Have you ever noticed how the Bible tells the same story over and again? I have. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Bible is essentially the same story told to us in different ways. The same themes are taught repeatedly, just though different biblical accounts. Consider what Jesus said:
“Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” (Matthew 13:52)
Have you ever said to your children or grandchildren, “How many times am I going to have to tell you this? How many times are we going to have to go over this?” Most likely, we’ve all said that and, most likely, all of us probably heard that as children. Children, even teenagers, and sometimes adults, don’t get things the first time around, or even the second, or the third. They have to be told again and again and so it is with us. No wonder Jesus would say to His listeners, “And again, I say unto you.” He told stories that recounted the same basic principles again and again because, as He said, there are new treasures to be discovered, but there are also old treasures to be rediscovered. So, with that in mind, let’s consider what David wrote:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:1-3)
Let’s focus on the phrase “paths of righteousness,” because the path that we often times envision is not the biblical path. What I mean by that is, the Hebrew word translated as “path” is a word that actually means “cycles.” God doesn’t lead us around in circles, but He certainly leads us in cycles or “circuits of righteousness,” meaning that He leads us in a way where we are exposed to the same truths over and over. For example, He teaches us through the Feast days, year after year. If we observe these festivals at the appointed time, it is not uncommon to discover something new each time we go through the cycle.
Now, if we find ourselves becoming bored or growing impatient with hearing the same thing over and over again, perhaps we should be aware. That impatience might be a sign that we have an unhealthy craving for information and knowledge. There’s nothing wrong with gaining knowledge but, in and of itself, knowledge is not sufficient if we are to be an overcomer. In other words, the desire for knowledge can be good if we recognize the need for wisdom in applying that knowledge to our lives. Remember, it was the desire for knowledge that prompted the woman to eat the forbidden fruit.
In this day and time, more than knowledge, we need wisdom that comes from on high. Godly wisdom and being guided by the Spirit of God is how we will overcome the Adversary. To acquire that kind of wisdom, most likely, means that we will be hearing some of the same things, over and over, again.
It’s believed that, on this day, after making some disparaging remarks about her brother, Miriam was stricken with leprosy and removed outside the camp for seven days:
“So the anger of the Lord was aroused against them, and He departed. And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aaron turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper. (Numbers 12:9-10)
This particular event is the primary reason many rabbis believe that people who were stricken with leprosy (tzarat, in Hebrew) were guilty of lashon ha’ra, or an “evil tongue.” We are urged, therefore, to guard our tongues: to guard what we say about people and situations. Many times, we simply do not have all the facts about a situation and, even if we did, it doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to comment upon it, necessarily. The Bible says:
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)
There are a couple of things that are striking about this particular verse. The first is that Solomon felt the need to mention death first, as if to say that “death” – or the negative aspect of things – is the first thing people go to when they’re talking about situations and other people. This ought not be.
The second thing is that both death and life can be in the power of the tongue. This is interesting because the breath that gives life to words, whether used for curses or blessings comes from the same source – heaven. The breath that God breathed into us to give us life and that we use to utter words, either for life or death, comes from Him. That being the case, no wonder Scripture cautions us to be very careful about what we say and to diligently guard our tongue.
“With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?” (James 3:9-11)
Even though fresh and bitter waters shouldn’t come from the same fountain, unfortunately, we find that, most often, it does. For all of our lives, we have been told that if you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all. While there may be exceptions to this rule, there is a great deal of truth in it. We need to think before we speak and especially when we’re not certain that we have all the facts. Those words that we speak, even flippantly, have a lot of power. According to the Messiah, there’s coming a day that you and I will be judged according to every idle word spoken. Ouch.
Therefore, let us strive to govern our tongue and discipline ourselves to speak blessings instead of curses; to speak positively instead of negatively while discussing others. If we do this, the Father will be very pleased.
It was on this day in 1967 that the Old City of Jerusalem was annexed and joined to the new city of Jerusalem. With that decision, for the first time in 2000 years, a united Jerusalem was placed under Israeli control. Since then, the world’s leaders have been trying to devise ways to divide the ancient city because the Adversary understands the significance of a united Jerusalem. A united Jerusalem is one step closer to a united Israel and that puts us one step closer to the fulfillment of many prophecies about a restored Kingdom of Israel. For the Adversary, a restored Kingdom means confinement to the abyss for a thousand years.
Too many world powers obviously support a divided Jerusalem. They don’t use that terminology, necessarily, but they will say they envision a Jerusalem where all faiths will be able to mingle together. In other words, they envision Jerusalem being what Babylon was always intended to be – a “mingled” city.
“Then they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’” (Genesis 11:3-4)
These verses speak of the founding of Babylon and it is here that we see that, from its inception, Babylon speaks of mixing, mingling and coexistence. They said, “Let’s come together and mix together so that we won’t be scattered across the face of the earth.” Babylon is a city comprised of bricks which are building materials made of clay, straw and water that is mixed together. In the end, the finished product is uniform. Each brick looks like the other bricks. There are no distinctions.
On the other hand, Jerusalem is comprised of stone and only God can form stone. Therefore, the world would like to remake Jerusalem, a city of stone, into one of brick. The nation’s leaders wish to replace what God has instituted with what man envisions; replacing an ancient heritage with a Babylonian mindset. And as much as I hate to admit it, modern Jerusalem is fast becoming that very thing. In fact, the Bible even hints that Jerusalem would fall into this way of thinking.
All of this is setting the stage for what the Father has ordained to occur at the end of days where Israel and the city of Jerusalem is concerned. Jerusalem will, once again, be the Holy City with Messiah as King over all of the earth. Zechariah said:
“And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be—‘The Lord is one,’ and His name one.” (Zechariah 14:9)
“In that day the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the Lord before them. It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” (Zechariah 12:8-9)
Though the kingdoms of this world currently seek to divide Jerusalem, there is coming a day when every kingdom in the world will know that He is the One Lord and that He reigns from Jerusalem. There is coming a day when all kingdoms will acknowledge that they have become the kingdoms of our God and of His Messiah. Let us all look toward and pray for that day.
In Acts 15, we read how some believers in Jerusalem went to the believers in Antioch and told them:
“Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1)
With that statement they said, or at least inferred, that the blood of Messiah and His offering was inadequate to save people. This set off a huge controversy among those who were in the Body and a counsel was convened in Jerusalem to address this issue.
The point is not to get into the particulars of the letter that was sent out or to discuss what it means for believers, today. The point is to highlight the contrast between what happens in and with the Body when we are in one accord, and what happens when we are split with dissension.
When the 1st century believers were in one accord, God’s Spirit moved in them, among them and through them, touching the lives of many. As they witnessed of the Messiah, people were saved, healed and delivered from unclean spirits. These are the very things that Christ pointed out to the two emissaries who were sent to inquire of Him by John. His question was “Are you the coming One?” Christ responded, “The deaf hear, the lame walk and the poor have the gospel preached to them, etc.” The disciples were doing the very things the Messiah was sent to do when they were in one accord. How, then, was their ability to live in one accord disrupted? It happened when religious people attempted to impose their views and their interpretation of Scripture on others. Might it be that we have the very same thing going on, today?
It’s a lot easier for us to live in harmony and one accord, when man-made religion is omitted and God-breathed relationships are embraced, starting with the one we have with the Creator. People are certainly welcome to their opinions and their interpretations of how we walk out what is written in the Scripture. In fact, it’s perfectly fine to debate these things, once and awhile. But it is abundantly clear from Acts 15 that, it is important that we be willing to lay aside our opinions and interpretations when the consensus among the Body is that our interpretation might be wrong, especially when it creates unnecessary contention.
It became apparent to the Jerusalem Council that those who desired to place burdens upon the non-Jews with their opinions and interpretations of Scripture were in the minority and were wrong. Consequently, a letter was drafted and was sent to the congregation at Antioch refuting what these other men had told them, much to the relief of the congregants at Antioch. This is not to say that the non-Jewish believers were released from the obligation to obey God’s commandments, but is to demonstrate what happens when we are in one accord and what happens when we are in dissension.
I am of the firm conviction that religion brings dissension and arguments. I am likewise convinced that genuine relationships foster harmony and accord among the brethren. Peter addressed this issue and explained to those who would elevate the role of religion that Godly relationships makes harmony possible:
“Why are you putting God to the test now, by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have had the strength to bear? No, it is through the love and kindness of the Lord Jesus that we trust and are delivered.” (Acts 15:10-11)
That is how we delivered and that is how we come into a relationship with the Creator. That is how we are saved and, once saved, there is a way that we are to live – in one accord and in one mind. When we are living in that state of being, God works in us and through us that others might be positively affected in their own lives.
In the book of Acts it is recorded that, as a man crippled from birth listened to Paul’s preaching, he was moved to have the faith to be healed. Paul then spoke to the man to get on his feet, which he did, before all the people assembled there:
“Now when the people saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!’ And Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes.” (Acts 14:11-13)
At this point in the story, the people were ready to hail Paul and Barnabas as gods, an error that Paul and Barnabas attempted to correct. However, unbelievers from Antioch and Iconium influenced the crowds in Lystra to stone the same men who, just a few minutes, they regarded as gods. People truly are fickle.
People love you one minute and hate you in the next one. By and large, this is an indication of emotional instability, especially when it comes to affections and attachments. Might I further suggest that being fickle is, or could be, an indication of being double-minded. As we know, someone who is double-minded is “unstable in all their ways.” This is quite dangerous when you consider that, among those who hailed Jesus as the King Messiah on the day He entered into Jerusalem in a procession of waving palm branches and shouts of “Hosannah,” were in another crowd on another day saying, “Crucify Him!” They went so far as to say to Pilate:
“His blood be on us and on our children.” (Matthew 27:25)
To which Jesus would later allude and say:
“Don’t weep for Me. Weep for yourselves and for your children.” (Luke 23:28)
Being fickle, or allowing yourself to be incited by those you suppose to be righteous, can be hazardous to your health, and to that of your children. We need to be the opposite. We need to be stable people, consistent people and properly balanced people. We need to be governed – mind, body and spirit – by the Holy Spirit, so that we will not be blown about by every wind of doctrine that comes along. This is especially critical in the age of the internet when information – much of it false – is coming at us every second of the day. If we are led by His Spirit, then we won’t be led astray by someone else’s opinions and self-interests. Be committed to be led by the Spirit.
Scripture recounts how, upon seeing his Hebrew brethren mistreated, Moses struck an Egyptian taskmaster and killed him. In the book of Acts, Stephen retold the story and made this statement:
“For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand.” (Acts 7:25)
Before the encounter at the burning bush, Moses already knew that God placed him in a position of power in order to deliver Israel from the hand of Pharaoh. That is fascinating to consider especially when so many have supposed that Moses had no idea about his calling until the burning bush incident. Scripture indicates that, years before, Moses already knew of his calling. But Scripture also records that it didn’t go the way that Moses expected it to.
“And when he went out the second day (after killing the Egyptian taskmaster), behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, ‘Why are you striking your companion?’ Then he said, ‘Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ So Moses feared and said, ‘Surely this thing is known!’ When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.” (Exodus 2:13-15)
It’s easy for us to see from our vantage point that it was not yet time for Israel to be delivered from Egypt. That time had been predetermined by God. But let’s put ourselves in Moses’ situation: he realized that he was in a position to deliver Israel, and given that position, who knows what could have happened? If they had recognized Moses as their deliverer, would it have hastened the day of their deliverance? Perhaps not, but it bears noting that they were not willing to recognize that their deliverer had come. This reluctance was made manifest through the strife that existed between the two Hebrew men. That internal strife had a direct bearing on why Moses left Egypt, and why they were forced to labor for another 40 years.
Historically, God’s people have a hard time discerning their time of deliverance. Might it be that it’s because they’ve always been at odds with one another? There’s a common belief in rabbinical sources and in Jewish history, that the Second Temple was destroyed because of the strife and hostility that existed between the Jews, themselves. If that is accurate, then observe the consequences:
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because (here’s the reason) you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44)
Jerusalem was destroyed because the people did not recognize their deliverer nor the time of their deliverance. Consequently, they were destined to suffer, even more than they had. Is it possible that, had the Jewish people recognized Jesus as their Messiah and that the time of their visitation had come, would their fate have been altered? Is it possible that the Kingdom could have started very soon, thereafter?
Why is this important for us to consider? We cannot afford to fail to recognize the time of our visitation. We dare not fail to recognize the time of our deliverance and redemption. If history repeats itself – and it does – the one thing that might contribute to a failue in this area is internal strife and division within the Body. Therefore, we must be willing to do something about the internal strife among believers.