The need for a demanding definition of discipleship

POST OVERVIEW. This post points out the problems with a broad and shallow definition of discipleship and simultaneously argues for a demanding definition in which conscious, intentional effort produces growth in Christlikeness.

If the disciple is to progress in holiness, usefulness, and obedience in his walk with Christ, then his course of discipleship must be rigorous enough to produce these desired results. And the beginning of any course of discipleship is a clear understanding that discipleship is the means to bring about a desired end.

In Philippians 2:12, the apostle Paul commands believers to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” This is an excellent theme verse for your discipleship. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” When? All the time. Where? Wherever you are. For how long? Till Christ returns or calls you home. To what end? To the end that you will be conformed to the holiness and usefulness and obedience of Christ. What falls under this idea of working out my salvation? As a disciple of Jesus, everything in your life is part of your discipleship. “Disciple” is your identity and discipleship is your activity. The disciple is consciously and intentionally and purposefully engaged in discipleship to the greatest of all ends, to be pleasing to Master, to be useful to the Master, to be holy like the Master, and to be obedient like the Master. I contend that a demanding definition of discipleship is necessary if we, as fallen and weak human beings, are going to use our limited days and our feeble energies to make serious progress in our journey toward Christlikeness.

THE PROBLEM IDENTIFIED

I have gone to some length already to set the bar high in terms of defining discipleship because my observation is that a vigorous definition of discipleship is hard to come by in American churches. My sense is that most American churches do not even have a concept of discipleship. The idea that all professing believers are expected to grow in Scriptural knowledge, in obedience to Scripture, in holiness, in usefulness to the church, and in their witness for Christ in the world is a foreign concept in most American churches. This is lamentable, but it is not about these churches that I am concerned right now.

There are other churches which do have a concept of discipleship, and which do desire to be engaged in it, but their definition of what constitutes “discipleship” is so weak that it will fail to produce any meaningful results in sanctification. An anemic definition will produce anemic results. One example I heard of recently had a course in the church that was named “Discipleship” but which was, in reality, simply a year-long Bible survey. While this might qualify as a basic component of a vigorous course in discipleship, to equate this Bible overview with discipleship falls well short of the mark. This situation is not good, and it is difficult to see how this attitude toward “discipleship” is going to produce any meaningful or lasting fruit. But I am not targeting this group of churches now, either.

Finally, there is a third group of churches that not only has a concept of discipleship, but their church leadership also intentionally seeks to lead the church into a culture of discipleship. But there is a common flaw even among these well-meaning, intentional churches, and it again comes down to the definition of discipleship. In a church that I have attended recently, the definition of discipleship was “doing spiritual good to another believer.” While this is not technically wrong, such a broad and benign definition brings with it the very real possibility that the disciples in your flock think they are engaged in discipleship when, in fact, they may be doing nothing more than fellowship. If the aim of discipleship is not clearly stated as persistently growing in Christlikeness in all aspects of the disciple’s life, then broad and shallow tactics and strategies will suffice, but you will find that the lives of the disciples in your flock will be little different from the world.

The following are some further comments on this theme:

  • Discipleship involves the EFFORT of the disciple himself. That is, each disciple’s spiritual growth in Christlikeness is his own responsibility. In Phil. 2:12, the apostle Paul commands every disciple to work out HIS OWN SALVATION with fear and trembling. So, discipleship is not a committee activity. Rather, I am personally responsible for working out my own salvation. Other disciples can certainly help me, but it is my responsibility before the Lord to grow in holiness, obedience, and usefulness. I can and should solicit the help of other disciples to help me with skills and knowledge, but the working out is up to me. In college, you could get assistance from professors or tutors or other classmates, but your grade in the class was your responsibility. It is the same principle with discipleship.
  • Discipleship is purposeful, meaning that the disciple pursues a particular course of action for the purpose of growing in a particular area of our walk with Christ. Examples might be attending an Equipping Class at your church on Evangelism to be a more effective witness for Jesus or memorizing a chapter of the Bible to hide the Word in your heart and to have that Scripture available for meditation at any time.
  • Discipleship implies there is a target or a reason for an action. Usually growing disciples will plan their discipleship activities and then be sure to execute those plans so that progress is sustained. Planning your goal-centered activities puts the theoretical on your calendar, but only execution of those plans allows you to reap the benefits of your planning. So, growth in Christlikeness occurs only where there is intentional effort in specific activities aimed at the desired end of spiritual growth.

Of course, this does not mean that there is no benefit or spiritual growth to be had in routine activities. It is certainly true that much is learned, and much growth can be obtained from small steps over a long period of time. The point I am emphasizing here is that true discipleship does not occur randomly or accidentally. A disciple does not accidentally memorize the book of Ephesians or randomly come to understand the doctrine of election.

  • Imagine that you desire to run a marathon and so you begin your training. If you are planning to run 26.2 miles, then you need a training plan strict enough and demanding enough to allow you to accomplish your desired goal. In that training plan, you do not consider walking from the parking lot into the grocery store to be a training activity. Why not? Well, there are several reasons why not, but one of the reasons would be that walking the short distance into the grocery store is not an activity done in order to run a marathon. It is not done with the marathon in mind and for the conscious purpose of completing the 26.2-mile marathon. A legitimate training activity is done with the goal of the training in mind. And so it is with discipleship. A disciple engages in discipleship activities because these, if executed diligently, will help me grow in Christlikeness. These activities will bring about spiritual growth in me and will enable me to accomplish my goal of being holy and useful and obedient.
  • A person who says they want to be a concert pianist, but whose only musical activity is thirty minutes a day on the guitar will not achieve their aim, no matter how convinced they are that their musical regimen is creating a pianist. And why not? It is because their regimen is too weak. Just so, if you desire to be useful to the Master, an effective ambassador for Christ, an example to other disciples, a person who passes on spiritual strength and encouragement to the succeeding generations, and holy as the Lord is holy, then you need a discipleship regimen that is capable of those desired results.
  • Discipleship requires the disciple to expend conscious effort. Paul commands each disciple to “WORK OUT your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). “Working out” anything requires effort. If you would “work out” your physical fitness with fear and trembling, you will be required to sweat and groan and endure some level of pain over a relatively long period of time. Your amount of progress is directly related to the degree of EFFORT. Just so discipleship requires conscious effort over a long period of time.

So, again, the main point I am trying to make here is that, if discipleship is going to be the grand adventure it is intended to be, the disciple must envision a grand end and must strive to reach that grand end via intentional, conscious, purposeful efforts. To be meaningful, your discipleship must be capable of bringing you to your desired destination.

SDG                 rmb                 11/20/2022                 #589

A race against time (Ephesians 5:15-16)

POST OVERVIEW. A meditation on the use of our time as a disciple of Jesus.

From the time the disciple is called to faith, from the moment he begins following Jesus, the disciple is in a race against time. What do I mean by this? After a person comes to faith in Christ, the believer gains a new awareness of the brevity of life and of its fleeting nature. Having passed from death to life (John 5:24), the follower of Jesus begins to understand that “childhood and the prime of life are fleeting” (Ecclesiastes 11:10), and that “now” is the only time he has. With the new eyes of faith, the believer sees that life can only be spent and that life is to be given away in service to the Lord and to others (2 Cor. 12:15).

The new believer also has a sense of duty that did not exist before, a desire to glorify the Lord with his life. There is now a God-given purpose to the disciple’s life that replaces the previous selfish ambitions. “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21) and with this compelling purpose comes a greater awareness of the finish line. “We must work the works of [the Lord] as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4). The disciple is increasingly aware that, unless the Lord returns first, night is coming. There is coming a day when his race will have been run (2 Tim. 4:7), and the question will be, “Have I fought the good fight, have I kept the faith?” So, before that day, the disciple is eager to “walk not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time for the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). In this sense, then, the disciple is in a race against time.

RACING AGAINST TIME TO DO WHAT?

With the unknown finish line coming irresistibly closer, what is it that the disciple is racing against time to do? Here are some of my own ideas.

Every disciple has been called to Christ to accomplish the good works which God prepared beforehand for him to do (Eph. 2:10) and so I desire to complete these good works before I am taken away by death or the Lord’s return.

There is a race against time to leave a legacy, to accomplish “a great work” that the Lord has given only me to do. Nehemiah was called to leave his job as a cupbearer to the king and rebuild the wall in Jerusalem. He said to his two nemeses, Sanballat and Tobiah, “I am doing a great work” and I cannot be distracted (Neh. 6:3). Gideon was chosen to defeat the Midianites (Judges 6-8). Joshua led the nation of Israel into the Promised Land. Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem. Noah built an ark. Perhaps God will be gracious to give me a great work as well. So, there is a race to leave my legacy.

In Matthew 13:3, we read, “The sower went out to sow.” The Lord has given me a sack of gospel seeds to scatter and I want my sack to be empty before I am called home. So, there is a race against time to scatter gospel seeds.

There are so many who do not know about Jesus and His finished work on the cross and the salvation that He offers to lost sinners. But I do know Jesus, and it is a race against time to tell as many as I can about my great King.

From time to time, my fellow disciples can become discouraged by the trials and pressures of the world and by the evil in the world, and I am racing against time to encourage as many as I can, “to spur them on to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Also, I have been given gifts of teaching and so I am in a race against time to edify others with power from the Word.

When I came to Christ more than thirty years ago, I was morally polluted and had developed ungodly habits of life and thought and had a foul mouth. But God has been changing me day by day over these thirty years so that I have made progress in my sanctification. Now I want to display this ransomed life to the world to show God’s power to transform anyone into His useful instrument.

Finally, the Lord has entrusted me with significant financial resources and I am in a race against time to wisely spend the money entrusted to me so that I do not die with a lot of unused funds. The man in Luke 12 was a fool for building bigger barns and not being rich toward God. In the same way, I want to be generous in wise investments of the Lord’s money as a good steward.

So, I am racing against time to accomplish these things with my remaining years.

SDG                 rmb                 11/15/2022                 #586

The whole creation groans and suffers (Romans 8:22)

INTRODUCTION. A post considering the decay and lawlessness of the world and how the disciple of Jesus can ignore the noise of wickedness in the world and instead keep his eyes fixed on his own personal mission and calling.

“The whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” (Romans 8:22). This verse shouts to us the reality that, though God created a “very good” world (Genesis 1:31), sin, introduced by the rebellion of Adam in the Garden, has ruined “the whole creation” and that same sin is now bringing about the gradual but inevitable and irresistible disintegration of the created order.

Even the most furious and persistent efforts of man, the most noble and well-intentioned, eventually (or perhaps suddenly) fall victim to the encroaching chaos. It is as if we are desperately building castles in the sand, knowing that soon the tide will bring the waves to wash over our moats and collapse our handiwork. Soon there will be nothing left except a fading elevated hill of sand on the beach.

Science knows this irresistible journey to disorder as entropy and has captured the essence of the Fall in the Second Law of Thermodynamics: “As one goes forward in time, the net entropy (degree of disorder) of any closed system will always increase.” What this means is that “everything put together sooner or later falls apart” (Paul Simon). According to the laws of our physical universe (which is a “closed system”), everything is moving inevitably toward disorder.

The Word of God, the source of all truth, uses other words to communicate this same idea. “The wages of sin is death.” “The whole creation groans and suffers.” “The day you (sin) eat of it, you shall surely die.” “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men.” “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this, the judgment.” The message is clear: When Adam sinned, the whole creation began an irreversible and irresistible descent into chaos and destruction. Not only that, but as man’s sin steadily increases in the world, and increases at an increasing rate, the extent (breadth) and the magnitude (depth) of the ruin will likewise increase. In short, sin is like a fast spreading cancer or like a voracious nest of termites eating away at the creation, and the damage is accelerating. But we know that this corruption and disintegration cannot go on forever. Instead, this increasing sin and evil and disorder will finally result in full destruction and collapse. History is linear, and the creation is hurtling toward a cataclysmic conclusion. Soon, as sin increases, Jesus Christ will return and claim His bride the church, and will judge the earth, and then the end will come.

But the question that I must answer is, “In light of this ever-increasing sin and evil and chaos in the world, what am I, as a disciple of Jesus, to do on a daily basis?” In other words, as the world becomes increasingly dark and as the corruption and wickedness in the world become ever more obvious and repugnant and threatening, how does the Bible call me to live? For it is certainly true that the disciple of Jesus experiences the corruption of this world along with everyone else. In Romans, Paul says, “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of the body” (8:23). And so, we groan as we experience the sadness of a world determined to rebel against the Lord.

But while we groan as a natural consequence of our sadness and sense of loss associated with sin, as disciples of Jesus we must not dwell there. In fact, our groaning because of the ambient sin in the world must become for us mere background noise, a part of the context of life in a fallen world, like the temperature outside or the phase of the moon. The degree of sin and the wickedness of the sin committed will grow steadily worse, but that must not distract us from our purpose and our mission. “Evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13), but we must continue to fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and persevere in the mission that He has given us, both as His body the church and as individual disciples “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).

A SUGGESTED STRATEGY

So, as I observe the world unraveling and the wickedness and evil growing deeper and wider, the best strategy for me personally is to ignore the details of our demise and to pay little attention even to the broader collapse and, instead, to focus my attention on my purpose and focus on the tasks and the works that the Lord has given me to do (Eph. 2:10). To accomplish this, my mind strives to find answers to “missional questions.” What does it mean for me to be Jesus’ witness (Acts 1:8) on a daily basis? How can I love my wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25)? How can I be a better sower of the gospel (Matt. 13:2-8)? How do I put to death immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (Col. 3:5)? How can I repent of my anger and replace it with peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness (Gal. 5:22-23)? What is my “great work” (Neh. 6:3) and how can I pour my energies into that? What does it mean to “make the most of the time” (Ephesians 5:16)? How can I be a better ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) and a better fisher of men (Matt. 4:19)? There are so many ways that I can grow as a disciple of Jesus and be more useful to the Kingdom that I find there is no time to keep tabs on our rapidly decaying world.

Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead” (Luke 9:60). In other words, don’t waste a lot of time worrying about the wicked (Psalm 37:1-2; Psalm 73). The world is certainly going to continue to plunge into chaos and disorder and lawlessness. The Bible has declared this as truth. So accept this truth and “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

SDG                 rmb                 8/15/2022                   #558

Moses: Out of the obscurity of the Midian wilderness

INTRODUCTION. A post about the Lord’s ability to snatch those who have made more than one too many mistakes and nevertheless to rescue them and use them for His glory.

Moses had ruined his life. It’s that simple.

By God’s providence, even though he was a Hebrew, he had grown up in Pharaoh’s household and had all the advantages that a man could have. Then, Moses made a foolish decision; he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew and, as a consequence, his life of privilege vanished like smoke. As a fugitive, he ran into the safety of obscurity, and in a few days, he had fallen from Pharaoh’s palace into the wilderness of Midian. There, for forty years he pastured his father-in-law’s flock and lived the mundane life of a Midianite shepherd.

There in Midian, Moses was decades beyond simply being a has-been. He was separated from his relatives, separated from his people, hiding from his past with no future and a dreary present. It seemed that the best Moses could hope for was to quietly live out his days in obscurity along with the other Midianite shepherds as he regretted the loss of all that he had squandered. He had no hope of a great name. No hope of a great work. No hope of a legacy. Now all hope was long gone. Or was it?

No, all hope was not gone because the LORD had plans for Moses. For after forty years of obscurity and regret because of his own sinful choices, Moses encountered the LORD in the burning bush (Exodus 3). The LORD then called him into His service and Moses was catapulted from the dusty desert into the presence of Pharaoh, the most powerful ruler on earth (Exodus 5), to be the instrument the LORD would use to give His Law to the world and to lead a million Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt toward the Promised Land. It’s an amazing story.

But Moses’ story is not unique. Actually, variations of Moses’ story occur over and over again in the Bible when the Lord chooses to call a no one out of nowhere and then takes them in His hand as an instrument for His use. The Lord is always the decisive factor. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). The Lord is the one who determines the outcome of every situation. What the Lord has planned must certainly come to pass. And so, in the Bible, no episode is ever hopeless or complete until the Lord has finished His activity and given His verdict.

Even more remarkable is that this is not just something that the Lord did with people who lived thousands of years ago in the Middle East. The Lord does this same kind of thing thousands of times every single day, calling those who are dwelling in obscurity and desperation and inviting them into a grand adventure with the King of kings. In my own life, I can well recall being in my own “wilderness of Midian.” As Paul Simon says, “I had squandered my existence for a pocketful of mumbles” (“The Boxer”). It seemed that the best I could hope for was to live out my days regretting the opportunities I had missed.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4). God had plans for this has-been, to use me for His kingdom and to allow me the privilege of being one of the disciples of Jesus Christ “to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called me out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). The Lord received this prodigal into His family and instead of punishment gave me a robe and a ring (Luke 15:22-24). He wrapped me with a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) and has allowed me to sit at His table as one of His sons (2 Samuel 9:11, 13).

The point is this: The Lord is the one who determines the outcome of anyone’s life. As the Lord called Moses from nameless obscurity to be the leader of the entire nation of Israel, and as the Lord called Paul to be His chosen instrument to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15-16), so He calls all His elect from whatever forgotten corner of the globe they may inhabit into His service for His glory. The Lord is the one who does these things.

SDG                 rmb                 8/15/2022                   #557

1 Peter 2:9 (Part 4) – Purpose: proclaiming excellencies

INTRODUCTION. The first letter of Peter provides a sound foundation for the newly converted disciple of Jesus Christ to begin their journey with their Savior, and the heart of their conversion is captured powerfully in 1 Peter 2:9-10. Here Peter declares the disciple’s new identity, their new purpose, and their new people.

This post is about the new purpose the disciple has received as a result of their new identity. (Also see post #544 on June 16, 2022, about the disciple’s new identity.)

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10

In the first chapter of 1 Peter, the apostle has already told us that we were redeemed from our futile way of life (1:18) by the precious blood of Christ (1:19) and that, by God’s great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope (1:3). As we have studied 2:9-10, we have learned about the four-fold identity that the disciples of Jesus received when they trusted Christ as Lord and Savior (see post #536 and #544). Now we are going to discover the purpose for this new identity. There is a purpose for God giving His people their new identity and there is a mission to which He has called us. We are called to proclaim.

CALLED TO PROCLAIM

The chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the people for God’s own possession is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is now being gathered from all the nations of the earth to receive the unfathomable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8) for the primary purpose of proclaiming the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15).

The church is called to proclaim the excellencies of God. The one true and living God whom we proclaim is a God of excellencies. He has displayed His own glory in a creation of astonishing beauty and complexity, where His excellence is manifest in an abundance of life. His excellence has been made known in the wonder of the gospel, such that His perfect holiness is not violated by the forgiveness of sinners. His excellence has been visibly seen when the Lord Jesus Christ took on flesh and dwelt among us. The church is called to proclaim these excellencies.

Ever since Adam sinned, all people have come into the world as lovers of darkness and haters of the light (John 3:19-20). We are born as blind and dead lovers of darkness and we would forever remain in that wretched condition, but the one true and living God, in His grace and mercy, calls His enemies out of darkness and into His marvelous light. And so the church, the gathered assembly of redeemed wretches, is called to proclaim to the nations the transforming power of the gospel, for in the gospel God calls people from darkness into light.

But the church’s most important proclamation is to tell the world about Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we have a Savior and a Redeemer and a conquering King who is worthy of all our loudest praise. “Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns!’” (Psalm 96:3, 10). In heaven now the voices of many angels say with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). But what myriad angels are saying in heaven the church is now to be proclaiming on earth.

In Acts, the church was facing a growing hostility to their message about the resurrection. So, in light of the threats, the church prayed that the Lord would “grant that Your bondservants may speak Your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). In that instance and in every instance until Jesus returns, the church is to proclaim the glories of Jesus with all boldness regardless of threats. “We are not of those who shrink back to destruction” (Hebrews 10:39). We have been chosen and called to proclaim Jesus’ name to those who are in darkness. For Jesus warns us that “whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory” (Luke 9:26). Therefore, His church is to proclaim His excellencies.

APPLICATION

The true church is a chosen race and is a people who have been called to be holy so that we can proclaim His excellencies. Since that is the case; that is, since we have been chosen and called for the purpose of proclamation, each of us should evaluate how we are doing with our own proclamation. I offer several questions to help in our evaluation:

  • How do you intentionally seek opportunities for “proclamation” within your network of relationships? (season your speech with salt (Col. 4:6), let your light shine before men (Matt. 5:16), throw out baited hooks for fishing (Matt. 4:19))
  • What is your strategy for “proclaiming His excellencies” when an opportunity presents itself? In other words, have you considered how to move the conversation toward a gospel-related topic?
  • How can you increase the boldness of your “proclamation?” How can you prevent fear from producing disobedience?

SDG                 rmb                 6/29/2022                   #550

Ecclesiastes: A great man without a God-honoring purpose

INTRODUCTION. A post based on the Preacher in Ecclesiastes, who accomplished impressive things with his life, but approached the end of his life with depression and regret. How does a God-honoring purpose answer the questions that the writer of Ecclesiastes asks?

THE IMPORTANCE OF PURPOSE

Each disciple of Jesus Christ should be able to answer this question: “How will my life bring glory to the Lord?” And in answering this question, the critical component is PURPOSE or MISSION. The person who has a settled, clearly defined God-honoring Purpose for their life and who is living in light of that Purpose is very difficult to discourage and is difficult to stop.

Therefore, one of the disciple’s most urgent goals in his discipleship is to discover and develop the unique Purpose (or Mission) for which God has created him and called him.

Because this idea of Purpose is so foundational to joy and fulfillment in the life of the believer, I hope to write more about it in an upcoming blog, and it will certainly be covered thoroughly in my book on Discipleship (targeted for late 2022). For this blog post, however, I want to show how a lack of purpose results in a miserable life.

VANITY UNDER THE SUN

The writer of Ecclesiastes (probably King Solomon) refers to himself as “the Preacher” (Eccles. 1:1, 2, 12), which in Hebrew translates to “Qohelet,” which is how I will refer to him. In my reading of Ecclesiastes, I see Qohelet as a man in late middle age or even old age, who is looking back over a full and productive life and assessing the value of what he has done with his life and seeking to determine his legacy.

But here’s the problem: it is impossible to assess value without a God-honoring purpose. How can you assess the value of accomplishments that were arbitrarily chosen and were absent of any enduring purpose? The fact is that there can be no meaning to a meaningless goal.

Speaking of which: We are getting ready to recycle some old National Geographic magazines, and there is one in the current stack for recycling that just caught my eye. The cover of this November 2016 issue has a picture of Mars, the red planet, and the article about it is called, “Race to the Red Planet.” Here is surely a classic picture of fallen man pursuing a meaningless, godless goal that can have no purpose. I have not (and will not) read this article, but the goal is evident. Some group of over-funded, egotistical people are prepared to spend billions and billions of dollars and risk people’s lives to be the first to land on the planet Mars. Ecclesiastes has a word for this: Vanity. This is what man does when he has vast resources and lots of ego and ambition and no God-honoring purpose.

Qohelet is a man of wide learning, vast material resources, formidable intelligence, and great energy. He appears to be a man who has all the ingredients for huge success as he pours himself into life. He has made great building projects and enjoyed all manner of sensual pleasures and has contemplated the complex riddles of life, but he lacks a God-honoring purpose. He has lived his life to please himself and to impress others, but now, as the end of his life draws irresistibly nearer, he realizes the vanity of it all. It is striving after wind. All is vanity, all is meaningless and futility under the sun. And death swallows it all.

Our hero lacks a purpose that has enduring value. He lacks purpose not because he is a fool and not because he is overtly wicked, but because he is a fallen human who does not know the LORD. This is the common problem of all fallen man since Adam. All of us come into this world without a God-honoring purpose. We have ambitions and goals and desires and energy, but we have no God-honoring and God-given purpose toward which we can channel all our desires and energy. And so we “strut and fret our hour upon the stage and then are heard no more.” Ours is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing” (from “MacBeth”).

Most people live and die without ever giving much thought to the purpose of their existence. Their life has no more influence, no greater legacy than that of a passing cloud. “As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer” (Ps. 103:15-16). Then there are a few who seem to have a mission of sorts for their lives. They are ambitious and energetic and they strive to do great things and to make a difference in the world. Of those who thus strive, a small percentage succeed. Qohelet is a standout, a giant in this small percentage, and he serves as a spokesman for those who are unusually successful “under the sun.” And what does Qohelet have to say about being successful “under the sun?” “So I hated life” (Eccl. 2:17). “Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun” (2:18). It seems that the reward for those who successfully strive after the wind is that they eventually hate life.

Although he cannot articulate it, Qohelet acutely senses his need for Purpose. He desperately tries to conjure up a satisfying reason for his existence by chasing purposes “under the sun,” but these earth-bound, death-ended purposes all fail.

There is a classic scene in the movie “Chariots of Fire” as Harold Abrams, a Jewish runner competing for England in the 100 meters in the 1924 Paris Olympics, makes his final preparations for the 100 meters gold medal race. He is talking to his trainer, but more to himself, as he contemplates the significance of this race. In his musing, we can sense how conflicted he is. His entire life has been lived for this moment, for this one event. To win this race has been his life’s single-minded obsession, but only now has he really considered the worth of his obsession. His rival, Eric Liddell, had refused to run on Sunday without the slightest regret, knowing that he (Liddell) served a greater King and lived for a God-honoring purpose. Liddell had thrown away the 100 meters final as if it was of no importance and he continued to be perfectly at peace, but Abrams, now in the race because of Liddell’s default, was distraught and desperate, for he knew he would not have peace even if he won this race. And so, he contemplates these things and finally says of the race, “Ten lonely seconds to justify my entire existence.”

Abrams ran fast to justify his existence, and Qohelet strives to accomplish great things to escape from a life of vanity, but the Preacher knows that all his grandest achievements are rendered meaningless by physical death. His finest accomplishments simply give death more opportunities to taunt him. For Qohelet, all his personal purposes are futile because death trumps man’s purposes. In his worldview, death reigns. No matter which path he takes, death is the master. Death has the final word.

GOD-HONORING PURPOSE TRUMPS VANITY AND DEATH

But the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ declares that Christ has conquered death and Jesus gives to His disciples His purpose for their lives. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” “You shall be My witnesses to the ends of the earth.” “To live is Christ and to die is gain.” “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The disciple of Jesus Christ has a God-given, God-honoring Purpose for this life, and then has a promised eternity in heaven as we enjoy worshiping our conquering King forever.

SDG                 rmb                 6/28/2022                   #549

Worshipers are Christ’s reward (Acts 20:28; Rev. 7:9)

INTRODUCTION. A meditation on Christ’s reward for perfectly accomplishing the work given to Him by the Father. Christ purchased a people, and they were purchased to worship Him.

One of the themes of the Bible is that Jesus came to accomplish the mission given to Him by the Father and having accomplished that mission Christ now has earned His reward.

SCRIPTURAL BACKGROUND

To begin this post, I wanted to present some Scriptures that support my opening statement.

‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.’ – Psalm 2:8.

In this psalm, the LORD promises the Son that He will give Him the nations and the ends of the earth. That certainly sounds like this may be a prophecy of a reward.

27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord,
And all the families of the nations will worship before You. – Psalm 22:27

This verse speaks of worship, but the main context of Psalm 22 is of a man who is suffering agony as he is being put to death in the presence of his enemies. We now know that this psalm contains explicit prophecies of Christ’s sufferings that were fulfilled by Him on the cross. The point is that, in this psalm, the suffering was rewarded by worship.

1 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” – Psalm 110:1

We see the LORD (YHWH) is speaking to the Lord (Adonai). We now know that “the Lord” is Jesus and that this conversation took place after Jesus accomplished His work on the cross, was resurrected, and ascended back to heaven to be at the right hand of the Father (YHWH). The Father is telling the Son to wait until the time comes for Him to return to earth to receive His full reward.

Isaiah 53, a passage about the “suffering servant of the LORD,” serves as a remarkably detailed prophecy of Jesus’ life and crucifixion. Then, after telling of the servant’s suffering, we read that the LORD “will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong.” The picture is of one who suffers and then is rewarded because of his suffering.

In John 17:4, Jesus speaks of accomplishing the work He has been given to do by the Father. It is clear that “the work” Jesus was given was the work of redemption by His death on the cross. Then, in John 19:30, with His dying breath Jesus gives His cry of victory when He says, “It is finished.” Jesus accomplished His work of redemption and therefore is entitled to a reward.

In Acts 20:28, Paul charges the Ephesian elders to “shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” The only possible interpretation of this verse is that Jesus is God and that, by His death on the cross, He has purchased (redeemed) the church, which is all those who will believe in His name. Again, we see that, by His death, Jesus merits a reward. We see almost the same thing in Ephesians 5:25 where Paul teaches that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” This expression means that Christ died for the church. He purchased her for Himself and He is entitled to the church’s worship.

Finally, in Revelation we read:

“You were slain and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” – Revelation 5:9

Here the heavenly creatures are praising the ascended Jesus (the Lamb) because He has purchased a people with His blood. Then in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 7:9-10) we read:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” – Rev. 7:9-10

Here we see those whom Jesus (the Lamb) redeemed from every nation in heaven worshipping Jesus. Thus, we see that Jesus was rewarded for shedding His blood to purchase a people, and His reward is those people worshipping Him for all of eternity.

THE SCRIPTURE APPLIED

With these passages presented as background, we will now apply this teaching to the Lord Jesus, His work on the cross, and His merited reward.

Jesus was sent from heaven to earth by the Father to accomplish a mission, the mission of redemption. Jesus’ mission consisted in two parts: 1) live a sinless life of perfect holiness and righteousness, fulfilling and obeying the entire Law; and 2) die on the cross as an atoning sacrifice to pay for the sins of His people.

If Jesus accomplished His mission, the Father would raise Him from the dead as a visible sign that Jesus had accomplished His mission perfectly and then would give Jesus the Son His merited reward, which is an inheritance of a myriad of people from every tribe and tongue and nation worshipping Him for all of eternity.

In that sense, then, my personal salvation is not about me at all. Oh, it is true that I eternally benefit from God’s gracious work in rescuing me from judgment and in granting me eternal life through faith in Christ. But while I benefit from God’s saving work in my life, my eternal benefit of salvation is incidental to the purpose of my salvation. For God’s purpose in my salvation is for me to give unending praise to God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ has finished His mission and, therefore, has earned His promised reward. Myriads of myriads of people were chosen by the Father before time began (Eph. 1:4) and were promised to the Son to be His worshipers on the condition that the Son perfectly accomplish the work that the Father had given Him to do, and that condition has been met. Therefore, all those worshipers who were promised to the Son must now be gathered into the church. The Father’s promise and the Son’s performance guarantee that every worshiper purchased by the Son (Acts 20:28; Rev. 5:9) will certainly be gathered in by the gospel call and will glorify and praise the Son forever and ever (Rev. 19:1-8).

Therefore, brothers and sisters, as those who have been chosen by the Father and purchased by the blood of the Son and made alive by the effectual call of the Holy Spirit, let us fulfill our intended purpose of giving glory to Jesus Christ. Now, while we live in this life, let us offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) as we witness to Jesus to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8). Then, in the new heaven and the new earth, we will praise Him forever with a loud voice saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9).

SDG                 rmb                 6/22/2022                   #546

For the believer, the sources of discouragement are gone

INTRODUCTION. Another post (see #528 on May 11, 2022) on the subject of discouragement and how the believer can and should fight to be free of this condition.

EXPECT TO BE DISCOURAGED

A few days ago I posted an article on “discouragement” (see #528 on May 11). In that article, I made the statement that discouragement is the expected state for many people in this world just based on their discouraging state of mind. For example, if you fear the future, and are discontent in the present, and regret the past, you should be discouraged. If you believe your existence is an accident of impersonal random chance in a vast, indifferent universe, you should expect to be discouraged. If you are afraid of death, then expect to be discouraged. If you have no meaningful purpose for your life, you will be discouraged. Sooner or later, even the most optimistic person will be crushed by these ideas and will become discouraged, then depressed, and then probably will feel hopeless. Bottom line is, if this is you, you should expect to be discouraged.

Now, I want to think some more about this phenomenon of a discouraging state of mind. There are two things to observe about the discouraging thoughts that I listed above. First, these thoughts can occur to anyone, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, physical health, monetary status, marital status, national origin, or any other natural distinction. Because these are thoughts and concepts in the mind, they can occur to anyone. That’s first.

BUT NOT THE BELIEVER!

But second and more profound, these thoughts should not be present to any great measure to the follower of Jesus. Here’s why I say that.

  • Fear of the future. In this life, “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28), so there is no need to fear the future in this life. When I die, I will go to heaven (Phil. 1:23) and at the resurrection, I will receive a glorified body and will forever be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17), so there is no need to fear the future after death. The believer should not fear the future.
  • Discontent in the present. The believer is to give thanks in everything (1 Thess. 5:18) and is to be content in whatever circumstances they are (Phil. 4:11-12; Job 1:21; 1 Timothy 6:6-8), so there is no reason to grumble or be discontent.
  • Regret the past. “Forgetting what lies behind, and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize” (Phil. 3:13-14). The Bible says that the believer can forget what lies behind, so no regret. The “body of sin” from my past is gone (Romans 6:6). “I have been crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), so there is no past sin remaining to be regretted. I am a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), and as a new creation, I have no past to regret.
  • My existence is an accident of impersonal random chance. One of the great benefits of being an atheist or an evolutionist is that you believe that, in your very essence, you are an accident of impersonal random chance. This points to the fact that your existence (or non-existence, for that matter) cannot be of any significance, because it is impossible for the results of impersonal random events to have any inherent meaning. For the follower of Jesus, however, who knows that he has been formed in His mother’s womb by the living God (Psalm 139:13-14) and has been chosen before the foundation of the world for salvation (Ephesians 1:4) by the maker of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1), his life has immense significance. He will pour out his life to God as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).
  • Afraid of death. The natural man, regardless of his futile attempts to deny it and disguise it, is afraid of death. Death is God’s judgment on sin, and as such, causes fear in the depths of man’s soul. It is fear of death that has motivated man to create his demonic religions, but these will do him no good on the day of judgment. The natural man has no answer for death, and yet death relentlessly approaches with each passing day. But for the follower of Jesus, death has no sting (1 Cor. 15:54). For the Christian, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). It is after death that the believer receives the crown of life (Rev. 2:10). Because Jesus is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25-26), the one who believes in Him will never die.
  • No meaningful purpose in life. The vast majority of people spend their lives without a mission or a purpose. Even people whom the world evaluates as “successful” are simply better at doing what the world values than other people but ask them to describe to you their mission and they are at a loss. The best most people have is a worldly idea to gather together more stuff. But the follower of Jesus has been given a mission by the Lord Jesus Himself. Part of the birthright of the born-again is the Great Commission. “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19-20). Also, I am to be Christ’s witness (Acts 1:8). I am to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Confession). Whatever I do in life can be measured against these great mission statements. The Christian should not be discouraged because there are always more opportunities to be a witness for Christ. My purpose and my mission have been given to me by the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Jesus Himself has given me personally my mission and my purpose. And so, the believer should not be discouraged because their life is full of purpose. The mission is clear, and it is exciting.

So, brothers and sisters in the Lord, let’s shed the grave clothes of discouragement and let’s put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) and rejoice!

My next post on this subject will describe why it is so difficult for the discouraged believer to be obedient to the Scriptures.

SDG                 rmb                 5/13/2022                   #530

Change your diet. No longer feed on discouragement.

INTRODUCTION. Thoughts on how to vanquish discouragement. My primary strategy is to stop “eating” discouragement, particularly in my mind.

I am very conscious of my diet and carefully watch what I eat. I have found that there is a direct and fairly immediate relationship between the number on my bathroom scales and what I have eaten in the last couple of days. Basically, eating certain things results in a bigger number on the scales. There is no surprise in this. This phenomenon is well known.

But recently I have completely eliminated from my diet a few specific foods and have been pleased to see a couple of stubborn pounds disappear from the bathroom scales. The lesson I took away from this experience is that even small changes can yield measurable results.

While my physical diet and the resulting weight are important to me, they are not nearly as important as my sanctification and my growth and usefulness as a disciple of Jesus. And I have found that, over the long term, one of the biggest obstacles to my growth and my usefulness as a disciple is discouragement.

THE BATTLE AGAINST DISCOURAGEMENT

Discouragement and depression have been my companions since I was young, long before I came to faith in Jesus. My parents divorced when I was eleven years old, and my father moved to California, leaving me with no male role model. Also, by personality, I am introverted and judgmental and hard on myself and others. These patterns set me up for discouragement, but more than these were the habits of thought that I developed. As a non-Christian, I had few filters, especially in my mind and thoughts, and I allowed discouragement to have free access into my head, saturating my mind with negative thoughts. Thus I perceived depression to be my normal state. The point is that my discouragement thrived by allowing my mind to dwell on discouraging thoughts. A steady diet of feeding on discouragement produced discouragement and depression. This was my mental cage as a non-Christian.

FOR MANY, DISCOURAGEMENT IS REASONABLE

Now, it should be acknowledged that there are many people who should be discouraged. Regardless of their thought habits, a state of discouragement is reasonable for many people in this world. People who fear the future, are discontent in the present, and regret the past should be discouraged. Those who believe their existence is an accident of impersonal random chance in a vast, indifferent universe should be discouraged. People who have no source of hope or joy should be discouraged. People who are afraid of death should be discouraged. It is entirely reasonable for those who have no purpose for their life to be discouraged. People who have no one to thank for the good things they receive and no one to help them through the hard things should be discouraged. Those whose security is their money and for whom pleasure begins and ends with their body should be discouraged.

In my own example, based on where I was in my life, it was entirely reasonable for me to be discouraged. Not good, but reasonable and expected. Objectively, I had reasons to be discouraged about where my life was headed.

And then, in an amazing act of God’s kindness and grace, when I was not seeking Him, but was instead content to wallow in my discouragement, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved me, even when I was dead in my transgressions, made me alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). “My chains fell off. I’ve been set free. The blood of Jesus ransomed me.” The Lord opened the cage and the Son set me free, and I was free indeed (John 8:36)! And so, after my salvation, I never struggled with discouragement or depression ever again. Right? WRONG!

NEW CREATION, OLD HABITS

After my conversion, I passed from death to life (John 5:24) and became a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) and brought into my new life in Christ all the discouragement and depression that had marked my life as an unbeliever. My habits of feeding on discouragement were just as effective at producing depression as a born-again believer as they had been as an unbeliever. But now, everything had changed. Everything was new and the cage was gone. Now, as a follower of Christ, I could change! No longer was I a slave to the harmful habits of the past. Now, when I saw a habit that was harmful or sinful, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit I could change and break that habit. And that included habits of thinking. My “old man” had bequeathed me the bad habit of letting my mind dwell on discouragement, but now my “old man” was dead and my “new man” desired to be useful to the Master and to be filled with joy and to be a bright light for Jesus, so dwelling on discouragement had to go. And so, a little more than thirty years ago I began to break the habit of discouragement, and I have been making progress ever since.

CHANGE MY DIET. ELIMINATE ALL SOURCES OF DISCOURAGEMENT!

But this morning, I had a breakthrough. As I was thinking about the effects of my changes to my physical diet, I saw the analogy with my mental “diet.” I realized that, as a follower of the Lord Jesus, I have no reason to be discouraged. In fact, it is dishonoring to the Lord for this redeemed sinner, who has received “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3), to be discouraged and depressed like I was when I wallowed in my sin as a rebel and as a spiritual orphan. And since allowing my mind to dwell on discouragement is the primary source of continued discouragement in my life, I resolved to FORBID MY MIND FROM FEEDING ON DISCOURAGEMENT of any kind. Feeding on discouragement is the trans-fat of my thought life, so I am determined to completely eliminate discouragement from my mind’s diet. Do not even snack on discouragement! As my body is to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11), so my mind is to abstain from discouraging thoughts, which wage war against fruitfulness.

ELIMINATING DISCOURAGEMENT IN PRACTICE

Here are some quick thoughts about how to put this into practice. First, become aware of your thinking and recognize those times when your thoughts are trending toward discouragement. In those times, consciously stop that thinking, ideally out loud. “No! Stop it!” Then second, consciously turn your mind immediately to rejoicing in the goodness of the Lord and giving thanks to the Lord for all of His goodness to you (Psalm 116:12). Replace the first hint of discouragement with songs of rejoicing. You are redeemed! He has rescued you from the pit! What possible reason can there be to be discouraged? And pour out thanksgiving to the Lord. You were thrown out in the open field (Ezekiel 16), but now you are seated at the King’s table as one of His beloved children (read 2 Samuel 9).

Discouragement is spiritual poison and allowing your thoughts to dwell there will drain you of zeal and life. Instead of dwelling there, which is nowhere commended in Scripture, be obedient. Obey 1 Thess. 5:16-18. When you detect discouragement, respond with praise. Become familiar with the psalms and pray them often. Refuse to feed on discouragement. Rejoice and praise the Lord!

SDG                 rmb                 5/11/2022                   #528

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9, 13 – Part 1)

INTRODUCTION. These next few posts explore the vital importance of Mission for sustaining us and helping us maintain our zeal for life. In this Bible story, Elijah runs from Jezebel (1 Kings 19) and runs to Horeb, the mountain of God to meet with the LORD and find out His purpose for the rest of his life.

ELIJAH’S PREVIOUS MISSION

As 1 Kings 19 opens, Elijah has experienced a great victory. The LORD had given him a mission and had appointed him as the prophet to speak to King Ahab about the wickedness of Israel. But now the mission regarding the drought was over. Fire had come down from heaven and had consumed the soaking wet sacrifice. The people had declared, “The LORD, He is God!” and the prophets of Baal had been slain at the Kishon. Then a cloud as small as a man’s hand (1 Kings 18:44) had grown into an entire sky black with clouds and wind, and a heavy shower had ended three and a half years of drought. The LORD has accomplished a great work through His prophet and Elijah stood briefly on a spiritual mountaintop.

Now things have changed dramatically. Jezebel has issued her threats (19:2) and our hero “was afraid and arose and ran for his life” (19:3). He heads south as fast as he can, eventually sitting down alone under a juniper tree. Then the Scripture says:

and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” – 1 Kings 19:4

Elijah is exhausted, so he slept. Twice the angel of the LORD (the pre-incarnate Christ) wakes him and gives him bread and water, so that he can go “in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God” (19:8).

THOUGHTS ON THE PASSAGE SO FAR (1 KINGS 19:1-8)

LOSS OF MISSION. In my opinion, Elijah did not run away because he was afraid of Jezebel, at least not primarily. Oh, yes, she was an evil woman and she intended harm to Elijah, but Jezebel’s threat was not the primary reason Elijah was afraid. If the prophet were merely afraid of Jezebel, he would have stopped running long before he reached “Horeb, the mountain of God.” No, Elijah was not fleeing FROM Jezebel, but he was fleeing TO God.

Why was Elijah afraid and fleeing to God? Elijah was seeking the face of the LORD to know if his life’s work was done. Elijah was afraid because he feared that his purpose in life was finished. And if the LORD was done with him, as he feared was the case, then it was time for him to die.

He was thinking, “LORD, was that it? Was that my only work for You? Have I accomplished all the work You have given me to do? Because if my work is done, then my life is done. I would rather die than languish.” So his fear was related to his loss of mission or loss of purpose. “If I have no more purpose, then I need no more life. LORD, give me a new mission or take my life and take me home.”

For at least three and a half years, Elijah had experienced the joy of being on a mission for the LORD and with the LORD. Every day when he arose from sleep, he was engaged, even consumed by the work the LORD had given him. He was God’s chosen prophet to declare to Ahab and Jezebel their wickedness, to call them to repentance, and to warn them of the coming judgment. Every moment was meaningful. The mission was accomplished on Carmel as the LORD glorified Himself, and then came the letdown. “What is my mission now?” When Jezebel threatened Elijah with death, he thought it might be God’s signal that his life’swork was done.

Was God done with Elijah? Were his fears well-founded?

THE ANGEL OF THE LORD. We see the LORD’s compassion on his frightened prophet as he sleeps under the juniper tree. The angel of the LORD Himself comes to Elijah twice, feeding him a bread cake from heaven (John 6:35, 50) and giving him some of the living water (John 4:14). Notice also that the angel of the LORD tells Elijah that there is still a journey for him to complete (“the journey is too great for you” – 19:7),  thus giving him a strong hint that there is yet work for him to do.

FORTY DAYS AND FORTY NIGHTS. This phrase is significant because it indicates that Elijah was going to Horeb, the mountain of God, to seek the LORD with extended fasting.

I have usually read this expression in this passage as meaning how long Elijah traveled, but he did not need forty days and forty nights to travel from Beersheba to Horeb, a distance of less than two hundred miles.

Rather, when the expression “forty days and forty nights” appears in the Scripture, (with the exception of Genesis 7:4, 12), it describes times when Bible heroes spent a long time in fasting and prayer. (Moses in Exodus 24:28; 34:28 when he was on Sinai (Horeb) with the LORD receiving the Law. Jesus in Matthew 4:2 during His temptation in the wilderness.) Thus the expression here in 1 Kings 19:8 is describing Elijah coming to Horeb to seek the LORD with extraordinary fasting.

ELIJAH AND THE LORD AT HOREB

When Elijah arrived at his destination, he found “a cave and lodged there” (19:9). The word of the LORD came to him,

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Why did the LORD ask this question of Elijah? First, although the LORD perfectly knows all things, He wanted Elijah to verbalize the reason he had come to Horeb. It was like the perfect physician asking the patient the reason for his visit. Or like Jesus asking blind Bartimaeus. “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51) Or again, like Jesus asking the man at the pool of Bethesda if he wanted to get well (John 5:6). The LORD’s question forced Elijah to think about the answer. “Yeah, why am I here?”

ZEALOUS FOR THE LORD

Elijah answers, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts” (19:10). As I consider this reply, I hear Elijah telling the LORD that he has been zealous and he is still zealous, but he needs to know if the LORD still has work for him to do. “LORD, I am zealous and I am willing, but I need to hear from You if my work is done. O, LORD, do You have another assignment for me?”

NEXT POST. In my next post, I will continue to explore this story of Elijah at Horeb and will see how the LORD faithfully sends the prophet out for another mission. We will also learn how Elijah’s search for a mission has applications for us, especially during times of transition in our lives. Stay tuned.

SDG                 rmb                 5/10/2022                   #527