What Hath God Wrought? – I Numbers 23:19-23

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Perhaps you didn’t know the first words sent by telegraph over the newly constructed Washington to Baltimore line, wasWhat hath God wrought?” from Numbers 23:23 (King James Version) . It was tapped out from the U.S. Capital building in Washington by Samuel F. B. Morse to his associate Alfred Vail waiting at a Baltimore train station. I thought it a fitting title for this Gem since it was said by the prophet Balaam concerning Israel, part of our featured Scripture.

I chose this Scripture because it struck me what Balaam prophesied in Numbers 23:19 through 23:

     God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, 
     that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do?  
     Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good.  Behold, 
     I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and 
     I cannot reverse it.  He has not observed iniquity in 
     Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.  The Lord 
     his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among 
     them.  God brings them out of Egypt; He has strength like 
     a wild ox.  For there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor 
     any divination against Israel.  It now must be said of 
     Jacob and of Israel, “What hath God wrought?” (Last four 
     words from the King James Version).

I know Balaam turned out to be a false prophet. He is rightly condemned in II Peter 2:15, Jude 1:11, and Revelation 2:14. But even false prophets can at times utter true and godly prophesies! Consider the prophesy of Caiaphas in John 11:49 through 53. And it is an amazing prophesy when Balaam said, He [God] has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.It is amazing because according to the record in the book of Numbers, Israel was anything but righteous and sinless!

Numbers is an interesting book of the Bible. Now reading the first ten chapters can be a bit tedious because of all the instructions God gave to Israel as they got ready to leave Mount Sinai, and head for the Promised Land. These chapters record the first census taken of Israelite men who are old enough for military service. The last eleven chapters of Numbers (from 26 to 36) are also not my favorite. A second census is recorded in chapter 26; and these two numberings are where the fourth book of the Old Testament gets its name. The remainder of Numbers, through chapter 36, deals with specific instructions from the LORD as the Israelites are about to enter Canaan.

But from chapter 11 through chapter 25 I think is rather exciting reading! It is the record of Israel’s wanderings for 38 years in the desert wilderness of Sinai. God had delayed their entry into the Promised Land by forty years because of their unbelief and rebellion! More on this in a moment.

Let’s look at the record of those wandering Israelites:

They had just left Mount Sinai where the LORD demonstrated His mighty power and majesty, where He had given them the Ten Commandments and other laws to guide His people in their daily lives. And they had promised, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” (Exodus 19:8). They were at that holy mountain from Exodus 19, through the last 21 chapters of that book, through the 27 chapters of Leviticus, and through the first ten chapters of Numbers.

  • Numbers 11:1-3 – After experiencing all the power and glory of the ten plagues against the Egyptians; the divine presence and guidance in the cloud by day and the fire by night; the miracle of the Red Sea parting for them, but drowning the pursuing Egyptian army; the heavenly provision of daily manna; the blazing fire, thunder, and earthquake of God at Mount Sinai – the first thing the Jews did was complain! It doesn’t say what they complained about, but it was serious enough that the LORD sent fire which, “…burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.” (Numbers 11:1). The people pleaded with Moses who then interceded on their behalf, and “…the fire was quenched. So he [Moses] called the name of the place Taberah…,” which means “burning”. (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary).
  • Numbers 11:4-9 – “…the mixed multitude…” that came out of Egypt with the Hebrews (see Exodus 12:38)…
         ...yielded to intense craving; so...Israel also 
         wept again... “Who will give us meat to eat? We 
         remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, 
         the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, 
         and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried 
         up; there is nothing at all except this manna be-
         fore our eyes!”

God sent them meat, quail meat – so much meat, it was enough to feed about two to three million people for a whole month! (See Numbers 11:18-32). But because of their complaining, we are told in Numbers 11:33 and 34:

     ...while the meat was still between their teeth...the 
     LORD struck the people with a very great plague; so he 
     [Moses] called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah 
     [“graves of craving” – Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary], be-
     cause there they buried the people who had yielded to
     craving.
  • Numbers 12:1-15 – Then it was the leaders’ turn to complain!…Mariam and Aaron spoke against Moses because…he had married an Ethiopian woman.” (verse 1). But the real complaint turned out to be that Moses’ older brother and sister were jealous of how God was using him! Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” (verse 2). The result of this sin was that Mariam was afflicted with leprosy, and she was shut out of the camp for seven days before God would heal her! (See verses 14 and 15).
  • Numbers chapters 13 and 14 – Israel arrived at Kadesh Barnea, “…in the Wilderness of Paran.” (Numbers 12:16). This is where the Israelites succumbed to their greatest sin as they traveled from Egypt to Canaan. Twelve spies, one from each of Israel’s twelve tribes, were sent out to explore the Promised Land. They trekked the country for 40 days, and returned to show some of the abundant produce of the land. But then ten of the twelve spies gave a negative report:
         Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are 
         strong; the cities are fortified and very large; 
         moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The 
         Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hit-
         tites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the 
         mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and 
         along the banks of the Jordan....We are not able to 
         go up.... (Numbers 13:28, 29, 31).

  ✡   And most all of the people of Israel believed them!  
      They even talked of choosing a leader other than 
      Moses and returning to Egypt! (See Numbers 14:3, 4).
      They even wanted to stone Caleb and Joshua, the two 
      spies who exhorted the people to believe God, obey 
      Him, and go take possession of the Promised Land! 
      (See Numbers 14:6-10).

  ✡   This was when God threatened to kill the rebellious 
      Iraelites and produce a greater nation through Moses!  
      But the great man’s intercession stopped the slaugh-
      ter! (See Numbers 14:11-20).

  ✡   The Lord told the nation to turn back, and sentenced 
      them to wander 38 more years in the Sinai wilderness, 
      a total of 40 years (see Deuteronomy 2:14) – one year 
      for every day they trekked the land (see Numbers 14:34).

  ✡   Still the people of Israel rebelled! And they...
      early in the morning went up...the mountain, saying, 
      ‘Here we are...we will go up to the place which the 
      Lord has promised, for we have sinned.’But the 
      Amalakites and Canaanites soundly defeated them! 
      (See Numbers 39-45).

We are only halfway through the sin and rebellion of Israel recorded in the book of Numbers! But I think you can see the seeming paradox between what Balaam prophesied concerning Israel, and what was their actual experience! We will continue with Israel’s historical record in the next Gem, and reconcile this paradox in What Hath God Wrought? — III!

It Still Works!

Isaiah 26:3, 4

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

More than seven years ago, I wrote my ninth Gem on March 25th, 2013. I titled it, Perfect Peace in a Dentist Chair! In that Gem I told of my experience going to the dentist for a root canal. I was very nervous, and the dentist had prescribed Valium for me to take an hour before the appointment. As he prepared for the root canal, I told the dentist I didn’t take the sedative, and he was hesitant to proceed because of my history of nervousness. Halfway through the procedure I was so relaxed I had almost fallen asleep as he worked on me! He asked me, “Are you sure you didn’t take the Valium?

No,” I replied, “I took something else!

I knew it! ” he exclaimed. “What did you take?

I took a healthy dose of Isaiah 26:3 and 4! ” And then I quoted those two verses:

     Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is 
     stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.  Trust 
     ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is 
     everlasting strength....

He leaned back on his stool and said, “I wish more of my patients would take that kind of medicine!

You can still read that Gem by bringing up March 2013 and scrolling down to the third Gem from the top.

Why am I referring to what I wrote over seven years ago? Because…

  • …I have always believed Isaiah 26:3 and 4 to be true! These two verses are one of the Scripture portions I committed to memory early on in my Christian walk.
  • …I have proved the truth of God’s peace many times over the years! Such supernatural peace is very useful in stressful situations.
  • …I used these two verses again just the other day in another doctor’s office.

And I want to tell you about it.

I injured my right knee, tearing the cartilage years ago playing softball. Eventually I had to have a knee replacement. But over time I developed a painful bone spur on the kneecap which had to be removed. The surgery was successful in removing the spur, but seven weeks later my knee pain can still at times be extreme. Last week at the surgeon’s office, he suggested I have a cortisone shot into the inflamed tissue. I had never had a shot in my knee, and I was nervous about it! The doctor explained that none of his patients who had received such injections had complained of much pain. But, although his words were meant to calm me, I still felt my anxiety rising!Ok,” you might say, “A cortisone shot is no big deal!You are right! And it didn’t turn out to be so! But try telling that to a person who is experiencing unreasonable and escalating anxiety!

While the doctor was out of the exam room to procure what he needed to administer the cortisone, I began to think of what I had written long ago, Perfect Peace in a Dentist Chair! So why am I getting so nervous now? Isaiah 26:3 and 4 worked in a much more stressful situation back then. So let’s practice it in this situation!” And I began to quote in my mind..

     Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is 
     stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.  Trust 
     ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is 
     everlasting strength....

It was only a few minutes later the doctor came in with swabs, a needle and a band aid. But in those few minutes God’s peace had permeated my mind and heart! My anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure were all returning to normal! Isaiah 26:3 and 4 worked its ‘magic’ and I came through this simple procedure with perfect peace!

I am not just writing this Gem for you. I am writing it for me also! You see, too often I forget to remind myself of what I have stored of God’s Word in my mind and heart. I need to bring up into my consciousness appropriate Scripture that speak to the situation I find myself in!

It is a very practical book, the Bible! In one way or another it speaks to every situation that life brings – everything you could ever experience! It may be a direct address of the situation, a command, an inference, an example (positive or negative), a parabolic illustration, etc. But there is nothing in life with which the Word of God does not deal – even with a cortisone shot in the knee!

So read the Bible! Study it! Mediate upon it! Memorize it! Then you will have God’s Word to bring up into your mind in any situation!

Rejoicing In Dark Times Habakkuk 3:-17-19

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The above photo is great! It is a vibrant depiction of joy and rejoicing! Obviously, something wonderful must have happened in the life of this young woman! If you can’t make out the small print in the lower left of the photo, it says, “In all your situation the Lord is your strength. He will make you strong.What wonderful statements of faith! What wonderful promises from the Lord!

But do these statements apply in the challenging situations we face today?

  • There is a world-wide pandemic that does not seem to be going away any time soon!
       While some places seem to be quieting down, other 
           places are hot spots!

       Most businesses have been negatively affected, and 
          many have had to close up shop, even permanently!

     In the United States, as of August 17, there were 
          5,566,632 reported cases of Covid-19, and 173,128 
          deaths from this virus!

     ➪   A vaccine is not expected to be available for at 
          least a year by some estimates.
  • While the stock market is recovering, the national debt has increased to almost 27 trillion dollars, at a rate of a million dollars every 23 seconds! This is unsustainable, and many are predicting and economic meltdown!
  • There are demonstrations concerning police brutality and racial injustice that too often turn into riots and looting!
As of August 15th, there have been 79 straight 
          nights of protests (riots) in Portland, Oregon!

     ➪   The damages of the riots and looting in hundreds 
          of cities across our nation has not yet been 
          calculated, but estimates are in many billions 
          of dollars!

We could go on and on about what is wrong with our nation and this world. But I believe God is using these troubling times to call us to return wholeheartedly to Him! What will happen if we don’t? It could be what the prophet Habakkuk was facing when he penned the three chapters of his book.

  • The Babylonians were about to invade the kingdom of Judah and put an end to it!
  • Many Jews would die! Jerusalem, their capital city, would be reduced to ruins (as would many other Judean cities and towns)!
  • Their temple would be looted, burned, and razed – the center of the Jews thousand-year religion – gone!

Habakkuk was at first aghast at why God would use a nation more wicked than Judah to punish Jewish unfaithfulness! (see Habakkuk 1:12-17). But the LORD told him the Babylonians would be judged even more harshly than Judah for their wickedness and cruelty! (Read Habakkuk chapter 2). The prophet, in chapter 3, finally came to accept the judgment God would shortly bring on the Hebrew nation. And in a statement of great faith, Habakkuk wrote the last three verses of his book:

     Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be 
     on the vines; though the labor of the olive may 
     fail, and the fields yield no food; though the 
     flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be 
     no herd in the stalls — yet I will rejoice in the 
     LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.  The 
     LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like 
     deer's feet, And He will make me walk on my high 
     hills. 

Habakkuk was saying:

     No matter what happens, no matter how bad it gets, 
     even if society and the economy collapses and I am 
     going hungry – yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I 
     will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God 
     is my strength; He will make my feet like deer's 
     feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.   

That is true and trusting faith!

Go back to the beginning of this Gem. Look again at the wonderful photo of that joyous young woman. Read again the inspiring words in large and small print imposed on the photo. The problem is that those words are taken out of context!

  • It is easy to say such things, even quoting the prophet Habakkuk, when you are the recipient of God’s obvious positive blessings!
  • It is quite another matter when you are facing devastation! Is your faith strong enough for you to rejoice even if you are heading for a national crises, and maybe personal starvation and death?

I want my faith to be that strong!

  • That is why I actively pursue being a follower of Jesus Christ.
  • That is why I focus so much on reading and studying the Bible. For “…faith comes…by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17).
  • And that is why I write and publish these Gems, so others can also be built up in their Christian faith – faith strong enough to get them through whatever lies ahead!

The Amazing Power Of One!

Mark 5:-15-20

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words!” In the case of the above painting, it is worth 437 words, telling the story of the Gadarene demonic in Mark 5:1 through 20 (New King James Version). Yes, I counted them! Although I don’t know who the artist is, I am impressed by this artwork because it depicts the amazing encounter quite well!

The story goes like this:

  • Jesus and His disciples sailed across the Sea of Galilee to “…the country of the Gadarenes…” (Mark 8:1), on the eastern side of that body of water. Gadara was a town close by or in the Decapolis (‘Ten Towns’), a Gentile dominated area east of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River.
  • When they landed on shore, a violent demon possessed man met them screaming, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” (Mark 5:7).
  • The Lord forced the demons to name themselves, “…Legion, for we are many.” (Mark 5:9).
  • The demons in the tortured man were many indeed! For they, having received permission to go out from the man and enter the pigs,“…about two thousand [of them]; …and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned…” (Mark 5:13).
  • The pig herders fled when they saw what happened, frantically telling others everywhere. The ‘others’ ran to where the miracle happened…
         Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had 
         been demon possessed and had the legion, sitting 
         and clothed and in his right mind.  And they were 
         afraid....Then they began to plead with [Jesus]
         ...to depart from their region. (Mark 5:15, 17).

Now we come to our featured Scripture, Mark 8:18 through 20:

     And when He [Jesus] got into the boat, he who had been 
     demon-possessed begged Him that he might go with Him. 
     However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, 
     “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great 
     things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had 
     compassion on you.”  So he departed and began to pro-
     claim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; 
     and all marveled.

Luke says in Luke 8:39 that the former demonic, “…proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.” But in Mark 5:20 tells us the man’s proclamation was in Decapolis, which can be taken to mean, the whole region known as the Ten Towns – quite a vast region indeed! Maybe the man didn’t personally go throughout the many square miles of Decapolis (one estimate is 2,500 square miles!) But news travels fast! And this news involved a great miracle, as well as 2,000 plus pigs drowned! And a lot of the tale of what happened came from ONE man who had thousands of demons expelled from him!

How do we know this man’s witness was so effective? In Mark 7:31 we read, “…departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon [about 40 miles northwest along the Mediterranean Sea], …[Jesus] came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee.What happened then?

  • He healed the man who was deaf and dumb (Mark 7:31-37). And, whereas when He healed the demonic, “…the whole multitude of the surrounding region of the Gadarenes asked Him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear…” (Luke 8:37). Now, upon seeing this miracle, “…they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.’
  • Next came the feeding of the four thousand! This event is recorded in both Mark 8:1 through 9 and Matthew 15:32 through 38.
  • But just three verses before Matthew’s description, there is a very important and relative point made:
         And Jesus departed from there [the region of Tyre 
         and Sidon], skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went 
         up on the mountain and sat down there. Then great 
         multitudes came to Him, having with them those who 
         were lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; 
         and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He 
         healed them.  So the multitude marveled when they 
         saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the 
         lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glor-
         ified the God of Israel.

The crowd,…four thousand men, besides women and children…” (Matthew 15:38), now brought their sick and needy to Jesus, and were praising Him! This was the same area where before the people had fearfully pleaded for Jesus to leave!

What made the difference? It was The Amazing Power Of One! One witness, the man who had the legion of demons and been delivered by Jesus, went about telling everyone,…what great things the Lord had done…and how He had compassion on [him]” (Mark 5:19).

What about you? You may not have been delivered from a legion of demons, but…

  • …you have been rescued from eternal death in hell! (See Mark 9:34; I Thessalonians 1:7-9).
  • …you have been given an eternal heritage in heaven! (See Colossians 1:5; I Peter 1:4).
  • …you have received the opportunity for abundant life here and now! I believe the abundance we are promised in John 10:10 has to do with Spiritual fruit abundantly manifested in our life: “…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22, 23).
  • …you have the Lord’s presence and authority with you always! (See Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:18-20).

Will you be The Amazing Power Of One for the Lord?

Which Is Easier?

Mark 5:8-12

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

It is a fascinating incident that took place in Capernaum, early in the ministry of the Lord Jesus. The townsfolk heard that Jesus had arrived and was staying probably at Simon Peter’s house. So many came to see the miracle worker and to hear Him teach – so many that we are told in Mark 2:2, “…that there was no longer any room to receive them, not even near the door….” Four men heard that Jesus was in town, and they figured He was the only one who could help a paralyzed friend. So they brought the sick man, still lying on his bed, so the Lord could touch and heal him. But, because of the crowd, they couldn’t get in, they couldn’t get near enough to Jesus to get His attention! Not to be thwarted, they climbed the outside stairway to the flat roof of the house, hauling the sick man in his bed up with them! There, they removed enough of the roof tiles to lower the man and his bed down right in front of Jesus! When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you.’ ” (Mark 2:5). This infuriated the scribes and Pharisees in attendance who silently reasoned, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7). But the Lord, who knew what they were thinking, and He…

     ...said to them, “Why do you reason about these 
     things in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say 
     to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ 
     or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 
     But that you may know that the Son of Man has 
     power on earth to forgive sins” – He said to the 
     paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, 
     and go to your house.”  Immediately he arose, took 
     up the bed, and went out in the presence of them 
     all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, 
     saying, “We never saw anything like this!”  
     (Mark 2:8-12).

Which is easier? Let’s look at it from five perspectives:

  • From the scribes’ and Pharisees’ point of view: Mark 2:6 only mentions the scribes being present. Luke 5:17 adds the Pharisees were also in attendance. These Jewish leaders both raised the silent question, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus then demonstrated by the physical healing of the paralytic His authority to forgive sins. So in the minds of the Jewish leaders, it is easier to say than to do – even if the saying of it results in the charge of blasphemy! They were right in their thinking, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?Only God has such authority, for any sin is ultimately an affront to God! King David is a case in point:
        He sinned against Bathsheba by luring her into adultery.  

He sinned against her husband Uriah by adultery with 
         his wife, by scheming to get him to drunkenly cover 
         David’s sinful action, and by having him murdered 
         seemingly by an act of war.

     He sinned against the people of Israel for, as their 
         king and leader, he was supposed to set a godly example 
         before them.

     But, when up to a year later Nathan the prophet forced 
         David to face his sin, the king penned his intense psalm
         of confession, Psalm 51.  In verse 4 he wrote, “Against 
         You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your 
         sight....

Only God can forgive sins! And anyone who is not God and who has the audacity to act as God, as Jesus did when He forgave the man his sins, was guilty of blasphemy and must be stoned to death! So it is written in Leviticus 24:16: “…whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; and all the congregation shall certainly stone him….

But even though the Lord demonstrated His authority to forgive sins by totally healing the paralyzed man (and there were many other authoritative demonstrations over the next three years), the Jewish leaders would not accept the proof that Jesus was God come in the flesh! So set in their legalistic ways, …they…crucified the Lord of glory…! (I Corinthians 2:8).

  • From the paralytic’s point of view: We never learn the man’s name, but if it were not for his four concerned friends, he never would have been able to get to Jesus and be healed. We don’t know if he could even speak in his paralyzed state. But he could think! And if I were him I would think, “What did He just say?Son, your sins are forgiven you.Hey, Jesus! Focus on the main issue here! I need to be healed! It is easy to say,…your sins are forgiven…’, but….

I have a friend who opened her heart to the Lord one night. She cried out to Him that she had messed up her life, and needed Him to help her. She wrote me an email: “Chip, what happened to me? I feel so light and free! What’s going on? ” I wrote back to her and told her that she had just gotten saved! Jesus was now in her heart and life, and she was forgiven!

I imagine the same thing must have happened to the paralytic after he experienced ‘the touch of the Master! Whether or not his malady was a direct result of his sins, we do know that all sickness and death entered the human race after our first parents sinned! (See Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12). So if he at first thought it was easier for the Lord to say, “Son, your sins are forgiven you…”, he may well have learned that it was far more costly for his sins to be forgiven – the cost of the death of God’s only Son!

  • From the four friends’ point of view: I would think these four, so concerned about their bedridden friend, would be disappointed to hear, “Son, your sins are forgiven you…”, which was much easier to say than to perform the necessary miracle! They may even have thought their friend worthy of Jesus’ healing power. It was probably a surprise to them that the Lord focused first on the man’s sin. But I doubt they were buying into the scribes’ and Pharisees’ blasphemy charge, because they obviously had a favorable opinion of this miracle-working Rabbi. So confusion, I think, filled their minds for a moment..…until they soon heard Jesus’ words:
         “But that you may know that the Son of Man has 
         power on earth to forgive sins” — He said to the 
         paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, 
         and go your way to your house.”   
  • From the crowd’s point of view: There were three points of view among those who filled the house where Jesus was…
     ...those who were favorable toward Him, who had perhaps 
         personally heard this Rabbi teach as no other (See Mark 
         1:22), and had seen, or even been receptive of some of 
         the miracles the Lord had performed. Of course, those 
         of favorable opinion included His chosen disciples!

      ...those who opposed Him, as increasingly did the 
          scribes and Pharisees.

      ...those who were curious, hoping to see a miracle 
          or hear some astounding teaching, as others had 
          reported who had been in His presence.  But they 
          had formed no solid opinion of this One as yet.

At this time, early in Jesus’ ministry, I think the crowd generally would agree that it was “…easier…to say…‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ …[than] to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’….

  • From Jesus’ point of view: Jesus knew from the beginning why He came into the world:
     Mark 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man did not come 
         to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a 
         ransom for many.Luke 19:10 – “...for the Son of Man has come to seek 
         and save that which was lost.John 10:10 – “I have come that they may have life, 
         and that they may have it more abundantly.

So to forgive our sins (including the sins of the paralyzed man), Jesus, “…who knew no sin…[was] made sin for us, that we might be become the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Corinthians 5:21).

     ✞   He died a torturous death that we might have eternal 
life!

✞ He paid the cost completely of our disobedience toward
God!

✞ He rose again conquering for us death, hell, and Satan
himself!

So which was easier from Jesus point of view? …to say…‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?

You decide!

What Jesus Doesn’t Know! Matthew 25:12

Depart From Me, I Never Knew You – Age of Laodicea

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

According to Matthew 24:36 the Lord Jesus confessed He did not know something:But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” One might ask, “The Bible claims that Jesus is the Son of God, God Himself. So He would know everything.” (See John 1:1, 14; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8). Yes, the Bible rightly claims that Jesus is God! But He voluntarily restricted Himself concerning His Godly attributes (including omniscience, meaning all-knowing). As we are told in Philippians 2:7 and 8 (Good News Bible):

     ...of His own free will He gave up all He had, and 
     took the nature of a servant.  He became like a hu-
     man being and appeared in human likeness.  He was 
     humble and walked the path of obedience all the way 
     to death — His death on the cross.

Because Jesus lived as a fully human being, it can be said of Him in Luke 1:52, “And Jesus increased in [grew up into] wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

But this does not bring us to our featured Scripture and the theme of this Gem! The Scripture is Matthew 25:12, part of the Parable of the Ten Virgins. In that parable, the ten were waiting for the bridegroom to return when they would go out and welcome him. But he was late, and didn’t return until midnight. Five of the virgins were wise, and took extra oil for their lamps. But five were foolish and brought no extra with them. By midnight the lamps of all ten were getting low on oil. The five had extra, but the others did not. They asked the first five to share, but there was not enough oil to spare. So the second five went off to see if they could get fuel for their lamps. In the meantime, the bridegroom showed up and, welcomed by the five with bright lamps, went into the wedding feast behind locked doors. Here is Matthew 25:11 and 12: “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ ” The parable is part of Jesus’ teaching about “…the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 25:1). And the point of it Jesus summed up in verse 13: “Watch therefore, for you know not the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

What has this to do with the title of this Gem, What Jesus Doesn’t Know!? It has to do with what He said to the five foolish virgins, “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.” (Matthew 25:12). What did He mean when He said,…I do not know you…”?

  • Jesus did not mean that He didn’t know all about them! For it says in John 2:23 through 25:
         Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, 
         during the feast, many believed in His name when 
         they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did 
         not commit Himself to them, because He knew all 
         men, and had no need that anyone should testify 
         of man, for He knew what was in man.

He knew this, as He walked upon this earth as a human being, because God taught Him by the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit! (See Psalm 139:1-4). And also “…because God does not give the Spirit in limited measure to Him.” (John 3:34 – International Standard Version). We too are to be filled with, taught, and led by the Spirit. Jesus told His disciples in John 14:26, “…the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things….” The Apostle John in I John 2:27 (Good News Bible) wrote this:

     But as for you, Christ has poured out His Spirit on 
     you. As long as His Spirit remains in you, you do not 
     need anyone to teach you. For His Spirit teaches you 
     about everything, and what He teaches is true, not 
     false.
  • Jesus said to the five virgins, I do not know you,because…
         ✞   ...they were not His true followers!   

         ✞   ...they were not born again!  As Jesus said 
             in John 3:3 and 5, “Most assuredly, I say to 
             you, unless one is born again, he cannot see 
             the kingdom of God...he cannot enter the king-
             dom of God.✞   ...they were not God’s children!  According 
             to John 1:12 and 13:

                 ...as many as received [Jesus Christ]
                 ...to them He gave the right to become 
                 children of God, to those who believe 
                 in His name; who were born, not of blood, 
                 nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the 
                 will of man, but of God. 

         ✞   ...they were not of the same family!  The Lord 
             told the Pharisees in John 8:44, “You are of 
             your father the devil, and the desires of your 
             father you want to do.If you are not born 
             into God’s family through faith in the Lord 
             Jesus Christ, then what was told to the Phar-
             isees applies to you!  

         ✞   ...they did not have the Holy Spirit!  It is 
             as Paul wrote in Romans 8:9, “Now if anyone 
             does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not 
             His.
  • This was not the only time people heard the words, “I do not know you.” In Luke 13:23 through 30 Jesus answered a question of one of His followers: “Lord, are there few who are saved? ” Here is part of His answer from verses 25 though 28:
         When once the Master of the house has risen up 
         and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside 
         and knock...saying, “Lord, open for us,” and He 
         will answer...“I do not know you, where you are 
         from.” Then you will begin to say, “We ate and 
         drank in Your presence, and You taught in our 
         streets.” But He will say, “I tell you I do not 
         know you, where you are from.  Depart from Me, 
         all you workers of iniquity.” There will be weep-
         ing and gnashing of teeth....

What tragedy to hear those words from the Lord Jesus, I do not know you….Depart from Me…you workers of iniquity….! It means the one to whom those words are directed will forever be shut out of heaven and cast into hell! Yes, Jesus knows fully all the details of our lives. And knowing this, He gave Himself to be the all-sufficient sacrifice to cleanse us from our sin and to give us His own perfect standing before the Father. But it must be personally appropriated by each individual!

Make sure you are His and He is yours! That way you will never be what Jesus doesn’t know!

Dear Visitor to Gems for Living…

I am taking a break in writing Gems because I am recovering from surgery. Each new Gem takes about six hours to research, write, and publish. I need the time now for rest and rehab. I expect to begin publishing Gems again in about two weeks. In the meantime, please bring up some of the earlier Gems that cover so many Scriptures as they apply to so much of life. Altogether, there are 826 Gems on the Gems for Living website. There will be more!

God bless you

Chip Norton

Treasure In Heaven – Johnsonburg Bible Study

Acts 17:11, 12

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

My first church was in Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania, a town that often had a bad smell because it was home to a large paper mill. Paper mills had a reputation of stinking up their localities! First Baptist Church of Johnsonburg was a small church of about 60 active members, 45 to 50 attending for the Sunday morning service. I served as their pastor for four years, 1972 to 1976. Johnsonburg was a Roman Catholic town for the most part, about 80% of the residents claiming the Catholic faith as their own.

I was invited to a Bible study led by a young man who was a candidate for the priesthood. He served at Saint John’s Catholic Church in town, and the Bible study was for the young adults in the parish. It was held in the rectory next to the church. The young priest (not yet a priest, but I can’t remember his name, so I will call him a priest) welcomed me. As he led the study, he was promoting a system of works for salvation, climbing up to God a step higher with each good deed. I was a thornpoking him and those in attendance that evening because every time the priest would emphasize salvation by works, I would come back with,No! It is not of works, but by grace, faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross!” I quoted several times Ephesians 2:8 and 9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” One of the young men in attendance was Earl. He later told me that he went home that evening and went to bed. But Earl couldn’t sleep! He kept hearing me say, “No! It is not of works, but by grace, faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross!He said he could get no peace until he finally got out of bed, knelt down and asked the Lord to save him!

That young priest and I became friends. I don’t know if he embraced salvation by grace through faith, but I hope to meet him again in heaven. One day he came to me with a request. He was being ordained as an official priest, and then he would be reassigned to another parish. He had asked the three other priests at Saint John’s if they would take over his young adult Bible study, but no one was interested to add more work to a busy schedule. So he asked me, a Baptist minister, if I would take over the Bible study! I told him yes, I would love to!

The head priest was infuriated when he learned that half a dozen of his young adults were now meeting at the Baptist parsonage for Bible study each week! But what he never could understand was, instead of losing them to Saint John’s, they became more active in that church…such as leading CCD classes and working with youth in other ways.

A couple of young adults from First Baptist joined the Bible study, and we became a close knit group, studying the Bible together. The group reminds me of what Luke wrote of the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey in Macedonian Greece. He escaped a mob riot in Thessalonica (see Acts 17:1-9), and fled southwest to Berea. There, he received a more heartening reception, for it says of the Bereans in Acts 17:11, “…they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures…to find out whether…[the things Paul taught] were so. Therefore many of them believed….Yes, many of them believed in our Johnsonburg Bible study!

I can’t remember all the names, but…

  • Earl was a faithful participant and became a good friend!
  • Linda started attending regularly, another close friendship developing! We still keep in touch 45 years later! I remember a week of evangelistic services at First Baptist with Bob and Peggy Boyd. At the invitation one evening, Linda came down the isle with the biggest smile on her face…ready to announce her decision to accept Jesus Christ as her Savior!
  • Cathy, Linda’s cousin (I think), was another Catholic young adult who regularly attended our Bible study and who opened her heart to the Lord!
  • Clifford, not a member of First Baptist or Saint John’s, started coming every week. He grew in his faith, and even preached one time in my church!
  • Ceile was already on fire for the Lord when she arrived back in Johnsonburg after being out west for a couple of years. She bopped back into town, a barefoot hippie! But, oh what a blessing this young nurse was! She went back to the wild parties of her younger days, but now to rescue those from the drug culture she used to be in herself!
  • Jerri was Ceile’s sister. I remember her sitting on our couch during a Bible study, and suddenly exclaiming, “I got it! I got it! It makes sense now!Another person born into God’s kingdom!
  • Donnie was a few years younger than most of us, a teenager. But Donnie opened his heart to Jesus and became a strong Christian!
  • Leslie was another who regularly attended. She, at one gathering, expressed her desire to accept Jesus as her Savior!
  • Bonnie was part of the group. She is still walking with the Lord!
  • Bob was from First Baptist and was one of the originals of the Bible study when it moved to the Baptist parsonage. I stayed in contact with Bob, and he is walking with Jesus, as is his family!
  • Kathy came to me one late afternoon in tears. She said she had talked to several ministers about the heavy burden she felt because of her sins. I explained salvation by grace through faith, and she opened her heart to Christ! She was now free of her sins and full of joy! She attended the Bible study as often as she could from then on.

It was always an informal study, with questions raised by those attending, and those questions guiding the direction the study would take. We even celebrated Communion! Sitting on the living room floor of the parsonage, we shared the bread and cup. I’m sure the priests as Saint John’s would have a fit if they knew! I even baptized a couple of the Catholic young adults in the Clarion River! The priests, if it got back to them, would have an even bigger fit!

There were others who came and were blessed, either accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and growing as a Christian, or already as a believer and maturing in their faith! As I said, I can’t remember all the names, but I think the highest number of attendees one evening was 21!

I loved those of the Johnsonburg Bible study! And I still do in my memory of the commitment and growth of those precious people. I may not meet most of them in this life, but I will see them in heaven!

Treasure In Heaven – Richard

I Thessalonians 2:19, 20

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Paul is writing the Thessalonian Christians, a few months after he first visited this city on his second missionary journey in 51 AD. With the conversion of many (see Acts 17:4), a church was founded in this Roman city. When the apostle wrote to the believers there a few months later, he said this about them in I Thessalonians 2:19 and 20:

     For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?  
     Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus 
     Christ at His coming?  For you are our glory and joy.

Paul is speaking of these Christians as his reward in heaven as he and they stand before Jesus at the Bema Seat Judgment (see I Corinthians 3:11-15; II Corinthians 5:10). They, and we, will receive rewards (or lack of them) of crowns (see I Corinthians 9:25; Philippians 4:1; II Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; I Peter 5:6) and assigned responsibilities! (See Luke 19:16-19).

Richard is one who is my glory and joy!

When I pastored in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Richard’s wife came to me, troubled over his involvement in sexual sin and thievery. I, and a deacon from the church, visited this man at his home. We found a gentle person, in his fifties, who graciously received us. We didn’t mention anything directly about his sinful actions, but I told him, “If we can do anything to help you, please let us know.” He thanked us for coming, and we left.

The next Sunday , Richard, who had not been in church in a long time, came to the evening service! And he attended every evening service for several weeks! About six weeks into his attendance, when the gathering was leaving, Richard broke down crying! His lifestyle had gotten to him! As others gathered around him to comfort and pray for him, he kept his head down as tears continued to bawl. I don’t know if Richard had previously accepted Jesus as his Savior, but this was still a conversion time for him! When his tears stopped, Richard asked those who had surrounded him, “Who was the person next to me, that one who was wearing a long white dress and sandals?

No one was there of that description ,” several people said.

Yes there was!” Richard exclaimed. “Someone was right next to me. My head was down so I didn’t see the face, but there was someone there who had a hand on my shoulder and was calming me!

Who was that one who wore sandals, a long white dress (or robe), and had a real calming effect on Richard? He, and I, believe it was the Lord Jesus Christ!

This gentle man became my best friend! And he was a great blessing to the church and also to God’s ministry beyond! Richard was instrumental in starting two ministries:

  • Addicts Victorious – The name says it all.
  • The Lighthouse – A ministry to unchurched youth in the local area. This ministry continues today, 35 years later, with a budget of $2,000,000 a year!

A busy church can be a stressful time for a pastor. I was no exception. Many times I would call Richard and shout, “Pizza attack! ” And we, with our wives, would head for our favorite pizza parlor where we would have a wonderful feast, and solve the problems of our church and the world!

I moved, called to another church on the other side of the state. At times I would travel back to visit some of the dear folks of my former church. Without notification of my coming, I would show up at Richard’s doorstep with suitcase in hand, and announce, “Here I am for a few days!” He and his wife would warmly welcome me, and they never tired of me as their guest!

As he approached his 80th year, Richard’s health greatly failed. My wife, Hope, and I visited him as often as we could. Then it was the last visit. I told him I loved him and would see him again in heaven. A few days later I conducted Richard’s funeral, a sad but joyous occasion of a saint gone home to his Lord!

     For what is...[my] hope, or joy, or crown of 
     rejoicing? Is it not even you [Richard] in the 
     presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?  
     For you are ...[my] glory and joy.

The Next-to-the-Last Chapter Romans 8:18; Hebrews 9:27

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

I read a sermon a couple of days ago in which the preacher mentioned “the next-to-the-last chapter.” I am taking his idea for this Gem because it is a life lesson we all need to learn, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic!

What is the thinking of so many people in this old world? It concerns the chapters of life:

  • Chapter 1 – We are born into this world and spend our first years learning to walk, talk, and begin to take responsibility for our actions. This chapter includes the years of our childhood perhaps from infant to pre-teen.
  • Chapter 2 – Teen years can be a difficult chapter, as we try to deal with the opposite sex while hormones rage; stretching our wings of independence, yet being under parental and school authority (and often chafing under it); trying out new things (some are good, some are terribly wrong choices) to see if it will fit in what we think our life should be.
  • Chapter 3 – Deciding upon a possible life’s work and training towards that goal (both can change in this pursuit). Also finding that one with whom we think we want to build our life (this also can change..several times).
  • Chapter 4 – Settling upon our choice of the one, and building a life together; adding others into the equation as children make their appearance; realizing and appreciating the sacrificial effort our parents made for us as we grew.
  • Chapter 5 – Having raised our family, we now face ‘empty nesting’ where we hope to get to know that one in a deeper way. With good choices, finances are not such a struggle, for we have advanced in our work or business, savings and investments.
  • Chapter 6 – is thought to be our last chapter, perhaps 20 years more or less, enjoying retirement, doing things you have not had time to do in previous chapters – travel, recreation, taking care of projects put off during other chapters, hobbies, etc.

Chapter 6 is our Last Chapter……..or is it?

Chapter 6 is really the Next-to-the-Last Chapter! We still have Chapter 7 ahead of us! And that Last Chapter can be wonderful beyond description! Or terrible, again beyond description! I have chosen two short Scriptures that highlight all this (taken in reverse order as to where they are found in the Bible):

  • Hebrews 9:27 – “…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.We are in the midst of a world-wide pandemic! Many people are afraid of getting infected, becoming terribly sick, and even dying. But we all are already infected…… with sin! And as a result, we all are dead spiritually! And we will die physically!
  • Romans 8:18 – “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” This Scripture puts a positive light on our Last Chapter! “Positive, you say? ‘…the sufferings of this present time…’ doesn’t sound very positive to me!

We are told in Romans 5:12, “…through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all… because all sinned….

And in Ezekiel 18 it is repeated twice, in verses 4 and 20: “The soul who sins shall die.

But what about the things good people do? Be- fore God, who is absolutely holy and charges us to also be holy (see Leviticus 19:2; Matthew 5:48), this is how we appear, according to Isaiah 64:6: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteounesses [the very best we can do] are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

The reason death reigns is given in Romans 6:23: “…the wages of sin is death….” When we live in sin, and we cannot help but live in sin since we are all born sinners, we get paid – death!

Why are we so drastically paid? Because when we work at a job or business, we expect to get paid. And most people in the world are trying to work their way into God’s favor! But we are warned in…

     ...Titus 3:5 that salvation and deliverance from sin
              and death are ...not by works of righteousness 
              which we have done.......Galatians 2:16 (English Standard Version) that 
              “...we [should] know that a person is not justified 
              by works...because by works...no one will be 
              justified.
  • Romans 8:18 – “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” This Scripture puts a positive light on our Last Chapter! “Positive, you say? ‘…the sufferings of this present time…’ don’t sound very positive to me!
     God has ordained that this phase of life can be rough...

...by our own sinful and wrong choices.  Isaiah 66:3 
              (God’s Word to the Nations) says, “People have cer-
              tainly chosen their own ways, and their souls de-
              light in detestable things.”  Why?  “The heart is 
              deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;
              who can know it?” (Jeremiah 18:9).     

...by the sinful and wrong choices of others.  In 
              Matthew 5:11 (Easy-to-Read Version) Jesus tells us, 
              His followers, “People will insult you and hurt 
              you.  They will lie and say all kinds of evil 
              things about you because you follow Me.Paul warns us in II Timothy 3:12, “...all who desire
              to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer perse-
              cution.✞   But there is coming...the glory which shall be 
         revealed....         ➪   The glory will be revealed when Jesus returns! (See 
              John 14:3; Acts 1:11).  He will come in glory (see 
              Revelation 19:11-16), bringing glory to the earth! 
              (See Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14; Revelation 11:15).

         ➪   We Christians shall be made gloriously perfect, 
              designed to live forever with our God! (See Daniel 
              7:18; Philippians 3:21; I John 3:2). 

There is so much more that could be said about what Paul wrote in Romans 8:18. It would take, and has taken, volumes to describe “…the glory which shall be revealed in us.” But there is something I want to emphasize about this Last Chapter, and it involves the other six chapters:

  • The Last Chapter will last forever! …either in heaven or in hell!
     ✞   In heaven we shall forever be with the Lord God and our 
         believing loved ones! 

         I Thessalonians 4:16, 17 – “For the Lord Himself
             will descend from heaven with a shout, with the 
             voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of 
             God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 
             Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught 
             up together with them in the clouds to meet the 
             Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with 
             the Lord.

          Revelation 21:3, 4 – “And I heard a loud voice 
             from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of 
             God is with men, and He will dwell with them, 
             and they shall be His people. God Him- self 
             will be with them and be their God. And God will 
             wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall 
             be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There 
             shall be no more pain, for the former things have 
             passed away.’

     ✞   But hell is also forever!

     Mark 9:47, 48 – “...you [will]...be cast into hell 
              fire, ‘...where their worm does not die and the 
              fire is not quenched.’ Revelation 20:10, 14, 15 – “The devil...was cast 
              into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast
              and the false prophet are. And they will be tor-
              mented day and night forever and ever....This is 
              the second death.  And anyone not found written in 
              the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.II Thessalonians 1:7-9 – “...when the Lord Jesus is 
              revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in 
              flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not 
              know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel 
              of our Lord Jesus Christ..., [they] shall be 
              punished with everlasting destruction from the 
              presence of the Lord and from the glory of His 
              power....

Somewhere in the years represented by chapters 1 through 6, NOW is the time to open your heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ! It is He who died, totally paying for our sins! And He lives forever to receive any and all who come to Him in faith believing. And He gives them eternal life! (See Hebrews 7:25). He only is the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6). The only alternative is hell!

Heaven or hell? Chapter 7 is coming!