Prophecy Update Newsletter
IN TODAY'S NEWSLETTER...
Blessing and Cursing - By Bud Hancock -
When someone sneezes, the usual response is, "God Bless you!" Having heard those words spoken after a sneeze for most of my life, I wondered for years why a sneeze would provoke a blessing in response. There are many superstitions and traditions that deal with this mundane question; but for now, I would like to ask: What exactly is a blessing? What does it mean to be blessed, or to bless someone? We often think of blessings as originating from God only; but, can people also be the source of blessings?
It is clear from the writings of Moses that God promises to bless people, but also to curse people in certain situations. "Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:1-3). According to that passage of scripture, it is also clear that people can be the source of blessings and curses.
Since blessing and cursing are considered polar opposites, I would like to offer some thoughts on the subject in an effort to explain more about blessing and cursing. After all, God introduced the concept of blessing and cursing, so it is a very important subject to know and understand.
The Blessings and Curses of God's Covenant with Israel
In the 27th and 28th chapters of Deuteronomy, after the Israelites were delivered from Egyptian slavery, Moses delivered to the Children of Israel the provisions that God made in His covenant with them, for receiving the blessings which were intended to bring them life and prosperity, and the cursings that would produce death and loss. Both were tied directly to their obedience to the commandments God gave to them. He made it very clear what the blessings would bring if they obeyed the commandments, and what the consequences would be if they disobeyed:
"And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God" (Deuteronomy 28:1-2). The next eleven verses list the blessings that would be theirs if they obeyed.
Beginning in verse 15, we read: "But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:" (Deuteronomy 28: 15). The next fifty-three verses detail the curses that would come upon them if they were disobedient.
More Than Just Words
Based on what we know of the history of the Jewish people after their release from Egypt, it is very clear that both the blessings and curses that God presented to the Israelites through Moses were more than just idle words. The creator of the universe swore that He would actually increase and enlarge them (blessings) in response to their obedience to His commands, and decrease them (cursings) as a result of their disobedience
As to the blessings promised, they were to expect and receive a tangible result, something that could be used to live better, more prosperous lives. Don't take my word for this; read Deuteronomy 28:3-13 and see for yourself what God said would be theirs if they were obedient.
Most of these verses involve some sort of "increase." For example: in their baskets or their storehouses, meaning the increase of their harvests, their cattle and flocks (verse 4-5); victory in battle (verse7); and finally, in verse 11, abundant fruitfulness in every area of their lives. The other verses in this scripture paint a clear picture of the result of God's blessings. The Israelites were meant to take this literally and be moved to continuous obedience to God's commands.
The curses that would "come on them and overtake them" as a result of their disobedience were meant to bring decrease and loss of their possessions, their food, cattle and flocks, as well as death due to loss in battle against their enemies. It is clear from the history of the Jewish people that, because of their frequent rebellion against God's commands, the curses pronounced by God eventually did "overtake them," and caused their dispersion throughout the peoples of the world. Once again, read the curses detailed in Deuteronomy 28:16-68 and understand that God was as serious about the curses as He was the blessings.
Almighty God, the creator of the universe, had the power (and He still does) to both bless and curse; bless to bring tremendous prosperity and life, and curse to bring utter loss and death.
In Deuteronomy 30:19, we read: "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live."
His desire, His intention, was to make them a blessed nation, prosperous and healthy, a shining example to the nations, the Gentiles. The Israelites had seen God perform so many miracles during the forty years that He led them through the wilderness, there should have been no doubt that God would follow through on His promises, both of blessing and cursing. Both the blessings and the curses would bring forth that which God intended; there would be a visible, tangible result of the blessings and curses based on their choice to obey, or disobey, God's commands.
The bottom line is that God is faithful to His word, even when that word brings curses upon people. The fact that the curses actually happened provides no basis to think that God is cruel or lacking compassion. In fact, the opposite is true. He placed the blessings and curses squarely before His people and allowed them to choose whether they would experience blessings and life, or cursings and death. God has made it clear in His word that He desires to bless His people and provide the life that they also should desire.
Just as we all have the choice to receive the free salvation provided by the blood of Jesus, so we also have the choice to receive the blessings, or the cursings God has promised. It is all about accountability. If we are to receive the best that God has for us, we must make the right choices.
Jesus Example of Blessing People
Jesus, during His earthly ministry, was teaching a large crowd of people who, after sitting and listening to Him for a long time, were tired and hungry. Jesus' disciples implored Jesus to send the crowd away so that they could go into villages and buy food. Instead, Jesus told His disciples to feed the multitude; but all the food they had was five barley loaves and two small fish, offered freely by a small boy.
Jesus instructed the crowd of five thousand men, plus women and children, to sit; He then took the meager amount of food, 'blessed it' and divided it unto His disciples to be passed among the people. All those present ate their fill and, when the meal was over, He commanded His disciples to collect all the remnants of food, amounting to twelve baskets full, so that none would be wasted. See Matthew 14:13-21 and John 6:1-13.
Jesus' blessing supernaturally caused the small amount of food, just enough for one small child, to multiply and increase until it would feed many thousands of people. We are not told, but I like to think that the remnant of food collected was given back to that child who so freely blessed many with it. Jesus proved that true blessing provides an increase that is tangible and produces life-altering results.
The Commandment to Bless Others
So, what does this have to do with blessing or cursing that we as Christians should do? I have heard and seen people many times who were in dire straits, nearly destitute and unable to help themselves and improve their lives or situations. In such cases, a "true blessing" was what they needed, a blessing that would produce a tangible result: an increase in their lives, something the destitute persons could wear, eat or otherwise use to sustain life and improve their condition.
I have also seen people who called themselves Christians simply utter the words, "Lord bless you" and walk away. While the words they uttered sounded very 'churchy,' the destitute persons remained as destitute after they were spoken as before; the words, not backed up with action, were empty and meaningless to the hearer and produced no tangible results.
Jesus taught His disciples what a true blessing is through the encounter of a severely wounded man, left for dead after being attacked by thieves on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Several Jews, one a priest, and the other a Levite, saw the man and passed him by on the other side, doing nothing to help him. But, eventually a Samaritan man came by, saw the wounded man, had compassion on him, treated his wounds, placed him on his own beast and took him to an inn where he could be further treated until he was well. The Samaritan then paid the innkeeper from his own purse, assuring him that he would further recompense him for any additional cost when he returned from his trip.
If you will notice, the first two men, religious Jews, were aware of the wounded man's plight but lacked compassion and preferred not to become involved (See Luke 10:29-37). Though it was not stated, it is likely that the priest and the Levite both had the means to bless the wounded man as much as did the Samaritan, but their lack of compassion stopped them from offering any assistance.
Jesus made it clear through this story that the only 'true neighbor' in this case was the Samaritan man who, through compassion, was able and willing to provide the help the wounded man needed. We are also not told what happened to the Samaritan; but I believe that, since Jesus was aware of the details of the incident, and the story became part of the Holy Scriptures, the Samaritan was in store for a greater blessing from God because of his compassion and willingness to help a destitute person.
James, the brother of our Lord Jesus, wrote this: "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works" (James 2:14-18).
This scripture makes it clear that a person claiming to be Christian, having the means to help others, who yet does nothing to alleviate the suffering of a brother or sister, is lacking in faith, being unwilling to part with this world's goods and add the needed works to his dead faith. Without the works done in the form of a blessing, the faith that should be demonstrated by a Christian is futile and empty.
The Treatment of the Jews
Jesus taught His disciples about the time immediately following the Tribulation period when He will return to judge the nations. This particular judgment will be based on how the nations of the earth treated the Jews during the time of Jacob's trouble, especially the last three and a half years of the seven-year tribulation. Those who had compassion on the Jews and assisted them during the time of their persecution, Jesus referred to as "sheep nations," and those who had no compassion, nor tried to help them were called goat nations.
He will separate them one from the other, the sheep nations on His right and the goat nations on His left, based on how they treated His brethren, the Jews. Those sheep nations will be accepted by God and allowed to go into the Millennial kingdom. But those goat nations will be sent away into everlasting punishment. This account (Matthew 25:31-36) by the Lord makes clear that all the nations of the earth will face the judgment of Christ at the end of the tribulation period.
However, we who are Christians now, before the tribulation, also have been told that we can face either blessing or cursing based on whether we bless or curse the Jewish people: "Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3).
As Christians, we are to minister to those, the brethren of Jesus in the flesh, the Jews, as we are able and have opportunity.
Even though God has brought a large number of Jews back to their ancestral homeland, Israel, there are many who long to return but are unable due either to political constraints in their current countries, or to the lack of money to pay for the trip. In addition, there are thousands of elderly Jews, some who are holocaust survivors who have returned to Israel, but live in abject poverty there. The majority of them are extremely old, poor, and in bad health, just waiting to die, longing for someone to provide some small amount of food, medicine or clothing to comfort them in their final hours.
Israel is in a state of constant war with her Arab neighbors, and the cost of defending their borders limits the government in providing enough monetary support to many of her Jewish citizens.
However, there are many organizations that provide both transportation, housing, medical help and job placement in Israel. Mostly, these groups depend on donations from anyone who has the compassion to help. There is so much opportunity to provide for many poor, sick and destitute Jews, some still in lands such as the Ukraine, Russia, Siberia and other Asian and Middle Eastern nations where they are persecuted; some of the same relief organizations also minister to these people.
The nations of the earth are right now determining where they will end up, either on Jesus' right, as sheep, or on His left as goats. But, we who are born-again Christians, who have been saved by the love of God the Father Who sent His only begotten Son to be our sacrifice, have opportunities to fulfill the Words of God to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. We can receive abundant blessings both now and in eternity by blessing the Jewish people.
A Christian praying, "Well, Lord, bless these poor Jews," but who then does nothing to alleviate their suffering by giving of his abundance, does nothing to actually provide what they need. I can imagine the Lord saying in response to such prayers: "Why don't YOU bless them, feed them, clothe them, visit them and comfort them? After all, have I not blessed you abundantly?"
Just as the nations are being closely observed for their treatment of God's chosen earthly people, the deeds of all Christians are constantly being recorded; and when the books are opened, all deeds done in the body will be presented to all the saints. Even though our eternal salvation will be based on our acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus' blood, washing us clean from our sins, our eternal rewards will be based on all the deeds while alive in our flesh and blood bodies.
Just as God demanded and expected Israel's obedience to His commands, He expects obedience from us. The difference is that we, as recipients of the ultimate blessing of the covering of our multitude of sins by the blood of Jesus, should offer our obedience from a heart of love, the same love that Jesus displayed when he offered Himself as our sacrifice, indeed the sacrifice for all sinful mankind. Our merciful Father does not demand that we bless others in order to be saved; but if we fail to be the obedient people of God in blessing others, not only will those in need go without, but our rewards in eternity will be affected.
I have heard many people use God's name to damn someone or something; most people call this 'cursing.' But, unless the 'damner' follows his words with physical action, I doubt that the 'curse words' have much effect. Even though the words themselves may not have a lasting effect on the people to whom they are directed, blessing and cursing are still serious business. In fact, James, the half-brother of Jesus, said:
"Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
"Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?" (James 3:5-11).
One old adage I first heard as a child is: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." While this may be partially true, since words are spiritual in nature rather than physical, it's also true that, when dealing with people in need who are destitute and hurting, words without accompanying action can be very hurtful. Failing to give of one's abundant resources and possessions to those less fortunate and in serious need not only fails to provide for the needs of those hurting, it robs the potential giver of a much greater blessing that comes from God who sees and knows all.
The writer of Proverbs stated: "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again" (Proverbs 19:17).
We, as Christians, are to function and live our lives in faith and by faith, the same faith that is given to us by Jesus (James 2:1) and is increased as we read, study and absorb the Truth of God's word (Romans 10:17). According to James, this faith, if true and alive, will cause us to look with compassion on others who are in need and open both our hearts and our wallets, and sometimes our homes (Hebrews 13:2) so that we can bless those, especially the Jewish people, who have needs that we can supply.
If any encouragement is needed to believe how God feels about this issue, please read Genesis 12:1-3 again and understand what God expects His children to do.
After all, this is what true Godly, Bible-based blessing is all about!
Why Do Palestinian Leaders Oppose Helping Their People? - by Bassam Tawil - https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/12663/palestinian-leaders-gaza-crisis
For years, Palestinian leaders have been complaining that the Gaza Strip was "on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe." Time and again, they have warned that unless the world helps the Palestinians living there, the Gaza Strip will "erupt like a volcano."
Israel and the US are now offering to help improve the living conditions of the Palestinians living under Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. But guess who is fiercely opposed to any attempt to resolve the "humanitarian and economic crisis" in the coastal enclave, home to some two million Palestinians? Answer: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his ruling Fatah faction.
In the past few weeks, both Israel and the US administration have come up with different ideas to help the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip.
US envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, who recently visited the Middle East, are said to have presented initiatives that included providing necessities such as electricity, desalinating drinking water, employment opportunities and reviving the industrial zone in the Gaza Strip.
Israel, for its part, has asked Cyprus to consider the possibility of establishing a seaport on the island for shipping goods to the Gaza Strip. According to reports, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has reached an understanding with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to pursue the port plan. Liberman's office said that Israel is working internationally in a number of ways to try to "change the reality" in the Gaza Strip.
One would think that the Palestinian leaders would be extremely happy about these initiatives to alleviate the suffering of their people in the Gaza Strip. The plans to improve the living conditions of the residents of the Gaza Strip should be music to the ears of the Palestinian Authority leadership, right? Wrong.
What, exactly, is behind this mystifying desire on the part of the Palestinian leaders to deny their people a shot at a decent life? Why does the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, which claims that it cares about the well-being of all Palestinians, vehemently oppose any plan to create job opportunities and other forms of aid for its people?
Let us take it step by step.
First, Abbas and his West Bank-based government seek to prolong the suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip so that they can continue damning Israel for the crisis. They want the international community to continue to believe that Israel is responsible for the ongoing, intense suffering of the Palestinians. Difficult as it appears to for the global community to grasp, however, Israel's maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip is aimed solely at preventing the smuggling of weapons into the coastal enclave. The border between the Gaza Strip and Israel remains open for delivering food and humanitarian and medical aid into Gaza.
The border between Israel and the Gaza Strip remains open for delivering food and humanitarian and medical aid into Gaza.
Second, the Palestinian Authority and its leaders are opposed to any humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip because they fear that this would embolden Hamas by encouraging it to maintain its tight grip on the Gaza Strip and absolving it of its responsibilities towards the residents living there. Once others start providing the residents of the Gaza Strip with aid, Hamas would be able to continue investing millions of dollars in building tunnels to attack Israel and smuggling more weapons into the Gaza Strip. Hamas would no longer have to worry about paying salaries to Palestinians or purchasing medicine and food.
The Palestinian Authority is hoping that conditions in the Gaza Strip will get so bad that the Palestinians there will rise up against Hamas. It is worth noting that the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah itself has imposed severe sanctions on the Gaza Strip in the past year.
These punitive measures include halting payments to thousands of civil servants and suspending social welfare assistance to hundreds of families. The sanctions have triggered a wave of protests throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent weeks, prompting Abbas's security forces to use force to disperse the protesters.
Third, the Palestinian Authority leadership are assuring us that the Israeli and US plans to help the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip are part of a wider "conspiracy" to force the Palestinians to accept US President Donald Trump's yet-to-be-unveiled plan for peace in the Middle East.
Abbas and his senior officials are using this issue to whip up anti-American and anti-Israel sentiments among the Palestinian population. They are telling the Palestinians that the economic and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip are primarily designed to extract "political concessions" from the Palestinians. Their argument: The Palestinians would be required to give up their "national rights," including the "right of return" for refugees and their descendants to their former homes in Israel proper, in exchange for improving their living conditions.
Palestinian Authority leaders are inciting their people by telling them that the US and Israel are seeking to "blackmail" the Palestinians. Consider, for example, what Abbas's prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, said on July 5: "We won't accept any plan to turn our national rights into humanitarian or financial rights. We have fixed political, historical and legal rights that are non-negotiable."
Another senior Abbas loyalist, Mahmoud Al-Aloul, was quoted on July 2 as saying: "We don't want your flour and wheat; we don't want your humanitarian aid."
And note another recent statement, made by Al-Aloul, who serves as Abbas's deputy in Fatah and is touted as the next Palestinian Authority president: "We are prepared to starve, but we can't, in return for resolving our humanitarian issues, give up Jerusalem and our basic rights."
The message should be obvious - after all, it is being broadcast loud and clear: Palestinian leaders would prefer to see their people starve than make any form of concessions for peace with Israel.
Yet Al-Aloul and Abbas are not the ones who are facing starvation. Life in Ramallah and the rest of the West Bank is pretty good for Abbas and his senior entourage. Unlike the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Authority leaders enjoy freedom of movement and live in luxury apartments and villas. There is nothing more comfortable than sitting in your fashionable house in Ramallah or Nablus and talking about starvation and humanitarian aid.
When Al-Aloul and other senior Palestinian leaders talk about the harsh conditions in the Gaza Strip, they conveniently forget to mention that it is, in part, their own sanctions that have aggravated the crisis there. But the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, who are desperate for jobs and a better life, do not really care about Trump's upcoming peace plan.
They also do not really care about a settlement or a checkpoint in the West Bank. Abbas and his officials seem dead-set to pursue their jihad against Israel and the US at the expense of the last surviving Palestinian. They go on selling their people old slogans about "national rights and principles and Jerusalem" while watching them die in the streets.
The final lesson to be drawn from the statements of the Palestinian Authority leaders against plans to improve the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not about economic or humanitarian issues.
By insisting on all Palestinian " national rights," including the "right of return," and by refusing to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, the Palestinians are in fact signaling that their true goal is to see Israel removed from the Middle East. How do we know that they want to destroy Israel? Abbas says he sees Israel as a "colonialist project that has nothing to do with Judaism."
This statement means that he does not see Israel as a legitimate state. Abbas and his officials do not care about the suffering of their people in the Gaza Strip because they are hoping to use the crisis there to pursue their campaign to delegitimize Israel. Hamas, for its part, is clearly stating that it will not give up its dream of "liberating Palestine, from the river to the sea," even if that means the starvation and death of its people. Both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas could have ensured a better life for their people a long time ago, but this is not what is on their mind. They care less about their people and more about finding ways to undermine and delegitimize and demonize Israel and Jews.
Abbas and his loyalists are saying in easy-to-understand language: "You can give us as much money as you want, we will not change our stance towards Israel and we will not give up any of our demands." In this regard, at least, they are telling the truth.
This conflict is not about money or economic aid. It is about the existence of Israel, whose presence the Palestinians refuse to tolerate in the Middle East.
This is the essence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: The Palestinians' number one priority -- the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinians in general -- is destroying Israel. They would rather die than give up their dream of destroying Israel.
The Widow And The Oil - A Bible Study by Jack Kelley -
In Matt. 6:31-33 Jesus said if we seek His kingdom and His righteousness, God will supply all our needs. Here's a beautiful story from the Old Testament to show this wasn't a new idea when Jesus spoke it, but was documented in their history.
The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves."
Elisha replied to her, "How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?"
"Your servant has nothing here at all," she said, "Except a little oil."
Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the doors behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars and as each is filled, put it to one side."
She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one."
But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing.
She went and told the man of God and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left." (2 Kings 4:1-7)
What's The Meaning Of This?
In the time following the death of King Solomon and the division of Israel into two kingdoms, there was a period of general indifference and apostasy, especially in the North. During this time men who maintained their faith in the Lord formed study groups in various places for the purpose of keeping knowledge of the Lord alive. These study groups were called companies of prophets. Although the men in these groups were not official prophets of Israel, the Lord blessed them with spiritual gifts including the gift of prophecy. Both Elijah and his successor Elisha maintained close relationships with these groups.
As our story opens, a man who had served the Lord by joining one of these companies of prophets has recently died. His time of service obviously limited his income and at his death, he not only had no inheritance to leave but had actually gone into debt. Now it was the duty of his family to repay his creditor.
Having no property or money, they were facing indentured servitude, a legal form of debt repayment in those days. But since there were no jobs for women back then, if the sons were forced into slavery the widow would be left with no means of support. It was a huge problem for which they had no remedy. It was miraculously solved by the Lord's increase of her small supply of oil, a valuable commodity.
Elisha told the widow to ask her neighbors for as many empty jars as she could get. Then the Lord supernaturally increased her supply of oil so that when she had finished filling all the jars she had collected, she had so much oil to sell that she could pay off all their debts and support herself and her family for the rest of their lives with the money she would receive.
The widow and her sons hadn't done anything to earn this. It was a gift by the Grace of God, and it far exceeded their wildest expectations, solving not only their current problem but preventing any future financial problems as well. They were set for the rest of their lives, and all they had to do was to ask.
Concealed In The Old...
Paul wrote, "Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4). It's a statement of enormous significance to New Testament believers because it explains that the history of Israel (the Old Testament) is filled with events that are meant to instruct us in the ways of the Lord. It's there to encourage us as well, as we bring a New Testament perspective to Old Testament events. The story of the widow and the oil is a great example, and even though it really happened, it can be interpreted as a parable where every character and thing represents something else.
The widow and her sons can represent the world. Ever since the Lord had Moses anoint Aaron with special oil in creating the Levitical Priesthood, oil has traditionally been used to symbolize the Holy Spirit. And the empty jars stand for unregenerate people just as they do in Jesus' miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:1-11).
Revealed In The New
Financially speaking, the destitute widow and her sons were facing a life of slavery. Spiritually speaking, when the Messiah came everyone in the world was facing a life of slavery to sin. It was a huge problem for which they had no remedy. The only presence of the Holy Spirit to be found was in Jesus (John 7:37-39). Just as Elisha had told the widow and her sons to gather empty jars, Jesus told His disciples to go into all the world baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19).
As long as the widow had empty jars, her supply of oil expanded to fill them. As she filled each jar she set it aside. As Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to His disciples (John 20:22) and they, in turn, gave Him to others, the availability of the Holy Spirit expanded beyond Israel to meet the worldwide need. From then until now every new believer receives the Holy Spirit at the moment of belief (Ephe. 1:13-14, 2 Cor. 1:21-22). There is always enough for each one and there always will be for as long as people come. As each one of us comes and receives the Holy Spirit we are set apart. Our debts are paid (past sins are forgiven) our appointment with slavery is canceled, and we will never be indebted again (our future sins are also forgiven). Colossians 2:13-14, 2 Cor. 5:17, Hebrews 10:12-14 all confirm this.
When all the jars the widow and her sons had collected were filled the oil stopped flowing. The widow and her sons were set for life. When the predetermined number of believers has come into the Church, the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit will end and we will be whisked off to our eternal home with the Lord (John 14:2-3, Romans 11:25). We'll be set forever.
Are you as amazed as I am at the New Testament theology in this passage from 2 Kings 4:1-7? Here is salvation by grace, the remission of sin, the redemption of the soul, the gift of life, and eternal security all rolled up and tied off in one neat package. Of course, you have to know something about the New Testament to see it. And if you didn't know the Old Testament you wouldn't know where to find the story. Proof again that the Bible isn't two books, it's one. And those who only read half, no matter which half, are missing the point. And that is, what's contained in the Old is explained in the New. Put another way, what's concealed in the Old is revealed in the New. To get the whole story, you have to read the whole book.
Why Are We Here - By Grant Phillips -
Assuming these statistics to be correct, about 155,500 people die daily in the world and about 6,000 die daily in this country. Included in these numbers are people of all ages. Also, death comes in many forms, but it eventually comes for us all. Have you ever asked yourself, "Why am I still here?"
I've seen friends and family members come and go. Many others I do not know are no longer among us. Yet, for now, I'm still here, and so are you if you are reading this.
Apparently, our days are predetermined by God.
"A person's days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed." (Job 14:5)
I have no doubt that God has predetermined that I would be born in a certain family, and in a certain location. I believe God even lays out a path for us to follow in life, and when we stray from that path, His Spirit is still guiding us to accomplish His will.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:28-31)
Regardless of our age at present and when we die, we're here for a reason. I grant you, it isn't always clear, but again our Lord God can be trusted.
Many fine contemporary Christians have passed away while still relatively young. I have scratched my head wondering many times, "They were doing such a great work for the Lord and now they're gone. Why?"
Regardless of our time on earth, if we are His child, He has a purpose for our life. In my immaturity I may think that another's life has been cut short if they die ever so young, but even in those situations, Satan cannot annul God's plan for us.
"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:10-11)
One of my nephews died young, but before his death many people were mightily influenced by his love for Jesus. Also, he suffered several years before going home to be with the Lord. However, in his suffering I must say again, that so many people observed his love for Jesus, despite his circumstances. I have no doubt that God touched many lives by his life and his death.
Apart from the Rapture, we are all going to die. So what are we going to do with this life that God has given us? Most of us make anything but Jesus our life. Many are consumed with their occupation, thinking it will fulfill them. Some even wrap themselves up in their families and everyday living. God tells us to look elsewhere.
"Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD." (Isaiah 55:6-8)
We don't understand many things about life and death. We may not see the total picture of why we are still here and others have left so soon. We often think we can't make a move until we see the end, but the Scriptures say;
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6)
If you are a child of God and finding it hard to understand (1) why you are here, and (2) how can He use you to glorify Jesus; I have a suggestion. Why not just ask Him? Jesus said that we can ask Him anything, so why not ask Him to show you why you are really still here? Ask Him what He would like from you and He will show you.
"You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." (John 14:14)
Life is more than jobs, hobbies, vacations, sports, amusements, and anything else. The extracurricular activities in our lives are certainly fine in their own right. They are a part of our lives, but are we still here on earth to play baseball, for example? Maybe we are. If I can glorify Jesus amongst others while I play the game, then maybe that is my pulpit. If I can run a business and glorify Jesus with those I meet, that could be my pulpit. Isn't it true that we could have many pulpits in our lives? It most certainly is true.
So why am I here? I am here as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ to glorify Him and tell others about Him. If we can go through life with that attitude and determination, our mission is clear. God will take care of the rest, and when my job is finished, He will reward me by bringing me home to be with Him.
I don't know why some of us live but a few years and others live many years. I don't know why death comes cruelly to some, while others die in their sleep. These are questions of which only God has the answers. The only thing I really need to know and practice is, "Is my life honorable to Jesus Christ?" Don't you agree?
Pre-Rapture Commentary: http://grant-phillips.blogspot.com
Rapture Ready: http://www.raptureready.com/featured/phillips/phillips.html
Daily Jot: Of fools and foolishness
- Bill Wilson -
There is a lot written about fools in the Bible. Proverbs 13:20 says, "He that walks with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." And Proverbs 1:22 asks, "How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? and the scoffers delight in their scoffing, and fools hate knowledge?" Proverbs 16:22 says, "Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that has it: but the instruction of fools is folly." Ecclesiastes 7:5 tells us, "It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools." The Bible is down on fools. With that as a backdrop, it is amazing how society tolerates foolishness brought on by fools. Of course, many of them are well educated, but that doesn't make them wise.
There are so many headlines in the news these days about crazy stuff. Take for example that the Russians influenced the elections. First the narrative was that the Russians had hacked the election and changed the result. It has now moved to the idea that President Trump and the Russians collaborated to beat Hillary Clinton. In reality, Hillary Clinton beat Hillary Clinton. She was a horrible candidate, unlikable, and a crook. The voters recognized this and they voted. The rest is history. The terrible thing is that over half the voters believe in the same foolish things that Clinton believes. And that is a problem when it comes to the future of our nation. Foolish children are becoming foolish adults.
Global warming, for example, now called climate change. The scientists fudged the study data to support the narrative. It was exposed, yet people like Al Gore and other environmentalists still go around saying that we are melting. It is a proven scientific and historic fact that weather is cyclical. I remember when I was in high school that Time and Newsweek were writing alarming cover stories that we were all going to be destroyed by the coming ice age. Same fools, different gig. Other fools say that illegal aliens don't commit any more crimes than citizens. This is factually untrue. By virtue of being illegal, they start out with committing more crimes than the average person. Add in rape, murder, armed robbery and you have real statistics that only a fool can deny.
Islam is a religion of peace-another foolish folly. What other organization enslaves, abuses, and trades in women, children and drugs? What other organization blows up themselves and others in the name of some non-existent god? Where in the world is there this type of violence that is not connected to Islam? Yet the fools think none of this is true. How many times have you discussed these things with someone only to have them say 'I don't think that is true'? Encourage people to seek the truth for themselves. 1 Corinthians 13:11 says, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." People need to have mature understanding of life, the Holy scriptures, and of God. They need to learn how to put away foolish things and seek the wisdom of the Lord.
Daily Devotion: Stand Firm - By Greg Laurie -
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. -Ephesians 6:12
Wouldn't it be nice if the devil took some time off? Imagine if we found out he was taking the month of August off. The sad thing is that we would still get ourselves into trouble.
Satan doesn't take a month off. He doesn't take a day off. He doesn't take an hour off. He doesn't even take five minutes off. He is always on duty, looking for lives to ruin. That is why we need to keep our guard up and keep the armor of God on. Ephesians 6 says, "Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil" (verse 11 NLT).
The phrase "put on" means to do it once and for all. It speaks of permanence. The full armor of God is not something that we put on and take off every night. It's something to be put on permanently. We keep the armor of God on throughout our entire lives. The temptations and attacks will not stop until we get to Heaven.
Unlike God, Satan can only be in one place at one time. God is omnipotent. God is omniscient. God is omnipresent. Though the devil is more powerful than any person, he is not anywhere near to being the equal of God. Satan can only be in one place at one time. He is limited in what he knows. He has limited power. So when you're tempted, it is probably one of his demons doing his dirty work and tempting you. That is what we face when we encounter these "strategies of the devil" that the apostle Paul wrote about.
We're in a life-and-death conflict with the devil. So recognize it's a spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons.
FROM THE HEART
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