Category: Miracles in the Bible

Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers on the Way to Jerusalem

WEEK 36:

 

 

Luke 17:11-19 11 And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem, that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And He said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Jesus took a quick trip back to Galilee, and as He was on His way back to Jerusalem, He passed through Samaria.

Verse 12 And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:

What is Leprosy? (1) Leprosy is caused by an infection with Mycobacterium leprae or M. lepromatosis bacteria. (2) Early symptoms begin in cooler areas of the body and include loss of sensation. (3) Signs of leprosy are painless ulcers, skin lesions of hypopigmented macules (flat, pale areas of skin), and eye damage (dryness, reduced blinking). Later, large ulcerations, loss of digits, skin nodules, and facial disfigurement may develop. (4) The infection is thought to be spread person to person by nasal secretions or droplets. Leprosy is rarely transmitted from chimpanzees, mangabey monkeys, and nine-banded armadillos to humans by droplets or direct contact. (5) Susceptibility to getting leprosy may be due to certain human genes. Reference: https://www.medicinenet.com/leprosy/article.htm#what_is_leprosy

As outlined above, Leprosy was a dangerous and dreaded disease in the ancient world. In Israel as in most ancient countries, lepers were isolated from everyone else for fear of contagion. They tended to live together in little communes on the outskirts of larger towns where relatives and friends would bring them food and supplies. On the rare occasion when they ventured out, they were compelled to shout “unclean, unclean, unclean”, so as to alert and warn others who may be within close proximity of them. These lepers knew they couldn’t approach Jesus but His reputation as a healer preceded Him and they cried out.

Verses 13-14 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

We have read previously that when Jesus cleansed other lepers, He touched them. Not so here – He just spoke to them and told the10 to go to the priests. The priests were the ones who had been tasked with the duty of diagnosing leprosy, and to declare it’s healing in the rare case that if it occurred.

Leviticus 13:2-3 2 When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy; then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests: 3 And the priest shall look on the plague in the skin of the flesh: and when the hair in the plague is turned white, and the plague in sight be deeper than the skin of his flesh, it is a plague of leprosy: and the priest shall look on him, and pronounce him unclean.

These lepers had already been to a priest – the last time they saw a priest was when they heard the awful words – “its leprosy.  When Jesus told them to go back to the priest, it could mean only one thing – they were cured. So they went, and as they were going, they were healed. That Jesus sent them to the priest’s means these lepers were Jews.

John 4:9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

Though this was in  Samaria, these Jewish men, desperate as they were for companionship, found others suffering from the same illness living in this commune and settled among them.

Verses 15-17 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And He said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Only one of the 10 lepers turned around and came back to give thanks to Jesus for the healing, and he was a Samaritan. Jesus missed the 9 who didn’t show gratitude. How those often prove most grateful from whom it was least expected. A Samaritan gives thanks, and a Jew does not. The rest had their cure – It was not revoked, as justly it might have been, for their ingratitude. The rest were made whole by the power of Christ, in compassion to their distress, and in answer to their prayer; but the Samaritan was made whole by his FAITH, by which Christ saw him distinguished from the rest.

We would think that those who receive wonderful answers to their prayers would give abundant thanks to God, but sadly, that is not the case. Many people but do not praise and Jesus misses it! It is so important that we verbalise our praise and gratitude to God, rather than grumbling or moaning about what is wrong.

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Elijah is Raptured

WEEK 35:

 

 

2 Kings 2:11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

Elijah was in this world, but he had never been of this world. His life had been full of dramatic happenings. More than once, Elijah had called down fire from heaven. He was the prophet, who had miraculous happenings more than the others. He will go to heaven as he had lived on the earth, in a miraculous happening. It is stating in the verse above, the ascension of Elijah in “a whirlwind”, as if it had already happened. Elijah, like Enoch, is still alive. They did not go the way of the grave. Elijah followed Enoch in being taken into heaven without dying.

Gen. 5:24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

“Chariot of fire and horses of fire” – The horse-drawn chariot was the fastest means of transport and the mightiest means of warfare in that day. Thus, the chariot and horse symbolized God’s powerful protection, which was the true safety of Israel. They had to be separated, so Elijah would go up, and not both of them. God divided them with His fire.

Psalms 104:4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire.

The chariot of fire and the horses of fire accompanied Elijah up, but he went up in the whirlwind.

 This was the end of a remarkable ministry, one that was in many ways similar to the ministry of Moses.

 

Both Moses and Elijah:

Stood alone for righteousness

Were associated with fire upon mountains

Were associated with the desert

Met God on Mount Sinai

Were chased out of their countries by pagan rulers

Knew God’s miraculous provision for food and water

Wandered in the desert for a period measured by 40

Fasted for 40 days

Were powerful examples of prayer

Parted waters

Had close associates who succeeded them (Joshua and Elisha)

Had successors that parted waters also (Joshua and Elisha)

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Paul Casts Out a Spirit of Divination

WEEK 34:

 

 

Acts 16:16-18 16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: 17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. 18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

Paul and Silas have come to the city of Philippi in Macedonia. They are in thoroughly Gentile territory now. In fact, there are so few Jews in the city, there is no synagogue. The handful of Jews who are there, meet each Sabbath by the riverside for prayer. So Paul and Silas joined them and taught out of the Scriptures about Jesus being the Messiah. Soon a small group of disciples were gathering to grow in the faith.  But as Paul and Silas walked around the city, a young slave girl followed them around. She was possessed by a demon that spoke through her and told fortunes to people who paid her masters for her services Her masters had made a tidy little profit off her and enjoyed their income

The demon inside the girl kept shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved”. The demonic spirit knows that the presence and power of God is with the missionaries. The demon’s shouting is probably done in mockery, and is intended to disrupt, not enhance, the preaching of the Gospel. Jesus also encountered similar situations on several occasions where a demon keeps on shouting that Jesus is “the Holy One of God” (Luke 4:41; Luke 8:28; Mark 1:24, Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7).

Luke 4:33-35  33 And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, 34 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. 35 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.

But the spirit possessing the girl kept declaring to anyone who would listen that Paul and Silas were messengers of God and that they had come to show the people the way to salvation. One might think that Paul and Silas would appreciate this free advertising, especially since it came from a source the people recognized as being pretty trustworthy and indeed, for a few days, they let her go on but after a while, the continual shouting of the girl became too much Paul so, through the authority given him in the name of Christ, he commands the demon to leave. Paul does it in Jesus’ name, and “at that moment the spirit left her”.

Now, her masters weren’t real happy with this turn of events, for when the demon left, it left her without the ability to tell fortunes their source of income dried up they would have to look elsewhere for funds. Because they got hit in the pocketbook, they decided to strike back, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the city authorities.

Those who do good by drawing men from sin may expect to be reviled as troublers of the city. While they teach men to fear God, to believe in Christ, to forsake sin, and to live godly lives, they will be accused of teaching bad customs.

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Elijah is Fed by Ravens

WEEK 33:

 

 

1 Kings 17:3-6 3 Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith that is before Jordan. 4 And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. 5 So he went and did according unto the Word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.

“Elijah”- his name means “Yahweh is My God”. The Prophet Elijah’s ministry corresponded to his name: He was sent by God to confront Baalism and to declare to Israel the LORD was God and there was no other.

Elijah was a mighty prophet of God during the reigns of Ahab and Ahaziah in the northern kingdom of Israel (873-852 B.C.). Elijah shaped the history of his times and dominated Hebrew thinking for centuries afterward. His prophecies emphasized the unconditional loyalty to God required of the nation of Israel. God had miraculously provided food for Elijah. Just as he rained Manna from heaven for the Israelites, He sends food to Elijah miraculously. The LORD commands Ravens to feed him – now in the natural, ravens would be an unlikely fowl to bring food to him, because of their greed. This would make it an even greater miracle.

God often isolates people for a time, and even puts them in humbling circumstances, to teach them faith and patience and to prepare them for service/ministry. Moses, Jacob, Abraham, David, Elijah, and Jesus all spent time in the wilderness before their ministries began in earnest. God strengthened Elijah’s faith by providing food for him, but Elijah could not enjoy that provision unless he went where God told him. Like God’s servants today, he had to obey God in a humbling and challenging situation to receive God’s blessing. Notice what God told Elijah – “hide by the brook Cherith” God could easily have protected Elijah form Jezebel’s strategies, so his withdrawal to Cherith wasn’t just to find seclusion from her. It was also a means to be driven away from public life – to be alone with God. The hidden life is important because we need to withdraw from the hustle and bustle of this world for real time to just be alone with God.

“Ravens brought” to feed him – just like with the children of Israel in the wilderness for 40 years – God’s supernaturally providing for them with manna and quail (Exodus 16:13-36). Elijah had been obedient to the LORD. Therefore, because of his obedience, the LORD provides for his necessities. Twice a day, the LORD feeds Elijah – the LORD sent the ravens with food. The food being brought by the ravens is no more miraculous than the withholding of the dew and the rain. When Elijah, or anyone else, puts the LORD first and is totally obedient to Him, God will provide their necessities.

Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

The believer ought to have a hidden life that is even more spiritually intense and real than his/her public life. The fact is, the strength of our public life will be directly related to the reality of our hidden life.  Before Elijah could climb to the top of Mount Carmel and call down fire from heaven, he first had to descend into the valley of Cherith and pour himself out in total dependence on God. Another thing Elijah learned at Cherith was to trust God completely. He was told to rely on both natural and supernatural sources for his food and drink. The supernatural supply was to come through the most unlikely of all manners – the beaks of ravens. Ravens are carrion birds that do not feed others. But God said it would be so, and it was. Notice also that this provision from the LORD would come to only one place verse 4 And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee THERE!  At Cherith God supplies the needs of His people – but He does so at the time and place of His choosing If God directs you to go somewhere or to do something, follow Him and trust Him to take care of you – no matter how impossible it may seem 

Which was the first to be exhausted, the natural or the supernatural supply? It was the brook that dried up first – the water – Elijah’s necessary substance brought to him supernaturally by the ravens would have still continued – but for the brook drying up. The brook dries up is the true test of a person’s faith. God wanted Elijah to trust in Him rather than in His provision. The prophecy is coming true. The brook dries up from the drought. Elijah possibly was at the brook for an extended time. He would have to seek another supply of water.

The lesson of Cherith is that it’s always safer to trust in God than nature, for even nature is governed by God.  Elijah knew God had directed him to Cherith and even though the water was running out, he trusted that when He needed to, God would tell him what to do and where to go.

God does not lure His people into the wilderness to starve them to death. He takes them there to prove that His power and faithfulness are independent of our circumstances.

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Jesus Heals a Man of Dropsy on the Sabbath

WEEK 32:

 

 

Luke 14:1-6 1 And it came to pass, as He went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath day, that they watched Him. 2 And, behold, there was a certain man before Him which had the dropsy. 3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day? 4 And they held their peace. And He took him, and healed him, and let him go; 5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath day? 6 And they could not answer Him again to these things.

This was a trap. By this time, Jesus’ enemies have decided they have to get rid of Him. He’s proven to be far too dangerous. There’s a substantial movement among the common people that believes Jesus is the Messiah and that any day now He will openly present Himself. Even though the priests and rabbis have come out in formal opposition to Jesus and threatened people with excommunication from the synagogue if they follow Him, still the support for Him is strong. Counsel has been taken at the highest levels and the decision has been made that Jesus has to be dealt with. But it’s difficult to lay a charge against a Man who is perfect and sinless in all He does, so all their attempts at cornering and condemning Him have proven fruitless.

The Pharisees were Jesus’ most visible and vehement opponents. These were the guys who hassled Him the most; so it’s a bit surprising to see one of them inviting Him home for a meal. But it wasn’t a sincere invitation – it was a set-up, a trap. That’s made clear by the words, “They watched Him closely.” They watched Him because He had a habit of doing things on the Sabbath that offended their interpretations of what was and wasn’t allowed on the Sabbath, and being a Sabbath-breaker was an offence so severe it merited the death penalty.

Exodus 31:14 Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

No doubt Jesus knew this was a set-up and that the Pharisees were just looking for a way to trap Him.  So why did He go? He went because as the Master of every situation, He had no fear of the trap they would spring on Him. He would turn up and use it to challenge them.

What is the Dropsy: An old term for the swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water.  In years gone by, a person might have been said to have dropsy. Today one would be more descriptive and specify the cause. Thus, the person might have odeema due to congestive heart failure. Odeema is often more prominent in the lower legs and feet toward the end of the day as a result of pooling of fluid from the upright position usually maintained during the day. Upon awakening from sleeping, people can have swelling around the eyes referred to as per orbital oedema. Reference: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=13311

Whatever the cause, the fluids build up, causing swelling and in many cases, intense pain. If not relived, the pressure begins to impair the function of the inner organs and can lead to death. Since the Pharisees considered such illnesses as evidence of God’s judgment for some terrible sin, it’s certain this guy was not one of their number. He was invited, but as a plant, the trigger for their plot to condemn Him. The gospels list 7 times Jesus healed on the Sabbath and in the Pharisees thinking healing it was work, something prohibited on the Sabbath day. So they had invited this guy to come to their Sabbath meal, intending to use him as bait. Of course, the guy had gladly accepted the invitation when he heard Jesus would be there. It would have been an honour in itself to be invited to the Pharisee’s home to eat – but the prospect of being healed was an even greater draw.  So the guy went, probably oblivious to the fact he was being used.

The Pharisees used this poor man’s misery as the means to their ends. They had no compassion for him.  On the contrary, his suffering was their tool. So Jesus arrived, saw the man, and knew what was up. Without hesitation, He moved to deal with the issue at hand and call the bluff of the Pharisee’s insincere invitation.

And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?

The Pharisees thought they were smart. Knowing their evil plot and scheme was to trap Jesus; they invited lawyers to the meal. In their mind they are thinking when Jesus takes the bait and the trap is sprung, they want plenty of solid witnesses there who can give testimony to what they saw and Jesus’ crime of breaking the Sabbath. They have a group of unimpeachable witnesses at the gathering – Lawyers! So they have people there who know the law, how to evaluate evidence, and whose testimony will stand up against scrutiny in a court of law.

He is Lord. He knew what was on their mind and he knew their thoughts before they even opened their mouths. Jesus put it squarely before them. Work wasn’t allowed on the Sabbath, but what about healing? Where in Scripture did it say that healing was work? That’s exactly what Jesus asked them. You see, they were all operating under the assumption that healing was work, and of course, no one disagreed with the Sabbath’s clear prohibition of work. Jesus challenged their assumption that healing was equivalent to work. If someone was in distress and it was within your power to help them, would it be wrong to do so if it fell on the Sabbath?   That was the challenge Jesus laid before them. And as experts in the law, they ought to have been ready with the answer. But they knew that if they gave the correct answer, it would disarm their trap.

So – in Verse 4 And they held their peace. And He took him, and healed him, and let him go.

Verse 5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath day?  

Livestock of any kind was a valuable commodity. Oxen, horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, were all of great value. They represented an investment. All over the land of Israel are pits and holes in the ground. If an ox or donkey were to fall into one of these holes, the owner wouldn’t think twice about helping it out, even if it was on the Sabbath. Such assistance would not be considered work – yet it was only rendered to an animal. The challenge Jesus issued these guys was clear – How could they have more compassion for an animal than for a man? This rebuke shamed them deeply as they realized not only had their trap failed at snaring Jesus, it had turned round and snared them!

Verse 6 And they could not answer Him again to these things.

We must be careful of our assumptions about what constitutes obedience to God. Jesus’ enemies knew the Sabbath prohibited work, but they assumed healing was work when it wasn’t. We must be very careful we don’t confuse traditions and the way people have looked at things as the Word and Will of God itself.

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Prophet Killed by a Lion for Disobedience

WEEK 31:

 

1 Kings 13:11-28 11 Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father. 12 And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah. 13 And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon, 14 And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am. 15 Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread. 16 And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place: 17 For it was said to me by the Word of the LORD, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest. 18 He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the Word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him. 19 So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water. 20 And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the Word of the LORD came unto the prophet that brought him back: 21 And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee, 22 But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers. 23 And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass, to wit, for the prophet whom he had brought back. 24 And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase. 25 And, behold, men passed by, and saw the carcase cast in the way, and the lion standing by the carcase: and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt. 26 And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the Word of the LORD: therefore the LORD hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the Word of the LORD, which he spake unto him. 27 And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him. 28 And he went and found his carcase cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcase: the lion had not eaten the carcase, nor torn the ass.

The prophet had been warned by God not to do anything other than deliver his message. After that he was to immediately return home. The command of God was clear and specific. Though Jeroboam was king and possessed great authority, the man of God was not swayed to stay. People’s heads are often turned by a show of great power and wealth. God didn’t want this man corrupted by Jeroboam’s false system, so he’d been given strict instructions – Deliver your message and leave – which is what he did in all fairness.

However, what moved the old prophet to go after the man of God we aren’t told, but it may have been simple jealousy. God had brought someone all the way from Judah to his hometown when he’d been there all along. “Why didn’t God use me?  After all, I live here”? The answer to that is simple: The old prophet from Bethel didn’t need a special prophetic Word from the LORD. God’s Word was quite clear on the issue of idolatry – it was utterly, totally forbidden. If it was really his desire to be used of God, then why didn’t he get up, go out, and rebuke Jeroboam when those altars were first built? We never need a special Word from God to do what is right. We mustn’t wait for God to give us some special Word of prophecy or perform a miracle as a sign that we’re to go somewhere or do something He’s already said we’re to do. Whatever his motivation for going after the prophet from Judah, he lied about the angel appearing to him. Unfortunately, the younger man yielded and returned with him. Though he had said NO to Jeroboam, he caved in to the older prophet; probably convinced by his reputation as a past servant of the LORD and his talk of having seen an angel.

This old prophet who had not heard from God for a while tricked the younger man into coming back to Bethel with him. Then, the older prophet was shocked to discover God had given him a Word for the man from Judah – it was the announcement of judgment!.

Sure enough, on the way home a lion attacked and killed him but then didn’t eat the man or attack the donkey. The 2 animals just stood over the corpse as though guarding it. It didn’t take long for the news to get back to Bethel, where the old prophet knew right away it was the man from Judah and went out to see. He took him home and buried him and gave instructions to his sons they were to bury him in the same tomb when his time came.

This account teaches us an important lesson – we MUST OBEY what God has told us, regardless of what anyone else says. The reason he’s left nameless throughout this story is to add to the weight that this is a lesson for all of us – this young prophet from Judah had heard a distinct, clear and specific Word from God – “go pronounce judgment on the false religion of Israel”. He did, and the signs given came to pass exactly as foretold. Jeroboam’s hand withered, and was made whole again – all miracles!

There’s absolutely no doubt as to this man’s anointing and power. So God’s direction about not eating or drinking or returning the same way was clear and specific. He knew that, so when the king invited him, he declined. When the older prophet invited him, he declined again. But when the elder started his God-talk, the resolve of the younger man weakened and he consented. But wait a minute – God’s Word was still clear. He was NOT to stay and eat or drink. How does someone else’s claim to revelation alter what this man from Judah KNEW to be true? If God meant something different now, He would have told him.

 Here’s the lesson people – when you KNOW God has spoken to you, don’t heed the voices of those who say something else. Even if they’re a respected Christian leader, Pastor, or Prophet. Even if they claim to have had visions and dreams and special messages from the Spirit.

TO OBEY IS BETTER THAN SACRIFICE – 1 Samuel 15:22b

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Paul Heals a Cripple

WEEK 30:

 

 

Acts 14:8-10 8 And there sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked: 9 The same heard Paul speak: who steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, 10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.

The first city in Lycaonia Barnabas and Paul visit is Lystra, about 20 miles (32 kilometres) south-southwest of Iconium. There was no synagogue in Lystra, so Barnabas and Paul took advantage of the city square to proclaim the Gospel. A public forum was a standard fixture of Greek and Roman cities.  It was usually located near the marketplace where there would always be lots of people. A raised dais held a seat where the city magistrate would sit and mete out judgments on both civil and criminal matters.  Anytime a citizen of the Empire wanted to make an announcement, he would stand on the steps and shout his message. All important news was proclaimed there. 

Since there was no synagogue in Lystra, Paul used his rights as a Roman citizen to proclaim the Good News of Salvation from the position of this public venue. As he spoke, not far away sat a man who’d been born lame. He was probably there in that busy place because he was begging. As he listened to Paul preach the Gospel and teach on the life and work of Christ, he heard great words of hope. Jesus had healed the weak and infirm. The more Paul spoke, the greater his faith grew. As Paul looked around at those gathered to listen, he saw the hope grow on the lame man’s countenance, and perceiving it was his time to be healed, as Peter had done with the lame man at the temple gate some 15 years before (Acts 3:1-11), he boldly told the man to “stand upright on thy feet”. He did. Standing up his legs was made whole and he put them to good use jumping around the square.

A point to note here. Paul saw the lame man had faith to be healed. How? What did Paul see that informed him of the lame man’s faith? Was it his countenance? Faith in Jesus had transformed this man’s countenance so that hope shone where it had not been before. The presence and power of the Spirit to conform lost sinners into saved children of God was so real Paul could SEE it. He could tell who the believers were just by looking at them.

This story portrays Paul as an authentic messenger of God in the tradition of Peter, who also healed a lame man (Acts 3:1-10). Luke uses parallel expressions in the two accounts: “lame from birth,” “looked directly at him,” “jumped up and began to walk.” Both Peter and Paul are shown to be using the same power as did Jesus, who also healed a crippled person (Luke 5:17-26)

As Christians we are citizens of Heaven and children of Almighty God. Though we live in an oppressive land, that doesn’t change the fact of our identity nor should it steal the joy our faith brings. I ask what does your countenance convey about your faith?

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Dagon – An Idol Supernaturally Falls Down Twice

WEEK 29:

 

1 Samuel 5:1-5 1 And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod. 2 When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. 3 And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. 4 And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him. 5 Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon’s house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day.

Dagon was the chief false deity of the Philistines. Dagon was the father of Baal and was widely worshipped by peoples of the ancient Middle East. It was a common practice in the ancient world to take the chief trophies of battle into the temple of one’s patron god and set them before his/her idol as a kind of gift. The idea was to show the power and supremacy of the victor’s god over the defeater’s deity.

Knowing what we do about God, this is a perfect set up for some of  us to glory in the supremacy of our God – our God has a sense of humour too! During the night, the idol of Dagon fell down as though it was lying prostrate before The Ark of the Covenant – in the position of submission and worship! The Philistines were terribly embarrassed by this, after all this wasn’t at all the way it was supposed to work. So they propped Dagon back up again, asking one another if they’d felt the earthquake the night before.

The next morning, they again found their idol toppled over before The Ark, but this time Dagon’s head and hands were broken off, and lying at the door. This was God’s way of playing with them. There was no way an earthquake could have done this. This was the hand of God. Dagon first bows down to God, then God removes his head and hands and places them neatly where all can realize someone far more powerful than they has been at work.

God removed their idol’s head because beheading was the ultimate form of execution for authority. He removed Dagon’s hands to get across the idea that the idol was powerless to stop what was done to it. So much for The Ark of the Covenant being a trophy and even though the message was so clear, the Philistines didn’t take it to heart. Though Dagon had been shown to be a worthless piece of junk, they continued to hallow the doorway of his temple long after. What they ought to have done was haul that idol out and burn it and convert to Yahweh. But they didn’t – so God sent more evidence of His power.

Leviticus 26:1 Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.

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Jesus Heals a Woman Who Had Been Crippled for 18 Years

WEEK 28:

 

Luke 13:10-17 10 And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. 12 And when Jesus saw her, he called her to Him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. 13 And He laid His hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. 14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day. 15 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering? 16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day? 17 And when He had said these things, all His adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.

As Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, His eyes came to rest on a woman who had been dealing with a painful condition for 18 long years. She was bent over in a chronic position that kept her from being able to stand straight. Luke attributed her condition to a spirit of infirmity meaning there was some spiritual root to her ailment. While it would be wrong to think that all physical problems were caused by a spiritual problem, it would be equally wrong to think that they never have a spiritual origin. From his reaction we can assume this woman wasn’t a local. She was one of many who had come, hoping for a touch from the Lord. But the ruler of the synagogue was outraged that they would dishonour the Sabbath by seeking out Jesus to heal them. As far as he could see, healing was work, and work was prohibited on the Sabbath. But in this he was wrong – healing for Jesus was no work, it was a delight!

“Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity”. These words were a test of the woman’s faith. Would she on hearing the words make the effort to do what she had not done for eighteen years? The verb it may be noted is in the perfect – the work of healing was already completed.  The answer to this question is – she had faith to be healed, for as soon as the Master laid His hands on her – she was loosed from her infirmity and was made straight – she was no longer bowed down and in pain and agony. The ruler of the Synagogue was livid. Rather than glorify and praise God for His wondrous works – He criticised and abused the woman – she was healed on the wrong day – come back tomorrow for your healing – but not on the Sabbath! It is interesting to note that this healing took place within the confines of the Synagogue – not in the market place, on a street corner – in the Synagogue!

While work was indeed prohibited on the Sabbath, God never intended the Sabbath to be a day that stopped life or diminished the joy of living. On the contrary, the Sabbath was meant to be a day of celebration and joy; a respite from the curse of fruitless labour that would allow them to rest and enjoy life. Why, even the most ardent Pharisee would untie his animal and water it on the Sabbath, even though, strictly speaking, such was work. If ones basic human instinct recognizes the need to water animals, how much more ought a human being suffering in constant pain for over 18 years to be relived and free from the bondage that has kept her bound and in needless pain?

Jesus’ answer silenced the ruler of the synagogue and his fellow critics, shaming them with the hardness of their hearts. And while the critics were blushing in embarrassment, the common people rejoiced as they saw God’s real intent for the Sabbath lived out before them in the teaching and power of Jesus.

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Balaam’s Ass Speaks

WEEK 27:

Numbers 22:21-35 21 And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. 22 And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him. 23 And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way. 24 But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side. 25 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall: and he smote her again. 26 And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left. 27 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff. 28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? 29 And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. 30 And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay. 31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face. 32 And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: 33 And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive. 34 And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again. 35 And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

As they make their way toward Moab, the Angel of the LORD stands in the path of Balaam and his ass. The Angel of the LORD is a most fascinating person. He appears with some frequency in the Old and New Testaments.  There are different views as to who this is, but at the very least we can say that he is an Angel who represents God, speaking and acting on His behalf. At most we could say that he is a visible manifestation of the second person of the Godhead, none other than a pre-incarnate appearance of our Lord Jesus. If Balak sent his most noble princes to entice Balaam to come to him, God sent His most awesome emissary to oppose his coming.

Here is an amazing thing. Balaam does not see the Angel of the LORD, but his ass does. A prophet was known as a seer, who spoke to men for God concerning the things he saw (1 Samuel 9:9, 11, 19). Balaam cannot see the Angel of the LORD, but the ass can, and this donkey then speaks to Balaam, rebuking him for his sin. The donkey is a better prophet or seer than Balaam. Let no prophet ever attempt to take credit for what he sees and says, for God can do as much through an ass.

Why would God be angry when He had given him permission to go? He’s angry because as soon as Balaam took off, his heart began to scheme on how he could secure the reward Balak was offering. God told him to go with the intent of only speaking what God put in his mouth. Balaam had disregarded that and was angling on how to both appease God but get the reward too.

What is going on here is that God wanted to jolt Balaam out of his perverse thinking and remind him he was only to speak the words God showed him. 3 times the Angel stood poised to smite him down, and 3 times Balaam’s trusty ass saved his life.  But Balaam, not seeing the Angel, struck his ass. Then suddenly when his eyes were opened, it all became clear – in a flash, Balaam realized – here he was, a prophet, and a dumb ass could see what he could not!

This is a rude wake up call to the man who is supposed to be so spiritual. When your ass talks to you – well, that ought to be a sign that the supernatural is at work. But Balaam has become so spiritually dense, he carries on a conversation with his ass as though he’s talking to a person – all this before he sees the angel. Balaam has become so caught up in his greed; he’s totally lost spiritual perception. This whole thing was meant to give him a badly needed course correction.

He who would oppose the people of God and the will of God has made God his adversary.

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