God has promised

Men change their minds, and break their words; but God never changes his mind, and therefore never recalls his promise. And when in Scripture he is said to repent, it does not mean any change of his mind; but only a change of his way. There was sin in Jacob, and God saw it; but there was not such as might provoke him to give them up to ruin. If the Lord sees that we trust in his mercy, and accept of his salvation; that we indulge no secret lust, and continue not in rebellion, but endeavour to serve and glorify him; we may be sure that he looks upon us as accepted in Christ, that our sins are all pardoned. Oh the wonders of providence and grace, the wonders of redeeming love, of pardoning mercy, of the new-creating Spirit! Balak had no hope of ruining Israel, and Balaam showed that he had more reason to fear being ruined by them. Since Balaam cannot say what he would have him, Balak wished him to say nothing. But though there are many devices in man’s heart, God’s counsels shall stand. Yet they resolve to make another attempt, though they had no promise on which to build their hopes. Let us, who have a promise that the vision at the end shall speak and not lie, continue earnest in prayer – Matthew Henry

Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.”  Balak did as Balaam had said; and Balak and Balaam offered a bull and a ram on each altar.  Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here beside your burnt offerings while I go aside. Perhaps the Lord will come to meet me. Whatever he shows me I will tell you.” And he went to a bare height.  Then God met Balaam; and Balaam said to him, “I have arranged the seven altars, and have offered a bull and a ram on each altar. The Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and this is what you must say.”  So he returned to Balak, who was standing beside his burnt offerings with all the officials of Moab. Then Balaam uttered his oracle, saying: “Balak has brought me from Aram, the king of Moab from the eastern mountains: “Come, curse Jacob for me; Come, denounce Israel!’ How can I curse whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced? For from the top of the crags I see him, from the hills I behold him; Here is a people living alone, and not reckoning itself among the nations!  Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number the dust-cloud of Israel? Let me die the death of the upright, and let my end be like his!” Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but now you have done nothing but bless them.”  He answered, “Must I not take care to say what the Lord puts into my mouth?”  So Balak said to him, “Come with me to another place from which you may see them; you shall see only part of them, and shall not see them all; then curse them for me from there.” So he took him to the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah. He built seven altars, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar Balaam said to Balak, “Stand here beside your burnt offerings, while I meet the Lord over there.”  The Lord met Balaam, put a word into his mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and this is what you shall say.” When he came to him, he was standing beside his burnt offerings with the officials of Moab. Balak said to him, “What has the Lord said?”  Then Balaam uttered his oracle, saying: “Rise, Balak, and hear; listen to me, O son of Zippor:  God is not a human being, that he should lie, or a mortal, that he should change his mind. Has he promised, and will he not do it? Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it  See, I received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.  He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob; nor has he seen trouble in Israel. The Lord their God is with them, acclaimed as a king among them  God, who brings them out of Egypt, is like the horns of a wild ox for them.  Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel; now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel, “See what God has done!’  Look, a people rising up like a lioness, and rousing itself like a lion! It does not lie down until it has eaten the prey and drunk the blood of the slain.”  Then Balak said to Balaam, “Do not curse them at all, and do not bless them at all.”  But Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell you, “Whatever the Lord says, that is what I must do’?”– Numbers 23:1-26

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God of the living

If you think about the spiritual health of the Church, we can see in history how the errors came out in doctrine because people did not know the Scriptures nor did they know the power of God. 

When it comes to living, death is an immediate afterthought.  At death, all our earthly hopes, joys and connections are taken away.  How terrible it must be for one to look for nothing better beyond the grave.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – 1 Peter 1:3

Calvin says this —
“If we consider properly the doctrine of Scripture, the life of the soul, apart from the hope of the resurrection, will be a mere dream; for God does not declare that, immediately after the death of the body, souls live, — as if their glory and happiness were already enjoyed by them in perfection, — but delays the expectation of them till the last day… Since the Scriptures inform us that the spiritual life depends on the hope of the resurrection, and that souls, when separated from the bodies, look forward to it, whoever destroys the resurrection deprives souls also of their immortality.”

The same day some Sadducees came to him, saying there is no resurrection; and they asked him a question, saying,  “Teacher, Moses said, “If a man dies childless, his brother shall marry the widow, and raise up children for his brother.’  Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother.  The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman herself died. In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her.” Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God,  “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” Matthew 22:23-32

Look and live

Remember the story of the snakes as the children of Israel were just about to enter into Canaan?  Just as the brazen snake placed high on a pole, so is Christ and His work of redemption on the cross is our only hope…

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved – Acts 4:12

Future and hope are a promise only entered by faith – a faith that requires us to leave the old behind and embrace our new life with Christ given to us by His resurrection.

Salvation is not as easy as it sounds.  To be made whole requires the means to accept pain and our struggles in life.  To face them with the strength and possibly even the courage that is given by God and then to embrace the grace that makes healing even possible.  Jesus modeled a different kind of salvation.  He accepted pain when He could have avoided it.  He offered His own life for others so that we may be lead to genuine wholeness and real hope.

 Just like the children of Israel, we too need to look, in faith, to God’s antidote to our problem of sin.  Jesus.  It is not an antidote that we have come up with on our own, nor have we made any contribution towards it.  Even if we know about what He has done, unless we trust Him, we will not be made whole. We will just as surely seal our own fate by making the decision to refuse our Forgiveness and our Hope.  I thank God that the Holy Spirit, working through the Gospel, empowers us to look, believe and be healed.

The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.”  Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died.  The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.  And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.”  So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. Numbers 21:5-9

Look and Live by XII the Band & Hymphony

Fear God and follow His instructions

But the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
    in those who hope in his steadfast love. – Psalm 147:11

Ecclesiastes gives us two summary points – there is rampant injustice and oppression in the world and that the escape route we choose – basically false hopes that have to do with affluence – do not provide meaning or satisfaction in this life.  Wealth is a hot button – a gift from God and yet an awful curse when you have it and not God and still a major trial when you have Him.

The Word of God lays out the plan quite clearly, identifying what we are to learn and how hope comes to us through patience and comfort of His Word.  It was written to provide us with instructions on how to live life.  Without it, where would we obtain our hope?

I am of the age where I have lived a little and at different times of the day I will have a memory of something I said or did years ago that was just wrong.  The regret makes we say out loud, “Lord have mercy on me.” My whole family knows what’s going on when I do this.  So the final words of Ecclesiastes are not the final words of Scripture.  Jesus still steps in-between and His death and resurrection matters.

However, all Scripture is given to us as our love letter and our letter of instruction on what it means to love and what it looks like to love – both from God to us and us to God.  It is a person with wisdom who reads and obeys it.

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. – Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

You will get it back

It is a call to unpromising work to sow the seed upon the waters looks hopeless; little good seems likely to come of such toil and sacrifice. So work for the world’s good sometimes seems sadly unpromising; the giving of money, time, influence, feeling, seem only like ploughing the sands, throwing treasure into the sea. But we must hope in hopeless work, or what to the carnal eye looks like hopeless work. The most unpromising ground sometimes yields the richest results. The finest grapes in the world are not grown on fat soil, but on sand deserts and barren shingle that would not afford nourishment to a patch of oats; and the lover of man not rarely gets his richest clusters on the most unpromising ground. It has often been so with the missionary. Who, looking at ancient Britain, would have thought that it would become the vineyard of the Lord? It is often thus in families–the careless, undutiful children turning out the parents’ strength and joy. (W. L. Watkinson.)

 

If Ecclesiastes is promoting charity, it is asserting there will be an eventual payoff for the act. This thought has echoes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:38). A modern illustration might be the classic 1946 film It’s A Wonderful Life whereby George Bailey’s (played by Jimmy Stewart [1908-1997]) years of service to the town of Bedford Falls are rewarded when its residents pay off his debts.

A less famous example comes from the May 8, 1960, episode of the anthology drama The Loretta Young Show (1953-1961) titled “Faith, Hope and Mr. Flaherty”. In this installment, Loretta Young (1913-2000) portrays Sister Ann, a nun and worker at Mercy Hospital. Beginning with only 25¢, Sister Ann continually reinvests money given her. Eventually, Mr. Flaherty (played by J.M. Kerrigan [1884-1964]), an Irish curmudgeon and hospital patient, gives the nun five dollars for the hospital building fund. Sister Ann proceeds to “invest” the sum. This development continues and by the time that the program concludes, Sister Ann parlays the initial contribution into $20,000, and in the process blesses a lot of people as Mr. Flaherty merits a plaque for his generosity; Mrs. Spencer (Virginia Christine [1920-1996]) is able to adopt a baby; a man is saved from making a drastic marriage mistake; and another is able to pay his rent. The quarter’s continual returns through supernatural means fits the charitable interpretation of casting bread upon the waters (Ecclesiastes 11:1). – Chandler Vinson

If I had to pick a similar verse in the New Testament, I would choose Luke 6:38.

I think the act of giving is an act of faith. You meet a need today and in love, a response from the Holy Spirit to reach out and touch someone else, a gift is made.  You hope for two things – you hope that the gift will make a difference, but you know it will because you placed the gift in God’s hands – and secondly, you know that by giving and sharing of yourself, you have made room in your life for God to pour into you.  It is a spiritual law, not one I understand, but in giving you receive.  When giving to God, He meets your needs in your life abundantly.  It is a law that has been tried to be manipulated and used to bribe and coerce, but at the end of the day, it is a law that God created to bless the pure in heart as they give from that heart to meet a need that God called them to meet with whatever resources they might have.

Send out your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will get it back.– Ecclesiastes 11:1

 

On the third day He will be raised

Historical writings show that Christians met regularly on Sunday, the first day of the week, because it had been the day upon which Jesus had risen.

One in particular caught my attention recently —

107 AD “Be not deceived with strange doctrines, nor with old fables, which are unprofitable. For if we still live according to the Jewish law, we acknowledge that we have not received grace… If, therefore, those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death (which some deny), through which mystery we received faith, and on account of which we suffer in order that we may be found disciples of Jesus Christ our only teacher, how shall we be able to live apart from him for whom even the prophets were looking as their teacher since they were his disciples in the spirit?… let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days of the week” (Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians, chp 9. Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:62-63).

Those who choose to keep the law are not partakers of the grace and truth brought by Jesus Christ. They have no hope in the seventh day.

For our hope is that we too will raise from the dead and experience the power of the resurrection having our mortal bodies transformed into ones that are incorruptible.

 Resurrection and ascension ratified the efficacy of God’s covenant of salvation and displayed God’s immense sovereignty and ensures the hope of believers.

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death;  then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.” – Matthew 20:18-19

Living

No matter what your lot in life, one always has hopes for something better.  Most call that the search for happiness and most find ourselves prone to entertaining or even cherishing the thought of a better life and the possibilities of improving our opportunities.

It is also in living that we hope to make amends.  Living is the hope of choosing and possessing eternal life.

Such are the passages in the Bible for one who is contemplating ending their life at their own hand.  Life must be pretty messy for anyone to be in this state of mind – relationships turned bad, finances dried up and spiritually there is a distance too great for one to return to God.  But if you are breathing, there is hope that things will get better.  Too many people have built up on the ashes of failure – relationships get healed, health improves, finances are restored and the very mention of Jesus’ name brings the presence of God right into your life.

The sense of powerlessness and the inability to change things for the better puts God at a distance.  With Him so far away from us, we cannot hope to either understand or be part of God’s influence in our world.

When Solomon mentions this in Ecclesiastes, he is really saying that hope in this life only lasts to the grave.   I still remember my hopes – good health, falling in love, getting married, having children, finding a great job with enough pay to support my family and accomplishing a few ambitions along the way. But for the short time my life is on this earth, if these are my only hopes, then I am lost.  For it is the hope of eternal life and then living that hope after my death that I realize my hope all along – to spend eternity with Jesus.  Maybe Solomon was just trying to say that – maybe he wanted us to enjoy life, as difficult at that might be, but to not put our hope just in this one, short life.  Enjoy it, yes, live it, yes, but to place our hope in Jesus so that when we die we can spend the rest of eternity with Him and live in the place He has prepared for us.

This is an evil in all that happens under the sun, that the same fate comes to everyone. Moreover, the hearts of all are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But whoever is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.  The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no more reward, and even the memory of them is lost.  Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished; never again will they have any share in all that happens under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 9:3-6

This Is Living (feat. Lecrae) (Music Video) – Hillsong Young & Free

 

What must I do?

In the hope of eternal life that God, who never lies, promised before the ages began – Titus 1:2

The story of the rich young ruler always seems to fall on discussions regarding possessions and the kingdom of heaven.  He was looking for that guarantee of eternal life and thought he was pretty close – maybe a deed or two away from being perfect. Of course, he was under the impression that one earns their way into heaven.  Jesus of course goes to the heart of the matter.  If he really gave all he had to the poor would he have entered heaven? No, he would not have. But the response did suggest that stored up treasure was worth more than the guarantee of hope of eternal life by following Jesus.

It is true – Jesus does want us to give Him 100% of our heart.  This is why coming to Him everyday and giving it to Him matters. He is our only hope of redemption.

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share,  thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. – 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Even though the rich young ruler was dead serious and had no intention of playing any games when it came to religious matters, he still had a spiritual hunger.  But notice that those things he did, religiously, did not bring him peace of mind.  Like Luther who was studying law and then deciding to become a monk in hopes of finding God’s favour, this young man was trying his best to please God. 

How can we pray that we ourselves do not fall into this trap, and how can we spur on our family and friends to seek the giver of eternal life – Jesus?

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”  And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness;  Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 19:16-23

The certainty on death

I cannot tell you, good woman, what is to become of the little child who is pressed to your bosom this evening. God bless it and make it a comfort to you and an honor to His church! But it is all matter of hope as yet. Children are certain cares, they say, and uncertain blessings. I hardly like the phrase. They are blessings anyway—but there is certainly this about them—we cannot tell what will become of them when they grow up and come under the influence of evil. You look upon a youth as he grows up and you feel, “I cannot quite see what you will be. You may be led astray by temptation, or by divine grace you may cleanse your way. You may be useful and honorable, or you may be dissolute and degraded. ”Everything is uncertain about the child on his birthday, but everything is certain about the saint on his death day. Spurgeon
When we are born we begin life, but what will that life be? Friends say, “Welcome, little stranger.” Ah, but what kind of reception will the stranger get when he is no longer a new-comer? He who is newly born and is ordained to endure through a long life is like a warrior who puts on his harness for battle; and is not he in a better case who puts it off because he has won the victory? Ask any soldier which he likes best, the first shot in the battle or the sound which means “Cease firing, for the victory is won.” When we were born we set out on our journey; but when we die we end our weary march in the Father’s house above. Surely it is better to have come to the end of the tiresome pilgrimage than to have commenced it. Better is the day of death than our birthday, because about the birthday there hangs uncertainty. I heard this morning of a dear friend who had fallen asleep. When I wrote to his wife I said, “Concerning him we speak with certainty. You sorrow not as those that are without hope. A long life of walking with God proved that he was one of God’s people, and we know that for such there remains joy without temptation, without sorrow, without end, for ever and ever.” Oh, then, as much as certainty is better than uncertainty, the day of the saint’s death is better than the day of his birth. So, too, in things which are certain the saint’s death-day is preferable to the beginning of life, for we know that when the child is born he is born to sorrow. Trials must and will befall, and your little one who is born to-day is born to an inheritance of grief, like his father, like his mother, who prophesied it as it were by her own pangs. But look, now, at the saint when he dies. It is absolutely certain that he has done with sorrow, done with pain. Now, surely, the day in which we are certain that sorrow is over must be better than the day in which we are certain that sorrow is on the road. – Spurgeon
A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death, than the day of birth – Ecclesiastes 7:1

What will be after you?

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.” – Lamentations 3:24

We can look to grace and the leading of the Holy Spirit to help us learn how to take the evil in this world and see it turned into good.  Since life and its earthly pursuits are without purpose, your hope is Jesus, who cannot disappoint.  Grace enables us to walk through this world of sin, sorrow, self-serving and troubles with wise indifference as we await our place to be prepared.  For Jesus Himself promised us who have missed His grace, those of us who are weary and burdened with this world’s care, to come to Him and He would give us rest.  He has graciously purposed Himself to be our joy.  So let us not be so earthly minded as to prefer the shadows, to be in love with our chains, to pursue phantoms and to reject the everlasting realities. 

Lord Jesus, do not only invite, but allure me with your grace.  You have birthed hope by your resurrection from the dead, and offer to us the inheritance of an incorruptible, purity, eternal life.  Today, lead me by the teaching influences of the Holy Spirit that I may set my sights on the heavenly things – may the things that matter to You, matter to me.

These are the questions that I can ask myself and others — 

  • Do I know the meaning of life and what will happen when I die?
  • Can I explain the good news of Jesus Christ to another person?
  • Does my life exude hope and purpose to my family members, coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances?If not, why not?
  • How can I become a more contagious Christian?
  • What about “new” things? Is there any hope there? Is there anything altogether new?

As much as we need to learn how to live with evil, that is, to accept life in this cursed world with all of its labyrinths, we are called for something more.  We can choose between abandoned resignation or for mastery and both are poor choices for resignation entails fatalism and not faith and mastery is a form of striving that leaves one with a handful of air.  Rather we are called to obedient fear and humility before God who alone purposes everything.  I do not talk about false hopes too much, but in this case the idea that I read of “shepherding the wind” should be replaced with a confident enjoyment of His gifts which He gives in the few years we have on this earth.

How self-serving is it for us to contend with God.  Who contends with someone greater than themselves? Again, there is no hope for such purposes, yet even we, as followers of Christ, sometimes contend with Him.  If He permits us to be disappointed in our aspirations, we right away demand – “why is this?”  I think most of us have seen this getting carried away and carried on and on and on.  The end result unfortunately with the individual who would not forgive God.  That kind of rebellious spirit creates ten times more pain than the affliction itself. 

For who knows what is good for mortals while they live the few days of their vain life, which they pass like a shadow? For who can tell them what will be after them under the sun? – Ecclesiastes 6:12