God’s presence

God was personally involved in the children of Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. God instructed Moses to tell the people, “About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle” (Exodus 11:4-5). God protected the Israelites by means of a sacrificial lamb that served as a substitute for the firstborn of each of the children of Israel’s families. The blood of the lamb was put on the doorposts and the lintel of their houses and God said, “The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13). Moses described the Israelites departure from Egypt as a night of watching and said, “The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt, so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations” (Exodus 12:40-42).

The night of watching that took place when the Israelites left Egypt was a night vigil in which the LORD went through the land of Goshen looking for the blood of the lamb on each individual doorpost and lintel of the children of Israel’s houses. Extreme care was taken to make sure that the destroyer didn’t enter any of the houses that were displaying the lamb’s blood (Exodus 12:23). In the same way that the LORD had carefully watched over the children of Israel the night they left Egypt and protected them from the destroyer, Moses said the Israelites were to observe “a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations” (Exodus 12:42). In other words, the annual Passover celebration was intended to be a night vigil in which the Israelites looked for their Savior, the Lamb of God’s arrival. John the Baptist’s announcement, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) should have triggered the Jews awareness that their Messiah had arrived on the scene, but the Passover celebration that took place the night of Jesus’ death seemed to go unnoticed by those who were supposed to be watching for God’s fulfillment of the Old Testament Covenants (Major Covenants of the Old Testament, KJSB, p. 16).

Psalm 114 focuses on God’s presence among his people. The psalmist stated, “When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion” (Psalm 114:1-2). A dominion is a territory over which one rules or governs. The Hebrew term memshalah (mem-shaw-law’) often “denotes the ruling power which one in authority exercises over his domain or kingdom” (H4475). Another way of looking at a king’s dominion is that it signifies the area over which he can exercise his sovereign authority (H4474). The reason why Israel was the Lord’s dominion was because God redeemed the children of Israel from slavery, making them his personal possession (Deuteronomy 7:6-8). Judah was thought of as the Lord’s sanctuary because Jesus was a direct descendant of Judah and was later referred to as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5) when he “took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne” in heaven (Revelation 5:7). Revelation 5:9-10 states:

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

Ultimately, Jesus’ dominion will be over the entire earth, but initially, the blood of the lamb only covered the Israelites who were delivered from slavery in Egypt and were specifically chosen by God to be his treasured possession because of the covenant he made with Abraham (Genesis 15:9-21, Deuteronomy 7:8).

It was through his deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt that God’s presence on the earth first began to be felt. Psalm 114:7 states, “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob.” The Hebrew word that is translated Lord in this verse, ‘adon (aw-done’) when applied to God, signifies His position as the “one who has authority (like a master) over His people to reward the obedient and punish the disobedient…In such contexts God is conceived as a Being who is sovereign ruler and almighty master” (H113). The Hebrew word chuwl (khool), which is translated tremble, conveys two basic ideas: to whirl in motion or writhe in pain. This word is often used to describe the labor pains of giving birth (H2342). The children of Israel’s supernatural deliverance from slavery in Egypt may have been likened to the labor pains of childbirth because in the process of birthing the nation of Israel God overthrew Pharaoh by means of a long agonizing process that included ten plagues and ended with “a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead” (Exodus 12:30). Afterwards, the children of Israel were thrust out and “the Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, ‘We shall all be dead'” (Exodus 12:33).

Like an annual birthday celebration, Moses told the children of Israel, “Remember this day in which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the LORD brought you out from this place” (Exodus 13:3). The strong hand of the LORD was not only a symbol of his personal involvement in a situation but also the exercise of his power to accomplish a specific task. Israel’s deliverance from slavery had to do with their loyalty and devotion to God. The Passover celebration required the children of Israel to follow God’s instructions exactly in order to preserve their lives. What they were asked to do may not have made sense to them, but because the Israelites lives depended on it, it says in Exodus 12:28, “Then the people of Israel went and did so; as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.” This was an important turning point in God’s relationship with his chosen people, and therefore, it needed to be remembered. On a national level, it was like being born again. God saved the children of Israel collectively, as a group they became the children of God.

Psalm 114:7 describes the world’s reaction to God’s presence as trembling because there is always an emotional element to God’s involvement in our lives. The Hebrew word that is translated presence, paneh (paw-neh’) means the face. “In a more specific application, the word represents the look on one’s face, or one’s countenance” (H6440). The Bible clearly teaches that God is a spiritual being, but Jesus’ birth changed the way we interact with God and made it possible for us to see God in a physical form. Jesus’ presence in the world evoked different reactions from people depending on their relationship with God. Some people like Zacchaeus, a man described as a chief tax collector, were anxious to meet Jesus in person (Luke 19:3), but others like the ones who witnessed Jesus casting a legion of demons into a herd of pigs, “began to beg him to depart from their region” (Mark 5:17). Jesus’ strength was physically demonstrated when he calmed a storm that threatened his disciples lives (Mark 4:39) and made a fig tree wither (Matthew 21:19) because it failed to provide him with the nourishment he needed. After Jesus’ resurrection, “When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God'” (Matthew 27:54).

When the children of Israel departed from Egypt, God went with them and his presence was manifested to them in the form of two pillars that were visible at all times. Exodus 13:21-22 states:

And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.

The Hebrew word paneh is translated “before” in Exodus 13:21-22 to convey the fact the God was physically present with the Israelites as they traveled. The tall pillars made it possible for everyone to see God’s presence no matter where they were in the camp.

Exodus 13:17-18 tells us, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, ‘Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.’ But God led the people around by way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle.” God’s decision to lead the people by way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea had to do with their lack of experience with warfare. The people of Israel had been trained to submit to Pharaoh’s authority and to fear his soldiers. When it says that they went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle, it most likely meant that the people of Israel were physically capable of fighting, but were being defended by God’s army. Exodus 14:13-14 states, “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

The phrase “you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:14) is translated “ye shall hold your peace” in the King James Version of the Bible. The Hebrew word charash (khaw-rash’) means “to scratch, i.e. (by implication) to engrave” (H2790). What this seems to suggest is something being etched in one’s memory. The salvation of the LORD was intended to be a memorable event in which the Israelites played no active part. Moses said they would “see the salvation of the LORD” (Exodus 14:13). The Hebrew word that is translated see, ra’ah (raw-aw’) basically connotes seeing with one’s eyes. “This verb can also mean ‘to observe’…The second primary meaning is ‘to perceive,’ or to be ‘consciously aware of’…It can also mean ‘to realize’ or ‘to get acquainted with’…It can represent mentally recognizing that something is true” (H7200). The Hebrew word that is translated salvation, yeshuw’ah (yesh-oo’-aw) means deliverance. “Many personal names contain a form of the root, such as Joshua (“the Lord is help”), Isaiah (“the Lord is help”), and Jesus (a Greek form of yeshu’ah)” (H3444).

As the people of Israel approached the Red Sea, it says in Exodus 14:19-20, “Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.” Traditional Christian interpretation has held that the angel of God “was a preincarnate manifestation of Christ as God’s Messenger-Servant” (note on Genesis 16:7) and is here associated with the cloud, a visible symbol of God’s presence among his people (notes on Exodus 13:21 and 14:19). The purpose of the angel of God moving behind the host of Israel was likely to separate and to protect them from the Egyptians, but he also may have moved and went behind them to keep the Israelites from running away. During the night, “the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided” (Exodus 14:21).The strong east wind that divided the waters of the Red Sea might have had similar characteristics to a hurricane. Hurricane Irma, which was described as having unfathomable power and was estimated to have winds of approximately 200 mph, caused an estimated $50 billion in damage. In order to separate the waters of the Red Sea and make the sea dry land, there would have had to have been a supernatural force at work.

The Hebrew word that is translated wind in Exodus 14:21, ruwach (roo’-akh) is more often than not translated as Spirit or spirit. “It is clear that the wind is regarded in Scripture as a fitting emblem of the mighty penetrating power of the invisible God. Moreover, the breath is suppose to symbolize not only the deep feelings that are generated within man, such as sorrow and anger; but also kindred feelings in the Divine nature. It is revealed that God and God alone has the faculty of communicating His Spirit or life to His creatures, who are thus enabled to feel, think, speak, and act in accordance with the Divine will” (H7307). By resemblance breath is associated with the wind , “i.e. a sensible (or even violent) exhalation” and it could be imagined that the parting of the Red Sea was somewhat like God take a deep breath and blowing the waters aside so that his people could cross the land on dry ground. One of the key characteristics of this supernatural feat was that God made the sea dry land. In other words, it was as if the water had completely evaporated. The ground became parched like the desert (H2724). Exodus 14:22-25 states:

And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.”

Moses described the LORD’s deliverance of the people of Israel this way:

At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;
    the floods stood up in a heap;
    the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
    I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
    I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
    they sank like lead in the mighty waters. (Exodus 15:8-10)

Moses’ tribute to the LORD focused on the visible evidence of God’s overthrow of the Egyptians. He said:

“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
    the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation” (Exodus 15:1-2)

Moses indicated that the LORD had become his salvation when he triumphed gloriously over the Egyptian army. The Hebrew word that is translated triumphed gloriously, ga’ah (gaw-aw’) generally means to rise (H1342). This seems to connect the Israelites’ deliverance with Jesus’ resurrection. It could be said that the Israelites’ crossing of the Red Sea was similar to being baptized in that it portrayed the death, burial and resurrection that believers are identified with through baptism. Exodus 14:30-31 states, “Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.” The Israelites’ belief was a direct result of their personal experience and was based on what the LORD did to save them. Much like the disciples that witnessed Jesus’ resurrection, Israel saw the great power that the LORD used to defeat their enemy and “came to experience a personal relationship to God rather than an impersonal relationship with His promises” (H539).

Human nature

Isaac’s twin sons Jacob and Esau were both born with the same human nature that caused them to seek their own way of doing things rather than God’s. One thing that distinguished these two men from each other was Esau’s decision to marry women that lived in the land of Canaan rather than returning to his parent’s homeland to find a wife. It says in Genesis 26:34-35, “When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.” After Isaac sent Jacob to Paddan-aram to take a wife from one of Laban’s daughter’s, Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nabaioth” (Genesis 28:9).

The phrase “they made life bitter” in Genesis 26:35 has to do with the atmosphere in Isaac and Rebekah’s home. The Hebrew word that is used, morah (mo-raw’) is derived from mar (mar), which can be used to describe the results of continued fighting (H4751). It seems likely that there was constant friction, perhaps needless bickering between Esau’s wives and his parents about the way they did things. After Jacob returned to Hebron, it says in Genesis 36:6, “Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the members of his household, his livestock, all his beasts, and all his property that he had acquired in the land of Canaan. He went into a land away from his brother Jacob.”

The parting of Jacob and Esau’s families was attributed to their possessions being too great for them to dwell together (Genesis 36:7), but it could be that Jacob’s commitment to God made it impossible for the twin brother’s to live near each other. When God appeared to Jacob a second time in Bethel, he said, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name” (Genesis 35:10). The significance of God changing Jacob’s name was that is meant he had been given a new nature, one that superseded Jacob’s human nature. The Apostle Paul described the spiritual condition of person that is born in Ephesians 2:1-3. Paul said:

You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

The phrase Paul used, “the prince of the power of the air” referred to the ability every person has to make conscious choices. The Greek word that is translated power, exousia (ex-oo-see’-ah) is “from the meaning of ‘leave or permission,’ or liberty of doing as one pleases” (G1849). Esau’s decision to marry two Hittite women (Genesis 26:34-35) was a result of his natural inclination to do as he pleased. Esau wasn’t concerned about what anyone else thought and had no desire to please his parents by marrying someone from among his mother’s relatives.

One of the definitions of exousia is mastery and more concretely magistrate or someone with superhuman ability to influence others (G1849). Even though we might think we are exercising our own free wills, sometimes, Satan and his demons influence us to do things that we know we shouldn’t or under other circumstances wouldn’t want to do. An example of this is found in Matthew’s gospel where he talks about John the Baptist being beheaded. Herod had decided not to execute John because the people believed he was a prophet (Matthew 14:5), “but when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask” (Matthew 14:6-7). Herod was caught up in the moment and committed himself to doing whatever Herodias’ daughter asked of him. Even though Herod knew it was wrong and he didn’t want to, when Herodias’ daughter asked for John the Baptist’s head on a platter, “he commanded it to be given” (Matthew 14:9).

Paul described “the prince of the power of air” as a “spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Paul may have wanted to emphasize the importance of the rational mind’s influence over human behavior. Herod most likely felt justified killing John the Baptist because of the promise he had made to Herodias’ daughter (Matthew 14:9). It might seem like Herod being a man of his word and not offending his guests by denying the request of Herodias’ daughter was a good thing, but what Herod was probably thinking was that he could kill John and not have to answer for it to the people. Matthew indicated that Herod wanted to put John to death, but “he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet” (Matthew 14:5).

The Greek word that is translated disobedience in Ephesians 2:2, apeithes (ap-i-thace’) signifies “unwilling to be persuaded, spurning belief” (G545). Paul explained that we were all like that to start off with. He said, “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and mind” (Ephesians 2:3). The flesh refers to the body as opposed to the soul or spirit of a person and is the symbol of what is external or by implication human nature (G4561). A unique characteristic of Jesus was that even though he was God, he had a human body. Jesus had passions and desires like everyone else, but he didn’t let them control his behavior.

When Jesus heard that his cousin John had been beheaded, “he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself” (Matthew 14:13). Jesus may have been in shock and was hoping for some privacy to think through what had just happened. “But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:13-14). Jesus’ reaction to the crowd was not what you would expect from someone that had just suffered a devastating loss. Jesus forgot about what he wanted to do and focused on the needs of his followers.

The Greek word that is translated followed in Matthew 14:13, akoloutheo (ak-ol-oo-theh’-o) is properly translated as “to be in the same way with, i.e. to accompany (specifically as a disciple)” (G190). The large group of people that were waiting for Jesus when he arrived on the desert shore were all believers. The people may have also been grieving John the Baptist’s death or they might have just wanted to be with Jesus because they were overwhelmed by John’s execution. What is clear is that the people had such a strong desire to be with Jesus that it outweighed their concerns about their own physical well-being. Matthew recorded, “Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves” (Matthew 14:15).

The people were content to stay in the desolate place where Jesus was ministering to them even though they didn’t have any food to eat. Jesus’ disciples urged him to send the crowds away (Matthew 14:15). In other words, Jesus’ disciples wanted him to break up the meeting so the people would feel free to go home, but Jesus rebuked them, stating, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16). Jesus wanted his disciples to look at the situation from a different perspective. Instead of seeing the problem of not having any food, Jesus wanted his disciples to see the need of the people and for them to do something about it. The excuse his disciples made showed that they were still looking at things from a human perspective. “They said to him, ‘We have only five loaves here and two fish'” (Matthew 14:17).

Matthew indicated there were “five thousand men, besides women and children” (Matthew 14:21) with Jesus in the desert. It’s understandable that Jesus’ disciples didn’t think they could feed the crowd with five loaves of bread and two fish, but there was more to their lack of enthusiasm than just not having enough food to go around. The disciples didn’t know how they could meet the people’s physical needs without adequate resources. Jesus’ command, “you give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16) meant that he didn’t wanted his disciples to rely on their resources. The Greek word that is translated give, didomi (did’-o-mee) has to do with power and suggests that Jesus wanted his disciples to exercise their spiritual authority over the situation.

Jesus’ disciples didn’t seem to want to take charge of their situation and do what was needed to fix the problem of not having enough food to eat. It isn’t natural for people to want to be responsibility for other’s physical well-being. Many people were drawn to Jesus because he was not only able, but also willing to meet all of their needs. One of the parables Jesus used to describe the kingdom of heaven was a mustard seed. He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32).

The 5,000 plus men, women, and children that flocked to the desert to be with Jesus were a huge responsibility if you think of it from the perspective of meeting their physical needs. It’s possible that Jesus’ disciples were overwhelmed by thought of feeding such an enormous crowd. The way that Jesus handled the situation seems to indicate that he was at that point in his ministry beginning to shift the responsibility of managing God’s kingdom on earth away from himself and onto the shoulders of his twelve apostles. Jesus acted as a middle man as the pieces of bread and fish were distributed to the people. Matthew tells us, “Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds” (Matthew 14:19).

One of the challenges of dealing with human nature is that the “passions of our flesh” (Ephesians 2:3) tend to be insatiable. Matthew said of the crowd that had gathered in the desert, “they all ate and were satisfied” (Matthew 14:20). The Greek word that is translated satisfied, chortazo (khor-tad’-zo) generally means “to gorge (supply food in abundance)” (G5526). Chortazo is derived from the word chortos (khor’-tos) which denotes a feeding enclosure especially grass for feeding cattle (G5528), suggesting that the crowd of 5,000 plus people were allowed to continue eating as long as they wanted to and stuffed themselves with enough food to last them for an extended period of time. Eventually, the uneaten food was gathered up and Matthew said there were “twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over” (Matthew 14:20).

The Greek word that is translated left over, perisseuo (per-is’-syoo-o) means “to superabound” (G4052). Jesus used the word perisseuo in his explanation of why he spoke to the people in parables. He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 13:11-12). The abundance Jesus was referring to was related to knowing the secrets of heaven and can be assumed to be connected with having faith. The Apostle Paul told the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). It seems likely that the reason there were twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over after feeding more than 5000 people was because Jesus wanted each of his disciples to each have a basket to take with them as a reminder to them that faith results in an abundance of resources.

After all the people were fed, it says in Matthew 14:22-23, “Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” Jesus didn’t ignore his human needs, he just put them behind the needs of others. As soon as Jesus finished feeding the people, he took some time to be alone and talked to his Father about what was going on. Matthew went on to say, “When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them” (Matthew 14:23-24). When Jesus realized his disciples were in trouble, he again went into action, but he didn’t intervene right away. Matthew said, “And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea” (Matthew 14:25).

Jesus’ objective in walking on the sea may not have been to get to his disciples as quickly as possible. There might have been another reason why he crossed the sea on foot. The Greek word that is translated walking in Matthew 14:25, peripateo (per-ee-pat-eh’-o) means to “walk at large (especially as proof of ability)” (G4043). The two Greek words that peripateo is derived from have to do with establishing a pathway through something (G4012/G3961), but can also refer to defeating an enemy. The primary verb paio (pah’-yo) means to hit (as if by a single blow) and specifically “to sting (as a scorpion)” (G3817).

Jesus’ demonstration of walking on the sea was at first thought to be a result of him dematerializing. Matthew indicated, “When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear” (Matthew 14:26). Matthew went on to say, “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Jesus’ declaration, “it is I,” was meant to convey the fact that Jesus was not only still alive, but also that his spirit, soul, and body were all still intact. The reason why Jesus said, “Take heart,” may have been to activate his disciples’ faith. Jesus wanted his disciples to realize that walking on the sea was possible from a human standpoint. Peter seemed to make the connection and responded to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28).

Peter wanted to know if it was possible for him to walk on the water before he got out of the boat. Jesus’ command, “Come” (Matthew 14:29) was not an order that Peter had to obey, but an invitation for him to exercise his faith. Peter’s human nature caused him to want to stay in the boat, but Jesus’ invitation challenged him to go beyond what he thought he was humanly capable of. Matthew recorded, “So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus” (Matthew 14:29). Getting out of the boat was an important first step that Peter had to take in order to do what he thought was impossible. It took an incredible amount of courage for Peter to overcome that initial barrier.

Matthew said, “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me'” (Matthew 14:30). Peter’s experience of walking on the water didn’t stop him from seeing things from a human perspective. The Greek word that is translated saw, blepo (blep’-o) “is used of bodily, mental vision, and also, ‘to perceive'” (G991). Peter’s perception of the situation was that the wind was too strong for him to remain on the water. As an experienced sailor, Peter recognized the severity of the storm and was probably overcome by fear because he knew how dangerous it was for him to be outside of the boat. Rather than commending Peter for his accurate perception of the situation, Jesus rebuked Peter stating, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

Jesus’ rebuke pointed out that Peter’s human nature and his faith were contradictory to each other. The Greek word that is translated doubt, distazo (dis-tad’-zo) “means to stand in two ways implying uncertainty which way to take” (G1365). Unlike the believers who followed Jesus into the desolate place and were not concerned about having something to eat, Peter began to sink because he thought about the waves overtaking him. Jesus said Peter had little faith or more specifically that he lacked confidence in Christ (G3640). Peter’s exclamation, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30) suggests that at that point in time he was still undecided about committing his life to Christ. Apparently, Peter had not yet received salvation when got out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus (G4982).

If you would like to have a relationship with God, you can do so by simply praying this prayer and meaning it in your heart:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust you and follow you as my Lord and Savior.

If you prayed this prayer, please take a moment to write to me at calleen0381@gmail.com and let me know about your decision.

God bless you!

A new identity

Names in the Bible had more significance than what we think of them today. Beginning with Adam’s naming of the animals that God created, names were a mark of individuality and by implication authority over a particular activity or area of responsibility. Today we might think of it as having purpose or our reason for being alive. The Hebrew name Abram (ab-rawm) means high father or father of height (H87/H48). What this might suggest is that Abram’s father was a very tall man and his son was expected to tower over most of his peers, but the spiritual meaning could be more significant. One of the root words of Abram is ruwm (room). “Basically, ruwm represents either the ‘state of being on a higher plane’ or ‘movement in an upward direction'” (H7311).

Based on his name, it seems likely that Abram’s destiny was intended to be one of triumphing over his enemies. We don’t known exactly why God called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans (Genesis 11:31), but it could be that his victory over the kings of Shinar, Ellasar, Elam, and Goiim (Genesis 14:15) was due in part to Abram’s superior knowledge and/or experience with strategic warfare. The Assyrian and Babylonian Empires were associated with the Chaldeans (Isaiah 23:13, 43:14), Abram’s native people, and may have been the reason why God hand picked Abram to be the father of a great nation that would eventually overtake and eliminate these barbarians from the face of the earth (Isaiah 48:20).

The critical key to Abram becoming a great nation was the birth of a child that God promised to give him when he was 75 years old (Genesis 12:1-4, 13:14-15). After ten long years of waiting for God to fulfill his promise, it says in Genesis 16:1-4:

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived.

The Hebrew word translated listened in Genesis 16:2, shama (shaw-mah’) can refer to hearing that is both intellectual and spiritual. “In the case of hearing and hearkening to a higher authority, shama can mean to obey” (H8085). To listen to one’s voice means taking note of something and believing it (H6963). In that sense, Abram’s response to Sarai’s direction was similar to his response to the word of the LORD, a prophetic message that indicated, “your very own son shall be your heir” (Genesis 15:4).

His willingness to conceive a child with Sarai’s Egyptian servant suggests that Abram wasn’t relying on the LORD to produce a family, but was relying on his own physical ability to achieve what God had promised him. In one sense, Abram was acting contrary to God’s will, but what he was doing was completely within the bounds of his legals rights. You might say that Abram was exercising his free will and God allowed him to do so because he was free to decide how his destiny would play out.

God’s ability to accomplish his will regardless of the individual choices and actions people take is what makes prophecy such an amazing feat. God does not limit our choices, but is able to predict and control what will happen as a result of the choices we make. Jesus’ birth is a perfect example of God’s ability to accomplish something in spite of his chosen people’s lack of cooperation and even rebellion against him. Matthew’s gospel states, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place this way” (Matthew 1:18) and then Matthew went on to say, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means God with us)'” (Matthew 1:22-23).

The Hebrew name Immanuel (im-maw-noo-ale’) is derived from the two words im (eem) and ‘el (ale). Im specifically means “equally with” (H5973) and suggests that the name Immanuel referred not only to God being with us, but God being one of us, a human being. Isaiah’s prophecy of Christ’s birth was particularly significant because it was identified as a sign of God’s faithfulness and was intended to be something that was impossible for anyone but God himself to accomplish (Isaiah 7:11-14). The idea that God would become a human and live among his people was probably beyond the wildest imagination of most if not all of the Jews who were alive in Israel at the time that Isaiah spoke this prophecy.

Prior to Jesus’ birth, God’s identity was primarily linked to the names he was given when he manifested himself to believers. It says in Genesis 12:7 that the LORD appeared to Abram. The Hebrew word translated appeared, ra’ah (raw-aw’) means to see. “Basically ra’ah connotes seeing with ones eyes,” but it also can mean to perceive, get acquainted with, examine, and discover (H7200). One way of describing what happened when the LORD appeared to him would be to say that Abram had a personal encounter with God. Hagar, Sarai’s Egyptian slave also had a personal encounter with God. After she became pregnant with Abram’s child, Genesis 16:4 states that “she looked with contempt on her mistress” and so “Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her” (Genesis 16:6). Then, it says, “The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness” (Genesis 16:7).

The identity of the angel of the LORD was unknown to Hagar until he spoke these words to her:

“I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered from multitude.” And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” (Genesis 16:10-12)

Hagar’s response to this prophetic message is recorded in Genesis 16:13. It states, “So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’ The name “You are a God of seeing” or el (ale) ro’iy (ro-ee’) in Hebrew literally means the “visible God.” The primary distinction between God the Father and God the Son was that Jesus’ human birth made it possible for God to be visible to everyone in the world.

Matthew’s gospel states, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him'” (Matthew 2:1-2). The wise men were looking for God and understood that he could be found in a specific location. Because of their experience with astrology, the wise men were able to find Jesus’ birth place using the stars. The wise men were not believers and yet, they wanted to know God’s identity. They wanted to see him face to face and worship him

Thirteen years after Ishmael was born, it says in Genesis 17:1-2, “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.'” God’s interaction with Abram was based on a new identity that was established when Abram became a believer (Genesis 15:6). Based on their personal relationship with each other, Abram was expected to become like God and God was going to become like him, a man. God made a second covenant with Abram that had to do with what is referred to in the New Testament of the Bible as sanctification or what God described as walking before me and being blameless.

The phrase “walk before me, and be blameless” consists of three Hebrew words that convey a message of spiritual transformation. The Hebrew word translated walk, halak (haw-lak’) can “be used of one’s behavior, or the way one ‘walks in life'” (H1980), the idea being that of repetitive motion or daily habits. The Hebrew word paneh (paw-neh’) which is translated before me, has to do with how God sees us or you might say God’s reaction to our behavior; does it make him smile or cause him to get angry. The Hebrew word translated blameless, tamiym (taw-meem’) “means complete, in the sense of the entire or whole thing” (H8549). Tamiym is derived from the word tamam (taw-mam’). “The basic meaning of this word is that of being complete or finished, with nothing else expected or intended” (H8552).

The transformation that God wanted to accomplish in Abram’s life had to do with his spiritual identity. God said to Abram, “Behold, my covenant is with you and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you” (Genesis 17:4-6). It can be assumed that God was referring to physical kingdoms on Earth when he said, “I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you,” but there was more to God’s promise than that because he indicated that Abraham’s offspring would possess the land he was giving them eternally.

God told Abraham, “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:7-8). An everlasting possession is one that cannot be taken away and therefore, suggests that God was talking about a spiritual possession rather than a material one. His designation of “all the land of Canaan” implies that God was referring to a specific geographic location, but there may have been another aspect of owning land, a spiritual aspect to God’s promise, that was associated with Abraham’s eternal inheritance in Heaven.

The key to understanding God’s promise to Abraham may be found in the symbolic act that was established as a sign of his covenant. God told Abraham, “This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you…Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant” (Genesis 17:10-11, 14).

Essentially, circumcision symbolized consecration to God, “it signified Abraham’s covenanted commitment to the Lord – that the Lord alone would be his God, whom he would trust and serve” (note on Genesis 17:10, KJSB). Underlying the symbolic physical act of cutting off the flesh of one’s foreskin, was the spiritual intent to live according to God’s divine order and sovereign rules of law. Abraham’s circumcision was analogous to the oath which God had submitted himself to and was basically saying, “If I am not loyal in faith and obedience to the Lord, may the sword of the Lord cut off me and my offspring as I have cut off my foreskin.”

Circumcision, for all practical purposes, was a reminder to Abraham and his descendants that they were not to rely on their own physical capability of producing offspring in order to fulfill God’s promise to make them into a great nation. Ultimately, it took a miracle for Jesus, the Son of God to be conceived and brought into the physical world of humans. After he was born, Jesus was constantly in physical danger, starting with King Herod’s plot to find him and kill him before he had a chance to fulfill his destiny (Matthew 2:13).

An angel of the Lord instructed Mary’s husband Joseph to take Jesus out of the country to protect him from physical harm. He said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” The Greek word translated destroy, apollumi (ap-ol’-loo-mee) speaks metaphorically of spiritual destitution. “The idea is not extinction but ruin, loss, not of being, but of well-being” (G622). Because Jesus was both God and man, he was subject to spiritual as well as physical death Later, Joseph and his family returned to Judea, “And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23).

The Greek word translated Nazarene, Nazoraios (nad-zo-rah’-yos’) means “a Nazoroean, i.e. inhabitant of Narareth; by extension a Christian” (G3480). In simple terms, a Christian is someone that follows Christ, but it also refers to being called out or consecrated by God and placed in a particular location to fulfill a divine purpose. Abraham and Sarah were technically the first Christians in that they were called out of the land of Ur of the Chaldeans and designated to live in the land of Canaan, but it was their faith in God that made them believers or followers of Christ. God told Abraham, “I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:8). The Hebrew word translated sojournings, magur (maw-goor’) is derived from the word guwr (goor) which means “to turn aside from the road” and is associated with living in a hostile environment as a guest (H1481). Jesus, who was a resident of Heaven, came to Earth and lived in a hostile environment for 33 years and was eventually crucified because he said he was God.

When he originally promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s offspring forever (Genesis 13:14-15), God didn’t specifically state that his offspring would come from his wife Sarah. It wasn’t until after Ishmael was born that God told Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her and moreover, I will give you a son by her” (Genesis 17:15-16). Sarah was not only sterile, but also postmenopausal when God told Abraham she was going to give birth to a child. Sarah ability to conceive was dependent on her becoming a believer, putting her trust in God the same way that her husband Abraham did.

It says of Abraham in Genesis 18:1-3, “And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, O Lord if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.” “This theophany (an appearance of God to man) may have been Jesus Christ. The New Testament teaches that Christ existed coeternally with God the Father (John 1:1; 8:58; 10:30; 17:5; Col. 1:15-17), and it is entirely conceivable that he would at times take the appearance of humanity prior to his incarnation” (note on Genesis 18:1-33).

Sarah’s personal encounter with Jesus began with her listening in on his conversation with Abraham. After Abraham had served his visitors a meal, “They said to him, ‘Where is Sarah your wife?’ And he said, ‘She is in the tent.’ The LORD said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?'” (Genesis 18:9-12). Sarah’s private thoughts revealed her skepticism about God’s ability to give her a child when she and Abraham were too old to be sexually active.

It’s clear that Jesus performed a miracle in order for Sarah to become pregnant. After Sarah laughed at the thought of conceiving a child at the age of 90, the LORD asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:13-14). The Hebrew word translated too hard, pala (paw-law’) means “beyond one’s power to do” (H6381). Even though it was impossible for Sarah to conceive a child, it was still within God’s power to do it if she was willing to put her trust in him instead of relying on her own physical capability. Hebrews 11:11 testifies to Sarah’s belief in the LORD. It says, “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.”

If you would like to have a relationship with God, you can do so by simply praying this prayer and meaning it in your heart:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust you and follow you as my Lord and Savior.

If you prayed this prayer, please take a moment to write me at calleen0381@gmail.com and let me know about your decision.

God bless you!

A relationship with God

Relationships have always been an essential part of human life. When God created man, he said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). The Hebrew word translated helper, ‘ezer (ay’-zer) means aid (H5828) and is translated from the word ‘azar (aw-zar’) which means “to surround, i.e. protect or aid” (H5826). One of the ways that Eve may have protected Adam was to see things that he couldn’t that were dangerous, but it’s also likely that she had a different perspective about situations than Adam did and helped him to make wise decisions. Adam and Eve were created to be like God, a loving unity of more than one person (H6754). It says in Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The use of the words us and our indicate that God is more than one person. He is identified in scripture as God the Father (Matthew 5:16), God the Son (Matthew 3:17), and God the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16).

While Adam and Eve were living in the Garden of Eden, it appears they had interaction with God on a regular basis. It says in Genesis 3:8, “They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” and in Genesis 3:9, “the LORD God called to the man.” This seems to suggest that there was originally both physical and verbal interaction between God and man. After Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, God continued to interact with humans, but only on a limited and specific basis, primarily for the purpose of warning man about his judgment of the world. It wasn’t until Jesus was born that God’s fellowship with mankind was restored and he was able to physically interact with people again.

In ancient times, the physical and spiritual realms were similar in structure. Relationships were the building blocks of societies. When the population increased on Earth to the point that organizations were necessary, the initial form of government was a chiefdom. Chiefdoms were a form of hierarchical political organization in societies that were usually based on kinship with several inherited social classes: king, noble, freemen, serf and slave (wikipedia, civilization). One such chiefdom was organized by the descendants of Noah’s son Ham. Their original leader, Nimrod is described as a mighty hunter and it says in Genesis 10:10-11, “The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Achad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh.”

Psalm 47 identifies God as “a great king over all the earth” (Psalm 47:2) and indicates that he chooses our heritage for us (Psalm 47:4). What this means is that God doesn’t allow people to possess or rule over a land unless it is his will for them to do so. God can take land away from rulers that are opposed to his kingdom. Psalm 47:7-8 states, “For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.” The Hebrew word translated reign, malak (maw-lak’) basically means to fill the functions of ruler over someone (H4427). In this instance, malak indicates that God is ruler over any group of people that is considered to be “a unit with respect to origin, language, land, jurisprudence, and government”

One of the qualities inherent in class structures is the separation of lower classes from the higher ones. Typically, a slave and a king would not have a relationship with each other and there would be little interaction between members of different classes. A natural result of this separation is conflict and power struggles between those who want to maintain or gain control over their subjects. The first mention of war in the Bible is associated with a stronger nation turning a weaker one into a vassal state (Genesis 14:4).

Amraphel king of Shinar is identified as one of five kings that “made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is Zoar). And all these joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is the Salt Sea)” (Genesis 14:2-3). The Hebrew word translated joined forces, chabar (khaw-bar’) means to join specifically by means of spells, to fascinate or charm someone into forming a relationship with you (H2266). A word that is derived from chabar is cheber (kheh’-ber) which means a society, but can also be interpreted as a spell and is associated with enchantment or a “[serpent] charmer” (H2267).

What this seems to suggest is that the kings that joined forces with Amraphel king of Shinar were under the influence of Satan or a part of his worldly system. The Apostle Paul described the devil’s organization as consisting of rulers, authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12). Paul indicated that believers need to stand against the schemes of the devil and engage in spiritual warfare clothed with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11, 13). One of the pieces of equipment Paul identified in the armor of God was the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16). The shield Paul was referring to was “large and oblong, protecting every part of the soldier” (G2375). In that sense, faith is to be used in such a way that it affects the whole of one’s activities.

An outcome of the war against Sodom and Gomorrah was that Abram’s nephew Lot was captured and taken into captivity (Genesis 14:12), it says in Genesis 14:13, “Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew.” Abram’s designation as a Hebrew likely meant that he was viewed as a foreigner and was not associated with any of the kingdoms that were at war with each other. Abram’s only interest in the matter was the safety of his relative Lot. “When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. and he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and he defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus” (Genesis 14:14-16).

Abram’s engagement in warfare had both physical and spiritual ramifications. Abram was to a certain extent God’s physical representative in the conflict, but his men were aided by spiritual forces. Abram supernaturally defeated Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim and was given a type of communion service to celebrate his victory. It was administered by a person by the name of Melchizedek. Genesis 14:18-20 states, “And Melchizekek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) And he blessed him and said, ‘Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

The phrase “delivered your enemies” (Genesis 14:20) indicated that Abram’s defeat of the four kings was not attributed to his own capabilities, but God’s intervention in the situation. The Hebrew word translated delivered, magan (maw-gan’) means “to shield” (H4042) and enemies or tsar (tsawr) represents a psychological or spiritual status that arises from a distressful situation (H6862). It seems likely that Abram was physically in over his head when he set out to rescue his nephew Lot. The only reason why he was able to overcome the four kings’ armies was because Abram was being shielded by God.

Abram responded to Melchizedek’s blessing by associating himself with God’s spiritual kingdom rather than the physical ones he had been fighting for. When the king of Sodom offered to give him the spoils of his victory, Abram refused.

Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.'” (Genesis 14:22-23)

Abram indicated that he had a relationship with the most powerful being in the universe, God Most High. The Hebrew word translated Possessor, qanah (kaw-naw’) means “to erect, i.e. create” (H7069) and implied that God owned everything that the king of Sodom had just offered him. Abram most likely didn’t want the king of Sodom to think that he had made him rich because it was Satan who was behind his activities and Abram’s loyalty belonged to God.

The phrase Abram used “I have lifted my hand” (Genesis 14:22) meant that he had taken an oath or sworn his allegiance to the LORD, God Most High. Abram’s commitment to the LORD went beyond the normal boundaries of human relationships. Abram knew that God was aware of everything he was doing and didn’t want to offend the LORD in any way. Abram’s declaration that he wouldn’t even take a shoelace or a sandal strap from the king of Sodom meant that he was completely devoted to the LORD and believed that all his material resources were provided by God.

One of the things that Melchizedek’s appearance suggests is that Abram’s victory over the four kings Amraphel, Arioch, Chedorlaomer, and Tidal had eternal significance. Melchizedek is mentioned in the New Testament as “being without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life (Hebrews 7:3)” (note on Genesis 14:18-20) and yet, he was apparently a human being that served God. Jesus was likened to Melchizedek as a priest, but not according to the Mosaic Law. It says in Hebrews 7:14-16, “For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.”

An indestructible life is one that is permanent; it is unable to be destroyed. This is a characteristic of the spiritual life that is associated with God. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead paved the way for humans to receive eternal life. Paul explained Jesus’ role as the guarantor of God’s New Covenant. He said, “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25).

Melchizedek may have been an alternate guarantor of eternal life until Jesus’ death and resurrection took place. Abram’s blessing was preceded by a meal consisting of bread and wine, the two elements that Jesus associated with God’s eternal kingdom during the Passover meal he shared with his disciples just before his crucifixion (Luke 22:16). After his encounter with Melchizedek, Abram received a prophetic message from God. Genesis 15:1 states, “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” The reward the LORD referred to had to do with Abram’s eternal inheritance which was linked to the birth of Christ. Because Abram was still waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled, he asked the LORD, “what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (Genesis 15:2).

God’s response to Abram’s question came in the form of a prophetic revelation. The phrase “the word of the LORD” (Genesis 15:4) is a technical phrase that indicates the words that Abram heard were coming directly from the mouth of God. Genesis 15:4-6 states:

And behold the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

The Hebrew word translated believed is ‘aman (aw-man’). The meaning here is that Abram was full of trust and confidence in God. It was not primarily in God’s word that Abram believed, but in God himself. “in other words, Abram came to experience a personal relationship to God rather than an impersonal relationship with His promises” (H439).

The Hebrew word translated counted in Genesis 15:6, chashab (khaw-shab’) “signifies a mental process whereby some course is planned or conceived” (H2803). What this suggests is that God took Abram’s faith into account when he devised his plan of salvation. “Abram’s faith was not merely a general confidence in God nor simple obedience to God’s command; Paul stressed that it was indeed faith in the promise of redemption through Christ (Romans 3:21, 22; 4:18-25; Galatians 3:14-18)” (note on Genesis 15:6).

Abram’s relationship with God entitled him to certain rights and privileges. The Hebrew word translated righteousness in Genesis 15:6, tsedaqah (tsed-aw-kaw’) is derived from the word tsadaq (tsaw-dak’). “This word is used of man as regarded as having obtained deliverance from condemnation, and as being entitled to a certain inheritance” (H6663). Abram’s spiritual inheritance was passed down from generation to generation until it was finally transferred to Christ from “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born” (Matthew 1:16). Matthew’s gospel contains a record of Jesus’ genealogy. He is described as “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).

One of the interesting things about Joseph’s role as Jesus’ father was that he was in the royal line of King David, the heir of Israel’s throne, but he lived among the common people and worked as a carpenter (Mark 6:3). During Jesus’ lifetime, the Jews were subject to Roman governors and the nation of Judah was treated like a vassal state. Jesus often rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees who claimed to be elite members of the Jewish society he lived in and told them, “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matthew 23:11), suggesting that the physical and spiritual realms were at complete odds with each other at that point in time.

God’s effort to bridge the gap between himself and mankind involved the birth of a son that was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18). When Joseph found out about his bride-to-be’s pregnancy, he planned to end their relationship, “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). The Greek word translated conceived “in English means to bring into a special relationship” (G1080). “Jesus, as the ‘only begotten of the Father’ means that even though He had the unique and equal relationship within the trinity in the past, He took upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh, dwelt among men, was tempted in all ways, yet without sin, submitted to the death on the cross, was raised on the third day, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. He was always uniquely related to the Father, but even more so now as He is the only unique Son of God, the only sacrifice to remove sins and restore fallen man to God.”

The Greek word translated save in Matthew 1:21, sozo (sode’-zo) refers to “the spiritual and eternal salvation granted immediately by God to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” as well as “the future deliverance of believers at the second coming of Christ for His saints, being deliverance from the wrath of God to be executed upon the ungodly at the close of this age and from eternal doom” (G4982). The covenant God made with Abram was the formal agreement that made this kind of salvation possible because it was based on Abram’s faith or a personal relationship with God.

If you would like to have a relationship with God, you can do so by simply praying this prayer and meaning it in your heart.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust you and follow you as my Lord and Savior.

If you prayed this prayer, please take a moment to write me at calleen0381@gmail.com and let me know about your decision.

God bless you!

Strongholds

A spiritual stronghold is an invisible structure that Satan erects to disable a believer’s faith. The Greek word translated strong holds, ochuroma (okh-oo’-ro-mah) “is used metaphorically in 2 Corinthians 10:4 of those things in which mere human confidence is imposed” (G3794). A better understanding of the word ochuroma can be obtained by looking at its origin. Ochuroma is a derivative of the word echo or scheo (skheh’-o), a primary verb which means to hold. “This word stresses that one has the means to accomplish a task” (G2192). Another word derived from scheo, ochlos (okh’los) means a vehicle, “a disorganized throng (as borne along)” (G3793). Another way of describing a stronghold might be popular opinion or what we read in the news headlines and hear on TV. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

Paul used the Greek word kathairesis (kath-ah’ee-res-is) to describe the process of eliminating strongholds. Kathairesis means demolition and suggests that Paul was thinking about a forceful removal of any thought that interfered with belief in the truth of God’s word. Paul stated that believers are to cast down imaginations (2 Corinthians 10:5). What Paul was likely referring to was the estimation of our own abilities. When we feel convicted to do something as a result of what we have read in the Bible, our imagination causes us to think; that’s impossible, I could never do that. Paul’s instruction was to get rid of that thought by means of spiritual warfare. Paul said, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God (2 Corinthians 10:4). The Greek word translated mighty, dunatos means powerful or capable (G1415). In other words, we must believe what God says is possible in order to demolish Satan’s stronghold.

Paul made it clear that Satan seeks to gain an advantage over believers (2 Corinthians 2:11) and he uses unfair means to trick us into believing his lies. Paul described Satan’s servants as “false prophets, deceitful workers” and indicated they transform themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13). The Greek word translated transforming in 2 Corinthians 11:13 is metaschematizo (met-askh-ay-mat-id’-zo) which means to transfigure or disguise (G3345). Metashematizo is derived from the words meta (G3326) and schema (G4976). These words have to do with Satan working through external circumstances to disrupt believers’ lives. Paul talked about those who wanted to disrupt his ministry as desiring an occasion or looking for an opportunity to trip him up. Paul said, “But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them (2 Corinthians 11:12). Paul’s tactic to frustrate Satan’s effort was to do what he said he was going to. In his first letter, Paul told the Corinthians he was going to visit them (1 Corinthians 4:19). Even though he was delayed, Paul eventually made it to Corinth as promised (2 Corinthians 13:1).

Good news!

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians included many topics that are relevant to Christians today. In 1 Corinthians, Paul outlined the basics of what every believer needs to know in order to be successful at following Christ. One of the important things Paul talked about was the content of the gospel message that he had been preaching throughout Asia. Paul started with the statement, “I declare unto you the gospel” (1 Corinthians 15:1). What this meant was that Paul was certifying the content of his gospel. In other words, Paul was saying his gospel message was the real deal, it was guaranteed to produce results in converting people to Christ. The Greek word translated gospel, euaggelizo (yoo-ang-ghel-id’-zo) means “to announce good news” or evangelize (G2097).

Paul believed the gospel of Jesus Christ was not only good news, it was the best news anyone could receive: “You are saved from the punishment of sin” (1 Corinthians 15:2, NLV). Paul conveyed his gospel message in four relatively short sentences. He stated:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, ESV)

The three central points of Paul’s gospel message were that Jesus died, he was buried, and he was raised on the third day. Jesus’ appearance to numerous witnesses was a means of not only verifying, but also validating his resurrection. One of Jesus’ skeptical disciples said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Thomas had either seen or heard about the wounds Jesus received during his crucifixion and was convinced that Jesus had actually died on the cross. Thomas’ request for validation of Jesus’ resurrection seems reasonable under the circumstances. After Thomas request was met, Jesus told him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Paul understood that the only way a person could be saved was by the grace of God. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul stated, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, NKJV). Paul told the Corinthians that he had been saved by God specifically for the purpose of preaching the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:10), and then he added, “It makes no difference how you heard the Good News. It could have been through the other missionaries or through me. The important thing is this: We preached the Good News to you and you believed it” (1 Corinthians 15:11, NLV).

A stumbling block

A major concern Paul addressed in his first letter to the Corinthians was the influence mature Christians had over those who were relatively new in their faith. The problem Paul pointed out was that those who knew better than to engage in certain activities weren’t setting a good example for others. Referring back to his analogy of laying a foundation for others to build on, Paul stated, “Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge, knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” (1 Corinthians 8:1). The Greek word translated edifieth, oikodomeo (oy-kod-om-eh’-o) means “to be a house builder that is construct or (figuratively) confirm” (G3618). What Paul was saying was that understanding the things of God should cause us to want to help others to grow in their faith, not hinder them from spiritual growth.

Paul went on to explain that a person’s conscience could be built up or torn down by the behavior of others. He stated:

As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one…Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour, eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled…For if any man see thee which has knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? (1 Corinthians 8:4,7,10-11)

Paul’s argument against believers eating food that was sacrificed to idols was that it could make a Christian that was addicted to idolatry think it was okay to continue with his immoral behavior. Even though it might not have been sinful for a Christian to practice idolatry, the demonic beings associated with idol worship were very real and dangerous spiritual forces that could possess and/or ruin an individual’s life. Paul was concerned for the well being of all of the Corinthian believers and didn’t want anyone to suffer as a result of a believer’s careless use of his liberty or freedom in Christ to pursue pleasure (G1658).

Paul warned the Corinthians, “take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9). The Greek word translated stumbling block, proskomma means “a stub that is (figuratively) occasion of apostasy” (G4348). Apostasy in Christianity is the rejection of Christianity by someone who formerly was a Christian. One of the reasons I believe Christians renounce their faith is because of the hypocrisy they see in the church. They get turned off by people that call themselves Christians and yet they do not live the kind of life that Jesus taught his followers to live. Paul’s comment, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” (1 Corinthians 8:1) was probably meant to point out that charity or the attitude of God toward His Son, the human race, and to believers on the Lord Jesus Christ (G26) should be evident in our behavior toward other believers. “Self-will, that is self-pleasing, is the negation of love to God.”

A transition

The last stop on Paul’s second missionary journey was Ephesus, a “leading commercial city of Asia Minor, the capital of provincial Asia and the warden of the temple of Artemis (Diana)” (note on Acts 18:19). The temple of the great goddess Diana, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was the glory of Ephesus. It was “425 feet long and 220 feet wide, having 127 white marble columns 62 feet high and less than 4 feet apart. In the inner sanctuary was the many-breasted image supposedly dropped from heaven” (note on Acts 19:27). It says in Acts 18:19 that after Paul arrived in Ephesus, he “entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews.” The Greek words translated reasoned, dia (dee-ah’) and lego (leg’-o) suggest that Paul had a dialogue with the Jews in Ephesus, rather than just preaching the gospel to them. Paul seemed to be showing respect to the Ephesian Jews and may have been aware of the fact that in spite of tremendous pressure to conform to the Ephesian culture, these Jews had remained loyal to Jehovah (note on Acts 19:33).

Paul’s brief stay in Ephesus was followed by a visit from a man named Apollos who was described as “an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures” who “was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John” (Acts 18:24-25). Apollos was an ordinary man who apparently took it upon himself to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ without having any official capacity to do so. Apollos’ arrival in Ephesus marked an important transition from Paul’s formal effort to spread the gospel through his missionary journeys to a more informal method of teaching the scriptures in churches that had already been established. Rather than rebuke or criticize Apollos because he didn’t have an adequate understanding of the gospel message, Paul’s companions, Aquila and Priscilla, took Apollos aside privately and “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26). Afterward, it says in Acts 18:27 that Apollos went to Corinth and “helped them much which had believed through grace.”

Apollos’ background in secular history may have contributed to his success in teaching the Jews at Corinth about Jesus (Acts 18:28). Apollos was from Alexandria, a town founded by Alexander the Great around 332 B.C. It says in Acts 18:24 that Apollos was not only an eloquent man, but he also had a good command or understanding of the scriptures. Paul’s failure to reach the Corinthian Jews, contrasted with Apollos’ success suggests that a cultural connection rather than a divine anointing was necessary to preach the gospel effectively. It seems likely there was a cultural barrier that kept the secular Jews from understanding Paul’s concept of grace. It’s possible that the Corinthian Jews’ compromised lifestyle made them more defensive and unreceptive when Paul explained to them that Jesus Christ had been crucified for their sins. It says of Apollos in Acts 18:28 that “he mightily convinced the Jews,” meaning he left them without a shadow of a doubt that what he was saying was actually true, Jesus was Christ.

Faith

Paul associated New Testament believers with the covenant God made with Abraham. He said, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:6-7). The importance of Paul’s connection was that it meant Christians would inherit the blessings that were originally intended for the nation of Israel. The blessing Paul was referring to can be found in Genesis 15:4-7 where it talks about God’s promise to Abraham. It says, “And behold, the word of the Lord came unto him saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now towards the heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD: and he counted it to him for righteousness. And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.”

Paul’s declaration of the Christian’s expected inheritance stressed the importance of faith. Paul used the word faith, or pistis in the Greek, 20 times in the book of Galatians and the word pistis appears 13 times in the third chapter of Galatians alone. The Greek word pistis is derived from the verb peitho (pi’-tho) which means “to convince” (G3982). Therefore, having faith is really just about being convinced that something is true. Genesis 15:6 says that Abraham believed in the LORD, meaning Abraham was convinced that God was telling him the truth. The truth that Christians have to be convinced of is that Jesus died for our sins. Paul stated, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14).

A critical point in Paul’s explanation of justification by faith was his statement, “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe” (Galatians 3:22). What Paul was getting at was the requirement for a person to be a sinner in order to be saved. Some people do not believe they are sinners and therefore, cannot be saved. This was particularly true in Jesus’ day because the Pharisees had led people to believe that it was possible for them to keep the Mosaic Law. Jesus repeatedly pointed out that God’s standard was perfection. In one of his encounters, a young man claimed to have kept all of God’s commandments since he had reached the age of accountability. “Jesus said to him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:21-26).

Equality

Peter’s trip to Caesarea (Acts 10:24-48), the headquarters for the Roman forces of occupation, could be described as a life altering experience. Peter’s attitude toward non-Jewish people caused him to isolate himself from anyone that did not share his religious beliefs. After he heard a voice saying, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15), Peter was directed by the Holy Spirit to “Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them” (Acts 10:20). The 30 miles distance between Joppa and Caesarea probably seemed like a great distance to a man that had likely never traveled outside of his hometown before he met Jesus. Peter was a fisherman and may have wondered what the beautiful port city of Caesarea was like, but he never would have traveled there if it hadn’t been for the Holy Spirit’s instruction to go with the men that sought his help.

Cornelius, the man that sent for Peter, was described by Luke as a centurion, “a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews” (Acts 10:22). A centurion was a Roman soldier that commanded a military unit of at least 100 men. Centurions were carefully selected; all of them mentioned in the NT (New Testament) appear to have had noble qualities (e.g. Luke 7:5). The Roman centurions provided necessary stability to the entire Roman system” (note on Acts 10:1). After Cornelius told Peter about his angelic visit, Luke recorded, “then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35). Peter’s statement was an amazing testament to the impartiality of God. The Greek word translated accepted, dektos means approved (G1184) and refers to the status of everyone that receives salvation by Jesus’ propitiation of sin.

According to Peter, the equality of the Gentiles with the Jews was demonstrated when they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Afterward, Peter asked, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:47-48). Later, in his explanation to the Jews in Jerusalem of what had happened in Caesarea, Peter referred to Jesus’ teaching about baptism. He said, “Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 11:16), and then he added for emphasis, “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God” (Acts 11:16-17). Peter’s endorsement of Gentile believers resulted in them being viewed as equals by the Jews in Jerusalem. Luke stated, “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).