EMPTY BARREL GRADUATE SCHOOL | The Book of 1 Kings 17:8-16

Elijah: Obedience in a Threatening World
Elijah: Obedience in a Threatening World

Elijah holds in his hand a diploma from Dry Brook University. He has trusted God to take care of him even in the most desperate of situations. He trusted God to send the ravens to feed him, and he trusted God to supply his water using the little brook Cherith. He watched as God met his needs day in and day out. He also watched as God allowed his brook, the only source of water he had, to dry up before his eyes. Surely, enduring this kind of trial would count for something! Surely, things would get better for the prophet now!

Yet, when God speaks to Elijah, it is to send him into another difficult situation. You see, the prophet’s training isn’t over just yet. God is creating a man of God! Elijah may have graduated from Dry Brook University, but now he is about to enroll in Empty Barrel Graduate School. At Cherith God broke the prophet’s flesh: He taught Elijah to depend on God. At Zarephath, God will break Elijah’s pride. Here, he will learn that God, not Elijah calls all the shots of life. He will learn that things are never like they appear. He will learn that God can use the humblest of means to train His children for His glory.

Remember, God intends to use this man in a mighty way! When we get to chapter 18, we will see why God put the prophet through such rigorous training. God is building a man of God!

Now, with that in mind, there are times when it seems that our trials come back to back to back to back. That is, it seems that before one trial can end, another begins! When these times come, we may be tempted to question the Lord as to what He is doing. Simply stated, God is getting you in a position where He can use you in a greater way. I will remind you that before He can mold us, He must first melt us! After all, God’s goal for every saint of God is that we be made into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:“, Eph. 4:13.

Therefore, let’s join the prophet Elijah as he continues his training at Empty Barrel Graduate School. There are lessons here that we can glean from as well. These lessons will help us when we face our times of testing.

I. V. 8-11 A FRESH PATH

A. V. 8 The Call – As Elijah sat there beside that dried up brook, it must have felt like he had been abandoned by God. Have you ever felt that way? It is a terrible feeling! However, God had not forgotten about Elijah! God knew exactly where he was. God knew all about that dry brook and God had something else in mind for the man of God!

    • Let me just remind you that the dried brooks of life are merely those things which God uses to move us along in His will.
    • (Ill. There is a lesson here for us, and it is a hard one to swallow! That lesson is this: genuine faith waits for God to reveal His plans. It will sit by a dried up brook forever, even if it means death, waiting on the will of God to be revealed.
    • Friends, this is where we get into trouble! We have this tendency to run ahead of God and take matters into our own hands. Yet, God’s will is that we learn to wait on Him, even when He doesn’t move on our schedule!
    • If your brook is dry this morning, do not fear! God has not forgotten about you. He knows just where you are and when the time is right, you will hear His voice calling you to a fresh arena of service! “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.

B. V. 9a The Command – when the Lord does speak to Elijah, He commands him to go to Zarephath. This is a strange command considering the fact that Zarephath is in a Gentile nation. It is country of Jezebel. It is a land of idolaters. It is a wicked place filled with wicked people. Yet, that is exactly where the Lord sends His prophet! To top it off, to get to Zarephath from Cherith will force Elijah to march over 100 miles through territory ruled over by King Ahab, who is looking for Elijah everywhere. It seems like this command of the Lord makes no sense at all! Of course, one of the reason for sending Elijah to Zarephath was to vividly illustrate the impotence of Jezebel’s wrath and power!

    • (Ill. Again, there is a lesson for us in this verse: Often, the life of faith will lead through difficult pathways. Folks, God never promised that this way would be an easy way. Job 14:1; Job 5:7; John 16:33. Yet, that is the path of faith! Yet, even when the command of God makes no sense, faith simply obeys God without regard for the consequences, v. 10! You can see this truth displayed throughout the Bible.
      • Noah and the ark – Gen. 6
      • Abraham and Isaac – Gen. 22
      • Daniel and the 3 Hebrews – Dan. 1

C. V. 9b The Challenge – Notice that again Elijah is told to “dwell there“. He is to go to Zarephath and stay there until he receives new instructions from the mouth of the Lord.

    • However, the real challenge is in what God told the prophet next, “behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.” That must have been a serious blow to the pride of the prophet.
    • Instead of God telling Elijah, “I have a widow over there in Zarephath and I want you to go take care of her.” God says, “Elijah, I am sending you to another place of testing where you will have to look to me for all you receive, every day.”
    • For Elijah, Zarephath was a place that would live up to its name. The name Zarephath meanssmelting furnace, or refining“. It refers to the furnace into which metal is placed so that it can be heated up and have any impurities removed. Cherith was the place where Elijah had been cut off and cut down. Zarephath would be the place where he would be refined. It would be here that the last vestiges of Elijah’s pride and self-reliance would be stripped away.
    • (Ill. We are a self-reliant people aren’t we? We always want to believe that we can “handle it” ourselves. We would like to think that we are in control of our lives and that we are calling all the shots. However, when the Lord begins to work in your life to reveal Himself in you more clearly, He will send you to a Zarephath where you have to depend on nothing but Him. When you have been brought to the place where you can lean on nothing but God, He has brought you to the greatest of places that life can afford. For it is in that place that you will learn Who is in control. That is the challenge we all face in our faith life. We all face the challenge of getting to the place where we are trusting God and Him alone for all the needs we have in life! That is where He wants each of us, “The just shall live by faith.” Rom. 1:17.)

D. V. 10-11 The Comfort – When Elijah receives this command, he does not hesitate, he just gets up and goes where God tells him to go. When he arrives at Zarephath, he sees “the” widow picking up sticks.

    • (Ill. There is a lesson here as well. Our God is a God Who works on both ends of the line. Let me illustrate. When Jacob and his sons needed food, God provided a Joseph in Egypt. When the children of Israel sent their spies to Jericho, God gave them a Rahab. When the Jews faced a Haman, God raised them up an Esther. When an Ethiopian Eunuch needed salvation, God sent him a Philip. The point is this: When your time of need arises, rest assured that your Father has already gone ahead to spread the table of provision in your behalf, Phil. 4:19.)

IA Fresh Path

II. V. 12-15a A FANTASTIC PROMISE

A. V. 12 A Doubt – When Elijah asks the widow for a cake of bread, her fear is brought to the surface. God had already commanded her to care for His prophet, v. 9, but she is trapped is the fear of faithlessness. She has her eyes on the circumstances and not on the God Who controls the circumstances!

    • (Ill This is the place where many people are living this morning! When we look at our problems and our needs, we feel like we are trapped in a hopeless situation. We are guilty of looking at the problem and not at the Provider! As much as Elijah was sent to Zarephath for his benefit, he was also sent for the benefit of this widow. She needed to learn the value of faith in God.
    • My friend, are you trapped in doubt this morning? Does it appear that your situation is hopeless and that you are helpless to do anything about it? The answer lies in looking beyond your problem and getting your eyes on the Provider,
    • (Ill. It must have been a discouragement to Elijah to hear the widow express her lack of faith. If he had focused on first impressions instead of on the word of God, then he might have lapsed into despair. However, he believed God more than he believed even what he saw! Real faith knows that God is greater than what the eye can see. Real faith knows that God can make the impossible possible, Heb. 11:1!)

B. V. 13-14 A Demand – When Elijah hears the widow’s sob story, he makes what appears to be the coldest demand in the Bible. He tells her to go ahead and fix her last supper, but to feed him first! On the surface this appears harsh and cruel, but it was, in fact, a plea for faith and surrender to the will of God.

    1.  Involved Encouragement – “Fear not!” Elijah comforts her heart in this matter. She is told that she can trust God.
    2.  Involved Enlightenment – “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel.” She gets a direct word from God concerning her situation. She has God’s word that she will be taken care of.
    3.  Involved Excitement – “Neither the barrel of meal nor the cruse of oil will fail until God sends rain upon the earth. This widow hears the news that she is about to be center stage for a miracle designed to care for God’s man. She is about to be caught up in a manifestation of the power of God.

C. V. 15a A Decision – When this widow heard the word of God, she went and did as Elijah had commanded her. It must have took great faith to use the last little bit of meal she had to prepare bread for a total stranger. Yet she did it by faith!

    • (Ill. This is the place that God wants to bring us all to. He wants His Elijahs and His widows to learn to trust Him in every circumstance, regardless of what outward appearances may suggest.
    • (Ill. God wants us to get to the place where we can give it all away!
  1.  A Fresh Path
  2.  A Fantastic Promise

III. V. 15-16 A FABULOUS PROVISION

  • (Ill. The Bible tells us here that until the rains returned to the earth, the meal barrel and the jar of oil did not run out. Every time the widow went to get meal and oil to prepare a meal, there was more to be used. When she decided to bake that cake for Elijah, she traded the certain for the uncertain and received the impossible in return!)
    1.  The Grace Of It – Because this widow took God at His Word and prepared bread for Elijah, God allowed the widow, the widow’s son and Elijah to enjoy plenty while all around them hundreds starved to death.
    2.  The Greatness Of It – For years, until it rained, every meal time was a miracle. He can take the little that is dedicated to Him by faith and multiply it to enormous proportions! (Ill. The 5 loaves and 2 fishes fed a multitude – John 6:5-13.)
    3.  The Glory Of It The glory of this story resides in this fact: that barrel of meal and that cruse of oil were never full! Elijah and the widow were taught to live day by day. Everyday she scraped the bottom of the barrel and everyday there was just enough meal to fix their food. Everyday she watched the last drop of oil drip from that jar, but the next day there was always more. The glory in the story lies in the fact that Elijah and the widow were taught to trust God day by day! As the days passed, their faith was strengthened as they saw the Lord provide!

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Claiming Your Canaan | How To Get Past Your Jordan

Eyes Over RiverJoshua 3:1-6; 14-17

Because of their unbelief, Israel was sentenced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Those years have now expired and the children of Israel are poised to enter into Canaan Land. They are ready to claim their inheritance in the land of promise. However, before they can enter Canaan, they must first get past one final, major obstacle: the Jordan River. Normally, this would not have presented much of a problem, since the Jordan was only 100 feet wide at Gilgal where they crossed. However, it seems that God always does things in such a way that no man can boast of having done them on their own. This crossing would be no exception. You see, God brought them to the Jordan River at the time of harvest, 4:15. The Jordan swells to an impassable width of over 1 mile! It was over 50 times wider than it normally would have been when Israel arrived. There was no way they could cross this river on their own! They needed supernatural help.

My friends, we each have Jordans that we face from time to time! When we look at the obstacles that stand between us and spiritual victory in our own Canaan, we may feel that we will never be able to enter our Canaan of victory and enjoy the abundant life that Jesus promised His followers. Well, it is true that I do not know what kind of obstacles that you face in your life, I do know a God Who specializes in overcoming the overwhelming and in leading His children to victory.

This morning, I would like for us to look into this account of Israel as they got past their Jordan. As we do, I would like to offer you some hope as well. You see, the things that worked for them over 3000 years ago will still work for you and me today. Allow me to show you from chapters 3 and 4 of Joshua How To Get Past Your Jordan. There are 3 steps that we must take to guarantee that we will be able to get past that obstacle that blocks our way and enter our Canaan. Let me share these steps with you this morning.

3:1-13 WE NEED TO EXAMINE A MESSAGE

V. 3-4 It Involved A Challenge – When it came time for the people to move forward to cross Jordan, God has a message that they needed to hear. In the words they heard, they were challenged to do three very important things. These things were designed to help them follow the Lord better. These are the same things that we need to hear this morning that will help up to follow the Lord better as well.

1. Watch God – The Ark, was that special piece of Tabernacle furniture that symbolized the presence and power of God. When the Ark was in the Holy of Holies, the glory of God rested upon it and it was the dwelling place of God. To Israel, it represented God’s presence in the midst of His people. In other words, when God moved, they were to move. When God stopped they were to do the same. There is a valuable spiritual lesson in this passage for you and me. We would do well, when we face times of crisis, or when we need direction in life to learn to be sensitive to the movement of the Lord in and around us.

2. Follow God – When they saw the Ark of the Covenant move, they were to “leave your place, and go after it” Not only were they to watch God, they were to move when He did. They were to pursue God! Again, the lesson for the believer is that it isn’t enough to know what God is doing, there comes a time when you must “leave you place and go after Him.” This may require us to leave our comfort zone! Israel was about to follow the Ark through a river that was over 1 mile wide! That couldn’t have been easy, but it was still necessary and right! Folk, following God may not be the easiest thing you will ever do, but it will be the best thing you ever do. If you ever expect to get past your obstacles and enter your Canaan, you must learn to follow God.)

3. Honor God – Notice that the Israelites are told to stay at least 3000 feet behind the Ark. This was so that they could easily see what was happening ahead of them. Another reason is that the Lord wanted no one but the Levites near the Ark. To get too close would have meant death. Again, there is a lesson here for us as well. We must never be guilty of treating God like is one of our buddies.

V. 5 It Involved A Command – Next, the people were told to in verse 5 “sanctify yourselves.” This referred to being sure they were as clean and holy as possible. They were to put away anything that was displeasing to the Lord. They were to examine themselves and get ready for the Lord to do something great for them.

(If you and I ever expect to get past the Jordan’s that arise in our lives, we are going to have to learn that one of the first things we must do is examine our lives to make sure they are as clean as possible.

V. 9-13 It Involved A Commitment – vs 10 This message to the Israelites reminded them that getting across the Jordan did not rest on their shoulders, but on the Lord’s. It was His plan to get them over and it was His problem. In these verses, He makes them a promise and tells them that He will bring them through in a powerful fashion. God, here, commits Himself to bringing his people across their Jordan! All that was required of Israel was that they trust God! May I remind you that things have not changed one bit? If God could be trusted in those days to keep His promises, then He can still be trusted today!

3:14-17 WE NEED TO EXPECT A MIRACLE

V. 15b There Was A Problem – As I mentioned in the introduction, the children of Israel were facing a big problem. The river was over 1 mile wide and there were 2 million people who had to cross, and yet the Lord wanted them to go over.

Have you ever sized up your problem and thought about how big it was? Maybe you looked at it and concluded, “There is no way around, through, over or past this problem.” “There’s no way!” God looks at the problem and says,

Follow me, I have a plan!

V. 15 There Was A Plan – The plan was this, God said, “When the feet of the priests enter Jordan, I am going to part the waters and lead you through on the dry ground!” There was a catch in this plan and it was that the waters would not part until the priests who were carrying the Ark stepped into the water. In other words, it took a step of faith, whereby the people obediently followed the Lord for them to see the miracle come to pass.

What a lesson for you and me. Too often, we want the Lord just to fix everything in our lives for us. We don’t want to have to make any decisions nor do we want to have to exercise our faith in Him. We just want Him to do it and that will be the end of it.

V. 16-17 There Was A Performance – When the priests stepped into that raging river, it parted and God opened a path of dry ground through the waters for His people. By the way, verse 16 says that the waters backed up to the City of Adam. This is some 20 miles north of where the children of Israel were crossing.

We need to remember that faith honors God and God honors faith! When He does it, it won’t just be patched up and ready to fall apart again, it will be done right and it will be done forever. He was ABLE all the way through the Bible, and He is still ABLE today! Regardless of the circumstances, He is still God and He still can! God can! Just ask, Noah, Moses, Daniel, the 3 Hebrews, a widow down in Zarephath, the Disciples on a little ship, and Saul of Tarsus. Just look back over your own life. How many times has the Lord opened your Jordan already?

4:1-24 WE NEED TO ERECT A MEMORIAL

When all the people had passed over Jordan, Joshua commanded one man from each of the 12 tribes to get a rock from the midst of Jordan and build a memorial on the Canaan side.

V, 6-7; 21-24 The Purpose Of The Memorial – These verses tell us that the purpose of the memorial was to remind successive generations of the power and faithfulness of God on behalf of His people. That memorial would be an important landmark to those who would come after.

By the same token, we need some memorials in our lives as well. If we embalm the past we cripple the future.

V. 9, 20 The Picture In The Memorial – Ill. It is interesting to notice that Joshua constructed 2 monuments. One on the bank and one in the river. These 2 memorials served 2 different purposes. Notice what they were.

V. 20 A Picture Of The Faithfulness Of God – The one on the bank of Jordan stood as a testimony to the faithfulness of God as I have just mentioned. It was there to remind others of what the Lord had done and of what He could do.

V. 9 A Picture Of The Faith Of The People – Now, what about the rock pile in the river? No one could see it but God! It stood as a monument to the faith of the people! You see, when you face a time of trial, others are often guilty of misjudging your motives and actions, however, only God knows the truth about your heart. Even though Israel couldn’t see it, they knew the monument was there! They remembered that they had believed God then and it had worked. This was a monument in their hearts.

THE CRY OF LONELINESS | Christian Book Review

Christian Book StoresThe fourth word that Jesus uttered was a word of anguish of loneliness addressed to the Father. It is found in Matthew 27:46 – “At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’”

Max Lucado gives the following account in his book titled No Wonder They Call Him Savior.

“The summer of 1980 in Miami was nothing to smile about. The Florida heat scorched the city during the day and baked it at night. Riots, lootings, and racial tension threatened to snap the frayed emotions of the people. Everything soared: unemployment, inflation, the crime rate, and especially the thermometer. Somewhere in the midst of it all, a Miami Herald reporter captured a story that left the entire Gold Coast breathless.

It was the story of Judith Bucknell. Attractive, young, successful, and dead.

Judith Bucknell was homicide number 106 that year. She was killed on a steamy June 9th evening. Age: 38. Weight: 109 pounds. Stabbed seven times. Strangled.

She kept a diary. Had she not kept this diary perhaps the memory of her would have been buried with her body. But the diary exists; a painful epitaph to a lonely life. The correspondent made this comment about her writings: ‘In her diaries, Judy created a character and a voice. The character is herself, wistful, struggling, weary; the voice is yearning. Judith Bucknell has failed to connect; age 38, many lovers, much love offered, none returned.’

Her struggles weren’t unusual. She worried about getting old, getting fat, getting married, getting pregnant, and getting by. She lived in stylish Coconut Grove (Coconut Grove is where you live if you are lonely but act happy).

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Judy was the paragon of the confused human being. Half of her life was fantasy, half was nightmare. Successful as a secretary, but a loser at love. Her diary was replete with entries such as the following:

‘Where are the men with the flowers and champagne and music? Where are the men who call and ask for a genuine, actual date? Where are the men who would like to share more than my bed, my booze, my food. . . . I would like to have in my life, once before I pass through my life, the kind of sexual relationship which is part of a loving relationship.’

She never did.

Judy was not a prostitute. She was not on drugs or on welfare. She never went to jail. She was not a social outcast. She was respectable. She jogged. She hosted parties. She wore designer clothes and had an apartment that overlooked the bay. And she was very lonely.

‘I see people together and I’m so jealous I want to throw up.
What about me! What about me!’

Though surrounded by people, she was on an island. Though she had many acquaintances, she had few friends. Though she had many lovers (fifty-nine in fifty-six months), she had little love.

‘Who is going to love Judy Bucknell?’ the diary continues. ‘I feel so old. Unloved. Unwanted. Abandoned. Used up. I want to cry and sleep forever.’

A clear message came from her aching words. Though her body died on June 9th from the wounds of a knife, her heart had died long before. . . from loneliness.

‘I’m alone,’ she wrote, ‘and I want to share something with somebody.’”

The anguish of loneliness.

It is experienced by the abandoned child. The person who is divorced. The person in the nursing home. Maybe you experience it in the empty home. The empty mailbox. The long days. The longer nights. A one-night stand. A forgotten birthday. No personal emails – just junk and business.

Maybe you have been spared this cruel cry. Oh, you have been homesick or upset a time or two. But despair? Far from it. Suicide? Of course not. Be thankful that it hasn’t knocked at your door … yet. Pray that it never will.

But for many, loneliness is a way of life. The sleepless nights. The lonely bed. The distrust. The fear of tomorrow. The unending hurt. When did it begin? In your childhood? At the divorce? At retirement? At the cemetery? When the kids left home?

Maybe you, like Judy Bucknell, have fooled everyone. No one knows that you are lonely. On the outside you are packaged perfectly. Your smile is quick. Your job is stable. Your clothes are sharp. Your calendar is full. Your talk impressive. But when you look in the mirror, you don’t fool yourself.

Or maybe you don’t try to hide it. Maybe you have always been outside the circle looking in, and everyone knows it. Your conversation is a bit awkward. Your companionship is seldom requested. Your clothes are dull. Your looks are common. Ziggy is your hero and Charlie Brown is your mentor.

Am I striking a chord? If I am, if you sighed in understanding, I have an important message for you. The most gut-wrenching cry of loneliness in history came not from a homicide victim or a prisoner or a widow or a patient. It came from a cross on a hill, from Jesus.

“My God, my God!” he cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?”

Never have words carried so much hurt. Never has anyone been so lonely.

Leviticus 16 is a passage of the Law of Atonement. It describes God’s Law to the Israelites of how to make an offering and sacrifice for the sins of the people. Remember, this is before Jesus comes to be our final sacrifice. It is complicated and ugly. In vs. 21 and 22, after much blood has been shed of animals in sacrifice, a live goat is taken. The high priest lays his hands upon the live goat and confesses the sins of all the people of Israel and transfers them to the head of the live goat. It is then sent away into the wilderness alone with all the sin upon itself. It is alone. It cannot be among the people. It is forsaken. It is cursed by God. The people would be
relieved. God would be appeased.

The temporary sacrifices described in Leviticus 16 are only a shadow of what was to come in Jesus. Hebrews teaches us that these sacrifices could not remove sins. They were only a lesson of what was to come – a lesson of our great need for forgiveness that Jesus alone provides.

Hebrews 10:1-4 – “The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

Hebrews 7:26-28 – “He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven.Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins. The law appointed high priests who were limited by human weakness. But after the law was given, God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made the perfect High Priest forever.”

And because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, we have this result.

Hebrews 10:19-25– “And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one
another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

Because of the blood of Jesus – we can come boldly into the presence of God … in relationship. We are not alone. And we are commanded to be together as the body and not neglect that – not to live life alone but together.

We will never have to experience the greatest loneliness – eternal separation from God. But Jesus did. On the cross, a moment came when he was overwhelmed by the loneliness, being forsaken by the Father with whom he had experienced eternal closeness. He was separated from him. But for you and I he willingly endured this. He took all of our sin upon himself and God had to forsake him. He was the true, the only, the final sacrifice for our sin. He seemed to be able to take so much. He took the betrayal without complaint. He endured the trials 3without defending himself. He took so much beating and physical torture before he even came to the cross and was silent. He carried his own instrument of cruel death without complaint. He was crucified and still expressed his concern and care for others. But then something happened that he could not be silent about.

I want to go back to how Max Lucado describes this moment. “And now on Skull’s hill, the sinbearer is again 4191512_largealone. Every lie ever told, every object ever coveted, every promise ever broken is on his shoulders. He is sin. God turns away. The despair is darker than the sky. It is more than Jesus can take. He withstood the beatings and remained strong at the mock trials. He watched in silence as those he loved ran away. He did not retaliate when the insults were hurled nor did he scream when the nails pierced his wrists. But when God turned his head, that was more than he could handle.

‘My God!’

The wail rises from parched lips. The holy heart is broken. The sinbearer screams as he wanders in the cosmic wasteland. Out of the silent sky come the words screamed by all who walk in the desert of loneliness.

‘Why? Why have you forsaken me?’

Why did Jesus do it? Oh, I know, I know. I have heard the official answers. ‘To gratify the law.’ ‘To fulfill prophecy.’ And these answers are right. They are. But there is something more here. Something very compassionate. Something yearning. Something personal. What is it?

I may be wrong, but I keep thinking of the diary. ‘I feel abandoned,’ she wrote. ‘Who is going to love Judith Bucknell?’ And I keep thinking of the parents of the dead child. Or the friend at the hospital bedside. Or the elderly in the nursing home. Or the orphans. Or the cancer ward. I keep thinking of all the people who cast despairing eyes toward the dark heavens and cry, ‘Why?’

And I imagine him. I imagine him listening. I imagine him holding out his nail-pierced hands showing that he who also was once alone, understands.”

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Study 2 of The Book of Joshua|She’s Not The Girl She Used To Be

downloadRead Joshua 2:1-24

And she said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.

10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.

11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

There once was a rather rough, uncultured man who for some reason fell in love with a beautiful vase in a shop window. Eventually he bought the vase and put it on the mantelpiece in his room. There it became a kind of judgment on its surroundings. He had to clean up the room to make it worthy of the vase. The curtains looked dingy beside it. The old chair with the stuffing coming out of the seat would not do. The wallpaper and the paint needed redoing. Gradually the whole room was transformed. When you put Christ on the mantel of your heart, your whole life is transformed.

  • It is this kind of transformation we witness here in the second chapter of the book of Joshua.
  • As the Israelites were about to enter Canaan and claim their promised land, the first city they would have to face was the great walled city of Jericho.
  • If they could take this city, they could easily split the country in two and then move from there to conquer the north and the south.
  • Before they go about the business of defeating Jericho, Joshua sends spies to the city to gage the mood of the people and to see whether or not they were ready for war.
  • When these spies entered Jericho, they went to the home of a harlot. Why? Well, the sight of men entering a harlot’s home would not attract too much attention. Now would it?
  • What they found when they entered the home of Rahab must have come as quiet a shock to these two men. They found a woman who had been changed by the power of God. They met Rahab, but found out that she wasn’t the girl she used to be!

For us, Rahab is a picture of the power of the Lord Jesus to transform any life that comes to Him by faith.

What we will see today is how the Lord takes sinners who will place their faith in Him and changes them by His power and grace

RAHAB THE CALL GIRL

Verse 1 describes Her Spiritual Condition – Rahab was a harlot. Her’s was a depraved and wicked life. She is a picture of every person who is lost in sin this morning. You see, you may not be a harlot, but if you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, then you are lost in sin and need to be born again! It is sad but true, all are sinners

It also describes Her Spiritual Condemnation – She lived in a city that was slated for destruction! God had already determined that Jericho would fall! I’m sure the people felt pretty confident and reasonably safe behind the walls of their city, but God had already passed sentence upon them and they were doomed to destruction! The people of Jericho may not have felt that they were in great danger, but they were doomed nonetheless!

So it is with the sinner this morning! The lost person may feel secure today and may not believe that he is in any danger. However, the Bible tells us that the lost are condemned already, John 3:18

Then we see God’s Spiritual Compassion – Notice verse 10. Rahab tells the spies that they heard of what happened in Egypt and of the kings thy have defeated along the way. Well, it had been 40 years since they left Egypt. God had spared the city for that amount of time, and still they had several more days before judgment came to them. Rahab had experienced the grace and patience of God in giving her time to come to faith in Him.

Friend, how many years has the Lord given you? How many times has He knocked on your heart’s door? How many times has He called you to faith? You that are saved, how many times did the Lord call before you responded in faith.

RAHAB THE CONVERTED GIRL

Verse 10-11 She Heard The Word – Rahab heard about the God of Israel. It was a message of judgment that she heard, but it introduced her to the true and living God. The message that came was to her a message of life!

The message is the same today. That message is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time

Verse 9-11 She Heeded The Word – Not only did Rahab hear the message, but she heeded it as well. This message produced a response of faith in the heart of Rahab. The fact that she believed the message is proven by what she says about God. In verse 9, she calls Him “the LORD”, using His covenant Name Jehovah. In verse 11, she expresses her faith in Him as THE God of Heaven and of earth. I verse 12, she again expresses her faith in Him as she calls God to witness the pact she is about to make with the spies. Even Heb. 11, the great Hall of the Faithful, in verse 31 tells us of the faith of Rahab. She heard the message and she acted on it in belief.

RAHAB THE COMPLETED GIRL

By the way, He has no respect of persons, therefore, what He did for Rahab, He can do for you. He used her in a mighty fashion. He can use you as well!)

Verse 12-22 The Proof Of Her Completion 

In Verse 1-7 She Labored For The Lord – One of the surest proofs that Rahab was genuinely converted is the fact that she involved herself with the work of the Lord. She hid the spies and covered up for them. We cannot condone her lie. Even James uses her as an example of the believer who proves their salvation by the works of their life, James 2:25.

My friends, we can like it or not, but the truth of our profession is proven by the work of our life, James 2:18! You see, we can say anything we like, but what we really are is proven by what we do! The fruit of your life proves the root of your life – Matt. 7:20

She also Loved The Lost – Notice that Rahab is concerned about others in her family who are in danger as well.

The Payoff Of Her Completion – Because she placed her faith in the Lord God of Israel, she obtained some precious possessions. Notice how God took this former harlot and blessed her new life with the richest of His blessings. She Found A New Family – She went from being part of judged nation to being part of a holy nation! She Found A New Family – Rahab was taken from the house of shame and wound up in the hall of fame. This woman became and ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, she was David’s great-great grandmother and she was the mother-in-law of Ruth. Josh. 6:20-25 She Found A New Freedom – Because of her faith she was spared from the destruction that overtook her city. By the way, all those in her house were spared as well! When the walls of Jericho fell down flat, there was apparently one section that remained standing. It was the section that held the house of Rahab. It was a place that was marked by a scarlet rope that hung from her window, v. 18.

What a picture is given here. And, just as Rahab’s home was marked by a scarlet rope, v. 18 so our life is recognized by God because of the blood of Jesus that has been applied to our souls by faith. That rope told Israel that Rahab believed God and was to live. The blood of Jesus tells the Father that we have trusted His Son and that we, too, are to be spared! Folks, it is the blood that makes the difference! I Pet. 1:18-19; Rev. 1:5.)

It was the blood of a lamb that spared the firstborn in Egypt when the death angel passed through the land. It is the blood of Jesus that makes the difference between Heaven and Hell for each of us this morning!)

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Serve the Lord with Gladness

Serve the Lord with Gladness.
Serve the Lord with Gladness.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. Psalms 100

Here, in the opening words of Psalm 100, we read an exclamation of joy on the part of the psalmist in his own service of God. It is exhibited in his desire that ‘all lands’, that is Gentiles as well as Jews, would come to know the joy of the Lord. The Psalmist starts out by saying Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands, this means to raise a shout, give a blast to split the ears. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, we should be able to make some noise because we have been redeemed. This morning we want to focus our attention on verse 2 this little phrase “Serve the Lord with gladness.” This will be our overarching theme for 2014 “Serve the Lord with Gladness.” This word serve is translated differently in other translations. Most translations use the word “worship” here. “Worship the Lord with gladness.” This is significant; the Hebrew word for serve is (aw-bad’) verb – worship, become a slave. The Psalmist is saying to serve is to worship and to worship is to serve. We might as well stop right here because there are many people who come to church and don’t want to serve:

  • They have excuses as to why they can’t serve or they don’t want to serve because they want recognition and titles.

That’s why the writer didn’t just say serve, but he said “Serve the Lord.” What does it mean to “serve the Lord?” Some view serving the Lord in a restricted manner; to serve the Lord is to do church-related work. They wrongly divide life into two categories, the sacred and the secular. The Christian should view all of life as spiritual. All work, whether in the church or in the ‘secular’ workplace, is spiritual in nature. So he goes on and says “Serve the Lord with Gladness.” This is when a lot of us say uh’oh. We will serve but how many serve the Lord with gladness? As a matter of fact the question should be asked what is it to serve the Lord with gladness? Serving the Lord with gladness describes the manner in which the people of God enjoy themselves as they live out their lives for God’s glory in God’s presence. Eph 6:Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Colossians 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; So let’s talk about glad service. In the first place serving the Lord with Gladness is very rare. Look at the faces of those who profess to serve God: I heard a story about a little boy who had just become a Christian and sat on a bench next to an old man who looked somber, grave and gloomy. The little boy said to the man, “Sir, do you need to get saved?” The man said abruptly, “I’ll tell you I’ve been a deacon in this church for over 30 years and then Chairman of the Deacons for 15 years.” The little boy responded, “Sir, it don’t matter what you’ve done, Jesus loves you and He’ll still save you!” There was another story about two farmers. One was a pessimist, the other an optimist. The optimist would say, “Wonderful sunshine.” The pessimist would respond, “Yes, but I’m afraid it’s going to scorch the crops.” The optimist would say, “Fine rain.” The pessimist would respond, “yes, but I’m afraid we’re going to have a flood.” One day the optimist said to the pessimist, “Have you seen my new bird dog? He’s the finest money can buy.” The pessimist said, “You mean that mutt I saw penned up behind your house. Didn’t look like much to me.” The two went hunting with the dog the next day. They shot some ducks. The ducks landed in the pond. The optimist ordered his dog to get the ducks. The dog obediently responded and instead of swimming in the water the dog walked on top of the water, retrieved the ducks, and walked back on top of the water with the ducks. The optimist turned to his friend and said, “Now, what do you think of that?” The pessimist replied, “Hmm, he can’t swim can he?” Sometimes we leave the service depressed instead of encouraged! We walk around as if we have been baptized in lemon juice. So why is this gladness so rare in the service of the Lord?

  • Sin – There is a remedy for it.
  • The presence of earthly sorrow – There is encouragement for it.
  • Misunderstandings of the Bible! Must work our way to heaven! The Pharisees never really had joy!

In the second place serving the Lord with Gladness is reasonable. The first question should be asked is why? The psalmist said in verse 3Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” You ought to know Him that “He is the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” That’s why in verse 4 you ought to be able to “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” just on the merit that He is God and you’re not your own. The writer say’s wait a minute just in case you have an excuse to say that I don’t understand what you mean that He is God in verse 5 I will make His characteristics plain for you “For the Lord is good – Only those who personally know God can understand His goodness, his mercy is everlasting – Loving-(1 John 4:10) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, and his truth endureth to all generations – Faithful- Our God is a covenant-keeping God. Finally, Serving the Lord with Gladness yields an invitation. Look at verse 2 Serve the Lord with gladness : come before his presence with singing. You have to understand these statements. In the KJV a colon is used between them.  A Colon is used before a list or an explanation that is preceded by a clause that can stand by itself. Think of the colon as a gate, inviting one to go on: The NIV has a Semi-Colon But with a semicolon there you get a pleasant little feeling of expectancy; there is more to come; read on; it will get clearer. Some of you have translations with explanation marks meaning the two statements are emphatic. Be that as it may, the two go together. Serving the Lord with Gladness is the key or invitation to be in His presence. Some of you may say well I’m already in His presence. I tend to agree but how are you in His presence? You see God is in our Presence because he is ever present but how many are really in His presence. Serving the Lord with Gladness is an invitation to go beyond the veil to enter in worship in the Holy of Holies. I’m not just talking about His presence I’m talking about His dwelling with you and you dwelling with Him, in you and with you. His Shekinah Glory! Why is this an invitation? Because you are know more like the Lord Jesus then when you serve with gladness. That’s why Paul said let this mind be in you which also is in Christ Jesus Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.