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FEBRUARY 2006

 

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Matthew 20:13 "But he answered one of them and said, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. (I am not being unfair.) Did you not agree with me for a denarius? NKJV

2 Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. NKJV

 

Sometimes life seems unfair. Abel, who loved God, was killed by his brother Cain, who rebelled against God. Ishmael who was born before Isaac was given “second place” in the family. Jacob, the deceiver, was able to obtain the birthright from his brother Esau, then he deceived his father into giving him Esau’s blessing. Joseph was hated by his brothers because he was beloved of his father.

In this life, some men are born tall dark and handsome with a charismatic personality. Then there are the rest of us. Some women are born with physical attributes that make them attractive to everybody and some women have to make do with their personalities. Some people are born into families with wealth and privilege and never have to worry about security or friends. Others are born into families of poverty and disease in parts of the world where there is no hope of having a decent life.

In Matthew 20, workers hired to work in a vineyard thought the employer was unfair because he paid those that he hired late in the day the same wages that he paid those who were hired early in the day. They were not comforted by the fact that he paid those hired in the morning what they deserved because he paid those hired later in the day more than they deserved.

Yes, life can seem to be unfair. I have a 55 year old friend who has been cut down in the prime of life by cancer after terrible suffering. I know that his life was a testimony to his faith and I know that the Lord has used his suffering to reach thousands of people through a tract that he wrote and through some newspaper articles written about him. I know that we are to be thankful for the 55 years that he had instead of being unthankful for the 20 to 30 years that were never promised to him but that most of us expect to have. I know these things in my heart, but I also know that since God is sovereign, He could have accomplished all of the things that my friend accomplished without the suffering and without this painful separation from his family.

Is God unfair? Yes! He is so unfair that He allowed the only person who never sinned to suffer and die for our sins. He is so unfair that He turned His back on His Son in the darkest hour of His Son’s suffering. His Son cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me (Matthew 27:46).” We who have trusted Him know that God forsook His Son so that He could be righteous when He does not forsake those of us who accept His Son’s death as the punishment due us. When I consider how unfair God is, I realize that the only reason for thinking life is unfair is because we think others have it better. We compare ourselves with others. But when we compare ourselves with the Lord, we begin to realize that if He isn’t complaining, then neither should we.

Yes, life does seem unfair at times. But when I look at the cross, then I realize that I just don’t know what unfair is. If God were fair and I got what I deserved, I would have no hope for eternity. I am so glad that God is so unfair that He has promised me a place in heaven by trusting His Son who had a terrible place of rejection and suffering on this earth. God’s Son deserved better, but life was unfair for Him because of His great love for us.

 

Meditation for the week of February 5, 2006

Mark 14:34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.

Hebrews 5:7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.

 

When was the Lord saved from death with strong crying and tears? This certainly does not describe the cross since the Lord died there for our sins. This must describe the Lord’s experience in the garden of Gethsemane. Notice, that His soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death! It is clear that Satan wanted to “side track” the Lord’s ministry when He was tempted in the wilderness at the beginning of His earthly ministry and it is clear that he made one last attempt to keep the Lord from going to Calvary at the end of His earthly ministry. Was not this sorrow the attack of Satan in the garden as the Lord anticipated the cross? Certainly, the cup or experience of the cross was not removed, but the cup of Satanic attack in the Garden was removed and it was there that He was saved from death. I know the Lord could not sin and did not sin, but if this had been the experience of any other person, we would say that the attack of Satan had caused a depression so severe that the Lord could have died. Depression is often seen as a problem that Christians should not have if we are in fellowship with the Lord. However, it would be better to realize that some depressions are the attack of Satan, and they require the help of friends and the power of prayer to “save us from death.”

Depression can be the result of losing sight of the promised land at the end of the journey. In Numbers 21, the congregation was depressed or discouraged because the journey had become long and tiring, and likely it was monotonous. Their diet was boring and they were complaining. The solution was to look at a brazen serpent raised up on a pole. A fresh look at the crucified Messiah should reenergize or revive any Christian or Christian congregation.

Sometimes direct disobedience causes depression. Jonah was commissioned to warn Nineveh that judgment was coming. He didn’t want to warn them for fear that they would repent and God would show them mercy. That is exactly what happened and Jonah wanted to die because he did not want the city to be spared. Sometimes we have trouble loving the people God loves and it causes us to be depressed.

Sometimes depression is caused by being tired. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah spent a day with the prophets of Baal and then destroyed four hundred of them with some help. He then ran to Jezreel and from Jezreel to Beersheba. Slaying the prophets of Baal would have left a person exhausted and running that marathon afterward should would have been a real killer since he thought Jezebel was seeking his life for killing her prophets. Elijah wanted the Lord to take his life, but the Lord wisely gave him some food, some water and some rest before he asked him why he was clear down at Beersheba. After resting the Lord was able to send him back to finish his work. Sometimes, we unwisely take on more than the Lord has asked of us and we really need to get some nourishment and some rest so that we can get our strength back.

Depression can be a problem needing a medical solution. But it is also true that as Christians, we may have a “pity party” on a dark day. Instead of feeling guilty when this happens, we should be encouraged to realize that if we are “depressed” we are in good company. However, our strength is in the joy of the Lord (Nehemiah 8:10) which means that we need to deal with the spiritual problem that is causing the depression so we don’t dwell too long the valley of depression. The Lord wants us to live on the mountain of joy.

 

Meditation for the week of February 12, 2006

Matthew 26:53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

 

Angels are a hot topic right now. Some people take more comfort in the ministry of angels than in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. While I wouldn’t do that, I am thankful that angels are spirits that minister to those of us that are saved (Hebrews 1:14). I believe that children have guardian angels (Matthew 18:10) and my experience tells me that I have one when I drive my car. I believe that there are numerous times that I have been saved from an impending accident by miraculous means. Likely, I have been saved from impending danger many times when I have not known it.

Angels are created beings (Ezekiel 28:15, John 1:3, Colossians 1:16). Some of them serve the Lord and some of them serve Satan (Revelation 12:7). There are two named angels in the Bible, Michael and Gabriel. Michael leads the armies of heaven in Revelation 12:7 and Gabriel announced the Lord’s birth to Zacharias in Luke 1:19 and to Mary in Luke 1:26. Satan who is the angel that fell and took other angels with him is variously called Satan or adversary, the devil or the evil one, the serpent or the cunning one, the dragon or the fierce one. He is also known as a liar and a murderer. His actual name is Apollyon which means destroyer (Revelation 9:11).

Sometimes I wish we could actually see the spirit world that seems to be all around us. In 2 Kings 6:17 we read about the host of the Syrians that had surrounded the city where Elisha was dwelling. When his servant realized that they were surrounded, he asked Elisha what they were going to do. We read, “And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” Ephesians 6 tells us that there is a battle going on between the powers of darkness and the servants of God, but what we don’t see is that the Lord’s army is there and that it is vastly superior to the enemy.

One encouraging story about angels is in Matthew 26. When the Lord was agonizing in the garden in anticipation of the cross, He had it in His power to call twelve legions of angels to fight for Him. I hear varying reports as to how many a legion is, but some think it is 6000. That would mean that the Lord could have called more than 72,000 angels. There is a song that says that He could have called ten thousand angels. So I will leave the exact count to the experts but I know there were a bunch of angels waiting for a command from the Lord that never came. A word from the Lord and the world could have been destroyed, but the Lord did not come to destroy. Instead, He came to save (John 3:17). So the angels never got the command to engage the battle. Thank God for that! The Lord was willing to allow Satan to appear to be victorious, because He wanted the final victory. His willingness to suffer wrong has provided a righteous sacrifice that satisfied God on our behalf. Christ willingly died the “just for the unjust” (1 Peter 3:18) so that we could have a way to come to God. Just because Christ willingly suffered for sins does not save us however. It provides the salvation that we must receive by believing in His name or by trusting in His authority (John 1:12).

Why would anyone not want to trust in the Savior who has withheld the judgment we deserve and has provided a place for us in a heaven that we don’t deserve. After we receive Him by faith, we are never left alone to struggle through this journey we call life. Just as angels ministered to the Lord (Matthew 4:11, Luke 22:43), they also minister to us (Hebrews 1:14).

 

Meditation for the week of February 19, 2006

Numbers 5:27 And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.

Numbers 5:28 And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed.

 

Many women today struggle with the Biblical teaching concerning their roles in the home, the church and the world. When the women’s Biblical role is properly understood and explained, it is a role of importance (she ministers to angels and to men in 1 Corinthians 11) and it is a role that requires God’s protecting care. Women were possessions in the Bible, and I realize that most of us find that distasteful in our culture. However, if wives and daughters were cared for like most men care for their first cars, I don’t think women would find this distasteful. I think they would consider themselves privileged to be “owned” by their husbands and fathers. Unfortunately many men treat women like they would treat a car that has 250,000 miles on it and that is held together by duct tape. If they would treat them like a car that has just rolled off the show room floor, likely women would consider themselves to be treasured and special.

Women are not given a leadership or teaching role in the church (1 Timothy 2:12). Today women think that God has been unfair because they have as much or more ability than the men who are taking the lead. However, leadership in a church is a place of great conflict. Leaders are a special target of Satan. I believe that the Lord in His wisdom wanted to spare women from these problems because He considers them to be special.

In Matthew 5:31, when the Lord tells us that if a women is to be put away she should be given a writing of divorcement, He was actually protecting the women. Most translations assume that putting away is a divorce but, if that is the case, this verse is redundant. A bill of divorce required a property settlement and it allowed the Hebrew women the right of remarriage. Unfortunately, many men in that day were sending their wives away without the bill of divorce because they didn’t want to make the property settlement and they didn’t want to give their wives the right to remarry. (In Matthew 5:32, the word for divorce is really the word for putting away). So the Lord was trying to protect women from husbands who did not want to give them their legal rights in a divorce.

That brings me back to this chapter in the old testament having to do with a jealous husband who thinks his wife has been unfaithful. I have never understood how this ceremony would sort these things out. However, as I read this recently, the light dawned. If a jealous husband carried this out, there was very little likelihood that the women would end up losing her ability to have children by drinking the bitter water as seems to be implied by the rotting thigh and swelling belly. Verse 28 says that an innocent women would be able to bear children after this ceremony. No woman would likely take this oath and go through this ceremony if she was not virtuous. I doubt that this ceremony ever proved that she was not, all it did was give the man time to cool off. Going through the ceremony would be fairly good evidence that the woman was not a brazen liar. I think this ceremony was simply designed to keep a jealous husband from mistreating his wife.

The Lord seems to give women a special place. All of creation was good after the Lord finished on each of the first five days. But after creating women on the sixth day it was very good. Wouldn’t it be great if we men had the love for our wives and daughters that the Lord has for them, and that women had enough respect for the Lord to accept the protections that their Biblical roles give them?

 

Meditation for the week of February 26, 2006