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Those who fear God live! — Psalm 49

Those who fear God live! — Psalm 49
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 2, 2017

Wikipedia relates that “‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’ is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence. The phrase gives three examples of the ‘inalienable rights’ which the Declaration says has been given to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created to protect.” The writers, the signers, and those who fought for our freedoms believed passionately in these inalienable rights for all people. At the core of this belief was their reasoning that God created mankind for more than servitude and it came from the notion that even nations ruled by kings should fear God.

Today’s America has taken the notion of personal freedom to the extreme that it is a free ticket to do any ungodly or immoral act and excuse it as a personal right. They would do well to remember the spiritual law involved that you reap what you sow in life. The Psalmist here teaches us that those who fear God live; let’s discover what he says about this…

READ: Psalm 49

Many in our day think they can rewrite the laws of God to fit their particular perversion in order to excuse it as sin. The Psalmist reminds us that…

I. Those who fear God listen to godly wisdom! (Vv. 1-6)

Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike: My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding. I will turn my ear to a proverb; with the harp I will expound my riddle: Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me–those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

1. Sometimes it is hard to gain the attention of those you are speaking to and so sometimes you have to do something to shake people up so they will listen. The Psalmist does that here by including everyone in his pronouncement: “Hear this, all you peoples; listen, all who live in this world, both low and high, rich and poor alike”. He tells them by a command of sorts to “hear” and to “listen”. The first refers to actually intelligently understanding what is being spoken to those who are willing to be taught by the words he is speaking! The second refers to giving an ear or to someone who harkens to the sound of his voice like one would to a herald or a town crier who goes about saying “hear ye, hear ye!” or like a child who listens to the voice of their mother calling them home. Notice that the Psalmist’s announcement is for “all you peoples…who live in the world…both low and high, rich and poor alike”. Why should anyone listen to him? “My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the utterance from my heart will give understanding.” There are few things or folks worth listening to in this world of fake news and made up headlines or exaggeration. Yet he would “turn [his] ear to a proverb; with the harp [he would] expound my riddle”. It is like Jesus who told and taught his disciples “many things in parables”. (Matthew 13:3 NIV) Like Benjamin Franklin with Poor Richard’s Almanac or Thomas Paine’s Common Sense who both used humor and pity sayings to teach deeper truths, the Psalmist does this as well. He begins, like any good orator, with a question: “Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me–those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?” He expected an answer probably in the form of question itself; more than likely: “How in the world could you not fear evil days, wicked deceivers, or the ultra rich?” For the Jews of his day only those who were well off could scoff at these things, certainly not a common person! The Psalmist wanted his listeners to know that those who fear God listen to godly wisdom!

EXAMPLE: Benjamin Franklin wrote that “Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little Temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” But he also had a deep faith in a Creator who gave all things. He was not a believer per se but a Deist, someone who believed in a higher power. Later in life he held stronger views on God and especially Jesus and confessed his faith, contrary to what many theists and atheists would have you believe about Franklin. He would write, “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.” The Psalmist knew this several thousands of years before Franklin. He understood that those who fear God listen to godly wisdom!

One of the attractions that drew people from all over the world to America was that you could become whatever you could in America through shear hard work and tenacity. However, far too many have forgotten where their lives come from. The Psalmist teaches us that…

II. Those who fear God remember where their lives come from! (Vv. 7-13)

No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him–the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough–that he should live on forever and not see decay. For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others. Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves. But man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish. This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. Selah

1. With his very next words, the Psalmist writes such an important lesson that the world today would do well to heed it. “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him”. Is this true? For the Hebrew of this era it was and it is why Jesus’ teaching was so astonishing because everyone knew “the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough–that he should live on forever and not see decay”. These words were never forgotten by the Jews and so when Jesus came and taught one could live forever through faith in him, it was astounding! Perhaps we have forgotten life is costly. This is why the framers of the Declaration of Independence included the phrase “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. It establishes three inalienable rights which the Declaration states that have been given or endowed to all human beings by their Creator, and for which governments are created by the same God to protect. Life is costly and yet things are not as costly, “For all can see that wise men die; the foolish and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others.” What you so dearly hold on to right now and think so precious probably will be sold in a garage sale, trucked away to the Salvation Army, or dumped in the trash! In fact, even those who are wealthy, famous, or powerful in this life will soon learn that “Their tombs will remain their houses forever, their dwellings for endless generations, though they had named lands after themselves.” What good news then is that while “the ransom for a life is costly” Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”! (Matthew 20:28 NIV) You see the Psalmist knew what a lot of folks forget, namely dead is dead and once you are dead you are the same as all other dead folks! That “man, despite his riches, does not endure; he is like the beasts that perish.” He is not teaching about how you or your pets end up eternally but rather more like the morose teachings of Ecclesiastes who lamented, “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 3:19 NIV) “This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings.” However, the tacit implication is that those who fear God remember where their lives come from!

EXAMPLE: If you look at many of our coins you will see the inscription, “In God We Trust”. The phrase appears to have originated in “The Star-Spangled Banner”, written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. The fourth stanza states, “And this be our motto: ‘In God is our Trust.’” The Reverend M. R. Watkinson, in a letter dated November 13, 1861, petitioned the Treasury Department to add a statement recognizing “Almighty God in some form in our coins” in order to “relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism”. It wasn’t until the Civil War that one and two cent coins were inscribed. In 1865 Congress passed legislation to place the motto on all gold and silver coins. However on the 50th anniversary of the motto in 2006 Congressed affirmed “In God We Trust” as the United States of America’s national motto. Those who fear God remember where their lives come from!

In America we have problem with death. Unlike past generations who realized life was short, often took care of the elderly themselves, and where people often did not live past their sixties because of illness, war, and poor health conditions. The Psalmist reminds us that…

III. Those who fear God realize they are destined to die! (Vv. 14-20)

Like sheep they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them. The upright will rule over them in the morning; their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself. Selah Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him. Though while he lived he counted himself blessed– and men praise you when you prosper–he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life. A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

1. We all face death and just “Like sheep [we] are destined for the grave, and death will feed on [us]”!  There is tremendous good news in the Psalmist’s message however, “The upright will rule over [the rich, powerful, or famous] in the morning”! In other words when God comes to finally judge the living and the dead while “their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions”, ours won’t and it will be like a fresh new dawn! The Psalmist was well aware that indeed “God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.” He had full confidence in God who loved him. Here dear little child of God is where we are to never forget those wondrous and amazing words of Jesus when he promised, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3 NIV) So, “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.” As one old preacher stated, “We are all lay on the same level in the grave, unless we stand with Jesus!” And sadly, “Though while he lived he counted himself blessed– and men praise you when you prosper–he will join the generation of his fathers, who will never see the light of life.” But not those who trust in God instead. Remember Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV) and do not forget the words he told the weeping Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NIV) Dead is dead unless you know God in Jesus but “A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.”  Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!

EXAMPLE: Unlike past generations where people celebrated death and those who had died by annually setting aside a time to remember them; today we have such a problem with the idea of dying we make roadside pagan shrines to the dead hoping they somehow realize that we now care. But dead is dead. It may be a means to assuage our own guilt and fear of dying. However, the godly person has absolutely no fear of death because we know our destination because of the one we have trusted in. Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!

Conclusion:
Those who fear God listen to godly wisdom! Those who fear God remember where their lives come from! Those who fear God realize they are destined to die!
—-
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Of Minnie Mouse and Men

Of Minnie Mouse and Men
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 31, 2015

Christianity is tough enough but when Christians are stupid it makes it even tougher for those of us who fight the fight and defend the faith. There is some truly illogical and heretical “Christian” beliefs floating around out there that need to be squashed. And I am not just talking about the support of gay marriage or abortion.

Take for instance the belief of some that their pet Fluffy goes to heaven when it dies. I was sharing the other day about our dog Molly who bit the bullet the other day. (No, I did not use her for target practice; she died of a form of cancer. We had her humanly put down.) Someone quipped, “Now she is running around wagging her tail in a far better place.” I confess, my eyes kind of crossed and glazed over because I could not believe what I was hearing. Here was a Christian thinking that my dog was in heaven!

I blandly asked which animals deserved to go to the better place she was referring to. Did spiders, snakes, lizards, ants, bedbugs, fleas, sharks, dinosaurs, woolly mammoths, cows or cockroaches or just the cute fluffy ones we liked. Which animals were bad enough for hell or good enough for heaven? She murmured something about how she hoped her pet was there and hurried out of the room. The truth is Scripture makes it pretty obvious that animals in fact do not go to a “better place,” unless that beef you ate now is residing in your stomach. Jesus did not hang on a cross to die for Minnie my mouse.

Then there are those who actually believe in ghosts. Again, the Bible makes it clear that any spectral manifestation is not what God desires; the same goes for witchcraft, astrology, dream-catchers, or little magnetic statues on our dashboard. Any form of paganism is actually forbidden for the believer whether it is the childish Charlie Charlie Challenge or an Ouija board which was introduced by Elijah Bond as a parlor game and not as a means to contact the dead. The reason, it takes your focus off the one who saved you and makes you think something else is more powerful than God who conquered death and the grave for you!

For some they actually think their great uncle Buddy is now looking down on them and watching over them. According to the Bible, nope he is not. The great cloud of witnesses that is often used to excuse this horrendous lapse in actual theology is actually referring to those who died for their faith and their testimony of giving everything they had for the faith is a witness for us to live our lives by.

Now do not get me wrong, Molly was a great little dog, but then so was Lucky 1, Lucky 2, Brownie, Sally, Reggie, and several others whose names I have forgotten. But I am looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth and being in the presence of my Savior and those who love him. Paul writes it is a far more wonderful place than we can imagine. Could there be dogs there? Perhaps, but not the ones we loved here.

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The testimony of the truth! — John 5:30-38

The testimony of the truth! — John 5:30-38
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 4, 3014

For a lot of folks, truth is relative. In other words truth is only true when it benefits them personally, however, this is not true! Truth is not defined by the moment, the era, social definitions, or our own desire to be happy. Truth is truth, period. In the movie Mary Poppins the main character sings a song to her charges to make things easier for them. The song is “A Spoonful of Sugar.” The lyrics relate that anything, even hard work is better with the right attitude, however, far too many think that the truth should be delivered in the same manner, with a spoonful of sugar. They often sugarcoat it in order for it to be more palatable for their listeners.

Jesus knew that truth was relative as well, so-to-speak. In fact, he knew it because his Father was the author of the truth. But he did not change the truth to suit his needs or to make people feel better about themselves. The truth was who Jesus was because his Father was the truth. Jesus here in John’s gospel gives us the testimony of the truth, let’s discover what he teaches us…

READ: John 5:30-38

My father had so instilled in me that lying was one of the worst things a person could do that I never even attempted to do so. In fact, I was horrible at it. He often said that “the truth will find you out.” We learn here in John’s gospel that…

I. The truth is the will of God! (Vv. 30-32)

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid. (John 5:30-32 NIV)

1. Jesus continued on the theme he had begun with that by himself, as the Messiah in human flesh, “I can do nothing.” And even though he has the authority to judge (v.27), he relates three things concerning his judgment: 1) he judges only as he hears from God, 2) his judgments are always just, and 3) he never seeks to please himself but only seeks to please his Father concerning the judgment he gives. Jesus’ will is to do the Father’s will. “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (John 4:34 NIV)” What sustained and satisfied Jesus in his ministry was the fact that he was completely in God’s will for his life. We can rely on this truth as well for our lives because when we are in the will of God, we can be confident in all we do with our lives. We know when we are not in the truth of God when we begin to cover up our faith, are embarrassed by our faith, or make excuses for our faith. Jesus would also relate, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him. (John 8:29 NIV)” Jesus knew that God never leaves us or forsakes those he loves. Jesus knew that if what he said about himself was only from him, it might sound like boasting, “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.” He also understood that the Jews wanted more than one source when someone was giving evidence about themselves and he bluntly remarks, “There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is valid.” God testified concerning his Son, Jesus. Jesus was content to submit to the Father’s will and to let the Father authenticate Him. The truth is the will of God!

EXAMPLE: David Roper writes concerning the will of God: “We’re often looking for God’s will—especially when we’re in a difficult situation. We wonder, What will happen to me here? Should I stay or does God want me somewhere else? The only way to know for sure is to do what He asks you to do right now—the duty of the present moment—and wait for God to reveal the next step. As you obey what you know, you will be strengthened to take the next step and the next. Step by step, one step at a time. That’s how we learn to walk with God. But you say, ‘Suppose I take the first step. What will happen next?’ That’s God’s business. Your task and mine is to obey this day and leave the future to Him.” Jesus looked to his Father and allowed him to lead him. He did nothing without God’s leading. He could do so because he lived in the truth and the truth is the will of God!

I have one of those new flat screen TVs where they measure the resolution in 780p, 1080p, or HD. I have come to the realization that the truth of my resolutions are often in sub-standard definition! Yet, through it all I have discovered that…

II. The truth is the light of God! (Vv. 33-35)

You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. (John 5:33-35 NIV)

1. Jesus did not just depend on the testimony of himself or that of God the Father, he also reminds his listeners that John the Baptist’s function was that of a witness. He tells them, “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth.” A good witness tells the truth. John’s witness about Jesus had integrity. However, Jesus immediately relates, “Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved.” Human testimony is dependent upon human frailties. We cannot see everything, we cannot hear everything, and we certainly do not know everything; but God does! Jesus knew that his listeners respected John the Baptist because of who he was, but Jesus did not necessarily need John’s acceptance to be who he was or to say or do what he did. John’s gospel began by telling us that John the Baptist “came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:7-8 NIV)” It was through the light of God that all men would believe and be saved. Jesus mentioned John’s testimony about himself so his listeners would “be saved.” Jesus’ truth, his light burns eternally, but “John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.” John’s light, his testimony, only burned for a little while and then Herod ended up killing him, but Jesus’ testimony, his truth shines forever! John the Baptist was sent for the people’s benefit, however sinful people are in such darkness that they need someone to tell them what is light! “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:4-5 NIV)” How interesting is it then when Jesus is in front of Pontius Pilate, who accuses him of declaring himself a king, Jesus responded, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. (John 18:37 NIV)” The truth of God shone brightly in front of sinful man, but they were blinded to its truth! The truth is the light of God!

EXAMPLE: One of the things we like to do when we go into the nearby Ape Cave is to turn off any lights. We are immediately engulfed in complete and utter darkness. You cannot even see your hand in front of your face. Just as it is hard to see in utter darkness, it is difficult for us to see the truth when we are in the darkness of personal sin. Sin blinds us to the light of the truth in our lives. Jesus would teach, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22-23 NIV)” We learn here that the truth is the light of God!

The problem with a new year is that it goes in one year and out the other! Kind of like our New Year’s resolutions. We make them only to break them. How wonderful to know then that there is something and someone we can utterly depend on and that is Jesus. The reason is simply because…

III. Seeing is believing the truth of God! (Vv. 36-38)

I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. (John 5:36-38 NIV)

1. Not only did Jesus have his own testimony, God’s testimony and the testimony of John the Baptist but he also had ” testimony weightier than that of John.” Sometimes we are trusted and known not just by what we say about ourselves but in what we actually do with our lives. Our actions speak louder than our words. Jesus was also justified by the things he did. He relates, “For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me.” The very miracles the Jews had such a hard time with because Jesus was willing to display God’s compassion instead of their legalism, spoke volumes to who Jesus was. Jesus would later tell Philip, one of disciples who wanted Jesus to prove who he was, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. (John 14:10-11 NIV)” Earlier Jesus told his detractors, “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father. (John 10:37-38 NIV)” When Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and then died on the cross and rose from the grave, he testified to the truth of who he was! Isaiah the Old Testament prophet would declare concerning the coming of Jesus, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. (Isaiah 35:5-6 NIV)” Sadly, the Jews of Jesus’ day were so calloused and hardened by sin they could not recognize who he was, but those of who do recognize Jesus for whom he is are blessed! Jesus retorted, “For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. (Matthew 13:17 NIV)” This is why he said to those Jewish leaders, “You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent.” The question this morning would be, “Do you see, hear, and recognize Jesus for who he is and will you give your life to him?” For Jesus, seeing is believing the truth of God!

EXAMPLE: My Uncle and I were working in my grandmother’s garden. I had been entrusted to weed it while he had worked on the other side of the house. When he came back he asked me how in the world I had gotten done so fast, then he realized I had just cut the tops off all the weeds instead of pulling them up by their roots. He informed me that a real man is not only seen by their words but by their work ethic as well. I learned that day that simply saying I did something carried little weight, but instead I was judged by what I had actually done. The legacy we leave in life is not just with our words but in what we do with our lives. We may struggle with believing in Jesus by what he said, but when we look intently at his life seeing is believing the truth!

Conclusion:

The truth is the will of God, the truth is the light of God, and seeing is believing the truth of God!

This article is copyrighted © 2015 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Live or die! — John 5:25-29

Live or die! — John 5:25-29
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 28, 2014

One of the most fascinating things ever written was by the Apostle Paul when he wrote his friends in Philippi, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21 NIV)” How could Paul be so confident in making such a bold statement in a world that was so evil and full of death? Paul had come to the conclusion that whether he lived or died, he lived or died in the Lord. Live or die it did not matter for Paul as long as he was living for God when he died he knew he would live for God!

Such confidence in Jesus is not born out of wishful thinking on the part of Christians, it is based on fact. We know to live or die rests solely with the Lord. When I was about 9 years old my best friend and I were playing in his backyard. We had climbed to the utmost top of a couple of fir trees that grew in his yard. They were huge and we climbed as high as we could. Just as I was reaching the top of one tree, the branch I was on snapped and I plummeted to the ground below, hitting dozens of branches on the way down. I hit the ground on my back, knocking the wind out of me, and blacking out. I remember thinking that I was going to die and end up in heaven. Imagine how surprised I was when I woke up only to find my friend standing over me. Live or die, it is up to the Lord. Let’s find out why and what John writes about it in his gospel…

READ: John 5:25-29

New years are full of hope because we think we can start new and fresh. Out with the old and in with the new, yet within a few days, even though we might make a resolution to do better, we find ourselves in the same predicament we were in before the new year. However, here in John’s gospel we discover that a truly fresh beginning begins when…

I. We live because of Jesus! (Vv. 25-26)

I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.

1. Jesus knew what he said was true, we discussed this before, and because of this he related that “a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” Jesus knew that he would usher in a new way of life and that time was coming and had been established simply because he was in the world. Just as Jesus would command Jairus’ daughter upon his saying “Talitha koum!” (little girl get up) to rise from her ill-fated death, or the widow of Nain whose dead son lived after Jesus said, “young man, get up” and his friend Lazarus upon Jesus calling him to “come forth!” ultimately Jesus would also be able to call those who trusted in him from the death to life as well! Those dead in sin would live eternally after placing their faith in God’s Son, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.” Jesus can do it because of who he is! Just as God was the giver and taker of human life, Jesus was as well! Later Jesus would bluntly state, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. (John 10:17-18 NIV)” Jesus has the power of life! We know it is true because God said so! John would later write, “We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:9-12 NIV)” We live because of Jesus!
EXAMPLE: We have all heard the phrase, “Life is short.” However, few of us think about that fact until life becomes, well, short. When we are younger we give no thought to the consequences of many of our actions. We take greater risks thinking we will live forever or at least longer. I will never forget a close Christian friend who was making deliveries for his work near Battle Ground when his truck was hit head on by a logging truck. He was killed instantly. Some would have focused on how sad it was for such a kind and godly man so young to be killed so tragically, yet his life was celebrated by all who knew him as the vibrant Christian he was. We all knew as he had that we live because of Jesus!

Live or let Die was the name of an old James Bond film. James Bond is ordered by his boss, M, to investigate the deaths and their connections to Kananga, the dictator of a small Caribbean island called San Monique. Bond meets Solitaire, a beautiful virgin tarot expert who has the uncanny ability to see both the future and remote events in the present. There are those actually think fortune tellers can foresee the future for our life or our death. None can. Here in John’s gospel we discover that if we do not confess our faith in Jesus…

II. We will die because of our sin! (V. 27-29)

And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

1. Jesus told his detractors that God “has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” Paul would teach that God’s power was “exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything. (Ephesians 1:20-22 NIV)” Jesus has the power and the authority because “he is the Son of Man!” He is God’s chosen one, his anointed, the Messiah! Jesus related that his listeners should “not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out” of their graves. In fact, “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him… And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 6:9 & 8:11 NIV)” Wow! We live because he lives! Yet, Jesus also related that “those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” In other words those who have sinned and are not cleansed of their sins will die in their sins! Paul would remind us that “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:21-23 NIV)” Later, when those Jesus was talking to could not believe in who he was, he bluntly tells them, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins. (John 8:24 NIV)” We will die because of our sin!

EXAMPLE: Many people in Jesus’ day thought that when you died, you were dead. Dead is dead. In fact, when they remembered that Jesus had promised to resurrect himself, they determined to have his tomb sealed and guarded! They knew that if he did indeed rise from the grave then it would prove who he said he was! What they forgot was the fact of why they were dying in the first place. Paul would write that “just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned… (Yet) at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8, 12 NIV)” The fact is, we die because of our sin!

Conclusion:
We live because of Jesus and we will die because of our sin!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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The Official’s Son — John 4:43-54

The Official’s Son — John 4:43-54
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 7, 2014

There is an old saying that states, “It’s all fun until someone gets hurt” and this is more often the truth about our lives as well. What is true on the playground is true for life as well. Here is what I mean: Many do not give a single thought as to the consequences of their lives or their actions until the fun suddenly and abruptly come to a screeching halt due to sickness, death, injury, or just plain life happening. Then and only then do we cry out for the help we have always needed thinking that God should be at our beck and call.

Here in John’s gospel we find a royal official who had it all. Life was good and good things happen to good people, right? He had his office, his power, his money and recognition but now all of that is worthless because his child is sick and dying. When life falls apart, as it always does, who are you going to trust for strength, answers, and hope? Let’s discover what occurs with the official’s son…

READ: John 4:43-54

People have not changed much. We discover here in John’s gospel that…

I. Trust is not found in meeting our needs of the moment! (Vv. 43-45)

After the two days he left for Galilee. (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.

1. In the other gospels we discover that when Jesus went to his own hometown they took offense to what he tried to teach them about the Kingdom of God. We discover that Jesus “went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. ‘Where did this man get these things?’ they asked. ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him that he even does miracles! Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.’ (Mark 6:1-4 NIV)” It was a derogatory comment about not only his occupation but his family as well. Their inference was that Jesus and his family was common, ordinary, and without education so how in the world could he teach like he was? So, after leaving Samaria, he heads to Galilee. “When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him.” Interestingly, later even Jesus’ own family would question his ability and his teachings! And we find that the only reason the Galileans were interested was because “They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.” They saw Jesus go after the corrupt in their midst and not thought he might suit their needs, not that they believed he was actually the Messiah! This is not faith, and this certainly is not trusting God! Like many today, those in Jesus hometown were only interested in Jesus when he could meet their needs. We discover, however, that trust is not found in meeting our needs of the moment!

EXAMPLE: John is describing people’s spiritual selfishness. They only wanted something to do with Jesus when he could meet their needs of the moment. It is like the person who complains, “What has God ever done for me?” But they have never had anything to do with God! Like children on a playground who walk by a ball and when asked to pick it up declare, “It’s not mine!” or “I didn’t use it!” Their focus is only on what benefits them at that moment. Jesus would later admonish his listeners by telling them, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children. (Luke 7:31-35 NIV)” Like many today, those in Jesus hometown were only interested in him when he could meet their needs. We discover, however, that trust is not found in meeting our needs of the moment!

II. Faith in Jesus begins with trust! (Vv. 46-50)

Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.

1. Jesus was back where it all started with his first miracle and “Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine.” However, since that time things had changed and others are now taking notice of Jesus. We read that “there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum.” Isn’t it interesting that things have not changed much in that those who show no interest in godly things all of sudden do so when life reaches out and affects their lives? This official could have been goyim, a Hebrew, a Roman, or someone from Herod’s court, but we are not told who he is or what his function was as an official. But now he takes an interest in Jesus because, “When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.” Here is the crux of the matter, his son was sick and close to dying. Jesus became this man’s last hope for his ill son. He was willing to beg Jesus to come and heal him. We forget that Jesus wants folks to fully understand what it means to ask him into their lives. This is why when preachers who do not tell the entire truth concerning the gospel are not only frustrating the message but they are angering the Lord. Like a lot of folks do, the royal official wanted Jesus to heal his son simply because he asked! Why is this convoluted thinking on his part? Many think God should do what they want when they want him to because it suits their needs, heals their hurt, and helps them in some way. They think that a relationship with God begins and ends with their need of the moment. Was it tragic this man’s son was sick and dying? Yes! But is it God’s responsibility to act when we have never even given him any of our time, talent, or treasure? This is why Jesus responds, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” A faith built only on miraculous signs, only on what Jesus can do for you, is not a complete faith!  There is a change in the man’s attitude however and Jesus has compassion on him. He tells Jesus, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” The term “sir” is Lord, meaning he was willing to submit to what Jesus desired of him. Here is where true faith begins! Jesus replies, “You may go. Your son will live.” And notice what the man does! “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” He trusted Jesus to do what he promised! Faith in Jesus begins with trust!

EXAMPLE: When teaching a child how to ride a bike, swim, or take their first jump off a high dive, they first learn to trust the person how is encouraging them. The fear is in falling, failing, or not being able to take that leap of faith. The same can be said for those who often fear to let go and allow God into their lives. However, there is no other way for God to work in the life of someone without their willingness to trust him. There is no such thing as partial trust. Faith in Jesus begins with trust!

We also see here that…

III. Trusting in Jesus brings its own rewards! (Vv. 51-54)

While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed. This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.

1. The royal official is hurrying back to his home. He can only think of his little boy slowly dying. In Jesus’ day, if you got sick with a common cold, measles, a mere fever – you would probably die. Life was and is fragile. We are not given a promise that we will all live to be 110 and then die quietly in our sleep. Some of us die from falling down a stair. We die from cancer, from drunk drivers, from war, a mosquito or spider bite, pestilence, hunger or thirst. Life is fragile and death waits in the wings to claim us at any moment! We think it is unfair and unjust when those we care about or love are ripped from the fabric of life by whatever means. But now, “While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living.” He is ecstatic and “Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’” Does Jesus heal everyone? No. Did Jesus heal everyone he met? No. Jesus worked and works within the universe of his creation and according to his plan. Healing for God is not necessary. Our physical condition is not all there is to life or death. We are created for eternity and we forget what that means. Paul would later write, “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed–in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:50-58 NIV)” Our labor, our lives are to be in the Lord! Notice, the man cannot believe what he is hearing. And then it comes to him and he realizes that his simple trust in what Jesus told him to do was the means by which his son was cured. I believe he went home and shared everything with his household and this is why we read, “So he and all his household believed.”  Trusting in Jesus brings its own rewards! “This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.”

EXAMPLE: Do you have some of those “rewards card”? I do. Some I use and others are just taking up space in my wallet. I stopped getting them several years ago because they are the junk mail of my wallet. I think there is a hidden truth here in that not everything we are asked to trust in gives us the rewards we think they do. That includes religion. Some want you to meditate until you levitate; some want you to genuflect until you are circumspect, but only in Christ can one find hope. I have discovered as did this royal official that trusting in Jesus brings its own rewards!

Conclusion:

We discover that trust is not found in meeting our needs of the moment! Faith in Jesus begins with trust! Trusting in Jesus brings its own rewards!

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Just Wondering…

Just Wondering…
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 13, 2014

They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” (Matthew 21:7-10 NIV)

I was just wondering if you would be willing to suffer a whole lot, be bloodily beaten to unrecognition, for others who could care less and then be willing to be horrendously killed just so those same uncaring folks could decide if they wanted to believe in your willingness to die for them or not. Come on, sounds like a real deal, doesn’t it? Yet here we find Jesus willingly doing just that. In our day and age we would not be surprised if he had just spurred the donkey on and headed for the Judean hills in a cloud of dust and hardy “Hi oh Silver, away!” (Yes, we do not know if the donkey’s name was “Silver” or not, but you get my drift.) In fact, we find Jesus knowing that he would be betrayed by one of his own men whom he had personally chosen, that he would be dragged around town by a greedy and corrupt religious establishment, be tortured, mocked, and crucified for those who were doing the mocking, torturing, and crucifying! I can hardly wrap my brain around this. Jesus knew. He knew as he rode on that little donkey colt’s back into Jerusalem. He knew as he whipped the hypocrites out of the temple area. He knew as he knelt before his prideful disciples, washed their feet, and he knew as he sat by the one who had already betrayed him. He knew as he broke the bread and shared the wine of his last Passover meal. Few of us find it hard enough to get up on Sunday morning, go to church and Bible Study, let alone suffer and die for a stranger! “Sacrifice this!” is our retort. It should make one wonder…

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Recognize God’s Ways! – Isaiah 53:1-12

Recognize God’s Ways! – Isaiah 53:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 23, 2014 AM

God often works in ways contrary to human thinking to accomplish His glorious purposes. Bill, a college student, spoke to the church’s senior citizens’ group about his summer missions experience. He had been in Cambodia helping to create a sanitary water supply for a community. He told about the backbreaking work; the wonderful, generous people he met; and his call to return as a missionary to the area. After Brandon left, some complained he had not dressed very nicely. Others wished he had gotten a haircut or at least combed his hair. Still others pointed out he had made three grammatical mistakes and they wished students would pay more attention to speaking skills.

What factors sometimes cause you not to recognize God’s ways of working? As we look at the work of the Suffering Servant that Isaiah speaks about, let’s focus on ways we can recognize God’s ways of working in our life. Isaiah described God’s Servant as called to restore the people of Israel to their homeland and to speak His salvation to all the earth. The Servant’s faithful obedience would stand in stark contrast to the people’s disobedience and lack of faith. Israel and Judah fully experienced God’s punishment of destruction and domination by a foreign power, but God would bring them new life. To deal with Israel and Judah’s root problem of sin, God would send His Servant. The Servant would suffer, but through His suffering, He would bear the punishment for all human sin and provide forgiveness. They needed to recognize God’s ways…

READ: Isaiah 53:1-12

We first discover that…

I. God May Use Unlikely People! (Isaiah 53:1-3)

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:1-3 NIV)

1. God inspired Isaiah to write four poems or songs about His Servant (Isa. 42:1-4, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, 52:13-53:12). My message today focuses on the last Servant song. Isaiah had begun this song by describing the Servant as One who would “act wisely” and be “highly exalted” (52:13). Prior to His exaltation, however, people would be appalled by His suffering (52:14). When the Servant had completed His mission, people would be astonished at what they saw (52:15). Isaiah prophesied the Israelites who saw the Servant and witnessed His voluntary suffering would not understand God was working through His Servant to accomplish their salvation. This divine revelation came through the arm of the Lord, symbolizing God’s presence, strength, and saving activity. The people of Israel could not see the true identity of the Servant because they concentrated on His appearance. They saw only a tender shoot… a root out of dry ground. Like a plant barely surviving in dry conditions, the Servant seemingly displayed no potential to accomplish anything of value. In fact, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Not content to just ignore God’s Servant, Israel despised and rejected Him. His suffering did not fit the people’s ideas regarding how a Savior should look and act, so Israel failed to value Him as the One sent from God. Despised did not carry the emotional meaning for Israel that we associate with the word, it meant, “To consider something or someone as worthless or insignificant.” In fact, we are told that He would be “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Esteemed expresses an accounting concept. When Israel listed the Servant’s assets and liabilities, the balance shifted heavily to His liabilities. Israel expected nothing of value or importance from this Servant. God may use unlikely people!

EXAMPLE: Israel had difficulty seeing as God sees and we often do as well. God often chooses people for His service we would never choose. We may say God can use anybody but not really believe it. We need to be sensitive enough to see God at work and encourage rather than abandon or criticize individuals. What individuals do you know who exceeded people’s expectations by allowing God to work through them? Remember, God may use unlikely people!

II. God May Use Unexpected Means! (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6 NIV)

1. The Israelites would not understand that the Servant “took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” When the Servant suffered, they assumed He suffered justly for His sin. Only after His death, would anyone realize the Servant had suffered for all our sins rather than His own. Israel completely misjudged the Servant, as many do today. Pierced and crushed describe the Servant’s terrifying suffering. Pierced typically described a stab wound that brought death. Crushed could describe an individual whose spirit had been utterly broken or an individual who had been killed. Both words emphasize violence.  Do not make the mistake in thinking that the Servant’s “passion” paid for our sin, it did not. The Servant died for the people’s transgressions and iniquities. Transgressions emphasize sin as intentional rebellion. Even though we know God’s command, we deliberately disobey, demonstrating our complete disrespect for God and His law. Iniquities indicate the crookedness of our human nature. Rather than recognizing we are created in God’s image and following God, we delight in unrighteousness and in following our own desires. We willingly become less than God has intended. Sin robs our life of peace. We only can find wholeness and satisfaction through a personal relationship with God. As we look back at the life and death of the Servant (Jesus Christ), we realize our punishment was placed on Him; but we also realize His punishment brought the opportunity for our healing. The Servant’s ultimate suffering, his death, for our sin and disobedience has made possible a new start, a new relationship with God, and true peace and wholeness. The phrases “we all” and “each of us” emphasize all Israelites and all of us bear responsibility for the Servant’s sufferings. As much as we might like to remove ourselves from the list of guilty parties, we cannot. The comparison of humans to sheep provides a condemning portrait of sinful humanity. As sheep pursue their desires oblivious of others, so we pursue our desires typically thinking only of our needs. We make choices without considering the consequences. We too need a Shepherd. Yet, “the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all!” God punished the Servant when He should have punished us! God sent Jesus to die and rise again that we might have salvation. Miraculously, God can take the worst circumstances and from them accomplish His good purposes! God may use unexpected means!

EXAMPLE: Isaiah 55:8 states, God’s ways and our ways differ dramatically. No one saw the true nature of the Servant’s suffering until after the Servant’s death. The disciples did not understand Jesus’ suffering and death until after His resurrection. God continues to work in unexpected ways to accomplish His will. Rather than expecting God to work in ways we think appropriate, we need to recognize God is at work around us and within us–often in unexpected ways. How has God worked in unexpected ways in your life? Remember, God may use unexpected means!

Contrary to what much of the world believes, we learn that…

III. God May Use Undeserved Suffering! (Isaiah 53:7-9)

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7-9 NIV)

1. The Servant certainly had just cause to protest His treatment. He could have pleaded His case, condemned those who rejected and despised Him, and met violence with violence. Instead, He responded to unjust treatment with a calm demeanor and a peaceful spirit. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” As a lamb went mutely to be shorn or to be offered as a sacrifice, so the Servant offered no protest as He faced death. Unlike sheep who do not know their fate, the Servant knew what would happen to Him. Knowing the injustice of His suffering, He accepted His death. A lamb could not make forgiveness available. Only a faithful, willing Servant could bear the punishment for a disobedient, rebellious humanity. The Servant offered Himself as the ultimate sacrifice and substitute. The Servant experienced violent treatment. “Taken away” could refer to a deceitful action or to the sudden removal by violence or force of something precious. “Cut off” almost always refers to an act of violence. Such punishment might be understandable for a person whose sin deserved horrible consequences. Yet the Servant had done nothing to deserve it. People wrongly assumed the Servant’s suffering was justified. No one realized the Servant suffered for others. It was “By oppression and judgment he was taken away.” Based on the common (but false) idea that sin causes all suffering, people buried the Servant in what they considered an appropriate place, with the rest of “the wicked, and with a rich man.” Having been crucified with criminals Jesus was assigned a place of death with the wicked, and later He was given a tomb of the rich man Joseph. Only later would people understand the Servant had engaged in neither violence nor deceit. Violence characterizes humanity at its worst. “Deceit” describes the action of an evil individual maliciously intent on causing trouble or destroying others. The Servant engaged in neither behavior. His actions and His thoughts indicated His innocence. We realize that God may use undeserved suffering for His glory!

EXAMPLE: While we cannot explain all suffering in our lives, sometimes God works miraculously through an individual’s undeserved suffering to bring salvation and deeper faith to ourselves or to the lives of others. The faith of Christian martyrs as they suffered and died helped spread the gospel. The quiet faith of some with terminal illness brings hope and belief to those around them. God can work despite and through tragedy to accomplish His purposes. What have you learned in your suffering or that of others? Never forget, God may use undeserved suffering for His glory!

Yet, for those who trust in Him…

IV. God Rewards the Faithful! (Isaiah 53:10-12)

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:10-12 NIV)

1. Astonishingly, we learn that “it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer”! God worked through the Servant’s suffering and his final death, placing on Him the guilt of and the punishment for the people’s sin. The Servant willingly accepted the burden and carried through God’s purposes. Isaiah described the Servant as a “guilt offering”, an offering for individuals who had sinned unintentionally but later become aware of their sin would offer a guilt offering to make restitution (Lev. 5:14-19). Thus, the Servant’s offering of Himself was an atonement not only for consciously committed sins but also for unintentional sins. When the people realized and accepted what the Servant had done for them, the Servant would experience the reverse of what people had believed He would experience, “though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand”! He would enjoy the blessings of those favored by God. He would see His descendants, live a long life (eternally), and accomplish God’s will for His life. Since the Servant died, God would bless Him after His burial in a resurrected life. If we labor and see no useful results, our toil seems meaningless; and we become discouraged. If we labor and see useful results or the promise of useful results, we feel satisfaction. The Servant experienced the same satisfaction. “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.” As a result of the Servant’s faithful obedience, God would reward Him. Like a king returning from winning a battle and bringing spoils with him, the Servant would come triumphantly. Once they had been condemned by sin, but through His sacrifice, they now are redeemed and made right with God: “For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” God rewards the faithful!

EXAMPLE: Applying the faithful obedience of the Servant and Jesus to our lives can be difficult. However, God does not call us to bear the sins of people. God has accomplished that miracle through Christ. God calls us to be faithful instead. God will reward our faithfulness. Some may find recognition and fame, but we all will experience the strength of God’s presence, the joy of allowing God to work through us, and eternal life with Him. What greater rewards could we receive? How has God blessed you as you have served Him? Remember, God does indeed reward the faithful!

Conclusion:
1. God works through persons whom society rejects or views as insignificant.
2. God uses even unexpected means to accomplish His purposes.
3. God works even through people’s undeserved suffering to accomplish His purposes.
4. God works through His faithful people and rewards them.

This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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