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.

Who Were the Miracles For?

God turned Moses’ walking stick into a snake and then back again into a stick. Similarly, He afflicted Moses’ hand with leprosy and turned around and healed it. He did that to convince Moses that by being equipped with the ability to call down the power (miracles) of God, he’d be able to convince Pharaoh to let His children free from their slavery in Egypt to pursue the Promised Land.

When Moses clashed with Pharaoh, God struck Egypt with ten plagues: He turned their water into blood, filled the land with frogs, lice and flies, struck their livestock with disease, covered the Egyptians with boils, brought invasions of locusts, deluges of hail, blotted the sunlight out for 3 days, and ushered in death to all the firstborn Egyptian population and livestock.

Who were these miracles for? First, they were for Pharaoh and his subjects:

“For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. For by now I could have put my hand out and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” Ex. 9:14 – 16. ESV

God used His miracles to show Pharaoh His sovereignty over every aspect of the earth, its inhabitants and the immediate cosmos; and He proved that no other ‘god’ could stand against Him. Much more importantly though, the plagues were to demonstrate His same supremacy to the Hebrews and to all the future children of God.

When Pharaoh finally let God’s children go, He also parted the Red Sea to provide them with a route to escape the pursuing Egyptian army when Pharaoh’s heart had hardened once more.

Again, these miracles are meant for you, so that you may get a glimpse of His wonder and power and how He brings it all together to show that He is always there for you and will let nothing get between you and His love:

“Do not be afraid! Take your stand [be firm and confident and undismayed] and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today…The Lord will fight for you while you [only need to] keep silent and remain calm.” Ex. 14:13, 14. AMP

There is no mountain that God would not move or Red Sea that He would not part, that blocks your path to Him and His designs for you. He delivers you from your circumstances to bring you closer to Him:

You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode. Ex. 15:13 ESV

Miracles upon miracles. God provided for the Hebrews as they trekked through the desert towards the Promised Land: He made brackish water potable to slake their thirst; He fed them with manna and quail; called water out of rocks, and at the end of their journey, He stopped the flow of the Jordan River so that they could enter Canaan.

God miraculously prepared a fish to swallow His prophet Jonah, so that he could be transported to the city of Nineveh to save a pagan nation with His words. He miraculously uses the pagan King Cyrus of Persia to save His wayward children from Babylon, repatriating them to Israel.

Finally, God brings us the greatest vehicle for His miracles – Jesus Christ, who freed us from spiritual darkness, healed the sick and the demon possessed and raised the dead. Jesus performed these at the behest of His Father to show us who God is, what He wants from you, and He painted a picture of what God’s eternal miracle looks like that awaits you.

Our Father implores us to ask for His miracles:

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Ps. 50:15 NKJV

God always responds; and when He does, He delivers way beyond what you expect. You can count on God because His word is unbreakable:

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Eph. 3:20, 21. NKJV

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Num. 23:19 ESV

Goodnight and God bless.

God Calls You to Further His Kingdom

I don’t know how He’s going to do that for you, or what part God will want you to play; but call you He will…

Way back in antiquity, the earthly reflection of God’s kingdom was in tatters:

The Lord saw that the wickedness (depravity) of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination or intent of the thoughts of his heart were only evil continually. Gn. 6:5 AMP

God’s initial thought was to wipe the earth clean of His wayward creations, and have a do-over. Yet God loved them so much that He decided to scan the planet to see if He could find anyone who might help Him further His kingdom. He still does this today:

God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. Ps. 53:2 NKJV

Fortuitously for us, He found one:

Noah was a righteous man [one who was just and had right standing with God], blameless in his [evil] generation; Noah walked (lived) [in habitual fellowship] with God. Gn. 6:9 AMP

This would infer that it helps us to be prepared for and active in our walk with God to be available for advancing His kingdom. Thank God, that Noah was available, giving God a vehicle (through Noah’s obedience) to give mankind a second chance to populate that same kingdom.

God called on Noah to build an ark to house him, his wife, his three sons and their wives, and a male and female of every living species of animal. Why? Because God said He’s going to flood the earth – an event that wouldn’t happen for another 120 years!

The inhabitants of the earth at that time had never witnessed such a phenomenon. Can you imagine the ridicule Noah and his family must have had thrust upon them by anyone who had met them during this construction period? In explaining their actions, they would have responded by effectively preaching the word of God – even if the hearers rejected it. How did Noah respond?

By faith [with confidence in God and His word] Noah, being warned by God about events not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his family. By this [act of obedience] he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness which comes by faith. Heb. 11:7 AMP

So, we also see that having faith in God, is necessary for us to be candidates for furthering His kingdom. The fact that you and I are here, is testimony of Noah’s right preparation and actions in advancing God’s purpose.

Ten generations after Noah, God called upon Abraham to enlarge His kingdom:

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing…and in you all of the families will be blessed.” Gn. 12:1 – 3. ESV

This is an enormous test of faith. God is telling Abraham to take his wife, his nephew and a few of his servants, and leave all that he’s ever known – to make a 1500-mile trek to Canaan, a land that he’s never seen, to be part of God’s seminal nation, to propagate it. Mind you, he and his wife were in their 70’s, but Abraham takes God at His word, i.e. exercising more of that kingdom-advancing faith.

Abraham, who is considered the biblical paragon of faith, did waiver in his faith a few times, but he always got back on track. This should give us encouragement, knowing that God will strengthen our faith (if we ask Him to) so that we can transcend our shortcomings.

There was also the matter of Abraham’s promised child. He waited 25 years for that promise to be fulfilled. Like Abraham, we too need to keep faith in that God is using our efforts to promote His plan, knowing that we have no idea when we will see the fruits of our labor.

Now, let’s consider Moses. He had escaped Egypt to flee the wrath of Pharaoh, settling into a new life as a sheepherder in what is now modern-day Saudi Arabia.  As you know, one day Moses is out tending his sheep when God manifests Himself to him as a burning bush; and He charges him with the task of freeing His children from the Pharaoh’s oppression and leading them to the Promised Land.

Moses immediately lets fear lead him to resist God’s imperative. He wails about what He should do if the people don’t believe that he is representing God. God in turn displays miracles for Moses to convince him of His power, as a demonstration of what He will do through Moses, to convince His children.

Unconvinced, Moses pleads with God to send someone else because he is not a good public speaker. God tells Moses that He will teach him how to be. Moses still doubts, and God grants him a slight concession by sending Moses’ older brother Aaron to speak for Him.

What is God doing? He is equipping Moses with the skills and power to accomplish His purpose. God takes this frightened sheepherder and transforms him into a leader, who, through God, frees His children, performs a plethora of miracles while leading them to the Promised Land, and Holy Spirit-inspires Moses to write the first five books of the Bible.

God worked all of this through someone who was deathly afraid of answering God’s call. There are several other examples of this in the Bible, but I believe we have a good picture by now. The question is, ‘Will you answer God when He calls?’

We’ve seen that God can use anyone, at any age, with whatever fears they may have, to accomplish His kingdom purposes. One reason that is possible is that God has already equipped us to do so:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Eph. 2:10 NKJV

We are all part of God’s plan. He makes sure that we are up to whatever task He assigns to us. Still, to best serve God, we must prepare our awareness, so that we can hear His summons. We do that by becoming intimately related with Him through His word:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim. 3:16, 17. NKJV

God would never ask you to walk a path (your part in His plan) that you could not traverse to attain His end goal. He will supply the faith that you need through His Son (Heb. 12:2); and through Christ, He will give you every skill and power to make it happen. (Phil. 4:13).

God will call each and every one of us. It may be at a time or in such a way as we never would have guessed; it may be a task that seems overwhelming, or what appears to be simple yet vital for the completion of the kingdom of God. And if we keep our spiritual eyes and ears open, we can be ready when He calls…

“Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther. 4:14 NKJV

Goodnight and God bless.