Sowing and Reaping / Jesus, ‘The Saviour of the World’: May 5th 2021

Judges 2:6-3:31

The Israelites proved to have a short memory. After their remaining great leaders had died: ‘another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel’ (v.11).

They started to follow the demonic entities that the people around them worshipped and forsook the Lord. In his righteous fury, God handed the Israelites over to raiders who plundered them (v.14). He made sure they were defeated in every battle.

When they were in great distress, groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them, God would raise up a judge to save them from their enemies. God was with the judges while they were alive but each time one died, the Israelites returned to ways even more corrupt that those of their fathers: ‘following other gods and serving and worshipping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways’ (v.19). Our society will be like this as the Covid pandemic recedes. Covid shut down the nightclubs and the pubs where people worshipped alcohol and sex. People stopped spending money on frivolous items at department stores, theoretically freeing up disposable income to give to charity. God heard the cry of the frightened and bereaved and sorted out vaccines. Once we have been delivered, people will rush back to the pubs to corrupt themselves even more than before.

God decided not to drive any more enemy nations from the promised land keeping them in place to constantly test Israel’s loyalty to him. The Israelites failed the test. They intermarried with the pagan nations and served their gods.

The first judge was Othniel, a nephew of the legendary warrior Caleb. ‘The Spirit of the Lord came upon him’ (3:10). He defeated the king of Aram and Israel had peace for 40 years until Othniel died. Notice that the Holy Spirit came upon Othniel and empowered him for this leadership task. How much more are Christians empowered today because we have the Holy Spirit living permanently within us? We just have to co-operate and pray for him to activate his gifts within us.

The Israelites committed evil again and so were handed over to the king of Moab for eighteen years. God gave them a new deliverer, Ehud, who stabbed the evil king with a double-edged sword: ‘I have a message from God for you’ (v.20). The Bible tells us that the word of God is a double-edged sword that we can use to metaphorically stab our enemies. Jesus stabbed Satan with sacred scripture during his temptations in the desert. The Israelites followed their new strong leader into battle and Moab was defeated. Then ‘the land had peace for eighty years’ (v.30).

The Holy Spirit gave certain judges supernatural strength and endurance in battle. The next one, Shamgar, stuck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad and saved Israel (v.31).

John 4:27-42

The Samaritan woman went back to her town and said: ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ The Samaritans listened to her and came out of the town to see Jesus. After Jesus’ resurrection, when Mary Magdalene told the weeping and mourning disciples that she had see the risen Jesus, ‘they did not believe it’ (v.11). It is wonderful that Gentile Samaritans were hungrily looking for the Messiah when so many Jews had rejected him. We should tell as many people as we can to ‘come and see’ and invite them to a Spirit filled dynamic church so that their lives can be changed.

Jesus sent us out to preach the gospel to the end of the world. Covid has shut down travel to a great extent but we can still tell people about Jesus via the internet. Greetings to my readers right across the world. Our food is to finish his work and proclaim the saving power of Christ.

Jesus saw the town’s people making their way towards him. ‘Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest’ (v.36). Someone must have previously sown faith in the Samaritans hearts that made them long for the Christ. Jesus, and his disciples, could now harvest these believers for eternal life. So many people taught me different bits of the Bible as I grew up; not least, the Anglican vicar who gave me intensive tuition on Christianity before my wedding in a High Anglican church. We might not see any growth or harvest as we talk to people about Jesus but God’s word will germinate in their hearts allowing others in the future to harvest them into heaven.

Just from the woman’s testimony, many Samaritans believed in him (v.39). The Holy Spirit can give us supernatural words of knowledge about people that can not only convert an individual, they can convert others to Christ through that convert’s powerful testimony. The Samaritans urged Jesus to stay with them. He agreed, stayed for 2 days and many more became believers. Hearing Jesus for themselves strengthened their belief in the woman’s testimony enabling them to declare that he really was the Saviour of the world (v.42).

It must have been so refreshing for Jesus to teach people who wanted him there. This is the kind of refreshment we can enjoy when we attend a faith-filled church or go on a Christian retreat. Sometimes, we all need our batteries charged up with positivity which will give us renewed strength to face more challenging audiences.

Psalm 56:1-13

Even kings can be afraid. When King David was afraid, he chose to trust in God (v.3). If God is for us, what can mortal man do to us (v.4) ?

People watch Christians intently. They conspire as they lurk in the shadows, plotting to twist our words, looking for faults. Many people have fallen for the most basic trap of the devil by rejecting Christianity as nonsense due to the terrible sexual sins carried out by a tiny minority of religious professionals. Yet, they would never withdraw their child from school or not attend hospital despite the thousands of teachers, doctors and nurses that have abused the people entrusted to them.

When David called on God for help he had expectant faith that his enemies would turn back (v.9). He vowed not be afraid of any man because of his trust in God. Christians have vowed our lives to God and we should praise and thank him for his saving grace. Jesus has delivered us from death by his sacrifice on the cross. When we believe and are baptized we can forever walk before God, our Father, in the light of life. The Holy Spirit inside us will stop us from stumbling on our journey. God will deliver us from our enemies, ourselves and from death itself.

Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/cereals-corn-stalks-spike-grain-4357683/

Jesus gives us Living Water: May 4th 2021

Judges 1:1-2:5

The Book of Judges starts positively with all the Israelites consulting God as to who should attack the Canaanites first (v.1). God told them that the tribe of Judah would fight first.

The men of Judah asked the Simeonites to help free their territory and promised to return the favour in the future (v.3). They struck down ten thousand of their enemies and captured the Canaanite king, Adoni-Bezek. They adopted the cruel Canaanite method of crippling high-ranking captives: cutting off his thumbs and big toes (v.6). Adoni-Bezek was philosophical about this: ‘God has paid me back’ (v.7) as he had done the same to seventy Canaanite kings previously. Maybe if he had shown mercy to his captives, he wouldn’t have received the same punishment.

The men of Judah captured Jerusalem and put it on fire (v.8).

The tribes of Israel had notable success against the Canaanites but, in some areas, the Canaanites were determined to cling onto their land. The Israelites compromised and allowed the persistent survivors m to live with them. This was totally contrary to God’s instructions. God knew that these foreign people would be Israel’s downfall and he wanted them all gone. The Israelites would be lured into worshipping their demonic entities. If they couldn’t win the battle through their own strength, they should have prayed to God to prevail.

An angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal – where Joshua had set up the twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan – to talk to the Israelites at Bokim. He told the Israelites they had already broken their covenant with God. God had banned them from making a covenant with the people of the land and ordered them to break down their altars – which they had failed to do (2:2). We have only just started the second chapter after the death of Joshua and the Israelites were already in big trouble. The Israelites knew they had disobeyed God and they wept aloud. God would no longer drive their enemies out before them, ‘they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you’ (v.3). The penitent Israelites offered sacrifices to God. However, God does not want sacrifices, he wants obedience. We are surrounded by similar spiritual snares today from well-meaning friends: offering to take us to yoga (in effect worshipping Hindu deities); suggesting we try reiki healing (the invocation of Shinto serpent demons into us through the kundalini spot at the base of our spines) or karate (channelling the mysterious demonic destructive force of ‘ki’). https://www.chess.com/clubs/forum/view/exposing-the-dangers-of-maritial-arts2. When anyone is depressed or stressed, even an official government health service might suggest mindfulness – which may be appropriate if you are already a Buddhist but not if you are a Christian. All therapies / pastimes developed from non-Christian religions have the potential to lead us down the dark alley of demonic oppression. We need to repent and renounce of any such activities that are coaxing us down the pathway of lost souls, perform a screeching handbrake turn in our lives and start to journey back to God.

John 4:1-26

Chapter 4 clarifies yesterday’s suggestion that Jesus baptized people (3:22). ‘It was not Jesus that baptised, but his disciples’ (v.2). The Pharisees were counting which team of disciples were more ‘productive’. Jesus was not interested in a rivalry with John the Baptist’s disciples. Jesus and his team withdrew from the area and headed for Galilee.

Jesus travelled through Samaria and asked a Samaritan woman at a well for a drink of water. Jews traditionally did not associate with Samaritans and religious leaders did not speak to lone women. However, Jesus was a rule breaker when it came to saving people. He didn’t care about our race, sex or lifestyle. He wants to rescue each individual one of us.

Jesus described how he can provide ‘living water’. ‘Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (v.14). The Holy Spirit is sent to believers by both the Father and Jesus, the Son. If we pray for Jesus to send him, the Holy Spirit will give us his gifts, guide, comfort and console us. He is the living water, residing in us; transforming and empowering us to witness to the world.

Through a supernatural word of wisdom, imparted by the Holy Spirit, Jesus told the woman she had already had five husbands. A word of knowledge like this, if we are brave enough to vocalise what the Holy Spirit has told us about someone can break open a non-believer’s hardened heart making them receptive to the gospel.

Salvation is from Jesus and so ‘salvation is from the Jews’ (v.22). If you visit a thriving Pentecostal church, you will witness what worshipping the Father in spirit and truth looks like. God doesn’t want miserable people in an empty church mumbling a depressing hymn into a hymn book. He wants people to worship him with energy and dynamism with a pure sense of gratitude for all the blessings he has bestowed. After an hour of that you will feel the atmosphere in the church change. Peace will settle on the congregation as the Spirit arrives. Only then is it time for prayer. If you want to ask God to do something, you have to make sure he is in the room first.

Proverbs 11:9-18

Godless people specialise in slandering people (v.1). They can even bring down cities with their evil words (v.11). When such people perish and face judgement, ‘there are shouts of joy’ (v.10).

When righteous people prosper, ‘the city rejoices’ (v.10). The example we provide by living positively can change our entire neighbourhood.

We shouldn’t be hasty to speak. We should gather all the facts before we come to any conclusions about people’s actions. We should demonstrate our trustworthiness by keeping people’s secrets (v.13).

If we are in a position of power, consulting with many different people will help us secure victories (v.14). People respect the kind-hearted (v.16) and giving out kindness benefits ourselves the most (v.17).

Ruthless and wicked men can gain wealth but it is deceptive. It will not profit us after our death. If we spend our life sowing righteousness, we will reap an everlasting sure reward in heaven.

Image: Stefano Erardi, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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