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3. Characteristics Of The Person God Uses Greatly Pt 3 (1 Kings 17:1)

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Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As certainly as the Lord God of Israel lives (whom I serve), there will be no dew or rain in the years ahead unless I give the command.”

1 Kings 17:1 (NET)

What are characteristics of the person God uses greatly? As we consider Elijah and his powerful ministry, we can discern common characteristics of those God has used throughout history. The first characteristic we considered is the fact that Elijah was a common man. He was from a small town in Gilead, which was a mountainous region. He would have lacked the education of those from a big city. He wore clothes which represented his rugged upbringing. Scripture says he wore a garment of animal hair with a belt (2 Kgs 1:8). He probably had an accent. Because of his country upbringing, those from the city would have looked down upon him. He was common; however, God has delighted to use people like this throughout history (1 Cor 1:26-31). The Bible is full of stories of God greatly using farmers, shepherds, and others who would not have been highly esteemed in society. Why? Because God’s power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9), in people who will trust in him instead of their strength, riches, or education. The apostles were common men who lacked formal rabbinical training (Acts 4:13). When God does use somebody of great standing in society like Moses or Paul, he often makes them weak through their circumstances, so they can become humble and rely on God (Jam 4:10).

The second characteristic we observed about Elijah was his righteousness. We see this in the fact that he stood up against Ahab who was leading Israel away from God, but we also see it in his name. His name meant “My God is Yahweh.” Elijah’s parents no doubt raised him to be a godly man, and when all Israel was turning away from Yahweh to follow Baal and his corrupt practices, Elijah lived out his name. When God looks for someone to use greatly, he finds a righteous person. In James 5:17, using Elijah as an example, James said, “The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.” God hears the prayers of the righteous and he uses them to transform families, communities, cities, and nations.

The third characteristic is that God uses those who are courageous—meaning they are willing to confront their fears and not be hindered by them. Elijah boldly confronted the king which could have led to his death, and he also confronted the demonic deity, Baal, whom Israel was worshiping. When he said it would not rain, it was a direct challenge to this false deity, his prophets and worshipers, as he was the god of the storm. Elijah was courageous, and we must be as well.

What are other characteristics of those God uses greatly? We’ll consider two more.

God Uses Those Devoted to His Word

Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As certainly as the Lord God of Israel lives (whom I serve), there will be no dew or rain in the years ahead unless I give the command.”

1 Kings 17:1

The next characteristic of those God uses greatly is that he uses those devoted to his Word. How can we discern that Elijah was devoted to God’s Word from 1 Kings 17:1? It is very clear by what he proclaims to King Ahab. When he says that there will be no dew or rain, he is simply saying what God promised to Israel as a discipline for worshipping false gods. Deuteronomy 11:16-17 says,

Make sure you do not turn away to serve and worship other gods! Then the anger of the Lord will erupt against you and he will close up the sky so that it does not rain. The land will not yield its produce, and you will soon be removed from the good land that the Lord is about to give you.

The main message of the prophets was calling Israel back to God’s Word. The book of Deuteronomy is actually written in the form of an ancient covenant called a suzerain covenant. In those days, a small nation would approach a great king for protection in exchange for obedience, yearly crops, and taxes, among other things. The contract had both blessings and curses—blessings if they kept the contract and curses if they didn’t. That’s exactly what we see in Deuteronomy. If Israel obeyed God, he would bless them with rain, protection, and wealth. God’s plan was to bless Israel and, through blessing them, draw all nations unto him. Like God’s covenant with Abraham, God would bless them, and they would be a blessing (cf. Gen 12:2). But, as mentioned, this covenant included covenant curses. One of the curses was if they started to worship false deities like Baal, then God would shut the heavens and make it not rain on the land. They would experience extreme drought and famine: the cattle would die, the commerce would fail, and consequently, people would suffer and die because of their disobedience.

By Elijah’s proclamation over Israel, it is very clear that Elijah was a man of faith in God’s Word. He probably was studying God’s Word one day, was challenged by the curse, and responded in prayer to God. He potentially prayed something like, “Lord, your people have fallen away from you. They are worshipping Baal and other false gods. Fulfill your covenant promise by disciplining them and turning them back to you!” It was probably then that God put his message and declaration in Elijah’s heart that there would be a severe drought.


We saw this same thing with Daniel. In Daniel 9:2, Daniel was reading the book of Jeremiah where it says that Israel’s exile would only last 70 years. Israel was exiled to Babylon for their false worship and disobedience to the covenant. Daniel’s time in the Word prompted him to prayer, and from that prayer, God gave him a vision about Israel. Daniel 9:2-3 says:

in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, came to understand from the sacred books that, according to the word of the LORD disclosed to the prophet Jeremiah, the years for the fulfilling of the desolation of Jerusalem were seventy in number. So I turned my attention to the Lord God to implore him by prayer and requests, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.

Daniel was a prophet just like Elijah. How did Daniel know to pray for the restoration of Israel to the land? He prayed for it because he saw it in God’s Word. After his prayer, God sent Daniel an angel to give him a specific vision about the restoration of Israel and its future (Dan 9:20-27). This is probably what happened with Elijah as well. Prophets were people of God’s Word. They went throughout the land proclaiming the Mosaic covenant and calling Israel to repent for breaking it. In obedience to God, they proclaimed both the covenant promises and curses.


How can we apply this reality? There are several things we can take from observing the devotion of prophets, like Elijah, to God’s Word.

1. In considering the devotion of the prophets to God’s Word, we should constantly read God’s Word and pray it in response.

Not only should this apply to doctrinal and practical teachings in Scripture but also to prophecy. Though Scripture promises Christ will return to the earth in glory, we should pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:20). Though Scripture promises God will establish his kingdom on the earth, we should pray for it, as in the Lord’s Prayer, “May your kingdom come!” (Matt 6:10). When reading prophecies about Israel, the gospel spreading to all nations, etc., it should prompt us to pray for it in faith. That’s essentially what prophets like Elijah and Daniel did; they prayed in response to God’s teachings and promises.

Many Christians when reading Scripture only mentally affirm it but don’t pray it. God has chosen to fulfill his plans through the prayers of his saints (Ez 22:30). Therefore, we should pray as we meditate on his Word. Reading Scripture is how God talks to us, and through prayer, we talk back to him and build his kingdom. This is what people who God uses often do—they study God’s Word and pray it.

2. In considering the devotion of the prophets to God’s Word, we should allow Scripture to prompt and direct our passions and direction in life.

If one is struggling with what to do in life or with direction, he or she should spend more time in God’s Word. Apparently, Elijah’s study propelled him into his calling and future ministry.

Likewise, many people have found their passions and callings through time in Scripture. Some have given themselves to the ministry of teaching children in considering Christ’s call for Peter to give special care to the lambs, the baby sheep (John 21:15). Some in studying, especially the Old Testament, have felt a call to pursue law and justice ministries. Micah 6:8 (NIV) says, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Others have felt called to adoption or orphan ministry by considering how God is called “a father to the fatherless” in Psalm 68:5, and how God calls caring for orphans and widows a religion he accepts, which pleases him, in James 1:27. Others feel called to work in different forms of government, as Romans 13:4 calls government officials “God’s servants”—rewarding the good and punishing the bad. Elijah’s devotion to God’s Word prompted and directed his future ministry, which unfortunately included his suffering alone through a drought, away from family and friends (1 Kgs 17:3-6). Scripture should always lead us to application, and at times, it may lead us into our callings long-term.

Just like with the prophets Elijah and Daniel, God often speaks to us when we are in his Word. He gives us wisdom and helps us discern the paths we should take. People who are not in God’s Word often don’t hear God speak, and therefore, miss his direction. David said this in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to walk by, and a light to illumine my path.” David essentially said, “When I was in darkness and couldn’t figure out what I should do next or where I should go, God guided me through the light of his Word. It was then I could see clearly!”

Sadly, many Christians are content to walk in darkness, as they are not devoted to God’s Word. This darkness brings worry and fear about the past, present, and future, but God’s Word brings light, clarity, and peace. How can we clearly discern God’s voice as Elijah did? It comes through devotion and faith in God’s Word.

A Common Characteristic of People God Uses

As we considered Elijah’s devotion to Scripture and that of the prophets, it is clear that this is a common characteristic of those God uses greatly for his kingdom. Let’s consider some others God greatly used for his kingdom.


Joshua was another one of God’s prophets, someone who met with God and spoke for him. Consider what God said to him about his calling to lead Israel into the promised land:

Make sure you are very strong and brave! Carefully obey all the law my servant Moses charged you to keep! Do not swerve from it to the right or to the left, so that you may be successful in all you do. This law scroll must not leave your lips! You must memorize it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it. Then you will prosper and be successful.

Joshua 1:7-8

Joshua’s success as a military general was attached, not so much to his strategy and war plans, but to his daily, personal time in God’s Word and his practice of it. He was called to memorize and meditate on it day and night, continually speak about it, and practice it. If he did this, he would be prosperous and successful in fulfilling God’s will for his life. No doubt, many Christians are missing God’s best or even failing in their marriage, parenting, careers, and ministry in general, and it has nothing to do with their competence; it has everything to do with their faithfulness to God and his Word.

Are we being faithful to God’s Word? Do we meditate on it? Do we talk about it with our friends, family, and co-workers? Are our lives devoted to obeying it?

How can we be successful as a son, daughter, wife, husband, parent, teacher, businessman, or physician? Success is often a byproduct of our faithfulness to God’s Word.


We also see this promise written by David in Psalm 1, as he declares the secret to God’s blessing and favor. Psalm 1:1-3 says,

How blessed is the one who does not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand in the pathway with sinners, or sit in the assembly of scoffers! Instead he finds pleasure in obeying the Lord’s commands; he meditates on his commands day and night. He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. He succeeds in everything he attempts.

David essentially said, “I have learned that a common characteristic of those God blesses and uses greatly is that they have a common delight. They delight in God’s Word and, therefore, turn away from sin to meditate on Scripture and obey it all day.”

No doubt, David is probably not only talking about others that he had watched but also himself. In 1 Samuel 18, this word keeps appearing in reference to David: “success” or “successful” (v. 5, 14, 15, 30). First Samuel 18:30 says, “David achieved more success than all of Saul’s servants. His name was held in high esteem.” David was successful at everything he did. After defeating Goliath, he was given a high rank in the army, probably as a general. But because the people cheered him so much, “Saul has killed his 1000’s, but David his 10,000’s,” he was demoted. He was given only 1000 men, but he still prospered. The king tried to kill him by making him take 100 foreskins of the Philistines. However, David took 200 of them instead. Finally, David had to flee the kingdom for his life and become a refugee.

Surely, it was over for David. How can one prosper when the king wants him dead? But all of a sudden, 400 other refugees came to him (1 Sam 22), then 200 more—600 in all. These became his mighty men—leading him to excel, even as a refugee. It’s a phenomenal story. Why did this happen? No doubt, it’s because God promises to bless those who delight in him and meditate on his Word; even their seeming failures lead to success.

Are we people whom God can bless? Have we chosen to never let Scripture depart from our mind and mouth all day long and to practice it in everything we do?

Some, in evaluating themselves, may wonder, “God’s Word is not my delight; how can I make it my delight?” In this case, we should make studying God’s Word our discipline until it becomes our delight. This is a way to step into the blessing of God. He uses people who, like David, Joshua, Daniel, and Elijah, have chosen to delight in and meditate on God’s Word.

Application Question: How would you describe your time in God’s Word on a scale of 1-10 and why? What disciplines have you found helpful with faithfully studying Scripture? How is God calling you to be even more devoted to Scripture study?

God Uses Those Who Delight to Dwell in His Presence

Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As certainly as the Lord God of Israel lives (whom I serve), there will be no dew or rain in the years ahead unless I give the command.”

1 Kings 17:1

Another characteristic we can discern from Elijah’s life is that God uses those who delight to dwell in his presence. In verse 1, the NET version says, “the LORD God of Israel lives (whom I serve),” but a more literal translation is “before whom I stand” as in the ESV, NASB, and KJV.

What made Elijah able to boldly oppose evil in his own day? What enabled Elijah to stand alone, by himself, before the King? Elijah saw himself standing in the presence of God, which no doubt encouraged and empowered him. Elijah was a man who dwelled in God’s presence.

When considering people God used greatly throughout Scripture, this is a common characteristic. The narrators of Scripture often take us into the secret place of our biblical heroes—the places where they meet with God.


Moses met with God on the mountaintop where he took off his shoes before God and received a commission to set Israel free (Ex 3). In Exodus 19, Moses met with God again on the mountain and there received the Ten Commandments. After a later visit to meet with God on the mountain in Exodus 34, Moses left with his face shining like the glory of God. After building the tabernacle, Moses continually met with God there in order to get wisdom to judge the affairs of the people and guide them (cf. Ex 33). God’s glory cloud would come down and meet Moses in the tabernacle.


Certainly, this characteristic is also seen in the story of Joshua, Moses’ successor. Exodus 33:9-11 says,

And whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. When all the people would see the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people, each one at the entrance of his own tent, would rise and worship. The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, the way a person speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his servant, Joshua son of Nun, a young man, did not leave the tent.

The narrator, Moses, adds a foreboding little fact about Joshua. Even after Moses left the tabernacle, Joshua stayed, probably right outside of it, until God’s presence left. See, the narrator knew that Joshua was eventually going to lead Israel, and he knew why. Not only was Joshua faithful and obedient, but he also was someone who loved God’s presence. He loved being with God even more than he enjoyed following Moses.

See, there are those who primarily go to church because they love the sermons, their pastors, their teachers, their friends, or even simply out of duty. However, for Joshua, it wasn’t that way. He was consumed with the presence of God, even when nobody was around. His focus was being with God. God uses those who “stand before him”—those who walk in his presence.


We also saw this with Enoch. It was said of Enoch that he walked with God (Gen 5:24). Essentially, being in the presence of God defined him. Genesis also tells us that God took him to heaven, just like he eventually took Elijah to heaven. What many don’t know about Enoch is that he was very similar to Elijah. He was a prophet of God who spoke against the evil men and deeds of his day. Jude said this about Enoch:

Now Enoch, the seventh in descent beginning with Adam, even prophesied of them, saying, “Look! The Lord is coming with thousands and thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all, and to convict every person of all their thoroughly ungodly deeds that they have committed, and of all the harsh words that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

Jude 1:14-15

Enoch prophesied about the second coming before the first coming. He spoke of God’s coming judgment.

Elijah and Enoch were very similar. God so enjoyed them both that he took them to heaven before their deaths. They are the only ones recorded in Scripture that experienced this. But one of the things that made them unique and especially used by God was how they enjoyed God’s presence. Enoch walked with God, and so did Elijah.


This was also true of Noah, who was a great grandson of Enoch. Scripture also says he walked with God. Genesis 6:9 says, “… Noah was a godly man; he was blameless among his contemporaries. He walked with God.” And as we know, though God destroyed the world by a universal flood, he saved Noah and his family through an ark. When the narrator says, Noah “walked with God,” he is telling us why he was so favored—he enjoyed God’s presence and obeyed him.


David is another example. He said this in Psalm 27:4: “I have asked the Lord for one thing—this is what I desire! I want to live in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, so I can gaze at the splendor of the Lord and contemplate in his temple.” David essentially said, “I want to make my home in God’s presence. I want to dwell at his temple. I want to see God’s beauty—that’s all I want out of life!” That was his one thing—his priority.

Is that our “one” thing? Most have many things that keep them away from God. However, when God finds somebody to use, he finds someone who delights in and enjoys his presence.


We even see this with Paul. In 2 Timothy 4:17, consider how Paul described his ministry while being tried in court during his Roman imprisonment: “But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message would be fully proclaimed for all the Gentiles to hear. And so I was delivered from the lion’s mouth!” As he stood before the Roman officials, he sounds like Elijah. God stood beside him to give him strength to preach God’s Word to the Gentiles. In addition, Paul said this:

But these assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I may gain Christ,

Philippians 3:7-8

My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:10-11

Have you ever strongly felt God’s presence comforting, strengthening, and empowering you for ministry? Those who consistently have often can’t live without it and, therefore, continually seek the experience of it with all their heart. Paul, David, Moses, Joshua, Noah, Enoch, and Elijah made it their one thing. Being with and knowing God was their main passion and pursuit, and it should be ours as well, even more than serving people.


What do people who enjoy God’s presence look like? How can we become like them?

1. People who love God’s presence will typically be found worshiping and praying to him.

Psalm 22:3 (KJV) says, “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” God inhabits the praises of his people. At times in Scripture, when God’s people worshiped, God would manifest himself in a powerful way. When Solomon and the Israelites dedicated the temple to God and worshiped him there, his presence manifested so powerfully that the priest could not enter the temple (cf. 1 Chr 7:1-3). Also, in 2 Chronicles 20:20-22, when Jehoshaphat and his army worshipped God before a battle, God routed their enemies. Therefore, when people are praising God, thanking and honoring him, God’s presence often manifests powerfully, even today. And in those places, one can often find the people whom God will use greatly offering praises amongst the masses.

Is there a worship night or a prayer night? Don’t be surprised to see them there. They are there because they love God’s presence. In addition, as mentioned, you will commonly find these people praying, as prayer is a form of worship. When people wanted to accuse Daniel, they knew he would be in his room praying daily at a certain time (Dan 6). Worshipers commonly offer petitions, thanksgivings, and intercessions to God faithfully.

Are we worshipers?

2. People who love God’s presence often can be found in church, small groups, and various ministries.

Matthew 18:20 says, “For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them.” Therefore, you will commonly find these people involved in small groups, prayer meetings, church, and church activities in general. Wherever God’s people are gathered, they will commonly be there because they know that’s where God’s presence manifests.

Unfortunately, for many, they feel no need to be in these places. They have other things that they would rather do like sleep, watch movies, hang out with friends, work, etc. But not the ones who love God’s presence. Their reasoning is, “If God is there, why wouldn’t I be?”

3. People who love God’s presence practice holy lifestyles.

Philippians 4:8-9 says,

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And the God of peace will be with you.

Paul says that when a person thinks on godly things and practices righteousness, they will experience the manifest presence of God. He says, “the God of peace will be with you.”

The person who enjoys God’s presence tries to stay away from ungodly thoughts and ideas, entertainment, and practices. Much of what they avoid is not necessarily sinful, it’s just not pure, lovely, and commendable. They know there are some things that rob them of intimacy in their relationship with God, and therefore, they try to avoid them. Like Joshua, they want to be where God’s presence is. Like David, God’s presence is the one thing they desire. Therefore, they aim to practice a holy life in order to know and experience God more.

Are we walking in holiness, so we can better enjoy God’s presence?

4. People who love God’s presence are humble people.

Consider these Scriptures that show people’s reactions to being in God’s presence and experiencing him:

In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the sovereign master seated on a high, elevated throne. The hem of his robe filled the temple… I said, “Too bad for me! I am destroyed, for my lips are contaminated by sin, and I live among people whose lips are contaminated by sin.

Isaiah 6:1, 5

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

Luke 5:8

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them!

1 Timothy 1:15

Being in God’s presence by necessity reveals our sin and how much we are not like God. Therefore, it produces humility in us. Those who walk in God’s presence cannot but declare: “Woe is me! I am a sinful man—the chief of sinners.” In the same way, those who are not walking in God’s presence commonly are prone towards pride, self-exaltation, and judgmentalism—in part because they are looking at themselves and others instead of God.

Are we growing in humility from being in God’s presence?

5. People who love God’s presence are often broken people.

Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he delivers those who are discouraged.” God is near the broken in heart. He is beside them, comforting, and helping them know him more. However, it should be known that sometimes God allows brokenness so that we can continually experience more of him.

Jacob wrestled with God and was left with a limp—a continual reminder of his dependence upon God. Paul received a thorn in his flesh to keep him from pride from all the revelations he received (2 Cor 12:7-9). It was said of Charles Spurgeon that sometimes he wouldn’t leave his bed for weeks, as he struggled with intense depression. There is a cost for experiencing God, and many who know him in an intimate manner know this pain.

Are we willing to pay the cost of knowing God intimately? Are we willing to limp forever or have a thorn in the flesh to know God and his mysteries in a deeper manner?

Those who intimately know God often also know the experience of the limp, the thorn, and the cross. It is these painful experiences that have drawn them to greater intimacy with God. And it is these painful things that keep them dependent upon God. There is a cost for deeper intimacy with God. It is painful, but worth it to be in his presence.

Practical Exhortation

Are we people who enjoy God’s presence? Are we like Joshua, the one who sticks around after church is over to worship, pray, fellowship, serve, and study God’s Word more? Many are ready for worship to be done right after it starts. They certainly don’t stay after to serve or fellowship with others. They have their own agendas.

But the worshiper, who loves God’s presence, lingers even after most have left. It’s all about being in God’s presence. When God saw this characteristic with Joshua, no doubt, he said, “This is him! This is the next leader of Israel! He is somebody I can use greatly because he loves me.”

Yes, there may be loneliness and sometimes depression for those whose passion is God’s presence. Elijah was alone by a brook for many months; David was away from his family hiding in a cave. However, even in those seasons, God’s presence was with them, and his presence will be with us. He is near the broken hearted and the contrite in spirit. His grace is sufficient for our weakness.

Are you willing to be one God uses?

Application Question: What are some ways to practice dwelling in God’s presence? What are common distractions to pursuing intimacy with God? How is God challenging you to pursue dwelling in his presence more?


What type of person does God use? James 5:17 gives Elijah as a model. He was a human, like us, and yet he prayed, and it didn’t rain for three years. He prayed again, and it began to rain. From Elijah, we learn many characteristics of the person God often uses greatly.

  1. God uses the common and weak. Are we too strong?
  2. God uses the righteous. He hears and answers their prayers.
  3. God uses the courageous. We must be willing to confront our fears in order for God to use us.
  4. God uses those who are devoted to his Word. He prospers those who meditate on it day and night and never let it depart from their mouths.
  5. God uses those who delight in God’s presence. Are we worshipers?

Application Question: What stood out most in the reading and why? What questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Prayer Prompts

  • Pray that God would draw us more into his Word than ever before—reading, memorizing, praying, and teaching it. Pray that it would become both our discipline and delight.
  • Pray that God would draw us away from sin and worldliness and towards righteousness—looking more like God.
  • Pray that God would make us worshipers—people who delight in him and continually honor him with our thoughts, words, and actions, regardless of our circumstances, whether good or bad.
  • Pray that as we draw near God in worship, he would draw near us, both individually and corporately.
  • Pray that as God makes us more into his image, he would use us greatly for his kingdom.

Copyright © 2022 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.

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