THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – PART TWO

William Lane Craig has said, “I have found that the more I reflect philosophically on the attributes of God the more overwhelmed I become at His greatness, and the more excited I become about Bible doctrine.” Things have changed since the days when the children of Israel at Sinai begged God not to talk to them directly but through Moses. We have access to God through the Blood of Jesus to boldly come before Him at the throne of grace. Therefore, we need to take advantage of this access and learn as much about God and His attributes as we possibly can.

In “The Attributes of God – Part One” we explored the attributes of God’s self-existence, His self-sufficiency, and His eternality. In today’s post we consider God’s infinitude, omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience.

GOD IS INFINITE

I AM the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was, and who is to come. The Almighty.”     Rev. 1:8

God is infinite. He exists outside of and is not limited by time or space. He is without limits. Indeed, He is bounded only by His own nature and will. Upon finishing the Temple, Solomon declared in 1 Kings 8:27, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house that I have built!” In Ps. 90:2, Moses spoke of God as unlimited by time saying, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

This attribute also sheds light on all God’s other attributes for He is infinite in every one of them. He is infinite in His goodness, He is infinite in His holiness, by all means, He is infinite in His love, He is infinite in all of His many attributes many of which we have no knowledge of.

Don Fortner in his book, “The Attributes of God” says, “God dwells alone in His infinity. There is none before Him to limit Him, none after Him to limit Him, and none above Him to limit Him (Isa. 43:10; 44:6). …our great, infinite God is the only totally independent Being. All things depend upon God; but God depends upon nothing. All things are of Him, through Him, to Him, and by Him; but God dwells alone. All things are checked by God; but God is checked by nothing. All things are limited by God; but God is limited by nothing. God is infinite; and He alone is infinite.”

Yet, as infinitely above and beyond us as God is, He still takes time to care about each one of us. In “Beyond Personality: The Christian Idea of God,” C.S. Lewis says, “God has infinite attention, infinite leisure to spare for each one of us. He doesn’t have to take us in line. You’re as much alone with Him as if you were the only thing He’d ever created.”

GOD IS OMNIPRESENT

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there, if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.”   (Ps. 139:7-10)

A.H. Strong defines God’s omnipresence as follows: “God, in the totality of  His essence, without diffusion or expansion, multiplication or division, penetrates and fills the universe in all its parts.” This means that God is present everywhere with His whole being at the same time.

It is prudent to divide the omnipresence of God into two categories so we can understand it better. First, we look at God’s immanence: this speaks of God’s presence in the world, acting within and through His creation (Ps. 139:7-12). Second, we look at God’s transcendence: this states that God is above and beyond His creation (Matt. 18:20; Ps. 97:9).

Tozer says it better, “God dwells in His creation and is everywhere indivisibly present in all His works. He is transcendent above all His works even while He is immanent within them.

What does God’s Omnipresence Mean for Me?

His omnipresence means two things to you, one positive, and the other negative. First of all it means He will never leave you or forsake you (Deut. 31:6). He is not just a phone call away, He is right beside you at all times ready to meet your every need. Secondly, since no one can hide from His sight (Heb. 4:13), no one can hide their secret sins. Your Church, family, and friends may have no idea what your secret life is like but God knows. In the words of a very famous Christmas song, “He sees you when you’re sleepin’, He knows when you’re awake, He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake….” One thing to remember, however, God is alive and real, Santa is not.

GOD’S OMNIPRESENCE AND MANIFEST PRESENCE CONTRASTED

By the way, there is a difference between God’s omnipresence and His manifest presence. God is here around us whether we realize it or not. When we are in the manifest presence of God we are fully aware of His presence. A good example of this is the glory cloud that appeared in Solomon’s Temple at its dedication.  (2 Chron. 5:13, 14)

God’s Omnipresence in a Nutshell

To sum this attribute up, here is another quote from Don Fortner, “Our God is gloriously present with His saints in heaven. He is powerfully present in the exercise of His dominion throughout the earth in the assembly of His saints (Matt.18:20; Rev. 1:13), in the ministry of His Gospel (Matt. 28:20; Rev. 1:12), in the trials we must face (Isa. 41:10; 43:1-5), and in the indwelling of His Spirit. He says, ‘I will not leave you comfortless: I will come unto you.’ (Jn. 14:15-18)”

GOD IS OMNIPOTENT

“And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”    Rev. 19:6

“The greatest single distinguishing feature of the omnipotence of God is that our imagination gets lost thinking about it.”       Blaise Pascal

That God is omnipotent means that God can do anything if it can be done and if it does not contradict His own nature. An old question that atheists often used to question God’s omnipotence was, “Can God create a rock so heavy that He could not lift it? This question is not used much anymore because they finally realized that it was so illogical that it bordered on stupidity. It is in the same category as, “Can God make a square peg fit into a round hole.” These questions make absolutely no sense and therefore cannot be done. God also cannot lie or steal, for these things would run counter to His nature.

Scripture gives us a clear picture of God’s omnipotence. God is omnipotent over nature (Gen. 1:4,7,10; Isa. 40:12,15). He is omnipotent over men (Dan. 4:30-32) and angels (Ps. 103:20). God is omnipotent over Satan (Job 1:12; 2:6). And God is omnipotent over death (Heb. 2:14,15). There are many, many more examples of God’s omnipotence given in the Bible. These are just a few.

Without God’s omnipotence all of His other attributes would be lifeless and empty. Stephen Charnock says the following, “As holiness is the beauty of all God’s attributes, so power is that which gives life and action to all the perfections of the Divine nature. How vain would be the eternal counsels, if power did not step in to execute them. Without power His mercy would be but feeble pity, His promises an empty sound, His threatenings a mere scarecrow. God’s power is like Himself: infinite, eternal, incomprehensible; it can neither be checked, restrained, nor frustrated by the creature.”

GOD IS OMNISCIENT

“For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything.”       1 John 3:20

Dictionary.com defines omniscience as having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things. On this subject, Don Fortner says, “God sees, knows, comprehends, and understands all things perfectly and at once. ‘There is no searching of His understanding’ (Isa. 40:28). In comparison with God’s wisdom the wisdom of the heavenly angels is only folly” (Job 4:18).

Arthur Pink goes farther and says, “God is omniscient. He knows everything: everything possible, everything actual; all events and all creatures, of the past, the present, and the future. He is perfectly acquainted with every detail in the life of every being in heaven, in earth, and in hell. Nothing escapes His notice, nothing can be hidden from Him, nothing is forgotten by Him.”

This means God not only knows everything that has, is, or will happen, He also knows every choice we might possibly make and every possible outcome. He also knows the location of every atom in the universe at the same instant – past, present, and future. All this while dwelling in our hearts and knowing all our thoughts. (Ps. 139:1; 66:18). Has your head exploded yet!

There is actually one thing that God forgets and that is our sins when we ask forgiveness and repent from them (Micah 7:19; Ps. 103:12). This is a choice by God to forget our sins which is why we can be justified in His sight as if we had never sinned. Hallelujah!!!

CONCLUSION

Wow! God is so awesome and wonderful, and we have only covered 7 of His attributes. We have 14 more to go. I hope you are having as much fun in this study as I am. Exploring who God is through His attributes can only have the effect of drawing us closer to Him the more we discover. Part 3 will be on the way soon.

THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD – PART ONE

In our day and time, people display a far too familiar attitude towards God. Nicknames such as “The Man upstairs,” “One of the boys,” and “My homie” are used with regularity. Should these types of names identify the Most High God? I think not! He is altogether perfect “Whose judgments are unsearchable and whose ways are past finding out” (Romans 11:33). “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19). Christians need to rediscover a holy reverence for the Triune God like our forefathers possessed in years past. This reverence is found to a large degree by studying the character of Almighty God.

Today we embark on a journey into the attributes of God. An attribute of God is whatever God possesses revealed as true of Himself. What we really know of God does not even scratch the surface of all God encompasses. A. W. Tozer puts it this way, “In the awful abyss of the divine being may lie attributes of which we know nothing and which can have no meaning for us, just as the attributes of mercy and grace can have no personal meaning for seraphim or cherubim. These holy beings may know of these qualities in God but be unable to feel them sympathetically for the reason that they have not sinned and so do not call forth God’s mercy and grace.”

God possesses hidden facets of His person wholly unknown and perhaps unknowable by any created being, even angels. These are known only by God Himself. Does that mean we should just throw up our hands and not seek to discover more about this incredible, awesome God we serve? Absolutely not! Part of the joy of serving Yahweh God is discovering more and more about Him. We will continue this process of discovery throughout all eternity! With this in mind, we now consider 21 attributes or perfections of God.

God is Self-Existent

“And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me; and they shall say unto me, What is His Name? What shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”    Exodus 3:13, 14

In Exodus 3:13, 14 Moses asks God who he should say sent him to the children of Israel in Egypt. God answers Moses and tells him, “I AM THAT I AM” is His Name. The Hebrew word used here “haya” is basically a shortened form of Yahweh (YHWH). The phrase, I AM THAT I AM actually explains the covenant name of Yahweh. God is saying I AM THE ONE THAT ALWAYS IS. What God communicates to us by this name (with staggering implications) is God exists because He exists!  No one created God! Yet He created everything! He is the uncaused cause of everything! God is completely self-existent! He does not depend upon anything or anyone for His thoughts (Romans 11:33, 34), His will (Ephesians 1:5), His power (Psalm 115:3), or His counsel (Psalm 33:10, 11).

A. W. Tozer sums up this attribute of God so well in “The Attributes of God Vol. 2” where he says, “It was in the holy womb of the virgin Mary that the great God almighty compressed Himself into the form of a Babe, and so we honor her and respect her highly. She is blessed among women as the one that God used as the channel to come into this world of ours. But before Mary was, God was! And before Abraham was, God was! And before Adam was, God was! And before the world was – the stars, the mountains, the seas, the rivers, the plains or the forests – God was! And God is and God will ever be. God is the originating Self. God’s selfhood is His holy Being – His unsupported, independent existence!” Amen!

God is Self-Sufficient

“For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof.”     Ps. 50:10-12

Not only does God possess no beginning or ending but He also requires nothing of any kind from anyone for His existence. H. L. Wilmington in his Guide to the Bible, puts it this way, “This means God has never had in eternity past, nor can ever have in the ages to come, a single need for which His own Divine Nature has not already provided.” Creation adds nothing at all to the perfection and happiness of God, nor makes the least alteration in Him.

God does not possess a man-sized hole in His heart that we must fill. There is not one solitary need in His being that must be furnished by His creation. In Don Fortner’s book, The Attributes of God, he writes, “Preachers often portray God as a pathetic being who is in desperate need of man, as one whose will, work, and glory greatly depends upon man. But from the beginning, God revealed Himself as El-Shaddai, God Almighty, and All-Sufficient. God is so infinitely great that He stands in need of nothing and is in need of no one. The Self-Existent God is the Self-Subsistent God. He is perfect, complete, happy, and satisfied in Himself. We can add nothing to Him. And we can take nothing from Him. He is God” (Romans 11:35-36).

GOD IS ETERNAL

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”    Ps. 90:2

We live in time. Indeed, we measure our existence by time: past, present, and future. God is not limited by time. In fact, God created time so he is not constrained by it in any way whatsoever. We see the past and the present but can only guess about the future. God sees the past and present but He also sees the future because He is already there. Isaiah 57:15 describes God as the “…High and lofty One that inhabits eternity.” You see, God is above our space-time continuum. From His perspective, the future has already happened. Has your mind exploded yet from all this information?

In Ps. 90:2 and also in Micah 5:2 (which speaks of Jesus), God is described as God “from everlasting to everlasting.” A. R. Fausset tells us that, “these terms convey the strongest assertion of infinite duration of which the Hebrew language is capable.” John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Greek word eimi translates “was” in this passage. Eimi is in the imperfect tense which indicates continuous action. With that in mind, “In the beginning, the Word already existed” translates the imperfect much better and communicates the eternal nature of Christ more clearly. We see through these Scriptures and many others (Isa. 9:6; John 8:58; Col. 1:16, 17; Eph. 1:4; Rev. 1:8; etc.) that the Bible clearly teaches the eternality of God.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion of part one of this study, there is one thing we must realize. As incomprehensible as this self-existent, self-sufficient, and eternal God we serve is, He is not unknowable. As vast as the gulf is between God and ourselves, He is not unreachable. Indeed, God sent His Son, Jesus, to bridge that great chasm that sin created between God and man. And by accepting what Christ accomplished on the Cross we are able to cry out like Paul and say, “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.”

SOAP JOURNAL – PHIL. 4:6 FIVE STEPS THAT MOVE US FROM ANXIETY AND FEAR TO PEACE AND FAITH

SCRIPTURE

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  Phil. 4:6

INTRODUCTION

Now that Paul has told us in no uncertain terms not to worry https://capturedbygrace.net/2020/03/23/soap-journal-be-anxious-for-nothing-phil-46/ he begins to explain how this is done. This short but power-packed little verse gives us five very important steps that move us from anxiety and fear to peace and faith. So Let’s unpack them and discover this wonderful truth from God’s Word.

PROSEUCHE – OBSERVATION

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  Phil. 4:6

The apostle Paul uses five Greek words in this verse that describe five different aspects of prayer. The first word is the Greek word proseuche which is translated prayer in the King James version. Indeed, proseuche is the most commonly used word for prayer in the New Testament being used as such 127 times.

Proseuche combines the words pros and euche to form one word. Pros means toward and almost always indicates a sense of close, intimate connection with someone. This same word is translated with in John 1:1, “…the Word was with God,” and at least one commentator has translated the verse to read, “…and the Word was face-to-face with God….”

The word euche denotes a wish, desire, or vow. The original use of this word characterized one who made a vow to God due to some need or desire in their life. Therefore, this word pictures the idea of exchange; a giving of something to God in exchange for something wanted or desired.

PROSEUCHE – APPLICATION

Consequently, the way we apply the word proseuche to our lives is by drawing close to God in an intimate face-to-face time of prayer. We then exchange all of our worries, fears, and concerns for His peace in our lives. What a great deal! We give God our problems and He gives us His peace!

DEISIS – OBSERVATION

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  Phil. 4:6

The next word on our list is the Greek word deisis, translated “supplication” in the KJV. This word portrays someone with some form of need or distress in their life who, as a result, pleads earnestly for their need to be met. This appeal pushes pride to the side and passionately cries out for help.

This word also appears in James 5:16 where it is translated “fervent prayer.” Moreover, this passage describes this type of prayer as one that “availeth much.” The fervency of this type of prayer is further exemplified in this passage by recalling to our memory Elijah when he prayed for it to rain after three years of drought. Indeed, Elijah threw himself to the ground and assumed the position of childbirth (1 Kings 18:42) travailing in prayer until his servant saw a cloud in the sky which was followed by a great rain.

DEISIS – APPLICATION

In applying this type of prayer to our lives, it is important to understand that this prayer requires that we earnestly seek God. This prayer gives birth to miracles in the spirit realm. The phrase availeth much in Jas. 5:16 means has much force. The old Pentecostal term praying through comes to mind; portraying someone that doesn’t stop praying until they have broken through. For example, Daniel prayed 21 days while spiritual warfare was taking place in the spirit realm. The breakthrough happened and he received the answers he was seeking. However, if Daniel had stopped praying before the victory was secured he might have been disappointed.

I’m not saying that you have to pray 21 days every time you have an urgent need in your life, all I’m saying is to pray until you know that you have reached heaven and touched the heart of God. Indeed, oftentimes the church of today is into microwaving when a good dose of marinating is needed.

EUCHARISTIA – OBSERVATION

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  Phil. 4:6

What Paul instructs us to do next goes against human reasoning. He tells us to offer our prayer and supplication to God with thanksgiving. Not only are we to give thanks to God for the things we pray for but we are to give thanks before we receive the things we prayed for. Furthermore, our thanksgiving should be no timid affair. The Greek word, eucharistia, translated thanksgiving in this verse, means an outpouring of grace and of wonderful feelings that freely flow from the heart in response to someone or something. This guards against a whining, complaining spirit before God when we “let our requests be made known.”

EUCHARISTIA – APPLICATION

We need to be just as passionate in our thanksgiving as we were when we made our requests. Furthermore, even though we just made our request and the answer has not manifested yet, we need to thank God in advance. Thanking Him in advance demonstrates faith!

AITEO – OBSERVATION

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  Phil. 4:6

Our fourth stop on our journey through the five steps that move us to peace and faith is the Greek word aiteo, translated requests in the KJV. Aiteo communicates in a very strong way the place we can arrive at when we truly surrender our lives to God. Indeed, this word means to be adamant in requesting and even demanding assistance to meet tangible needs, such as food, shelter, money, and so forth. This word depicts someone who, after approaching God with respect and honor due to His name, demands that a specific need be met.

John 15:7

However, this word does not endorse the “name it, claim it” crowd. Furthermore, conditions must be met before God can be approached in this manner. In John 15:7 we read, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” The word translated ask in this verse is the same word, aiteo, that is used in Phil. 4:6 for requests. But we notice that before we can “ask what ye will” we must qualify by abiding in Jesus and having His Word abide in us. The word, abide in this verse means to stay, continue, or live in. This word (Greek-meno) is in the subjunctive mood and aorist tense which simply portrays a definite outcome that will happen as a result of another stated action. In other words, this Scripture says, “If you live in Me, and My words live in you, then you have met the conditions; you qualify to ask whatever you want and it will happen.

Psalm 37:4

Let’s qualify this even more. In Ps. 37:4 we read, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”  In other words, seek your pleasure and happiness in God and He will grant your every desire because your desires will be in total agreement for what He desires for you because of your close and intimate relationship with Him.

AITEO – APPLICATION

This means when you pray about a need that concerns you, it is right for you to pray authoritatively. AS LONG AS YOUR PRAYER IS BASED ON THE WORD OF GOD, you can have the assurance of God’s promise regarding the issue you are most concerned about. Furthermore, when you pray, it is spiritually appropriate for you to fully expect God to honor His Word and do what you have requested.

GNORIDZO – OBSERVATION

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”        Phil. 4:6

God requires that we come to Him and express our needs. Not as if you were to give God information He doesn’t already know, He just wants you to express it to Him (Eze. 36:37). Moreover, God desires that every concern you have be brought before Him regardless of how big or small it might be. This quote from Joseph Benson puts this thought very succinctly, “They who, by a preposterous shame, or distrustful modesty, cover, stifle, or keep in their desires, as if they were either too small or too great to be spread before God, must be racked with care, from which they are entirely delivered who pour them out with a free and filial confidence.”

This word also continues the image of being bold in “making our requests known to God.” Indeed, it means to declare something, to broadcast something; or to make something very evident.

Listen, I’m not saying to forgo humility when you petition God. What I’m saying is we don’t need to come to God all whiny and mealy-mouthed. Humility is not that! Humility simply means a lack of pride and arrogance; a person that does not exalt himself above others.

CONCLUDING APPLICATION

So, in conclusion, let’s put all these definitions and ideas together into an amplified version of Phil. 4:6:

“Don’t worry about anything – and that means nothing at all! Instead, come before God and give Him the things that concern you so He can in exchange give you what you need or desire as you delight yourself in Him. Be bold to strongly, passionately, and fervently make your request known to God, making certain that a sincere thankfulness, thanking God in advance of receiving the things that you have asked for, goes along with your strong asking. When you pray, be so bold that there is no doubt your prayer was heard. Broadcast it! Declare it! Pray boldly until you have the assurance that God has heard your request!”

CONCLUSION

I sincerely hope that these last two posts on this website have hit home especially through what our world is going through right now. Use this passage in your life including the two verses that follow this one. Pray the Word, especially passages like Psalm 91 and Psalm 23 among many others. Prayer does still work! And as I conclude this post, I want to leave you with this Scripture:

PROVERBS 3:5-6

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

SOAP JOURNAL – BE ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING – PHIL. 4:6

So, I just bought a new spiritual journal that contains a Bible passage at the bottom of each page. In keeping with a promise I made on Facebook about writing mini-Bible studies while observing the governor’s order to have no meetings over ten people, I decided to write some S.O.A.P. journals based on these Scriptures.

What’s a “soap” journal you ask? It’s a form of journaling that incorporates the letters of the word soap, using them as an acrostic. The “S” stands for Scripture; the “O” stands for observation; the “A” stands for application; the “P” stands for prayer. They are supposed to be short but mine never are. So, with that in mind, let’s get started.

SCRIPTURE

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”      (Phil. 4:6 LEB)

OBSERVATION

Did you know that worry is a sin? The Apostle Paul says this in no uncertain terms in Phil. 4:6 when he says, “Be anxious for nothing.” To be sure, this phrase in the Greek is in the imperative mood which makes it a command, not a suggestion. Why is this so important? David Guzik explains it like this, “Undue care is an intrusion into an arena that belongs to God alone. It makes us the father of the household instead of being a child.”

Anxious

The Greek word for anxious in this verse is merimnao which means to be troubled; to be anxious; to be fretful; or to be worried about something. This kind of fear suffocates and strips away a person’s capacity to enjoy what they possess.

When Paul wrote this, the word merimnao described a person worried about the basic necessities of life, someone worried about providing food and clothing, a place to live and other necessities of life.

Jesus’ Use of the Word Merimnao

Jesus uses this same word in Matt. 6:25 where he says, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” Jesus combines this word with the Greek word me which means an absolute denial or intense prohibition against something that is already taking place. Indeed, He was urging everyone to stop worrying. Moreover, Jesus specifically told us to not worry about our food and clothing and other necessities of life. Sounds like He might have also been peering into today’s world when He uttered those words.

According to the parable of the sower in Matt. 13:22, Jesus says the cares (merimnao again) of this world choke the word of God. Choke is from the Greek word sumpnigo which means to suffocate, to smother, to asphyxiate, to choke, or to throttle. Clearly, worry has the ability to consume you in such a way that your life comes to a screeching halt as you are smothered by your fear.

APPLICATION

To conclude, Phil. 4:6 tells us to not let everything that is going on in the world right now cause you to panic. The word translated nothing in the phrase “Be anxious for nothing” means absolutely nothing! The ISV translation says it best, “Don’t worry about anything!” That means don’t worry about anything at all!

Jesus wants you to “cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you (1Pet. 5:7).” He wants you to walk free of all those smothering, suffocating fears once and for all!

PRAYER

Father God, I repent of the worry and fear that has been gripping my heart during this coronavirus pandemic. I know You don’t mean for us to be unwise during this crisis, but we can have complete confidence that none of this caught You by surprise and You do have everything under control and all of us in Your hand. Thank You, Father, for Your peace and Your joy in Jesus Mighty Name, amen.

CONCLUSION

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think. We will explore the rest of this verse in a post coming very soon.

BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT PART 2

Episcopal priest Samuel M. Shoemaker, considered one of the best preachers of his era said this concerning the Holy Spirit, “True spiritual power of the Christian order is a kind of possessedness. It arises in and flows through a life hid with Christ in God. Its source is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the potency of the Holy Spirit.” Concerning the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Jack Hayford said, “It is a call to abandon ourselves to the Holy Spirit – to yield to His fullness, to open to the worship He enables, to utilize the full prayer resources He supplies and to exalt and minister the works of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul characterizes the attitude of much of the Church living in the last days saying they would have “a form of godliness but deny its power,” and “from such people turn away. We desperately need the power that the Holy Spirit gives to be effective ministers for God’s Kingdom and the influencers for Him that we need to be.

OUT OF HIS HEART…

Each day of the Feast of Tabernacles the priest would fill a golden vase with water from the pool of Siloam and carry it to the Temple. He would then pour it out on the western side of the altar of burnt-offering while another priest poured out a drink offering of wine on the east side of the altar. This commemorated the miraculous provision of water from the rock during the Israelites wilderness wanderings. It was during this ceremony on the last day of the feast that Jesus spoke and said, “If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water (Jn. 7:37,38). Verse 39 of this passage informs us that Jesus was speaking of the baptism in the Holy Spirit and that it would quench one’s spiritual thirst.

Jack Hayford, speaking of the baptism in the Holy Spirit from this passage, describes these rivers as different ministries and spiritual manifestations greatly enhanced by the flow of the Spirit. These being rivers of worship and praise; rivers of witness, ministry, and gifts; rivers of intercession and prayer; and rivers of fruitfulness, strength, and revelation. All these rivers would not be possible without the infusion of power available through the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

THE FATHER’S PROMISE

Jesus told us that we would be clothed with power from on high according to the Father’s promise (Luke 24:49). He said we would be given power to witness to the point of being able to lay down our life if need be (Acts 1:8 witness: Greek martoos; where we get the word martyr). We are told in Mark 16:15-20 that our witness should be accompanied by signs following, confirming the Word being spoken.

NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH BIRTHED IN THE SUPERNATURAL

This promise that the first Christians experienced is for us today (Acts 2:17,18, 37-41). When we experience miracles as we minister, the skeptics have nothing they can say. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that captivates the pre-Christian (Mark 16:15-20; Acts 5:12-16; 6:8).

A great example from Scripture of how the gifts of the Spirit transformed an entire community is from Acts 9:32-42. In this passage, Aeneas was healed of the palsy and Tabitha was raised from the dead. The Scripture says, “that all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him (Aeneas), and turned to the Lord.” The Scripture then says concerning Tabitha being raised from the dead, “And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.” Revival broke out because of the power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His servants.

TWO WAYS TO RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT

Derek Prince instructs us that there are two ways to receive the Holy Spirit. He likens the first way to Resurrection Sunday and the second way he likens to Pentecost Sunday. In John 20:19-22 Jesus appears to His disciples and shows them His hands and feet to convince them that it was the same body He had, now resurrected. He then imparted the Holy Spirit to them by breathing on them. The Greek indicates He did this to each one individually. They received immediately passing from Old Testament salvation to New Testament salvation. Confession and belief are needed for New Testament salvation according to Romans 10:9. They had already confessed Jesus as Lord during His earthly ministry. At this point, there was no doubt they believed He rose from the dead. Therefore, at salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the believer. But, there was clearly something more that God wanted them to receive. In Luke 24:48,49, Jesus called it the promise of the Father. Jesus told the disciples to wait for this experience in Jerusalem. This occurred after the ascension and, therefore, could not be the same thing they experienced in John 20:19-22.

In the Book of Acts 2:1-21,38,39, the Holy Spirit falls on the 120 disciples gathered in the upper room and “they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave utterance.” This experience totally immersed (baptizo) the believer in the Holy Spirit and empowered him for ministry. This baptism happened in three phases. In the first phase, the Holy Spirit came down like a mighty rushing wind and filled the house. The disciples were overwhelmed or “baptized” from above. Second, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. The third phase was the overflow; they began to speak with other tongues. This was Pentecost Sunday. This process can be stopped by the believer at any point, depriving him/her of the full blessing.

Listen, the disciples received the manifest, supernatural power of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. It was manifest in that everybody knew it happened. It was supernatural since it could not be reproduced in the natural. They received a power that gave them boldness to witness that they did not possess on their own. They received an insight into Scripture that no normal fisherman or tax collector would possess. By this baptism in the Holy Spirit, they were released to apostolic mission by which all Jerusalem felt the impact. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, they turned the known world upside down. This did not happen until the baptism in the Holy Spirit, subsequent to salvation, turned a group of men and women (yes they were there too) that were scared to show their faces in public, into dynamic, fearless, bold witnesses for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

IS SPEAKING IN TONGUES THE INITIAL EVIDENCE OF THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT?

Before we answer the question of whether or not speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, let’s look at some Biblical reasons for speaking in tongues. In 1 Corinthians 14:5,18,19 the apostle Paul encourages everyone to speak in tongues and prophesy. In 1 Corinthians 14:4 and Jude 1:20, we are told that praying and worshipping in tongues edifies the believer spiritually and builds up the inner man. Praying and worshipping in tongues allows us to enter the realm of the supernatural. We are communicating with the Lord in the natural and supernatural dimensions (1 Cor. 14:14,15).

Isaiah 28:11 (quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:21) is prophetic of the gift of tongues in the Church Age and is the refreshing and rest spoken of in Isaiah 28:12. As far as tongues being the initial evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I personally feel that a better terminology would be the seal or culmination of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Can you receive this gift without speaking in tongues? I feel that yes, you can, but you’re stopping short of what God really wants you to have if you do. Regardless, Scripture tells us that speaking in tongues was the seal that the apostles received when they received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and it was the seal they recognized in others who received [Acts 8:14-19 (implied);10:44-46; 19:1-7].

HOW TO RECEIVE THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

So, how do you receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit? Easy! You ask for it! Luke 11:9-13 informs us that we have a good and wonderful heavenly Father who is ready and willing to give us the Holy Spirit when we ask. In this passage, Jesus asks the disciples if an earthly father would give a stone to a son who asks for bread, or a serpent to a son who asks for a fish, or a scorpion to a son who asks for an egg. Of course, it is ridiculous to think that any earthly father unless they are demented, would do any of these things. It would be even more ridiculous to think that our heavenly Father would not give His children the Holy Spirit when we ask for Him.

Consequently, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit the moment we ask in faith believing, just like when we asked for salvation. We come to God thirsty and ready to drink and then we release the outflow through our mouth in the form of speaking in tongues. By the way, you do not lose control of your mouth when you are speaking in tongues. 1 Corinthians 14:32 tells us that, “The spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet.” In other words, you are in control. You hear the words in your spirit and speak them out through your mouth.

BEING CONTINUALLY FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

Once we have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit daily (Ephesians 5:18-19). You have not arrived once you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. This gift is not a goal; it is a gateway into the realm of the supernatural that will greatly enhance the work you do for God’s kingdom.

CONCLUSION

The Scriptures point out quite conclusively that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a separate work from salvation. By the way, in case you are under the impression that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and the subsequent gifts of the Spirit belong only to the first century Church, Acts 2:39 says, “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Can you make it to heaven without it? Yes, but you will seriously miss out on wonderful blessings in your life and in the lives of others by not taking advantage of this gift and all that God has available for you through it.

BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT PART ONE

I’m sure by now it is apparent how much I like to teach lessons in series. As a matter of fact, I will most often have several series going on at the same time. This blog post on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit continues the discipleship series which also contains posts on salvation, what’s next, and water baptism.

With that in mind, let us begin the discussion on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This discussion will take several posts to complete and will lead directly into posts on the person of, functions, ministries, fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit. This first post will relate my own personal experience with this wonderful gift and my early days as a Christian.

My Testimony

After a life of sin that was way beyond my young age, I was born again at the ripe old age of 16 on August 28, 1980. After about six months I began to feel God calling me into the ministry. Soon after, I received my minister’s license from Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. Everything was going well as God began to give me an intense desire to win souls for His kingdom. Consequently, this desire led me to a little coffee house street outreach ministry called the Alpha House. My weekend evenings began to be filled with street witnessing up and down Galloway Ave., the cruising strip in Mesquite, Texas. Indeed, I lived for these experiences and I loved my new friends.

Something’s Different

However, I very quickly realized that my new friends were not Baptist. This really didn’t matter much to me because they loved to win souls as much as I did. Nevertheless, It was during times of corporate prayer and worship that God began to develop a deep hunger for His presence in me. When the coffee house praise team would be ministering, I would notice the others with their hands lifted up with intense expressions of euphoria and passion written all over their faces. Now, don’t get me wrong, the people at my church sincerely loved the Lord, but, we didn’t worship in this manner and I wanted the rapture that I saw on their faces.

Tuesday Night Bible Study

Tuesday nights at the Alpha House were Bible study nights. One Tuesday night in particular a staff member named Stan taught on the three baptisms in a Christian’s life. When Stan arrived at the section on the baptism in the Holy Spirit I heard Scriptures I had never heard or read before. This was especially true of the passages in the Book of Acts that were brought to light; Scriptures our denomination tended to avoid. As a result, I was somewhat bewildered after the study was over and approached Stan to discuss the study with him. Stan, being the wise man that he was, simply told me to go home and read the Book of Acts and then ask God if there was anything else He wanted to give me and if there was I wanted it.

That Night

I read the entire Book of Acts that night and saw several things that, in my ignorance, I had preached against. Accordingly, my eyes were opened and in my bedroom I prayed the prayer that Stan had told me to pray. God immediately baptized me in the Holy Spirit and I began to speak in tongues “as the Spirit gave me utterance” (Acts 2:4). That was about 38 years ago and I can’t even begin to imagine what my life and ministry would have been like without this precious gift.

Conclusion

Contrary to popular belief, Christianity is an experiential religion. Although doctrine, theology, and dividing the Word are very important, indeed the most important disciplines in Christianity, the experiences we have are also extremely important. However, these experiences absolutely must line up with the Word of God, and when this happens, these experiences help to make a complete and mature Christian. The next part of this study deals with the scriptural basis of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH – A SOAP JOURNAL

SCRIPTURE – FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH

“But you, O man of God, Flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto you are also called, and have professed a good profession before many witnesses.”     1 Tim. 11,12

OBSERVATION

In this soap journal we will contrast King Solomon and King Joash’s failures with the godly lives of Paul and Timothy. Moreover, we will show how Timothy took to heart the command of Paul to fight the good fight of faith as opposed to King Solomon and King Joash’s waning faith at the end of their lives.

Solomon

Solomon started out so well. When God appeared to him and asked Solomon what he would like from God, Solomon asked for the exact thing that he needed the most: wisdom! He became the wisest man that ever lived besides Jesus. Kings and queens from all over the known world came to visit Solomon to verify for themselves how wisely Solomon ruled his kingdom.

Unfortunately, Solomon let his passions get the best of him and ended up following the gods of his wives. He only had 700 wives and 300 concubines (mistresses). Most of his marriages stemmed from peace treaties with foreign countries. Indeed, his marriage to these women sealed the deal. Solomon may have thought he could lead these women to the God of Israel. However, they ended up drawing him away from the One true God and into the worship of idols.

Joash

Joash also started out well. After his wicked grandmother, Queen Athaliah met her demise at the order of the priest Jehoiada, Joash assumed the throne. The temple of Baal was torn down and Joash repaired the temple of Yahweh (2 Kings 12:4-16). In addition, Joash persuaded King Hazael of Syria to not attack Jerusalem (2 Kings 12:17-18).

But then Joash’s trusted mentor, the priest Jehoiada, died. Joash began to listen to wicked advisors. Moreover, he revived the worship of Baal and Asherah in Judah. He even had Jehoiada’s son, the prophet Zechariah, stoned to death when he tried to warn Joash of his wicked ways. Joash was later assassinated by his servants who conspired against him (2 Chron. 24:17-25; 2 Kings 12:20).

Paul and Timothy

Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, instructs him to “Fight the good fight of faith.” Paul fought this fight of faith and finished a winner. Moreover, the Scriptures tell us that Paul had “finished the race and kept the faith.” A “crown of righteousness” awaited Paul’s arrival in heaven (2 Tim. 4:7-8). I have no doubt that he received the greeting every Christian longs to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant….Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matt. 25:23).

Paul instructed Timothy to flee the lust and evil of the world and follow after “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11-12). He instructed Timothy to “preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2). Timothy did not try to finish his course by hanging on to the coattails of Paul. On the contrary, according to church tradition, he continued on as the overseer at Ephesus after Paul’s death and eventually suffered martyrdom under the Emperor Domition.

They Finished Well

These two heroic saints of God suffered incredible hardship in their walks with God and yet they finished well. They did not allow the distractions of the world to derail them before they could finish.

APPLICATION

Hebrews 3:14 tells us, “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” Listen, it matters much more how we finish than how we begin. Don’t blow it all on the enticements of this world. Look for that “city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” like Abraham did (Heb. 11:10). Finish Well! A great cloud of witnesses cheers you on every step of your journey (Heb. 12:1). Finish the race! Fight the good fight of faith all the way to the end!

PRAYER

Father God, help us to be diligent in our walk with You. Open our eyes to things in our lives that could bring us down. Give us the strength to fight the “good fight of faith” remaining steadfast to the end. Help us Father to keep our eyes upon Jesus when the enemy sends distractions our way. Guide us O’ God through this course of life that we may be able to hear you say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord,” In Jesus Name, Amen.  

COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD – PART 2

In part one of the Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God we began to argue for the existence of God by presenting the Kalam Cosmological Argument. We will now continue with that train of thought by considering the Kalam argument’s impact on time and causality then we will discuss contingent and necessary beings. In addition, we will discuss scientific proofs for the Cosmological Argument.

TIME AND CAUSALITY

In our last post we spoke of the absurdity of actual infinities and how their non-existence proves the universe is finite. The non-existence of actual infinities can be further demonstrated by applying two factors; time and causality.

Time

The fact that “Now” exists proves that time cannot be infinite. A great example of this can be found in Holman’s Quicksource Guide to Christian Apologetics which says, “…Picture the moment “now” as a destination, like a train station. Then picture time as train tracks that are actually infinitely long. If you were a passenger waiting on the train to arrive, how long would you have to wait? The answer is: forever. You can never reach the end of infinity; thus, infinitely long train tracks cannot ever be crossed. There is no end to arrive at, no station.” In other words, an infinite number of past moments prior to the here and now could not have happened. Therefore, at some point time began to exist.

Causality

However, time did not just suddenly appear all by itself out of nowhere. The fact that time had a beginning means that something started the clock ticking. An effect without a cause does not exist. You might be thinking, “Well, if that is the case then God must have a cause.” However, because causes exist now, there must exist a beginning to the sequence. There must exist a cause that does not exist as an effect; an uncaused cause, or initial cause. This uncaused cause would be God.

THE UNCAUSED CAUSE

The Kalam argument declares to us that the universe began to exist and must have been caused by an uncaused cause. Consequently, there can only be two possible choices of what this uncaused cause must be; personal or impersonal. Doug Powell answers this question with a question, “What kind of thing relies on nothing for its existence, has the power to create something from nothing, has a will to do it or not do it, and has the characteristic of existing outside of the creation? Does this sound like a personal or impersonal being? Personal, of course! Thus, the Kalam argument brings us to the conclusion that the universe had a beginning that was caused by a personal, transcendent being.”

CONTINGENT AND NECESSARY BEINGS

Before we move on we need to discuss something the Kalam argument fails to address. While the Kalam argument deals with the initial cause of the universe, it neglects to address the sustaining factors of the universe. For this discussion we must address two terms: contingent existence and necessary existence.

Contingent Existence

Contingent existence can either be or not be; the possibility exists for it not to exist. For example, you are contingent on your parents for existence, and they are contingent upon their parents before them, and so on and so on. Nevertheless, there remains the possibility for that contingent thing to not exist.

Necessary Existence

On the other hand, a necessary being must exist for it is not possible for that being not to exist. Furthermore, to exist necessarily is to exist without contingencies or dependencies. This being would necessarily be the Kalam argument’s First Cause which by definition would be God.

Doug Powell sums it up quite well, “Nothing we see in the universe has to exist. Everything we see could just as well not have existed. This makes everything that exists simply possible, not necessary. But something does exist. ‘Therefore,’ says Aquinas, ‘not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary.’ Thus we know that a necessary being must exist in order to account for the possible beings that do exist; it makes the possible beings possible. A BEING THAT IS NECESSARY FOR THE EXISTENCE OF ALL THINGS IS CALLED GOD.”

SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENTS

Let’s switch gears now and discuss some scientific evidence for the cosmological argument. Under this heading, we examine two areas that give credence to the cosmological argument for the existence of God: the Big Bang Theory and the Law of Entropy.

THE BIG BANG

Definition

According to Norman Geisler’s The Big Book of Christian Apologetics, “Big bang cosmology is a widely accepted theory regarding the origin of the universe according to which the material universe or cosmos exploded into being some 13-15 billion years ago. Since then the universe has been expanding and developing according to conditions set at the moment of its origin.”

When one thinks of the term “Big Bang” one might imagine all sorts of images in their mind. Indeed, one might picture the sudden explosiveness of a massive thermonuclear bomb detonating and destroying everything in its shock-wave path for miles and miles. Moreover, one might imagine the total disorder and chaos of an industrial plant that produces fertilizers or plastics suddenly exploding for no apparent reason and the resulting blast zone with debris scattered everywhere in no pre-arranged pattern whatsoever. Such a bang would yield total destruction and disorder.

In contrast, the Big Bang that represents the beginning of our universe unfolded in a totally different way. Astronomer Hugh Ross explains it this way, “In truth, this ‘bang’ represents an immensely powerful yet carefully planned and controlled release of matter, energy, space, and time within the strict confines of carefully fine-tuned physical constants and laws that govern their behavior and interactions. The power and care this explosion reveals exceeds human potential for design by multiple orders of magnitude.

THE EVIDENCE

You might be thinking, “That all sounds very impressive but what kind of evidence exists for this theory?” Believe it or not the evidence is very compelling. Without listing all the scientific equations let’s look at the evidence.

Einstein

Way back in 1916, Albert Einstein gave us the first direct scientific evidence for a big bang universe; The General Theory of Relativity. Einstein’s equations showed that the universe was not static but was either contracting or expanding. The velocities of the galaxies prove that it is expanding. In fact, when Einstein discerned that his field equations of general relativity predicted an expanding universe he was unable to accept the ramifications of a cosmic beginning. Consequently, he doctored his theory to conform with the prevailing thinking of his day; an eternally existing universe. Einstein later stated that adding this “Cosmological constant” to his theory was the biggest blunder of his career.

Cosmic Background Radiation

At the very beginning of the universe, the universe existed as an almost infinitely hot singularity (that sprang into being out of nothing, i.e., ex nihilo creation). As the universe exploded and expanded, this heat left behind a “glow” that fills the entire universe. This leftover glow was predicted by the Big Bang theory which also predicted it would exist as microwave radiation. The cosmic background radiation has been accurately measured by the COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) satellite as well as other satellites.

Cosmic Background Radiation Fluctuations

In addition to predicting an expanding universe with a leftover cosmic background radiation (afterglow), the Big Bang also predicted that there would be slight variations or ripples in the temperature of the cosmic background radiation.

Consequently, in 1992 the COBE research satellite not only detected these ripples, but scientists were amazed at their precision. The ripples indicate that the explosion and expansion of the universe was precisely fine-tuned to cause just enough matter to congregate to allow galaxy formation, but not enough to cause the universe to collapse back on itself. The slightest variation in either direction would cause us to not be here to talk about it.

Such was the amazement of the researchers that the project leader, astronomer George Smoot (atheist) proclaimed, “If you’re religious, it’s like looking at God.”

THE LAW OF ENTROPY

Also known as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the Law of Entropy states two undeniable facts. First of all it states that the universe is running out of usable energy. This leads scientists to the obvious conclusion that one day the universe will die having exhausted all of it’s usable energy. When we couple the Law of Entropy with the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that the total amount of energy in the universe is constant, this leads us to the logical conclusion that the universe is finite and therefore had a beginning.

Frank Turek puts it this way, “In other words, the universe has only a finite amount of energy (much as your car has only a finite amount of gas). Now, if your car has only a finite amount of gas (the First Law), and whenever it’s running it continually consumes gas (the Second Law), would your car be running right now if you had started it up an infinitely long time ago? No, of course not! It would be out of gas by now. In the same way, the universe would be out of energy by now if it had been running from all eternity. But here we are—the lights are still on, so the universe must have begun sometime in the finite past. That is, the universe is not eternal—it had a beginning.”

From Order to Disorder

The second undeniable fact that the Law of Entropy proclaims to us involves the universe going from order to disorder. Indeed, with time, everything falls apart. This begs the question, if the universe is becoming less ordered then where did the original order come from? It becomes quite evident that the universe came into being since we still have some order left in it. Indeed, if the universe were eternal we would have long ago reached complete disorder.

Both of these aspects of entropy discussed here strongly suggest that since our energy and order are winding down, someone had to start the ball rolling. That person would be God.

CONCLUSION

There are so many other things that could be presented here as evidence for the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God. For example, the observed helium content of the universe, the formation of galaxies, and the fact that they are moving away from us at an increasing speed, the abundance of elements we see around us, etc. Indeed, the evidence is overwhelming. We will stop here for now and continue next time with some objections to the cosmological argument. We will also discuss the Anthropic Principle, the ramifications of the cosmological argument, plus a special section that lists quotes from famous atheists and agnostics that you will find very interesting.

CHARACTER SKETCH OF JOSEPH – PART TWO

INTRO

At the end of part one of this character sketch, Joseph had just been given the second place in the kingdom of Egypt behind Pharaoh. In addition, Pharaoh had given him a new name, a wife, and the job of making sure that Egypt survives the famine that is coming.

PREPARATION

Joseph prepares for the famine during the days of plenty. He taxes the people but he doesn’t tax the priests and this isn’t the Levitical priesthood we’re talking about. To clarify, Joseph hasn’t become a pagan, but he does function in the culture that God has put him in, just like Jeremiah told Judah to do during their captivity in Babylon.

THE FAMINE BEGINS

The famine begins just like Joseph said it would. In Canaan there is a little family that God has His eyes on. Jacob tells his sons to go down to Egypt because he has heard that there is food there. If they don’t find food soon they are all going to die, he tells them. When they come before Joseph they don’t recognize him but he immediately recognizes them. Remember, Joseph looks like an Egyptian. Indeed, he even speaks to them through an interpreter, while understanding every word they say. By this time Joseph has learned to be discreet. He has learned that there is a time to reveal secrets and times to keep them to himself.

THE TEST

When they leave after the second visit to get food Joseph has a cup of divination put in Benjamin’s sack. Then he sends his servants out to fetch his cup and bring all his brothers back. He tells his brothers that the one whose sack the cup is found in shall be his slave. Now, Benjamin was the second son of the woman that Jacob loved, Rachel. He is the son that Jacob definitely did not want to lose. Consequently, when they find the cup in Benjamin’s sack, Judah steps up and says, “Don’t take Benjamin, take me instead because if you take him my father will die.” That’s when Joseph sends all of the Egyptians out of the room. He turns to his brothers weeping and says, “I am Joseph your brother.” Why did Joseph wait till then to reveal himself? It’s when he saw their love for the “Father.” When he saw that they loved him just as much as he did, that’s when he knew that the time was right.

GOD’S PLAN

So Joseph was put in a pit, sold into slavery, and placed in prison all as part of God’s plan. His being raised to Supreme power was all part of God’s plan. It also means that Joseph, made to look like an Egyptian, given an Egyptian wife who was the daughter of the high priest of sun worship, and given the task to see that this pagan, idolatrous nation survives was also part of God’s plan. Why? This all happened in order that all Israel would be saved (Rom. 11:26). Joseph didn’t have it all figured out until his brothers came walking through the door.

GOD HAS SECRETS

In the life of Joseph God did not reveal all the circumstances that Joseph would have to go through to get to the fulfillment of the dreams God gave him. God has and keeps secrets for a reason. In Proverbs 25:2 it says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” The Hebrew is interesting here. The word conceal (Hebrew: satar) means to hide with the intention of provoking someone to look for it. The words search out (chaqar) mean to dig beneath the surface. It’s almost like God is playing hide and seek with us.

But sometimes God will keep something from us until the time is right for us to know. For example, we can see the Messiah clearly in the Old Testament, but the people in Paul’s day and those that preceded the Cross couldn’t see it because if they could have “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8). Now if Jesus is not crucified, He is not buried, if He is not buried, He is not resurrected, and if He is not resurrected, we are still in our sins.

So how important do you think it is for God to conceal things until it is time? If Joseph would have known what he was going to have to go through to get to the realization of his dreams he might have run for his life to get away from it all. Then Israel would have perished and the line of Messiah cut off as a result.

TWO STICKS (TREES)

There is one other thing I want us to look at in the life of Joseph that his life represents. Each week at Jewish synagogues all over the world they read what they call a Torah portion. Each Torah portion has a corresponding Haftorah that is kind of like a cross-reference to the original scripture for further study. The Haftorah for the Torah portion concerning Joseph in the book of Genesis is Ezekiel 37:16. The chapter begins with the valley of dry bones representing the whole house of Israel. This passage speaks of Israel becoming a nation again after they were dispersed to all ends of the earth. Amazingly, this prophecy was fulfilled in 1948, almost 2000 years after Israel stopped being a nation.

But beginning in v. 15-22 we see an additional word that God is giving Ezekiel. God tells him to take one stick (tree is a better translation) representing Judah and another stick (tree) representing Joseph and join them together. This of course is talking about Judah and the tribes of the northern kingdom becoming one again.

The Wild Olive Branch

Likewise, there is a passage in the New Testament that is very similar to the one in Ezekiel found in Romans 11:13-26 which speaks of the Gentiles, represented by the wild olive tree, and the Jews, being represented by the natural olive tree. The passage states that partial blindness has come upon the Jews until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in. It also speaks of some of the natural branches being broken off and the wild olive tree branches being grafted in. I believe Paul was drawing on his knowledge of the Old Testament when God inspired him to write this and that Joseph, in a spiritual sense, represents the Church as far as the Church being grafted in.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe that the church has replaced Israel in any way. We are, however, children of Abraham by the new birth (Gal. 3:26-29) and just like Joseph we are to be a light to Israel and provoke them to jealousy (Rom. 11:11) causing them to desire the relationship we have with God.

CONCLUSION

I hope this character sketch of Joseph has been a blessing to you. I also hope that it stirs within you a desire to pray for Israel. Pray that they would recognize that Jesus is their Messiah that they have been waiting for and that He is still reaching out to them.

CHARACTER SKETCH OF JOSEPH – PART ONE

3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.

5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. 6 So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: 7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.” (GEN. 37:3-7)

As we enter this character sketch of Joseph we must take into account one of God’s attributes – His omniscience. In Isaiah 46:10 we read of God, “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, my Counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” God knows how everything is going to play out. He is not nervous about it. He is not sweating it out hoping that His plans come through. We live in a space, time continuum where we only know and see the past and the present. God lives in eternity and not only does He know and see the past , present, and future, He’s in all three places at the same time (I guess that would include His omnipresence also).

God placed all types of clues in the Old Testament to reveal the New Testament when the time had come. St. Augustine accurately said, “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed.”

JOSEPH, A TYPE AND SHADOW OF CHRIST

Therefore, as we examine the life of Joseph, one would have to be blind not to see the similarities between the events in Joseph’s life and those in the life of Christ. Consider the following:

  • Joseph is born of a womb that has to be opened miraculously. Gen. 30:22-24
  • Jesus is born of a virgin. Luke 1:26-38
  • Joseph’s father favors him above his brothers. Gen. 37:3
  • God the Father said about Jesus, “This is My beloved Son…” Matt. 3:17
  • Joseph’s brothers despise him. Gen. 37:4-5
  • The Jews did not believe in Christ (Jn. 7:5) and they hated Him. Jn. 15:24
  • Joseph’s brothers conspired against Joseph. Gen. 37:23
  • The religious leaders took counsel against Jesus. Matt. 27:1
  • Joseph was sold for silver. Gen. 37:28
  • Jesus was sold for silver. Matt. 26:15
  • Joseph’s own brothers did not recognize him. Gen. 42:8
  • The Jews did not recognize their Messiah. Jn. 1:11
  • Joseph did not sin when tempted. Gen. 39:9
  • Jesus lived his entire life without sin though tempted in all things. Hebr. 4:15
  • Joseph was condemned with two criminals. Gen. 40:2-3
  • Jesus was crucified with two criminals. Luke 23:32
  • Joseph’s brothers bowed their knee to him. Gen. 41:43
  • “At the Name of Jesus every knee will bow.” Phil. 2:10
  • God planned the suffering of Joseph in advance to save many. Gen. 50:21
  • “God so loved the world…” Jn. 3:16 (See also Rev. 13:8)
  • Joseph married a gentile. Gen. 41:45
  • Jesus married the Church, the Bride of Christ, which is largely Gentile. Rom. 11:25; Eph. 5:23-32; Rev. 19:9
  • When Joseph’s family is in tribulation, he and only he chooses the time and place to reveal himself to them. Gen. 45:3
  • “And they shall look upon Me whom they pierced…” Zech. 12:10

There are many more similarities, but that will do for now. Let’s get to the story.

JACOB’S FAVORITE

Joseph is the 1st born of the woman that Jacob truly loved. Reuben is the actual 1st born but he profaned his birthright and Jacob gave it to Joseph instead. Jacob gives him a multi-colored coat that sets him apart from his brethren. They know in no uncertain terms that Joseph is their father’s favorite.

JOSEPH’S DREAMS LEAD TO TROUBLE

Joseph receives dreams from God that speak of his future dominance over his brothers and even his father and mother. In the first of these dreams he sees 11 sheaves bowing to his one sheath. He gets so excited that he goes and tells his brothers that one day he will rule over them which engenders much affection from them towards him. Not! He has another dream where he sees the sun, moon and 11 stars bowing to his star indicating that not only were his brothers going to bow to him, but his mother and father also. You have to understand that Joseph became a very wise man, but his actions here were not too bright.  In Gen. 37:11 it reads that his brothers were jealous of him, but his father didn’t totally dismiss it.

JOSEPH’S BROTHERS PLOT TO GET RID OF HIM

One day, Jacob sends Joseph to his brothers, who were tending the flock, to check on their welfare. Judah sees him coming from a distance and says to his brothers, “Let’s kill him.” Reuben objects and says, “Let’s throw him in this pit instead.” So they strip him of his coat and put him in the pit. About that time a group of Ishmaelites come passing by and they decide to sell Joseph to them for 20 pieces of silver. They dipped Joseph’s coat in some goats blood and took it back to their father convincing him that Joseph was dead. Talk about your dysfunctional family, this was it!

FROM BAD TO WORSE

The Ishmaelites end up selling Joseph to the chief executioner in Egypt, Potipher. Potipher eventually puts Joseph in charge of his whole house because of his wisdom. Unfortunately, Potipher’s wife develops the hots for Joseph to the point that Joseph has to make a hasty exit. To make matters worse Potipher’s wife grabs his garment which stays behind with her. Furious that Joseph would not lie with her, she uses the garment that identifies him as a Hebrew, and tells everyone that Joseph tried to make advances towards her. So, of course, Potipher has Joseph thrown in prison. Joseph must be thinking, “twice now what I was wearing has gotten me in trouble.” He’s probably wondering if God really did speak to him through those dreams he had.

JOSEPH INTERPRETS DREAMS OF OTHERS

Eventually, Joseph’s wisdom and talents impress the prison keeper to such a degree that he put’s Joseph in charge over all the prisoners. One night the Pharaoh’s butler and baker, who Pharaoh threw in jail, each had dreams. Consequently, disturbed by these dreams, they tell Joseph about them. Joseph interprets the dreams for them and tells the baker that he is going to be executed and that the butler will be restored to his position. These things happened just like Joseph said and as the butler is leaving Joseph asks him to speak favorably to Pharaoh on his behalf so he can get out of there. And of course, the butler forgets all about it.

PHARAOH DREAMS

But after 2 years, Pharaoh has a couple of dreams that he can’t figure out. All of a sudden the butler remembers poor Joseph and tells Pharaoh about him. So Pharaoh summons Joseph to appear before him. Notice what Joseph does. He cleaned himself, changed clothes, and then shaved. So what? A Hebrew man would not have shaved. In fact, most commentators believe that Joseph shaved his entire body which is what an Egyptian would do. Some even believe that Joseph painted his eyes after the manner of the Egyptians. He must be thinking, “Twice before the way I looked has gotten me in trouble. I’m not taking any chances.” The prison has made Joseph wiser.

So, Joseph appears before Pharaoh and interprets Pharaoh’s dreams. In Pharaoh’s first dream he dreamed of seven fat and healthy cows rising up from the Nile followed by seven skinny and malnourished cows which eat the seven healthy ones. In Pharaoh’s second dream seven plump and good ears of corn appear followed by seven thin and scorched ears of corn which swallow up the seven good ears of corn. Joseph told Pharaoh that seven very plentiful years would occur followed by seven years of lack so bad that they would make them forget about the seven good years. Joseph also told him that he needed to find someone wise to begin to store up during the plentiful years against the years of lack and famine that were to come. Pharaoh looks at Joseph and says, “Tag, you’re it!

JOSEPH BEGINS TO PROSPER, FINALLY!

Some very startling changes start taking place in Joseph’s life after this. First of all, Pharaoh gives him a new name, “Zaphenath-paneah” which has multiple meanings. It can mean “the one who reveals secrets,” but more likely it means “One who provides the bread of life” or “Savior of the world.” They actually all fit Joseph in this situation. If this new name isn’t a type and shadow of Christ then I don’t know what is! Then Pharaoh gives Joseph some new clothing, takes the signet ring off his finger and puts it on Joseph’s, and sets a gold chain about his neck. This is basically telling everyone that Joseph has the same authority as Pharaoh does to conduct business in the kingdom. He also gives him a wife; the daughter of the high priest of sun worship in Egypt. Our virtuous, righteous, Hebrew Joseph is married into the most powerful family on the face of the earth that also leads Egypt in idol worship. And his job is to see that this pagan, idolatrous culture survives. And God is the One responsible for putting him there! Amazing!

JOSEPH FATHER’S CHILDREN

Joseph has two sons while he’s in Egypt; the first one is Manasseh which means to forget, because he said, “I have forgotten all of my toils and all my father’s house.” He’s putting those dreams he had in the past behind him. His second son is Ephraim which means fruitful, “because God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” He’s putting the past behind him because only when his brothers show back up does he remember the dreams. Our Hebrew Joseph, at the end of the day, looks more like an Egyptian than he does a Hebrew.

{I really intended for this to be all on one post but there is just too much material here for that. Since I don’t won’t to short change you on this sketch, we will continue this in part two.}

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