Thursday, February 27, 2014


 Vs 1-7: Letter to the Church in Ephesus

1“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lamp standsI know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

  A special note on how do we connect these ancient seven Churches to the Church in modern times.  These were seven local churches in Asia Minor, but they were each representative of a particular age in church history.  Therefore in a marvelous way, the Lord takes churches currently existing at that time and compares their behavior and their circumstances with certain epochs which were yet to appear in church history. Throughout the book of Revelation the Lord wants to make one thing clear that he is writing the history of the future.
What phases in church history do these seven churches represent? The church of Ephesus corresponds to the Apostolic Church. The church in Smyrna represents the age of the Ceasar and the emperor worship. The church in Pergamum represents the state church, beginning with Constantine and continuing to the end. The church in Thyatira represents church and state combined. The church in Sardis pictures the Reformation church, beginning the sixteenth century. The church in Philadelphia represents the missionary church, beginning with the rise of modern missions under William Carey (1761-1834). The church in Laodicea portrays the apostate church of the last days. I’ve heard some theologians say that these seven churches can also represent seven different life stages in the journey of a Christian believer.
John begins to write down the revelation he has seen and received to the seven churches in the province of Asia. These letters are addressed to the seven angels of the churches. The word Angel is mentioned 185 times in the N.T out of which 76 times in the book of Revelation alone (The Englishman’s Greek Concordance NT). In Greek it has a range of meanings: such as messenger, envoy, and angel. The following are a few of its usage:
I.                   (avgge,louj) Angel is used for men who were the religious messengers.
Lk 7:24: After John’s messengers left.
Mk 1:2 “Behold I send my messenger before” (Mt 11:10, Lk 9:52; Lk 7:27; 9:52)
Jas 2:25: She gave lodging to the spies and sent them off
II.                Angel is used for a bishop or a particular elder of a presiding church:
Rev 1:20 “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands are the seven churches.”
Rev 2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write”
Galatians 4:14 “but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself.”
III.             Angel is used for created spiritual angel either good or evil:
Matthew 24:36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”(Mk13: 32)
Matthew 25:41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;”

Munger notes four functions of the “angel” in the seven letters: 1) To establish a corporate identity between the church and the angel. 2) To establish the unique distinction of each church.3) To emphasize the fact that each church is a spiritual entity. 4) To serving churches by carrying out God’s orders to them.”[1] avgge,lwoj is used more number of times referring to created supernatural celestial beings than the human messengers. Morris notes various opinions of the usage of avgge,lwoj in his commentary:
“The word angel can be used as human messengers, some suggest that it means something like “guardian angels of the churches. Swete suggests, “The angel of a Church may be simply an expression of its prevailing spirit.” Others prefer to think of some earthly representative of the churches. Some others think that the angels or the bishops or pastors, overseer, elder or leader.[2]
In Rev 2:1 avgge,lwoj in my opinion refers to a messenger or an elder rather than an supernatural being. The reason being, the revelation was sent to John by an angel (heavenly being) and when he is sending the message to seven churches in Asia writing to another (heavenly being) angel doesn’t make sense, hence it could be translated as messenger, elder, leader, or pastor.
Background of the city of Ephesus:
It is one of the four most power cities in the Roman Empire. In ancient times it was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Religiously, Ephesus was best known for its temple to the fertility goddess Artemis (Roman Diana). It was the home of many sacred temples including some to the emperors (Augustus himself commissioned one to Julius Caesar in 29 B.C). The imperial cult thrived there. Indeed, under Domitian (81-96) Ephesus was named “warden” or guardian of the imperial cult (called a “temple keeper), and a temple to Domitian was built. Acts 19:19-20 tells us, there was great interest in magic and sorcery in Ephesus.

The church was apparently established by Priscilla and Aquila, who had been left there by Paul in A.D 52 and they were aided by Apollos  ( Acts 18:18-25). Paul returned and spent two years and three months there (Acts 19), apparently using Ephesus as a center for evangelizing the whole region. Later the church struggled with false teachers (Eph 4:14) [3]

Vs 1: “The one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven golden lamp stands, says this” indicates the fact that the message is directly coming from God. Osborne notes “Ta,de le,gei( this is what…says) is a prophetic formula built on OT patterns. As BAGD 553 points out, this formula was used by Persian kings as well as OT prophets in authoritative decrees, meaning this is what…says.” Muse (1986:147-61) believes this formula shows that the seven letters are primarily prophetic in nature. Beale (1999:229) points out that the formula of Ywaheh occurs 21 times in the Minor Prophets (12 in Zechariah) and thus means Christ is assuming the role of Yahweh in addressing the churches.”[4]
John begins each letter by describing one of the aspects of the glorified vision of Jesus (Rev 1:13-17) in order to show the sovereignty of Christ. John’s letters, to the churches except to Laodecia follows a similar pattern. The letter typically begins with a commendation, a confrontation, a warning to change and finally it ends with an announcement of reward.
I. Commendation: God knows the deeds or works of the Ephesian Church. In the NT often (the works) denotes what a man is and how he acts.(Key Word Study Bible). Rom 2:6 “He will judge every one according to what they have done.”(NLT) II Cor 11:15 “In the end they will get the punishment for their wicked deeds deserve.”(II Tim 4:14; III John 10; Rev 2:2, 5, 6, 22, 23).
When God says to the church in Ephesus that He knows their deeds could it be that he is saying that he has knowledge of their actions. Osborn confirms this notion “the e;rga are more than just ‘good deeds’ but refer to the whole spiritual walk of the believer, as defined by the contents of the “deeds” in the letters.”[5] The believers in Ephesus had persevered, tested the spirits (I John 4:1) exposed the false apostles, (2 Cor 11:13), endured for the sake of God’s name, and hated the deeds of Nicolaitans.
Nothing much is mentioned about Nicolaitans in the Bible other than what is written in Revelation. Irenaeus says that they owed their origin to Nicolas, who was one of the seven deacons (Acts 6:5). Victorinus of Pettau, the first commentator on Revelation, refers to them as ‘false and troublesome men, who, as ministers under the name of Nicolaus. They had made a heresy, to the effect that what had been offered to idols might be exorcised and eaten, and that whoever should have committed fornication might receive peace on the eighth day.[6]

Confrontation: After acknowledging the good qualities in the church of Ephesus, God confronts them saying “But I have something against you that you have left your first Love.” The word avlla. “But” introduces the change in the tone of God, he was not pleased with some of the actions of the Ephesians; in this case they left their first Love. The text doesn’t really give us a clue on what it meant by leaving their first love. Is it their first love for God or their love for the fellow men or could it be both? How have they left their first love?
Osborne explains “In referring to avga,phn many scholars assume that it is horizontal or brotherly love. For instance, Beasley-Murray (1974a: 75) says it “was primarily love for fellow men,” and Ladd says “Due to their struggle with false teachers and their hatred of heretical teachings, the Ephesian believers have left their love they used to have for their fellow men. Others view that it is primarily as love for God. However a growing number e.g Mounce, Johnson, Krodel, Thomas, Giesen) recognize the difficulty of separating love for humans from Love for God and Christ.”[7]

After reading various commentaries I conclude that the Ephesian believers have left their first love for people which once was the result of their love for God. Jesus taught his disciples that they were to Love God first. Matt 22:37-39 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind….You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus also predicted that in the end time many people’s love would grow cold. Matt 24:12 “And because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold.”
Osborn notes, “Throughout the NT love for God/Christ is emphasized (Rom 8:28; I Cor 2:9) as is love for our fellow believers (John 13:34; 15:12; I Thess.4: 9; I Pet 1:22). Indeed one cannot exist without the other.”[8] According to I John 4:20 “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” God equates our lack of love for people to the lack of love towards Himself.
After carefully studying the context, it seems to me that the Ephesian believers in their enthusiasm for the truth, have grown cold in their love towards fellowmen. Outwardly they were zealous for God but in the end God holds this against them. If we say love God then we do not have an option but to love his people regardless of their sexual orientation, ethnic, cultural, religious and gender differences because God loves all people.

[1] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation Exegetical commentary on NT, (Baker Academic: G.R. Michigan, 2002), 111.
[2] Leon Morris, Revelation, NT Commentaries,(W.B. Eerdmans Publishing: G.R. Michigan, 1969), 56-57.
[3] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation commentary on NT, (Baker Academic: G.R. Michigan, 2002),108-109,
[4] Ibid., 111.
[5] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, commentary on NT, (Baker Academic: G.R. Michigan, 2002), 112.
[6] Leon Morris, Revelation,(W.B Eerdmans Publishing Company: G.R. Michigan, 2002), 61.
[7] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation, commentary on NT, (Baker Academic: G.R. Michigan, 2002), 116.
[8] Ibid., 116.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Vs 9: I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance, which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos, because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 
This verse indicates that John is the author of Revelation. By these words, “brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation,” John identifies himself as the member of God’s family and also fellow partaker in the tribulation. 

Osborne notes “John uses words such as “fellow sharers or partners” in order to emphasize the Koinonia concept which is found throughout NT literature. Everywhere the word group appears it connotes the idea of community, togetherness and mutual participation in the family of God and Christ.”[1]We are not certain on what exactly brought John to the Island of Patmos. Different views on how John got to Patmos: “Some have argued that John isolated himself there as part of his visionary quest, others contend that John was banished there. Eusebius said, John was banished to Patmos during the reign of Domitian (A.D 95)”[2] However by reading into the text we can draw to a conclusion, that he was there because of the preaching of the Word of God or as directed by God.

Vs 10-20: John’s first vision and its explanation:
Vs 10 “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day and I heard a loud voice behind me like a trumpet.” John had a vision of the exalted Lord on the Lord’s Day which is also known as ‘the first day of the week (Acts 20:7, 1Cor 16:2). Several arguments on the phrase (the Lord’s Day).

According to Beale, “some argue that ‘On the Lord’s Day refers to the eschatological Day of the Lord prophesied in the OT therefore they allude that (Chs 4-22) is an explanation of how this latter-day expectation will be fulfilled. However the Lord’s is never used as the Day of the Lord in the LXX, NT, or early church fathers. The phrase is clearly and consistently used of Sunday from the second half of the second century.”[3] Osborne notes, “The commission to “write” in Ch1:11 is the first of twelve such commands in the book, the normal tense for such a command, it has its basic simple force, ‘write this down.”[4]

The metaphor of the “trumpet” has great significance, for in almost every NT occurrence it has eschatological significance. Here are a few scriptures:   Matt 24:31“And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” I Cor 15:52, “In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”  I Thess 4:16, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”

Vs 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”  The order of the cities is significant, for they form the circular route of a letter carrier. Why these seven were chosen though there were other cities of prominence at that time? Firstly, these seven cities formed a natural center of communication for the rest of the province. Secondly, during Paul’s time they had become organizational and distributive centers. Thirdly, their relationship to the imperial cult. Fourthly, they also represented the problems of the other churches in the area.

Description of the Glorified Christ: (1:13b-16):
Vs 13 “and among the lamp stands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.” When John says he saw Christ in the middle of the lamp stands, he wants to let us know that Christ is not an absentee land lord. On the contrary, he is in the midst of his churches supporting them during trials and persecutions. Osborn in his commentary notes eight images that are drawn from the OT, which describes a metaphorical image of Jesus Christ.

A.    Long Robe and Golden Sash: They refer to the robe and sash of the high priest (Ex 28:4, 39:29)
B.     White head and Hair: Referring to the ancient of days in the OT (Dan 7:9)
C.     Blazing Eyes:  This image comes from Dan 10:6 “his eyes like flaming torches”
D.    Bronze feet: This image is closely to Christ’s blazing eyes in both, Dan 10: 6 and Rev 2:18. This image of ‘polished bronze’ emphasized the glory and strength of Christ.
E.     Powerful Voice: John draws on OT descriptions of Yawheh to show Christ in his divine glory and power.( Ezek 1:24)
F.      Stars in His Right Hand: The right hand throughout Scripture symbolizes power and authority (PS 110:1; Matt 26:64)
G.    Sword from His mouth: Sword of judgment and the mouth of the messiah from which the sword comes forth portray the proclamation of the judgment with the act of Judgment.
H.    Radiant Face: It recalls Moses when he came down from Sinai and “his face was radiant because he had spoken with Yahewh”[5]

We will learn about the message to the first church Ephesus next week.

[1] Ibid.,79
[2] Ibid.,81.
[3] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, (W.B.Eerdmans Publishing: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1999), 203.
[4] Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, 2002), 84.
[5] Ibid., 89-93.

Monday, February 10, 2014


When the International Olympic Committee selected Sochi, Russia, as the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics in 2007, the small seaside resort town had no major venues, minimal housing, and few transportation options. Seven years and $51 billion later, the city has built dozens of large facilities, created thousands of housing units, added new rail systems, and toughened security.[1] It made me realize another kind of preparations that have been going on for over 2000 years for the grandest Opening Ceremony ever; the “return or the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It is the LORD himself who has been at work in preparing the world for his second coming. By the power of the Holy Spirit he is saving the world and sanctifying those who have been saved. He is getting His bride the Church ready so that when he returns she may be found without a spot or a wrinkle. Part of that preparation is calling His body to stay away from the corruption of this world and stay connected with Him. Let’s read I Peter 1:13-16
Background:  The influence of the Apostle Peter upon the early Church was much stronger than the any of the other original twelve Apostles. I Peter was probably written in the AD 60’ persecution of the severest kind for its recipients was only a few decades away.
Peter used Jesus’ own suffering as the cornerstone of his exhortation. He exhorted Christians to suffer as Christians not as law breakers. Though preparing them for the upcoming suffering was the main thrust of this epistle he was persuading them to a holy conduct. In the midst of their present suffering Peter reminded the believers that they were being kept for God.
He wanted them not to focus on their immediate situation but to look forward to a life that they are going to share with Christ when He is finally revealed. Since Christ is coming back to a spotless or a holy bride, Peter was getting them ready to live holy. What would a holy conduct look like? What is the basis for and how could we cultivate holy living?
I.                   HOLY LIVING & THE LORD’S RETURN ( Vs. 13)
Vs 13, “Therefore, prepare (gird) your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given when Jesus Christ is revealed (at the revelation of Jesus Christ).    For the last few weeks we have been studying the book of Revelation. Those of us who are excited about the second coming of Christ ought to take note of what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through the Apostle Peter. It is OK to get excited about the signs of the end time, the rapture, the tribulation, the thousand year rule of Christ, our heavenly dwelling, the destruction of Satan and his followers, and so on, there is nothing wrong with that kind of thinking. But let’s not forget one thing, from now and until the time when we will see Christ face to face, as some believe it may happen in their life time; we have a life to live, and a job to finish. This verse focuses on our present behavior as we await the return of our LORD.
Before we go further let’s understand the essence of our Lord’s second coming. In Thess 2:19 we read, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes” The greek word parousia which is translated in NASB as “coming” in NIV “comes” basically means “presence or arrival” In Hellenistic Greek it was used to designate the visit of a “ruler.” From the readings of several scriptures we understand what will happen at the return of Jesus Christ. Here is a glimpse of it:
Christ will visit the earth again in his personal presence at the end of the age in his power and glory. The Antichrist and the devil will be destroyed. The righteous will be redeemed. At that time the dead who are believers will rise first and those who are believers and are alive will be changed and be caught up in the air by Jesus Christ.
Where is Christ right now? He is now reigning as the Lord at God’s right hand and sharing God’s throne. His reign is now invisible to the world. It will however, one day be made spectacularly visible. That was what the early Christians awaited, lived and died for. Since that time the Church the world over has been looking with eager anticipation to the imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ and for the subsequent establishment of His eternal Kingdom.
In II Peter 3:11-12, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.”
This scripture highlights the connection between holy living and the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. No matter how you go around it you cannot ignore the fact that our expectation of the Lord’s return must propel us to live a holy and godly life. That was what the apostle Peter preparing the believers for. He charged them to get ready for action; live lives of self-control and holiness. Living a holy life simply means living our lives differently.
II.                LIVING DIFFERENTLY (14-16)
Vs 14-16, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: “Be holy because I am holy.”
The Apostle Peter was quoting here from Leviticus 11:44-45, “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy…45 I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” The holiness of God is a major concern in the O.T; but the passage in Leviticus is of particular interest, because it deals with the characteristic of God being Holy and the need for his people to imitate his holiness.
The Greek word translated “holy” in I Peter is the same word used several times in the N.T to refer Christians as “saints” The basic idea in the word is the otherness or the apartness of the person to whom it refers. In the case of Israel, God wanted his people to imitate His holiness and live as if their lives have been set apart towards God from the rest of the world around them.  Similarly, today as God’s people we too are called to live different lives, because we have been set apart and dedicated to God. Let’s see what a life set apart for God looks like?
When we live with the awareness of belonging to God, and being set apart for His purposes we live differently than the rest of the world around us. We don’t do the same things they do and we do the things they don’t. Our pursuits, aspirations are different.
We will be more concerned with the things that please God. We will be God and others centered than self-centered. In other words we don’t look for what is there for me instead we look for ways to be a blessing to others.
Living differently means we avoid things that contaminate our body, soul and mind as we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Choosing words that communicate grace, love, and acceptance rather than criticism, harshness and judgment. We want our gentleness to be evident to all. We make every effort to live in peace with one another. We will love our wives and respect our husbands.  Our children obey us and we don’t exasperate our children. We will be quick to forgive and be reconciled with fellow members in the body of Christ.
We will be quick to say sorry and accept our faults rather than pointing fingers at others. We will take the log out of our own eyes before we try to remove a speck from others eyes. Living differently means we will be slow to speak and quick to listen. We become the carriers of God’s word and the good news of the gospel. We work towards building unity. We pray, serve and encourage one another. We cover each other’s back.
On the contrary when we gossip, hold on to resentment, bitterness, un-forgiveness and sow discord among the brethren then we are not living a holy life. We may appear to be holy; talk holy but by our own actions we deny the power of holy living. That is why the apostle Peter said, “Be holy in all you do.”  This has to do with all aspects of our life.
As I was preparing this sermon God has freshly challenged me and showed me where I needed to change. I believe God wants us to repent where necessary and start living differently. Let’s come under the scrutiny and the powerful search of God’s Holy Spirit this morning. Are we simply keeping up holy appearances or truly living lives that are pleasing to God? The key to cultivating holiness is to set our hope fully on the grace of God rather than focusing heavily on ours and other people’s sins. Complete holiness is the desire and the ultimate goal of every Christian, but only by His grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit will we attain holiness and live differently; lives that are holy and acceptable unto God. Amen


Sunday, February 2, 2014


            During a recent conversation with a Christian woman;  I told that my health insurance may come to an end in March; she frantically said “make all your doctor’s visits; get all your tests done before it ends; who knows your new health insurance policy may costs you a “leg and an arm.” What fear; and uncertainty have I noticed in her voice! It is true we are living in uncertain times. In one sense she was right; getting sick in this country is a costly affair.
            If that is the case it is better not to get sick right? But can we entirely avoid sickness? No matter how well disciplined we may live, there are certain things beyond our control. On the other hand a theology that is spreading in the church at large which by some is called, “Wealth and Health” which says that God wants you to always remain healthy and wealthy. Those who buy into this theology believe that you should never get sick; if you do you have sin in your life; or you can claim healing instantly; and if you don’t get the healing you have unbelief or you are not obeying or doing God’s will! Really!
Does this mean that if you are a Christian and do everything by the Book you will never get sick or go through any hardships? In other words if we obey God’s will then everything will always go well for us; and God is obligated to protect; heal; provide and make us successful? The way you answer these questions is shaped by your theology. Think for a moment; did Jesus do God’s will or not?  Did he suffer? He was persecuted and in the end was crucified. The disciples followed in his footsteps and haven’t they experienced the same? If that is the case are we any different than our Lord and his disciples?
Recently I read a story of a young pastor couple in “Christianity Today,” in many ways their situation was similar to ours except for this horrible reality. A regular hospital visit turned out to be a nightmare where Carol, the wife, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her type of cancer was in the words of her doctor “a potent killer of young women”.
To add to their misery there was another crushing blow. The health insurance company had determined that Carol’s cancer was a preexisting condition and terminated her coverage. Which means the couple was forced to pay for the treatment on their own. What would you go through if you were in a similar situation? This is what Peter her husband and the pastor of a small struggling church said in his own words; “I remember feeling a multitude of things during that time: shock, intense fear, confusion. But the emotion I remember most clearly was that of betrayal. I felt betrayed by God.”
To cut the long story short; in the end his wife survived the cancer; God blessed them with two healthy children one during the cancer treatment and another after the treatment the later one Peter calls, a Miracle” because the doctors had said his wife may never conceive again. Well, who can stop God from doing what He wants to do. Wilma and I both were inspired by the story because this couple was real and honest about their struggles and wrestling with God.
This is a story of survival and God’s healing power. We just heard the testimony of how God healed Geoff Mann completely from a stage three cancer.  When we do see such answers to prayer we rejoice and give praise to God. But this is not always the case. For example a Dutch missionary to Luxembourg  who was imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel and happens to be my brother-in law as we speak, in spite of his prayers and many peoples prayer remains a quadriplegic. When we visited him during the past summer he was radiant and full of the Lord, did not display any bitterness towards God.

When I hear some of the survival stories and tremendous hardships people endure world over, my seemingly troubles and hardships amount to nothing. What makes people like Peter Chen, Wilma’s brother-in-law and others like Joni Eareckson remain strong in their faith? I believe they have developed a healthy theology contrary to the cheap “Wealth and Health” theology. They see God differently at work in the midst of and in spite of their suffering. They have learned valuable lessons of trust and dependency on God. They experienced God’s abiding presence. What is the fire and the river you are going through today? Are you wondering where is God’s presence in all this? Let’s turn to Isaiah 43:1-2
Vs 1 Talks affirmatively how God viewed Israel: It was God who created Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and formed them into a nation called Israel. He called them by name which shows their personal identity; not only that, they became God’s own possession. They had seen in the past how God had delivered them from the hands of Egyptians and other nations who threatened to wipe them out. Above all he assured them with these words saying “Do not Fear”
What can we learn from this scripture? As many scholars believe that when we accepted Christ as our savior we have been brought into the family of God and became the heirs of God’s promises to the nation of Israel as well as the recipient of God’s purpose of why He has created, formed, called and redeemed and kept them as his own possession. In other words what applied to Israel then can also apply to us today, both the good, the bad and the ugly.
Some Christians have wrong understanding what it is to be a child of God or belong to God. They think just because now they are a child of God they should be free from all trouble; all heartache; never get sick and always succeed. Really? God has never promised that we will never have troubles on this side of the earth; on the contrary many scriptures in the bible suggest that we will have troubles and heartaches but in the midst of all that God promises to be with us.
Vs 2, “When you pass through the waters I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire; you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.” Let’s read what the text is saying here. “It starts with “when” you pass through the rivers, walk through the fire,” it doesn’t say “if” a slight grammatical observation here. Let’s pay close attention to the word “When” you might be wondering what difference does it make? Well it matters; in normal use the words “When’ and ‘If’ are both used while referring to the future. ‘When” is used while referring to something that will certainly happen.
Whereas “if” is used while referring to something that might or might not happen. This concept is easily understood. Keeping that in mind now we read our text; when God says; “when you pass through waters and rivers and walk through the fire and flames” It means these things were bound to happen to Israel then and now to us his children. Then why are we surprised when calamity hits us; or bad things happen to us. Why do we wonder saying why are these troubles happening to me; am I not a good Christian, am I not doing everything by the book and why am I still suffering?
Let’s face it, we all may have asked such questions as to why? When we do, we are lacking the understanding of God’s nature and what it is to really follow God in the 21st century. It appears to me that a modern day western Christian has very little resistance towards pain and suffering. We are known as the “pop a pill” generation. When trouble hits us in one place we tend to run away to another place thinking that we might be safe there; instead of facing the trouble with the help of God. Can we really overcome trouble? Yes we can! Not when we run away from it but only when we go through it.
God is saying to his Children no matter what you go through nothing will touch you because my presence will be with you. What can we know of God’s abiding presence? Moses was convinced that without God's presence in his life, it was useless for him to attempt anything. When he spoke face to face with the Lord, he said,If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. (Exodus 33:15). In ESV it reads, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.” Moses was saying here "Lord, if your presence is not with me, then I'm not going anywhere. I won't take a single step unless I'm assured you're with me!"
Moses knew it was God's presence in Israel that set the people apart from all other nations. And the same is true of the church of Jesus Christ today. The only thing that sets us apart from nonbelievers is God's being "with us" - leading us, guiding us, working his will in and through us and us being with God on a daily basis.
When the Lord's presence is in our midst, no one can harm us. But without him, we're helpless and reduced to nothing. David recognized God’s abiding presence so he said,Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7 The three Hebrew boys knowing that God will be with them refused to bow down before the statue and when they were thrown in the fire their faith proved them right; there in the midst of the fiery furnace experienced the calming and soothing presence of God.
God assured Moses with these words saying, “My presence shall go with you and I will give you rest" (Exodus 33:14). What an incredible promise! The Hebrew word for "rest" here is "a comfortable, quiet rest." God was saying, "No matter what enemies or trials you face, you'll always be able to find a quiet rest in me!"
Think about this: what would it be like if we have the manifest presence of God in our Church? There won't be any hustle or bustle, sweating or striving. There won’t be any controlling, quarrels, fights among us. Instead, there will be a calming peace, a quiet rest - and everyone who walks through the doors will sense it and be blessed by God’s abiding presence in this place! The same is true for every individual Christian. If you have Jesus' presence in your life, you will experience God's divine order. You'll have a peace and a calm, with no fretting or anxiety, no running to and fro to seek guidance, no sense that the bottom is falling out. You'll live at rest, knowing God has everything under control and His abiding presence will be with you no matter what happens!  Amen