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.

The Longer Way

“God did not lead them by the land of the Philistines, although that was nearest”

Exodus 13:17

Having such a great task ahead, one would expect that the shortest route would be the best. Moses had the task of moving more than two million people with their belongings and livestock from Egypt to the land given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by its Owner. The shortest route would not have taken very long. If God’s objective was solely to get the people of Israel into the land, that is what He may have done but He had a greater objective. It is an objective He has for us as well. The people who would enter the Promised Land must be people who believed and trusted God and who would therefore obey Him.

The shortest way into the presence of the Lord for us is to die but God has a greater objective and for that there will be detours. Throughout the Bible we see that professed faith in God and Jesus Christ will be tested. The tests will either prove our faith genuine or false. If proven false it gives opportunity to have a change of heart to a genuine faith in the Lord. If proven genuine it is strengthened in readiness for the next test.

Do our tests cause us to draw near to God or turn us away from Him? When many of Jesus’ disciples were turning away from following Him, Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:67-69). Like Peter, those who know Jesus for who He is and what He has done will not turn away from following Him when tested. They know there is no other way to experience eternal life except through Jesus Christ.

We may sometimes be a little displeased with God for the testing and the longer way, but the testing is so that we will know Him more and be more sure of our faith in Him. Relationships grow stronger when tested. God is preparing us to enter His presence. The longer routes of life are for the purpose of proving and growing our faith in Him. We know that everything we experience is for our good and God’s glory (Romans 8:28). Can you confidently say with John that you know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:11-13) and that your joy is full (John 15:11; 16:24; 1 John 1:4)?

Providentially Led

“God sent me before you to preserve life”

Genesis 45:5

Joseph meant this and it shows that he had absolutely forgiven his brothers. He wanted healing, reconciliation and restoration in his family. He had seen his brothers’ agony of guilt which led to humble and repentant hearts. He could see the hand of God in all the deliberate evil that had come upon him because it positioned him to be able to save his family. Since his life had been purposed by God to make him the man he now was, and position him in a place to save his family for the emergence of the nation of Israel, he could not do anything else but forgive his brothers. His final statement to his brothers on the matter was, “You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). He doesn’t minimise the evil but he sees God’s purpose in it.

When we understand that the Lord has been directing our paths, even if through painful experiences, we will gladly hold no one in debt to us. As Joseph explains, God has taken each of us on the path He has in order to place us where we are, with the skills and abilities we have, in order to serve Him by serving His people where we are, with what we have. When people do evil against us, even intentionally, God intends it to thrust us into His presence just as a hurt child to its mother.

People who get bitter and angry about events in their past do not recognize that it has been God who has directed their path. Joseph could have been angry with God for not protecting him. He could have been bitter against his brothers for selling him into slavery. He could have blamed his father for not checking his brothers’ report more thoroughly. Now in a position of power he could have taken vengeance on them. Instead he recognized God’s divine providence and overseeing and was therefore readily able to forgive his brothers and actively make reconciliation and restoration a reality. That is how we will be able to forgive those who we believe have wronged us. The apostle Paul may have had this in the back of his mind when writing to the Christians in Rome. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). When we believe this, especially the “all things,” we will no longer be angry or bitter with others or with God concerning our circumstances.

Joy, not Anxiety

“Be anxious for nothing …”

Philippians 4:6

Many people in the world are anxious and worrying about current events. We seem to forget that everyone is going to die sometime (Hebrews 9:27). It is only a matter of how and when. Where we spend eternity is of far more importance as it is forever. The arrogance of man is that he thinks he can save himself by defying the Creator who sustains his very being.

Some think they can save the world by maintaining the climate as they believe it was. In this they often forget that the world has been changing considerably during its existence. They acknowledge that there has been an ice age and therefore considerable global warming since then.

Now we have a virus that has allowed governments to turn countries into police states with absolute control of people’s movements. Stores have signs saying they will not accept cash payments. The world is anxious and has therefore surrendered individual rights. As we read prophecies in the Bible it seems we are on the verge of the removal of Jesus calling out His church prior to the Tribulation period. The stage is being set but is that a reason for Christians to be anxious?

The context of Paul writing this explains how and why we don’t need to be anxious. In the previous verse he has written, “The Lord is at hand.” He is not far off and He is coming again. In verse four he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” We can rejoice and not be anxious because each day brings us nearer to that day of our deliverance (Romans 13:11). The fact that we are able to observe this in a way that previous generations could not is the reason we can rejoice and not be anxious. We are concerned for our unsaved family and friends and this will be expressed in more fervent prayer and willingness to share with them. Anxiety is a slur on the character of God.

There is a remedy for anxiety. Faith in Jesus is the remedy. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Reading the Bible will reveal to us how frequently God’s people have been in dire situations yet He delivered them. Paul writes, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). We cannot just dispel anxiety. It is not in our power to do so. It is there or it is not. Knowing and believing God’s word is the way God frees us of anxiety so we can rejoice in faith in Him.

That’s Ridiculous!

“If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy”

2 Kings 5:3

These few words from a young Jewish slave girl led to the salvation of a leprous commander of the Syrian army, Naaman. Eventually the leprosy would make it impossible for him to hold this position or he might be killed in battle.

The young girl’s words to her mistress were passed to her husband. Naaman then spoke to the king of Syria. Surprisingly each person along the line believed the words of a young slave girl. Perhaps we underestimate the power of a word spoken in or out of season. This girl apparently spoke out of compassion and may not have thought more would come of it.

It may be that we think evangelism means sharing the whole Gospel story at one time. If the opportunity affords that is great but such occasions may be rare. It may be that we sometimes say nothing because the circumstances don’t allow for a full explanation at that time. This young girl shows us that our part may be just a few words of hope at a time of perceived or real need.

Naaman was without hope regarding his leprosy. There was no known cure. He was a proud man so the Lord took him through steps that humbled him until he knew that the only God is the God of Israel (v 15). Sometimes a little nudge is all that is required to get the ball rolling. We may only have a moment to say one or two sentences but that may be enough.

These few words triggered a whole series of events that reveal so much about our God, about people and the way of salvation. Eventually, not without hesitation, Naaman humbled himself and obeyed the word of the Lord even though it seemed ridiculous in the extreme. When, in limited faith, he obeyed God’s word, God healed him. Then he glorified God.

Moses asked the people to look in faith at a serpent on a pole (Numbers 21) and Joshua asked the people to march a total of thirteen times around Jericho (Joshua 6). These also seemed ridiculous but God was, and always will be, faithful to His word.

We may make just a comment or two and then God will send it on its way. The present circumstances may stir some to seek the only effective remedy. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “Ask and it will be given you” (Matthew 7:7).

A Mother’s Love

“If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us”

1 John 4:12

First we must remember what kind of love “His love” is. John has told us: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). It is unconditional and sacrificial love. This kind of love neither asks nor expects anything in return. “God is love” (1 John 4:16) and the outworking of this is that He loves in this way as will those who love Him.

A child may be asked why they love their mother. The answer that this question provokes is usually along the lines of benefits to the child. She is kind, a good cook, picks up after me and so on. However, this is not a good question to ask. If love is based on performance then it isn’t God’s kind of love. It treats love as a reward for behaviour. If that was true concerning God’s love for mankind Jesus would never have come down and stayed on the cross to redeem us. Paul writes in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His own [kind of] love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Apart from the enactment of God’s kind of love perhaps the nearest we have in this fallen world is a mother’s love for her child. Rarely will a mother cease to love her child no matter what they do. She may not approve all the actions or words of her child but she will still love her child.

Our society has for a few decades moved in the direction of moving children from the care of their mother to the care of hirelings. They care for the child for pay and not for love in the way a mother loves her child. Jesus said, “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees” (John 10:12). While most child carers probably love children and their work, they can never love the child like their own mother. Unfortunately not all mothers have the choice whether to work or not. Society pressure dictates that many need to work to some degree to pay the bills. Parents need to wait on the Lord and allow Him to lead them in the best direction for their children. Our society does not know Christ so we should not allow it to be the decision maker for us. There is something special about a mother’s love for her child. It knows deep love and deep grief like no other just as our Heavenly Father knows.

Take Comfort

“But of that day and hour no one knows … But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be”

Matthew 24:36, 37

Jesus wants His disciples to understand that there will be no warning of His Second Coming. People will be eating, getting married and all the things that people do when unaware of imminent judgment. When it comes it will be totally unexpected by the world’s population in spite of the warnings in God’s word. Those of us who have believed God’s warning and are prepared will not be here. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 that all believers will be caught up to be with Jesus in “the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). This will leave a confused and fearful world in which there are absolutely no believers.

For the second time in human history for a while there will be no believers on earth. The first time was after Adam sinned until he was restored by God. This removal of all believers is what Paul speaks of when he wrote, “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Without the Holy Spirit’s presence in Christ’s church, corruption and wickedness will be unrestrained. Paul gives detailed descriptions of what that will be like in Romans 1:20-32 and 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Jesus gives the days of Noah as a partial description of those days. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:6, 11). Believers are salt and light and by the Holy Spirit act as restrainers on the sinfulness of mankind.

Though we don’t know the day of our departure we do know that it is imminent. That is, it is the next thing to happen on God’s prophetic calendar and it will be without warning. In Paul’s description of that event in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 he says it should bring us comfort. We will only be comforted if we actually believe what Paul has written and our desire to be with Jesus is greater than our desire for this world. God told Abraham what He was about to do because Abraham took God at His word (Genesis 18:17). Those, and only those, who take God at His word will be comforted.

God’s Loving Kindness

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever, Amen”

Revelation 7:12

What would provoke angels, elders and the four living creatures standing around the throne of God to worship the Lord with these words? In the previous chapter we read that a quarter of the world’s population had been killed by war and famine. The world will be in unimaginable upheaval. Much worse will follow as four angels stand ready to reap destruction on those still living (7:1). Our Creator is a righteous judge and will judge all sin and unrighteousness but because of what the Lord Jesus accomplished on the cross on our behalf He is able to show mercy and save anyone who will call upon His name.

Another angel seals 144,000 Jews who, in the likeness of the apostle Paul, will preach the Gospel throughout the world. A number beyond counting will put their trust in Jesus and many will be murdered for that faith. John sees them before God’s throne in white robes washed in Christ’s blood (vv 9-14). God Himself will dwell with them (v 15) so it isn’t surprising that there will be no more tears (v 17). At present, we who believe have the privilege and responsibility of sharing the Gospel.

In the midst of God pouring out righteous judgment on a rebellious and unbelieving world He shows His abundant mercy by sending messengers throughout the world with the Good News. In spite of the very real threat and likelihood of being murdered, multitudes choose to believe.

When times of trouble come there are many who will reach out to the Lord provided they are warned and informed of God’s available mercy and forgiveness. In the midst of wrath God remains abundantly merciful and will forgive anyone who comes to Him. Jesus is the Lamb who took away the sin of the world and through whom salvation is offered as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23). “It is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). God’s loving kindness toward people is revealed again in this: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There is no sin, and no sinner, so great that Jesus’ death and shed blood cannot forgive and take away. Even in judgment God remembers mercy. Such is the loving kindness of our God.

Such a Time as This

“Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this”

Esther 4:14

None of us had a choice in the timing or location of our entrance into this world. We didn’t choose our parents, siblings, ethnicity, country, body shape, eye colour or natural talents. We weren’t consulted about any of these and many other things. The same was true for Esther yet she found herself in a position to affect the future of a dispersed nation. Her cousin, Mordecai, was also in such a position and he took it by the horns. His life was under threat already and he asked Esther to place her own life in jeopardy as well. He reminded her that if she did nothing she would die anyway and she would lose the opportunity to have this vital role in her people’s future.

You and I are here in this world where we are and in this time not of our choosing but, like Esther, God has prepared and placed us for such a time as this. The question we face is the same as that which Esther faced. Will we take the opportunity God has given us and use it to preserve His people and to save others?

To the faithful church in Philadelphia Jesus said, “I know your works. See I have set before you and open door, and no one will shut it; for you have a little strength, kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Revelation 3:8). The circumstances in which we find ourselves are, for those who are faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ, an open door for ministry to others who belong to Christ and for sharing the Gospel of Christ with others. Yes, there is the possibility of an undesirable reaction from some. Esther put her earthly life on the line. Let us remember that Jesus didn’t just put His life on the line for us, He gave His life as a ransom for us. We know the outcome for Esther and Mordecai but when they were making their choices they didn’t know what they might suffer or what the outcome would be. That is where we are too but “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We are here in this world, placed where we are with the preparation the Lord has given us, with an open door before us. All that remains is for us to choose whether we will serve Him or not. James tells us that faith without works is dead (James 2:20). Genuine faith in Jesus Christ is will be seen in how we minister to one another and reach out to others in such a time as this.

Setting Affections

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…”

1 John 2:15

The world in this verse means that which excludes God and love for the world is that which entices and captivates our affections. In the next verse John explains what that is.

The “lust of the flesh” is appetites of the body or sensual gratification. James writes, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). Those who persist in this way may find Romans 1:26 applicable, “God gave them up to vile passions.” “Lust of the flesh” may be in the form of pursuing physical pleasures, emotional comfort and freedom from the sexual restraint of one man and one woman in marriage. All these appetites have the ability to gain power and control over the one who feeds them. They are addictive.

The “lust of the eyes” is the appetite of the mind expressed in covetousness. We want something that belongs to another. It explains why we may be desperate to have something but, once we have it, we quickly lose interest

The “pride of life” is the appetite of the human spirit seeking self-sovereignty. This was the lie Satan fed Adam and Eve, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). Pride declares I am my own god. Self-esteem manufactured by trying to apply my own value will not satisfy. Self-esteem rightly applied means I realize the value that God places on me as revealed in such places as John 3:16 and Romans 5:8. Essentially, the “pride of life” is the deification of man. It is a futile attempt to deny God’s existence or sovereignty and our accountability to Him. By this we feel free to do whatever we wish.

In verse seventeen John gives us the reason for not loving this world: “the world is passing away, and the lust of it.” That surely speaks to the futility of pursuing things of this world. Those who love it will continue to lust for it in eternity but it will have gone forever. What a torment that would be for them!

On the other hand, “he who does the will of God abides forever.” No person with any wisdom invests in something he knows will be destroyed without a return on the investment. The wise investor invests in that which will keep on giving a return for that investment. John wrote this letter so that our joy might be complete (1:4). If we set our affections on Jesus Christ that joy will be fulfilled.