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Friday, February 16, 2024

Healing For The Brokenhearted

"Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick.  And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none." (Psalms 69:20 NASU)  Read in context one sees clearly that this passage of scripture refers to Jesus toward the very end of his life on earth when facing the cross and perhaps, very possibly, on the cross itself.  The heart has been broken to the point of sickness. 

Is there a person whose heart has never been crushed with sorrow, one whose heart has never been broken?  Most of us who are older have experienced it and sooner or later almost everyone will if they have not already.  There are the tears that flow freely and that once in motion cannot be stopped until the well has run dry but the well soon fills back up and there they go again as though they cannot be stopped.  Only the utmost strength of the will can hold them back, a will that seems to be in a life-and-death struggle with the heart. 

Food no longer matters.  The heart is too ill to even think of food.  Hunger has vanished so one can go days with barely a bite and it matters not in the least for the heart is sick.  The stomach feels as though it has taken a body blow.  All the breath has been sucked out of one's being.  Nothing matters any longer, nothing at all, all feeling is gone, and whether it be life or death matters little to none? 

There is no longer any fear for fear has been struck down.  The worst fear has achieved victory so any other thing that could come along would be but nothing.  There is no longer anything to fear.  The only emotion left is heart-wrenching sorrow.  The heart is numb and immune to further pain or insult.  Do what you will to me, it matters not. 

The greatest hurt in the world is a broken heart.  Nothing hurts worse than to have one's heart crushed.  It often comes from those we love most making the hurt almost unbearable.  We love them greatly and thought they loved us as well and then they desert us as though we were little to nothing to them. 

But there are other avenues for broken hearts as well.  A parent loses a child to death or a spouse is lost.  A healthy vigorous young man goes off to war and comes home with injuries so severe as to make a normal life impossible and hopes and dreams for the future are squashed.  His heart is broken but also that of his loved ones. 

The elderly go into nursing homes, they know it is to be permanent, and it seems family do not care or love them anymore.  The heart is broken.  Deep sorrow and sadness seem to be all that is left and old people are not supposed to cry.  But the heart is broken. 

Can a broken heart be mended?  At the time it seems life will simply stop and that the heart will never recover.  Nevertheless, hearts can be healed even though a scar may always cover the wound that was received.  Scars are eventually forgotten in the sense that the day comes when they no longer interfere with everyday life and life goes on. 

The Bible teaches that Jesus too suffered from a broken heart just as we have.  Jesus has often been called the man of sorrows based on Isa. 53.  Listen to a little of the prophet Isaiah as he talks about Jesus as he foresees the future.  "He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him." (Isa. 53:3 NASU)  Why do you think Jesus was a man of sorrows?  Was it physical affliction?  Was it poverty?  It was a heart man broke.  

The Psalmist says, speaking of Jesus prophetically, "But I am a worm and not a man, a reproach of men and despised by the people.  All who see me sneer at me." (Psalms 22:6 NASU)  John says, "He came to His own, and those who were his own did not receive Him." (John 1:11 NASU)  Was the heart of Jesus broken?  When for the last time he saw Jerusalem from a distance as he was about to enter therein it is said, "He saw the city and wept over it." (Luke 19:41 NASU)  Broken hearts weep, not hearts filled with joy. 

Yes, Jesus knows what it is to shed tears of sorrow and to have his heart broken.  In fact, he knows all about us for he "likewise also partook of the same" (Heb. 2:14), that is flesh and blood.  He was "tempted in all things as we are." (Heb. 4:15)  "He had to be made like His brethren in all things." (Heb. 2:17 NASU)  Yes, it may be that the cause of our broken heart may differ from the cause of Jesus' broken heart but is not a broken heart a broken heart?  Is pain, not pain?  Is sorrow not sorrow?  Must one's heart be crushed by a particular thing to call it a broken heart? 

Can God help us mend?  God understands that in this life there are things that are too big for us to deal with alone.  We are put in a position where we cannot act proactively for we have lost that power.  Events have overwhelmed us.  We need outside help. 

What can God do?  We might respond what is there that God cannot do?  Do you believe God can and does intervene in the affairs of men?  If he does not why then do you pray? 

Let me quote a passage to you from Psalms 34:18-19 (NASU), "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all."  In this passage, God is talking to his children.  Are you a child of God?  If so then there is help.  Three things from this passage must be considered. 

(1) Am I a righteous person?  If I want God to hear my prayer and help me then if I am not a righteous person I need to take the steps necessary to become one.  Obeying the gospel from the heart is the remedy for that if one has never done so.  For those who have obeyed the gospel but have not been faithful then to be a righteous person, one needs to repent, pray for forgiveness, and seek to live righteously henceforth.  For those who are faithful, they need to believe the Lord is near them and will deliver them out of their affliction.  They need to pray sincerely that if the affliction cannot be removed it will at least be made bearable.  James says, "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." (James 5:16 NKJV) 

(2) In the second place God is not far from a person whose heart has been broken.  That is what the text says.  We need to believe that.  How can we say we believe the Bible and yet will not believe this?  His desire is to lift us up again and renew life within our spirit, to get us to where we want to go on living again.  We need to seek him in his own appointed way to enable him to do this for us.  So, the point is this--we have something to do with our healing.  We can reach out to God, we can seek him. 

(3) The Psalmists says, in the third place, while the righteous have many afflictions God will deliver them out of them all.  What does this mean?  It means things will get better.  The heart can and will be mended in God's own time.  When things are at their worst there is about to be a change, gradual though it may be, for God is a deliverer--a change for the better is on its way. 

The Psalmist says in Psalms 147:3, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (NASU)  Jesus says of himself, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because he has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To preach deliverance to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord." (Luke 4:18-19 NKJV)  God is able.  We need to trust him as to how best to do it and in his own time frame.  

Broken hearts bring us extreme suffering but also restless turmoil and the absence of peace.  Sleepless nights come and go.  The mind is continually agitated and at war and we feel as though we cannot stand another day of it.  As God can heal the brokenhearted he can also restore to us peace and comfort.  Paul says that God the Father is, "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort." (2 Cor. 1:3 NASU)  Comfort is to be understood not as an easy chair or soft bed but comfort of heart and soul.  God is the source. 

Solomon wrote many years ago by inspiration when he said in Prov. 3:1-2, "My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you." (NASU)  It is needful for a man or woman to walk with God to get his help.  One of the greatest blessings a man of God has is peace to overcome the turmoil of life.  The righteous soul may have many troubles and sorrows but peace is with God.  He helps his children and can bring comfort to troubled souls. 

We often pray but fail to take into account, if God is to help us, some things that are necessary on our part.  John says, "Whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight." (1 John 3:22 NASU)  Have we led that kind of life--keeping his commandments and doing those things pleasing in his sight?  If not will we repent and begin to live that way?  Will we obey God?  If so John says "we receive from Him" whatever we ask. 

What is it we ought to ask if our heart is broken?  Should we ask that past history be altered?  Is that what John is speaking about, altering history so the broken heart will vanish that way?  We know better.  We can ask God to help us heal and go on with life and if we are faithful and obedient, and love him as we should, we have his promise of his help as per John's statement. 

God is the God of peace. (Rom. 15:33)  Paul, in speaking to God's children says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7 NASU) 

The turmoil of the broken heart can be healed.  Live faithfully and trust God.  He will answer your prayer.  "Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all."  (2 Thess. 3:16 NKJV)  When the scripture says give you peace in every way that includes overcoming heartbreak. 

Christians are told to "draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4:15 NASU)  One needs grace to heal a broken heart.  It is a time of need.  The Holy Spirit speaking through James says, "Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray." (James 5:13 NAS)  Let us pray at the throne of grace for God's power to heal our broken hearts.  

In God, we find healing, comfort, and peace and those things are worth more than the weight of the world in gold.  They are ours for the asking if we will but believe and obey God and ask him for grace in our time of need. 

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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

How Was Noah Saved Through Water

How was Noah and his family saved through water?  Peter, in 1 Peter 3:20-21, says they were but just how is a little hard to understand without some study and thought.  The passage reads as follows:  “When once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.  There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (NKJV)

How was Noah and his family saved through water?  What was he saved from?  What is an antitype?  Was he saved by grace or by works (he did build the ark)?  There are a lot of questions.  Let us start from the beginning. 

We are all aware of the story of how the flood came about.  After God made man in due time mankind came to be great sinners before God.  “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5 NKJV)  God determined to destroy man for his evil, an evil so great it grieved God in his heart and made him sorry he had created man. (Gen. 6:6-7)

However, the text then says, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” (Gen. 6:8 NKJV)  One cannot emphasize too much the teaching of this text.  However, the story of Noah and his salvation goes against almost everything that men today have to say about grace.  Grace today, as men see it, means you need to do nothing at all toward your own salvation other than believe in Jesus.  If more was required of you that would be, so they reason, salvation by works. 

How did God show Noah grace?  Was it not by telling him what was going to happen (judgment was to befall the inhabitants of the earth and life on the earth be destroyed) and what he (Noah) needed to do to save himself?  That was it exactly.

But, in today’s world of so-called Christendom, this is not grace.  Why?  Because Noah had to work, some say, based on Gen. 6:3, one hundred and twenty years on the ark.  Peter spoke of the longsuffering of God waiting in the days of Noah while the ark was being prepared (1 Peter 3:20) so it was no short-term project.  Noah received grace but had something to do, an obligation to fulfill if he was to be saved.  Being saved by God’s grace does not mean man has no part in his salvation, that man has nothing to do.  Ask Noah.    

There is also one other very important New Testament verse on Noah’s salvation.  “By faith Noah, being divinely warned (God’s grace-DS) of things not yet seen, moved with Godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (Heb. 11:7 NKJV)  Noah was saved by grace (God’s giving him warning and instruction) and by faith (he believed what God had told him without which he would have been doomed) and he was saved by works for he built the ark which afforded him safety. 

We can easily see in Noah’s case how grace, faith, and works all combined to bring about his salvation, and yet we somehow or another seem to be blinded to the fact all three work together today in the Christian era to bring about man’s spiritual salvation.  James himself declares “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26 NKJV) but no one seems to take him seriously.  We say if a man is baptized to be saved it is being saved by works and thus ridicule the idea.  Why do we not ridicule Noah who built an ark (worked) to be saved?

Is it ignorance, is it prejudice, or is it something else?  I have no answer.  This much I do know—Noah was saved by grace through faith the same as we are today (Gen. 6:8, Heb. 11:7).  He was moved so much by faith that it instilled within him “godly fear” (Heb. 11:7) and put a diligent work (or obedience) ethic into his life.  “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26 NKJV) which is exactly where Noah would have been without works. 

There is a difference between a work of obedience to God’s command and a work that merits salvation.  The Bible condemns the latter.  You cannot merit your way to heaven by works.  Don’t you think Noah was well aware that the God who caused the flood was just as capable of capsizing the ark Noah had built if he chose to do so?  Do you really believe that people who believe the Bible teaches that baptism is necessary to be saved think that they are saving themselves apart from God when they are baptized?  If the ark of salvation floats, whether it be Noah’s or our own, it is only because the grace of God allows it. 

How was Noah and his family saved through water?  By water, they were saved from a sinful world, separated from it, separated to God.  They became creatures in a new world, one without sin.  The water that brought death to others brought life to them as it lifted the ark up placing them in a place of safety above the waters of destruction. 

Do you think it strange that the water that brought salvation to the 8 brought death to the multitudes?  One cannot help but think of the waters of baptism of our own era.  The water that brings salvation to some (Mark 16:16) will bring death to others who are willingly disobedient to the command.

This brings us to Peter’s use of a word somewhat strange to many--the word “antitype” used in verse 21 in the New King James Version and also the word that is found in the Greek text.   Let me quote that to you again.  “There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism.” (NKJV)  Some of the more modern versions phrase it like the ESV or nearly so, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you.”  The New American Standard is very close to this when it says, “And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you.”  Many of the things in the Old Testament symbolized or we might say were types of things that would come to be under Christ in the new dispensation.  The waters of the flood in the days of Noah were the type while baptism today is that which corresponds to it, baptism is the antitype.

The text does not say baptism is a symbol of salvation already achieved; it says it “saves us.”  If we wish to deny that baptism saves us today we do two things.  (1) We deny the very words of the text of Peter.  (2) We put Peter in the position of having misspoken about all of this.  If our baptism is not an antitype, does not save, then Peter misspoke.  If our baptism is an antitype then baptism saves (no one says it saves alone without grace and faith).

What did the water do for Noah and how does it correspond to baptism today?  (1) Both place those who are obedient by faith (believers) into a new spiritual world.  The world Noah entered through water was cleansed of sin.  The world we enter when baptized is a spiritual world that has been cleansed of sin, our personal sin.  [see Acts 22:16, Acts 5:25-26, Titus 3:5]  (2) Both salvations were by grace for Noah was warned and given an opportunity for salvation and so are you and I.  God was under no obligation to warn Noah and give him a way to be saved and the same can be said of you and I today thus both were acts of grace.

I would not begin to know how many verses there are in the New Testament telling us about baptism and our need for it but let me give it a shot--Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21, John 3:5, Eph. 5:26, Col. 2:11-12, Titus 3:5, Mark 16:16, Matt. 28:18-20, Rom. 6:3-6, Gal. 3:26-27, 1 Cor. 12:13, Heb. 10:22.  These were just those that came to mind without using a concordance.  I barely touched the Book of Acts.

Like Noah, we have been given a warning.  We will like him be obedient with “godly fear” or else we will take God on by being disobedient.  Who do you think is really saved by grace?  Is it the man who hears and believes and obeys or is it the man who hears and disbelieves and does not obey?  Who truly has “the answer of a good conscience toward God”? (1 Peter 3:21 NKJV)  I am sure Noah’s conscience was clear as he obeyed God and did all he was told out of faith.  How does a man have “a good conscience toward God” all the while being disobedient?  Will he say I didn’t know?  Will he say I heard the passages, I read them, I just did not believe them?  Will he tell God it was God’s fault for being unable to communicate effectively?

What saved Noah?  The answer is God’s grace, Noah’s faith, and Noah’s obedience.  If you and I are saved today it will be because of God’s grace, our faith, and our obedience.  When we speak of obedience we are talking about works of obedience, that is faith obeying.  Yes, everything depended on God’s grace for without it Noah was helpless, a doomed man.  The same can be said of you and I but just like Noah we must act if God’s grace is to benefit us.  We must believe and respect God enough to obey him.   

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Saturday, February 10, 2024

King Saul--As Long As It Glorifies God

We read in Rom. 15:4, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (NKJV)  The NIV translates the first part of that verse as follows, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us.”

Paul, the writer, had reference to the writings found in the Old Testament when he made that statement.  As we read the Old Testament we need to be thinking what is in this passage or account that I am reading that is a lesson for me today?  What is in it for my learning?  We should never read the Old Testament just as history but rather as history that is meant to teach and leave lessons for those of us today.

Every Bible student who has been a student any length of time is aware of Samuel’s encounter with King Saul as Saul returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites.  Saul had been commanded by God through Samuel to go and put to death every living Amalekite and to destroy everything they had. (1 Sam. 15:3)  He disobeyed sparing the life of King Agag, king of the Amalekites, and the best of the livestock bringing them back to Israel. (1 Sam. 15:9)  Samuel in his meeting with Saul utters the famous statement I here quote:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he also has rejected you from being king.” (1 Sam. 15:22-23 NKJV)

The word “stubbornness” found in the NKJV here is an interesting word.  In the ESV and NET translations the Greek word is translated as “presumption,” as “insolence” in the LITV, “insubordination” in the NAS, and “arrogance” in the NIV.  The meaning seems to be that Saul was determined to do his will rather than God’s.  Would he dare do it?  He did but why?  Surely he had some fear of God.

It seems Saul had the same idea many men have today who believe they are pleasing God all the while being disobedient to his word.  They consider themselves godly men and would defend themselves as Saul did before Samuel; at least he did as long as he could. (1 Sam. 15:20-21)  The idea is prevalent today that we can do whatever we want to in our Christian work and worship just so we give glory to God, or as some might say as long as God receives the glory.

That was exactly the case with King Saul.  God said to destroy all these animals but Saul’s thinking is we will take the best back and sacrifice them to God back in Israel.  He will receive glory in our doing so; he will be pleased.  There is arrogance, presumption, insolence, call it what you will, in that kind of thinking.  We will disobey God to please him.  Sounds ridiculous does it not but that is the way much of Christendom thinks today, just like King Saul.

The Bible could not be any clearer than it is on the subject of homosexuality as all know but we presume to know more than God about it and think he will be pleased when we condone it and receive into fellowship the unrepentant individual practicing it as long as we say “he is in a committed relationship.”  We see ourselves as showing love and thus God must surely be pleased with our actions.  Since our motivation is good, as was Saul’s, we can disobey God and he will be pleased.

Paul’s teaching on women preachers and leaders of the church again is as clear as can be.  Read 1 Cor. 14:34-37.  Paul closes that section by saying, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 14:37 NKJV)  Read also 1 Tim. 2:12-13.  But we are like Saul.  We will do our own thing and presume a little, be a little arrogant, be a little insolent.  We will give God glory in the way we see fit--through women preaching and being church leaders.

I never have figured out how a woman is going to be an elder, a bishop, a pastor, in view of the fact that the qualification for such is that the individual must be “the husband of one wife.” (1 Tim. 3:2 NKJV)  But when we are like Saul and make our own rules anything goes and anything does go today in the religious world, even among those mankind calls Christians whether they be that or not.

Whatever we want to do we can justify ourselves as King Saul justified himself before Samuel.  We can justify ourselves and get by with it today for we have no prophets around, no apostles, no inspired men to rebuke us.  However, we will get by for only so long for “all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13 NKJV)

Samuel said this stubbornness, arrogance, presumption (depending on your translation) was as iniquity and idolatry.  Why would he say that?  The Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament in dealing with this verse makes an excellent point.  I quote, “All conscious disobedience is actually idolatry, because it makes self-will, the human I, into a god. So that all manifest opposition to the word and commandment of God is, like idolatry, a rejection of the true God.”  I see no way around that conclusion.

Saul’s sin was in actuality rebellion against God.  There was a new god in Israel--King Saul.  That was his sin and it is our sin when we decide that for all practical purposes we are going to make the Bible mean what we want it to mean despite what it says.  We will explain all of those old troublesome passages away to fit modern-day culture, our woke society.  We will make the Bible into a living document (a document that grows and changes as suits us to go along with the changing culture).  Why?  Because we are not satisfied with it the way it is.

God today speaks to us through his inspired word.  When we take it and play around with it foot loose and fancy free we do not honor him.  One cannot honor God nor give him glory by doing the opposite of what he has said to do.  Have we learned the lesson from that which was written “aforetime” (Rom. 15:4 KJV) as it pertains to the lesson we should have learned from King Saul’s experience?  I fear we have not.

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