Advice and Instruction

Eccl. 4:1-3.

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.

Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.

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Solomon turned back to his earlier observations: The tears of the oppressed; the power of the oppressors; neither had a comforter; it is better to be dead; better yet to never have been born.

Clearly, he is still looking at everything “under the sun,” or through the eyes of man and not the eyes of God. Because his vision was through human eyes, he came to rather dismal conclusions:

Because of the oppression and travail of the oppressed, and because there was no comfort for the oppressed or the oppressor, Solomon concluded that the dead are better off than the living, and that not to have been born would be even better than being dead.

At the end of Chapter 3, he actually seemed to be finding his way; but Chapter 4 took him right back down to the dismals. But don’t lose hope; he does get it right, and in this chapter you will see that his thinking is finally coming to a better perspective.

God’s Reminders to Israel

Isaiah 43:16-17. Thus saith the Lord, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow.

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God, in His statement to Israel about Who He is, reminded them of how He made a path through the Red Sea, enabling them to walk across on dry land.  Note, DRY land, not muddy or mucky.  A firm path over dry land.

In verse 17, He described how He destroyed the Egyptian army that was trying to recapture Israel. As they followed the Israelites  across the Red Sea, once all the Israelites were safely on the other side, God allowed the waters to come crashing back down over  the Egyptian army, with its horses and chariots,  drowning them all and destroying the might and power of Egypt.

What a dramatic scene!  How horrified the Egyptian army must have been when they realized the error they had made; as their horses foundered in the rush of water, and their chariots got mired in the bottom of the sea.

 

He Stretched Out the Heavens

Isaiah 42:5-7. “Thus saith God the Lord, He that created the heavens, and stretched them out: He that spread forth the earth, and that which comes out of it: He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: I the Lord have called Thee to righteousness, and will hold Thine hand, and will keep Thee, and give Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles: To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

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There is so much power, such majesty, in these verses! To think about what God did at the creation of the universe is more than my mind can take in.

Why did God  start this passage with a declaration of His power?  I believe it was to set the scene for the remarkable things He has to say to His Son, Messiah, Jesus Christ. Only God has the right and the power to make such declarations.

All statements in vv. 6-7, as in vv. 1-4, refer to Jesus Christ, Messiah, the beloved Son of God.  God says that He will guide, lead, and protect the Messiah, as we protect children when we hold them by the hand. God would make the Messiah the mediator of the new covenant, which was to be better than the law of Moses. It would be not only for the Jews, but for all people.

Light is an emblem of knowledge, instruction, and truth. One of the marks of Messiah was that He would bring truth to those who were blinded to it.

To bring out the prisoners from the prison. . .This can be taken literally, because Christ descended first into the lower parts of the earth to liberate the righteous souls from sheol where they had been held captive, waiting for release. Christ led them captive to heaven when He ascended on high (Mt. 12;40; Eph. 4:8-10; Heb. 2:14-15).  These events are worthy of their own study at some future time.  There is so much in God’s Word. So much, and so little time!

 

Heavenly Power

Isaiah 6: 4. “And the posts of the  door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.”

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The voices of the seraphim calling to each other were so powerful that the very foundations of the doorposts were moved, as in an earthquake.  The smoke that filled the temple was the  outcome of the worship of the seraphim; it arose from the altar of incense.  That Isaiah was privileged to see this incredible heavenly activity was an indication of his own acceptance by God, the the preparation for his testimony.

This vision of the Lord is in stark contrast to the dishonor done Him by His people.  It tells  us that the day is coming when His holiness and glory will be visible to all people in all the corners of the earth.

What comes next is Isaiah’s response to this vision, and his commission to preach to the people.

Sunday Morning Coffee: The Olympics, of Course!

Wasn’t it exciting to watch the final swim event, the relay?  Four medal-winning women, four medal-winning men. Amazing speed, amazing strength, just amazing.  We watched a newbie, Simone Manuel, achieve her first gold; we watched veteran Michael Phelps, who doesn’t seem to have lost an ounce of energy, strength or speed, power his way to his 28th gold medal.

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The Americans hit a world record of getting 1000 summer gold medals, starting in 1896.  That’s something to crow about!

I like to swim.  It’s about the only exercise my back will tolerate, and I had to stay out of the pool for a few months while pain treatments did their job. Things seem to be under control right now, so last week, I went back and managed to do five laps, then six the next time, and seven yesterday.

I was joking with my husband last night, watching those amazing swimmers, that I could swim like that.  He didn’t even bother to respond.  The man has no sense of humor 🙂

I really do feel comfortable in the water, always have. I’m as slow as a snail moving against a strong wind, but swimming gives me a feeling of lightness and even power that nothing else does.

Watching those Olympic swimmers last night, of course, led me to think about the Apostle Paul’s statement: II Timothy 4:6-8.

6For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Paul was nearing the time of his execution, which was the earthly prize he had earned for his faithful preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I find this passage incredibly encouraging.  I think Paul would have loved watching our modern Olympics, especially the foot races (congrats to the two Jamaicans and one American, women who just amazed me with their speed last night).

Paul had run a years-long race, filled with obstacles few of us would choose to endure. Yet, he did not dread his final sprint to the finish line. Instead, he looked back over his life with Christ, knowing he had run well.  He looked forward to the crown of righteousness that, in another passage, we know he will lay at Jesus’ feet.  He knew he was going to see the Lord before  many thousands of the rest of us who are still waiting, hoping for His appearance.

Until then, we have a race to run. I want to be able to say I’ve run well, fought a good fight, kept the faith; that I’ve not given up, not wimped out when things are difficult.  I want to have a crown to lay at Jesus’ feet.

Praying Always

Ephesians 6:18. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in  the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance, and supplication for all saints.”

We need the armor for the battle, but without undergirding prayer, we won’t use the armor as well.

We are to be praying always. That doesn’t mean we spend 24/7 on our knees, because God knows we have to work and take care of the family and so on. But we are to spend as much time as we can in focused prayer. We are to be always in an attitude of prayer.  I do some of my best praying when I’m alone in the car, radio off. Multi-tasking, I guess, but that’s just a good place for me. Also while I’m swimming.  Hmmmm.  Seeing a pattern here. I do better with praying when I’m moving.

We are to pray with supplication.  Begging. Pleading. Beseeching.

And we are to pray for all the saints. Everywhere.  The ones we know, the ones we don’t.

A young man in Germany reported being assaulted for wearing his kippah, the head covering that identifies him as a Jew. We need to pray for him.  Is he a believer?  I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. We need to pray, because the persecution of Jews, Christians, women–it’s all an attack of Satan, and it’s leading to nothing good.  Pray. God is our power source. We need to be plugged in.

Exceeding Abundantly

Ephesians 3:20. “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, ”

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Do you want something from God?  He is able to give you more than you can measure.

Do you have a need in your heart, a burden that seems unbearable?  He can heal exceedingly, abundantly more than you can even imagine.

Are you living in a war-torn area of our tortured old world?  God has the power  to carry you through the fear and the horror even of war.

Will He rescue you from evil?  Not neccessarily, but He will walk through it with you and give you the strength you need to face what you have to face.

God never promises that believers will live a pain-free life. If we expect that, we are sure to be disappointed and to blame God when hard times come.  But Jesus said that the rain will fall on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). His promise is clear in Psalm 23 and all through the Bible.  He is with us.  His strength carries us. He can do more than we could ever imagine, because His power is without limit.

Exceeding, abundant mercy, grace, strength, love, and help in time of need.

The Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-20. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:  and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

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I really don’t know what I can say that gives this command of Jesus’ any more clarity than it already has. Our commission as believers is clear:  We are to understand that Jesus Christ is the ruler of the heavens and the earth; that He has all the power of the Godhead conferred upon Him.

Because He is God, we are to spread that good news to every corner of the earth, teaching, baptizing, preaching, sharing the gospel until He returns to take us to heaven to live with Him forever.

And wherever we go, He will be with us until the world ends.

Amen.

And this, then, is the final post in our study of the Gospel of Matthew.  I pray it has encouraged you, blessed you, and that you have learned something new that will continue to fill your hearts and minds with the great love of our wonderful Savior.

Thou hast Said

Matthew 26:64. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

Caiaphas had put the question to Jesus, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the living God?”

Jesus knew that no false witness could put Him on the cross.  He knew that it would be by the words of His own mouth that He would be condemned, and this was the one question that He would choose to answer, because it was the one that would take Him the rest of the way to Calvary.  His statement, “Thou has said,” is confirmation of Caiaphas’   question.

But He went one step farther. Not only did He confirm His claim to be the Son of God; He also went on to prophesy of His future glory at the right hand of God, and of His visible appearance at the time of His Coming again in the clouds of heaven.

He confirmed that He was the willing sacrifice of God, Who would drink that bitter cup and fulfill the scriptures.

He may as well have said, in our modern language, “Yes, I am He. Now let’s just be done with this foolishness and get on with it. We’re wasting time here.”