God’s will

Abraham had the benefit of knowing exactly what God wanted him to do. It says in Genesis 12:1, “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” Abraham went where the LORD told him to and afterward the LORD said, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever” (Genesis 13:14-15). Later, the LORD tested Abraham by asking him to do something that he could only do if he believed that God would keep his promise to him. It says in Genesis 22:1-3:

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” and he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

Just as Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son, the angel of the LORD stopped him and Abraham sacrificed a ram instead of his son Isaac (Genesis 22:10-13).

And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22-15-18)

The Hebrew word that is translated obeyed, shama (shaw-mah’) means to hear intelligently (H8085). Abraham’s ability to comprehend what the LORD wanted him to do was based on his experience with hearing the voice of God. It was not only that Abraham could hear what the LORD was saying, but also that he was familiar with God’s plan of salvation and could fit his own circumstances into its framework.

Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” The Greek word that is translated considered, logizomai (log-id’-zom-ahee) means “to reason out, to think out, to find out by thinking” (G3049). Paul used the word logizomai when he said, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3, emphasis mine). The words counted and consider both have to do with thinking about what someone has asked us to do and deciding whether or not we will do it.

After Abraham died, it says in Genesis 26:1-5:

Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. And the LORD appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring, I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

God’s conversation with Isaac was similar to his conversation with Abraham with the exception that his promise to bless all the nations of the earth through Isaac’s offspring was not based on Isaac’s obedience, but that of his father Abraham’s. God said, “And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Genesis 26:4-5).

Abraham obeyed God’s voice, but it says that he “kept” God’s charge, commandments, statutes, and laws (Genesis 26:5). The Hebrew word that is translated kept, shamar (shaw-mar’) means to watch or to be on one’s guard. “The word naturally means to watch over some physical object, to keep an eye on it. In its participial form, the word means human guards, those who watch for people or over designated objects (Jgs 1:24; Ne 12:25). The Lord, as the moral Governor of the world, watches over the moral and spiritual behavior of people (Job 10:14)” (H8104). It could be that Abraham’s presence in the land of Canaan was meant to be a mechanism by which God was able to keep tabs on or be aware of what was going on in an area of the world where his sovereignty was not acknowledged or respected.

When Abraham was confronted by Abimelech king of Gerar regarding his lie about Sarah being his wife, he told Abimelech, “I did it because I thought, ‘There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife'” (Genesis 20:11). The Hebrew word translated fear, yir’ah (yir-aw’) refers to moral reverence. “This fear is produced by God’s Word (Ps119:38; Pr 2:5) and makes a person receptive to wisdom and knowledge” (H3374). In spite of the fact that Abimelech never harmed Abraham and they later formed a treaty in which they swore to not deal falsely with each other (Genesis 21:22-24), when God instructed him to go back to Gerar and settle down there because of a famine in Beer-lahai-roi (Genesis 26:6-7), Isaac lied about Rebekah being his wife.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned his disciples, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). The Greek word that is translated judge, krino (kree’-no) means “to judge in one’s own mind as to what is right, proper, expedient; to deem, decide, determine” (G2919). Isaac’s reason for lying about Rebekah being his wife didn’t have anything to do with Abimelech’s track record of behavior, but his own determination that it wasn’t safe for him to reveal his marital status. When Isaac’s lie was discovered, it says in Genesis 26:9-11:

So Abimelech called Isaac and said, “Behold, she is your wife. How then could you say, ‘She is my sister’?” Isaac said to him, “Because I thought, ‘Lest I die because of her.'” Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the people might easily have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, “Whoever touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”

Abimelech’s assessment of the situation was accurate and his determination that Isaac would have brought guilt upon his people was based on his previous experience with Abraham (Genesis 20:18). Therefore, it seems that Abimelech was actually receptive to the wisdom and knowledge of God (Genesis 20:3-7).

One of the ways that Isaac could have handled the situation in Gerar would have been to ask God to protect him and to prevent the Philistines from taking Rebekah away from him by force. Jesus told his disciples to, “Ask, and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11). Another way of expressing what Jesus meant by his instruction for believers to ask, seek, and knock when they need God’s assistance might be that they should pursue God’s will and then, they will be assured of getting his help.

The Greek word that is translated good things in Matthew 7:11, agathos (ag-ath-os’) refers to that which is good for you or you could say the things that God wants you to have because they are beneficial to you (G18). One of the meanings of the word agathos is suitable or adapted to. Paul used the word agathos when he instructed believers to follow the example of Christ. He said, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me'” (Romans 15:1-3, emphasis mine).

Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). This simple statement is often referred to as The Golden Rule and Jesus indicated that it encapsulates the essence of the entire Old Testament of the Bible. Following this statement, Jesus instructed believers to “enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus’ reference to gates and the way to destruction and the way to life indicated that he was talking about God’s will for mankind to be saved from their sins. The Apostle Peter said that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, KJV). This is evident in the LORD’s promise to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham’s offspring because he obeyed God’s instruction to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering (Genesis 22:15-18).

Jesus said that “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:14). We know from Abraham’s example that the way to life is found through believing. It says in Genesis 15:6 that Abraham “believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” The reason why it was hard for Abraham to believe in the LORD was because God told him he was going to do something for him that was impossible. God said, “‘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'” (Genesis 15:4-5).

Immediately after he was instructed to go to Gerar, God told Isaac he would be with him and would bless him (Genesis 26:3), and yet, Isaac felt the need to lie about Rebekah being his wife in order to protect himself from being killed (Genesis 26:7). This decision not only resulted in Abimelech asking Isaac to leave his territory (Genesis 26:16), but also to a persistent problem with obtaining water while Isaac was dwelling in the land of the Philistines (Genesis 26:15). Ultimately, Isaac was deceived by his own son Jacob and in spite of God’s blessing, there was conflict in his family for the rest of his life.

Jesus used the example of trees bearing fruit to explain how a person’s behavior reveals the condition of his heart. He said, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased trees bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-20).

Isaac’s twin sons were at odds with each other even before they were born (Genesis 25:22), so it’s no wonder they competed with each other for their father’s attention, but the marked difference between these two men was that Jacob wanted to please his father, whereas Esau took for granted his favored position. 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.” Even so, Esau remained his father’s favorite and “when Isaac was old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called Esau his older son and said to him, ‘My son’; and he answered, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Behold, I am old’ I do not know the day of my death. Now then, take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me, and prepare for me delicious food, such as I love, and bring it to me so that I may eat, that my soul may bless you before I die'” (Genesis 27:1-4).

Isaac’s wife Rebekah knew that it wasn’t God’s will for Esau to receive his father’s blessing because the LORD had told her, “the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall server the younger,” (Genesis 25:23), so she intervened and helped Jacob trick his father into blessing him instead (Genesis 27:8-13). Although this was the wrong way for Jacob to obtain his father’s blessing, Jacob was doing God’s will when he followed his mother’s instructions (Genesis 27:8). It also says in Hebrews 11:20 that it was, “By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau.” This seems to suggest that Isaac knew he was being tricked and went along with his son’s charade because he believed God wanted him to bless Jacob rather than Esau.

Jesus told his followers, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'” (Matthew 7:21-23). Jesus made it clear that God’s will is not evidenced by miraculous power, but by its consistency with his commandments. The Greek word that is translated does in the phrase “does the will of my father” is poieo (poy-eh’-o). This is the same word Jesus used when he said every healthy tree “bears” or produces good fruit (G4160). A word that is derived from poieo is poiema (poy’-ay’mah) which means a product, a thing that is made (G4161). The Apostle Paul used the word poiema when he said we are God’s “workmanship,” created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10, KJV).

One of the ways we can look at God’s will is to see that it’s not about what we do, but about who we are. Of course, it matters what we do because sin can keep us from hearing God’s voice and understanding how our circumstances fit in with his plan of salvation. The ultimate goal is for believers to be in constant communication with the Lord and to follow his instructions daily. Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).

Jesus’ reference to a house that was founded on the rock was meant to convey the idea of sound doctrine, in other words, the Bible itself, not what you might hear from an unreliable second hand source of information. The best way to learn about God’s will and how it applies to you specifically is to read the Bible for yourself. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which is recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7, is a comprehensive explanation of how God’s kingdom works in the world that we currently live in. If you are a Christian, your spiritual health and success can be greatly improved by reading it and applying its principles to your life.

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!

The Test

Abraham’s spiritual development included an important step that no one else in the Old Testament was asked to take on an individual basis. It says in Genesis 22:1 that God tested Abraham. Temptation is when a person’s faith or belief in God is put to the test to see if it will hold up under the pressure of moral conviction. We know that Abraham had reached spiritual maturity before God tested him because it says in Genesis 21:11 that when Sarah told Abraham to divorce Hagar and drive her and her son Ishmael out of their camp, “the thing was very displeasing to Abraham.” The Hebrew word that is translated very displeasing, ra’a (raw-ah’) means bad in a moral sense (H7489). A word that is derived from ra’a, ra (rah) “combines together in one the wicked deed and its consequences. It generally indicates the rough exterior of wrongdoing as a breach of harmony, and as breaking up what is good and desirable in man and society” (H7451).

Abraham didn’t want to send Hagar and Ishmael away, “But God said to Abraham, ‘Be not displeased because of the boy and because of the slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.'” God dealt with the situation according to his original plan for Abraham and Sarah, which was to bless them and all the families of the earth through their only child Isaac (Genesis 12:2-3, 17:16). But, even though Hagar was divorced from Abraham, God took care of Ishmael and treated him as if he was still under the covenant that God established with his father (Genesis 15:18-21).

The conversation that took place between God and Abraham after he made a covenant with Abimelech king of Gerar at Beersheba (Genesis 21:23-24) is recorded in Genesis 22:1-2. It states:

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

God’s reference to Isaac as Abraham’s only son was intended to point out that Abraham had a unique, special relationship with his son Isaac. The Hebrew word translated only in Genesis 22:2, yachiyd (yaw-kheed’) is properly translated as united and can be used as meaning “self, my soul” (H3173). You could say that Abraham and Isaac’s hearts were knit together or united in such a way that they were like one person. Their thoughts and feelings were in unison with each others’.

God acknowledged Abraham’s love for his son Isaac before he told him to sacrifice him as a burnt offering (Genesis 22:2). This suggests that Abraham’s spiritual test had to do with his affection for the child that God had promised him. The Hebrew word that is translated love in this verse, aheb (aw-habe’) “is equivalent to the English ‘to love’ in the sense of having a strong emotional attachment to and desire either to possess or to be in the presence of the object” (H157). You might say that Abraham was in love with his son Isaac or even that he was obsessed with him in that he spent all of his time with Isaac and couldn’t think of anything else. In a way, you could say that God was asking Abraham to give up the one thing that really mattered to him, his relationship with his son.

When Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River, it says in Matthew 3:16-17, “immediately he went up from the water, and behold the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'” The Greek word translated beloved, agapetos (ag-ap-ay-tos’) is an expression of God’s divine will in choosing to love his son and to give him as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. John 1:29 states that as Jesus approached John to be baptized by him, John said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” The title Lamb of God could also be translated as God’s Lamb or God’s sacrifice, the one who is able to take away the sins of the world.

As Abraham and Isaac hiked up Mount Moriah, Isaac asked his father, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7). Abraham’s response, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8) indicated that Abraham believed God would substitute a lamb for his son when it came time for him to make the sacrifice, and yet, “When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son” (Genesis 22:9-10).

Abraham’s actions demonstrated that he intended to do what God instructed him to, offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering (Genesis 22:2). The burnt offering or owlah (o-law’) in Hebrew symbolized the transferring of one’s guilt to the sacrificial victim in order to make atonement, a covering for sin or expiation of sin for purification. “The central significance of owlah as the ‘whole burnt offering’ was the total surrender of the heart and life of the offerer to God” (H5930). As Abraham raised the knife to slaughter his son, “The angel of God called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me'” (Genesis 22:11-12).

The initial basis for Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross was Abraham’s need for atonement. God spared Abraham from having to give up his son, but a sacrifice still had to be made because the ram that Abraham offered in place of his son Isaac (Genesis 22:13) was insufficient to permanently remove the effects of Abraham’s sins. “The only human sacrifice approved by God was that of his Son, the sinless Lamb of God (John 1:29)” (note on Genesis 22:12). God said of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). The Greek word translated well pleased, eudokeo (yoo-dok-eh’-o) has to do with a person’s subjective mental estimate or opinion about something (G2106). Another way of expressing what God said would be my beloved Son, with whom I am satisfied.

After he was baptized, it says in Matthew 4:1, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Jesus’ experience in the desert was different from Abraham’s testing in that his faith was not the issue that God was concerned with. The Greek word translated tempted, peirazo (pi-rad’-zo) means to test, but this kind of “testing will cause its recipients to appear as what they always have been” (G3985). In other words, Jesus’ test was designed to show what he was capable of, to prove his abilities as the Son of God. The fact that Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness showed that he was doing what God wanted him to. It was not something that he wanted to do, but Jesus was willing to subject himself to the devil’s test in order to prove his devotion to God.

And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:2-4)

Jesus ability to abstain from food for forty days and forty nights was not a sign of his divine character, but his hunger afterward was a sign of his humanity. The Greek word translated was hungry, peinao (pi-nah’-o) has to do with starvation and indicated that Jesus was probably close to death when the tempter approached him. The first thing the devil tried to do was to get Jesus to perform a miracle to save his own life. The devil wanted him to focus on his physical needs, but instead, Jesus referred to a passage in the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 8:3) that pointed out man’s need for spiritual sustenance.

The Greek word that is translated live in Matthew 4:4 which states, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” is zao (dzah’-o). Zao refers to spiritual life and more specifically to the resurrection of believers, but also to the way of access to God through the Lord Jesus Christ and the manifestation of divine power in support of divine authority (G2198). Jesus had the divine authority to turn the stones into bread, but he didn’t do it because he knew that as a man, his life was in God’s hand and his physical life would be sustained as long as it was God’s will for him to continue living.

Abraham knew that it wasn’t God’s will for his son Isaac to die on Mount Moriah because he had already told him “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him” (Genesis 17:19). Essentially, it was this word that came from the mouth of God that gave Abraham the confidence to obey the LORD’s command to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. When Abraham saw the place that he was to sacrifice his son, “Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you'” (Genesis 22:5) indicating that he believed God could bring Isaac back to life if need be (Hebrews 11:17-19)” (note on Genesis 22:12).

The devil’s temptation of Jesus was built on the assumption that he needed to stay alive in order for him to fulfill his destiny of saving the world. After Jesus refused to make bread to keep himself from starving, the devil tempted him to kill himself. Matthew’s gospel states:

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘On the their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” (Matthew 4:5-7)

Jesus was free to throw himself off the pinnacle if he wanted to, but he knew that God wasn’t obligated to keep him from dying.

One of the unique aspects of Jesus’ humanity was that he was able to keep himself from sinning. No matter how much he may have wanted to do one thing or another, Jesus always chose to do his Father’s will rather than his own. Jesus understood that in order for him to die for the sins of the world he had to be killed in a prescribed manner, at an appointed time, and in a particular place. Therefore, Jesus refrained from doing anything that might cause him to die another way. The devil’s instruction to throw himself down, implied that Jesus would be putting his trust in God, but in reality, Jesus could have and probably would have had to rely on his own supernatural ability to defy gravity (Matthew 14:25) in order to keep himself from hitting the ground if he did what the devil told him to.

Abraham’s obedience to God’s instruction to sacrifice his son Isaac was an act of faith in that what he was being told to do made absolutely no sense to him and contradicted what God had already revealed to him about his son’s future. Abraham could have easily justified his disobedience, but didn’t seem to waiver at all in his commitment to do what he was being asked to do. When he heard the voice of the angel calling to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” (Genesis 22:11), Abraham could have ignored the voice and went on with what he was doing. It was only because Abraham was completely committed to his relationship with the LORD that he was able to immediately stop what he was doing and change his course midstream (Genesis 22:13).

The final test that Jesus was presented with had to do with his future reign over the kingdoms of Earth. It says in Matthew 4:8-10:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”

Jesus recognized that his adversary Satan was the ruler of all the kingdoms of the world and didn’t try to argue with him about whether or not he had the ability to turn them over to him. Jesus’ response merely pointed out that God who was the creator of the world was entitled to the worship and service of his creatures.

Jesus’ command “Be gone, Satan!” was a sign of his authority over the being that was trying to tempt him. The Greek word that is translated be gone, hupago (hoop-ag’-o) could also be translated as go away or get out of here. Jesus seemed to be expressing his frustration with the situation and was in essence saying, I’m done, I’ve had enough of this. Jesus appeared to be in complete control of himself and the situation and was not bothered by the fact that Satan was trying to keep him from doing God’s will.

After Abraham discovered a ram caught in a thicket by his horns, he sacrificed it instead of his son and called the name of the place where he was “The LORD will provide” (Genesis 22:13-14). The Hebrew name Yehovah Yireh speaks to Gods ability to provide that which he requires of us (H3070). Abraham understood that he didn’t need to atone for his own sins, that God would take care of it. Abraham may or may not have understood that God was going to sacrifice his own son at some point in the future. To a certain extent, it was a joint effort because Jesus was not only God’s son, but also a descendant of Abraham.

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!

Acts of faith

The writer of Hebrews defined faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This definition suggests that faith is a tangible substance that exists in the physical realm. The Greek word translated faith in Hebrews 11:1, pistis is derived from the word peitho (pi’-tho) which means to convince (G3982). “Faith is of the heart, invisible to men; obedience is of the conduct and may be observed. When a man obeys God he gives the only possible evidence that in his heart he believes God.” Jesus was able to perceive the faith of a man that was brought to him for healing. It says in Matthew 9:2, “And behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”

Chapter eleven of the book of Hebrews lists numerous examples of people whose faith was seen in their actions. It says in Hebrews 11:7, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became the heir of righteousness which is by faith.” The intersection of the seen and unseen worlds through acts of faith may be the reason why believers are encouraged to do what God tells them to. If we only think about what God’s word says, our imaginations are left to run wild and we are unable to distinguish between the real and unreal aspects of what we believe to be true.

It says in Hebrews 11:6 that without faith it is impossible to please God, “for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6. NKJV). Everyone that has received something from God did so through an intentional effort. We do not receive things from God that we have no desire for or are unwilling to accept. The writer of Hebrews said that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. The Greek word translated diligently seek, ekzeteo (ek-zay-teh’-o) means to search out and figuratively can refer to craving or demanding something (G1567). What this seems to suggest is that faith is like a magnet that draws us to God. It is a divine force that God uses to accomplish will.

Interjected in the long list of acts of faith that are recorded in Hebrews chapter eleven are references to the fact that all of the Old Testament believers died without receiving the promises of God (Hebrews 11:13, 39). It says in Hebrews 11:40, “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” This statement separates those who had faith in Christ before he was born from those who have believed in him since. It seems likely that the better thing that was provided for us is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which helps us to discern God’s will. Faith may be the thing that draws us to God, but the energy or supernatural force that causes us to act comes from the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciples that they would “receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8).

The seam that holds Old and New Testament believers together in their acts of faith is the building up or edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). The Apostle Paul declared about the unity of the Spirit that, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). I believe the writer of Hebrews used examples of Old Testament believers to inspire those who came into God’s family after Jesus’ death and resurrection to show us that our faith is a work in progress and that we have to finish what the Old Testament believers started. He stated “that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40). Jesus talked about his own perfection and stated in his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, “I did the work You gave Me to do.” (John 17:4, NLV).

Obedience

Paul’s letter to the Philippians focused on the result of being born again. Aside from the hope that every Christian has of going to heaven when we die, there is a practical side to having put our faith in Christ. Paul told the Philippians that he was “confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Paul didn’t explain what the good work was that God was doing in the lives of the believers at Philippi, but the context of his letter showed that the Philippians were being obedient to God’s word. Paul was writing to the Philippians to thank them for a gift they had sent him upon learning of his detention in Rome (Introduction to The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, p. 1705). Rather than abandoning him in his time of need, the Philippians stood by Paul and encouraged him to keep preaching the gospel and fighting the good fight of faith.

Paul used the example of Christ to explain why suffering was necessary and told the Philippians, “You are not only to put your trust in Him, but you are to suffer for Him also. You know what the fight is like. Now it is time for you to have a part in it as I have” (Philippians 1:29-30, NLV). Paul pointed out that obedience was necessary for Christ to win the battle against Satan and instructed the Philippians to:

Let this mind be in you, which as also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of a men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:4-8)

The Greek word Paul used that is translated obedient, hupekoos (hoop-ay’-ko-os) means to listen attentively and by implication submission (G5255). Hupekoos is derived from the word hupakouo which comes from the words hupo indicating an inferior position or condition (G5259) and akouo (ak-oo’-o), a verb that denotes both the sound and meaning of what is spoken (G191). Akouo is used in John 1:40 where it says, “One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.” Akouo in this verse means literally “‘heard from beside John,’ suggesting that he stood beside him.” In other words, Andrew’s obedience (he followed John) was the result of an intimate conversation he had with him.

Paul’s explanation of obedience suggested that it was a dual or combined effort between God and believers. He said, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13, NKJV). The Greek words that are translated work and works, have to do with the results or effect of an intentional effort to accomplish a supernatural task (G2716/G1754). One way to look at our obedience to God’s will is to see that the Holy Spirit (God’s supernatural power in us) is activated when we do what God’s wants us to and the result is the accomplishment of a supernatural task that we could not have accomplished on our own.

Abiding in Christ

Jesus used the analogy of a vine and branches to describe his relationship with his followers. The main point Jesus was trying to communicate was the importance of sticking together. Jesus used the words abide and remain to convey his message, as well as the term husbandman to describe God’s role in the process. In the second and third verses of John 15, Jesus said, “I am the true vine and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away, and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”

The word translated purgeth in John 15:2 is representative of the pruning process, but it actually means to cleanse and metaphorically, Jesus spoke of purging his worshippers of guilt (G2508). To be clean means that we are free from guilt. Jesus said in John 15:3, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” In other words, reading our Bibles and hearing its content preached to us takes away our guilt. We grow closer to Jesus and show visible signs of spiritual health when we spend time studying the Bible.

Jesus linked our ability to abide in him with love and obeying his commandments. He said in John 15:10, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” The word translated love in this verse is agape (ag-ah´-pay), which is sometimes referred to as Christian love. “Christian love has God for its primary object, and expresses itself first of all in implicit obedience to His commandments. Self-will, that is, self-pleasing, is the negation of love to God” (G26).

If you think of agape love as doing what God wants us to do rather than what we ourselves want to do, then abiding in Jesus’ love means that we are always doing the will of God. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). Jesus did God’s will by dying on the cross for us, so we should show our love for others by doing God’s will for them. This could be as simple as praying for a friend that is sick or giving away our time by serving in a church ministry.

One of the keys to abiding in Christ and bearing fruit is the realization that we have been chosen by God and appointed to serve him (John 15:16). We are knit together by close spiritual bonds that form us into the family of God and separate us from the world (John 15:19). The separation we experience is actually evidence that we belong to God. The farther we get from the world, the adornment and decoration of temporal possessions, the closer we get to Jesus and the will of God.

Faith in action

Jesus’ departure from the world presented a problem for his ministry to be carried on because his followers were used to him doing most of the work. As his death approached, Jesus began to prepare his disciples to continue on without  him. One of the significant issues was performing miracles. Jesus taught that faith in him was the key to receiving God’s power. In addition to that, Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20).

Jesus taught his disciples that unbelief was the opposite of faith (Matthew 17:17) and warned them that their exposure to false teaching had damaged their ability to trust him and would therefore, hinder their spiritual growth (Matthew 17:20). Jesus used the limited time he had on Earth to correct doctrinal errors in the Jews’ belief system and taught his disciples the truth about God’s kingdom. On at least one occasion, Jesus gave his disciples an opportunity to exercise their faith by sending them out to minister on their own (Luke 10:17).

When Jesus was told that his friend Lazarus was sick, he intentionally waited two days to go to his home in Bethany (John 11:6), “Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again” (John 11:7). Jesus already knew Lazarus was dead (John 11:14), so there was no need for him to go right away, but there was also no need for him to wait two days if his plan was to raise Lazarus from the dead. The delay in Jesus’ departure was probably due to everyone’s expectation that he would fix things for Martha and Mary, rather than them doing something about it on their own.

As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. “Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:21). Essentially, what Martha was saying was that it was Jesus’ fault that Lazarus had died. She was blaming him for not being there. Jesus’ response was meant to ignite Martha’s faith. “Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:23-24). Martha knew Lazarus was saved and was a believer herself, but she wasn’t using her faith to deal with her difficult circumstance.

Jesus refreshed Martha’s faith by giving her a quick lesson on the topic of life after death:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whosoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (ESV)

What Jesus wanted Martha to understand was that her brother Lazarus was still alive, he just wasn’t living in his body. Apparently, Martha didn’t fully grasp the concept of life after death, but she did believe Jesus was who he claimed to be, Israel’s Messiah.

When they arrived at Lazarus’ grave, which was a cave with a stone blocking the entrance, “Jesus said, Take away the stone” (John 11:39, ESV). Martha’s reaction revealed the barrier to her belief. “Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?'” (John 11:39-40, ESV). Jesus’ statement showed there was an element of Martha’s faith that was missing. She was not willing to do what he told her to. In order to be truly committed to Christ, Martha had to act, she had to demonstrate her faith through obedience.

After the stone was removed, Jesus “cried with a loud voice, Lazarus come forth” (John 11:43). Another way of saying this would be, Lazarus, get out here! When Jesus commanded Lazarus to come forth, he was not calling him back from the dead. It is likely that Lazarus had already been revived by God at the time the stone was rolled away from his grave. The reason why Jesus cried out with a loud voice was so that everyone would know he wasn’t calling Lazarus out of the grave; he wanted him to come out of the cave. The miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection was not the result of Jesus’ supernatural ability to bring him back to life. It was the result of Martha’s faith filled obedience to roll away the stone.

Why did this happen?

As Jesus was leaving the temple in Jerusalem, “he saw a man which was blind from birth” (John 9:1). Most likely, this man was begging by the roadside. Because he had been blind since birth, his condition would have been considered to be the result of a sin his parents had committed or perhaps, punishment for a sin that he had committed while he was in his mother’s womb or even while he was in a preexistent state (note on John 9:1). Most people would have shunned this man and treated him as if he were a nuisance to society. As they passed by, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). In other words, the disciples wanted to know, why did this happen to him?

Jesus’  response to his disciples question revealed that the man’s blindness was not some sort of punishment, but an opportunity for God to work in his life. Jesus said, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in his life” (John 9:3). The Greek term translated manifest, phaneroo (fan-er-o’-o) is derived from the word phaneros (fan-er-os’) which means “shining that is apparent” (5318). Jesus went on to say, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4-5). The Greek term translated light, phos (foce) means “to shine or make manifest especially by rays” (5457). A similar term, phemi (fay-mee’) means “to show or make known one’s thoughts that is speak or say” (5346).

A primary objective of Jesus’ ministry was to make the truth known about God’s character and his attitude toward sinners. The Jewish religious leaders tried to convince people that a sinless life was possible and that their behavior was the perfect example of how to live a godly life. In reality, Jesus was the only sinless person ever to exist and he was continually harassed by the Pharisees and scribes because he wouldn’t do things the way they wanted him to. When Jesus healed the man that was born blind, he did it in such a way that it was obvious that the man’s faith was involved or the healing couldn’t have taken place. It says in John 9:6-7 that Jesus, “spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, and said to him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is interpreted, Sent).”

The blind man demonstrated his faith or belief that his blindness was not a permanent condition when he did what Jesus told him to. The light that Jesus shed on this man’s situation was that he had the ability to see even though he was born blind. The truth of the matter was that God didn’t want to punish this man, but to make him whole. As a result of his healing, the man was questioned by the Pharisees in order to get some evidence against Jesus because in order to heal the blind man he made clay on the Sabbath, something they considered to be against the law. The man that was healed said this about Jesus, “Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing” (John 9:32-33).

Walking on water

It was obvious from the miracles Jesus performed that he had supernatural ability to do things that no one had ever seen done before. What was less obvious, but just as true, was that Jesus’ disciples had the same supernatural ability. When Jesus was about to send his disciples out to preach the gospel, it says in Luke 9:1, “Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.” The Greek word translated power, dunamis (doo’-nam-is) specifically refers to miraculous power (1411), but the Greek word dunamis is derived from, dunamai (doo’-nam-ahee) suggests that the twelve apostles had limitless power, the ability to do everything that Jesus was able to. An example of this is found in Matthew’s gospel where it is recorded that Peter walked on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14:29). After Peter was come down out of the ship, Matthew said, “he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:29-30). Jesus reached out and grabbed Peter by the hand in order to keep him from sinking, and then rebuked him stating, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt” (Matthew 14:31).

The problem with Peter’s faith was that it lacked confidence. The term Jesus used to describe it, “little faith” could also be translated “puny argument” (3641/3982). In other words, Peter’s demonstration of his faith was unconvincing. Even though he got out of the boat, Peter wasn’t certain he wanted to walk across the sea as Jesus had just done (Matthew 14:25). Jesus pointed out that the reason Peter began to sink was because he doubted (Matthew 14:31) or mentally wavered from his original conviction (1365) about the possibility that he could do what Jesus had commanded him to, “come” to him on the water (Matthew 14:29). Matthew said the cause of Peter’s mental wavering was fear. He explained, “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid” (Matthew 14:30). Although Peter may have been overcome by fear, it was not his fear that caused him to doubt. The Greek word translated doubt, distazo (dis-tad’-zo) means to duplicate (1365), the word distazo is derived from, dis (dece) which means twice (1364) or duo (doo’-o) to have two of something. At the moment when he began to doubt, it is likely that Peter thought twice about what he was doing and realized that walking on water was humanly impossible; but what is even more likely than that, is that at the moment his doubt got the better of him, Peter realized that he and Jesus were doing the same thing and that meant that, if Peter continued, he would no longer be able to excuse himself from doing whatever God commanded him to.

Spiritual relationships

Everyone is born into a family. Although their structures can vary greatly, families usually consist of a father and mother, and at least one child. Jesus made his disciples aware of the fact that those who had been born again also had a spiritual family. There may not be much difference between our physical and spiritual family, except that membership is optional, or chosen, in God’s family. While Jesus was teaching a crowd of people, his relatives came and wanted to speak with him. It says in Matthew 12:47-48, “Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who are my mother? and who are my brethren?” It appeared that Jesus’ mother, along with his brothers and sisters, came to listen to him preach and wanted to gain access to the place where he was teaching, but there wasn’t room for them inside. The Greek term that is translated “stand without,” histemi (his’-tay-mee) means “to make to stand” and “to appoint” (2476). Another way of looking at the situation would be to say that Jesus’ mother and siblings had to stand outside because they weren’t important enough to gain access to the building.

Jesus’ reaction to the situation might have looked as if he was indifferent to his family’s request to speak with him, but I believe the point he was trying to make was that his biological family members were no more important to him than those in his spiritual family. It says in Matthew 12:49-50, “And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren. For whoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Jesus was conveying to them that his disciples were of equal importance to him as his own family members, meaning that they were as close to him as anyone could get. This was an important distinction because in the Jewish religion, family relationships were the basis of all spiritual activities. Anyone that was not a member of Abraham’s family was excluded from God’s blessing. The key to understanding Jesus’ distinction between his biological family members and the members of his spiritual family was the statement, “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50). What Jesus was saying was that doing God’s will was the deciding factor of who gained access to him.

The law of love

Jesus’ teaching provided a sharp contrast to the laws of Moses which were intended to keep the Jews from defiling themselves and preventing them from entering the temple in order to worship God. Perhaps the most controversial statement Jesus made was directed at the multitude of followers that flocked to him for healing of their diseases. He told these believers, “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you” (Luke 6:27). This clear direction was probably intended to thin the crowd and impressed upon the people that sought fellowship with Jesus that his way of living was not about an easy way of life, but actually involved the hardest choice that anyone would ever have to make. Jesus didn’t say, forgive your enemies, or forget about the wrongs that they have committed against you, but he commanded his followers to love their enemies in the same way that God loved them.

The Greek word Jesus used that is translated love is agapao. The Greek word agape, which describes the attitude of God toward his Son (26), is derived from the word agapao. Agapao expresses love in a social or moral sense and is sometimes translated as “beloved” in reference to believers (25). Within Jesus’ explanation of this agapao type of love is what is sometimes referred to as the golden rule, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31). Afterward, Jesus stated, “For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them” (Luke 6:32). Jesus was telling his disciples that they had to live a completely different way if they wanted to be members of God’s kingdom. The first criteria for gaining access to God’s kingdom was a genuine love for all of mankind.

Digging deeper into his law of love, it could be seen that a principle of sowing and reaping or reciprocity was the basis of Jesus’ new way of life. Jesus told his disciples, “Be ye merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom, For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:36-38). Comparing his followers to the religious hypocrites that had condemned him for breaking the sabbath, Jesus’ warned his disciples against judging others (Luke 6:42) and told them, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45).

After defining his remarkable law of love, Jesus encouraged his disciples with an example of what they could expect if they chose to follow his difficult teaching. He said:

Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: he is like a man which built a house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon the rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built a house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. (Luke 6:47-49)