Will You Let God Do the Fighting?

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D-DAY HAD finally arrived.1

The Hebrews had languished for nearly five centuries under the heavy hands of their Egyptian oppressors (Exo. 12:40).  Generations had known only cruelty, affliction and misery (1:11-14).  In their calamity, they cried out to the LORD (2:23)—and He heard them (2:24-25; 4:31).

Now, in the fullness of His providence, the LORD was ready to bring His people out of bondage.  He had previously sent nine miraculous acts of judgment upon the Egyptians, each one more severe than the previous (cf. chapters 7-10).  Finally, in His most fearsome and awesome display of power, the LORD plagued the nation with the death of every first born (chapters 11-12).  While He “passed over” the Hebrews (12:23-28), He passed through the Egyptians—and every home suffered loss, from the lowest member of society to the king himself (12:12, 29-30).

The Egyptians had had all they could stand and then drove the Hebrews from their domain (12:33-36).  The NKJV says, “The Egyptians urged the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste.  For they said, ‘We shall all be dead’” (12:33).

Oddly enough, as the Israelites existed Egypt, they took what appeared to be a very bizarre detour:

“From the standpoint of military strategy, the detour God told the Israelites to take was sheer lunacy.  They were already well on their way to freedom when God ordered them to turn around, go back, and camp between the desert and the sea…  Wherever they were, the Israelites were completely vulnerable.  They were out on Egypt’s frontier, surrounded by desert, with their backs to the sea.  Why on earth would God put His people in this kind of position?  Any military strategist would have recognized immediately that they were trapped…”2

From Pharaoh’s perspective, the Hebrews had gotten turned around in the desert and inadvertently cornered themselves, so he decided this was an excellent opportunity to force them back into captivity (14:5ff).  With their backs to the sea, the king decided it was time to exhibit his own prowess.  Yahweh (i.e., Jehovah), the God of the Hebrews had great power, but so did he—Amenhotep II3—the living god of the Egyptians, and he’d display it with the full might of his own military forces including 600 choice chariots (14:7).

Now think about what was transpiring on this occasion in the minds of the Hebrews.  Pharaoh’s indomitable army was in route.  They would march down into the midst of the helpless Hebrews and crush them.  Thousands would surely die horrible, agonizing deaths, while the rest would be dragged back into oppression.  It was a nightmare unfolding before their very eyes.

I’ve often pondered this pivotal note in Old Testament history.  It occurs to me that the children of Israel actually believed God was impotent—at least now. Despite His promises to the contrary (3:8, 17-22; 4:21-23), despite the fact that He has raised up a deliverer in the person of Moses (ch. 2-5), despite the fact that He had shown a vast array of incredible signs and wonders over the past several months and executed judgement against the gods of Egypt (ch. 7-12; 12:12), the Hebrews believed at this very moment that they were doomed.  They were stuck between a rock and hard place, between the waters of the Red Sea and the violent aggression of Pharaoh’s soldiers.  The inevitable conclusion to hundreds of years of subjugation was slaughter—then more subjugation.  Jehovah could put on a series of exciting shows, but in the end He just couldn’t save.  Watch:

And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have YOU taken us away to DIE in the wilderness? Why have YOU so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told YOU in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should DIE in the wilderness” (14:10-14—emphasis mine, mb).

Moses took the immediate blame for their plight (notice how many times Israel said, “YOU”—mb), but ultimately the imminent death of the Hebrews was God’s fault.  From their amnesic perspective, He wasn’t living up to His word and despite all of His miraculous bravado during the ten plagues, He apparently didn’t have sufficient power to stop the Egyptians now.

The truth of the matter was, every expression of providential care, every miraculous act of judgment against Egypt, and every distinction the Lord made between the Hebrews and the Egyptians should have been an occasion when Israel’s faith (as well as yours—1 Cor. 10:11; Rom. 15:4) was not only being built, but intensified!  So that by Exodus 14, when Pharaoh’s mighty army showed up on the horizon, the Hebrews should have said, “Stand still and watch everybody—God’s gonna fight for us again!”

Brethren, even though this story is thousands of years old, it’s as fresh and current as this past hour’s Facebook post.  Think about it.  When you’re stuck—when you’re between a rock and a hard place and your back is up against the sea, it’s tempting to share Israel’s faithless and illogical view.  “God, despite the countless times I’ve prayed to you, you’re obviously not going to deliver me.  This detour is actually a dead-end…” (cf. Psm. 106:7-8).

In reality, it’s when your suffering is the most palpable, and your doubts have risen to the surface that they must give way to faith in God (cf. Mark 9:24).  Pay close attention to what Moses told Israel at this juncture:

“Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (14:13-14).

Now re-read those phrases and commit them to memory:

  • “The salvation of the LORD.”
  • “HE will accomplish for you.”
  • “The LORD will fight for you.”

Did ya’ll catch that…?  Fighting was God’s job—faith was Israel’s job. 

Dear reader, faith in God doesn’t mean we will never hurt, experience pain, or be free from troubles (Job 5:7; 14:1; Eccl. 2:23; John 16:33; Rom. 5:3-5; 12:12; Jas. 1:2-4; 2 Cor. 4:17).  Faith in God doesn’t mean we’ll never know what it’s like to be stuck with our backs against the sea (Psm. 46:1; Nah. 1:7).  Faith in God means looking at His deliverance in times past and trusting Him with the same in the future (Psm. 9:9-10; 59:9-10; 62:8; Prov. 11:8).  It means remembering that He cannot lie, that He’s never been caught off guard, and that He’s never been impotent or less than all powerful (2 Sam. 22:33; 2 Chron. 20:6; Job 26:7-14; Psm. 71:18; 147:4-5; Jer. 10:12-13).  It means accepting the fact that He’s always in control, He promises to never forsake you—and that ultimately even the grave will bow to His divine will (Deut. 31:6; Isa. 41:10; Psm. 94:14; Heb. 13:5-6; Rev. 1:18).  In other words, it means letting God do the fighting—because He’s the only one qualified to do so.

Are you confused by a divine detour?  Are you stuck between a rock and a hard place?  LET GOD DO THE FIGHTING FOR YOU.

1  “Deliverance Day”; Philip Ryken, “Between the Desert and the Sea,” Exodus–Saved for God’s Glory, 383; 3  John J. Davis, “The Call of Moses,” Moses and the God’s of Egypt, 80

What Did I Learn When I Re-Read 1 Corinthians 13?

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I’VE BEEN RE-READING through 1 Corinthians 13 this week.

Each time I mull over and meditate on the verses within this chapter, I try to treat them as though they’re new to me—as though I’ve never read them before.  I’ve been trying not to bring my prejudices and preconceptions to the text; I just want the Word to teach me.  Here’s what I’ve gleaned thus far:

  1. The context of the chapter is miraculous; Paul mentions gifts of tongues, prophecies, faith and knowledge (v. 2).

 

  1. Chapter thirteen is actually sandwiched between two other chapters concerning miraculous gifts. Chapter twelve addresses the number and MANIFESTATION of gifts, chapter fourteen addresses the use and REGULATION of gifts, while chapter thirteen addresses the DURATION of gifts.

 

  1. Each member of the Corinth congregation who possessed a gift was able to exercise it of their own free will and volition (cf. 14:32). Unlike many Pentecostals today, there was no out-of-control, frantic behavior by those who had received an endowment.

 

  1. Not everybody who exercised their miraculous gift did so with the right intent. Some used it with selfish, proud and arrogant motives rather than for the edification of the church body at large (v. 3). “Look at me! Look at the gift I possess!” The underlying problem that permeated Corinth was division (cf. 1:10ff), and ultimately what created the division in the first place was a lack of love.

 

  1. Agapē love is based upon a decision as opposed to a feeling.

 

  1. Love (vv. 4-8a) is expressed by what it does positively (e.g., patience, kindness, bears-believes-hopes-endures all), as well as by what it doesn’t do negatively (e.g., envies, parades, puffs up, behaves rudely, seeks its own, is provoked, thinks evil, rejoices in iniquity).

 

  1. It is possible to understand, from an historical perspective, how the lack of love hurt the church at Corinth and still act in an unloving fashion today.

 

  1. The apostle made a clear distinction between those gifts which were temporary (e.g., miraculous) and the gifts that were permanent (e.g. faith, hope and love). See #2—and remember DURATION.

 

  1. Paul distinguished between that which was “in part” (v. 10b) and that which was “perfect” (v. 10a). The Word was being received in part/fragments—while the finished, finalized (Jude 3) Word would be perfect/complete (cf. Eph. 4:11-13).

 

  1. The miraculous gift period of the early church was child-like and immature because it did not possess the finalized, entire Word of God (v. 11). It only had bits and segments of the whole, divine revelation.

 

  1. The miraculous gift period of the early church was like looking into a cloudy, brass mirror (v. 12). But when God fully and finally revealed the totality of His Word in the latter part of the 1st century, the church’s insight would no longer be obscured, and she would be able to see and understand the Father’s will from a sharper and richer perspective (i.e., “face to face”).

 

  1. Paul couldn’t have been talking about the return of Jesus when he said, “When that which is perfect is come,” and I don’t need a degree in Greek language to know that: a)  If “that which is perfect” refers to Jesus at His final coming, THEN ALL MIRACULOUS GIFTS ARE PRESENT IN THE CHURCH TODAY.  But Paul didn’t say, “These twelve…”, he said, “these three” (v. 13), and b) If “that which is perfect” refers to Jesus at His final coming, THEN WE DO NOT HAVE THE COMPLETE, FINALIZED WORD OF GOD TODAY.

 

  1. Even though miraculous gifts are no longer employed in the 21st century, love must continue to be practiced.

 

Why Am I Afraid of Truth?

The truth of the resurrection was so self-evident and undeniable that even those who hated Him couldn’t deny what He had done.

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MARTHA AND MARY urged the Lord to check on their brother’s welfare (John 11:3)…

Instead, Jesus tarried for two more days before leaving for Bethany (John 11:6) to check on his ailing friend.

When He finally did arrive on the scene, Lazarus had been graveyard dead for four days (John 11:39).

The Lord made His way to the tomb where Lazarus had been buried.  He asked that the stone be rolled aside and then shouted, “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:43).

Scripture records wondrously, “And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth…” (John 11:44).

Some of those who witnessed this awesome scene reported the event to the Pharisees (John 11:46).

What is striking to me is that even the avowed enemies of Jesus admitted His miraculous work.  They pondered, “…What shall we do?  For this Man works many signs” (John 11:47).

Did you catch that?

The truth of the resurrection was so self-evident and undeniable that even those who hated Him couldn’t deny what He had done.

What is especially telling to me is the fear and concern that the Pharisees experienced.  They said, “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:48), so they conspired to murder Him (John 11:53).

Let that rattle around in your brain for a while.

Why would folks want to kill a Man with the ability to raise the dead, and why were some of the Pharisees afraid of Jesus – the embodiment of truth?

The answer to these questions also explains WHY many people fear truth today.  Consider:

  1.  Truth threatened their POWER base.  The Pharisees said, “If we let him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him…”  These men realized that if folks kept seeing what Jesus could do and hear His message then they would forsake their oversight and follow the Lord.
  2. Truth exposed their ERROR and SIN.  “…From that day on they plotted to put Him to death” (John 11:53).  If there had been no corruption within the Jewish leadership of the day, they would have welcomed Jesus as the Promised One.  One of the reasons the Pharisees rejected the Truth was because they were living in a state of unrepentant sin.  These “religious” men had murder in their hearts.  Had they been living within the will of God, they would have had no reason to fight against what the Lord taught and practiced.
  3. Truth threatened the STATUS QUO.  “…The Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”  The Jews were afraid that the excitement from the news of Lazarus’ resurrection would incur Rome’s heavy hand down upon them and lead to the loss of what national life still remained in their possession.  They weren’t ready or willing to change.  Note the phrase, “Our place…”

Good reader, how do you feel when the truth of Jesus Christ is taught and practiced?

When the preacher urges you to die to self and “walk in newness of life” (cf. Rom. 6:3-4), do you get upset?  Do you feel threatened?

Are you worried that your sin may be discovered?

Do you feel the need to fight and keep things “as they are?”

Give it some thought.

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be…” Mike

What was Luther’s Plea?

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“I pray you leave my name alone and do not call yourselves Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine: I have not been crucified for any one… How does it then benefit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions; away with all of them; and let us call ourselves only Christians, after Him from whom our doctrine comes.” LIFE OF LUTHER, p. 262

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  1 Cor. 1:10-13

Do We Leave Out the Most Important Part?

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I HAVE OFTEN heard folks tell their friends, “You need to be baptized.”

It’s certainly true that immersion is necessary (Acts 8:38; Rom. 6:3; 1 Pet. 3:21; cf. 2 Kgs. 5:13-14).

Despite what our denominational neighbors say to the contrary, baptism is essential for salvation (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Titus 3:5).

But I fear that, at least at times, we’ve not said nearly enough when we tell people, “You need to be baptized…”

Hear me out.

Simply getting in the water is insufficient.  Yes, I said insufficient.

If there was something miraculous or holy about the water in and of itself, we could just strong-arm folks up to the baptistry and force them under.  But there is no inherent power in the water itself.  Water is water–whether it’s in a baptistry, a swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a pond, a creek, a river or an ocean.

An individual has to be buried (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12), but sometimes well-intentioned church folk stop there at immersion in water and in so doing, stop short of their responsibility (cf. Mat. 28:19-20).

They push the action of faith without first properly and fully emphasizing the person of faith.  They fixate on the water without focusing upon the One who mandates the water in the first place.

But beloved, without Christ baptism is simply a bath; the removal of the filth of the flesh (1 Pet. 3:21).

Christ is the center, the beginning and the end, and He’s why water is important in the first place!

Through the years I’ve watched us (i.e., the church) baptize folks in numbers I cannot recall, both stateside as well as on foreign soil.  And I’ve also watched many of those folks who went down into the water leave the church soon thereafter because even though they got the water right, they never got the Savior right.  They heard, “You need to be baptized…” and “You’ll be lost in hell if you don’t get baptized.”  They were told and heard “water” and perhaps wanted an insurance policy against eternal fire (Mat. 25:46a).

Our Baptist friends sometimes accuse us of what they call, “water salvation.”  I suspect on occasion, they may actually be right.

Christ is everything!

  • We are saved by Christ.  1 Tim. 1:15
  • We are saved by faith in Christ.  John 8:24; cf. Jas. 2:17, 24
  • We are saved by repenting of sins committed against Christ.  Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; cf. Mat. 12:41; Jonah 3:10
  • We are saved by confessing Christ.  Mat. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:10
  • We are saved by baptism into Christ.  Gal. 3:27
  • We are saved by the name and authority of Christ.  Acts 4:12
  • We are saved by the words of Christ.  John 6:63
  • We are saved by the works of Christ.  John 20:30-31
  • We are saved by the blood of Christ.  Rom. 5:9; Eph. 1:7
  • We are saved by the death of Christ.  Rom. 5:10a
  • We are saved by the perfect life of Christ.  Rom. 5:10b
  • We are saved by the resurrection of Christ.  Rom. 4:25
  • We are saved by hope in Christ.  Rom. 8:24
  • We are saved by calling on the name of Christ (i.e., baptism).  Acts 22:16; 2:21; cf. Mat. 7:21
  • And at baptism God adds us to the body/church of Christ.  Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; 11:24; cf. Rom. 16:16

Let me say it here–and please don’t wrest my words out of their context.  It’s not the water in and of itself that saves.  It is Christ who saves and He graciously does so through obedient faith that accepts His word and goes down into the water (Mark 16:15-16; Eph. 2:8-9).

In Christ alone my hope is found

He is my light, my strength, my song

This cornerstone, this solid ground

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease

My Comforter, my All in All

Here in the love of Christ I stand

Songwriters: Keith Getty/Stuart Townend
In Christ Alone lyrics @ Capitol Christian Music Group