So, we have been studying the “Good Life” that God has made available for us to live, and we have learned some wonderful truths out of the 23rd Psalm!
We spent the first eight weeks of this series covering verses 1-4 that give us the analogy of a shepherd’s relationship with his sheep. Then, we saw how there is a transition beginning in verse 5 from God being described as our Good Shepherd to Him being our “Hospitable Host.” So, these last two verses of the 23rd Psalm show us another part of God’s nature. Not only is He that Good Shepherd who takes care of His sheep; He is that Honorable Host who crowns us with His lovingkindness and tender-mercies. Yes, He prepares this table before us and makes all things good and ready! Upon entering, He honors us by anointing our head with oil! He fills our cup up to overflowing! Then our response is, “Surely, my host’s goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life! And I will live in His house forever!” Amen! This is living the good life, my friends!
Now we saw how in the beginning of verse 5 God is said to prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies, and we learned some incredibly important principles about this table that He has spread before us:
First of all, we learned that just because a meal has been prepared by the Lord does not automatically mean that all of His children will partake of it. We saw from Jesus’ parable in Luke 14:15-24 that the reason why this is, is because we don’t always accept the invitation. Yes, those the Lord has invited generally don’t make showing up to that dinner a priority in their lives. We need to begin making eating at the Lord’s table a priority, church! The reason why is because God is not looking for the able, but He’s looking for the available.
Just as it was said to the Church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:20 - the Lord is standing at the door of our hearts knocking, desiring for us to open the door, invite Him in, and dine with Him. And this was written to a church, saints! So, evidently even born-again Christians are capable of not experiencing all that the Lord desires for them.
But we also learned that there is another reason found in this verse why God’s children do not always partake from the Lord’s table. Notice that this verse includes eating “in the presence of our enemies.” We learned from this that the reason why so many fail to partake of the children’s bread is because they have left the Lord’s table to argue and fight with their enemies.
You see, our God delights in defending us from our adversaries. But the key to experiencing this is found in doing the same honorable things that David did in the midst of his persecution. He continued to honor the king. He did not take things into his own hands. He let the Lord justify and deliver him. Even when he seemed to have every right, he did not touch the Lord’s anointed.
Now we will find this out in a moment, but we are all the Lord’s anointed now. Therefore, even when one of your brothers and sisters in Christ (who are also loved by God as much as you are) do things that hurt you, you are to respond like David did, letting the Lord defend you. You and I are still to do good to them. We are to pray for them. We are to bless them. Bless and do not curse, knowing this - that you were called to inherit a blessing! (1 Peter 3:9)
But we learned that what so many Christians do is this: when their brother or sister does something to them, they fight back. They retaliate. They take matters into their own hands. However, in doing so, they get up from the Lord’s table. And what they need to understand is - even if they are successful at avenging themselves, they are missing the meal. Do you know how many of God’s children are missing out on the party at God’s table because they decided to let their enemies spoil their fun?
Church, when people - even God’s anointed ones - irritate us, we don’t need to miss the meal God has prepared for us because of someone else. We cannot control how others act, but we can sure enough control how we react. Don’t leave the table for someone who decided not to come to the party! Amen?
But the fact remains that there is a table prepared for us to partake of, and it is up to us to both accept the invitation and to not let anything or anyone distract us from the meal. We run our race before us, setting our hands to the plow and not looking back!
Then last week, on Resurrection Sunday, we looked at another phrase in Psalm 23:5, where David said, “My cup runs over!” We learned that this analogy describes that abundant life Christ came for us to have, and we saw how this life “more abundantly” describes a life that is “over, above and more than is necessary.” Strong’s says that it means “beyond, super-abundant in quantity, superior in quality and by implication, excessive.” The Amplified Bible gives a great definition to this phrase; it defines it as “to the full, till it overflows.”
We also saw how when it comes to this phrase “My cup runs over,” some other translations say, “My cup overflows,” “My cup overflows with blessings,” “My cup is full and spilling over,” and “my cup overflows as if it were alive.”
In fact, I failed to mention this last week, but this Hebrew word that is used for “runs over” is only used in one other place in the Scriptures, and that is found at the end of Psalm 66:12 when he says, “But you brought us out to rich fulfillment.” Other translations call this place of “rich fulfillment” a “wealthy place.”
So, the picture we have painted here is of a cup that is not just filled full to the brim, but it describes a cup that is actually overflowing and spilling over- a rich, abundance of drink, hallelujah! Therefore, God’s nature is to not only give us enough life, but to give us more than enough life! This is always what He desires to do for us because He is an excessive God!
We saw this in the first name that the Lord used to reveal Himself to mankind - El Shaddai in Genesis 17:1.
This is when He appeared to Abram and revealed one of His names as, “Almighty God.” This name described God as the One who is able to supply and provide every need that we have. It carries the idea of Him being “All-Sufficient”, or you could say, “more than enough!” As I’ve heard my father in the faith, Andrew Wommack, say time and time again - “God is El Shaddai, not El Cheapo!” J God is too much!
We then looked at three different examples from the life of Jesus of God’s excessive nature:
So, it is apparent that we serve a God who is a “too much and more than enough” kind of God! We see this in all of these witnesses as well as in our new and better covenant which is established upon better promises! Church, God’s nature and will is to reveal Himself as El Shaddai to us and to multiply us exceedingly! He desires to keep pouring His goodness into our cups, and fill us with His life until we are overflowing! So, as the Psalmist said, “Open your mouth wide and He will fill it” (Psalm 81:10)! Amen and so be it!
So now, let’s back up and cover this one other phrase that David wrote in Psalm 23:5 when He said, “He anoints my head with oil.” Mind you, the context of this phrase in Psalm 23:5-6 is of a gracious host honoring his or her guests, and the original Hebrew language paints this same picture in this phrase.
You see, this word “anoints” is not the common word used for the anointing of a king or a priest. It is for this reason that the Hebrew word David used here is only translated “anoints” this one time in the original King James version. And the reason why it is not translated this way any other time is because this word literally describes “to make fat, to thrive or to prosper.”
It is used this way four times in the Book of Proverbs:
1.Proverbs 11:25 - “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.”
2.Proverbs 13:4 - “The soul of a lazy man desires and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.”
3.Proverbs 15:30 - “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and a good report makes the bones healthy.”
Therefore, based on this choice of words of David, we can clearly see that this describes an anointing all right, but not an anointing for regal or priestly duties. Rather, he was referring to the anointing of a guest at some prestigious banquet with oils and perfumes as a way of honoring them. Yes, the allusion is to the custom of anointing the head on festive occasions, as an indication of prosperity and honor. Therefore, as a whole, it is indicative of the divine favor, of prosperity, and of joy.
So, this oil that our most gracious and honorable Host (the Lord of Hosts, that is) anoints our head with is poured out in such a “full, thriving and prosperous” manner. In other words, He pours oil on our head so abundantly - thus the expression indicates an abundance of oil.
Do you see how this correlates with what we discussed last week and what David said immediately following this phrase - our cup running over? Both phrases, therefore, describe “abundance.” They echo each other in describing the Lord pouring more than enough. Essentially, what David was saying was, “He pours out an abundance of oil on my head, and He pours out an abundance of wine in my cup!”
WHO IS THE ANOINTING?
Now as we see the analogy of both oil and wine obviously being used here, that should automatically direct us to “WHO” these two elements represent in the Scriptures - the Holy Spirit.
You see, the Holy Spirit is one of the main reasons why we are capable of living the good life. It is because He is “The Anointing” (see 1 John 2:20&27) Whom God has poured out on us in such richness and extravagance! He is Who has filled these cups up and Who flows out of our bellies like rivers of living water! Yes, the good life is the anointed life - the life anointed by the Holy Ghost!
You see, all throughout the Scriptures when we see someone being anointed with oil that is symbolic of the Holy Spirit being poured out on them - either to equip and empower one for a particular office or to set free and deliver one from a particular bondage.
We see it used in the latter way in James 5:14-15 where the anointing with oil is seen as a method to bringing healing and deliverance to the afflicted. This, of course, is not saying that there is inherent power in the oil itself to heal someone; rather, it is using oil as a contact point between the minister and the one receiving ministry. And since “oil” is symbolic of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the anointing of the sick with oil is a symbol showing how it is the power of the Holy Spirit to set the captive free.
But we also see numerous examples in the Scriptures of people being anointed with oil for the purpose of regal and priestly duties - showing us that it is the Holy Spirit Who equips and empowers us for the work of the ministry.
You see, in the Old Testament, you had two specific offices that were anointed with oil as they entered into their position:
So, since we are anointed of God, it should not surprise us that Revelations 1:6 says He has made us Kings and Priests to His God and Father. We are “anointed” to be His children (kings) and to serve Him (priests).
Now regarding the New Testament usage of the word “anointed,” it comes from the Greek word chrio. This word was a medical term describing a physician pouring oil on his hands and then rubbing it into the body of the patient until the oil was transferred from the doctor’s hands deep into the skin of the patient. So, the word “chrio” has to do with “the hands” of the doctor as well as the oil itself. It describes God as being the Great Physician Who has the Holy Spirit as a type of oil on His hands, and once He has the Holy Spirit on His hands, He can’t wait to get His hands on the believer. Once He does, He begins to rub and rub until the believer is totally saturated (i.e. baptized) with the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, to be anointed with the Holy Ghost means to be totally saturated with the Holy Ghost. So, saying someone is “anointed” is another way of saying “God’s got His hand on them.” Amen!
So, we are the ones anointed to be kings and priests in this new and better covenant (see 1 Peter 2:9)! This is an important point to understand. But even though it is true that God has anointed us to be His heirs and His ministers, the fact is that David was referring to a different kind of anointing here. It is an anointing of abundance. It is an anointing of honor.
THE ANOINTING IN BETHANY
Now as I have been studying this, I was drawn to our one, very solid biblical example of how this occurs, and it is found in the Gospels: It reminds me of Mary’s anointing Jesus found in Matthew 26, Mark 14, & John 12. For the sake of time, I would like for us to focus in on Mark’s account of this event.
In Mark 14:3-9, we are told that this event transpired when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper. Now Mark just described her as a “woman,” but we know from John’s Gospel that this was Mary, the sister of Martha & Lazarus (see John 12:2-3).
Now in verse 3, we are told that Mary came with an “alabaster flask” (some translations call it a “box”). In short, “alabaster” was a stone commonly found in Israel. It was a hard stone resembling white marble So, the container Mary used to carry the perfumed oil was made of a white, marble-like substance. Ointment, oils and perfumes used to be put in vessels made of alabaster, which kept them pure and unspoiled. The boxes were often sealed with wax, to prevent the perfume from escaping. And we are told in John 12:3 that when Mary broke open her alabaster box, “the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” Alabaster was a strong enough substance to keep the oil or perfume completely contained until the time of its use.
Mark goes on to describe this alabaster flask as containing “a very costly oil of spikenard.” Now "spikenard" was a plant that only grew in the Himalaya mountains of India and Nepal. Therefore, Mary's fragrant oil of spikenard was a rare, imported product in Israel.
Now, how expensive was this spikenard contained in the alabaster flask? Well, we don’t have to speculate because in John 12:5, Judas evaluated that it could have been sold for “three hundred denarii." Now, in their day, one denarius was the wage for one day's labor. So, if Judas' estimate of the value of Mary's spikenard is correct, then it would have been worth close to someone's annual salary, equivalent to several tens of thousands of dollars today.
Other sources tell us that “spikenard’s” great cost stemmed from the fact that it had to be transported over 6,000 miles to reach Palestine, and depending on quality, it sold for as much as 400 denarii per pound (or $750 an ounce in modern purchasing equivalent). That made this that Mary used to anoint Jesus’ body even more valuable than gold!
In fact, this ointment was worth at least 2½ times more than the 30 pieces of silver that Judas received for betraying the Lord, which is obviously why Judas got so upset about it (see Mark 14:4-5 & Compare John 12:5). So, an interesting note regarding this is: this perfume was worth 2½ times what Judas thought Jesus was worth.
Judas’ negative reaction to this act of pure honor and worship is typical of many people’s reaction toward worship today. Judas and some of the other disciples evidently thought this was a waste, but that was only because they didn’t value Jesus as highly as Mary did. Selah.
You see, something’s value is only determined by what others are willing to pay for it. So, even though Judas and some of other disciples thought this was a waste does not mean that the Lord did. She obviously thought blessing and honoring Jesus was worth more than a year’s worth of wages and more than silver and gold. Amen!
But there was a “breaking” of that box or flask that had to occur to get out what was precious on the inside - for we learn that “this was a long-necked vessel for storing or holding ointment or perfume, and when the neck was broken off, the contents were used…”
Now this event teaches us several lessons:
One is this - I believe that not only is Mary an example to us of how we ought to strive to honor the Lord, but I also see this “alabaster flask” as symbolic of us too. Yes, I see this “alabaster flask” as symbolic of our temples - that is, our bodies - as “alabaster” was also one of the stones used to decorate Solomon’s glorious Temple (see 1 Chronicles 29:2). As the Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 2:5, we are living stones, being built up as a spiritual house. Praise God!
And if this “alabaster flask” is a type of our bodies, oh, what a measure of treasure is contained within us! As 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 states - we are to be diffusing the fragrance of the knowledge of God in every place we go as the Lord’s “earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Yes, there is a treasure within these “alabaster boxes” (i.e. earthen vessels) and it is meant to be released to honor and glorify the Lord with! Amen!
But the key to releasing the sweet-smelling aroma and blessing the Lord with it is found in being “broken”- that is, learning to lose our own dignity and pride and get “outside the box” where God can be God to us.
You see, one reason why this treasure stays within our vessels is because we like to stay in control. We don’t want to lose face in front of people. We keep our dignity and pride and, in so doing, we keep that anointing oil on the inside of us.
Church, we have to make that decision whether we are going to please God or please man. We can’t do both. So, start letting that “spikenard” out of your “alabaster box” today: Do it by laying down your pride and worshipping the Lord with reckless abandon!
Do you remember what King David said after he had danced before the Lord with all of his might (2 Samuel 6:13-23)? When David fully expressed Himself in praise towards God like he did, the Bible says that Michal disdained him. And why? Because he did not praise and worship his God the way she thought he should have. She thought, being a king, he should have been more dignified. But we all know David’s response, right? He said, “Woman, I will be even more undignified than this!” Hallelujah!
And we also know the reaction God had towards Michal’s criticism of her husband and king. The Bible says that from that day forth, she was barren. Saints, when we criticize and ridicule the response that others have to God, we are in danger of making ourselves fruitless. Or, you could say, our fragrant oils and perfumes stays all “bottled up.”
VESSELS OF HONOR
Now another lesson that we can learn from this anointing of Jesus by Mary is this - How does the Lord literally “anoint our heads with oil”- meaning, how does He honor and pour out His divine favor on our lives? Well, how did it happen to Jesus here? It happened through this “sinful woman”- teaching us that the Lord honors us through other people. In other words, He anoints us through other vessels.
Now our first ambition should not be to get God to get other vessels to bless us; our first ambition should be to be the vessels that the Lord uses to bless others. Amen! Yes, church, our aim and goal is to be “honorable vessels.” As the Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:20-21, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor…”
Now people read this and think - “Oh, that explains it. I must just not be a vessel of ‘honor.’ I guess I am just a base vessel.” No, no, no! Paul goes on to say, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” In other words, whether or not we are a vessel of honor is not God’s choice; it is our choice! That’s why he said, “if anyone cleanses himself…” That means, whosoever will! So, based on verse 21, our prayer should not be, “God use me!” Rather, our prayer should, “God help me to be usable,” and then cleanse ourselves of what is necessary to be more prepared and useful for every good work. Amen.
And what is “the latter” that Paul is referring to cleansing ourselves of to become this vessel of honor? In order to get the answer, we need to back up to verse 19 where he said, “Nevertheless, the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’” The latter, therefore, would be his second statement of the seal of God’s solid foundation - namely, all of us who name the name of Christ departing from iniquity. Therefore, departing and cleansing ourselves from “iniquity” is the key to being God’s vessel of honor.
So, what is “iniquity?” In my opinion, iniquity can be best described as “a sin from within.” In other words, opposed to transgressions and trespasses which are simply missteps and mistakes in the flesh (i.e. on the outside), “iniquities” are sins of the heart. However, iniquity is sin at its worst. Iniquity is premeditated, continuing, and escalating.
So, what this teaches us is that it is not your simply transgressions and trespasses (i.e. the mistakes we all make from time to time) that disqualify us from being used of God. It is the premeditated, continuing and escalating sins of the heart that can keep us from our higher levels of usefulness.
But the fact is, the Lord desires to honor us like this. He will not be out-done - for we can never out-give God. So, if the Lord commends Mary for such an extravagant and honorable gift, then you must know that He desires to “anoint our heads with oil” in like fashion.
Yes, church, the Lord desires to bless and honor us in such an extravagant way! Mary is our example of that! He desires to give us more than we think we are worth. And it is all because our value is not based on our own estimation of ourselves; our value has been determined by how much the Lord decided to pay for us - and that was A LOT! Amen and so be it!
LIFE, LIFE, LIFE!
So, we have been doing a study of the 23rd Psalm since the beginning of this year here at HPC, and we have been studying the good life that our God has prearranged and made ready for us to live. Amen. Yes, church, God has a good life for us, and what we are celebrating today is the reason why!
You see, Resurrection Day (formerly known as Easter) is all about the life of God. It can be summarized in three powerful words - JESUS IS ALIVE! He is alive because the Holy Spirit came into that tomb and infused his 3-day old, dead body with resurrection life! He is alive because God the Father reached into hell with His mighty right arm and yanked Jesus from the clutches of death, hell and the grave! Amen. Resurrection Day is all about LIFE! Amen?
You see, now through Jesus’ resurrection, the Lord has offered us eternal life - which is knowing God (John 17:3). Therefore, the eternal life we have been given involves the ability for us all to know God, from the least to the greatest (Hebrews 8:11). Friends, knowing God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ is where life begins - for we have been called to a life of personal relationship with God.
In Romans 6:4, Paul teaches us that we are called to walk in the newness of life. This is that life where old things have passed away and, behold, all things have become new. We go underneath the waters of baptism as the old man and come up as a new man in Christ Jesus. Our life has been made new in Christ. Behold, He makes all things new!
The Scriptures also teach us that He has made available unto us resurrection life. This aspect of the life of God is the freedom from the death produced through the things of this world. It is the life of God that makes alive our mortal bodies and infused our lives with His life. This is the Spirit-filled life, church! Sure, when we are born again, we have the Holy Spirit; but when we are baptized in the Holy Spirit, He has us. This is the resurrection life!
And, finally, Christ came to give us the abundant life - not just life, but life more abundantly. And that’s the life I want to talk about today on this Resurrection Sunday - the more than enough life!
THE OVERFLOWING CUP
So, let’s turn over to two openings this morning where we see this abundant life described - Psalm 23:5 & John 10:10…
Now in our last message, we looked at Psalm 23:5 where David said, “He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” And we left off where he said, “You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over!” So, this week, I want us to skip ahead to the phrase “My cup runs over” and we will revisit the anointing our head with oil perhaps next week.
Now, when it comes to this phrase “My cup runs over,” some translations say, “My cup overflows.” The NLT says, “My cup overflows with blessings.” The Living Bible paraphrase says, “Blessings overflow.” The Easy to Read says, “My cup is full and spilling over.” The Aramaic Bible in Plain English says, “my cup overflows as if it were alive.”
In fact, this Hebrew word that is used for “runs over” is only used in one other place in the Scriptures, and that is found at the end of Psalm 66:12 when he says, “But you brought us out to rich fulfillment.” Other translations call this place of “rich fulfillment” a “wealthy place.”
So, the picture we have painted here is of a cup that is not just filled full to the brim, but it describes a cup that is actually overflowing and spilling over - a rich, abundance of drink, hallelujah!
From a spiritual point of view, it describes having so much peace, joy, God’s presence, etc., that you are more than fulfilled in your heart. From a financial sense, it describes having “more than enough money”- more than you need, more than you can spend, and extra to give. Whatever example you want to use - our cup running over describes a life spilling over with the goodness of God! Glory!
Now let’s go over to John chapter 10 and take a look at where Jesus gives us another description of this “cup running over” kind of life…
THE ABUNDANT LIFE
In John 10:10 we have, what I believe to be, one of the most important truths that Jesus ever gave us concerning God’s nature. He said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
Now let me, first of all, make a quick point from this verse: From this very simple yet profound verse we can distinguish between what comes from God and what comes from the devil. Anything that has come to steal from us, to kill us, or to destroy the things in our lives is from the devil! Anything that has come to produce a better quality of life is from God. Now, of course, I need to qualify this. We need to define what is truly “a better quality of life”…
Does money necessarily improve the quality of your life? Most people would give a hearty “Amen!” to that question, but that is not exactly the case. Financial prosperity certainly can add to the quality of your life, but it is absolutely contingent upon the prosperity of your soul. If your soul is not full of peace and joy then money, nor any other natural blessing, will ever improve the quality of your life. But this also does not mean that having wealth is of the devil either, the love of wealth is what comes from the devil because covetousness takes away the life of its owner.
So, what I wanted us to see in this verse is that Jesus reveals to us a certain aspect of God’s nature that is important for us to understand: Again, Jesus said, “but I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” So, Jesus said, “I have come – that they may have life…” Did He come? Yes! Then, you and I may have life! Amen!
Now as it is with salvation or any other provision given to us by God, it doesn’t happen just because Jesus came. In other words, just because He came to provide it, doesn’t mean it is automatically applied to our lives. No! This verse says, “that they may have life.”
But notice that Jesus said He not only came to give us life, but He came to give us life more abundantly! This shows me that there are progressive qualities of life to be had. A Christian may have life, but we also may have it more abundantly.
Now the words “more abundantly” comes from the Greek word perissos which means “over, above and more than is necessary.” Strong’s says that it means “beyond, super-abundant in quantity, superior in quality and by implication, excessive.” The Amplified Bible gives a great definition to this phrase; it defines it as “to the full, till it overflows.”
So, you see, based on Psalm 23:5 and this verse we can clearly see God’s true nature. God’s nature is to not only give us enough life, but to give us more than enough life! This is always what He desires to do for us because He is an excessive God!
Allow me to show you several other biblical examples of this excessive nature that He possesses…
Now the first name God ever used to reveal Himself to mankind described this very characteristic that we are talking about…
He appeared to Abram in Genesis 17:1 and revealed one of His names as, “Almighty God.” The Hebrew word that He used here was “El Shaddai.” The word “Shaddai” was derived from the word “shad” which means “breast” and the word “el” which was a word that described God as mighty, strong, and powerful. So, when you combine these two words together they describe God as the One who is able to supply and provide every need that we have. But if you look a little deeper into the meaning it carries the idea of Him being “All-Sufficient”, or you could say, “more than enough!”
You see, God’s nature is to not just be our sufficiency, but to be our all-sufficiency! In other words, His tendency is to not just meet our needs, but to meet them in abundance!
As Paul stated in Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need…” But he didn’t stop there: How does He meet all our need? It is “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus!” Those two words “according to” make a big difference in the way we should look at this verse. If he would have said, “out of His riches in glory” that would mean He could supply them in any way. For example, if I supplied something to you “out of” my riches then that might mean I just gave you a twenty-dollar bill when I’m a multi-millionaire. But if I supply you “according to” my riches then that means I will supply you according to how wealthy I am. So, if I was a multi-millionaire then that would mean you would get a whole lot more than twenty bucksJ!
You see, this is the way God is! He supplies us with more than enough because His provision is not according to the world’s system; it is according to His riches in glory! Hallelujah! That ought to make you shout! As I’ve heard my father in the faith, Andrew Wommack, say time and time again, “God is El Shaddai, not El Cheapo!” J God is too much!
But there is no greater example of God’s true nature than in the life and ministry of Jesus: Jesus said in John 5:19, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” He also said to Philip in John 14:9, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” In fact, the writer of Hebrews even described Jesus as the “express image of His (God’s) person” (Hebrews 1:3). Therefore, we have three witnesses that clearly show us that Jesus fully expressed the nature of God while He was here with us. So, let’s look at a few examples from His life that echo this “cup overflowing” life of God:
First of all, consider the miracles of Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fishes for the thousands. In both of these accounts (where He fed the 5,000 men & then the 4,000 men), we are told that they ate and were filled, and also took up twelve baskets full and seven baskets full, respectively, of leftover bread and fish (see Mark 6:42-43 & Mark 8:8).
Now the catalyst for this miracle is clear: It was in Jesus blessing what they had and giving His Father thanks for it. This too is a catalyst for your miracle of provision - being thankful for and blessing what you have!
Now let me ask you a question: Did God miscalculate how many people there were? Did He just multiply some extra bread and fish in case there were more people than He anticipated? I think not!
How about In Luke 5:1-10, when Jesus called His fisherman to come follow Him? This was, of course, when Jesus used Simon Peter’s boat to teach those following Him. So, in what was likely Jesus blessing Peter for the use of His boat, He told him to “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Verse 4). Then we are told that they caught such a great number of fish that their net was breaking. This resulted in Simon and his brother calling for their partners to come and help them and after they had come and filled both the boats, the boats began to sink.
So, we see here that this “net-breaking, ship-sinking” blessing to Simon Peter’s business came as a result of his willingness to sow his resources into Jesus’ ministry. In other words, he gave to Jesus’ ministry in order for Him to minister to the people and he was repaid with this abundant catch of fish - showing us that another key to experiencing this “too much harvest” is sowing into the kingdom.
But again, let me ask you a question: Did the Lord know how much their nets would be capable of holding without breaking? Did He know how many fish both of their boats could hold without sinking? Sure, He did! He didn’t just command as many fish as He could to come get in their nets. The Lord is much more specific and methodical than that. So, why did they have “too many” fish? It’s because it is simply God’s nature!
Let’s look at one other example in the life of Jesus, because it correlates with this one we just looked at:
In John chapter 21, after Jesus was raised from the dead, He appeared to His disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, but they didn’t recognize them. He speaks to them from the shore, asking them if they had caught anything. So, when they answered Him that they hadn’t, He told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat and they would find some. Now, the word “some” is not in the original text, and that is because they didn’t wind up catching just some; we are told that they caught a multitude! In this case, they had to drag the net to land because it was full of 153 large fish. However, the net did not break! (see John 21:1-11)
Now the interesting part of this story to me is that they initially didn’t recognize Him. For some reason, their eyes were constrained from knowing that it was Him just like those disciples on the Road to Emmaus. But it was when they experienced yet another miraculous catch of fish that they recognized Him, saying, “It is the Lord!” In other words, they recognized His goodness!
This is yet another important key to experiencing El Shaddai’s nature - recognizing His goodness! You see, we are transformed into what we behold. So, if we see His goodness, His love, His grace, etc., we will be changed into the same image from glory to glory! 2 Corinthians 3:13-18 teaches us this - that as Moses’ face was transformed by beholding God’s glory, we are also transformed from glory to glory by beholding His glory.
Well, we see from one of Moses’ experiences with the Lord that when he desired for the Lord to show him His glory that the Lord told him that He would make all of His goodness pass before him (see Exodus 33:18-19) - equating God’s glory with His goodness. Therefore, we could translate 2 Corinthians 3:18 like so - “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the goodness of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from goodness to goodness, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
So, it is apparent that this is God’s nature - He is a too much, more than enough kinda God! So, let’s look back at Psalm 23:5 and look again at this phrase we began with - “My cup runs over!”
Now a good question to ask here is: Like it was with the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and the miraculous catch of fish, does God know when the cup is full? Of course, He does! He is omniscient and, therefore, knows everything. So, why does He keep pouring? It is because it’s His nature to be excessive! He just delights in continuing to pourJ! It is not His fault that our cups are as dinky as they are. He pours out as much as He desires to give, and it is our job to get a bigger cup to hold the excess. And then, of course, if we get one of those “big gulp” cups, He will still keep pouring. Why? Again, because it is His nature to keep pouring - but the bigger the cup, the more we can drink. It is just that simple. But we also have to realize that receiving from God is related to our being able to see God as the God of more than enough.
(Illustration done, pouring into a glass until the liquid poured over the top of the glass; then by showing four different glasses/cups that describe four categories of Christians: the first was a very small “shot glass” that describes “worldly Christians,” a small, “sippy cup” describing “baby Christians,” a regular sized, standard “solo cup” describing your average Christian, and a “Big Gulp Cup” describing the type of Christian we should all aspire to become)
So, there are many examples of this characteristic of God found throughout the Scriptures, but let’s look at what I consider to be the greatest example of this we have - which will lead us into us partaking of communion.
OUR EXCESSIVE COVENANT
I believe the greatest example of God’s excessive nature was demonstrated in this new and better covenant that we have today with God through Jesus Christ.
You know, the old covenant that Israel had seemed to me like it was good enough. For God to even provide a means for mankind to come into covenant with Him is amazing enough. He chose the nation of Israel as His own and gave them promises such as healing, prosperity, and protection. All He required of them was to keep their part of the covenant (which was keeping His law) and their promises of protection and provision stayed intact.
Now I understand that there were flaws in this covenant (as God did too), but my point is that even that covenant was more than Israel deserved. God would have been righteous to just say something like, “Well, since Adam blew it they are just going to have to make it on their own. I’ve already done all I’m going to do for them. I already gave them their one shot.” But He didn’t do that! He chose Israel and was gracious to them time and time again.
Being included in this original covenant would have been far more than we Gentiles could have ever dreamed. But, thank God, He didn’t stop there…
He established a new covenant based upon better promises and made it available for anyone who will simply believe. And under this new and better covenant, we see God’s tendency to be excessive. Not only did we obtain the benefits and promises that were given through the old covenant, we also got “much more.” Here is a list of some of the extra benefits…
And the list could go on and on… This is an excessive covenant! Amen!?!
Thus, the reason the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly (Genesis 17:1-2)!
Church, God’s nature and will is to reveal Himself as El Shaddai to us and to multiply us exceedingly! He desires to keep pouring His goodness into our cups, and fill us with His life until we are overflowing! So, as the Psalmist said, “Open your mouth wide and He will fill it” (Psalm 81:10)! Amen and so be it!
- God looks at us through the blood of Jesus. He loves us because of who He is, not because of who we are or what we have done.
- Mike had a stroke a few years ago, but God healed him completely except for some occasional dizziness, and He's receiving healing on that. During his hospitalization, his wife stood on the word of God, continually claiming "He will not die." (Psalm 118:17)
- God satisfies our desires and we will live long lives to the fullest, if we stand on what we have been given in Him.
- Mike says that where he is weak, his wife is strong; where she is weak, he is strong. They work together and make a perfect team.
Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. Amos 9:13
- Things are speeding up. We are entering into a season of acceleration.
- The key is renewing our minds with the Word.
- Acceleration: speeding up, increase; what used to take years will now take months, what took months will take weeks, what took weeks will take days.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. 9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” 11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him. John 2:1-11
- The key to miracles: Whatever He says, do it.
- That's what Jesus' mom told the servants when Jesus turned the water into wine.
- God's Word is Him speaking personally to me.
- DO what His Word says, and you will HAVE what the Word says.
- We must SPEAK that we will do what the Word says we can do.
- We combat thoughts in our minds by words coming out of our mouth.
casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5
- The message of the Gospel never changes, but the method can change.
- Jesus' method of sharing the Gospel was to go into their world; He blessed them in their world, in order to bring them back into His world.
And these signs shall follow those who believe… Mark 16:17
- The signs of what you truly believe are following you. If you don't like what is following you, change what you really believe.
- If we believe sickness, poverty, etc., it will follow us.
- We say we are prospered, but then we say "We can't afford this" again and again.
- But He has “pleasure in the prosperity His servant." (Psalm 35:27)
- Mike says of him and his wife, “We operate in acceleration - we get done all that God has called us to do and have plenty of time left over.” You can too, if you don't contradict it with your words.
- The river is moving quickly in the middle; it’s slower near the banks, allowing us to get in…but we have to step in.
When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. 2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” 3 The Lord has done great things for us,
And we are glad. Psalm 126:1
- It's time to dream again. You've set some dreams aside, but it's time to dust them off and believe for them.
“The unseen will become the seen in 2018.”
- What is unseen in your life? What have you been waiting for?
- The Lord says, “I will open your eyes so you will see in the spirit like never before. Things will be restored. The high things must be brought down. This year you will see me move like never before. 2018 is your year. I have stepped on the accelerator. It is at the door. Don't stop or give up. You will see my power manifested in your life.”
- He is moving powerfully.
- Your perceived setback is actually a setup for God to bless you like never before.
- Some have been in confusion and don't know what to do about certain situations. Confusion does not come from God. He is not the author of confusion. (1 Corinthians 14:33)
- Some have lost their joy. You have focused on your circumstances. You must put you focus on God and not the circumstances.
- What was lost will be found.
"Overcoming the Storms of Life" - book by Mike Martin
- The storm does not cause victory or defeat - it's your reaction to the storm.
"Developing a Godly Image" - book by Mike Martin
- What you think determines what you see spiritually. What you see affects what you say. What you say affects your life.
When Mike’s young grandson was very sick, and the doctor said he would die, his daughter would not agree with what the doctor said, and he and his wife came and proclaimed he would live and not die (Psalm 118:17). He is well, normal and in college today.
Pastor Trey’s comments
Referring to Psalm 126:
- When we dream, our mouths are filled with laughter... And we are glad.
- The Lord will bring us out of captivity as we step into the (accelerated) streams.
Now we left off last week with the last part of Psalm 23:4 where David went on to say, “…Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” So, let’s pick back up this week with this phrase:
THE SHEPHERD’S ROD AND STAFF
Now both the shepherds’ rod and staff served a purpose in their duties as a Shepherd.
The rod was considered more of his weapon. It was what he used to ward off predators and to defend his flock. So, I would liken the rod of our Good Shepherd to God’s Word - for it is His Word that is the offensive weapon of God’s kingdom.
If you recall, it was Moses’ rod that was used time and time again as the instrument that brought Egypt to its knees. The magicians of Pharaoh did the same miracle as Moses the first time because demons are good at doing lying signs and wonders. And that’s a good lesson for us. Just because something supernatural happens, doesn't mean it's of God. If it's not found in the Word, don't believe it. If it's not bringing glory to God, it's not God. We must be grounded in the Word, both to be empowered and to not be deceived by wrong doctrines. But then Moses' rod gobbled up the ones of the magicians. Yes, the Great I Am gave Moses this rod to execute the judgment of God on the king of Egypt, and this honor have all the saints today - to execute on the principalities and powers the written judgment of God! Amen? (see Psalm 149:5-9).
We too have God’s “rod” today that brings comfort to our souls. As Romans 15:4 calls it, “the comfort of the Scriptures.” And 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “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.” His truths and promises give us the comfort that our God will provide, that He will deliver us, that He is indeed with us and for us! God’s Word is God’s Rod with a capital “W”! Amen?
Now the shepherd’s staff served a different purpose: First of all, it was the distinguishing mark of a shepherd. Yes, that long staff with the rounded hook at the top was one of the primary ways that one was recognized as a shepherd.
However, the staff was not used just for show. It was a tool that the shepherd used for tending to his flock of sheep. It has been said that the shepherd would use his staff to “hook” his sheep for the purpose of leading and guiding them.
This is why I see the staff as symbolic of the Holy Spirit: He is the tool (more literally, the Person) that God uses to lead and guide His sheep today. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is to us today the distinguishing mark of our Shepherd. In other words, He is the part of the Godhead who reveals to us who our Good Shepherd is. His job is to glorify the Good Shepherd and to lead us unto Him. Amen.
You need the priority of the Word and the Holy Spirit in your life. Spend time in the Word and communion with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a goose bump, He is a person. Talk to the Holy Spirit. You don't have to pray to talk to the Holy Spirit. You talk to other people and you're not praying to them. Spend time communing with the Holy Spirit so He can lead you.
And what is He leading us unto? Notice what David goes on to say in verses 5&6...
THE HONORABLE HOST
Notice that in these verses David is continuing to directly address His Shepherd in this verse like he began to do at the end of verse 4. However, I want you to notice the transition in this Psalm: Now the example of a Shepherd and His sheep is no longer being used. Now, in verses 5&6, he is using the analogy of a person being invited into someone else’s home and being shown great hospitality and honor.
So, these last two verses of the 23rd Psalm show us another part of God’s nature. Not only is He that Good Shepherd who takes care of His sheep; He is that Honorable Host who crowns us with His lovingkindness and tender-mercies.
Yes, He prepares this table before us and makes all things good and ready! Upon entering, He honors us by anointing our head with oil! He fills our cup up to overflowing! Then our response is, “Surely, my host’s goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life! And I will live in His house forever!” Amen! This is living the good life, my friends!
Now this ought to teach us how we should be when we host people into our own homes or into God’s house: Our guests should feel honored, blessed, and made to feel special. This is the way our Heavenly Father operates. Likewise, His children are to imitate Him in being “given to hospitality.”
Now let’s look at the beginning of the next verse in the 23rd Psalm: David says in Psalm 23:5, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…”
ACCEPTING THE INVITATION
As we begin looking at this portion of verse 5, there is another Scriptural example of being invited to the Lord’s table that we must consider:
In Luke 14:15-24, Jesus used an example to describe how the Lord invites us to His table for a meal and all that were invited began to give excuse one by one as to why they could not attend. This angered the Lord and compelled Him to begin inviting those who were less noble - the poor, the maimed, the lame, etc. (Notice here the reference to the “lame.” This will become important later).
What’s the lesson here? The Lord has prepared this table before us and has invited each of us to come partake, but we must accept the invitation - not having anything or anyone else be more important than attending His supper.
So, just because the Lord has prepared a table does not automatically mean everyone invited will partake of it - not because God is holding back, but because those He invites generally don’t make showing up to that dinner a priority in their lives. Let’s change that! Let’s make eating at the Lord’s table a priority! God is not looking for the able, but for the available. He can and will enable us to do whatever He calls us to.
Just as it was said to the Church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:20 - the Lord is standing at the door of our hearts knocking, desiring for us to open the door, invite Him in, and dine with Him. And this was written to a church, saints! So, evidently even born-again Christians are capable of not experiencing all that the Lord desires for them.
DON’T LEAVE THE PARTY
And what we see here is that all that God has for us does not just include us eating at the Lord’s table; it includes eating “in the presence of our enemies.”
Now David was certainly a man who experienced this truth in his life, amen? The Lord honored him time and time again during his time in King Saul’s presence. Yes, even though Saul was driven by iniquity and constantly persecuted David, the Lord continued to bless David and delivered him from Saul’s hands.
This shows us that our God delights in defending us from our adversaries. But the key to experiencing this is found in doing the same honorable things that David did in the midst of his persecution. He continued to honor the king. He did not take things into his own hands. He let the Lord justify and deliver him. Even when he seemed to have every right, he did not touch the Lord’s anointed.
Now we will find this out more next week, but we are all the Lord’s anointed now. Yes, if you are a part of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, you are an anointed king and priest. Therefore, even when one of your brothers and sisters in Christ (who are also loved by God as much as you are) do things that hurt you, you are to respond like David did, letting the Lord defend you. You and I are still to do good to them. We are to pray for them. We are to bless them. Bless and do not curse, knowing this that you were called to inherit a blessing! (1 Peter 3:9)
But what so many Christians do is this: when their brother or sister does something to them, they fight back. They retaliate. They take matters into their own hands. However, in doing so, they get up from the Lord’s table. And what they need to understand is - even if they are successful at avenging themselves, they are missing the meal. Do you know how many of God’s children are missing out on the party at God’s table because they decided to let their enemies spoil their fun? And don’t you know that the devil plants people and circumstances in our paths to distract us from staying on the path with God?
Church, when people - even God’s anointed ones - irritate us, we don’t need to miss the meal God has prepared for us because of someone else. We cannot control how others act, but we can “sho’ nuff” control how we react. Don’t leave the table for someone who decided not to come to the party! Amen?
EATING AT THE KING’S TABLE
Now, as I meditated on this truth about eating at the Lord’s table, I couldn’t help but think of that story in the book of 2nd Samuel that is a beautiful type and shadow of what we have in Christ - the story of a man named Mephibosheth…
Notice in 2 Samuel 4:4 that we have a brief description of this, Jonathan’s young son. And when the news came from Jezreel that both his father and grandfather were killed, his nurse took him up and fled in haste. We are told that this is when he fell and became lame.
Now as we are going to see through this story of David and Mephibosheth, these things are a type and shadow of our relationship with Christ. So, I want to bring to your attention the lesson we can learn from this:
Why did the nurse flee with Mephibosheth after hearing the news of both Saul and Jonathan being killed? It was because it was customary then for one, when taking the throne, to kill all surviving descendants who might ever try to reclaim their family’s throne. Therefore, this nurse assumed that David would do the same. But she obviously didn’t know David, did she? She was completely unaware that he was different from others. Yes, David was kind. He was noble. He was gracious. But she didn’t know Him to be this way.
Do you reckon that there are many of God’s children out there today who are, likewise, unaware of how good, gracious and kind our Lord is? It is sad, but a good portion of God’s church do not truly know their God’s true nature. Just as this woman assumed David was like any other man, likewise Christ’s bride assumes their God is like any other god (i.e. quick to judge, harsh, condemning, critical, etc.)
So, this misconception of David caused her to do what? To take Mephibosheth up and flee from David’s presence! Likewise, this misconception of God’s true nature has led many Christians when they have missed it and fallen short of His glory to run from Him rather than to Him.
But notice that this response of fear that caused Jonathan’s house to run from David is what caused this accident that left Mephibosheth lame. The same happens to us, my friends. When we run from God in fear, guilt, condemnation, etc. this is when we open ourselves up to falling even further into more permanent spiritual conditions (i.e. spiritual lameness).
WHO IS YOUR GOD?
You see, we attract what we believe. Much of the body of Christ does not realize how our belief system impacts the fruit we receive in our life. And this is particularly true with how we see our God. I am convinced that there is so much more that God desires to do in our lives than we allow Him to. Yes, just as the children of Israel were guilty of limiting God’s will for them in their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, we limit God through our wrong thinking and wrong believing.
Let me show you how this bode true for the Egyptians during this instance of the plagues in Exodus:
Did you realize that when these various plagues came upon Egypt that every one of them (save the Death of the Firstborn) were all gods of Egypt? Yes, the Egyptians had a god for everything - for the frogs, the Nile River, the lice, the livestock, etc. So, it was as if God was rubbing it in their face regarding how He is greater than their gods that they served by sending the specific plagues that He did. For instance, it was like He was saying, “You like worshipping these frogs? Then here, here are all the frogs you can handle!”
You see this in the countries that battle poverty the most. Consider the nations that are the most impoverished. Do you know what they have in common? Idolatry runs more rampant in these nations. In other words, they go beyond just not believing in a particular god; they practice witchcraft and have formed their own gods and practice ungodly behaviors. Yes, just as Egypt did in Exodus, these idolatrous nations today are in essence reaping the fruit of the gods that they believed in and served. Likewise, much of God’s church today reaps the fruit of the God that they see themselves serving. Did you hear that? Hear the word of the Lord: You get the fruit of the God you believe in and see yourself serving.
We have a powerful proverb that teaches us a similar lesson: Proverbs 28:1 says, “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion!”
You see, we are not wicked anymore. If you are a born again, child of God, your nature has been changed and you are not a sinner any longer. Sure, you can still sin after you have been saved, and likely you will. But that does not change your nature. However, notice it is the wicked who flees when no one pursues. And this is exactly what sin consciousness will do in our lives: When we see ourselves as “wicked” - that is, when we are conscious of all of our faults, weaknesses, mistakes and shortcomings - we will flee when no pursues. That means that we will run from God when He is not out to get us. This happened in the Garden after the first sin of man and it is still happening today when God’s children sin. We sin, and instead of running to God (like we should), we run from Him thinking He is pursuing us to punish us. But the truth is that God is pursuing you when you sin, but not to punish you; He is pursuing you to restore, redeem, and reconcile you!
So, the wicked - or the one who thinks he or she is wicked - will flee when no one pursues. This describes far too many Christians. They are running from the righteousness of God because they have an incorrect view of God and of themselves. But, again, God is not pursuing to punish; He is pursuing to pour out His protection and provision.
Do you see the perverted thinking much of the church has adopted? We think we are being pursued! We think God is out to get us. No, church, God is for us, so who can be against us! This is what we should be believing!
But notice the second half of this verse: “But the righteous are bold as a lion.”
This is the truth we need to displace that lie with! The devil just walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, yet we see him as the big, bad lion. But we are the righteousness of God in Christ, and we need to see ourselves as that big, bad lion! Why? Because we are in the Lion of Judah! We are the ones who are hid in the King of the Jungle! Therefore, we should be the bold, confident ones! We should be the ones that are walking about boldly like lions, seeking which works of darkness that we can devour- not the reversal! Hallelujah!
Friends, understanding our righteous position in Christ will produce boldness and confidence! Having our state of justification revealed to us will produce the full assurance of faith in our hearts! Hallelujah! We are to be playing the part of the lion; not the devil! We are to be the ones on the hunt; not him! We are the ones with the authority! We are the ones with the position! We are the ones with the name above all names! We ARE the righteousness of God in Christ!
So, stop fleeing like the wicked and start pursuing like the righteous! Be bold and be confident! God is on your side!
CONTINUE EATING AT THE KING’S TABLE
Now let’s go back over to the Book of 2nd Samuel and look at 2 Samuel chapter 9… In this chapter, we get to see what happened with Mephibosheth later in his life:
Chapter nine begins with David saying, “Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (verse one)
Notice, here in verse one, that David said that he was going to show this kindness for Jonathan’s sake. Here, we see a beautiful type and shadow of how God shows us the same “covenant faithfulness” for Jesus’ sake. Amen! In other words, all the goodness, grace and mercy of God that was shown to us was not given to us because of who we are, but because of the Father God’s and the Son of God’s relationship. Amen!
Then notice in verse three that David said that his desire was not just to show any old kindness, but “the kindness of God.” You see, there is a big difference between “our kindness” and “God’s kindness.” Our love is oftentimes conditional; His love is unconditional. Our love is oftentimes merited; His love is unmerited. Our love oftentimes fails; His love never fails! Thanks be to God!
Then, in verse seven, I want you to notice several of the same characteristics of the good life of Psalm 23 that are found here:
However, David went on to promise Mephibosheth that he would eat bread at his table continually. The word “continually” comes from the Hebrew word tamid (pronounced “tah-meed”) which means “constantly, always, evermore” but the root word describes continually from an eternal standpoint. So, when you look at this from the perspective of us eating at the Lord’s table, we are invited to eat from this table today in the presence of our enemies, but we will continue to partake of it all the way to the marriage supper of the Lamb and forevermore. That’s a lot of food, amen?
Then notice in verse eight, Mephibosheth’s response to this good news: He said, “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?”
So, what we see here is this man had a serious identity problem. To refer to oneself as a “dead dog” means that they see themselves as having no value. This could have been because of what happened to his father’s house, but it also likely had to do with his lameness. You see, sometimes the things that have happened to us in life can warp our sense of value. But what we should be encouraged by here is that it did not change the king’s perspective of him. You see, we tend to think of ourselves as having little to no value and are unworthy, but to God, we are extremely precious and have been made worthy through our “Jonathan”- our Good, Heavenly Father.
Finally, in verse thirteen, we are told, “for he ate continually at the king’s table.” This is the fourth time in this chapter that Mephibosheth eating at David’s table is mentioned. Biblically, the number “four” describes “totality.”
Therefore, this table has be “totally” prepared for us! It is a done deal! All things have been made ready and complete! Now it is just up to us to come partake! Amen.
Notice that this beautiful story ends with the phrase, “And he was lame in both his feet.” Now the awesome thing about this whole story of kindness and mercy is that when Mephibosheth sat at David’s table, his lameness was covered. It was hidden. When eating at the table of the Lord there is no sign or indication of our weakness. We are on equal “footing” with Him. Amen!
So, in conclusion, if we continue to read in the Book of 2nd Samuel, we come to David’s gross sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah.
Under the old covenant, when people were judged much quicker and far more severe than King David was for his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah, what was it about David that caused him to reap unusual kindness and mercy from God? Our quick answer might be, "Well, God favored David." But I believe there were tendencies and characteristics in David that caused David to obtain this unusual favor. In other words, and more specifically, there were things that David sowed that caused him to reap like he did.
If you consider the chapters preceding David's big sin in the Book of 2nd Samuel (which occurred in chapters 11-12), you will see that he was sowing kindness and mercy into people like Mephibosheth and even Hanun (see 2 Sam chapter ten).
So, do you think it is any coincidence that David, the man after God's own heart, reaped unusual mercy right after he was sowing unusual mercy? I think not! Be merciful, my friends! Show God’s kindness to those around you! This is one sure fire way to partake of all that the Lord has prepared for us at His table. Amen!
So then, we can clearly see that being led on these paths of righteousness is not always going to be easy. We will have plenty of opportunities even during this good life to exercise our faith. We will certainly be tempted time and time again to ask the questions like, “Why did this happen? Where was God during this? Did I miss it somewhere?” But as we learned last week, it is imperative that we stay on God’s side when these times happen. And it is important for us to realize what David went on to say in verse 4…
He says, in Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me.”
So, will this good life that God has planned for us to live contain trials, tribulation and persecution? The Holy Spirit, through David, foreseeing this says, “Yea” (or, YES!) Yes, our faith will be tried at times. Yes, some of our journey will take us through these dark valleys. But, as I will get into today, the good life does not involve pitching camp in these valleys; David said we are walking through these dark valleys. Amen?
Now let’s begin looking at Psalm 23:4 by noticing the transition we see in this Psalm here: What we see now is not the sheep making their boast in what their shepherd does for them; we see the sheep actually addressing the shepherd himself.
Notice the terminology used here and you will see this: After saying, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” He says to the Lord his Shepherd, “For you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
This teaches me that there is a time and a place for proclaiming who He is to you to others or just in general; but it also teaches me that there is a time and a place for addressing Him personally and telling Him who is to you. Amen? Both are evidently important to do.
SO WE MAY BOLDLY SAY
But what we need to take away from this is - the obvious importance for us, as the Lord’s sheep, is to make proclamations, declarations and confessions of our faith - whether that be in general or directly to the Lord Himself. Yes, what we say is important.
You see, over in Hebrews 13:5-6, the writer of this letter recalls that the Lord Himself said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” at the end of verse 5. But then he goes on to say in verse 6, “So we may boldly say…” Now don’t miss this point right here: Because the Lord Himself said that He would never leave us nor forsake us, now we may boldly say something in response! In other words, because He said this, we can boldly say that. Amen! This, my friends, is the power of confession: When the Lord has promised us something, we can with all boldness, declare things pertaining to what He has already said! And here the writer of Hebrews said that we can boldly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Amen! And we need to remember that His Word in our mouth is just as powerful as His Word in His mouth. When we say what God has said, we can expect to receive it. Whether you feel it or not, if His word says it, it's true.
But in my experience, I don’t hear too many Christians talking like this. They either think this is prideful or presumptuous. But, again, the Bible has a LOT to say about us boldly declaring the truth, and we also see many different examples in the Scriptures where this is echoed as well. However, I for one decide to go with the Bible and not with the philosophies and traditions of men. I will confidently say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Him I will trust!” (Psalm 91:2). I will boldly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear! What can man do to me?” Amen.
Over in Romans chapter 8, we have a powerful truth that echoes this: In the first 30 verses of this chapter, we have the Apostle Paul giving us many of the wonderful promises of our covenant - everything from the fact that there is no condemnation for us (verse 1), we have the law of the Spirit of Life (verse 2), the Holy Spirit quickens our mortal bodies (verses 9-11), we are joint heirs with Jesus Christ (verse 12), the Holy Spirit intercedes through us (verses 26-27), God works all things together for our good (verse 28). And the list could go on and on.
Then, in Romans 8:31, Paul asks a question: “What then shall we say to these things?” In other words, with all of these exceedingly great and precious promises, what should our response be? We should say! Yes, again, our reasonable service is to verbally proclaim something. And what is it here that Paul said we shall say to these things? “If God is for us, who can be against us!?!”
You see, when you add up all of the things that God has promised us and said are ours, then the only conclusion we should come to is - God is for us! Yes, He is on our side! He has done so much for us that it is an indisputable fact that He is for us! Amen! Therefore, if He is for us and on our side, then why on God’s green earth would we ever be afraid of anything? As one commentary said, if the Lord Almighty is obviously resolved and engaged to bring us through, all our enemies must be His. Amen!
NO FEAR HERE!
So, what we say is obviously important - specifically when it comes to the many different fears that come up against us as we are walking through these valleys of the shadow of death. Amen?
You see, in these Scriptures, fear is the thing being countered with our words. For example, in Hebrews 13:6, we see one of the author’s bold proclamations was, “I will not fear!” Now ironically enough, the writer of Hebrews included in this declaration that he would not fear, because this is the subject matter of Psalm 23:4. In it, David also declares “I will fear no evil!”
You see, there is an important truth found in this - and that is that the best way to counter fear-filled thoughts is with faith-filled words. Yes, when fear tries to grip our hearts, we can replace it by speaking words of faith. Amen.
And when I say “words of faith,” I am referring to words that are concrete and positively declare the truth. For example, notice in Hebrews 13:6 that he said, “I will not fear.” This was what the writer had made the decision to do! He was essentially saying, “Nope, I will not fear - not gonna do it! No fear here!” Amen! And church, we must see how important it is to violently reject those fear-filled thoughts and vehemently war against yielding to them.
For example, we see over in Psalm 91 how a big part of receiving and walking in God’s protection is not being afraid of the things that seem capable of harming us. In Psalm 91:5-6, the Psalmist says, “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.”
Now that sounds pretty much like we are to not fear anything, doesn’t it? On top of that, it sounds like we are not to be afraid at any point of the day too. He says that we shouldn’t be afraid at night nor during the day; at the darkest point of the night, not at the brightest part of the day. We are not to fear - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! 365 days a year, we should not fear!
In fact, it has been said that the Bible tells us not to fear 365 times. Isn’t that an interesting and convenient number? This should prove to us beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are not to ever allow ourselves to fear - no, not one day out of the year. Fear has been described as False Expectations Appearing Real.
Another way to counter fear is through praise. Our emotions are based on what we think, and the fear cannot stay when you praise God. Praising God is done best when telling God and others about all the great things He has done. On the other hand, continually talking about how big your problems are, or how afraid you may be, essentially boil down to praising the devil.
It is important to understand why fear is so bad. Most do not put worry and anxiety - all of which are products of fear - in the same category as lying, stealing, etc. I mean, some Christians would never dream of committing any of these “big sins”, but the truth is, fear is just as much sin as these other things.
The Apostle Paul said that whatever is not of faith is sin. So fear, which is the exact opposite of faith, is sin. I do not bring this up to condemn anyone who struggles with this, but rather to let you know just how intolerant you should be to fear. So, we should shun and resist fear like we would shun and resist adultery because, really, it is just as bad in many ways.
You see, allowing fear in our lives is like telling God we don’t trust Him. It is a direct violation of one of God’s greatest desires - that we believe Him. And this is why fear is such a big deal to God that He would charge us to not fear 365 times in His Word! It is because faith is such a big deal to Him! The Bible teaches us without faith it is impossible to please Him. It says that we are saved by faith. It says that we now walk by faith and not by sight. The Bible repeatedly shows us just how important it is that the child of God operates in faith.
Well, fear is the opposite of faith. You cannot be in fear and in faith at the same time. They are complete opposites. Fear is nothing but faith in the devil, or in what he is telling us, rather than in what God has told us. And just as faith is the currency that we use to obtain things in the kingdom of light, fear is the currency that we use to obtain things in the kingdom of darkness. In other words, you open yourselves up to receive whatever you allow yourselves to be afraid of. Job acted in fear (Job 1:5) by continually offering sacrifices for his sons in case they had sinned and cursed God. Then, in Job: 3:25, he says that the thing he had greatly feared had come to pass. So, can you see how yielding to fear then will lead us away from the good life God has for us? Therefore, we should resist fear like the plague it is! We must grab ourselves by the ear and reject the temptation to fear. Amen?
Now let’s look back over at Psalm 23:4 and take a look at what else David said in this powerful verse because it will help us to further understand why we shouldn’t fear…
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH
Again, he said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Notice that David said here that we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Pay special attention to the words “through” and “shadow.”
First of all, let’s look at how David said we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, not that we are to stay there. This is important because this is exactly what so many Christians do - they pitch camp right slap dab in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death. Like the children of Israel, the majority of Christians today like to wander around in the wilderness, in the valleys around the same mountains. Some do this because they like the sympathy they receive. Some do this because they like the attention it gives them.
Saints, our testimony should not be that of having pitched camp in these valleys. As Christ’s disciples, we are called to “go to the other side!” And that is exactly why we need not fear these unavoidable valleys that we will travel through as long as we are in this world. Jesus said that in this world we will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, He overcame the world!
So, yes, even though we will have valleys and tribulations that will touch us all, we are passing through them. Therefore, we ought to know that if we just don’t quit and if we just keep the faith, we will get to the other side. Amen!?!
Secondly, notice that this valley is called “the valley of the shadow of death.” It is not death itself; it is the shadow of death. Now a shadow of a dog never bit anyone, right? A shadow holds no power. Therefore, death holds no power over our lives. It is only the fear of death that we deal with.
Let me ask you a question: What is it that is the root of all fears? What is it that people ultimately fear? Now we have all kinds of things that we specifically are afraid of such as the fear of heights, the fear of snakes, claustrophobia, arachnophobia, etc. But what are all of these “phobias” rooted in? I can tell you: they are all ultimately rooted in the fear of death.
Hebrews 2:14-15 reveals this to us when it says that before we came to Christ, we were all subject to the fear of death and, therefore, were living all of our life subject to the bondage of this root of all fears. But the key phrase here is “were.” We were all of our lifetime subject to bondage through the fear of death. Therefore, living in fear should not be the case for a Christian! We should not fear death or anything else for that matter because, saints, even if the worst happens and we die, we still win! We are still going to heaven, glory to God! Therefore, we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus who loved us!
But this fear of evil, death, etc. has a remedy. And David goes on to share this with us in the rest of this verse. He goes on to say, “for You are with me.”
FOR YOU ARE WITH ME
Now the word “for” here could also be translated “because.” So, the reason that David was saying that he would fear no evil is because he knew that His God was with Him.
What an awesome truth that we seem to throw aside sometimes, saints - that our God is with us! It doesn’t matter where we go or what we are going through. Our God is with us!
It was said of Jesus at His birth that His Name would be called “Immanuel,” God with us! (Matthew 1:23) And then, at His departure, He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). So, if Jesus is said to be “God with us” all the way from His birth to His Resurrection, then don’t you reckon He is with us everywhere in between? Amen!
Let’s look at a few Old Testament Scriptures where God promised to be with His chosen people:
Now here we have three witnesses where God has promised to be with His covenant people, and do you also see another reoccurring theme through these verses? In essence, He said in all three of them, “Do not fear because I am with you!” Amen! Therefore, what we should learn from this is that the key to eliminating fear from our hearts is by the truth that God is with us, entering into our hearts. Amen!
So, based on these truths and the truths of our new and better covenant, we have three awesome promises that should dispel all fear from our hearts:
Now this week, let’s move on to the second half of Psalm 23:3…
HE LEADS ME
Notice that David goes on to say in Psalm 23:3- “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
First of all, notice that David starts this sentence by saying, “He leads me…” Notice that there is no wavering in this. It is a matter of fact: Because the Lord was His Shepherd, he knew that He would lead him. This too needs to be our confidence - that the Lord will lead us. He will show us the right way to go. He will give us the directions we need.
The reason I make this point is because this is the first step to receiving direction from the Lord - believing you will receive it. Far too many Christians say things like, “I just don’t hear the voice of the Lord” or “I wish I was led by the Holy Spirit.” No, our profession should be that of, “Thank you Lord, that I do hear your voice because You said that I do! You said that you lead me, so I believe that you will.” (John 10:3). This, again, is the first step in the right direction - believing His Word.
However, we must understand why learning to be led by our Good Shepherd is so vital: It is because sheep are known to be dumb. And sometimes people don’t like to think this way. They’ll say, “Well, I’ll have you know, brother, I am extremely educated.” Yeah, in comparison to other sheep, you might be real smart; but in comparison to the shepherd, even the smartest sheep is considered dumb.
You see, it is known that if left unattended, sheep will utterly destroy the land that they inhabit by following their foolish nature. Therefore, they need to be led by a good shepherd. This is why the Scriptures tell us in Isaiah 53:6 that “we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each has turned to his own way.” But somebody help me here - what does the Bible say about us doing our own thing and going our own way? Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
You see, it is important for us to understand that these promises and provisions that we find in the 23rd Psalm are all subject to us being led by the voice of our Good Shepherd.
We see this fulfilled in Proverbs 3:5-6: Here He promises to make our paths smooth and straight (Literal definition of “direct our paths”) But what is it contingent on? Us not being “head-led.” No, I’m not talking about having a head as hard as led; I’m talking about leaning to our own understanding and being led by what we think, what we know, how we see things, etc. That will get you and I in trouble, church.
The way we are supposed to be living our lives is by “acknowledging Him in all our ways.” That literally means to know Him in everything we do - meaning, we are aware and cognizant of Him in every path we take and every step we make - listening on the inside of when and where to turn. This is today what we would call the Spirit-led life. But this also means that we do indeed “acknowledge” Him in all our ways - meaning, that we learn to acknowledge all the good things He does for us throughout our day. The Lord showed me that the more thankful and grateful we are for everything He’s done for us, the smoother and straighter our path will become. Amen.
And this is honestly one of the major reasons why we incur so many hard and crooked circumstances instead of smooth and straight paths. It is because we do not inquire of the Lord before we do things. We don’t acknowledge all that He has done for us. It is because we lean to our own understanding and do what seems right in our eyes. And again, what does the Bible say about doing what seems right in our own eyes? Its end is the way of death.
So, it is in our best interest to not be “head-led” but to be “Spirit-led.” This is how we can experience smooth and straight paths, paths of righteousness.
PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Now when David refers here to “paths of righteousness,” he is literally referring to “paths of rightness” or “right and just paths.” This is what “righteousness” really is.
Of course, most of these “right paths" which God has chosen for us are clearly marked out in His Word, and are the same for all sheep. No path of righteousness, for example, will ever pass through the field of adultery or fornication. No path of righteousness will ever travel over the ground of fear, lying, backbiting, hatred, etc. These road signs are unmistakable in Scripture and any of God’s sheep can read them! Therefore, these “paths of righteousness” that the Lord would “lead” us on will never contradict what He has said in the Scriptures.
For example, I have ministered to people who don’t fellowship with other believers and have withdrawn from the flock generally because they got offended or disagreed with something. Well, these Christians will swear up and down that the Lord has not led them to go anywhere, but that is a complete violation of Scripture. He told us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25), so why would the Holy Spirit lead us to do something else? He wouldn’t.
But what about specific questions that apply only to me and not to the rest of the sheep - like decisions about where to go to church, who to marry, what job to take, etc.? Can these areas be included in the paths that the Lord has promised to lead us in? Absolutely! As we’ve seen in Proverbs 3:6, the Lord desires to direct us in all of our ways into smooth and straight paths (of righteousness).
Therefore, God is going to lead us on upright paths - that is, paths of being right and doing the right thing.
So, what specifically are these “right and just paths”? We have many Scriptures that refer to these “paths of righteousness.” Let me give you a few of them:
So, these “paths of righteousness” could certainly apply to the path of having our right standing with God revealed to us. It could also apply to paths of doing the right thing like practicing righteous deeds towards others. However, when it comes to this term “righteousness,” I believe sometimes we become a little too locked in to what we think righteousness is. Yes, there is the righteousness that we are freely given through our faith in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sure, there are those righteous deeds we are called to practice. But there is another side to righteousness too and that is what we are seeing here in these verses.
These paths of righteousness are more likely referring to the Lord leading us along paths of justice and rightness. In essence, the “paths of righteousness” is “God’s way of being and doing right”- whether that be His direction when we are under attack or His path of experiencing life and life more abundantly.
However, I believe David gave us his own commentary of what He meant in Psalm 23:3 over in Psalm 5:8- which says, “Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies: make your way straight before my face.” So, here, David was wanting to be led in the paths of righteousness because of his enemies in order to have God’s way straight before him. In other words, the paths of righteousness here is the way of direction to be delivered from bloodthirsty and deceitful men (Psalm 5:6).
But let me remind you - it all starts with walking in righteousness - that is, walking uprightly and with integrity. We cannot separate us doing the right thing and receiving the righteousness & justice that is at the end of that path.
A good example of this in the life of David was when King Saul became his enemy. Through offense and jealousy, Saul persecuted young David time and time again. However, David never retaliated. He continued honoring the king and did not return evil for evil. This was David walking in righteousness. And we all know the end result: David eventually was given the throne and received righteousness and justice from his God.
But did you know that these “right and just paths” that David took are clearly marked out in His Word? So, not only is the answer to that question - How does God restore our souls? - the Word of God, but the answer to the question - How does He leads us on paths of righteousness? - also is the Word of God. So, let’s go over to James chapter one, because in it, we have the Lord leading us through our trials and temptations and into His righteousness:
STEPS TO RECEIVING RIGHTEOUSNESS & JUSTICE
Over in James 1:19-20, we have what I see as James’ summary of the things he was addressing in the first 18 verses of his epistle. It is important for us to realize this because far too often we take verses like this out of context and apply them to things that the author was in no way intending.
So, as we look back over these prior verses, we see James exhortations as revolving around the various trials we fall into and the perspective we are to have when we are being tempted:
“So then” we come to verse 19-20 which say, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Again, if you lift these two verses out of their context in chapter one, they will be almost impossible to correctly interpret. What do you think the phrase “swift to hear” might be referring to based on verse five? How about “slow to speak” based on verse thirteen? How about “slow to wrath” based on verse six & thirteen?
When James said to let every man be swift to hear and slow to speak I believe he was referring to not being so quick to let yourself speak rashly - accusing God of “allowing” these trials into your lives - but of being quicker to hear the wisdom that God has promised us in the face of our trials.
The “slow to wrath” admonition had to do with their anger at God (or just anger in general) because of the circumstances that they were experiencing. You see, when we start saying things like, “God, where are you?” or “Why are you allowing this in my life?” we are speaking in unbelief (see verse 6) and when we allow anger in our hearts like this, then verse twenty is the result…
The phrase in verse 20, “for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” shows us that getting angry about our circumstances does not result in God’s justice. In other words, this is exactly what James meant in verse seven when he said, “let not that man suppose he will receive anything from the Lord.” You see, getting into unbelief and blaming God for your problems will not produce God’s righteous deliverance from them.
THE GOOD PLANS OF OUR GOOD GOD
When I consider this truth, I am immediately drawn to one of our most loved verses, Jeremiah 29:11. In this beloved verse of so many, we have God’s heart concerning the plans He has for us. It says, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Now it should be noted that the word “thoughts” in the beginning of this verse carries more of the idea of plans, purposes, or intentions. However, we know that in order to have a plan and purpose, you must first give thought to those plans and purposes, right?
So, the word “thoughts” is also a good word for us to consider because it shows that (as this Hebrew word is also translated in other passages of Scripture) God is “plotting, scheming and devising” a grand and glorious future for us! Amen? You know, when we hear words like to “plot, scheme and devise,” we usually gear towards the negative, but that is not the case here. In the mind of God, His “scheming” revolves around our blessing! In other words, God’s thoughts towards us are thoughts that conspire our good and welfare. Praise Jesus!
My friends, the mind of Christ is filled with wonderful plans, purposes and intentions for your life! He has a plan for you! You might not think He does; but He does! That’s why I believe it is significant how the first part of Jeremiah 29:11 is worded…
Notice again that the Lord says, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord…” Why does He say, “For I know the thoughts…”? Evidently, it was because His people believed He was thinking something else! Did you know that this is still true today? So many of God’s people have a totally incorrect perception of what God is thinking about them. They think God is harsh, critical and fault-finding - always focused on our sin and shortcomings. This is why the Lord went on to say in Jeremiah 29:11 that the thoughts and plans that He knows He has for us are for peace and not of evil. Evidently this is exactly what His chosen people believed He was thinking about them - thoughts of evil. Nothing could be further from the truth! As we have already seen, the exact opposite is true!
You see, while God certainly is well aware of all of our faults and failures, He does not focus on the negative. No, in fact, God is focused more on our potential and His good plan for us than all of the ways that we fall short of His glory. Sure, we tend to focus on the negatives in people, but not God! No, 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love thinks no evil. Amen! Other translations say, “(love) keeps no record of wrongs,” “(love) does not count the bad” and “it doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.” So listen - if God is love (1 John 4:8), then that means that God keeps no record of wrongs, He does not count the bad things in us, and He doesn’t keep score of our sins! Amen! In fact, the Scriptures teach us that our sins and lawless deeds He remembers no more (Hebrews 10:17)! Why? It’s because He has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)!
So His thoughts, plans and purpose for us are of “peace” and not of evil… Now, of course, the word “peace” comes from the Hebrew word “shalom”- which means more than simply having an absence of conflict. Shalom describes “completeness, wholeness, soundness, success and welfare.” It basically describes having nothing missing and nothing broken in our lives. So we can see that God’s thoughts and plans for our lives involve making them complete, whole, sound, successful and with nothing missing and nothing broken! Amen!
So we have clearly seen God’s heart on the matter… He has good thoughts and plans for us! His purpose for us is to live lives that are complete, whole, sound - with nothing missing and nothing broken in them! This sounds to me like He has planned a good life for us. Amen and amen!
FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE
Finally, we are told that the Lord leads us in these paths of righteousness “for His name’s sake.” So, what does this phrase mean - “for His name’s sake”? It is another way of saying, “for God’s reputation sake.”
So, if you interpret the paths of righteousness to mean God leading you to walk on the path of what is in agreement with His standards (i.e. living holy), then He is leading you to act becomingly to accurately represent Him. Or, if you interpret it to mean that He is leading us into or onto paths of justice and rightness, it is in order for us to clearly represent Him.
You see, God does some things for our name’s sake, but most things He does are for His own reputation’s sake. In other words, He does things like save, deliver, heal, etc. for the sake of His own reputation.
But herein lies the problem - most of us think God is going to do these things for our name’s sake. In other words, He will give us these blessings if we are being holy enough, praying a lot, in the Word, etc. God does things for His name’s sake, that is, in Jesus’ name, not our own. Yes, it’s not because we are good; it’s because He is good. It’s not because of our prayer life; it’s because of Jesus interceding on our behalf. Amen. It’s all for His name’s sake.
You see, while God certainly cares about our own name (i.e. our reputation), we need to understand that the things He does for us and through us are done for His name’s sake. In other words, we can expect that some of our needs and desires will be fulfilled because of who He is and for His purposes and not because of who are and what we do. That is a liberating truth!
So, what can we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us! He has made the provision for our souls to be restored because He is a God of restoration. He has given us His Word that does the work of restoration in our souls. He has also promised to lead us in paths of righteousness - providing us with deliverance from our enemies and justification on all fronts in our life. The key is letting Him lead us in these paths of righteousness. Amen? He does all of this “For His Name’s Sake”- not because of who we are or what we’ve done. He does it all because of who He is and what Jesus has done. Glory to God!
So now, let’s move on to Psalm 23:3: David continues by saying, “He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
THE GOD OF RESTORATION
Let’s first look at this word “restores.”
The word that is used here literally means “to return, to cause to return, to restore to a former condition.” And if you know anything about God, you will know that this is one of His favorite hobbies: He loves to restore!
Of course, He did this with each of us when we were born again - when we each came to ourselves like the prodigal son and made the decision to “return” to the Father’s house. It was then that we were restored completely - receiving again the ring, the robe and the sandals. We were restored in our sonship! That was the ultimate “restoration”- restored to our former place that we lost at the time of Adam’s transgression. He restored the glory! He restored the position! He restored the garden in us! However, He also loves to restore other things as well: He restores possessions, relationships, health, etc. In short, if it’s good, He wants to restore it!
You see, He will even restore time! He told His chosen people in Joel 2:25- “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust (Pretty much all kinds of locusts😊)…” So, no matter what kind of “locust” we’re talking about, God will restore what they have stolen!
Now, we need to understand of course that this was the result of their own disobedience and sin. These armies of other nations were given access to consume them because they turned their back on God. However, what we see here is the mercy of God in restoration! He said He would even restore to them what they lost during the bad years that they brought on themselves. Tell me God is not a good God! Amen?
So, let me meddle for a moment: There are some that believe that the reason their children are making poor choices is because they made mistakes in parenting. And while that can be true; it’s not always the reason why our children go A.W.O.L. Did you know the most perfect parent who ever existed had children that blew it (i.e. God with Adam & Eve)? So, no, just because our children make poor choices, don’t let the enemy tell you it is because you must have done something wrong. Everyone has a free-will.
But my point is - even if we did do a poor job of parenting and made mistakes that propelled our children to go crazy, that doesn’t mean there is no hope! God specializes in RESTORATIONS! He can make lemonade out of those lemons, baby!
I can personally attest to this: When I came to the Lord at age 25, the Lord restored my time wasted in the world. He began to teach me and got me up to speed to where I believe I would have been if I had been seeking the Lord from my youth.
So, my point is - even if you have made mistakes that have created setbacks, even if you’ve made poor choices that have created delays, God will still restore the years! Yes, He is that good!
HOW HE RESTORES OUR SOUL
But this verse in the 23rd Psalm specifically says that He restores our soul!
So, let’s flip this example of parenting for a moment. Some of us are not on the parenting end; some of us are the children in this example. And some of us have some serious wounding in our souls because of the circumstances we were dealt when we were younger. But we are promised here that God will restore our souls! Amen!
Now there is a debate as to what the soul of man really is. The most common definition is that our soul is our mind, will and emotions. And while I believe that it certainly includes those things, it is obvious that sometimes that basic, simple definition is not always applicable. Sometimes when the Bible talks about the soul, it seems to be referring to the person themselves - their life, if you would. In fact, if you look at the New Testament word most commonly used for “soul,” it is also translated “life.” It is for this reason that I define the soul as our “inner-life.” Even at other times, when the Bible refers to our soul, it seems to be using our spirit and our soul synonymously. But regardless of what your opinion is on our soul, it is obvious that it is referring to this immaterial part of us that makes up our personality and that involves our mind, will and emotions. So, this is the part of us that we are told that God restores!
But a question that must be raised is - How does He do this? How does He restore our soul? And the reason this is such an important question to ask is because it is obvious that this does not automatically happen for all of the Lord’s children, at least to the same degree.
So, how does one’s soul get restored? Well, I’m glad you asked - because did you know that the Bible tells us exactly how one’s soul is restored!?!
We are given the answer in Psalm 19:7 which says, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
The word “converting” here is the same word that was used in Psalm 23:3 for “restores.” So, what we see in this verse is how He restores our soul - it’s through the Law of the Lord. No, not just the Mosaic or Levitical laws. When David wrote this, the Law was all they had. So, what we would say today is “the Bible, the Word of God, etc.”- which would certainly include the Law and the prophets, but also includes the Gospels, the Epistles, etc. So, yes, the Word of God is what restores our soul!
David goes on to say that the testimony of the Lord is sure, “making wise the simple.” In other words, the Scriptures restore our souls by taking someone who is simple (i.e. ignorant or idiotic) and making them wise (Compare 2 Timothy 3:15). In other words, it’s not about accumulating knowledge and cramming a bunch of information in our heads. Where the power of restoration lies is in letting His perfect and sure Word impact our hearts with wisdom.
Psalm 119:130 says that His Word gives light (How?); it gives “understanding to the simple.” Again, the Word of God takes someone who is simple and gives them wisdom and understanding.
But the promise of restoration of our souls involves more than just smartening up one whose soul is ignorant; it stands to reason that it also affects the other parts of our soul like our emotions. Yes, the Word can “bring back” our mind, will and emotions to the healing, prosperous position they once had. In other words, there is the healing of our emotions and the restoration of our will that is available through the Word of God. Amen! So, yes, the Word works in helping our mental and emotional state.
A SOUL THAT LIVES AGAIN
God’s Word tells us that just as much as Jesus paid for our sins and sickness, He also paid for our peace (Isaiah 53:5). He has given us not only a spirit of power and love, but also of “sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). These are His promises!
James 1:21 tells us that when we receive with meekness the implanted word, it is able to save our souls! Amen! So here we see how God’s Word is likened to a seed because James calls it the “implanted” Word. The word “implanted” (or, “engrafted” in the KJV - which is poor translation) comes from two Greek words. The first word en describes “in, inner or inside.” The other word phyo literally means “to grow up or spring up in reference to plant growth.” So, I believe “implanted” is a very good translation because this describes the Word of God as something that grows or springs up like a plant inside of us.
So, when you “receive with meekness” (that’s a whole other sermon) the Word of God, it is like you are allowing the Word to be planted inside of you and its job is to grow or spring up in your heart like a seed’s job is to grow after it is planted. Amen!
Then James goes on to describe what this “implanted Word” will do: He says, “which is able to save your souls.”
You see, some of us have damaged, broken and ill souls - depending, not on the circumstances but how we responded to and allowed them to mold and shape or view, mentality, etc.
So, when James says here that the Word of God has the power to “save our soul”, what he is saying is that the Word has the ability to do to our souls what it did to our spirits when we responded to the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation. Amen!
His Word has the power to deliver our mind, to restore our emotions, to preserve our personality, to heal our heart, to change our will. His Word has the power to save our life and even create life! Amen!
Do you remember how the Lord first created man? He formed his body from the dust of the ground. He then breathed into His nostrils the breath of life. And then man became a living soul.
So, what was it that made man a “living soul”? It was when the Lord breathed into him the breath of life - which is obviously when God gave him his spirit.
Well, the Bible teaches us that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16), and this literally means that His Word is God breathed. So, what do you suppose happens when we receive God’s living Word into our hearts? It’s like God breathing into us all over again! Do you see where I am going with this? Likewise, as it was with Adam, the breath of God will create (or you could in this case say, recreate) a living soul within us! Amen!
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
- First, be patient, loving, kind, and forgiving, but...
- There is also a place in love to confront. But always do it in love and humility, after following patience and dying to self.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2
- We need to renew our minds and become like Him.
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
- The most important thing is to love God with all that we are and have.
- This should be easy to do, with all that He has done for us.
- But we really need to get a revelation of how much God loves us.
- The saying goes, “Hurting people hurt people.”
- But the other truth is, “Loved people love others.”
- Love those who don't agree with you - love them into the kingdom. Be a blessing to them.
- God's love is amazing and will melt the hardest heart.
The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Jeremiah 31:3
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
- If we love Him, He works all things to our good.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Romans 8:33 NLT
- Only the devil dares to accuse us. And we sometimes accuse, or condemn, ourselves. But God doesn’t.
Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Romans 8:34 NLT
- Christ is for us and making intercession for us.
- One time Charlie and Jill had an argument on the way to an event where they were leading worship. They were both feeling awkward, and he knew he didn’t feel like he was in the right frame of mind for worship, as they arrived at the venue. Before they went on, He apologized and asked for forgiveness. They were blessed and worship was sweet. But, regardless, whenever they get up to lead worship, they let the Spirit lead and depend on Him for it all. It’s not a matter of depending on their own strength or understanding.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Romans 8:35-37 NLT
- God always thinks of you as awesome!
- Paul went through tons of stuff, but he says:
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37
And He also said:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
He finished 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, with this:
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38
- Nothing can separate us from His love.
- The Apostle Paul was SETTLED in God's love for Him.
- And the psalmist agreed:
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there Your hand shall lead me,
and Your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall[a] on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; 12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You. Psalm 139:7-12
- Nothing and no place can separate us from God.
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy (love) endures forever. Psalm 136:1
- There is never a question whether God loves you.
- And when you know His love, you will love others.
- And when you know His love, it will get you through anything.
- When their son died in 2009, God was there to heal their broken hearts and has continued to minister to their hearts to this very day.
- Love wins every time
- Love is the high ground
- Joyce Meyer just loved her dad, who had molested her growing up, and obeyed God when He told her to buy a house for her mom and dad near them when they were old. She took care of him and her mom, and God finally melted his heart and he came to know the Lord in his late 80s, and they were reconciled.
You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men. 2 Corinthians 3:2
- We are the only Bible some people will ever see. We are the only chance for some people to see the love of God.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. Ephesians 5:25
- Husbands (and wives) need to make sure they are loving their spouses as God loves them.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
-We need to be steadfast in the love of God.
For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Matthew 25:35-36
Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. Matthew 25:40
- When we love people we love Jesus.
For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. Hebrews 6:10
- He will not forget your work and the love you have shown HIM when you love others. He considers loving others in His name the same as loving Him.
- We can love God by serving in the Church, doing whatever is needed.
Be a blessing everywhere you go.
If you are struggling with something you have done wrong, think of Peter. He denied Jesus THREE times. When Jesus arose from the dead and saw the disciples by the lake, He didn't ask Peter why did you deny me. He just asked if he loved Him, THREE times. Peter said yes, THREE times. Jesus told him to feed His sheep. He not only let Peter know He still loved him, but confirmed that his calling had not been cancelled, that he would still be the leader of the 1st century church.
TAKING CARE OF GOD’S HOUSE FIRST
I was reminded this week of the principle in the Book of the Bible, Haggai. This was a relatively short book containing only two chapters, but it holds a truth that’s value cannot be contained in a mere two chapters.
This prophet was sent to the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel, and to the high priest, Joshua, to give them a Word from the Lord. And contained in this Word was a rebuke for their failure to build the Lord’s house when they had been busy building their own homes.
You see, the truth that we should take away from this short yet powerful book is that we should guard against not putting the things of God first like the Jewish people were doing here. After their return to their country, they were first rebuilding their own homes and seeking first their own personal things. But the Word of the Lord that came to them was, in essence - “What about My house!?! Is it really best for you to get your personal things together before you seek My kingdom!?!”
What I see through this event in the history of Israel is a failure to abide by the first principle of the kingdom - seeking first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). They were doing what so many Christians still do today - seek first their own things before they seek the things of the kingdom.
Then the prophet told them in 1:5-7 to “Consider your ways.” Then he recalled to them that they had “sown much, and bring in little; they ate, but did not have enough; they drank, but were not filled with drink; they clothed themselves, but were not warm; And he who earned wages, earned wages to put into a bag with holes.” In essence, what he was telling them was, by them only seeking to take care of themselves (you could say, seeking first their own kingdoms), their needs weren’t being met. So, the prophet said again, “Consider your ways!” In other words, observe how you have been doing things because the fruit (or lack thereof) of your ways is result of how you have been doing things.
So, with that said, I would like to talk to you today about these things. I would like to show you how your church home endeavors to do this very principle and the way in which each one of us can apply it in our lives.
First of all, and as you probably know by now, our church is very peculiar in that we do not take up an offering, and we rarely solicit your tithe & offerings (other than when we have special guests or special needs). But you know, while it is certainly refreshing to some to find a church that is not constantly emphasizing the subject of money, it would be irresponsible of us to never teach on this subject either.
MONEY IN THE BIBLE
You know, the Bible has a lot to say about the subject of money, riches, etc. Let me give you some interesting “gospel facts” about this subject…
So, needless to say, I think that this disinterest in many Christians to hear the church talk about money is way off base, don’t you? Why? Because if Jesus deemed it necessary to spend so much time referring to it, then His disciples ought to follow this same pattern, right?
Now I do understand that one of the reasons we disdain hearing the preacher talking about money is because there has been so much abuse on the subject. You don’t have to watch Christian television too long to find that preacher out there who is just trying to get in your pocketbook to pad his or her pockets.
So, yes, I acknowledge this is a problem and always has been a problem. But you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! Just because there are abuses on the subject and those out there who preach about it for self-gain, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Bible has a lot to say about this subject.
So, yes, if the Bible has so much to say about this subject, its evidently necessary to instruct God’s people on this subject because, in my experience, many are suffering a lot of unnecessary financial tribulation because they don’t understand biblical principles concerning these things. We need to be taught and instructed on what God’s Word has to say about finances so that we can learn how to properly steward the tangible things that God has blessed us with.
On top of that, we cannot assume that everyone in the church understands these things. You see, some people get all offended when you start talking about basic things like tithing, etc., saying, “I already know that!” Well, you are not the only one here. There is likely someone here today who doesn’t even know what the word “tithe” means. And, no, it does not mean simply “to give;” it means “tenth.” So, when one tithes, they are giving 10% of their increase. Tithing is not tipping - you know, just plunking a twenty in the offering. Now if $20 is 10% of what you made, then it is the “tithe.” But if you made $2000, then $20 is 1%, not a tenth. Therefore, it is an offering.
Now let me address the question that invariably comes up when you start talking about “tithing”:
There has been much debate in the Body of Christ concerning tithing. The debate revolves around whether we are commanded to tithe under the New Covenant or not. And let me first say that just because something was commanded under the Old Covenant does not mean that it isn’t at least a good principle for us to follow under the New Covenant. And in the case of the tithe, it did not even originate with the Law of Moses! Genesis 14:20 shows us that tithing began with Abram when he willingly gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the spoils of his victory. Jacob was also evidently taught about the principle of tithing because he made a vow to God that he would give a tithe of everything he possessed upon his safe return (Genesis 28:22). The tithe was included into the Law of Moses many years after Abram had freely and willingly instigated it. This teaches us that the tithe is most definitely a good principle for us to abide by today seeing that it was practiced even before the law came.
You see, under the New Covenant, it is very clear that we have only two commandments - that is, that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and that we love our neighbor as ourselves. (And, of course, by obeying these two commandments we will fulfill the rest of God’s righteous requirements.) This means that everything we do for the Lord should now be motivated by love and not by fear. So, if you are giving your tithe like you are paying off the mafia then adjustments need to be made in your heart. As a matter of fact, we could go a little deeper and say that if you are “paying” your tithes like you pay your electric bill, then you are missing it as well.
You see, what I am saying is that we should not give our tithe because of some sense of obligation or to keep God’s power from being cut off in our life. We are totally unworthy in ourselves (whether we tithe or not) of receiving any of God’s blessings in our life. But, in Christ Jesus, we have been made worthy to receive all things that pertain to life and godliness - not by any good that we do but simply through our faith in the accomplishments of Jesus!
Now I am about to say something that will shock you at first but just hear me out and let me explain. I do not believe, under the New Covenant, that the tithe is the Lord’s! “What? How can you say that?” (someone might be thinking). The reason I can say that is because, under the New Covenant, we died and our life is now hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)! In other words, as Galatians 2:20 eloquently puts it, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” What does this have to do with 10% of our income being the Lord’s? I’m glad you asked. If we were buried with Jesus when we made Him our Savior and our Lord then we don’t own anything because we are dead! And since we are now in Christ, the life we are living is Him living through us! So, my point is that since we are dead and Christ is living through us, everything we possess is God’s! In other words, 10% is not the Lord’s anymore; now 100% is the Lord’s!
So now if it is all the Lord’s money then how do we know how much to give? The answer is we should be Spirit led and prompted. The catch in all this is that if you are not being led to give more under this new and better Covenant than what they were commanded to give under the old Covenant then you ain’t being led (pardon my bad English)!
So, to wrap this all up, what I am saying is that we ought to tithe under the New Covenant but our motive needs to be pure. It needs to be pure, not because it is a commandment, but because it is a vehicle for showing our love and appreciation to God for all He has given us stewardship over. Tithing is just our way of willingly and from our heart honoring God! God is so good to us so we ought (Matthew 23:23) to return 10% off the top of our paycheck to Him! It is the least we could do for all He has given us! And I do mean - “the least we could do!” We should be willing to do so much more for Him than just 10%! And when we get full of the Spirit of God and fall so in love with Him then our giving a tithe of all we possess will not be hard at all. We will actually begin to rejoice when we have the opportunity to give which is the attitude God wanted us to have from the beginning (Read Deuteronomy chapter 12). The hardest thing we will face when we get that turned on to God will be not being able to give into everything we desire to. This is the attitude God wants us to have in our giving!
Again, am I saying that we should not practice tithing? God forbid. I believe that the tithe is still a good guideline and principle for us to follow as a bare minimum. But we should be giving well above and beyond just the 10% of our income!
What I personally do is I practice tithing because I desire to honor God with a tenth of all the income He has graced me with. Then I give more to other ministries that I had on my heart to partner with and also to other different individuals and projects as they arise.
So, am I saying that we don’t have to tithe? Yes, I am! God does not want you to do anything if you do not want to! He wants your heart and not just your wallet! Am I saying that we shouldn’t tithe? No, I am not! I am saying that we should want to tithe! It should be our desire to give back to the Lord a portion of all that He has entrusted to us.
Now one thing that causes so many believers to stumble with tithing is that they think there is no way that they can give 10% of their income to the Lord because they wouldn't have enough to pay their bills with. Well, I can personally attest (as can many more of you out there) that when we honor the Lord with the first 10% of our increase, we will not lack.
You cannot out-give God, saints! And if you will step out in faith and obedience to this statute of God, God will cause that 90% to go further than the 100% did. In fact, tithing is one of the only things God actually tells us to try Him in (Malachi 3:10).
But I see the Lord as saying here, “just trust Me.” We have to learn to trust the Lord in the area of our finances and we are fooling ourselves if we say we are trusting God, but are not giving Him at least a tenth of our increase.
You see, when you sow, you reap because you are proving that you truly do trust Him. I seriously doubt that one trusts God in the area of finances if they do not give. Because He lays out the principles in the Bible, whether they are commandments or not, that its more blessed to give than to receive. So if you believe and trust God, you will sow. It is that simple.
So I encourage you today, if you are not giving the Lord the first 10% of your increase because you feel like you can't or simply because you have never been taught to, step out in faith on God's Word today and say through your actions, "God, I am going to trust you in this. I am going to give you the opportunity to open up the windows of heaven and pour out the blessing on the other 90%. Yes, do yourself a favor and act on the Word of God - again, not to get something, but because of all you have received from the Lord and you want to honor Him in obedience. He is faithful who promised, who also will do it!
So, these things are important to learn. And not just because the church and other ministries need it. It is important for you to learn because it causes you to see God’s best manifested in your life. How many of you would say that when you tithe (or, give to the Lord first and give sacrificially and faithfully) that you are better off? Amen! It just works that way.
WHAT ABOUT THE CHURCH?
So, we wanted to be transparent with you today regarding our stewardship of your tithe & offerings (You can always find the prior month’s financial report on the bulletin board in the foyer area):
Now when it comes to financial things, giving and generosity is certainly important (and I believe the most important). However, there are other things involved in being a good steward financially. This is why I made that last point about having a good solid team that makes sound decisions.
It’s like healing, for instance: While God has provided healing for us through the stripes on His back and while He promises us healing and health in His Word, if we just eat bad food all the time and never exercise, He’s going to have a harder time manifesting that healing in our bodies. Why? Because we must also respect natural laws and not just spiritual laws. Now we ought not to get out of balance on that either - only focusing on the natural side of things and not putting our trust in the Lord and His Word. But we ought not ignore the laws of nature either and create that uphill climb to walking in healing and health.
Likewise, being financially well is not 100% dependent on spiritual things like believing God wants you to succeed financially, having a blessed mentality, and giving as much as we can possibly give into our church, to other ministries, to the poor, etc. No, there are also natural laws to prospering financially like using wisdom, investing, not incurring debt, etc.
(I did a Wednesday evening Bible study entitled “Financial Stewardship” last year, and it will be a blessing to you with much more detail than I could give you here today)
THE RIGHT WAY TO GIVE
Now let’s look at 2 Corinthians chapter 9 and see some principles we are given by the Apostle Paul:
In verses 1-5, Paul thought it necessary to exhort them to be prepared and ready to give when he arrived in Corinth. Paul said in verse 5, “Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it might be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.”
Our giving should never be because we feel compelled to give. So many times, we get put on the spot and feel like we have to give because it will make us look bad if we don’t. This is absolutely the wrong way to give. We need to be prepared to give! How do we do that? We instigate our giving to people. We write our check before we even go to church. God wants us to think about giving before we have the need or desire pushed on us.
Therefore, a good principle of finances is: Being wise in your sowing by giving thought beforehand to the need and preparing your gift accordingly.
Let me give you a couple of examples of this:
2 Corinthians 9:6 goes on to say, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
Here, Paul lays out the law of sowing and reaping to us. He says that if you sow “sparingly” (Lit. “stingily”) you will also reap “sparingly” (or, “stingily”). This would mean giving very little because you do not want to let go of what you possess. When you sow in that way and with that attitude you will reap that way. That is, you will get very minimal help from God when you have a need.
On the other hand, when you sow “bountifully” you will also reap “bountifully.” The word “bountifully” literally means “upon blessing” in the Greek language. I believe that means “with the purpose of being a blessing.” We have been given the blessing of Abraham and part of that blessing is that we would be a blessing! When we sow with the intent and purpose of being a blessing we will find that God will intend to be a blessing to us! That is awesome!
So, another major principle in our giving is: “Make sure our giving is solely for the purpose of being a blessing and is not stingy in any way.”
2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Notice what Paul says in this Scripture. This is how God now wants our giving to be! First off, he says “let each one (that’s every believer) give as he purposes in his heart (to give). The word “purposes” means “to choose beforehand.” Choose beforehand what? Before offering time! Why? Because God does not want you giving because you get talked into it! God is not interested in “talking you into” anything! He wants you to purpose what you want to give. Why? Because He wants you to willingly bring your tithes and offerings to the storehouse.
Now notice where Paul admonished this “purposing” to take place - “in his heart.” That means that God wants you to want to! He wants you to give what is in your heart to give. That is the only way to get your maximum harvest back from your tithe, offerings, alms, and first-fruits - through a willing and giving heart. It just irks me when I hear preachers say, “Just try tithing and I guarantee you that God will bless you!” That is just not true because if you are giving out of a sense of obligation, fear, or covetousness then God might have mercy on you by your needs barely getting met but you won’t ever enter into the abundant provision that God has for you. I guarantee you that!
The only way you will enter into the provision of 2 Corinthians 9:8 (And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work) is to fulfill 2 Corinthians 9:7! So, let’s look further on at verse 7…
Paul goes on to say, “not grudgingly or of necessity…” The word “grudgingly” describes giving out of “sorrow, grief, pain, or annoyance.” I could spend a lot of time on this part but let me just say that you should never give because somebody tells you some sob story. There are TV preachers that will get on the air and tell you sad stories like if you don’t give they will go off the air. You know, if believers would just give where they are fed then all the preachers that are not worth a flip would go under and the ones that are good for the Body of Christ would flourish (but that is another message).
The point is - we should never give because someone tries to stir us up emotionally. And, you see, if we would only give what we purposed in our heart to give that wouldn’t happen. Some believers also give just to shut the preacher up! For example, I have heard of preachers keeping congregations in church until they got the offering they needed and then finally someone will give the remainder just to shut them up. Never do that, because all you do is show them that that kind of manipulation works and they’ll do it again.
Finally, the word “necessity” describes giving “by compulsion.” The Message Bible translates this word as “arm twisting.” This goes back to what I was saying before about giving with wrong motives. If you do not want to give it then giving it won’t profit you at all. Now I understand that sometimes your flesh will pitch a fit when you are willing on the inside but I am talking about the attitude of your heart. If your heart is not in it then you will not see much, if any, of a return.
HOW TO SOW IN LOVE AND FAITH
Now when it comes to where we should sow, we should be very careful and thoughtful regarding what we support.
Regarding these ministers and ministries that are after your pocket book, do you know why they continue to do this? It’s because people continue to support them! Yes, if people would not submit to their sob stories and arm-twisting techniques, then they would go off the air just like they probably should.
So, here is a good principle to live by that would help one know where to sow - only give into proven good ground. This would be the works, ministries and churches that are actually blessing and ministering to people. It could be a good mission minded ministry that is feeding people - both spiritually and naturally. It could be a good church that is meeting the various needs of the Body.
So, look for those churches, ministries, missionaries and other works that are doing the work of the ministry. Consider the fruit, not just being swayed by the techniques they use to manipulate you.
And the awesome part is - when we sow into works that are genuinely helping the kingdom grow and increase, then we will be more apt to give in love and faith.
1 Corinthians 13:3 says that even if we give all of our goods to the poor it profits us nothing if it is not motivated by love. Now it will profit the one you give to. This verse says, “it profits you nothing.” So, if you want to see the best harvest God has for you, then just make the adjustment in your heart and get willing. Just make the decision that you are going to honor God in your giving and give to Him because you love Him and you love His works.
The rest of verse 7 says, “…for God loves a cheerful giver.” Do you know what God really loves? He loves a cheerful giver! That is someone who loves to give! Someone who gives willingly and happily! God is more interested in your heart than in your actions. You can give all day and if your heart was not in it then you will not see God’s best harvest in return. But if you give willingly you will eat the good of the land (Isaiah 1:19)!
God loves a cheerful giver!!! Not someone who gives because of the negative consequences, nor because of some emotional decision. He wants us to want to! He wants us to desire to give. This is the right heart of giving.
So, with this said, I wanted to encourage you with something. As we had our budget meeting last week, one of the things that we were unable to fit into this year’s budget was a project that we would like to do - and that is fixing this building out here, called the Sheepfold, and getting our young children over there. Yes, we have on our heart to get them out of this basement and spruce up our children’s ministry a bit, giving them their own facility.
So, I have conveyed this to Julie King, our children’s minister, and she is going to begin giving our children the opportunity to give towards this project. She is going to teach them about the importance of giving to the Lord and they are going to do their part while teaching them these invaluable lessons. So, I encourage you and I today to come alongside of them and give towards this special project that helps this, God’s house, to be built up again.
A Word that this church got several years back - ironically from the Book of Haggai - is that the glory of the latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former house. (It’s on the front of your bulletin every week)
And how is this going to be accomplished? It is as first this church’s leadership is a good steward of the things that the Lord has entrusted us with and then as you, the body of believers here, do your part to be good stewards of the things the Lord has put into your hands.
You know, the leadership team of pastors, elders and deacons cannot do it all. We need each of you to do your part of contributing to the Body. And the awesome thing is - if everyone in here did exactly what the Lord teaches us in His Word to do (of seeking first His kingdom in our service, in our finances, etc.) this church would be able to do everything we have on our heart to do.
Yes, we want to fix up the sheepfold to have better facility for our children. We want to have a larger parking lot for you to park more comfortably in. We want to grow our television ministry. We even are open to looking into a different location for our church as the Lord would lead and provide. There are many things we have on our radar to do. But we need everyone to do their part.
And if we all did our part, we could fulfill these things. Together, we can make a difference and a significant impact.
GOOD, GREEN PASTURES
Now notice that David goes on to say that the Lord your Shepherd, who will not let you lack, also “makes me to lie down in green pastures…”
The term “green pastures” literally describe “pastures of tender grass.”
The word “pastures” describes the abode or habitation of shepherds. But like a shepherd, God is not leading us to barren and fruitless places. He is looking to bring us to places of “tender grass” (i.e. good places for His sheep to dwell). The Hebrew word for “green” describes “new grass,” not mature grass ready for mowing, but grass that is just sprouting and young. What does this teach us? It teaches us that the Lord does not tend towards giving us old, used up stuff. He desires to give us a new life, a new beginning, a fresh start. He makes all things new and He has made all things good. Amen.
We see a similar terminology to this used in Ezekiel 34:14-15 when the Lord said, “I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God.”
So, we see here the Lord acting as the Shepherd of His people, feeding them in good pasture and making them to lie down in this rich pasture. Notice the word “good” being used here. So, these “green pastures” that our Good Shepherd is leading us to are good pastures, good and green pastures that are on the high mountains of Israel, hallelujah! When you truly know the love of God, it will be almost impossible to wipe the smile off your face.
Again, increase and elevation are involved in this good life. This is the life that the Lord desires to make us lie down in. However, don’t get the wrong impression by this terminology (i.e. to lie down). According to Ezekiel’s prophecy (and many other Scriptures), the Lord’s will is to take us higher, not lower; to be exalted, not debased! Amen!
THE FREE WILL OF THE SHEEP
Now the phrase “He makes me” might give one the wrong impression about how the Lord operates. The Lord is not in the business of “making” us do anything. The Lord gives free-will to mankind.
This is why the ungodly make ignorant statements like, “I just don’t believe that a loving God would ever send someone to hell.” Well, that’s true to a certain extent; He doesn’t send people to hell. But they choose their own condemnation. They choose serving a sin and satan over choosing the Lord’s free gift of salvation. Therefore, they receive the same lot as their master, the devil. It is really that simple.
So, no, the Lord is not making us do anything. Always remember: when God is involved, free will is involved. Therefore, He did not make us choose Jesus as our Lord and Savior, nor will He make us choose this good life that we are talking about either. We all are living our lives on various levels of God’s good, acceptable and perfect will for us.
So, we should never say things like, “Why is God blessing them more than me?” or “Why do I struggle with this and not them?” That is implying that God alone is the variable and we do not have a say in the quality of life that we are experiencing. Saints, the truth is that we are as close to God right now (i.e. experiencing His presence etc.) as we want to be - and this also applies to other areas of our life. We can choose (the good) life (see Deuteronomy 30:19)!
So, you see, the Lord our Shepherd doesn’t drive us. If He did, He would have been called the “Good Cowboy” instead of Jesus calling Himself the Good Shepherd. You see, a cowboy drives his herd. He ropes and ties them. However, a shepherd leads, guides and calls his sheep. Therefore, the Lord is not in the business of making us doing anything. No, He calls us. He bids us to come follow Him. He gently leads us in the way we should go. And that way is on pastures of tender grass. Amen.
LAYING DOWN IN PEACE
Now it has been said that sheep will not lay down unless they are truly at peace, and oftentimes this peace comes as a result of them knowing that their shepherd was present with them. So it is with us:
David said in Psalm 4:8, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell safely.”
Here, David gives us a big key to sleeping well - it is learning to lie down in peace. And the major key to doing that is found in the second half of this verse: “for (or, because) You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell safely.”
So, us entering into that peace referred to here is determined by us believing in our hearts that our Lord will cause us to “dwell safely.” In other words, He will cause us to live a life that is guarded, protected and kept by Himself alone.
You see, the “you alone” is an important part of this phrase too. It denotes that the Lord Himself is the One who we see as being able to make us live safely (not with any help of our own, I might add). And did you know what worry and anxiety really are? They are us not believing in our hearts that it is God alone who will keep us safe and sound. Amen?
Church, when we get the revelation that our God is indeed with us and He alone is the One that will protect and defend us, we will indeed be at peace - particularly when we see that the objects of those fears that come up are the Lord’s problem and not just ours.
IT IS NOT OUR FIGHT
It is important for us to realize that the battles we face are not just our battles; they are His battles.
Do you remember the story of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles chapter 20 - how God began to speak to them and said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15)
What an awesome statement this is that the Holy Spirit made at the end of verse 15 - “The battle is not yours, but God’s!” We would do good to continuously reflect on this truth in order to remind us that the battle is not ours, but the battle truly is God’s.
You see, this powerful phrase has a whole range of applications to our lives:
These “ites” that Jehoshaphat had coming up against him were types and shadows of the kingdom of darkness that we wrestle against under our New Covenant. And these demonic forces manifest themselves in many different ways. Their effects range from the more obvious demonic devices such as depression, oppression, sickness, and poverty to the subtler areas of darkness such as bitterness, envy, strife, and selfishness. So, when it is written that the battle is not ours but the Lord’s, this applies to any of these different “ites” that come against us today.
For example, when we see the enemy working to destroy our marriages - trying to generate strife and bring division between us and our spouses - we should remember that the battle is not ours, but God’s. Sure, in the middle of these difficult situations, the enemy will feed us the lie that our marriage is hopeless and that our spouse will never change. Sure, he will try and deceive us into thinking that we better defend ourselves lest we be taken advantage of.
But the truth is that the battle for our marriage is not ours, it is God’s. God is able to create hope where there seems to be hopelessness. God is able to bring change when change seems impossible. God is able to heal, restore, and even prosper our relationship with our spouse no matter how discouraging our situation seems. It is His battle, and He is resolved to fight it for us. Hallelujah!
Do you know what happens when we see the challenges we encounter as our battles? Our pride will cause us to attempt to take things into our own hands. For example, when we have lost loved ones, we feel such an urgency to see them come into the light that we allow that fear of their present course to drive us. When this happens, we will take every opportunity that we get to hammer them with the truth and witness to them. While our motives are good, we need to also understand that the battle for our loved-one’s salvation is not ours; it is also the Lord’s battle.
We need to understand that we cannot make anybody see the light; only God can because no one comes to Jesus unless the Holy Spirit draws them (John 6:44 & 16:8). Therefore, we should just rest in Him - trusting that He is fighting that battle and drawing them to Himself - while at the same time being open to share the truth with them as the Lord opens up the opportunities.
You see, understanding that each and every battle we encounter in our life is the Lord’s battle and not our own is such an important part of the Christian life. It is a principle that we see all throughout God’s Word and He desires us to understand: We are victorious only by the grace of God and not by any works that we have done. We are saved by the grace of God. We are healed by the grace of God. We are prosperous by the grace of God. The proud are the ones who are self-sufficient. But we need to walk in humility and realize that God’s grace is Him fighting all our battles for us, and it has been His plan for mankind since Adam. The awesome thing is the battle is the Lord's, but the victory is ours. He does all the fighting and we get all the blessings, when we let Him fight the battle by not fighting it ourselves.
Therefore, every battle we find ourselves in - whether it be over our ministries, over our physical health, over our finances, over our families, or over our own souls - God has said that all of these are His battles and, therefore, should not concern us in the least. When we get bills that are a challenge to our budget, we need to recognize them as God’s battle. Hold them up and say, “God, you’ve got mail.” Thank you, Jesus!
THE ROOT OF FEARING DEFEAT
Let’s now draw our attention to the phrase that the Holy Spirit included before He said that the battle is not ours, but God’s. Again, He said, “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
By including that word “for” before this phrase we have just covered, God is telling us why we are not to be afraid or dismayed when these “ites” come against us. So, what was the reason that He gave them not to fear? It was because it was not even their battle; it was God’s. He told them not to be afraid or dismayed because the battle was not even theirs to fight.
You see, if the battle was ours then we would have every reason to be afraid because we know that we have limitations. We know that there are many problems that we will encounter that are beyond our control. So, if these battles were indeed ours, we most definitely would have every reason to be afraid.
But let me ask you a question: Are you ever afraid of God losing any of His battles? Of course, you are not. So, can you guess the only reason why we ever get afraid when alarming situations enter into our life? It is because we see them as our battles. Yes, the only reason we become dismayed is because we incorrectly see these huge and insurmountable problems as our battles, and not God’s. Therefore, the very root of the fear of defeat is not being fully persuaded that the battles we encounter are the Lord’s battles and not ours. That is the gospel truth, my friends!
Sure, if we were asked if we believed that the problems we have were our battles we would deny it, but the evidence of our faith is in our actions. If we are in fear, it is because we do not truly believe God will fight that battle for us. If we are afraid and worried it is for one of two reasons: Either we do not believe God can handle it or we do not believe He will handle it. And usually our deficiency is not in believing that God has the power or ability to do what He wants to. What we are generally deficient in is not in believing that God wants to. In other words, most believers are not convinced that God is willing and resolved to fight all of their battles for them.
But the truth is God has said that every battle we find ourselves in that was instigated by the enemy is not our battle; they are His battles. Therefore, if we saw our problems in this light, we would be full of peace in the midst of the storm because we know that God is more than able to take care of these situations.
So, my point is: it is both the known presence of the Good Shepherd and knowing that He is resolved to care for His sheep that creates the peace among the flock. Yes, He is there to defend us from the turbulence that arises within the flock and to keep us from the predators that come in from outside of the flock. Amen.
OUR RESTING PLACE
But notice what else David goes on to say that our Good Shepherd leads us to. David goes on to say in Psalm 23:2 that “He leads me beside the still waters.”
Again, He “leads” us. He does not drive us or make us do anything. He leads by that still small voice, by that inward witness. He guides us - for the Holy Spirit has been given to us to “guide” us into all truth and to lead the sons of God.
So, what is He leading us to? We are told here that He leads us “beside the still waters.”
The phrase “beside the still” come from the word menuwchah and describes a “rest or resting place.” It describes a comfortable, still and quiet place or thing (and in this case, that thing is “water”). So, these “still waters” could literally be described as “waters of rest” and for us to be led beside these still waters would describe us being led and guided alongside places of rest - places that are quiet, still and comfortable. Amen.
In fact, this is actually the word that was used to describe the Rest of God referred to in Psalm 95:11 - the same Rest that the writer(s) of Hebrews describe in Hebrews chapter 4.
Now this “Rest” was an obvious reference to Canaan, the Promised Land, and was described as a rest in contrast to their 40-year journey in the wilderness - which was a feeling of never belonging, always moving and striving, never experiencing the fullness of the blessing. And sadly, that is where many Christians live - in the wilderness, living from miracle to miracle (which means they are also living in crisis to crisis) and experiencing this striving, working, and arduous lifestyle. There is a better life, saints! Yes, I said there is a better life! And that is - living in the blessing of Canaan where we enter into His Rest, having taken His yoke upon us! Maybe Jesus healed so often on the sabbath because it was easier for God to work when His people were resting. Amen!
There remains therefore a rest for the people of God - where we can cease from our works, our striving and busyness. This is the Sabbath that we are called to observe - where we learn to rest in the work of another - namely, the Lord Jesus Christ’s work on the Cross. Its ultimate fulfillment will be when we leave these tents and live in the eternal rest in the Kingdom of God, but there is also a rest to be experienced now.
JESUS, OUR SABBATH
Now this leads us into an important biblical principle that was first referred to in the beginning during creation, then was instituted under the Law, and finally was fulfilled in Christ - the Sabbath.
So, let’s start out by looking at this commandment that God gave His people…
In Exodus 20:8-11, God gave them the Ten Commandments and said, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” In this Scripture, we see how He gave His chosen people the Sabbath by comparing it to when He rested from His work in creation.
Now it is important to understand that God did not “rest” in the sense that we think of resting. When we think of resting, we think of recuperating because we are fatigued, but this is not what is implied here. God rested on the seventh day, not because He was tired and exhausted. He rested because the work was finished and complete. There was nothing left to do.
This word “rest” described more of a cessation of activity, the ending of effort. A good example of what transpired here is an artist who was working to paint a beautiful masterpiece and then when his or her picture was completed, they lean back in their chair observing their completed masterpiece maybe with their brush in the mouth. This image in no way describes an artist laying down his brush because it got too heavy. No, he rested from his work because his work was finished and complete.
God had created the heavens and earth and all that is within them and saw that it was all “very good” (1:31). It was finished! His work was complete! So, He was attempting to get His people to see that the work of creation had been completed. Therefore, He gave them the Sabbath to illustrate to them that they are to rest in God’s finished work of creation and redemption.
So, what is our attitude to be regarding the Sabbath? Are we to keep the Sabbath or not? Well, let’s look over at Colossians chapter 2 and, in this passage, we will see the true purpose of the Sabbath and how we should be fulfilling it…
THE SABBATH WAS A SHADOW
Colossians 2:11-15 says, “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
So, notice here that things like circumcision (another big point of contention), water baptism, and all the other “handwriting of requirements” (i.e. the commandments of the Law) have been fulfilled in us who are in Him. Amen!
Now notice this… Paul goes on to say in Colossians 2:16, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths…”
In other words, because the law has been fulfilled in us through the finished work of Christ (i.e. “so”), we are to let no one judge us in food or in drink (this is dietary laws of the law), or regarding a festival (all the feast days) or a new moon (some other requirement for the Jews to keep) or SABBATHS. Or what? Or SABBATHS! This implies we are not to let anyone judge us regarding keeping the different Sabbaths because we are now under the perfect law of liberty.
But why? Why are we free from keeping the Sabbath today under our new and better covenant? Well, continue reading…
In verse 17, Paul goes on to say, “which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
Do you see this? All of these requirements of the law - the dietary laws, the feasts, and, yes, even the Sabbath - are shadows of things to come! This means that all of these commands the Lord gave them were meant to foreshadow something which was to come, namely, SOMEONE who was to come - and that is Christ! Praise the Lord!
Actually, this word “substance” literally means “body.” So why would we continue hugging the shadow of the One we love when we have their body? That would be weird!
So, what does this teach us? It teaches us that the Sabbath is simply a shadow of Christ and, therefore, Christ is the fulfillment of the Sabbath. Yes, saints, JESUS IS OUR SABBATH REST!
IT IS FINISHED
Let’s look at another passage where the Lord gave His chosen people a command concerning the Sabbath and we will see this more clearly…
Deuteronomy 5:15 says, “And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”
Notice the word “therefore” in this verse… Being redeemed from Egypt is a type of our salvation, so this is why He commanded them to keep the Sabbath. He did it with His mighty hand and outstretched arm. Therefore, Jesus brought us out of the kingdom of darkness and we should rest in His finished work.
Practically speaking, God gave them one day a week not to work to illustrate to them that they are not their own source. In other words, the Sabbath had an element of trust to it. You had to trust the Lord that He could do more by His mighty hand and outstretched arm in 6 days than you could do by your arm and hand in 7 days. It was to illustrate to them that they are not their own Savior and Provider - God is.
So, this is what we need to understand about the seventh day - that when were we made a new creation in Christ that His work in us is complete. Therefore, we are not a work in progress. His work of grace in our spirit is finished! And it was not by our own hands that we are saved - Jesus did the work Himself.
This is why Jesus said on the Cross just before He gave up His spirit that “It is finished!” He was saying that the price that needed to be paid for our salvation was complete. He was saying that what He hung on that Cross to accomplish was sufficient. Nothing else needed to be done! The price needful for our redemption had been fully satisfied and we are complete!
You see, the word “sabbath” obviously means “rest.” In fact, the words “seven, sabbath, & rest” all come from the same basic word in the Hebrew shabat. And we know the number seven in biblical numerology describes “completion.” Therefore, we see the meaning of the Sabbath… It is that God indeed rested on the seventh day because His work of creation was completed. Amen.
So, we being children of God who have been made new creations in Christ Jesus ought to also follow our Heavenly Father’s pattern - know that the work of the new creation (i.e. salvation) has been completed within us and now we are to rest from our works of the flesh that seek to accomplish what has already been accomplished in us through Christ Jesus. Amen. We are complete in Him. The work of salvation has already been accomplished within us, so now we can cease from our works (i.e. works that seek to justify and obtain what can only be received by faith in His grace) as God ceased from His works. We must cease our WORKS of righteousness (which are not good enough) and REST in the work that Christ did to atone for our sins.
Therefore, we can rest in all the works that Christ has done for us! He has paid the price and done everything that needs to be done in regards to our salvation!
The number seven in Biblical numerology describes “perfection and completion.” Thus, our salvation and the new creation we were made is perfect and complete! There is nothing left undone! God made all things good in the beginning and God has made all the things that are new in us good! When God looked over all that He had made, He said it was very good! Likewise, God looks at His work in us and says it is very good! We have passed inspection!
Now let’s go over to Hebrews chapter 4 where the Sabbath is further explained:
THERE REMAINS A REST
Hebrews 4:9-10 - There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Now the physical fulfillment of the Sabbath will be when we enter in the rest of heaven, but the spiritual fulfillment is the rest we have entered in positionally. Just as the Promised Land was the fulfillment of rest promised to the children of Israel & Joshua - we can partake of Canaan then and now…
You see, just as God gave Israel the 7th year Sabbath (which they never observed) and also the 7th day Sabbath, God has given us two fulfillments of this type and shadow…
There is the Sabbath rest of the next life (i.e. the new heavens and the new earth) and there is a Sabbath rest we can experience every day in this life through our position in Christ. In other words, just as there are three phases to our salvation - one being when our spirit was born again and where old things passed away and all things became new positionally. Another being that we can taste of His salvation in our soul and body now here on this earth as we renew our minds to who we are in Christ and have His Spirit come upon us. And thirdly being when Christ returns, and we receive our glorified body - there are three truths regarding the Sabbath - we have already entered into that rest spiritually as our spirit has been made perfect and complete in Him and our salvation is at rest. Secondly, we have the promise of practically entering His rest everyday as we cease from our own works and self-effort and trust in the work of another. And, last but not least, we will enter that habitual eternal rest when we pass from this life to the next. Amen.
You see, there therefore remains a rest for the people of God - and while being persuaded that God has completed the work of salvation within you is super important - learning to receive the rest that is available to us daily is also super important:
LIGHT AND EASY
Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Notice that twice in this passage Jesus makes reference to “rest.” We must understand that one rest is given, the other is found. One is experienced when we come to Christ upon making Him our personal Lord and Savior. This is the positional rest we have entered in to. But there remains a rest that we can partake of experientially - and that is when we exchange our weakness for His strength, when we learn to wait on the Lord and draw near to Him in fellowship. This is when we will run and not grow weary, when we will walk and not faint. Amen. (See Isaiah 40:31)
Learning to taste and see that the Lord is good and that He is our strength when we are weak is such a vital truth to experience. Oftentimes, we gravitate towards doing things in our own strength and we begin to pull a “Martha”- being troubled with much serving. This is when we must become more like Mary who learned when to sit at the Master’s feet and draw her strength from Him. Strength for service comes from fellowship. This is when we yoke ourselves up together with Him and He does the majority of the pulling. “Burnout” comes as we do all the pulling ourselves. This is not what the Lord intended. The Master said, “Take MY yoke upon you (i.e. get yoked up together with Me) and I will give you rest.
Friends, the Christian life is meant to be light and easy, not heavy and hard. And the moment we begin to feel like our burden is heavy and hard is the moment we have simply realized that we are taking our own yoke and are not benefiting from Him pulling the weight for us.
In fact, all of Psalm 23:2 teaches us this one principle:
For example, the entire phrase at the beginning of this verse, “Me makes me to lie down”- comes from one Hebrew word - the word rabats. This word literally means “to stretch oneself out or lie stretched out.” Thus, the reason that this word is translated “to couch” in a couple of places. Therefore, this word describes “reclining.” So, we might translate this first half of Psalm 23:2 like so today: “He helps me to take a load off and to rest & relax.”
You see, if we are not joyfully serving the Lord, then we are not serving the Lord the way He intended for us to. When we are living the Christian life correctly, we will live a life that is full of peace and joy. It is only when we try to live the Christian life in the arm of the flesh that we become miserable, feeling unfulfilled.
Saints, it is not the Lord’s will that any part of our Christian walk feels like “work.” Sure, it is not always pleasant putting the flesh under, and sure, it is not always easy to go through the various trials we fall into. But if everything always seems arduous and an uphill battle, then we are likely missing it in some way.
You see, the reason working for the Lord is light and easy is because we are yoked up together with Him. In those days, oxen were yoked up together in order to share the load they were carrying. So, if we have been yoked up together with Christ, then we can be certain that He will bear the entire burden! This will result in our walk being light and easy, as opposed to heavy and difficult. The only time that it becomes laborious is when we, of our own accord, unyoke ourselves from Him and try to carry the weights of this life ourselves. This is when the Christian life becomes burdensome and overbearing and we, as a result, lose our joy.
But, no, Christianity is not intended to be burdensome. Again, there is certainly discipline over the flesh and the resistance of temptation involved in the life of a Christian, but in regard to our growth and increase in every area of our walk, it is God Who carries that entire burden. Praise the Lord!
Therefore, to lie down in green pastures describes our Good Shepherd leading us, His sheep, to places of comfort, rest and relaxation - like a spiritual couch or recliner. Amen!
As we have seen, the leading us beside still waters teaches us the same - that there remains a rest for the people of God - a stream that makes glad the city of our God. It is beside these still waters that we find rest for our souls.
May you find rest for your souls today and experience the Sabbath rest - a quality of this good life - that is found only in Christ. Amen.