Monday, October 30, 2023

David's Mighty Men: The 37 Men who stood with David at the Cave of Adullam

"Leonidas, King of Sparta, was preparing to make a stand with his Greek troops against the Persian army in 480 B.C. when a Persian envoy arrived. The man urged on Leonidas the futility of trying to resist the advance of the huge Persian army. "Our archers are so numerous," said the envoy, "that the flight of their arrows darkens the sun."

"So much the better," replied Leonidas, "for we shall fight them in the shade." Leonidas made his stand, and died with his 300 troops."
-Today in the Word, November 4, 1993.

Starting in verse 8 of second Samuel 23 it says this, “These are the names of David’s mighty warriors: Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.”

One thing to notice here is that David had an inner circle of three, they were called “the three.” Jesus also had an inner circle. He had his 12 disciples, but he also had the three, Peter, James and John.

First point today, have people in your life you can confide in. Who is your inner circle? Who are your closest friends? We all need an inner circle, people we trust and can rely on.

Josheb was a great warrior, one of the three. Fought bravely in battle.

Next we hear of Eleazar, in verses 9-10, “Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty warriors, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim for battle. Then the Israelites retreated, but Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.”

One man stayed behind as Irsael retreated from the battle, Eleazar, and he fought until his hand grew so tired that it “froze to the sword” we understand that to mean he fought so long that his muscles cramped up.

Here we find our second point for today, never give up. Be bold, turn and fight, and never give up. Fight and fight and fight, even when you can’t fight any longer. Fight until your muscles ache, be persistent. Don’t give up.

Next in verses 11-12, “Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them. But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory.”

So we’ve now seen the heroes of the three, Jashib, Eleazar and Shammah. What was distinctive about the three? When no one else was around, it was just one guy, they fought and didn’t give up.

One against many.

What’s the distinguishing factor? Bravery.

Point three today, bravery is a hallmark of a Christian. A true follower of Jesus is brave and bold. They know God is with them.

Notice for Shammah, it’s stated clearly, the Lord brought about a great victory. It wasn’t Shammah. Shammah was brave and held true.

What is bravery? You feel the fear and do it anyway. You push through in faith. Faith overcomes any fear. You feel it, you do it anyway. God grants the victory.

Next in verses 13-17 we see a defining event of the three, Josheb, Eleazar and Shammah.

It says, “During harvest time, three of the thirty chief warriors came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.” Such were the exploits of the three mighty warriors."

This was long ago, when David was hiding in a cave from King Saul. This was long before David became king.

The three love David so much, when he says he wishes for a drink from his well in Bethlehem, where he grew up, they sneak out and risk danger and death, they gather water from the well and bring it back to David.

What does David do? He’s so concerned that his men risked their lives in this way, he poured out the water before the Lord.

By David doing this, he was saying, your lives are more important than a simple drink of water. So he poured it out as an offering of humility before God.

Imagine if David had drank the water they brought him. It could’ve easily meant to his men, that it was good what they did, that they should do it again. So he poured it out. It also protected David from pride, kept him humble.

Next we see a fourth member of the 3. But I thought there were only three of the three?

Well, that’s true. But, there was another great warrior, Abishai, and he was such a great warrior, that he kind of forced his way into the three, and even became leader of the three. You could say that Abishai was the one. Jesus had a one as well, Peter. But he also had three. Peter, james and John.

It says this about Abishai, “Abishai the brother of Joab son of Zeruiah was chief of the Three. He raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed, and so he became as famous as the Three. Was he not held in greater honor than the Three? He became their commander, even though he was not included among them.”

One thing that David knew he needed to do was surround himself with the right people. David was a leader. He was a soldier. And in his brigade of troops, he gathered some of the greatest warriors in all human history.

They were drawn to David you see. He didn’t necessarily seek them out, but they were drawn to him. They knew, this man is a leader and we’re going to follow him. Similarly each of us have been drawn to Jesus Christ our leader, and we as Christians are part of his brigade, his mighty men.

Then we hear of another great warrior, Benaiah. He was part of the thirty. So David had the three chief warriors, but then he also had another group of thirty men. A second group, larger than the others. Again this is similar to Jesus. Jesus had the three, the twelve, but he also had the seventy two. The seventy two were a larger group that followed him as well, and served in various ways. Jesus sent out the seventy two, two by two town to town to spread the good news.

So here we see probably the leader of the thirty, it says this about him: (verses 20-23)

"Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors. He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.”

Benaiah was an underdog, taking on warriors bigger than him. A lion, bigger than him. Two giant Egyptians. Benaiah would find himself at a disadvantage, and would turn it into a victory.

Point five, embrace the underdog role. In life we will often find ourselves at a disadvantage. Can we use God’s wisdom to turn it into an advantage? If we take what we’ve learned about God in the Bible, we can turn a bad situation good. We can go from losing to winning. We can find victory from the ashes of defeat. Do you believe that today? If so, say amen.

When you’re the underdog, turn your disadvantages into advantages by God’s wisdom

Lastly, we see the names of the thirty, the larger group of David’s warriors:

It says, “Among the Thirty were: Asahel the brother of Joab
Elhanan son of Dodo from Bethlehem,
Shammah the Harodite, Elika the Harodite, Helez the Paltite,
Ira son of Ikkesh from Tekoa, Abiezer from Anathoth,
Sibbekai the Hushathite, Zalmon the Ahohite,
Maharai the Netophathite, Heled son of Baanah the Netophathite,
Ithai son of Ribai from Gibeah in Benjamin,
Benaiah the Pirathonite, Hiddai from the ravines of Gaash,
Abi-Albon the Arbathite, Azmaveth the Barhumite,
Eliahba the Shaalbonite, the sons of Jashen,
Jonathan son of Shammah the Hararite,
Ahiam son of Sharar the Hararite,
Eliphelet son of Ahasbai the Maakathite,
Eliam son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, Hezro the Carmelite,
Paarai the Arbite, Igal son of Nathan from Zobah,
the son of Hagri, Zelek the Ammonite,
Naharai the Beerothite, the armor-bearer of Joab son of Zeruiah,
Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite and Uriah the Hittite.
There were thirty-seven in all.”

It says there were thirty seven in all, not just thirty. But they were considered the 30.

Now, if you make sure you’re an on fire Christian, serving faithfully in this church, you may just be lucky enough one day to make the list of Justin’s mighty men and women.

But ultimately, we want to be found on God’s list of mighty men and women. We want to make sure our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. We want to the friends of Jesus. His followers. Those who do mighty deeds in his name.

I’ve often joked that this little church here in Owosso, is my band of mighty men and women. Robin Hood and his merry men and women. Out in the wilderness of Owosso, fighting the good fight of the faith. Hit and run attacks on the enemy. Prayer warriors in the wilderness. The battle rages on. We’re not a massive mega church that can launch massive battle fronts attacks on the enemy, but we’re a small band of warriors who can sneak attack on the enemy’s supply lines and disrupt the enemy’s forces.

That’s our battle. Let’s fight it faithfully. Join up with the Owosso Citadel mighty men and women, and we’ll spread the gospel, meet needs, and strike down Satan’s forces in Shiawassee county.

Applications for Life: 
1. Have close confidantes you can confide in

2. Don’t Give up when it gets hard

3. Bravery is feeling the fear and doing it anyway

4. Pour out the water of pride and embrace humility before God

5. Turn your disadvantages into advantages with God’s wisdom

6. Be found on God’s list of mighty warriors: Embrace Jesus as Lord

7. Serve in the local band of believers: Serve in the local church

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Three Dark Moments of Jesus' Life: The Falling Away, the Garden, and the Betrayal: Sunset, Early Night, and Deep Night

What was your darkest moment in life? When did you hit a sort of rock bottom? I can think a few of moments in my life. I remember when I was 17 years old, I was downstairs in my parents basement. My parents had just split up. I had been bullied a lot in school, until I started doing drugs and drinking, and pretty soon I became very cool and popular. But I couldn’t control the pills, they were like a wild bucking bronco that bucked me off. And I made some crazy statements to students, and they brought my statements to the school leadership and I was expelled from school.

The girl I had a big crush on at that time had decided that I was a weirdo and wouldn’t talk to me. And my old friends wouldn’t talk to me because they were afraid of me. It was at that moment in life that I knew everything had fallen apart. It was a moment of great darkness in my life.

I remember during that time I turned in my room one day and looked at a poster on my wall. It was a smashing pumpkins poster from one of their music videos, one of my favorite songs, and God seemed to say to me in that moment: You’re about to go through a long dark tunnel, but I will save you in the future, and everything will be OK. That tunnel lasted ten years.

The Smashing Pumpkins poster I looked at connects with the song titled “Tonight, Tonight” the music video tells the story of a couple on a doomed voyage who get lost and captured by monsters, but escape and find their way to safety in the end. Listening to the song last night was interesting. You hear words and phrases like “Believe in me” repeated over and over.

How about you? Maybe your darkest moment was losing a loved one. Or losing a job. Or a time when you became deeply empty. Perhaps it was a car accident or an angry argument.

In our darkest moments we will grieve and be lost and struggle, and we may even fall away, and scatter, or come to ruin. But if we return to God, he will help us, deliver us, and save us.

Today we’re looking at three dark moments. And they are what they are. They are dark and broken and sad. That is part of life.

It’s not always beautiful. It often is beautiful, even sublime, glorious. Other times, I’m exhausted, everyone is crabby, it smells funny in here, the rain is falling, and we get a phone call of a disaster far away. Someone dies.

For me, friends, it’s so incredibly relieving, it feels really good for me, to just admit that this is true about life. So often we pretend like everything is perfect. And people scold us or give us a pep talk, turn that frown upside down. But to simply affirm, it’s ok, to grieve the trouble of life, that’s freeing, if you ask me.

So let’s jump into a moment in time, late at night, Jesus has just given the disciples so much encouragement, it’s all recorded in John 14.

He said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” -John 14:1-2

So much encouragement! He prayed for them, prayed for believers everywhere, he gave instructions about loving one another. But now Jesus is going to speak some hard truths to the disciples and to the leader of the disciples, Peter.

He says in Mark 14:27, “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: “‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’”

Jesus quotes from Zechariah 13:7 in the Old Testament here. It’s a prophecy that comes true in this moment in time.

You will all fall away he says.

Something bad is going to happen, Jesus says. 

Jesus often told the disciples: This is what will happen in the future. The temple will be destroyed, he told them. He told them he would be crucified. He told them they would be his witnesses to the ends of the Earth. God tells us the future.

That continued with the Holy Spirit often speaking to Paul in the book of Acts as well, you will go to Jerusalem. You will go to Rome 
(Acts 23:11).

Yet even immediately after giving the bad news, Jesus gives the good news as well. So which news comes first? Good or bad? According to Jesus, bad news first, then good news.

In verse 28, “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

Even though Jesus will be arrested and killed, and the disciples will fall away. In the end, Jesus will rise, and meet them again in the future.

Then in verses 29-31 we get the classic statement from Jesus to Peter...

But first Peter says, "Not me, I’ll never abandon you!"

It says, “Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”

30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”

31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.

I sometimes wonder, what would I do if my life were on the line? What would I do if I knew it would cost me everything? I like to think I’d go bravely to the end. But only God knows what I would actually do.

How often do I choose my own way still today, instead of God’s way? How often do I waste time? How often do I do what I want to do?

We’re all a work in progress. But we lack such consistency. We come around for a year or two. But it’s a lifetime journey. Where is our commitment? Aren’t we more like the disciples then we realize?

When we get bored with the church, or we get thinking about other things, health, exercise, job, money, family, we keep God second, third, fourth, and sometimes, we just disregard God all together.

Most people I’ve had join the church here in Owosso don’t stay around for more than a few months before they head off to do something else. They can’t quite stick with it. They drift off again. They fall away.

What do we do? How can be consistent? How can we be sure we stay with God for the long haul?

Lord, help us please.

That’s the conclusion of section I, Lord help us to be consistent and to not fall away. But secondly, also realize, if you fall away, that isn’t necessarily the end either. God gave up on you? No. You can and hopefully will repent in the future and return to Him with all your heart.

But first we must go deeper into the darkness. It’s a journey into the night. We’ve gone into the first level of the night.

The sun has set, the clouds have faded, and the last hews of orange in the sky are now disappearing.

So we come into the Gethsemane. The sunset disappears and the sky turns dark, but there are stars in the sky.

It says in verses 32-34: “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Jesus said to his disciples my soul is overwhelmed. I feel overwhelmed. Have you ever felt overwhelmed?

“I can’t stand it anymore!”

Jesus can relate completely to that feeling. His very soul was overwhelmed, deeply distressed, and troubled.

From time to time I feel that way as a Christian and as a pastor, overwhelmed, distressed, troubled, not the extent that Jesus does here.

I firmly believe no one has ever felt this distressed in all of human history, as Jesus does here.

He knows he is going to have to go to the cross and die for our sins. He knows that this will entail being brutally crucified, but also feeling in the Spirit that the Father has abandoned him. He will feel the wrath of God against sin and receive it for us, in our place. He will receive the full wrath that we were due for our sins. He would take it for us. Jesus is thinking about that, I’m sure, and completely overwhelmed.

What would it feel like to be tormented in hell for our sins? Even a single moment would be unbearable. But Jesus would take that torment that we deserved for our sins, and take it upon himself.

What does it feel like? To be overwhelmed with a yucky thought? Lots of anxiety. Weakness in the body. Physical affects. Racing thoughts. Depression. Negative thoughts. Wishing it wasn’t happening. Panic attack. I’ve been there. I battle depression and anxiety. It’s brutal. You just wish it would stop for a moment sometimes. You wake up and the depression hits and part of you wishes that you hadn’t woken up at all.

Jesus is there in a dark place, rightly so. God doesn’t spare us these difficulties. Sometimes I feel so terrible in my own head and heart I just look up and say, "How God can I feel this terrible in this moment how can this be allowed?" But it is allowed.

Jesus goes deeper into the garden. In verses 35-36: “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

One of the most astonishing moments in the entire Bible, Jesus actually prays that this cup would be taken away from him. What cup is he talking about? Jesus is going to drink from a bitter cup, it’s called the cup of God’s wrath. It’s talked about quite a bit in the book of Revelation, the bitter cup of God’s wrath is received by Babylon.

He is going to hell for us! Some actually believe that Jesus was tormented in hell for three days for our sins, before he rose from the dead. I don’t see a lot of scriptural support for that, but it is possible. Other scriptures say he descended, and led captives free. So could it be that he was tormented for three days in hell, then gained victory over the devil, and set free the captives from ancient times, the old testament heroes who awaited a coming messiah? That’s speculative, but it’s at least possible.

Jesus asks for the story to be changed. He says to God, "Anything is possible with you. Yet not my will, but yours be done." Write that one down for your own prayer times, when you pray, add to the end: But Lord not my will but yours be done. That’s very honoring to God.

Next in verses 37-40: Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.”

The disciples keep falling asleep. They should be praying and asking for God’s help to not fall into temptation. What is the temptation Jesus is referencing here? The temptation is the temptation to be afraid and run away and not stay with Jesus during his arrest! Jesus knew they would be tempted to fear and run. So he tells them to pray. But they all fall asleep. Obviously it was quite late at this point.

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. So we should pray. Just like it says in the “Our Father” prayer, deliver us from temptation. That’s a good prayer to pray as well. Perhaps the Lord will tell you that a trial is coming forward and you need to pray intentionally right now, over and over, praying, "Lord deliver me from temptation." So you don’t fall to it when it comes.

Then Jesus says these fateful words: verses 41-42, “Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Here we come to our third and final section, we’ve gone from sunset, to early darkness, now to deep darkness.

In Mark 14:43, “Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.”

The ordeal begins now, we’ve gone from talking about it, Jesus predicting it, to Jesus mourning and praying as the moment gets closer, but now the moment arrives. And it’s tough. It’s dark. It’s scary. It’s intense. I’m sure there is much anxiety going on in that moment, with the disciples, with the guards, though I can’t say I know exactly what Jesus is feeling or thinking at the moment.

Then it says in verses 44-47: “Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.”

Judas signals to the guards who to arrest by kissing Jesus on the cheek. Think about that! Judas was one of Jesus’ closest disciples. I’m sure Jesus loved him, and he loved Jesus. But now it’s all a mockery, a lie, a trick, the ultimate betrayal, betrayed with a kiss.

Have you ever been betrayed? It feels terrible. It feels like having a knife in your back. It’s brutal. It’s not something you soon forget.

Does Jesus say anything to Judas? Only two statements, “Do you betray the son of man with a kiss?” That’s recorded in Luke. Also in Matthew, Jesus says to him, “Do what you came here to do.”

He doesn’t condemn Judas. Similarly we shouldn’t condemn those who betray us. Jesus knows its up to God the Father to judge Judas. Similarly we shouldn’t judge our enemies or hate them. We must forgive them, even if they betray us.

If you're struggling to forgive someone who has hurt you terribly deeply, try this, pray to God and say, "Lord, I forgive them from the heart." And then repeat that statement to God. Keep repeating it, until you sense God bringing the miracle of forgiveness. You'll know its a miracle too, you couldn't have forgiven them on your own. But God brings this overcoming in your heart, and he sets you free from the resentment, the anger, and the hatred. And you become free, and you forgive them from the heart. 

We also see Peter striking with a sword to try to prevent the arrest of Jesus. We know from the other gospels that Jesus told Peter to put his sword back. And Jesus even healed the man who was injured in the attack.

Lastly, we see in verses 48-52 it says, “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled.

A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.”

Jesus lastly declares that all this is happening to fulfill what is written in the Bible about him. All of this must happen. All of it must take place so Jesus can die to be a blood sacrifice for our sins, and set us free. At that moment, the disciples fled the area. Jesus is abandoned by his friends. 

Then we get this odd mention in verses 51-52, of a man who was wearing only a blanket. He was naked, wearing a blanket, a linen garment. The NIV is being generous here saying it was a linen garment. The word is more often referring to a linen cloth. Though it could be referencing something like a night gown, according to the Outline of Biblical Usage by Larry Pierce.

Many have wondered who this person is. The most common idea is that this is Mark himself. But we know from early church leaders in the 2nd century, that wrote that Mark never met Jesus or was with him, he recorded everything later. So it’s hard to say. We don’t really know.

In conclusion today, we see three dark moments taking place, Jesus telling the disciples they will fall away. Jesus in sorrow in the garden. And Jesus betrayed and arrested.

All of this Jesus was willing to go through to purchase us back with his own blood. Always keep that in mind and be so grateful.

Let’s take a look at our applications. How can we apply these truths to our lives and live differently in accordance with the word of God?

1. Accept in your heart that life will include dark moments (then you won’t be surprised)

2. Give yourself permission at times to be Hurting (Say its ok that I’m not ok right now)

3. Give yourself permission to be tough, stay positive and don’t give up (Buck up buttercup)

4. Stay Consistent in your walk with God over the years (But if you do fall away, believe there is still hope to come back again in the future)

5. Jesus can relate to feeling completely overwhelmed (So take courage and stand firm when you feel overwhelmed)

6. Pray a lot when you’re in a hard time, pray God would deliver you from temptation (And His will be done, not yours)

7. Even if someone betrays you, forgive them in your heart (Release them to God, he will judge)

Sunday, October 22, 2023

King David's Last Words

Have you had a loved die? Did you have the chance to have a final conversation with them?  And do you remember the last words they spoke to you?  Or the last words they gave, period? 

It's a way of communicating something very important, as your last statement to the Earth. One of the most famous last words given were those of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. They both died on July 4th, the anniversary of the American revolution. John Adams last words were, "Thomas Jefferson lives!" And Thomas Jefferson's last words were, "Is it the fourth?"

Famous atheist and founder of the church of Satan Anton Lavey's last words were, "Oh my, oh my, what have I done? Something is wrong..." 

I recall my Grandpa Steckbauer's last words to me, in 2009 were a challenge to me, I was in my twenties, and he said to me, something a judge had said to me in a court room. He said, "Justin, remember what the judge said: You're walking on thin ice." 

I was angry at the time when he said that. But later, I realized he was right.

My grandma Check, near the end she kept falling asleep, and waking up, and she would look over at my aunt Kelly, and ask her, "Am I heaven now?" She even asked my aunt Kelly why she was in the room. She asked if she had died too! But grandma knew where she was going. She was going to heaven. She saw a little girl in the room as well. She thought it might've been an angel. No one else could see it. But it may have been a daughter she'd had, her first child, who was a miscarriage. 

I wonder what my last words will be! What will your last words be? What would you want to communicate to your family and friends?

Right now we're going to look at what King David felt was most important in all his life and history to communicate to his people and family about who God is. 

I think it goes all the way back to the beginning. David's beginnings were very humble. 

There was a young man named David who cared for a few sheep of his father. He was the youngest of all his brothers. When the whole family was called for an important meeting with a religious leader David was the only one they didn’t invite.

All these years later, we see David an old man, hair turned white, beard gone gray, wrinkled and tired, laying in bed, unable to keep warm.

King David has setup his son Solomon to become king after him. He has given him a charge in his last words to Solomon about how he should reign.

Now King David is dying. He’s surrounded by his family. And he’s going to give his last words to his family, to the nation, and to us today.

But first we get this summary of David’s life from the writer of 2nd Samuel.

It says this in 2nd Samuel 23:1, “These are the last words of David: “The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse, the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, the hero of Israel’s songs…”

We find here the inspired utterance of David. What that means is the author agrees that the words of David given here were inspired by God himself.

First point today, God can use you as well to bring forth inspired utterance. In other words, God will speak through you if you let Him.

When you’re talking with someone whose struggling, pause a moment and ask God for the right words. Then trust in your heart that he’ll provide them. Then, as you talk with this person, God will bring just the right words out of your mouth, to touch their heart.

And you’ll sense in that moment that it was from God. And so will they. All of us do this from time to time without realizing it. The closer we are spiritually with God, the more it will happen I think.

The most extreme and amazing version of this, as an inspired utterance, is the prophetic person, who gives you a word from God for your future.

David was also, it says, "exalted" by the Most High God. This is the idea of being promoted to a higher position. He was given authority. He was shown before all to be trusted by God.

Second point today, God will at times exalt you, and at times he will humble you. If you show your faithfulness to God, he will exalt you, if you resist God and act pridefully, then he’ll humble you.

David was exalted by God, yet he was also anointed by God. He was prepared by him for all he had for him to do. God spoke truth over him through Samuel the prophet. And the author also says, David was the hero of the songs of Israel. That’s certainly true, most of the psalms are written by David in the book of Psalms!

Next we actually get to what David said, as he lay dying, an old man in his bed.

His last words were: “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me;
his word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: ‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.’”

King David actually quotes something God whispered to him in the past here. God apparently made it clear to David, if you do two things, you will be successful as a leader of Israel.

One, rule over people in righteousness. What that means is you’ll be careful to make the right decisions that are morally correct. You will do righteousness, which is pure. Do the right thing even when it’s hard.

Two, rule in the fear of the Lord. This means David really did fear God. That is by the way, the ultimate secret to living a successful Christian life. You tremble before God and know God is for real. You fear God, you are actually afraid of God, and then when you’re tempted to sin, you tremble at God, and say no, I better not do that.

If you want to learn the fear of the Lord, I recommend this: Go on YouTube and look up some hell testimonies from Christians who have seen hell. Watching those testimonies will bring a fear of the Lord into your life.

God says, rule in those two ways ,righteously and in the fear of God, and your leadership will be like a beautiful morning at sun rise. On a cloudless morning. Like a the brightness after rain, that brings grass.

So your leadership will be like the sun in the sky, bright shining warmth, and it will be like the brightness of the sun after a long rain, and now everything is growing because of the rain.

Point number three, make your decisions in righteousness, and fear God, and you’ll be like a bright warm sun to those around you. You’ll be a blessing wherever you go. If you’d you’ll be a curse to those around you.

Then it verse 5 David continues, “If my house were not right with God, surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part; surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire.”

David here reflects on how God has been faithful to his covenant agreement with David. A secure covenant, an everlasting covenant that God would be with David and protect David and help David in his times of need. And God fully practiced his side of the covenant and was with David through everything. We've seen that time and again in David's life, God was always with Him! And if you love Jesus, and follow Jesus, God will always be with you. 

David knows he is saved. He says God has brought to fruition his salvation. He knows where he is going.

And he also says God has granted his every desire. God satisfied David’s desires. And we can trust God will do the same for us.

Point number four, like David, if you’ve followed God faithfully, you can know your salvation is secure. I hope and pray that when each of you are old and gray in your bed getting close to death, that you would know that Jesus has paid your sins, and that you’re on your way to paradise.

So verse five was David celebrating and rejoicing in all God has done and that he is on his way to heaven. But then in verses 6-7 we see David leave all those around him with one final warning:

It says, “But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns, which are not gathered with the hand. Whoever touches thorns uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear; they are burned up where they lie.”

So David affirms that he is headed to heaven. But he also hints at the fate of those who are evil. They will go down to the pit of hell.

Evil men will be dealt with by a holy God. They will not be gathered up. But will be thrown down. He compares it to thorns, they are not gathered, but they burned where they lay.

So David confirms for us, that heaven is real and hell is real. Both are very real.

Point number five today, there will be rewards for the righteous in Christ, and damnation for those who continue on in evil. Sin leads to hell. And the hell will be tortured for all time, in a place of fire. The righteous in Christ will live eternally in heaven. Those are the two destinations, there is not a third option. Heaven in Christ, or hell without Christ. End of story.

So to review today...

Our Five Points were:

1. God will speak through you if you let Him.

2. God will at times exalt you, and at times he will humble you.

3. Make your decisions in righteousness, and fear God, and you’ll be like a bright warm sun to those around you.

4. If you’ve followed God faithfully, you can know your salvation is secure

5. There will be rewards for the righteous in Christ, and damnation for those who continue on in evil.

Only by Remembering our Past can we Face the Future: The Woman who Anointed Jesus

It’s so incredibly important that we remember our history, our heritage, and who we are. If we don’t know who we are, the history of our people, our nation, our faith, our religion, our family, our state, our city, all of these things, then we’re liable to believe anything that we’re fed, and to be manipulated by the forces in the world around us that are trying to promote their various ideological agendas.

I want to talk to you about the history of Israel, in particular this morning, which as Christians is part of our story:

Long, long ago the nation of Israel was only one man and his family, it was Abraham, and his wife Sarah. And their children and extended family. Abraham would have two children, Isaac, from Sarah, and Ishmael from Hagar, his wife’s servant girl. Ishmael according to tradition would go on to found the modern Arab nations, including many who are part of modern day Islam.

Isaac and his wife Rebecca would have children, and one their children’s children Joseph, would save his family from a terrible famine that had come across the land. That is what led Israel to live in Egypt. Joseph became a leader in Egypt and helped shelter his family in a place called Goshen in Egypt.

God blessed the Israelites and they became numerous. But the Egyptians began to fear them because of their great numbers, so they enslaved them.

They had been slaves for 400 years, building the wealth of Egypt. But God was at work. He began working through a man named Moses, to bring Israel out of slavery in Egypt, and into the promised land, the land that would be called Israel. And it’s capital, the city of Jerusalem, which means, “city of peace.” A place of peace between God and man.

Moses died, and Joshua succeeded Moses as leader of Israel, and led them into the promised land. The nation was founded, amongst their enemies.

But once God brought them into the land, he gave them detailed instructions in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, on how to celebrate festivals each year to remember everything God did for them.

That is our first point today, a single word: Remember.

If we don’t remember, we’re liable to forget, as they say.

It was very important that Israel remember what it was like to live as slaves in Egypt, and what it was like to travel through the wilderness.

Why would that be important? None of the generations born after the journey through the wilderness and out of Egypt were even there? Why does it matter if they remember it?

Because it’s part of their history. It’s part of their identity under God.

It was the most important festival of the year, Israel was celebrating, the Passover festival, and the festival of unleavened bread. These two festivals celebrated first, the Passover lamb, that the blood of the Passover lamb was slaughtered and the blood was wiped on their door posts, and this protected them from the wrath of God against the nation of Egypt.

Secondly, they would celebrate for seven days after, the festival of unleaven bread, to celebrate their deliverance from Egypt and into the wilderness.

Jews to this day celebrate these festivals each year. The purpose is to remind them what God has done for them.

What happens when we stop reminding ourselves what God has done for us? We forget what God has done for us. We start to drift away. We start to think we don’t need God. We stop coming to church. We go back into the world of sin. And we end up shipwrecked once again.

I’ve seen many people come in the church and learn and grow, and then leave. They slowly seem to forget all that God had done for them, and they go back to the world of sin. This is a very sad and tragic thing so, don’t let that be you. Always remember.

Set a pattern in your life. Remember the day you received salvation through Jesus Christ. Celebrate that day. Rejoice. Remember the day of your birth, the day God gave you life. Celebrate Christmas, that Jesus was born. Celebrate Resurrection Sunday, that Jesus is alive.

The reason we so carefully come ot church each Sunday, and attend bible study, and celebrate holidays, and to consistently remind and re-remind ourselves of all God has done for us, so we never forget, and so that we always remain grateful, and joyous, and focused on God.

We as sheep are prone to wander, the Shepherd Jesus helps us to stay on course, but we ought to try not to wander, but to stay close to the shepherd.

All of that to explain, that in Mark chapter 14 today, in verses 1-26, Jesus and the twelve disciples were all preparing for the festival of Passover and unleavened bread.

It says in Mark 14:1-2: “Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 2 “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

The leaders in Jerusalem are plotting to kill Jesus, but they want to avoid a riot because of the festival.

Meanwhile Jesus is about 2 miles away at Bethany, and we see a very beautiful event take place.

It says in verse 3: While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.”

This woman takes some very expensive perfume and anoints Jesus head with it. The woman was really saying, “this is how important Jesus is to me.” The nard was worth a great deal of money, we’re talking worth about $30,000 dollars, or as the Bible says, a year’s wages. And she uses it as an act of worship to Jesus her Lord. It’s beautiful. It’s a statement of understanding, just how important Jesus is. And I think sometimes we miss that. We’re focused on work, paychecks, retirements, cars, family, friendships, coffee, vacations, and we forget that Jesus Christ is worth more than every cent we’ve ever had or will have.

I know deep down I don’t fully realize just how valuable Jesus Christ is, and how much I need Him every moment. I don’t feel see it right at this moment. I may not ever until I see him face to face. But I want to know the truth.

That’s our second point today, hunger for the truth. Maybe you realize right now, I don’t see Jesus the way the woman does, who poured out the nard on Jesus’ head. But you can want to know. You can say to yourself, and to God, “Lord, I want to know you like that.

Be hungry for the truth. Want to know. Then ask God to show you.

It continues in verses 4-5: Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? 5 It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages[a] and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.”

This is Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples who rebukes the woman. And I just have to smile when I see this. Because we see the same thing today in the news quite a bit.

When a big corporation buys something, or when we talk about money in politics, or when Elon Musk bought twitter, you had all these keyboard warriors, on social media, crying out that for the price Musk paid you could solve world hunger. And you see that a lot.

But this isn’t just something that happens to big corporations or social media. Your mom or dad probably told you growing up when you didn’t want to finish your peas or beans, “there are children starving in third world countries.” And you probably thought to yourself, well, if I don’t eat it, it’s not like it’s going to appear suddenly in another country.

Let’s see what Jesus says to this statement by Judas. In verses 6-7: “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.”

Don’t worry about the poor right now, says Jesus, how insensitive right? Wrong. Jesus is absolutely right. It was beautiful what this woman did. Don’t worry about the approximate value of the nard.

The Lord continues in verses 8-9: “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Jesus here foreshadows his own death which he knows is rapidly approaching. It’s only a few days away. He says this perfume is preparing for his burial. Then he gives this beautiful picture for us today, wherever the gospel is preached around the whole world, people will talk about what this woman did.

Now I’ll tell you this, I looked it up, the distance from Bethany, Israel to Owosso, Michigan is 6,003 miles. So we do qualify I think when Jesus talks about being “throughout the world.”

Jesus doesn’t say this about many other people around him who did great things. But he says that this woman’s act of anointing him, will be remembered, in memory of her.

And that brings back to our first point today, “Remember.” Are you beginning to see how important it is to remember? We must have memorials in our lives. We do that with loved ones we lost. We visit their grave. We keep their memory alive. How much more so should we keep our entire calendar year centered around our relationship with the God who made us?

And if you’re truly hungry for the truth, our second point today, you’ll “remember” and by “remembering” you’ll stay hungry for the truth. Do you see how it all fits together? As we remove pieces and parts from Christianity, like a car engine, eventually the car will start running badly as we remove parts, and eventually it will break down all together.

Jesus has just rebuked Judas. Now let’s see what happens next.

In verses 10-11, “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.”

With some people in the body of Christ, you can just tell, as you watch them, that they are watching and looking for something to get mad about, they are on guard for something they don’t entirely agree with. And they are like pregnant with controversy and they are on the edge of their seat waiting for a disagreement. And then at last you say something that offends them and off they go to another church.

That’s one variety of what you might call “church hoppers” they bounce from church to church to church. Which is very unhealthy. And every time they have a conflict of any kind, they bounce to the next one. But instead, we should look to work out the disagreement, sit down and figure it out. It’s awkward, it’s sometimes uncomfortable, but it’s worth it, to work it out, instead of running. I remember I told someone a few years back who was upset, if you keep storming off and leaving every time you have a disagreement, you’re going to be running your whole life. It will never end. You have to put an end to that pattern, with whatever it may take, conflict management books, anger management with a counselor, something to break that toxic pattern.

But as you can see here Judas gets upset, he’s pregnant with evil, and he heads off to the chief authorities to betray Jesus to them for money.

We know from other gospels that the chief priests offer Judas 30 pieces of silver, which is not very much, it’s the cost of purchasing a slave, one slave. But he takes them up on the offer.

It’s a crazy moment because as we go through the entire gospel of Mark, there’s no thought to the possibility that Jesus’ closest disciples would ever totally betray him. Sure they struggle to understand what he’s saying, they make mistakes, they struggle with unbelief, they argue amongst themselves but you get the sense that they all have true hearts of devotion despite their failings.

But suddenly we see Judas, and off he goes, to betray the son of God.

Consequently that’s our third point today, “break the toxic pattern.” We all have toxic patterns in our lives, things that repeat. I’ve known people who were cleptos, they couldn’t stop stealing. Others like we talked about have anger issues. Others always seem to be in the middle of drama. Others it’s drinking, drugs, cigarettes, gambling or pornography. Those are the obvious ones. But what about manipulating people for your own benefit? For your own pleasure? What about refusing to forgive someone that hurt us in the past? What about stealing from your employer, or cheating on your taxes, or bad mouthing people behind their back? What about excluding people you know you should try to include in your “in group”? All those things are just as toxic as obvious things like drugs or stealing.

Judas was caught in a mindset of wealth, money, influence, power, and he lost sight of who Jesus really was to him. And off he went, pregnant with evil.

Now if we “remember” point one, we will know our history, our past and all God has done for us. And if we remember, then we’ll hunger for truth, because we’ll know the truth from our past enough to want it badly, And if we remember the past, and then we hunger for the truth, then we’ll have the courage, and devotion, and grit, to point three, break toxic patterns.

But if we don’t remember, then we won’t hunger for truth because we won’t know it, and if we don’t hunger for truth we won’t have the grit and courage and devotion to break toxic patterns in our lives. It all fits together.

Next we see in verses 12-16, “On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.”

It’s now earlier in the day on the festival of Passover, on the first day of the unleavened bread festivals 7 days. The disciples go make all their preparations and Jesus makes sure everything is ready for them. It’s a good reminder that someone has to set the table, but don’t worry, Jesus will provide a good venue. And he certainly does.

So then they all gather there in the room Jesus has provided for them.

Then it says in verses 17-21: “When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”

20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Here we have each of the disciples asking Jesus, is it me, am I the one who is going to betray you? They are all worried and concerned. They rightly understand that the chief issue with a follower of Jesus is within ourselves. They don’t trust their own actions. They are afraid that they will fall away in the future. Which all of them will aside from John, but Peter would rally them afterwards, and they would be restored.

Point number four, Check Yourself. Each of the disciples ask the question, “Is it I Lord?” They are checking their own heart. They are judging and evaluating themselves, and then bringing it to Jesus. That is wisdom. Check yourself, in other words, guard your heart.

It’s shocking though, the statement Jesus makes, that it would be better for Judas Iscariot after betraying the son of God, that it would be better if he’d never been born at all. I think this implies the punishment he will receive in hell for all eternity, it must be particularly terrible. And in the court of God’s justice, it should be. As sad as it is, justice requires it.

I’ve heard some well meaning Christians try to make the case that Judas is in heaven. Honestly I don’t know how backwards you have to be in your theology, and think basically everyone just goes to heaven no matter what, to think that. It’s ludicrous. Would Jesus make this statement about Judas if he was in heaven? Of course not.

Lastly, we see verses 22-26: While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.

24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

Jesus says, this is my body, this is my blood. Jesus would of course soon be giving his own body over to death, to cover our sins. Jesus would become our Passover lamb. As the doorpost was painted with the blood of the Passover lamb in Egypt, and the angel of death did not harm those who were in that home, so we are painted in the blood of Jesus, our sins are covered over by his sacrifice, and then we are given a clean slate before God, all our sins are forgiven.

Yet Jesus also affirms that he would not drink again the fruit of the vine until he was alive again in the kingdom of God. So Jesus knew, though he would die, he would be raised from the dead, and would be in the kingdom of God forever, in heaven.

Point five today, rest in the love of Christ. As you remember the past and keep in touch with your mindset, you hunger for truth and pursue it, then by the leading of the Holy Spirit you are active in finding healing for toxic patterns, and you’re also checking yourself, evaluating your actions and your heart, so lastly, you’re walking the Christian lifestyle faithfully, now the goal is to find the mindset of rejoicing in the restful love of Christ.

But pastor you told me all this stuff I need to do, remember, hunger, heal, evaluate, and yes that’s all true, but at the same time, that’s not how you get saved. That’s how you build your walk with Christ and guard the danger of falling away. But since you’re there. You can rest in the love of Christ. Remember you are working from acceptance, not for acceptance. You’re guarding against falling away, you haven’t already fallen away. You’re safe and secure in the love of Christ.

Lastly, I do want to point your attention to verse 26 which mentions that they sang a hymn before leaving for the mount of olives.

I can only imagine what this night was like, but it was a time of celebration, yet also a time of angst for the disciples, they knew Jesus was saying he was about to be betrayed and killed. And yet after all this, they sang a hymn together.

And we’re pretty sure we know what song they sang, it was traditional for Jews as part of the Passover ceremony to sing Psalms 116 through Psalm 118. This was called the Hallel, part of it would be sung before the meal, then part of it after, generally it was Psalms 113 through 118. With the last 2-3 being sang after. But it’s astonishing that in psalm 118:20-24 it says, “

20 This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.[d]
23 This is the Lord's doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Main Points:
1. Remember

2. Hunger for Truth

3. Break Toxic Patterns

4. Check Yourself

5. Rest in Christ’s Love

Monday, October 16, 2023

David's Song of Praise to God from 2nd Samuel 22

If there’s one thing that perfectly sums up David’s life it’s the praise that David sings to the Lord in 2nd Samuel 22. David expresses poetically all that God has done for him. David acknowledges clearly, his life story is not really about David. It’s about his God.

The entire chapter of 2nd Samuel 22 is all about what God has done in King David’s life.

It starts off like this, with an introduction: “David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said:…”

This song is very similar to Psalm 18 in the book of Psalms, though there are some variations. I think what we’re going to do today is go line by line through this poem, this song, and find some nuggets of truth in it, that will help all of us to walk closely with the God of David in our own lives.

David cries out, verses 2-3: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent people you save me.”

Three truths about who God is to us: He is our rock. Firm foundation. Second, he is a fortress around us. A place of safety. Thirdly, our deliverer. Someone who comes and rescues is when we’re in trouble.

Verses 4-7: “I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and have been saved from my enemies.
The waves of death swirled about me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.”
“In my distress I called to the Lord;
I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came to his ears.”

I called to the Lord, it’s important we remember we need to cry out to Him. He wants us to pray. Then he answers. David pictures himself as sinking in a whirlpool down further, and further, helpless and unable to save himself. Eventually he finds himself under the waters, cords of death wrapped around him, and in that pit of darkness David cries out to God, and God hears all the way in heaven. The cry for help echoes up into the highest heaven, and God hears.

It reminds me of a time I was visiting my aunt and uncles cottage in Minocqua, Wisconsin. I was about ten years old, and my cousin and I were playing on the dock. It was late autumn, very cold. And I fell into the water. Now my dad was all the way up about seventy-five steps, straight up, where the cottage rested on the top of a hill. And when my dad heard me calling for help in the water up to my head, he made it down those steps in about three seconds. There's no way he could've done that. But somehow he did. It reminds me of how God comes to us and rescues us in our time of trouble.

The next few verses here, we hear about a very dark situation. And David cries out to God. David certainly faced many difficult situations in his life. Many of us can say the same. We've been through struggles. Life is hard. Crazy stuff happens! So we must cry out to God again and again. It's a repeated process. A spiritual tool we should return to again and again. And for David, and us, it says, our cry reaches his throne room. God hears our cry for help. Just like God hears David's cry for help and moves in to rescue him.

Next in verses 8-16 we see God responding to David’s cry for help. God shows up in a huge way, as David cries out to Him for help.

It says, “8 The earth trembled and quaked,
the foundations of the heavens shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
9 Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it
10 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
11 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
13 Out of the brightness of his presence
bolts of lightning blazed forth.
14 The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
15 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
16 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at the rebuke of the Lord,
at the blast of breath from his nostrils.”

The entire physical plain of Earth is shocked and disrupted by God’s breakthrough into David’s difficulty. God takes over completely and comes down, and drives off David’s enemies. The earth shakes. The voice of God bursts forth. And everything changes.

In verses 17-20 we see David rescued by God completely:

It says, “17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
20 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

David calls this moment in his life “the day of his disaster.” This whole saga seems to surround the moment when King Saul was chasing after David and trying to kill him and his men. And we see just how troubled David was during this time in his life.

Have you ever had a moment in your life that you'd call your "day of disaster?" There have been a few seasons in my life where it felt a bit like my day of disaster. It's important in those moments when everything is going wrong, to remember, to pray and ask God for help. Sometimes we do everything but pray. We do everything, stress about it, worry about it, complain about it to others, but the one thing we should do, we forgot to do: We didn't pray. So remember, get on your knees, and ask God for help!

But it’s a picture for us of David’s entire life. He was constantly being delivered by God in different situations.

The same is true for us. If we follow God faithfully, time and again we get into trouble, and time and again God sets us free.

It pictures David being picked up from flood waters where he’s sunk beneath the surface, tumbling down to the bottom of the ocean, and God comes and grabs him, pulls him out, and places him in a beautiful meadow, safe and at peace.

Next in verses 21-25 we get into righteousness, “21 “The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. 22 For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God.
23 All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. 24 I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. 25 The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight.”

David has faithfully walked with God and obeyed the Old testament law. And that was greatly pleasing to God. David recognizes the importance of living a pure life before God.

Similarly, we are blameless before God in Jesus Christ, who has washed away our sins. We’ve repented of our sins, put them to death, and so we are holy in God’s sight. Not holy because of our repentance, but holy because of Jesus Christ's perfect sacrifice. His death paid off our sin debt. Our repentance is our response to this great gift.

Next, we see David explaining God's character toward two different groups of people on planet Earth: the faithful and the devious. He deals with the faithful by showing his own faithfulness. He deals with the devious by humbling them.

It says, "26 “To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
27 to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
28 You save the humble,
but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.
29 You, Lord, are my lamp;
the Lord turns my darkness into light."
30 With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall."

If you are prideful, God will humble you. If we try to plot schemes against people and manipulate events to gain what we want selfishly, God will show himself to be shrewd, and he will defeat our plans. He will humble us, and bring us low, so we can learn to humble ourselves, and turn back to Him. Best thing to do instead of becoming proud, is to humble yourself before God, then he won't have to humble you Himself.

David also recalls how God empowers him in combat. With God's help, David had constant victory in combat against numerous foes. He could scale a wall, with God, his combat skills were enhanced, and he won the victories he desperately needed. Have you ever experienced that? You needed strength in a moment when you felt weak, and you had exactly the strength you needed for the moment?

I've experienced that numerous times. Many times I've been feeling sick or dizzy, and unable to share a sermon or lead a Bible study, but suddenly God gives me extra strength so I can complete the task he's given me.

Next, we see David describing God's character and how he interacts with us: 31 “As for God, his way is perfect:
The Lord’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.
32 For who is God besides the Lord?
And who is the Rock except our God?
33 It is God who arms me with strength
and keeps my way secure.
34 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.
35 He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
36 You make your saving help my shield;
your help has made me great.
37 You provide a broad path for my feet,
so that my ankles do not give way."

David recalls that God shields those who take refuge in Him. So, it's super important that we "take refuge in God." That's a great prayer: "Lord, I take refuge in you today, in Jesus name, amen!"

We also see mention of God "training" David for war. Often God will train us in our lives for tasks he has for us in the future. Have you experienced that? A time of training from God? Maybe it was experiences you had at a job, or things you learned in a class, or something a friend or family member taught you, but you saw it was God working through the situation or person to teach you something you'd need later? God's thoughts and plans toward you are as numerous as the grains of the sand on the seashore (Psalm 139:17-18). He's always doing something in your life!

In verses 38-46 David declares how God has granted him complete victory over his enemies: “I pursued my enemies and crushed them;
I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
39 I crushed them completely, and they could not rise;
they fell beneath my feet.
40 You armed me with strength for battle;
you humbled my adversaries before me.
41 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
and I destroyed my foes.
42 They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—
to the Lord, but he did not answer.
43 I beat them as fine as the dust of the earth;
I pounded and trampled them like mud in the streets.
44 “You have delivered me from the attacks of the peoples;
you have preserved me as the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me,
45 foreigners cower before me;
as soon as they hear of me, they obey me.
46 They all lose heart; they come trembling from their strongholds."

We see again here, how David's cup overflows. It hasn't been easy. But in the end, through many struggles, David has total victory, and so much so, people he doesn't even know come trembling before him and surrender before his troops. He has victory over his enemies. This comes from God. Similarly, with us, our victories can only come from God. We believe. We obey. He works. And we see hard fought victories.

Lastly, in verses 47-51 we see David summarizing his statements from the beginning of the song, reaffirming the three key factors: God is my rock, God is my stronghold, God is my deliverer.

It says, "47 “The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock!
Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!
48 He is the God who avenges me,
who puts the nations under me,
49 who sets me free from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes;
from a violent man you rescued me.
50 Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing the praises of your name."
51 “He gives his king great victories;
he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed,
to David and his descendants forever.”

All in all, we see David has victory after victory from God. That is the goal with any disciple of Jesus Christ, that they would walk so closely with Jesus, that they would find victory after victory in their walk with God, and in the community around them. This is sometimes upset by our own disobedience, just like David's impropriety with Bathsheba cost him much. But in the end, we remain faithful, like David, and God continues to guide us, forgives us, and grants us victory after victory.

All of this we have today through Jesus Christ our Lord and savior who died for us, and lives to intercede for us! Victory after victory is ours! And our cup overflows. Praise the Lord!

Sunday, October 15, 2023

The Signs of the End Times: Be Watchful and Be Alert

On Saturday October 7th 2023 the nation of Israel was brutally attacked by Hamas terrorists from the Gaza strip. The attack involved thousands of rockets, men launches themselves through the air on hang-gliders, as well as complex breaches of the fences protecting Israel from the Gaza strip. In a few short hours, over 1,400 had lost their lives. 3,400 were injured. 199 people were kidnapped.

We should be praying fervently for Israel, and the people of Israel, as the days, weeks, and months go by. We should grieve with Israel. We should pray for the salvation of the lost in Israel. We should avoid condemning Israel for counter-attacks against Hamas terrorists. We should pray for the safety of all in the danger zone right now. God be with them! 

But when this happened, many wondered if this was a sign of the end times. Did this have a prophetic significance for the book of Revelation and the time the bible calls the last days?

In Mark chapter 13 we find the words of Jesus addressing the topic of the last days. Let’s dive in.

The Lord Jesus has visited the massive temple complex, the site of worship for all Jews in Israel, and he is now leaving the area.

We see his disciples commenting to him about the power and glory and might of Herod’s temple.

In Mark chapter 13, verses 1-2: “As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”

2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Forty years later, in 70 AD, the nation of Israel would rebel against the Roman empire and overthrow the occupying forces in the area. But Rome would send fresh armies, and they would besiege Jerusalem. Eventually, as layer after layer of the defenses fell, finally, the defenders would fight on the walls of the temple itself. They would be defeated. And the temple was completely destroyed. As Jesus had prophesied, not one stone would be left on another. All of it would be thrown down.

Jesus said it in 30 AD, then it happened in 70 AD. How could anyone deny that Jesus was God himself in human form? No one else could know such a thing would happen. But it did.

As Jesus walked away from the temple, the disciples followed, and they went and sat on the mount of olives.

Here is what the view from the mount of olives looks like today. But at the time Jesus sat there with his disciples, they would be overlooking the city, and the temple.

So there they are on the mount of olives, overlooking Jerusalem, and Herod’s temple.

Then in verses 3-4: “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

Next we see the response of Jesus. Verses 5-8: "Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.”

First, Jesus tells us to be careful not to be deceived. Many will come in the name of Jesus, claiming to be Christians, but, they will deceive many. When you hear about various wars, do not to be alarmed. Don’t be alarmed. We hear of wars often in our world. I've lived through numerous times of conflicts, the gulf war, the Iraq war, the various engagements taking place in Afghanistan after 9/11. We've all seen many wars. But it was not yet the end. 

Jesus tells us not to be alarmed. Such things must happen. But the end is not yet, it’s still to come.

Earthquakes and famines indicate the beginning of birth pains. When a woman feels “birth pains” we know that she is close to going into labor. But she is not yet in labor. Similarly, when we hear of famine, and war, and earthquakes, those are birth pains, but not the birth itself. They are signs that we are getting close, but not that we are there yet.

So we have a command from Jesus here: Do not be deceived.

Next, we see in verses 9-11: “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”

Here we see a second command: Be on your guard.

Jesus says that in the time of the early church, they would be persecuted and brought before government leaders. They will be betrayed and taken into custody by governments.

Also, hidden in here, is the message from Jesus saying, “The gospel must be preached to all nations.” That’s a fact as well, the gospel of forgiveness in Christ must go out to all nations everywhere before the final end will come.

And of course we see Jesus say, that the early church would speak by the power of the Holy Spirit to government authorities.

On the screen you’ll see a picture of Joe Kennedy, an assistant high school coach who lost his job because he would pray quietly on the field after football games. Thankfully, the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision, protected his right to pray, but it was crazy to see him lose his job and come under scrutiny for doing something as simple as praying. He was brought before the authorities for his faith.

In verses 12-13 Jesus mentions family betrayal as well:

It says, “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

You will be hated. This was true for the early church, for Paul as well, they were hated by so many. He had crowds wanting to kill him. The same is true today, people will hate us for our message of the gospel. We will not be popular. We will often be disliked, and gossiped against and mistreated. Our name will be dragged through the mud. I know, I’ve experienced that. It will happen to you too.

Unless you’re a false teacher, then most will love you. Because you only tell them what they want to hear. So, if you want to be liked, just sugar coat everything you say, and twist scripture to show only grace, and no truth. You'll be loved then, by everyone, well, everyone aside from God, who will despise your false teachings. 

Next we see a mention of a time of great struggle, in verses 14-19 it says, “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.”

Here we find something called a double-prophecy, a prophecy with a dual meaning. Because this does speak of the anti-Christ, during the end times, but it also spoke to the early Christian church, that when Israel would be surrounded by it’s enemies in 70 AD, that they should flee the area. In fact history tells us that the Christians did flee the area during the siege, to a city called Pella. We learn of this from of one the early church leaders, Eusebius' in his work “Historia Ecclesiastica.” So the event Jesus was speaking of did reference 70 AD, but we also believe it references a time still to come in the future as well, when the anti-christ will reign from Jerusalem at a rebuilt temple.

It goes even deeper in verses 20-25, which says, “If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.

24 “But in those days, following that distress,
“‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
25 the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’"

Here the Lord Jesus quotes from Isaiah 13:10 and Isaiah 34:4. These are prophecies of the end times, really these scriptures point to the very end of the book of Revelation, when the final bowls of God’s wrath are being poured out on the Earth. It’s a time beyond anything any of us could imagine, as far as chaos and destruction and the judgment of God.

Again Jesus gives us the command: Be on your guard.

We’re commanded as well to watch out for false messiahs, false teachers, we’ve even told they’ll have power to perform false signs and wonders. But we have to cling to the word of God, and resist false signs and wonders. Instead we must believe the truth.

The basic fact is this: Jesus will not be on Earth in the flesh. He will be in heaven. And his return will be seen by all.

Jesus talks about this in verses 26-31: “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it[d] is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

So we see that Jesus will be coming in the clouds, from the sky, with great power. And he will gather his people, the elect, the body of Christ, the church, us.

We must be watchful and careful to observe the times and seasons we live in, because the time is near. So on the one hand be watchful for the time and season of his return.

At the same time, no one knows the day or hour exactly.

Jesus talks about that lastly here, in verses 32-37: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

We find direct commands from Jesus to us: 

1. Be on guard
2. Be alert
3. Keep Watch
4. Watch!

So Jesus is saying that because no one knows the day or hour we should just kind of sit back and do nothing, just say well, nobody knows, so just kinda go to sleep right? Just ignore end times stuff, right? Wrong.

We’re commanded to “be on guard” “be alert” “keep watch” and “watch!” Those are four different ways of saying something similar: Be a faithful servant of God observing the times and seasons, watching for the return of the Master at any moment.

So that is our challenge. We shouldn’t get flustered. We shouldn’t panic, when COVID hits, or when Israel is attacked. We should stand. We should pray. We should keep watch. We should stay awake and stay alert, because Jesus will return.

This is all mindset-wisdom. A Mindset of an active Christian who is active in their faith, actively watching, actively serving day and night, is what Jesus is teaching us here. We should be a soldier at our post, armor on, spiritual weapons ready, praying, seeking God, sharing the gospel, mentoring others, and preparing for the return the Messiah.