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Got a High Priest? 
(A Look at Hebrews 4:14-16) Part 4 Conclusion

My friends and I have been reading through the book of Hebrews. This week we’re reading Hebrews 4 together. I describe our Bible-reading covenant here and recommend that you consider doing the same with a few of your friends!

As we conclude our discussion of the Lord Jesus as our great High Priest, we read the following in Hebrews 4 —

In our three posts we’ve seen that: (1) Jesus is our “great” high priest — and we need to focus on Him! (2) That He has ascended into heaven (v. 14) and is at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us! (3) That His role as our high priest should motivate us to “hold firmly to the faith we profess” (v. 14). (4) That we must notice what we don’t have! We don’t have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses!

(5) We also saw that our great high priest has been tempted in every way like we are — yet without sin (v. 15)! Our sixth observation was that (6) We have every reason to approach God’s throne of grace with confidence (v. 16)!

As we conclude this brief study today, I want to remind us of (7) what we receive when we approach God’s throne of grace. We receive not judgment or condemnation, but MERCY and GRACE.  And those two gifts are given to “help us in our time of need.”

Today’s Challenge: What a simple word — HELP! It’s just four letters’ long, but boldly proclaims our utter need for God in our lives! What NEED do you have that causes you to simply cry out to the Lord . . . “HELP!”? Don’t hesitate to do just that. And tell another believer of your situation.

 

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2021 in Hebrews 4

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #28 “What I DO Understand in Romans 11!” (A Study of Romans 11)

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 11 each day this week.

1. There are two categories of people: Israel and the Gentiles.
2. There are some clear advantages to being born a Jew (v. 1).
3. There is a remnant chosen by grace (that we may not be aware of) (v. 5).
4. Grace versus works is a fundamental conflict (vv. 5-6).
5. There were/are two categories of the people of Israel: the elect and the hardened (v. 7).
6. Somehow God is involved in the hardening of some (vv. 8-10), as predicted in the Old Testament.
7. But Israel’s “fall” was not “beyond recovery” (v. 11).
8. Israel’s transgression = salvation has come to the Gentiles (v. 11).
9. Somehow envy is important to the Lord (v. 11).
10. Israel’s transgression means riches for the world and their loss means riches for the Gentiles (v. 12).
11. But there is hope for their “inclusion” (v. 12).
12. Paul takes pride in his ministry to the Gentiles, as the apostle to the Gentiles (v. 13).
13. Somehow arousing envy in God’s people will save some of them (v. 14).
14. Their rejection brought reconciliation to the world (v. 15).
15. Their acceptance will bring life from the dead (v. 15).
16. We get the imagery of dough, firstfruits, and branches (vv. 16ff).
17. The Gentiles are a wild olive branch that has been grafted in (vv. 17ff).
18. The branches were broken off because of unbelief (v. 20).
19. We dare not forget the kindness and sternness of God (v. 22).
20. Israel’s “hardening” awaits the full number of Gentiles coming in (v. 25).
21. In some way all Israel will be saved (v. 26).
22. God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on all (v. 32).
23. God’s plan and purposes should drive us to praise (vv. 33-36).

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2021 in Romans 11

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #27 “Spiritual Botany 101” (A Study of Romans 11)

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 11 each day this week.

I will be the first to admit that I know virtually nothing when it comes to botany. I was cursed with a black thumb (except when we lived in Manitoba and everything grew like crazy!).

Here in Romans 11 Paul is discussing Israel and the Gentiles. And he resorts to a botanical metaphor. Following are a few of my observations on this passage:

1. If the root is holy, so are the branches (v. 16).
2. Some of the branches have been broken off (v. 17).
3. The Gentiles are called “a wild olive shoot” by Paul (v. 17).
4. They, this “wild olive shoot” have been grafted in among the others (v. 17).
5. This grafted in shoot now shares in the nourishing sap from the olive root (v. 17).
6. There is no reason for that grafted-in wild olive shoot to consider itself to be superior to those other branches (afterall, it did not graft itself in!) (v. 18).
7. If that wild olive shoot does think itself superior to those other branches, it should be reminded that it does not support the root. The root supports it (v. 18).
8. The wild olive branch might say, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” (v. 19).
9. Okay, but those branches were broken off because of unbelief. And the wild olive branch is challenged to “stand by faith” (v. 20).
10. That wild olive branch is also challenged to not be arrogant, but to tremble (v. 20).
11. Why should that wild olive branch tremble? Because “if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either” (v. 21).

My takeaway?
As a “wild olive shoot,” I’m grateful for God’s mercy in grafting me in to the nourishing sap of this olive tree! I want to beware of unbelief in my life and I long to “stand by faith”!

 

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2021 in Romans 11

 

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Getting to Know . . . 2 Samuel (7:1-17) A House for the Lord?

During a rare time of peace, David expresses his concern to Nathan the prophet for the ark of God. He says, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.” (v. 2). Nathan tells David that whatever he has in mind he should go ahead and do it, “for the Lord is with you” (v. 3).

But the Lord speaks to Nathan that night and tells him to say to David that He (the Lord) has dwelt in a tent since the day He brought the Israelites up out of Egypt. And he never said to any of Israel’s rulers, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” (v. 7). The Lord reviews David’s history and promises to make David’s name great and that He, the Lord, will provide Israel a place, a home of their own. Wicked people won’t oppress them anymore and He will give David rest from all his enemies (v. 11).

“The Lord himself will establish a house for you” (v. 11). Your offspring will be raised up when your days are over and I will establish his kingdom. “He is the one who will build a house for my Name.”

The Lord says that when he does wrong, “I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”

Then Nathan reports “all the words of this entire revelation” to David (v. 17).

Several takeaways for me:
1. It is dangerous to be a mouthpiece (= prophet) of God. Sometimes one expresses an opinion that is not of the Lord. Nathan does that here — but is corrected by the Lord, probably in a dream.
2. David’s concern for the ark of the covenant is admirable, but the Lord surprisingly turns the tables on David and promises to build a home for his people and for David’s offspring. One can never out give the Divine Giver.
3. God uses human beings to do His will — and even to punish His own people when they do wrong.
4. God is capable of removing His love from a person (as He did with Saul).

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2019 in 2 Samuel 7

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel! (chapter 24) A Bathroom Break and Mercy!

Again Saul seeks to capture David, this time taking 3000 young men from all Israel. Don’t you love the matter-of-factness of the Bible? The scene focuses on Saul going into a cave to relieve himself! (v. 3). It happens to be the same cave where David and his men are hiding!

David’s men remind him that the Lord had promised to give his enemy into his hand. David creeps up unnoticed and cuts off a corner of Saul’s robe! (v. 4) This action pricks David’s conscience and he tells his men that he will not lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed. He prevents his men (with a sharp rebuke) from attacking Saul (v. 7).

David reveals himself to Saul, telling how the Lord had delivered Saul into his hands, and David spared him! He shows Saul the corner of his robe that he cut off and prays that the Lord would avenge the wrongs that Saul has done against David, “but my hand will not touch you” (v. 12). He quotes a well-known proverb (“From evildoers come evil deeds”) and vows to not attack Saul.

David continues his speech by referring to himself as “a dead dog” and “a flea” (v. 14). He prays that the Lord would vindicate his cause.

Saul responds by crying out loud, admitting he had been treating David badly. He asks that the Lord would reward David for David’s not taking Saul’s life when he had the opportunity. Saul admits that David will surely be king and asks him to swear that he will not kill Saul’s descendants when he begins to rule (v. 21). David makes such an oath. Saul returns home, but David and his men go up to the stronghold.

Some takeaways for me:
1. The Bible is an amazing book. It does not sanitize its stories, but presents life as it was lived (Saul going to the bathroom!).
2. The matter of one’s conscience is an important issue in the Bible. David’s conscience is troubled by his cutting Saul’s robe. Oh that my conscience were troubled by choices that I make that are not the best!
3. David’s self-image (“a dead dog”; “a flea”) reminds me of how small I am and of the grace of God to use me in whatever way He desires.
4. While we are grateful for the promises of others, we (like David) need to make careful decisions and not rely on the power of man to keep their vows (David and his men still have to flee to their stronghold). No real reconciliation has taken place on that day between David and Saul that we can see.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2018 in I Samuel 24

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel! (chapter 11) Holy Anger!

This has got to be a difficult text for my Mennonite (= pacifist) friends! The Ammonites want to gouge out the right eyes of all the Gileadites. That is their condition for making a treaty with them.

The Israelites weep outloud when they hear of this impending disaster. Saul, returning from the fields, asks what’s wrong and is overcome with the Spirit of God and “he burned with anger” (v. 6). Against whom does Saul vent his anger? Against the people of God!

“I wonder how Saul will use us today?”

He cuts up the oxen and sends the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, threatening, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel” (v. 7). We read that the terror of the Lord falls on the people and “they came out together as one.”

As a result Saul mustered 300,000 men of Israel and 30,000 men of Judah. News of impending rescue is sent to the men of Jabesh Gilead who promise to surrender to the Ammonites the next day (v. 10).

Saul’s army breaks into the Ammonite camp late at night and slaughters them “until the heat of the day.” We read that “those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together” (v. 11).

But some of the people then want to execute those who had rejected Saul’s rulership. Saul, in a great act of mercy, intercedes for them and says, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel” (v. 13).

Saul is made king in the presence of the Lord and there is a great celebration!

The takeaways from this chapter?

(1) There are real threats to the people of God. And there is a time for real leaders to step up and fight!

(2) God’s Word does not sugarcoat man’s inhumanity to man or the necessity (at times) to execute those who do evil.

(3) A holy anger can unite the people of God to do what is right!

(4) There is always room for mercy to be shown to others (those who opposed Saul’s kingship).

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2018 in I Samuel 11

 

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Time for a Great Cartoon: Caring for Others?

When we really get honest with ourselves, do we ever do anything out of pure motives?  Isn’t there always some self-interest that motivates us?  It may be as overt (as Calvin and Hobbes here) or covert.  But we should still do kind things for others, recognizing that only God does things from pure motives.

I’m thankful for His mercy and grace today.  How about you?

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2018 in motives

 

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Back to the Basics: Theology Proper #8 God’s MERCY!

The mercy of God is defined as the withholding of deserved judgment by God.  Forgiven souls are humble. They cannot forget that they owe all they have and hope for to free grace, and this keeps them lowly. They are brands plucked from the fire—debtors who could not pay for themselves—captives who must have remained in prison for ever, but for undeserved mercy—wandering sheep who were ready to perish when the Shepherd found them . . . . (J.C.Ryle)

God’s mercy is a holy mercy, which knows how to pardon sin, not to protect it; it is a sanctuary for the penitent, not for the presumptuous. (Bishop Reynolds)

Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.

Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. (Psalm 25:4-6)

If grace is God’s undeserved favor (as we will see in a later devotional), mercy is His unmerited compassion. Grace gives us what we do not deserve; mercy withholds from us the judgment we do deserve.

I don’t know about you, but one of the more frightening sights for me is, while I’m driving down the highway, to suddenly see flashing lights in my rearview mirror! The last time that happened to me, I immediately slowed down and prayed to the Lord, “O, Father, please don’t let me get a ticket! Please let this police officer be an instrument of Your mercy, instead of Your judgment!” As I slowed down, the police car sped past me, obviously hot on the trail of some other wicked offender. My thought as he whizzed by? “Get ’em, Copper!” Interesting how I wanted mercy for myself, but judgment for the next guy!

The psalmist has much to say about God’s mercy. He recognizes the holiness of God and the fact that no human has a right to God’s compassion: “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:3-4).

In our age of victimhood, few people recognize God’s right to act in judgment. They believe either that God is too loving to condemn or that man is too good to be condemned—and they are wrong on both counts. Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” makes little sense to them. Many would prefer the title “God in the Hands of Angry Sinners”!

But biblical Christianity teaches that “As a father has compassion [mercy] on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear  him” (103:13). He is a God who “is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love” (145:8).

All of Psalm 136 is an ode to God’s mercy, for the phrase “his mercy endureth forever” (KJV) forms the second half of each of its twenty-six verses. The most famous psalm of them all concludes with the words: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (23:6, KJV).

Although we are often stingy in showing mercy to others, giving sad testimony to the poverty of our compassion, the Apostle Paul speaks quite differently of the Lord: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

The story is told of a past-her-prime Hollywood star who was sitting for some promotional photos. She barked at the photographer, “I want these pictures to do me justice, young man!” He was heard to say under his breath, “Ma’am, what you need is not justice, but mercy” That’s what we all need—and his mercies “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23) to those in Christ.

“Lord, what a mass of contradictions I find in my own life. I take Your mercies for granted and grant little compassion to others. Forgive me by Your abundant mercies. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

If God were not willing to forgive sin, heaven would be empty. (German proverb)

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2018 in doctrine of God

 

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We’re All a Bunch of Law-Breakers!

There he was. Draped over his steering wheel. Hands covering his face. Ashamed. Embarrassed. Frustrated. His co-worker sat next to him.

Behind him was the police car. Lights flashing. A police officer was obviously writing a ticket for the crime the young man had committed.

My heart went out to him. Company truck. Probably on his way to a job to support his family. And he broke the law. Mean old policeman.

Wait a minute! I don’t know what the young man did, but the cop was doing his job! Maybe the fellow ran a stop sign. Maybe he cut someone off. With six grandkids and another on the way, I’ve become much more sensitive to potential car accidents in the making.

How easy it is for us to sympathize with another law-breaker. For we are ALL law-breakers. And we need God’s grace and mercy through Christ. We sometimes need the authorities who have the power to write us a ticket to mercifully simply give us a “warning.” But it’s not something required. We don’t deserve a warning. We deserve punishment when we’ve broken the law.

Not only are we law-breakers, but we are hypocritical. Last time I saw those flashing blue lights in my rearview mirror, I thought, “Oh, no! What have I done? How much will the ticket be? How will I ever explain this to my wife?” Then my prayer life kicks in. “Lord, please let the officer just give me a warning. Please, Lord.”

Then the policeman zips past me after some other criminal and I cry out, “Get ‘em, Copper!” Mercy for me. Justice for the other guy. How about you?

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2018 in law-breakers

 

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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 40)

I heard one preacher say, “The world is so evil.  If I were God, I would have stomped the world to death by now.  Aren’t you glad I’m not God?”  Yes.  We are thankful for God’s mercy.  And He shows that mercy to His sun-burned, suicidal servant whose mantra seems to be “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

God asks His disgruntled missionary, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” (v. 9).  Man was made in the image and likeness of his Creator and possesses a moral system, one aspect of which is his conscience.  But Jonah’s conscience does not appear to have kicked in throughout this book!

He responds, “It is right for me to be so angry that I wish I were dead.”  How should Jonah have responded?  He should have said, “Lord, I’m so sorry for valuing my comfort more than the souls of these Ninevites.  Give me another chance?”  (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2017 in Jonah

 

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