Compassionate and Gracious

Like a lover, totally focused on the beloved, leaning forward wanting to hear every word, every sigh.

He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103:7-8 (ESV) 

And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness … “ Exodus 34:6 

The psalmist says that God made his ways and acts known to Moses. God always wants to be known. I am thinking that I should pay attention when God defines himself. God describes himself this way: compassionate and gracious (or merciful), slow to anger and abounding in love. I looked at the first two attributes and was overwhelmed. I would like to save the second two for a future blog. 

The first two words are the Hebrew rachum and channun. These two words are each used thirteen times in the Old Testament. Linked together, to describe God, they are used twelve times. Alone or together, they are always only used as attributes of God. Rachum means full of compassion, merciful; channun means gracious, “as hearing the cry of the vexed debtor.”i 

John J. Parsons has this to say about these concepts: 

“Notice first that the LORD calls himself rachum v’chanun, often translated ‘merciful and gracious.’ The noun rechem means ‘womb’ in Hebrew, indicating that God’s compassion is like a mother’s deep love for her child. The word chanun (from chen, grace or favor) indicates that God is a graceful giver who is favorably disposed to help those in need. God is compassionate and favorable to those who call upon Him.” — John J. Parsons, Hebrew for Christiansii  

The adjective rachum comes from the verb racham, to love, to have compassion, or to compassionate. A.W. Tozer explains it this way: 

“According to the Old Testament, mercy has certain meanings: to stoop in kindness to an inferior, to have pity upon and to be actively compassionate. It used to be a verb form of the word compassion, but we don’t use it anymore — maybe it’s because we don’t have the concept anymore. God actively ‘compassionates’ suffering men — I like that wonderfully well. For God to feel compassion at a distance is one thing, but for God actively to compassionate with people is something else.”– A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God  

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. Psalm 145:8-9 

The second word, channun or gracious – hearing the cry of the debtor and being favorably disposed to help – reminds me of the parable Jesus told in Matthew 18 of the man who came before the master with overwhelming, impossible debt. But when he cried out for mercy “the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.” 

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15 

The compassion and grace of God are tightly woven together. God’s rachum, the deep love of a parent for a child, moves him to be gracious. Tozer notes in his book, The Attributes of God, that grace and mercy are not things that God does, but who God is. God is forever the compassionate Father favorably disposed toward those who cry out to him, always welcoming home the prodigal. 

And Jesus was saying to us, ‘You went away in Adam, but you’re coming back in Christ. And when you come back, you’ll find the Father hasn’t changed. He’s the same Father that He was when you all went out, every man to his own way. But when you come back in Jesus Christ you’ll find Him exactly the same as you left Him–unchanged. And the Father ran and threw his arms around him and welcomed him and put a robe and a ring on him and said, ‘This my son was dead, and he’s alive again’ ([Luke] 15:24). This is the grace of God.” — A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God (emphasis mine) 

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:11 

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to confidently draw near to God because of these two attributes. 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy (pity, compassion) and find grace (kindness, “the Lord’s favor – freely extended to give Himself away to people because He is ‘always leaning toward them’”)iii to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

Isn’t that amazing and wonderful? The word for “grace” in the Greek includes the picture of God “freely giving himself away to people” and “always leaning toward them.” Like a lover, totally focused on the beloved, leaning forward wanting to hear every word, every sigh. Like a parent leaning forward to catch the newly walking toddler. Like the father leaning forward, straining to see the very first glimpse of his returning child. 

For the LORD your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him. 2 Chronicles 30:9 (ESV) 

… as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:12-14 

Come back. If you have wandered far away, come back. If you are near, but have hardened your heart, come back. Come. Jesus has freely given himself for you on the cross. He is leaning toward you. He is the same unchanging God that introduced himself to Moses, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” 

Salvation

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Understands

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV) 

The Hebrew word translated “understands” above is sakal (שָׂכַל). It means to give attention to, consider, ponder, to have understanding or wisdom. The word is used 63 times in the Old Testament, but the ironic and tragic thing about this word is the context of its first use in Genesis 3:6. 

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise (sakal), she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6 (ESV) 

God yearns for us to understand and know him, but Adam and Eve desired to have their own understanding – to know and choose for themselves what was good and true. Adam and Eve had ample opportunity to give attention to, consider, ponder, come to understand God. But, if they had, they would have known that he not only practices love, but is love, he is just and righteous. The charge that God was keeping something from them would not have rung true.  

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 (ESV) 

Instead of knowing and understanding God and his wisdom, they wanted to decide for themselves what was good and evil. The ironic thing is that they did not become like God as promised, but, instead, became their own counterfeit gods. And they found themselves hiding from the real wisdom, the real light, the real life.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8 

Isn’t it still the same today? But God is still calling out.

Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9 

He is still seeking. He is still calling. He is still knocking. Let us come out from our hiding places and know the One who loves us.

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17: 3 (ESV) 

“It was not Adam who sought God, but God who sought Adam. And this has been the order ever since.” 
~ Arthur Pink, Gleanings in Genesis 

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. Luke 19:10

So let us know and become personally acquainted with Him; let us press on to know and understand fully the [greatness of the] LORD [to honor, heed, and deeply cherish Him]. His appearing is prepared and is as certain as the dawn, And He will come to us [in salvation] like the [heavy] rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth. Hosea 6:3 (Amplified)

Image by Jack Bair, all rights reserved

Holiness – Set Apart

We are called by name.

Be holy, because I am holy. 1 Peter 1:16 

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. Ephesians 1:5 

What exactly does it mean to be holy? According to James V. Brownsoni there are three aspects to holiness:  

  • Differentiation, or being set apart from the world 
  • Openness to God, an availability to God’s presence, or being set apart to God 
  • Purity  

Being Set Apart from the World 

Brownson writes that “[i]t is important to note that this setting apart is never a withdrawal from the world, but rather a differentiation for a particular kind of service to the world.” Being set apart from the world, or chosen, is mentioned a lot in the Bible. 

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 
1 Peter 2:9  

The Greek word translated “chosen” in the above verse is eklegomai, which means to be chosen and set apart from the rest of the world. It comes from two words that literally mean to call out. To speak, to call by name, to name out of, away from. You are chosen, set apart, called by name out of, away from, the world and into God’s glorious Kingdom. God called my name fifty years ago (He Knows My Name).  

The Greek word translated “called” in 1 Peter 2:9 is kaleo. It also means to invite, as in “Go therefore to the main roads and invite (kaleo) to the wedding feast as many as you find (Matthew 22:9),” and to name, as in “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call (kaleo) his name Jesus (Luke 1:31).” 

So, the first part of holiness is answering God’s call to “come out” of the world. We are called by name. We are invited to the eternal banquet. This is the first step to holiness. 

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3 

He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. Song of Songs 2:4 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Psalm 23:5 

Set Apart to God 

If the first part is turning from the world, the second part of holiness is turning toward and focusing on God, knowing him more and more deeply. As Brownson writes, “We are not only set apart from the world; we are set apart to God. There is an openness to God, an availability to God’s presence, which is also central to holiness.” Brother Lawrence called this The Practice of the Presence of God. Being in his presence makes possible the “unrelenting, uncompromising obedience to God” that Pastor Troy spoke of (see the first blog in this series, Holiness). 

“His [God’s] greater purpose in bringing them [Israel] out of Egypt was to take them into Canaan, his land of fullness. In short, he brought them out of slavery in order to bring them into his heart and into his love. He wanted a people who were totally dependent on his mercy, grace and love. The same is still true for his people today.” — David Wilkerson  

A.W. Tozer wrote that “we are saved [or brought out] to know God, to enter His wonder-filled Presence through the new and living way [Jesus] and remain in that Presence forever.” So, to me, this is the first reason to pursue holiness, to submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Holiness is required to see God and He desires passionately to be seen and known, to be with us. The second reason for pursuing holiness has to do with becoming like him. 

William Wilberforce wrote that “the nature of the holiness, to which the desires of the true Christian are directed, is no other than the restoration of the image of God.”ii 

I love that – “the restoration of the image of God.” This happens as we behold him, as he is our focus, our one thing, as we begin to dwell in the Presence. 

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV) 

And this leads us into Brownson’s third part of holiness – purity – which we will look at in the next blog. 

J.D. Walt has a wonderful series called The Second Half of the Gospel which I highly recommend. You can read it here: https://www.seedbed.com/?s=second+half+of+the+gospel  

Until next time, let us not stop at being separated from the world, at “being saved,” but “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD!” (Hosea 6:3a) 

“The truest way of delighting in the Lord is to obey him in our coming and going, at home and on the road, in our lying down and rising up, by impressing it on our hearts and heads and hands and expressing it through every word and deed. The only way to love the Lord our God is with our whole hearts, minds, and strength. Holiness is full surrender to the unrivaled reign of Jesus over every part of who we are. It is all of you delighting in all of him.” — Matt LeRoy (The Only Way to Love)

i Holiness and Hermeneutics. James V. Brownson. Western Theological Seminary. 1999. 

ii A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System. William Wilberforce. 1820. 

Image of sheep in pasture by Sheila Bair

Holiness

God invites an intense, earnest, and continued inspection of Himself.

“The pursuit of holiness is an unrelenting, uncompromising obedience to God.” — Troy Gentz 

The above quote from our pastor really got me thinking about holiness. “… unrelenting, uncompromising, obedience.” Wow, in this day of deciding everything about ourselves for ourselves, does anyone do this anymore? Does anyone even think of obedience? Isn’t that an archaic word? An oppressive concept? Does anyone pursue holiness? Yet, God commands and, I believe, yearns for us to be holy.  

But just as he who called you is holy, so be (ginomai) holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am (eimi) holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16 

This above verse emphasizes how, for us, holiness is a pursuit or goal, the moving toward, the ongoing conforming and allowing ourselves to be transformed. There are two different verbs translated “be” and “am” in this verse. One is more like “to become” and the other one is “to exist.” We are called to become – ginomai – holy; but God is – eimi – holy. The Greek word ginomai means to become, to come into existence, begin to be, receive being. It points to our journey toward holiness, our willingness to receive a new being, become a new creature.

In contrast, the Greek word eimi means simply to be, to exist, to happen, to be present. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the word is in the first person singular present indicative and expresses, “I exist” or “I AM.” God always has and always will exist as Holy – unchanging, unfailing – the One we can fix our eyes and our hearts on, the objective, the goal, the ultimate destination of our pilgrimage here on earth. 

But why does God yearn for us to become holy? I believe at least part of the answer is in this verse: 

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14 

The Greek word translated “see” above is optanomai. It meansto look at, behold, to gaze (i.e., with wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable).” It does not denote “simply voluntary observation,” or “merely mechanical, passive or casual vision.” It is emphatic and intensive, signifying “an earnest but more continued inspection.”i That is our part – to gaze at our remarkable God with wide-open eyes. Or, as A.W. Tozer put it, “We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God.”ii 

But the word also means to allow one’s self to be seen, to appear, and that is God’s part. God wants to be seen. God wants to be known. God invites an intense, earnest, and continued inspection of Himself. Doesn’t that sound like a best friend? Like a lover?  

You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. Colossians 1:21-22 

And there resides, in that verse, another fundamental truth about holiness – that we can’t do it ourselves. It is because of what Jesus did on the cross that we can pursue, or even think about pursuing, holiness. It is only because of Jesus’ death on the cross that we can come into His Presence and gaze in wide-eyed worship at the lover of our souls.  

“Here is the truth, plain and simple. Without the holiness that’s imparted by Christ alone—a precious gift we honor by leading a life devoted to obeying his every word—none of us will see the Lord. This refers not just to heaven but to our present life as well. Without holiness, we won’t see God’s presence in our daily walk, our family, our relationships, our witness or our ministry.” — David Wilkersoniii  

So, there seems to be this tension between receiving holiness as a gift that has already happened – “I have been crucified with Christ” – and something I must also pursue.  GotQuestions explains it this way: 

“Like righteousness, holiness is a gift from God. The process of becoming holy is called sanctification, and God promises to complete His sanctification in us because of Christ’s work on the cross. The writer of Hebrews explains positional sanctification: “By [God’s] will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” and also alludes to progressive sanctification, speaking of “those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:10, 14). We are perfected and sanctified by one event: Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the cross for our sin. As we live our lives in Christ, our holiness increases as we yield to the work of the Holy Spirit within us and follow this command: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12–13; see also Romans 12:1–2; Hebrews 12:1–2).”iv 

Let us, then, receive the amazing gift that Jesus gave us on the cross, but let’s also pursue holiness as an unrelenting, uncompromising obedience to God as he reveals his will to us. Let us run swiftly to catch, press on, press forward, seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavor to acquire holiness that we might behold Him, that we might know Him. This is the first reason to pursue holiness. I would like to explore more about holiness, including the second precious reason for pursuing it, in following blogs. 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8

i Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries 

ii A.W. Tozer. That Incredible Christian. “We are Saved To as Well as From.” Compiled by Anita M. Bailey. 1964.

iii David Wilkerson, Our God-given Escape Plan https://worldchallenge.org/devotion/our-god-given-escape-plan?ref=devos 

Image in the Public Domain

Those Who Knew Him

There was only one thing that could have kept them standing there with him that terrible day.

When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:48-49 

There were two groups of people that day witnessing the death of Jesus on the cross. The Greek word translated “sight” above is theoria, which means spectacle or something to be viewed. It comes from theoreo – to be a spectator. So, there were the spectators. We are very familiar with being a spectator to tragedies these days. We do what they did, mostly, “beat our breasts” at how horrible it is – then walk away and go on with life. 

But those who knew him …  

Then there were the ones who knew him. The word “knew” here does not mean just to know about Jesus, but it means to be well known. They knew him well. They were the ones who had followed him from the beginning. The word comes from a Greek word that is even used for married intimacy. These were the ones who had sat around the campfire with him and told jokes, seen the sparkle in his eyes, heard him call their name, been electrified at the probing questions, felt his touch as he washed their feet. 

But those who knew him … stood. 

At a distance, helpless, in despair, not knowing what was happening. But they stood with him to the end. The women followed his lifeless body to the very end, to the tomb. 

The word translated “stood” is histemi in the Greek. It means “to cause or make to stand … in the presence of others, in the midst, before judges, before members of the Sanhedrin … to make firm, fix establish, to cause a person or a thing to keep his place … [I love this one!] to be kept intact (of family, of a kingdom) … to stand by or near, to stop, stand still, to stand immovable.” 

Soon they would receive the power from on high to go on. But just then, when things were darkest, all they could do, all there was to do, was stand. 

Their leader was being executed. They themselves, therefore, were on a very dangerous blacklist. The fear and the doubt must have been oppressive. There was only one thing that could have kept them standing there with him that terrible day. They knew him – it all comes down to knowing him. 

I can deeply empathize with them. All those wonderful words and promises nailed to a cross and spit upon and dead. All the expectations and dreams bled out, the last breath gasped. Joy suffocated. Hope buried in a tomb. Sometimes the days are very dark. 

Yet (!) I too have heard his voice calling my name. I, too, have looked into his eyes, and felt his touch and the breathtaking power of his unfailing love. I know whom I have believed, and I know that – even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it – he has given me power, not my own, to stand and to endure to the end. 

Family of God, you who are of His Kingdom – you who know him – when you feel lost in the darkness, when fear and doubt overwhelm, when you are tempted to walk away – he will keep you intact, he will cause you to stand, make you firm, fixed, immovable. Fix your eyes and heart on him. Strive to know him and follow him deeper each day. Cling to him. And when there is nothing else you can do, stand. 

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13 

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11 

Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. 2 Timothy 1:12 

For those who don’t yet know Him, come!   Salvation

Image, detail from Storm by texaus1 https://flic.kr/p/R41Zbp  

Ancient Door

Who is He? Why should I open the ancient door to Him? Isn’t that the ancient question too?

Psalm 24 

Of David. A psalm. 

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, 
    the world, and all who live in it; 
2 for he founded it on the seas 
    and established it on the waters. 

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? 
    Who may stand in his holy place? 
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, 
    who does not trust in an idol 
    or swear by a false god. 

5 They will receive blessing from the Lord 
    and vindication from God their Savior. 
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, 
    who seek your face, God of Jacob. 

7 Lift up your heads, you gates; 
    be lifted up, you ancient doors, 
    that the King of glory may come in. 
8 Who is this King of glory? 
    The Lord strong and mighty, 
    the Lord mighty in battle. 
9 Lift up your heads, you gates; 
    lift them up, you ancient doors, 
    that the King of glory may come in. 
10 Who is he, this King of glory? 
    The Lord Almighty— 
    he is the King of glory. 

This Psalm is talking about opening the ancient doors in order to bring the Ark back into the Temple. It says that those carrying it must have clean hands and a pure heart.   

According to Charles Spurgeon, the ancient doors are the doors of our hearts.  

“There is no passage that says, ‘Down with your heads, ye gates, and be ye fast closed, ye everlasting doors!’ Not a word of that sort, Heaven’s gates are open wide. What then is shut? Why, the gate of the human soul, the door of the human heart. There are many gates and doors, bars of iron, and bolts of triple steel that stand in the way of Christ.”  — Charles Spurgeoni 

These are the doors closed at Eden. Yes, God, with a broken heart, barred the gates to Eden. But, only after his people had closed theirs on him. The doors our Lord has been knocking on ever since.  

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 

The Psalm says that we must be those who do not “trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” Yet when the joyful shout comes to lift up the ancient doors, the antiphonal retort comes back, “Who is he, this King of glory?” 

Who is He? Why should I open the ancient door to Him? Isn’t that the ancient question too? The question implicit in the garden? 

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 

Who is this God who enters the garden gate and walks in the garden? Is he one you can trust, one who cares for you and loves you, who delights in your presence? Or, is he a self-serving manipulator? Is he keeping you from good things? Is he keeping you from your real destiny, your true freedom? Can he really help and keep you, or do you have to do it yourself? 

They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the desert? Psalm 78:19 

“But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes (is persuaded, places confidence in, entrusts himself to Christ).” Mark 9:22-23 

Jesus came to show us who this King of Glory really is. He came to reveal and restore knowledge of the Name that we might again trust Him and walk with him in the garden of our hearts. 

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them. John 17:24-26 

The ancient knock on the ancient door. The ancient question, “Who is he, this King?” 

Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him …? Exodus 5:2 

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Mark 8:29 

Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” 

The Lord Strong and Mighty 

The Almighty God 

Everlasting Father 

Redeemer 

Savior 

Comforter

Servant

Emmanuel

King of Kings and Lord of Lords 

Lamb of God who takes away our sin 

The Good Shepherd 

The Door 

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. Revelation 4:1 

i Charles Spurgeon, A Triumphal Entrance https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/a-triumphal-entrance/#flipbook/ 

Image, “What’s Behind the Door?” By Chris Healy https://flic.kr/p/xLfx9e  

May That Grace

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14 

This short benediction at the end of Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth contains the whole of the gospel in one sentence.  

May the grace (good will, loving-kindness, favor, merciful kindness of God, gift of grace) that Jesus came to demonstrate and consummate by his death on the Cross – 

Which provided for the forgiveness and forgetting and throwing into the depths of the sea our sins which separated us from our great and compassionate God, ripping apart the dividing veil, opening the door, revealing who he is, making it possible for us to know God, know Him as our Father, and his great love and yearning for us – 

May that grace which made the way for us to come into God’s presence and know the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, abide in him and he in us, that we might be with him and he with us – Immanuel, Friend, Lover, Bridegroom – forevermore – 

May that grace be with you all (individually, each, every, any, all, everyone).  

Find that grace, love and fellowship https://lp.billygraham.org/find-peace-with-god/

Photo by Jack Bair

Bread for the Eater

The character of God is to give life, to heal and restore and repair.

“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 talks about the difference between the natural thinking of people and God’s thoughts or wisdom. It ends by asking the “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” This is a quotation from Isaiah 40:13. In Isaiah’s day there was no answer to the question, or the answer was “no one.” But here Paul says, “But we have the mind of Christ.” The Amplified Bible translates it this way: “But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart.” Precious, amazing grace if we will receive it.

In 1 Corinthians 3:19 it says, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” The word translated futile means: empty, profitless, vain, vanity, an idol. This is another quotation from the Old Testament.

The LORD knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile (empty, vain, a breath or vapor).  Psalm 94:11

The Hebrew word for futile also has behind it the meaning of idolatry. About this Hebrew word the TWOT says:

“Of particular interest here are the parallel verses Jer 2:5 and 2Ki 17:15; They went after vanities and “became vain.” (NIV: “They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves.”) Two inexorable principles are illustrated here: (1) every man takes on to some degree the character and nature of the God he worships; (2) the characteristic of all false gods is that they destroy their worshippers.” — Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament

As the character of God is to give life, to heal and restore and repair, the character or essence of the idol is to destroy, not just the idolater, but also all those around – even those we are trying to “love.” So, it seems very important for us to have the mind of Christ that we might become like him – to pursue knowing God’s thoughts, what is important to God, what God desires and what pleases Him.

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. 1 Corinthians 3:18-19

And in this world, especially right now, we will seem like fools when we choose God’s thoughts and ways. But, I know that the only thing that God will destroy in us when we surrender to him is our destroying idols. To us he gives life, not just us only, but also life to all those around us, giving “seed for the sower and bread for the eater.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive (idol, pain, sorrow, wicked) way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:8-11

Lord, search me, destroy every idol. Make me like you. Be in me Bread for the eater. Give me the mind of Christ.

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Completed

When it is accomplished that the way God sees things is how I see things, that when my heart and soul are woven together with the heart of God through Jesus to make one heart, then I will be completed.

My flesh and my heart (soul, understanding, mind) may fail, but God is the strength (Rock) of my heart and my portion (share, possession) forever. Psalm 73:26 (NIV)

This is such a wonderful verse – in fact my life verse – but still it has always had a slightly negative connotation to me. Flesh failing, mind going, like the decay and decline of old age. And it does mean that – this earthly body and mind will fail – but there is a hidden treasure in this verse. It’s kind of an opposite way of thinking. We usually think of getting old and dying as a bad thing, as losing things, a falling apart. But I think there is more here, and a very positive message too.

The word translated flesh in the above verse is the noun sheer (שְׁאֵר).[i] It means flesh, body, physical strength. The secret message is hidden in its root, which is the verb sha’ar (שָׁאַר). Sha’ar means to remain, be left over, be left behind. Yes! This failing body is what is left behind. I love that image, that my flesh may soon be left behind, like Elijah’s robe falling to earth from the chariot of fire on his way to glory. And I don’t think he looked back for an instant. He was on his way to his Strength, his Rock, his Portion, his God.

The second message of hope is the seemingly hopeless word translated “fail.” It is kalah (כָּלָה ) and it doesn’t mean stumble and fall, mess up, like we would think. It means be accomplished, finished, be completed. How glorious! My time here may be finished, but, hopefully, what God intended in my flesh and heart will have been accomplished. I will be complete.  If God is my Rock, it will be as the last strokes of the artist’s brush on his masterpiece, the signing of His Name in the corner of my heart.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed (renovated, made new, changed into a new kind of life) day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16 (NASB)

Oswald Chambers described it this way:

There is nothing, naturally speaking, that makes us lose heart quicker than decay—the decay of bodily beauty, of natural life, of friendship, of associations, all these things make a man lose heart; but Paul says when we are trusting in Jesus Christ these things do not find us discouraged, light comes through them. [ii]

Light comes through them! Light comes through decay, this failing of the mind and flesh. I love that! It makes me think of a threadbare curtain, washed over and over, until it is so thin you can see right through it. You can see the light. Hopefully, you can see Jesus shining out of me.

The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matthew 6:22-23 (NASB)

The word translated “clear” in the above verse is the Greek word haplous (ἁπλοῦς ) which means “single.” When my eye is single my body is full of light. It comes from the word that means to plait, braid, or weave together into one. I believe this means that when it is accomplished that the way God sees things is how I see things, that when my heart and soul are woven together with the heart of God through Jesus to make one heart, then I will be completed. My earthly flesh and heart may get more and more threadbare, but that just means His Light will be able to shine through, brighter and brighter. Yes Lord, be the strength of my heart. Complete your work in me.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect (accomplish, finish, complete) it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on …  Philippians 3:12 (NASB)

 

[i] All definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

[ii] Oswald Chambers. The Place of Help

Image in the Public Domain from pxhere.com

Deliberately

She fell to her knees in terror thinking she was going to be punished. But instead, she was healed, she was loved. She was exactly what Jesus was looking for.

As Jesus went with him, he was surrounded by the crowds. A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding, and she could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped.

“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”

But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” Luke 8:42-48 (NLT)

The Greek word translated “touched” in these verses is haptomai. It is not an accidental brushing up against or jostling in a pressing crowd. It means to attach one’s self to, to fasten one’s self to, adhere to, cling to. I like how Jesus puts it in the New Living Testament, “Someone deliberately touched me.”

In all that jostling crowd, there was someone who was deliberately out to touch Him, cling to, fasten themselves onto Him. Not just be part of the crowd, part of the movement, part of a cool thing – Jesus has been summoned by the synagogue leader; maybe we’ll get to see a miracle-show!

No, this woman wasn’t focused on the show. She wasn’t after goosebumps; she was focused on Jesus. She was deliberate. She was pushing past, not only the pressing crowds, but also what people might think. The fact is, that in that culture and time, she was “unclean.” She was not supposed to be touching anyone, least of all this rabbi, this prophet. When Jesus turned and asked who had touched him, she fell to her knees in terror thinking she was going to be punished. But instead, she was healed, she was loved. She was exactly what Jesus was looking for.

Over and over in the life of Jesus we see him offending people, seemingly on purpose. Just when he gets this big crowd of followers, he goes and intentionally scandalizes most of them, and they turn away. Just a day or two before this, after his very first recorded reading of the word and sermon in a synagogue, he offended those attending so severely they tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:23-30)! Later, another encounter is recorded:

Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:25-26 (NIV)

These are hard words, but Jesus has a purpose in mind. As J.D. Walt has written, “… Jesus is working to separate the wheat from the chaff, the crowds from the converts.”¹

John 6 records Jesus weeding out another crowd following him because he miraculously fed them bread and fish. He tells them that if they want to follow him, they will also have to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Well, that did it. John 6:66 (NIV) records, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” But when he asked those who were left if they were going to leave too, the answer was:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. John 6:68-69

They were clinging to Jesus. They were fastening themselves onto him, adhering to him with the glue of faith. They weren’t there for the miracles and the bread; they might not understand everything yet, but they knew Him, the Holy One of God, and they were staying for Him. They were deliberate.

Jesus found that deliberate woman in the crowd and said, “Your faith has saved (saved, made whole, healed, delivered, preserved) you.” That word for faith is pistis, and means conviction of the truth, “belief with the predominate idea of trust or confidence … a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah.” Jesus is still searching through the crowd for the converts.

Lord, I want to be a convert, not just part of the crowd. I am deliberately setting out to touch you, to know you, to cling to you, the Holy One of God, the Messiah. Miracles or not; bread or not. Even healing or not. You.

 

¹J.D. Walt, Conjunction Junction: And or Or? https://www.seedbed.com/step-25-conjunction-junction/ 

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