The Passion is a code

When Jesus was dying on the cross, he said several things that were direct references to the Psalms.  Those who were nearby would have known the references, having grown up with them just like he did.  Orthodox Jews recite the entirety of the Psalms once a week at a minimum.  These references would have been familiar to his listeners.  He didn’t have time to say the entire Psalm, but he didn’t have to.  One line was sufficient to recall the rest.

In Matthew 27:46 we read

46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni? that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

This is a reference to Psalm 22:1

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Why are You so far from my deliverance
and from my words of groaning?”

But it is helpful to read the rest, because within it are more prophecies that were fulfilled at that time.  Notice in particular verses 8, 16, and 18, which perfectly mirror what happened at the crucifixion.

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Why are You so far from my deliverance
and from my words of groaning?
My God, I cry by day, but You do not answer,
by night, yet I have no rest.
But You are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
Our fathers trusted in You;
they trusted, and You rescued them.
They cried to You and were set free;
they trusted in You and were not disgraced.

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by people.
Everyone who sees me mocks me;
they sneer and shake their heads:
“He relies on the Lord;
let Him rescue him;
let the Lord deliver him,
since He takes pleasure in him.”

You took me from the womb,
making me secure while at my mother’s breast.
10 I was given over to You at birth;
You have been my God from my mother’s womb.

11 Do not be far from me, because distress is near
and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;
strong ones of Bashan encircle me.
13 They open their mouths against me—
lions, mauling and roaring.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax,
melting within me.
15 My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones;
people look and stare at me.
18 They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.

19 But You, Lord, don’t be far away.
My strength, come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver my life from the sword,
my only life from the power of these dogs.
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me
from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will proclaim Your name to my brothers;
I will praise You in the congregation.
23 You who fear Yahweh, praise Him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor Him!
All you descendants of Israel, revere Him!
24 For He has not despised or detested
the torment of the afflicted.
He did not hide His face from him
but listened when he cried to Him for help.

25 I will give praise in the great congregation
because of You;
I will fulfill my vows
before those who fear You.
26 The humble will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise Him.
May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth will remember
and turn to the Lord.
All the families of the nations
will bow down before You,
28 for kingship belongs to the Lord;
He rules over the nations.
29 All who prosper on earth will eat and bow down;
all those who go down to the dust
will kneel before Him—
even the one who cannot preserve his life.
30 Their descendants will serve Him;
the next generation will be told about the Lord.
31 They will come and tell a people yet to be born
about His righteousness—
what He has done.

So even though this utterance of Jesus seems to indicate that he feels God has abandoned him, he knows that this is not true.  He knows the rest of the Psalm by heart. By verse 22 the Psalmist (and Jesus) is praising the Lord.

The last words Jesus said upon the cross as cited in Luke 23:46 –

46 And Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I entrust My spirit.Saying this, He breathed His last.

This too is a reference to a Psalm – in this case the specific verse is Psalm 31:5.

Into Your hand I entrust my spirit;
You redeem me, Lord, God of truth.”

Here too it is worthwhile to read the entire Psalm, because instead of being a sign of resignation, Jesus’ words are a sign of total trust in God.

Lord, I seek refuge in You;
let me never be disgraced.
Save me by Your righteousness.
Listen closely to me; rescue me quickly.
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a mountain fortress to save me.
For You are my rock and my fortress;
You lead and guide me
because of Your name.
You will free me from the net
that is secretly set for me,
for You are my refuge.
Into Your hand I entrust my spirit;
You redeem me, Lord, God of truth.

I hate those who are devoted to worthless idols,
but I trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad in Your faithful love
because You have seen my affliction.
You have known the troubles of my life
and have not handed me over to the enemy.
You have set my feet in a spacious place.

Be gracious to me, Lord,
because I am in distress;
my eyes are worn out from angry sorrow—
my whole being as well.
10 Indeed, my life is consumed with grief
and my years with groaning;
my strength has failed
because of my sinfulness,
and my bones waste away.
11 I am ridiculed by all my adversaries
and even by my neighbors.
I am dreaded by my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street run from me.
12 I am forgotten: gone from memory
like a dead person—like broken pottery.
13 I have heard the gossip of many;
terror is on every side.
When they conspired against me,
they plotted to take my life.

14 But I trust in You, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 The course of my life is in Your power;
deliver me from the power of my enemies
and from my persecutors.
16 Show Your favor to Your servant;
save me by Your faithful love.
17 Lord, do not let me be disgraced when I call on You.
Let the wicked be disgraced;
let them be silent in Sheol.
18 Let lying lips be quieted;
they speak arrogantly against the righteous
with pride and contempt.

19 How great is Your goodness
that You have stored up for those who fear You
and accomplished in the sight of everyone
for those who take refuge in You.
20 You hide them in the protection of Your presence;
You conceal them in a shelter
from the schemes of men,
from quarrelsome tongues.
21 May the Lord be praised,
for He has wonderfully shown His faithful love to me
in a city under siege.
22 In my alarm I had said,
“I am cut off from Your sight.”
But You heard the sound of my pleading
when I cried to You for help.

23 Love the Lord, all His faithful ones.
The Lord protects the loyal,
but fully repays the arrogant.
24 Be strong and courageous,
all you who put your hope in the Lord.

(All Bible translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Give up sin, not chocolate, for Lent

God has no need for you to give up chocolate, or playing video games, or wine, or meat, or whatever material thing that you’ve picked, for Lent. In fact, Jesus did not create Lent. The whole idea of giving up something for 40 days does not exist in the Gospel at all. Sure, Jesus fasted (unintentionally) for 40 days while he was in the desert being tempted by the devil. But that doesn’t mean you are supposed to.

Sometimes you have to give up something in order to make yourself appreciate what you do have. We need to remember that everything we have comes from God. We need to remember that we do not control our lives, and that we are not the authors of them. God is. But what God really wants is for us to give up our own wants and tend to the needs of others. God wants our sacrifice of time to help other people, instead of money or offerings. You cannot buy your way into heaven.

Psalm 51:16-17
16 You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.

1 Samuel 15:22-23 (the prophet Samuel speaking to Saul)
22 Then Samuel said: Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice,to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry.Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,He has rejected you as king.

Hebrews 13:16
16 Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.

Micah 6:6-8
6 What should I bring before the Lord
when I come to bow before God on high?
Should I come before Him with burnt offerings,
with year-old calves?

7 Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams
or with ten thousand streams of oil?
Should I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the child of my body for my own sin?

8 Mankind, He has told you what is good
and what it is the Lord requires of you:
to act justly,
to love faithfulness,
and to walk humbly with your God.

Isaiah 58:3-11
3 “Why have we fasted, but You have not seen?
We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed!”[b]
“Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast,
and oppress all your workers.

4 You fast with contention and strife
to strike viciously with your fist.
You cannot fast as you do today,
hoping to make your voice heard on high.

5 Will the fast I choose be like this:
A day for a person to deny himself,
to bow his head like a reed,
and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast
and a day acceptable to the Lord?

6 Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore[c] your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will appear like the dawn,
and your recovery will come quickly.
Your righteousness will go before you,
and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.

9 At that time, when you call, the Lord will answer;
when you cry out, He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you get rid of the yoke among you,[d]
the finger-pointing and malicious speaking,

10 and if you offer yourself[e] to the hungry,
and satisfy the afflicted one,
then your light will shine in the darkness,
and your night will be like noonday.

11 The Lord will always lead you,
satisfy you in a parched land,
and strengthen your bones.
You will be like a watered garden
and like a spring whose waters never run dry.

——-
All Bible translations are HCSB

Biblical euphemisms for death

7 This is the length of Abraham’s life: 175 years. 8 He took his last breath and died at a ripe old age, old and full of days] and he was gathered to his people. (Genesis 25:7-8)

17 This is the length[e] of Ishmael’s life: 137 years. He took his last breath and died, and was gathered to his people. (Genesis 25:17)

33 When Jacob had finished instructing his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and died. He was gathered to his people. (Genesis 49:33)

14 “I am now going the way of all the earth, and you know with all your heart and all your soul that none of the good promises the LORD your God made to you has failed. Everything was fulfilled for you; not one promise has failed. (Joshua 23:14)

(All verses are HCSB)

Stay in the path that leads to life

Deuteronomy 5:32-33 Moses speaks to Israel at Mt. Sinai –

32 “Be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you are not to turn aside to the right or the left. 33 Follow the whole instruction the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you will possess.”

Joshua 1:6-7 The Lord to Joshua, Moses’ successor –
6 “Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. 7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go.”

Joshua 23:6-8 Joshua’s final instructions as he is about to die –
6 “Be very strong and continue obeying all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you do not turn from it to the right or left 7 and so that you do not associate with these nations remaining among you. Do not call on the names of their gods or make an oath to them; do not worship them or bow down to them. 8 Instead, remain faithful to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day.

Isaiah 30:19-21 The prophet Isaiah speaks –
19 For you people will live on Zion in Jerusalem and will never cry again. He will show favor to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears, He will answer you. 20 The Lord will give you meager bread and water during oppression, but your Teacher will not hide Himself any longer. Your eyes will see your Teacher, 21 and whenever you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear this command behind you: “This is the way. Walk in it.”

(all verses are HCSB)

A Nation Under God

If we want to go with the idea of making America a nation “under God” – what does that mean? What does it mean when people say that they want America to be a Christian nation? Let us look at Holy Scripture for direction. I’ve selected some prominent ones and then boiled them down to the essentials in boldface. Read over all of it carefully, and see if what America does currently in the name of Christian values matches up with what the Bible says.

Ezekial 18:7-9 describes the actions of a righteous man –
7 He doesn’t oppress anyone but returns his collateral to the debtor. He does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing. 8 He doesn’t lend at interest or for profit but keeps his hand from wrongdoing and carries out true justice between men. 9 He follows My statutes and keeps My ordinances, acting faithfully. Such a person is righteous; he will certainly live.”This is the declaration of the Lord GOD.

We shouldn’t oppress anyone. We should repay debts. We shouldn’t steal. We should feed the hungry and clothe the naked. If we lend money, we shouldn’t do it at interest. We should do only good things and act in a just manner. We should follow the rules that God has given us.

The whole of chapter 58 of the book of Isaiah tells us what to do –
“Cry out loudly, don’t hold back!
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Tell My people their transgression
and the house of Jacob their sins.
2 They seek Me day after day
and delight to know My ways,
like a nation that does what is right
and does not abandon the justice of their God.
They ask Me for righteous judgments;
they delight in the nearness of God.”
3 “Why have we fasted, but You have not seen?
We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed!”
“Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast,
and oppress all your workers.
4 You fast with contention and strife
to strike viciously with your fist.
You cannot fast as you do today,
hoping to make your voice heard on high.
5 Will the fast I choose be like this:
A day for a person to deny himself,
to bow his head like a reed,
and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast
and a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will appear like the dawn,
and your recovery will come quickly.
Your righteousness will go before you,
and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard.
9 At that time, when you call, the LORD will answer;
when you cry out, He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you get rid of the yoke among you,
the finger-pointing and malicious speaking,
10 and if you offer yourself to the hungry,
and satisfy the afflicted one,
then your light will shine in the darkness,
and your night will be like noonday.
11 The LORD will always lead you,
satisfy you in a parched land,
and strengthen your bones.
You will be like a watered garden
and like a spring whose waters never run dry.
12 Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
you will restore the foundations laid long ago;
you will be called the repairer of broken walls,
the restorer of streets where people live.
13 “If you keep from desecrating the Sabbath,
from doing whatever you want on My holy day;
if you call the Sabbath a delight,
and the holy day of the LORD honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
seeking your own pleasure, or talking too much;
14 then you will delight yourself in the LORD,
and I will make you ride over the heights of the land,
and let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

God does not want us to fast in sackcloth and ashes, drawing attention to ourselves. God wants us to set people free of anything and everything that enslaves and traps them. God wants us to share our food with people who are hungry, share our homes with people who are homeless, to clothe people who have nothing, and to not neglect our families. We are to make sure that others have as good as we have, by sharing what we have with those who have nothing.

Micah 6:6-8

6 What should I bring before the LORD
when I come to bow before God on high?
Should I come before Him with burnt offerings,
with year-old calves?
7 Would the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams
or with ten thousand streams of oil?
Should I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the child of my body for my own sin?
8 Mankind, He has told you what is good
and what it is the LORD requires of you:
to act justly,
to love faithfulness,
and to walk humbly with your God.

The only offerings God wants from us is to show justice and mercy, and be humble when following God’s commandments.

What are those commandments? They are in Exodus 20:1-17

Then God spoke all these words:
2 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.
3 Do not have other gods besides Me.
4 Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ sin, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commands.
7 Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God, because the LORD will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses His name.
8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: 9 You are to labor six days and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates. 11 For the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.
12 Honor your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
13 Do not murder.
14 Do not commit adultery.
15 Do not steal.
16 Do not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 Do not covet your neighbor’s house. Do not covet your neighbor’s wife, his male or female slave, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

In summation – know that God is the only God, and worship only God. Don’t use God’s name casually. Rest on the Sabbath. Honor your parents. Don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t want anything that your neighbor has.

Jesus boils it all down to two simple rules in Matthew 22:34-40

34 When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”
37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

If you love God and your neighbor (everyone else) then you will not violate any of the commandments. You won’t make idols, worship other gods, or use God’s name without reason if you love God. You can’t murder, steal from, or lie about anyone if you love them.

Jesus tells us more with a parable in Matthew 25:31-46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’
40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ 41 Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!
42 For I was hungry
and you gave Me nothing to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me nothing to drink;
43 I was a stranger
and you didn’t take Me in;
I was naked
and you didn’t clothe Me,
sick and in prison
and you didn’t take care of Me.’
44 “Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’
45 “Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’
46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

We are to treat everyone as if they are Jesus – to serve them in the same way. This means that we are to give food to the hungry, something to drink to the thirsty, give shelter to the stranger, give clothes to the naked, and take care of people who are sick and/or in prison.

If we do all these things, then, and only then, can we say that we are Christian nation. Let us focus our efforts on being known for our love by serving others – feeding, clothing, welcoming. If we do that, we won’t have time for anything else which we’ve been deluded by false pastors into thinking we have to do.

(All translations are HCSB)

Elisha and Jesus comparisons

Elisha raised a child from the dead –

2 Kings 4:32-37
32 When Elisha got to the house, he discovered the boy lying dead on his bed. 33 So he went in, closed the door behind the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he went up and lay on the boy: he put mouth to mouth, eye to eye, hand to hand. While he bent down over him, the boy’s flesh became warm. 35 Elisha got up, went into the house, and paced back and forth. Then he went up and bent down over him again. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. 36 Elisha called Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite woman.” He called her and she came. Then Elisha said, “Pick up your son.” 37 She came, fell at his feet, and bowed to the ground; she picked up her son and left.

Jesus does the same – one instance is Mark 5:21-23 and 35-43

21 When Jesus had crossed over again by boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him while He was by the sea. 22 One of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at His feet 23 and kept begging Him, “My little daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay Your hands on her so she can get well and live.”…..35 While He was still speaking, people came from the synagogue leader’s house and said, “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher anymore?” 36 But when Jesus overheard what was said, He told the synagogue leader, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.” 37 He did not let anyone accompany Him except Peter, James, and John, James’s brother. 38 They came to the leader’s house, and He saw a commotion—people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 They started laughing at Him, but He put them all outside. He took the child’s father, mother, and those who were with Him, and entered the place where the child was. 41 Then He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl got up and began to walk. (She was 12 years old.) At this they were utterly astounded. 43 Then He gave them strict orders that no one should know about this and said that she should be given something to eat.

See John 11:1-44 for Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and Luke 7:11-17 where he raised the widow’s son from death.

Elisha feeds many people with a little food –

2 Kings 4:42-44
42 A man from Baal-shalishah came to the man of God with his sack full of 20 loaves of barley bread from the first bread of the harvest. Elisha said, “Give it to the people to eat.” 43 But Elisha’s attendant asked, “What? Am I to set 20 loaves before 100 men?” “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said, “for this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat, and they will have some left over.’” 44 So he gave it to them, and as the Lord had promised, they ate and had some left over.

Jesus does the same, but it is 4,000 people in one instance and 5,000 in another.

Matthew 15:32-39
32 Now Jesus summoned His disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with Me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry; otherwise they might collapse on the way.” 33 The disciples said to Him, “Where could we get enough bread in this desolate place to fill such a crowd?” 34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked them. “Seven,” they said, “and a few small fish.” 35 After commanding the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 He took the seven loaves and the fish, and He gave thanks, broke them, and kept on giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 They all ate and were filled. Then they collected the leftover pieces—seven large baskets full. 38 Now those who ate were 4,000 men, besides women and children. 39 After dismissing the crowds, He got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.

and Matthew 14:13-21
13 When Jesus heard about it, He withdrew from there by boat to a remote place to be alone. When the crowds heard this, they followed Him on foot from the towns. 14 As He stepped ashore, He saw a huge crowd, felt compassion for them, and healed their sick. 15 When evening came, the disciples approached Him and said, “This place is a wilderness, and it is already late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 “They don’t need to go away,” Jesus told them. “You give them something to eat.” 17 “But we only have five loaves and two fish here,” they said to Him. 18 “Bring them here to Me,” He said. 19 Then He commanded the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them. He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 Everyone ate and was filled. Then they picked up 12 baskets full of leftover pieces! 21 Now those who ate were about 5,000 men, besides women and children.

 

Elisha’s predecessor, Elijah is similar to John the Baptist.

Malachi 3:1-4   (About Elijah)

“See, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to His temple, the Messenger of the covenant you desire—see, He is coming,” says the Lord of Hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who will be able to stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire and like cleansing lye. He will be like a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. And the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord as in days of old and years gone by.

and Malachi 3:22-24 (New American Bible Revised Edition) (Because these verses are not in the Protestant canon)

22 Remember the law of Moses my servant,
    whom I charged at Horeb
With statutes and ordinances
    for all Israel.
23 Now I am sending to you
    Elijah the prophet,
Before the day of the Lord comes,
    the great and terrible day;
24 He will turn the heart of fathers to their sons,
    and the heart of sons to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike
    the land with utter destruction.

 

Jesus refers to these lines when talking about John –

Matthew 11:7-15

As these men went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? Look, those who wear soft clothes are in kings’ palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and far more than a prophet. 10 This is the one it is written about:

Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You;
he will prepare Your way before You.

11 “I assure you: Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared, but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been suffering violence, and the violent have been seizing it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John; 14 if you’re willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who is to come. 15 Anyone who has ears should listen!

 

(All Bible verses are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible unless otherwise noted)

Keep calm and trust in God

I was reading this passage from James 1:2-6

2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. 5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.

I was really struck by the verse that says the “doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”

It reminded me of these stories from earlier in the New Testament –

Matthew 14:22-33
22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. 23 After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already over a mile from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them. 25 Around three in the morning, He came toward them walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 Immediately Jesus spoke to them. “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.” 29 “Come!” He said. And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, “Truly You are the Son of God!”

Note verse 30 in particular. Peter becomes afraid – and THEN he begins to sink. He isn’t afraid because he’s sinking. He’s sinking because he’s afraid. The fear came first.

And there is this, an earlier story. This story is in Matthew 8:23-27, but I like the version in Mark 4:35-41 better.

35 On that day, when evening had come, He told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.” 36 So they left the crowd and took Him along since He was already in the boat. And other boats were with Him. 37 A fierce windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t You care that we’re going to die?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 Then He said to them, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?” 41 And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Is it possible that the storm came about because of the disciples fear?

Is it possible that if we keep calm, the world around us will keep calm? I feel that the politicians want us to be afraid. When we react in fear or anger or disgust at their actions, they are controlling our behavior. They are calling the shots. They are leading the dance. We are Re-acting, instead of Acting.

Be calm, trusting in the One who is in charge – God. Not a politician. Listen to the still small voice of God to tell you what to do – not the shrill shouts of politicians.

I leave you with these words from the prophet Micah (in Micah 6:8) to know how to act in these difficult times (and every other time)

“Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you:to act justly,to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

If we do these things, we will be fine.

(All Bible verses are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible)