Original Intent

Have you considered how Jesus helped others to properly understand and apply the Law by looking at the original intent of the Law? Many times He was correcting how the Jewish leadership were applying laws on the Sabbath, marriage and staying away from unclean things.

Let’s look at a few examples today:

When the Jewish leadership was upset and disgusted that Jesus would eat with tax collectors and sinners, it seems they were looking at laws about staying away from unclean things. But Jesus corrected their application of those laws by looking at God’s original intent.

Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13)

As the Pharisees were harshly judging Jesus and His disciples for plucking heads of grain on the Sabbath, Jesus pointed them to original intent. God did not design the Sabbath as a merciless way to punish men. He never intended to make hungry people starve and suffering people to keep suffering on the Sabbath. That was not the original intent. God did not make the Sabbath Law first and then make man, it was the other way around, Jesus pointed out.

And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)

The Pharisees once again came to Jesus to challenge Him on marriage. They had many competing views on marriage, especially on what Moses said in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 about marriage and divorce. Jesus took them once again to the concept of original intent. What did God design for marriage from the very beginning? That should guide any understanding and application of any law on marriage, Jesus said.

“Have you not read? …but from the beginning it was not so.” (Matthew 19:8)

As we study, understand and apply the Word of God, we need to look at the “whole counsel of God.” We can run off and apply a passage incorrectly if we don’t consider everything God has to say on the matter. That’s why Jesus often in these discussions asked the simple question, “Have you not read?” (Matthew 9:13; 12:3,5,7; 19:4; 22:31-32). It’s up to us to keep reading, studying, searching and praying for God to help us see His heart so that we can properly understand and apply His word.

The Spirit Spoke By David

2 Peter 1:20-21 – “knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

When you read the Psalms, who is speaking? Well, we know that half of the Psalms were written by David, but other Psalms were written by men like Solomon, Moses and Asaph, and even that guy “Anonymous.”

But when you read the Psalms, you and I need to remember that as these men spoke, the Holy Spirit was speaking through them. Please consider these verses that say that very thing.

  • 2 Samuel 23:1-2 – As David called himself the “Sweet Psalmist of Israel,” he added that “the Spirit spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue.”
  • Mark 12:36 – When Jesus quoted Psalms 110:1, He said, “David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared…”
  • Acts 1:16,20 – As Peter was talking to the disciples, he quoted the Psalms of David and said, “Which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David” (Psalm 41:9; 69:25; 109:28).
  • Acts 4:24-30 – When Peter and John led the disciples in prayer, they quoted the Psalms, specifically Psalm 2. They observed, “through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit…” (Psalm 2).
  • Hebrews 3:7 – The Hebrew writer recognized that when he read the Psalms he was listening to the Holy Spirit as noted, “Therefore as the Holy Spirit says…” when he quoted Psalm 95.

Here are a few observations for today as we consider that the Psalms come from the mind and mouth of God.

  • Psalms cover all aspects of life and every situation we face in life. God breathed through these men divine guidance for us as we live everyday life.
  • If God’s Holy Spirit was in David’s heart and on his tongue when wrote the Psalms, then God’s Holy Spirit will be directing our hearts and tongues as we read it. As we face the variety of trials and circumstances, let’s get the Psalms in our hearts and may it flow from our mouths.
  • David and the other Psalmists were used by God as they were in every situation of life. God worked through David to write incredible Psalms as David faced those various circumstances. When David was victorious (Psalm 18) or surrounded by enemies (Psalm 22,59), God wrote Psalms through David. As David mourned for his sins (Psalm 32,38,51), or as he had spiritual victories (Psalm 119:11), God wrote Psalms through him. While David sat in a cave (Psalm 57,142), or in the wilderness (Psalm 63), or in a field meditating about the universe (Psalm 8) or in enemy territory (Psalm 34,56), God wrote amazing Psalms for us through David. At all stages and situations in David’s life, God worked through him and created teaching and encouragement for countless others.

Discerning Soul and Spirit

Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The word of God we learn here is:

  • Living
  • Active
  • Very Sharp, but how sharp?

It can:

  • Pierce to the division of soul and spirit
  • Pierce to the division of joints and marrow

But what does that all mean?

The word of God is so living, active and sharp that it can discern my thoughts and my intentions.

There are lots of ideas on what it means to discern between soul and spirit, but I believe what the writer is saying is that the word of God can discern what is from me (the soul of man, who I am) from God (the spirit of a man, who God is). The word of God helps me discern what is God’s voice, and what is my voice. My will versus God’s will.

Our hearts are deceitful above all things, but God knows our heart (Jeremiah 17:9-10). We can convince ourselves that something is the right path, but we are speaking from our own passions, instead of listening to God’s voice.

The word of God is there to help us discern what is impossible to otherwise discern. What is from me, and what is from God? How do I know if I am following my own will or God’s will? The answers are in God’s word.

and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
(Ephesians 5:10)

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
(Proverbs 28:26)

Daniel – He Understood by the Books

…I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.
(Daniel 9:2-3)

Yesterday, I preached on Daniel 9 and this amazing prayer Daniel makes before God. I’ve already written previously about Daniel’s understanding of the word and how it helped him in his prayer, but I wanted to make a few additional points.

Daniel understood God’s timing and accepted it. You know, Daniel 6:10 tells us that Daniel had been praying toward Jerusalem 3 times a day since he was a youth. So let’s just for argument sake say that Daniel didn’t miss a prayer in all those times. 365 days x 3 times a day x 70 years = 76,650 prayers! Daniel had prayed tens of thousands of times, but God said they would be in Babylon 70 years. The Bible says that Daniel understood the word of Jeremiah. He accepted that until the 70 years were over, he could not ask for God’s people to return home. God calls us to persisently pray, but He also asks us to trust His timing and purpose. He makes everything beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Daniel had his Bible opened when he prayed. He didn’t compartmentalize Bible study and prayer into separate “acts” or categories. His prayers were connected to his study of the Scriptures. If we’re not doing it, let’s get our Bibles open while we are praying and look at all the wonderful character of God so we can praise Him. How about we point to those promises of God in Scripture while we are praying? We can even quote prayers, because many prayers in the Bible are just as applicable to us today as they were back then.

Another simple point is that God’s word was not lost during the captivity. His word was preserved and traveled hundreds of miles to a heathen kingdom where Daniel was able to study that word while in captivity.

The Benefits of Reading Scripture Aloud

Here is a link to a great article on BibleGateway.com about the benefits of reading Scripture aloud.

Also, here is a link to a Bible Project video about the public reading of Scripture.

Below are several passages about the Scripture being read out loud, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. May this encourage us all today as families and churches to see the benefits of reading God’s word out loud.

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
(1 Timothy 4:13)

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
(Nehemiah 8:1-3)

And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.
(Joshua 8:34-35)

Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them, “At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
(Deuteronomy 31:9-13)

“For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
(Acts 15:21)

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
(Luke 4:16-17)

And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
(Colossians 4:16)

I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
(1 Thessalonians 5:27)

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
(Revelation 1:3)

Sweeter than honey

A special thanks to Shane and Andy for writing the articles for the Men’s Daily Briefing for the last two crazy months. God bless you two for your help. Shane will be taking over managing of the Men’s Daily Briefing, and for that I’m so thankful. I’m looking forward to continuing writing and helping Shane and others produce helpful articles for your daily encouragement!

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
(Psalms 19:10)

We recently harvested our first batch of honey from our hives. Wow! What an incredible experience! God is so amazing in what He designed, especially in the honeybee. This little creature is so fascinating in how it builds hives, makes wax, makes honey, pollinates flowers, communicates with each other, etc. Just incredible.

As we were harvesting the honey, we were discussing how God’s word is compared to honey in the Scripture (see the above Psalm). The more I thought about it, the more I began to understand a few more reasons why God’s word is compared to honey.

Honey is sweet, I mean really sweet! Honey is nourishing and has healing properties. You don’t make the honey, the bees make it. We can’t come along later and brag about how we made honey. Those honeybees might come after you for that one! Also, honey lasts a long, long, long time! It does not go bad. In fact archaeologists have found 3,000 year old honey in the Pyramids in Egypt that was still edible!

God’s word is just like honey, except it is sweeter, more nourishing, more healing, and it lasts forever. And you and I had nothing to do with it. The word came because of the power of God, and we enjoy the benefits of God’s work just like we can enjoy in the benefits of honey!

Thank you God, for making a little creature like the honeybee that while it lives for just a short time on this earth makes such a wonderful substance for us to enjoy for the short time we are here on this earth. But even more that that Lord, thank you for your living, sweet, healing, nourishing and ever-abiding word that lives within us.

The Written Word Comes from THE Word

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
(Hebrews 4:12-13)

Last night in our Bible class, we were discussing the power and living nature of the Scriptures. The reason this book is like no other is because it flows from the mind, soul and being of an all-powerful God. The word of God, the Scripture, is the very breath of the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is living, so His words are living. He is active in the world, so His words are also active. Jesus is powerful, so His words are powerful. The words Jesus said were often sharp, so naturally the written word that came from His mouth would also be sharp. Jesus read the hearts of men, nothing was hidden from Him, and the same goes for the words from His mouth, they read our hearts. His word is just like Him in that it shines the light and exposes the darkness.

There is no other document like the Bible ever written in human history because there is no other person like Jesus. He authored every word.

May we today stand in awe of the Scriptures, as we stand in awe of the Savior and Lord who gave it to us.

Looking Intently in the Mirror

Thank you to Nathan Booth for getting the website techie stuff sorted out this morning. Sorry for the delay in sending out this article.

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
(James 1:21-25)

The word here is described as:

  • A seed implanted in the heart.
  • A mirror that reveals and exposes your character.
  • The perfect law of liberty.

We also see how we are to be doers and not hearers only.

  • If we hear but don’t do, we are deceiving ourselves. If we plant a good seed in the ground, but fail to remove all the weeds competing for the same resources, then the good seed is not going to be productive. That’s why James says to get rid of the filthiness and wickedness. Only then can the implanted word “save” our souls.
  • If we hear but don’t do, we are like one who looks intently into a mirror but then walks away and forgets what the mirror told him. The mirror tells it like it is, and I do not always like looking in the mirror. If the mirror tells me I need to lose weight and take better care of myself, what do I do with that info? Do I walk into the kitchen and eat a pound of bacon? You see, James tells us that studying the Bible can actually end up deceiving us. Not that the Bible deceives us, but that we deceive ourselves thinking we did something great by merely studying the Bible. So I read the book of James…great! What did I do with the information I studied in James? That’s what matters!
  • If we hear but don’t do, we will not be blessed. If we hear and do and “persevere,” then James says we will be blessed in our “doing.” I love how James calls the God’s Word the “perfect law of liberty.” LAW and LIBERTY don’t fit well together in our thinking. It is like chocolate and broccoli! We want to think liberty is being able to do whatever we want. Freedom from restrictions, absence of restraint, nobody telling us what to do, no inhibitions, no rules…that’s freedom! That’s actually slavery, because that’s where it ends up. With that mindset, we become enslaved to debt, pleasure, substances, people, etc. God’s rules, His perfect Law, brings liberty. Freedom is in following Him. Liberty is in being liberated from the chains of selfishness and lust.

Always Learning?

Paul once wrote to Timothy about those who were always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). Jesus said it this way, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). They were searching and studying and learning, but never arrived at truth. Why? Because they were unwilling to come to Jesus.

There are places that the road of truth will take us, and we at times will find ourselves very uncomfortable with the conclusions we have to make. On that pathway, the light of truth will expose us and show us the actions we must take in order to be consistent with the truth. So the choice is there, accept, believe and obey the truth before us, or another option is to keep learning. We can fill our brains with all kinds of Bible facts, and never get one bit closer to Jesus.

Another example comes from the book of Mark. The people in Jesus’ hometown were asking some great questions, which if they had the right heart they would have come to believe in Jesus. Read the following passage.

Mark 6:1-6
He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

If they would have really thought about these questions in sincerity they would have come to the right conclusion about Jesus. Nicodemus, a ruler among the Pharisees, knew that Jesus could not do these mighty works unless He came from God (John 3). Others like the woman with the blood issue (Mark 5) and the Roman centurion (Matthew 8) also came to the right conclusions about Jesus. They all had limited information, but it was enough to produce a strong conviction about the identity and authority of Jesus.

So, what about us? Are we filling ourselves full of Bible facts, but failing to reach the obvious conclusions or take the steps necessary to be pleasing with Him? What are we doing with all of the Bible information and teaching that passes through our eyes and ears?

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
(James 1:22)

 

people really did ask some great questions about Jesus.

God Laid It On My Heart

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.
(Isaiah 30:21)

There are times when someone will preface what he or she is about to say or do with, “God laid it on my heart.” If I really feel passionate about saying something or going a certain direction, I might feel like God is leading me and is behind these words or actions. It may be that God approves of what you and I are about to say and do, but how will you confirm that?

Let’s take some time to ponder the concept of God laying things on our heart. Here are some thoughts from Scripture:

Within Scripture I know for sure what God has laid upon my heart. We know that Jesus promised the apostles before He left this earth that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:5-15). Having that truth, the apostles then wrote it down, and we have in the pages of the God-breathed Scripture the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:9-16; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). As Paul said, when we read we learn the revealed mind of God (Ephesians 3:4).

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
(Hebrews 1:1-2)

Not everything going on inside of me is from God. We are in a spiritual war between the Spirit and the flesh (Galatians 5:17), so not all leadings and impulses I have within are from God. Paul tells us that we have to bring all thoughts into the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), so that tells you not every thought we have is a prompting of the Holy Spirit. There are those Paul said who had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2).

Several different opinions, interpretations and directions arise from people claiming that God laid something on their heart. A problem arises when you and I choose our words and pathway based upon what we believe God is laying on our heart. The problem is that so many are saying that but are going in completely different directions spiritually. Remember that God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). We can know for sure that God is not laying contradictory things on different hearts. Let’s be careful of crediting God with something that He may have had no part in (Jeremiah 23:32).

We are to test all things by the standard of God’s word, and that includes any promptings or thoughts I may have within. “Test all things; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Bereans were praised by God because they tested what Paul said by comparing it with Scripture (Acts 17:11). “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). In the same way the hearts of men are misread and misinterpreted, the word of God is also misread and misinterpreted. Knowing that, Peter warns us to be very careful not to twist the Scriptures to fit with our own desires and interpretations (2 Peter 3:14-18).

My conscience is there to help me as a guide, but it must be trained and conditioned by the word of God. Go back to the verse from Isaiah at the beginning of the article. This passage says that people will hear a word behind them telling them which way to go, to the right or to the left. I’ve often hear this passage quoted to go along with the concept that God lays things on your heart. Yes, God is speaking today and yes, He is telling us which way to go, but how does He do that? The voice of God is clearly speaking today in His word, and the apostle John wrote that if we follow His commandments, our hearts can be assured that we are one with God.

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
(1 John 3:18-22)

So, if I end up by the providence of God in a situation where He wants me to be, what do I say? Do I let my heart lead me? Have I prayed for wisdom to speak the truth from God’s word that this person needs to hear? Have I diligently studied God’s word so that I can be approved of God when I step up to speak for Him (2 Timothy 2:15)?

If I feel prompted to go a certain direction in life, have I tested that with the word of God to make sure this is the way God wants me to go? Have I sat down with wise, godly Christians to seek their counsel as to which way I should go (Titus 2:1-5; Proverbs 1:5; 24:6)? Yes, God may be leading you that direction, but He is calling you to check His word first, pray about it, and seek godly counsel. If that impulse or thought you have is not in line with God’s word, then you know it wasn’t from God.