The Greatest Curse

I Samuel 15:13-19 “And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord. And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed. Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the Lord hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on. And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel? And the Lord sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the Lord, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the Lord?”

Please note that Samuel makes reference to an event that occurred in Saul’s past. While it was recorded as a single event, two things occurred in the economy of God; one physical and one spiritual. There was a physical allotment, “thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel” and a spiritual anointing, “the Lord anointed thee king.”

One of the things to be noticed is the timing of the event, “When thou wast little in thine own sight.” The word “little” means diminutive in quantity, size or number, to be least or lesser. The word “sight” means eye, outward appearance, countenance, knowledge, yourself. The physical allotment and the spiritual anointing were bestowed upon Saul by God when Saul’s perception of his outward appearance and countenance was at its least or was lesser! The thing that we need to understand is that between the allotment and the anointing, and the confrontation with Samuel; there has been no change in Saul’s person, only Saul’s perception! Saul is the same man he has always been; it just took the allotment and the anointing to reveal it! One old writer said, “Few men can stand to be great even as few men can stand to be rich. It is easier to bear poverty than riches and easier to bear mediocrity than magnificence.”

The second thing to notice is the transition, “the Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel” (I Samuel 15:26). The very things that God chose to bless Saul with, He chose to take from him! The sad thing is, while they were given at the same time, they were not rescinded at the same time. Saul knew when he lost the one, but he like Samson was unaware of the fact that he had lost the other. Saul lost the spiritual anointing long before he lost the physical allotment! Like Samson, it took a physical event in the life of Saul to reveal the truth about his spiritual state. In most cases spiritual death and deficiency precedes physical death and deficiency!

The greatest curse for most is not the buffeting of Satan, but rather the blessing of substance!

I Saw . . . Then I Said

Isaiah 6:1-9 “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. And he said, Go, and tell this people,”

I have no idea if you are grieved as I am at the apparent weakness of Christianity and its impact upon the world. Maybe what I mean is I’m grieved at the apparent weakness of my impact for the cause of Christ! While reading the account of Isaiah’s encounter with God in Roy Laurin’s book, “Meet Yourself In The Bible”, I was made aware of order. God has a divine order in which He works and if I am expected to make a positive impact as did Isaiah, I must follow God’s order. I want to set forth the order in which God works, and then set forth its example in Isaiah’s experience.

The first thing that I want to call to your attention is; God is always the first to act! Please get this divine truth; in the divine order, it is man’s response to God and not God’s response to man! If there is no activity on God’s part, there need be none taken on man’s part. Please note the order of activity between God and Isaiah; Isaiah never said anything until after he saw or heard something of God; “Then said I” (vs.5, 8, & 11).

There is a divine order to cleansing; “I saw (vs.1) . . . Then I said (vs.5).

In the cleansing process there is the need for both the throne of holiness and the altar of atonement, but the revelation of the throne must precede the request for the work from the altar. Could our failure be attributed to the fact that we are trying to get people to require a work from the altar that have never had a revelation from the throne. Only a revelation of the throne can generate a true desire for the work on the altar! There is no need trying to get a person saved that’s never gotten lost.

There is a divine order to calling; “I heard (vs.8) . . . Then I said (vs.8).

Only after the revelation of the throne and the visitation from the altar was there a call from heaven! While God can and will use anyone and anything He likes for His Glory; in the divine plan it is His general order to cleanse and then call. Is the church trying to get sinners to do the work of the saint?

There is a divine order to consecration; “he said (vs.9) . . . Then I said (vs. 11)

Close examination to the divine order in Isaiah’s life can reveal the life that is used of God to impact a world for His glory and honor! Only those that have had a divine cleansing that has resulted in a divine calling can ever be expected to be totally consecrated unto the Lord. It is that one that is following God’s order that realizes that the results must be left up to God; for it is not God’s response to man, but it is man’s response to God that counts!

A Passion For Truth

Luke 4:42-5:3 “And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them. And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee. And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.”

Jesus had just returned from the wilderness where He was tempted of Satan; “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about” (Luke 4:14). Upon returning from the temptation, Jesus was not only known for power and preaching (see vs.14-15), but He was known for powerful preaching; “being glorified of all” (vs.15), “and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth” (vs.22), “for his word was with power” (vs.32).

When we come to Luke 5:1, we see the response of the people; “the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God.” We find an element of people that have a passion for truth. There are two descriptive thoughts that I want to draw your attention to. Please note their purpose, “to hear.” The word “hear” means to hear, to give audience, to understand. The idea is more than just hearing with the natural ear; it implies the idea of paying attention, to give place to, to grasp the meaning. While the subject was “to hear”, the substance was “the word of God.” It was not the words of a mere man that they had set a premium on; it was the words of God Himself! In John 7, officers were dispatched to take Jesus into custody; they return empty handed using for their excuse; “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). Speaking of the Word of God, Job said, “I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). Those that have a passion for truth not only make room for it, but give the Word a preeminent place in their life!

The second descriptive thought is, “the people pressed upon him.” Here we see their position in relationship to Christ. It would have been admirable if the text had said, they followed Him to hear the Word of God; that’s not what it said. Note the phrase “pressed upon him.” The phrase “pressed upon” means to rest upon, to lie on. It comes from two words; one means to come to a place or time of rest. The second word means to lie outstretched. The people have come to a place of rest where they lie outstretched on the person of Jesus. My thought is this; “They want nothing to get between them and hearing what Jesus, the Son of God has to say for He declares the “words of God.” To our shame; think of how often we allow the most trivial things to get between us and the glorious opportunity to hearing God speak!

These passionate seekers were not empowered by the desire for meat or miracles, but a message; for “the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God.” If we had lived in that day would we have been among those that have a passion for truth?

Trusting God

Proverbs 3:5-7 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.”

Recently, while reading Roy Laurin’s book, “Meet Yourself In The Bible”; I was deeply challenged by this statement, “To be tempted to distrust God is the very height of all temptation.” I have not been able to get away from that statement; herein lays one of the biggest obstacles in my life. In considering this truth, I begin to realize that I wasn’t alone in this temptation; it is one of the underlying problems in the lives of most individuals encapsulated in the Word of God.

When Satan came to Eve in the garden, the thing he wanted to accomplish in her life was to get her to distrust God’s lordship; “For God doth know . . . your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5). As with Eve, Satan wants man to challenge Gods’ authority and right to rule. You can be your own god, worshipping yourself! His argument was that God was holding out on them and by making the choice to rebel, they could become just like God.

When Satan gained permission from God to attack Job, his objective was to get Job to distrust God’s love; “But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face” (Job 1:11). As the servants entered the tent with one continual report of disaster and death; a satanic voice whispered in Job’s ear, “If God really loved you this wouldn’t be happening!” Setting on the ash heap scrapping the boils on his body; Satan, speaking through the lips of his wife said it is evident that God doesn’t love you; if He were truly a God of love how could He allow this to happen with all that you have done for Him.

After multiple dreams Joseph was encouraged to believe that God had great things planed for him. But evil experiences would encourage Joseph to distrust God’s leading, “Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt” (Genesis 37:28). How could one believe that a pit and prison are the means of obtaining a throne.

Are not the experiences of Eve, Job, and Joseph similar to ours? How many times a day are we encouraged to distrust God’s lordship, love, and leading in our lives. Rather than looking to Christ, we look at the circumstances and say within ourselves there is no way that anything good can come out of this. When our heart become preoccupied with such thoughts, may we remember His Word; “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

When the enemy of our soul encourages us to distrust our God, may we take comfort in the words of Abraham; “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).When you can’t trust self, you can always trust the Saviour!

The Lord’s Servant

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1),

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1),

“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:1)

“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ” (Jude 1),

When introducing themselves to those to whom they were writing, Paul, James, Simon Peter, and Jude, identified themselves as a “servant of Jesus Christ,” The word “servant” means a slave, bond servant, and comes from a word meaning to bind, or to be in bonds. These men considered it an honor to be called the Lord’s servant. While I know that I am to be a servant of the Lord; I wonder if the divine principle is made evident in daily practice. It is imperative to remember that one’s calling and one’s conduct are not necessarily the same!

In his book “Thoughts on Christian Sanctity”, H.C.G. Moule quotes Aristotle’s account of “Nature’s Own Slave.” “He is ‘a chattel that lives’; he is ‘a part of his master; as it were a living, though separated, portion of his body.’ He has, strictly speaking, no existence apart from the master, he is, ‘not only the slave of the master, but the master wholly his’; so that, in no action or relation if life, is he for one moment an independent being. On the other hand said I, there is thus and therefore between the born master and the born slave a relation of common interest and mutual friendship.” While they are not meant to be spiritual in nature, Aristotle’s account is very enlightening with respect to be the Lord’s servant.

In respect to being the Lord’s servant, there are two things that I want to set forth for your consideration. As the Lord’s servant, there’s no such thing as dual possession; “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:19-20). When these men called themselves a servant of Jesus Christ, they were declaring that they were His purchased possession. In Aristotle’s account, he described the slave as “a chattel that lives.” The word “chattel” means an item of tangible property other than real estate. You are either the property of self or the Saviour! As His property, you do not exist apart from Him!

As the Lord’s servant, there’s no such thing as dual purpose; “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other” (Luke 16:13). When these men called themselves a servant of Jesus Christ, they were declaring that they lived for one purpose; to serve and satisfy the Saviour. In Aristotle’s account of the slave, he is not for one moment an independent being; he is but an extension of the master. You are either living to satisfy self or the Saviour; your satisfaction is found in His satisfaction.

Under the inspiration of God, these men could call themselves the “servant of Jesus Christ.” After considering the truth about the nature of a servant, can you say you are the Lord’s servant?

The Perils of Prosperity

Genesis 39:1-7 “And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured. And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.”

Because of envy, Joseph’s brothers stripped him of his garments and cast him into a pit with  plans of killing him at a later time. Discovering that it would be more profitable to sell him than to kill him, he was purchased by a band of Ishmeelites who brought him down to Egypt where he was bought by “Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian.”

It’s at this point that things begin to change for Joseph; with the exception of his freedom, he becomes a very prosperous man. Joseph had not been purchased by just anyone; Potiphar was one of the most powerful men in Egypt. He was captain of Pharaoh’s guard, a man of wealth and influence. In this house of influence, power, and prominence; Joseph was elevated to a position of prosperity; “and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.” In fact the Word of God said, “he was a prosperous man.” Joseph was elevated to a delightful place, but a dangerous position! One writer said, “Many who bear the test of affliction fall to the privilege of prosperity.

Joseph must not fall prey to the prosperity of possessions; “And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand.” Unlike the farmer in Luke 12 Joseph got a grip on the possessions, however possessions got a grip on the farmer; “And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry” (vs.19). Possessions can become an unproven haven of security. Previous to delivering this parable, Jesus said, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (vs.15).

Joseph must not fall prey to the prosperity of position, “he made him overseer over his house.” It would have been easy for Joseph to assume that because of his lofty position that he was not answerable to God or man! When tempted by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph recognized his responsibility to his secular master, “Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand”, and he recognized his responsibility to his spiritual Master, “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” The Word of God tells us that “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

If Joseph had failed to handle prosperity in the house of Potiphar’s, it is for certain that he would have failed in the house of Pharaoh. Joseph was given more because he controlled the prosperity rather than the prosperity controlling him! In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the story of a man that takes a journey into a far country. Before leaving he calls three servants and commits to them portions of his wealth to manage in his absence. In wisdom, the man did not commit to every servant the same amount, but “to every man according to his several ability” (Matthew 25:15). As stewards of His affairs, can you withstand the perils of prosperity?

Getting A Blessing

Genesis 32:24-26 “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”

II Corinthians 12:7-9 “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

I think it would be safe to say that most people like the idea of being blessed and it is evident from the Word of God, that God has certainly blessed mankind!! Of the numerous individuals recorded for us in the scriptures, I want to look at two; Jacob and Paul. The record of their blessing is recorded for us in Genesis 32 and II Corinthians 12. There are two thoughts that I want to develop from the text.

The first thing that I want to look at is recognizing the blessing. When people bring up the subject of blessings, most have the idea of material blessings that revolve around the matter of money and health. They are blessings that are readily seen by all; self, friends, neighbors, and even by the casual observer. But, I wonder if most would recognize the blessing bestowed upon Jacob and Paul. In fact, a close examination leaves one with the impression that neither man had a full understanding of the blessing when it was initially given! With Jacob, his blessing revolved around his thigh, “touched the hollow of his thigh” and Paul’s revolved around his thorn, “there was given to me a thorn in the flesh.” Neither man would have associated a beating with a blessing. The word “touched” means to lay the hand upon as to strike. The word “buffet” means to rap with the fist. If neither of these men recognized the blessing, I think it would be safe to say that no one, other than God, recognized the fact that these men were being blessed. In fact, the lame Jacob and the maimed Paul would have been pitied, rather than praised. The point is; you may mistake the blessing of God as the buffeting of God!

The last thing that I want to notice is the results of the blessing. It was not until Jacob and Paul were made to understand the results of the blessing that the blessing was met with rejoicing rather than rejection! The nature of the blessing wasn’t secular, but spiritual. It revolved around the destruction of self and the elevation of the Sovereign. For Jacob and Paul, man was minimized, and the Master was maximized. With the increased presence of God came the increased power of God; “for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men” (Genesis 32:28) and “I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (II Corinthians 12:9).

Here in lies the problem; while all of us want a blessing, most pursue secular possessions rather than spiritual power! When it comes to getting a blessing, will you seek after that which is visible to the natural eye and temporal in nature or that which must be spiritually discerned and transcends time and eternity? Getting a blessing may tell you more about yourself than you want to know!

Moving In The Right Direction

Psalm 90:9-12 “For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

I purposely chose the title, “Moving In The Right Direction”, for a specific reason. When one considers their life, it’s not a matter of moving, we are moving whether we want to or not. The Psalmist said, “our days are passed away . . .  we spend our years.” Try as you may, you can’t stop the erosion of time! From the time you entered this world, you are on the move passing through this world, on to the next. The thing that should preoccupy our mind is; are we moving in the right direction? Conscious of life’s brevity, the psalmist asked counsel of the Lord; “So teach us” (vs.12). The request of the psalmist falls into three natural divisions.

The very first thing that confronts us is the assessment of self; “So teach us.” Have you ever wondered why the psalmist would make such a request? Why would Solomon make a similar request; “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad” (I Kings 3:9). Solomon answers the question as to why he made the request; “for who is able.” After making an assessment of self, Solomon, like the psalmist, realized that they were deficient. They lacked the necessary enlightenment, discernment, and knowledge to proceed in the right direction! If one is going to move in the right direction, it begins with a proper understanding of oneself.

Secondly we notice the activity of the student; “to number our days.” Please pause for a moment and ponder this thought, “While the psalmist anticipated “days”, he only attempted to spend them one at a time! While all of us anticipate the future, in reality, we only exist in the present! Having an understanding of that truth, the psalmist requested that God teach him how to “number” his days. The word means to weigh out, by implication to a lot or enumerate. Some have described it as a woman going to a meal barrel and taking out a portion for the day with the understanding that the day will come when there is a final allotment! While we have the anticipation of future days, God, teach us to use today as if it were our last.

Finally, we have the application of the subject; “that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” When I thought of this aspect of moving in the right direction; this portion of scripture came to my mind; “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). It’s not just enough to assess and acquire; there must be application. Moses said, “that we may apply.” The word “apply” means to go or come, to abide, to bring forth or bring to pass. The psalmist isn’t under the misconception that the right thing to do will always be the easy thing to do, or the most pleasant. Bob Jones said, “Do right, though the stars fall, do right.”

It not a question of moving, every time the sun rises to present a new day; it is an indication that you are moving through time on the journey of life. The question that needs answering is, “Are you moving in the right direction?” With the assessment of self, the activity of the student, and the application of the subject one has a good chance of doing so!