The answer to the question often asked-“Why me, Lord?
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
Hosea 4:6a (ESV)
Rush Limbaugh, a favorite of conservative political talk radio fans, is fond of saying “words mean things.” I like this idea a lot. I like it even more when it is applied to the study of the Scriptures. I think Rush Limbaugh uses the phrase “words mean things” to convey the concept that there are definitive ideas attached to words that regardless of traditions, intentions, hopes, or wishes still exist. This is partially true. It is partially true because a word may mean one thing to the writer and another to the reader. The task before us as disciples of Jesus is to allow our minds to capture the original idea intended to be communicated by the Scriptures. The word ‘destroyed’ in the sentence above is a good example of a golden opportunity for miscommunication resulting in misunderstanding. Misunderstanding the scripture results in, at best, incomplete knowledge which, as the Prophet Hosea asserted on behalf of the Lord God, orients an individual or community toward an undesired end. The word rendered ‘destroyed’ in Hosea 4:6 means, in Hebrew, to cease, cause to cease, to be cut off or undone. The Hebrew Interlinear Bible states God’s people are stilled for lack of knowledge. Young’s Literal Translation reads “Cut off have been my people for lack of knowledge.” Do you feel as if your spiritual growth has been stilled? Are you feeling disconnected from God? Do you wonder why the Church is losing influence over our culture and is considered irrelevant or as a fringe element by many? One of the reasons for these things is simply a lack of knowledge.
The purpose of this series will be to equip individuals as well as the community of Christ Followers to experience a greater and more rapid increase of the Kingdom of God in every aspect of life. This series of writings will confront directly the issue of trials and their purpose in God’s plan for the ages.
The Apostle Paul states that his motivation is-"to cause all to see what [is] the fellowship of the secret that hath been hid from the ages in God, who the all things did create by Jesus Christ, that there might be made known now to the principalities and the authorities in the heavenly [places], through the assembly, the manifold wisdom of God, according to a purpose of the ages, which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord",.... Ephesians 3:9-11Young's Literal Translation (YLT)
What is the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God is a present reality that, in truth, has always been and simply becomes more perceivable and experiential as the ages progress. Participation in it has been proclaimed available to all since the ministry of John the Baptist (Luke 16:16). It is the domain of the King. The Kingdom of God is within human beings and is evidenced by the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in the human spirit. “For behold, the reign of God is within you” Luke 17:21b (YLT) & Romans 14:17 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (ESV). The Kingdom of God is also demonstrated in phenomena such as physical and emotional healing as well as definite authority over negative spiritual personalities (Luke 10:9 & 11:20). The Kingdom of God will expand its experiential reality until the entire planet and all who inhabit it enjoy the benefits of its fruit. The Prophet Daniel saw this demonstrated in a vision (Daniel chapter 2) and the prophet Isaiah provided a glimpse of what a global, fully manifested Kingdom of God would look like in Isaiah chapter 2.
2 It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
3 and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go the law
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4 He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore. (ESV)
As Christ Followers, the Church, we are called out to not only expect this time to come but to actively participate in it. The blessings and promises made to Father Abraham are ours as well as our brothers whose physical heritage may be traced back to the Hebrew people. “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6 ESV).
The Apostle Paul’s use of the word ‘mystery’ in Ephesians 3:6 is interesting. The Kingdom of God does have its secrets. Some of the disciples that ministered with Jesus asked him why he spoke to the crowds in parables but taught them in a much plainer fashion. Jesus responded “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” The question each of us must ask ourselves is are we satisfied being in the crowd reaching for the hem of Jesus’ garment as he passes by or hoping to be noticed by the Master somehow or do we want to be privy to the secrets of the Kingdom? What is the key that will unlock the treasure chest that contains the deep things of God? There is a key. Jesus spoke of it when he was confronted by the religious leaders of the time.
Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” Luke 11:49-52 (ESV)-emphasis by author.
Not only did the Jewish religious leaders of that generation not enter into the Kingdom of God (see verse 20 for context) they violently opposed it preferring instead their political positions & traditions (compare John 11:48 & 3:2 along with Mark chapter 7). They also hindered the lost sheep of Israel from entering into relationship with the Rock of their Salvation and paid a high price for their pride. (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, Matthew 23:34-36, Deuteronomy 31:30 with 32:15 & Revelation 15:3)
What is this key of knowledge? The Prophet Isaiah answers.
The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high;
he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness.
He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. Isaiah 33:5-6 (NIV)
Isaiah asserts that it is an attitude referred to as the fear of the Lord which is the key to experiencing the benefits of salvation, the receiving of divine wisdom, and an increase of knowledge concerning the Holy things of God.
The attitude of “fearing” the Lord is a state of being that should increase as an individual’s relationship with God matures and deepens. The fear of the Lord brings the attention of heaven to individuals as well as communities and results in desirable outcomes.
Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. Malachi 3:16-18(ESV)
The Apostle Paul gives us clarity concerning a key concept that will keep us in an attitude of fear, better understood as reverence and appreciation (Hebrew ‘yirah’) , of the Lord God.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 (NIV)
Paul elaborates on this idea more in 1Corinthians 3:10-15. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
Jesus taught extensively on this idea to his disciples in Matthew chapter 25. We, as disciples of Jesus, would be wise to recognize that these teachings are directed toward metaphorical virgins and servants as well as those who recognized the Anointed as their Lord-in other words us.
If the tradition you have been taught does not include the experience of the judgment seat for each individual then I suggest you find a new tradition. The Day that brings all things to light will be unpleasant for anyone who is found to be “stilled” or “cut off” from relationship with Jesus or an unproductive servant in the Kingdom of God.
The fear of the Lord is to be in a constant state of awareness and awe of God.
Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! Psalm 33:8(ESV)
The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Proverbs 8:13a (ESV)
The fear of the Lord is learned and results in obedience.
And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, Deuteronomy 17:18-19 (ESV)
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. Psalm 103:7(ESV)
All of the law and prophets were summed up in this simple, profound statement by Jesus.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-42 (ESV)
What is being said? What do these words mean? Why are these things important? If a human being is mindful that all of his words and actions will be judged as wood, hay, or straw-things that are combustible and reduced to worthless ashes in the consuming fire (Hebrews 12:9, Deuteronomy 9:3 & 4:24) of our Lord’s judgment-or gold, silver, & precious stones suitable for refining in that same fiery judgment and offering to the Anointed one in praise what good is accomplished? If one despises the evils of the world such as the injustice, arrogance and greed of the powerful who oppress the weak as well as the violence they use to accomplish their purposes what is gained? If a person applies themselves to a study of the Scriptures and learn the ways of the Lord God what do they profit?
The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship] of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its [deep, inner] meaning. Psalm 25:14 (AMP)
The Lord works in mysterious ways is not a Bible verse. It is a tradition of men who do not reverence the Lord or share in His companionship.
For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. Amos 3:7 (ESV)
What is being said is this: a continual awareness of pending judgment by the Righteous Judge (Acts 17:31, 2 Timothy 4:8) for our words, deeds, thoughts, and motives (Proverbs 16:2, 1 Corinthians 4:5) determines the quality of our present experience as well as the nature of our reception by the Lord God at the dawn of the next age and will instill in each Christling reverence, awe, and appreciation for God as well as an abiding sense of the presence of God. As the perception of the presence of God increases in the Christling love abounds as mercy, which triumphs over judgment (James 2:13), and the grace of God demonstrated in Fatherly discipline (Hebrews 12:6) is experienced.
In learning to reverence and be in awe of the majesty of God a disciple of Jesus will come to know their God and obedience to His will becomes a reflexive first impulse which conquers the previous Adamic nature full of discontentment, blame shifting, and self-centeredness “who shall suffer justice -- destruction age-during -- from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of his strength, 2 Thessalonians 1:9 Young's Literal Translation/ They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,” (ESV)
Through an understanding of the fear of the Lord our spirits can join with the spirit of the psalmist, a man after God’s very heart, and proclaim-
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being[e] rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
1 Chronicles 16:11
Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you; Job 42:5(ESV)
July 5, 2012