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.

You Shall Know

“’Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,’ says the Lord” Ezekiel 37:14

This statement and some like it, such as “Then you shall know that I am the Lord” (v 13), are repeated some seventy times in the book of Ezekiel. The Lord is making the point that the foretelling aspect of prophecy includes when the prophesied events come to pass people will know that it is God who has spoken it and done it. The test of a true prophet is that what he foretells comes to pass exactly as he said (Deuteronomy 18:22). The majority of times this statement is used in Ezekiel relate to Israel but there are quite a few that relate to Egypt and other Gentile nations so that they also may know.

Three times Jesus told His disciples that He would be crucified and rise again (Matthew 29:19). He also predicted the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the Tribulation and His return (Matthew 24 & 25). The purpose in telling His disciples these and other things in advance was that they would not be discouraged when they occurred but rather encouraged.

In Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Thessalonica he wrote concerning the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Once more we see that the purpose in informing Jesus’ followers ahead of time was that they might “comfort one another with these words” (4:18; 5:11). If these words are not to be understood in the normal literary sense then no one would be comforted.

By neglecting the foretelling aspect of prophetic revelation we rob Christians of the comfort that comes from knowing that current and future events must come to pass and that they will not prevent, hinder or delay Jesus returning, establishing His earthly kingdom and creating a new heavens and a new earth. We are in fact encouraged and comforted as we see the day approaching.

This may be one of the compelling aspects of the ministry of the 144,000 witnesses spoken of in Revelation seven and fourteen and the two witnesses spoken of in Revelation 11. They would be able to point people to Scripture, and what will at that time be current events, to show that the God of the Bible is the One true God and that Jesus is the Christ. This will provoke many to believe and receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jesus did this Himself with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27). He confirmed it as a legitimate way to share the Gospel to all the disciples. He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44).

We do a great disservice to God’s people if we fail to expound and teach the foretelling aspect of the prophetic Scriptures and we rob ourselves of joy, peace and comfort if we do not study and believe them.

Look Ahead

“O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they should consider their latter end” Deuteronomy 32:29

It is through reading these parts of the Bible that we can learn some important principles to guide us in many areas including parenting. Before speaking the words of this song to Israel, Moses had been warned by God that Israel would depart from following His word. In this verse of Moses’ song he is grieving over this future failure and crying out for the people to respond to God’s word. If the people were wise they would consider where their choices and actions were leading them.

God is going to bless those who are with Him and He is going to curse those who oppose Him. Considering the two consequences that lead to two different destinies or “latter ends,” which one would a wise person choose? This is the choice each generation of Israel would make in the future. It is seemingly a relatively simple choice. Identify with the Lord or identify with His enemies. The consequences and outcome of each group is given – blessing or cursing – so that they can “consider their latter end.”

This is a principle that parents will find beneficial in training their children. Teach them to look ahead to the consequences and where their choice will lead. All too often we tell our children what to do or not to do without teaching them how to evaluate the choices available so as to make the best choice.

In giving us the Bible the Lord has made available to us the opportunity to understand where our choices will lead so that we may choose wisely. That Israel has so far failed to enjoy the full blessings of the Lord is testament to the fact that they have made wrong choices and placed themselves at enmity with God. The same could be said of some Christians and certainly of the Gentiles as a whole. One has only to compare many of the choices our contemporary society is making and compare them to God’s word to see that we are placing ourselves at enmity with God.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). This is a warning for people to consider where the path they have chosen will lead and what its consequence will be. Their present living and their eternal destination depend on the choice they make.

A generation of Israel will arise that will heed the warnings and wisely choose Messiah Jesus as the way and their destiny. In the mean time anyone who will look ahead and consider where their choices will ultimately lead has the opportunity to choose Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) and “the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). Joshua put it this way, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Caution Advisable

“They are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty” Revelation 16:14

People usually follow those who perform miracles whether real or illusionary. The reason is that they want the benefit of the miracle. They have no other interest in the person who performs such miracles. Sometime after feeding the five thousand Jesus said, “You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26). Jesus knew their heart and saw that they wanted what He gave but they didn’t want Him. Neither did they see any purpose in the miracle apart from their need.

Though Jesus did many signs, wonders and miracles, and multitudes followed Him at first, when they realised that following Him would cost everything they deserted Him. They left Him because they wanted the miracle and not Jesus himself. The miracles drew followers because they sought their own pleasure not because they had any interest in spiritual truth or in Jesus.

Signs, wonders and miracles will attract a large following. What the followers may fail to realise is that Satan and demons are also able to perform miracles. They counterfeit Jesus and the prophets in order to deceive and bring people into bondage. The sorcerers of Egypt, leading up to Israel’s exodus, were able to deceive Pharaoh and the Egyptians by duplicating the miracles of Moses (Exodus 7:11-13, 22; 8:7). False prophets could perform signs (Deuteronomy 13) and God’s people needed to be able to discern the origin of the signs.

In the New Testament there are several references to the satanic or demonic origin of miracles. Jesus affirmed it in Matthew 7:22; 24:24 and Mark 13:22. Paul also affirmed that Satan could and would perform signs and wonders in 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Apparently Judas who betrayed Jesus was able to perform miracles (Matthew 10:1-4) and the Pharisees believed that Satan could perform miracles (Matthew 12:24). In Revelation 13:13 we read that the demonic power behind the second beast is able to perform signs including bringing down fire from heaven.

The majority will follow the miracle worker seeking their own benefit. They will not give attention to the nature or purpose of the one performing the sign and will be deceived and brought into bondage. People who demand God perform signs or miracles are already in bondage. In the verse above (Revelation 16:14) we have one of the last expressions of this. Demons will perform signs with the result that people will follow them in a battle against God. The outcome is certain. Only the few who choose Jesus Christ and are discerning will not be deceived.

We must be able to discern the origin of miracles – or risk being deceived. Miracles do happen, but we should be careful in attributing origin; and we must be careful as to whether it is the miracle or Jesus Christ that we really want. In the tribulation those who attribute the signs of the demons to God will find themselves fighting against God. If we attribute miracles of satanic or demonic origin to God we will also find ourselves fighting Jesus Christ. Do not automatically attribute every miracle to God, be discerning!

Beware the Snare

“God, I thank You that I am not like other men.”

“God, be merciful to me a sinner” Luke 18:11& 13.

This parable was spoken by Jesus of a man who sincerely believed that he was living a life that pleased God. He kept the commandments with regard to morality, ritual and especially spiritual exercises. He went daily to the temple to pray, fasted twice each week and tithed all his possessions. He did not extort money or possessions from others and neither was he unjust toward others. He was faithful in his relationships. He was certainly faithful to his Jewishness and was thankful for his exalted position in the temple and community. This was a righteous man that the population would have looked up to and sought to follow as a role model.

There was nothing outwardly wrong with the things that he did. However Jesus points out a flaw in his motive. He saw himself as different from others with regard to righteousness. In his mind he had achieved this level of righteousness by his own effort and that God blessed him because he pleased God by his life. This is why he looked down upon one who did not have all the advantages he had.

We can fall into the snare of having the wrong motive. We may want to prove to Jesus that we are worthy of His name by disciplining ourselves to live a morally righteous life with all the right spiritual exercises. We may feel that we have to prove to Jesus that we are worthy of His love. We may want to prove to other Christians that we have advantages because we are worthy of them. This is the working of pride. The fact is we are not at all worthy.

We know we have this attitude when we become critical of others (like the Pharisee in the parable) who we consider don’t measure up. What we are doing is despising them as unworthy of Christ’ love and kingdom. In a personal context Paul writes concerning this attitude, “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ” (Philippians 3:7).

Jesus ends this parable by telling us that it is the one despised who went home justified. He came to the temple to pray but he knew he had no basis for God to show him favour or to even hear him. His only prayer was for God’s mercy toward an undeserving helpless sinner. Praise God that Jesus said that he went home justified or who could be saved?

Those of us who have had the advantage in life of coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour ought never forget that we were no different to others who are yet to receive Him (1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 2:3). Those advantages were not because we were better or more deserving than others (Deuteronomy 7:7, 8). They are the outworking of God’s grace of which we are stewards and for which we should be very thankful. Jesus said, “The Son of man has come to seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10) and that is our mission as well. It is not to look down upon others as the Pharisees did but to show mercy by lifting them into the presence of Jesus Christ just as another faithful servant once did for us.

For the Lord’s Sake

“We do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of your great mercies” Daniel 9:18

Daniel was apparently one of the godliest men of his time and yet as we read through this prayer he repeatedly confesses Israel’s sin and includes himself as one of the offenders. What was it that motivated Daniel to pray at this time and in such a way? The second verse in the chapter has the answer. He had been reviewing God’s prophecy that came through Jeremiah. He understood that he should take it literally. As a result he understood the times in which he lived. Unless we understand biblical prophecy we will not understand the times in which we live and this will restrict our ability to pray in the will of God.

This is very important. God has been pleased to reveal some key future events and if we take His word literally He will give us understanding of the times in which we live. In understanding the times we will be motivated to pray in accordance with the will of God just as Daniel had done.

Daniel didn’t know the exact day or hour or even the process by which Jeremiah’s prophecy would be fulfilled but he did know that God would be faithful to His word. The very test of a prophet is that the word he speaks comes true (Deuteronomy 18:15-22; Jeremiah 28:9) and that principle has not changed. God has revealed some things concerning our times and understanding of them will follow our believing them. Then, like Daniel, we will pray according to the times in which we live in the will of God.

Just as it was in the case of Israel, God’s response will not be in accordance with our faithfulness or righteousness but in accordance with His word and His faithfulness to His word; “for the lord’s sake” (vv 17, 19). Indeed, Daniel’s prayer reminds us that Israel did not deserve any favour but he stood alone before God bearing the sin of the nation as his own as he pleaded for mercy. His prayer was based solely on God’s faithfulness and not at all on the actions of the people of Israel (v 18).

Daniel was just one man before God yet God heard and answered his prayer. We may think that we are just one person so what difference can we make? Be encouraged as you carefully meditate on this prayer of Daniel. One person praying in the will of God makes all the difference. God’s response was not only to do what He had said through Jeremiah but also revealed through Daniel one of the most important pieces of prophecy in the Bible (vv 24-27). How much poorer would our understanding of the book of Revelation be without these few verses?

Wisdom Needs Help

“Therefore give to your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil.”  1 Kings 3:9

There is a huge mistake in thinking that wisdom can overcome ignorance or lack of deliberate obedience to God’s Word. Solomon asked the Lord for “an understanding heart” to “discern between good and evil.” God granted his request because he asked it for the benefit of God’s people and not for himself. Solomon became and remains famous for the wisdom he espoused. Much of that wisdom is recorded in the Bible for us to read.

As we read through the life of King Solomon we cannot help but notice that wisdom of itself could not protect him or the people from corruption and destruction. We look up to the wisdom of Solomon and yet his kingdom was split as a result of his failing in obedience to the Lord. Everything that made the kingdom great was lost.

Wisdom without obedience to the will and word of God will always lead to destruction. For all his wisdom Solomon was not obedient to the Lord.

In Deuteronomy 17:14-20 God gives five instructions for any king of Israel:

  1. He shall not enlarge military resources by number or alliances (v 16)
  2. He shall not have multiple wives (v 17)
  3. He shall not accrue personal wealth (v 17)
  4. He shall write his own personal copy of the Law (the first five books of our Bible) (v 18)
  5. He shall read it, meditate on it and study it every day and live in accordance with it (v 19)

Since we know from the Bible that Solomon did not observe the first three of these we can assume he did not keep the other two either. Yes, he had wisdom but it could not be applied in the vacuum of ignorance or out of a rebellious heart.

We must not allow ourselves to be content to live as Solomon did. Claiming to be wise in discerning the will of the Lord it may be that we are ignorant of what the lord has said. There is no suggestion that we should write out the whole Bible but there are multitudes of admonitions in the Bible that encourage us to read it, meditate on it and study it. Of course the one who does not read it won’t know this.

Solomon had one of the best possible heritages but it was wasted because he did not obey the Lord. He did not obey the Lord because he did not know or believe, to the point of obedience, the command of the Lord.

May it never be that your name could be written in place of the name “Solomon” in the preceding paragraph.

Following My Heart

“I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart” (Deuteronomy 29:19)

A workmate told me that they believed that the Bible said things that weren’t true. They were surprised when I agreed with them as no doubt some of you readers might be. Some explanation is required, of course.

The Bible accurately records Satan saying things that are not true such as, “Your will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4, 5). The record is accurate but what Satan said was most certainly not true.

The verse at the head of this article is another case where the recording of a thought a person may have is accurate but what is said is not true. This is one of those many occasions in the Bible when the Lord exposes what we may be thinking.

This verse gives us a look into our own heart when we are not wholly surrendered to the Lord. It also reveals the constant attitude of one who has never come to Jesus. We think we can live out Satan’s lie and be our own god but we will be found out.

In the course of my work I come across drunken people and they are, at the least, quite an annoyance to those who are sober. This is the analogy Moses uses in this verse. The drunk can’t see that he is so different to those around him but the sober people can readily see the difference. So too the person wholly surrendered to the Lord can discern one who is following the dictates of their own heart and the one so following his own heart cannot see that he is so different. This may be why Christians who are not surrendered to Jesus, do not “die daily” or “take up their cross daily.”

In my youth I attended church weekly and, at the time, I thought I was a Christian. I didn’t think I was any different to anyone else as I followed the dictates of my heart. Fortunately for me, at age 20 years, at another church there was a couple who readily recognised the difference and were prepared to let me know that there was a vast difference. God allowed me to see that they had a living relationship with Jesus Christ that I did not have. To this day and forever I will demonstrate my gratitude to God and to them for that revelation.

We can see in Israel’s history and in the history of the early church that God will not let His people get away with living a life not surrendered to Him. His intent is not to punish but to return His people to the place of blessing. It is obvious to us that Israel is not yet in the place of blessing but the Bible reveals that there is a day coming when it shall be (Deuteronomy 30:6; Matthew 23:39; Romans 11:26).

The Christian living carnally will do what he thinks is pleasing to God and expect God to bless it. In this he has followed the dictates of his own heart but he will think he has served God. The Lord does not want to leave that person in such a state but wants to return him to the place of blessing. There will be no peace in following the dictates of my own heart.

Good in the End

“… that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end” (Deuteronomy 8:16)

Moses told Israel that God’s purpose in Israel’s wilderness wanderings was twofold: to maintain a humble mind and to test their hearts with specific regard to obedience.

The way in which God maintained a humble heart in Israel was through making their dependence upon Him very obvious. When they hungered and cried out to Him He supplied manna (v 3) and when they thirsted He provided water. Miraculously their garments did not wear out and their footwear was always just the right size (v 4). In addition He maintained humility through chastisement (v 5). This is a model for all parents, especially fathers, to follow. We have the evidence of unrestrained and undisciplined youth all around us. Many are not so youthful age-wise any more but they carry the marks of a lack of training and discipline in their youth. They fit the description Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:1-5). With each generation humility is not only less evident but being seen as an undesirable trait. We should not be surprised that bullying has become more prevalent among children and that it remains with them into adulthood.

The tests that God presented to Israel were to reveal what was really in their heart. Did they really trust God or just give Him lip service? Obedience to His commands would reveal their heart and ours. If we believe someone who cares about us to be trustworthy we will do as they ask.

Recently a doctor prescribed a medication for me but I have not taken it. He was unable to convince me that he understood or believed what I was saying and I did not understand his words due to his accent. There was a period of a minute or two when he spoke that I did not recognise any English word. I have not obeyed his instructions because I do not believe they were necessarily in my best interest.

When we choose not to obey the word of the Lord we are saying that we do not understand His instruction, don’t trust His wisdom or we do not believe that He has our best interest at heart. He tested Israel and He will test us regularly. At Ai, under Joshua’s leadership, Israel failed this test (Joshua 7) but they learned from it (Joshua 8) and that is the purpose of chastisement.

God is at work to maintain humility in His people and to test us as to our trust in Him and obedience. He states that it is to do you good in the end. If we believe this then we will accept His hand that may sometimes withhold that which seems good to us, and His chastisement, with all grace and joy.

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves, He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11, 12)

The Last Joshua

“Then He inaugurated Joshua the son of Nun, and said, ‘Be strong and of good courage, for you shall bring the children of Israel into the land of which I swore to them, and I will be with you.’” Deuteronomy 31:23

The New Testament records for us the words “first Adam” and “last Adam” but nowhere will we find the words “first Joshua” and “last Joshua.” Even so, there was a “first Joshua” and a “last Joshua” with regard to the plan and purpose of the Lord and Israel.

Moses was given his name by Pharaoh’s daughter because he was found in water but it would also be an apt name when we consider that it was Moses who led Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea to a life of separation from slavery to serve the living God. Though they didn’t even get their feet wet it is said that they passed through the waters. This is later likened to baptism. The nation was separated from the world (Egypt) and separated to God. There was no way back even though they often desired to return. Christian baptism is symbolic that one has been separated from the world to God and there is no way back even though we may at times desire the things of the world.

Israel’s rebellion at the opportunity to enter the land God had promised brought about forty years wandering in the wilderness while God prepared the next generation. Even that generation was at risk of not entering (Numbers 32) but the possibility of another forty years in the wilderness was enough to overcome that threat. Moses also lost the opportunity to lead Israel into the land promised to Abraham and his descendants. In his place would be the “first Joshua.” Joshua was one of the two spies who believed that the Lord would give Israel the land just as He had said. He knew that the giants and fortified cities of the land were no match for God. Joshua believed God, knew God and trusted God. One who trusts God will show it by obedience to His word. This Joshua led Israel into the land.

Much later Israel was dispersed from the land because of persistent rebellion by successive generations. Was the Lord unfaithful to His promise to Abraham? Is He powerless to fulfil that which He promised? The answer to both these questions is emphatically “No.” A believing generation of Israel had entered the land under the leadership of the faithful “first Joshua.” The Old and New Testament authors all affirm that a believing generation of Israel will take possession of the land God has given to Abraham and they will do so under the leadership of the “last Joshua,” Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul writes, “I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins’” (Romans 11:25-27).