Robert J. Morgan is the teaching pastor of The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee, where he has served for 35 years. Best-selling & Gold-Medallion winning writer with 25 books in print & over 3.5 million in circulation.
Oh, the joy of preaching! Oh, the honor of teaching through books and passages of the Bible—God’s Word—as they unfurl, as God’s gave them, line upon line and precept upon precept. When one studies the Bible like this at the kitchen table, or when one expounds it like this in the classroom lectern or chapel pulpit, it’s the closest we come to listening to the actual voice of Jesus Christ.
It took me a long time to understand the
simplicity of this.
In essence, this involves going through a God-inspired
passage naturally, seeing the divisions, following the logic, letting sentence after
sentence come crashing to the shoreline of the heart like the waves of the
ocean. Because every word of Scripture is God-breathed, the very words are
important to absorb.
When I read a passage, I say, “Why did God
place this chapter or this paragraph in His Word? What’s the point? How does He
explain it? How can I incorporate this truth into my attitude or behavior?”
If I’m teaching or preaching, I let the
text to determine the outline, and then I add the introduction and conclusion,
using illustrations to illumine and make application.
It’s about as simple as that.
If it’s a narrative (a story in the Bible),
I look for transferable truths, such as I did in Exodus 14 for The Red Sea Rules. If it’s poetry, we
try to find the cycles of thought, such as I did from Psalm 23 in my book, The Lord is my Shepherd. If it’s a didactic
passage—a teaching passage such as Philippians 4:4-9, we trace it line by line,
looking for the development of thought, such as I did in Worry Less, Live More.
Dr. Edwin Young, who was my pastor in Columbia, South Carolina, would always begin his sermon, saying, “Lord, let me get out of the way, and may Your Word alone speak to us.”
That’s preaching and teaching that has
authority. That’s what America need in this hour.
were elementary children, we had to learn vocabulary.
What does pledge mean? What does allegiance mean? Republic? Indivisible? When
we commit our lives to Christ, we enter God’s school—the School of the
Bible—and He has some vocabulary words for us. We don’t need to avoid those
words, but to learn them—words like salvation,
justification, atonement, grace and—redemption.
Redemption in the Law
common words today. We talk about redeeming frequent flyer miles, and we talk
about whether a particular athlete can redeem himself after a poor performance.
But how does the Bible use these words? To redeem
means to purchase back something that has
25:25 says: If one of your fellow
Israelites become poor and sells some of their property, their nearest relative
is to come and redeem what they have sold.
Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, they divided up the land by
tribes, by clans, and by families. A piece of land was to stay within its family,
generation after generation, typically going the firstborn. If I ran into hard
times and sold my land, I was losing it for the future generations who would
come me. So the law made provision for my relative to redeem it and to restore
it to me.
process was complicated when a young man got married and died without leaving
heir. So there was another provision in the law, which is called the Levirate
25: 5 says: If brothers are living
together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside
the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the
duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the
name of the dead brother so that his name will be blotted out from Israel.
If a man
married a woman and died without children, his name could disappear from the
genealogical records of Israel and his land would be sold. So a provision was made
for an unmarried brother or close relative to step in and become her husband so
that the legacy and inheritance would continue.
these two laws became linked together. And that brings us to the book of Ruth,
as we pick up our study in chapter 4.
Redemption in the
Book of Ruth
Verse 1: Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate…
gate in many ancient villages was a wide area in the wall that surrounded the
city and it often had rooms and places where meetings could be held.
Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town
gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came
along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over
and sat down.
Verse 2: Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and
said, “Sit here,” and they did so. Then he said to the guardian-redeemer,
“Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged
to our relative Elimelek.
In other words,
she is bankrupt and is about to lose the land.
Verse 4: I thought I should bring the matter to your
attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and
in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if
you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except
you, and I am next in line.”
“I will redeem it,” he said.
book of Ruth, the Hebrew words for redeem
and redemption occurs 20 times. It is
truly the theme of this book.
man said he would exercise the right of redemption from Leviticus 25, and he
would keep the land in the family. But now, Boaz said, “By the way, there is
one other thing. The right of redemption triggers the levirate clause, and you
also have to marry the Moabite maiden, Ruth.
Verse 5: Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land
from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order
to maintain the name of the dead with his property. At this, the
guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my
own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”
what Boaz wanted to hear. And here we have an ancient parenthesis because even
in the days of David and Solomon, some of the customs had become obscure. (Now in
earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become
final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the
method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)
of Ruth was probably written long afterward during the days of David or
Solomon, so the writer give us a parenthetical statement explaining that in the
days of the Judges, if I agreed to sell you a piece of land, I would take off
my sandal and give it to you, apparently signifying that now you had the right
to walk on that land and not me. It belongs to you.
Verse 8: So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy
it yourself.” And he removed his sandal. Then Boaz announced to the elders and
all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the
property of Elimelek, Kilion, and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the
Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead
with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or
from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!” Then the enders and all the people
at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming
into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of
Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through
the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like
that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”
experienced redemption. Redemption means to purchase something back that has
been lost. And what did she acquire through redemption? She acquired three
Lost Inheritance in verse 9: Today you
are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek,
Kilion, and Mahlon. This guaranteed that this prized family property, about
be lost forever, would now remain in the family of Naomi and of Ruth.
Loving Husband in verse 10: I have also
acquired Ruth the Moabitess…as my wife. Ruth was about to become the bride
of a loving and wealthy and godly husband.
a Lasting Legacy in verse 11: May the
Lord make the women who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who
together built up the family of Israel.. May you have standing in Ephrathah and
be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young
woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.
are redeemed by Jesus Christ, we acquire our lost inheritance. We acquire a
loving husband—we become the bride of Christ. And we acquire a lasting legacy.
Our lives have significance, and we find the purpose for which God made us.
Redemption in the New
that is introduced in the Law of Moses and illustrated in the book of Ruth is
brought to fruition in the teachings of the New Testament.
Luke 2, Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, took Him to the temple to dedicate
Him. And when they entered the temple courtyards, an elderly woman named Anna gave
thanks and began speaking about the child to all who were looking forward to
3:23-25: …for all have sinned and falls
short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through
the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice
of atonement, through the shedding of His blood, to be received by faith.
3:13: Christ redeemed us from the curse
of the law by becoming a cruse for us, for it is written, “Cursed is everyone
who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us….
4:4-5: But when the set time had fully
come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those
under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
1:7: In Him we have redemption through
His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of God’s grace that
He lavished on us.
2:14: (Christ) gave Himself for us to redeem
us from all wickedness and to purify to Himself a people that are His very own.
9:12: He did not enter (the Most Holy
Place) by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy
Place once for all by His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
Peter 1:8: For you know that it was not
with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the
empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious
blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
Christ redeemed us from sin and hell and judgement—He redeemed us from slavery
by His own precious blood and in Him we acquired our lost inheritance, a love
husband, and a lasting legacy.
One of the
best ways I know of trying to convey the excite of what this means is by
thinking of what it would have meant to a slave who was redeemed from bondage.
Think of how people felt on New Year’s Day in 1863 when President Lincoln
signed the Proclamation of Emancipation.
Rights activist Frederick Douglass was among 3,000 mostly African-Americans who
gathered at the Tremont (Baptist) Temple in Boston.
was in Boston and… an immense assembly convened in Tremont Temple to await the
first flash of the electric wires announcing the…proclamation if it came; and
if it did not come, to speak our minds freely; for, in view of the past, it was
by no means certain that it would come. The occasion, therefore, was one of
both hope and fear…. Every moment of waiting chilled our hopes and strengthened
our fears. A line of messengers was established between the telegraph office
and the platform of Tremont Temple, and the time was occupied with brief
speeches…. But speaking or listening to speeches was not the thing for which
the people had come together. The time for argument was passed. It was not
logic, but the trump of jubilee which everybody wanted to hear. We were waiting
and listening as for a bolt from the sky, which should rend the fetters of four
million of slaves. We were watching, as it were, by the dim light of the stars,
for the dawn of a new day. We were longing for the answer to the agonizing
prayers of centuries…. We wanted to join in the shout of freedom and in the
anthem of the redeemed.
nine, ten o’clock came and went, and still no word. A visible shadow seemed
falling on the expected throng…. At last, when patience was well-nigh
exhausted, and suspense was becoming agony, a man—I think it was Judge
Russell—with hasty step advanced through the crowds, and with a face fairly
illumined with the news he bore, exclaimed in tone that thrilled all hearts,
“It is coming! It is on the wires!” The effect of this announcement was
startling beyond description, and the scene was wild and grand. Joy and
gladness exhausted all forms of expression from shouts of praise, to sobs, and
tears. My old friend Rue, a colored preacher, a man of wonderful vocal power,
expressed the heartfelt emotion of the hour, when he led all voices in the
anthem, “Sound the loud timbrel o’er Egypt’s dark sea, Jehovah has triumphed,
His people are free.”
you need redemption today. Receive Christ as Savior. Don’t delay. If you have
been redeemed by blood, never stop celebrating it.
If you’re worried about raising children in a difficult
age, let me recommend the book of Ruth. The prior book, Judges, tells of a long
period of cyclical sin. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes, not what
was right in God’s eyes. The book ends with two stories that are so
reprehensible it’s difficult to read them. But then, by mercy, we turn the page
and come to another story—the book of Ruth. This story tells us that even in
evil times like those of Judges, God can bless us and our families if we repent
and return to Him. We can have good marriages, happy homes, and healthy children
even in difficult times. But we must be sensitive to the need for repentance.
In the first chapter of Ruth, a family of four leaves
Bethlehem for Moab, apparently out of the will of God, without prayer or guidance.
The three men all perish in Moab. Naomi decides to return home, along with her Moabite
daughter-in-law, Ruth, who has committed herself to the Lord. Naomi and Ruth
both turn from their Moabite experience in repentance, showing us five distinct
changes that occur as we return to Him.
1. You Have Revival in Your Heart (Ruth 1:1 & 22) – Notice the first and last verses of chapter 1:
In those days when the judges ruled, there
was a famine in the land
So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by
Ruth, her daughter-in-law, arrived in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was
Ruth 1 opens with a famine and closes with a harvest.
What had happened? The people of Bethlehem had returned to God, the rains had
fallen, the crops and grown, and the harvest was full. It was a time of refreshing
and revival. As we work our way through chapter 2, we realize Bethlehem is in
the throes of a spiritual awakening. There is prosperity in this chapter. There
is happiness and kindness and is romance in this chapter. There is a revival
going on in Bethlehem.
I long to see a revival in our land, and we’re praying
for an awakening in Nashville. But whether or not this city and this nation is
awakened, we can be. We can live in a state of personal revival. The Psalmist
said, “He restores my soul.” There have
been times I’ve gotten so busy or so angry or so distracted my spiritual health
has suffered. I had to recognize that and repent and return. I had to get into
my Bible and turn things back over to Lord and rededicate myself to Him. That’s
how we go from the famine to the harvest.
You Have Providence on Your Side (Ruth 2:1-3) – Now Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side, a man of
standing from the clan of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite
said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind
anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.”
So she went out, entered a field, and began to glean behind the harvesters. As
it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan
Notice that phrase, “As it turned out….” It appeared to
be a random chance; it appeared to be an accident; it appeared that Ruth just
happened to go to the field of this man. But her footsteps were guided by the
That’s the testimony of everyone who walks with God
through Jesus Christ. When we’re where God wants us, His providence works for
us. Somehow God even turns the curses into blessings, somehow the circumstances
end up working on our behalf.
There once lived a dedicated Christian who was a painter,
very gifted with oils. He was called America’s Leonardo. His paintings were
famous around the world, and he painted great historical panoramas showcasing
the history of the nation. He greatest desire was to paint scenes from American
history on the panels on the walls of the Rotunda of the capitol building in
Washington, but another artist was chosen. Disappointed, this man laid down his
brush and pursed a hobby—electricity and the sending of signals across wires. A
dozen years later he stood in that same capital building and sent the first
telegraph from Washington to Baltimore. His name was Samuel Morse, and historians
say he launched a revolution greater than any imagined by Caesar or Napoleon—the
communications revolution. His first telegraph said, “What hath God wrought,”
for he understand it was all from the hand of God. His greatest disappointment
led to an achievement greater than he could have imagined, and he saw the hand
of God’s providence in it all.
We could take every Christian’s biography and title it: “As
it turned out.”
3. You Have Blessings in Your Ears (Ruth 2:4-12)
One of the surprising things in this chapter is how many
blessings it contains. There are six times when people called down God’s
blessings on others.
then Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters, saying, “The Lord
be with you!” “The Lord bless you!” they answered.
Having greeted his workers, Boaz checked out the progress
of the harvest and his eyes traveled to the end of the field where he spotted
asked the overseer of his harvesters, “Who does that young woman belong to? “The
overseer replied, “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. She
said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’
She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for
a short rest in the shelter.”
It’s not hard to read between the lines here and find
love at first sight.
Boaz said to Ruth, “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another
field and don’t go away from here. Stay here with the women who work for me.
Watch the field where the men are harvesting and follow along after the women.
I have told the men not to lay a hand on you. And whenever you are thirsty, go
and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.” At this, she bowed
down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor
in your eyes that you notice me—a foreigner?”
Here are the third and fourth blessings in the chapter:
the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the
Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.
Lord be with you.
Lord bless you.
Lord repay you for what you have done.
you be richly rewarded by the Lord.
Wouldn’t it be something if we said something like that
to our children each morning when they went off to school? What if we prayed
for one another in these terms? These statements are actually prayers—short,
little, precipitous prayers that we offer in the presence of another.
4. You Have Peace Beneath His Wings (Ruth 2:12) – Boaz said: May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.
Ruth responded by saying: May I
continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord. You have put me at ease by
speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of
Boaz created a figure of speech often repeated in the Bible — finding security and a hiding place beneath the wings of God. Jesus used this of Himself, saying He longed to gather His people under His wings like a chicken does with her chicks. Well, under the merciful wings of God, Boaz and Ruth got off to a good start and both worked through morning, but I have a feeling Boaz kept glancing over in Ruth’s direction. The passage goes on to say: At mealtime, Boaz said to her, “Come over here. Have some bread and dip it in the wine vinegar.”
This was something like their first date. We can learn a
lot from this. If you want to date a girl, just ask her to go out with you have
some bread and vinegar.
5. You Have Provision in Your Pathway (Ruth 2:13-19) – When she sat down with the harvesters, he offered her some roasted grain. She ate all she wanted and had some left over. As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, “Let her gather among the sheaves and don’t reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.”
Now at the risk of spiritualize this verse, I want to
suggest that’s what God does for us. When we are where He wants us to be,
somehow, we find that unexpected little bundles of blessings fall into our
Our Guardian Redeemer (Ruth 2:20-23)
Now we come to an important sentence that helps us
understand the importance of the book of Ruth to the entire story of God and to
the story of redemption. She added, “That
man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers.”
What is a guardian-redeemer? In the Law of Moses, there was
provision made for women who found themselves in crisis, widowed without any
children to carry on the family. If there was a relative connected to their
husband, that relative had the obligation of doing two things:
a marriage to continue the family name and the chain of inheritance.
her family property that had been lost due to her misfortune.
Boaz was that relative. He was the man qualified by the
Levitical law to redeem Naomi—and by extension, her daughter-in-law Ruth,
through marriage and the restoration of her property.
That’s what it meant to be redeemed. Ruth is a book of
redemption. In fact, the Hebrew word for “redemption” occurs in one form or
another 23 times in this short little book. And it all points to Christ. Boaz
is a type of Christ. He is a prefiguration of Christ.
This is what Jesus does for us. He redeems us for Himself
and we become the Bride of Christ, and He restores to us everything we lost
through sin and disobedience. He is the reason we can repent and return to God.
Naomi was beginning to put things together.
Ruth the Moabite said, “He even said to me, ‘Stay with my workers until they
finish harvesting all my grain.’”
said to Ruth her daughter-in-law, “It will be good for you, my daughter, to go
with the women who work for him, because in someone else’s field you might be
harmed. So Ruth stayed close to the women of Boaz to glean until the barley and
wheat harvests were finished. And she lived with her mother-in-law.
The story will continue in the next chapter, but for now
think of the changes that will occur in your life if you repent and rededicate
yourself to Christ. You will have…
I’ve come across the account of a man named Ding Li-Mei, whose story will inspire your prayer life. Ding and his family were reached for Christ in the 1800s by the foreign missions efforts of American Presbyterians. As a child, Ding was responsive to the Gospel and was mentored by a woman named Julia Mateer, who wielded great influence over many Chinese students of that time.
When he was in his twenties, the
Boxer Rebellion broke out, which was a time of great suffering, especially for Christian
believers. Ding was arrested for his faith and carried off to the magistrate,
where he was given 500 stripes with a cane that left his back a mass of raw bleeding
flesh. Suffering unspeakable pain, he was carried back to his filthy cell to
die. But an army of prayer warriors interceded for him, and he was rescued.
Recovering from his wounds, Ding enrolled in a Chinese university where, in February 1910, during four days of meetings he conducted, 116 students offered themselves to the Lord for fulltime vocational service. As Ding saw God using his efforts, he realized the Lord was calling him to devote his life to working with students. In the summer of 1910, he was instrumental in forming the Chinese Student Volunteer Movement for the Ministry, and he became its first traveling secretary. His impact on Chinese university students was so great that Dr. John Mott said, “In recent years he has influenced the largest number of students to devote their lives to the Christian ministry ever secured by one mam during the history of the Church in Asia.” He came to be called the “Moody of China” and was said in his lifetime to be “the greatest evangelistic force that missions in China have ever produced.”
In February 1918, Ding wrote an article for The Missionary Review of the World, entitled “The Prayer-Life of Chinese Christians,” which described the prayer habits of Chinese Christians.
“The Gospel has now been preached in China for over a century, in her twenty-two provinces… Christian believers and inquirers number more than half a million. God has opened very wide the door for preaching the Word and for winning men to Him. Western and Chinese Christians alike will unite in acknowledging that the chief explanation of this is to be found in the great volume of prayer for China’s redemption…. The prayer-life of Chinese Christians has commanded my closest attention from my youth up.”
Ding Li-Mei went on to describe some of the prayer-practices of the Chinese church, including how cottage prayer meetings occurred across the nation the first week of every year; prayer retreats held by various Christian organizations; and the personal prayer habits of many godly men and women. He gave the example of an elderly woman named Mrs. Liang who lived in Shantung, and who was uneducated and very poor. When she came to Christ, she was the only Christian in her family or village, but she prayed with exceeding zeal. “Now more than eighty in her family and over twenty others in her village are Christians,” he said.
He told of a Methodist woman in Peking, Miss Pan Yuan Ying, who was much given to prayer. Every morning she prayed for at least 135 people by name. “She has a weekly cycle of prayer which she follows day by day….”
Then Ding wrote:
“That brings me to my own personal testimony. From boyhood I have taken delight in conversing with my friends on prayer and Bible study. Even when in school I joined two or three of my most intimate schoolmates in secret meetings for prayer and the study of Holy Scripture…. I spent three years in theological studies, giving myself wholly for a search for Truth. During these years the number of fellow-pray-ers grew, until by 1899, my prayer list included 105 names. This list has continued to grow until now, in 1917, it numbers 2,347….”
“As I think back over twenty years of experience in intercessory prayer, the longer I practice it, the more its importance grows on me. I do not know all the benefits which others may have received through these prayers, nor does it matter that I do not. I cannot refrain from enumerating ten out of the uncounted blessings which I myself have experienced in the practice of this habit:
I am so much with the Lord that He seems my closest Friend.
My spiritual life is refreshed like the sprouting grain with rain.
Justice, peace and joy constantly fill my soul as the light fills the heavens and I get uncommon strength.
When I study the Bible, I seem to see heaven opened, and realize that I am having communion with the heart of Christ Himself.
When I talk about the Gospel in private or in public, I have an unshakable confidence that the hand of the Lord is supporting me.
My love has steadily expanded until I now am conscious of no man in the universe whom I cannot love.
When I fall into sin, whether secret or open, whether great or small, I experience an immediate rebuke of conscience, which drives me at once to confession and repentance.
In all my work for the Lord, although the results are not alike evident or immediate, I do not know of any effort that has been in vain.
Intercessory prayer has greatly enlarged my circles of friends among God’s co-workers, and through the Lord’s kind care these friendships will never cease…
And best of all, I am not the only one who is trying to persevere in intercession. Others in my own and in other Christian organizations, both men and women, in church school and ministry, have likewise banded together in similar covenants of prayer these same twenty years.”
A Presbyterian tract about Ding’s life said, “What is the secret of his influence and power? It is neither scholarship nor rhetoric, but prayer. Hours every day does he spend in prayer. He has a book he ever carries with him, in which he has the names and addresses of over 2000 persons, with whom he has covenanted to pray each for the other by name every day. While sitting on the platform during a service, walking on the street, riding in a rickshaw, boat or car, he uses these otherwise unoccupied minutes to pray for these 2000 people…. While in my home, I had occasion to pass his bedroom; it was long past midnight, and I found the light of his lamp still streaming through the transom. When, the next morning, I playfully chided him for keeping such late hours, he replied, ‘When we separated last night, I still had 500 friends for whom I had not prayed yesterday, and I could not go to sleep without first carrying them, by name, to the throne of God in prayer.’”
In reading about this man, I don’t feel compelled to have 2000 people on my prayer list. But I am powerfully motivated toward greater faithfulness toward those who are on my prayer list and to maintain ever-closer constancy in my walk with God. I’m eager to meet Ding Li-Mei in heaven, though I suspect I’ll have to wait in line a while.
I’ve received several notifications that my Facebook Page might be hacked. On further investigation, however, my real Facebook Page (which is not a personal profile) is intact and secure at this time.
It seems someone created a fake / impersonation profile page to imitate me, using my pictures / posts to make the profile seem legitimate. The impersonator has been inviting friends and sending Facebook messages as me. If you receive such a message, please don’t respond or give away any personal information.
You can help get Facebook’s attention by reporting this phony profile. My team created some instructions (below). I’m sorry for any inconvenience and I’m thankful for any help reporting this activity.
Plus a Suggested Five-Part Sermon Series from Micah
moment the New York legislature burst into cheers about passing a bill to murder
of children for any reason up to the point of birth, our nation crossed a line
from which, apart from divine mercy, there is no return. It’s akin to the child
sacrifices that doomed the nation of Judah. I have not seen such evil in the
United States before. We need a prophetic voice, which means our pulpits must
take seriously the preaching of the Old Testament prophets. Those books are in
the Bible for a reason. But the prophets are not all doom and disaster. Micah
is an example of a man whose sermons encompassed sin, repentance, and restoration,
and whose ministry fostered a spiritual awakening. His seven chapters are worth
mastering, and the structure of the book is worth noting.
The Theme of Micah:
God’s Warnings Can Be Awakenings.
The Background of Micah: What we know about Micah himself is in verse 1 of his book: The word of the Lord that came to Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah…. To understand the times during which Micah preached, scan 2 Chronicles 27 – 32. Jotham was a relatively good king who reigned 16 years, and during this time Micah began his ministry. When Jotham died, his 20-year-old son, Ahaz, took over. He was diabolically evil, and it wasn’t safe to be an infant. “He…sacrificed his children in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites” (2 Chronicles 28:3). Micah preached through this period. When Ahaz died, Hezekiah became king and instituted an awakening in the land. Micah’s ministry undoubtedly helped usher in this awakening, and the structure of his book reflects this history. Isaiah was preaching during the same period, but Isaiah was primarily in Jerusalem. Micah was a prophet to the small towns. Notice how many small towns he mentions in his book. Fittingly, to him was given the honor of announcing the small-town birthplace of the Messiah (5:2).
Part 1: Micah’s Discourse
The first five chapters of Micah are a sermon or series of sermons—a booklet—that deals with three themes: (1) Judgment – chapter 1; (2) Repentance – chapters 2-3; and restoration – chapters 4-5. He began by warning Judah of God’s coming judgment and he mourned over the devastation coming to the small towns of Judah. In chapter 2, Micah explained why God is preparing to judge His people. He condemned the false prophets in chapter 2 and the corrupt politicians in chapter 3. Abruptly Micah jumped to coming restoration in chapters 4 and began describing the Millennial Reign of Christ. He and Isaiah shared some of the same language. He pinpointed the location of Christ’s birth (5:2) and predicted that the one born in Bethlehem would stand and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord and in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. He will be our peace. Remember that the Old Testament prophets didn’t distinguish between the first and second comings of Christ. So having spoken of the Messiah being born in Bethlehem, Micah described the worldwide victory of Christ’s return, when God “will take vengeance in anger and wrath on the nations that have not obeyed Me” (5:15).
2. Part 2: Micah’s Dialogue (chapters 6-7)
The last two chapters have a decidedly different tone to them, indicating that a spiritual awakening was unfolding, perhaps the awakening that occurred when Hezekiah became king. In chapter 6, the Lord enjoined the people to repent, not with warnings and threats, but with a tone of love and longing: “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? I brought you out of Egypt… I sent Moses to lead you…” The people responded, in effect, saying, “What do you want us to do? Do we need to offer thousands of rams and rivers of olive oil? Do we need to offer you our first-born sons?” The Lord replied, “You don’t need to do any of that. All you have to do is act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” The people were struck with sorrow and contrition in chapter 7, saying, “What misery is mine!” They recounted their sins (7:1-6), and resolved to watch in hope for God as their Savior (7:7). That leads to the key verse of the book, Micah 7:9: “Because I have sinned against Him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until He pleads my case and upholds my cause. He will bring me out into the light; I will see His righteousness.” The book ends with one of the Bible’s most magnificent declarations of God’s awesome grace and merciful forgiveness (7:18-20).
we find ourselves in the days of Ahaz, when it isn’t even safe to be an infant,
there is still hope for our land. The preaching of prophets like Micah and
their themes of sin, judgment, and restoration, can bring an awakening, and God
can “hurl all our iniquities in the depths of the sea” (7:19).
PS: Some Ideas for
Creating a Five-Part Sermon Series from Micah…
Title: God’s Warning, Our Awakening
Changing Seasons in the Life of a Nation – Survey 2 Chronicles 27-32,
looking at the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, drawing parallels to our
Sermon 2: The Coming Judgment – Micah 1 – God’s judgment is holy and good, for evil cannot be permitted to win. God is coming from His dwelling place and the earth will melt before Him. Even small towns will not escape. He warns us in order to spare us.
Sermon 3: What Sin Does to a Land – Micah 2 and 3 – A land is ruined with sin infiltrates the people, the preachers, and the politicians of a land. But notice 2:7: “Do not my words do good to the one whose ways are upright?”
The Way It Should Be – Micah 5 and 6 – Do you ever dream of the way the
world ought to be? The way it can be? In
these chapters, Micah describes that period of time when Christ will rule 1000
years over the nations. The real shepherd is Christ, born in Bethlehem. He can
be your peace now, and the qualities of His kingdom can happen in your heart today.
Chapter 5: How To Experience Awakening – Micah 6 & 7 – In these chapters, the people become responsive to Micah’s message. They want to know what He demands of them, and He tells them it is to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (6:8). They confess their sins (7:8), and the Lord assures them He will throw all their sins into the depths of the sea (7:19). Dwell on an exposition of the last three verses of the book, for this is a description of the infinite forgiving, restoring, renewing grace of God.
Background: On the final night of our Lord’s natural life, Jesus gave His disciples a poignant message in John 13-17—the Upper Room Discourse. He started by washing their feet in the first part of John 13, followed by the departure of Judas Iscariot in the last part of the chapter.A foreboding came over the disciples, and Jesus opened John 14 saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Chapter 14 is one of the richest in the Bible, but notice its ending in verse 31: “Come now; let us leave.”
vacated the room. The disciples followed Him into the dark streets of
Jerusalem. Why the departure? Surely because Judas would be returning with a
brigade of soldiers, so Jesus stayed a few steps ahead of them. The streets would
have been deserted because everyone was celebrating Passover meals. Passing residences,
they would have heard the chatter and laughter of dinner parties through closed
windows. Somewhere a dog barked. It was chilly night, and the little group
continued through moonlit streets beneath the southern steps of the Temple Mount.
Here Jesus continued His message with chapter 15. Perhaps they passed a
household vineyard or saw the image of grapes etched into the temple. Jesus
I am the true vine, and my Father is the
gardener. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every
branch that does bear fruit He prunes, so that it will be even more fruitful.
analogy had four elements:
gardener (the Father)
fruit (which Jesus does not yet define)
two kinds of branches—the fruitful and the unfruitful. The fruitful ones are
pruned and the unfruitful ones are cut off. Jesus didn’t interpret that, but
we’ve just read chapters13 and 14, and we’ve seen Judas leave the room and
we’ve seen the other disciples troubled, so we can make an assumption. The
unfruitful vine represents Judas and people like him, who pretend to be His
followers but display no evidence. The fruitful vines represent the other
eleven, who are genuine followers but sometimes go through difficulties, which
God ultimately uses to make us even more fruitful.
next verse, Jesus said as much—John 15:3: You
are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. He was referring
back to chapter 13, verse 10, when He said: You
are clean, though not every one of you. For He knew who was going to betray
Him, and that is why He said not everyone was clean. Judas was not clean;
He was not fruitful. But Jesus wanted no more defections, so He continued in
verse 4: Remain in Me, as I also remain
in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither
can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.
remain in unbroken fellowship with Him, abiding in Him, as close as a branch to
a vine. When a gardener plants a grapevine, it produces branches and the sap
flows from the vine into the branch and bears fruit. If we aren’t abiding in
Him, we can do nothing. We can bear no fruit. In the next verses, Jesus expanded
15:5-6: I am the vine; you are the
branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart
from Me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch
that thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire
Jesus warned about the Judas syndrome—those who outwardly appear to be a
followers of Christ, but with no reality, no fruitfulness, no evidence in their
lives. How, then, do we remain in Christ? What’s the secret to unbroken
fellowship with Him? Read on:
If you remain in Me and My words remain
in You, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
in Him when we are united with Him in unbroken fellowship, having His word
inside us and praying in His will. If we do that we’ll be fruitful and God will
This is to my Father’s glory, that you
bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
the paragraph telling us that if we abide in Him we will bear fruit, more
fruit, and much fruit, God will be glorified, and the world will know we are
His disciples. Yet He has not yet interpreted for us one crucial element of the
analogy. What does He mean by “fruit”?
preachers—I’ve done this myself—simply fill in the blank. We say He was talking
about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Or He was talking about the
results of our ministry. Some say He was referring to good works. Still, as of
verse 8, Jesus hasn’t given us His interpretation.
course, the passage doesn’t stop at verse 8. In fact, verses 1-8 are preparatory
for what follows. In the next paragraph, we would expect Jesus to define the fruit,
and He does exactly that. Here, then, is the question we want to know as we
plunge into verses 9-17: What quality does Jesus want to produce in you and me?
Well, read on:
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved
you. Now remain in My love.
If You keep My commandments, you will
remain in My love, just as I have
kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.
15:12: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s
friends. You are My friends if you do what I command.
You did not choose Me, but I choose you
and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last… This
is My command: Love each other.
are a parable about fruitfulness, and they lead into verses 9-17, which is the
greatest passage Jesus ever spoke on the subject of love. When we remain in
unbroken fellowship with Jesus Christ, we grow in His love. We become walking,
living embodiments of the love of Jesus. It seems clear to me that the fruit,
more fruit, and much fruit Jesus was thinking about in His analogy was the
attitude of love He commanded we emulate—and the results of that love in this
This is the mark of discipleship—the one thing that distinguishes His followers from everyone else. By this everyone will know you are My disciples. The Father is the gardener. The Son is the vine. We are the branches. And the fruitfulness He reproduces within us is His brand of love, His character of love—and the outworking of that love in this world as we lay down our lives to meet the needs of others.
If you continue reading in chapter 15, the next paragraph is all about hate, which, according to Jesus, is the distinguishing mark of the world. Verse 18 continues, “If the world hates you….” So John 15:1-8 is our Lord’s parable of the vine; Verses 9-17 is about the fruit of love; and verses 18-25 is about the opposite attitude pervasive in the world.
Let me suggest three ways of exhibiting the love of Christ.
1. Meeting Physical Needs
others when we meet their physical needs. When the apostle John wrote those
words in His Gospel, they lingered in His mind. Later, in his first epistle, he
referred back to this incident and quoted Jesus. John said, “This is how we
know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay
down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions
and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love
of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:16-17).
what people should notice about believers. Two quick examples:
a Christian dentist in my town who drives into the poorer streets one day a
week and collects people needing dental work. He brings them to his office and
takes care of their teeth at no charge, and delivers them home.
read about a church group of 120 women in Texas who volunteer to go to the bus
station to meet women prisoners being released. The prison bus leaves the newly
released women at the station, needy and scared. In the past, predators lurked
around to lure them into something bad. But these Christian women take over the
bus station, guide and guard the needy women, and help them find their buses
and destinations. They give them goody bags and Bibles. It’s a major operation,
but the testimonies coming out of it are incredible.
the love of Christ that compels us to meet the physical needs of others. If we’re
abiding in Christ, we should be doing something to help someone who isn’t as
well off as we are.
2. Meeting Emotional Needs
love as Jesus did, we’re also moved to meet the emotional needs of others. In
his book, Just a Minute, Wesley
Stafford spoke at an educator’s conference in Nairobi and was impressed by the
dedication of the 400 teachers in attendance. At the end of his talk, he asked if
anyone had a story to share. A young man stood and said he was in his first
year of teaching. He told the group why he had chosen the field of education. His
first days as a schoolchild had been a painful ordeal because of his stutter.
He felt embarrassed and alone and could hardly wait each day to run home. His
teacher, noticing his struggle, approached him, praising his work. She wrote
encouraging notes on his papers and gave him some of the only hugs he ever
received. That’s when he decided he wanted to be a teacher—all the way back in
the first grade because of a wise and loving teacher.
asked, “Did you ever tell her of her impact on your life?”
said softly. “I never really did.”
think she even knows?” asked Stafford.
man said, “Well, sir, she does now…” There was a hush in the crowd as the young
man collected himself. Turning, he pointed across the room and continued,
“…because she is sitting right over there.” The teachers gasped and turned to
see where the man was pointing. There sat an aged, gray-haired woman with
glistening eyes who, amid tremendous applause, stood quietly to her feet.
Stafford later said, “Now, I can’t prove it, but I would swear violins were
playing as the two of them made their way to the center aisle and met in a long
and over-due embrace.”
3. Meeting Spiritual Needs
all, if we are abiding in Christ and bearing the inward fruit of His love,
we’ll want to meet the spiritual needs of others. A year or so ago, I spent
time with a man who had devoted his life to Ethiopian missions, and he gave me
a book, Warriors of Ethiopia, by his
coworker that told some incredible stories. One was about an evangelist named Laliso.
a burden to reach the Ethiopian village of Goybi with the Gospel. One day he
set out for this village, wanting to be there before dark. But he was detained at
a checkpoint. By the time the police let him go, it was nearly sunset. Laliso
had trouble following the pathway, which ran by a small river. Suddenly the
ground collapsed and he slid down the bank and tumbled into the water. He was
soaked to the skin and scratched and bruised, though his Bible was wrapped and
watertight. He couldn’t get of the water because the banks were steep and
slick. All he could do was walk upstream, hanging to branches or tree limbs as
best he could. Finally he came to a village and called out for help. He was
delighted to find he was in Goybi.
A man ran to
him holding a torch. He called others and they stared at Laliso in amazement.
They said, “He is the fair one and he came to us out of the water,” they said,
“but does he have the golden leaves?”
Laliso to a hut where he wrung out his wet clothes and dried off. Everyone
looked at his skin. It was lighter and fairer than their dark Ethiopian skin.
Suddenly the crowd parted, and the town witchdoctor walked in. He looked at
Laliso, pressing his hands together and opening them like opening and shutting
a book. He kept saying, “The golden leaves. The golden leaves.”
didn’t know what this meant, but he prayed for guidance and unwrapped his Bible.
The crowd gasped. It was a black Bible, but the edges of the pages were colored
gold. The people started shouting and clapping and saying, “It is true! It is
true!” The witchdoctor fell to his knees and reached out and touched the Bible.
“Yes, it is true. The truth has come at last. Now we can find the way to life.”
asked he was talking about, and the man said, “A long time ago, before my
father died, he told us that one day a fair man would come out of the water
with some gold leaves. The gold leaves were the truth that would show us the
way to life. We have waited for the truth for so long. But now you have come.”
able to evangelize that village, and the word multiplied from there; and
according to my friend, the message is still radiating through Ethiopia because
of those golden leaves.
Conclusion: You and I have the Golden Leaves.
We have the love of Jesus Christ that drives us to meet the physical, the
emotional, and the spiritual needs of this world. The love of Christ compels us
because we are convinced that one died for all (2 Corinthians 5:14).
we do—what can you and I do—to bear fruit, more fruit, and much fruit?
you were there in those darkened streets in Jerusalem with the Lord. Imagine
you were there on that darkened jungle trail with Laliso. Imagine the
opportunities you’ll have this week. Abide in Christ and let love become the
most obvious factor about you—the mark of discipleship. And let’s be disciples
of Him who said, “Greater love has no man than this, that He lay down His life
for His friends.”
Introduction: Several years ago a friend in the Tennessee Air National Guard called me and said, “The Vice President is in town and he’s away from Air Force Two for a few hours. Would you like to come down and get a tour?” I raced to the airport where a Secret Service agent took me through the plane. I saw the VP’s office and his little bedroom and the VIP seating and the communications gear. It was very interesting. Anytime we can go behind closed doors and have access to a place most people never go, it’s a special experience. We’re all curious about those things.
Biblical Background: Throughout the history of the world, one room is so exclusive that no one could ever enter it except one person once a year–the Holy of Holies in the Jewish Tabernacle (and later in the Jewish Temple). This room was, in essence, the throne room of Almighty God on earth, the place where He dwelt in a manifest and glorious way.
When Moses led the Israelites through the Red Sea and into the wilderness, they came to Mount Sinai, where God gave him the design of the Tabernacle—an elaborate tent divided into two rooms. The innermost room was a cube-shaped space. It had a heavy curtain as a doorway, and it contained one piece of furniture—the Ark of the Covenant. This room became the earthly headquarters for the manifest presence of God among His people. He was there among them, though a curtain separated the holy God from His unholy people. When Moses dedicated the Tabernacle, the clouds of God’s glory descended from heaven and filled the place. No one could enter this room except the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, and, according to tradition, the other priests would tie a rope around him so if he died in the Holy of Holies they could pull him out without risking their lives.
Then one Friday, a High Priest did die. He died on a cross, and at that moment something extraordinary happened a half-mile away. The massive curtain or veil of the Temple was ripped in two as if invisible hands had torn it like a piece of tissue.
This is the background for Hebrews 10, where we find two great revelations and three great resolutions. The two great revelations both begin with the word, Since. The three great resolutions both begin with the phrase, Let us.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Two Great Revelations (Verses 19-21)
First, there’s a revelation about the curtain of the temple. Verses 19-20 say, Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body….
This tells us something important about Old Testament typology. The weaving of the fabric and the colors and images of the veil of the temple was a symbol of the body of Christ, who would be ripped apart, as it were, so that through Him we could have access into the Most Holy Place and enter into God’s presence and have a relationship Him.
Second, there’s a revelation about our great priest. Verse 21 continues, And since we have a great priest over the house of God.
This tells us something else about Old Testament typology. When God designed the office of High Priest, He had Christ in mind. Just as the High Priest represents us before God, and just as He entered the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat to atone for sins, so we have a great High Priest who had done that for us.
Since these two things are true, there are three resolutions we must make.
Three Great Resolutions (Verses 22-25)
First, there’s the resolution to draw near to God—verse 22: Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Because of Jesus Christ and His riven body, we have total and constant access into the presence of God, and when we learn to draw near to Him it makes all the difference. We come by faith in the power of His blood to cleanse us from a guilty conscience. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, and the righteousness of Christ clothes us like a garment, allowing us to enter the Most Holy Place and to draw near to God and to enjoy His fellowship. We need to come to Him in faith and then develop a dedicated habitual time every day for prayer and Bible reading, not for the sake of ritual or routine, but for the sake of fellowship and friendship with God.
Second, there’s the resolution to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. If we are living in the presence of God with constant access to His fellowship, with constant access to the Throne of Grace, we should have a positive and optimistic attitude. Verse 23 says, Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess… This makes us tough-minded optimists. Of all the people on earth, we should maintain a positive attitude, doggedly hopeful.
Third, there’s the resolution to consider how to spur one another toward love. Verse 24-25 say: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.
In other words, let’s find ways of encouraging each other and, whatever you do, do not stop gathering on Sundays for worship and fellowship. I’ve been reading the biography of John Wannamaker of Philadelphia who virtually invented the modern Department Store. In the days after the Civil War he developed the largest store in the world. No one had ever seen anything like it, and people came from all over the world to see it. He kept the store open all week except for Sundays. He ran a very large Sunday School and he didn’t want to miss it and he didn’t want any of his employees or customers to miss church. When he was appointed Postmaster General of the US, one of the first things he did was to stop Sunday mail delivery. Wannamaker wanted his postal employees to be able to go to church, and so he ended Sunday mail delivery, which is why the postal carriers don’t stop at your mailbox on Sundays. Wannamaker’s example helped many people to see how important it was to put first the Lord first in everything we do.
Conclusion: There’s one other interesting phrase here. Notice how the paragraph ends: And all the more as you see the Day approaching (verse 25b). This is the day of Christ’s return, the Day of Judgment, the Day when Jesus will come like a thief in the night. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our planet is about to go into nosedive. The global economy has never been more insolvent. The weapons of destruction have never been more dangerous. The threats of biological pandemics have never been greater. The technological grid has never been more vulnerable. The world leaders have never been more intransigent. The times have never been more insane. Wouldn’t it be something if Jesus came again in in the New Year? Well, another year is dawning, Dear Father let it be on earth or else in heaven another year for then.
Since we have access into the very presence of the holy God through a new and living way, which is the blood and body of Jesus Christ, and since we have a great High Priest over the house of God, let us drawn Him to Him with the full assurance that faith brings, and let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, and let us spur one another on to love and good works, not forsaking the assembly of ourselves together as some are in the habit of doing, but all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Introduction: If you watched the news 2000 years ago in the Middle East, you would have been pretty discouraged. The ruler of Israel, Herod the Great, was sliding into insanity and was paranoid and violent. The land of Israel was occupied by the enemy. Their weak providential government was splintered into factions—Seduces and Pharisees and Zealots. The Romans had ordered an oppressive taxation or census, and Hellenistic paganism was eroding the nation’s faith. But in the middle of the chaos, a baby entered the world—and we call that message the Gospel, the Good News, the Best News for the worst times. The book of Romans, which explains the Gospel, begins by telling us: (A) Jesus was predicted before He was born (Romans 1:1-2); He was fully human, a descendant of David (Romans 1:3); and (C) He was God (Romans 1:4): …and who through the Spirit of Holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
In the ages of eternity past, Christ existed. He has always existed, for He is God—the eternal God, the God of grace and glory. When the Holy Spirit came upon the virgin Mary, Jesus also became a human; and from the moment of His miraculous conception Jesus has been—and always will—both God and man.
As far as we can tell in the Bible, in theology, in Christian beliefs in all three of its major branches—Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox—the transmogrification that took place at the miraculous conception of Christ was an eternal and permanent change.
The theologian, Wayne Grudem, used one sentence to summarize the entire sweep of biblical theology about who Jesus Christ is. One sentence: “Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man and will be so forever.”
Eight Biblical Reasons We Say Jesus is God
First, Jesus is called the “Son of God.” Notice Romans 1:4 again: He was declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The Hebrew phrase “son of” meant to bear the characteristics of someone. That’s the way this phrase is used in the Gospels. John 5:18 says, For this reason they tried all the more to kill (Jesus); not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal to God.
Second, Jesus is called God in the New Testament. See John 1:1; John 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; Matthew 1:23
Third, Jesus is called Lord throughout the New Testament. It used to trouble me some that there were not more New Testament examples of the word God being used of Jesus in the New Testament. And then I listened to a lecture that totally changed my understanding, and I’ve studied this ever since. The greatest mystery in the world is the doctrine of the Trinity—there is one God who eternally exists in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The New Testament writers used the word “God” primarily to designate the First Person of the Trinity—God the Father. But they reached back into the Old Testament and selected another title of deity or divinity or God-ness to designate God the Son, and that was the word “Lord.” That is a word that is used in the Old Testament over and over to designate God, but the New Testament writers use it almost exclusively of Jesus Christ, the way Paul does here in Romans 1:4: …and through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. That is the great New Testament confession of Christianity: Jesus Christ is Lord!
Fourth, Jesus is eternal in nature. He preexisted before His conception and birth. See Micah 5:2; John 8:58; John 17:5; Hebrews 13:8
Fifth, Jesus is of one essence with God. See Hebrews 1:3; Philippians 2:6; John 10:30 and 14:9
Sixth, Jesus spoke of Himself as coming down from heaven and being sent from above. See John 6:38 and 41, and John 7:33
Seventh, Jesus does things only God can do, such as forgiving sins. See Mark 2:5-7.
Finally, Jesus receives worship that only God can receive. See Matthew 2:11; Matthew 14:33; Revelation 5:6-13
Why is This So Important?
First, if Jesus is God He can save us from our sins. Isaiah 43:11 says, I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no Savior besides Me. Jesus had to be God in order to save us; but He had to be human in order to provide the means of our salvation.
Second, if Jesus is God He can give us eternal life. The Bible says, This is the record: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life, and whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (John 10:28).
Third, if Jesus is God He can fulfill every promise He made.
He said, Behold, I will be with you to the end of the world. If He were merely man He couldn’t do that, but as God He can.
He said, Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass way. If He were merely man He couldn’t do that, but as God He can.
He said, Whoever believes in Me, though He were dead, yet shall He live. If He were merely man He couldn’t do that, but as God He can.
He said, I have come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly. If He were merely man He couldn’t do that, but as God He can.
He said, If I go away I will come again and receive you unto Myself that were I am there you may be also. If He were merely man He couldn’t do that, but as God He can.
Finally, if Jesus is God He is worthy of Lordship. He is worthy of our obedience. Just this week I uncovered a fascinating story about this from the history our nation, and it involves Noah Webster, who created the first American English dictionary in history. I was just fascinated by his story and stayed up late several nights read it. Webster graduated from Yale during the Revolutionary War. He tried teaching, but failed. He opened a school, but it closed. He became a lawyer, but couldn’t keep any clients. He fell in love twice, but was rejected. He wanted to become George Washington’s official biographer, but that job went to someone else. He started a newspaper, but it went through years of financial strain and just when it became successful, Webster lost interest in it.
But the poor had finally gotten married, and he moved his family to New Haven, Connecticut to work on his idea for a dictionary. He worked at a round table in his upstairs study from sunrise till four in the afternoon, usually standing while reading and writing, using a quill pen and pad, and surrounded by reference works. But the mental strain, financial worries, and constant criticism nearly broke him. He was 50 years old.
But one day his two daughters came home with exciting news. They had been attending the church down the street and they had found Jesus Christ as their Savior. Webster was alarmed by this, and he went to church to see what was going on. He met with the pastor. And he, too, found himself on his knees, confessing his sins, and dedicating his life to the Lord Jesus. His mind and life were suddenly flooded with peace.
His brother heard what had happened and sent him a letter, criticism him and accusing him of yielding to religious enthusiasm. In response, Noah Webster wrote a long letter—fifty typed pages—which later became one of America’s first pamphlets on Christian apologetics. I read it with tremendous interest. I’m not going to read all 50 pages, let me end today with a few words from Noah Webster.
He could not have been a mere man, for He expressly declared, “Before Abraham was, I am,” (John 8:58). “And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was,” (John 17:5). We must admit with the apostle that Christ was “God manifest in the flesh,” or place these declarations to the account of falsehood and hold Christ for an impostor; which no believer in the Scriptures will have the hardiness to do. I once had doubts on this subject; but my mind is now satisfied (on the subject of) the divinity of our Savior. “Never man spake as He spoke.” The prophecies respecting Christ, and the astonishing train of events recorded in the Jewish history as preparatory to His appearance, have had no small effect in satisfying my mind on this subject. Let any man attend, among other prophecies, to the clear predictions of Christ, in the ninth and fifty-third chapters of Isaiah, and he will find abundant evidence of Christ’s divinity, and the inspiration of Scriptures….
To those who object to this doctrine of Christ’s divinity on account of its mysteriousness, I would reply that there is nothing more mysterious in this doctrine than in everything else respecting God and His works…. The existence of a God, infinite, eternal, unchangeable, in His being and perfections, is… by far the greatest mystery that can be presented to the human mind…. [W]hen once the existence of the God of unlimited power is (acknowledged), we may safely (acknowledge) the existence of any facts, however mysterious and astonishing, that do not involve an absolute contradiction.
These sentiments may perhaps expose me to the charge of enthusiasm. Of this I cannot complain, when I read in the Gospel that the apostles, when they first preached Christ crucified, were accused of being full of new wine; when Paul was charged by Felix with being a madman; and when Christ Himself was charged with performing miracles through the influence of evil spirits. If, therefore, I am accused of enthusiasm, I am not ashamed of (it). It is my earnest desire to cherish (biblical) doctrines and no other…for nothing is uniform but truth; nothing unchangeable but God.
Well, all the words in Webster’s Dictionary can never fully describe Jesus—the God-Man—who descended from David and is declared with power to be the Son of God through the resurrection from the dead—Jesus Christ our Lord. Because He is God He can save you from your sins, give you eternal life, fulfill every promise He has made, and He is worthy of your complete and full dedication.
Let every kindred, every tribe
On this terrestrial ball,
To Him all majesty ascribe
And crown Him Lord of all.
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 529.
 Noah Webster, The Peculiar Doctrines of the Gospel Explained and Defended in a letter from Noah Webster, Esq. to a friend in Boston (Portland: A. Lyman & Co., 1811), passim.
Introduction: Ulysses Grant faced Robert E. Lee during the “Battle of the Wilderness” in May of 1864. This took place in Northern Virginia, and it was a savage battle in which 200,000 men met in a fight to the death. The wilderness around the Rapidan River was twelve miles long and six miles wide, a dense forest with lot of undergrowth. Union troops became disoriented in the thick woods, with bullets whizzing by. Two Union generals were killed. Grant’s advisors lost confidence in the direction of the battle, and casualties soared. Portions of the undergrowth were set on fire, and men were burned alive. In Washington, Lincoln sat in the telegraph office two days waiting for news that didn’t come. The Union soldiers were discouraged.
A reporter, Henry Wing, decided to escape the battle and file a report with his newspaper. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Grant. The general spoke so softly no one except the reporter could hear. “If you see the President,” said Grant, “tell him for me that, whatever happens, there will be no turning back.”
The reporter got out of the war zone—barely. In Washington, he saw Lincoln and delivered the six-word message: “There will be no turning back.” That’s when Lincoln knew he had more than a fighting chance of victory. He had a general who wouldn’t give up.
The next day, Grant, riding his horse Cincinnati, rallied his beleaguered army and led them out of the Wilderness toward the highway that ran north and south. No one knew whether he would turn north, signaling retreat, or south, which would mean advance and attack. Everyone wondered, everyone marched. In one of the most dramatic moments of leadership in the War, Grant came to the junction, paused, and turned south, to press the battle to the enemy. A roar erupted from the soldiers, shouts of cheer, sustained applause, spontaneous singing. The men were tired of retreating. One observer said that the Army of the Potomac, which till then had not been very effective, suddenly became a triumphal procession.
There have been times in my ministry when I’ve been discouraged. It’s the occupational hazard of ministry. But I’ve never been able to afford being defeated by discouragement. The Lord’s army cannot afford to see its leaders defeated by discouragement. The church today is looking for leaders who will say, “Whatever happens, there is no turning back.”
On one occasion in the Bible, God’s workers became so discouraged they gave up, and I want to show you how they regained momentum. I’ve gone back to these passages often, and I hope they’ll encourage you too.
1. Discouraged in the Work (Ezra 1-5)
The setting is Ezra 1 – 5, when the Persian monarch, Cyrus, issued a decree allowing a remnant of Jews to return from Babylon to repopulate Judah and rebuild the temple (See Ezra 1:1-5).
Ezra 2 lists the groups who returned—more than 42,000 people, under the leadership of Governor Zerubbabel and High Priest Joshua. The older returnees remembered the temple before its destruction; the younger people were excited about their new adventure.
In chapter 3 the remnant assembled at the site of their destroyed temple to clear away the rubble, rebuild the altar, and resume the sacrifices. Ezra 3:8 says: In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem… (they) began the work.
Verse 10 continues: When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments with trumpets, and the Levites with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving, they sang to the Lord: “He is good; His love toward Israel endures forever.” But many of the (people) wept aloud when they saw the foundation of the temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.
Things changed in Ezra 4. Enemies arose, opposition came, and discouragement swept over the builders. Local officials who detested the Jews made accusations to King Artaxerxes, and he issued a ruling against the builders.
Ezra 4:23 says: As soon as the copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai… they went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop. Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
That amounts to sixteen years. For sixteen years nothing happened and the temple site was abandoned. We all face the same danger. We are opposed every moment by the most power enemies known to mankind: the world, the flesh, and the devil, and they want us to stop our work. I remember a period when I went through a season of discouragement. Everything I tried to do stalled, and I begin to realize that some of my dreams and ambitions would never materialize. I felt waves of failure. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt that way, but that’s how the remnant felt for sixteen years. The building site was deserted; the vines, foxes, and rats returned. The devil had stymied the work of the Lord with the weapon of discouragement.
2. Encouraged by the Word (Haggai 2)
Then one day, two men showed up. Ezra 5 says: Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, (preached) to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel and Joshua set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.
These two prophets preached a series of messages so powerful that revival erupted and the work was jumpstarted. They regained momentum for rebuilding God’s temple.
Ezra 6:14 says: So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah…. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel.
By the end of Ezra 6, the temple of the Lord was completed and dedicated.
What kind of rousing messages did Haggai and Zechariah give? Wouldn’t you like to know what they preached? Ezra doesn’t tell us because we have the contents of their sermons given in their own books in the minor prophets—Haggai and Zechariah. These two books were placed in Scripture to encourage those about to give up in the work of the Lord. How often I’ve read these books when discouragement threatened me! Every verse in the little book of Haggai motivates us out of discouragement; and every chapter of that strange and wonderful book of Zechariah does the same.
Look at one passage—Haggai 2:1-9: The word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, to Joshua, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people. Ask them, “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?”
Ever feel that way? My work, my church, my efforts seem like nothing.
Verse 4 continues: But now be strong, Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, Joshua son of Jezadak, the high priest. Be strong all you people of the land, and work. For I am with you, declares the Lord. This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.
Notice the progression of thought:
Remember I am working alongside you. I am with you!
I promised to remain by your side.
My Spirit remains among you!
Do not fear; do not be anxious!
But there’s more. Verse 6 says: This is what the Lord Almighty says: In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake the nations and what is desired by all nations will come.
The One desired by all nations is Jesus. The Lord said, “Keep building this temple, and in a little while I’m going to shake the nations and Messiah will fall out and land in this temple.
…I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord Almighty. The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the Lord Almighty.
And verse 9: The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house, says the Lord Almighty. And in this place I will grant peace, declares the Lord Almighty.
When Moses built the Tabernacle, the clouds of God’s glory came down. When Solomon built the Temple, the clouds of God’s glory came down. But this temple you are building. Into this temple will come the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the God-Man, the Redeemer of the Ages! Your work seems small to you, but it’s glory will exceed the glory of Solomon’s Temple because Jesus will walk there.
This Second Temple was later renovated by Herod the Great. And into this temple Jesus was brought as a baby. Here He was dedicated to the Lord. Here aged Simeon and Anna recognized Him and identified Him as the Christ. Here at age twelve He asked and answered questions with the rabbis. Here He taught and debated with the scribes. Zerubbabel’s temple became an arena for His ministry and it was glorious—far more glorious than the temple of Solomon.
Conclusion: Little is much when God is in it. We are saved by faith; we walk by faith; and we work by faith. We only see a fraction of our results for Christ. Our greatest work will come after we’re gone. Revelation 14:13 says: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…. They rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” That is: “Blessed are those who die after serving Jesus, because their works will keep on multiplying until Jesus returns.”
Galatians 6:8 says: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
1 Corinthians 15:58 says: Be steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
In 1518, Martin Luther sparked the Reformation. But a hundred years later, Lutheranism itself needed revival. God raised up Philipp Spener, an educator who became pastor in Berlin. He called people back to the individual study of the Bible and to devotion to God. His revival was called Pietism. But he faced savage criticism and was often discouraged.
One day Spener met a young man named August Francke who was struggling, and Spener mentored him. Francke went on to become a professor with humanitarian concern. In the city of Halle, he established an orphanage.
One hundred years later, a young man named George Mueller studied at the University of Halle and spent two months in Francke’s orphanage. He was deeply impressed, and later in the city of Bristol, England, he established a similar ministry.
Many books were written about Mueller, and a few years ago my daughter’s family read one. A conviction came to their hearts that they, too, should minister to orphans. They took in a little brother and sister, who have become our grandchildren, numbers 15 and 16.
Philipp Spener didn’t see most of the results of his work, and he battled discouragement. Yet look at what God has wrought. Four hundred years later, Katrina and I have a new grandchildren through a chain reaction that goes back to Mueller, Francke, Spener, Luther, and points beyond. God is using you more than you know, and your works continue to accumulate until Christ comes.
Be strong and do the work. For I am with you, declares the Lord. My Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.
Regan the momentum of your ministry and remember, whatever happens, there is no turning back.