A Marvelous Work?

August 5, 2019 at 10:38 am | Posted in Isaiah, Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: In Isaiah 29:14 the marvelous work that God promised to do for His people seems to be something bad, instead of something good like revival. Why would we want something bad, or what am I missing?

Answer: The word “marvelous” is a little tricky because in modern English it typically means something that is delightful, or “wonderful” in a positive sense. In the Bible it can mean that, too, but its literal meaning has to do with something that causes people to stop dead in their tracks and “marvel” at something. To stand silently still and gaze with amazement. Or to gasp with surprise that something so extraordinary is happening. So, depending on the context, it can be something marvelously beneficial and joyful (Psalm 17:7), or it can mean something marvelously horrific (Daniel 11:36). And, yes, you are correct that the “marvelous” thing God is saying that He will do in Isaiah 29 is that He will bring judgment and destruction upon the people of Jerusalem because of their spiritual hypocrisy and their failure to heed the warnings of His prophets. The “marvelous” thing about it is the extreme nature of it. God would use Godless heathen nations and armies to punish His Own people and to destroy His holy city (29:1-9)! He would even take away their ability to hear and understand His Own Word (29:18), and their ability to see the truth (29:11)! It would be horrendously marvelous, not happily marvelous. So, in that sense, I would like to experience a spiritual revival in my heart, home, church family, community, and nation that would PREVENT this type of “marvelous” work, not the continued apathy and hypocrisy which would bring it to pass. I think that may be what you are getting at with your question.

Marriage Should Not be Sterile

December 3, 2018 at 3:22 pm | Posted in Isaiah, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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In previous lessons in this series on Isaiah 62:1-4, I said that marriage should not be secret, static, spurious, or somber. Now will see that marriage should not be sterile.

Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.

Isaiah 62:4

For God’s people, desolation would become “Beulah.” Fruitlessness can become fruitful marriage – often (but not necessarily) with children and grandchildren, but, even more so, with the fruit of the Spirit. Fruit brings happiness to the bearers and the consumers, and joy when shared. Joy and God’s glory should be the “product” – like the fruit in the “produce” section of a supermarket – of our marriages.

It is certain that a major part of the original dominion mandate – God’s pronouncement about marriage in the first marriage – was that child-bearing (fruitfulness, the fruit of the womb, not the Fruit of the Loom, that’s a different lesson, just “kidding,” no pun intended) was the responsibility of spouses who want to honor God. Does this mean that married couples who cannot conceive children, or who are past the age of child-bearing, or who have made the decision (often with the assistance of some type of pre-conception surgical intervention) not to have any more children are failing God by living on the “desolate” rather than the “Beulah” side of His favor? No! Certainly your life as a married person – and as a married couple – can still be very fruitful. Make your marriage about producing SPIRITUAL fruit to the glory of God. Win souls. Make disciples. Plant seeds in the lives of unbelievers. Pull out weeds of sin and and distraction. Water the soil with tears of compassion in your prayers. Consider adoption. Consider investing in the lives of your grandchildren or other people’s children. Encourage other married couples in the Lord. Be a blessing in the name of Jesus wherever you go and whatever you do.

God proclaims fruitfulness in general as a blessing.

Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle.

Deuteronomy 7:14

He proclaims fruitfulness as a source of joy in the HOME.

He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the LORD.

Psalm 113:9

He proclaims fruitfulness as fulfillment and strength.

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127:4-5

The world says a happy marriage is insular – that’s it’s peaceful and that no internal problems or conflict between the spouses disturb it. That’s nice when it happens, but God wants the happiness to spread out and multiply – to ENGAGE the world and to ADVANCE God’s Kingdom in it.

Marriage Should Not be Somber

November 14, 2018 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Isaiah, Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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In previous lessons in this series on Isaiah 62:1-4, I said that marriage should not be secret, static, or spurious. Now will see that marriage should not be somber.

Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.

Isaiah 62:4

God’s people had been called Forsaken – forgotten or abandoned by their God – but the parallel contrast is that He would remove the name “Forsaken” and replace it with “Hephzibah” which translates as “My delight is in her.” Normally, I’m a proponent of being somber over being silly. That’s kind of my personality, and, as Christians, although we are not opposed to fun, we don’t want to be primarily identified as frivolous. In our marriages, we don’t want either spouse to be – or even feel, for that matter – “forsaken,” nor do we want people to get that impression. We want our marriages to show off the joy of the Lord. In fact, that joy follows closely on the heels of the idea of exercising dominion and kingship in this world, and, according to the Bible, it is a source of our strength:

The king shall joy in thy strength, O LORD; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips. Selah. For thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head.

Psalm 21:1-3

We hear much about having a “happy marriage” these days, but, for Christians, the idea of joy in marriage is not that we have settled into a complacent peace that is dependent on everything going smoothly in our circumstances. The idea is that we are abounding in joy, and that our joy is contagious because we have been “saved” from the curse of sin. We have been given our “heart’s desire.” We have been crowned, not with a withering grass laurel, but with a crown of “pure gold.”

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.

Proverbs 5:18

Not only will this delight us because of God’s promise of blessing, but the Lord Himself will “Hephzibah” – delight! – in us and our marriages.

In the next lesson we will see that marriage must not be sterile.

Marriage Should Not be Spurious

October 29, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Posted in Isaiah, Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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In previous lessons in this series on Isaiah 62:1-4, I said that marriage should not be secret or static. Now will see that marriage should not be spurious.

Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.

Isaiah 62:3

Crowns and diadems are terms of royalty, sovereignty, ruling and reigning, kingship, but what do they have to do with marriage?

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:26 (emphasis added)

Men and women are made in the image of God. We are to be accurate representatives of Him in His earth, and we are to exercise authority over every aspect of life in a way that shows who He really is and what He is really like.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:27-28

This is so-called “dominion mandate.” We are to subdue the earth and make it fruitful and productive and a place where every nook and cranny of it glorifies the Creator.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:18

Eve was a helper that was perfectly suited to Adam, but to help him do what? To help him accurately express God’s image in God’s world by exercising dominion and being fruitful. God made sure Adam understood this.

And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

Genesis 2:19-22

This was the first wedding and the first marriage. This was before sin entered into the world, so this is our ideal for Christian marriage.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Genesis 2:23-24

Marriage gives us joy, it gives us companionship, it gives us pleasure, it gives us friendship. It is good for problem-solving. It produces new human beings so that Jesus will get new disciples. But it is very much about symbolizing the crown of God’s royal authority in this world, and the diadem in His hand whereby He issues forth His Word. Married couples play a key role in bringing God’s will to pass and enforcing it in the world, so we must not be spurious image-bearers. We must not be out of order, with the wife leading when she should be following, and the husband following when he should be leading. We must not be at odds with each other, any more than the Persons of the Trinity are at odds with each other, and we must not drop out of the world out of fear or laziness, and let it run to ruin. We are ambassadors of an invisible King, so we must make His presence known with our marriages, in order to bear His image accurately and genuinely (which is the opposite of spuriously).

In the next lesson we will see that marriage must not be somber.

Marriage Should Not be Static

October 11, 2018 at 10:19 am | Posted in Isaiah, Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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Last time, I looked at Isaiah 62:1-4 and developed the principle from Verse 1 that marriage should not be secret. Additionally, marriage should not be static.

And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.

Isaiah 62:2

One day the Lord will give His people a new name. As Christians we are associated now with suffering and failure, unpopularity and persecution, but there there will come a day when non-Christians (described as “Gentiles” in Isaiah 62:2) – even the mightiest of them – will see the glory that our glorious God shares with us.

In marriage, wives get a new name when they get married. Husbands do not, except collectively. A married couple comes to be known as the “Smiths” or the “Joneses” or the “Wilsons.” For Christian married couples we should not be satisfied with a shared and commonly known “new” last name. We want to achieve even more names that reflect glory on the Lord of our marriages. We want to be the married couple about whom people say: “They go to church;” “They teach their children to pray; “They look so IN LOVE.”

When you refer to your spouse in the presence of other people, don’t fall into the worldly practice of speaking disparagingly about him or her, calling your husband, “my old man,” or calling your wife, “the old lady.”

Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.

Proverbs 16:24

Your spouse may know you’re joking, but we’re talking about other people and their perceptions, and what they think of marriage in general and yours in particular. Don’t let the way you talk about your marriage become static. Avoid terms that are presumably supposed to be funny, but, in reality, reveal boredom, dissatisfaction, or exasperation about your spouse or your marriage. Don’t say rude things like “the old ball and chain” or “the battle axe.”

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Ephesians 4:29

“Hearers” in that verse is plural, and being “edified” means being built up, not remaining static. Unkind words, and, worse, false unkind words, not only fail to minister grace to the one you are saying them ABOUT, or saying them TO, but to everyone else listening in, or to whom they are repeated.

You don’t want your spouse telling his or her friends bad things about you, but the best remedy for that is not to swear your spouse to silence. The best remedy is to give your spouse good things to say – to improve yourself, with God’s help, as a spouse, rather than merely trying to hush up the talk about your relationship.

Next time we will see that marriage should not be spurious.

Marriage Should Not be Secret

September 24, 2018 at 2:53 pm | Posted in Isaiah, Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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After the initial novelty of marriage wears off, it can be easy for some spouses to view our marriages as just a fact of everyday life – part of who we are and what we are allowed and not allowed to do because of the fact that we are married. Even Christian spouses, if not regularly involved in church ministry that emphasizes the importance of marriage, can forget that what is taught in the Bible must be applied not only to how we think about marriage, but how we live within our marriages. Most secular marriage counseling, and even much church-related marriage counseling and teaching, focuses on things like finances, parenting, scheduling and time management, jobs and careers, hobbies, communication, etc. If we’re not careful we’ll spend so much time and energy trying to figure those things out, that we will miss the significance of God’s true intentions for marriage, and will fail to plumb the depths of the greatest source of wisdom concerning marriage: the Word of God.

For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.

Isaiah 62:1-4

The children that God has entrusted into my care as a father have some pretty unusual names, and people have been known to occasionally give them a hard time because of it. For this reason, I’m the last person to make fun of someone’s name. However, there are some names – names that in years past were popular – that have simply gone out of style, and that you just don’t hear much anymore. Take, for example, the name “Beulah.” Do you know anyone named Beulah? It was a fairly popular name from 1890 to 1911 (which also happens to be the year that the famous hymn “Dwelling in Beulah Land” was published). In 1901 almost 4000 out of every one million baby girls were named Beulah. However, the popularity of the name plummeted rapidly after the turn of the 20th Century, and last year only ten out of every one million baby girls were named Beulah.

In Isaiah 62:4 the name Beulah means “married,” but the context is not, strictly speaking, marriage itself. Isaiah 62 is talking about how God will restore exiled Israel, and, in a greater sense, how He will regenerate, renew, and restore all His people in the New Covenant Church. However, it is a very relevant passage on the topic of literal marriage because it gives insight into how God – the Creator of marriage – expects marriage to be.

I. Marriage should not be a secret.

For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace…

Isiah 62:1

To hold our peace means to be quiet. We should not be quiet about our marriages. They are great vehicles for glorifying God. Fallen sinners do not naturally (nor should they) trust and commit to each other, but as Christians we do not wear the label of fallen sinners as our primary identity. We have been redeemed by God’s grace, and we are allowed and encouraged to advertise this reality.

… I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.

Isaiah 62:1

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Three groups of people immediately come to mind when I think about those who need to hear that Christian marriage is absolutely wonderful:

A. Young people who will soon be of the age to consider marriage or possibly get married

Marriage is not for everyone, but it is for most, and it is a great gift from God. It should be seen as a goal strive for and a victory to obtain, not as the end of freedom and the beginning of a life sentence of fun-denial.

B. Non-Christians

Whenever I see a pagan couple who claims to have a happy marriage, it is bittersweet. I’m thankful for the “common” grace of God that keeps them from killing each other, but I know that their marriage could be so much better.

C. People having marriage problems (whether they are Christian or not)

Every time you speak of your marriage you might be giving marriage advice or acting as a marriage counselor, whether you intend to be or not. The last thing someone struggling in his/her/their marriage needs to hear is another complaint or gripe about marriage. People need encouragement. They need to see how wonderful marriage truly can be. Is it bragging or boasting to sound off about how much we love our marriages? No! Because people are supposed to see our “good works” not so they can glorify US, but so that they may glorify OUR FATHER which is in Heaven!

For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.

Isaiah 62:1

Don’t be bashful or withdrawn about your marriage. A torch is given for the purpose of lighting up the darkness and showing off the Truth.

Next time we will see the importance of spiritual growth within our marriages.

Big Words of the Christian Life: Omniscience (Part 2)

October 19, 2017 at 11:10 am | Posted in big words of the Christian life, Isaiah | 2 Comments
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Last time, we acknowledged that God’s knowledge is comprehensive, continuous, and constant. Now we will see that it is also complete.

Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?

Isaiah 40:13-14

God does not need any assistance in getting information, or in helping Him to understand or interpret the information He has. Nor does He need anyone to counsel Him as to how to use His information or knowledge. Obviously, the same cannot be said of us. We often need assistance, help, or someone to give us advice. We need teachers, and the Bible says we are foolish if we won’t listen to someone with more experience than us. We need instruction manuals. We have to stop and ask for directions.

But not God. He doesn’t need anyone’s advice. That’s one of the many reasons that we must read and study our Bibles diligently. That’s where God has told us exactly what He wants us to know – no more and no less. Obedience to God’s Word is not bondage or drudgery; it is great freedom. He knows what’s best for us, and when He says, “thou shalt not,” we had better believe there’s a very good reason for it. His Word is not up for debate, because He has spoken it, and caused it to be written, out of His omniscience.

In addition to being complete, God’s knowledge is correct.

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

Isaiah 46:9-10

Even the smartest human experts are sometimes proven wrong. There are times when we “know” something without a shadow of a doubt, and then it turns out that we were deceiving ourselves or we were forgetful.

But not God. He is perfect in all His ways, and in His omniscience He cannot be wrong, mistaken, forgetful, or untrue. He knows everything that will happen, not because He looks ahead in time before making His predictions or prophecies, but because He is infinite and is already present in the “future” now, sovereignly causing or allowing events to occur before anyone else “gets there.” God would score a perfect A+ on any history test, not because He was the one Who wrote the test, but because history is “His story.” He is making it happen, and the future, to Him, already exists in His omniscience.

Because God’s knowledge is comprehensive, continuous, complete, and correct, it is also comforting.

For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

I John 3:20

We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but (to use a well-worn but still accurate cliche’) we know Who holds tomorrow. At least I hope you know Him. He knows you – either as His child or as His enemy – either as His “son” or as a sinner. He knows where you’ve been, what you’ve done, what you’re thinking right now, and where you’re going.

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

Romans 8:29-32

You are going to see Him – probably much sooner than you think. The determining factor on that day will not be your baptism, your church attendance (or even your membership), or your religious affiliation. No last rites or rosaries or confessions or the record of how good a Samaritan you were will matter at that moment. Your “good” deeds will not be weighed on a scale against your bad deeds. Your parents, your skin color, your bank account, or whether you loved your country – none of that will matter. What will matter is whether you believed and received the eternal Son of the omniscient God.

A.W. Tozer Challenged Us to S.W.I.M. in God the Father

September 21, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Posted in Isaiah, Quotes | 1 Comment
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What a broad world to roam in, what a sea to swim in is this God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is eternal, which means that He antedates time and is wholly independent of it. Time began in Him and will end in Him. To it He pays no tribute and from it He suffers no change.

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

Isaiah 40:28

Willful Waiting

March 6, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Posted in Biblical farming, Isaiah | 4 Comments
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In a comparison between the principles of farming and the principle of Biblical evangelism, we have noted the importance of planting, watering, weeding, and watching, all of which are necessary if we are to see an agricultural harvest OR a spiritual harvest of souls brought to Christ. Now we will deal with possibly the most difficult task for a farmer who is zealous and anxious to reap the fruit of his time and labor: the waiting.

For a farmer, obviously, every day is not harvest day. And, although harvest day is a day of great rejoicing and satisfaction, the experienced farmer will learn the principle of patience while he is waiting for it to arrive. In the same way, those who wait upon the Lord’s salvation, rather than getting frustrated, must learn to adopt an attitude of expectancy tempered by contentment. It is also important to remember that Biblical “waiting” is often “active waiting,” as paradoxical as that might sound. Waiting upon the Lord is more like the waiting done by a waiter in a busy restaurant than the waiting done by an exasperated patient in the waiting room of a medical office three hours after the appointment time while the doctor finishes a round of golf.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

“Waiting” upon the Lord involves walking, running, and even soaring, as we look forward with Biblical hope (a knowledge-based AND faith-based assurance that He will keep His promises in His perfect timing).

The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:25-26

Buried Treasure

August 4, 2016 at 10:34 am | Posted in Isaiah, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Isaiah 53:9

The prophecy that Christ would be buried with the rich was fulfilled by the actions of Joseph of Arimathaea. Jesus’s death and Resurrection are integral parts of the Gospel, but so is His burial.

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Isaiah 53:10

The Lord Jesus bore our sin to the Cross, but it is not the weight of that sin that crushed (“bruised”) Him; it was the weight of God’s wrath. Jesus was childless in the biological sense, and, furthermore, the prophecy describes a dead man “seeing his seed.” How could this be? It was fulfilled in Jesus’s Resurrection and the spiritual children He would regenerate and adopt.

He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Isaiah 53:11

God the Father was not “satisfied” in the sense of taking delight in Jesus’s suffering, but His righteousness, law, holiness, and justice were satisfied by payment in full for the entire sin debt of His people.

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53:12

Jesus on the Cross made intercession for transgressors, and He’s still doing that today.

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:17

Let us esteem Jesus Christ better today than men did when He came to die for us. Let us look at what they esteemed instead of Him, and ask ourselves if we esteem those things more than Him today. He was poor. Do we esteem wealth? He was an outcast among the religious establishment. Do we esteem popularity and acceptance? People lied about Him and said vile things. Do we fight for our good reputation with plans and schemes to get even, and with our own get-back-at-you gossip? Which do we care about more – that we look good to men, or that God looks great to men? He came to serve and to die. Do we dare to try to get ourselves in the position of being served by someone else? He suffered hardship and discomfort and a life of hard work. Will we dare to pamper ourselves?

Jesus is rejected so much today, for so many of the same reasons He was rejected back then – He represents everything that carnal men hate. He is worthy, and that’s an thing easy to sing, but do our activities and attitudes and awe prove that He’s our Treasure?

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