The Power of the Creator

Posted: December 4, 2016 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 9:10-17, “The Power of the Creator”

The power to create is the power of God. When Jesus multiplied the bread & fish for 5,000 men in Galilee, He showed Himself as the powerful Creator God – something that was seared into the conscience of the 12 disciples with Him that day (not to mention countless others in the crowd).

John Martin writes in the Bible Knowledge Commentary, “The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle of Jesus which is recorded in all four Gospels. In many ways it is the climax of Jesus’ ministry of miracles. It was designed to produce faith in His disciples.”  Have you ever wondered why this is?  What makes the feeding of the 5,000 so important?  Why would this be the climax?  Why not His various instances of raising the dead?  (Other prophets had raised the dead.)  Why not the Transfiguration? (That was witnessed by only a few of the apostles.)  Why not Jesus walking on water, or calming the storm?  (Likewise, only the 12 apostles were present to witness it.)

Multiplication of food was not unheard of among the prophets – Elijah and Elisha both did something similar (1 Kings 17, 2 Kings 4).  What was new was the scale of the miracle.  Feeding a single woman and her child was one thing; feeding a crowd of a minimum of 5,000 was another!  A miracle had not been done on this scale since the days of Moses, when entire nations had witnessed the work of God.  Combine this singular massive miracle with the myriad of other signs and wonders Jesus performed, and you have powerful evidence of Jesus’ deity.  What Jesus does here puts Him far beyond the category of the prophets…He jumps to a brand-new category altogether!

Keep in mind that Jesus had been doing more than miracles – He was teaching and preaching the entire time.  If, during all of this, Jesus had never claimed to be more than a prophet, perhaps this would not have stood out as much.  Certainly, if Jesus had refused to be worshipped, this miracle could be seen in a different light.  But that’s not what happened.  Jesus repeatedly claimed deity for Himself, referring to Himself by the Divine Name (YHWH), and using titles such as “Son of Man” & “Son of the Father.”  Jesus made it perfectly clear who He claimed to be – which is why the Pharisees & scribes were consistently so opposed to Him.  Everyone knew He claimed to be God, and that is who He is.

This too, is why this particular miracle stands out.  The One claiming to be God demonstrates the full power of God, in plain sight of thousands of witnesses.  They saw Him create something out of nothing.  They new had all the evidence they would ever need (prior to the cross & resurrection) that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

The key to remember in all of this is that the feeding of the 5000 is more than a story about a bunch of people receiving lunch.  It’s even more than a story about the compassion of Christ (though it is certainly on display).  This is an account of the power of God – and it is indeed a climax to the previous displays of Jesus’ power over the past two chapters.  First, Jesus showed His power/authority over the natural realm as He calmed the storm upon the Sea of Galilee.  Next, He showed His power over the spiritual realm when He cleansed the demoniac of thousands of demons.  Following that, Jesus showed His power over the physical by healing incurable diseases & raising a girl from the dead.  On top of all of this, Jesus showed that He even had the right to delegate His power, as He sent out His apostles all over Galilee, doing the same things He did.  That is a lot of power to be invested in one Man!

That kind of power ought to compel us to take a closer look at Him – and that’s what happens when the vast multitudes are fed by Him.  This is the pinnacle to everything else they had seen so far: Jesus is God, with all the power therein.

Luke 9:10–17

  • The Setting (10-11)

10 And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.

  • Chronologically, this takes place right after the disciples returned from their short-term mission trip.  Jesus empowered them with the same power & authority to do the things He did.  Just as Jesus cast out demons & cured diseases, so did the 12 apostles.  Just as Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, so did they.  Now the mission ended, and it was time to report & debrief.
    • Can you imagine their excitement?  Mission trips are always amazing experiences, and those who go can hardly wait to share the news.  But the apostles got to tell Jesus!  They had the opportunity to share in their excitement & joy with the Lord Himself.  Of course we can do the same thing in prayer, but how wonderful to do it face-to-face!  One day we will know Him in that same way, and it will be glorious!
  • Upon getting the mission report, Jesus took the disciples away for some alone time.  Matthew & Mark tell us that Jesus also received news of John the Baptist’s death – surely another reason Jesus wanted time apart with His disciples.  Luke doesn’t mention John the Baptist, but simply ties this to the close of their mission trip.  In any case, Jesus intended to have some privacy with the apostles.  He never got it, but He wanted it just the same.
    • It is good to set apart time for just you & Jesus!  Jesus wants that time with you.  It’s easy for us to get busy with busy-ness (even in regards to ministry), and simple quiet time with the Lord often gets left behind.  Sometimes life intrudes…not even Jesus was exempt from that.  But that quiet alone-time with the Lord needs to happen.  It needs to be a priority.  If we don’t make time to specifically talk to God & listen for His voice through prayer & the Scripture, when do we think it will happen?  Intimacy never comes by accident.  If we want a deep relationship with the Lord, we need to put some time into it.
  • Where Jesus & the disciples went for that alone-time is what sets the stage for the challenge to come.  There is a bit of textual debate as to whether the description of the “deserted place” belongs in vs. 10, or is an assimilation from the other gospel accounts, which is why the phrase isn’t included in the NASB & other translations.  That said, vs. 12 makes it clear that they were in a desolate place, away from the surrounding towns & villages.  That’s fine when you’re doing some small-group camping – not so much if you’re dealing with thousands of people.  The closest city was Bethsaida, which wasn’t terribly far from Jesus’ home-base of Capernaum, but there was enough distance for Jesus to set He & His apostles apart.  Enough, that is, as long as the crowds didn’t follow Him, which they did.  Vs. 11…

11 But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing.

  • It was perhaps inevitable that the multitude would follow Jesus.  With all of the displays of His power & authority, there was no telling what people might witness from day to day.  Jesus and the 12 surely left Capernaum (or wherever) alone, but their absence was quickly noticed, and the crowds followed whatever leads they had, and soon caught up to Jesus in this desolate area outside Bethsaida.
  • Knowing that Jesus had originally set out for alone-time with His apostles, we could easily understand if Jesus chose to hide Himself or even ask the people to leave – and He could have done either.  Of course, it’s not as if Jesus was taken by surprise in these events.  As the Son of God, He knew the people would come.  After all, He reserved His most important miracle (apart from the resurrection) specifically for this time.  Even so, Jesus had set out alone, and could have easily stuck to that plan & the expectations of the apostles.  Besides, one of His closest ministry partners (and cousin) John had been killed.  Why not send the crowds away?  But He didn’t.  Instead, He submitted Himself to the plans of His Heavenly Father, and welcomed the crowds that had come to Him. 
  • Three actions are seen by Jesus.  1st, He “received them.”  Again, Jesus could have vanished or asked them to leave.  But He didn’t.  In His infinite patience, He took the people as they came, when they came.  He didn’t tell them to leave, to clean up their act, to wait, or even to go back until He was ready.  Those people were there, and Jesus recognized the harvest field right before His eyes.  When the harvest is ready, the farmer doesn’t get upset or try to reschedule it to be more convenient for him – he simply goes to work.  Likewise with Jesus.  He saw the need & realized that the time was now.  When the people were ready to hear the gospel & see Jesus, Jesus wasn’t about to command them to come back later.  He was ready to receive them right then & there.
    • That is still the same today.  Jesus is ready to save the very instant someone is ready to see Him as Lord.  He doesn’t tell us to clean up our act, change clothes, or go through elaborate rituals before He decides to save us.  He simply receives us as we are…He simply saves.  Yes, we are to repent of our sin, forsaking it as we turn to Christ in faith – but that’s something we do as we trust Him.  It’s not a way we earn salvation.  It’s what we do as He saves us, because He saves us.
    • How many people have been told “Don’t step foot in church until you’ve cleaned up your act!”?  How backwards & how wrong!  We don’t clean up our lives in order to be saved by Jesus.  Our lives are changed because of our faith in Jesus.  It’s His power that does the work.
  • 2nd, He “spoke to them.”  The crowds likely came looking for miracles (and they would certainly see some!), but first & foremost, Jesus spoke to them about the gospel.  This has been consistent throughout His ministry.  Did Jesus address physical needs?  Sure – but He did a lot more than that.  Jesus had a priority in addressing spiritual needs.  The physical is important, but the spiritual is eternal.  When Jesus soon multiplies the bread & fish, He fills their stomachs for a night, but they would be hungry again tomorrow.  Even if they died that very night, what good would it do them to go to the grave with a full belly, yet still have an empty soul?  Each one of those 5000 men (and more) would one day stand before God for judgment.  What good would a lunch from Jesus do them, if that was all they received?  What they needed was the gospel of the kingdom.  They needed to know how to be saved from their sin & how to be brought into eternal fellowship with God.  That is exactly what Jesus told them.
    • There are many good organizations doing a lot of good things in the world.  But the ones that do the most good are those that put a focus on the gospel.  Feed the poor?  Yes – along with the gospel.  Clothe the naked & help the orphan?  Yes – but do it in conjunction with evangelism.  Aid ought never be contingent on conversion (that’s forced & insincere), but that is the only way for humanitarian aid to have an eternal impact.
  • 3rd, He “healed.”  Again, Jesus had a wonderful combination of words & works.  He preached the kingdom of God AND He healed the sick among them.  Evangelism and compassion are not “either/or” actions among Christians; they are “both/and.”  The New Testament is absolutely consistent on this.  Paul writes to the Ephesians that we are saved by grace through faith…in order that we can do good works (Eph 2:8-10).  James writes how our faith is demonstrated by our works (Jas 2:18).  John writes who those who abide in Christ walk in obedience to Jesus’ commands & pattern of His own walk. (1 Jn 2:6)  To repeat: not an “either/or,” but “both/and.”  We need evangelistic ministry, but we also need physical acts of compassion.  In fact, one often leads directly to the other.
  • In all of this, notice what Jesus was doing: working.  He was engaged with the people all day long.  There was work to be done, and not a moment to lose.  Jesus was meeting with people right where they were, giving every single person the opportunity to come to faith in Him.  (That opportunity is still there.  Take it!)
  • The Problem (12-14a)

12 When the day began to wear away, the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the multitude away, that they may go into the surrounding towns and country, and lodge and get provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.”

  • As the people came to Jesus, a problem soon arose: eventually they would need to eat.  That’s not a big deal if the people had brought provisions for themselves, but aside from one young boy out of thousands, apparently they left everything behind.  It might not have even been an issue if they were close to a major city like Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was accustomed to having thousands of visitors during the times of national pilgrimages and feasts – but that’s not where they were.  Jesus, the disciples, and the multitude were in the wilderness.  The closest city was Bethsaida, and it is uncertain how many travelers they could accommodate.
  • Thus the solution proposed by the 12 was logical: send the crowd away, let them split into their various directions of travel, and they would all go to different “surrounding towns,” thereby sharing the load.  What the disciples suggested was reasonable, practical, and feasible.  Any one of us might have come up with a similar suggestion, and without any additional information, this would likely be the preferred solution for us all.
  • What’s the problem with it?  It doesn’t require faith.  This is a human solution to a human problem.  Not that this is inherently evil – but at what point would God need to be involved?  Remember that Jesus was standing in their midst – the Son of God incarnate among them.  The disciples had just returned from a mission trip where they had preached of His kingdom & demonstrated His divine power.  By this point, there ought to have been no question among the 12 of the things Jesus was capable of doing.  And yet they did not even think to ask Him about the situation.  They approached Jesus, yes, but they approached Him with their human ideas first, instead of seeking out the ideas & will of God.  Keep in mind that is wasn’t as if Jesus was being discreet here – He was actively involved in preaching & healing.  His miraculous power was currently on display.  If there was any time to ask Jesus about a miracle, this was it!
    • How often do we find ourselves in similar situation?  We have a problem or challenge, and we stress out & spin our wheels attempting to come up with a human solution.  It may be doable & practical, but it requires no faith.  Then, we ask Jesus to bless our plan.  At what point does He need to get involved?  At what point have we needed to rely on Him?  That’s not to say that God promises a miraculous solution to every challenge we face, but at the very least we ought to go to Him first for help.  Instead of asking Him to merely bless our plans, we ought to seek Him first as we form it.  Who knows?  Perhaps God will provide a miracle – He might work in unexpected ways.  But you’ll never know if you never seek Him.

13 But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. …

  • Jesus tried to turn it back around to the disciples.  He tried to get them to see through eyes of faith rather than mere feasibility.  That was the point of telling them to “give them something to eat.”  Jesus was not ignorant of the fact that the disciples had no provisions to distribute.  It seems as if they didn’t even bring lunch for the 13 of them – much less have access to several truckloads of food in order to provide for thousands.  Jesus gave them a plainly impossible task.  What He wanted them to do was acknowledge the impossibility of it & then turn to the God who makes all things possible.  Jesus gave them the opportunity to step out in faith; they didn’t take it.
    • Not that we can blame them.  We can be rather thick at times!  How many opportunities has the Lord given you that you never even saw until later?  Looking back, you can see all kinds of things you missed.  It’s obvious in hindsight, but more difficult to see in the present.  Why?  Because we’re so used to listening only to ourselves rather than to the voice of God.  The more we are filled with the Spirit – the more we listen for His voice & prompting through the Scriptures – the fewer opportunities to step out in faith will pass us by.
  • As it was, all the apostles saw were the very slight provisions that were offered to them by a young boy (Jn 6:8).  We might hear this description of the food & thing that although it may not be much, it’s certainly more than a ‘small’ lunch for a boy.  We need to remember to look at this from the perspective of a 1st century Judean Jew; not a 21st century American Christian.  These were not large loaves of sandwich bread as we might find in our grocery stores – they were small pieces of flatbread.  It would be something more along the lines of a small wheat tortilla, or pita bread.  Nor were these huge trout or catfish, but smaller fish, most likely the Kinneret Sardine (which is abundant in the Sea of Galilee).  So there were two sardines & some tortillas – sufficient for one, but not exactly a feast.  Yet this was all the disciples had.  It’s no wonder they looked at it rather skeptically!  (Of course, they should have been looking at Jesus, rather than the lunch!) 
  • To the disciples, unless the people were sent away, their only other option was to purchase food for the masses.  They had neither the cash nor the ability to transport the supplies, so they’re flummoxed.  After all, there were 5000 men present.  The key word is “men,” which is specific in the Greek.  There is another word that would have been used if the 5000 included women & children, but the specific word for “males” was used.  Thus there was anywhere between 7-10,000 people present.  5,000 is bad enough, but try doubling it!  Now think again of the flatbread & sardines.  That would seem pretty hopeless indeed!
  • Again, they were looking at the wrong thing.  They were looking at their problem when they could have been looking at Jesus.  They knew Jesus – had seen Him work – had witnessed Him surprise them in all kinds of ways in the past.  They knew what He was capable of, and yet never once asked Him for help.  In none of the four gospel accounts do we find the apostles appealing to Jesus for assistance.  We would think that if Jesus gave them an obviously impossible command that surely someone among them would ask Jesus for help.  Apparently not.  So focused were they on their challenges that they missed the Christ right in front of them.
    • Have you done the same?  How often have we succumbed to panic because we got our eyes off of Jesus?  We need to remember that our faith is real.  We worship and serve a living Savior.  Jesus may be in heaven, but He is just as alive and powerful today as during the days He walked the earth.  Do we appeal to Him as if He is?  Do we pray as if Jesus is alive, or as if He’s just a theory?  We need to pray to Him as if He can do something…because He can!
  • The Solution (14b-17

…Then He said to His disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” 15 And they did so, and made them all sit down.

  • The first thing Jesus has the disciples do is to get the people organized.  Instead of looking as a massive crowd of 5,000 men (7-10,000 total), He organizes everyone in groups of 50.  Why?  It’s purely practical.  You’ve got to start somewhere, and Jesus started there.
    • As an aside, this demonstrates that God is not opposed to planning and organization.  Jesus wanted the disciples to walk in faith, but that doesn’t mean He wanted them to act chaotically.  Some Christians have the idea that planning and organization are antithetical to faith – that those who do so are in danger of quenching the Spirit.  Not so!  Just look at all of the designs of the Tabernacle & Temples – God was incredibly organized in the design of how He wanted His people to worship Him.  It’s the same here.  God is a God of order; not confusion (1 Cor 14:33).  To organize is faithful, as long as you’re relying upon the Lord in the first place.  To not plan is foolish – inviting not miracles, but disaster.
  • Notice that nowhere in all of this has Jesus yet informed the disciples of His plan (of course, neither have they asked Him).  Yet Jesus had a plan all along, even if the disciples didn’t have a clue as to what it was.  Jesus always has a plan – we just don’t always look to Him for it.
  • To the disciples’ credit, they obeyed Jesus even without understanding everything that He was doing.  That’s when the real miracle happened.  Vs. 16…

16 Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the multitude.

  • Here it is: the miracle in action!  It may not seem like much, being that it is only one verse, but it is monumental.  Already the supernatural power of God is on display, even though we haven’t yet gotten to the account of the leftovers.  How so?  The miracle would be seen with the very first group.  Remember that the food given to Jesus was barely enough for one – but what Jesus gave to the disciples was sufficient for a full group of fifty.  As soon as Jesus acted, the power of God was visibly at work – in full view of the apostles.
  • Jesus did three things here. 1st, He “took” the food.  He received what was offered to Him, and He did something amazing with it.  He didn’t complain that it was such a meager meal – He didn’t mind that it came from a boy – He simply took it.  Whatever the disciples had, that’s what He worked with.
    • What is it we have to offer Jesus?  Not much!  But bring what you have.  You might be amazed at what marvelous things He can do with so little.  He is the Creator God, after all.  If He can create something out of nothing, surely He can work with our meager lives.  All He really needs is our willingness – He can create the rest.
  • 2nd, He “blessed and broke” the bread and fish.  What exactly He sad is unknown, though it seems likely He used a version of the traditional blessing spoken by Jews at mealtime: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.”  The actual words used by Jesus may have varied, but apparently they were common enough that none of the gospel writers recorded them.  The point here is not the precise wording, as if we could invoke some kind of incantation; it’s that Jesus spoke them.  He gave thanks for the food – He personally interacted with it & touched it.  It wasn’t the words spoken; it was the Speaker.  Jesus did the work, and miracles happened.
    • Remember what took place during the 6 days of creation: God spoke, and things came into existence.  That is exactly what happened here.  Jesus spoke, and broke bread…and kept breaking & breaking & breaking over & over again.  In His word is the power of God!
  • 3rd, Jesus “gave” the food to the disciples to give to the crowd.  What Jesus did, He did for all who were present..  What He did, He wanted His disciples to participate in.  After all, Jesus could have simply made the multiplied bread & fish materialize among the groups of fifty – He could have rained manna from heaven for them.  As the Son of God, Jesus did not need the disciples’ help in distribution, but He wanted it.  That’s why He gave it out.  The disciples needed to grow in their faith, so they needed to participate in the miracle.  They needed to see Jesus do this over & over again, continually coming back to Him only to find Him creating more bread and fish from the initial batch.  Think about it: how long would it have taken for 12 men to distribute food to 10,000 people?  Hours!  The image of Jesus as the Creator God would have been burned into their memories!  (Just as it needed to be.)
    • Can God work without us?  Certainly.  In fact, He would do things far more efficiently without us.  But that’s not what He wants to do.  He chooses to use us.  He wants us to get involved.  If for no other reason, in order that our own faith might grow.  Did you ever work with your parents in a job?  Usually they could have done the work better themselves, but they valued something else more: time spent with you, and the lessons you would learn along the way.  Why would we think God to be any different?  He wants to use you in His plan & work.  (Are you available to be used by Him?)
  • The work that was accomplished was amazing!  Vs. 17…

17 So they all ate and were filled, and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them.

  • What was the result of the miracle?  The people “were filled” – they were satisfied.  Talk about understatement!  They were able to eat until they could eat no more.  There wasn’t only sufficiency – there was abundance!  Originally, there was enough food for a boy, and not much at that.  Now there was so much food that leftovers were strewn all over the ground.  John tells us that Jesus commanded the pieces to be picked up (Jn 6:12), and when the disciples did it, there were 12 baskets of leftovers…one for each of them.
  • Can you imagine what went through the minds of Peter, James, John, Andrew, Thomas, and the others?  As they walked their individual baskets back to Jesus, they could look into each one knowing that what they carried alone was already more than what they had started with.  They could think how they witnessed Jesus continually distributing food to them with ease.  What had begun as such an impossible challenge was incredibly easy in the hands of Jesus.  There was obviously no limit to what Jesus could have handed out – He was able to provide so much more than what was necessary.  They had known that Jesus was different from anyone they had encountered in the past.  By this point, the full scope of that was starting to be seen.
    • Can our God provide in abundance?  Absolutely!  He can do more than we can ask or think! (Eph 3:20)  Think of it in terms of our salvation.  When Jesus saves, He doesn’t do it halfway – He doesn’t provide the bare minimum – He goes all the way to abundance!  Not only are we forgiven our sins, but we are granted eternal life.  Not only are we given life, but we are given the Holy Spirit for today.  Not only are we given the Spirit as our guarantee & for power, but He also becomes our Spirit of adoption as we are brought into the family of God.  And if being made a son or daughter of God were not enough, He even allows us to share in the inheritance of Christ Jesus Himself.  For the Christian, there is no end to the abundant blessing of God!

What an amazing Jesus!  He is the Incarnation of the Creator God!  When Jesus walked among His disciples, they had God the Creator among them.  Jesus had already demonstrated incredible amounts of power and authority in the past.  What they now learned was that the authority of Jesus has no limits.  He is the compassionate Creator God, and incredibly, He had chosen to involve Himself in their lives.  There was no one better they could trust.  He was deserving of all their faith.

He deserves ours as well.  Like the 12, we have also seen the power of Jesus as the Creator in action.  How so?  If you are a born-again Christian, then you have been the recipient of a new life that Jesus has given you.  Far better than lunch for an afternoon, Jesus has given you abundance for an eternal lifetime.  What an incredible God we serve!

So – if we trust Him with that, why do we not trust Him with more?  We face so many daily challenges & problems.  Do we honestly think Jesus does not care about them?  He cared about lunch for those who followed Him to the wilderness – many of whom may have never believed in Him as Lord.  Surely He cares about the struggles & stresses of those who belong to Him by faith!  Stop trying to handle things on your own & then ask God to “bless your mess.”  Instead, go to Jesus first.  Spend time seeking Him, then make your plans, knowing that He will guide & correct you along the way if you’re listening to Him.  Trust Him as the living Creator God, for that is exactly who He is.

Touring the Temple

Posted: December 1, 2016 in Ezekiel, Uncategorized

Ezekiel 40-42, “Touring the Temple”

Everyone loves a good building project! One of the most exciting times is getting the chance to explore the building before it officially opens, checking out every nook & cranny.  That’s the opportunity Ezekiel receives regarding a new temple, as his book of prophecy starts to come to a close.  Recall that Ezekiel had been among the Jewish captives in Babylon when he first started receiving prophetic visions from the Lord.  First he witnessed the glory of God, and was called to ministry – then he saw how the glory of God departed from the then-Jerusalem temple (originally built by Solomon) all due to the sin of the people.  Jerusalem was destroyed, and God gave Ezekiel a long series of signs and sermons detailing the reality of their sin & the righteous judgment of God that had come upon them.  After that point, Ezekiel’s attention was briefly turned to the other nations surrounding Israel, for God was not blind to their sins, and had declared their judgment as well.  Finally, God began to give Ezekiel a look at the future.  His people would eventually be restored to the land of promise, and despite future attacks, would be miraculously protected by God Himself.  The Jewish people would know God in a new way, and His Spirit would be poured out upon them introducing a new age.

What will this age be?  Most likely, it is the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus.  Today, we live in the age of the Church, which will come to an end the day Jesus calls us to heaven in the resurrection of the saints & rapture of the living believers.  That will start the 7 years known as the Great Tribulation (described in detail in the book of Revelation), and those years will end with Jesus’ glorious return.  With His return is the Millennial Kingdom, to be populated on earth by those who survive the Great Tribulation…including the Jews.  It is this period of time that God shows Ezekiel through these visions that conclude his book of prophecy.

As might be expected, some sections of our Old Testament are arguably more Jewish-focused than others.  (It is the Hebrew Bible, after all!)  This is one of those sections.  Starting from Ch. 40 through the end of the book, the prophet Ezekiel is given a vision of a new Jewish temple, used by Jews, performing very Jewish rituals.  If this is indeed a literal temple yet to be built and used during the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus (which seems likely), then this is a place where we as New Testament Christians (born-again saints of the Church age) will not be.  Perhaps we will see it from time to time, but it won’t be the place we’re residing, nor will it have the rituals in which we participate.  This is a Jewish place for Jewish people – at least, those Jews who have come to faith in the Living God as revealed through Jesus the Messiah.

So it begs the question: why do we need to know about this at all?  Because this still speaks of the workings of our God.  It shows the faithfulness of His promises towards Israel, and it shows of the glories we experience right now in our current relationship with Christ.  After all, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16).  The blessings and fellowship that Israel awaits with God is what we can (and do) experience every single day.  Thus as we read of the blessings that are promised to the Jews, we can rejoice & worship God for the blessings we now (and will always) have.

With all of that said, we need to be aware that there are many theories as to what this temple actually is – some better than others.

  • This was an idealized vision of Solomon’s temple.  Problem: the description doesn’t match in the slightest.  There are a couple of similarities, but is otherwise plainly different.
  • This was a prophetic look at Herod’s temple.  This has the same problem as with Solomon’s.  If nothing else, the sheer difference in size ought to put these theories to rest.
  • This is an ideal temple described by God, but never meant to be built.  In this view, the Jews were to see what they could have, if they only obeyed the covenant.  Problem: there’s absolutely nothing in these series of prophecies that show God holding this out like a carrot to His people.  Besides, what would that say about the promises of God, if He offered something in illusion only, but not in truth?
  • This is a symbolic description of the Church.  Because all of the sacrifices are fulfilled in Jesus’ one sacrifice at the cross, there is no need for a future temple with future sacrifices.  Thus everything here is figurative & spiritual.  Problem: it certainly isn’t described that way.  Ezekiel receives very real measurements and sees very specific things.  To abandon a literal interpretation here for symbolism abandons any standard of interpretation whatsoever.  Anyone could say this means anything.
  • This is a literal description of a future, yet unbuilt, temple – most likely to be built during the Millennial Kingdom.  This view is not without its difficulties (primarily being that of future sacrifices), but it has the advantage of being the most faithful to the text.  There are potential answers to the objections, and we’ll look at those as we go through it.

It’s important to emphasize that well-meaning Bible-believing Christians differ on this.  How someone views Ezekiel’s temple is not an essential of the Christian faith.  A person’s salvation does not rise or fall on this.  It is important, in that it puts our method of interpretation to the test – but ultimately it is a non-essential.  Ezekiel 40-48 ought not to be something we fight over; it ought to be something that causes us to rejoice as we study the promises & presence of God among His people.

Ezekiel 40
1 In the twenty-fifth year of our captivity, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth day of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was captured, on the very same day the hand of the LORD was upon me; and He took me there. 2 In the visions of God He took me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain; on it toward the south was something like the structure of a city. 3 He took me there, and behold, there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze. He had a line of flax and a measuring rod in his hand, and he stood in the gateway.

  • Date: April 28, 572BC – 14th anniversary of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians.  It was considered the 1st of the year (Rosh Hashanah), based on an older calendar system, whereas today it is celebrated in the fall.  In any case, this is a very significant day to Ezekiel & all of the Jews in captivity.  On a day in which many of the Jews would be mourning the loss of their city (as we might do on the anniversaries of 9/11), God gives Ezekiel a vision of a glorious future.  God wasn’t done with Israel – not by a long shot!  He had a plan for them that they could barely imagine.
  • What happened?  The Lord God took Ezekiel in a vision to a “very high mountain” in “the land of Israel.”  Most likely, this seems to be a reference to Mt. Zion, upon which the previous temple rested in Jerusalem.  Of course, in the Millennial Kingdom, the topography could be different, due to the massive earth-shaking events of the Great Tribulation.  Even so, Ezekiel knows that he is looking upon the land of Israel, and he sees something so large that it as the “structure of a city.”  This is the temple he’s about to tour.  Again, this is far larger than any temple complex he had seen in the past – it truly would be better compared to a city than another temple.
  • That wasn’t the only thing Ezekiel saw.  He also saw “a man whose appearance was like…bronze,” most likely an angel of some sort.  In fact, this particular angel had a couple of tools in his hand, taking on the role of a heavenly land surveyor.  In fact, that is what he’s about to do, as he will take Ezekiel on a tour of the temple & measure the various structures that the prophet sees.

4 And the man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes and hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for you were brought here so that I might show them to you. Declare to the house of Israel everything you see.”

  • Not too many words will be spoken directly to Ezekiel in these chapters, so what is here is significant.  When Ezekiel sees this angel, he receives specific instructions from the angel as to why Ezekiel was seeing these things & what he was to do with the visions.  The vision was given to Ezekiel, but it wasn’t for his eyes only.  He was told to “declare [it] to the house of Israel.”  God wanted His people to know these things.  Are all the measurements a bit tedious?  Perhaps.  Is there a lot to it?  Definitely.  But these were things God wanted His people to know.  He wanted Israel to know of their future, because if they knew that, they could have hope.  Stuck in captivity with their temple destroyed, it would seem as if the Jews had lost everything.  But they hadn’t.  There was still a future for them, and it was a glorious one in the presence of their Almighty Covenant God.
  • That’s one thing the Scripture consistently does for us: show us hope.  We look to the promises of Jesus contained in the Bible, and we have hope for today & for the future.  We know we haven’t been left alone – we know that we have the indwelling presence of the Spirit – we know we have power & grace for living – we know that we have the promise of eternity in heaven….we have hope!  But to have it, we need to know the promises – we have to actually read the Bible for ourselves. 
    • So read it!  Read all of it: both the easier & the more difficult passages.  We might not understand it all, but we will certainly benefit from it all as God the Holy Spirit uses His word in our lives.

5 Now there was a wall all around the outside of the temple. In the man’s hand was a measuring rod six cubits long, each being a cubit and a handbreadth; and he measured the width of the wall structure, one rod; and the height, one rod.

  • The size of the rod is important, in that the cubit used by the angel was different than that currently used in the days of Ezekiel.  Apparently the angel used an older standard of 7 hands (21 inches) rather than 6 hands (18 inches).  This made the rod approximately 10½ feet long, which affects the overall scale of the building plans.  Why the angel used a different measuring standard is unknown.  Perhaps it is one more indication that the Hebrews had gradually moved from God over time – a minor detail, but one that fits with their overall relationship with Him.  The same thing can happen with any of us.  Like a ship veering a degree or two off its course eventually ends up hundreds of miles away from its intended destination, so will a slight deviation from the word of God eventually lead us to places we don’t intent to go.  The key for us is not to hold ‘mostly’ to the word of God, but to cling to it as our final and ultimate standard of instruction.

From this point forward, Ezekiel is going to describe (in varying details) the size and scope of this visionary temple, as the angel basically takes him on a tour around the campus.  There are many measurements – much of which can perhaps be a bit tedious, but gives a fairly clear picture of what it was Ezekiel saw. 

  • Eastern Gateway (40:6-16)

6 Then he went to the gateway which faced east; and he went up its stairs and measured the threshold of the gateway, which was one rod wide, and the other threshold was one rod wide. 7 Each gate chamber [alcoves for the guards] was one rod long and one rod wide [10½’ x 10½’]; between the gate chambers was a space of five cubits; and the threshold of the gateway by the vestibule of the inside gate was one rod. 8 He also measured the vestibule [porch/portico] of the inside gate, one rod. 9 Then he measured the vestibule of the gateway, eight cubits [8¾’ ]; and the gateposts, two cubits [3½’ ]. The vestibule of the gate was on the inside. 10 In the eastern gateway were three gate chambers on one side and three on the other; the three were all the same size; also the gateposts were of the same size on this side and that side. 11 He measured the width of the entrance to the gateway, ten cubits [17½’ ]; and the length of the gate, thirteen cubits [22¾’ ]. 12 There was a space in front of the gate chambers, one cubit on this side and one cubit on that side [21” total]; the gate chambers were six cubits on this side and six cubits on that side [10½’ sq].

  • There are 6 total guard alcoves in each gateway to the temple complex.  Why guards are necessary at all is not stated at this point.  Ch. 42 will end with the reminder that the temple is walled off to separate what is holy from what is common (42:20) – perhaps the temple will have Levitical doorkeepers present to ensure that no one enters the Millennial Temple in a profane/common manner.  That’s not protection for the Lord, but protection for the people! 

13 Then he measured the gateway from the roof of one gate chamber to the roof of the other; the width was twenty-five cubits, as door faces door [43¾’]. 14 He measured the gateposts, sixty cubits high [105’], and the court all around the gateway extended to the gatepost. 15 From the front of the entrance gate to the front of the vestibule of the inner gate was fifty cubits [87½’].

  • Incredibly tall!  Again, we’re not told the reason, but it certainly would stand out in the distance.  As people approach the temple, there will be no mistaking the fact they approaching the holy house of God.

16 There were beveled window frames in the gate chambers and in their intervening archways on the inside of the gateway all around, and likewise in the vestibules. There were windows all around on the inside. And on each gatepost were palm trees.

  • Palm trees are going to be seen throughout the temple grounds.  Images of palm trees were found in Solomon’s temple (as were cherubim, which will also be seen here).  Palms were often used as symbols of uprightness, and to be likened to a palm tree was a compliment (Ps 92:12, Song 7:7).  Ultimately we’re not given any specific reason for the palms…perhaps God just likes them. 
  • Outer court (40:17-19)

17 Then he brought me into the outer court; and there were chambers and a pavement made all around the court; thirty chambers faced the pavement. 18 The pavement was by the side of the gateways, corresponding to the length of the gateways; this was the lower pavement. 19 Then he measured the width from the front of the lower gateway to the front of the inner court exterior, one hundred cubits toward the east and the north [175’].

  • Although the outer chambers are new, the fact that there is an outer court is not.  This was something seen in the previous temple of Herod, and basically implied in both the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple (although it got considerably larger with Ezekiel’s temple!).  There was a barrier between that which was considered holy & that which was considered common.  Here, the entirety of the temple complex is considered holy, but even so, there are divisions on where people could go, based on their role of service.
  • This is a major difference between the NT Church and the Nation of Israel.  As the Church (Gentile and Jew), we have direct access to our Lord God.  We are invited to come boldly to the throne of grace (Heb 4:16).  Apart from Christ Jesus, we have no access to God, but once we belong to Christ, we have full access to Him.  Not partial access; full, unrestrained, total access.  He is our Abba Father, and we are His beloved children.  We cannot get any closer than that!
  • Northern Gateway (40:20-23)

20 On the outer court was also a gateway facing north, and he measured its length and its width. 21 Its gate chambers, three on this side and three on that side, its gateposts and its archways, had the same measurements as the first gate; its length was fifty cubits and its width twenty-five cubits. [87½ x 43¾ ] 22 Its windows and those of its archways, and also its palm trees, had the same measurements as the gateway facing east; it was ascended by seven steps, and its archway was in front of it. 23 A gate of the inner court was opposite the northern gateway, just as the eastern gateway; and he measured from gateway to gateway, one hundred cubits. [175’]

  • Same as Eastern Gate.
  • Southern Gateway (40:24-27)

24 After that he brought me toward the south, and there a gateway was facing south; and he measured its gateposts and archways according to these same measurements. 25 There were windows in it and in its archways all around like those windows; its length was fifty cubits and its width twenty-five cubits. [87½ x 43¾] 26 Seven steps led up to it, and its archway was in front of them; and it had palm trees on its gateposts, one on this side and one on that side. 27 There was also a gateway on the inner court, facing south; and he measured from gateway to gateway toward the south, one hundred cubits. [175’]

  • Same as other gates.  Also, very tall. 
  • Inner Court Gateway (40:28-37)

28 Then he brought me to the inner court through the southern gateway; he measured the southern gateway according to these same measurements. 29 Also its gate chambers, its gateposts, and its archways were according to these same measurements; there were windows in it and in its archways all around; it was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. [87½ x 43¾] 30 There were archways all around, twenty-five cubits long and five cubits wide. [43¾ x 8¾] 31 Its archways faced the outer court, palm trees were on its gateposts, and going up to it were eight steps.  32 And he brought me into the inner court facing east; he measured the gateway according to these same measurements. 33 Also its gate chambers, its gateposts, and its archways were according to these same measurements; and there were windows in it and in its archways all around; it was fifty cubits long and twenty-five cubits wide. [87½ x 43¾] 34 Its archways faced the outer court, and palm trees were on its gateposts on this side and on that side; and going up to it were eight steps. 35 Then he brought me to the north gateway and measured it according to these same measurements — 36 also its gate chambers, its gateposts, and its archways. It had windows all around; its length was fifty cubits and its width twenty-five cubits. [87½ x 43¾] 37 Its gateposts faced the outer court, palm trees were on its gateposts on this side and on that side, and going up to it were eight steps.

  • All of the gateways to the inner court had the same dimensions as those to the outer court, as Ezekiel went from the southern, to the eastern, to the northern (past the altar, which he does not yet describe).
  • Ezekiel next focuses in on some features adjoining the northern gateway.
  • Sacrificial tables (40:38-43)

38 There was a chamber and its entrance by the gateposts of the gateway, where they washed the burnt offering. 39 In the vestibule [“porch/portico”] of the gateway were two tables on this side and two tables on that side, on which to slay the burnt offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering. 40 At the outer side of the vestibule, as one goes up to the entrance of the northern gateway, were two tables; and on the other side of the vestibule of the gateway were two tables. 41 Four tables were on this side and four tables on that side, by the side of the gateway, eight tables on which they slaughtered the sacrifices. 42 There were also four tables of hewn stone for the burnt offering, one cubit and a half long, one cubit and a half wide, and one cubit high; on these they laid the instruments with which they slaughtered the burnt offering and the sacrifice. 43 Inside were hooks, a handbreadth wide, fastened all around; and the flesh of the sacrifices was on the tables.

  • Notice that this is provision for real sacrifices to be performed in a real temple.  There are no needs for hooks, slaughter tables, etc., if there isn’t real meat being butchered.  Ezekiel even goes so far as to say that he saw “the flesh of the sacrfiices…on the tables.”  This was something actually taking place (though in a vision).
  • If it sounds a bit gory, it’s because it is.  Sacrifice is bloody!  Our modern culture has sanitized things for us quite a bit.  When we drink the cup of communion, we’re drinking the product of crushed grapes – but we’re not supposed to be thinking about grape juice at the time.  The cup of the New Covenant is the blood of Christ.  If we do not (symbolically) drink His blood nor eat His flesh, we have no part with Him.  Our salvation is born of blood, gore, suffering, and death.  How can it be otherwise?  The wages of sin is death, and someone had to suffer in order for us to have our sins dealt with.  It was either us or Jesus…and Jesus willingly took it Himself.  Never forget the price He paid!  It cost Jesus His blood – His flesh – His life. 
  • Question: how does all of this temple sacrifice reconcile with Hebrews 9-10, which emphasizes that Jesus only needed one sacrifice to be sufficient for all sin for all men?  This is something to be addressed in further detail in Ch. 47, but suffice to say for now that it seems sacrifice in this temple comports much to our celebration of the Lord’s Supper today.  When we take Communion, Jesus is not being sacrificed all over again; it is a memorial feast, looking back to the work He has accomplished.  Likewise with the Millennial Temple – they don’t sacrifice to earn salvation; they sacrifice to remember it.  Granted, this is one of the issues that makes these latter chapters of Ezekiel so very controversial.  Good born-again Bible-believing Christians come to very different conclusions here…and that’s OK.
  • Chambers for singers & priests (40:44-46)

44 Outside the inner gate were the chambers for the singers in the inner court, one facing south at the side of the northern gateway, and the other facing north at the side of the southern gateway. 45 Then he said to me, “This chamber which faces south is for the priests who have charge of the temple. 46 The chamber which faces north is for the priests who have charge of the altar; these are the sons of Zadok, from the sons of Levi, who come near the LORD to minister to Him.”

  • There’s a bit of debate on the actual location of these chambers: whether or not they are the same chambers as listed in Ch. 42, or if they are different buildings altogether (without any dimensions described). 
  • Either way, these are specified for two special groups of Levites: singers & priests of the line of Zadok.  Coming from a music background, I can’t help but love the idea that singers are given a permanent role at the Millennial Temple.  God loves music to be used in the worship of Himself, so much so that He ordains it in the future kingdom.  Thankfully, we don’t have to wait until then to do it!
  • That the priestly line comes from “the sons of Zadok” is significant.  All temple workers come from the tribe of Levi, and all priests come from Levi’s descendent Aaron.  Yet in the Millennium, it is narrowed down even further.  Zadok was priest during the days of King David, and Zadok remained loyal to David during the rebellion of Absalom (2 Sam 15).  In addition, Zadok remained loyal to Solomon when David’s other son Adonijah attempted to assume the throne for himself (1 Kings 1).  Zadok was always loyal to the Davidic covenant, of which the Millennial Kingdom is the fulfillment.  Thus it is only fitting that the temple priests be of his lineage.
    • Again, this is another difference between Israel & the Church.  Israel has designated priests; the Church is a kingdom of priests! (1 Pt 2:9)  We enjoy direct fellowship with God our King, and Jesus our High Priest.
  • Entryway to Temple sanctuary (40:47-49)

47 And he measured the court, one hundred cubits long and one hundred cubits wide, foursquare. [175 x 175’] The altar was in front of the temple. 48 Then he brought me to the vestibule of the temple and measured the doorposts of the vestibule, five cubits on this side and five cubits on that side [8¾ each]; and the width of the gateway was three cubits on this side and three cubits on that side. [5¼ each] 49 The length of the vestibule was twenty cubits, and the width eleven cubits [35 x 21]; and by the steps which led up to it there were pillars by the doorposts, one on this side and another on that side.

  • Entry to the sanctuary.  Think of it like a narthex – it’s the entry room before you get to the main room.

Ezekiel 41

  • Sanctuary & Most Holy Place (41:1-4)

1 Then he brought me into the sanctuary and measured the doorposts, six cubits wide on one side and six cubits wide on the other side—the width of the tabernacle. [ 10½’] 2 The width of the entryway was ten cubits, and the side walls of the entrance were five cubits on this side [17½ ] and five cubits on the other side []; and he measured its length, forty cubits, and its width, twenty cubits. [70 x 35] 3 Also he went inside and measured the doorposts, two cubits; and the entrance, six cubits high; and the width of the entrance, seven cubits. [3½ x 10½ x 12¼] 4 He measured the length, twenty cubits; and the width, twenty cubits, beyond the sanctuary [35 x 35]; and he said to me, “This is the Most Holy Place.”

  • Design similar to previous Tabernacle & Temples.  There is a larger room where the priest can go, and a smaller inner room, in which is the presence of God.
  • Holy of holies! קֹ֥דֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִֽׁים All of the temple was holy, but there was nothing more holy – more set apart – more specially sanctified than this inner chamber, the “Most Holy Place.”  Ezekiel apparently did not actually enter – the angel alone “went inside,” but Ezekiel still had the opportunity to see a room few people ever see…even among the priests!  Ezekiel came from a priestly lineage, but not every priest entered the Most Holy Place – that was reserved for the high priest on the Day of Atonement.  What a blessing for him to see it with his own eyes!  Not even a curtain stood in the way.  And why should it?  Upon Jesus’ death, the curtain was ripped in two!  We have free access into relationship with our God.  Now we are made holy, by virtue of simply being in His holy presence.
  • Sanctuary side chambers (41:5-11)

5 Next, he measured the wall of the temple, six cubits [10½]. The width of each side chamber all around the temple was four cubits on every side. [7’] 6 The side chambers were in three stories, one above the other, thirty chambers in each story; they rested on ledges which were for the side chambers all around, that they might be supported, but not fastened to the wall of the temple. 7 As one went up from story to story, the side chambers became wider all around, because their supporting ledges in the wall of the temple ascended like steps; therefore the width of the structure increased as one went up from the lowest story to the highest by way of the middle one. 8 I also saw an elevation all around the temple; it was the foundation of the side chambers, a full rod, that is, six cubits high. [10½ ]  9 The thickness of the outer wall of the side chambers was five cubits [], and so also the remaining terrace by the place of the side chambers of the temple. 10 And between it and the wall chambers was a width of twenty cubits all around the temple on every side. [35’] 11 The doors of the side chambers opened on the terrace, one door toward the north and another toward the south; and the width of the terrace was five cubits all around. []

  • If there’s one architectural tip to learn from the future temple is that there is never enough storage space. :)  We may not yet know what all of these chambers will be used for, but the Lord certainly made preparations for His priests to have the room they will require!
  • Western building (41:12)

12 The building that faced the separating courtyard at its western end was seventy cubits wide; the wall of the building was five cubits thick all around, and its length ninety cubits. [122½ x 8¾ x 157½]

  • This particular building is a complete mystery.  Ezekiel saw the structure, but he was not taken inside.  We have been told much about the future, but we haven’t been told everything.  It’s a good reminder to us to stay humble in regards to prophecy.  There are many theories about all sorts of prophetic events, but we won’t know any for sure until we actually see them fulfilled.
  • Description of Temple Sanctuary (41:13-26)

13 So he measured the temple, one hundred cubits long; and the separating courtyard with the building and its walls was one hundred cubits long; 14 also the width of the eastern face of the temple, including the separating courtyard, was one hundred cubits. [175’ square] 15 He measured the length of the building behind it, facing the separating courtyard, with its galleries on the one side and on the other side, one hundred cubits, as well as the inner temple and the porches of the court, 16 their doorposts and the beveled window frames. And the galleries all around their three stories opposite the threshold were paneled with wood from the ground to the windows—the windows were covered— 17 from the space above the door, even to the inner room, as well as outside, and on every wall all around, inside and outside, by measure. 18 And it was made with cherubim and palm trees, a palm tree between cherub and cherub. Each cherub had two faces, 19 so that the face of a man was toward a palm tree on one side, and the face of a young lion toward a palm tree on the other side; thus it was made throughout the temple all around. 20 From the floor to the space above the door, and on the wall of the sanctuary, cherubim and palm trees were carved.

  • Why palms, cherubim, and lions? Again, palms & cherubim were seen in Solomon’s temple.  Here, lions are added to the mix.  Perhaps it’s all symbolic of strength & holiness.  Perhaps it calls to mind the Garden of Eden, in that cherubim guarded the way to the tree of life.  Perhaps it’s one more thing that remains a mystery.  J
  • Note that these cherubim have a different appearance than the ones seen by Ezekiel in his initial visions at the beginning of the book.  Those creatures had four faces: a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle, along with six wings fully covered in eyes (1:10-11).  In the temple, there are only two faces mentioned. 

21 The doorposts of the temple were square, as was the front of the sanctuary; their appearance was similar. 22 The altar was of wood, three cubits high, and its length two cubits. [5¼ tall, 3½ wide] Its corners, its length, and its sides were of wood; and he said to me, “This is the table that is before the LORD.”

  • What is this altar to be used for?  It’s unclear.  Some scholars believe that it is to be used for the showbread, whereas others note that its description more closely matches that of the altar of incense.  If it is for the showbread, then it symbolizes the presence of Israel in the sight of God.  If it is for incense, then it symbolizes the prayers of God’s people rising towards Him.  Of course, it’s possible that it has a different function altogether, one which we will need to wait until the Millennium to learn.

23 The temple and the sanctuary had two doors. 24 The doors had two panels apiece, two folding panels: two panels for one door and two panels for the other door. 25 Cherubim and palm trees were carved on the doors of the temple just as they were carved on the walls. A wooden canopy was on the front of the vestibule outside. 26 There were beveled window frames and palm trees on one side and on the other, on the sides of the vestibule—also on the side chambers of the temple and on the canopies.

  • Notice what’s missing: all the descriptions of the furniture and other items so prominent in the previous Tabernacle & Temples.  There’s no lampstand – no ark of the covenant – no mercy seat…at least, there is none mentioned.  This would provide an argument for those who theorize that the Millennial Temple has a different function than that of the previous temples.  Instead of being a place where sacrifice is necessary to make Israel’s relationship with God right again, it is a place to commemorate the one sacrifice of Jesus that is already sufficient.

Ezekiel 42

  • Chambers for priests (42:1-14)

1 Then he brought me out into the outer court, by the way toward the north; and he brought me into the chamber which was opposite the separating courtyard, and which was opposite the building toward the north. 2 Facing the length, which was one hundred cubits (the width was fifty cubits), was the north door. [175 x 87½ ]  3 Opposite the inner court of twenty cubits [35’], and opposite the pavement of the outer court, was gallery against gallery in three stories. 4 In front of the chambers, toward the inside, was a walk ten cubits wide [17½ ], at a distance of one cubit [textual debate – probably 100 cubits or 175’]; and their doors faced north. 5 Now the upper chambers were shorter, because the galleries took away space from them more than from the lower and middle stories of the building. 6 For they were in three stories and did not have pillars like the pillars of the courts; therefore the upper level was shortened more than the lower and middle levels from the ground up. 7 And a wall which was outside ran parallel to the chambers, at the front of the chambers, toward the outer court; its length was fifty cubits. [87½ ] 8 The length of the chambers toward the outer court was fifty cubits [87½ ], whereas that facing the temple was one hundred cubits. [175’] 9 At the lower chambers was the entrance on the east side, as one goes into them from the outer court.

  • Descriptions like this are one more confirmation that Ezekiel is certainly not looking at either the Temple of Solomon, or the (later) Temple of Herod.  Nothing like these three-story buildings existed with those temples.  These sorts of buildings also make it painfully clear why a spiritualized description of the church is not in view.  What could this possibly represent in the Church?  If an explanation was theorized, what would be the proof?  The interpretation would solely be in the eye of the beholder – which is a truly dangerous way to engage in Bible study.  Far better to let the text speak for itself as literal.  We may not have all the answers, but we know this much: Ezekiel was looking at a real building complex.

10 Also there were chambers in the thickness of the wall of the court toward the east, opposite the separating courtyard and opposite the building. 11 There was a walk in front of them also, and their appearance was like the chambers which were toward the north; they were as long and as wide as the others, and all their exits and entrances were according to plan. 12 And corresponding to the doors of the chambers that were facing south, as one enters them, there was a door in front of the walk, the way directly in front of the wall toward the east. 13 Then he said to me, “The north chambers and the south chambers, which are opposite the separating courtyard, are the holy chambers where the priests who approach the LORD shall eat the most holy offerings. There they shall lay the most holy offerings—the grain offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering—for the place is holy. 14 When the priests enter them, they shall not go out of the holy chamber into the outer court; but there they shall leave their garments in which they minister, for they are holy. They shall put on other garments; then they may approach that which is for the people.”

  • Some of these chambers are holy dining rooms.  This isn’t the general cafeteria, so to speak, but the place where the priests eat the offerings that were presented to the Lord God.  Something that is often forgotten about the Hebrew sacrifices is that most of those sacrifices were eaten as fellowship meals with God.  Unless it was a burnt offering, where the entire sacrifice was consumed on the altar, the other sacrifices were meant to be eaten.  Not only was it physical provision for the priests, but it was a way that the worshipper could participate.  They shared a meal with their Covenant God – in a sense they had “communion” with Him.
    • Again, this is something we experience every day.  Even on the days we do not receive the Lord’s Supper, we still experience ongoing communion & fellowship with our Lord & King.  This is the free access we have received in Christ.
  • Notice the lengths the priests were to go in order to maintain their holy separation.  The building they were in was holy – the offerings which had been given to God were holy – the very clothes worn by the priests were holy, for they had been in the presence of God used for His glory.  The priests were to be very aware of this, and be mindful even to change their clothes when they approached other people.
    • Does this mean we have to wear different clothes when we go to church?  Of course not…but it does remind us not to mix what is holy with what is not.  As NT Christians, WE are made holy by God.  It’s not our clothes or our stuff; it’s us ourselves.  We need to be careful not to corrupt ourselves with the profane stuff of the world.  Remember that we may be in the world, but we are not to be of the world. (Jn 17:16)  God has left us in this world in order to tell others about Jesus & to be an influence for good, but we are not to partake of its evil.  Too many Christians (including myself!) skirt the line on this…be careful.  We need to draw clearer distinctions between that which is honoring to God & that which is not.
  • Outer dimensions of temple grounds (42:15-20)

15 Now when he had finished measuring the inner temple, he brought me out through the gateway that faces toward the east, and measured it all around. 16 He measured the east side with the measuring rod, five hundred rods by the measuring rod all around. 17 He measured the north side, five hundred rods by the measuring rod all around. 18 He measured the south side, five hundred rods by the measuring rod. 19 He came around to the west side and measured five hundred rods by the measuring rod. 20 He measured it on the four sides; it had a wall all around, five hundred cubits long and five hundred wide [875’ square], to separate the holy areas from the common.

  • Again, that which is “holy” is always to be separated from that which is “common.”  In the case of the Millennial Temple, it took a wall.  For us, it takes discernment.  The more we get the word of God into our hearts – the more time we spend in the presence of Jesus – the more often we are filled with the Spirit…the more we’ll become aware of the profanity of the world that surrounds us.  Not only will we better protected against it, but we’ll be better equipped to be a light for Christ within it.

Ezekiel had this incredible tour of a yet-to-be constructed temple.  He was taken in through the Eastern Gate, went through the Outer Court, observed the middle area with all its tools for sacrifices, walked into the Inner Court & saw the Holy of Holies for himself, and eventually went back out again.  Hardly a corner of the campus was missed.

Nice tour, but so what?  Here’s the “so what”:

  • The Jews in captivity in Babylon had the promise of a marvelous future.
  • The Jews in history & in the present-day have the assurance of renewed worship.
  • Christians have the assurance of knowing that we worship a God who keeps His word!
  • Christians have the blessing of being the temple of God today!  We do not wait a future temple in which we can worship God; we are His holy temple.

Do you take advantage of your privileged position as a born-again Christian?  Do you worship God always, knowing that as a member of His Church you are His temple? Enjoy your relationship for all it’s worth!

Do What Jesus Did

Posted: November 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

Luke 9:1-9, “Do What Jesus Did”

WWJD.  If you were an evangelical in the early 2000’s, you remember the slogan well.  You may have even worn a plastic wristband with the initials embossed upon it, reminding you to ask yourself "What Would Jesus Do?".  The phrase actually comes from the Charles Sheldon classic, "In His Steps," in which a pastor of a local church challenges his congregation to take a year-long trial of only doing the things that Jesus did. Newspaper editors decided to stop publishing articles about fights, railroad operators reported shady business dealings, etc.  Not everything in the book is commendable (some of the late 19th century attitudes are very much a product of their time), but the overall idea is good.  What is it that Jesus would do?  Do that.

Of course, we could take it a step further: instead of asking "What would Jesus do," ask "What would Jesus have you to do?"  Being the Son of God, the Lord Jesus might do any number of things He would not ask us to do, such as read someone’s mind or walk on water.  But that said, having a general guideline of acting according to Jesus’ desires and character, is a good one!

The WWJD principle is in play with the disciples as Luke 9 begins.  Jesus sends the 12 on a mission to do the things He has done, and they do it.  And it makes a difference.  When Christians look and act like Christ, the world takes notice.

Remember the context Luke has given us: Jesus has just demonstrated massive amount of authority.  First Jesus showed His authority over the natural world when He calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee.  Next He showed His authority over the spiritual world when He cast out the legion of demons from the man living in the graveyard among the Gerasenes.  Finally, Jesus showed His authority over our physical bodies when He cured a woman of a 12 year old chronic hemorrhage, and raised a 12 year old girl from the dead.  There is no limit to the authority of Jesus as God the Son; the proper response from us is to have faith in Him & believe.

With that in mind, what happens next?  Jesus delegates some of that same authority to His apostles.  He sends them out to do the same things that He has been doing right in front of Him.  Just as some college classes have a pratical lab, so did the seminary of the disciples get a lab when Jesus sent them out all over Galilee on a short-term mission trip.  As they went, they attracted all kinds of attention, which was only natural.  Not all of the attention led to peoples’ salvation, but it certainly put their eyes upon Jesus.  They’d eventually have to a make a decision of their own what to do with Him.

That much hasn’t changed.  Jesus has sent us out to continue the work He gave the disciples, and to put the eyes of others upon Jesus.  What decision they come to is up to them.

Luke 9:1–9

  • Disciples’ Commission (5 aspects)

1 Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.

  • 1st: Power.  Technically, Jesus gave “power and authority” to the disciples.  These are two different Greek words, though they could be thought of as synonyms.  “Power” (δυναμις) is idea of might, strength, ability, or (depending on the context) miraculous power.  “Authority” (εξουσια) refers more to freedom of choice, right, or jurisdiction.  Combined, this is the idea of complete enabling.  Not only did Jesus give them the ability/strength to do the work, He gave them the jurisdiction in which to act.  There was nothing that Jesus left out.  What Jesus called them to do, Jesus equipped them to do.
    • That’s always the case.  Jesus never calls us to a task He will not equip us to handle.  That’s not to say all Christians are destined to succeed in every venture.  Sometimes, the equipping comes in grace to endure.  It may be strength and patience to enable us to share in the sufferings of Christ.  But even then, it’s still exactly what we need.  If Jesus gives you the task, He will give you the power that is required.
    • The key for us is to turn to Him for it!  Too often, Christians see commands in the Scriptures, get overwhelmed, and then just turn around & run the other way.  (Especially when it comes to evangelism, which is the primary context here!)  But this is something that Jesus empowers every Christian to do.  We’re all called, so we can all be equipped.  Granted, not every born-again believer has the spiritual gift of being an “evangelist” as one of the offices of the church (such as prophet, pastor, etc.) – but every Christian can do evangelism.
  • How can we tell?  Just look at how many disciples were given this power & authority from Christ: all “twelve.”  Each and every apostle of Jesus was empowered the same way for the same task – from Peter to Judas.  That itself is amazing!  Even Judas was empowered by Jesus to perform miracles in the process of preaching the gospel…and there’s every indication that he did it!  Keep in mind that although the role of Judas Iscariot was known by God since before the foundation of the world, it wasn’t necessarily known by anyone else until it unfolded.  At one time, Judas was a faithful disciple.  At first, he seemed to be a born-again believer, even outwardly preaching the gospel.  Was he a false convert?  Apparently so, but it wasn’t obvious.  There aren’t always obvious outward signs, at least, not at first.  That’s why it’s necessary for people to examine themselves and their own faith (2 Cor 13:5).  No one knows what is in your heart, except you & God.  Outwardly, you might seem to be a faithful believer (even sharing the gospel with others), while inwardly you know the truth.
    • The good news in all of this is that no one need remain a false convert.  You can choose to put your faith & trust in Jesus & receive the absolute assurance that you belong to Him.  …
  • Along with the equal empowerment of the 12 is the idea of a lack of hierarchy among them.  No doubt there were different roles for each of them, and even at this time, a few of the apostles were obvious leaders among them, but there were no “super” apostles with “better” gifts.  Peter was no more gifted for ministry than Thaddeus.  They were each empowered by Jesus, and they each could do the same work.
    • Likewise, there are various roles & gifts among the Body of Christ, but there are not different levels of Christians.  One believer might be more mature than another, or more knowledgeable or experienced than another, but no Christian is more saved than another.  No Christian has more access to the Holy Spirit than anyone else.  Not everyone takes advantage of that access, but the same opportunities to be filled & empowered by the Spirit are available to all Christians.
    • Perhaps the question for you is: if that’s you, why?  What’s stopping you?  Do you feel weak – unable to do the things God has placed before you?  Be filled with the Holy Spirit!  Receive His power & enabling.
  • For us, spiritual gifts vary according to our role & calling.  For the 12 (at least at this time), the gifts were the same.  They each received power “over all demons, and to cure diseases.”  Which demons?  ALL demons.  What diseases?  There is no limit mentioned.  The implication is that if Jesus could do it, so could the disciples.  Jesus was just shown casting out a legion of demons from a single man, curing incurable diseases, and even raising the dead.  It is this same power that He delegated to His disciples.  The miraculous things He had done all over Galilee were the things they were to do as well.
    • Question: Is this an open invitation to us as well?  Yes & no.  Jesus gave power to the disciples to do these things at that time for that mission.  This was obviously prior to the cross & resurrection.  Later, Jesus would tell the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the power of the Holy Spirit, who had not yet come upon them (Acts 1:8).  Thus the power that Jesus gave them at this particular time seemed to be temporary.  That said, we live in the age of the Church, in which the power of the Holy Spirit is available to us at all times (Eph 5:18).  Whatever Jesus wants us to do, we can do.  Occasionally, that might be casting out demons or healing diseases – but that is by no means guaranteed.  The key is to rely upon Christ & His power, seeking His will in all things.
  • That was their power.  Why did they receive it?  Vs. 2…

2 He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.

  • 2nd: Purpose.  All of this miraculous power wasn’t given for the simple benefit of the apostles; this power was needed for them to do what Jesus wanted them to do: (1) preach, and (2) heal. But before we get to the specifics, notice that the 12 were “sent” out by Jesus.  They had not chosen this mission for themselves; they were chosen by Christ.  They did not represent themselves; they represented the One who sent them.  They were ambassadors & messengers of Someone else: Jesus. 
    • Likewise with us.  We have been sent out by Jesus.  We have been chosen to represent Him as His ambassadors.  This is all part of the Great Commission.  Every Christians is included in this call & the sending.  Not every Christian chooses to participate in it.  (Do you?)
  • The first thing Jesus sent the apostles to do was “preach the kingdom of God.”  This is the act of proclamation.  Like a royal herald might go out ahead of his liege and proclaim / announce his soon arrival, so do we do with our King Jesus.  We announce the dual fact that not only has the Kingdom of Christ arrived, but that our King is soon returning & that His kingdom will finally be fulfilled when He arrives.
    • There is a kingdom of God, and people will see it.  The question is whether or not people will see it as included citizens or as excluded enemies.  Everyone is invited, and everyone can come in.  Jesus made it possible – all we need to do is respond through faith.
  • The fact that the kingdom of God is to be preached tells us something about the method of proclamation: words are required.  A famous quote (falsely) attributed to St. Francis of Assisi says “Preach the gospel at all times.  Use words if necessary.”  With all due respect to Francis (of whom there is no record that he ever uttered such a thing), words are always necessary.  The love of Christ can be demonstrated many ways, some being silent (and actions that follow our words are essential – even shown here in our text).  But the gospel of salvation is something that must be verbalized, without exception.  Be it written or spoken, words are a requirement.  As Paul wrote to the Romans: Romans 10:17, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."  God has ordained that His salvation message is to be preached.  We dare not neglect it.
  • That’s not to say preaching was the only thing the disciples did.  The second thing Jesus sent them to do was to “heal the sick.” If the 1st part was verbal, the 2nd was action.  Preaching certainly needs the power of God, but so does healing.  Neither demons nor disease can be tackled without the empowerment of Jesus.  It wouldn’t matter one iota how hard any of the disciples willed a disease to be healed…without divine power, it wouldn’t happen.
    • That fact has not changed for today.  God still heals, based upon His will.  Sometimes He uses miracles – other times He uses medicine.  Either way, it’s still by His power.  You can have the best doctor in the world, but without the power & will of God, you’re going to remain sick.
    • BTW – in vs. 1 a distinction is made between demons & disease.  In vs. 2, there is a lump sum sending to “heal the sick.”  The Bible does distinguish between physical & spiritual afflictions, but at the end of the day, it’s all still sickness.  Someone accosted by the enemy is in no less need of help than someone infected with a dangerous virus.  Both need to be healed – both need the power of Jesus.  Whatever your illness (physical, emotional, spiritual), take it to Christ!

3 And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece.

  • 3rd: Provision.  So the disciples have their mission, and the basic power with which to do it.  What about provisions for the road?  They weren’t to take any.  Just as they trusted God to give them power to preach, heal, and cast out demons, so they needed to trust God to provide for all of the mundane things required for the trip: food, money, clothes, etc.  The basic idea is that they were to hit the road with almost nothing except the clothes on their backs, and watch for God to provide the rest along the way.
  • Question: Was Jesus basically telling them not to plan?  Yes.  Does Jesus tell us not to make plans?  No.  Again, this was a specific mission for specific people at a specific time.  Later, when Jesus is preparing for the cross, He once more tells His disciples about their own journeys to be taken as they preach the gospel.  At that time, Jesus reverses some of the things He says here, telling them to take a moneybag, knapsack, and sword (Lk 22:36).  Thus preparation is not evil or forbidden – it is actually quite wise!  It is foolish to begin a project without a plan to complete it.  Thus there must be something else going on here, and there is.  Here in Ch. 9, there is a reason that Jesus told them to take nothing: He wanted them to learn how to trust God as their Provider.
    • This isn’t something that comes naturally to too many people.  It’s far easier to trust ourselves than the Lord, because we thing we’ve got more control over things that way.  (We don’t, but we fool ourselves into thinking that we do.)  Ultimately, God is always our Provider, even when we’ve made plans & packed our suitcases.  But sometimes we need to see this in more obvious ways.  That’s what Jesus wanted for the 12.  As they went out, they would know their provision came from the Lord, because they had no other options!  As a result, God would get all of the glory.
    • This is something of which we need to be often reminded.  Yes, we make our plans – yes, we need to be proactive – but in all things, we are to look to our Heavenly Father for provision, ensuring that He receives the glory.
  • What were some of the things Jesus mentioned, as things to be left behind?
    • Staffs”: There is actually a bit of controversy on this, when the three synoptic gospels are compared side-by-side.  Matthew 10:10 says not to take a staff, while Mark 6:8 makes an exception for a single staff.  Various solutions have been proposed, with the most likely being a restriction from Jesus on taking more than one staff.  It’s possible that more than one type of staff was involved, or that this could refer to the common tendency of packing more than what is absolutely necessary.  Either way, Jesus’ intent is clear: travel light & trust God.  (That’s a good motto for life!)
    • Bag”: This isn’t any old bag or knapsack, but a specific reference to a type of money bag.  Some travelling preachers were known to use this type of bag for financial offerings.  When Jesus told them not to take this bag with them, He was basically saying “Don’t pass the plate,” nor give the impression that the disciples were begging for money.  The gospel was to go out free of charge, without the taint of fundraising getting in the way.
      • Is it permanently wrong to receive an offering?  No.  Again, these were specific instructions for a specific mission.  At the same time, churches do need to be careful not to let money get in the way of the gospel.  As Matthew records in the parallel passage: Matthew 10:8, "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."  Money is a necessity for all kinds of things, and Jesus and the others did apparently receive some financial gifts during the three years of His ministry.  Luke 8 began with accounts of some of the women providing sustenance for Jesus & the disciples (8:2-3), and there was enough money among them that Judas was charged with carrying the moneybox (Jn 12:6).  After the resurrection, it is apparent that the early church received financial offerings from the people (Acts 4:32-37, etc.).  But at no time did these offerings interfere with the gospel.  Neither the 12 nor anyone from the early church made financial giving a prerequisite for becoming a Christian.  The gospel was (and is) always a free gift!
    • bread…money”:  Self-explanatory.  Jesus basically told them not even to pack a lunch nor take their wallets.  This was even more restrictive than what they did on a normal day with Jesus, but again, Jesus was teaching them a lesson.  If they truly prayed for God to provide their daily bread, then they needed to learn what it was like to be in a situation in which God was all they had.  While on this trip, if God didn’t provide for them, they’d go hungry.  Keep in mind, they weren’t allowed to ask for handouts – so this had to be solely provided as God laid it on the hearts of others to feed them, or as they found food along the way.  What were the results?  No one starved.  All of them must have eaten at some point, and there’s no record of anyone complaining.  God must have done all right.  J
      • How much do you think your prayer life would change if you were placed in the same situation?  When do you think would happen in your relationship with God if you were forced to trust Him?  (Short-term mission trips are great for this sort of thing…)
    • two tunics”: These were the chitons, the garments over which the cloak was placed.  Think of it as the long night-shirt sort of clothing commonly worn by the people of the day.  Jesus told them that not even a change of clothes was permitted.  The 12 would have to trust that their clothing would not wear out on the journey, or that their needs would be met along the way.  (Not unlike how Israel trusted God during their wilderness wanderings.)

4 “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5 And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”

  • 5th: Practice.  Jesus goes on to describe the method He wanted His disciples to use as they travelled.  Once more, Jesus emphasizes their dependence upon God.  God would have to give them both lodging and favor in a town as they preached the gospel.  And once God provided it, the disciples ought not abuse it.  That’s the idea behind staying in one person’s home while in a particular city.  It’s not that Jesus wanted to burden any one family, or force houseguests upon them.  On the contrary – Jesus wanted to honor anyone who took His disciples into his/her home.  In that culture, hospitality was a mark of distinction, and would insult the host for the disciples to move from house to house every night.  The host would want the disciples to stay as guests for as long as possible.  Besides that, if the disciples continually changed homes, it may be viewed as a kind of manipulation for financial gifts, as if the disciples were trying to “hit up” many different people for more money and provisions.  Better to remain in one place, which both honors the host & maintains a reputation of humility.
  • Of course this all assumes that the disciples were welcomed into town.  What if they weren’t?  Jesus told them not to remain there.  Instead, they were to treat that town as a Jew might treat a Gentile city of the day, and “shake off” the dust from his feet as he left.  At that point, the residents of the city chose to remain in their defiling sin, so the disciples had permission to act accordingly in response.  Question: Was Jesus giving the disciples permission to give up?  It depends on what you mean by “giving up.”  If the town didn’t want to hear the gospel, then yes, the disciples had permission to move on.  There were too many other villages to visit, and time was short.  If one town didn’t want to hear about the kingdom of God, then the disciples needed to find another that did.  That’s not to say God didn’t care about the rejecting town – He did give them a chance to hear the gospel, after all.  But God is not going to force anyone to believe.  No one is saved apart from a sovereign act of God, but God in His sovereignty still chooses to involve our free will.  People can (and do) choose not to respond to God’s love and grace.  It is a foolish decision, and not one that God desires for them, but He will allow them to make it.  In the meantime, what do the rest of us do as Christians?  Move on.  There over 7.4 billion people on planet earth, and each of them needs Jesus.  If one person refuses to listen to the gospel, find another who will.
    • With all of this in mind, remember that salvation is not a sales pitch.  No one gets talked into the gospel.  We exercise our free will in coming to Christ, but no one comes to Him through human effort.  Thus when the disciples (and us) move on to other people, we haven’t really “given up” on anyone.  To “give up” assumes that we could do more for them to be saved.  As if we could make a better argument, use a different technique, or find something that will bring success.  That line of thinking makes salvation a human activity, which it is not.  The only thing we do in saving people is preach the gospel – to present Jesus to them.  Once that has been done, the rest is a mysterious interaction between the sovereign will of God & the free will of men.  If we have to move on to someone else, we have not failed nor given up.  We’ve simply given the gospel to someone else who might actually hear & be saved.

6 So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

  • 5th: Performance.  Finally, the 12 put all of this instruction into action by actually doing what Jesus gave them to do.  They left their home base, went through the various towns, preached the gospel of the kingdom, and healed all kinds of diseases as they went.  It sounds basic, but it’s important.  They did it.  They did everything Jesus gave them to do.  Why is this so important?  Because this is the part we so often neglect!  We not the right things – we’ve learned the doctrine – we’ve studied the technique.  We’ve given mental assent to the commands of Jesus, recognizing His words as things we ought to do…we just haven’t done it.  We’ve gone right up to the edge, and stopped short of going over.  Instead, we give in to fear or uncertainty or laziness, and we spend our time thinking up all kinds of excuses why we haven’t obeyed our Lord Jesus.  “I don’t know what to say…  I don’t know when to introduce Jesus into the conversation…  The time just isn’t right…  This person won’t understand…  This person probably doesn’t want to hear…”  Those and 1000 other excuses are imagined and we talk ourselves out of what ought to be the most obvious of responses: Christians obeying Christ.
    • How many times have you (and I!) done it?  Far too many to count.  No more!  Draw a line in the sand, and make a commitment of “never again.”  If we call Jesus our “Lord,” we have an obligation to act as if He is.  Follow Him!  He said to go make disciples, so do it.  No more excuses – no more fear – no more laziness.  There’s a whole world filled with people who are lost & bound for hell…and we carry the news that can save them.  Apply the things that Jesus has said – put into practice the commands of Jesus.  Take a step of faith & obey Him.
    • That’s what it comes to, does it not?  Faith.  If we act in faith, we will act in obedience.  If not, we won’t.  We often give the 12 disciples a lot of grief, and there were definitely times that they messed up royally.  But not here.  Here, they actually obeyed.  They did far better than most of us, in that they went out & followed instruction.  Give credit where it is due: the disciples put it into practice.  So should we.  Have faith…obey Christ.
  • So the disciples acted in obedience & travelled all over the land as Jesus told them to do.  We can imagine that those wandering missionaries attracted a bit of attention, and they did – from no less than Herod.  Vs. 7…
  • Herod’s Confusion

7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him; and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, 8 and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again.

  • Who was “Herod the tetrarch”?  This was Antipas, of whom was one of the successors to Herod the Great.  He (and three others) each received ¼ of Herod’s kingdom, Antipas being given responsibility over the region of Galilee, where Jesus & the disciples performed much of their ministry.  Considering the size of the crowds following Jesus from place-to-place, and incredible miracles performed by Him, and the fact that now these same miracles were being performed by His disciples in His name, it’s no wonder that news of Jesus had reached the ears of Herod.  This wasn’t just “another” Jewish teacher & rabbi; this was a Man with incredible power, which naturally raised all kinds of questions and concerns for a regional governor – particularly one who served at the whim of the Roman Empire.
  • What “perplexed” (thoroughly confused) Herod all the more were the various rumors floating around about Jesus’ identity.  The Jews did not believe in reincarnation (which was completely foreign to them), but the description sounds as if they might be open to the possibility.  Instead of taking Jesus at face value, they imagined Him to be a new or revived version of all kinds of people.  John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the other prophets were all options discussed by people, and Herod was confronted by each of these choices.  (Jesus later asks the disciples about these same rumors, at which time Peter gives his famous confession, believing Jesus to be the Christ – Lk 9:20.)  Herod didn’t quite know what to think, though he ruled out one option immediately.  Verse 9…

9 Herod said, “John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?” So he sought to see Him.

  • Out of all the list of possibilities, Jesus could not be John.  How come?  Herod had personally overseen John’s execution.  John had publicly spoken against Herod’s incestuous marriage, and Herod’s wife Herodias never forgave him for it.  Whereas Herod was content to leave John in prison (which is where he was the last time Luke referred to him – Lk 7:18-23), Herodias wanted him dead.  She devised a scheme to ensure his execution, and Herod eventually complied.  Even so, it seems that perhaps Herod’s conscience ate at him, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that he would have to answer for this.  So no, Jesus could not be John, but Jesus could certainly make Herod answer for John’s death.  Herod simply didn’t know what to make of Jesus.
  • In the end, Herod never did come to a conclusion about Christ.  Yes, he wished to see Jesus for himself, but Herod wasn’t interested in knowing whether or not Jesus was actually the Messiah; he just wanted to see a miracle worker.  Herod did eventually meet Jesus face-to-face just prior to the cross, but all Herod did at that time was try to order Jesus to be like a trained pet.  He wanted Jesus to do a miracle for his entertainment, and he mocked Jesus when Jesus refused to do it (Lk 23:6-12).  Herod didn’t care about truth – only his own personal power.
  • In a sense, Herod pictures the same sort of people that Jesus told the apostles about.  Some people just don’t want the gospel, and the proper response is to knock the dust off your feet and move on.  Herod wanted to see Jesus, but for all the wrong reasons.  Unless Herod humbled himself (which he didn’t), Jesus had no reason to engage him (and He didn’t).  To know the salvation of Christ, we have to acknowledge the Lordship of Christ.  Herod wanted Jesus to bow to him; not the other way around.  The gospel doesn’t work that way.  Yes, Jesus came to serve when He became a sacrifice for our sins at the cross, but He is not our servant; we are His.
  • Although Herod wanted to see Jesus for the wrong reasons, his solution is absolutely right on the mark.  It’s not enough to hear others talk about Jesus; we need to see Him for ourselves. We definitely need to hear others talk about Him, but once we do, we need to take the next step.  We need a personal experience with Him.  We need to interact with Him as the Living, Resurrected Son of God.  Without that kind of experience, we don’t know Jesus at all.  Think about it: as Christians, we confess that Jesus is God the Son who died for our sins at the cross & then rose from the dead.  We say that we believe that He forgives us of our sin, and grants us new & eternal life.  Every single bit of that is personal – it’s interactive – it speaks of a Jesus who is alive & working among His people (which He is & does).  That cannot merely be a bunch of head-knowledge.  It can’t be a simple collection of a bunch of theological facts.  That needs to be real.  No one is born-again unless God personally gives them a new birth.  That is something that is experienced, and we only experience it when we have a real experience with Jesus as the Living God.  We have to see Him for ourselves.
    • Ask yourself: is this how you know Jesus?  Do you know Him for yourself, or only through the testimony of others?  Do you know only the facts about Him, or do you know Jesus as you know your parents or children or friends?  He can & should be known.  You can know Him for yourself when you consciously put your faith & trust in Him as Lord.  

Luke is bringing his readers close to the end of Jesus’ Galilean ministry, but these are not random stories thrown together.  We’ve seen the power of Christ, and now we see it delegated.  And when it is, it is noticed.  When the disciples went out to do what Jesus did, Herod (and the rest of Galilee) stood up and took notice.  It was impossible for them to do otherwise.  When the Son of God acts, it cannot be ignored!

So what does that tell us?  Christians need to act like Christ.  We need to get busy acting like our Lord Jesus.  He has given us the power, our purpose, our provisions, and our method of practice – now we just need to put it into motion & perform the work.  Christian, what are you waiting for?  Haven’t we said “no” to Jesus long enough?  Haven’t we had our fill of excuses?  Enough of the lukewarm life of halfhearted Christianity!  Let us be like the disciples, and get to work!  You & I have neighbors that need to hear the gospel.  We have friends & co-workers who have yet to meet Jesus.  We have family members who need to be saved.  There is not a moment to lose, and no reason not to proclaim the news & offer the healing of Christ.  He will give us everything we need, if we simply take a step of faith.

Thanksgiving 2016 – Psalm 23

It is one of the most familiar psalms in the Bible, and one we most often hear at funerals.  Why look at it at Thanksgiving?  Because that’s really what it’s all about!  The actual word “thanks” may not be used, but that is the entire concept throughout.

A Psalm of David.

  • It’s the superscription, but most often it can be considered part of the text – it is certainly included in the Hebrew manuscripts.  That this is David is significant – after all, he was originally a shepherd himself.  If anyone knows what the care of a shepherd is like, it was the shepherd boy taken from the flocks to eventually lead the flock of Israel.  This is his song, his melody unto the Lord, as he proclaims the goodness of the One he considered his shepherd.

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

  • The premise.  This is who God is!  This is what He does.  Because God is David’s shepherd, David knows that he will not lack for any good thing.  God is the Good Shepherd.  As Jesus says, He is the one who lays His life down for the sheep (Jn 10:15).  He is the one who cares for us, seeks us out, and leads us in the way we ought to go.  Domesticated sheep without a shepherd invariably get into trouble, as do we without the Lord Jesus. Yet when we are in the care of Christ, we are in good hands indeed!  And it is having Jesus as our Shepherd that we can (and should!) give thanks to God.
  • God’s provision (2-4)

2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

  • God provides physically.  The “green pastures” & “still waters” speak of the physical provision a shepherd might give his sheep.  Literally, we might translate this “grassy pastures” and of God leading David for the specific purpose of watering his sheep beside the “waters of rest.”  If there is any place that a sheep would like to eat & drink, it would be that!  To “lie down” in these meadows is to be (for a sheep) literally surrounded by food, and the waters at rest are the most peaceful watering holes that could be found.  This is true abundance.
    • Although we may not be rich, we know that God is our physical provider.  How many ways has God provided for you this year?  Have you slept soundly?  Eaten meals?  Had health enough to make it through the day?  Should we receive nothing else, we can affirm with these things that God provides for our physical needs.  Some of these things God gives to both the believer & unbeliever, as God makes His rain fall on the just & unjust (Mt 5:45).  Even so, it is still reason to give God thanks.  James 1:17, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."
  • God provides spiritually.  He provides for us the things we spiritually lack – primarily, righteousness.  Without Christ, we have none!  On our own, our righteousness is nothing but filthy rags.  But Jesus gives us His righteousness.  He leads us in the “paths of righteousness.”  With that phrase, think “entrenched paths of righteousness,” as when a wagon has worn ruts into the ground.  IOW, we aren’t led on a wandering goose-chase; we’re led straight to be place we need to be.  Obviously, this is more than the imputation of righteousness that happens when we first ask to be saved – it’s the way of righteousness in which Jesus leads us once we are already saved.  We continually walk in righteousness, because that is the way Jesus leads us.
    • Give thanks to God for leading you in righteousness!  Give thanks to Him for teaching you & instructing you.  The Lord did not leave you alone once you put your faith in Him for forgiveness.  He didn’t leave you out to dry.  He gave you His word, and His Spirit.  He continually leads you in His trusted paths of righteousness.  His ways are trustworthy, and a true gift given to us.  Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path."
    • Why does He do it?  For His own glory!  For His “name’s sake.”  As God leads you, He glorifies Himself.  Your spiritual provision is not just for your benefit, but for the praise of God.
  • God provides emotionally.  The phrase often quoted “the valley of the shadow of death” could otherwise be translated “valley of deep shadow / gloom.”  Death is certainly in view here, but the overarching idea is one of depression.  David was well-acquainted with gloom, as he had many enemies throughout his life.  First, he was despised by his brothers as they mocked him for going to battle against Goliath.  Then, he was hated by King Saul who was jealous for God’s choice of David as king.  David was betrayed by his own son Absalom, as well as his trusted advisor Ahithophel.  If anyone knew the sorrow of depression, it was David!  And beyond all this was the grief he caused himself through his sin.  David knew he was deserving of death, and to be rejected by God.  He was often in the valley of deepest despair.  Yet in the midst of this, David does not fear.  Why not?  Because God Himself is with Him.  That is an emphasis in the Hebrew – David was assured the company of God.  A possible translation could be: “for You Yourself are with me.”  With God with him, what possible reason would David ever have to fear?  What could the world throw at him that God could not overcome?
    • We have this same protection in Christ Jesus!  He promised to be with us, even to the end of the age.  Through Christ, God never leaves us nor forsakes us.  We even have the ongoing indwelling presence of God the Holy Spirit within us.  There is nothing we should fear!  We are not promised freedom from trial & suffering, but there is no reason we need to be emotionally scarred in the midst of it. Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble."
  • Do we have reason to thank God?  You bet!  Our God provides!  As Abraham knew God to be Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord who provides, so do we.  We can thank Him for His provision, and we can thank Him for His blessing.  Vs. 5…
  • God’s blessing (5-6)

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

  • The whole idea here is one of victory.  In a sense, this is still God’s provision for David – only, God is not shown here as a Shepherd, but as the One who gives favor.  Like a king might honor one captain above all others, so does God honor David above his enemies.  People might want to take David down, but God lifts him up.  God has a place prepared for him, and visibly demonstrates His choice of David by liberally anointing him with oil.  David understands this blessing, and is overwhelmed by it all.
  • This is the blessing we have received in Christ!  Like David, we have also had a table prepared for us in the presence of our enemies.  How so?  We have fellowship with the Lord Jesus, even over the claims of death and the devil.  Because of Christ, for us death has lost its sting.  That enemy has been destroyed.  In regards to the devil, he has no claim on us, because Jesus has claimed us for His own.  We have been anointed with the oil of the Holy Spirit, forever sealed and set apart unto Jesus.
  • Don’t miss how this is all the work of God.  God was the one to prepare the table – God was the one to anoint.  David did not do this for himself; God did it on his behalf.  Likewise with us.  We don’t save ourselves, nor achieve our own victories over death & the devil; Jesus does this for us.  Jesus chose us – Jesus saves us – Jesus calls us as His own.  He did the work, so we thank Him for the work!
  • And the blessings don’t stop there.  Vs. 6…

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

  • The blessings of God continue forever!  As long as David exists, he will experience the good things / benefits of the Lord (ט֤וֹב ), as well as His everlasting loyal-love / mercies / lovingkindness (חֶ֣סֶד ).  They will never end.  David will always live in the presence of the Lord, either at the Temple, or wherever God chooses to let His presence dwell.  Wherever God is, that is where David will be.
  • How familiar this promise ought to sound to us!  John 14:1–3, "(1) “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. (2) In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."  What is our promise?  To be with Jesus, in His dwelling place.  For how long?  Forever!  Does that sound like a good thing to you?  Like an expression of His loyal-love?  That is “goodness and mercy”!

Beloved, we have many reasons to give thanks!  Our God has chosen to be our God – He has called us to be His sheep as He is our loving Shepherd.  He provides for us, in every way imaginable: physically, spiritually, emotionally.  He showers His blessings upon us, as we experience the abundance of His mercy & grace both in the present day and in the eternal future.  So thank Him – praise Him – exalt Him – give Him the glory He is due. 

There’s no more appropriate time to do that, than Thanksgiving.  For Christians, that’s not a single national holiday; it’s a way of life!

All Authority, Everywhere

Posted: November 20, 2016 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 8:40-56, “All Authority, Everywhere”

As my family can tell you, it’s too early for Christmas stuff.  I’m personally of the opinion that no Christmas song should be played until the day after Thanksgiving at the earliest.  One month’s worth of Christmas songs, movies, and decorations is more than enough to satisfy us for a year at a time.  That said, there’s a line from the famous story, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens that is wonderful to hear anytime: when Tiny Tim opens his mouth to say, “God bless us, everyone!”  It is right to proclaim the blessings of God, praying them over others because God IS God over all.  Jesus is Lord for everyone in everyplace.  To phrase it along the lines of Tiny Tim, we might say Jesus has “all authority, everywhere.”

That’s one of the themes on display in our text.  Luke has actually been driving home the doctrine of Jesus’ authority throughout the latter half of Chapter 8.  Remember that Jesus had sailed to a region around the Sea of Galilee that was primarily Gentile.  On the way there, He & the disciples encountered a massive storm, which threatened to kill them all.  The disciples lacked faith, believing Jesus would let them all die, or (worse yet) that Jesus didn’t care whether they lived or died.  Jesus showed His power over the storm by rebuking it, bring an immediate calm to the waters.  Once on shore, Jesus was met by a demoniac – a man so overrun by demons that he was drowning in them.  Although his own townspeople had offered him no hope, Jesus instantly overpowered the demons, forcing them out of the man, into a herd of swine (which died).  The town was so fearful in their response that they begged Jesus to leave, thereby denying themselves the opportunity to receive of the same grace their friend had.  Although the man requested to do with Jesus, the Lord commanded He stay behind.  Jesus knew He would have no better evangelist among the Gerasenes than this man…the Lord had already done great things through him.

This is where the narrative picks up.  Jesus heads back to the Jewish region of Galilee.  He had made a long, dangerous trip for one man, but that one man was worth it.  Back among the Jews, there was still more work to do.  His fame as a healer had spread, and there was always a need for healing.  The question was: who had faith to receive it?  We cannot partake of the grace of Jesus if we never believe in Him.  Who truly had faith in Christ as the Lord, and who was merely hoping for a miracle-worker?  The difference between the two is faith for faith’s sake, and faith that saves.

Jesus has all authority.  With the storm, Jesus showed His authority over the natural.  With the demoniac, Jesus showed His authority over the spiritual.  With these two women, Jesus shows His authority over the physical.  Jesus has all authority over every sphere of the universe.  He has all authority, everywhere.  So believe!

Luke 8:40–56
40 So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him.

  1. Once Jesus reached the shore, He and the 12 found a welcome party waiting for them.  The crowds knew Jesus had left, and they eagerly awaited His return.  Yet, were they waiting for the right reasons?  We cannot blame anyone for wanting Jesus to work a miracle on their behalf, but is that the only reason Jesus is wanted?  If we just want to see what we can get out of Jesus, then we’re not really wanting a Lord; we’re wanting a butler.  Jesus is Lord.  Trust Him as such!
  2. That said, it is good to welcome Jesus.  Hopefully He was welcome in some of the lives of the crowd as Lord.  Hopefully He is welcome in your life as Lord as well.

41 And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying. But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him.

  1. Crisis!  A young girl was sick, on the verge of dying.  If anyone had a legitimate need to wait for Jesus at the lakeshore, it was Jairus.  His “only daughter,” perhaps only child, was knocking on death’s door.  Personally, I don’t even want to imagine the terror and panic which had set upon Jairus’ heart.  My own daughter is 12 years old, and she is our only child.  To think that she might be sick to the point of death makes me sick at heart.  Parents who endure this sort of pain suffer a grief that ought not be known by any human being.  We are not told what specific illness the girl had, but at a certain point it doesn’t matter.  Whether it was leukemia or pneumonia, Jairus’ daughter was about to die.  He simply needed help.
  2. That this was Jairus is significant.  His daughter is unnamed, but he was known.  He was a “ruler of the synagogue.” Most likely this referred to duties in caring for the Torah scrolls, maintenance of the building, and other things along these lines.  He probably was not a teaching rabbi, but he still had a position of prominence and respect.  He and his livelihood was tied to the synagogue, and he was personally going to Jesus.  Keep in mind that at some point in Jesus’ ministry, anyone found to be a follower of Jesus was commanded to be ex-communicated from the synagogue (Jn 9:22).  We don’t know when this event fits precisely into the historical chronology, but even in Luke’s narrative, the Pharisees have already been shown as opposed to Jesus.  Thus for Jairus of all people to come to Jesus – that was a statement.  That itself was faith.  It took faith just to be associated with Jesus, even if Jairus perhaps didn’t quite know what all to believe about Him.
    1. Are you willing to be associated with Christ?  In times past, anyone could claim to be a Christian without cost.  In fact, it was something unusual not to be a Christian in America (particularly in the South).  Nowadays, there is a cost…one that will only increase in time.  It is an act of faith simply to let your faith be public.  Yet for many, that is not so easy to do.  It’s easier to bury their Christianity and let it be discovered at a later time – at a time of their own choosing.  Beware!  That is a faith that is perhaps more false than true.  A faith that is simply convenient is not really a faith at all.  Take a stand for Jesus!  (He took one for you.)
  3. As for Jairus, he “begged” Jesus to “come to his house,” and for good reason: he wanted his daughter healed, and he had enough faith in Jesus to be confident of His ability to heal.  Granted, it would have been nice if Jairus had a faith similar to that of the Roman centurion of Ch. 7.  That man so believed in the authority of Christ, that he knew Jesus simply needed to speak a word for his beloved servant to be healed (7:7).  Jesus’ physical presence wasn’t necessary; only His will.  If Jairus had believed the same, he never would have gone through the rest of the emotional roller-coaster of the day.  Of course, the centurion’s faith was unique – not found anywhere throughout the land of Israel (7:9).  Jesus commended the centurion for his faith, but notice He never condemns Jairus.  Jairus did have faith, even if it was small, and Jesus met him right where he was.
    1. Bring what you have to Jesus.  He will meet you right where you are.  He won’t leave you where you are, but He will never condemn you for starting your journey of faith.  He will be right with you for those first steps, and for every step afterwards.
  4. So Jesus went, but there was a problem: “the multitudes thronged Him.”  They so pressed in on Him that they almost crushed Him with their presence.  Imagine a typical scene on the New York subway, or the crowded streets of Tokyo, Japan.  People were everywhere, which made travel in this time of crisis slow.  Things were about to slow even further.  Vs. 43…

43 Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, 44 came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped.

  1. One crisis moves to another.  This woman was not in immediate danger of dying, but she had suffered from her affliction for as long as Jairus’ daughter had been alive.  For 12 long years, blood had flowed from her, with the implication that this was some sort of menstrual issue.  Any prolonged hemorrhaging is bad (and dangerous!), but this particular form had a terrible impact upon her spiritual life: she was left ritually impure.  Not just for a few days every month, but every day for 12 full years (Lev 15:25-27).  Not only had she spent all her money on doctors, she could not even go to the temple for help.  She could not offer sacrifice, nor even really approach a priest.  How was she supposed to get help?  Her only hope was the Lord God, and she had no way to approach Him.  She was despondent with no way to act.
    1. BTW – this is exactly the way we are apart from Christ!  We are bloody from sin, impure by default.  We have no way whatsoever to approach God on our own, and our eternity is doomed.  This is why Jesus approached us.  He came to us, giving us His righteousness in place of our defiling sin.  When Jesus died upon the cross, all of our bloody sin went upon His shoulders.  Now we can be clean – now we can have hope for all eternity! 
  2. With all of her despondency and lack of ability to approach God, it’s no wonder that the woman attempted to sneak a miracle past Jesus!  She couldn’t go public, and she likely wanted to avoid any reason for Jesus to avoid His own defilement by touching her.  Thus she reached out to Him.  She “touched the border of His garment,” likely a reference to touching the tassels extending from Jesus’ tallit (prayer shawl).  She was reaching out in faith to Him, placing herself under His covering.  It was as if she was receiving the prayers of Christ without ever publicly asking for them.
  3. Note: this was faith!  The woman hadn’t uttered a word, as she did her best to remain unseen.  In this sense, she would seem to be the opposite of Jairus, and his step of faith publicly associating with Jesus.  Yet don’t make the mistake of thinking this woman had less faith.  Not so!  The proof is in the pudding: she was healed!  The 12 year flow of blood was immediately stopped, and in the blink of an eye, she was clean.  But what about her secrecy?  In her case, it wasn’t a lack of faith, or a shame she had in Jesus.  Her shame was in herself, and she was so afraid of being turned away (either by the crowds, by the disciples, or even by Jesus Himself) that she couldn’t risk a public confrontation.  But did she have faith?  Absolutely!  She had so much faith that she knew Jesus didn’t even have to be consciously aware of her in order to heal her.  In her understanding, Jesus did not merely wield the power of God like so many prophets of the past; He was the power of God.  God’s power was inherent in Him as the Messiah/Christ.  Dare we say that this woman had more faith than Jairus?  The religious synagogue leader needed Jesus to go to his home; the defiled women simply needed to touch the fringe of Jesus’ garment.
    1. What does faith look like?  It looks like reaching out to Jesus.  Don’t misunderstand – we don’t reach out in our works; Jesus has already done all of the work necessary for us to be saved.  But it is reaching out in response to Him & His work.  For this woman, Jesus was passing by, and she couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so she reached out.  For you, maybe God has revealed Himself in some way & you also need to reach out in response.  It may be an act of obedience – it may be a practical expression of mercy – it may be time spent in heartfelt prayer.  Whatever it is, don’t put it off.  Respond to how Jesus has revealed Himself to you, and reach out to Him.
    2. Keep in mind that every expression of faith starts somewhere.  Maybe for you, this is your day of new beginnings.  The way you need to reach out to Jesus is to repent from your sins, and to receive Jesus as your Lord & King – to believe upon Him as the Son of God & receive His forgiveness.  Like the woman, use your opportunity.  Don’t let Him pass you by!

45 And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?” When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ ” 46 But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.”

  1. You’ve got to love Jesus’ response!  Yes, the woman tried to receive a miracle unnoticed, but Jesus noticed.  The crowd may not have even realized she was there, but Jesus knew.  He knew something miraculous had happened, and He asked for the person to reveal herself.  To the disciples, this was perplexing.  As Peter noted, everyone was touching Jesus.  The multitude was so crowded, there was no way to avoid touching people.  How could Jesus ask who touched Him?  But Jesus knew.  Someone touched Him differently than all the rest.  As the classic commentary Jameison Fausset & Brown notes: “yes, the multitude “thronged” and pressed Him—“they jostled against Him,” but all involuntarily; they were merely carried along; but one, one only—“Somebody Touched” Him, with the conscious, voluntary, dependent touch of faith, reaching forth its hands expressly to have contact with Him. This and this only Jesus acknowledges and seeks out.”
  2. Question: If Jesus knew someone touched Him & received a miracle, how come He didn’t know the identity & details of this woman?  Answer: who says He didn’t?  As the omniscient Son of God, surely Jesus did know.  Why did He ask?  He wanted the woman to know He knew.  Only if the woman revealed herself would she receive the confirmation that she really was healed.  Only if the woman revealed herself would she be able to go to the priest and receive cleansing from 12 years of past impurity – would the townspeople see her as clean – would she get her life back.  She might have approached Jesus in secret, but her faith could not remain secret.  Like that of Jairus, it had to come out at some point.
  3. Note: Jesus wasn’t trying to embarrass the woman.  She wanted this kept secret for a reason.  Yet that was the past.  Now that she was clean, there was no more need for secrecy.  Only when the work of God was revealed would the maximum amount of glory be given to God, and would the maximum benefit come into the woman’s life.  By keeping it secret, she was shortchanging herself.  This woman needed to speak of the grace of God – she needed to give Him the glory.  And when she did, she would be blessed!
    1. That’s no less true with us.  Christians who never share Jesus with others shortchange themselves.  Believers who regularly share the gospel have a vibrant relationship with God, are more reliant upon the power of the Holy Spirit, are more regularly in their Bibles & on their knees in prayer, and are generally more excited about their relationship with God.  Want to get fired up in your faith?  Stop shortchanging yourself & go public with Jesus!
    2. That’s what the woman did.  Vs. 47…

47 Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.

  1. Was she “trembling”?  Sure.  She was nervous & scared.  And why not?  She had been ashamed of her condition for 12 years.  Now it was laid bare for everyone to see.  Yet this was glorious!  How so?  Because as she spoke of who she was, she could also speak to the fact that she was that no longer.  She had experienced the power of Jesus, and He completely changed her life.
  2. That’s the power of a testimony!  All of us have come from different places, but if you’re a born-again Christian, you’ve personally experienced the power of the Living God.  When you want to share your faith with others, then simply share that.  Share how you were changed by the Lord Jesus, and how they can be changed too.

48 And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

  1. Finally, Jesus gives her the confirmation that she longed to hear.  She was healed!  She truly was “made well.” She didn’t have to worry about this miracle being taken from her.  She didn’t have to worry about her sickness ever again!  She could go her way in peace, knowing the peace of God.
    1. What a glorious blessing to know the peace of God through Jesus!  It comes no other way.  There is no peace in man-made religion, with its constant striving to prove ourselves righteous.  There is no peace in philosophy, with its vain attempts to rationalize ourselves into eternity.  There is no peace in wealth or entertainment.  All that does is prolong the inevitable.  The only real peace – eternal everlasting peace – this is found through a real, vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ!
  2. Before we leave this, don’t miss how Jesus addressed the woman as “daughter.”  At first glance, this seems so strange.  To our modern ears, this might even sound a bit patronizing.  In all probability, this woman was several years His senior, yet even if we account for Jesus’ eternal nature as God, nowhere do we read of Him addressing men in the same fashion as “sons.”  Why call her by the title of “daughter”?  Remember her affliction & result.  For 12 years, she had been ritually unclean, unable to worship God according to the Hebrew customs & law.  For much of that time, she may have felt forgotten by God, or unworthy to be called a Hebrew.  Yet Jesus affirmed that she too was a daughter of Abraham, included in all of the covenant promises as a child of God.  The word “daughter” was not a term of derision; it was one of glorious assurance.  This woman was clean – she was a daughter of God!
  3. In the midst of all this hope, hopelessness falls once more – not for the woman, but for the father.  Vs. 49…

49 While He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, “Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher.” 50 But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, “Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.”

  1. Talk about crisis!  While the woman praised God, the father received terrible news.  The thing he most feared had come to pass.  Surely Jairus had been anxious the entire time Jesus was speaking with the woman.  He did not wish her any harm, but hers was a condition she had lived with for 12 years – surely she could have waited a few minutes longer.  (Though from her perspective, she couldn’t afford to wait at all.  She may never have the opportunity to see Jesus again, much less be so physically close to Him that she could touch Him.)  Can you imagine the stress of the father as he counted every second that passed during this interruption?  Jairus was likely wondering if his emergency mattered to Jesus.  Wasn’t his own daughter’s need more pressing?  Did Jesus even care?
    1. Have you ever felt like God was taking care of everyone else except you?  As if everyone else seemed to receive answers to their prayers, but you were just left in the dark?  Like you might not even matter to Him?  Hear this clearly: you matter to Jesus!  God loves you – He loves you so much that He sent Jesus to die in your place.  The answer to whether or not God cares about us is found in the cross!  There is no doubt that God loves us & cares about our needs.  We just need to trust Him to do it in His way.  Keep in mind that God is the ultimate multi-tasker.  He can do more than one thing at a time!  Jesus cared for Jairus’ daughter, and though Jesus seemed to delay, His actions were exactly what He wanted them to be, when He wanted them to be.  Jairus was hoping for a healing; so was Jesus…it’s just that Jesus also had a resurrection in mind.
  2. This is when Jesus reignites hope in the heart of Jairus.  The girl’s father had come to Jesus in faith; this wasn’t the time to lose it!  What seemed hopeless in the sight of man was not only possible in the eyes of God – it was His express desire!  For Jairus to now fear, lose heart, and go his way would be for Jairus to miss out on the happiest moments of his life.  It didn’t feel like that now, but it was coming.  He just needed to keep believing.
  3. Did you notice the tie of faith between the hemorrhaging woman and Jairus?  To the woman, Jesus told her that her faith had made her well – literally, that her faith had “saved” her.  To Jairus, Jesus says something similar: to keep on having & continuing on in the faith in which he began, and his daughter would be saved (same literal translation).  That brings up a couple of questions. (1) Did these people really believe unto eternal salvation?  (2) Was their salvation dependent upon their faith?
    1. As to whether or not these people were eternally saved is not really answered for us.  As with many words (most words), the precise translation is determined by context more than anything.  The word can indeed refer to salvation, but it can also refer to other forms of deliverance from trial, such as sickness.  But the fact that the word was used shows us that the principles here certainly apply to our own eternal salvation.  These events in Luke 8 are not given to us to instruct us on how to perform our own healing crusades; they are given us to instruct us to have saving faith in the Lord Jesus who has authority over every sphere of life.
    2. Was their salvation dependent upon faith?  Yes & no.  It depends on how you look at the question.  No, neither the woman nor Jairus performed any work upon which Jesus’ grace hung.  Faith is a receiving act; not a creative one.  We receive the work Jesus has done for us; we don’t perform the work.  That said, faith is necessary in salvation.  No one is saved apart from faith.  If faith isn’t present, grace is not received.  This doesn’t make us participants in salvation – it just affirms that we are the recipients of it.  Remember that faith itself is a gift: Ephesians 2:8–9, "(8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast."  We cannot boast in any aspect of our salvation – not even in the faith by which we receive it.  But faith is necessary.  It is the venue, or mode, by which God saves.  Through faith, we have access to the riches of God – without it, we have nothing.
  4. So does that mean we simply need to believe, and believe with all our heart, and then we’ll experience every miracle we desire?  Of course not.  Remember that God is God; not our butler.  The power to save isn’t in faith; it’s in Jesus.  We don’t have faith in faith; we have faith in Christ.  That’s the difference between what Jesus tells Jairus & the woman, and what so many of the charlatans tell people in the crowd.  To those who are so desperate to receive a miracle, the so-called “faith healers” tell people to put their faith in faith.  They say, “Just believe more!  If you don’t get your blessing, it’s because you didn’t have enough faith.  You’ve got to stir it up inside you, and believe.”  That isn’t faith; that’s a work.  That’s us trying to force something to be done by our will, and that’s not faith at all.  Remember that faith is reaching out in response to Jesus…and it is Jesus who is the key!  True faith is faith in Him – His power, His will, His desires, His grace.  We’re responding to the things He has done. 
  5. And that’s something we’re to never give up.  Jairus had gone to Jesus trusting in His power to heal, laying his own reputation on the line to do so.  Jairus had begun in simple faith, and Jesus was telling him not to leave it.  The fear of the moment caused the faith of Jairus to waver.  The problem wasn’t in the panic in Jairus’ own heart, but the potential for him to walk away from Jesus altogether.  It didn’t matter that Jairus had a temporary shaking of faith – his daughter’s life did not depend on whether or not Jairus had “enough” faith in his own heart to see his daughter healed.  What mattered was whether or not he stayed with Jesus at all!  That’s why Jesus told him not to stop believing.  If Jairus walked away now, he’d walk away from the only One who could give him hope.
    1. Don’t stop believing!  You’ve begun in faith, so continue in faith.  Our hope is in Christ Jesus, so we stay in Christ Jesus.  We remain at His side, constantly trusting & abiding in Him.  Again, this doesn’t mean that we “name & claim” our desires, but we maintain our trust in Him knowing that HIS desires are best.  And they are.

51 When He came into the house, He permitted no one to go in except Peter, James, and John, and the father and mother of the girl.

  1. The 12 disciples were present for many miracles, but not all of them.  On occasion, Jesus brought only a few.  “Peter, James, and John” formed Jesus’ inner circle.  For what reason, we don’t know – but the Lord had His reasons for it.  In this case, the reason was probably more practical than anything.  Between Himself, the three disciples, and the two parents, that would be a crowded enough room with the girl on her bed.  Jesus was arriving to raise her from the dead; not to choke all of the air out of the room.  He brought just enough witnesses with Him (2-3) for the matter to be established among the rest of the disciples, and that was it.
  2. Of course, there were already many other people there.  Vs. 52…

52 Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” 53 And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead.

  1. That mourners were already present was not at all unusual in the culture.  Most likely, they had been waiting for the moment of her passing, and when it arrived, they began with the wailing that was normal for 1st century Judea.  What was unusual was Jesus’ response to them.  They knew the girl had died – why did Jesus say she was only “sleeping”?  Because from His perspective, that was basically the case.  As He later said of Lazarus, how He was going to wake him from sleep (Jn 11:11).  Jesus does not here affirm the false doctrine of soul sleep; He simply uses a euphemism to refer to death.  In this case (as with Lazarus), death was only temporary.  The girl would soon wake, as though she just dozed off for a brief nap.
  2. Yet the crowd didn’t believe.  Unlike the mother & father who hoped beyond hope that Jesus was going to do something amazing, the mourners didn’t believe at all.  They “ridiculed” Jesus, laughing Him off as a nutcase. They neither knew Jesus nor the power of God…they were about to be proven wrong!
    1. BTW – Can God do the impossible?  Yes!  We cannot predict it, nor can we force it, but we can certainly witness it.  Never discount the things that God can do.  If we’ve read about it in the Bible, there is a chance of us seeing it with our own eyes.  God has already done the impossible when He forgave us our sins, saved us, and made us His children.  He already did the impossible when Jesus rose to life after three days in the grave.  If God can do that, God can do anything!

54 But He put them all outside, took her by the hand and called, saying, “Little girl, arise.” 55 Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat.

  1. The crowd put away, Jesus turns His attention to the girl and does precisely what the mourners had mocked Him for suggesting.  He gently roused the young girl as though she had taken a nap.  In Mark’s gospel, the Aramaic phrase spoken by Jesus is recorded: “Talitha, cumi,” (Mk 5:41) and this becomes the model for Peter’s later miracle of raising a woman by the name of Tabitha from the dead, as he knelt by her bedside & said “Tabitha, arise.”
  2. Did you notice how easy this was for Jesus?  As with the storm, the demoniac, and even with the earlier woman, Jesus simply willed it to happen, and it happened.  There was no ritual, no ceremony, no massive calls for attention or any hoopla – there was just a word, and instantaneous healing.  And what healing it was!  For the 2nd time in two chapters, Jesus raised a person from the dead.  First was the widow’s son in Nain (7:14-15), now it is Jairus’ daughter.  Does Jesus have power & authority?  Without question!  He has authority to raise the dead!

56 And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.

  1. To say that they were “astonished” is to put it mildly.  They were knocked out of their senses, amazed & overjoyed at what just took place.  The unthinkable had happened when their daughter died – now the impossible happened when Jesus raised her to life.  It’s no wonder they were filled with astonishment and praise.
  2. Why did Jesus instruct them not to say anything?  Some believe Jesus wanted to keep His Messianic power a secret.  I do not personally give much credence to that theory.  There were too many other public miracles that speak to the contrary.  With the former demoniac, Jesus specifically told him to go spread the news.  With the earlier raising of the widow’s son, that was an act done in public among the Jews.  Reports of Jesus’ power had already spread immensely, as proven by the crowds waiting at the shoreline for Jesus.  They knew what He could do; they looked for any opportunity they could to witness it.  So why did Jesus sometimes command a miracle to be kept secret?  Perhaps it varied from instance to instance.  In some cases, He knew there was no way things were going to be kept secret for long – maybe He just wanted time enough to move on to the next town.  Certainly this particular miracle wouldn’t remain secret.  After all, there were witnesses to her death.  When the girl walked out of the house after Jesus’ arrival, everyone would be able to put 2+2 together & figure out what happened.  Even if not, perhaps Jesus wasn’t thinking about Himself so much as her.  He was used to the crowds & attention; this 12 year old girl was not.  Perhaps He wanted her to have as much of a normal life as possible.  She didn’t need to be treated like a side-show, and it’s possible He wanted to spare her that for as long as He could.  Whatever the reason, we can be sure it was a good one – even if the news didn’t stay secret for long.

Does Jesus have authority?  You bet!  Be it over storms, Satan, sickness, or even over the suffering of death itself, Jesus has all authority everywhere.  So believe!  Have faith!  Welcome Jesus – be associated with Jesus – reach out to Jesus – keep on believing in Jesus.  Once you start, don’t stop.  There is nothing Jesus cannot do – nothing from which Jesus cannot not deliver – no struggle Jesus cannot overcome.  He can do it all.

Do you believe?  Do you have faith in Him as Lord?  Not as a butler or a servant, but as Lord – as King – as God of all the Universe.  Do you trust Him not only to know what is right, but to do it?  Believe!  Maybe today is a day you need to reaffirm your trust in Him.  You’ve had faith in the past, but you’ve walked away.  Maybe you got distracted by other things – perhaps you’ve even gotten overwhelmed by trials that left you hopeless.  Today is a day you can reaffirm your faith.  Grab hold of the hem of Jesus’ garment, spiritually speaking.  Reach out to Him, and believe.  Submit yourself to His hand, trusting His will for your life, that He will do what is best.  You have believed in the past, now keep on believing.

Maybe for you, this is the day you start believing.  You may not have much, but bring what you have to Jesus.  He doesn’t turn away anyone who comes to Him in faith.  Whatever your background, Jesus can forgive.  He can give a new start & a new life.  He can cleanse you from your sin, and from everything that has defiled you & He can make you a son or daughter of God.  As John writes, John 1:12, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:"  That can be you.  Take a step of faith today.  Grab hold of Jesus, and believe.

God vs. Gog

Posted: November 17, 2016 in Ezekiel, Uncategorized

Ezekiel 38-39, “God vs. Gog”

Some news headlines impact us more than others.  In anticipation of different results of the election, Newsweek magazine published a cover of Hillary Clinton with the title “Madam President.” Regardless of your voting preference, that’s a rather embarrassing mistake.  If you’re going to predict a headline, make sure you get it right.

There’s at least one future headline we can predict with confidence: “Gog Invades Israel.”  As Ezekiel’s future prophecies of Israel continue, he is given an oracle by the Lord regarding a mighty prince who will one day lead a massive coalition of nations against Israel.  Yet Gog will experience a massive defeat by Almighty God.  The Lord God shows Himself to be sovereign over the nations of the world, and the sovereign unwavering protector of Israel.

Ezekiel 38

  • Gog & allies brought forth (1-6)

1 Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him,

  • Immediately we’re introduced to names of which we’re not generally familiar, and ones that need to be identified.  “Magog” is only mentioned in the Bible among the nations of Genesis 10 as a descendant of Japheth (which is repeated in 1 Chronicles 1), Ezekiel 38-39, and Revelation 20.  “Meshech & Tubal” are likewise mentioned in Genesis 10 & 1 Chronicles 1, but are also mentioned in Ezekiel 27 & 32, with no mention in the New Testament.  The obvious question becomes: who are they?  Meshech & Tubal were identified as trading partners with Tyre (27:13), which means they needed to be relatively close by.  Scholars have traditionally identified these lands as regions in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).  Those are the easy names in the list.  Magog is a bit more difficult, as there are no other records contemporary to Ezekiel to help us identify them.  In his discussion of the Genesis 10 passage, the Jewish historian Josephus described Magog as being the father of the people “the Greeks called Scythians,” (Antq, Book 1, Ch 6), a group of Eurasian nomads who settled around the Black Sea & other Caucasus areas.  Today, this area is known as Southern Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and parts of Kazakhstan.  For those of us old enough to remember the former Soviet Union, that block of nations ought to sound familiar.  It needs to be said that the precise identity of Magog is debated.  Some scholars believe it to be a general reference to the north, not unlike Tarshish might be a general reference to the west.  But that being said, this would still include Russia, as that nation quite literally is the northern region the furthest away from Israel.
  • As for “Rosh,” this is another matter of debate.  By itself, the word most often means “head, top, chief” (i.e. Rosh Hoshanna, “head of the year”).  Thus some Bible versions translate Gog as being “of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.” (ESV, NIV, HCSB, etc.)  Rarely the word can be used as a proper noun (as the NKJV & NASB render it), and there is some debate as to whether or not that is the case here.  Good Hebrew scholars disagree, and there are ramifications for each point of view.  If “rosh” means “chief,” than Gog is not only the leader of the land of Magog, but he is the chief prince of Meshech & Tubal.  According to some scholars, if that is the case, then the land of Magog needs to be further south, closer to Asia Minor/Turkey.  Yet that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.  Certainly in Ezekiel’s day, it would have been difficult for a prince to lead a coalition of allies thousands of miles away – though it was done, as seen through the empires of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia.  But considering the modern-day application of the prophecy, that difficulty becomes a non-issue.  Alliances routinely form over the distance of thousands of miles (as seen by NATO & others).  Thus no matter how one chooses to understand the exact interpretation of “Rosh,” it seems clear that God is identifying a group of nations from Turkey upwards to Russia, being led by a prince by the name/title of “Gog,” who originates from Russia.  “Gog” by itself has no known meaning, so whether or not it will be the literal name of this prince is uncertain, but the Bible does treat it as a proper noun.
  • Basically, what’s going on here is that God tells Ezekiel to face northward & start prophesying against the nations God mentions.  He has a plan regarding them, and He would proclaim it through His prophet. 

3 and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. 4 I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords.

  • God says He’s against Gog, but it sure doesn’t sound like it at first.  Magog/Rosh, Meshech, & Tubal are all “splendidly clothed,” armed, and ready for war.  They are prepared for battle, and Ezekiel (using the language of the day) describes them being armed to the teeth.  How is God against them?  Simple: Gog, as powerful as he & his allies will seem to be, is just a pawn in the hand of the Almighty.  Gog is merely a tool in the ultimate plan of God, completely subjugated to God’s will, even if Gog/Magog never realizes it.  God is the one that pulls Gog out of his land & takes him to Israel.  To “put hooks into…jaws” is not a pleasant event; it was what the Assyrians did to their prisoners-of-war.  Thus Gog might look to be powerful, but they were ultimately under the will and direction of Almighty God.
  • This brings up the idea of providence & sovereignty.  Does God have the right to do with people and nations as He pleases?  Absolutely.  As we were recently reminded, God raises up kings and puts them down again.  God has His will accomplished all over the earth, using people of faith & people of evil alike.  God used Pharaoh for His sovereign purposes just as much as He used Moses.  He will do the same with this future group of enemies against Israel.  He will sovereignly lead them out of their land, and propel them on this mission southward.  Objection: “What about free will?  Don’t we (or they) have the right to do what we want to do, regarding our choices?”  Certainly!  There’s no question that it is a mystery how the sovereign will of God interacts with the free will of men, but we know the Bible talks about both & it never sees them in contradiction to one another.  Gog, Magog, Mesech, and Tubal will desire to go to battle against Israel, but their desire is not one that is unknown and unused by the Lord God.  He is the One who causes it to happen – not as a form of blessing, but of judgment.  Again, it is mysterious how it fits together – but it does fit.
    • It may be mysterious, but there is comfort in the sovereignty of God!  This isn’t a doctrine meant to be troubling; it is wonderful.  How so?  God is in control!  There is nothing that happens to us in this life that has not first been filtered through the fingers of God.  And this God is our God, who loves us, cares for us, has forgiven us, and has made us His own children through Jesus Christ.  That is a God whom we can trust!  Thus when difficulties come, we remember that we are in the sovereign hands of God, and He is able to equip us for everything we need to endure & be victorious.  He is the One who allowed it to come (even if it was sin against Him); He is the One who will allow us the victory!
  • Gog is not alone with his armies of Magog, Meshech, and Tubal.  He’s got many other allies.  Vs. 5…

5 Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; 6 Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you.

  • Some of these other nations are fairly straightforward, though we do not have a positive identification of all of them. “Persia” = Iran, though their kingdom was larger than the borders of the modern Islamic nation today.  Likewise with “Ethiopia and Libya,” or literally “Cush & Put.”  These were known kingdoms in the days of Ezekiel, basically encompassing North Africa, as well as African lands on the northeast & horn.  “Torgarmah” refers to more lands in Asia Minor/Turkey, thus in combination with Meshech & Tubal confirms the involvement of these people.  “Gomer” is a bit more uncertain, with some scholars believing it to refer to people of northwest Turkey, and others believing these people to have migrated to Germany. Interestingly enough, to what European nation have many of the refugees fleeing from the Islamic state gone?  Germany, up through Turkey & Greece along the way.  The Washington Post reports today that “900,000 migrants…transited last year from Greece to Germany.” (  Although there is no way we can state with any certainty that this refugee crisis is part of the process of seeing Ezekiel 37:5 fulfilled in regards to Gomer, it certainly doesn’t work against it.
  • So put it all together.  Who’s being brought out by God in a glorious battle array? In modern terminology: Russia, Turkey, the various “Stan” countries, Iran, Libya, Algeria, Ethiopia, Sudan, and (probably) various Islamists stretching from Turkey to Germany.  In past years, this sort of coalition would have been thought absurd – impossible.  Today?  Not so much.  Putin’s Russia has extremely close ties with Iran.  The current government in Turkey has left them with a strongman president who is extremely anti-Israel, with close ties to both Russia & Iran.  Combine all of this with the rise of the Islamic State, the influx of Muslim refugees in Europe, and the influence of Putin in Syria, his invasion of Ukraine, and general flexing of Soviet-style muscles, the world stage is set for these prophecies as they have not been for decades.
    • What does that tell us?  Among other things, never dismiss the literal fulfillment of Bible prophecy.  What may not seem possible today could become reality tomorrow.  When the Soviet Union fell, critics who dismissed the literal interpretation of Ezekiel 38-39 laughed, believing that their skepticism against the prophecy was validated.  A handful of years later, and everything changed.  What the Bible prophesies will come to pass.  It may not come according to the expectations and timelines of men, but it will be fulfilled, without doubt.
    • Trust your Bible!  One of the wonderful applications of studying Bible prophecy is that it underscores the truth of the rest of the Scripture. When we see things taking place on the world stage according to Biblical description, then we can be assured that everything else the Bible says about our lives is true as well.  We can trust its promises, its instruction, its correction, and more.  Our Bible is trustworthy!
  • The axis of evil identified, what happens next?  Vs. 7…

7 “Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you; and be a guard for them. 8 After many days you will be visited. In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely. 9 You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you.”

  • Remember that God is speaking through Ezekiel to Gog.  So the instruction to “prepare yourself” is given to Prince Gog and his allies.  At some point, he will be “visited.”  By whom & for what reason is left unsaid.  Perhaps this is the catalyst event that God uses to propel them to battle.  Other translations render this “you will be mustered/summoned.”  Whatever happens, this calls Gog out of the land of Magog to go to battle. 
  • When does it happen? “In the latter years.”  Although some have tried to link Gog with a prince that preceded Ezekiel, this would make that interpretation impossible.  Ezekiel was prophesying of a future event, specifically one that would take place in what would be considered the last days.  There has been no past conflict in history that would fit Ezekiel’s description, so the obvious conclusion is that it must still take place in the future.  Even the Six-Day War in 1967 doesn’t fit.  A coalition comprised of many of these nations did indeed swarm Israel, shortly after the nation had been formed in 1948 after many years of being virtually desolate.  They descended upon the land “like a storm,” and Israel received a miraculous deliverance by the hand of God…but it still is not the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39.  How can we know for certain?  (1) Not all of the nations Ezekiel listed were included in the Six-Day War, and (2) the people of Israel were said to “dwell safely.”  That certainly was not the case in 1967, nor is currently the case today.  Modern Israelis live in constant danger of terrorist attacks or rocket fire.  Although they do a wonderful job protecting themselves (by the grace of God), they cannot be said to be in this state of safety.  Yet that is exactly how God describes them at this future time.  Vs. 10…

10 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “On that day it shall come to pass that thoughts will arise in your mind, and you will make an evil plan: 11 You will say, ‘I will go up against a land of unwalled villages; I will go to a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates’— 12 to take plunder and to take booty, to stretch out your hand against the waste places that are again inhabited, and against a people gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell in the midst of the land.

  • How safe will Israel consider themselves to be?  They will be “unwalled.”  In ancient days, the wall was the protection of the city.  One of the great motivations for Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem was to help rebuild the wall, which remained fallen even after the waves of Jewish return from Babylonian captivity.  Without the wall, they were defenseless – they were sitting ducks.  Apparently, that will be the case at some point in the future.
  • Question: “How?  Hardly any city today has walls of protection!”  True.  It’s possible that this refers to a mindset.  Perhaps there comes a time when the Israelis become so comfortable in their position, that they let their wall down.  Right now, they have the famed “Iron Dome” to protect against rocket launches.  What happens if this “wall” ever fails, or loses the popular support of its people?  Stranger things have happened.  Political whims change in the proverbial blink of an eye, depending on what is taking place within the culture.  What is valued by the majority of Israelis today might be viewed as unnecessary in the future, depending on the government & administration.
    • Again, we need to emphasize that we don’t always know how Biblical prophecy will be fulfilled.  We simply know that it will be fulfilled.  What seems impossible today might become easy tomorrow.  Give it time, and give the Bible the benefit of the doubt.
  • The whole idea here is that Gog decides to take advantage of a weakened Israel, or at least, an over-confident Israel.  Gog knows that Israel is defenseless, and he will see an opportunity to strike & steal its resources for himself.  That’s why he’s gathered these various other nations for a sneak attack.  Thus he comes in force upon the mountains of Israel (which likely includes the nations of Syria and Lebanon), to attack the Jews.  Other nations take notice…vs. 13…

13 Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions will say to you, ‘Have you come to take plunder? Have you gathered your army to take booty, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to take great plunder?’ ” ’

  • Sheba & Dedan” usually refer to the Arabian Peninsula, which would include all kinds of traditional adversaries of Israel such as Saudi Arabia, parts of Iraq, Yemen, etc.  “Tarshish” typically refers to regions of the far-west, sometimes in reference to Spain, other times in reference to anything beyond the known world. These other nations see what Gog is doing, and ask their questions.
  • Whether their questions are condemning or not is unclear.  Some would see these nations disapproving of the actions of Gog – others would see them simply noting what Gog is doing, and themselves doing nothing about it.  In this regard, it doesn’t sound too unlike with the United Nations might do: a lot of talk, and no action.

14 “Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “On that day when My people Israel dwell safely, will you not know it? 15 Then you will come from your place out of the far north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great company and a mighty army. 16 You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land. …

  • God summarizes the prophecy.  Prince Gog will know when Israel believes itself safe, and that’s when he will come with his armies from “out of the far north” (perhaps another confirmation of lands north of the Black Sea, i.e. Russia), as he invades Israel with a “mighty army.”  Things will look pretty hopeless for Israel in those days.  This isn’t any mere battle; this is a killing-stroke.  It is designed (at least from Gog’s perspective) to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.  From the perspective of the Lord, it will be vastly different!

… It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog, before their eyes.” 17 Thus says the Lord GOD: “Are you he of whom I have spoken in former days by My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied for years in those days that I would bring you against them?

  • Would Gog act in evil?  Yes.  Would it be according to the plan of the righteous God?  Yes.  God would bring Gog & his armies out, and that would be an act that would “hallow” God in the eyes of the world.  This would be a providential act of His power that would set God apart, and glorify Him as the sovereign God of the universe.  How so?  Because when it happens, people will be able to match it up with what the Bible says about it right here, and understand it to be the fulfillment of prophecy.  Almighty God spoke of this Prince Gog thousands of years before Gog’s existence.  The Lord has said exactly what He will do through Gog & his evil armies.  And thus when people see it come to pass, they will know that the word of God is true – and those who are wise will respond to it by turning away from their sin & putting their faith in the living God.  They will “hallow” God as their own.
    • Again, this is the right response to prophecy!  It’s not about trying to pin every news headline of the day down to a particular Scripture.  It’s not about setting dates of when these things must come to pass.  It’s not about pinning the tail on the Antichrist, or any other sensationalistic mess.  It’s about glorifying God!  It’s about seeing the plan of the Lord Jesus come to pass, and taking the opportunity He has given us right now to put our faith in Him as Lord.
  • Gog & allies judged (18-23)

18 “And it will come to pass at the same time, when Gog comes against the land of Israel,” says the Lord GOD, “that My fury will show in My face.

  • Again, it is affirmed that actions of Gog are indeed under the sovereign control of God.  At the same time, Gog is not excused from his evil.  He & his allies totally exercise their free will as they sin against God & attempt to plunder God’s people.  Thus although God is the one to lead Gog out against Israel, God is also the one to judge Gog in His righteous “fury.” 
  • God is never to blame for our sin.  We believe in a sovereign God, but we do not believe in a fatalistic, deterministic God.  IOW, the Bible does not teach that God is responsible for our sin.  We are not robots, forced to sin in ways that God sovereignly commands us to sin.  That kind of thinking is completely antithetical to the teaching of Scripture.  When we sin, it’s not God’s fault; it’s ours.  He is sovereign in His allowance, but He is not forceful in its cause.  Thus when God judges sin, He is perfectly right to do so.
    • Thankfully, God is also perfectly merciful towards us in His provision of Jesus as our Savior!  He does not force us to receive Jesus’ forgiveness, but He graciously makes it available to us.
  • How will God’s fury show itself?  As a massive, supernatural earthquake.  Vs. 19…

19 For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath I have spoken: ‘Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel, 20 so that the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all men who are on the face of the earth shall shake at My presence. The mountains shall be thrown down, the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.’

  • How bad will it be?  Bad!  “Mountains shall be thrown down”-kind-of-bad!  Yet even this earthquake will not be as strong as they can come.  There will be one other earthquake saved for the very end of the Great Tribulation that will level cities, which will be the last major event prior to Jesus’ glorious return (Rev 16:18).
  • Even so, this sort of earthquake ought to be big enough to grab people’s attention, and it will.  Not only will it bring destruction upon the armies of Gog, but it will cause so much confusion that Gog’s armies will turn against each other.  Vs. 21…

21 I will call for a sword against Gog throughout all My mountains,” says the Lord GOD. “Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22 And I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.

  • It wouldn’t be the first war in history where armies fight among themselves.  Between the supernaturally-stirred earthquake that (literally) shakes them to their core, and the supernatural storm of fire & brimstone raining down upon them, the evil armies of Gog won’t know what to do.  They’ll begin killing each other, and they will be wiped out – all without the armies of Israel needing to lift a finger.
  • Does it sound incredible?  Sure.  Can God do it?  Absolutely!  The same God that parted the Red Sea & drowned the Egyptian army in its wake – the same God who brought fire & brimstone down upon Sodom – the same God who destroyed the walls of Jericho with a shout – this same God can destroy an array of enemy armies that come against Israel.  This is the same God who conquered death when Jesus rose from the grave!  What is a pitiful army of men in comparison with that?

23 Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.” ’

  • Will God be magnified at that time?  You bet!  This sort of action will be impossible to ignore.  In all likelihood, it will be broadcast live on CNN & FOX news.  People will see the supernatural work of God, and they will know Him to be the LORD (Yahweh) of Israel.
  • Does this mean people will come to faith?  Not necessarily.  Surely some will, but many won’t.  They will see the work of God, and choose to turn away.  Like many other people through history (including the Gadarenes/Gerasenes of Luke 8), they will recognize the undeniable hand and power of God, and run the other way.  It is a natural choice, but it is a foolish one.  The right response is to humble ourselves before Almighty God, and to plead for His mercies…which He graciously gives through Jesus.

Ezekiel 39

  • Gog defeated (1-10)

1 “And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal; 2 and I will turn you around and lead you on, bringing you up from the far north, and bring you against the mountains of Israel.

  • Reiteration & summary of the prophecy of Ch 38.  The coaltion was led out from their homeland by God, brought from the “far north,” came in through Syria & Lebanon into the “mountains of Israel,” (perhaps a specific reference to the Golan Heights), and that’s where everything changed.  God brought them out to this place, and that’s where God defeated them.  Vs. 3…

3 Then I will knock the bow out of your left hand, and cause the arrows to fall out of your right hand. 4 You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. 5 You shall fall on the open field; for I have spoken,” says the Lord GOD. 6 “And I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands. Then they shall know that I am the LORD.

  • This is simply a poetic way of referring to the defeat of Gog already described at the end of Ch. 38.  God would literally “knock the bow out of [their] left hand,” when He sent the earthquake & fiery hailstones.  Whatever weaponry the armies of Gog had would be neutralized, as God brings out their supernatural defeat & death.  The carnage will be brutal as bodies lie everywhere, awaiting the carrion birds & other scavengers.
  • And it wouldn’t just be for the soldiers on the battlefield.  Back home in Magog, destruction would from in the form of “fire,” both upon the Magogites & the others who “live in security in the coastlands.”  The exact reference is unknown, though if this does indeed refer to Russia, there are many government offices upon the Black Sea & elsewhere.  Interestingly enough, the peninsula of Crimea is located on the Black Sea, and one of the reasons for Russia’s illegal invasion & annexation of the land is its strategic value as a naval base, for easier access to the Mediterranean.  Considering all of the focus on the regions of southern Russia, Turkey, and all of the other areas around the Black Sea, it would not be an unusual fulfillment of this prophecy for God to rain down His judgment upon the naval bases in Crimea, “those who live in security in the coastlands.”  (Again – not a prediction; just a possibility.)
  • This destruction would provide massive testimony to the Living God throughout the Gentile world, but most certainly among the Jews, as well.  Vs. 7…

7 So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let them profane My holy name anymore. Then the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel. 8 Surely it is coming, and it shall be done,” says the Lord GOD. “This is the day of which I have spoken.

  • What does this sound like for Israel?  Faith!  Whenever the war of Gog & Magog takes place, one of the results of it is that it seems that Israel once more comes into a right relationship with God.  His name will be seen as “holy” and it will be “known” among His people.  They will walk rightly, not “profaning” the name of God.  This will be a time when they finally begin to see God for who He is (and thus the Lord Jesus for who He is).
  • In a similar way, the Gentile nations of the world will also be assured of God’s relationship with Israel.  They will know that it is none other than the Creator God who sets apart Israel for Himself.  That will not change their attitude towards the Jews, but they will certainly know whom they’re messing with.

9 “Then those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out and set on fire and burn the weapons, both the shields and bucklers, the bows and arrows, the javelins and spears; and they will make fires with them for seven years. 10 They will not take wood from the field nor cut down any from the forests, because they will make fires with the weapons; and they will plunder those who plundered them, and pillage those who pillaged them,” says the Lord GOD.

  • This seems a bit strange to our ears, considering our modern warfare does not take place with bows & arrows & spears, etc., but with guns & missiles, etc.  There are two ways of looking at this: (1) Ezekiel is using figurative language, being that he was seeing things he had no way of describing.  Bows & arrows were simply the best words he had available.  (2) Ezekiel is writing literally, and it must refer to a time yet in the future when bows & arrows are once again the weapons of choice.  Scholars debate the timing of this war, with some believing that it takes place after the days of the Great Tribulation have already begun.  If so, some of the judgments that occur due to the opening of the 1st 6 seals in the initial years of the Tribulation could easily knock out modern power sources & technology.  During those years, it is not difficult to conceive of bows & arrows once again being used in war.
  • In any case, the weapons of Gog are confiscated by Israel.  As God states to Ezekiel, “they will plunder those who plundered them.”  These weapons will be seized & destroyed.  Interestingly, they will not be used.  Israel will not assimilate them into their own armory, which would be the normal response to capturing the weapons of the enemy.  Why not?  Perhaps because they’ve already seen they have the very best Protector in the Lord God!  Why pick up a bow & arrow, when Almighty God is your defense?
    • God IS our defense!  He is our refuge & our strength.  When enemies come against you, hurling verbal assaults your way, how do you respond?  You don’t.  Let God be your defender.  He will do a far better job than you, anyway.
  • Gog buried (11-16)

11 “It will come to pass in that day that I will give Gog a burial place there in Israel, the valley of those who pass by east of the sea; and it will obstruct travelers, because there they will bury Gog and all his multitude. Therefore they will call it the Valley of Hamon Gog.

  • God already spoke of the defeat of Gog & his armies.  Vast numbers of people would die.  How vast would it be?  The burial ground would be literally called, “The Valley of the Multitude of Gog.”  It would be so huge that people would not even be able to traverse through it.  Thus a kind of grisly work would need to begin: burial of the multitudes.  Vs. 12…

12 For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land. 13 Indeed all the people of the land will be burying, and they will gain renown for it on the day that I am glorified,” says the Lord GOD. 14 “They will set apart men regularly employed, with the help of a search party, to pass through the land and bury those bodies remaining on the ground, in order to cleanse it. At the end of seven months they will make a search. 15 The search party will pass through the land; and when anyone sees a man’s bone, he shall set up a marker by it, till the buriers have buried it in the Valley of Hamon Gog. 16 The name of the city will also be Hamonah. Thus they shall cleanse the land.” ’

  • You know it’s a big project if it takes 7 months to complete the burial process.  Every bone will be searched out, tagged, and buried.  Though these were enemies of God who came against the people of God, they would receive a respectful burial as the Promised Land of Israel was cleansed from the impurity of death.
  • Grisly?  Yes.  But at the same time, think about the impact this will have upon the people of Israel.  Every single bone they passed would be another reminder of the enemy that God wiped out.  Every single body buried would be a memorial of the saving work of God on their behalf.  It’s so easy for us to experience a miracle of God, or act of His grace, rejoice for a time & then move on to forget it.  It becomes “out of sight, out of mind,” as we go on with our lives to other things.  It wouldn’t be so easy for Israel!  For 7 full months, they would see reminder after reminder of the miracle of God.  This would be burned into their memories…exactly as it ought to be!
  • Feast song for the scavengers (17-20)

17 “And as for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Speak to every sort of bird and to every beast of the field: “Assemble yourselves and come; Gather together from all sides to My sacrificial meal Which I am sacrificing for you, A great sacrificial meal on the mountains of Israel, That you may eat flesh and drink blood.

  • Again, it’s a gory picture – but it’s one that is appropriate.  We can imagine how much feasting there was from the carrion birds & scavenger animals.  The multitude of the fallen was great, and there was much flesh & blood to be consumed by the beasts.

18 You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, Drink the blood of the princes of the earth, Of rams and lambs, Of goats and bulls, All of them fatlings of Bashan. 19 You shall eat fat till you are full, And drink blood till you are drunk, At My sacrificial meal Which I am sacrificing for you. 20 You shall be filled at My table With horses and riders, With mighty men And with all the men of war,” says the Lord GOD.

  • What is the lesson to be learned?  Don’t be an enemy of the Lord God Almighty!  Prince Gog will lead what he will surely believe to be the most powerful army of nations ever assembled against Israel.  There will not be a doubt in his mind as to his victory.  Yet their end will be total annihilation.  The greatest warriors of the day will prove to be no match to the Holy One of Israel.  No one ever is.  When God pours out His wrath, none can stand.
  • There is only One who has ever taken on the full wrath of God and told the tale: the Lord Jesus Christ.  Even He died in the moment.  For three days, He lay in the grave, crushed by the furious wrath of God.  But on the third day He rose in victory!  He later ascended to God’s right hand as the conquering hero!  Thus the flesh & blood we “eat” today is not that of death leading to decay, but of death leading to life.  When we eat the bread & drink the cup of communion, we remember the crushing death that Jesus received by the hand of God, but we also remember that His body did not see corruption and decay.  He rose from death to life, and gives us the promise that we will do the same.
  • Israel restored and faithful (21-29)

21 “I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. 22 So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day forward.

  • What will be the result of it all?  The same thing God has already emphasized: both Israel & the Gentile nations will recognize the hand of God at work.  When God moves, it is impossible not to notice.
  • God will be known in the present, and God will be vindicated for the past.  Vs. 23…

23 The Gentiles shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them. I gave them into the hand of their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. 24 According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I have dealt with them, and hidden My face from them.” ’ 25 “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name— 26 after they have borne their shame, and all their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, when they dwelt safely in their own land and no one made them afraid.

  • When God acts in such a monumental & visible way on behalf of Israel, it will cause the nations to take note.  For the nations of Ezekiel’s day who witnessed Israel go into captivity, they may have thought that God abandoned them, or (worse) God was impotent & could not protect them.  Not so!  When God acts in the future, He will be vindicated.  They will see that God was just in His actions.  He sovereignly sent Israel into captivity, sovereignly restored them as a nation, and sovereignly protected them from their enemies.  God boldly acted on their behalf, and everything He did was righteous & just.
  • Not only was God just in the past, but He was & would forever be merciful in the future.  There was no doubt that God would restore His people back into their homeland, nor that they would one day live in such peace under the protection of God that there would be no reason for them to fear.
    • Do you live with that kind of assurance?  Do you know that kind of protection of the Almighty God?  He offers it.  There’s not a single thing Satan can do against us that will drag us out of the hands of Jesus.  There is no reason for us to live in fear, for we live under the protection of Jesus!
    • That doesn’t mean trials will never come…they certainly came right up to the doorstep of Israel!  But God will see us through those things.  God is our God – He is our sovereign protector & deliverer!

27 When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations, 28 then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. 29 And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord GOD.”

  • Finally, Israel will live in a right relationship with God, full of faith.  This is the new covenant so often referred to in the past prophecies, now seen in fruition.  The Spirit of God is poured out upon the house of Israel, and they truly know Him as God, Jesus being their Messiah, forever living in a right relationship with Him. 

Some of these nations & names might sound strange & unfamiliar to us, but we can be assured that it is all true.  We see the nations of the world already lining up against Israel, and God alone knows how much time is left before these things come to pass.  But they will come to pass.  God is sovereign.  Whether over the past, present, or future, God is sovereign over it all.  As Jesus declared, He is the one who was, who is, and who is to come.  He is the Alpha & the Omega, the beginning and the end.  And because of that, He knows the beginning & the end.  We can trust Him with our pasts, and with our futures.

That being the case, be sure to trust Him with your present.  The same God who will show Himself mighty on behalf of Israel will show Himself mighty on your behalf as well.  He will conquer the enemy, and give you the strength you need to endure.  All you need to do is trust Him.

Jesus the Champion

Posted: November 13, 2016 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 8:26-39, “Jesus the Champion”

He was the Italian Stallion.  Although I’ve never watched much real boxing, as a kid I was a fan of the Rocky movie series.  There was something about this eternal underdog that was compelling.  Even when he was the (fictional) heavyweight champion of the world, you never knew if Rocky would win the match.  He would get beat to a pulp, and if something didn’t happen soon, he’d go down in flames.  Part of the fuel of the movies was the drama and question whether or not if Rocky was strong enough to handle the challenger.

That’s fun in a movie, but not when life is really on the line.  When real-life challenges come, we don’t want to wonder whether or not we’ll endure…we want victory to be assured.  We want to know everything is going to be OK.  In those times, we don’t want a questionable Rocky Balboa; we want a sure thing.

Jesus is a sure thing.  He isn’t merely the heavyweight champion of the world; He’s the Creator and the champion of the whole universe!  His power is never in question, for His power is limitless.  There is no task He cannot accomplish, no sickness He cannot heal, no difficulty He cannot overcome, and no demon He cannot command and conquer.

What we see in our text is a skirmish in a larger spiritual war – one that has been enduring for ages.  Yet unlike most wars, the outcome of this one is not in doubt.  There is no chance of anything less than a total victory for the Lord Jesus and an absolute defeat and humiliation of Satan.  Jesus has all the power, all the knowledge, and even all the authority over heaven and earth.  When Jesus speaks a word, Satan and his minions have to act.  Jesus is the eternal Champion, because Jesus is God.

Contextually, as Jesus continued His Galilean ministry of preaching and teaching, He just got done showing the importance of faith.  Faith is necessary in the life of a Christian – you cannot even be a Christian without it!  Those who have faith are the very family of Jesus, it’s that essential.  The apostles received an object lesson in this when they were all in a small fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee.  When a sudden (perhaps even supernatural) storm arose, the disciples betrayed their own lack of faith in their panic, for they assumed their own death even while the Son of God was on board with them.  If it was a test of faith, they failed (as so many of us do from time to time).

It is on the heels of that event that this next one takes place.  Jesus showed Himself stronger than the storm; He is also stronger than Satan.  Jesus is the most strong – He is the ultimate Champion.

Luke 8:26–39

  • Encounter (26-29)

26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs.

  • Jesus and the 12 were still in the boat when Luke left them last, and now he writes of where they went: “the country of the Gadarenes,” or the “Gerasenes,” according to some texts.  The main idea is that Jesus and the others were on the eastern side of the lake, in a region that was perhaps mostly Gentile, no doubt with some Jews mixed among them.  Why was Jesus there – what was so important to make the journey?  One man, who met Him on the shore.
  • Luke and Mark each record one man, while Matthew records two.  Perhaps one was worse off than the other – perhaps the testimony of one was more famous.  In the end, we don’t know why the Scripture describes it differently, although there is no contradiction – simply a variance in the viewpoint of the authors.  The bottom line is that there was at least one demoniac there, and he was in a really bad way.  Although he once lived among friends and family in the city, now he was an outcast, living a feral-like existence.  Virtually wild, he went out naked and insane, living in the graveyard tombs when he needed shelter.
    • Talk about someone who was lost!  Most people have experienced some kind of spiritual affliction in the past (even if it went unrecognized); few have experienced anything like this!  Driven mad by the demons, he lived a life more like an animal than a human, and what life he had was around the dead.  Few of us have had that literal extreme, but you may have had a taste of it.  Utter hopelessness – virtual insanity – feeling more dead than alive, and what you do have is essentially being a doormat for the devil.  What hope has a person like that?  None, apart from a miracle.  Jesus is a miracle!  Jesus alone can give true hope and healing.
  • You know hope had to have arrived with Jesus, because it was at that moment the demons started to panic.  Vs. 28…

28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!”

  • Note: as soon as the demoniac saw Jesus, he knew exactly who He was, and that caused him to fear…and fear greatly.  What a contrast with the disciples!  They wondered what kind of Man was with them in the boat; the demon(s) didn’t wonder at all.  He knew who this was: “Jesus, Son of the Most High God.”  He is:
    • “Jesus”: the Man of Nazareth, born of Mary.  Fully human just like any man, though He certainly did not blend into the background for these demons.  Jesus needed no introduction to the demoniac.
    • “The Son of God”: the demons know Jesus’ divinity just as easily as His humanity.  And why not?  The demons may be in rebellion against God, but they still recognize their Creator.  The Father made all things through Christ, and the angelic orders are included with that right along with the physical universe.  As Paul wrote to the Colossians, Jesus made things both “visible and invisible” (Col 1:16).
    • “The Son of the Most High God”: How high & exalted is God the Father & Jesus the Son?  Higher even than the demons.  Satan wanted to be as God, and surely the other demons desire the same.  Yet deep down they know the truth: there is only one God.  No matter how powerful another being might be, there is only one God who is “Most High.”  That is our God, the God of the Bible – the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
      • If God is Most High, do you treat Him as such?  Do you worship Him in this way?  Do you give Him that kind of love & attention?  The demon understood God to be Most High, but the demon did not worship God as He is.  Be careful that your relationship with God does not more closely resemble that of the devil than the angels!
  • This particular demon (or set of demons) had a complaint and a request.  The complaint: “Why are You in my business?”  When the demon asked, “What have I do to with You?” he was basically saying that he had been minding his own business, and that Jesus had no cause to step in on his turf.  He was wrong.  The whole world is Jesus’ turf, being the Son of God.  Any business is His business.  Besides, the demons were in rebellion against God & thus Jesus has the right to step in at any time & reestablish order.  One more thing: the demon had possession of a human.  This was a man for whom Jesus was about to die.  He had come to seek & save the lost, and there were few more lost than this man.  You bet Jesus had business here!
    • There is no sphere of the world where Jesus cannot invade.  There is no person too lost who Jesus cannot claim.  Satan may want Jesus to leave, but he cannot command Jesus out.  That kind of authority goes in one direction only.
  • The request: “Do not torment me!”  Question: was the demon afraid of Jesus engaging in some form of torture, as if nothing would give Jesus more glee than ripping the demon limb-from-limb?  No.  At least, that’s not the character of our Jesus (though who knows what does through the mind of a demon?).  The issue was one of authority.  Even the demon understood that Jesus had the right to do whatever He wanted to with the demon.  There was one place in particular the demon feared: the pit/abyss (vs. 31), and although Jesus could send him there, the demon begged Him not to.
    • As much as the devil might complain about God, he & his demons recognize the authority of God (which is ironic considering their rebellion against Him.)  That begs an uncomfortable question: Why do we have so much trouble recognizing something that comes so naturally to the demons?  Sadly, it seems that they sometimes have the better theology.  At least they believe God to be Who the Bible says that He is, and they tremble (Jas 2:19).  Many humans don’t even do that!  Don’t let a demon have better theology than you.  Recognize the authority of Jesus in your life, and go a step further than the demons: willingly give that authority to Him, and obey Him as your Lord.
  • What made this particular demon fear future torment?  Luke fills in the details on vs. 29…

29 For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.

  • The demon may have recognized Jesus’ authority, but he was doing his best to resist it for as long as possible.  Jesus had “commanded” the demon to leave, but the demon didn’t want to go.  He had been there a long time, and was comfortable.  There’s no small irony in the demon’s request for Jesus not to torment him, considering that this was exactly what he had been doing to the man for years.  It regularly “seized” the man like a sudden epileptic fit, forcibly taking hold of him, causing him to be a danger to himself & others.  The demon gave the man supernatural strength, and not in a good way.  Chains could not hold him, and who knows what the man might do in that condition?  Although his expulsion from the town seems cruel, it may have been the safest of all possible options.
  • Question: Is this kind of demonic affliction real?  Yes.  Be careful not to simply write this off as ignorance of emotional problems or mental diseases.  Don’t dismiss this as ancient superstition about hormonal imbalances, etc.  The ancients were not stupid.  They may not have been able to diagnose everything, but they knew demon possession to be real…and it is.  In fact, our culture is far more likely to misdiagnose a problem’s root cause from our unwillingness to accept the reality of demons.  Keep in mind this isn’t an either/or situation.  Some people have true mental illnesses – some are demonized – some perhaps have a combination.  We need to be careful neither to simply assume demon possession, nor rule it out altogether.  Ask the Spirit for discernment & for specific help in knowing when it takes place & how to deal with it.
  • The key to remember is that we live in a spiritual world, and there are indeed spiritual forces at work.  Paul referred to this in his letter to the Ephesians: Ephesians 6:12, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."  There is a spiritual realm we cannot yet see, but most certainly exists.  We encounter battles here all the time.  So if we face a spiritual battle, what is it that we need?  A spiritual champion…and that is exactly who we have in the Lord Jesus!
  • The demon’s complaint aside, Jesus still needed to deal with the problem, and that’s what He went on to do…
  • Exorcism (30-33)

30 Jesus asked him, saying, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” because many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss.

  • Anytime Jesus asks a question, it’s always interesting.  After all, He knows everything.  What information can we possibly provide that He does not already possess?  Yet He asks.  Sometimes, it’s for our own benefit, as in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve (“Where are you?”).  Sometimes it’s for the benefit of those listening, which was likely the case here.  Jesus asked the demon his name, and demon replied “Legion,” in reference to the many demons inside this one man.  At the time, a legion was a unit of 5000 Roman soldiers (at least), so there was no question of the problem here.  This man was completely overrun by demons…he was drowning in them!  And that goes back to why Jesus asked the question.  Remember that Jesus was not alone in this encounter, but was accompanied by His disciples.  They had just struggled with their own issue of faith, wondering if Jesus was going to let them die at sea.  Did Jesus even have the power to help them there?  That question was answered when Jesus rebuked the wind & waves by His word.  But if there were any lingering doubts about His power, those doubts would be laid to rest here.  They had seen Jesus cast out single demons in the past, but what would happen when He faced an army of them?  What kind of power did Jesus have?  What was the limit?  (Answer: none!)
    • Have you ever wondered if Jesus was strong enough to handle the trials of your life?  Have you ever endured something so intense that you just assumed God wouldn’t/couldn’t do anything about it?  Maybe He’s come through in the past in smaller things, but this one was just too big.  Here this clearly: there is nothing too big!  Jesus can calm a storm at sea, and He can bring an entire army of demons to their knees – even to the point of their begging Him for mercy.  There is nothing too hard for Him to handle.
  • What was it that they were begging?  They wanted to avoid the “abyss.”  We don’t know much about these sorts of spiritual places, but the Scripture does speak of a bottomless pit (Rev 9) which seems to be some kind of demonic prison.  Peter wrote of a place where demons were kept in chains of darkness (2 Pt 2:4).  Whatever it was, it was bad enough for even demons to fear going there.  (That must be bad!)  Thus they begged Jesus not to send them there.
    • It’s a good reminder to us that the demons are not in charge of anything.  People often have the mistaken idea that the devil is the ruler of hell, and that is simply wrong.  Satan (one day) will not rule hell; he will be an inmate there.  Hell was actually made for the demons (Mt 25:41)…the fact that humans end up there at all is a tragedy, and one that God desires all people to avoid.
    • Thankfully, God gives people the opportunity to avoid it through the gospel!  No one has to go to hell.  All we need do is believe upon Jesus Christ…
  • So if the demons weren’t to go to the abyss, where would they go?  A herd of pigs, vs. 32…

32 Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. 33 Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.

  • Some have wondered why there was a herd of swine present at the time.  (1) Jesus seemed to be in primarily Gentile area, and there would be no dietary restrictions upon them.  (2) Even if Jesus was around Jews in the area, we shouldn’t be surprised at their disobedience.  Considering our own disobedience to God, we shouldn’t be shocked by anyone else!
  • That said, the fact that there were a bunch of swine there made for an easy request for Jesus to answer.  The legion of demons could not be allowed to stay in the man, but they could go into the pigs, as a witness unto the Lord.  That kind of miracle would certainly call attention to the Jewish Messiah, no matter what the race of people who were watching.  What happened to the demons afterward?  We don’t know.  We do know that this particular man was freed from them, and most likely remained free the rest of his life.  He had come under the protection of the Lord Jesus & that was enough.
  • BTW – Please note the ease with which Jesus accomplished this.  He didn’t struggle with the demons – He didn’t engage in long debates with them – He didn’t go through some elaborate ritual, etc.  He simply gave a command, and they had to obey.  When Jesus spoke, they had no other option.  That is the power Jesus has over the demons.  (Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something.)  When it comes to Jesus versus the demons, there’s no contest! 
  • Evidence (34-39)

34 When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country.

  • The disciples weren’t the only witnesses present for the miracle.  The pig-farmers were there as well.  No doubt this would have been quite a shock & they fled in fear & spread the news.  The power of God was on clearly on display, and it was fearsome & undeniable.  It always is!  When people know it’s real, they cannot help but react!
  • This is one of the problems with the charlatans who go around making a spectacle of supposedly casting demons out of people.  All of the counterfeit stuff cheapens the real miracles.  People see what is so obviously fake (or worse, some forms of spiritual manipulation & abuse), and they write off everything the Bible says about it as being false.  They lump in the rest of Christianity with what they witnessed in the sideshow.  But when it’s real?  That sort of thing cannot be denied.  When a person is instantly transformed by the power of Jesus – when the devil instantaneously loses his grip upon a person’s soul – that sort of thing is known.  That’s the sort of thing that can cause people to truly fear God, seeing Him for who He is.  Thus, that is exactly the sort of thing we need more of: true transformations through the gospel of Jesus Christ!
  • And that’s exactly what people saw that day.  Vs. 35…

35 Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed.

  • We can only wonder how many people turned out to see the sight, but no doubt it was a lot.  This man had surely developed quite a reputation among the townspeople.  How could he not?  He was able to break restraining chains, and roved around naked & mad.  Most likely every single person in town knew of the demoniac in the graveyard by the lake.  He was probably a cautionary tale for children, like the bogeyman.  For a man with that sort of reputation to be totally cleansed from his demons was a sight people would need to see for themselves to know it to be true.  And it was!  They came out, and saw the man “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.”  Amazing!  It would be like watching a meth-addict who was completely strung out being absolutely still, calm, and cleansed as if nothing had ever affected his life in the first place.  What an impact!  What a testimony!  Would it have an effect upon the crowds?  No question…but it may not be the effect we would expect.  Vs. 37…

37 Then the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. And He got into the boat and returned.

  • Leave?!  They asked Jesus to “depart”?!  Why?  Luke tells us: “they were seized with great fear.”  They saw the transformation of the man, and like the pig-farmers, they came to grips with the reality of the power of Almighty God in their presence.  They feared…and their fear was understandable.  How could they not?  As a whole, people have a tendency to get caught up in their own lives, and if someone does not have an ongoing relationship with God through Jesus Christ, they don’t usually give God too much consideration.  Sure, they might pray when a loved one is sick, or when they have some kind of difficulty – they might go to church a couple of times a year – but otherwise, God is the furthest thing from their minds.  But to encounter something like this, that is undeniable.  There was no question in their minds that the man was infested by demons, so to see him completely cleansed at the feet of another Man who did the work was terrifying.  Who else can defeat demonic hordes other than the Almighty God?  Confronted with the reality of God, they feared immensely.
  • There are two ways to respond to the fear of God: (1) to embrace it, or (2) to run from it.  That God is going to be fearsome is a foregone conclusion.  After all, He’s God.  How can someone not fear the Lord, when confronted by Him?  Sure, some might act tough & put on a good front – but they haven’t been confronted with the reality of the Living God.  Every time the Bible shows people coming to grips with God, it shows them falling on their face or some other expression of fear/worship.  That’s just what happens.  So knowing the fear of God is a reality, what do we do with it?  Some people run.  They can’t stand the thought of the perfection of God & the true sinfulness of their own sin.  They can’t bear the idea of facing the judgment of God in eternity.  And instead of falling to their knees and asking for mercy & forgiveness (which God graciously gives through Jesus!), they run the other way.  They think that shutting their eyes to the reality of God makes Him go away.  It doesn’t.  Reality is reality, and it must be faced.  If you walk out into the middle of the highway, you’re going to face reality at some point, even if your eyes are closed so you can’t see the Mack truck bearing down upon you.  The right response to the fear of God is not to run from it, but to embrace it.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Pro 9:10) in that it causes us to see God rightly, and drives us to our knees in worship.  Yes, God IS all-powerful – yes, God WILL judge all people.  That sort of news ought to sober us up & cause us to tremble at the thought of our sins.  But that’s the same sort of thing that can drive us to our knees in repentance, seeking the love & forgiveness of Jesus, which is what He freely offers.
  • As for the people of the town, they made the wrong choice.  They ran.  Or rather, they asked Jesus to leave them.  And He did so.  Jesus doesn’t force Himself upon anyone.  Eventually, all peoples everywhere will recognize Jesus as Lord, but He isn’t going to force anyone to come to Him in faith as their Savior.  If someone wants to reject Jesus, he/she is free to do so.  Foolish, but free.  Forgiveness is available for the asking, but we need to be willing to ask.  The same transforming power of God was available to any single person in that crowd, as was available to that former demoniac.  Surely the man wasn’t the only person among the Gerasenes/Gadarenes who had problems.  He wasn’t the only person with sickness, affliction, etc.  He certainly wasn’t the only one with sin.  But he was the only one who received the cleansing of Jesus.  All the others needed to do was ask.  (Ask!  What are you waiting for?)
  • Jesus left.  He and the disciples had come a long way through a hard storm to get there, and it seems they didn’t even spend the night.  Was it worth it?  You bet.  Even if the trip had been made only for the one man (or two men, from Matthew), the effort was worth it.  As the Good Shepherd, Jesus gladly leaves 99 sheep to go & search out 1 who is lost.  He searched out this one in the graveyard.  He searched out you & me in our death & despair.  He’s still seeking and saving those who are lost.  To Him, any one person is worth it.

38 Now the man from whom the demons had departed begged Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” …

  • Before Jesus left, there was one person who sought to follow Him: the former demoniac.  The demons had begged not to be sent away; the man begged to go with Jesus.  He wanted to be a disciple, following Jesus every day of his life.  And who could blame him?  His life had been completely transformed in an instant!  Who knows how long the man had been trapped within demonic insanity, unable to have a single night of peace?  It’s no wonder that he wanted to spend the rest of his days with Jesus.  No doubt he would have been one of the most committed of all the disciples.
  • Yet Jesus gives him the most curious of responses: no.  Say what?!  This would seem to be easy!  If it was any other pastor, the response would have been overwhelmingly “yes.”  After all, you couldn’t find any lower hanging fruit if you tried!  Why did Jesus say no?  Because Jesus had something better for him.  It’s not that Jesus denied the man the opportunity to follow Him as a disciple; it’s that Jesus had a different mission field in mind for him in which to serve.  The best thing for this man to do was not to follow Jesus around Galilee & Judea, where he would be one more face among many in the crowd – it was for this man to go back home as a living billboard for Jesus.  If Simon Peter had traded places with the man & stayed behind in the town, Peter would have been totally ineffective as a witness for Jesus – at least in comparison with the former demoniac.  There could not have been a stronger reminder of the gospel than the physical presence of this man as he walked around town.  Everyone had known him to be overrun by Satan; now they would see him transformed by Jesus.  Just by walking into a room, this man would testify of the power of Christ.  He wouldn’t even have to say a word – if he was clothed & clean, it was more than he was before!  There would be no denying that God had truly done “great things” for this man.  People would see him & know the power of the gospel.
  • That is exactly what we are supposed to be as born-again believers in Jesus.  We have been transformed by His power.  We have been made into new creations by His grace.  When people from our past see us, they might want to see us for who we were, but the transformation we’ve experienced is so profound that they cannot help but see who we are today.  Jesus is to so permeate our life that others simply smell Him upon us.  As Paul wrote, we are the “fragrance of Christ,” to others (2 Cor 2:15) – testifying of His power.
  • And make no mistake, you have been transformed!  God has done great things for you!  Consider what it was that you were…you are that no longer.  1 Corinthians 6:9–11, "(9) Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, (10) nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God."  What were you?  Regardless of where you are in this list, you were somewhere.  You engaged in some sin & rebellion against God, and you were doomed for judgment.  But now where are you?  Among the children of God!  You’ve been washed, cleaned, set apart, made righteous, filled with the Holy Spirit, and more.  You’ve been completely transformed by the grace of God, cleansed from your past, empowered for the present, and given an entirely new future.  God has done great things for you! 
  • Now go tell someone about it!  That’s what the man did…

…And he went his way and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.

  • Jesus and the others went back to Galilee, whereas the former demoniac went back to town.  And he went with a message!  Again, every time he simply showed his face, people knew who he was, and what Jesus had done for him.  The transformation this man experienced could not be ignored.  How many times did someone look at him, and have the reality of the power of God just gnaw away at them, knowing that they had seen the face of God when they saw the face of Jesus?  Thankfully, the man’s message wasn’t one of guilt, but one of goodness.  Jesus had done great things for him, and those same great things were available to anyone else as well.  Anyone could be transformed as he had been transformed.  After all, if Jesus could conquer the demons in his life, Jesus could handle the challenges of others.  If Jesus could save him, Jesus could save anyone.
  • That’s the same message we proclaim when we tell others about Jesus.  When we preach the gospel, what is it we’re saying?  “Jesus saved me, and He can save you, too!”  The reason we’re able to tell others of the pardon of Christ is that we have tasted it for ourselves.  We can speak of His power & His great deeds because we have personally known it.  Evangelism doesn’t have to be difficult or scary – it doesn’t have to be a method to be memorized.  It just needs to be a testimony.  How did Jesus save you?  What are the great things He has done in your life?  How did He show Himself to be God?  Go tell others that very thing.
    • “But I don’t have a dramatic testimony like that man.  I don’t have the stories of massive sin in the past.  I believed in Jesus as a young person, before I had time to get into trouble.”  (1) You did get into trouble, no question.  You may have gotten into less trouble than others, comparatively speaking, but you were no less in need of the forgiveness of God than anyone else.  (2) If you did grow up in a Christian home, coming to faith at a young age, then it that not itself a great thing? J  If God provided you with parents that taught you to love Him from an early age, that is a wonderful gift!  The bottom line is that as believers, we all have a testimony of the Lord Jesus.  Just speak of what the Lord has done for you.
  • Note one last thing Luke points out that is subtle, but important.  When he quotes Jesus, Jesus told the man to “tell what great things God has done.”  When Luke describes the man, he says that he proclaimed the “great things Jesus had done for him.”  Was the man obedient?  Absolutely.  Jesus is God.  When Jesus worked in the man’s life, that work was the work of God.  God is the One who freed this man from demons – God has infinite power over the devil – God is the one who can transform lives – and this God walked among us in the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the Son of the Most High God, but He is not less than the Most High God…He IS God.

Is Jesus the ultimate Champion?  You bet!  When battle lines are drawn between Jesus and the devil, there is no contest.  Whether one demon, 5000 demons, or millions of them – no number is too much for God Almighty.  He can command them all with a word, consigning them instantly to destruction if He so chooses.  Our Jesus is the victorious Champion because our Jesus is God.

What is it that you’ve believed to be bigger than Jesus?  Maybe you haven’t thought about it in those terms, but practically speaking, that’s the reality.  You’ve thought it to be too much for Jesus to handle – it’s something that He wouldn’t really address if He wanted to.  Jesus can handle anything.  There is no problem too big for Him to solve.  Obviously that doesn’t mean that Jesus is going to do whatever we want; He will do whatever He wants.  He has all authority and all power.  We need to place ourselves within His hands, and trust Him to be the God that He is.