Eternal Family Ties

Does your human family have problems?  Rejoice, if you have been adopted into the Father’s family by the new birth, you are tied eternally to Jesus Christ.

Today’s reading

Numbers 3-4; Mark 3:22-35

Selected Verses

These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he ordained to serve as priests.  But Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord when they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of Aaron their father. Numbers 3:3-4

And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”  And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:33-35

Reflections

Jesus’ human family members took Him to be insane.  “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind,’” Mark 3:21.  They tried to intervene and stop His teaching and ministry.  Perhaps they were afraid of embarrassment.  Maybe they meant well.  But they did not believe in Him (John 7:5).

In the case of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, their status as sons of the high priest did not exempt them from obedience to the law.  They seem to have presumed that they could veer from the commands of the law concerning offerings to God.  It cost them their lives.

Jesus said, “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”   This is good news for us.  It means that although we never physically saw Jesus nor are we related to Him through natural descent,  we are related to Him based on a common relationship to God, the Father.  He is the first born of many brothers (Romans 8:29).

Think about it

Spiritual bonds overshadow natural, family relationships .  Therefore, obedience to God is more important than blood ties.

Perhaps your human family has problems, conflicts, grudges, and even bitterness.  But if you have been adopted into the Father’s family by the new birth, you are tied eternally to Jesus Christ and to all who are His.  Rejoice!  And seek to bear the family resemblance today.

 

How Not to Approach God

Today’s reading: Leviticus 8:1-10:20

I suspect that many evangelicals today presume to approach God with little or no fear. It is true that He is our Father. It is true that we can say “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15. We are His adopted children. Yet He is still the Holy, Sovereign, consuming fire. Let us keep both these truths in perspective: fear and confidence.

For more reflections on this passage see the corresponding reading in my book Cover to Cover: Through the Bible in 365 days.

NOTE: Your thoughtful comments and respectful criticisms are welcome below. Please allow a day or two for approval to see your reply on-line.

Fellowship with God

Whatever else we may say about salvation and the eternal state of believers, it centers around fellowship with God.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 47-48; 1 John 1

And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There.” Ezekiel 48:35b

3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:3

Ezekiel concludes the long description of the temple, the city, and the land with redistributed territories for the twelve tribes with the simple words, “And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The Lord Is There.” What more can anyone desire than that the Lord should be there? Knowing that God is with us gives confidence in the face of huge danger and the threat of death itself (Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Joshua 1:4-6; Psalm 23). Several Old Testament figures learned the devastating impact of being abandoned by God (Exodus 33:3, 15; 1 Samuel 4:21-22; Judges 16:20). Not that they could actually ever be totally away from His presence, but they could be, and sometimes were, under His wrath and judgment and without His blessing and favor (Psalm 139:7-12).

The Apostle John also refers to the blessing of fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. God came to dwell among us, he says, and we saw Him. We touched Him. He came to give us eternal life and fellowship with the Father and the Son.[See also John 1:14-17;17:3].

To know Him in truth and to be forgiven and accepted, that is what eternal life is about. The city which Ezekiel described points to that heavenly city, the New Jerusalem where God dwells and where His people live with Him. As John would write later:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:3).

So whatever else we may say about the eternal state of believers, it will be unclouded, undiminished fellowship with God. Be faithful as you wait for His coming.

God’s Love

Two things are true of those who find God’s forgiveness and restoration, they recognize their sinful unworthiness, and they recognize God’s goodness and loving kindness.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 33-35; Titus 3

“‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
for the Lord is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!’ Jeremiah 33:11b

3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us… Titus 3:3-5a

Jeremiah’s prophecy is peppered with indictments for Judah’s persistent rebellion against God, His Law, and His prophets. But these lists of failures are also accompanied by reassurances that God will ultimately restore the people He has chosen for Himself. They will be blessed and they will be filled with praise and thanks to the Lord.

Paul wrote to Titus who had the unenviable task of organizing and teaching the congregation in Crete, a society known for being “liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons.” Indeed, Paul identifies himself with a list of vices and character flaws that rivals that of the infamous Cretans. He says he and others who have now been saved could be described as “foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” It is not a flattering resume, to say the least.

Then God intervened. Everything changed. God the Savior came with His goodness and loving kindness and saved Paul and all upon whom He set His love.

Many, like me, will agree that the more we know of God and of ourselves the more amazed we are of the goodness and loving kindness of the Lord. Words cannot describe the relief of sins forgiven, of salvation assured, of adoption as God’s son, and of purpose and calling to serve God. Days spent in malice and envy are now filled with gratefulness and service. No, none who know Him would claim to be sinless or perfect, far from it. But it is all of God’s grace and He will complete what He has begun.

Be sure you know the goodness and loving kindness of God who saves. If you do, lift up His praises today in all you do.

The Meaning and Purpose of Life

In God, we find that our lives are not a result of random molecules coming together, but we are the result of His eternal decrees. We have meaning and purpose that transcends this world and results in glory.

Today’s reading: Jeremiah 1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Jeremiah 1:4-7

13 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

Jeremiah heard God speak to him, but the message took some time to sink in. God told Jeremiah that he formed him in the womb, but even before that, God knew him and consecrated him (ie. set him apart for a designated purpose). What purpose? To be a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah offered two excuses: his age and his lack of speaking ability. God answered his excuses promising to send him. Jeremiah had no authority from a human point of view. He lacked maturity and experience. But he needed neither because God was sending him. Secondly, God would tell him what to say. Jeremiah did not need to write powerful communiques to the people. He only needed to report the messages God gave him.

Paul had a similar view of the work of God in the lives of the Thessalonians. Like Jeremiah, they were chosen by God and set apart by the Spirit. When they heard the gospel, they believed it and were saved. God had called them through the gospel and they responded. The ultimate result of this would be that they would obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Many today hold a worldview that sees our lives as essentially a result of a random evolutionary process. There is no accountability and no limitation, but then there is no purpose and no meaning. If you know you have been called by God, set apart by Him as a recipient of His mercy, grace, and love, forgiven, and adopted as His child to serve Him, rejoice. Give yourself fully to Him. Glory awaits us.

More than Forgiven

Today’s reading: Psalm 79-81; Romans 8:1-18

 8 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!                                                                           Psalm 79:8-9

3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.                                                           Romans 8:3-4

The agony of sin, guilt, and death is more than offset by the ecstasy of freedom from all condemnation through Christ Jesus and adoption as His children who have His own Spirit.

The Psalmist cries out for forgiveness for the sins of the nation that led to the fall of Jerusalem and the temple. He laments their suffering but, even more, the disgrace brought on the name of God. He does not look for excuses. He does not make promises to do better. He pleads for God Himself to atone for their sins. Truly, he grasps the seriousness of sin. No one is able to justify himself by turning over a new leaf. No one is qualified to repay the debt of offending our holy Creator and Lord.

Paul explains to the Romans and us just how God has answered this prayer of the Psalmist from so many centuries earlier. The law could only show us our sin, never save us. The law was weakened by the flesh, because our flesh is inclined to use the law as a springboard to rebellion. We do what the law says not to do (Romans 7:13ff). In Christ, “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.” Namely, He has freed us from the law of sin and death, that is, the law that says “you sin, you die.”

As usual, God’s answer goes far above what the Psalmist (or we) could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20-21). He has given His Spirit to those who are in Christ. Through Him we have life, peace, and guidance. Through Him we are adopted as God’s children and, so, we call Him, “Abba! Father!” Sure, we suffer with Christ in this world, but we know that the glory to come far exceeds these present afflictions.

Does your sin and guilt weigh you down? Trust in Christ for the atonement of your sins. Rejoice that the law of sin and death is overcome, but more than that, in Him you have His Spirit and are adopted as His own child.

The Love of God

Today’s reading: I Chronicles 26-27; John 11:18-46

4 And Obed-edom had sons: Shemaiah the firstborn, Jehozabad the second, Joah the third, Sachar the fourth, Nethanel the fifth, 5 Ammiel the sixth, Issachar the seventh, Peullethai the eighth, for God blessed him. I Chronicles 26:4

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” John 11:33-36

The path of God may take us through pain, suffering, and death, but never away from His love and compassion.

What image do you have of the Man Jesus? Is He too cool and calm to ever show grief or sadness? Is He always upbeat, joyful, and in total control? Think again. That is not the picture we get in John 11. When Jesus arrived at Bethany, the home of Martha and Mary, He was deeply moved and troubled by what He saw there: distraught family, friends seeking to console them, everyone grieving. His love and compassion for the sisters and the friends of Lazarus expressed itself in tears that flowed. Isn’t it curious that Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead in a few minutes, but for the moment He entered the agony of the bereaved family and felt suffering with them.

Today’s reading in I Chronicles is another with long lists of names, yet, as we have seen before, there are treasures to be found in these lists. One example is the comment about Obed-edom and his eight sons. “God blessed him.” The note in my study Bible helped me remember that Obed-edom was the man who for a time took care of the Ark of the Covenant for three months after a mishandling of it had resulted in death (I Chronicles 13:13-14; II Samuel 6:10-11). Now we pick up with this same Obed-edom and learn that God’s blessing included eight sons who were listed among the divisions of the gatekeepers.

God’s plan for the lives of Obed-edom and Lazarus took them in different paths centuries apart from each other but always under the providential care of the Lord who reigns over all things. Praise Him who does not overlook the loving and careful service of a man who housed the Ark of the Covenant at his home, even after Uzzah was struck dead for touching it. Your service for Him will not be forgotten. Be comforted that the Lord who cared for a grieving family knows and cares for you who are His. He is the resurrection and the life. Fear not. His plan is good and ends with His victory. Meanwhile, walk on by faith and trust in the love of God.

Born of God

Today’s reading: I Kings 14-15; John 1:1-28

They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. I Kings 14:24b

11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:11-13

Without new birth, brought about by God, the most informed people do not receive His Word but persist in all kinds of pagan abominations.

Solomon’s apostasy led to the division of the kingdom under Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Neither of them was humbled or repentant, but they continued in the path taken by Solomon. The divided kingdom stayed at war during the lifetimes of these two kings. They continued to worship other gods. Their practices mirrored those of the peoples that God had evicted from the land when Israel entered.

When Jesus came, fulfilling the promise of a Messiah, He was not universally received. The gospel records show that as His ministry unfolded official opposition increased and culminated in His crucifixion. Jesus came revealing the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth. Those who were sent to arrest Him said, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46)

But despite Jesus’ powerful words, the nation officially rejected Him. Why? They were not born of God. Those who are born of God are children of God who manifest this reality by receiving Christ, by believing in His name. Everyone is God’s creature, made by Him, but not all who owe Him their existence are His children (John 1:3,10).

Neither severe hardship, such as decades of war, nor the incarnation of God the Son automatically results in faith and repentance in people. It takes a new birth, a birth brought about by God, to turn the hearts of sinners to Himself, and to make them His children.

If you have been born of God, then you are His child. Your home is with Him, not here. But you and I will be there soon. Rejoice and be faithful as you await that day.

Family Resemblance

Today’s reading: Numbers 3-4; Mark 3:22-35

33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:33-35

3 These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he ordained to serve as priests. 4 But Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord when they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of Aaron their father. Numbers 3:3-4

Natural, family relationships are overshadowed by spiritual bonds. Obedience to God is more important than blood ties.

Jesus’ human family members took Him to be insane. “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:21. They tried to intervene and stop His teaching and ministry. Perhaps they were afraid of embarrassment. Maybe they meant well. But they did not believe in Him (John 7:5).

In the case of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, their status as sons of the high priest did not exempt them from obedience to the law. They seem to have presumed that they could veer from the commands of the law concerning offerings to God. It cost them their lives.

Jesus said,” …whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” This is good news for us because it means that although we never physically saw Jesus nor are we related to Him through natural descent, our relationship with Him is based on a common relationship to God, the Father. He is the first born of many brothers (Romans 8:29).

Rejoice, if you have been adopted into the Father’s family by the new birth, you are tied to Christ’s family. Seek to bear the family resemblance today.

The Anguish of Guilt

Today’s reading: Leviticus 15-17; Matthew 27:1-31

6 “Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. Leviticus 16:6

5 And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. Matthew 27:5

If there is any theme that runs through these two readings today, it is guilt, human guilt for sin. It is a theme that runs through history since the first sin committed by the first human couple in the garden (Genesis 3).

In Leviticus, the high priest must offer a sacrifice for his own sin before he can offer a sacrifice for the sin of the people. He is high priest, but he is as sinful and guilty as the rest of the rank and file. As we have been seeing, the Aaronic priesthood was imperfect and incomplete and pointed to a need for a better priesthood, one that was established by the Lord Jesus Christ. All of this will be even clearer when we get to the Epistle to the Hebrews.

The circumstances surrounding Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and trial also reveal the various parties showing the ravages of their guilt.   Judas is tormented by the realization that he has betrayed an innocent man. He seeks to rid himself of this guilt by returning the money he received. That effort is rejected. He hangs himself.

Pilate and his wife show anguish over the case before him, the accusations against Jesus. Pilate looks in vain for a way out. He seems to be moved by the willingness of the crowd to accept any blame for this execution.

Guilt tears apart the human soul, but if God is gracious to us His Spirit moves us beyond guilt to repentance and faith in the true High Priest who offered Himself for the sin of His people. In Him we find forgiveness, not through a diluting of our guilt but, through an offering that is so infinitely worthy it purchased redemption for the vast host of God’s elect people.

Praise Him, my believing friend, for deliverance from not only the anguish of our guilt but the due consequences of all our sin through Christ.