AFFLICTION OR JUDGMENT? Is there a difference?


Study in AMOS 9:1-15

In my recent studies in Amos, I’ve seen how God used His prophet to warn the people of Israel.  Israel was going through an almost unprecedented period of prosperity and in the process, had forgotten God.

They certainly hadn’t forgotten about religion.  They were still a very religious society.  They still went to worship in their places of worship.  They still offered all their sacrifices, and they still tithed their money.  As a matter of fact, they went over and above what the Law required.

Today, we would say that churches with these qualities and directives would be a successful church.

But like so many times throughout their history, Israel still didn’t get it.  They thought they were OK.  They felt perfectly at ease and comfortable in Zion.

So God Promised A Horrible Affliction On The People.

He promised all the horrible events that would occur some 30 years later.  Assyria would invade and destroy Samaria.

All the woes,  All the promises of affliction.  All the heavy prophesies and messages given by Amos builds to a crescendo in this last chapter of the book.

The Differences Between Affliction and Judgment.

The differences are well worth noting at this point.  Up to now, Amos’ prophetic messages have pointed to Assyria’s invasion of Israel.  That was an example of God afflicting His people in bringing them to repentance.  Repoentance is more than saying, “Sorry, God.”  It’s changing the direction you’ve been heading–a 180 degree turn from sin.

You see, that’s how affliction is different than judgment.

In my charge as the Bible Detective, I find that there are only two times that God has or will JUDGE mankind.

  • The first was at the flood.
  • The next will be the final judgment.
  • One concluded with destruction by water.
  • The other will conclude in the destruction by fire, and NOT by Climate Change.

Anything in between those two judgments is affliction rather than judgment.

Affliction is for the purpose of showing God’s mercy and grace!

Judgment is for the purpose of showing God’s righteousness and holiness!

Up till now, Amos has spoken of God’s promised affliction.  These promises of God were fulfilled.

Then A Change in Focus Occurs – Amos 9:1-3

Amos starts off with a simple statement:  “I SAW THE LORD.”  It’s simple, but oh, how profound!  God revealed Himself to Amos.

THE LORD IS A SEEKING GOD!

Have you ever played peek-a-boo with a small child?  My wife and I sure did when our kids were little.  It sounds funny, but little children think that when you cover their eyes, you can’t see them.  That’s about as silly as we are when we try to hide from our heavenly Father.

God told Israel through Amos that there was no place they could run to.  No place they could hide from His judgment.

It brings to mind the scene unveiling in the Book of Revelation, chapter 6, the opening of the sixth seal:

When God pours out His JUDGMENT, there’s NO PLACE TO HIDE!

If you climbed to the top of Mount Everest or dive to the bottom of the sea in a nuclear submarine, GOD IS THERE!  There’s no hide and seek with God.  Wherever you may try to run, He will SEEK and FIND you with conviction.

David’s words in Psalm 139 remind me of Amos’ words here.

After all the sin in David’s life, God sought him out.  He knew David’s innermost ways and thoughts.  He sought him and convicted him.  And after reading these verses, look at how David reacted and responded to that conviction.

He responded with REPENTANCE!

But what happens if we don’t respond?

Then instead of afflicting us to bring about conviction, God judges us.

And when it comes time for JUDGMENT, there’s no place to hide!  We can’t hide, because the Lord is a seeking God.  He either seeks in conviction or seeks in judgment.

He’s not only a seeking God, But He’s also a sovereign God –  (Amos 9:3b.-8)

Definition:  SOVEREIGN – Greek 3841, pantokrator – Almighty, Omnipotent, the all-ruler… [Bible Hub].

God is sovereign over the circumstances of life.  

God commands the serpent.

He commands the sword.

I’ve got news for you.  There’s no such thing as coincidence! 

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, ever has or ever will happen to you that hasn’t passed through God’s hands.

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People”

This was a best-seller in the ’80s and still very influential in the populous.  It was authored by a Jewish Rabbi named Harold Kushner.

Several years ago, if you remember, a bridge collapsed over a  river in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Within days, the book’s author was on the radio trying to explain the tragedy to people.  He explained that bad things like a bridge collapse happened because God doesn’t control the laws of nature.  He is powerless to do anything about evil events.  Kushner, I’m sure, said these things to try to comfort the people.  What an empty comfort that is!  I just can’t imagine the God of Amos that he had seen on the ALTAR had been Kushner’s god.  A god who is powerless to stop evil, as you and I are.

My God of the Bible is a SOVEREIGN God!!!

The LORD that Amos saw is the same LORD that the apostle Paul wrote of in Colossians 1:15-18 (NIV)

[15]  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  [16] For by him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  [17]  He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.  [18]  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

In Him, ALL things consist.

He is sovereign overall.

He is in control overall.

He is Lord overall.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The LORD that Amos saw is sovereign over nations.

Iraq didn’t surprise Him.

Afghanistan didn’t surprise Him.

Vietnam didn’t surprise Him.

Hitler’s Germany didn’t surprise Him.

None of those surprised any more than Assyria surprised God when they destroyed Samaria and carried the Israelites into exile.

VERSES 7-8 tell us that God isn’t surprised by the actions of nations.

The Ethiopians (Cushites), the Philistines, the Syrians. 

God is SOVEREIGN over them all!

Although this is difficult teaching, most of us, I think, see God’s sovereignty over circumstances, and nations.

But here’s one that will stretch your thinking.  God is sovereign over our rebellious behavior.  See the last part of verse 8:

God said that He wouldn’t utterly destroy Israel; that He would preserve a remnant.

Not because they deserved it, but because He promised it!  He would preserve them for His namesake–not theirs.

As rebellious as they were, God had promised to preserve a remnant.  And he would keep His PROMISE because He’s sovereign.  Even over rebellious people.

The Lord is a seeking God and He is a sovereign God.  But there’s more.

The Lord is also a SIFTING God!

Look closely at Verses 9 and 10:

What Does It Mean to “SIFT” Something?

When I first looked at this passage, I pictured the process of separating the wheat from the chaff described in the Bible (Psalm 1:4; Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:16-17).  I thought that not one grain of ‘good stuff’ would fall to the ground,  But that’s not what it’s talking about here.

Separating the wheat from the chaff was called “winnowing.”  The “sifting” would follow the winnowing step.

During the winnowing, all the chaff was blown away.  Everything heavy fell to the ground.  That included the good grain, stones, and pebbles.  The stones and pebbles were separated from the grain using a sifter.

That’s the process this passage is talking about.

So instead of all of Israel sitting safely in the sifter of the Lord while the impurities pass from them,…ALL of Israel is the one that has to pass through the SIFTER.  They are the ones who will be sorted and sifted through affliction.

They are the ones who will pass through the affliction of God in order to be purified.  The stones and pebbles of SIN AND IMPURITY are the things left in the sifter.  And that’s a good thing…because everything that’s left in God’s sifter will be destroyed in JUDGMENT!

The SIFTER of God in Amos compares to the FIRE that Paul mentions in First Corinthians :

God purified His saints.  He sifts His saints.

Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked to sift him like wheat.  And guess what?  Jesus allowed Satan to sift Peter like wheat.  Even though Peter initially failed miserably when Jesus convicted him of his sin, he repented.  The sifting purified him.  Purified him to the point that he went from a coward to a bold witness of Christ in a few weeks time.

The promise of the New Testament says that if you’ve trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be SAVED.  But Paul says,  “he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.”

God sifts you so you will let go of your sin.  So that even the smallest sin in your thinking, will be separated from you.

One day all the sifting that Israel has gone through over the past 6000 years will result in only the purest grain.  The LORD is a sifting God!

Finally, the LORD is a SAVING God!  (verses 11-15)

As I’ve already mentioned, this chapter in Amos is all about future promises to the nation of Israel.  God made a PROMISE to Abraham back in Genesis 15.

God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a nation.  A nation that God would choose to call His special people.  And God also promised Abraham that He would pour out His GRACE on those people and give them a land filled to overflowing rich blessings of God.

And He sealed that promise, A Covenant, by Himself.

In Genesis 15, God had Abraham set up a traditional ceremony, where both parties would contract together for something.  The ceremonies were often SEALED by the blood of a sacrificed animal.  In those contracts, if one party or the other broke the agreement, the contract would be null and void.

God had Abraham to set up that ceremony but He didn’t allow him to participate in it.  He put him off to the side and performed the ceremony Himself.

I don’t know about you, but I see God in the grace business.  He knows we fall short.  He knew that Israel couldn’t keep up their end of the bargain with Him.  So He graciously called them out anyway.  He made them His people.  And He will graciously pour out His blessings on them as His people.  Not because of who they are or how special they are, but because of who He is!

Look at the wording in verse 11-12:

“And all the nations who are called by My name.”

THAT’S US!  All the nations in the world who aren’t Israel.

In other words, Gentiles.  THAT’S US!!

By His GRACE, God promised the same blessings to the Gentiles who are called by His name as He will give to Israel. 

HOW? 

Through the BLOOD of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

Confirmed in Galatians 3:26-28

These wonderfull promises that God made to Israel are available to us today because the Lord as a SAVING God.

The entire book of Amos has been a warning.  It was a warning that Israel didn’t pay attention to.  But it serves as a warning to us all.

  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE SIN.
  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE FALSE WORSHIP.
  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE HYPOCRISY.
  • He doesn’t tolerate SIN and REBELLION in His house.

Among His people, He seeks out sin.  He’s SOVEREIGN over all things.  And He will sift us.

Maybe He’s been sifting us right now!

At times God sifted Israel with trouble and ar rimes, And at times, He sifted them with prosperity.  So whether we’re having trouble or having prosperity, it doesn’t tell the story where we are in God’s eyes.

Maybe the question we should ask ourselves is, “How does the Lord see us?”  “How does the Lord see our church?”

If we don’t see Him as He has revealed Himself as a seeking, sovereign and sifting God, He will show Himself as JUDGE.  And I don’t think any of us want that.

But if we do see Him as He’s revealed Himself, He will show Himself to us as Savior.

QUESTION:  Where do we all start to see God as He’s revealed Himself?

The same way David did. 

We have to corporately HUMBLE ourselves before God.

We have to corporately CONFESS our sins before God.

AND…We have to corporately REPENT before our God!

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CREDITS:

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); King Jmaes Bible (KJV); and other translations used in the photos/Images.

Photos/Images Used:  Google Image Search.

 

 

WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?

A small child [in the cartoon series Theopolis] gazes up at the eyes of his father and asks the question…WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?

When I read the dialogue in the cartoon I thought the father gave a reasonably good answer to his son.  He emphasized communication with the Father, seeking first the Kingdom of heaven, displaying the fruit of the Spirit in one’s life.  It wasn’t a bad answer.  But imagine the father’s shock if you can when the son asked if he had actually seen such a person!

Is it possible, as the above cartoon suggests, that we sometimes talk a good talk, but walk a poor walk?  We might be able to tell others what a Christian is–may even profess to be one ourselves–but have we ever shown them?

The 3 W’s That Explains What A Christian Is And How We Can Demonstrate Who We Are

#1.  WHAT WE ARE, 1 John 3:1 (NIV)

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.”

John here turns his letter from the world to God.

The world’s glory may be glamorous and enticing, but also shallow and momentary.  What the world gives today, it takes away tomorrow.

God gives something permanent, something authentic, something life-changing, something eternal and something to gaze upon in [VERSE 1 (NKJV)]:

IT’S THE LOVE OF GOD!

Those who have been born of God, meaning those that practice righteousness (2:29), is now “called children of God.”

RIGHTEOUSNESS begins with faith and ends in LOVE.

The reason we are told to “BEHOLD” is to see what great love the Father has bestowed upon us.

“Behold” (idou) means to sense and see, and to see with awakened understanding.  It calls one to stop and think about this amazing truth and what we are to sense, see and marvel at is the GREAT LOVE God has given us.

LOVE is agape, denoting divine or the highest form of love.  The whole wonderful plan of SALVATION begins with God.  And while we were once enemies, God loved us and sent His Son to die for us (Rom. 5:8).  His LOVE is so great that by the NEW BIRTH experience, we are now related to the One Who is the Divine Creator of the Universe and can call him Father!

We Are The Children Of God!

We receive from Christ a new nature, a godly nature, and thus are called children of God.

We shouldn’t expect the world around us to understand this thrilling relationship because it doesn’t understand the awesomeness of God.  This love and resulting sonship are foreign to the world.  Only a person who knows God through Jesus Christ can appreciate what it means to be called a child of God.  Unfortunately, we have become so accustomed to EXPECTING God’s love we no longer stand in awe before it.  In fact, we actually take it for granted.  We even think of it as something God owes us.

When I was a young romantic boy in elementary school, I remember taking the DAISY PETAL TEST sitting on a bench in the lunch arbor.  I had a crush for weeks on a girl and holding a flower in my hand while looking across the table at her and saying as I pulled each petal off, “She loves me, She loves me not.”  I also remember “the look” when she reached for the same flower, pulling off the last petal and said, “He loves me not.”

There’s a much better and more reliable way to know if God loves us!

It’s considering all that He does for us.  And if there’s still any doubt, then think of what He did to SAVE us!

The Bible says that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8)

We can become confident in the knowledge of God’s unfailing LOVE because He has proven it beyond all question on the Cross.  We have been reborn into the family of God as His children and the recipients of our Father’s LOVE.

THIS AMAZING LOVE MADE US CHILDREN OF THE KING!

This brings us to our second point:

#2.  WHAT WILL WE BE?  (verse 2)

The emphasis in verse two is on what the children of God will be in the future.

The reference here is, of course, to the time of Christ’s return for His Church.  Having spoken of our present dignity as children of God, John now speaks of our FUTURE DESTINY.

We Are Privileged Children.

Our privileged opportunities in this world are understandable and within reach of all who will lay hold of them abiding in Christ Jesus.  But, the reluctant glories in the world to come are still veiled.  For the BLESSINGS there are connected with the RESPONSIBILITIES here!  The fact that God expects future development as seen in verse one and then seen again in verse two, is where the beloved (“friends”) are addressed as CHILDREN OF GOD.

Child implies that future development is to be expected.  A child has such potential as they grow.  We look at them as children with hope and expectation but don’t know how they’ll turn out.  Some who seem to have so much potential and opportunity throw away their lives.  Others you didn’t think will amount to much accomplish great things.

So it is with the children of God.  Many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first.

The appearance of Christ brings about changes or results in God’s children.

The results of Christ’s appearing is that we will be like Him.  This future fact of being changed into Christ’s likeness is presently known.  KNOW means “perceptive knowledge” that brings one to the point or place of understanding and then conviction.  The fact that we KNOW now is because of the PROMISE given from the Word and the Holy Spirit in supporting our confidence in the truth of our future state,

A Butterfly Emerges!

What an amazing sight to see a Monarch Butterfly emerging from its cocoon and arraying the beautiful colors overs its wings before taking flight.  Who would think that such beauty could come from a drab cocoon?

But a much greater miracle awaits the child of God!

Encased by this body, we look for that day when “the dead will be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.”  (1 Cor. 15:52)

For now, we live in these earthly bodies, but not forever.

One day, perhaps soon, we will be made perfect and complete.  We shall see our Savior face to face, and wonder of wonders, we shall be like Him!

God’s LOVE for us doesn’t stop with the New Birth.

God continues ministering to us and transforming us into His image until the revelation of Jesus causes the final, culminating revelation of who we are in Him.

Those Christ purchased at His Cross will be perfected at His coming.

#3.  WHAT WE SHOULD BE (v. 3)

Verse 3 teaches us that if we hope in our transformation at the return of Jesus, then we should keep on, keeping on purifying our lives.

1 John 3:3 (NIV)

[3] Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

So, everyone who has the HOPE purifies, or frees oneself of contamination.

Purify ( Grk., hagmos), is the cleanliness of heart, soul, and spirit of thought, word, and action.

“Purifies himself” means that we must totally surrender to God, so that by His Grace (His unmerited favor), we may separate ourselves all that defiles us.  It’s a continuous process.

Our Goals As  A Believer…

Our goal should be pure just as Christ is pure.  Not to judge our lives by other people, but by Jesus, who is the standard or goal toward which we are to move towards.  God’s desire is that we are conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29).

As we read the Gospels carefully and thoughtfully, prayerfully, then you will develop an appreciation for the character, integrity, wisdom, and strength of Jesus.

When I didn;\’t know as much about Jesus as I know now–and I’m still learning daily–. I wasn’t as impressed with Him as I am today.

All the work of transformation is because of the Father’s LOVE for you and me.

Because the Father loved us and sent His Son to die for us, we are children of God.

Because God loves us and lives within us, He wants us to live with Him one day.

SALVATION from start to finish is an expression of the LOVE of God.  We are saved by the GRACE of God (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 2:11-15).

The provision for our SALVATION originated in the LOVE of God.  And since we have experienced the LOVE of the Father, we should have no desire to live in sin (the “flesh”).

An unbeliever who sins is a creature sinning against his Creator.  A Christian who sins is a child sinning against his Father.  The unbeliever sins against the LAW; the believer sins against LOVE.

One Day The Trumpet Will Sound And We Will Ascend!!!

The time to get ready for that turmpet blast is now!  Go to Christ Jesus and become PURE like Him.  That will prepare you in making the ascent–to the glories of Heaven!

Is the hope of being like Jesus a powerful inspiration/motivation in your life?  If it is, you will be purifying yourself as the Holy Spirit transforms your image of Christ.

Are you feeling perplexed by the questions…WHO AM I?  WHERE AM I GOING?

What comfort it is as  a TRUE BELIEVER in Christ to have God’s authoritative answers in the Bible:

WHO ARE WE?

John calls his readers “children of God” (v. 2).

WHERE ARE WE GOING?

John 14:1-6 tells us that one day He will receive us into our eternal home [body?] He is preparing for us.

When you know Jesus, you know who you are and where you are going

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CREDITS:

Dictionary:  Know, Knowledge: Baker’s Evangrlical Dictionary of Bilical Theology.

Photos/Images:  Google Image search.

A Butterfly Emerges:  Youtube 

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP), or as noted in images or text.

 

 

 

Let the Church be the Church

Bible Study in 1 Peter 4:13-19

It has always been God’s plan to have a holy people; those that would stand for Him no matter what happened in their lives.

JUDGMENT BEFORE CORRECTION AND REVIVAL – 

In my last three blog-posts, I dug into the Book Of Micah and looked into God’s judgment of Israel some 700 years before Christ was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).  And as we enter the upcoming Christmas season we should all look at ourselves closer as the Church in our communities of who we are representing in Christ Jesus.

Where Judgment Begins (1 Peter 4:17)

[17]  For it is a time of judgment, to begin with, God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  [New International Version – NIV]

This passage of scripture seemed to me at first reading a little strange.  And as a student of the Bible, I looked in my commentaries to see what theologians had to say about this verse and I was surprised at how they addressed this verse.  This is why context is so valuable when studying God’s word regarding any Bible’s verses.

1 Peter 4:13-19 (NIV)

[13]  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.

[14]  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

[15]  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even a meddler.

[16]  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

[17]  For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

[18]  And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 

[19]  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Peter is obviously talking to those born again Jews that would have to go through suffering for their faith.

The church in Jerusalem was already under heavy persecution and would suffer even worse before it was over.

Verse 14 tells us that to be happy–to have joy in the suffering for the cause of Christ, is knowing that in your persecution God is glorified!

Peter also wants us to know that the Christian life is hard enough without coming under God’s hand of discipline.  That’s why he says in verse 15, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal or even a meddler.”  It has always been God’s plan to have a holy people.  Those who would stand for Him no matter what happened in their lives.

One day God will take unto Himself a Bride to be without spot or blemish.

So where does this purification process begin?

It Starts With His Church.

“For the time has come that judgment must begin at the House of God”  verse 17.

It has always been God’s plan…

Jeremiah 25:29 (AMP)

“For behold, I am beginning to work evil in the city which is called by My Name, and shall you go unpunished?  You shall not go unpunished, for I am calling for a sword against all inhabitants of the earth, says the Lord of hosts.”

Amos 3:2 (NIV)

“You have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.” 

Then the churches of Asia Minor 

  • Jesus said to the Church in Ephesus:

“Consider how far you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first.  If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”  (Revelation 2:5)

  • The Church at Pergamum:

“Repent therefore!  Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”  (Revelation 2:16)

  • The Church at Thyatira:

“So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely unless they repent of her ways.  I will strike her children dead.  Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”  (Revelation 2:22-23)

  • The Church at Sardis:

In case you will not rouse yourselves and keep awake and watch, I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not know or suspect at what hour I will come.  (Revelation 3:3 – Amplified Bible)

  • The Church at Laodicea:

“So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.”  (Revelation 3:16 – AMP)

Purification is always done for a purpose–a reason for discipline.

  • Ephesus – Lost their first love.
  • Pergamum – Teaching false doctrine.
  • Thyatira – Condoning immorality.
  • Sardis – They were spiritually dead.
  • Laodicea – They had become apathetic.

The Bible tells us, the church, that we are the light of the world.

In the case of each church mentioned in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, the light had gone out.  They were no longer a lighthouse for the lost souls and shed no light at all to those around them.

It’s always done to God’s people

Hebrews 12:8 (NIV)

[8]  If you are not disciplined–and everyone undergoes discipline–then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

God cannot and will not tolerate unconfessed sin in the life of the believers–His children.

Discipline.  Who Needs It?

Godly discipline is to refine us (vs. 11) –

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”  (NIV).

  • Godly discipline to reestablish us (vs. 11)
  • Godly discipline to reaffirm His love to us (vs. 6) “because the Lord disciplines those he loves, punishes everyone He accepts as His son.”  

God’s discipline sifts out contamination (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) –

  • The Church cannot condone SIN (1 Corinthians 5:1-2) –

[1]  IT IS actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, an impurity of a sort that is condemned and does not occur even among the heathen; for a man has [his own] father’s wife.

[2]  And you are proud and arrogant!  And you ought rather mourn (bow in sorrow and in shame) until the person who has done this [shameful] thing is removed from your fellowship and your midst!

  • The Church must not compromise scripture (1 Corinthians 15:1-2) –

[1]  Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken a stand.

[2]  By this gospel you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

  • The Church should confront the SINNER (Mathew 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:2, 5, 13).

QUESTION:  Why Does JUDGMENT Begin At The House of God?

I hope this brief study helps you understand, as it did for me, why God wants His church to be holy and pure.  I’m afraid that if the church won’t stand up and be the church, that God’s judgment is going to fall on her.

Are we a church that tolerates and promotes unholiness?

Do we tolerate and promote sin in our own lives?

Let me mention again.  God will not and can not tolerate sin in the lives of His children.  Oh, that we the Church might walk worthy of our calling.

Let the Church be the Church!

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CREDITS –

Commentary:  “Where Judgment Begins” by Michael Goodwin – sermon on July 20, 2005.

IMAGES:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); and as noted.

Is Finding the “Ashes of the Red Heifer” A Big Deal?

Numbers 19:2 (NIV Bible)

“This is a requirement of the law that the LORD has commanded:  Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under the yoke.”

How many of you have ever heard of the ASHES OF THE RED HEIFER”?  Usually, not many have.  I could only find 2 mentions in Scripture – Numbers 19 and Hebrews 9.

In my last Blog-Post in the Book of Numbers, https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2017/09/27/dont-let-your-ashes-put-out-the-fire/, was about disposing of the ashes.  But here in Numbers 19, the ASHES were to be a “Perpetual Statute” to the nation of ISRAEL.

The Purpose Of The Ashes – NUMBERS 19:9

[9]  “A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp.  They are to be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin.”

This God-given statute was during the time of wandering in the wilderness for 40 years–approximately 600,000 Israelites (not counting women and children) died of their failure to TRUST God and enter into the Promised Land–Canaan–(about 40 people per day) over the age of 20 years.  During this time, there was the serious ceremonial defilement of Israel who had to bury the dead.

In the Mosaic Law, there are 613 laws that were given at Mt. Sinai; 248 Mandatory Laws and 365 Prohibitionary Laws.  There were 18 Mandatory Laws alone that dealt with “Ritual Purity.”

This brings us to Numbers 19:14-16 – “touching the corpse of a dead person, or even their bones or on the grave”  CAUSED DEFILEMENT.  

This DEFILEMENT lasted 7 days:  Numbers 19:2-9 gives instructions to the Priests and the children of God in the process of PURIFICATION OF SIN which involved the use of the “Ashes of the Red Heifer.”

Jewish History of the Red Heifer (Talmud Histories) –

The Talmud is a Jewish History written by former Rabbis:

  1. Heifer was chosen and sacrificed/burned.
  2. Ashes collected and put into a crock-pot (2-3 gallons).
  3. The priest would take a hyssop, place in fresh, running water, take a pinch of ashes, place on the hyssop, sprinkle the sprig of hyssop upon the “unclean person” seven times, on the 3rd and 7th day.
  4. On the 7th day, the ceremonially unclean person was declared clean.
  5. When the “Ashes” were nearly consumed, another Red Heifer was sacrificed, burned, and its ashes “added to” the ashes of the previous heifer or heifers (perpetual statute).

From Numbers 19 until AD 69, there have been 9 such HEIFERS sacrificed.  [See Footnote [i] ]

IN AD 70, Titus of Rome destroyed Jerusalem’s Temple and looted the city.  Many of the furnishings of the Temple were removed, including the Ark of the Covenant and…the Ashes of the Red Heifer.

The Archaeology Findings of 1947

A young Arab boy found the Dead Sea Scrolls in a cave, including a “copper scroll.”  The scroll gave directions of a cave between Jericho and Saccachar.

Vendel Jones, an American archaeologist, found the cave, and after three digs and the beginning of the fourth dig, uncovered many artifacts.  Then for a second time, the money ran out and the permit to continue was refused.

The Significance of the Findings –

Temple worship cannot be established without the ASHES OF THE RED HEIFER being used to cleanse the priesthood of unrighteousness.

Today, in ISRAEL, a school is already in the process of training men named Cohen, Levy, and Levi from the Tribe of Levi.  The Chief Priest, the holiest man in Judaism, can ritually PURIFY himself, then the students into the PRIESTHOOD as soon as they find the “Ashes of the Red Cow”.  Why is the such a “BIG DEAL” when this happens?

The Church will be gone!  RAPTURED!

TYPOLOGY OF THE RED HEIFER – Old Testament/New Testament Comparisons.

  1.  Numbers 19:2 infers that the HEIFER came from among the people.  Christ came from among the people (John 1:11).
  2.  HEIFER brought as a SACRIFICE for others.  JESUS came as a SACRIFICE for others (John 3:16, 17; ! Timothy 1:15).
  3.  HEIFER was to be without spot or blemish (Numbers 19:2).  JESUS was also!  (1 Peter 1:18, 19).
  4.  HEIFER knew no yoke of bondage– a symbol of sin (vs. 2).  Christ knew no BONDAGE of sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  5.  HEIFER was a “Female” – the price for a female slave was 30 pieces of silver, male slaves were sold for 50 pieces of silver.  Christ was sold (betrayed) for 30 pieces of silver.
  6.  HEIFER was given to the Priest, Eliezer (Numbers 19:3).  JESUS was arrested and taken to Caiaphas, the High Priest.
  7.  HEIFER was taken outside the camp for SACRIFICE.  JESUS was also taken to Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, then back to Pilate, then outside the camp (gates) of Jerusalem to Calvary.
  8.  HEIFER was slain BEFORE the Priest, but not by the Priest (Num. 19:4).  Christ was SLAIN before the Priest at the Cross.
  9.  HEIFER’S neck was “double jointed”.  One swift blow could kill.  JESUS too died in only 6 hours – He died at will swiftly.

While researching and looking up Scripture references this past week, Holy Spirit gave me a revelation from The Death, Crucifixion, and Burial of Jesus Christ.  And in that revelation, 2 men entered the conversation–

THE NICODEMUS & JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA DILEMMA – John 19:38-42

These two men came from two theological directions, totally opposed to each other.

JOSEPH had believed in salvation by good politics where Nicodemus had taught obedience from 613 rules which the Pharisee’s thoughts summed up the Old Testament Law of Moses.  But coming from two opposite directions, both came to believe JESUS was the MESSIAH!

So when they heard Jesus was going to be CRUCIFIED…they knew something would have to be done for decent disposal of His body.  If nothing was done, the Roman soldiers would leave the corpse to rot on the Cross.  And time was short because the PASSOVER celebrations would begin at sundown.

So the two men who were opposed to each other in doctrine together carried the body into a garden tomb laying the body not just in any tomb, but in Joseph of Arimathea’s recently carved out family tomb.  Previously, Joseph went boldly into the palace of Pilate the Roman Governor, asking permission to remove Jesus’ body from the Cross.

With Numbers 19 in mind, I believe Joseph of Arimathea must have sent his family a message that he would be defiled by touching a dead body and that the Passover Seder celebration would have to be delayed a month (according to my study on the rule given (Numbers 9:6-11).

Since of the importance, the Gospels give to these two men, an assumption can be made that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea must have joined the Christian community.  As the Holy Spirit began teaching them they soon discovered that Jesus’ Resurrection made nonsense of the Sadducee explanation that death of the body was the end.  JESUS’ SACRIFICE on the Cross replaced the cleansing of the Ashes of the Red Heifer once and for all!  Therefore, the significance of being cleansed by the “Ashes of the Red Heifer” was doctrinally important in the Jewish Law of Moses, but Jesus Himself had said, “I’ve come to fulfill the Law” (Matthew 5:17)

HIS BLOOD SACRIFICE FULFILLED THE LAW!

The Ashes of the Red Heifer – Numbers 19

In the Old Testament, the Priest sprinkled the “Blood of the Heifer” before the entrance of the presence of God (Numbers 19:4).

If you’re reading this POST and you’re not sure of your SALVATION…KNOW THIS:  If you would come to Christ, it will only be by the BLOOD of the Son of God, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:22).

CONNECTING THE SACRIFICE OF THE HEIFER WITH CHRIST (Numbers 19:7, 8-9).

In these verses, we find that a person was “Unclean until made clean”.  So like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, how can we, who are born in sinful uncleanness (Romans 3:23), become CLEAN or RIGHTEOUS before God?

The ANSWER is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21.

 

And what happened to those who refused Cleansing?

Numbers 19:20 (AMP)

[20] But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord…

Those who refused CLEANSING were “cut off” – separated from God.

What about YOU?  Have YOU ever come for a “cleansing”, not from the “Ashes of the Red Heifer”, but from the BLOOD of the Lamb, Jesus Christ that He shed at Calvary?

Why not come today and be cleansed while there is still time in the last days.

 

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES –

Footnote [i] :  Encyclopedia-Judacia: Red Heifer – Jewish Virtual Library.

Commentary:  Robert Brow – John 19:38-42, JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA AND NICODEMUS.  

Photos:  Google Image Search, Advanced Settings.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV)

Don’t Let Your Ashes Put Out the Fire

SCRIPTURE – Numbers 4:13; Ezra 4:12

NUMBERS 4:13 (AMP)

[13] And they shall take away the ashes from the altar  [of burnt offering]  and spread a purple cloth over it.

Biblically, the origin of the ALTAR goes clear back to Genesis in the bible when Noah built an Altar and then offered SACRIFICES after the flood (Genesis 8:20).  

Now in Old Testament times, there were many restrictions concerning the Altar.  In Exodus 20:24-26, for instance, the ALTAR was made “of earth or stone that had not been shaped or cut with human hand” AND… “there were to be no steps up to the altar.”

Now the ALTAR was used to make animal sacrifices to the LORD–The PURIFICATION of the Altar was accomplished by sprinkling BLOOD upon it.  Often Altars were erected in places where the LORD had accomplished some great work or had delivered some prophetic message.  Later, the Israelites had ALTARS in the tabernacle in the desert and once Solomon’s Temple was built the Altar was in the Temple.

But the ALTAR’S MAIN FUNCTION, and this is important to remember, was… SACRIFICE and WORSHIP–

And special care had to be taken to keep it Holy– And part of the special care was to “GET RID OF THE ASHES THAT ACCUMULATED ON A DAILY BASIS.”

As a “Word Detective,” I had to discover why this ritual was so important.  Although I have a gas fireplace in my current home, I do remember in the previous house having a wood-burning fireplace insert and heating the entire structure through the Fall, Winter, and Early Spring months.  If I didn’t clean the ASH out of the insert…if I wasn’t careful removing the ASH, I would have to explain to my understanding wife why there was BLACK SOOT everywhere!  If I didn’t remove the ASH daily, the ash would smother the FIRE and cause the flame to be extinguished–NO SPARK, NO FLAME, NO HEAT!

NOW WATCH THIS HERE:  One of the jobs of the priests in the OT was to never let the FLAME on the ALTAR to go out because the FLAME represented God’s Presence.  Since the ALTAR FLAME burned continually, the priest [on a daily basis] would have to go to the ALTAR and scrape the ashes off–because if left there, the ashes were subject to put-out the FIRE and bring down punishment and judgment from God on them and the entire camp and then the priests would have to redress the ALTAR with purple cloth.

That’s it!  Another Holy Spirit moment!!  Many of us need to go and get in a proper WORSHIP POSITION and scrape-off the stuff causing us to miss our deliverance and causing our FIRE to go out.

Some of you reading this might be wondering why you CAN’T get your breakthrough right now.  It is probably because you’re trying to come to God for A BLESSING, but you’re holding onto a mess in your life!

–  You want God to BLESS your finances, but you’re still playing the lottery!

–  You want God to FIX your marriage, but you still want to sleep around.

–  You want to be used by God to minister in the church on Sunday, but you haven’t learned how to get along with the people you see every day.

–  You want that new car or a new house, or a new job, but your BLESSING is being delayed because God is waiting for you to SCRAPE-OFF your ashes!

Have you ever cooked out on the grill and accidentally dropped a piece of meat down through the slots in the grill?  Be honest…if no one was looking, you probably fished it out with tongs, and put it back over the fire, finished cooking it, then took it off the grill, put it on a plate and served it to your guests–but you made sure [when YOU ate] you didn’t get that real black, crusty piece, because you know what it would taste like,

WELL GUESS WHAT…God wants to feed you with the goodness of His Word.  But before you can enjoy the GOODNESS of the Word, you’ve got to remove the ASHES!

Here’s what I’ve learned about ASHES:  I’VE LEARNED THAT ASHES ARE BITTER!

No one, in their right mind, enjoys eating ashes because ashes are BITTER.  Some of us have been eating the ASHES of painful relationships and past experiences for so long, that now, we’re just BITTER all the time with everyone we meet.

The writer tells us in the letter to the Hebrews (12:15):

[15] Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace (His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing), in order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness, or hatred) shoots forth and causes trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it–  Amplified Bible.

THE STRANGLING ROOT OF BITTERNESS

 

IN OTHER WORDS, I believe the Apostle Paul is telling us, that the ROOT OF BITTERNESS will not only defile us but also the people around us. 

When we FEED on ASHES, that is to say, when we allow the cruel things that were done to us yesterday affect how we feel and function today, we become BITTER, not only within ourselves but to every person we come intact with.

Personally, I’ve discovered over the years, that the ENEMY loves to keep in my face, stuff that hurt me yesterday so that I might be miserable and bitter today.  But thank God for Jesus!  Jesus said, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)” ~ John 10:10 (AMP).  

In other words, Jesus is saying that:  “I’ve come to take off what the devil has put on and to put on what the devil has taken off!”

Have you ever noticed how intensely and ferociously the devil attacks you after you’ve had a divine revelation or experience?  Satan doesn’t usually bother you much while you’re sitting around watching television, or out at the mall shopping, or relaxing on the front porch with a tall glass of ice tea in your hand.  NO…he waits until:

  • YOU JUST CAME OUT OF A BIBLE STUDY!
  • YOU JUST FINISHED LIFTING YOUR HANDS IN PRAISE AND GIVING A SHOUT!
  • YOU JUST MADE UP YOUR MIND TO BECOME A GOOD HUSBAND, A GOOD WIFE, OR A GOOD DAD, A GOOD MOM!

That’s when the DEVIL tries to carry you back to where you’ve just come from causing you to sit down around the Old Campfire and EAT ASHES!

Not only are the ashes bitter, but ASHES PROVIDE NO STRENGTH.

Here’s a known FACT:  There’s absolutely no nutritional value in ashes!

In fact, we’ll grow weaker each day if we “FEED ON ASHES”,

Psalm 102:4 (NIV)  My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forgot to eat my food.

Psalm 102:9 (AMP)  For I have eaten the ashes [in which I sat] as if they were bread and have mingled my drink with weeping.

In other words, David is saying:  “I became so busy dealing with yesterday’s junk that I forgot to eat the bread of life.”  

We all know what happens when we forget or skip a meal.  We grow WEAK!  Likewise, when we fail to eat the fresh bread of life each day, we begin to decline and wither like the grass!  That’s why we need to begin each day with personal Bible study and meditation on God’s Word.  You need to understand that your spiritual strength is directly proportionate to how much fresh spiritual bread you eat daily!  It doesn’t matter how much you consumed yesterday, today’s strength hinges on today’s meal!

ASHES WILL MAKE YOU SICK!

In Exodus 16, when the Lord gave Moses instructions concerning the MANNA FROM HEAVEN, He said, “Gather of it as much as you need, let none of it be left until morning”  (vv. 18, 19).  

However, the Bible lets us know that some people ignored the instruction and kept some overnight and the Bible says that it, “bred worms, became foul, and stank.”

But watch this:  When they followed God’s instructions and gathered FRESH MANNA EVERY DAY, the Word  says in Numbers 11:8 that:

“The people ground it in mills or beat it with mortars, and boiled it in pots,

and made cakes of it, and it tasted like cakes baked with fresh oil.”

 

Anytime you see OIL mentioned in the Bible it represents “The Anointing of God!” – HOLY SPIRIT!

So what I’m saying here is YESTERDAY’S MANNA breeds worms and stinks, and if we try to eat it, it will make us sick, but TODAY’S MANNA will taste fresh and strengthens us!

So you’re going to need to make up your mind despite yesterday’s stinking situation…TODAY you’re going to seek a fresh ANOINTING in your life!

  • TODAY…you’re going to go to a higher level in your RELATIONSHIP with God!
  • TODAY…I am going to get in a proper position so I can HEAR from God!
  • TODAY…I am going to get a fresh ANOINTING!

“I WANT A FRESH ANOINTING AND I WANT IT RIGHT NOW!”

ASHES on the Altar produces in us Bitterness, Weakness, and Sickness.

But when you get a fresh touch from God you receive just the opposite:

– BITTERNESS is replaced with SWEETNESS!

– WEAKNESS is replaced with STRENGTH!

– SICKNESS is replaced with HEALTH!

– And HUNGER is replaced with SATISFACTION!

FRESH OIL is what we need, NOT day old oil!

Before the children of Israel could receive God’s approval concerning the offering of the SACRIFICE, Verse 13 says,  “And they shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth thereon.”

Before the SACRIFICE could be made, God’s instructions say that yesterday’s ASHES from the Sacrifice must be cleared away and the kingly color of purple had to be draped over the altar.

Before they could receive God’s FAVOR, His BLESSINGS, they had to get rid of the leftover residue and dress the Altar fit for a king!

If you’re needing a fresh anointing from God…PAIN in your body that you had yesterday and may have even woke up with today, but you’ll be able to endure it with a smile because you’ve gotten the ASHES off your Altar!  You should be saying to yourself,  “I want a fresh anointing Lord, and I want it right now!”  The Apostle Paul compares his sharing of the Gospel Message with an ATHLETE1 Corinthians 9:23-27:

 

So what’s Paul saying here?  Simply this:  I must keep my experiences fresh so that after I have fed others around me the good foods of the Word, I don’t wind up “FEEDING ON ASHES!”

“Whatever it takes, come hell or high water, I WILL put forth the effort to build a fresh ALTAR, and keep it clean that I may partake of the ANOINTING of God every day of my life!  Whatever the cost!  I can’t afford to let my ALTAR get ashy!!”

“DON’T LET YOUR ASHES PUT OUT THE FIRE!”

 

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CREDITS –

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search – Advance Search Settings.

Comparative Bible Translations:  BibleStudyTools.com

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV); English Standard Version (ESV).