The announcement, “Behold your God!” is found in Isaiah 40:9. As we read the rest of that chapter, there is no question that the entire chapter prophesies the coming of the Lord Jesus.
ISAIAH A MINI-BIBLE
As our Bible is made up of 66 books, 39 from the Old Testament and 27 from the New Testament; so Isaiah contains 66 chapters. The first 39 chapters (as the Old Testament) speaks primarily of judgment for sin. The last 27 chapters, beginning with Isaiah 40, (as the New Testament) prophesies primarily of the coming of Jesus and salvation through Him.
It’s true that even in the first section of Isaiah, we find prophecies of the coming Saviour, just as we find prophecies of Christ throughout the Old Testament. For example, in Isaiah 1:18 we are invited to be saved and find cleansing from sin. Isaiah 7:14 is a clear prophecy of Christ’s virgin birth and in Isaiah 9:6-7 there are prophecies of the character and ministry of Christ. In Isaiah 11 we have a wonderful prophecy of His future Millennial reign on the earth.
However, most of the first 39 chapters of Isaiah deal with God’s judgment on heathen nations which have harmed Israel, God’s beloved chosen people.
ISAIAH 40, A CHAPTER OF GOD’S COMFORT
As the 27 books of the New Testament emphasize the person and work of Christ and His wonderful salvation, so the last 27 chapters of Isaiah, beginning with Isaiah 40, deal with Christ and His salvation and the comfort He brings to our hearts.
The first word of Isaiah 40:1 is “Comfort“. Peace and comfort and joy are qualities that only come to those who by faith have come to Christ for salvation.
All the religions of the world are about you and me doing something to gain or inherit our salvation. They all lead to a life of fear and bondage as people attempt to merit salvation by their own self efforts. Hebrews 2:14-15 tells about that lifelong fear and bondage that religion brings. Ask any religionist, including the Protestant who has never been saved, about his chances of going to Heaven and he will tell you that he hopes to go there and he is doing his best he can to merit Heaven. Such a person is still lost in his sins.
Roman Catholics light candles and pay for Masses for their loved ones in a vain hope to have them released from Purgatory, an invention of the Roman Catholic Church.
Muslims willingly commit suicide and killing others in the vain hope of satisfying their god.
In summary, all religions, like Cain’s in Genesis 4, regardless of the brand; teach that Heaven is attained by our works and our sacrifices. All those counting on their own works to inherit Heaven are lost and will spend eternity in Hell.
Biblical salvation, on the other hand, is all about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. That sacrifice is pictured in Abel’s accepted blood sacrifice in Genesis 4 in contrast with Cain’s unacceptable sacrifice of the works of his hands. All the other animal sacrifices for sin throughout the Old Testament are types or pictures of Christ who made the ultimate full, complete sacrifice of Himself on the cross in payment for all our sins; past, present and future.
God’s wrath, which should have been poured out on us for eternity in Hell; was poured out on His Son, Jesus, as He hung on the cross, dying for our sins. Jesus paid the full price. He cried out as He died, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? God the Father turned His back on His Son as He suffered and died for our sins so that He would never have to turn His back on those who trust Christ for salvation.
Why on earth would God go to that extreme to save us if there were any other way to be saved? We do not appease God for our sins. Jesus is the propitiation, the appeasement of God’s wrath, for our sins, as is taught in Romans 3:20-28 and I John 2:1-2 and 4:10.
Jesus is the one and only Mediator between a Holy God and sinful man. Learn that truth in I Timothy 2:5-6. Mary and those others the Roman Catholic Church canonizes as saints, cannot mediate for us. They are sinners themselves in need of a Mediator provided by God Himself.
Now read Isaiah 40:1-2. This is what it is teaching. For those who trust in the finished sacrifice of Christ on the cross, there is nothing you need to add to the sacrifice. The penalty for your sins has been paid in full. Listen to the description in Isaiah 40:2 of one who trusts Christ for his salvation. “her warfare (against God) is accomplished”. Read Ephesians 2:13-17 in connection with this. Now back to Isaiah 40:2. “her iniquity is pardoned” and get this, “she has received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” The payment for our sins is more than enough. It is double what we needed. Putting it in monetary terms, if it took one billion dollars worth of God’s grace to save us, He has given us two billion dollar’s worth of His grace: far more than enough!
What a comfort we find when we put our trust in Christ and quit trying to earn our own way to Heaven! No wonder this chapter is filled with comfort. God is telling us to quit beholding our own self righteousness which He describes in Isaiah 64:6 as stinking, filthy rags. He is telling us to get our eyes on Him and behold Him and what He has done for us on Calvary.
Note, how in Isaiah 40:3 we get the obvious hint that He is speaking of Jesus. He is speaking of the forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist who introduces Jesus to a world of sinners. Compare John the Baptist’s introduction of Jesus in Matthew 3:1-3 with this Isaiah passage.
So as we Behold Jesus in the New Testament, we are beholding God. Let’s put our emphasis on each of these three words one at a time. Behold Our God!
Behold your GOD!
As you read through Isaiah 40 you will behold God as the all-powerful Creator, as your Saviour and as your kind, gentle Shepherd caring for His lambs. As you compare Isaiah 40 with the four New Testament Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, you begin to recognize that Isaiah is referring to Jesus: our Saviour, Shepherd and God. For convincing proof that Jesus is God, the Creator and Sustainer of His universe, read John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1 and Revelation 1. Yes, God Himself came down to earth in human flesh as God the Son to sacrifice Himself for our sins. How much more proof do you need to believe that God loves you a sinner?
Now as you read Isaiah 40, note again how God is our Creator in 40:12-31 our Saviour in 40:1-2 and our Shepherd in 40:11.
Jesus is I AM. Do you remember the story of Moses in Exodus 3 when He met God in a burning bush that was not consumed? God identified Himself to Moses as the I AM. Note in John 8:58 that Jesus made that same claim concerning Himself. It infuriated the Jews and they sought to kill Him right on the spot.
Jesus is Immanuel, (God with us) Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:23
Jesus is one with the Everlasting Father. Isaiah 9:6 John 10:30
Jesus was born a baby boy. In the person of the child, Jesus; God’s Son was given. Isaiah 9:6
He is the Wonderful Counselor to us through His Word and His Holy Spirit.
He is the mighty God. Isaiah 40:28-31
He is the Prince of Peace. John 14:27 When you trust Christ, you will immediately discover this peace that passes all understanding He not only brings peace to our hearts now, as believers; but one day He will bring peace to the whole world when He returns to reign.
Behold YOUR God!
Christianity is not a mere religion or set of doctrines. It is knowing Jesus experientially through His Word as our Creator, Saviour and Shepherd.
The Apostle Thomas discovered this intimate personal relationship with Jesus. Read his touching story in John 20.
Can you say with David in the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is MY Shepherd”?
Is it your heart cry to know Jesus personally as the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:10 expressed his desire “to know Christ and the power of His resurrection” as the experience of his life?
BEHOLD Your God!
The dictionary definition of the word BEHOLD means to keep in sight, to observe, to discern, to focus our attention.
We behold and focus our attention as we spend much time in the Bible. Isaiah 40:8 tells us of the eternality of His Word. Don’t focus on your pastor, including TV and radio preachers. If they give you God’s Word, test what they say by the Bible. But don’t blindly follow a preacher just because you like his personality or style.
Don’t focus on a denomination or association of churches. If you focus on Jesus; then preachers, churches and denominations will take their proper place in your life. Don’t focus on the political situation in the land. Don’t focus on the economics situation. Don’t even focus on a cause, such as “Let’s put Christ back in Christmas” in our communities. You can be involved in any cause that concerns you; but your focus must be on Jesus.
Don’t even focus on worship experiences and how they make you feel. A worship experience can lead you astray. The Bible will keep you on course. Psalm 138:2 challenges us to magnify God’s Word even above Jesus’ name. In Psalm 1 the Blessed Man is the man or woman who does not listen to and walk in the counsel of the ungodly; but meditates day and night in God’s Word. In short, test EVERYTHING by God’s Word.
The Results of Beholding Jesus
We grow in godliness. I Peter 2:1-2
He removes our fears and gives us His strength. Isaiah 40:8,13
We become like Jesus. II Corinthians 3:18
As we enter the New Year and into new situations and experiences in our lives, God’s Word will keep us from pessimism and fear and give us hope for tomorrow. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us “For I know the thoughts and plans that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” The NASB translates that phrase, “to give you a future and a hope”.
In the first half of the twentieth century, preacher and hymn writer Oswald Smith, wrote many songs of personal testimony that have meant much to me all through my life. One of my favorites is “The Glory of His Presence”. Here are the words.
I have walked alone with Jesus
In a fellowship divine,
Nevermore can earth allure me,
I am His and He is mine.
I have seen Him, I have known Him,
For He deigns to walk with me;
And the glory of His presence
Will be mine eternally,
O the glory of His presence,
O the beauty of His face.
I am His and His forever,
He has won me by His grace.
On the mountain I have seen Him,
Christ my Comforter and Friend;
And the glory of that vision
Will be with me to the end.
In my failure, sin and sorrow,
Broken-hearted crushed and torn,
I have felt His presence near me,
He has all my burdens borne,
In the darkness, in the shadow,
With the Saviour I have trod,
Sweet indeed have been the lessons
Since I’ve walked alone with God.
We Christians have much for which to praise and thank God. First and foremost, our salvation through Christ. With that salvation all our spiritual, physical and emotional needs are met. We are “complete in Christ”, Paul teaches us in Colossians 2:9-10.
We have forgiveness and cleansing from sin, peace with God and unspeakable joy as we live for Him.
We see and recognize His power and sovereignty in all the events that touch our lives, including those whom He brings to political power over us. We have His protection, even when we aren’t aware of it.
Perhaps, best of all, we enjoy the glory of His presence day and night, wherever we are, whatever we are doing.
Where do you live?
Perhaps you are thinking of a geographical location. I’m thinking of something far more important than your geographical location. I’m wondering where you live according to Psalm 90 and 91. In both of those Psalms we learn that God is the dwelling place of those who belong to Him.
Whereas the non Christian and the carnal Christian settle down and feel at home in this world, the spiritual Christian realizes and enjoys His home in God Himself. Like Abraham and Moses and other Old Testament saints, referred to in Hebrews 11:13, we see ourselves as strangers and pilgrims just passing through this world.
As a teenager, I loved to sing with my friends a song by Albert Brumley.
This world is not my home,
I’m just a passing through.
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue,
The angels beckon me
From Heaven’s golden shore
And I can’t feel at home
In this world anymore.
O Lord, You know,
I have no Friend like You.
If Heaven’s not my Home
Then Lord, what will I do?
The angels beckon me
From Heaven’s Golden shore
And I can’t feel at home
In this world anymore.
What does it mean for God to be our dwelling place?
In Psalm 90:1 the Psalmist refers to our dwelling place as being God Himself. In Psalm 91:1, one of the most precious of all the Psalms, it refers to us as dwelling “In the secret place of the Most High”. What does that mean?
First it means that we dwell under His sovereignty. We did not choose our race, nationality, family, genetic structure with our strengths and weaknesses. God is sovereign in all those matters. We live by His providence, by His provision, and by His preservation, as Psalm 145 teaches us. We also live by His power as Acts 17:24-28 teaches us. There it refers to us as being God’s offspring. It’s true that He is our Creator; but, we are His children, only through faith in Christ, as John 1:14 makes clear. Those who reject Christ, Jesus Himself refers to in John 8:44 as “children of the devil”.
Not only is Christ our Creator, but He is also the Sustainer of life. Paul explains that in Colossians 1:16-17. That is, the force that holds our atoms together is none other than Christ Himself.
Don’t be a fool!
It is impossible for us to try to separate our existence from God. We can’t think about life or death or even the reason for our existence without bringing God into our thoughts. To attempt to try to divorce Him from our thoughts is to be a fool, according to Psalm 14:1-3.
Prepare to Meet God!
You and I will one day meet Him, Paul warned the intellectuals of Athens as recorded in Acts 17:31. That time is sooner than we think.
Not only will we meet Him, but we will give Him an account of our lives. The Bema Judgment for Christians is found in Romans 14:7-12. The White Throne Judgment of the Lost is described in Revelation 20:11-15. You and I will face Christ in one of those Judgments. Both judgments are inescapable! Romans 2:3.
Therefore, it behooves each of us to prepare now for the inevitable, the Prophet Amos warned in Amos 4:12. “Prepare to meet thy God.”
Our life span is a preparation time for meeting Him. I Corinthians 3:11-15 tells us Christ is the foundation. If you are trusting Him alone to save you from your sins, the foundation has been laid. The question follows, How are you going to build on that foundation? How are you going to live your life? The way you answer that question determines your rewards when you meet Christ.
The Secret Place of the Most High
Psalm 91, sometimes known as the fox hole Psalm, has comforted many in dangerous places. It speaks of dwelling “in the secret place of the Most High.” What does that mean? It means the Christian can have an intimate, personal relationship with The Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Most High God who came down to this earth in a body of flesh to die for our sins. If you are trusting Him fully for salvation and for your life right now on this earth, you are indeed dwelling “in the secret place of the Most High.”
With Thomas, you can say of Him, “My Lord and My God!” Read the highly emotional account in John 20:19-29. If you love Jesus enough to spend time with Him in reading and meditating on the Scriptures and in prayer, you will discover an intimacy with Christ that is unknown by the typical Christian. Hebrews 10:25 teaches us that gathering with Bible-loving Christian on the Lord’s Day to hear God’s Word preached will also help you experience this intimacy with Christ.
The Christians who live “in the Secret Place of the Most High” will experience a special protection over their lives that others cannot know. That doesn’t mean that you will be immune to set backs, disappointments and even tragedies at times. It doesn’t mean that you will experience a life of health and wealth. God sometimes uses set-backs to sanctify and draw us closer to Himself, as taught in I Peter 5:10. But in it all, He promises His presence and protection, as taught in Psalm 91.
Betty, wife of missionary Jim Elliot who was martyred by savage Indians in Ecuador back in 1956, later wrote a book that has become famous among Christians, “Shadow of the Almighty”. No matter what God allows in our lives, we can rest secure under that Shadow. For all who do not know Christ, life is thought of as simply highly developed protoplasm swimming in the Sea of Chance with no direction, no purpose and no future.
Not only do we dwell in Christ, but He dwells in us!
As life giving sap flows through a grape vine to the branches, producing grapes, so Christ’s life flows through us producing His Fruit of the Spirit, Jesus taught in John 15 in the Upper Room before He went to the cross the next day.
The Holy Spirit lives in every Christians, according to Romans 8:9. It’s one thing for the Spirit of God to live in the believer. It’s another thing for Him to dwell in us, taking full control and being at home in us. It was Paul’s prayer for the Church as recorded in Ephesians 3:14-21 that Christ, by His Spirit would dwell in every believer.
Who has the most intimate relationship with Christ?
That’s a reality that the Old Testament Israelites did not experience in their Tabernacle worship. They knew He dwelt behind the curtain in the Holy of Holies, a place where none but the High Priest could go only once a year
Jesus Disciples knew what it was to experience the presence of Jesus whenever He was with them physically, but when He was absent from them as in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, they feared the worst. It was only when He was physically with them that they experienced peace.
Today, we have it better than the Israelites of the Old Testament or even the disciples of Jesus’ day. We have His presence in our lives day and night and we experience His constant peace and joy and victory over sin because He is right there to give us whatever we need.
Perhaps you can say today, “I know Christ as my Saviour!” That’s great! But do you also know Him as your life, as your Shepherd, as your Lord and King? Do you recognize that your body is His sacred, holy Temple? Do you keep it holy and clean for His use? Is there a continual worship service going on in your body day and night? Do you offer Him your sacrifice of praise, even when the circumstances would not normally evoke praise from your heart? That’s the sacrifice of praise taught in Hebrews 13:12-16.
My prayer for you, Dear Reader, is that you not only know Christ as your Saviour, but that you also experience the peace and joy of dwelling under the Shadow of the Almighty.
THE BIBLE CLEARLY TEACHES CAPITAL PUNISHMENT IS RIGHT
Liberals are consistently against capital punishment. Conservatives are generally for it. It ought not even be controversial for Bible believers. The Bible clearly teaches it.
The death penalty was first announced to Adam. Death is the penalty for sin. Genesis 2:15-17 In Adam we have all followed our first father into sin. Romans 5:12-21. As sinners we all face the penalty for sin which is death. Romans 6:23
GOD ALLOWED EVIL MEN TO EXECUTE HIS SON, JESUS, TO SAVE US FROM OUR SINS
There is only one way to be saved and rehabilitated from sin and to avoid eternal damnation and that is to receive Christ as our Saviour. Jesus died to take the punishment for our sins. He rose again the third day to prove that it was God Himself who died on the cross. Those who trust Him are saved from God’s penalty for sin, which is eternity in Hell. Not only are we saved from God’s punishment for sin, but His Holy Spirit comes to live in us and begins the process of spiritual rehabilitation, the process of being conformed to the image of Christ.
Prior to the Flood God announced that the world’s population had become unspeakably vile; somewhat as it is today. The cup of God’s wrath was filled to the brim and He decided to send a worldwide flood to destroy mankind from the face of the earth, except for Noah and his wife and their three sons and the son’s wives; to whom God showed His grace by saving them from the flood in an ark. You can read about it in Genesis 6, Matthew 24:37-29, Hebrews 11:7 and II Peter 2:4-5. You can also find evidence of this world wide flood in fossils brought about by the drowning of humans, animals, and birds that were instantly buried under tons of mud and rock throughout the earth as a result of the universal Flood. .
HUMAN GOVERNMENT ESTABLISHED
After the Flood had subsided and Noah and his family left the ark, they built an altar and worshipped God. At that time God gave them His covenant and also a command that from now on God required human government to put murderers and others guilty of capital crimes to death. Read about this in Genesis 8:20- 9:17 Note that God’s beautiful rainbow is a constant sign of that covenant.
GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBLE FOR CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
About one thousand years later God gave Moses His Law for Israel in Exodus and Leviticus. In Exodus 21 and Leviticus 20 God’s Laws expand the crimes requiring capital punishment. Not only murderers were to be executed, but also those who smite or curse their parents, those who steal and sell slaves, those guilty of adultery and those guilty of homo-sexuality and other unspeakably vile sins.
I do not hate any sinner. I only hate sin. Sin is sin, whether it be murder or exceeding the speed limit. I am a sinner who has been saved by the grace of God. I love sinners and love to share with them the wonderful grace of God.
As a Gospel preacher I hold out only one solution to sin and that is JESUS. When a sinner puts His trust in Christ who died to pay the punishment for his sins, God not only forgives and cleanses him from sin, but He begins a work of total transformation. The sins he once loved he hates. The Bible he once hated and the righteous standards he despised and ignored, he now loves.
WHAT ABOUT “THOU SHALT NOT KILL?”
Some argue that since the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 teach we are not to kill; therefore we must never put murderers to death, but rather imprison them for life. It’s true that the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” teaches that we as individuals are not to kill others nor take vengeance into our own hands; but that command does not nullify the responsibility of human government to carry out capital punishment. God does not contradict Himself. A Christian executioner is not disobeying God’s sixth commandment when he administers the lethal injection. A Christian soldier is not disobeying God’s sixth commandment when under orders he shoots the enemy. We are to leave justice and vengeance for human government to carry out.
Biblical justice includes carrying out vengeance for victims and their grieving families. It is a travesty of justice when such criminals are freed or given light sentences. No wonder our prisons are overflowing with criminals. Shame on judges who are soft on crime. The old time Western movies that ended with the sheriff shooting or hanging the bad guy are far more moral than the shameful miscarriage of justice we see in our courts today as murderers and rapists and pedophiles are freed to walk the streets of our cities and repeat their crimes.
HATRED AND PERSONAL REVENGE ARE ALWAYS WRONG
Liberals argue that the Old Testament is all about hatred and revenge but that the New Testament is all about love and forgiveness. Those who argue this way show a shameful ignorance of the Bible. The same God is the author of both the Old and New Testament. There is no contradiction between the two. Both the Old and New Testament teach that personal revenge and murder are sin. The New Testament, as well as the Old Testament teach that human government is responsible to carry out capital punishment. Romans 13:1-6. clearly teaches that it is right for police officers as well as our military to carry guns and use them when needed. It is right for human government to put those guilty of capital crimes to death. In fact, the Romans 13 passage teaches that those officers act as ministers or servants of God in that capacity.
Read the following accounts to learn that God killed those who broke His Laws and He often used His servants to carry out His vengeance on His enemies.
MOSES COOPERATED WITH GOD IN EXECUTING EVIL MEN
In Exodus 14 we read the marvelous story of how God opened a way on dry ground through the Red Sea to allow Israel to escape their slavery from the Egyptians. We also read of how later Pharaoh’s army followed Israel through that dry road in the Sea. God alone could have closed the Sea on the Egyptian army and destroyed them. Instead, God chose to include Moses in carrying out the death penalty on Egypt‘s army. God commanded Moses to lift up his rod over the Sea and lo and behold the Sea came together over Pharaoh’s army and drowned them.
GOD HONORED LEVITES AS PRIESTS FOR EXECUTING SINNERS
In Exodus 32 while Moses was up on the Mountain receiving God’s Law, Aaron, Moses’ brother, was leading the Israelites in the idolatrous worship of a golden calf he had fashioned. When Moses returned from the mountain and saw the idolatry and the orgy, he was furious. God in His fury commanded faithful Israel to put these idolaters to death. The tribe of Levi volunteered and carried out God’s command. God rewarded His faithful, courageous servants by choosing them as the priestly tribe of Israel.
In Numbers 15:32-36 God commanded Israel to stone some Israelites who were desecrating the Sabbath by picking up stick. Sounds pretty severe, doesn’t it, when you think how we treat the Lord’s Day? For more information on this, go to my link on the SABBATH on this web site.
In Joshua 7 we read how Achan and his family were stoned to death because Achan had in disobedience to God, stolen some valuables from the ruins of Ai. God commanded Israel to carry out the execution.
These are just a few of the many instances in the Old Testament where people were commanded by God to execute law breakers.
GOD CHOOSES EVEN WICKED MEN TO CARRY OUT JUSTICE
Note a couple of references to human government in the Book of Daniel. Daniel 4:25 teaches that “the Most High (God) ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.” Again in Daniel 5:21 we learn “that the Most High God ruleth in the kingdom of men, and the He appointeth over it whomsoever He will.” This truth applies to wicked emperors of ancient Rome, as well as to good and wicked rulers of modern nations. It also applies to us in America. We are privileged to vote for our leaders, but it is ultimately God who determines elections.
JESUS’ SERMON ON THE MOUNT AND REVENGE
When we come to the New Testament in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 Jesus expands on the Old Testament Law. He does not rescind the Law. Rather, He amplifies it, carrying it beyond acts to even our thoughts and attitudes. One who hates another is a murderer. One who lusts after other women is an adulterer. In this sermon we are taught to forgive those who harm us and take advantage of us. The Sermon on the Mount is clearly Christ’s description and standards of those who belong to His Kingdom, those who are Christians. For more on this subject go to my BEATITUDES series on this web site.
ROMANS 13 AND GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSIBILTY TO AVENGE WRONG
In Romans 13 we learn of our relationship with human government. There again we learn that “the powers that be are ordained of God.” There we learn that when we resist human government, we are resisting God. There we learn that when we break laws and resist arrest, we pay the consequences. Policemen and those in our military carry guns and use them as ministers of God. We are to respect them and have a healthy fear of them when we break the law, even if it is driving over the speed limit.
Thank God that in America we have a nation that was founded by Christian men of character who attempted to build a nation on Biblical principles. Thank God that we as American citizens still have the power to elect men and women to political power to advance in government the values that we hold. Thank God that we still have the power to vote out of office those who do not truly represent us. How much longer we will have that freedom, we do not know. Regardless of what happens in the future, understand that God ruleth over all. We are ultimately in His hands.
JESUS WAS FOR CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
In Luke 13:1-5 we have an incident where Jesus could have spoken out against capital punishment if it were wrong, but He did not speak out against it. The Pharisee, Gamaliel also comments on this event in Acts 5:37. There Jesus reminds the people of an incident of which they were probably very much aware. A group of Galileans had formed a revolt against the Roman Empire. They came to Jerusalem under the guise of offering animal sacrifices. Pilate, the governor, learning of the revolt, ordered them to be executed along with their animal sacrifices. Their blood was mingled with the blood of their animal sacrifices on the altar.
Jesus refers to these rebels as sinners, receiving the just punishment from Pilate. Then He warns the people and all of us today that unless we repent we shall all perish in our sins.
WHAT ABOUT REHABILITATION?
While we are on this subject let me make one more point. The purpose of prisons and the purpose of executions are to punish; not to rehabilitate. We have it wrong today. We think the primary purpose of prison is to rehabilitate and not to punish. Because of our twisted thinking, crime is on the increase and prisons are over-crowded. If we would execute those who have committed capital offenses and if we would make prison an unpleasant experience, crime would decrease and criminals would think twice before committing crimes.
There is a place for rehabilitation. That should be our job as Christians. Only God can truly change hearts and rehabilitate prisoners. We should visit prisoners and bring them the Gospel. We should have Bible classes with those who desire to know God. After prisoners have served their time, they can return to society as changed men and women ready to serve God and be a blessing instead of a burden to society.
Accounts of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem are found in each of the four Gospels: Matthew 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:26-40 and John 12:12-19. It was a humble, but natural effort of the common people to honor Christ, the Miracle Worker; but it turned out to be rather superficial. The same multitude that shouted Hosanna to Jesus as their political saviour from Rome were, for the most part, a week later changed into a rabid mob shouting for His crucifixion.
It’s somewhat like the masses today who call themselves Christians who superficially worship God, but have never recognized that they were lost sinners in need of a Saviour. They are people who seek emotional, good feeling experiences, but have never been broken before God as guilty sinners and have no appetite for the Word of God.
This so-called Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem was the response of the crowds to the initial phase of His coming; as Jesus rode into the city on a colt, the foal of a donkey, as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9.
There is coming a true Coronation of Christ at the end of the Tribulation, as described in Revelation 19:11-21; when Jesus will appear on earth in His glory, riding on a white horse conqueroring as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Those of us who have received Him as Saviour will return with Him to share in His victory.
In Philippians 2:5-11 we read of these two comings of Christ. Verses 5-8 speak of His first coming in humility to die for our sins. Verses 9-11 speak of His glorious return to reign.
EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE TRIUMPHAL ENTRY
This journey to the cross actually began in Luke 9:51. Follow along as I paraphrase. “And it came to pass when the time was come that (He should go to the cross and die for the sins of the world, and be buried and rise the third day) and be be received up (back to Heaven), He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” The die was cast. There would be no turning back.
Returning to His Triumphal Entry story in Luke 19, note that Jesus sent two of His disciples to find a donkey, in the Village of Bethphage. They found the donkey and her colt, just like He said they would. They untied it as He told them. The owner came out to find out what was going on, just as Jesus said it would happen. They answered, “The Master has need of him,” just as they were told to answer. No doubt, the owner of the donkey and colt was a follower of Christ and was thrilled at the opportunity of providing the animals for Jesus.
All of it was a fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold, thy King cometh unto thee. He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding upon a donkey, and upon a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Incidentally, this colt had never been broken or ridden. Jesus, who is Lord of all, had no problem with the colt. It was instantly broken the moment He sat on it.
THE CROWDS THAT GREETED JESUS
The growing crowds, exalted Jesus as their political Messiah. They were excited that perhaps now, there would be peace in Jerusalem and in the land of Israel and that’s why they cried out as Matthew records it, “Hosanna, which means save now! The people were not concerned about being saved from their sins. They weren’t interested in a suffering Messiah. What they wanted was a powerful political Saviour who would free them from the oppression of Rome.
THE STONES WOULD CRY OUT
The Pharisees, who had been plotting the death of Jesus for some time now, were upset with the crowds that honored Jesus. They insisted that Jesus put a stop to all this celebration. Jesus answered them that even if He tried to put a stop to it, the stones would cry out in homage to Him.
GOD PUT HIS SON TO DEATH AS A SACRIFICE FOR OUR SINS
At the same time the Pharisee’s were plotting the death of Jesus; unknown to them, God was Master-minding the crucifixion. According to Revelation 13:8. the crucifixion of Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb slain for sin, was known and planned by God before the foundation of the world.
A CONSTANT LAW OF GOD
Read and memorize Psalm 76:10. This is a constant law of God. Don’t ever forget it. You will need to remember it throughout your life as you are confronted by the wrath of man. “Surely, the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder or wrath shalt Thou restrain.” What does this verse teach us about the wrath of man? Whenever you are confronted by the wrath of man, don’t be too upset. God always uses the wrath of man to accomplish His purposes. Beyond that, God restrains man’s wrath. In other words, the wrath of man is never wasted. What God does not use for His glory, He restrains.
JESUS IS NOT SEEKING NOISY WORSHIPPERS
The Palm Sunday crowd made a great fan-fare, a great outward show of their loyalty for Christ; but it was all simply hyper-emotionalism and noise.
Jesus is not seeking noisy worshippers. He is not asking us to whip up our emotions and loudly proclaim our allegience to Him. Rather, He is looking for humble, grateful followers who are so overwhelmed with His sacrifice for our sins that we gladly present our lives to Him to be used as He sees fit for His glory. Romans 12:1-2 teaches us that true worship always results in surrender to Christ, and separation from the influence of this sinful, Satan-controlled world system and in joyful service to Christ.
I encourage you, dear reader to make sure that you are among those who have received Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Come in humility to Him in your sins and ask Him to save you and cleanse you from sin. He will save you now and make you fit to join His family and make you fit to worship Him. One day we will join Him in celebration as He comes to this world as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Two important terms apply to the Bible. Inspiration refers to the process by which we received our Bible. Illumination refers to the process by which we comprehend our Bible. Let’s examine these two processes.
We received our Bible from God via inspiration. That is, He breathed His Word into the minds of the human authors. There were about 40 of them and they wrote over a period of over 1500 years. Yet together they told one story of God’s redemptive purpose woven together by the Holy Spirit. Inspiration reaches down to every word. That is called verbal inspiration. It involves the entire Bible from Genesis through Revelation. That’s called plenary inspiration. The entire Bible is without error. That is, it is inerrant inspiration. Any honest person has to agree that it is impossible for such a miraculous book to simply be the work of fallible men.
II Timothy 3:16-17 states, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (God breathed into the minds of human authors) and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect (complete) thoroughly furnished (equipped) unto all good works.”
II Peter 1:21 describes the process God used. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
These human authors were not human machines through which God passed His Word to us. Each of them were individuals with their own personalities and styles of writing. Each used his own vocabulary. God simply gave them His message and superintended them as they wrote so that every word they wrote was protected from error. The Bible is as much the infallible Word of God as if He had written it Himself with His own hand.
For that reason, the Bible is able to save and to change lives by its supernatural power.
As the Holy Spirit of God was instrumental in giving His Word by inspiration, so His Spirit is instrumental in illuminating us. That’s why the Psalmist in Psalm 119:18 prays, even as we should pray whenever we approach the Bible, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy Law.” We can expand that today and pray, “Open Thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy Word (from Genesis through Revelation).
Without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, it is a closed book to us. We read in I Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he now them, because they are spiritually discerned.” That’s why the Bible is a closed book to the unsaved. They, along with the unconverted liberal scholars, perceive it as foolish and boring.
But for even the newest and youngest of born again believers, the Bible opens up as a treasure chest of God’s Truth. For a better understanding of how this works, go to my articles on EVOLUTION and learn how a scholar working on his PhD at PrincetonUniversity discovered the truth of the Bible and how God changed him from an evolutionist to a creationist.
Because the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit is so essential, Paul prayed for that illumination in the lives of the Christians in Ephesus. You can read that prayer and learn much about out incomprehensible God in Ephesians 3:14-21.
As Jesus prepared to go to the cross, He spent His last hours with His disciples in an upper room and prayed for the illuminating work of His Holy Spirit whom He would send to His disciples after He returned to Heaven. Read Jesus’ concern for this in John 14:26 and 16:13-14.
Understand, Christian friend, that whenever you talk to an unconverted person about the Bible, that the only thing you need to explain to Him is God’s plan of salvation. Until He receives Christ, the rest of the Bible is a closed, boring book to him.
SOME EXAMPLES OF ILLUMINATION
In Acts 10 you can read the story of Cornelius, a Roman centurion who was seeking God’s truth. It’s an amazing story of how God changed the heart of Peter to go to him with the Gospel. Up to this time, Peter and the other Apostles thought salvation was only for the Jews. Through this event God opened the spiritual eyesight of Peter to understand that the Gospel was for the Gentiles also, that is, the rest of the world.
When Peter presented the Gospel to Cornelius, immediately he was given spiritual illumination and understood and received the Gospel of Christ.
In Acts 16 we read of how the same thing happened to Lydia, a gentile woman from the city of Thyatira in Asia Minor. Her heart was opened to the Truth as she heard Paul explain the Gospel and she was saved. Also in that same 16th chapter of Acts, we read the exciting story of how Paul won his jailer to Christ. If you’ve never read it, I challenge you to read it now.
ILLUMINATION IS THE ONGOING WORK OF GOD
Understand then that inspiration is a once for ever work of the Holy Spirit. When the Bible was complete, the work of inspiration ceased. Nothing new has ever been inspired of God to be added to the Bible. In Revelation 22:18-19 God pronounces a curse on anyone who tries to add or subtract from His Word.
Understand also that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible also illuminates our minds and hearts to receive the Bible as God’s Word. Illumination is an ongoing work in the heart of every Christian. I understand much more of the Bible than I did when I first became a Christian at the age of 9 or when I first began preaching the Word as a 23 year old preacher.
Illumination rests on a once for all faith in the Bible as the inspired Word of God. Jude 3 states that the body of The Faith was given once for all to the Apostles. I have spent a lifetime contending for that Faith once for all given to the Apostles. As a result, life has been anything but boring I can assure you.
God’s Word is filled with Treasures for the Christian who devotes himself to seeking The Truth. Psalm 119:18 speaks of these truths as being wondrous. Verse 118 describes these truths as sweet to our taste. Psalm 139:17 describes these truths as precious.
I Peter 1:23 explains that His Word is vital for salvation. No one can be saved apart from the Word of God.
Psalm 119:9 and I John 1 teach us that the Word teaches us of the shed blood of Christ that cleanses us from sin.
II Peter 3:18, I Peter 2:1-3 and Hebrews 5:12-14 teach us of the part Scripture plays in our spiritual growth.
John 4:23 and Job 23:11-12 teach us of the importance of the Word to truly worship God. Worship experiences not based on the Word of God are useless and sacrilegious.
The Psalmist in Psalm 119:18 as well as the Christian today understands that apart from the illumination of the Holy Spirit it is impossible to understand the Bible.
We must approach the Bible with a humble, meek heart in order to receive the Spirit’s illumination. Psalm 22:26, 25:9, Isaiah 57:15 A proud heart approaches the Bible with a know-it-all attitude and is not open to correction or to learning further truths from Scripture. If there is anything we preachers need to understand, it is that the full complete truth concerning God is unsearchable and beyond anyone’s complete understanding. That’s what Paul taught in Romans 11:33-36. This should be a reason for genuine humility and worship.
We must also approach God’s Word with a clean heart. Hebrews 10:19-25 As a boy, I once heard this saying which has stayed with me throughout my life. ” This Book will keep your from sin, but sin will keep you from this Book.” Don’t ever forget that.
Look again at our text in Psalm 119:18 Understand that it is God who opens our eyes to understand the truth. After His resurrection, Jesus began to open the minds of His disciples to understand His Word. Read of that in Luke 24:45. After Jesus returned to Heaven, His Holy Spirit took over that responsibility of illuminating our minds.
In Ephesians 1:15-20 Paul prayed for that illumination in the hearts of the Ephesian believers.
TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES
As Moses took off his shoes as God spoke to him from the burning bush as recorded in Exodus 3:4-5, let me encourage you to figuratively take off your shoes, that is, turn from the defilements of the world, when you enter church to hear the preaching of God’s Word, or when you take time to read your Bible privately at home, or whenever you attempt to study God’s Word.
Note finally, that the Psalmist does not simply pray for illumination to understand spiritual things. He asks for illumination from God’s Word. If we are not reading the Bible and hiding it in our hearts by memorizing it, there will be nothing for the Holy Spirit to recall from our minds. God cannot illuminate a blank mind. We must fill it with His Word by reading it and memorizing portions of it. Then you can pray that prayer of Psalm 119:18 and God will recall Biblical truth from your mind and help you to put it all into perspective, applying it to your present needs.
As a boy I remember someone wisely warning me concerning the Bible, “This Book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this Book.” Through the years I have observed the truth of this statement in countless lives as well as my own.
If you are concerned and worried about the election and the spiritual condition of America, take time to read and meditate on the following passages from God’s Word.
Pray, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Matthew 6:10
It all starts with submission to God’s will and a desire for God to be glorified, and with an understanding that God knows what He is doing.
“For promotion cometh neither from the east nor from the west, nor from the south, for God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another.” Psalm 75:6-7
Understand that God is in charge; not the electorate. God uses the electorate to accomplish His sovereign will.
“Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee. The remainder of wrath He restrains.” Psalm 76:10
God never wastes the wrath of man nor allows them to carry out their wrathful, ungodly agenda, beyond His will. God never loses control of a situation.
“The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will, and setteth up over it (even) the basest of men.” Daniel 4:17
God is the Sovereign Ruler of the universe. He uses evil man as well as good to accomplish His will.
“I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto Heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored Him that liveth forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His Kingdom is from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say, ‘What doest Thou?” Daniel 4:34-35
God humbled proud Nebuchadnezzar and he became a worshipper of the God of Israel. He was enabled to understand God and God’s ways in a way that many Christian’s today fail to understand Him.
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Romans 13:1-2
Regardless of who is elected, God allowed it and ordained it. We must submit ourselves to God unconditionally and to human government conditionally, as long as human government does not command us to disobey God’s Word.
In that case, we must submit to God and accept the consequences, as Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, did when they refused to obey King Nebuchadnezar’s order to bow down and worship his image. Daniel 3 tells the wonderful story of how they were cast into a fiery furnace and came out unscathed without even the smell of smoke on them. as recorded in Daniel 3.
In Daniel 4 we read the amazing story of how God changed the heart of Nebuchadnezzar and he became a worshipper of the one true God of Israel.
Years later, Daniel, himself also disobeyed the decree of Darius of Persia, prohibiting him to pray to God. In spite of the decree, Daniel continued to pray to God and for that he was cast into a den of lions. Read how God wonderfully spared his life and changed the heart of Darius.
As we read through the Book of Daniel, we have to be impressed with how God took Daniel, a young Israelite captive, who determined to be faithful to God as a young man, and used him to influence two empires, Babylon and Persia, for God’s glory.
God is looking for godly young men and women today whom He can use to impact nations for Him.
“If My people which are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin. and heal their land.”
II Chronicles 7:14
Here is a wonderful promise to God’s people in any age that if we will meet His conditions, He will heal our sin-sick nation. America, it’s not too late for us. But it all begins with Christians. We must be broken and repentant before God whom we have offended with our sins. When Christians get right with God, He will heal our nation.