I Will Hope In Him

19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
    the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
    and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man that he bear
    the yoke in his youth.

28 Let him sit alone in silence
    when it is laid on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust—
    there may yet be hope;
30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
    and let him be filled with insults.

31 For the Lord will not
    cast off forever,
32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
    according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not afflict from his heart
    or grieve the children of men. – Lamentations 3:19-33 ESV

Jeremiah was not afraid to tell God how he was feeling. And one of the reasons he felt comfortable sharing his heart with God is because he knew how much God cared for him. He could dare to bare his soul because he believed that his Heavenly Father was already aware of his plight and was the only source of hope he had left. There was no king in Israel he could turn to for help. The army had been destroyed. The capital lay in ruins. Even the temple of God was nothing but a smoldering pile of rubble. And as Jeremiah surveyed his surroundings and evaluated his circumstances, the only thing he had left was his relationship with God.

Jeremiah’s mood was dark and he was having a difficult time accepting all that had happened. When he looked around him he saw nothing that could put a positive spin on his circumstances. Happy thoughts were hard to come by. Perseverance was in short supply. And his hope was dwindling fast.

I have forgotten what happiness is;
so I say, “My endurance has perished;
    so has my hope from the Lord.”  – Lamentations 3:17-18 ESV

He was beginning to doubt God. The pressing problems of life were taking a toll on his faith. This prophet of God was allowing the circumstances of life to determine his perspective about God. But he caught himself. He realigned his thoughts and refocused his attention on what he knew to be true about God, and his hope was restored.

But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope… – Lamentations 3:21 ESV

And what was it that Jeremiah called to mind? The unwavering, never-ceasing love of the Lord.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV

In the midst of all the uncertainty surrounding him, Jeremiah found hope in the certainty of God’s love. With all the change that had happened in Judah, Jeremiah forced himself to focus on the one thing that would consistently remain the same: The faithful love of the Lord.

All that had happened in Judah was not to be taken as a sign that God no longer loved them. The judgment they had experienced had been an expression of God’s love for them. He had been lovingly correcting them.

“My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” – Hebrews 12:6-7 NLT

Just as a parent disciplines a child, the LORD your God disciplines you for your own good. – Deuteronomy 8:5 NLT

But when you’re on the receiving end of God’s judgment, it is difficult to see it as loving and good. It is painful and unpleasant. It appears to be unkind and unnecessary. But the author of Hebrews would have us remember that even human fathers lovingly discipline their children. So, how much more so must our Heavenly Father discipline those whom He calls His own?

For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. – Hebrews 12:10-11 NLT

For Jeremiah, his hope was based on the unchanging nature of God. The love of God never ceases. His capacity to show mercy is endless. His mercies show up every day just like the morning sun. His faithfulness is great – which means it is beyond measure, limitless, totally sufficient and will never run out. The presence of problems was not to be seen as proof of the absence of God’s faithfulness. He was the covenant-keeping God who always fulfills His promises. And while things looked bleak in Judah, God had not abandoned His people or His prophet.

And Jeremiah, as much to himself as to the people around him, points out the key to thriving under the loving discipline of God.

The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
    to those who search for him.
So it is good to wait quietly
    for salvation from the Lord.
And it is good for people to submit at an early age
    to the yoke of his discipline… – Lamentations 3:25-27 NLT

Yes, the days were dark. The conditions in Judah were bleak and unpleasant. But God was loving, gracious, kind, and compassionate. He had a purpose behind all the pain. Their suffering was intended to act as a divine wakeup call, alerting the people of Judah to the seriousness of their sin and their need for God’s salvation.

God had removed every prop upon which they had built their lives. Their human king and his earthly kingdom had been destroyed. Their prophets and priests, intended to be the spokesmen for God, had been silenced. The sacrificial system, meant to provide atonement for sin, had been eliminated. Their economy was shot. Their homes had been demolished. Their neighbors had been taken captive. And their prospects for the future were bleak. But God was still there. And that’s why Jeremiah said, “there may yet be hope” (Lamentations 3:29 ESV).

But before they could hope to be rescued by God, they were going to have to accept the discipline of God. They were going to have to willingly submit to His loving instruction. To stubbornly resist His discipline would do little more than prolong the pain. They had a lesson to learn and God would patiently persist until they were as willing to accept His instruction as they were His salvation.

And Jeremiah reminds his people that God’s steadfast love and unwavering faithfulness will one day result in their restoration to a right relationship with Him.

For no one is abandoned
    by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion
    because of the greatness of his unfailing love.
For he does not enjoy hurting people
    or causing them sorrow. – Lamentations 3:31-33 NLT

Despite the catastrophic circumstances surrounding the nation of Judah, God was not done with them. He had plans in place that would result in their future blessing. His love had not run out. His mercies had not been tapped out. This whole state of affairs was all part of God’s divine plan and He had already told them how it was going to work out.

This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” – Jeremiah 29:10-13 NLT

And this is what led Jeremiah to say, “this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.”

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


All According to Plan

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” – Matthew 2:13-18 ESV

After having spent more than three years of his life with Jesus, Matthew had come to believe in two things: The Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah and the providence of God. Over time, he had come to recognize that Jesus was the fulfillment of all that the prophets had written concerning long-awaited “anointed one” of God.

Matthew would have remembered the words of Jesus, spoken at the synagogue in Nazareth immediately after He had read the following passage from the scroll containing the writings of Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
– Luke 4:18-19 ESV

Jesus had read from Isaiah 61:1-2, a text that the Jews in His audience would have known carried Messianic implications. And when He had finished, He had sat down and stated: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21 ESV).

Jesus had boldly claimed to be the fulfillment of this passage. He was the anointed one of God, who possessed the Spirit of God and had been sent on a mission by God. And more than three years later, after Jesus had died and resurrected, He had suddenly appeared to two of His disciples on the road to Emmaus. Once they recognized Him as their risen Lord, Jesus had provided them with insight into His Messianic pedigree.

…beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. – Luke 24:27 ESV

Those disciples had returned to Jerusalem, where they shared the news of Jesus’ resurrection with the rest of the disciples, including Matthew. And Luke records that Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst and said to them:.

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. – Luke 24:44-45 ESV

Matthew fully believed that Jesus was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. But he also believed that God had been working providentially in the life of Jesus from the moment of His birth to the final minutes of His life on the cross. Nothing had happened that God had not ordained and providentially orchestrated, including the arrival of the Magi and the sinister reaction of Herod to the news of the birth of Israel’s new king.

All of the events surrounding Jesus’ incarnation were planned by God from eternity past. He was not operating in a reactionary mode, responding to events as they happened or forced to alter His plans based on the whims of men. Nothing was a surprise to God. There was never a moment when He was caught off guard or found Himself having to come up with plan B.

Matthew had come to recognize that every detail concerning Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection had been providentially planned by God. Even the flight of Joseph, Mary, and their newborn son to Egypt had been part of God’s divine strategy. Matthew records that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, warning him in advance that Herod had evil intentions for their son.

“Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” – Matthew 2:13 ESV

Joseph had done as the angel commanded, taking his young wife and newborn son to Egypt in order to escape the wrath of Herod. And we know from the following verses, that the threat had been real, because Herod had all the male children under the age of two murdered, in a vain attempt to eliminate any potential threat to his throne.

But Herod’s plan would fail. He would prove unsuccessful in his efforts to kill the rightful heir to David’s throne. In fact, according to the Jewish historian, Josephus, Herod would die a painful and miserable death. Even Luke records that Herod would be “eaten by worms” (Acts 12:23 ESV).

But Jesus would find refuge in Egypt, much like the people of Israel had done hundreds of years earlier. Jacob and his family had also turned to Egypt when faced with a famine in the land of Canaan. And 400 years later, God would lead the people of Israel out of Egypt and return them to the land of Canaan. And the prophet Hosea would later record the news of God’s providential rescue of His people from their captivity in Egypt.

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
    and out of Egypt I called my son. – Hosea 11:1 ESV

Matthew uses this very same Old Testament passage to illustrate how Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of what happened when God had returned His “son” from Egypt. Jesus would return from a distant land “to proclaim good news to the poor…to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, (and) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

When God had led the people of Israel out of Egypt, He had done so in fulfillment of His promise to Abraham. He had plans to return them to the land of Canaan, which He was going to give them as an inheritance. He had promised to give Abraham a land, a seed, and a blessing. But while the Israelites finally made it to the land and eventually occupied it, they had never fully lived up to God’s expectations for them. They had proved disobedient and unfaithful. But God was still going to bless the nations through the “seed” of Abraham. And Jesus was the fulfillment of that promise. The apostle Paul made this point perfectly clear when he wrote:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. – Galatians 3:13-16 ESV

God would once again call “the seed” of Abraham out of Egypt, but this time the blessing would come to the Gentiles. Jesus would do what the Jews had failed to do. He would live in perfect obedience to the will of God, carrying out His commands and accomplishing His will. And there was nothing Herod the Great or his son and successor, Herod Antipas, could do to thwart the plans of the sovereign God. Jesus would not only return from Egypt, but He would also survive childhood, grow to be a man, and begin His earthly ministry just as God had sovereignly ordained. All according to the divine plan and in keeping with on God’s predetermined timeline.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. – Galatians 4:4-5 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

According to Plan.

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
    for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
    my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
    or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ Acts 2:22-28 ESV

Peter flatly denies the accusation that they are drunk with wine. They are under the influence of the Holy Spirit and what the crowd had just witnessed was in partial fulfillment of the prophecies of Joel. With the resurrection of Jesus, something new was happening that was the beginning of the last days and would eventually usher in the final judgment of mankind. And all of, Peter insists, was part of God’s divine plan. Even the death of Jesus had been “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23 ESV). His crucifixion had not been an unexpected setback, but the central part of God’s foreordained plan of redemption. Peter would later write about this in his first letter.

18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake. – 1 Peter 1:18-20 NLT
And yet, Peter lays the blame for the death of Jesus at the feet of the Jews to whom he is talking. It was their shouts of “Crucify Him!” and their refusal to accept Pilate’s offer of clemency for Jesus that had resulted in His death sentence. Peter makes it emphatically clear, “With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him” (Acts 2:23 NLT). Not exactly the kind of rhetoric that wins friends and influences enemies. Speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter was not interested in political correctness. He was out to present the gospel in all of its glory. The fact was, the Jews had willingly participated in the death of Jesus, the Messiah. And Peter states that they were without excuse. Jesus had been attested or proven to them through the many signs and wonders He had performed. These miracles had been ample proof that He had been sent by God. And yet, they had refused to accept Him as their Savior and Messiah. He had not come as they had expected. He had failed to appear as a king or mighty warrior. Sure, He had performed miracles, healed the sick, turned water into wine, fed the multitudes and even raised the dead, but they had been looking for another David, not an itinerant rabbi from Nazareth.
But, in spite of their role in the death of Jesus, Peter informs them that God had another plan in mind. His Son was destined to die for the sins of mankind, but He would live to come another day. Peter declares, “God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip” (Acts 2:24 NLT). Yes, they had killed Jesus, but God had raised Him back to life. And, some time later, after his conversion, Paul would write to the Corinthian believers, “if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17 NLT). It was Jesus’ resurrection that made possible mankind’s forgiveness from sin. His death paid the debt, but His resurrection proved that His life had been sinless and a worthy offering. Death is the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23). But Jesus had died for our sins, not His own. So His death was temporary in nature. God released Him from the horrors of death. On the cross, just moments before He died, Jesus had cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46 NLT). As Jesus took on Himself the sins of mankind, His heavenly Father was forced to turn away from Him. The sins of mankind separated Him from His Father for the first time in all eternity. That is what sin does. And death is not just the absence of life, but eternal separation from God. The Father didn’t turn away from Jesus, but from the sins He bore on behalf of you and me. Jesus died so that we might not have to. And He was raised to new life as proof that we too will one day follow His example. Paul went on to explain the significance of Jesus’ resurrection to the believers in Corinth.

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23 But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. – 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 NLT

The next thing Peter weave into his address to the crowds is a quote from King David. He uses Psalm 16:8-11 to prove that Jesus was the fulfillment of the words of David himself. In the psalm, David had written of God’s close proximity to him through all the trials of life. God was at his right hand, nearby and always available. But Peter turns this statement into a prophetic utterance concerning Jesus, the Messiah. One of the reasons he does so, is that David states, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption”, and yet, David would eventually die and his body would most certainly decay in the tomb. But Jesus, the Son of David, would not undergo decay. He would not be abandoned by God to death and the tomb. He was raised back to life after three days.

Using David’s own words, Peter applies them to Jesus. “You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence” (Acts 2:28 NLT). Just days before His death, Jesus had reassured His disciples with these words:

1 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” – John 14:1-4 NLT

And just a few verses later, we hear Jesus state those wonderfully reassuring words:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. – John 14:6 NLT

Jesus is the way of life. And He has returned to the Father, as proof that His way works. He has taken His rightful place at His Father’s side and will one day return for all those who believe in His name and who have placed their trust in Him as their Savior. And the amazing thing is that, those in Peter’s audience, who had vicariously played a part in Jesus’ death, could also take part in His resurrection by recognizing Him for who He was: The Son of God and the Savior of the world. And, as we shall see, many in the crowd that day would do just that. Their sins were not too great. Their role in Jesus’ death was not too much that it could not be overcome by the love of God and the sacrificial death of His Son. As Paul so aptly put it: “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT). Their sin had led to His death. But His death could lead to their salvation. And all according to plan – the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Curses, Foiled Again!

Then Saul said to David, “Here is my elder daughter Merab. I will give her to you for a wife. Only be valiant for me and fight the Lord‘s battles.” For Saul thought, “Let not my hand be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.” And David said to Saul, “Who am I, and who are my relatives, my father’s clan in Israel, that I should be son-in-law to the king?” But at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David, she was given to Adriel the Meholathite for a wife.

Now Saul’s daughter Michal loved David. And they told Saul, and the thing pleased him. Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” Therefore Saul said to David a second time, “You shall now be my son-in-law.” And Saul commanded his servants, “Speak to David in private and say, ‘Behold, the king has delight in you, and all his servants love you. Now then become the king’s son-in-law.’” And Saul’s servants spoke those words in the ears of David. And David said, “Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, since I am a poor man and have no reputation?” And the servants of Saul told him, “Thus and so did David speak.” Then Saul said, “Thus shall you say to David, ‘The king desires no bride-price except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that he may be avenged of the king’s enemies.’” Now Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines. And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the time had expired, David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife. But when Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy continually.

Then the commanders of the Philistines came out to battle, and as often as they came out David had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed. – 1 Samuel 18:17-30 ESV

In attempting to rid himself of David, Saul had tried the direct approach. On multiple occasions, in one of his fits of rage, he had unsuccessfully attempted to kill David with a spear. But his failures only fueled his desire to get rid of this threat to his reign as king. So he became more clandestine and creative in his efforts. He would develop plans by which he could expose David to life-threatening circumstances, while making it look like he was innocent and non-complicit.

For whatever reason, Saul had not yet kept his promise to reward the one who killed the Philistine champion, Goliath. He had promised to “enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:25 ESV). And yet, David, the very one who had met the conditions to receive the reward, had not been given Saul’s daughter to marry. And when Saul finally decides to give David his eldest daughter, Merab, to marry, he adds conditions and exposes his expectations. David could marry Merab as long as he agreed to fight Israel’s enemies. And it was this added condition that revealed Saul’s true motivation. He cleverly disguised his intent by telling David, “Only be valiant for me and fight the Lord’s battles” (1 Samuel 18:17 ESV). He appealed to David’s sense of valor and his dedication to God. He was going to use David’s faithfulness to God and country as a means to have him eliminated.

For Saul thought,Let not my hand be against him, but let the hand of the Philistines be against him.” – 1 Samuel 18:17 ESV

But David, ignorant of Saul’s devices, simply turned down the king’s generous offer, because he did not see himself as worthy of the honor.

Because of David’s polite refusal to accept Merab’s hand in marriage, she was eventually given to another. But Saul would soon learn that his other daughter, Michal, loved David very much. It has already been revealed that David and Jonathan, Saul’s son, had developed a very close friendship. No doubt, David spent a great deal of time in Jonathan’s company and, as a result, had been able to get to know Michal well. Upon discovering his daughter’s affection for David, Saul saw another opportunity to rid himself of David once and for all.

Saul thought, “Let me give her to him, that she may be a snare for him and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.” – 1 Samuel 18:21 ESV

He already had a plan. He would give Michal to David but on the condition that he pay a dowry that consisted of one hundred Philistine foreskins. Once again, Saul would appeal to David’s sense of duty. He knew full well that David came from a less-than-affluent family and would be unable to pay the customary dowry and one fit for the daughter of a king. So he would allow David to use his military skills and his hatred for the enemies of God, the Philistines, to come up with a somewhat unorthodox dowry payment. And in all of this, we are given a glimpse into David’s character. Saul sent his servants to prime the pump and to convince David to strongly consider Saul’s offer of Michal. But David simply responded, “How can a poor man from a humble family afford the bride price for the daughter of a king?” (1 Samuel 18:23 NLT). He knew he was out of his league. He was unworthy to be the son-in-law to the king. He didn’t have the financial means or the family heritage to warrant such a thing. But that was not going to deter Saul. He would actually use David’s financial condition to his advantage, replacing the customary dowry price with that of the 100 Philistine foreskins. He knew that David, being a man of integrity, would take him up on his offer. But he also knew that the risk involved in David accomplishing such a feat was going to be great, and the likelihood of David dying in the process was even greater.

Verse 27 matter-of-factly states: “David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife” (1 Samuel 18:27 ESV). Much to Saul’s chagrine, David took the king up on his offer and fulfilled the requirement to have Michal as his wife. He even doubled the number of foreskins, just to make sure that he didn’t underpay for the privilege of becoming the king’s son-in-law.

Saul’s plan had failed. His strategy to eliminate David had actually elevated him. Now David was a permanent member of his family. He was married to his daughter and would more than likely give him grandchildren and potential heirs to the throne. And not only that, Saul became increasingly aware that God was with David. Everything he did was successful. And with each successive blessing of God on David, Saul’s fear of him grew exponentially. “So Saul was David’s enemy continually” (1 Samuel 18:30 ESV). This last line is significant, because it reveals that the animosity between Saul and David was one-way. David had done nothing but honor Saul, serving him as his personal armor bearer, court musician, and military commander. While David’s reputation had grown, it never appears that David was out for fame and glory. He was not prideful or arrogant. There is never an indication that he had aspirations for the crown. It is still unclear whether David even knew that his earlier anointing by Samuel had been to make him the next king of Israel. No, David simply served, faithfully and unselfishly. At no time does he seem to see Saul as his enemy, even though the king had tried to kill him with his own hands. He never utters a bad word about the king. Saul’s hatred for David was one-directional. And his attempts to kill David would continue to prove unsuccessful, because God had a greater plan in place. David would be the next king, whether Saul like it or not, and regardless of whether Saul loved David or not. David’s fame would continue to grow. So would Saul’s hatred for David. But God was not yet done. His preparation of David for the throne was not yet complete. Things would get worse before they got better. The tension between David and Saul was about to reach a boiling point and the next phase of God’s king-creating curriculum was about to begin.

Surprised By God.

This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.

Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured. – Genesis 41:37-49 ESV

The events recorded in these verses, while serendipitous in appearance, are anything but that. They are the evidence of God’s sovereign work in the life of Joseph and in the affairs of God’s people, the children of Abraham. God had sovereignly ordained the circumstances of Joseph’s life to culminate in this very moment and with this specific outcome. Of all people, Joseph was probably the most surprised by the sequence of events that took place and the rapidity with which it all happened. One day Joseph is a prisoner, the next he is being handed the signet ring of Pharaoh and awarded the second-highest position in the land of Egypt. His was truly a rags-to-riches story. He was given an Egyptian name, fine clothes to wear, expensive jewelry, unprecedented power, and a wife from one of the most prestigious families in Egypt.

There is an interesting phrase in these verses that probably struck a chord with Joseph and brought back a wave of memories. As Joseph was paraded around the city in a chariot, he was preceded by servants who called out to all those along the way, “Bow the knee!” This was not an invitation, but a command. It was directed at anyone and everyone, regardless of their social standing or net worth. Everyone had to bow before Joseph. As these words rang out over and over again, Joseph could not have helped thinking about the dreams he had had all those years ago.

Listen to this dream I had: There we were, binding sheaves of grain in the middle of the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose up and stood upright and your sheaves surrounded my sheaf and bowed down to it! – Genesis 37:6-7 ESV

“I had another dream. The sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me. – Genesis 37:9 ESV

Was this his dreams coming true? What did all this mean? Joseph’s head had to have been swimming with questions of all kinds. Everything was moving so fast. Before he could catch his breath, he found himself overseeing the well-being of the entire kingdom of Egypt, answering directly to Pharaoh himself. He had gone from his father’s favorite son wearing a coat of many colors to Pharoah’s right-hand man, wearing fine linens and gold chains around his neck. His new position came with heavy responsibilities. He was tasked with putting into action the very advice he had given to Pharaoh after having interpreted his dream.

Pharaoh should find an intelligent and wise man and put him in charge of the entire land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh should appoint supervisors over the land and let them collect one-fifth of all the crops during the seven good years. Have them gather all the food produced in the good years that are just ahead and bring it to Pharaoh’s storehouses. Store it away, and guard it so there will be food in the cities. That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come to the land of Egypt. Otherwise this famine will destroy the land. – Genesis 41:33-36 NLT

And Joseph did just as he had advised. The first seven years were agriculturally abundant, producing a record yield and allowing him to store away plenty of produce in an emergency reserve. The seven years of plenty were a literal God-send, providing more than was needed and creating a surplus that would meet needs when the seven years of drought and famine came. This was all part of God’s sovereign plan. Like Noah building an ark before the floods came, God was providing Joseph with a plan to preserve life and prepare the way for His redemptive plan for mankind. This was about more than Joseph getting rewarded a cushy job and well-deserved reward for his endurance and patience with God. God was using Joseph to accomplish His greater will and to bring about a much grander outcome than his personal promotion.

It is doubtful that Joseph knew the full import of what was going on. He was not yet privy to God’s greater plan. He had no way of knowing what God was intending to do and how it would involve the very brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery all those years ago. Joseph had been estranged from his father and brothers for years. He was, in effect, an Egyptian. He had an Egyptian name, an Egyptian wife, and a job serving in the court of the Egyptian Pharaoh. And yet, he never let go of his Hebrew heritage. He never forgot that he was a descendant of Abraham and one of God’s chosen people. He may not have known exactly what God was doing, but he knew God was up to something.

Joseph had been surprised by God. But he shouldn’t have been. As those who claim to believe in God and who profess to have a saving relationship with His Son, we should never be surprised by what God does. We should live with a confidant awareness that He is at work and an eager anticipation that His providential power is going to be revealed at any minute. He may be out-of-sight for the moment, but His presence will soon be revealed and His plan unfolded right before our eyes. The words of Paul to Timothy should give us comfort and provide us with conviction regarding God’s faithfulness.

“If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” – 2 Timothy 2:13 NLT

He Is God, And Not A Man.

They shall not return to the land of Egypt, but Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me. The sword shall rage against their cities, consume the bars of their gates, and devour them because of their own counsels. My people are bent on turning away from me, and though they call out to the Most High, he shall not raise them up at all.

How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.

I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath. They shall go after the Lord; he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west; they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria, and I will return them to their homes, declares the Lord. Ephraim has surrounded me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit, but Judah still walks with God and is faithful to the Holy One. – Hosea 11:5-12 ESV

God’s judgment was coming. It was unavoidable and would be highly deserved. The people of Israel had earned His wrath because they had spurned His love and responded to His many blessings with unfaithfulness. Rather than obeying God and taking seriously the calls of His many prophets to repent, they had chosen to follow their own counsel. They had listened to false prophets and immoral priests. They had sought false gods and pursued the protection of pagan allies. God accused them, saying, “My people are bent on turning away from me” (Hosea 11:7 ESV). And generations earlier, God had warned them what would happen if they failed to remain faithful.

After you have had children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time—if you then become corrupt and make any kind of idol, doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God and arousing his anger, I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you this day that you will quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess. You will not live there long but will certainly be destroyed. The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the Lord will drive you. There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. – Deuteronomy 4:25-28 NLT

What God had so clearly warned would happen was about to take place just as He had said. The Assyrians were going to destroy the northern kingdom of Israel and take its inhabitants captive. There they would get their fill of man-made gods and discover the sad reality of life without the one true God.

There is no doubt that God was angry with the people of Israel. But like a father who grieves to see his child rebel against him and suffer the consequences, God did not enjoy the prospect of bringing judgment on His chosen people. He lovingly asks, “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah or demolish you like Zeboiim?” (Hosea 11:8 NLT). Punishing His children was not easy for Him to do. And sometimes we neglect to realize that even God’s discipline is always done in love. Yes, He was being true to His nature as a holy and righteous God. He was obligated to punish sin and deal justly with their rebellion. But He did not do so with joy. He didn’t relish the thought of bringing judgment against His people. Because He loved them. And Moses had told the people long before they had entered the land of promise:

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him. For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath. – Deuteronomy 4:29-31 NLT

God is merciful. He is faithful. He would not abandon His people completely. He would not forget the covenant He had made with Abraham. He would remain faithful in spite of their unfaithfulness. Yes, He would punish them and fulfill His promise to bring judgment on them for their unfaithfulness, but He would also one day restore them. And He made an important and often overlooked distinction, saying, “I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst” (Hosea 11:9 ESV). Even the misguided prophet, Balaam, understood the incomparable nature of God. “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” (Numbers 23:19 NLT). It was the prophet Samuel who said, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind” (1 Samuel 15:29 NLT).

God would keep His word to bring punishment on the people of Israel. But He would also keep the covenants He had made with Abraham and David. God would not completely abandon His people. They would one day be restored to the land. A descendant of David would one day sit on the throne in Jerusalem and reign over a restored and reunified nation of Israel. God assured His people, “For someday the people will follow me. I, the Lord, will roar like a lion. And when I roar, my people will return trembling from the west. Like a flock of birds, they will come from Egypt. Trembling like doves, they will return from Assyria. And I will bring them home again” (Hosea 11:10-11 NLT).

The day is coming when God will redeem and restore His chosen people, the nation of Israel. When Christ returns to set up His kingdom on earth, God will fulfill His promises to His people. The prophet Isaiah tells us about that day:

He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. Ephraim’s jealousy will vanish, and Judah’s enemies will be destroyed; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, nor Judah hostile toward Ephraim. – Isaiah 11:12-13 NLT

Our God is faithful, loving, merciful and gracious. He is trustworthy and always reliable. He is not a man. He doesn’t lie. He never fails to keep His promises. And while circumstances may seem to indicate that He has abandoned us, His character assures us that He is always there and that He cares. He is in control. He has a plan.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

Saved by God.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. – Ephesians 1:4-10 ESV

These verses contain one of the most difficult and hotly debated doctrines found in the Bible. Even before the time of the Reformation in 1516, discussions concerning predestination had been typically heated and divided. There was little to no consensus on the topic because of the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between the topics of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. It was Augustine of Hippo who posited the idea that the doctrine of election taught that “all saved must be predestined to salvation … before they have committed any deed of any sort” (Diarmaid MacCullough, The Reformation: A History). Men who were on the same side of the Reformation rift, like John Calvin, Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon, openly discussed and debated the doctrine of predestination. But even clerics on the Catholic side had strong opinions on the topic.

In the verses above, Paul somewhat casually introduces this issue without much fanfare and with little explanation. He simply writes, “In love he [God] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:4 ESV). The Greek word translated “predestined” is προορίζω (proorizō) which means “to predetermine, decide beforehand; to foreordain, appoint beforehand” (“G4309 – proorizō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). It speaks of God’s sovereign role in man’s salvation. John Stott writes, “Now everybody finds the doctrine of election difficult. ‘Didn’t I choose God?’ somebody asks indignantly; to which we must answer ‘Yes, indeed you did, and freely, but only because in eternity God had first chosen you.’ ‘Didn’t I decide for Christ?’ asks somebody else; to which we must reply ‘Yes, indeed you did, and freely, but only because in eternity God had first decided for you’” (John R. W. Stott, The Message of Ephesians, p. 26). In Paul’s redemptive theology, mankind is in a terrible, irreconcilable state: dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), blinded by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), imprisoned under sin (Galatians 3:22), incapable of understanding God or seeking Him (Romans 3:11), incapable of doing anything good (Romans 3:11), and devoid of any righteousness (Romans 3:10).

The blind are incapable of seeing the light. The dead are unable to choose life. The deaf cannot hear the good news. Just as Jesus had to call Lazarus from the grave and give him the life he needed to obey Jesus’ command, so must the sinner be given new life (regeneration) by God in order that he might see the beauty of the gift being offered to him and accept it. Yes, as Dr. Stott so aptly put it, we do decide for Christ, but only after the Spirit of God has awakened us from death and given us the capacity to hear the good news and receive it.

Earlier in verse four, Paul had written, “he [God] chose us in him before the foundation of the world.” The word, “chose” is the Greek word ἐκλέγομαι (eklegomai), which means “to pick out, choose, to pick or choose out for one’s self” (“G1586 – eklegomai – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). God, in His divine will, has chosen to redeem some out of all those who have been condemned to eternal separation from Him because of their sin and rebellion against Him. Had God, in His grace and mercy, intervened and promised the coming Messiah as the answer to mankind’s sin problem, no one would have been saved. Adam’s sin condemned all mankind and left them in a helpless, hopeless state, unable to save themselves from the inevitability of their future condemnation. All were condemned because of their sin, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). Men don’t suddenly wake up, see their sin and understand that they need a Savior. They must have their eyes opened by God. It is God who gives the spiritually dead life, the spiritually blind sight, and the spiritually deaf the capacity to hear for the first time in their life. Salvation is the work of God, from start to finish. Jesus claimed, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 ESV). Later on in that same chapter, John records Jesus as saying, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them” (John 6:65 NIV).

Paul’s point is not to negate the role of man in his own salvation. We must believe. We must accept. We must turn from our own sin and to the saving work of Jesus Christ. But every aspect of that process is made possible by God Himself. He “chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 4:4 ESV). And He chose us to “be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 4:4 ESV). He “predestined us for adoption as Sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” – not ours. (Ephesians 4:5 ESV). It is all due to the “praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 4:6 ESV). It is in Christ that we have redemption through his blood and the forgiveness of our sins. He is the one who has made known the mystery of His will. God is the one who has lavished His grace on us.

Salvation is a wonderful gift, provided by God for sinful men. There is not a man or woman who has ever lived who has deserved to be saved or who has ever had the capacity to save themselves. Paul paints a very bleak picture when he writes, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV). And yet, Paul reminds us of the good news: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). God’s sovereignty and man’s free will continues to be a paradox that is difficult for us to comprehend. ““It [election] involves a paradox that the New Testament does not seek to resolve, and that our finite minds cannot fathom. Paul emphasizes both the sovereign purpose of God and man’s free will” (Francis Foulkes, The Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, p. 46).


Waiting On God In Faith.

By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. – Hebrews 11:27 ESV

Once again, we have an apparent contradiction between the Exodus account of the life of Moses and that of the author of Hebrews. Exodus tells us that when Moses became aware that news of his murder of the Egyptian had gotten out, he became afraid. “Then Moses was afraid, and thought, ‘Surely the thing is known’” (Exodus 2:14 ESV). Then it goes on to say that when Pharaoh heard about it,  he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and stayed in the land of Midian” (Exodus 2:15 ESV). But the Hebrews account says, “By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king.” Which is it? Was Moses afraid or not? Did he flee or not? The author of Hebrews, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gives us insight into just what was going on. Yes, Moses afraid, but the context tells us that his fear was based on his awareness that news of the murder had spread. His little secret was out. By the time Pharaoh heard about it, Moses had had time to think about it and to reflect on what he should do. According to Hebrews, he had already made plans to go to Midian, not out of fear, but out of faith. Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word for “flee” can mean “to hasten” or “to put to flight.” The Exodus passage can make it sound like Moses fled for his life out of fear of Pharaoh. But when you combine the two passages, it makes better sense that Moses was put to flight by Pharaoh. We almost immediately think that Moses was fearing for his life. He ran because he was fearful that Pharaoh was going to kill him. But think about what Hebrews 11:24-25 says, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” Moses had already made the decision to extricate himself from Pharaoh’s household. But as the adopted grandson of the Pharaoh, the likelihood that he would be put to death for murder was probably slim to none. What Moses feared was having to go back to his life in the royal palace with its “fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25 ESV). Again, we read that Moses left Egypt because, “he considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:26 ESV).

So it was “By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king” (Hebrews 11:27a ESV). Moses didn’t leave Egypt because of Pharaoh, but because of God. “He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27b NLT). Moses headed to Midian, not out of fear for his life, but out of faith in God. He somehow knew that God was going to fulfill His promise to His people and restore them to the land. He didn’t know how yet. He didn’t know when. But he believed it was just a matter of time and he was content to go to Midian and persevere until that time came. Little did Moses know that it would be 40 years before God acted. And little did Moses know that when God did decide to act, He would choose to do so through Moses.

The day would come when God deemed it time to redeem His people. Exodus tells us, “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  God saw the people of Israel—and God knew” (Exodus 2:23-25 ESV). God knew. And He knew where Moses was. He knew what Moses had been doing. The flight of Moses had been part of God’s plan. Just as Moses had been kept alive in the basket made of bulrushes, Moses had been protected in Midian, removed from the effects of the fleeting pleasures of sin and the treasures of Egypt. During his 40 years in Midian, Moses had given up his quest to be the savior of the people of Israel. He still believed in God’s promise to redeem His people, but he had long ago given up the idea that he might play a role. But God had other plans. He was going to use Moses, but in a way that Moses would find surprising and a bit scary. Hebrews says that Moses “kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.” During his time in Midian, he kept trusting in God. Remember how the author describe faith in verses 1: “Not faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Moses had never seen God and yet he “kept his eyes” on Him. He kept believing in the reality of Him who he could not see and the promises he had yet to see fulfilled. According to Hebrews 11:6, faith is required to please God and whoever would want to draw near to God “must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

It would be safe to say that Moses sought God during his time in Midian, and the day would come when God revealed Himself to Moses.

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” – Exodus 3:1-4 ESV

Moses had a direct encounter with the unseen God. He came face to face with Yahweh. And it would be a life-changing moment. Forty years after leaving Egypt, he would be returning, not as the grandson of Pharaoh, but as the representative of God. By faith he had left Egypt and now he was going to be returning the same way – trusting in the promises of God Almighty. To be directed by God requires faith in God. We must believe that He is at work in our lives in ways that we cannot see or even understand. When Moses left Egypt, he left everything behind.  He was forced to begin a new life. But his new circumstances would prove to little more than a temporary pause in the plan of God. God was watching and waiting, preparing to implement His divine redemptive plan at just the right time and using just the right person for the job: Moses.


Our Faithful God.

 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. – Romans 11:16-24 ESV

Dough. Firstfruits. Olive trees. Roots. Broken branches. What is Paul’s point in all of this? What is he trying to tell us? We must remember that he has been talking about the current and future fate of Israel. God had chosen them as His special possession. But they had rejected Jesus as their Messiah. As a result, they were passed over by God and His message of salvation was taken to the Gentiles. And yet, God had chosen for some Jews to believe in Jesus as their Messiah and form a remnant, a sort of firstfruits or offering that would consecrate or make holy the rest of the nation. Paul was using a reference to the command of God given to the Israelites as they prepared to enter the land of promise. He told them, “When you arrive in the land where I am taking you, and you eat the crops that grow there, you must set some aside as a sacred offering to the Lord. Present a cake from the first of the flour you grind, and set it aside as a sacred offering, as you do with the first grain from the threshing floor. Throughout the generations to come, you are to present a sacred offering to the Lord each year from the first of your ground flour” (Numbers 15:18-21 NLT). In his commentary on Romans, Donald Grey Barnhouse explains:

In order to understand this we must first realize that throughout the Old Testament the word “holy” has a special meaning. In the Old Testament “holy” means “separated from profane uses, consecrated to God.” In the use of the allusion as found in our text, Paul is saying that if the whole nation of Israel was originally set apart for God by the call of Abraham and the giving of the covenant promises to him, then the individuals of the race of Abraham also have a special relationship to God. This does not mean that they are personally holy, for some of them are even accursed; but it does mean that the members of the ancient race have been chosen by God and they will be brought to fulfill His purposes. – Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans

The nation of Israel was holy to God. He had set them apart, not because of anything they had done or deserved, but simply out of His sovereign will. Moses had made this perfectly clear to them. “For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure. The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8 NLT). And in Paul’s day, because God was bringing some Jews to faith, they were evidence of God’s continuing favor upon the nation of Israel. He had not completely abandoned them. In fact, Paul goes on to stress the non-debatable necessity of the nation of Israel in the grand scheme of God.

He switches analogies and begins to talk about trees, root and branches. He specifically refers to the olive tree, which was representative of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament (Hosea 14:4-6; Jeremiah 11:16-17). The root to which Paul refers most likely represents Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. He had been hand-picked by God and ordained to be the father of the nation of Israel and the means by which God would bless the nations of the world. From Abraham, the root, came the trunk and the branches of Israel. And because Abraham was holy and set apart for God, so was the rest of the tree. But some of the branches of that tree had been broken off by God. And the branches from “wild” or uncultivated olive trees were grafted in. Gentiles were made a part of the family of God, not because they deserved it, but out of the mercy and kindness of God. And Paul reminds the Gentiles, “remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you” (Romans 11:18 ESV). Our faith as believing Gentiles is dependent upon the promises of God made to Abraham. We are not better or superior than the Jews. And we are not to look down our noses in pride at unbelieving Jews. In fact, Paul would have us see our position as one with them. He told the believers in Ephesus, “So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family” (Ephesians 2:19 NLT).

God is not done with Israel. He has not abandoned them. If He can graft in to the root of Abraham branches from “wild” olive trees, He can certainly graft back in those branches that have broken off. In fact, Paul states, “And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again” (Romans 11:23 ESV). God’s promises to Israel still stand and He will fulfill them all – in His time and according to His perfect will. God’s unwavering faithfulness to Israel should encourage us. It is a reminder of just how loving, faithful and trustworthy our God really is. What He says, He will do. What He promises, He will ensure takes place. His decision to take the gospel to the Gentiles was not a plan B. It was not done because the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah. It was all part of God’s overall, sovereign and perfect plan A. Everything is working according to that plan. He is blessing all the nations of the earth through the offspring of Abraham, and one day He is going to bless the nation of Israel by sending His Son again and setting up His Kingdom on earth in Jerusalem and reestablishing His chosen people to their rightful place.

Called According To His Purpose.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. – Romans 8:29-30 ESV

All things work together for good. That’s a promise given to us by Paul, but provided through him by the very Spirit of God. So we have God’s word of assurance that our circumstances will always, ultimately, work according to His divine plan for our lives. Paul writes, “all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV). You see, God has a purpose, a plan, and a program that He is bringing about. This is not some fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, make-it-up-as-you-go-along affair. It may feel that way at times. We may wonder if God has a plan in place or whether that plan has somehow left us out. But God would have us remember that He is in control – at all times. The message of these two verses is plain. God did not look down the corridors of time and somehow see who it was who would accept His Son as their Savior. This isn’t a case of God’s foreknowledge of what we would do, but of what He would do for us. He predetermined or pre-ordained our salvation through His Son long before any of us were even born. Even before the universe had been spoken into existence. And the divine purpose of God was not just for our salvation, but our transformation. His plan was and is complete. It has a beginning and an end. He foreknew us. He predestined us. He called us. He justified us. He glorified us. All of these words are in the past tense. They are as good as done. His plan is complete, even though His work is not yet done. As Paul has made clear, we do not yet have glorified, redeemed bodies. We still battle with our fallen flesh and our old sin nature. We endure suffering of all kinds in this life. But our ultimate outcome has been predetermined by God. We are being conformed to the image of His Son. “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT). We have been justified, made right with God. While at one time we were sinners, condemned and destined to an eternity separated from God, we have been declared innocent, sinless and righteous by God. We stand before Him completely forgiven and entirely covered by the righteousness of Christ. And our future, glorified bodies are as good as ours – right here, right now. That is part of God’s plan and God’s plan for us is unstoppable and unchangeable.

This whole process of our salvation is the work of God. He is the one who foreknew, predestined, called, justified and glorified. This was His plan, from beginning to end. And because it is His plan and not ours, it is without error and totally independent of our effort or input. That is why ALL THINGS work together for our good. His plan cannot be stopped, altered or ignored. He WILL conform us to the image of His Son. He will do for us all that He predetermined to do. He has an end in mind and He will not stop until His plan is completely fulfilled. That is why we must learn to look past our circumstances and focus our attention on the future promises of God. Paul tells us, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT).

We must never forget that we have been called according to His purpose, not ours. He is out to accomplish His will for us, not ours. While we may suffer from tunnel-sightedness at times, we must constantly remind ourselves to see our circumstances through the lens of God’s full redemptive plan. He IS conforming us, whether we see it or not. He IS glorifying us, whether we feel like it or not. “And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT). From “one degree of glory to another” as the English Standard Version translates it. God didn’t simply save us and leave us to somehow make it on our own. He didn’t redeem us and then leave us to fend for ourselves. His plan included sending His Son to die for our sins, as well as providing His Spirit to comfort, guide and empower us while we live out our days on this planet. Then one day He is going to send His Son again. He will complete the work His Father gave Him and finalize the plan of God. God promised it and we can count on it.