• BE NOT AFRAID OF THOSE WORDS

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    “And Isaiah said unto them, Thus shall ye say unto your master, Thus saith the LORD, Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, wherewith the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.”
    Isaiah 37:6

    When Hezekiah was the king of Judah, Sennacherib the mighty king of Assyria came against Judah. The spokesman for the king of Assyria was Rabshakeh, and his words were blasphemous and disheartening to God’s people. Words can have such a devastating effect on the hearer. When Hezekiah heard these words, he was stricken with
    fear. The king went immediately to the house of the Lord and sent servants and priests to see the prophet Isaiah. These words for Hezekiah came to Isaiah from the Lord, “Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard.” Hezekiah was not to believe the threats of Rabshakeh. What wise and helpful advice this was for Judah’s king.

    Isaiah counseled the king not to be terrified by the words that the wicked Rabshakeh had spoken to him. It will do us good to take heed to this wisdom as well. The power of words is immeasurable, and yet regularly underestimated. Entire movements have been spawned by the simple use of words, and even words that are not based on truth. Positive and encouraging words can give the inspiration to succeed and overcome great adversity. Negative and critical words can demoralize and defeat us before the battle even begins. Isaiah charged Hezekiah not to believe or be afraid of the “words that thou hast heard.”

    Satan’s primary weapon against us is words. He uses words to create fear, confusion, and hopelessness. The enemy’s words are not audible words, but ideas and imaginations. When people believe the lies of the enemy, they can be bound by fear and doubt. Sometimes good people repeat the messages of evil, supposing them to be true, as did Peter when he rebuked Jesus for His plan to go to the cross. Jesus then rebuked Peter, saying, “Get thee behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23). Peter was verbalizing the thought that actually came to him from Satan. When we believe the devil’s lies, they become like truth to us. Good and capable servants of God can be rendered powerless because they believe the devil’s lies. Faithful, godly leaders have been defamed because of someone believing and repeating false information.

  • RISE UP, LORD, AND RETURN

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    “And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, LORD, and let thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate thee flee before thee. And when it rested, he said, Return, O LORD, unto the many thousands of Israel.”
    Numbers 10:35, 36

    One can only imagine such a scene as this, as the camp of the Israelites marched forward. There were hundreds of thousands of families and multitudes of livestock moving under the direction of God, with the cloud of the Lord over them by day and the fire by night. In our text, we find them departing after being so long at Sinai. The Scripture says, “when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Rise up, LORD, and let thine enemies be scattered.” Thus, Moses was asking God to precede them in their journeys and defeat their enemies. It then tells us “when it rested, he said, Return, O LORD, unto the many thousands of Israel.” When it came time to rest, Moses asked God that He would dwell with them and provide rest at the conclusion of their journey. They needed God to go before them into conflict, and they needed God to sustain them and comfort them in their times of rest.

    What a beautiful picture we see in this of our own need of God’s presence and companionship. We need Him to go forth against His enemies. How can we ever have
    victory without Him? If we are going to find our way blessed, God must go first. This assumes, of course, that our path is the road that God has planned; otherwise, He would not go before us. So if He is to go before us, we are to follow His leading.

    Moses prayed that God would, “Rise up…and let thine enemies be scattered.” What can we learn from this? Should we not likewise ask God to fight our battles for us? What a mistake it is for us to assume that we are sufficient in ourselves for the conflicts and temptations each day might bring.

    We are also reminded that God wants to lead and guide us as we go forward in Him. Then, when the Israelites halted to pitch their tents, Moses said, “Return, O LORD, unto the many thousands of Israel.” Unless God rested with them, there could be no peace.

    Can we not, and should we not, ask our dear Lord to abide with us in our homes and bless our times of rest? We see anew that we need the Lord with us at all times. We need Him in times of conflict and service, and we need Him in times of rest and reflection.

  • REPENT OR ELSE

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    “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”
    Revelation 2:5

    Jesus is speaking here to one of the truly outstanding churches of the New Testament era, the church at Ephesus. This church was commended for its labor and endurance, but they were reproved because they left their first love. The Lord told this church to “repent, and do the first works; or else.” God was giving them an opportunity to repent, but at the same time, He was giving them an ultimatum. If they did not meet His conditions by repenting of their indifference and waning devotion, there would be serious consequences. One can be assured that these were not idle demands. God expected a prompt response, or else they could expect His correction.

    Thank God that He is loving and merciful, but we are reminded in this Scripture that He is serious about sin. He will not let sin go without reproof and correction. He said to the church at Ephesus, “repent…or else.” How much clearer could this be? Where could anyone get the idea that God will not or should not judge sin? It is a notion that is foreign to the Word of God. He judged the world in Noah’s day. He judged Sodom and Gomorrah. He judged Achan and Korah, with their families, for their disobedience and rebellion. He judged David for his sin. He judged Moses for smiting the rock. He judged Miriam for her rebellion toward Moses. He judged those who complained in the wilderness, sending fiery serpents among them. He judged Cain for slaying Abel. He judged Jonah for running from his assignment. He judged Ananias and Sapphira for their hypocrisy.

    God has not changed. He will not ignore disobedience and rebellion in His children. He loves us too much to allow us to continue going in a direction that is harmful to us. Churches should take heed to this warning as well. He told the church at Ephesus in our Scripture that if they did not repent, He would “come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place.” He would not continue to bless them and their ministry. Churches should not think that they can change their message, forsake the principles of the Word of God, and grow cold in their love for the Savior without serious consequences.

  • ADDICTED TO THE MINISTRY

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    “I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.”
    I Corinthians 16:15, 16

    As Paul is nearing the completion of this epistle to the church at Corinth, he directs the congregation to consider a particular family. He refers to them as “the house of Stephanas.” The church members at Corinth were familiar with this godly family. Paul said, “ye know the house of Stephanas.” They were among the first converts to Christ in the region, “the firstfruits of Achaia.” The apostle Paul mentioned the family of Stephanas in the first chapter of this epistle saying, “And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other” (I Corinthians 1:16).”

    Paul commended “the house of Stephanas” by saying of them, “they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” They were devoted to the service of Christ and His disciples. The family had given themselves wholly to the work of God. Thank God for families like “the house of Stephanas.”

    Our text has much to say to us about our lives and our families. It tells us about the importance of faithfulness. This particular family, though they were one of the first families won to Christ in Achaia, was still active in serving the Lord. It is a great blessing to see the enthusiasm of new converts, but it is equally encouraging to see the continued loyalty of those who have been in the faith for a long time.

    We also see in “the house of Stephanas” the kind of zeal that God wants in His children and in His churches; “they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” These people were serious about their service for Christ. Nominal Christianity may be popular in our day, but it does not mean God is pleased with it. We also see that this family served the Lord as a family. Our homes should be dedicated to the work of God. We need God’s help as we try to lead our families to salvation through faith in Christ, and then to teach them to serve the Lord with their lives. Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to respect and follow the example of “the house of Stephanas.” They were exhorted to “submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.”

  • GO FORWARD

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    “And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:”
    Exodus 14:15

    With any imagination at all, we can appreciate the mounting tension of this historical moment. The Israelites had been delivered from their Egyptian bondage through the power of God. Having exited Egypt, they followed God’s leading to the Red Sea. By this time, Pharaoh’s army, including all the chariots of Egypt, was in pursuit. When the children of Israel saw the Egyptians marching after them, they were afraid and cried out to the Lord. It seemed hopeless. The powerful army of Egypt was closing in on them and they were facing the Red Sea. God’s message to Moses for Israel was simple and direct: “go forward.” Moses was to lift up his rod and stretch out his hand over the sea, and the children of Israel would go through the midst of the sea. What a great moment! What a test of their faith! What a demonstration of God’s might!

    For us, what is the temptation when we are hemmed in by adverse circumstances? Is it not our inclination to quit, to run, or to question? Going forward is easier when there is no opposition. Going forward is reasonable when the pathway is clear. But going forward is a bit more challenging when there is no path to follow and the waters of the Red Sea are at our feet. The Israelites were contemplating the very opposite of advancing; they were considering how much better it might have been to be back in Egypt. God’s simple command was clear, “go forward.”

    Can you glean anything from this great challenge? We all are going to face setbacks and disappointments. There will be times when things do not seem to be going our way. There may even be moments when going back seems more inviting than going forward. But God has never led us to retreat from our assignment or to run from difficulties. For Moses and the Israelites, going forward was a decision, as it is for us. We must choose to keep moving in the right direction.

    Also, going forward for the people of God seemed like an impossibility at the moment. Humanly speaking, how could this work? For them, as well as for us, going forward is a step of faith. It was an exercise in trust and dependence on God. There will be times when our steps in the path of God’s will are taken because we are trusting Him alone to guide. But, going forward is truly the pathway to victory.

  • THE CERTAINTY OF TRUTH

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    “That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.”
    Luke 1:4

    As Luke begins this glorious Gospel, he states a clear objective, “That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.” This presents for our consideration a simple, yet profound, principle. Truth is absolute and certain. God wants us to know THE CERTAINTY OF TRUTH.

    This detail is of definite importance in our day, as truth is usually considered to be anything but certain. Many present truth as being relative; and thus, its meaning will depend on our circumstances or situations. Rather than being fixed and unchanging, truth is often seen to be in a state of flux or evolution. Others seem to genuinely believe that some truth is outdated or irrelevant because it clashes with contemporary thinking. Still others assume that cultures or traditions make truth irrelevant. Yet this is not the message of the Word of God.

    The Bible’s purpose is to help us know “the certainty” of truth. God’s Word, like God Himself, is forever unchanging. This is one of the foundational doctrines of Scripture. God is faithful, and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His Word is likewise forever “settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89). Our view of truth will greatly affect the way we receive it, believe it, and obey it. Knowing THE CERTAINTY OF TRUTH helps strengthen our confidence in the promises and principles of the Bible. Because we know the “certainty of those things” wherein we have been taught, we can believe them without reservation.

    It is the work of Satan to cast doubt on the integrity of the Word of God. Unfortunately, the devil has many assistants in his cause to delude those who might waver from their steadfastness, including those who claim to be Bible scholars or teachers. Classrooms and pulpits today are occupied with false prophets who undermine “the certainty” of the Holy Scriptures. Rather than presenting the Bible as a Book of “certainty,” they take the position that it contains error or contradiction. According to these heretics, it then falls upon us to determine which parts are true, which are uninspired, and which are symbolic, even if they are presented as factual. This is nonsense. God’s Word is to be taught and received as truth that can be accepted and believed with “certainty.”

  • SOW NOT AMONG THORNS

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    “For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.”
    Jeremiah 4:3

    The message that Jeremiah preached is still needed today. God was speaking to His people, the “men of Judah and Jerusalem,” about their backslidden condition. They were instructed to “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.” This is a familiar object lesson that is found numerous times in the Scripture. The soil represents the heart of man, and the seed is the Word of God.

    God’s Word is powerful and effective, but the condition of the heart either enhances or hinders the way God’s Word will be received. If God’s truth is not producing fruit in our lives, the problem is not with the seed, but in our hearts. Our hearts must be changed. Being faithful to the preaching services of the church is important, as well as reading the Bible consistently. But if our hearts are not made tender and receptive, we will not see the spiritual results that God desires.

    The “fallow ground” is earth that is hard or has lain uncultivated. It must be plowed if the seed is expected to grow and produce fruit. The people in Jeremiah’s day were guilty of letting their hearts become hard and unbroken. They needed God’s Word, but they were to “sow not among thorns.” Ground that is not tended to produces weeds, thorns, and briers. In the New Testament, Jesus used similar language in the Parable of the Sower. In explaining this parable, Jesus said the thorns were “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things,” which our Savior said will “choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). The cares of the world, materialism, and carnal lusts hinder the Word of God. The farmer knows that the ground must be prepared before the seed is planted. If the ground is not tilled, he can only expect a crop of thorns and weeds.

    This is one of the primary reasons people who attend church regularly are never really changed by the message they hear. Hearts that are not humble and broken, like
    uncultivated earth, are not receptive to God’s Word. Worldliness chokes out the powerful seed of Truth. For the Word of God to bring forth the kind of fruit it is capable of, we need to break up the fallow ground in our hearts. Humbling ourselves, confessing our sins, and being truly repentant makes our hearts fertile for the Word of God.

  • FEAR HIM

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    “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
    Matthew 10:28

    One of the most basic principles of the Bible is learning to fear the Lord. We know that God is merciful and caring. He is also patient and kind. But the same God who loves us so dearly is also just, holy, jealous, and righteous. He expects reverence and faithfulness. He judges sin and compromise. It is pleasing to Him and beneficial to us if we develop the wholesome quality of fear toward Him. When Moses stood before Him, he was instructed to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. When John saw the Savior in Revelation 1:17, we are told that he “fell at his feet as dead.”

    It is not natural to fear the Lord; this habit must be acquired and maintained. The Bible teaches us plainly that God is to be feared. The further our world drifts from a Biblical worldview, the more we see casualness about the Person of God Almighty. Blasphemy and cursing are more commonly heard in the public arena than words of respect for Jesus Christ. There was a day in our country when the majority of businesses would not consider being open on Sunday, out of respect for God and the importance of worship.

    This lack of respect for God is taking over many places of worship. Man-centered worship is the order of the day. People shop for churches that will cater to their individual tastes and schedules. If Sunday worship is not convenient, why not forget the Lord’s Day and go to church on Saturday evening? If rock-and-roll music fits their personal preference, they look for a church offering a live band and contemporary worship. This is the trend of our generation. God is often referred to with terms such as, “The man upstairs,” or “Our buddy in the sky.” Preaching is being replaced by entertaining and shallow and non-offensive mini-sermons with little Biblical content or call to commitment and holiness. How wicked and carnal all of this is! It should make us shudder to think of this wholesale lack of respect and fear. Nowhere in the Bible can you find anything that would condone such behavior.

    Our text beckons us not to fear man, but to fear God. We are not to be people pleasers, but God pleasers. Our nation needs a revival, including a revival of the fear of God.

  • THE DANGER OF ECUMENISM

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    “Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel; Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither. But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.”
    Ezra 4:1-3

    The enemies of God and His people have many and diverse tools designed to hinder the work of the Lord. Satan uses discouragement, criticism, persecution, fear, and apathy against God’s servants, just to name of few of his weapons.

    Another method of the enemy, which is sometimes more subtle, is found in our text. The “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” proposed a partnership with Zerubbabel, suggesting, “Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do.” Zerubbabel and Jeshua recognized the danger of such a confederation and immediately rejected the offer. Joining hands with those who are not of like-mind does not advance the cause of Christ. Instead of making us more effective, ecumenism weakens us.

    Spiritual power is not always found in numbers, but it is found in purity. One of the devil’s most effective tools to weaken the testimony of God’s people is the ecumenical movement that is gaining momentum in recent generations. In an effort to unify all who claim to be followers of Christ, doctrinal distinctions are being abandoned. People who believe in salvation by grace often work with those who teach that one can earn salvation through baptism or church membership. Churches who hold to the authority of the Scripture are joining hands with groups whose belief systems are extra-Biblical. Those who hold to the truth of Christ’s deity are fellowshipping with those who deny this fundamental doctrine: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3).

    Thank God there are churches and believers of like-faith and practice that we can labor with, but we must always recognize the danger of unholy alliances.

  • TILL THERE WAS NO REMEDY

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    “But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy. Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand.”
    II Chronicles 36:16, 17

    There is a limit to God’s forbearance. His people repeatedly disobeyed Him and turned to the idols of the heathen. When God would chasten them, they would temporarily reform, but it was always short-lived. When God sent prophets to warn them, they “misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people.” They did not want to hear what God’s servants had to say.

    Finally, the Word of God tells us, “there was no remedy.” Our text records that God sent the “king of the Chaldees” who “slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion.” Because His people would not repent, God sorely chastened them. People somehow have the idea that God should always, and will always, grant leniency to His wayward people. This is the commonly-held view of most. They act as though God is unaware or unconcerned with their rebellion. This attitude is prevalent among the unsaved, but too often, it exists among those who profess to know Christ.

    When God appears to be judging sin, He is frequently criticized as the One that is guilty of wrongdoing. God is definitely merciful and forgiving, and is more patient than we could ever deserve. But His forbearance should not be interpreted as a lack of chastisement. God has supplied us with multiple warnings in His Word. He also provides faithful servants who proclaim the truth, calling us to repentance and obedience. He indwells His children in the Person of the Holy Spirit, who convicts us of sin. The preferred response is to obey His promptings and turn from those things that are displeasing to God.

    However, as with the Israelites, if we refuse to repent, there may come a time when “there was no remedy.” God has no choice but to severely chasten when His will is met with stubbornness and disobedience. May our hearts be sensitive to His direction, and be ever willing to submit to the reproof of His Word.

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