help, a psalmist concludes his remarks by declaring his confidence in the Lord’s upholding the righteous in their struggles:

I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor
and upholds the cause of the needy.

Surely the righteous will praise your name
and the upright will live before you. (Ps. 140:12-13)1

As Futato remarks, “The godly, even when abused, can choose to praise the name of God, for not even violence done against them can separate them from the loving presence of the God in whom they live.”2 In accordance with his holy and righteous character, and promise, the Lord stands available to assist the faithful believer:

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures to all generations.

The LORD is faithful to all his promises
and loving toward all he has made. (Ps. 145:13)

God himself is faithful, especially towards the needy (cf. Ps. 146:7).Accordingly, as we shall see, the psalmist confidently pleads for the Lord’s promise to sustain the believer (cf. Ps. 119:16-17). David can declare with full confidence:

If the LORD delights in a man’s way,
He makes his steps firm.

Though he stumble, he will not fall,
For the LORD upholds him with his hand (Ps. 37:23-24).

As Van Gemeren observes, “The Lord establishes the godly, even in times of adversity…but he will not fall. The Lord keeps him from falling (v24), just as he breaks the power of the wicked.”3

In another psalm David says,

Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.

My soul clings to you;
Your right hand upholds me (Ps. 63:7-8).

Here David refers to the familiar image of the right hand. Thus Alexander points out, “The right hand is the constant symbol of strength.”4 An interesting contrast may be seen in the ninth Psalm in which David declares that in the face of enemies it is the Lord who upholds David’s right and cause:

My enemies turn back:
They stumble and perish before you.

For you have upheld my right and my cause;
You have sat on your throne, judging righteously (Ps. 9:3-4).

In yet another Davidic psalm, David proclaims that it is the Lord that sustains him:

In my integrity you uphold me
And set me in your presence forever (Ps. 41:12).

It is to the Lord’s credit that David is able to maintain his integrity. Therefore, by God’s help David is confident that he will continue to live for the Lord and enjoy God’s “presence forever”. This should be a model for all believers and, as such, we may always praise the Lord, “from everlasting to everlasting”. (Ps. 41:13)

Indeed, the psalmists often properly praised the Lord for his sustaining grace for even Judah’s kings often demonstrated their loyalty to the Lord. For example, in the face of an invasion by the kings of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, Judah’s fourth king, King Jehoshaphat, proclaimed to his people, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; Have faith in his prophets and you will be successful” (2 Chr. 20:20). And so it happened due to the Lord’s supervision of the details of battle (cf. vv. 22-28). This is in accordance with many scriptures that point to the Lord’s sustaining of his people, not only in the face of their enemies, but in their daily lives.

Thus the Lord sustains the sick, for it is he who “has regard for the weak and delivers him in times of trouble, and who will sustain him ‘on his sick bed’.” (Ps. 41:1,3). Elsewhere David cries to the Lord:

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me from your presence
Or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Ps. 51:10-12).

Here David pleads for God’s to so control his life that he may rejoice and seek God’s sustenance. When God is in control of the believer’s life and the Holy Spirit is operative within him, we tend to respond positively to God’s guidance and sustaining grace. Indeed, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Ps.55:22). So it is that the Lord himself promises David, “My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him” (Ps.89:21). Accordingly, the believer may earnestly pray, “Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me” (Ps. 119:175).Surely believers can know and experience the reality of God’s sustaining grace and strength even as David often declares. For example, in Psalm 18 he says, “You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me” (v.35).

The right hand is a familiar Old Testament motif, which is often found in one or two similar uses: 1) prominence (cf. Gal. 2:9) and 2) as we have noted above, power – especially God’s unequalled strength. In New Testament times the apostle John was blessed by the risen Lord Jesus who utilized his right hand:

In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever!” (Rev.1:16-17).

Indeed, the Lord himself is still active for the submissive believer. As David out, “The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground” (cf. Ps. 54:4). The right hand itself is a familiar and often used motif. It appears often “to emphasize God’s person and actions. God’s right hand is said to be ‘filled with righteousness (Ps. 48:10) and effective might’” (Ps. 80:15-16; 89:13).5 May each of us, then, remain sensitive to the Lord’s guidance. As Fanny Crosby said,

Thou my everlasting portion, more than friend or life to me;
All along my pilgrim journey, Savior, let me walk with Thee6.


1 All scripture references are from the NIV.

2 Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms”, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, (Carol Stream, Il.: Tyndale House, 2009), VII, 417.

3 Willem A. Van Gemeren, “Psalms”, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, (Grand Rapids: Zondevan, 1991), V, 302.

4 Joseph A. Alexander, Commentary on Psalms, (Grand Rapids: Kregal, 1991), 280.

5 Dictionary of Biblical Imagery,  eds. Leland Ryken, James. C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, (Downers Grove, Il.: Intervarsity Press, 1998), 727-728.

6 Fanny J. Crosby,  “Close to Thee.”

Related Topics: Grace

14. Problems Within And Problems Without (Exodus 17:1-16)

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Life of Moses (14)

May 27, 2018

A standing joke among pastors is that the ministry would be great if it weren’t for the people! But, of course, the ministry is people. Since all people are fallen sinners and even the saints are not perfectly sanctified, if you’ve got people, you’ve got problems. And since Satan is opposed to Christ’s church, we can expect problems from within and problems from without.

In Exodus 17, Moses has to deal with problems from both fronts. Within the camp, the people quarreled with him because of no water. Their anger was so severe that Moses was concerned that they might even stone him (v. 4)! As if the internal problems were not enough, Amalek came from without and fought against Israel. In other words, “Welcome to the ministry, Moses!” This chapter teaches us that …

God’s people and His leaders should drink from Christ to deal with problems from within and problems from without.

1. God’s people and God’s leaders should drink from Christ to deal with problems from within (Exod. 17:1-7).

The people’s grumbling against Moses is similar to the incident in Numbers 20:1-13, but there are enough differences to conclude that they are not the same. In both incidents, the people grumbled about no water and the place was named Meribah (“quarrel”). In both places, God gave the people water from the rock through Moses’ action. But, Exodus 17 occurs near the beginning of Israel’s time in the wilderness; Numbers 20 occurs near the end of the forty years. In Exodus 17, the Lord commanded Moses to strike the rock with his staff and Moses obeyed. In Numbers 20 the Lord told Moses to speak to the rock, but in his anger with the people, he struck the rock. Because he disobeyed, the Lord prohibited Moses from leading Israel into the Promised Land.

There are four lessons here for God’s people and His leaders:

A. God’s people should be on guard against an evil, unbelieving heart that grumbles against God’s dealings with them.

If the problem of grumbling sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because we’ve already met it in Exodus 14, 15, and 16. These stories are repeated because we need to learn their lessons! As we’ve seen, grumbling is not a minor sin. In 1 Corinthians 10:10, Paul says that because of Israel’s grumbling, some were destroyed by the destroyer. Then he warns (1 Cor. 10:11), “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”

The first thing we need to recognize here is that the Lord directly led Israel to Rephidim (“resting place”) where there was no water. Verse 1 states that they journeyed “according to the command of the Lord.” They weren’t lost! So you have to ask, “Why did God directly lead Israel to another place of no water?” The answer is: For the same reason He brings us into places of need: so that we will call upon Him in our weakness and He will be glorified when He delivers us. The Lord says (Ps. 50:15), “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” So if you’re in a place of trouble, before you do anything else, call upon the Lord. If you’ve been grumbling, confess that to the Lord and ask Him to be glorified through the trial that you’re in.

This incident of Israel’s grumbling at Massah (“test”) and Meribah (“quarrel”) is mentioned in Psalm 95:7-11:

Today, if you would hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
“When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
“For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
“Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.”

Hebrews 3:7-11 cites those verses and adds (Heb. 3:12), “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.” Grumbling stems from “an evil, unbelieving heart.” Unbelief tests or tries the Lord (Exod. 17:7; Ps. 95:9). In spite of His many mercies, when problems arise, unbelief challenges God by asking (Exod. 17:7), “Is the Lord among us, or not?” In other words, unbelief asks, “If God is really here and cares about me, how can He let this happen?” Unbelief doubts God’s sovereignty, His power, His wisdom, and His love. It removes God from His rightful place as judge and puts Him on trial, while I judge Him, questioning His ways of dealing with me! It stems from the pride of thinking that I know better than God what would be best for me. Be on guard against grumbling against the Lord!

B. God’s people should be on guard against grumbling against God’s leaders.

Grumbling against the Lord often comes out as grumbling against spiritual leaders who are seeking to direct you to the place of God’s blessing. Even though Moses was one of the greatest leaders in history, the grumblers accused him of bringing them and their children into the wilderness to kill them (v. 3)! Actually, in obedience to the Lord he was trying to lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey.

Even the greatest Christian leaders do not share Moses’ intimacy with God or his leadership gifts. But even so, Hebrews 13:17 exhorts the church, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” Paul commanded Titus (2:15), “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” He instructed Timothy (1 Tim. 5:17), “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” “Double honor” refers both to respect and financial support (see v. 18) for those who preach the Word. But you can’t be in submission to a leader or honor him while at the same time you’re grumbling about him to others. Often, if people don’t like God’s message, they express it by attacking His messenger.

This does not mean that you can’t voice concerns about a church leader or a church problem. Paul goes on to tell Timothy how to deal with a sinning elder (1 Tim. 5:19-20): “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.”

If your complaint is something other than a sin issue, then after praying about it and checking your attitude, go directly to the leader and share your concerns. If he doesn’t listen and it’s an important enough matter, take two or three with you and try again. But don’t go in anger just to vent. Don’t question the leader’s motives, as Israel here accused Moses of trying to kill them (Exod. 17:3). Your aim should be to glorify God by helping the leader and the church. But be careful, because as Moses pointed out (v. 2), by quarreling with him, the Israelites were really testing the Lord.

C. God’s leaders should take every problem from within to the Lord and rely on His sufficiency to deal with it.

Moses instantly recognized his own inadequacy to provide water in the desert for two million people, so he cried out to the Lord (v. 4). Even if our problem is not that big, we should immediately recognize with Paul (2 Cor. 3:5), “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.” As F. B. Meyer observed (Moses [Christian Literature Crusade], p. 103), “And when we have reached the end of self, we have got to the beginning of God.”

Moses’ staff (v. 5) was the symbol of God’s power. It was the same staff with which he had struck the Nile and divided the Red Sea. He will use it again to help the Israelite army prevail against Amalek (v. 9). It showed both the elders and the people that the power was not in Moses, but came from the Lord. Moses was just the man whom God used.

God instructed Moses not to go it alone, but to take with him some of the elders of Israel (v. 5). We’re not told whether the elders were trusting God along with Moses or griping along with the people, but the text emphasizes twice that Moses did this miracle with the elders (vv. 5, 6). God’s purpose may have been to teach the elders to trust in His sufficiency, to teach the people that Moses was not acting by himself, and to protect Moses from being killed.

The New Testament teaches that the local church is to be governed by a plurality of elders, also called pastors or overseers (Acts 14:23; 15:2; 20:17, 28; Eph. 4:11; Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:5, 7; 1 Pet. 5:1-4). It should never be a one-man show. When there is a problem, the elders should come together in prayer, seeking God’s wisdom through His Word, and then act together for the good of the church. It should be evident that they are relying on the Lord’s sufficiency, not on human methods or schemes.

D. God’s gracious provision to deal with His people’s problems is to give them Christ, who is water from the rock.

God’s provision of water from the rock demonstrates His grace toward His grumbling people. In Exodus 16:3-4, when the people complained about no food in the wilderness, without rebuke God graciously promised to rain bread from heaven on them. Here, again without rebuke, He instructs Moses to strike the rock so that water would come out to satisfy the people’s thirst. His grace was rebuke enough for their grumbling. When the Lord told Moses (v. 6) that He would stand before him on the rock, we don’t know whether the entire congregation saw a visible manifestation of the Lord or not, but if they did, it was a further rebuke of their challenge (v. 7), “Is the Lord among us, or not?” But either way, the water suddenly gushing from a rock in that barren desert was gracious proof that the Lord was in fact among them.

In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul makes a surprising comment on this incident: “and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” He means that the rock that supplied the living water for Israel was a type of Christ, who provides living water for all who thirst and ask Him for it (John 4:10-14). When he says that the rock followed them, I think Paul was using a manner of speaking to say that Christ went with Israel through the desert and that at His word, any rock became a fountain of water to satisfy their thirst. Just as the manna was spiritual in that it came from God and taught a spiritual lesson, so the rock was spiritual in that at God’s word, it brought forth abundant water and also showed the sustenance and refreshment that we find in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But the rock did not bring forth water until Moses struck it in obedience to God’s command. In the same way, Christ provided the living water of salvation only by being struck down for us at the Father’s command. Isaiah 53:4-6 wonderfully prophesied of Jesus:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.

At the very end of the Bible is this wonderful invitation (Rev. 22:17), “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” Are you spiritually thirsty? Three times the Spirit and the bride (the church) invite you to come to Jesus, the water of life. And, it applies also to the church and her leaders who are dealing with problems in the church: Come and drink more deeply from Jesus, our Rock who provides abundant living water for thirsty souls!

Thus, God’s people and God’s leaders should drink from Christ to deal with problems from within (Exod. 17:1-7).

2. God’s people and God’s leaders should drink from Christ to deal with problems from without (Exod. 17:8-16).

It was only after God supplied Israel’s need for water from the rock that they then had to face their first enemy from without, a desert tribe called Amalek. Until now, God has done everything for Israel: He struck the Egyptians with the ten plagues; He divided the Red Sea; He destroyed Pharaoh’s army in the sea. He graciously has provided both water and food in the barren desert. All of this pictures our salvation, in which God does it all. We receive salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, apart from works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8-9).

But now, having received God’s salvation, Israel faces an external enemy and they have to take up the sword and fight. This pictures our sanctification, where we must fight the enemy through the power of the Holy Spirit. As Paul stated (Phil. 2:12-13), “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” In other words, we are passive in our salvation, which comes from God’s sovereign grace alone; but we must be active in our sanctification, relying on the Lord as we use the means He has provided. There are lessons here both for God’s people and for His leaders:

A. God’s people and His leaders must fight the world, the flesh, and the devil, which seek to destroy them.

Amalek was a grandson of Esau through a concubine of his son Eliphaz (Gen. 36:12). Esau was a worldly man who despised his birthright for a bowl of stew. He succeeded in the world, but he didn’t know the God of his fathers. Centuries after Moses, God commanded Israel’s first king, Saul, to destroy Amalek because of this attack on Israel in the wilderness (1 Sam. 15:2-3). But Saul compromised, sparing Agag, the Amalekite king, and some of the best sheep and oxen. Because of Saul’s disobedience, God removed him as king and replaced him with David.

Later, some Amalekites raided Ziklag, taking captive the families of David and his men (1 Sam. 30). He was able by God’s direction to slaughter many of them and recover their families and belongings. But the Amalekites plagued Israel even into Hezekiah’s time, three centuries after David. And three centuries after that, Haman, a descendant of the Amalekite King Agag, attempted to annihilate the Jews in Esther’s time. So they were perpetual enemies of Israel (Jud. 6:33; Ps. 83:4, 7).

Several devotional writers say that Amalek represents the flesh that believers must constantly battle. They may be right, but since the flesh is an enemy from within and Amalek was an enemy from without, I think that Amalek represents our broader threefold enemy: the world, the flesh, and the devil. We’re engaged in perpetual spiritual warfare against these enemies of our souls. If you compromise with such aggressive enemies, they will eventually dominate your life and destroy you. First, Israel had to drink from the rock, which is Christ. But then, they had to take up their swords and actively fight this enemy. The point is, the Christian life is not an easy stroll in the park; it’s a daily battle against powerful forces of evil that threaten to destroy us. How do we fight the battle?

B. God’s leaders and God’s people fight by prayer, by using means in the battle, and by remembering God’s perpetual opposition to the enemy.

1) God’s leaders and God’s people fight by prayer.

Some object to the interpretation of Moses’ uplifted hand holding his staff as prayer, since the text does not say that he was praying. True, but his staff represented God’s authority and strength. By holding it up, Moses was clearly appealing to God for His help in the battle. When he held it up, Israel prevailed. When he let it down, Amalek prevailed. So it seems to be a picture of prevailing prayer that lays hold of God’s strength.

This interpretation may be supported by a difficult phrase in verse 16. The NASB translates, “The Lord has sworn,” but the literal translation is, “a hand upon the throne of the Lord.” The difficulty is, “Whose hand is upon the throne?” If it is the Lord’s hand, then He is raising His hand to swear perpetual battle against His enemy, represented by Amalek. It could refer to Amalek’s hand against the Lord’s throne. But more likely, it is Moses’ hand, which pictures his hand lifted to God’s throne in prayer (see Philip Ryken, Exodus [Crossway], p. 461.) This view fits with Ephesians 6, where after describing our need to put on the full armor of God to do battle against the spiritual forces of darkness, Paul adds (Eph. 6:18), “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” We prevail against the world, the flesh, and the devil through prayer that lays hold of God’s riches in Christ.

2) God’s leaders and God’s people fight by using means in the battle.

Moses prayed, but Joshua had to choose men and go out and fight with their swords against this enemy. This is the first mention of Moses’ successor, Joshua, in the Bible. Under his leadership, Israel would conquer the Canaanites. In the same way, we must pray, but also we must use the means that God has given us for spiritual victory (Eph. 6:14-17): girding our loins with truth; putting on the breastplate of righteousness; having shod our feet with the gospel of peace; taking up the shield of faith; taking the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. There are other means, also, such as worship and fellowship with others in the body of Christ. The point is, you can’t win most battles against our spiritual enemy by prayer alone; also, you must fight, using the means that God has provided.

3) God’s leaders and God’s people fight by remembering God’s perpetual opposition to the enemy.

God directed Moses to write in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua that He would utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Then Moses built an altar and named it, “The Lord is My Banner.” It was to remind Israel, “The Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.” And it was to remind them of how He provided victory in this first battle. A banner is a military insignia raised on a pole during the battle. As long as it’s still flying, the soldiers know that the battle is not lost (Ryken, p. 466). The Lord Himself was Israel’s banner.

Jesus Christ and His cross are our banner. He was lifted up to die for our sins. He was raised up in victory over the enemy of our souls (John 12:31; Col. 2:15). When we fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil, we can look to Christ crucified and know that we can conquer in His mighty name.

Conclusion

Someone has said, “The only person with all his problems behind him is probably a school bus driver.” If a church has people, it will have problems. But whatever the problems, whether from within or without, we also have Christ, the living water, always available to us in this wilderness. He promised the sinful woman at the well (John 4:14), “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Make sure that you stay hydrated! Drink often from Jesus, the living water!

Application Questions

  1. How can you address a legitimate problem in the church without falling into the sin of grumbling?
  2. When do a leader’s imperfections call for correction rather than just letting them slide?
  3. What sorts of problems come from the world? The flesh? The devil? Do we need to determine the source to fight these problems?
  4. Discuss with a friend: In salvation, we are passive, but in sanctification, we must be active. Use biblical support.

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2018, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Christian Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

The Bible Teacher’s Guide, First Timothy: Becoming a Good Minister of Christ Jesus

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How can we become good ministers of Christ Jesus? In 1 Timothy, Paul writes his protégé Timothy, who is overseeing the church in Ephesus, to encourage him to complete the work God called him to (1 Tim 1:18-19). False teachers had infiltrated the congregation, church members were looking down on Timothy because of his youth, and Timothy was frequently sick with stomach ailments. There were many obstacles to discourage and make him want to quit. Throughout the letter, Paul encourages Timothy to be faithful (1 Tim 4:14-16, 6:11-12), instructs him on how the church of the living God should be run (1 Tim 3:15), and on how to be a good minister of Christ Jesus (1 Tim 4:6).

Although 1 Timothy is often called a pastoral epistle, it doesn’t just speak to pastors. It speaks to all of us, because we’re all called to ministry. It instructs us on issues like combatting false teaching (Ch. 1), prayer and worship (Ch. 2), church organization (Ch. 3), the minister’s life and doctrine (Ch. 4), the mercy ministry of the church (Ch. 5), and the believer’s relationship with money (Ch. 6), among other things. It also encourages us to complete our God-given tasks, amidst various obstacles (cf. 1 Tim 1:18-19, 4:12). As we read it, we are challenged, like Timothy, to become good ministers of Christ Jesus, at a time when the church desperately needs them. Let’s study it together with The Bible Teacher’s Guide.

Copyright © 2017, 2018 (2nd Edition) Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (NET) are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations and commentary have been added.

This book is also available for purchase here on Amazon.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Ecclesiology (The Church), Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry

Preface

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And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people

2 Timothy 2:2 (NET)

Paul’s words to Timothy still apply to us today. The church needs teachers who clearly and fearlessly teach the Word of God. With this in mind, The Bible Teacher’s Guide (BTG) series was created. This series includes both expositional and topical studies, with resources to help teachers lead small groups, pastors prepare sermons, and individuals increase their knowledge of God’s Word.

Each lesson is based around the hermeneutical principle that the original authors wrote in a similar manner as we do today—with the intention of being understood. Each paragraph and chapter of Scripture centers around one main thought, often called the Big Idea. After finding the Big Idea for each passage studied, students will discuss the Big Question, which will lead the small group (if applicable) through the entire text. Alongside the Big Question, note the added Observation, Interpretation, and Application Questions. The Observation Questions point out pivotal aspects of the text. The Interpretation Questions facilitate understanding through use of the context and other Scripture. The Application Questions lead to life principles coming out of the text. Not all questions will be used, but they have been given to help guide the teacher in preparing the lesson.

As the purpose of this guide is to make preparation easier for the teacher and study easier for the individual, many commentaries and sermons have been accessed in the development of each lesson. After meditating on the Scripture text and the lesson, the small group leader may wish to follow the suggested teaching outline:

  1. Introduce the text and present the Big Question.
  2. Allow several minutes for the members to discuss the question, search for the answers within the text, and listen to God speak to them through His Word.
  3. Discuss the initial findings, then lead the group through the Observation, Interpretation, and Application Questions.

On the other hand, the leader may prefer to teach the lesson in part or in whole, and then give the Application Questions. He may also choose to use a “study group” method, where each member prepares beforehand and shares teaching responsibility (see Appendices 1 and 2). Some leaders may find it most effective to first read the main section of the lesson corporately, then to follow with a brief discussion of the topic and an Application Question.

Again, The Bible Teacher’s Guide can be used as a manual to follow in teaching, a resource to use in preparation for teaching or preaching, or simply as an expositional devotional to enrich your own study. I pray that the Lord may bless your study, preparation, and teaching, and that in all of it you will find the fruit of the Holy Spirit abounding in your own life and in the lives of those you instruct.

Introduction

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Authorship

First Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus have been called “the Pastoral Epistles” since the 1700’s.1 Paul wrote “1 Timothy and Titus shortly after his release from his first Roman imprisonment (ca. A.D. 62–64), and 2 Timothy from prison during his second Roman imprisonment (ca. A.D. 66–67), shortly before his death.”2 These letters are unlike Paul’s other letters in that they were written to individuals instead of churches. He writes to his apostolic representatives, Timothy and Titus, who are serving in Ephesus and Crete. He gives them instructions on how to care for the churches.

Internal and external evidence for 1 Timothy clearly point to Pauline authorship. First Timothy 1:1 says, “From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope”. Externally, it is as well attested as any of Paul’s epistles, except for Romans and 1 Corinthians.3 MacDonald comments,

Irenaeus is the first known author to quote these Epistles directly. Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria ascribed them to Paul, as did the Muratorian Canon. Earlier fathers who seem to have known the Letters include Polycarp and Clement of Rome.4

Ignoring internal and external evidence, critical scholars have attacked Pauline authorship. They declare that a second-century follower of Paul’s must have written the letter (as well as 2 Timothy and Titus).5 They offer five proofs for this:

(1) The historical references in the Pastoral Epistles cannot be harmonized with the chronology of Paul’s life given in Acts; (2) The false teaching described in the Pastoral Epistles is the fully-developed Gnosticism of the second century; (3) The church organizational structure in the Pastoral Epistles is that of the second century, and is too well developed for Paul’s day; (4)The Pastoral Epistles do not contain the great themes of Paul’s theology; (5) The Greek vocabulary of the Pastoral Epistles contains many words not found in Paul’s other letters, nor in the rest of the NT.6

How have these proofs been refuted? (1) As for the reasoning that the historical references in the pastorals don’t match the Acts chronology, the book of Acts ends with Paul’s first Roman imprisonment; however, tradition says that Paul was eventually released. Philippians 1:19-26 and Philemon 22 support that this was Paul’s expectation. Therefore, the background to 1 Timothy happened after Acts. (2) While critics declare that the false teaching that Paul describes was full-blown Gnosticism of the second century, it certainly had elements of it, but there were marked differences as well. The false teaching in Ephesus also had strong elements of Judaism, as Paul declared they were abusing the law and forbidding certain foods (1:7, 4:2). The teaching seems to be very similar to that attacking Colosse. It had elements of Gnostic doctrine and that of the Judaizers (cf. Col 2:16). (3) The argument that the church structure in 1 Timothy is too developed for the first century is just not accurate. In the second century, bishops, or overseers, commonly had authority over a number of churches. That wasn’t true in the New Testament. Bishops, elders, and pastors are terms that Scripture uses synonymously for the same position (cf. Titus 1:5, 7; Acts 20:17, 28, 1 Peter 5:1-2). A plurality of elders served in churches, which is consistent with Paul’s teaching (Acts 14:23, Phil 1:1). (4) Why does 1 Timothy (and other pastoral epistles) lack many of the great theological themes in Paul’s other letters? First, it does have many of the themes “such as the proper function of the law (1:5–11), salvation (1:14–16; 2:4–6); the attributes of God (1:17); the Fall (2:13, 14); the person of Christ (3:16; 6:15, 16); election (6:12); and the second coming of Christ (6:14, 15).”7 However, these themes are only mentioned and not elaborated on. This probably happens because of the personal nature of the letter. Timothy had been discipled by Paul, and he didn’t primarily need doctrinal instruction. He needed personal instruction. (5) Finally, Paul’s different vocabulary is relative to his audience and purpose. A personal letter should look different from a doctrinal letter. We see similar differences in an academic paper versus a casual letter between friends.

Background

As a background to the letter, one must begin with Paul’s visit with the Ephesian elders before his first Roman imprisonment. In Acts 20:28-31, he warns the elders that savage wolves would arise, even from among their number, to destroy the flock. It seems that after Paul was released from Rome and visited Ephesus, this prophecy had already come to fruition. He returns to a cesspool of false teaching, and no doubt, some of the elders were propagating it. He disciplines two of these leaders, Hymenaeus and Alexander (1:20). He then travels to Macedonia and leaves Timothy the job of combating false teaching (1:3). He writes from Macedonia to encourage Timothy and give him instructions on how to minister to God’s household—the church (1 Tim 3:15). It is clear from the contents of the letter that, though Paul writes primarily to Timothy, he also intends to address the Ephesian congregation. In closing the letter, Paul says, “Grace be with you all” (1 Tim 6:21)—referring to all the Ephesians.

Who was Timothy? Timothy was from Lystra (Acts 16:1–3), a city in Galatia (part of modern Turkey). His name means “honoring God” or “one who brings honor to God.” Timothy was raised in a Christian home. His mother was a Jewish Christian woman; his father was Greek and probably a pagan (cf. Acts 16:1, 2 Tim 1:5). He learned the Scriptures from his mother and grandmother as a child (2 Tim 1:5, 2 Tim 3:14-15). Some believe that Timothy was led to Christ by Paul on his first missionary journey (Acts 14:6, 7) since he always calls him his “genuine child in the faith” (1 Tim 1:2). Whether that happened or not, by Paul’s second missionary journey, Timothy had matured in the faith and was well spoken of by everybody, and therefore, Paul took him as his protégé in the ministry (Acts 16:1-3). Timothy was probably in his mid-thirties, as Paul told him to not let anyone look down on his youth (1 Tim 4:12). A man was considered a youth until his forties in the Greek world. He struggled with timidity—maybe a fear of incompetence in the ministry (2 Tim 1:7), and he had reoccurring stomach issues. Paul told him to no longer only drink water but to have a little wine for the frequent infirmities (1 Tim 5:23). Timothy is seen throughout the NT narrative assisting Paul in various ministries including being sent to other troubled churches (1 Thess 3:1, 1 Cor 4:16-17, 16:10-11, Phil 2:9-24).

Additionally, it is helpful to understand a little about Ephesus—the city Timothy ministered in. Ephesus was a port city located at the mouth of the Cayster River, on the east side of the Aegean Sea—making it rich for commercial trade. Emperor Augustus declared it the capital of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) in 27 BC8; therefore, it was a political center as well. But it was probably best known for religion. The temple of Artemis (or Diana), the love goddess, was in Ephesus. The statue of Diana was a multi-breasted, crowned woman—symbolizing fertility. It had close links to local commerce and was a major tourist attraction.9 R. C. Sproul adds,

The temple of Diana was one of the seven wonders of the world. It was 425 feet in length and 220 feet in breadth. Architecturally it was composed of 127 white marble columns, each 62 feet high. It was opulently decorated with ornate carvings and priceless paintings. Its chief attraction, however, was an image of Diana said to have fallen directly from heaven to earth. The temple was so popular among pagans that Ephesus emerged as the religious centre of all Asia.

The temple employed thousands of prostitutes and was therefore a haven for deplorable and perverse sexual acts in honor of Diana. Worshipers believed that participating in profane intercourse ensured them of increased financial prosperity.10 No doubt, this would have been a difficult city for Timothy to minister in. Not only did he have conflict from within the church with false teachers, but also the constant pull of the world.

Purpose

Again, Paul writes this letter to encourage Timothy to complete his ministry in Ephesus (cf. 1 Tim 1:3, 18-20, 4:14-16). Maybe, Timothy felt like giving up and especially needed to hear this encouragement. Many helpful themes arise from Paul’s instructions:

The theme of church order. This could be called the major theme of the epistle. In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul says, “in case I am delayed, to let you know how people ought to conduct themselves in the household of God, because it is the church of the living God, the support and bulwark of the truth.” In chapter 2, Paul gives instructions on corporate prayer, the roles of males and females in public worship. In chapter 3, he gives requirements for overseers and deacons. In chapter 5, he gives instructions on the social ministry of the church—focusing on widows—and also how to minister to elders, including the need to pay them. This is important to consider because the church is not only an organism, as we are the body of Christ, but also an organization with order. Our God is a God of order, and we see this both in the Old Testament and the New. This is clearly demonstrated in the OT regulations for sacrifices and temple worship. Similarly, 1 Timothy, and other pastoral epistles, lay out regulations for the church in the New Covenant.

The theme of contending for the faith. Timothy is continually encouraged both in 1 and 2 Timothy to hold on to the doctrinal deposit passed to him and to contend for it (1:18, 6:12, 2 Tim 1:12, 2 Tim 4:7). He is commanded to fight the good fight of the faith (6:12), which includes correcting false teaching (1:3). Without this, many are deceived, and generations can potentially lose sound teaching. This is something that needs to be heard today. Often to preach doctrine is considered unloving, as true doctrine says what is true and what is false. In 1 Timothy, Paul even named those who were leading others astray (1 Tim 1:20). Christians in every generation must fight this battle and hold on to the faith.

The theme of becoming a good minister. In 1 Timothy 4:6 (NIV), Paul says, “If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.” He then goes on to describe characteristics of good ministers that Timothy should practice, like disciplining himself to godliness, setting an example in his conduct and pursuit of holiness, preaching and teaching the Word, among other things. In 1 Timothy 6:11 (NIV), Paul calls Timothy a “man of God,” which is a designation used only of him in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, it was used of prophets and those who spoke for God. In 1 Timothy 6:11-16, Paul gives him further instructions on how to continue his walk as a man of God. All believers have been called to speak for God and minister to others. Studying these instructions will help saints to become men and women of God—good and faithful ministers.

The theme of being faithful with riches. In 1 Timothy 6, Paul warns Timothy about teachers who use godliness as a means of financial gain (v. 5). In contrast with false teachers, Paul says godliness with contentment is in fact great gain (though not necessarily financially), and that with food and covering, believers should be content (v. 6-8). He then details the dangers of loving and pursuing money (v. 9-10). Finally, he gives instructions to wealthy believers to put their hope in God instead of riches and to be rich in good deeds (v. 17-19). Ephesus was a wealthy city in the ancient world, and no doubt, many believers were wealthy. In fact, some were even wealthy slave owners (1 Tim 6:1-2). This is important to hear because many Christians in developed nations are also wealthy. To make over $50,000 a year places one in the top 1% of the world population.11 Many believers intimately know the temptation of pursuing and hoping in wealth, and therefore, need to hear and heed Paul’s instructions on money.

In 1 Timothy, Paul encourages his disciple, Timothy, to be faithful with the ministry God has given him. He gives him instructions on how God’s household should be run and protected. Since the Church today is susceptible to the same dangers as the Ephesian church and because we are all called to minister to and with her, this is a relevant message that deserves focused study. May God, through the grace of his Word, make you a faithful minister in his household to the glory of his Name.


1 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2069). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

2 MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Handbook (Kindle Locations 10639-10640). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

3 MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Handbook (Kindle Locations 10613-10615). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

4 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2070). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

5 MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Handbook (Kindle Locations 10613-10615). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

6 MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Handbook (Kindle Locations 10613-10615). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

7 MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Handbook (Kindle Locations 10650-10654). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

8 MacArthur, John (2003-08-19). The MacArthur Bible Handbook (Kindle Locations 9706-9708). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

9 Sproul, R. C. (1994). The Purpose of God: Ephesians (pp. 12–13). Scotland: Christian Focus Publications.

10 Accessed 1/25/2016 from http://www.cowart.info/Ephesus/ephesus.html

11 Accessed 9/24/16 from https://irememberthepoor.org/3-2/

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines

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