The Mediator

“Then they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.’”

Exodus 20:19

Israel had been complaining against the Lord’s leading ever since Moses began the process of confronting Pharaoh to let Israel go (Exodus 5:21). In chapters 16 and 17 their complaining was over food and water yet the Lord provided their need. The people knew they had sinned so they “stood afar off” (v 18) fearing His wrath and in awe of the physical manifestations expressing His special presence. They could not approach God in their sinful state. They needed a mediator, one who could converse with God on their behalf.

They had witnessed occasions where God had already spoken to them through Moses and Moses had spoken to God and been answered. God had already made Moses their mediator. We sinners all need a mediator to speak on our behalf to a holy God. In grace God promised just such a Person: “And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him’” (Deuteronomy 18:18).

Paul recognised this Mediator as being Jesus. He wrote, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:3-6). Being both God and Man Jesus alone is able to mediate between sinful man and holy God. He is qualified to do so because He is without sin and “gave Himself a ransom for all” (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

The writer of Hebrews also recognized Jesus as the fulfillment of the promise for the Prophet who would mediate between God and man forever: “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). The covenant God made with Israel through Moses was meant to show Israel’s and our sinfulness but it could not save from that sin. The New Covenant is better in that it is based on the unconditional covenant God made with Abraham and it can save from sin because in it God changes the heart.

His Cup, Our Cup

“At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”

Acts 16:25

Paul and Silas have not been the only faithful men of God to find themselves in prison as a result of their obedience and faithfulness to God. The Holy Spirit had directed him to Macedonia (vs 6 & 7). It was at Paul’s word that a young woman was delivered from the power of a demon resulting in their being beaten almost to death and imprisonment (vs 22-23). In that state of immense pain they were also put in stocks but they were not bitter with God. Instead they prayed and sang His praises.

We should not expect things to go smoothly, as we perceive them, just because we are faithful to the Lord’s leading. Paul and Silas were surrendered to whatever the Lord brought their way and trusted Him with all their circumstances, even beatings to the point of death or death itself.

On this occasion it pleased God to miraculously release them from the stocks and open the prison gates (v 26). Paul and Silas could not have foreseen this or what would happen next. They made no attempt to leave and neither did any of the other prisoners (v 28). The jailor knew that if prisoners had escaped he would be put to death. Paul interrupted his attempt at suicide and the jailor’s question gave Paul the opportunity to preach Christ (vs 31-32).

From that moment the jailor was a changed man as was his family and household (vs 33-34). Paul and Silas waited until they were released so that no harm would come to the jailor or his family and household.

We won’t be forewarned of the trials of life that the Lord will lead us into but they will be for reasons we cannot perceive prior to the event. Like Paul and Silas our part is to be obedient to the word of the Lord and the leading of the Holy Spirit and accept with praise, prayer and worship what becomes of it. Bitterness and complaint did not cross their minds and should never cross ours. Like Jesus we will say, “Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11).

Timothy was on this trip with Paul and Silas. Paul would later write to him, “Yes, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12) and “endure afflictions …  fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Eyes on the Eternal

“We remember the fish we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” Numbers 11:5-6

It is possible that we may forget and take for granted the everlasting grace of God that meets our every need and begin to look back with selective memory on our past. God had been miraculously and graciously providing the manna for some time while Israel journeyed in the wilderness en route to the Promised Land that flowed with milk and honey. Some began to reflect on what they had left behind and they craved the food of Egypt and that craving spread like an aggressive cancer to many others. They complained against Moses but in reality their complaint was against God. It had the effect of wearing Moses down even to the point of desiring death. This was when the Lord intervened. He sent quail for a month and those who had yielded to craving for the old life died that month. We will die spiritually if we begin to crave the things of this world.

Israel was on its way to the Promised Land where God would personally dwell with the people. They would have all they needed. They could make bricks to build their own houses instead of building Pharaoh’s cities, they could grow crops to feed their own children instead of feeding Pharaoh’s armies, they would not feel the whip on their backs and they would not be forced to kill their own sons. They forgot all these things because they looked at their present circumstances and compared them with selected memories of their past. They also forgot or did not believe God’s promise and for that a whole generation of Israel died in the wilderness and never entered the Promised Land.

Our complaint against the Lord will begin when we take our eyes off our destiny. If we have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, dwelling with Him in His kingdom is our destiny regardless of our present circumstances. God has and will graciously provide all we need as we travel toward our real and eternal home. If we begin to doubt His promise we will also begin to look back and complain against His gracious provision and leading. We will again desire those things that brought only death and destruction. We will lose the joy of an abiding and intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ.

In writing to the Christians in Corinth Paul wrote, “… we do not lose heart. … our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

When our desire is for our Destiny and our eyes are upon Him we will see no reason for complaint regarding our present circumstance and we will have no desire to return to the existence we had before we met Him who is life. Our joy will be full.

God at Work

“Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure” Philippians 2:12-13

Having been given the gift of eternal life in Jesus Christ we are to work at bringing that new life into actual daily experience. That is impossible for us to achieve of ourselves and, fortunately, Paul tells us that God is the main Person in achieving our maturity in Christ. This has to be one of the greatest pieces of news that a believer could receive; God is at work in us to bring our wills into line with His and to achieve His goal.

Since this is the case, and we have gladly accepted God’s role in our lives, we have no cause to complain about the circumstances of life that He allows or orchestrates to achieve His good pleasure. That is why Paul then wrote in the next verse, “Do all things without complaining and disputing.” If we have truly received the truth that God is working in us for His good pleasure we will rather rejoice in all things regardless of whether they bring some form of pain or pleasure. It is good for us to take note of the words “all things.”

For the same reason James writes, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (James 1:2) and Paul writes, “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). Any complaint that we have is ultimately against God because He is the One working in us according to His good pleasure.

What is His “good pleasure? The short answer is to make us into Christ’s image. God created man in His image. That image was corrupted by sin. Jesus Christ is the perfect man in God’s image. A similar aspect of this is mentioned by Paul in his letter to the believers in Galatia, “But when it pleased God … to reveal His Son in me …” (1:15-16). This is what God is working in us to achieve – to reveal His Son in us. Any complaining or arguing with God about His work is essentially saying that we do not trust Him or we do not want to be like Christ or want Him revealed in us.

Paul understood this as any study of his life will reveal. It also explains why he would write to the believers in Rome, “we glory in tribulations” (5:3). Taken with the other passages cited and its context this means all tribulations because they are part of the “all things.” Paul considered suffering a necessary part of knowing Jesus Christ which is why he wrote “… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10).

When we accept that it is God at work in all things in our lives to achieve His goal then we will “count it all joy” no matter the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Divine Appointments

“At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the (other) prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25

Paul and Silas were in a most unusual circumstance even for them. They had been “beaten with rods” and thrown into the most secure part of the prison without medical help for their wounds and cuts. Though humanly speaking they had a bleak outlook they were not in the least down cast. They saw their situation as a divine appointment, a gift from God, so instead of griping and complaining they worshipped the Lord.

They couldn’t know what the outcome of their imprisonment would be but they knew the One who was able to keep them in prison or deliver them as He chose, when He chose and in the way He chose. Paul and Silas believed what the Lord had said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. That is why they didn’t complain. They knew this was the Lord’s appointment for them whatever the outcome.

Their singing and praying out loud gave the Lord the opportunity to draw a whole household to Himself and possibly some prisoners as well. In John 17:7 Jesus says that if anyone wants to know the truth about Him, He takes responsibility to ensure they hear that truth. On this occasion he sent Paul and Silas by having them arrested, beaten and placed securely in prison. That is how Jesus brought the Gospel to a prison warden and his family.

Instead of complaining about the situation in which the Lord had placed them Paul and Silas worshipped Him.

We are inclined to grumble and complain and this prevents the Holy Spirit taking advantage of our divine appointments. In every situation we have a choice. We can either complain to God or worship God.

Complaining about God’s appointments for you will turn people away from the Lord by hindering the Holy Spirit’s ministry whereas worshipping the Lord will draw people to Him. Our choice will determine the outcome not only for ourselves but also for those who are witnesses to our circumstances.

It was only in hindsight that Paul and Silas would see what the Lord had been doing – and so it will be in our lives. Let us replace whining and complaining with prayer and singing and see what the Lord will accomplish through us.