Standing Upon Godly Shoulders – part 4

Approximately 225 years had elapsed since the passing since our last godly champion, Joshua, walked the earth. In that timespan, the nation of Israel had again distanced themselves from following God. Even the priesthood was corrupted. Furthermore, the Philistines were continually assaulting the Israelites.

God decided again to help His children move forward on the path that He had intended for them:

There was a woman by the name of Hannah, (meaning ‘His grace’), whom God had kept barren (1 Sam. 1:6) until she went to the temple in Shiloh to pray, whereupon she petitioned Jehovah for a son. She promised Him that if He were to grant her request, she would dedicate him to the priesthood once he was weaned.

She and her husband conceived, and named the boy Samuel, meaning ‘name of God.’ As she pledged, she brought the boy to the temple at the appointed time. We hear no more about Hannah except for the prayer that she uttered after she had delivered her son to the priest, Eli. However, if we dissect her prayer, we can see that Jehovah imbued this blessed servant woman of God with a plethora of revelations and prophecy within that prayer that she herself could not have known:

1 Sam. 2:1 – 10. AMP:

“My heart rejoices and triumphs in the LORD; my horn (strength) is lifted up in the LORD, my mouth has opened wide [to speak boldly] against my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.

There is no one holy like the LORD, there is no one besides You, there is no rock like our God.

[I’m going to elicit a little help from St. Augustine of Hippo’s book City of God, (translated by Marcus Dods), and some additional scripture, for some additional investigative discourse. I’m 3/4 the way through this 781-page book. I hope you have derived some value from what we’ve examined from that work.]

Through her prayer, we see that Hannah knows her spiritual strength comes from God alone; and she looks prophetically forward to His salvation (through Christ).

Do not go on boasting so very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed (examined).

God, speaking through her, warns of being haughty, self-absorbed, and confident in one’s own strength. We are only exalted when we venerate our Maker:

(For if anyone thinks he is something [special] when [in fact] he is nothing [special except in his own eyes], he deceives himself. Gal. 6:3 AMP)

The bows of the mighty are broken, but those who have stumbled equip themselves with strength.

This same warning is also directed toward the enemies of God’s children, wherein He declares that the prideful with be humbled, whereas the meek shall be fortified.

Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry cease [to hunger]. Even the barren woman gives birth to seven, but she who has many children withers away.

We see too that God’s people were starving for spiritual sustenance (often self-induced) but will ultimately be fed when that perfect (‘seven’) Child is born.

The LORD puts to death and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol (the grave) and raises up [from the grave].

Hannah’s prayer also prophesied about how God helps us put our old sinful self to death through the salvation of His Son, which saves us from the grave:

(Therefore if you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, sharing in His resurrection from the dead]…you died [to this world], and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. Col. 3:1 & 3. AMP)

The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and He lifts up.

He raises up the poor from the dust, He lifts up the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and to inherit a seat of honor and glory; for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and He set the land on them.

And again, we are reminded of the importance of being humble, in order to be elevated to the city of God:

(…GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD [the disdainful, the presumptuous, and He defeats them], BUT HE GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time… 1 Pt. 5:5, 6. AMP)

He guards the feet of His godly (faithful) ones, but the wicked ones are silenced and perish in darkness; for a man shall not prevail by might.

We also see that the godly will be divided from the wicked:

(For we [believers will be called to account and] must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be repaid for what has been done in the body, whether good or bad [that is, each will be held responsible for his actions, purposes, goals, motives – the use or misuse of his time, opportunities and abilities]. 2 Cor. 5:10 AMP)

Still, we are judged and sent to the city of God. Those who chose to occupy the city of the earthborn will experience a judgment with only one outcome – eternal damnation.

The adversaries of the LORD will be broken to pieces; He will thunder against them in the heavens, The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to HIs king, and will exalt the horn (strength) of His anointed.” 1 Sam. 2:1 – 10. AMP

Hannah ends her prayer with a prophetic picture of Christ’s ascension, to render the final judgment. It is here too, that we see for the first time in the Bible, the identification of the Messiah as ‘King.’

Mind you, God rendered these revelations 1000 years before Jesus was incarnated.

Hannah too, is a citizen of the city of God. We’ll meet Samuel, the prophet and king-maker, next time…

Goodnight and God bless.

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Standing Upon Godly Shoulders – part 3

In parts one and two, we looked at the age-old battle on earth between those who follow God (grouped together as the ‘city of God’) and those who follow the adversary (grouped as the ‘city of the earthborn’), as described by St. Augustine of Hippo from his book The City of God.

We have been looking at valiant men throughout history who reflected Jehovah’s strength, resolve and faith, that we might be inspired to be likewise, and to inspire others after we gain our own citizenship in the city of God.

The renown citizens of the city of God that we’ve examined thus far have been Abel, Seth, Noah, Abraham and his son Isaac. Note than all of them are included in the ancestral lineage of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Continuing, Isaac and his wife Rebekah conceive of fraternal twins, Esau (born first), and Jacob. Before they were born, it appeared the two boys battled within the womb. Concerned, Rebekah inquired of God and He answered:

“Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.” Gn. 25:23 NKJV

Esau sold his birthright to Jacob over a bowl of stew, to satisfy a craving of the flesh. Afterwards, he began to hold enmity towards Jacob. When Esau was in his 40s, he married pagan wives to spite his parents.

Later, Rebekah colluded with Jacob to deceive his father Isaac into conferring his family blessing upon Jacob instead of Esau. Enraged, Esau plotted to kill his brother, but Rebekah found out and sent Jacob away to her brother’s house to escape, and to find a Hebrew wife. During Jacob’s journey, he camps for an evening, and God visits him in a dream:

And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching the sky, and God’s angels were going up and down on it. The LORD was standing there beside him, saying, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land on which you are lying. Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” Gn. 28:12 – 15. CSB

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.” Gn. 28:16, 17. CSB

So, we see that God has chosen Jacob as the next link in His perpetual seed for the Messiah and has granted him citizenship in the city of God.

Esau, on the other hand, rebelled, landing him citizenship in the city of the earthborn. He would later establish the nation of Edom (modern-day southwestern Jordan), which often played the villain to Israel, until it was destroyed by King Nabonidus of Babylon.

Jacob would later marry two sisters and (along with each of their handmaidens), conceive 12 sons and a daughter. God would then change his name from Jacob (meaning ‘deceiver’) to Israel (Hebrew for ‘God prevails’), demonstrating his godly transformation.

Many years later, Israel and his entire Hebrew entourage (family, friends, servants) would come to Egypt and settle there with his son Joseph (another mighty man of faith who prevailed against insurmountable odds because of God’s intervention – a grand pair of godly shoulders to stand upon), to grow the Hebrew nation into thousands.

Just before his death, Israel blessed his sons. We’ll look at his son Judah’s blessing, as it is the most pertinent to our study:

“Judah, you are the one whom your brothers shall praise; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down to you…The scepter [of royalty’ shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh [the Messiah, the Peaceful One] comes, and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” Gn. 49:8 & 10. AMP

Israel’s 12 sons would form 12 tribes, after each namesake; and Judah would be the leader. Furthermore, we see that Christ will be a descendant from the tribe of Judah as well.

Leaping ahead 400 years, we find the Hebrews in the middle of an Egyptian oppression. God sends a very reluctant prophet, Moses, (who was divinely spared from death as an infant, and as a man, while he was first in Egypt), back there to be His instrument of liberation to His children.

God works His miracles through Moses so that the Pharaoh lets the Hebrews leave Egypt. Moses leads the people across the ‘wilderness’ towards the promised land in the face of a very unappreciative, jealous, and sometimes blasphemous people – he, all the while, being molded into a strong, faithful, godly leader. God even entrusted Him (with the Holy Spirit) to write the first 5 books of the Old Testament – giving us the ability to see who and what God is.

When Moses brought the children of the children of God to the border of the promised land, God most lovingly buried him in the city of God.

God then commissioned Joshua to bring His children across the Jordan River into the promised land:

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, it came to pass that the LORD spoke to Joshua…Moses’ assistant, saying: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them – the children of Israel…No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.” Josh. 1:1 – 3 & 5. NKJV

Joshua kept God’s word, renews God’s covenant with the people, conquers the majority of Canaan, and settles the people in their new promised land of Israel. And in his last address before his death, he said:

“…be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses…hold fast to the LORD your God…” Josh. 23:6 & 8. NKJV

Just like he did. He too was a citizen of the city of God…

After this, the Israelites, (in their human fashion), half-heartedly vacillated between faith and rebellion, until God gave them over to the fruits of their own disobedience:

The word of the LORD was rare and precious in those days; visions [that is, new revelations of divine truth] were not widespread. 1 Sam. 3:1 AMP

But God loves us so much, He never gives up – as we will see, when He lights the torch of love again through the prophet Samuel – Next time.

Goodnight and God bless.

Standing Upon Godly Shoulders – part 2

In part one, we were looking at some of the notable players in the ages-old battle between good and evil.

Those players on the side of evil, (devil followers), were categorized as the inhabitants of the ‘city of the earth-born, the city of man, or the earthly Jerusalem.’ The first so-called inhabitant was the murderous Cain, brother of Abel.

The players that followed God were described as the citizens of ‘heavenly Jerusalem, or the city of God’ – which has its ultimate manifestation on a heavenly plane. The first inhabitant of this city was Abel, who possessed the godly shoulders that was our first foundation to stand upon, to find the strength for walking the path to that same city.

Abel’s brother Seth was the next continuation of the heavenly citizenry; but by the time of the great flood many generations later, Noah was the only living representative of the city of God, who, along with his wife and his three sons and their wives, re-populated the earth after the flood wiped out the rest of sinful humankind.

A millennium would pass before we meet our next citizen of renown of the city of God…

Abraham was 75 years when God called him directly:

“Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation: I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Gn. 12:1: – 3. NKJV

What we see here, is that God promises Abraham that his seed shall inherit the land of Canaan; moreover, that the blessings of God would trickle down from him to spiritually nurture the rest of people of the world for all time. Consider too, that for God’s initial promise to be fulfilled, Abraham and his wife would have to bear children. Remember that they are in their 70s.

Yet Abraham has full-faith in God’s promises, which motivates his obedience; and he and his family leave all that they have ever known, and make a 1500-mile trek to Canaan, whereby God gives Abraham a second promise:

“To your descendants I will give this land.” Gn. 12:7 NKJV

After Abraham and his wife settled and thrived in Canaan, his nephew Lot and his family (who had accompanied Abraham on his journey) moved to the city of Sodom, (which turned out to be a dark, grievously sinful ‘city of the earth-born’). At that point, God gives Abraham yet a third compliment to His first two promises:

“Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward, eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the offspring of the earth, your offspring can be counted.” Gn. 13:14 – 16. ESV

Being that Canaan will become the future country of Israel, God is telling Abraham that the land will belong to the Israelites until the end of time.

Five years elapse. God visits Abraham again, and promises safety and great rewards. But this time, Abraham’s favor wavers a bit. He complains to God because he is still childless. God responds:

“…one from your own body shall become your heir…Look now toward heaven and count the stars if you are able to number them…so shall your descendants be.” Gn. 15:4, 5. NKJV

Abraham’s faith is renewed to such an extent, that God brings him into complete right-standing with Him:

And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Gn. 15:6 NKJV

So, we have the ‘city of God’ increasing its citizenship once more.

Unfortunately, his wife Sarah’s faith is not as strong. She’s tired of waiting and has Abraham conceive with their Egyptian maid, Hagar, and Ishmael is born. Abraham is 86 years-old.

Thirteen more years pass. God visits Abraham, (who is 99 years-old), and tells him that his faith is being rewarded, as Sarah’s birth is imminent. In addition, He makes it crystal-clear to Abraham what the disposition of his children will be:

“…Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael…I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly…and I will make him a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac…” Gn. 17:19 – 21. ESV

What we are seeing is that Ishmael will propagate the seed of the Arabic nations, increasing the population of the ‘city of the earth-born;’ but Isaac is God’s child of promise, Abraham’s heir apparent to the city of God.

Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old; yet God had one more thing in store for Abraham:

After these things, God tested Abraham… Gn. 22:1 ESV

God told Abraham to take his son, Isaac, and sacrifice him upon an altar as a burnt offering to Jehovah. (This was so that God could provide what the picture of ultimate faith looked like for future believers, not for Himself. He knew Abraham’s heart.

Abraham prepared an altar (on the same site that Jesus would be crucified), and placed Isaac upon it – all the while telling his son that God would provide a lamb to be sacrificed. (Gn. 22:8)

Abraham had faith in that at the very least, God would raise Isaac from the dead because of the previous promise that He made to him:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested [that is, as the testing of his faith was still in progress], offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises [of God] was ready to sacrifice his only son [of promise]; to whom it was said, “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.” For he considered it reasonable to believe] that God was able to raise Isaac even from among the dead. [Indeed, in the sense that he was prepared to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to God] Abraham did receive him back [from the dead] figuratively speaking. Heb. 11:17 – 19. AMP

When Abraham drew his knife back to slay his son on the altar, the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and stopped him from harming Isaac and provided for them a ram for a sacrifice instead. And because of the depth of Abraham’s faith, God provides him with His last promise:

“…I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” Gn. 22:17, 18. ESV

Abraham remarried and had additional children, but they did not possess the covenantal promise that Isaac did. He was the chosen son for the lineage for the city of God:

After the death of Abraham, God blessed Isaac his son. Gn. 25:11 ESV

Abraham was a mountain of faith for us to stand upon, propagated by his son in the city of God. Isaac and his wife Rebekah conceived fraternal twins, but that’s another story…

Goodnight and God bless.

Standing Upon Godly Shoulders

Ever since Adam and Eve were created, there began a battle between good and evil. Adam and Eve were created perfect, purely righteous, and immortal. Eve was deceived by the cunning wiles of the devil; but Adam committed the bigger sin, as he both knew better, yet went along, regardless of God’s warning.

 As we know, Adam’s seed was corrupted, and it spread throughout all the generations of humankind. Adam and Eve lost their immortality and would have also suffered an eternal demise, except that God provided an atonement for them through the first animal sacrifice.

 God was already at work to ensure the availability of salvation for all His children – past, present and future. Being that God doesn’t violate the free will, mankind, throughout the ages fell into two camps: those people who refused God’s ways and decided to go it alone (referred to as the city of men, city of the earth, earthly Jerusalem, by St. Augustine) and those who did their best to walk in God’s ways (city of God, heavenly Jerusalem).

 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her [His city], she will not be moved… Ps. 46:4, 5. AMP

 …in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it forever. Ps. 48:8 NKJV

 His foundation is in the holy mountains. The Lord loves the gates of Zion more that all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of you, of city of God! Ps. 87:1 – 3. NKJV

 …you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. Heb. 12:22 – 24. NKJV

 This division between good and evil began with Cain and Abel; and we are left with no uncertainty as to which camp they each belonged:

 …we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. 1 Jn. 3:11, 13. NKJV (Even though God told Cain how to do the right thing, he rebelled, and sin became his master.)

 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which it was testified of him that he was righteous (upright, in right standing with God), and God testified by accepting his gifts. And though he died, yet through [this act of] faith he still speaks. Heb. 11:4 AMP

And so, it is Abel’s godly shoulders upon which you have your first foundation. A man, who like Cain, was corrupted with Adam’s ‘original sin,’ yet he, by his faith in God, and in his obedience, had righteousness conveyed upon him. Cain, instead, decided to wallow in his sin, and like Eve, made room for the devil.

 Abel was the first biblically recorded citizen of the city of God, the place whereby we gain our eternal citizenship through the grace of God. Conversely, Cain was the first citizen of the city of the earth, whose sole requirement is unrepentant sin. Obviously, the two cities stand in stark contrast to each other.

 The evil always hate the good, because goodness in others reminds them of their baseness. Moreover, the evil of the city of earth reflects its citizens – filled with strife, jealousies, and pain.

 The city of God is a city of peace, because God is there:

 Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness – without it no one will see the Lord. Heb. 12:14 CSB

 The descendants of Cain terminated in the great flood and the city of the earth was no more. Conversely, Adam’s third son, Seth, was the next in line for the city of God and we can see that when he had a son, his fellow citizens began carrying the light:

 A son was born to Seth also, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD. Gn. 4:26 CSB

 However, with time, all of the descendants living at the time of the flood must have switched their citizenry to carnality – save only the one remaining righteous Noah*, and his family. Thank the Lord that He gave us a second chance to keep sending citizens to the city of God. He is a loving and just God:

 The anger of God is not a disturbing emotion of His mind, but a judgment by which punishment is inflicted upon sin. His thought and reconsideration also are the unchangeable reason which changes things; for He does not, like man, repent of anything He has done, because in all matters His decision is as inflexible as His prescience is certain. – St. Augustine

 *Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. Gn. 6:9 NKJV

 For more than a thousand years after the flood, there is no scriptural account of anyone singled out for seeking God. We can’t assume that there weren’t, but apparently there was no one who stood out for their zeal.

 It is at this point where we meet a giant set of godly shoulders – those of Abraham’s….  Next time.

Goodnight and God bless.