James 5:16 (“Confess your sins”) and biblical accountability

Within the current world of evangelicalism, it is not uncommon for pastors and churches to talk about the idea of “accountability.” Probably the foundational biblical text used to justify “biblical accountability” is the well-known verse from the book of James:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. – James 5:16

In this post I want to explore James 5:16a, the bolded part of the verse above, and the related subject of biblical accountability, to develop a “theology of accountability” so that we can be faithful to the commission that the Lord Jesus gave His church in Matthew 28:19-20, to make disciples.

How can accountability help us make mature disciples?

Before we begin digging into the meaning of James 5:16a, however, we need to understand the correct context for this accountability, and we need to define what we mean by “biblical accountability.” My hunch is that, if you asked ten Christians what they mean by “accountability,” you would get nine or ten different answers. So, we will start with context and definition.

THE CONTEXT FOR ACCOUNTABILITY

First, the appropriate context for biblical accountability is a Discipleship Relationship. “What is that?” you ask. When I use the term, “Discipleship Relationship,” I mean a relationship between a Discipler (more mature believer) and a disciple (less mature believer) that has been established by mutual consent for a period of time which is primarily intended to produce spiritual growth in the disciple. In this arrangement, the Discipleship Relationship is the vehicle that is being used to further growth toward Christlikeness.

DEFINITION OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Next, we need to define what we mean by the word “Accountability.” As we are using the word, “Accountability” refers to a tool used in the context of a Discipleship Relationship whose main purpose is to help the disciple (less mature believer) see victory over a besetting sin. That is, one of the areas of spiritual growth in Discipleship is the area of victory over persistent or besetting sins. In this area of Discipleship, Accountability can be an effective tool for putting persistent sin to death (Colossians 3:5).

ACCOUNTABILITY AND JAMES 5:16

It is in the practice of Accountability that we will consider James 5:16. In this verse, James gives us specific actions to take and then gives us an implied promise of healing if we do.

James instructs us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed. Here are two actions followed by a promise. One person confesses their sin to another person, expecting that, once the other person knows of the sin the first person has just confessed, the other person will immediately respond with prayer to the Lord for victory over the sin that has now been brought out into the light. James finishes this sentence with a promise, “that you may be healed.” Within a Discipleship Relationship, then, the disciple confesses a besetting sin to the trusted Discipler, bringing it out into the light. The disciple’s confession of sin elicits spontaneous prayer from the Discipler for the disciple and indicates that the Discipler has now joined the disciple in the fight against the disciple’s sin. There are now two warriors in the battle. Now both disciple and Discipler are firing the weapons of The Word and prayer at the hated sin. The confession of one warrior recruits a fresh soldier into the fray. And the promise is that the sin must yield. There is a promise that the sin confessed and assaulted with the weapons of spiritual warfare will be put to death. There will be victory.

So, we confess our sins to one another for three basic reasons:

  1. The confession brings the sin into the light as the disciple acknowledges the sinfulness of this sin and identifies this particular sin as the target of their mutual spiritual warfare (2 Cor. 10:3-6).
  2. The effect of this confession is to multiply the assault against this enemy of our holiness by recruiting a new soldier and thus increasing the artillery against the sin.
  3. Allows more people to rejoice together when we see the Lord giving the victory. Thus, the Lord receives more glory (2 Cor. 1:11). (Listen carefully!)

ACCOUNTABILITY AND CONFESSION IN ACTION

What we see, then, is that the machinery of Accountability is triggered by a confession of sin within the context of a Discipleship Relationship. That confession moves the sin out of the darkness and into the light and into the line of fire of spiritual artillery from both Discipler and disciple. The spiritual weaponry of the sword of the Spirit (the Bible/the Word), of prayer, of repentance and of mutual encouragement are poured out on the detested sin until it is vanquished.

SDG                 rmb                 11/17/2021                 #456

Beware of men, but do not fear them (Matthew 10:16-39)

Is it possible for a person to be on their guard against a very real threat without fearing that threat? In Matthew 10:17, Jesus tells His disciples to “beware of men” because they will hate you and will seek to kill you. But then later in the chapter, He says three times for His disciples not to fear (10:26, 28, 31). Isn’t this a contradiction? How can you beware of a person without also fearing that person?

In Matthew 10, Jesus is speaking as King to all His armies of all the ages and telling them about the battle conditions that His disciples will face. What is striking about the passage from 10:16-39 is the number and the constancy of the threats facing Christ’s would-be disciples. Before our Lord even begins recruiting, He clearly tells of the high cost of being one of His followers, and of how you will be hated by all because of His name (10:22), yet Jesus does not appear to mention a single offsetting benefit. This is a most unconventional means of collecting an army of followers!

In this study, we will look at Jesus’ charge to His troops in 10:16, and at the commands He issues to “beware of men” (10:17), but not to fear men (10:26, 28, 31). Our purpose is to understand these instructions from Jesus, and then see how they apply to us in our lives.

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” – Matthew 10:16

First, then, we want to study Jesus’ charge to us as His soldiers. In Matthew 10:16, our Lord deploys His troops. “Behold, I send you out.” As disciples of Jesus, we need to be aware that we have been called into His army to be sent out. Sent out to do what? To be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). To be His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20). To be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). So, we see that the King has sent us out.

Second, we are sheep in the midst of wolves. There can hardly be a greater mismatch. Sheep are utterly defenseless, and wolves are notoriously deadly. In Romans 8:36, Paul says, “We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” The disciple needs to understand that his is a dangerous calling of total commitment. To follow Jesus is to be a sheep among wolves. We are the hated and the hunted.

Therefore, since we are sent out as sheep among wolves, we must be shrewd (wise) as serpents and innocent as doves. Knowing that he has been sent out by his King into a dangerous combat, the disciple must be very wise. What you lack in ferocity and power you must make up for with shrewdness, with canniness. With wisdom we elude the enemy while loudly proclaiming Jesus.

APPLICATION: Although our “battle conditions” here in America still seem fairly benign, we must remember that we are called to be wise as serpents. We are still sheep in the midst of wolves and must advance the Kingdom and proclaim the gospel with shrewdness and cunning. We operate as innocent as doves as we scheme for the gospel. We use ingenuity and craft to “stay under the radar” while advancing the gospel deeper into enemy territory.

“But beware of men.” – Matthew 10:17

BEWARE OF MEN

Notice what Jesus does not say. He does not say that His disciples are to be frightened of men and, therefore, to run away from men. He does not say that His disciples are to avoid conflict by avoiding confrontation and proclamation. He simply tells them that they should “beware of men.” This is a tactical command from the King to His soldiers. When you go out under the banner of Jesus, realize you will be hated (John 15:18ff). Therefore, as a practical consideration, you need to be wary of those who hate you and seek your destruction. We are sheep among wolves, so we remain physically vulnerable to death. Jesus commands us to beware of men because He knows that, on our gospel mission, men will try to kill us (Psalm 37:32).

So, do not be naïve! “He who is not with you is against you” (Matthew 12:30). Do not trust those who speak peace with their mouths while they plot to kill you. “There are many who fight proudly against me” (Psalm 56:2). As Jesus’ soldiers, we have a boldness and a zeal for the work of the Kingdom that is tempered by a holy wisdom. We are to beware with boldness.

THEREFORE, DO NOT FEAR MEN

26 Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed or hidden that will not be known.” – Matthew 10:26

28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

– Matthew 10:28

31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:31

Now the King gives His soldiers the supreme command: “Do not fear men.” Three times in this brief section, the Lord tells us not to fear. As a tactical consideration, it is wise to beware of men, but our wariness of men must never cross over into fear of men. The only one who is worthy of our fear is the Lord Himself (Matthew 10:28). Negatively, the Lord is the One who can throw soul and body into hell (10:28), so He should be feared, but positively, the Lord is the One who has bought us at the price of His own Son on the cross. Therefore, we serve Him and worship Him in reverential fear because we have experienced His power. If we fear the Lord, we need to fear nothing else (see Luke 12:4-5). Again, only the Lord is worthy of our fear.

In Old Testament and New, the Lord displays His power and His faithfulness so that His people will trust Him and love Him with a reverential fear.

In Psalm 56:4, the psalmist asks, “What can mere man do to me?”

In Psalm 27:1, “the LORD is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear?”

In Isaiah 43:1, the LORD says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.” If we are redeemed by the LORD, what is there to fear?

In Psalm 103:11, the psalmist declares, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is the LORD’s lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.”

In Romans 8:31, Paul testifies, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

1 John 4:18 proclaims, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

To fear man when the Lord has called us to salvation and has promised He will never leave us or forsake us is to call the Lord’s power into question. Therefore, the professing Christian must be very aware of where he places his fear. The author of Hebrews writes,

“But my righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him” But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. – Hebrews 10:38-39

The main teaching of Matthew 10, then, is that we are to faithfully proclaim the gospel with wisdom and with fearlessness. Wisdom, because we are vulnerable sheep in the midst of ravenous wolves, but fearlessness, because no threat of man can take away our eternal reward.

APPLICATION: One of the goals of our sanctification and our discipleship is to arrive at that state of mind, that settledness of soul, where we are so convinced of the truths of God’s Word and of the power of our God that no threat of man would cause us to tremble. For the disciple of Jesus, we aim for ability to say, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), without hesitation and with full conviction. We long for that place where our grip on the Resurrection is so tight that it is as if we were already glorified (Romans 8:30). We overcome fear by the power of the gospel.

Here are ways that I strive to reach that place of fearlessness:

  • Meditate on and study the Resurrection passages in the Bible until you are convinced that you personally will rise with the saints on the Last Day. The certainty of the Resurrection will drive away fear of death.
  • Spend time deeply considering the power of God as displayed in creation and as demonstrated in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. From the earliest chapters of Genesis, God makes promises, and then He keeps those promises. This requires ultimate sovereignty over all the affairs of His universe. And God has made promises to His people which He will certainly keep. Meditate on these truths until you fully believe the unlimited power of the living God. When you grasp God’s power and believe that He loves you as His child, the fear of man and the fear of death and the fear of the future will lose their hold on you.

SDG                 rmb                  10/7/2021                   #439

For this reason, you also must be ready (Matthew 24:44)

NOTE: This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The Last Act of the Drama: A guide for the end-times. rmb

In His teaching on the Mount of Olives, our Lord commands His people to be ready and to be on the alert. “Therefore, be on the alert (Matthew 24:42), for you do not know which day your Lord is coming,” and “For this reason, you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will (24:44).” Regardless of the details, the Lord Jesus will certainly return one day in power and in glory. Knowing this, His disciples persevere in faith and wait for the trumpet sound and for the appearance of the Rider on the white horse (Revelation 19:11-16). Our main “end-times task” is still to be ready when our King comes.

But how is the disciple to be ready for the return of King Jesus? The following are some specific suggestions from my own efforts to be ready during these last days.

GROW YOUR TRUST IN GOD

Grow your trust in God by regularly reminding yourself who He is, what He has done in creation, what He has done in His redemptive plan, and what He has done in your life, not only in your salvation but also in myriad providences and answered prayers and blessings that He has poured out on you.

The goal here is for your trust in God and your experience of His greatness to overwhelm all fears. The LORD declares that He is God, and there is no other. He is sovereign over all things, and that means over ALL things. He has displayed His glory in His creation, which He spoke into existence from nothing (ex nihilo), so that His people would give Him glory and know His power (Romans 1:20). He has conceived and executed His redemptive plan that allows Him to forgive wretched sinners like me. The Lord remains just even though He is the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26). And, if you are in Christ, God has redeemed you and called you by name, and you are forever His child and treasured possession (Isaiah 43:1). God has proven Himself faithful. So then, even if “the mountains slip into the heart of the sea” (Psalm 46:2) and everything in our world collapses, we will not fear because God is our refuge and strength (46:1). We get ready, then, by making sure that our trust in God will not waver regardless of what happens.

GROW DEEP IN YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD’S WORD

Your Bible is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). It is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). It is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105). The Bible has been breathed out by the third Person of the Trinity (2 Timothy 3:16) so that His people will be ready for the battle. As the lawlessness and persecution of the end of the age intensify, we must wield the sword of the Spirit with precision and skill. The strategy is straightforward: Know your Bible and believe what it says as truth from God. Know your Bible so well that all fear is consumed in your reverent love of God and your unwavering trust in Him. In this way you will be ready to persevere until the King comes.

GROW IN YOUR LOVE FOR CHRIST’S CHURCH

In His grace, at our salvation, the Lord sealed us with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13) and joined us to the body of Christ, which is the church of all believers in Jesus in the world. Now, as those who have been joined to Christ, we enjoy fellowship not only with God the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, but also with all the saints who will make up “the great multitude which no one could count from every nation and tribe and people and tongue standing before the throne” in heaven (Revelation 7:9). That worship will go on forever, but now on this side of eternity, we also get to worship with the saints in our local church. And one of the most powerful and effective ways to be ready for Jesus’ coming is to learn to love the saints in your local church. As the end of the age draws near, it is the local church that will provide the encouragement we need to press on. The author of Hebrews says this:

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:23-25

Especially as we contemplate persecution and think about being hated by the world because of our faith in Jesus, the blessing of the local church, of real flesh and blood followers of Jesus who are committed to loving us to the end, becomes sweeter. Notice that the author of Hebrews exhorts “us” to hold fast the confession of “our” hope. We don’t have to go it alone. We will be ready for Jesus because the saints in our local church have continually stimulated us to live out our faith and to persevere. We will continue to assemble as a body of believers because we enjoy our time together and because we need the encouragement, especially as we “see the day drawing near.” So, loving the saints in my local church is part of what it means to be ready.

GENERAL TACTICS FOR THE END-TIMES

Lastly, there are also some other tactics that help me keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and not be distracted and not be “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind” (Ephesians 4:14) of culture and every scheme of the devil (2 Cor. 2:11; Ephesians 6:11). These tactics are not intended to sound drastic or dramatic but are meant to communicate the immense importance of our perseverance. Our enemy is committed to our destruction, and we must therefore be committed to glorifying the Lord through our perseverance in holiness.

  • Expect persecution so that you are not surprised by it (1 Peter 4:12).
  • Prepare for persecution. This may involve envisioning specific persecution and deciding now how you will respond then. Again, the local church would be a tremendous encouragement here as we resolve together now how we will respond then. There is tremendous power in that type of commitment.
  • Commit now to persevere to the end no matter what comes. “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (Matthew 10:22). It is only the one who endures to the end who will be saved. Be ready to persevere to the end.
  • Finally, resolve now to die rather than deny Christ. Make that decision now while the skies are still mostly blue. “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

These suggestions should help you to be ready when the last trumpet sounds.

SDG rmb 9/16/2021 #434

The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16)

Most of us have heard about Yom Kippur, even if we are not Jewish. The descriptions of Yom Kippur on the Internet are universally serious and sober. One site calls Yom Kippur “the most solemn of Jewish religious holidays, observed on the 10th day of the lunar month of Tishri (in the course of September and October), when Jews seek to expiate their sins and achieve reconciliation with God.” Many Christians are unaware that Yom Kippur, translated as the “day of atonement,” is part of every Bible. The fundamental teaching on the day of atonement is given in Leviticus 16, and that is where I will be focusing for this post. The New Testament book of “Hebrews” also spends a good bit of time explaining the significance of the day of atonement and teaches how Jesus the Messiah has fulfilled this foreshadow or “type” by His sacrificial death on the cross.

With this post, I want to carefully go through Leviticus 16 and show how this Jewish ceremony established by Moses 3,500 years ago points to the finished work of Jesus the Messiah that He accomplished in His death and resurrection.

(I will be using the New American Standard translation of the Bible.)

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE CEREMONY

Before we get into the actual ceremony and what Aaron the priest was commanded to do on the day of atonement, there are several preliminary observations to make.

  • First, the LORD Himself spoke to Moses and gave him the requirements for this day. In fact, The LORD is the only person who speaks in Leviticus 16. The LORD speaks to Moses and describes the precise requirements for the day of atonement if the sins of the people were to be removed. Therefore, the ceremony was not invented by Moses, nor were the details of the ceremony made up by other people. Rather, “The LORD spoke to Moses (16:1, 2).”
  • Second, the day of atonement was observed on one day of every year, the tenth day of the seventh month, and it was a permanent statute for the children of Israel, meaning that they were required to perform this ceremony every year (Leviticus 16:29). Yom Kippur was not optional.
  • Third, the purpose of Yom Kippur was that “on this day, atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD (16:30 – read 16:29-34).” The LORD God is a holy God and our sin creates a separation between us and God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and brings us under His righteous judgment and condemnation (Ezekiel 18:4). In the Law (Torah) of the Old Testament, the LORD, through Yom Kippur, provided a way for the sins of man to be cleansed and washed away, so that men and women would not be condemned before Him. Every year the Hebrew people were required to repeat the ceremony, as a reminder of their ongoing sinfulness.
  • Fourth, only the high priest could perform the ceremony of the day of atonement and, as we will see, he was required to perform his duties precisely according to the instructions the LORD gave. Every part of the priest’s duty was for a purpose and no part could be omitted. Acceptable atonement depended on the priest performing his duties exactly as prescribed. If he did not do everything according to the instructions, the priest would die before the LORD and the people’s sins would remain.

THE CEREMONY ITSELF

            As we have said, the ceremony for Yom Kippur is carefully explained in Leviticus chapter 16. There are many steps and actions described in this chapter which are necessary to atone for sin and trying to follow all these details can be confusing, especially to a reader who is relatively unfamiliar with Israel’s sacrificial system. To simplify matters, the whole ceremony can be described in three broad ideas, namely:

  • The forgiveness of any sin requires shedding the blood of an acceptable sacrifice. Therefore, the high priest must bring blood into the Most Holy Place to be sprinkled on the mercy seat (“the propitiatory”).
  • The central focus of the day of atonement is on the two goats, one goat that is sacrificed as a sin offering and another goat that remains alive and is sent away into the wilderness. To understand Yom Kippur and how Yom Kippur allowed for the atonement of the sins of the people, a person must understand the meaning of the two goats.
  • The ceremony is steeped in holiness and was a unique sacrifice among all the sacrifices of the Hebrew sacrificial system. This was the only sacrifice when the high priest was allowed into the Most Holy Place (“the Holy of holies”). This was the only sacrifice that required two animals. This was the only ceremony in the sacrificial system where a live animal survived. 

LEVITICUS 16, VERSES 1-10

            The first ten verses give an overview and preliminary instruction for what will happen during the whole ceremony. The LORD reminds Moses of how serious this day is and that even the high priest must not enter the Most Holy place (“Holy of holies”) unless he brings blood to atone for his own sin. We are also introduced to the two male goats, who are the focus of the ceremony. Aaron is to “cast lots for the two goats (16:8).” One goat will be sacrificed to the LORD as a sin offering and the other goat will be the scapegoat (or “the goat of removal”). “The scapegoat will be presented alive before the LORD, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as a scapegoat (16:10).”

LEVITICUS 16, VERSES 11-14 – The bull of the sin offering (inside the veil)

            Now the action of the sacrifices begins. Aaron, the high priest, must offer the bull of the sin offering (16:11); he must slaughter the bull of the sin offering (16:11); and he must take some of the blood of the bull into the Holy of holies (“inside the veil” – 16:12) to sprinkle it on the mercy seat (16:14).

All this is done to atone for the high priest’s own personal sins. He cannot come into the presence of the LORD unless his sins have been atoned for. Also, notice that, before he enters inside the veil and into the presence of the LORD, the high priest must prepare a cloud of incense (16:12-13) to cover the mercy seat, “otherwise he will die.”

LEVITICUS 16, VERSES 15-19 – The goat of the sin offering (inside the veil)

            After making atonement for his own sins, the high priest goes back out to the holy place inside the tent and slaughters the goat of the sin offering (the first goat). He then brings the blood of that goat inside the veil, into the Holy of holies, to sprinkle its blood on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat “to make atonement for all the assembly of Israel (16:17).” In this part of the ceremony, the blood of the sin offering atones for the sins of the people.

LEVITICUS 16, VERSES 20-22 – The goat of removal (outside the tent)

            But now the high priest goes outside the tent of meeting and offers the live goat (16:20). Then the priest “shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins (16:21).” By confessing the sins of all the people over the head of the live goat, the high priest has transferred those sins to the live goat. Then the goat, which is now bearing the sins of all the people, is sent away into the wilderness so that their sins will be remembered no more.

AN ODD CEREMONY – WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

            As we consider this ceremony of Yom Kippur that the LORD prescribed for taking away sins, a number of questions may arise, like:

  • How can animal sacrifices, even those commanded by the LORD, atone for human sins?
  • What sorts of sins did the children of Israel have to confess? I am pretty sure their sins were different than our sins.
  • This ceremony took place a long, long time ago. What does this have to do with me today? Things have changed since then. Surely God does not still require atonement for my sin and does not still require blood sacrifices.
  • Why would God create such an unusual ceremony to atone for sin? Doesn’t God just sort of wave His hand and forgive sin? Why this elaborate ceremony?
  • Why did this have to be repeated every year as a “perpetual statute?” It seems like it would be done once for all time and that would be that. Why the repetition?
  • This ceremony cannot be done now because neither the tabernacle nor the temple still exists, and because sacrificing animals is just not done in our culture. How, then, are God’s people supposed to atone for their sins now?

YOM KIPPUR IS A FORESHADOW OF SOMETHING ELSE

            These are all interesting questions, and they probably deserve answers, but these questions miss the main point. The main point, and the point that will answer most of the questions above, is that the LORD prescribed the ceremony of Yom Kippur not as an end in itself, but as a picture of something much greater that was to come. We refer to this picturing of something in the future as a “foreshadow.” The idea is that we see the shadow now, but we know that the greater reality is coming soon. Since we see the shadow now, the substance will be right behind it. So, Yom Kippur is a foreshadow of a greater reality to follow.

The day of atonement as described in Leviticus 16 shows us several things:

  • All people have sinned against the commandments of the LORD. Notice that the high priest needed to make atonement for all the people. That means that all had sinned.
  • The LORD God is holy and requires atonement for sin. That is the entire purpose of the ceremony. God is very serious about sin.
  • We cannot make ourselves righteous before God, but we need a sin offering to atone for our sins. The priest had to bring the blood of the prescribed sin offering inside the veil to sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat. Just so, we need the blood an acceptable sacrifice to atone for our sins.
  • We also need a “goat of removal” who will take our sins away “into the wilderness” so that we will no longer be under the judgment of God.
  • Leviticus 16 describes Yom Kippur, which was to berepeated every single year, but we need a permanent solution to our sin problem. We need a once-for-all time sacrifice to atone for our sin and we need some way to permanently take our sins away into the wilderness.

Yom Kippur foreshadows the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah as an atonement for the sins of His people. In His death on the cross, Jesus was “the goat of the sin offering.” He was the acceptable sacrifice who “gave His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). It is His blood that serves as atonement for the sins of His people. But Jesus is also “the goat of removal,” because by His resurrection “He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). That is, because He rose from the dead and lives forever, He is always able to take away the sins of His people into the wilderness.

HOW DO WE RECEIVE THE ATONEMENT JESUS OFFERS?

APPLICATION: Jesus grants atonement and forgiveness of sins to all His people. Who are “His people?” His people are all those who have placed their faith in Him as Lord and Savior. Regardless of ethnicity or past sins or social position or age or any other external differentiation, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” – Romans 10:9-10.

When we place our faith in Jesus, we figuratively place both our hands on His head (Leviticus 16:21) and declare our faith in Him and we confess our sins to God. In that act of faith, Jesus dies for us as “the goat of the sin offering” (Lev. 16:15-19) to take away the penalty for our sin, and, by His resurrection, He also lives for us as “the live goat” (Leviticus 16:20-22) to continue to take our sins away into the wilderness, “to a solitary land” (16:22). If you have never done that, now would be a good time to receive that atonement and the forgiveness that Jesus has to offer.

The Daily Disciplines – The practice of Trust

To walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. To walk as Jesus walked. To please the Lord in all that we do. To be holy, as the Lord is holy.

These are the heartfelt desires of the follower of Jesus Christ. When a person first believes in the Lord and begins their walk of sanctification, these ideals can seem completely out of reach. We know who we are, and we know the former blackness of our hearts. We know how we used to love sin and hate righteousness. But now the Lord has changed us, and we have been set free by the Son of God (John 8:36), and now, through Christ, we former slaves of sin have been made slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18). As slaves of righteousness, we are hungry to find the means for making the necessary changes to display a new holiness.

I have found several “daily disciplines” to be helpful for enhancing my own progress in sanctification. These practices operate in concert with the ordinary means of grace, like Bible reading and church attendance and fellowship, to help me walk more like Jesus. I hope to post six short blogs about these disciplines.

THE DAILY DISCIPLINES – TRUST

Trust in the Lord is obviously central to the life of the believer. Faith and trust are virtually synonymous, so a believer without a deep trust in the Lord is highly suspect, to say the least. Having trusted the Lord for salvation, the disciple now trusts the Lord implicitly for everything.

The basis for this trust is the Lord’s commitment to the believer and His promise of faithfulness. Once the sinner believes in the Lord Jesus for salvation, that sinner becomes a saint and is adopted into God’s household as a child (John 1:12). The birthright of the twice born is that they have become a child of the King. As a child, they have access to all the King’s protection and all the King’s promises. The child trusts the Lord; He is their help and their shield (Psalm 115:11). The sinner was an orphan, wandering without direction or purpose or inheritance or father in the world, but now the child comes to the Father’s table as an heir. As an orphan, they feared the present and they feared the future, but now they can look to God their Father, who defends their present and has guaranteed their eternal future. They no longer fear what the nations (orphans) fear because the Lord God is their Father. “What can mere man do to me (Psalm 56:4)?” “Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear. Though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident (Psalm 27:3).” “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust (Psalm 103:13-14).”

Knowing about our Father’s faithfulness, we walk in trust. Our entire attitude is controlled by a settled trust in the power and the faithfulness of our God. He is the sovereign ruler of the universe, with supreme power and authority over all that takes place, and His children are the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8). “If God be for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?” And so, we move forward in trust, knowing that He watches over us and knowing that He is actively “causing all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”

The disciple of Jesus trusts in the Lord, and therefore, cannot be shaken (Psalm 112:6). The disciple abides in the shadow of the Almighty, who is his refuge and his fortress (Psalm 91). The believer trusts in the Lord because the Lord is forever trustworthy. Because the disciple goes through life trusting the Lord, peace follows him wherever he goes.

“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness (Psalm 37:3).”

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Man, the fearful creature (Isaiah 41:10)

Man is a fearful creature. Although he was originally created to enjoy fellowship with God and to walk with Him, today we know that the human being is a fearful creature. Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God and sinned in the garden, all mankind has known fear as the most basic of all emotions. We feel all alone in a hostile world where death is a constant threat and an inevitable eventuality, and we are exceedingly small facing challenges that are enormous.

THE SOURCE OF OUR FEAR

The source of our fear is our sin against the God who created us and to whom we are accountable. Adam and Eve had enjoyed sweet fellowship with God until they ate the forbidden fruit, and fear followed immediately after their sin. In their guilt and shame, they hid from God, and we, as the children of Adam, have been doing that ever since. Through Adam, all sinned (Romans 5:12), and so also through Adam all of us know the fear that comes from our guilt. Whether we know it or not, we sense that we deserve God’s judgment and punishment, and so we put on our own personal fig leaves and we go into hiding.

WE RUN AWAY, BUT THE LORD PURSUES

And what does the living God do in response to our sin and our hiding? We have broken His commandments and we have run away from any fellowship or relationship with Him. How does the Lord respond to our sin and fear? Remarkably, the Lord pursues us. As we turn the pages of Scripture, we encounter a God who pursues the sinner, any sinner, and offers that sinner reconciliation and restoration and relationship. In response to our running away in guilt and fear, the Lord commands us to “fear not”

“Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

There is no human solution to the problems of guilt and fear. Your guilt is because you have sinned against the Holy One, the living God, and your fear is ultimately a fear of God and His terrifying judgment of your sin. And yet the God whom you have offended is the very one who pursues you to offer His forgiveness and His strength.

The Bible is full of commands from the Lord for His children to “fear not.” And why is it appropriate for the one who has been reconciled to God and who has been forgiven by God to no longer fear?

“But now thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are Mine.’” Isaiah 43:1

It is inappropriate to fear when the LORD the Creator of the universe, has redeemed you. The One who formed you and called you to Himself in Jesus Christ is the One who is always for you and is ever at your right hand. So, fear not! Claim your freedom from fear that is the right and blessing of the twice born, of all those who confess Jesus as Lord!

“I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered my from all my fears.” – Psalm 34:4

How can the psalmist be delivered from all his fears? Because the LORD, the all-powerful One, is his God! When the living God is your protector, there is no reason for fear.

THE LORD GOD, THE CONQUEROR

But not only is the Bible full of exhortations to “fear not,” but the Bible is also full of examples of our God overwhelmingly conquering adversaries and enemies against seemingly impossible odds. The children of Israel were backed up against the Red Sea and the most powerful army in the world was bearing down on them. Then the LORD split the Red Sea so Israel could walk through on dry ground and the Egyptian army was drowned. Gideon had 300 men and some pitchers and lanterns and trumpets, yet 150,000 Midianites were defeated by the 300. David had nothing but a slingshot and confidence in the LORD, and the giant Goliath was struck down and his head taken off. Jerusalem and King Hezekiah were under siege from the Assyrians, who had conquered all the other countries around the nation of Judah and had boasted that they would destroy Jerusalem as well. Then the angel of the LORD struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians in one night, and the contest was over.

In the most glorious example of all, one Man was called upon to endure the agonies of the cross so that He could bear the full wrath of God against sin and could defeat death by rising from the dead. One solitary Man was pitted against the sin of the world and the horrors of death, and on Sunday morning sin and death lay vanquished at Jesus’ feet.

These examples show us that the God who pursues us for reconciliation is worthy of our confidence and trust.

JESUS SPEAKS ON WORRY

In one section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells His disciples of the futility and folly of worry. Five times in Matthew 6:25-34 our Lord mentions worry and instructs us why it does not make any sense. In simplest terms, what is the reason the disciple of Jesus should not worry? It is because you have a heavenly Father. Simple as that. Your heavenly Father is in control of all things. He feeds the birds and clothes the flowers of the field, and He is completely aware of your physical needs. You have a heavenly Father who knows you and loves you. What could you possibly be worried about?

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When my spirit was overwhelmed within me (Psalm 142:3)

Limitations and weakness define man. Although man is created in the image of God and is the pinnacle of God’s creation, he is nevertheless a dependent being fraught with limitations and weakness. We need other people, yes, but most of all, we need to know the living God, for He is the one who is able to rescue us when we call.

But why would we need rescue? Aren’t we “the captain of our ship and the master of our fate?” An occasional drive by a cemetery will quickly dispel any such myth. But it is not so much death that intimidates us as it is the day-to-day challenges of life. Is it just me, or do you also sometimes have the sense of overwhelming foes and underwhelming personal resources? The reality is that because our spirit is easily overwhelmed, our spirit is often overwhelmed. Will there ever be enough money? Will this conflict never end? Will I find a job? Will I keep my job? Will my children find their way in life? And so on. And so, my spirit is overwhelmed within me.

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me You knew my path.

In the way where I walk, they have hidden a trap for me.

Look to the right and see, for there is no one who regards me,

there is no escape for me, no one cares for my soul.

I cried out to You, O LORD.

I said, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” – Psalm 142:3-5

Like us, David knew what it was to face overwhelming foes. In this passage from Psalm 142, David’s spirit is overwhelmed within him. He looked to the right and he saw no allies, no escape, and no one who cared. Despair and surrender seemed inevitable. But then David reminded himself of this eternal truth:

You (LORD) knew my path.

God always knows my path because God is the one who has planned my path. He has determined my path. The living God who loves me and who has saved me is the God who has sovereignly ordained my path, and I can trust Him.

But also, while my human vision is limited to a little bit of my path at a time, God sees my whole path from start to finish at one time. With my limited vision of my immediate surroundings, my spirit is overwhelmed within me and I feel fear. But God knows my future path in exact detail and, when I trust Him, my fears retreat.

Finally, David cries out to the LORD and affirms his love for Him and his trust in Him.

I cried out to You, O LORD.

I said, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”

            When our spirit is overwhelmed within us, we need power. We need a Champion who cannot fail. When my resources are exhausted and my foes are not, like David, I will cry out to the LORD and confess, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living (142:5).” When we cry out to the LORD, we can say with David, “You will deal bountifully with me (142:7).”             SDG                 rmb                 2/18/2021

Fear not and go forward (Exodus 14:15)

What are we to do when we perceive a threat that is greater than our resources to resist? There is danger bearing down on us and there is no place to hide. We see what feels like the proverbial “death star” on the horizon. How should we as believers respond to these situations?

One of the blessings of the word of God, the Bible, is that it is filled with teaching and stories that give us guidance for every circumstance in life. Because we are weak people living in a fallen world and we frequently encounter frightening threats, one of the most common themes in the Bible is that of overcoming overwhelming and dangerous situations with the power of the Lord. In Exodus 14, the children of Israel were in a dangerous situation.

SETTING THE STAGE FOR EXODUS 14

            The people of Israel have just escaped from Egypt after the LORD killed all the first-born in the Passover, and now they are heading out into the wilderness. The LORD directs the people to encamp in front of the Red Sea, intentionally making them vulnerable to an attack from behind. The LORD then hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that he regrets letting the people go and decides to chase after them. So, the situation is that the people of Israel have murderous Egyptians closing in behind them and the Red Sea in front of them. The people of Israel became very frightened and cried out to the LORD (Exodus 14:10).

            Was this threat real? It most certainly was! In fact, the situation appeared hopeless. The Egyptian army with chariots and horses was bearing down on defenseless Israel and they had nowhere to run or to hide. This is the nature of our God, that the Lord will sometimes ordain situations which test our obedience and that tempt us to fear. In those circumstances, we are to continue to obey Him and to do those things He has commanded us to do.

A TIME TO ACT

            Moses tells the people, “Do not fear! Stand firm and see the salvation of the LORD. The LORD will fight for you (Exodus 14:13-14).” Moses reminds the people that the LORD is with them and therefore they need not fear. Even though the danger appears to be great, “the LORD will fight for you.” If the LORD is the one fighting for you, the danger has suddenly lost its threat.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.” – Exodus 14:15

            There is a time to cry out to the LORD and there is a time to ACT. The LORD is making clear that now is the time to obey Him with action. “Go forward!” Huh? To obey the LORD’s command, the people need to begin walking out into the Red Sea.

            Of course, the LORD has a plan. “As for you . . . (14:16)” Moses will divide the sea with his staff and Israel will walk through the sea. All Israel must do is obey and go forward.

            “As for Me . . . (14:17)” For His part, the LORD will be honored through Pharaoh and his army as He destroys them in the Red Sea. “Then the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD (14:18).” Thus, the LORD delivers Israel, destroys the Egyptians, and receives honor for Himself as He displays His power.

LESSONS

“Be strong and courageous and act (1 Chronicles 28:20).”

“Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed (Joshua 1:9).”

“Tell the sons of Israel to go forward (Exodus 14:15).”

These commands in Scripture are all given because the Lord is with His people. That is, I can be strong and courageous not because I am competent and mighty, but because my Lord who guides me is all-powerful. Because the Lord is with us like a dread Champion (Jeremiah 20:11), the believer is to have these commands as a persistent attitude and is to be ready at any time to put this attitude into action.

            This world is filled with threats and dangers, and our fallen flesh fans the flames of fear, but we are called to fear not, stand firm, and courageously go forward with the Lord.     

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Be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6)

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

            Our world is a factory of anxiety and worry, and the production of this factory has radically increased in 2020. Reasons for anxiety bombard us from every side, and the bombing is constant. Yet Paul tells the believer to be anxious for nothing. How are we supposed to do that? Many people today have a natural bent toward anxiety and worry. Is it realistic to suppose that someone living in this dangerous day and age can be free of anxiety, or was that just for people who lived in the simpler times of the first century?

            Of course, worry is a huge topic and there are those who have much more expertise in this field than I have, but I wanted to take a few minutes to consider this topic of anxiety (I will use worry and anxiety interchangeably) and see how the believer can slay this dragon by obeying the Bible’s teaching on the subject.

JESUS’ TEACHING ON WORRY – FIRST STRATEGY

            In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus teaches His disciples that they are not to worry because their heavenly Father cares for them. If the Father cares for them, then worry makes no sense. In the end, Jesus commands a change of focus. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (6:33).” Focus on the kingdom of God first and foremost, and then trust God to take care of you. This may be a bit oversimplified, but that is the basic point.

IS IT FEAR OR IS IT WORRY?

            For the purposes of this article, I am going to make a distinction between “fear” and “anxiety” to make sure that we know what we are discussing. You may see that some of what you call “fears” are actually nothing but justified worries.

            Fear is objective, meaning that all people can see the danger. Anxiety is subjective. It is unique to the possessor and other people have difficulty feeling your anxiety.

            Fear is adrenal. It causes feelings of “fight or flight.” It demands action. Worry is cerebral. It festers inside your head and there are no courses of action that seem to help.

            Fear is spontaneous, rising suddenly to a high pitch, whereas worry is prolonged, droning on and on at a fairly low level of constant negative stress.

            Fear bypasses the mind, but anxiety flourishes in the mind.

            Fear is a rational response to a genuine, imminent danger, a response that rises within us before we have a chance to bring up our defenses or bring our faith out of the sheath. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a prolonged sense of nervousness and unease when a person is concerned about an undefined or relatively insignificant or very unlikely threat.

THE PROBLEMS WITH WORRY

            “Everyone deals with worry, especially in this crazy world. Have you never heard of COVID-19?” This comment about worry is completely justified coming from an unbeliever. They should be anxious and worried about almost everything because they are all alone in this world.  But, despite many attempts and much poor teaching on the subject, worry is a source of serious spiritual problems for the believer. Here are some of them.

            Worry is a spiritual cancer that will hobble your spiritual life because worry is ongoing, persistent lack of trust toward God. Any lack of trust toward God is dangerous.

            No spiritual fruit flourishes in the soil of anxiety. “The worry of the world chokes the Word, and it becomes unfruitful (Matthew 13:22).” Anxiety will choke out your spiritual life.

            When the believer has anxiety, he is living as an orphan. Having been adopted into God’s family as a fellow heir with Christ, he now lives as a street urchin who does not know where he will sleep or what he will eat.

            To continue to live in anxiety and worry is to openly distrust the Lord and to despise His faithfulness. God has displayed His faithfulness countless times:

  • In the Scriptures by His power over enemies, by His promises of protection, and, supremely, by His salvation through Jesus Christ.
  • In our own lives by His providence, by His answered prayer, and by His patience.

Anxiety is living as if none of God’s displays of power and none of His promises are good enough to have you trust Him. This is serious.

Do you see the point? Anxiety is sin, and the disciple of Jesus must master anxiety and worry at all costs.

PAUL’S TEACHING ON ANXIETY – SECOND STRATEGY

            Here in Philippians 4:6, Paul gives us a two-fold strategy for combatting anxiety and replacing it with the peace of God. Paul gives a command to be obeyed and a means for obeying.

            First, Paul commands that we be anxious for nothing. Do not miss this essential first step. The disciple is to repent of anxiety. We are not to coddle it or condone it or to cuddle up with it. Rather we are to repent of our anxiety. Have a loathing for all anxiety as you would for any other sin and any other threat to your spiritual vigor. Put worry to death (Colossians 3:5). When you sense anxiety is trying to rear its ugly head, shoot to kill.

            Step two, we are to cry out to God in prayer and supplication in a spirit of thanksgiving. We are to bring whatever it is that is causing the worry directly into the light of God. We are to expose it to the light (Ephesians 4:13). Confess it to God for what it is – sin. Thank the Lord that He is mighty to save and “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20)” and ask Him to act on your behalf. Your job is to kill the worry and then to trust God for everything. His promise is to bring you to heaven and let you spend eternity with Him.

            In this way, “the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7

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A tale of two threats (Isaiah 7 and Isaiah 36-37)

Would you rather be the person who feels great fear in the face of small threats or the person who feels little fear in the face of great threats? Our Bible study today in the book of Isaiah will look at this question as we examine the lives of two of the kings of Judah who reigned in Jerusalem long before Jesus was born.

AHAZ AND HEZEKIAH

The prophecy of Isaiah contains some of the most vivid foreshadows of our Lord Jesus Christ in all the Old Testament, as well as many passages of prose of great beauty and power, but it contains only a few narrative sections in its sixty-six chapters. In those narrative chapters, however, are the stories of King Ahaz and King Hezekiah. These two kings are implicitly compared to one another, Hezekiah being the righteous king who evidently loves and serves the LORD and drives out wickedness, and Ahaz being unrighteous, a king who worships foreign gods and engages in idolatry and immorality and leads Judah into deep sin. Hezekiah walks closely with the LORD, while Ahaz ignores and despises the LORD.

LIFESTYLE HAS CONSEQUENCES

            If life went along exactly as we wanted it to go and if we were always more than competent to overpower any and every threat from the outside, then I suppose that the approach of either king would work, and maybe Ahaz would be okay. But you and I live in a world where things often go very differently from what we wanted and where threats are both common and often overwhelming. And, it turns out, Ahaz and Hezekiah lived in that kind of a world, too. Because King Ahaz had chosen a lifestyle of idolatry and disobedience and of despising the LORD, he was terrified when faced with a small threat. On the other hand, when King Hezekiah was faced with a vastly greater threat, because he trusted in the LORD and knew of the LORD’s power to save and deliver, he expresses no fear. Instead, Hezekiah seeks the LORD and cries out to Him in prayer, and he is delivered.

THE “THREAT” TO AHAZ

            In Isaiah 7, we read of the threat that came upon King Ahaz. “Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it but could not yet mount an attack against it (Isaiah 7:1).” How will King Ahaz respond to this threat? “The heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind (7:2).” So, both the king and his people are completely distraught by these two armies. This response might make sense, until we examine the situation. First, the reign of Pekah king of Israel was noteworthy because of all the cities and territory that he lost to Tiglath-pileser, the king of Assyria (2 Kings 15:29). By that time in their history, Israel was weak and disorganized and had no army to speak of at all. In fact, in about ten years Israel would be carried away into exile by Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria. Pekah was no threat. Second, we read in 7:1 that these two armies “could not mount an attack against Jerusalem.” Whether they were incompetent or cowardly is not clear, but the fact that they could not even manage to mount the attack is rather pitiful. Finally, we read the LORD’s assessment of the situation: “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands (7:4).” The LORD speaks to Ahaz about the two invading armies with derision and tells Ahaz that there is no need to fear.

            THE POINT: Ahaz faced a trivial threat, but “his heart and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.” Because King Ahaz chose to disobey and despise the LORD, any and every threat was a terrifying threat.

THE THREAT TO HEZEKIAH

            We turn now to Isaiah 36 to read of the danger facing King Hezekiah. “Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them (36:1).” This has a haunting ring to it, since only a few years earlier Shalmaneser king of Assyria had destroyed Samaria and taken Israel into exile. And this current Assyrian king has already taken all the fortified cities of Judah and now he approaches Jerusalem “with a great army (36:2).” The Rabshakeh speaks for “the great king, the king of Assyria,” and taunts Hezekiah’s trust in the LORD and warns of the destruction that will come if they do not surrender. The spokesman then tells of all the victories Assyria has already won; Hamath and Arpad, Sepharvaim and Samaria, and says, “Their gods did not deliver their lands. How will the LORD deliver you out of my hand?” Oh, this threat is real, and it is serious. What will King Hezekiah do?

            Hezekiah’s response is a model for anyone who is facing a threat that is way beyond their ability. Because this man walked with the LORD and sought the LORD regularly as part of his lifestyle, he was ready when he needed to cry out to the LORD in distress. Notice that, despite this overwhelming threat, Hezekiah never expresses fear. You will search the text in vain to find words of fear from King Hezekiah. “As soon as King Hezekiah heard it (the words of the Rabshakeh), he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the LORD (37:1).” WOW! What a response! But that’s just for starters. Then the king sent a contingent to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz confessing that he was overwhelmed, and he needed the LORD to help. He also mentioned that the king of Assyria had mocked the living God. Isaiah says, “Do not be afraid. Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land (Isaiah 37:6-7).” You need to read the full story yourself in Isaiah 36-37, but in the end, “the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when the people arose in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies (37:36).” So, Sennacherib went home.

            THE POINT: King Hezekiah faced an overwhelming threat, one that he could never handle on his own, but he responded with courage and trust and prayer because he walked closely with the LORD. Because King Hezekiah chose to obey and honor the LORD, even a tremendous threat was not a cause for fear. Because Hezekiah’s confidence was in the LORD, even the great threats of man produced no fear.

APPLICATION

            When you were not a follower of Jesus, you feared what the pagans feared, and you had no promise of any protection from the Lord. You were like Ahaz, and small threats produced big fears. But now, you walk with the Lord and you have all the promises of the Scripture to secure your confidence. Like Hezekiah, you are among the company of the redeemed and you can say with Jeremiah, “The LORD is with me like a dread champion (Jeremiah 20:11).” And if the Lord is with us, we are “not to fear what the people fear, nor be in dread (Isaiah 8:12).” Like Hezekiah, we make the Lord our fear, and we make Him our dread (Isaiah 8:13) and we trust our great God and cry out to Him when threats arise.

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