Genesis 26:1-15 (12)
This is quite an interesting passage of scripture that speaks to us today. There was a famine in Canaan. Isaac considered leaving there, his inheritance, and going to Egypt. God said, in essence,
“Don’t leave your inheritance. Stay here. I will bless you and your descendants.” Isaac obeyed. He also sowed in that land during the famine. Verse 12 records the results of his faith and obedience: “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the LORD blessed him. The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous;”
Genesis 26:12-13 NKJV
During this season that we are in, it is important that we do not forsake our land - our own spiritual inheritance. God will bless us where we are if we remain faithful and obedient. How do we sow into our spiritual inheritance during this season?
Bishop Alfred Jackson
The event recorded in Matthew 21:12-17 speaks volumes to us today. Jesus cleanses the Temple, the place consecrated to worship God. The religious leaders had made the temple into a common market. Jesus said that they had made it into "a den of thieves." Theses activities were taking place in the Outer Court of the Temple, or the Court of the Gentiles, the place set aside for the Gentiles to approach and worship the Most High God. They were not allowed into the Inner Court where the Jews were allowed to worship because they were not Jews. The Levites had allow the Court of the Gentiles to become the place where people were able to buy the animals for the sacrifices when they came to Jerusalem to worship. Because many of them were coming from foreign lands and other cities and they did not have the required currency for the temple worship, the High Priests and his family had set up money changing stations to concert the currency. And, to make matters worse, they were charging exorbitant rates to convert the currency. All of this defiled God's Temple. This angered Jesus and was the reason He turned over the money changing tables and drove out those who bought and sold. Again, they had defiled the Temple of God.
There are several things I am led to point out here for our reflection and introspection:
1. Studying the commentary on these verses, we learn that the Levites had allowed the selling of the animals and the doves for the sacrifices. The ones responsible for the worship and the place of worship were the one who allowed the defilement. They probably reasoned that they were doing it for convenience sake; yet God did not call us to convenience nor to make things convenient for people. Christ, being in very nature, God, took the inconvenient step of taking on human flesh, living in this world and dying on the cross to fulfill the will of God in providing salvation for you, me and countless others. He is our example. Stop looking for convenience or the convenient way. Look for God's way!
2. The High Priest saw a way to make money. They also defiled the Temple of God! Again, we must not look for ways to make things convenient for ourselves or others when it comes to spiritual things, if they way displeases God and undergirds defilement. God has not called us to agree with people in their sins. He has called us to preach righteousness and truth. God has not called us to become rich in material things at the expense of people through extortion or false prophecy or any other means that brings defilement to God's temple.
3. Under the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit dwells in each believer. Our bodies are His temple under the New Covenant.
"Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
God rightly calls you, His blood-bought saint, "My house." Are you conscious of that, day by day and moment by moment? Is your spirit, soul and body a fit dwelling place for God? Are you, by His grace, keeping it clean? Is it a "house of prayer" - or is it a "den of thieves" in which you rob God of the preeminence He justly claims? Are you listening attentively to the Spirit's instruction through the Word, filling your heart with His truth and clinging to it, so that there is no room for the lies and contradictions of Satan? Or are you filling your heart with the things of this world?
You must seek God's cleansing continually. Never deny that you need it. In 1 John 1:8-9 we read this: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." But - "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Strive to keep God's temple (your body) clean every day.
Reflection and Introspection: What Does Christ Expects of Us Today?
A Season of Preparation
Luke 13:22-25 "Strive to enter through the narrow door...."
The season of the church year that we are in is known as Advent. The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1), His baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and His first miracle at Cana (John 2:1). During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas. From that change, we have come to the point where this season has little to do with preparation and more to do with enjoyment and celebration.
Yet, in the midst of holiday celebrations, shopping, lights and decorations, and parties, Advent is intended to be a season of fasting, much like Lent. As such, there are a variety of ways that this time of mourning can work itself out in the season. Reflection on the violence and evil in the world should cause us to cry out to God to make things right—to put death’s dark shadows to flight. For the church and what we are experiencing in this present world, the animosity and slander leveled at us in the present should make us look forward to our future Exodus. And our own sinfulness, spiritual poverty and need for grace should lead us to pray for the Holy Spirit to renew His work in conforming us into the image of Christ so as to prepare us for the day of His return to this world in the final judgment so that we can go back with Him as He promised.
In this passage of scripture, Jesus is asked a question that gives way to an important teaching on preparation for His return and the final judgment. In answer to a question that had been asked by Jews since the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, “would many or few be saved in the final judgment,” Jesus basically says that the important thing to be focused on is being prepared. He makes a very stunning statement in His answer that is in direct contrast to what many people believe today. He says, “There is a narrow door that one must strive to enter through, for many will try but will not be able.”
We must ask ourselves, what is this narrow door? And, what will it take to enter through it?
Looking at the context, we see that Jesus has been teaching on repentance and faith in God. In order to prepare for His return and be ready to enter through that narrow door, we must repent of our sins and exercise faith in God by receiving and submitting our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is this a narrow door? It is because this is not just about being baptized and being a part of a local church. It is not about being a good person from a good family.
You see, people have their own estimation of themselves and their goodness. People also believe that they own themselves. As such, the contemporary mindset is that a person can live as he or she wants to live without any regard to God or His standard and still expect to go to heaven when they die. Even in the church, there is not this serious concern for God’s standard of righteousness. We have watered down righteousness. We, like the early Christians who shifted this season from penance, prayer and fasting in preparation for the Lord’s return to shopping, gift giving and celebration without any regard to the Lord’s second coming. We have shifted our focus from God’s standard and our standard; from God’s ways to our ways.
Yet, God’s word still speaks loudly, “I am the Lord, I do not change.” (Mal. 3:6). Just because we change our perspective based on the tenor of the times and the influence of society does not at all mean that God changes. There is still this narrow door that we must strive to enter through if we will be saved. We must strive because it is difficult to resist the pull of society and the mindsets of people we associate ourselves with; yet, if we are to see the Lord and enter His eternal Kingdom, He is calling us to His standard.
For us today, it calls for recognition of the fact that we have fallen away and that we need to repent and return to Him in faith and commitment to do His will. In this season of preparation, it is my prayer that many people will receive this teaching, turn our backs on the worldly ways and mindsets, repent of our sins, and in humble submission to His will, commit ourselves to living according to His will and His way. Also, because faith comes by hearing the Word of God, I pray that we will commit ourselves to spreading the gospel of Christ to a lost and dying world of people so that others will come to faith in Him, live and prepare to go back with Him when He returns.
"Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." (Revelation 1:3). There is a lot wrapped up in this verse. It talks about the revelation of Jesus Christ that was given to John on the island of Patmos and the fact that the return of Christ is near. One of the things, the major thing, revealed in this prophecy is that, regardless of the satanic influence in this world and satan's attempt to take over God's creation, in the end Jesus wins! And, if we are in Jesus Christ, we win also. However, I want to point out something to students of the Word that is declared in this verse. If you are a student of the word, reading it, hearing it, taking it to heart, you are blessed; unequivocally, irrevocably blessed.
There is an understanding, an unveiling of God, His ways, His purposes; His will wrapped up in His Word (as we view this verse from a broader perspective). We get all of this from being a student of the Word of God and taking it to heart. His word is true! It is spirit and life! It is quick and powerful, sharper than a double-edged sword. It cuts, it rebukes. It encourages. It corrects. It heals. It strengthens. We have such a different perspective (God's perspective) of world events, world affairs, our own experiences and the things that happen in our lives, all because we are students of the Word of God and we take His Word to heart.
So many people attend church but are not students of the Word; therefore they don't know how to handle adverse situations and circumstances, attacks of the enemy, sickness and so many other things when they happen. Don't be one of those. The declaration is we are blessed when we read, hear, and take to heart the things that are written in ths prophecy and also in the Word of God!
So, if you will transform your world, you must realize that the spiritual must take precedent over the physical. All of our lives before receiving Christ, we are taught to satisfy the physical nature and physical desires. The scriptures call these things "the flesh." Satisfying the flesh, we have, for the most part, gotten ourselves into trouble and ended up with a lot of hurt, pain, confusion, disillusionment and difficulties. And, even if we did not realize the trouble we were in, we ended up separated from God because of this very things. This is why transformation is needed. Yet, to bring about that transformation, we must realize that the physical must be brought under control (subjection) and we must begin feeding and satisfying the spirit man/woman in us. The Bible teaches us, "Seek first, the kingdom of God and it's righteousness and all these things will be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). When we begin to place our spiritual nature and needs first, the Spirit of God can work in us to transform our worlds.
"Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers." (Proverbs 11:14 NLT)