When faced with assassination threats, Paul’s protector responded with overwhelming power. What was seen physically had a spiritual basis: although Satan has his plots against us, we can rely on the promises and power of God in Christ Jesus!

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Not Going to Die Tonight

Posted: June 30, 2019 in Acts, Uncategorized

Acts 23:11-35, “Not Going to Die Tonight”

Have you ever noticed how some songs get stuck in your head? Those who lived through the 80’s remember well Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” (and if you don’t know it from the recording, you know it from the talking fish!). In more recent years, perhaps it was “Let it Go” from the movie Frozen…and many of us couldn’t “let go” of that song soon enough! The song that’s been in my head all week as I’ve studied this passage of Scripture is from the Christian rock band Skillet, called “Not Going to Die,” and the lyrics for the chorus are simple: “No, not gonna die tonight | We’ve gotta stand and fight forever (don’t close your eyes) | No, not gonna die tonight | We’ve gotta fight for us together | No, we’re not gonna die tonight.”

When thinking about the assassination plot against Paul in Acts 23, it seems like he could have easily have sung the same song! Try as they might to kill Paul, the conspiracy against him failed. No, Paul wasn’t going to die that night (or any night soon after). Why? Because he was guarded and kept by the promise and power of God, and nothing/no one can overcome it! When anyone battles against God, God wins…always.

After years of traveling about the Roman empire preaching the gospel, Paul’s days of freedom came to an end (at least, temporarily). Having arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost at the end of his last mission, Paul was subjected to false charges against him in the temple, which resulted in a riot that nearly cost him his life. It was the Roman commander who rescued him, although when the commander failed to learn the charges made against Paul by the crowd, he very nearly had Paul tortured through the horrendous practice of scourging.

Had Paul not made his Roman birth-citizenship known, that may have been the end of his story. As it was, the Roman commander took considerably better care of Paul, and tried once again to discern the charges against him by convening the Sanhedrin council. In the end, they were no help, and Paul was forced to stir up a bit of division among the Jews, as it became apparent that he would not face a fair trial.

So what to do? The commander still had Paul in protective custody, and although he couldn’t get a straight answer of why the Jews hated Paul so much, he understood this was an issue of religion; not Roman law. The problem was that too many laws of Rome were being broken over whatever religious issue it was. Unbeknownst to the commander, more law-breaking was on the way. People wanted Paul dead, and they were determined to see it done, one way or another.

If you want to thwart an attack, there is only one way to do it: resist it with overwhelming force. If a bully knows he doesn’t stand a chance, he either won’t do anything at all, or he’ll back off really fast. Paul’s bullies were the Jews who opposed him, and a show of overwhelming force was the only way to shut them down.

Of course, behind the bullies was an bigger, invisible bully: the devil. As with us, Paul did not fight “against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,” (Eph 6:12). Paul’s battle was a spiritual one that manifested itself in physical ways. His fight against it needed to take place in the same fashion. The devil wanted him dead, so Paul relied upon the promise and power of God in Christ Jesus – and Jesus’ promise to Paul was that he wasn’t going to die tonight.

How did it all work? What did Paul do? He needed to:

  1. Know the promises of Christ
  2. Know (understand) the attack of Satan
  3. Know (rely) upon the power of God

This is how we fight our spiritual battles. The bully, Satan, wants us dead; our only protection is Jesus. Hold fast to His promises, and rely on the overwhelming power of God!

Acts 23:11–35

  • The Promise (11). Know Jesus’ word.

11 But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”

  1. It all begins with an appearance of Jesus to Paul. Whether this was a vision to Paul’s subconscious, a dream he had in the middle of the night, or an actual post-resurrection appearance visible to all is unknown. What we do know is that Jesus appeared to Paul in some ways, having “stood by him.” Aside from the fact that such immense grace was showered on Paul in Jesus’ appearance (by itself, amazing!), is the grace shown Paul in the timing of it. When did it take place? “The following night” – i.e., the night following the crazy show-trial of Paul by the Sanhedrin. Remember the Roman commander convened the Jewish leadership council to try to figure out the legal charges against Paul, but what happened was that the high priest Ananias showed his bias early on, commanding Paul to be illegally struck on the mouth (23:2). It was clear Paul wouldn’t get a fair trial, so that’s when he shrewdly put the Pharisees against the Sadducees, quickly getting the Pharisees on his side (as a former Pharisee) regarding the resurrection of the dead. Unfortunately, Paul did not get the chance to preach about Jesus’ own resurrection (which is the definitive proof that Jesus is the Messiah!), but it did expose the show-trial for what it was, causing the Romans to have to pull Paul out of the room. – With that done, it would have been easy for Paul to panic overnight: “What’s going to happen next? How many more times will I be attacked in Jerusalem? How am I ever going to preach the gospel again?” Whatever thoughts were rushing through his mind that night, that’s when Jesus appeared to him. When Paul needed Him the most, Jesus showed up.
    1. It’s doubtful any of us will ever see a visible appearance of Jesus, other than at our death or at the rapture – but there’s no doubt that Jesus is there, right when we need Him. He never leaves us, nor forsakes us. He is fully and freely available to us, if we but go to Him in faith. Think of it: for the born-again Christian, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who has sealed us and indwells us. There is never a time that we exist when God is not with us. When we need Jesus, all we have to do is pray! He’s right there.
  2. Jesus did not just appear; He spoke. He gave Paul a promise of protection. Jerusalem was not the end of the road for Paul; he’d go all the way to Rome. While at the temple, Paul was nearly beat to death because of lies against him, but he also got the chance to give his testimonies to the Jews and tell them of Jesus. What Paul did there, Jesus promised he’d do elsewhere. Earlier in life, Paul had travelled around the Roman empire, but now he had the guarantee of God that he’d go to Rome. There, too, he would “bear witness” of Jesus…literally, he would “be a martyr” for Jesus.
    1. The English language has evolved to make “martyr” synonymous with “someone who has died for Christ,” but the Greek word simply refers to bearing testimony. Anyone who shares their faith in Jesus is technically a “martyr.” This is what every born-again Christian is called to do. We’re not all called to die a martyr’s death, but we are called to bear a martyr’s witness. We speak of what we know of Jesus, telling people who He is, what He has done, how we know Him, and how they can know Him too. That’s the job of a martyr…that’s our job.
  3. Note: Jesus gave Paul a promise of protection & life; not exemption from suffering. The promise was that Paul would go to share the gospel in Rome as he did in Jerusalem; not that life would be easy as he did it. Not that this was a problem for Paul – he knew what it meant to share in the sufferings of Christ. Just the promise of life would have been enough to provide tremendous comfort and peace in the midst of vast threats and attacks against him. Bottom line: Paul had a promise from the Lord. Jesus promised him protection from death, giving him confidence for the immediate future. 

Step 1 in preparing for battle: know Jesus’ word! Know the promises of the Scripture, and hold fast to the word of God. Just like we don’t often see visible appearances of Jesus, we don’t often receive personal promises of protection. But we have something Paul had only a portion of: the written word of God! The Bible is full of promises from God, and we can be certain of this: God keeps His word! That God is trustworthy is a basic part of His essential character: Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” This is true in the words God speaks, and the words He has inspired to be written. There is not a single promise in the Bible that is not/will not be true. If it has not already been fulfilled in the past, or is not immediately applicable to the present, it will most certainly be true in the future.

For instance…in the past, God promised to bring Israel out of Egyptian slavery (Gen 15:16); He did it. He promised to defeat Babylon through the Persians (Dan 5:28); He did it. He promised to give the Messiah as a substitution sacrifice (Isa 53:5-6); He did it! In the present, God promises to give everlasting life to those who believe in Jesus (Jn 3:16); He does it. He promises to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Lk 11:13); He does it. He promises to give peace to those who pray (Phil 4:6-7); He does it. In the future, Jesus promises to return (Mt 24:30); He will. He promises to receive born-again believers to Himself (Jn 14:3); He will. God promises to judge the living and the dead (Rev 20:12-13); He will. Every word God speaks is true! He promises are good to 100% accuracy.

What does this mean for us? It means (1) we need to know His word, and (2) we need to believe it! We cannot trust promises we’ve never read, but neither do we believe something just because we’ve read it. Put forth the effort to know God’s word, and then intentionally make the decision to believe!

  • The Plot (12-22). Know Satan’s attack.

12 And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy.

  1. Jesus gave a promise to Paul by night, and Satan worked in the hearts of Paul’s enemies by day. A “conspiracy” quickly developed, and it was quite large: “more than forty” were involved. Why so many? Because although they were evil enough to want to commit murder, they weren’t so stupid to forget they were going up against Roman soldiers. Their best-case scenario would have been to intimidate a small cadre of guards assigned to Paul’s side, but they also needed to be prepared to fight in case the Romans resisted. Some of the Jews might die – others might be arrested – thus, they had to have a big enough group to ensure the job was done.
  2. Not only was it a large conspiracy; it was quick. The group formed literally overnight, and because of their vow not to eat nor drink, the task had to be accomplished within days. — Considering they failed, did they starve to death? Probably not. Jewish custom in the Mishnah allowed for vows to be nullified if they became impossible to fulfill. Most likely, these conspirators were released from their vow within a few days after realizing their defeat. (It did not, however, release them from God’s judgment!)
  3. When we stop to consider the size of the group, and the speed of which they came together, it’s rather astounding. How badly did they hate Paul, for so many people to want him so quickly dead? (How much did Paul tick these guys off?!) We’ve got to understand that it wasn’t Paul that they hated, so much as it was what Paul represented: the truth of the gospel of Jesus. It was bad enough that the Jews of Jerusalem had to deal with the Christians in the city, but they could write off the general group as people who didn’t know any better; but Paul had been one of their own. Paul was once a religious leader in Jerusalem, just like they had been. More than that, Paul was active with his faith, with people all over the world coming to faith in Jesus through his witness and work. It was relatively easy to ignore people who may/may not have been doing much, but Paul was someone they couldn’t ignore.
    1. May we be Christians that can’t be ignored! Does it open the door for the hatred of the world? Yes…but isn’t that what Jesus promised? John 15:18–19, “(18) “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. (19) If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” If the world hates us, then it’s a pretty good sign we’re following Jesus (as long as they hate us for the right reasons). It’s when the world doesn’t care about us that we need to worry whether we’re actually living as Jesus’ disciples!
    2. This doesn’t mean that we go pick fights; it means that we’re faithful and active with the gospel. Paul didn’t stroll around town looking for people whom he could offend; all he did was share his testimony and tell people about Jesus.

14 They came to the chief priests and elders, and said, “We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul. 15 Now you, therefore, together with the council, suggest to the commander that he be brought down to you tomorrow, as though you were going to make further inquiries concerning him; but we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”

  1. Don’t miss this: the religious leaders were complicit in a conspiracy of assassination. What about the 6th Commandment was unclear? (“You shall not murder,” Exo 20:13.) Yet they were more than willing to lie & cheat to try to lure Paul into a death-trap. The fact that they were “the chief priests and elders” is shocking on one hand, but at the same time, it makes sense. The priests and elders were primarily composed of Sadducees, rather than the Pharisees with whom Paul was affiliated. Remember that the day before, the Sadducees and Pharisees had a tremendous argument because of Paul, and they likely wanted revenge for the trouble he caused. Even so, it doesn’t change the fact that of all people, the chief priests & elders of Jerusalem should have known better, but they still conspired to murder.
    1. Although it should be obvious, it needs to be said: positions and titles are not indicative of faith. Just because someone has a bunch of letters after his/her name – just because someone has thousands of followers on YouTube or runs a massive church or has an expensive TV show – these things do not mean that the person is a born-again believer in Christ. We need to stop looking at superficial things like titles and money for evidence of faith, and start looking to meaningful things like character, fruit of the Spirit, and doctrine.

16 So when Paul’s sister’s son heard of their ambush, he went and entered the barracks and told Paul. 17 Then Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, “Take this young man to the commander, for he has something to tell him.” 18 So he took him and brought him to the commander and said, “Paul the prisoner called me to him and asked me to bring this young man to you. He has something to say to you.”

  1. Enter the intrigue, the plot-twist. Although the conspiracy was planned in secret, it was discovered by Paul’s nephew. At this, some might be a bit surprised: “Paul had a sister?! And a nephew?! And they lived in Jerusalem, instead of Tarsus!? How old was the boy? What was his name? How did he hear?” To all these questions, we have to remember that although the Bible is the inspired word of God, meaning that every word is meant by God to be there, it is by no means a comprehensive history of everything that took place at the time. We know next to nothing about Paul’s personal life, other than the fact that he was unmarried, and the previous biography he mentioned about being the son of Pharisee (of the tribe of Benjamin – Phil 3:5). We have no idea how many siblings he had, nor how many nieces & nephews there were. We don’t even know the age of this particular nephew at the time of these events. The same wording used for “young man” that’s used here could as well refer to a 20-year old, as a young boy under age 10. We have no idea how the nephew would have learned of the plot against Paul. We could speculate that since Paul was the son of a Pharisee, that perhaps his sister married into the family of another Pharisee who sat on the Sanhedrin council & that gave the boy access to information – but at the end of the day, that’s just speculation (guessing).
  2. For all we don’t know, here’s what we do know: The young man learned of the plot against Paul immediately after it was made, and within hours of Jesus promising Paul that he’d live to testify in Rome. So how was it the boy learned of the plot? By the work and grace of Almighty God! Satan may have put murder in the hearts of the priests & others, but God knows even the secrets of Satan…nothing is hidden from His sight! Try as the devil might, he is never able to outwit God! In the battle between Satan and God, God wins every time!
    1. Beloved, that’s a truth to which we must cling! We can get so discouraged in times of spiritual attack. When we get hit from side after side, and we start going from one piece of bad news to the next, it’s easy to think that we’re overwhelmed with no way out. We may be overwhelmed, but God isn’t. The same God who lives within us is the God who overwhelms the enemy! When Jesus and Satan go head-to-head, there’s no contest. Jesus wins, every time!
    2. What we need to remember in the meantime is that God works according to His own timetable. What seem to be major defeats in the present day are nothing in light of eternity. God sees the end as well as the beginning (as well as all points in between!); He knows what needs to be done & when it needs to happen. Trust Him to work His will, in His time…we’ll find it to be perfect.
  3. In this case, God desired immediate action to be taken, so He allowed Paul’s nephew to overhear the assassination plot, God gave the nephew the courage to take the news to Paul who was kept under guard in a Roman fortress, God gave Paul the leniency enough among the Romans to receive visitors & trust enough with the Roman centurion to be taken at his word about the importance of the message, and permission for this unnamed Jewish boy to be seen by the top Roman commander in Jerusalem. This had the hand of God all over it!

19 Then the commander took him by the hand, went aside, and asked privately, “What is it that you have to tell me?” 20 And he said, “The Jews have agreed to ask that you bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire more fully about him. 21 But do not yield to them, for more than forty of them lie in wait for him, men who have bound themselves by an oath that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him; and now they are ready, waiting for the promise from you.”

  1. One reason we don’t know the age of Paul’s nephew is that although the description of the “young man” could refer to someone in his 20’s, it would seem unusual for the Roman commander to take anyone “by the hand,” unless it was a young boy. Again, we cannot say for sure what the details were concerning the nephew, but there’s no doubt that he gave a thorough and accurate report. (Even more miraculous, if from a young lad!) God gave this young man the information he required, the courage to deliver the message, and the presence of mind to deliver it accurately and with detail. However old the boy was, there’s no question he was empowered by God!
    1. BTW – We so often question what it is we’ll do in any theoretical future scenario. “How would I respond if ____?” Christian: If you’re submitted to the Lord Jesus, being filled with Spirit on a regular basis, you don’t have to question what you’d do in that time; God will equip you with what you need in the moment. We wonder sometimes how martyrs of the past (and present!) stood with such calmness and faith when facing torture & execution. It’s because God empowered them in the moment. Again, God does not leave us alone! Jesus does not abandon us. When we need the power of the Holy Spirit, God will give it!

22 So the commander let the young man depart, and commanded him, “Tell no one that you have revealed these things to me.”

  1. With the plot discovered, a bit of counter-planning was needed, and for that, secrecy was required. At this point, only Paul, the boy, the centurion, and the commander knew the plan for assassination. Any other people who knew only increased the chances of information leaking out & plans changing.

If Step 1 in spiritual battle was to know & believe Jesus’ word, Step 2 is to know (be aware) of the plots of the enemy. Paul knew very specific plans against him: the priests were going to call him for a 2nd hearing, and men would try to assassinate him along the way. (But he also knew of very specific promises of Jesus guaranteeing his survival!) We might not have specifics, but we know how Satan and his minions work. We know that Satan tries to implant doubt about the word of God (“Has God indeed said…” Gen 3:1). We know that Satan outright denies the word of God (“You will not surely die,” Gen 3:4). We know that Satan tempts people with immediate satisfaction, miracles, and worldly power (Jesus’ temptations, Mt 4:1-11). We know that Satan does not come except to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn 10:10), that he can appear as an angel of light (1 Cor 11:14), and that he seeks whom he may devour (1 Pet 5:8). Over & over again, the Bible tells us of his strategy. So why are we so often taken by surprise? Because although we know the basic facts, we don’t think it’ll happen to us.

The attacks that Satan poured out on Job happened to someone else – the temptations Satan laid out to Jesus happened to someone else – Satan’s attacks on the disciples happened to someone else. All of that was “Biblical times,” and it doesn’t really happen today…or so we think. Beloved, it does happen, and it happens every day! There’s a reason why so many Christians try to justify sinful behavior: because they doubted God’s word. There’s a reason why so many professed Christians walk away from the true gospel: they hadn’t really believed in Jesus, and instead listened to lies from an angel of light (something that appeared good). There’s a reason why so many Christians get caught in despair: they’ve let themselves get devoured by the enemy.

We need to know his attacks, understand his strategies, and respond to them Biblically. It’s not a matter of us calling out Satan by name and performing some kind of “showy” spiritual jujitsu; it’s about being truly aware that we have an enemy who hates us, but being even more reliant upon the Living God who loves us!

  • The Plan (23-35). Know God’s power.

23 And he called for two centurions, saying, “Prepare two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen to go to Caesarea at the third hour of the night; 24 and provide mounts to set Paul on, and bring him safely to Felix the governor.”

  1. Count it up, and there are 470 soldiers altogether. Was this overkill? The commander met the threat with overwhelming force. Not only would it have provided immense protection for Paul, but it would have greatly discouraged any future conspiracy attempts against people under the protection of Rome. Interestingly, by some estimates, there were only 1000 total Roman troops normally stationed in Jerusalem. If accurate, then the commander sent Paul with nearly half of them.
    1. If 470 Roman soldiers versus 40 Jerusalemite would-be assassins sounds like overwhelming odds, imagine something even greater: Jesus versus Satan – the Almighty Infinite God versus the created being who became the first among fallen angels. Satan is incredibly powerful in comparison to you & me, but he is an infinitesimal weakling compared to the Son of God! When the devil comes up against the plans of God, he is met with overwhelming force!
  2. So the basic plan was to send Paul out of Jerusalem under the cover of darkness with basically an army as his protection detail. The commander likely could not have done more on Paul’s behalf, if he tried!

25 He wrote a letter in the following manner: 26 Claudius Lysias, To the most excellent governor Felix: Greetings.

  1. Standard form of epistle/letter. We sign our letters (emails!) with our name; they began with theirs. At this point, we finally learn the name of the commander: “Claudius Lysias” – probably a Greek man (Lysias) who took the name “Claudius” when he purchased his Roman citizenship.
  2. The letter was addressed to the proconsul of Judea & Syria, “the most excellent governor Felix.” History doesn’t show Felix to be excellent (must less most excellent!), but this was the standard protocol of addressing someone in his position. Not unlike saying “your honor” for a judge.

27 This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them. Coming with the troops I rescued him, having learned that he was a Roman.

  1. Well…kind of. There’s a bit of fudging here. It’s not an outright lie, but it’s certainly an “enhancement” of the full truth. Yes, Paul was “seized by the Jews,” and yes, he was almost “killed by them.” And yes, Paul was “rescued” by the Roman commander…but there was also a case of mistaken identity (initially Lysias believed Paul was a leader of some assassins), and a near-miss on having Paul brutally scourged. Those details were conveniently left out, probably with the hopes that Paul wouldn’t bring them up to Felix as it could have caused a lot of trouble for Lysias back in Jerusalem.
  2. The fact that the Roman commander did not tell the full truth does not give us license to do the same. The Bible accurately records his words from the epistle; it does not teach them as doctrine for us to follow.

28 And when I wanted to know the reason they accused him, I brought him before their council. 29 I found out that he was accused concerning questions of their law, but had nothing charged against him deserving of death or chains.

  1. This part was fully true. From the events of the council the previous day, Claudias Lysias knew that Paul did not deserve prison. There was no law of Rome broken by Paul; it was all an issue of religious doctrine. That doesn’t make the doctrine unimportant (it was!); it just means there shouldn’t be any civic/legal punishment for Paul.
    1. The religious question is, in fact, the most important question that can be asked! Remember that although Paul knew that he wasn’t getting a fair trial, he still tried to bring things back to the gospel by bringing up the subject of the resurrection. If Jesus is truly raised from the dead, then there is no question that He is the Son of God / Messiah of Israel. If He is the Son of God, then everything He ever said is true. If what He said is true, then we must believe in Him to have everlasting life!

30 And when it was told me that the Jews lay in wait for the man, I sent him immediately to you, and also commanded his accusers to state before you the charges against him. Farewell.

  1. Again, true. He sent Paul to Felix for safety, and for a resolution of the issue.

31 Then the soldiers, as they were commanded, took Paul and brought him by night to Antipatris. 32 The next day they left the horsemen to go on with him, and returned to the barracks. 33 When they came to Caesarea and had delivered the letter to the governor, they also presented Paul to him.

  1. Per Lysias’ orders, the group left in the middle of the night, traveling hard and fast. They covered approximately 35 miles to get him to Antipatris. Although the bulk of the soldiers (those travelling by foot) left Paul at that point, he still had a protection detail of 70 Roman horsemen that went with him all the way to Caesarea. In the end, the mission was successful, and Paul was safely delivered to Felix.

34 And when the governor had read it, he asked what province he was from. And when he understood that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will hear you when your accusers also have come.” And he commanded him to be kept in Herod’s Praetorium.

  1. Paul had a short audience with Felix on his arrival, where Felix determined whether he had jurisdiction over the case. Paul remained under arrest, but at least his quarters were relatively comfortable: the palace of Herod. He’d soon have another trial, and he’d have to endure the weasel-like personality of Felix, but he was alive. Jesus’ promise proved true, Satan’s plot had failed, and Paul was on his way to Rome.

Review the steps: (1) Know and believe Jesus’ word, (2) Know & understand the plots/plans of Satan, and lastly (3) Know/rely upon the power of God. How was it that Paul got to Caesarea alive and in one piece? A counterplan was made by Claudius Lysias, and he was accompanied by 470 Roman soldiers. Was it Rome that kept Paul safe? No. It was God using Rome that kept Paul safe. No plot of the devil could outwit the plan of God. No show of strength by Satan could not be matched by God…and not just matched, but totally overwhelmed! God’s power was more than enough to keep Paul safe.

God’s power is more than enough for us, too! As Paul himself wrote, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31) If God is for us, then it doesn’t matter what Satan throws at us, how viciously he opposes us, or how much upheaval he brings into our lives. If God is for us, it doesn’t matter what sicknesses we face, what confusion we endure, or even what weaknesses of our own we face. When God is for us, we’re in the majority – when God is for us, we win because God wins. Romans 8:37–39, “(37) Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (38) For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, (39) nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  The power and plans of God are more than enough to conquer any battle we face (even of our own making!), because God’s will is always going to be done. His will was accomplished when He sent Jesus to die for us on the cross & rise from the grave, and His will is going to be accomplished when Jesus returns in power & glory receiving us home. God will see Himself glorified, and He has the power to see it done. Trust Him to do it!

Conclusion:

In the battle, God wins. Satan will never overthrow the will of God. There are times that it may seem like things are hopeless, and that the enemy is out to get us. Guess what? He probably is! The Bible tells us that the devil roams about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet 5:8). But we serve a God infinitely more powerful than the devil, and our Jesus can face him down with overwhelming power! Trust that He can do it.

Paul did. Paul knew the word of God, and trusted the promises given him by the Lord Jesus. He understood the plans/strategies of Satan, being under no delusion that he was under attack. He also knew the overwhelming power of God, who was more than able to see His own promises fulfilled.

How Paul faced his battle is how we ought to face our own. Know the word & promises of God, believing them for what God has said. Know/understand the plans of Satan, being aware of his attacks & knowing our enemy doesn’t change. Know/rely upon the power of God, who always accomplishes His will (even when it may conflict with our own).

We face our own spiritual battles every day…we don’t have to be taken down by them. God has a plan to use each and every one of us for His glory, and He will do it! That’s not to say it will always be easy, or that we can always expect some kind of miraculous deliverance. Yes, Paul had a protection detail of 470 Roman soldiers, but he was still under arrest, and would remain so for the foreseeable future. Yes, Paul was delivered from scourging a few days earlier, but he would later greatly suffer in prison & eventually be executed. But even in this, God was glorified. When God’s plans are accomplished, God receives the glory, and Jesus is made known to others through the gospel. This is what God did through Paul, and this is what God will do through each of us as well.

It’s God’s

Posted: June 27, 2019 in Leviticus, Uncategorized

Leviticus 25, “It’s God’s”

When is an owner not an owner? Two days ago, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA was moving away from terms like “owner” in favor of “governor” or “chairman.” The change was made in light of potential racial insensitivity, and although the league itself had stopped using the term some time ago, individual teams were starting to follow suit.

The politics of such an announcement and decision is best left to others, but on a fundamental level of the dictionary-definition of words, “ownership” means something. For there to be an owner means that there is something to be possessed. The owner has inherent rights over his/her possession – rights not held by people the owner entrusts with the property. If you own your home, you can make alterations to it; if you rent, you can’t do anything without your landlord’s permission.

When it comes to life, there is an owner: God. Offhand, people want to claim ownership over all sorts of things, but ultimately it all belongs to God. Psalm 24:1 proclaims, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it’s fullness.” As the Almighty Creator, YHWH God owns everything in creation. Nothing would exist without Him speaking it into being (by way of the Logos, the Son Christ Jesus), and if He so willed it, everything would cease to exist. Thus, God owns it all. There’s not a thing we can see, touch, or measure in this world that does not ultimately belong to God, and that includes you & me. All human beings belong to the God in whose image we were made, and by whose will we were knit together in the womb. Whether he is recognized as our owner is irrelevant; He does own us, simply because He is God. And He likewise owns everything else in the universe, from the furthest star to the smallest speck of dust here on earth.

God owns all people, but God has a special relationship with some people. Some people belong to Him in a special way, being in a covenant relationship with Him through His love and grace. For us today, it is through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died for our sins at the cross and rose from the grave three days later; for ancient Israel, it was through looking forward to the promises of God in Christ Jesus – the same promises that were given to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David. Ancient Israel was blessed to have a special relationship with God that set them apart from the rest of the world…but this also meant that Israel was to demonstrate God’s ownership over them in a special way. They belonged to God not only as His created people, but as His covenant people – and that covenant was seen (in part) by how they treated what God gave them. God was the owner; Israel were His stewards and servants – they were responsible for what God graciously put into their hands.

That brings us to Leviticus, and God’s expectations for His covenant stewards as they got ready to enter the promised land. The Hebrews awaited a wonderful inheritance, but even as they looked forward to their new home, they were to remember that although they would possess it, they would not own it. Both the land and the people of Israel belonged to the Lord God. Anything they received was a gift of grace, so they were to be gracious to one another. In that sense, it’s no different with us and Jesus. We have nothing in God without Him, apart from slavery and estrangement. It’s only with Christ that we receive the abundant grace of God, and we use it not to serve ourselves, but to serve the One who bought us and owns us.

God owns it all, so trust Him with what you have & trust Him with who you are!

Leviticus 25

  • God’s land (25:1-34). Trust Him with what you have.
  • Sabbath for the land (1-7)

1 And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LORD.

  1. It’s interesting that when we think about the sabbath, we generally think only about people and days of the week, yet when God talks about sabbath, the idea is a bit more universal. Here, the sabbath was to be kept not only by the people, but by the land. In Ch. 23, God reminded Moses about the command for a weekly sabbath, declaring it to be “a holy convocation” (23:3). Obviously, land cannot gather together for worship like humans do, nor does land worship (although if humans keep silent with our praise, the rocks will cry out! Lk 19:40). This does not teach that the land has some sort of intelligence or personality that can worship God; rather it just teaches the need for rest. Modern science has demonstrated an entire ecosystem in the microorganisms in soil, and those organisms can get overtaxed if worked too much. This is the basic idea behind crop rotation, in that it changes the microbes and root structure that affects the soil.
  2. Even so, the main idea isn’t botany; it’s behavior. If the land needed to rest, how much more do people? God set forth a pattern of rest in the week of Creation – that same pattern was to be modeled throughout His covenant nation. His people rested every week, and His land rested every seven years. There is an emphasized need for rest – something that would be inescapably visible to the people.
    1. Where is that need fulfilled? In Christ! The only rest that truly lasts is the rest He gives in the gospel. Think about it: the sabbath for people was weekly, and the sabbath for the land was every seven years…and this cycle was to repeat again & again & again. The rest that was experienced was never enough. And it will never be enough unless there is perfect rest provided by a perfect God…and that’s what we have in Jesus. He alone lets us rest from our work of atoning for sin (because we can’t do it!), and His rest lasts for eternity!

3 Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. 5 What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land. 6 And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you, 7 for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land—all its produce shall be for food.

  1. There was six years of farming, followed by one year of rest. The people could let the crops grow; they just could not actively harvest it. This is a bit clearer in the initial introduction of this concept in Exodus: Exodus 23:10–11, “(10) “Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, (11) but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat. In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and your olive grove.” Because wheat crops and grape vines would be left on the land, there would be some growth; it was just “untended” growth. This could be eaten by those in need. The difference was that the Hebrews weren’t to actively go through the fields with their harvesting buckets (or whatever) to perform a “proper” harvest.
  2. Even if people can gather a few handfuls at a time, it’s not a lot to eat. What happens in the meantime? Later verses (20-22) deal specifically with how God promised to provide, but the immediate instruction is simple: trust God! Just like God provided manna in the wilderness – just like God provided food during the weekly sabbath – God would continue to provide for His people in the sabbath year. All they needed to do is walk in the same trust and faith then, as they were supposed to be doing on a regular basis.
    1. That’s part of the trouble, isn’t it? God gives us many opportunities to trust Him in little things today, but if we don’t trust Him in the little things now, we certainly won’t trust Him in the larger things later. It’s like training. No one jumps out of complete lethargy to run 26.2 miles in a marathon; there’s a lot of smaller training runs that need to happen first to build up strength and endurance. God gives us all kinds of opportunities to build up our spiritual strength…the question is if we use them, or blow them off like we blow off a workout? If you want faith for the bigger things, then you need to trust Jesus for the little things first.
  • Jubilee in the land (8-17)

8 ‘And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family.

  1. On the 10th Day of the 7th month of the 49th year (Day of Atonement on the 7th cycle of the Sabbath years), the trumpet was to sound announcing the Jubilee. Interestingly, the word Jubilee doesn’t appear in the Hebrew text until verse 10; verse 9 only speaks of the “trumpet” (shofar – שׁוֹפָר) that was to sound loudly on the Day of Atonement. (KJV/NKJV alone assume the term) The actual word for “Jubilee” (יוֹבֵל) does appear in verse 10, but the word could also be directly translated “ram’s horn/trumpet,” depending on the context. In essence, there is a trumpet sounding/announcing a year of the trumpet. Although typically the Day of Atonement was to be a day of solemnity and affliction due to sin, the 49th remembrance of this affliction also brought out the sound of celebration. The year of the trumpet was the sound of freedom!
    1. What a perfect segue from the idea of atonement! Yes, sin carries an awful price of death that must be paid, but once the price is paid, there is forgiveness & freedom! In fact, forgiveness cannot exist without atonement. Freedom cannot exist without a redemption price. The price of atonement was pictured in the sacrifices, but the declaration of freedom came with the sounding of the horn.
    2. This is why Christian worship is a time of celebration! Are there appropriate times to grieve over our sin? Should we solemnly remember the price Jesus paid for us? Absolutely. But the gospel of Jesus does not stop with the cross; it stops with the resurrection and ascension. It moves from His death to His life, and it’s only because He has life that we have the promise of life. We too, have the announcement of our forgiveness and freedom…not from a ram’s horn, but from the proclamation of the good news! 
  2. What happened on the 50th year/Jubilee? A year of freedom & celebration with family. Liberty was proclaimed, and people returned to their God-given inheritances in the Promised Land (or they would return there, once they were taken to it by God). Although the term “Jubilee” is not used later, this is the idea picked up by Isaiah and later quoted by Jesus: Isaiah 61:1–2, “(1) “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; (2) To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,” Contextually, Isaiah writes of the 1st and 2nd coming of Christ, where first the Messiah proclaims the good news to the Jews, and then later comes to reign over the restored Jewish kingdom in the Millennium. But the whole idea of restoration is what is pictured in the 50th year Jubilee. God promised a time of liberty to His people – He promised a time of rejoicing – He promised a time of restoration.
    1. Again, this is what we have in Christ! Because of the sounding of the good news, we now have freedom from sin, freedom from death, freedom from guilt, freedom from the Accuser. Because of the good news, we have emotional and spiritual healing, we have the promise of everlasting life, we have an unbreakable covenant relationship with God. What was lost in sin is restored in Jesus. Jesus is our Jubilee!

11 That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine. 12 For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its produce from the field.

  1. Jubilee was to be treated as an additional sabbath year. Basically, there would be two years in a row where no work was to be done in the field. If keeping one year of sabbath required faith & trust in the sovereign God who owned it all, keeping two years certainly did! But if they trusted God for the former, they’d be able to trust Him for the latter. (Just like if we can trust Jesus for our forgiveness, there’s nothing else in our lives we shouldn’t be able to trust Him with!)

13 ‘In this Year of Jubilee, each of you shall return to his possession. 14 And if you sell anything to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor’s hand, you shall not oppress one another. 15 According to the number of years after the Jubilee you shall buy from your neighbor, and according to the number of years of crops he shall sell to you. 16 According to the multitude of years you shall increase its price, and according to the fewer number of years you shall diminish its price; for he sells to you according to the number of the years of the crops.

  1. This gets to the idea of restoration. The Hebrews were to go back to what God gave them. If, for whatever reason, they had left their home & inheritance, they were to return & anyone who had previously purchased it was to release it willingly.
    1. Sound amazing? Impractical? Impossible in a society like ours? Perhaps…but not in a society ruled directly by Almighty God. Remember that at this point in Israel’s history, they were not a democracy, nor were they a monarchy; they were a true theocracy, with the ruler not even being the chief prophet Moses, but Almighty God Himself. God was their direct King, and if God commanded someone to release land, the land was to be released! And it makes perfect sense: God would give every family its own land & inheritance, so no one could complain that they were left with nothing. God provided for everyone, as God loved and cared for everyone. Even the people who had bought the land still had land of their own to which they could return. No one was left empty-handed; everyone was blessed in the Jubilee!
  2. It’s not that land purchases couldn’t ever be done; they just needed to be done with the right mindset. Land wasn’t so much purchased as it was leased. When someone purchased the land, what they were really doing was purchasing the crops that would come from the land (and those profits remained with the purchaser). This sort of mindset also helped keep purchase prices fair. There wasn’t any wildcatting or land-speculation that was worthwhile. People could look to how many years remained until the next Jubilee, and base the purchase price off of that, with the cost getting cheaper as the time of restoration drew nearer.
  3. It all emphasizes the idea that the land was the Lord’s. The people were stewards of the land of Israel; God alone was the owner. God had the right to say what happened with it; not anyone else. Was it their home? Was it their source of provision & food? Yes. But all of it ultimately came from God. In no way were the Hebrews ever to see themselves as totally self-sufficient/self-reliant. Everything they had was given them by God – everything they had was a gift of grace.
    1. It’s an attitude we ought to share! What do we have in our lives that has not been given us by God? Nothing! The Bible is clear that every good & perfect gift comes from our heavenly Father (Jas 1:17). The Bible tells us that without Jesus, we were dead in our trespasses (Eph 2:1) and at enmity against God (Rom 8:7). So anything and everything we have now as Christians, we have as a result of grace. It’s all the Lord’s, and He has the right to do with it as He pleases. (That includes our time, abilities, finances, opportunities, family, everything!)

17 Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the LORD your God.

  1. Wraps up the idea of the restoration in Jubilee. This was the Hebrews’ motivation to act in obedience: Fear the Lord! This was a time of great grace; not manipulation and oppression. The Hebrews weren’t to look for ways of taking advantage of their neighbors in all of this; they were to fear God, and act in grateful obedience.
  • Provision in the land (18-22)

18 ‘So you shall observe My statutes and keep My judgments, and perform them; and you will dwell in the land in safety. 19 Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety.

  1. God promised protection and provision. Although we might readily think that it would be difficult to trust God for what to eat during that time, there’s another issue perhaps not as obvious: the land would be much more vulnerable to attack. If the fields lay fallow, they would be easier to be damaged/destroyed by invading enemies. If the people were starving, they would be easily conquered. No doubt those fears would make many of the Hebrews hesitate to follow through in obedience! God told them not to worry – He would provide for them. He would give them plenty of food to eat, and He would protect them from external attacks.

20 ‘And if you say, “What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce?” 21 Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years. 22 And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat old produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat of the old harvest.

  1. God promised an increase for the sixth year that would last through the eighth year. Much like God did with Joseph & Pharaoh in Egypt (Genesis 41). The same thing happened on a weekly basis with the manna in the wilderness (Exo 16:22-29). God knew the needs of His people, and He gave them abundant provision for what was required.
  • Redemption in the land (23-34)

23 ‘The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.

  1. What was implied earlier is explicit here. Who owns the land? God. It is His to give! The people were just passing through. They would live in the land, but even with the land of Israel being part of the ancient promise made by God to Abraham, that land was not their ultimate home. Nothing in this world is our ultimate After all, we live for 60, 70, 80+ years on earth, but there is a promise of life that stretches into eternity: 1000, 10K, 100K, 1M+ years and more! We buy property and set up roots here, and a span of a few decades feels like permanency, but in the grand scheme of things it isn’t. We may have been born & bred in the USA, but we are still only “strangers and sojourners” with our God. He has someplace better for us, a home that Jesus has been preparing for 2000+ years. That’s our permanent home; we just need the proper perspective!

24 And in all the land of your possession you shall grant redemption of the land. 25 ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and has sold some of his possession, and if his redeeming relative comes to redeem it, then he may redeem what his brother sold. 26 Or if the man has no one to redeem it, but he himself becomes able to redeem it, 27 then let him count the years since its sale, and restore the remainder to the man to whom he sold it, that he may return to his possession. 28 But if he is not able to have it restored to himself, then what was sold shall remain in the hand of him who bought it until the Year of Jubilee; and in the Jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his possession.

  1. There were three ways to redeem property: through family, through self, or through God’s grace in the Jubilee. A close kinsman could come in and buy the property back for the family (it was the family’s inheritance, after all), or perhaps the individual could purchase it back once the land became cheap enough the closer they got to Jubilee. And of course, they could just wait on the Lord’s command and the release at the 50th
  2. All of this release of land did something else. It had the added effect of not allowing any one person to gather up too much land for himself and start oppressing his neighbor. It was a built-in regulation against monopoly. Ancient Israel never had the feudal system as medieval Europe and this was the reason why. Land wasn’t used for wealth & power; it couldn’t be, because it all belonged to the Lord and He ensured it was given to the families to which He intended it.

29 ‘If a man sells a house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year he may redeem it. 30 But if it is not redeemed within the space of a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong permanently to him who bought it, throughout his generations. It shall not be released in the Jubilee. 31 However the houses of villages which have no wall around them shall be counted as the fields of the country. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the Jubilee.

  1. City homes were not subject to the Jubilee; only what was built on family property in country inheritances. In the city, houses could be redeemed within one years’ time, but that was it.

32 Nevertheless the cities of the Levites, and the houses in the cities of their possession, the Levites may redeem at any time. 33 And if a man purchases a house from the Levites, then the house that was sold in the city of his possession shall be released in the Jubilee; for the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the children of Israel. 34 But the field of the common-land of their cities may not be sold, for it is their perpetual possession.

  1. Levites were the exception to the exception. They had no inheritance in the land; their homes within the Levitical cities were their inheritance from God.

The bottom line: everything given to the Hebrews was a gift of grace. It all belonged to God, so they were to trust God with it. They were merely stewards over which God owned, so when God said to give it back, they needed to give it back! This wasn’t oppression by an uncaring God; it was an opportunity to trust their loving Heavenly Father. God cared for each and every family in Israel, and He would provide for each and every one.

  • God’s people (25:35-55). Trust Him with who you are.
  • Treatment of the poor (35-38)

35 ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. 36 Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. 37 You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

  1. Israelites were commanded to help the poor; not take advantage of them. Why? Out of a righteous fear of the Lord, the same God who helped Israel while in her poverty. God was the One who freed Israel and made her rich from the plunder of Egypt. What right did individual Hebrews have to oppress their brothers and sisters who got into bad situations?
  2. Notice that God never commands the Hebrews to totally bail one another out; just not to oppress them. The poor of Israel were not to simply ask for handouts and do nothing; they were to be proactive with what they had to improve their situation. The safeguard is against anyone who might try to take advantage of someone while they were down by charging them excess interest. Like gas stations that bump the price by $5 per gallon during a hurricane, that’s what people were tempted to do when lending money or food to the poor. God commanded them simply to lend at cost, with the implication that the poor would pay back at cost.
  • Treatment of slaves (39-55)

39 ‘And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave. 40 As a hired servant and a sojourner he shall be with you, and shall serve you until the Year of Jubilee. 41 And then he shall depart from you—he and his children with him—and shall return to his own family. He shall return to the possession of his fathers. 42 For they are My servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. 43 You shall not rule over him with rigor, but you shall fear your God.

  1. The Israelites could be servants to other Israelites, but they could not be slaves to them. Why? They were slaves unto God; not unto their brothers. Interestingly, the same word translated “slave” in verse 39 is translated “servants” in verse 42 (עֶ֫בֶד). Basically, God says that the Hebrews could not be to one another what they already were to Him. They already had one Master (the perfect one!), so they could not serve another Hebrew as a slave to a master.
    1. Again, it gets to the issue of ownership. Just like God owned the land, He owned the people. (Something that is emphasized repeatedly in this passage.)
    2. We, too, are owned by God. Writing against sexual immorality, Paul says: 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, “(19) Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? (20) For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” We have been bought by God by the blood of Jesus; He owns us – we belong to Him. This doesn’t negate our freedom, for we are truly free from sin & death; but that freedom comes with a purpose: serving and worshipping God. We don’t have the right to do to “our” bodies whatever we want – we don’t have the right to treat one another however we want; we are to honor the Master who owns us. The same Master who also calls us His friends, and His sons & daughters!
  2. Even when Israelites served one another as indentured servants, they were to be treated by their masters with mercy & respect out of love & fear of God. Again, all due to God’s ownership.

44 And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have—from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves. 45 Moreover you may buy the children of the strangers who dwell among you, and their families who are with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall become your property. 46 And you may take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them as a possession; they shall be your permanent slaves. But regarding your brethren, the children of Israel, you shall not rule over one another with rigor.

  1. Israel was allowed to take permanent slaves of the Gentiles; just not each other. There was a preference shown to God’s people. They belonged especially to Him, having been purchased out of Egyptian slavery through the Passover. The Gentile nations had no such relationship. Granted, they still belonged to God as part of His general creation, but the Hebrews had a special relationship with God due to blood and covenant. (As do we, through the blood of Jesus!)
  2. That said, slaves within Israel still had rights (although not listed here). Slaves could not be murdered by their master (Exo 21:20) – slaves could not be physically abused and disfigured (Exo 21:26-27), etc. Slavery isn’t justified overall by its inclusion here; it’s simply an acknowledgement of the cultural reality.

47 ‘Now if a sojourner or stranger close to you becomes rich, and one of your brethren who dwells by him becomes poor, and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner close to you, or to a member of the stranger’s family, 48 after he is sold he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him; 49 or his uncle or his uncle’s son may redeem him; or anyone who is near of kin to him in his family may redeem him; or if he is able he may redeem himself.

  1. How to redeem someone out of slavery: it requires a redeemer and a redemption price. Normally, the reason why a Hebrew would sell himself into servitude was because of debt. Yet if someone could pay that debt, then the person would be freed. Who could do it? A kinsman-redeemer.

50 Thus he shall reckon with him who bought him: The price of his release shall be according to the number of years, from the year that he was sold to him until the Year of Jubilee; it shall be according to the time of a hired servant for him. 51 If there are still many years remaining, according to them he shall repay the price of his redemption from the money with which he was bought. 52 And if there remain but a few years until the Year of Jubilee, then he shall reckon with him, and according to his years he shall repay him the price of his redemption.

  1. The process was like that of purchasing land in the years leading up to Jubilee.
  2. Freedom from slavery costs. It cost Jesus everything! 1 Peter 1:18–19, “(18) knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, (19) but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” There is nothing more precious than the blood of Jesus…and that was our redemption price!

53 He shall be with him as a yearly hired servant, and he shall not rule with rigor over him in your sight. 54 And if he is not redeemed in these years, then he shall be released in the Year of Jubilee—he and his children with him. 55 For the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

  1. If no one could afford the price, it was symbolically paid by God in the Jubilee. He had already purchased the people out of Egyptian slavery; He personally guaranteed their freedom as the ultimate Owner of Israel. They were His servants (slaves); He already paid the price.

Conclusion:

It all comes to the issue of ownership. God owns it all! He owns both the land and the people. Whatever awaited Israel in the Promised Land (as well as whatever they had at the base of Mt Sinai) was a gift from the Lord, and it meant that they had a responsibility of stewardship graciously given to them by their Sovereign King. How it was they handled those things went a long way to demonstrating their own trust and worship of God.

We’ve been given no less in Christ Jesus! What was hinted to the Hebrews in the Jubilee is what we have received in Christ. We truly do have freedom, forgiveness, and restoration. And anything that comes on top of that is a gift.

What do we do with it? Fear the Lord – worship Him & give Him the reverence and honor deserving of the One who owns it all. Recognize His ownership, and live in the redemption He has given you in Christ. Trust Him with what you have, and trust Him with who you are.

The things of Paul’s background were exactly the things he needed while on trial. God had prepared him “for such a time as this.” How has God prepared you for His glory?

For Such a Time as This

Posted: June 23, 2019 in Acts, Uncategorized

Acts 22:22 – 23:10, “For Such a Time as This”

One of the most famous movie titles of all time has to be “The Right Stuff,” the 1983 movie about the early NASA astronauts. The men and women involved at NASA at the time had just the right smarts and bravery to get the work done…something that hasn’t often been repeated! Some things call for the right stuff at the right time. Think of the founding fathers of the United States of America – although they weren’t perfect, they put together an incredible system of government, unequaled among the governments of men. They were the right people at the right time.

One of the best historical examples is found in the Bible, in the account of Esther. Esther was a beautiful young Jewish woman, born in the midst of the Babylonian captivity, now ruled by Persia. She was taken into the king’s harem, favored by the king & taken as his wife…and it came at just the right time, as a plot to exterminate the Jewish people came to light. Although she initially feared to get involved, she was famously told by her uncle: Esther 4:14, “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” God had prepared her for this moment, and she was the right person at the right time.

The same thing could be said for the apostle Paul. Although Paul had been rejected by the Jews in the Jerusalem temple & now arrested by the Romans, God had prepared him for this time. Everything in Paul’s life had led to this moment, and God was going to use it for His own glory.

After completing his 3rd missionary journey, Paul travelled straight for Jerusalem. He was well-aware of trouble that awaited him, having received multiple warnings & preparations from the Holy Spirit of coming persecution. Yet Paul was submitted to the will of God for him, being ready for anything. Sure enough, trouble arrived when Paul was at the temple. Confronted suddenly with false accusations, Paul found himself face-to-face with a mob ready to kill him on the spot. Were it not for a rescue from the nearby Roman commander, that was exactly what would have happened.

Not one to waste an opportunity, Paul asked for & received permission from the Roman commander to speak to the crowd, and Paul gave them his testimony. He described how he once was a rabbinical student with the highest credentials & how he persecuted Christians wherever he could find them. That was when Jesus appeared to him, calling him to repentance & faith, and giving him a new mission: to take the good news of the God-given Messiah of Israel to the Gentiles.

At this, the crowd erupts once again. All of this left a problem for the Roman commander: he still did not know the charge against Paul. What crime had he committed that left the temple mob so angry? The commander already had to rescue Paul once, and now the whole thing was starting all over again. What to do? He already tried things Paul’s way; now he would use the Roman way…a much more painful way!

How did Paul handle all of this? He had to be quick on his feet, using everything at his disposal. He had to use the very things God had given him throughout his life. God had prepared him for such a time as this, and now it was time for Paul to act.

There are things in our past, of which we might not be proud – things that we believe are best forgotten, or at least useless to God. These might be the very things God chooses to use for His glory. Just as God prepared Paul for Paul’s time, God has prepared you for yours. Are you ready & willing to use what you have for Jesus?

From Paul’s experience, we can ask ourselves two questions:

  1. Who did God make you to be?
  2. How has God prepared you for this time?

Whatever you have, use it for Jesus…for such a time as this!

Acts 22:22–30

  • Roman examination (22:22-29). How were you born? Who did God make you to be?

22 And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!”

  1. What “word” sent the crowd into a renewed furor? “” Keep in mind, it wasn’t that the Jews were opposed to Gentiles converting to Judaism – Jesus noted that the Pharisees would “travel land and sea to win one proselyte,” (Mt 23:15); it was the implication that the Messiah of Israel had been rejected by the Jews & that now the good news of the Messiah would go to the Gentile nations instead of Israel. The Jews were upset that Paul said that their Messiah told him that Israel had lost their opportunity.
    1. Nothing used to upset our daughter when she was little as much as the idea that she had lost an opportunity. As a toddler & young child, it would send her into fits. That’s the case with all of us. We might not want to do something in the moment, but when we find out that we won’t get the chance to do it at all, that’s when we get upset. We’ve lost our opportunity. What’s the solution? Don’t waste your opportunity! Do something while you’ve got the chance.
    2. Regarding salvation, we can identify certain times in our lives when we know Jesus was calling us…but we aren’t guaranteed any additional times beyond the current one. When Jesus calls, answer. Don’t waste your opportunity!
  2. Interestingly, the outcry of the crowd was a fulfillment of prophecy. This was exactly what Jesus said the Jews would do: Acts 22:17–18, “(17) “Now it happened, when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I was in a trance (18) and saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.’” That had been true when Paul first arrived in Jerusalem, and had to be snuck out of the city due to an assassination plot against him (Acts 9:29), and it was true once more. These Jews in the temple wanted Paul dead, even if it meant running over the Romans to get to him.

23 Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him.

  1. The Jews were incredibly upset by the situation, and the formerly-calmed crowd erupted into a renewed mob & frenzy. They “tore” their clothes in grief & hurled “dust into the air.” They were like raging bulls threatening to burst into a stampede. At this point, the Roman commander was likely thinking that letting Paul speak wasn’t such a good idea after all! For the Roman, his whole job was to keep the peace, and things weren’t very peaceful (to say the least!). The crowd was ready to rip Paul limb-from-limb, so the commander thought to save them the trouble…he would do it himself.
  2. The so-called “examination” would comprise of little else but torture. The commander hadn’t learned anything from Paul’s testimony (even if he spoke Aramaic or Hebrew), and he still needed answers, so he thought he’d beat it out of Paul. The process of scourging was horrendous. Most Christians are familiar with it from the lashes received by Jesus prior to His crucifixion…the one with which His back was flayed open. This was no beating with canes, nor the comparatively merciful 39 lashes of discipline practiced by the Jewish courts; this was a multi-thronged whip embedded with stone and pieces of glass. It was whipped across a person’s back for as long as the torturer wanted, and would often leave the victim permanently incapacitated or dead. It was terrible torture, endured by Jesus without a word of protest out of His love for us, but something no one else would ever want to experience if it could be avoided.

25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?”

  1. Paul did not ask the question out of a lack of knowledge, but out an abundance of wisdom! He knew exactly the answer to the question, and it was a resounding “no!” Although non-citizens within the Roman empire could be scourged without trial, citizens were protected. Citizenship was difficult to acquire outside of Rome itself, but for those who had it, it was extremely valuable. As a Roman citizen, Paul had rights, and he did not hesitate to claim them. [Paul did something similar when he and Silas were wrongfully imprisoned in Philippi. ~ Acts 16:37-39]
  2. Question: What about turning the other cheek? What about enduring suffering as Jesus did? Answer the question with a question: What about it? If Paul had indeed undergone scourging, no doubt he would have forgiven the man who wielded the whip. If Paul had to endure suffering, he would have done it, just like he had done many times before and after. But if it wasn’t necessary, why do it? If Paul could avoid scourging, why not avoid it? Paul was willing to suffer for Christ, but he wasn’t a masochist, nor was he foolish. It was wisdom that Paul exercised when he claimed his citizenship, so Paul claimed it.
    1. When we put our faith in Christ, we do so as whole people; we don’t check our brains at the door and leave them behind. Part of wisdom is using what God has given you so that you can keep serving Christ. It’s not being stupid under the excuse of faith. Paul could have said, “Well I guess God wants me to get scourged, so I might as well take it.” In any other case, that may have been what God allowed, but in Paul’s case, God gave him Roman citizenship. God didn’t want Paul to endure scourging; He wanted Paul to use the protections provided for him. Not to use it would have been the height of foolishness.
    2. Christians make this mistake when we substitute arrogance & presumption for “faith.” We hear: “The evangelist on stage told me I was healed of my diabetes, so I’m not going to take my medicine.” “God knows the number of days I have, and I’m convinced today isn’t my day to die, so I’m going to walk into harm’s way and trust God to keep me safe.” These things aren’t acts of faith; they’re foolishness. They are presuming upon God to bow to our will, rather than us being submitted to His. God has given us our brains…we need to use them! The Bible repeatedly speaks of the value of wisdom, so we need to be wise!
  3. It’s not only the wisdom of God seen in Paul’s question, it’s also God’s provision. Who was it that gave Paul his Roman citizenship? God…and He gave it at Paul’s birth (22:28). This was something planned by God for Paul long before Paul was born, and it was meant (in part) for this exact moment.

26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.” 27 Then the commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman?” He said, “Yes.” 28 The commander answered, “With a large sum I obtained this citizenship.” And Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.” 29 Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.

  1. Paul’s statement of Roman citizenship brought quite the change to his situation! Once he said something, the centurion knew to report it immediately. The soldier didn’t need to ask for papers – citizens usually kept it with family archives & hardly ever had it on their persons, but the penalty for lying about citizenship was death, so this was a statement that could usually be trusted. Certainly, the centurion wasn’t going to take a chance that Paul might be lying – otherwise, it would be his neck on the line! So the centurion told the commander, and the commander went back to question Paul. Citizenship was difficult to come by, but it wasn’t impossible. Certain officials had the power to grant citizenship papers, and if a person performed some vital service or gave enough of a bribe, the official might grant the rights. In fact, that was what the commander himself did, having “obtained” his own citizenship “with a large sum” of money…money that it did not appear that Paul had. That’s when Paul told him of his birthright citizenship, which carried more prestige than the commander’s purchased version.
  2. What happened then? There was immediate protection because of Paul’s citizen benefits. One moment, Paul had been tied to a stake, in preparation for a scourging; the next, he was loosed free & the soldiers feared even to touch him. Citizenship made all the difference.
    1. Citizenship makes the difference with us, too! It makes perfect sense, on a civil level: citizens have the right to vote; non-citizens don’t – citizens have the right to appeal to the Bill of Rights; non-citizens don’t, etc. If that’s true in the USA, it’s also true in the Kingdom of God. Citizens have the right to appeal in prayer to Almighty God; non-citizens have no guarantee of being heard. Citizens have the protective seal of the Holy Spirit; non-citizens do not. When citizens of God’s kingdom sin, we have an Advocate in Jesus Christ the Righteous; non-citizens face only judgment. Citizenship makes all the difference!
  3. Again, the existence of Paul’s Roman citizenship is where we see God’s provision in action. Paul’s answer to the Roman commander would have been impossible, if it weren’t for God sovereignly arranging the circumstances of Paul’s birth long before Paul came to be. At the very least, Paul’s father would have had to have been a Roman citizen, and God would have had to do something in his life for him to obtain it & be able to pass it to his son. The amount of planning involved for something like this to happen at precisely this time & in precisely this way is almost infinite…but that’s exactly what God did. (And it’s what God does with every single man, woman, and child on earth!)

One of the things that makes Paul’s Roman citizenship so interesting is that when he was younger & establishing his career as a rabbi and a Pharisee, his Roman background was likely a hindrance rather than a help. Think about it: although Paul (known among the Jews as Saul) had a strong Jewish background as a Hebrew of the Hebrews & being from the tribe of Benjamin (Phil 3:5) as well as having a father as a Pharisee (23:6), at the core of his upbringing Saul was a Hellenistic Jew; not a Hebraic one. He was born and raised in Tarsus of Cilicia, with a Roman birth citizenship, and had to travel great distances to arrive in Jerusalem to be trained by Gamaliel. No doubt, Saul spoke little of his background, not wanting to be compared to the other young men born and raised in Jerusalem. Yet what Saul would have wanted to keep quiet in the past was the very thing God used to protect him in the present. At some point as a young man, Saul may have wondered why God had made him the way he was, if he wanted to be a rabbi, scholar, and Pharisee – what good was a Roman citizenship in light of all of that? It was because God had something bigger in mind, and God knew exactly what He wanted out of Paul when God designed him to be born the way he was.

There may be certain things about your background that you think hold you back. You’ve got certain inherent traits that you can’t do anything about. Maybe it’s a disease with which you were born, and it’s limited you all your life. Maybe it’s a genetic disposition that keeps you from doing an activity you long to do. For instance, some people want to be in the NBA, but they’re 5’1”, stocky, and slow, no matter how much they train. Maybe it’s your family, or your comfort levels, or any number of things that you believe are a hindrance, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. It’s something you were born with; not a skillset you can change. 

Here’s the thing to remember: God made you who are. The Almighty All-knowing God designed you a certain way, ensuring that you were born to a certain set of parents at a specific time with a specific DNA and background. You are not a random combination of mud & stardust brought together by time; you were knit together in the womb of your mother by the Creator God. God knows exactly what He’s doing, and God has a plan to use the person He made you to be. There is not a thing about your life that God cannot use for His glory. He did it with people of the past: Abram was an idolater whom God always planned to use to bring forth a nation – David was a simple shepherd boy that God planned to be a king – Saul was a Roman citizen who longed to be a rabbi, but God had plans for him to be protected and preach the gospel to the world. If God did it with them, He’ll do it with you.

Who did God make you to be? What intrinsic weaknesses do you believe you have? Give it all to God…He can use it for His glory!

  • Jewish examination (22:30 – 23:10). What have you done? How has God prepared you?

30 The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them.

  1. Although the commander did the right thing (eventually!) by not scourging Paul, he had a problem: he still didn’t know the cause of the uproar in the temple. This time he picked a more peaceful way of discovery! This time, he commanded the convening of the Sanhedrin. Technically, the Roman commander did not have legal authority over the Jewish religious council, but there was a bit of jurisdiction overlap due to the civil unrest. The commander would not be able to interfere with the council, but he could command them to appear to try to resolve the security issue.

Acts 23:1–10

1 Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.”

  1. Considering that Paul was also the one who wrote, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Rom 3:23), was Paul being arrogant? Obviously he had done things for which he was ashamed…he was a sinner just like everyone else. This wasn’t arrogance; what Paul said was true, according to the standard of the Sanhedrin. When it came to the observance of the Mosaic law and Jewish custom, Paul had kept it as well or better than anyone. This was basically the same thing he meant when writing to the Philippians, that he was “concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless,” (Phil 3:6). By the standard of men, Paul was blameless, having “a good conscience before God;” by the standard of God’s perfect righteousness, the only thing Paul offered were filthy rags (Isa 64:6).
    1. This is all of us! When we measure ourselves by ourselves, we’re going to look pretty good. When we compare ourselves with one another, some are going to smell like roses & others are going to stink. But when we start comparing ourselves to God’s perfection, we’re all going to have a stench! What we need is true righteousness, and that can only be found in Jesus.

2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?” 4 And those who stood by said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” 5 Then Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ ”

  1. Many Christians have wondered why Paul didn’t recognize the high priest, when Paul used to live in Jerusalem as a member of the Sanhedrin council. And although the name sounds familiar in English (the Aramaic roots were different), this was a different man than the former high priest Annas of Jesus’ trial. This was Ananias, son of Nedebeus, who was known for his corruption and cruelty. Historically, the position of high priest changed frequently during the Roman empire as it was a political position as much as a religious one. It wasn’t like the Roman Catholic pope who normally served for life; the Jewish high priest served as long as the Roman governor wanted him to serve, or not to serve. As for Paul, it had been 20 years since he lived in Jerusalem, and although some of the men on the Sanhedrin council knew him from the past, there were probably others who were strangers. Even if Paul knew Ananias from before, he still may not have known that Ananias ascended to the position of high priest, if Ananias wasn’t wearing his priestly robes. Remember that the Roman commander convened the council rather suddenly, so the men might have gathered without the traditional garments.
  2. In any case, Paul obviously did not appreciate being hit, and he immediately lashed back with his words. Was Paul cursing him, or prophesying against him? It’s difficult to say, as Ananias did experience a death that could be considered the judgment of God (house burned by revolutionaries and possible assassination by the Sicarii). At this point, some might accuse Paul of not turning the other cheek & reacting in anger, to which they might have an argument. Paul would be the first to admit he wasn’t perfect, and although he had a right to be offended, he probably expressed it in the wrong way. That said, we ought to give Paul some credit: as soon as he was confronted with his potential sin (even by those who sinned against him!), he was quick to humble himself and apologize. He knew he was wrongly judged by the priest, but he was still personally accountable to God, and he held himself to the standard of Scripture (Exo 22:28).
    1. As much as it was wisdom that Paul used in claiming his Roman citizenship, it was also wisdom for Paul to humbly accept rebuke, even from those who were his enemies. Proverbs 19:25, “Strike a scoffer, and the simple will become wary; Rebuke one who has understanding, and he will discern knowledge.” Christians can be both in the right and the wrong at the same time. Our humility in accepting correction can be a powerful tool used by God to share the gospel of forgiveness with others!

6 But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. 8 For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.

  1. We might think of the difference between the Pharisees & Sadducees as between the theological conservatives & liberals. Although Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, there was a reason the Pharisees were around Jesus more than the Sadducees: they had far more theological ground in common! Were it not for their self-righteousness and hypocrisy, the Pharisees might have been allies with Jesus and the disciples in Jerusalem. The Sadducees, on the other hand, were more focused on politics than Scripture. They were the party that usually produced the high priest & thus often allied with Rome, but they discounted major portions of Hebrew Scripture & denied all kinds of Biblical doctrine outside of the Pentateuch (the 5 books of Moses). Part of what they denied included the future resurrection, and Paul used this to his advantage.
  2. Question: Was this a legal/political stunt? No – Paul knew he wasn’t getting a fair trial, so he did what he needed to do to try to gain a hearing among at least some of the people present. Although the Proverbs warn against those who stir up strife (Prov 15:18, 16:28), they also speak of waging war by wise counsel (20:18) and foreseeing evil & hiding oneself (27:12). Paul wasn’t trying to stir up trouble just for the sake of division, nor to gain some sort of political power for himself; he was in the midst of a kangaroo court that was out to do him harm. This was (once again) wisdom in action, as Paul used everything God had given him at his disposal.
  3. Additionally, Paul’s identification as a Pharisee allowed him to talk about the core issue at hand: the “resurrection of the dead.” Truly, this was why the mob had wanted to kill Paul in the temple, and why so many on the Sanhedrin hated him. Paul preached the resurrection, and he preached a specific resurrection: Jesus’. Because Paul preached that Jesus was risen from the dead, and because Jesus’ resurrection was preached to all people (Jew and Gentile alike) giving them the hope of their own future resurrection, Paul was hated and condemned by the Jews of Jerusalem (Sadducee and Pharisee alike!).
    1. But that is the good news of the gospel! Jesus is risen from the dead, and because He rose, we can be sure that we will rise as well! Our resurrection is included in Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus being the firstfruits of those risen from the dead (1 Cor 15:20). Although one day all men and women will rise to stand before God, only those who have received Jesus as Lord will rise to everlasting life. We only know this because of Jesus’ own resurrection, so His resurrection is good news indeed!

9 Then there arose a loud outcry. And the scribes of the Pharisees’ party arose and protested, saying, “We find no evil in this man; but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God.”

  1. The Pharisees took Paul’s side, but not enough to truly listen to what he said. Paul wanted to speak of a specific resurrection; the scribes & Pharisees heard enough to simply ignore the rest. They essentially said, “We don’t believe Paul’s guilty of a crime. We don’t know who spoke to him or if what was said was true, but if a spirit said it, then it’s okay by us. Let God sort it out!” They were likely remembering what Paul said the previous day at the temple when speaking of Jesus’ appearance to him. Instead of recognizing Jesus as the Risen Messiah, they passed Him off as some random “spirit or an angel.” It was enough to save Paul for the day, but not enough for the scribes and Pharisees to come to faith.

Take a step back to look at the larger picture again. What was it to which Paul appealed in his trial? His life as a Pharisee. With the Romans, it was his citizenship with which he was born; with the Sanhedrin, it was his background as a Pharisee for which he had trained. This was what Saul of Tarsus longed for as a younger man, desiring to be a Pharisee like his father had been a Pharisee – and he excelled to the highest levels! Yet this was what later brought Paul the apostle some of his greatest regret. It was as a Pharisee that Saul had a misplaced zeal for God – it was as a Pharisee that he stood by, holding the coats of those who stoned Stephen to death – it was a Pharisee that Saul threw Christian men & women into prison – it was as a Pharisee that Saul was willing to go to any city to track down any Christian he could find and persecute him, and thus persecute Jesus Himself. These were the things Paul regretted until the day he died. It’s not that Paul never realized he was forgiven (he did, and he rejoiced!), but neither did he forget. It was ever tied into the gospel he preached: 1 Timothy 1:12–15, “(12) And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, (13) although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. (14) And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. (15) This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Paul was a sinner saved by grace alone…a fact he never forgot.

But there was regret. Paul knew the sin he committed as a Pharisee, wishing he had never done it. Yet what was it that God used in this moment to help Paul? Paul’s background as a Pharisee. The things he wished he’d never done (rightfully so!) was what God chose to use for His glory.

Likewise for us. There are things in our past that we wish never happened. We have regrets about the things we’ve done, and if we could do it all over again, we would do differently. And rightfully so! Sin is sin, no matter how we look at it or what label we slap on it. But for the Christian, this much is certain: God uses even those things to make us the men and women we are today – God can (and does!) use those things for His glory. Remember the promise Paul wrote to the Romans: Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” You know one of the great things about that promise? Apart from the identification to the born-again Christian (“those who love God…those who are the called”), there’s no limit on it. It doesn’t say, “God uses all the good things to work together for good,” or “God uses all the successes in our lives to work for good;” it says that God makes “all things work together for good.” That includes all of the stuff of our past – it includes all of the things that have happened to us to make us into the men & women we are today. Even the stuff of which we are ashamed can be used by God for His glory.

Think of it: former drunkards can talk to other drunks about Jesus – former addicts can tell other addicts the gospel. Men who have been freed from pornography can give hope to others who are trapped in it – people who have contemplated suicide can offer the hope and life of Jesus to those in despair. All of those things of which we are ashamed, those things which we wish never happened – each and every one of those things can be used by God for His glory! If God can use the Pharisaical background of Paul to spread the gospel of grace, certainly He can use sinners like us!

10 Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks.

  1. By this point, the Roman commander had to be thinking: “Who is this guy? Every time I let him speak, people want to rip him to shreds!” Once again, Paul had to be rescued from a mob, albeit a much smaller one.
  2. At least the commander finally had his answer. This wasn’t a question of a civil crime or national security; this was a question of the Jewish religion. What to do about it was still uncertain, but it was something the centurion would have to figure out quick!

Conclusion:

It was the end of a couple of turbulent days for Paul! After being rescued from a Jewish mob, he was almost scourged by the Romans, and went from there to a kangaroo court where he almost faced terrible injustice. What saved him was the unlikeliest of pairs: his Roman background, and his Jewish career. God used all of the things of Paul’s past (both things over which he had no control, and things of which he was ashamed) to prepare him for exactly this moment. God had raised Paul for “such a time as this,” and used him for the glory of God.

Christian: Who did God make you to be? How has God prepared you for this moment? Sometimes we wonder how God could ever use people like us for His perfect plan, but that’s exactly God’s intent for each one of us! There are things in our makeup over which we have no control, and there are events in our past that we wish never happened – but whoever we are & whatever we’ve experienced can be used for the glory of God. Our God is that big and that powerful.

The key for us is to be available. Use what you have for Jesus! Bring to Him what little you have, and trust Him to use it for His glory. We might think we offer nothing but scraps and crumbs, but God can do much with little. If Jesus can turn water into wine & a few loaves & fish into an abundant meal for thousands, just think what He can do with what little we have to offer! Trust Him to do it. Trust that no matter what it is we have in our past, God can & will use it for His glory.

Hallow Him

Posted: June 20, 2019 in Leviticus, Uncategorized

Leviticus 24, “Hallow Him”

The prayer taught by Jesus to His disciples (commonly known as the “Lord’s Prayer,”) opens with this: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name.” Although English-speaking Christians around the world quote it, few people understand it. The word “hallowed” simply isn’t used much in our vocabulary, so we aren’t sure what it means. 

To be hallowed (very different!) is to be treated as holy – to be revered, respected, and honored. God’s name is to be honored, because God Himself is worthy of honor. God’s name reflects His character, so God’s name is to be treated with the highest respect. God’s name reflects His very person, to the point that when Moses asked to see the glory of the Lord, God replied by appearing before him (while hiding Moses in the cleft of a rock) and declaring His name by way of describing His character: Exodus 34:6–7, “(6) And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, (7) keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”” The Lord is both merciful and just, full of grace & full of wrath – all of His perfect character is represented by His name.

All of this comes into view in Leviticus 24. Although some of what we read here doesn’t seem like it applies to much, it all comes together to make sense. Remember that things were still getting started with the national faith of Israel. The nation was encamped at the base of Mt. Sinai, their covenant with God having been affirmed and the tabernacle built. The symbol of God’s presence among them was at the center of camp – demonstrating how their love of God and relationship with Him was to be at the center of their lives. With everything built, the children of Israel needed to know how to use it all, and that comprises most of the book of Leviticus.

First were the various sacrifices & offerings, then the consecration of the priests, then the priestly teaching of what was holy & clean vs. profane & unclean. There were laws of morality, expectations for the priests, and finally a description of the feasts: both weekly (the Sabbath) and the annual feasts of holy consecration (Passover/Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Weeks, Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Tabernacles).

Out of all that comes what seems to be some rather random miscellaneous items as the book winds down. Yet nothing is random in the Bible! Every bit of the Scripture is inspired by God the Holy Spirit and intended to be where it is. So what comes next? Instruction about items of the tabernacle, and an account of capital crime & punishment. What do these have to do with one another? Like many other things in Leviticus, it comes down to the holiness of God. God is infinitely holy, so God is to be hallowed,

God is to be worshiped and revered at all times, with terrible consequences coming to those who don’t. The bad news: each and every one of us deserve those consequences because there is not a one of us who always fears God in the way He should be feared. The good news: we have an intercessor in Jesus! We are a constantly blasphemous people, but He is a consistently perfect mediator & Savior!

Our God is to be feared and respected…it’s only possible through Jesus.

Leviticus 24

  • Hallow God’s presence (1-9)

1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “Command the children of Israel that they bring to you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to make the lamps burn continually. 3 Outside the veil of the Testimony, in the tabernacle of meeting, Aaron shall be in charge of it from evening until morning before the LORD continually; it shall be a statute forever in your generations. 4 He shall be in charge of the lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the LORD continually.

  1. Remember that the golden lampstand was one of the pieces of furniture inside the tabernacle, in front of the veil. Instructions are somewhat of a repeat of Exodus 26:20-21. Olive oil was to be brought by the congregation – Aaron (or the priest on duty) should ensure the menorah was lit, and this was to be a regular part of the priestly ministry. Notice the ongoing nature of what is commanded: continual burning – continual light – continual service. It never ended, and was to last as long as there was a lampstand in the tabernacle.
  2. A couple of typological pictures are possibly painted here. Jesus called Himself the light of the world (Jn 8:12, 9:5), and the Bible shows the oil of the lamp as representative of the Holy Spirit (Zech 4:6). Put it together, and there is a picture of both God the Son and God the Spirit as the priest comes into the presence of God the Father. It’s a wonderful picture of grace & privilege we have as God’s people!
  3. More to the immediate point of Leviticus, it shows the need for constant attention to the sanctuary of God. It was a privilege to have the tabernacle (God’s dwelling place) among them, and it was not to be neglected nor taken for granted. Aaron (or the other priests) would be inside the sanctuary on a daily basis, attending to the lamp, constantly refilling the oil, constantly relighting the lamps. Even the rest of the tribes got involved (to a lesser extent), providing a constant supply of pressed olive oil for the lamp. Without the oil, the priest wouldn’t be able to do his work, so all the congregation was required to grow/gather the olives needed for the task. If people forgot about it by taking it for granted that the tabernacle would always be there, then nothing would have happened and the light would have gone out.
    1. How might we take God’s presence for granted? Maybe you slough off prayer, or rush your Bible reading. Maybe we don’t give God much of a thought outside of “saying grace” at the dinner table. The priest had to constantly go to the tabernacle and attend to ministry – not because God somehow lacked for something if it wasn’t done, but because the priest would miss out on the opportunity to be in the presence of God if he didn’t go. We need to see God’s presence as a privilege! And then, we need to enter it!

5 “And you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it. Two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake. 6 You shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the LORD. 7 And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, an offering made by fire to the LORD.

  1. Showbread, to be placed on the golden table. Interestingly, although the table had been described earlier (Exo 25:23-30), nothing specific had been said of the bread – only that the table was for the purpose of the showbread. This time, instruction was given: 12 loaves, one for each tribe. Take the measurements lightly – literally, the Hebrew text says only “two-tenths shall be in each cake.” The “ephah” is assumed by the translators to fill the gap (as seen by the use of italics in your Bibles). Considering that two-tenths an ephah is a little less than a gallon of flour/grain, that seems to be far too much for each single loaf of bread! (Perhaps a seah or omer would be better measurements.) 
  2. There was an orderly presentation, with frankincense placed on/before each row of bread some “pure frankincense.” It’s unlikely that this was baked into the bread, being that frankincense is a type of tree sap, but rather put in front of the bread, with some of the grain that was used to bake the bread taken as a “memorial” portion to be burned along with the frankincense as “an offering made by fire to the LORD.” While the bread was present, so was the scent of praise – the idea of God’s people always praying, praising, and worshipping Him.

8 Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. 9 And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy to him from the offerings of the LORD made by fire, by a perpetual statute.”

  1. Replaced every Sabbath, being baked every week. Just like the lamp-oil needed to be continually refreshed, so did the showbread. God didn’t want stale, moldy bread in the tabernacle; He wanted what was fresh and new, like the newness of life He gave to His people. Even this bread was not to be wasted. Once it served its purpose for the week, it was given to the priests for them to eat. (A precursor to the Lord’s Supper, in which we share a meal with Jesus!)
    1. Once again, there are typological pictures here: Just like Jesus is represented in the light of the lampstand, He is represented in the bread of the presence. Jesus is the bread of life (Jn 6:35, 48), and it is only because of Him that we can come into the presence of God. It’s only through the body of Jesus that we have any relationship with God whatsoever. (As we’ll remember when we celebrate Communion tonight.)
  2. Where did the grain for the bread come from? Likely from the priests. Remember that whenever a grain offering was brought to the tabernacle from the children of Israel, the priests kept a portion of that offering for their own family. The flour for the showbread would have been part of their own offering back to the Lord. The priests did not only officiate the offerings of the people; they themselves gave back to the Lord. Every single family in all Israel brought their worship to God – the priests being no better (or different!) from the rest.
  3. Put it together. Why was the bread even there? As a symbol of the 12 tribes of Israel being always before the Lord. The priest was the only man allowed inside the tabernacle, but he always had the nation along with him. In fact, when the priest left, the nation “remained,” with God always looking upon His people.
    1. That itself is an act of grace! We have no reason to be in God’s presence…we have every reason to be excluded from God’s presence! Kings, queens & other heads of state don’t allow rebels, criminals, and traitors to have an audience. Those people are kept far from the door, with the Secret Service tacking the guy on arrival, taking them to jail. Yet what happens through Jesus? We go from being criminals to kids – from traitors to treasures. Jesus completely transforms our relationship with God to where now we’re not only allowed into God’s presence; we’re invited!
    2. Again, this takes us back to the idea of privileged holiness. We are to hallow God because He has brought us into His presence – He has graciously given us relationship with Him. It’s so easy to lose sight of this! Don’t believe it? Just look at the ancient Hebrews. No sooner did God free them from Egyptian slavery than they complained against Him. God took them to edge of the Promised Land, and they balked & rebelled. Even after they went in to the land, experiencing all the power of God’s work among them, they still eventually gave themselves over to idolatry. That’s not just the story of the Hebrews; that’s the story of many of us! We were lost in our sin, enslaved to all kinds of addictions & habits when Jesus saved us. And we rejoiced in His salvation…for a time. Then it became old-hat, and although we said we were grateful, we no longer showed it with our lives & devotion. Our worship became stale & our prayers became trite. Soon enough we started playing with all the stuff of the past, and traveling those old roads again. Christian, on that, we’re no different than Israel! To have a relationship with God is a privilege…one we can never forget!
  • Hallow God’s name (10-23)

10 Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp. 11 And the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the name of the LORD and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.) 12 Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the LORD might be shown to them.

  1. It’s been rare for Leviticus to have a narrative account. The previous one was chapter 8-10 with the consecration of the priests that led to the profane fire offered by Nadab and Abihu.
  2. Right off the bat, there’s a note about the man’s mixed heritage. His mother was an Israelite; his father an Egyptian. How exactly it happened is not said. Perhaps she was a former slave in his house, and he married her – perhaps he left Egypt during the Passover and was part of the mixed multitude, later marrying the woman. We do not know much of the background, but Moses thought it important enough to mention in his record of the account.
    1. Perhaps indicates a problem with relationships that are unequally yoked. If only one of the parents has saving faith, then there’s always going to be compromise…and usually it’s not from the unbelieving spouse! And it ought to be expected that the children will be confused as to the truth of God. In this case, the young man did not revere God nearly enough. He obviously didn’t respect God, and he “blasphemed the name of the LORD.
  3. What exactly is blasphemy? Like many religious words, we often use it in our vocabulary, but have a difficult time defining it. We sometimes use the term to describe the 3rd Commandment, and although it is related, it’s not exactly the same thing. Exodus 20:7, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Technically, the Hebrew word used for “vain” refers to emptiness, nothingness, worthlessness. The person who takes the Lord’s name in vain is the person who uses God’s name without thought – certainly without the proper reverence & fear, but without thought at all. The “OMG’s” of the world have far more in common with empty thoughtless vanities than actual, technical blasphemy. The person who takes God’s name in vain is the person who completely takes God for granted, allowing our Creator & Sovereign King to become nothing more than part of the background clutter of our lives that is all-too-easily ignored. (No wonder it’s part of the 10 Commandments!) — Blasphemy takes all of that to the next level. Whereas vanity is thoughtlessness; blasphemy is purposeful and intentional. The Hebrew word used here for “blasphemed” actually has two meanings, depending on the context: “to pierce, or to bore through,” or “to curse, slander.” We might even think of those things as one and the same. To blaspheme God is to curse Him in such a way that it’s like we pierce His name as if a sword pierces a person’s heart. It is an attack on His name/character. This is actually seen in the rest of verse 11, as “blasphemed” is further described as “” That same word is used earlier: Exodus 22:28, “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.” “Cursed” in Lev 24:11 is the same as “revile” in Exo 22:28. (“Curse” in Exo 22:28 is a different word altogether, though related in meaning.) Put it together, and blasphemy is a despising of God – a purposeful piercing attack on His name and character.
    1. That’s not to say that blasphemy is uncommon today! The “OMG’ers” are guilty of taking God’s name in vain, but the God-hating atheists are quite often guilty of blasphemy. When people hate God to the extent that they label Him a “cosmic child abuser” for giving His only begotten Son to be sacrificed upon the cross for us, they engage in outright blasphemy. When they accuse God of the worst possible motives for actions they don’t personally understand, they engage in blasphemy. When they accuse God of evil, they blaspheme His holy name.
    2. Be careful of the idea that blasphemy is a sin that can only take place by people who are outside of the church. The whole point of including this incident in the book of Leviticus is that the blasphemy happened within the camp. The son of an Israelite woman reviled and cursed the name of God. If it could happen among Israel, it could happen among us. Perhaps the blasphemy is uttered by a false convert among the Christians, as a goat among the sheep (or tare among the wheat). That’s certainly possible – after all, not everyone who shows up in church is a born-again believer. (Maybe even you!) But it could also take place among believers who slip into bad habits. The most common NT word for blasphemy (from which the English word is derived: βλασφημέω) also speaks of slander & reviling. We can slander God’s reputation through our public sins and failings (Rom 2:24). We revile God when we revile His doctrine (1 Tim 6:1). We slander God when we speak falsely about Him. Christians, too, can be guilty of blasphemy.
      1. The good news for us is that we also have an Advocate, Jesus Christ the Righteous! (1 Jn 2:1) We need not live with the guilt of blasphemy – we can humble ourselves in repentance and receive the forgiveness of God!
    3. As for Israel, the crime of blasphemy was new. It wasn’t that no one had ever blasphemed the Lord in the past (the people had certainly blasphemed Moses when they complained about his initial work in Egypt!). They had blasphemed God when they accused God of trying to kill them in the desert, or leading them out of slavery only to be slaughtered by the Egyptians. So they had done the crime, but it had not been done directly by an individual – additionally, it had not been done since the national covenant with God had been reaffirmed. So the question now was what to do about it. How should they handle it? To get the answer, they did the logical (and the right!) thing: they waited upon the Lord, “that the mind of the LORD might be shown to them.” (For all the things the children of Israel get wrong, we ought to give them credit when they do things right. And this, they did right!)
      1. Do you have questions? Do you lack wisdom in a certain area? Seek the Lord! Seek His mind, and discover His will. Not only does the Bible promise wisdom to born-again believers who ask in faith (Jas 1:5), we know that the Bible tells us all we need to know for how to live life. God’s word is enough to fully equip us for every good work (2 Tim 3:17). Practically, this means that we seek God in prayer, and we ask Him to teach and guide us through the Scripture. We don’t need to look to the latest guru to find our answers – we don’t need to get the advice of the world – we don’t need to do what just “feels” right (because it’s often wrong!); we go to God Himself through our Bibles. 
      2. That’s not to say we shouldn’t ask counsel from other Christians…we should! We need the advice of godly men and women on these things. But godly advice is always going to be based in God’s word. Nothing that is good is going to contradict what God has said.

13 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 14 “Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.

  1. There are three basic steps: First, remove the man from the camp. His defiling sin brought defilement upon all the nation, and he needed to be removed from the place of God’s holy presence.
  2. Second, confess as witnesses. Those who heard were to testify to the event, with their multiple accounts confirming the truth of what happened. By the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word is established (Dt 17:6, 19:15) – and that was especially important in capital crimes.
  3. Third, there was a group execution. There wasn’t just one man assigned as the grim executioner; the whole “congregation” of Israel was to take up stones and kill him. The nation of Israel took full responsibility, and they carried out the justice of God as a unified whole.
  4. We obviously do not stone people for the sin of blasphemy today (thought God does not hold anyone guiltless who takes His name in vain! Exo 20:7), but sin in the church is handled along similar lines. First the person is confronted, and if unrepentant, witnesses are brought. If still unrepentant, the person is removed from the church and treated as an unbeliever (Mt 18:15-20). It’s not done with unsubstantiated charges – it’s not done on the vengeance of one person – it’s not even done with the idea of permanent banishment, but with the hope of restoration. It is done with a mind towards God’s righteous standard, and the unity of the church congregation in a desire to honor the Lord. When the church of Corinth refused to exercise church discipline in an obvious case of sin, Paul basically accused the congregation itself of sin (1 Cor 5:1-2). When individual churches forsake the holiness of God among its people, it opens the door to all kinds of problems. The blasphemy of this individual affected the entire congregation of Israel, just like the sin of one believer affects the whole church.
    1. This is why we watch one another in a spirit of love and gentleness – being cautious of pride. We want the best for one another, and sometimes it means giving & receiving gentle, godly correction.

15 “Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death.

  1. The idea of the word “bear” is to lift up. When someone “curses his God,” he lifted up his own sin – he bore his own responsibility. No one forces anyone to slander or revile the name of God – those are words that people willingly utter with their own lips. And what comes out their lips began in their hearts, and no one is responsible for that except the individual.
    1. That’s true with all We so often want to blame other people: our parents, our co-workers, our kids, our circumstances. Just be honest: what you did, you did. What I did, I did. No one made me do it, not even the devil. My decision to sin was mine alone (just like yours).
    2. BTW – Admitting our own responsibility is the first step to confession. We’ll never confess what we don’t believe we did. We cannot agree with God that sin is indeed sinful if we can’t admit how we are responsible for our own sin. When we run from responsibility, we push off our own confession, our own cleansing, our own forgiveness. The longer we wait to admit responsibility, the longer we remain in our despair.
  2. Again, blasphemy is a capital crime. Not only in this first individual instance, but also in all the future instances among Israel. Why? Because it’s like attempted murder on the name of God. It’s “piercing” the name/character of God with slander and cursing. An attack on the King of kings is an invitation to judgment.

17 ‘Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death. 18 Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal.

  1. The murder of a man deserves the same punishment as the attempted murder of God’s name. It’s still an attack, and it still requires God’s righteous judgment.
    1. With all the debate about the death penalty today, there can be no doubt that it was sanctioned by God among the children of Israel. Certain crimes carry immediate and lasting consequences – murder being one of them.
    2. That’s not to say murderers cannot be forgiven through the blood of Jesus…they can! But it does not do away with the need for temporary justice to be done. God gave government the right to bear the sword, and this is one of the ways they do it. (Rom 13:4)
  2. The murder of animals is a bit different. This isn’t talking about ritual slaughter for sacrifices, or routine slaughter for livestock food, but rather the killing (most likely intentional, by way of context) of an animal that did not belong to the killer. Thus, blood is still shed & it’s recognized that a crime is still committed, but instead of a death penalty, the offender is forced to make retribution.

19 ‘If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him—20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him.

  1. Like for like in various circumstances. The legal concept is known as lex talionis, and it was well-known in the ancient world, particularly in the Ancient Near East, as seen in the Code of Hammurabi. Some have criticized the Bible on this point, saying that because the Code of Hammurabi potentially predates Moses (and other ANE legal codes most definitely predate Moses) that Moses simply copied what was already there. But that isn’t the point. First of all, God predates all, and any morality that is true morality is based in the character and nature of God. (As seen in universal ideas of right/wrong such as murder, rape, etc.) Secondly, it isn’t that the Bible was copying the ways of the world; it was just listing the right & just thing to do – with the cultural understanding that literal dismemberment was not the application; justice was.
  2. Besides all this, the Bible takes the idea of lex talionis further than any other culture of any generation. It moves the negative punishment to a positive command: Matthew 7:12, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” IOW, don’t merely abstain from doing harm to one another in order that harm might not be done to you; do good to them that you might receive the same. Jesus took the concept known all over the world & flipped it on its head!

21 And whoever kills an animal shall restore it; but whoever kills a man shall be put to death.

  1. Verses 17-18 are repeated (although flipped). It emphasizes not only the seriousness of murder, but the difference in value between humans and animals. As much as we love our pets and other animals, they pale in comparison to the worth of a man or woman. God has set mankind apart from the animal kingdom, because we alone are made in His image; animals are not.
    1. Despite the protest from modern culture! Our culture would have us value fish over fetuses, saying that babies in the womb are nothing more than “clumps of tissue,” whereas other animals are more worthy of protection. By no means ought Christians be cruel towards the animal kingdom – the first command from God to humans included having dominion over the earth & thus caring for it as a good steward, rather than exploiting and abusing what was there (Gen 1:28). But at the end of the day, humans are of far more value than animals, and the most helpless of all humans (babies!) are deserving of our highest protections.

In all these laws, what is seen? There is punishment for offending God, and there is punishment for offending others. God’s people are to be an orderly people. God’s people are to live justly & peacefully. God’s people are to glorify the name of God, and thus, hallow the name of God. When we treat God as holy, we won’t revile Him. When we fear God rightly, we won’t blaspheme Him. When we love God as we ought to love Him, then our actions towards others will change. When we hallow God, we’ll treat the people precious to Him as precious.

22 You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the LORD your God.’ ”

  1. The Hebrews were to administer equal justice. They were not to have one standard for Israel & a different one for the Gentiles. Especially when we consider the mixed multitude of Egyptians that were among Israel at the time…they too, were seeing and hearing the revelation of God, and they were also to abide by His law. When it came to God’s righteous standard, all men and women were equally obligated. 
  2. BTW – This too, goes back to God’s character and nature. We are to exercise impartial justice because we serve an impartial God. 

23 Then Moses spoke to the children of Israel; and they took outside the camp him who had cursed, and stoned him with stones. So the children of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses.

  1. God had given the command, but it had not yet been carried out. Finally, the people acted in obedience, as tough as it was to do.
  2. Why obey such a hard command? Because if they hadn’t, they would have been guilty of a similar crime. The man had been guilty of blasphemy; the people would be potentially guilty of rebellion. Which is worse? Neither – both are sin, and both deserving of judgment. That’s why the people obeyed God at this time (though they struggled at other times!). The feared God enough to walk in obedience even when it was difficult to do.

Conclusion:

Fear the Lord! Hallow Him! Take Him seriously for the God that He is and the grace that He has given you. 

Think for a moment about the blessings of His presence: through Jesus, we have instant access to the Father – we have God the Holy Spirit inside us – we have Jesus making constant intercession on our behalf. We couldn’t get more access to God if we wanted it! That’s not something to take lightly – that’s not something to take for granted. That’s something for which we should give God constant praise!

Think too about the blessings of knowing God personally. We know His name when we know His character, and we know His character when we know His Son. We know Jesus, and because we do, we know God. His is a name that is worthy of honor; not slander. We dare not bring disrepute upon Him through our actions & words – we dare not assume the worst of Him when we’re at a point of personal confusion. Instead, we are to hallow His name – to honor, fear, respect, and love Him as the God the Bible proclaims Him to be.

Where have you fallen lax in your reverence of God? Where have you taken Jesus for granted?

Perhaps the most famous of all conversion stories is that of the apostle Paul, when he came to faith in Christ on the road to Damascus. Yet there are some things all conversion stories have in common: before Jesus we are all lost, we meet Jesus, and then Jesus uses us for the glory of God.