By Bible Studies Online, Oct 2 2015 10:03PM

Taken from 'Zechariah: Prophet of Messiah' by Mathew Bartlett (Available from our bookshop £9.99)


The Day of the Lord

14:1–2 A day of the LORD is about to come when your possessions will be divided as plunder in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to wage war; the city will be taken, its houses plundered, and the women raped. Then half of the city will go into exile, but the remainder of the people will not be taken away.


The day spoken of by Zechariah is a day for the Lord to take action against the nations who oppose Jerusalem. If ‘the nations’ are seen as the godless of the world, then perhaps Jerusalem is depicted as the only place left on earth being tenaciously faithful to God at a time when all others abandon him (see Ps. 2:1–3). This should always have been the case, but it had not been so in the past, which is why they had been carried into exile.


Zechariah’s prophecy urges faithfulness in all situations—for even if all nations opposed them, God is the one in whom they must trust.


It may seem strange that a message addressed to those who had just returned from exile after the sacking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar years earlier should speak of another day when such horrors would be witnessed again. What questions might have arisen in the listeners’ minds? Would this happen in their day (the prophet says ‘about to come’) or at a later time? Was the prophet referring back to an earlier prophecy concerning what had happened under Nebuchadnezzar? Looking back from our modern perspective, are we to understand this prophecy as being fulfilled in the time of the Babylonian invasion, or the Roman destruction of the city, or some other time?


The vital clue which Zechariah gives in answer to these questions is that ‘all nations’ will be gathered to make war on Jerusalem. Such a universal assault on the holy city has never occurred in history—it is unprecedented. Indeed, never before have ‘all nations’ gathered against any one country, let alone a single city. What would make the nations of the world consider it necessary to deploy all their combined military might against Jerusalem?


The nature of apocalyptic writings and the meaning of the genre remains a hot topic among scholars. Should such writings be taken symbolically or literally? And if literally, have the visions already been fulfilled, or is their realisation yet to come? These questions are extremely significant in Zechariah 14, which is notoriously difficult to exegete. Personally, I wish both to discuss the rich metaphors which such visions contain (how they relate to God’s nature and his purposes for his people) and also (cautiously ) discuss those aspects of the text which appear to require a literal interpretation. After all, when Daniel saw a vision of four beasts emerging out of the sea, it is clear that he did not envisage a time in the future when awful monsters would rise out of the Mediterranean to destroy the earth! Nevertheless, in years to come, four world powers did arise, just as Daniel predicted; powers which were aptly described by the powerful descriptive metaphors Daniel had employed in his vision.


So then, let us briefly discuss how and when elements of Zechariah’s prophecy (14:1-2) might expect a literal fulfilment. The only other passage in scripture where all nations are described as gathering for battle near Jerusalem is in the book of Revelation, so that might be a good place to start. In Revelation 16:14–16 all nations gather to the plains of Megiddo for what is popularly called ‘the battle of Armageddon’; and in Revelation 19:19 these same armies are depicted as opposing Jesus Christ at the time of his return. Hence in Revelation a reason is proposed for the unity of the nations: they are united by their opposition to Christ and by their seeming awareness that his return to earth is imminent. By comparing the two passages it may reasonably be proposed that Zechariah’s prophecy relates to the same period as John’s; albeit that it offers a different perspective. If this is so then Zechariah provides important details about this ‘end time’ conflict which are absent from John’s vision. The initial assault of the world’s anti-God forces against the city of Jerusalem will be successful, with plunder, rape and exile of many Jews; a statement which ostensibly correlates with Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:21–22.


14:3 Then the LORD will go to battle and fight against those nations, just as he fought battles in ancient days.


Whether or not the reader chooses to search for a literal fulfilment of the prophecy, one thing is certain. The reason Zechariah speaks of the trouble of the last days is to introduce his grand theme: the final triumphant appearance of the Lord who brings salvation and vindicates his people. Just as in ancient times—the days when God brought them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land—so God would work in power and glory to redeem his own. Faced with all the problems of their post-exilic period, the Jews could trust in God; for as in the days of Moses they were to again stand still and see the Lord’s salvation.

The Apocalyptic vision of God’s final triumph over wickedness and the vindication of his people is the blessed hope expected by believers in every era. In days of difficulty, the reminder that good will ultimately conquer evil both sustains faith and provides an incentive for service. This was just the motivation which the returning exiles needed, and which we also need today.


Once again, an interesting correlation is found between this verse and the battle depicted in Revelation, where God’s enemies will be destroyed by the word of Christ without a shot being fired (Rev. 19:21); even as in an earlier time Daniel foresaw the forces of evil being destroyed without human hand (Dan. 2:34).


The Lord is Coming to Jerusalem

14:4–5 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which lies to the east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west, leaving a great valley. Half the mountain will move northward and the other half southward. Then you will escape through my mountain valley, for the mountains will extend to Azal. Indeed, you will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come with all his holy ones with him.


Whether this is a reference to the feet of Christ literally standing on the Mount of Olives (as they certainly did at the time of his ascension); or whether it stands as a metaphor for God’s coming near to help his people is not clear. Actually, little can be gained from a ‘symbolic’ reading of these verses, so perhaps the literal approach will be more fruitful; although in Revelation, when the Lord Jesus Christ is seen to ride out of heaven against his enemies, nothing is said there about his landing on the Mount of Olives. The only reference is to the nearby Mount Zion (Rev. 14:1).


It appears that during the assault on Jerusalem depicted in the opening verses, an earthquake will provide a route of escape for the people of Israel, via a chasm opened through the Mount of Olives. When the Book of Revelation speaks of Jewish suffering at the time of the end, it says ‘the earth helped the woman (Israel)’ by swallowing an evil ‘flood’ of persecution (Rev. 12:16). If this passage of Zechariah relates to that same time, then this earthquake provides the means of escape for the remnant of Israel from the wrath of the antichrist and his confederates. As Zechariah and John both indicate, it will be at this time that Christ will appear in the clouds, followed by the armies of heaven, a throng which includes both saints and angels (Rev. 19:11–16; Matt. 16:27).


If we were to examine the powerful metaphors within the verses, then we might see that no matter how desperate the situation, or how dark the night of trouble or persecution (v. 6), God will always come to the aid of his people. The years of exile had been like a dark night for the nation, but God would now arise for their deliverance. For the Christian believer, however, it is impossible to separate the idea of God’s final intervention in human affairs from the personal and glorious return of Jesus.


14:6 On that day there will be no light — the sources of light in the heavens will congeal.


As with all apocalyptic writings, even when the events convey a literal meaning, one cannot precisely say whether the events in the vision are concurrent, consecutive, or separated by considerable time. To state the matter simply, if the darkness is literal, when does it take place?


Darkness is a recurring theme in the Bible. In Genesis, it is the state of the world without God’s creative activity; for Paul, it represented the state of the human soul without new creation in Christ; and in the Book of Revelation, darkness indicates the coming judgment of God on the earth (Rev. 6:12; 8:12; 9:2) as the necessary prelude to his creation of a new heaven and a new earth. Hence if the darkness of verse six accompanies the coming of ‘the LORD my God’ to fight against the nations then the picture is one of a dreadful twilight in which God metes out retribution on his enemies.


What is more, that darkness can be seen as indicative both of judgment and as the precursor to new creation is evident from the time when Christ hung on the cross, and the midday sun was turned into midnight darkness which covered the face of the whole earth; Jesus at that time bearing the judgment for sin in order to bring eternal life to humanity.


14:7 It will happen in one day (a day known to the LORD); not in the day or the night, but in the evening there will be light.


If in the previous verse, light became darkness for God’s enemies, yet in this verse night becomes day for God’s people. As when God brought Israel out of Egypt and provided a pillar of fire by night to light their way, so this light represents the immediate presence of God who descends to act on behalf of his people. Whenever God’s people face any kind of trouble, God will be their light and they will never walk in darkness. Eventually, of course, when the sun, moon and stars pass away (Rev. 6:12–14) there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1) where the Lord will be the only light his people need forever.


14:8–10 Moreover, on that day living waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it will happen both in summer and in winter. The LORD will then be king over all the earth. In that day the LORD will be seen as one with a single name. All the land will change and become like the Arabah from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem will be raised up and will stay in its own place from the Benjamin Gate to the site of the First Gate and on to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the royal winepresses.


In these verses the symbolic nature of the prophecy is predominant; although one ought not to suppose that some kind of literal fulfilment is entirely ruled out. The overall picture of Zechariah’s vision is one of God coming to act on behalf of his people against their enemies; and so great is this action that it is described in terms of the movement of the land itself and the changing of the geographical features of a large area around Jerusalem.


With the great earthquake, and the splitting of the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem is raised to a higher altitude above sea level and an underground spring will be released, flowing both east towards the Dead Sea and west toward the Mediterranean. In Ezekiel 47:1–12 we find a similar vision in which the living water brought life and abundant blessing wherever it went, even turning the waters of the Dead Sea fresh so that fish could live there.


The living water flowing from Jerusalem was seen by Jesus as a prophecy concerning the outpouring of the Spirit, which began in Jerusalem at Pentecost, and through which rivers of living water now flow into the hearts of those who believe. The Spirit of God has come to stay, his presence being an abiding taste of future glory, unaffected by seasons or circumstances. However, it was not the Mount of Olives that was riven to set this spring in motion, but Christ himself who was stricken on the cross so that living water might flow from him to all people (to east and west).


The reformers would have seen verses 8–9 as a reference to the word of the Lord going forth from Jerusalem to all nations, bringing men and women under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. ‘The LORD will then be king over all the earth. In that day the LORD will be seen as one with a single name.’ Jesus entered into death for every person, but God has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name, so that all might bow before him. Jesus has been revealed as the single focal point of worship for men and angels and God has commanded all to bow their knee to him (Heb. 1:6; Phil. 2:9–11).


The place of worship being lifted up (v 10) may also be indicative of this new focal point of worship. Christ becomes of paramount importance, the focus of every area of life. Whatever Christians may do each day, everything is done as unto the Lord; whilst in heaven the Lamb is at the centre of all worship (Rev. 5:8–13).

14:11 And men shall dwell therein, and there shall be no more curse; but Jerusalem shall dwell safely. (RV)


I have chosen the RV as it expresses the thought that there shall be ‘no more curse’ (as in Rev. 22:3). The redemption which Christ has provided by his death on the cross encompasses the whole of creation (see Rom. 8:21 and Col. 1:20) so that even during his thousand year reign on earth the curse will have been removed; and in the new heaven and earth it will find no place (Rev. 22:3).


God’s Enemies Defeated

14:12–15 But this will be the nature of the plague with which the LORD will strike all the nations that have fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will decay while they stand on their feet, their eyes will rot away in their sockets, and their tongues will dissolve in their mouths. On that day there will be great confusion from the LORD among them; they will seize each other and attack one another violently. Moreover, Judah will fight at Jerusalem, and the wealth of all the surrounding nations will be gathered up — gold, silver, and clothing in great abundance. This is the kind of plague that will devastate horses, mules, camels, donkeys, and all the other animals in those camps.


The realisation that ultimately all of God’s enemies will be defeated would have encouraged the defenceless exiles to trust in God for their protection. Once again, if viewed literally, the detail of the prophecy lends itself to the depiction of the battle of Megiddo (Armageddon); since although the manner of the death of the armies that gather at Megiddo to fight against the Lord and his people is not specified in Revelation, it is clearly violent, since the blood of the armies will flow to a depth of at least 1.22 metres for 300 kilometres (Rev. 14:19–20; the width is not specified). Whether or not such figures are accurate, the slaughter is immense (possibly in excess of 100 million persons). Its description calls to my mind eyewitness accounts which I have heard from the victims of the Hiroshima bombing, who saw blood and dead bodies flowing in the river only minutes after the bomb was dropped.


Probably this verse is what inspired the creators of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ to depict the enemies of God physically melting away, as if caught in the radiation flash of a nuclear explosion. Yet nuclear power is not the cause of death; instead it is the word of Christ (Rev. 19:21). The soldiers’ fighting between themselves indicates panic, a futile attempt to get away from the looming judgment. Not only the people but their animals will be destroyed in this manner, and anything of value that remains will become the spoil of war, the property of Israel.


The Feast of Tabernacles

14:16 Then all who survive from all the nations that came to attack Jerusalem will go up annually to worship the King, the LORD who rules over all, and to observe the Feast of Tabernacles.


Without explanation, the prophet announces that there will be survivors of this cataclysmic event, and that they shall come (probably by compunction) to pay homage to the Lord. The observation of the Feast of Tabernacles usually lasted one week, but Zechariah may have the perpetual fulfilment of the Feast of Tabernacles in view. The feast was essentially a thanksgiving for the full harvest, a time of abundance and blessing; and such blessing will become continuous when God comes to dwell among his people (a time defined by many Christians as the Millennium period, where Jesus rules over the earth for one thousand years—Rev. 20:4).


14:17–19 But if any of the nations anywhere on earth refuse to go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD who rules over all, they will get no rain. If the Egyptians will not do so, they will get no rain — instead there will be the kind of plague which the LORD inflicts on any nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and of all nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.


It is not so much the refusal to attend a feast as the refusal to submit to the Lord that results in punishment; since, during the millennial reign of Christ, he rules with a rod of iron, and enforces the submission of all peoples. Overall the picture is of all nations being compelled to worship the Lord, an image similar to that presented by Paul in Philippians 2:9–11 and 1 Corinthians 15:25–28.


Hence the idea of non-compliance would seem out of place; and the idea of a drought does not fit well with the usual picture of the Millennium: that of reversion to an almost Eden-like state. Likewise, a problem arises since Egypt does not (at present) depend on rain for water; it has the Nile.


Nevertheless the Book of Revelation admits that rebellion will follow the thousand-year reign of Christ. The nations will reveal their true nature as they rebel against the Lord; bringing about their own destruction and the inauguration of the final judgement (Rev. 20:7–15).


14:20–21 On that day the bells of the horses will bear the inscription "HOLY TO THE LORD." The cooking pots in the LORD's temple will be as holy as the bowls in front of the altar. Every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah will become holy in the sight of the LORD who rules over all, so that all who offer sacrifices may come and use some of them to boil their sacrifices in them. On that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD who rules over all.


The ultimate fulfilment of all eschatological hope is that humankind will dwell in the immediate presence of God, in the restoration of the Eden-type relationship where God walked and talked with people. This hope, for the Christian, is bound up in the person of Christ (Titus 2:13). The sanctification of the articles for temple worship symbolised only a shadow of the reality to come. In the immediate presence of God, everything is hallowed. Even now, since Jesus Christ has been made for us sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30) every word of fellowship, every act of service and every menial task is made holy through Christ. It is his presence that makes them holy; just as God’s presence in the bush made the ground beneath Moses’ feet holy.


The Canaanite was considered unclean and was not to be admitted to the congregation of the Lord’s people. The absence of such people indicates that no one is excluded from the presence of God. All may enter, for the new creation removes all boundaries of race and gender. Just as ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3:28) , so there are no more Canaanites. They have been made holy through Christ; transformed by new creation.


Discussion Questions for Chapter 14

1. vv. 1–15. In what ways might Zechariah’s depiction of God’s ultimate victory over all his enemies encourage the returning exiles? In what ways might it comfort God’s people today?

2. vv. 4–11. In what ways do you see Zechariah’s prophecy as a reference to the second coming of Jesus?

3. vv. 16–21. In what ways might we understand the picture of all nations gathering to worship God to be fulfilled through Jesus?


By Bible Studies Online, Feb 12 2013 09:51PM

The Christian Warfare

10. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His power.

How can we ever hope to fulfil the demands Christ makes of us in the Christian life? Only as we share God’s strength and power, being "strong in the Lord". As we avail ourselves of God’s power to strengthen us, He will enable us to live for Him. The greatness of His mighty working in us will cause us to be spiritually strong to stand against the forces of darkness and overcome the wiles of the devil (Philip. 4:13).


11. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

In the following verses Paul compares a Christian to a soldier who has been well equipped for battle. No soldier would ever go into battle without putting on his armor or taking his weapons. So the Christian must put on the full armor of God as he faces the evil in the world and takes his stand for Christ. God has provided all we need, but only as we partake of it (put it on), can we overcome evil (1 John 4:4).

There are many ways in which the devil tries to gain an advantage over God’s people. For example, the persecution of Christians is increasing in the modern world. In Western countries, this persecution often takes a darker, more subtle form, as laws are passed to challenge God's law and believers find themselves with a choice: to disobey Christ or face civil lawsuits and even criminal charges. The devil also tries to cause division among Christians; to lead into backsliding; to split up Christian marriages (1 Cor. 7:5); or lead God’s people into sin and error (2 Cor. 11:3). If we are going to overcome these diabolical strategies we must be strong in the Lord’s supernatural power.


12. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

God wants us to know who our enemies are. They are not flesh and blood, but spiritual powers of evil at work in the world. Since our war is a spiritual one, it requires spiritual weapons and protection.

Satan is not an idea or a personification of evil on whom can be placed the blame for man's calamities. Satan is a fallen angel, having a supernatural force of great cunning and power, and is an actual personality at work in the world today. A list is given of the various ranks of angelic beings who joined Satan in his rebellion against God and his attempt to incite a similar rebellion among men. The distinctions among them are not of great importance, but they are all led by “the god of this age” (Satan) to carry out his wishes (2 Cor. 4:4).

It ought not to be surprising that the children of God come under the particular attack of demonic forces, since these are led by Satan, who is God’s enemy and therefore ours. The warfare is so personal that it is described as "wrestling", which is hand to hand combat. Yet Paul wants the child of God to see that he begins this fight from a position of victory. Christ has already overcome the forces of evil, so that all must submit to His authority. Christians are made to sahre in this victory by virtue of their union with Christ. The armor of God, which Paul delineates, is actually an expression of our vital union with our triumphant Lord.

As Bruce writes:

“(They) launched an assault on the crucified Christ, but He, far from suffering their assault without resistance, grappled with them and overcame them, stripping them of their armor and driving them before him in triumphal procession (Col. 2:15). Thus (these) powers are already vanquished, but it is only by faith union with the victorious Christ that Christians can make His triumph theirs.”


13. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Because of this present onslaught against the Church, we need to put on all the armor of God; availing ourselves of all the God in Christ has done and given to us; so that we might be able to resist the devil and stand our ground in these evil days. As we do, we are promised God’s strength, which is sufficient to enable us to stand firm and not give in.


14. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.

The first piece of armor is "the belt of truth". A wide belt around the back and stomach strengthens a man to stand straight and carry heavy loads. In our spiritual war, we must clothe ourselves with God's truth if we would know His supernatural strength.

The rest of a Roman soldier's armor would be ineffective without the support provided by his belt. The armor of God is remains ever effective because God cannot lie, and therefore His armor cannot fail to be sufficient. In order to "wear" this belt, we must have a living acquaintance with the truth that is Jesus Christ (John 14:6). God's Word is truth, and as believers we must know the truth, believe the truth, and live the truth.

The word "truth" also includes the thought of loyalty. No Christian soldier can stand who is not loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ, and as we take our stand for Him we will find that He is always loyal to us.

Next on the list is the "breastplate of righteousness". Being justified (made right with God in Christ), we have the power to live a righteous life, and develop a righteous character. Living right is one of the greatest weapons a Christian has, keeping a clear conscience helps us to silence the accuser. To walk with God, in the center of His will, is indeed the safest and best place for any one to be.


15. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the Gospel of peace.

Our feet must be shod with "the preparation of the Gospel of peace". We must prepare ourselves by becoming familiar with the Gospel message, so that we are able to share it with others and lead them to the Lord. We should always be prepared to witness: ready and able to share the good news with others we meet (1 Pet. 3:15).


16. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Next is the "shield of faith". Paul considers this to be of great importance, since all the rest of the armor would be useless without it. The term used is for a full length shield that covers from head to toe. The armor which faith provides is all inclusive:

We are saved through faith (Eph. 2:8).

Faith gives us the victory (1 John 5:4).

Without it we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6).

We are justified by faith (Gal. 2:16).

We live by faith (Gal. 2:20).

We are to pray in faith (James 1:6).

And so we are able to quench all the devil throws at us by faith. It appears that "fiery darts" would have been used by Roman soldiers to set fire to their enemy’s defences. Satan tries to set a sinful fire in our hearts and minds through many temptations to sin. God's provision of the shield of faith indicates that it is not by our own strength that we can overcome temptation, but by the keeping power of God and our faith in His ability to keep us (1 Pet. 1:5).


17. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Next (fifth) on the list is the “helmet of salvation”. We ought not take this analogy to the soldier's armor too literally, for salvation encompasses our spirit, soul and body, and is not confined to the mind. Yet surely the head is the most important part of the body to defend, and this is why the helmet is a figure of our salvation, which provides us with sufficient protection for the whole man in every circumstance. Just as being ready to proclaim the Gospel is not a matter which concerns the Christian's feet, so the helmet of salvation does not merely protect his mind, but his soul.

It remains true, however, that the devil continually attacks the Christian’s mind. The helmet of salvation will protect from his accusations and onslaughts (2 Tim. 1:7).

Finally, the only attacking weapon the Christian has been given is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God". We must use God’s Word as we strive in prayer just as the Lord did during His temptation in the wilderness. For example, when Satan asked Christ to prove His divinity by turning stones into bread, Jesus replied, "It is written, 'man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' " (Matt. 4:4 NKJV™)

The Lord Jesus Christ overcame by the power of His Word, and that same powerful, living word is available for us to use.

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)


Our Personal Prayer Life

18. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.

Although prayer is not mentioned directly as part of the armor, it is essential to our spiritual warfare. We are to persevere in praying in the Spirit, using the Word of God in the way described in the previous verse. The believer must pray regularly, at all times, without missing a single daily prayer time and without giving up on prayer. We are to pray with a purpose, aware of the needs of God’s people as we intercede on their behalf, especially for their spiritual needs.



By Bible Studies Online, Jan 23 2013 10:02PM

MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK

NEHEMIAH chapter 3 verses 1-32


Many of the local inhabitants responded to Nehemiah’s challenge – and the first to get their hands dirty were the Priests! They could have pleaded their calling to undertake the sacred things, but they took the lead in the rebuilding plan.


What an amazing sight that must have been, when the men of God got going for Him! Nehemiah was aware of each group and the areas that best suited them. Today the Pastor’s task is to help the people to discover their spiritual gifts and then use them in the allocated areas.


I wonder, have you discovered yet where you belong in the Body of Christ? It seems obvious to me that each one of us has at least one basic spiritual gift and we should use it or we will be discouraged.


Whenever we are serious about spiritual growth and undertake the task of building and rebuilding we need to search our hearts to develop the gift – otherwise we may become square pegs in round holes.


The important fact is that we must be aware of and have an understanding of that the gift is – otherwise we go through our spiritual walk with minimum effectiveness and maximum weariness, whereas, it should be the other way around.


We discover one negative note here in this chapter. The Nobles of Tekoa would not put their shoulders to work under supervisors. Their problem was pride. This is the sin that changed the Angel into the Devil. Thus there will be little spiritual progress where pride gets in the way.


PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, Am I a square peg in a round hole? Help me to be remoulded by your hand so that I might discover my basic gift and be effective in my work for You. If I am proud then help me to humble myself and live for You. Amen.


Nehemiah was obviously an expert at getting people to co-operate. Even the daughters of one of the officials assisted their father. He did this by being inspiring in leadership as he shared with them the vision and then encouraged them in their task.


We may look at this list of names as being tedious, but everyone needs to know that they count for something and it encourages us to know that we are appreciated.


Nehemiah arranged the people to work as close to their homes as possible – this brought a sense of family belonging. This of course is where the real work of God must always begin and be anchored. An alarming trend in the Church today is to only come along but not be truly committed to the family.


Perhaps a question that we need to ask is, “What are the walls like around your own home?” Are we cemented together with fervent prayer, faithfulness, integrity, oneness and a deep concern for each other?


Nehemiah co-ordinated the efforts of each worker and inspired them by setting them a clear vision and then commended them for their sacrificial effort.


I believe the main point to our story and text today is “communication.” This involved the whole family being committed to each other and looking out for each other. The instruction to each part of the family is so that we might know what to do and where and when to do it.


So, let us prepare to co-ordinate, co-operate and communicate, because, as the Chinese Proverb says, “May hands make light work.”


PRAYER: Dear Heavenly Father, we want our home to be Your home. Help us to rebuild any walls that have fallen down in the Body of this Church. Help us to be fully committed and dedicated to Your calling. Lord, teach us the principles of governing and spiritual success as we obey Your bidding. Amen.



By Bible Studies Online, Jan 2 2013 08:51PM

Every time God performs an extraordinary thing He works through ordinary people. He does so for a reason, i.e. that His grace might be magnified. The extraordinary shines best against a backdrop of the ordinary. When God does amazing things through us we, and others, are so conscious that it has nothing to do with us that He gets all the glory!


Paul said, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us…”” (2 Cor.4:7). The word ‘excellence’ means that which excels or goes beyond the ordinary, i.e. the extraordinary. God deposits the potential for doing the extraordinary in human vessels, clay pots that have been baked in the sun (and some are only half-baked!)


No Superstars In The Kingdom Of God


Some churches pursue famous Christian personalities, such as sports stars, actors, singers, etc., and pay them handsome fees to share their testimonies, believing that their notoriety will impress the unsaved, resulting in salvation. Their logic seems to be, “Look who we’ve got on our side! Now do you want to become a Christian?”


How different to the way Paul viewed things! “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor.1:26-29). We could paraphrase these words this way: “God says, “I don’t do champions; I don’t do superstars; I just do ordinary people.’”


In the kingdom of God there are no extraordinary people, only an extraordinary God who does extraordinary things through ordinary people. The way into the extraordinary is through the ordinary. God uses ordinary people.


Abraham Lincoln once said, “God must have loved the plain people because He made so many of them.” One of the things I love about the Bible is that its characters are never portrayed as anything other plain, ordinary people. Oliver Cromwell, when having his portrait painted, asked that he be painted exactly as he was, “warts and all”. That’s how the Bible presents its characters - warts and all! They were people who were painfully aware of the reality that: “In me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing” (Rom.7:18). Yet God used them in amazing ways.


The Snare Of Success


The problem is that when an extraordinary God does extraordinary things through ordinary people, those ordinary people sometimes start believing they are extraordinary! A bishop, who obviously thought he was someone special, was once invited to speak at a local church. Hardly anyone turned out, so during the service he said to the vicar, “Didn’t you tell your people I was coming to speak today?” The vicar replied, “No. But obviously the word got out!”


James said, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours” (Jas.5:17). I often wondered why he chose Elijah as an example of a man who was just ordinary. Why not Moses, or David, or Joshua, etc? Then I discovered that Elijah actually thought he was different. After his heroic confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, he expected a landslide of Israelites back to their God, beginning at the top with King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. But when Jezebel put out a warrant for his arrest he ran for his life. When he could run no more he said to God, “Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers! (1 Kings 19:4). Obviously, before this he thought he was superior to others.


Jesus Was An Ordinary Person


Jesus was just an ordinary person. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus always has been, is, and always will be God. Yet on earth He didn’t live as God but as a man, a very ordinary man. He did not draw crowds because of His physique, charisma or charm. We read in the Bible, “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.”


He lived every moment in total dependence upon the extraordinary working of His Father through Him. He freely admitted His inability to originate any miraculous work or life-changing truth. His words and works came from the Father. He said, “Most assuredly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son does in like manner” (Jn.5:19). Every day He presented His humanity to the Father as a vehicle through which God’s life could be poured. Every extraordinary thing Jesus did came out of the ordinary. It is in this way that we are to imitate Christ.


Feel comfortable with your weaknesses. Feel comfortable about being ordinary. Because the way into the extraordinary is through the ordinary.


By Bible Studies Online, Oct 24 2012 09:48PM

A C T S 1 : 8

THE DEPARTING MANDATE OF JESUS CHRIST

by

CARL WHORLEY

ACTS 1:8... But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.


In numerous locations of the Four Gospels, and in the subsequent Church Epistles of the Early Church Apostles, our Lord left for us an all encompassing mandate to be carried out until His return.

Acts 1:8 breaks itself down into four distinct parts:

I. WHAT THE BELIEVERS WILL RECEIVE:

But ye shall receive power,

II. WHEN WILL THE BELIEVER RECEIVE THIS NEW AND DYNAMIC POWER:

...after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you:...

III. THE MISSION OF BELIEVERS UPON RECEIVING THIS NEW DYNAMIC POWER

...and ye shall be witnesses unto me...

IV. WHERE BELIEVERS ARE TO GO WITH WHAT THEY HAVE RECEIVED:

both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria,

and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

I. WHAT THE BELIEVERS WILL RECEIVE:

But ye shall receive power,...

First, look at the verses preceding Acts 1:8. In Acts 1:6-7, the disciples are asking Jesus concerning Eschatological articles. Perhaps they understood it, perhaps not, but they were asking Jesus concerning end time prophecy. They are asking Him about issues which will take place thousands of years in the future. In response, instead of going to the then and there, Jesus concerns Himself with the here and now. That is, before the kingdom can ever be restored, there is much to be done. First, there is a world to evangelize.

Notice, that first Jesus makes global evangelism and missions, a very personal thing. Jesus is telling the disciples that "you" are going to receive. And notice that it is personal. That being, Jesus is telling them that "you" personally will receive. Not someone else. "YOU" will.

This tells us that our Lord does not place the ministry of global missions and evangelism on the shoulders of nameless faces on prayer cards on a bulletin board in a Church lobby. But that if you are a saved, born again believer in the person of Jesus Christ, then the mandate of global missions and evangelism rests squarely on "YOUR" shoulders. Jesus Christ, Himself, has personally selected "YOU," to go evangelize the world.

Notice that Jesus does not make this power optional. Jesus says that "YE SHALL" receive this power. Upon the moment of salvation, Jesus does not ask you if you want it, nor are you interested in it? Of the numerous things which the new convert receives at the moment of salvation, the powerful ability to singlehandedly evangelize the world is part of the package. It is not optional nor negotiable. It cannot be rejected nor sent back. The believer needs to embrace it, and go with it.

At the moment of salvation, the believer receives the power for global evangelism. The English word power comes from the Greek word dunamiV/dunamis. This has to do with a sudden and miraculous infusion of a supernatural ability that once was not there. And this supernatural power is sudden and activates this newly infused power.

Whatever the case, dunamiV/dunamis is a Greek word which has to do with a supernatural infusion of power, talent and ability which was not there before receiving Jesus as one's own personal Lord and Savior. And that this infusion is precipitated by a divine, all powerful factor. This power would suggest design, purpose and destiny. It would suggest an intelligent creation by an all intelligent creator with purpose aforethought. At the moment of salvation, this mandated infusion of global missions and evangelism is introduced into the believer specifically for this predetermined purpose. It is not placed there for it to sit and not accomplish it's afore determined task. And that afore determined task is that of global missions and evangelism.

As before mentioned, at the moment of salvation, the new convert is going to receive this new and dynamic power. It is not optional. It cannot be rejected. It cannot be returned. It is not negotiable. It then becomes incumbent on the new believer to develop this new talent and use it for the cause of JESUS CHRIST in global missions and evangelism.

II. WHEN WILL THE BELIEVER RECEIVE THIS NEW AND DYNAMIC POWER:

...after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you:...

The Holy Spirit i sthat Spirit who REGENERATES the sinner into a true, saved, born again believer, who baptizes the new convert into the Body of the Heavenly Father. But let us not forget that He has come to ENDUE the believer with POWER for evangelism. It is not the latest gimmick which we need to make us successful in world evangelism, but the power of the Holy Spirit

III. THE MISSION OF BELIEVERS UPON RECEIVING THIS NEW DYNAMIC POWER

...and ye shall be witnesses unto me...

Matthew 28:18-20...And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Whenever the Holy Spirit fills a believer, that believer becomes an active participant in the witness and testimony of Jesus Christ. He or she is at once an active participant in global missions and evangelism.


IV. WHERE BELIEVER ARE TO GO WITH WHAT THEY HAVE RECEIVED:

both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria,

and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

At the time which JESUS issued the commandment for global missions and evangelism, Jesus and the apostles were on the Mount of Olives. For the Apostles, Jerusalem would mean for them to start where they were. The Apostles were not to travel to another region and begin, but to start right were they were at the time. Start where you are. Start right now.

Judaea would represent expanding out to regions beyond Jerusalem. It would mean not to limit yourself to just the here and now, but to expand out to other regions.


The Samaritans represent the outcast of society. Today we might think of prisoners, street people, homeless, chemical dependants, those in homes and hospitals in teh same way that the Jews thought of the Samaritans. Samaritans are those that perhaps society has cast off.

The English word uttermost, comes from the Greek word eschatos. This is the Greek word which gives us the theological Bible doctrine of Eschatology. Eschatology has to do with Bible prophecy and end time events. It has to do with finality, the end or completion. What Jesus is conveying, is that believers are to not only busy themselves with missions and evangelism in their home area, surrounding areas, or to societies outcast, but to continue on until they either run out of evangelistic opportunities, or run out of time. Upon considering how much is yet left to be done globally, before the appearing of our Lord, believers may run out of time, (i.e at the coming of the Lord) but they will never run out of places that need evangelism.

Are you filled with complacency? Or are you one of those who realises that because Christ IS COMING SOON there is work to be done! Jesus wants to see His Church busy when He comes. Not standing on top of a mountain in white robes waiting for Him. GET BUSY, BE BUSY, STAY BUSY!

Many Christians today are taken up with the study of end times events. Whilst this is not wrong in itself, we see from Matthew, as Jesus gives a chronological breakdown of End TImes events, that he emphasises in verse 14 'And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come'. Christ's own priorities are plain. Missions and evangelism come first, my firend, then an interest in eschatological events.

It is my belief that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to demonstrate His infinite mercy and grace by extending to mankind one last evangelistic opportunity for the world before the rapture of the Church takes place. We must embrace this moment of opportunity now and busy ourselves getting the Word of Salvation out while there is still time.

As local pastors we must all be careful to maintain a global vision of world missions and evangelism in our churches. For it is from them that God will send out His children:


Some will go to their own 'Jerusalem', near the church area, town or city. In some circles such people are called local or 'home' missionaries. We desperately need to embrace these believers and encourage their vision.

Some will go to 'Judea', by their interest in state or national missions - perhaps to college students or the military, or giving out gospel tracts and various Christian literature. As before, embrace this and encourage this vision.

Then there are those who go to the 'Samaritans'. These want to volunteer at the local rescue missions, half-way houses, jail/prison ministries, drug adicts etc. Let's do all we can to supply these missionaries with all the support and help they need.

Lastly are the international missionaries, who have received a vision for global evangelism, and since such a call can only come from Christ Himself, we must also support these in their mission.


Quite simply, it is possible that each and every believer sitting in local churches each Sunday can become a blazing torch of witness - both at home and globally!


Brother, sister, we already have the commission - so let's get going!


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