“My Name Is El Shaddai!” Genesis 17:1-5

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

As a pastor for the last fifty years, I have made a lot of visits to hospitals to encourage those who are admitted because of sickness, disease, or surgery. More often than not, the folks I visit are elderly. I have tried at times to add a bit of humor to the visit by telling an elderly woman (for instance) “You may be up in years but there is still hope for you. Don’t forget, Sarah had a baby at 90!” The patient may be in pain or in a weakened condition, but I almost always get a big smile or a laugh – and a comment something like, Oh no! Not me! God forbid! I’m done with that!” If it is an old man whom I am visiting, I just change the application!You may be up in years but there is still hope for you. Don’t forget, Abraham fathered a baby at 99!

It sounds totally beyond human possibility! But we are talking about God, who proclaimed in Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?

This is what God told Abram in Genesis 17:1 through 5:

     When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared 
     to Abram and said to him, I am Almighty God; walk before 
     Me and be blameless.  And I will make My covenant between 
     Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.”  Then Abram 
     fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: “As for 
     Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a 
     father of many nations.  No longer shall your name be call-
     ed Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made 
     you a father of many nations.”

This is the first instance of God referring to Himself as El Shaddai, almost universally translated as Almighty God or God Almighty.

  • El (copied from the Gem of June 12th) in Hebrew is אֵל )pronounced ale – in one syllable( and meaning, “…strength….” (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary). In the Old Testament, El refers to the One True God! However, the word can be used of any deity, even false pagan gods; angels; mighty men )military heroes(; and even demons.
  • Shaddai in Hebrew is שַ דַּי (pronounced shad-dah’ee) and according to the generally held meaning, “…the Almighty….” (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary).

However, researching the meaning of Shaddai, I came across this website of The Jerusalem Prayer Team, Word of the Day: hebrew.jerusalemprayerteam.org/almighty-el-shaddai/. I found a very interesting interpretation of El Shaddai:

     Rule:  all body parts that come in pairs (or more than 2) 
     are feminine nouns. Hands, ears, legs, shins, fingers, 
     teeth and more are all feminine nouns. All, except for one 
     pair – breasts! Breasts, the most feminine paired organ in 
     the human body happens to be a masculine noun....Shaddai 
     in Hebrew is the word for breasts. Every English Bible 
     translates El Shaddai as The Almighty. The Almighty is a 
     great name for God but it has nothing to do with El Shaddai. 
     It was superimposed on [the] innocent Bible reader....If 
     you check carefully the...[following] three references to 
     El Shaddai in the Bible you’ll be more than surprised....
     These are...three cases when God speaks in first person. 
     Each verse is about fertility and the name Shaddai is 
     stressed. Here is how El Shaddai is connected with fruit-
     fulness:

     ✡   Genesis 28:3 – “May God Almighty [El Shaddai] bless 
          you, and make you fruitful and multiply you…”

     ✡   Genesis 35:11 – “I am God Almighty [El Shaddai]. Be 
          fruitful and muliply....”

     ✡   Genesis 49:25 – “...by the Almighty [El Shaddai] who 
          will bless you with blessings of heaven above, bless-
          ings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the 
          breasts [shadayim] and of the womb....

On the website for the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, israelbiblicalstudies.com/jewish-studies/he-is-our-el-shadai/, Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg writes:

     In our Bibles, אֵל שָ דַּי “El Shadai” is most often (mistakenly) 
     translated as “God Almighty”....El Shadai אֵל שָ דַּי does have 
     another meaning though. The word שָ ד ShaD has a much closer 
     grammatical connection to ShaDai and it means – “breast.” 
     Moreover, when a word ends with an “i”or “ai” it is almost 
     always means “my”. So, literally, “El Shadai” could very well 
     mean “God (is) my Breast/s. If we consider this intriguing 
     imagery as [an] interpretive possibility we may see that the 
     breast is one of the key symbols of sustenance and parental 
     love passed on from God, the parent, to humanity, God’s child. 
     So instead of “God Almighty”, El Shadai should probably be 
     translated as “God All-sufficient” instead.

Holding with this idea of breasts and being fruitful, I began looking at our featured Scripture in a new way! Does Genesis 17:1 through 5 have to do with human frutifulness – “…blessings of the breasts and of the womb…” (Genesis 49:25)?

  • The next verse (Genesis 17:2) after “…the LORD appeared to Abram and said…‘I am Almighty God…” (Genesis 17:1), the first part of His covenant with the patriarch mentioned is, “…I…will multiply you exceedingly.This certainly involves …blessings of the breasts and of the womb…!
  • In Genesis 17:4 God told him, “…you shall be a father of many nations.This certainly involves …blessings of the breasts and of the womb…!
  • How about Abram’s name change in Genesis 17:5? “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. This certainly involves …blessings of the breasts and of the womb…!

Continuing beyond our featured Scripture, in…

  • Genesis 17:6 – “I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.This certainly involves …blessings of the breasts and of the womb…!
  • I will not reproduce here the next eight verses, but in Genesis 17:7 through 14, God speaks to Abraham concerning the patriarch’s succeeding generations, and the covenant sign each of those male descendants must carry in their bodies – circumcision! And, by the way, this sign involves the reproductive organ of the male! And this too certainly involves …blessings of the breasts and of the womb…!
  • In Genesis 17:15 and 16, the LORD changes the emphasis from Abraham to Sarai:
     As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, 
     but Sarah shall be her name.  And I will bless her and also 
     give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall 
     be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.

This certainly involves “…blessings of the breasts and of the womb…”!

• Genesis 17:18, 19, and 21 concerns Abraham’s next generation, Isaac:

    And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael [his son by Hagar, his 
    wife’s maid] might live before You!”  Then God said: “No, Sarah 
    your wife shall bear you a son, and you will call his name Isaac; I 
    will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, 
    and with his descendants after him....My covenant I will establish
    with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.”

This certainly involves…blessings of the breasts and of the womb…!

  • The last part of the dialogue between God and Abraham concerning the LORD introducing Himself as El Shaddai involves Ishmael:
     And as for Ishmael, I have heard you [Abraham’s plea in 
     verse 17 above]. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make 
     him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall 
     beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 

Ishmael is considered the father of the multitudenous Arab peoples! This certainly involves…blessings of the breasts and of the womb…!

In the quotation from The Jerusalem Prayer Team above, we are told, “Breasts, the most feminine pair organ in the human body happens to be a masculine noun….Shaddai in Hebrew is the word for breasts.” Why is a masculine noun referring to God and breasts? God is often pictured as our Heavenly Father – a masculine designation! But He also is depicted with feminine qualities!

  • Genesis 1:27 – “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
  • Deuteronomy 32:11 – God is like a mother eagle hovering over her young!
  • Ps 22:9-10, Ps 71:6; Isa 66:9 – God cares for his people like a midwife that cares for the child she just delivered!
  • Isaiah 49:15 – “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you.
  • Hosea 13:8 – “I will meet them [Israelite sinners] like a bear deprived of her cubs.
  • Luke 13:34 – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! …How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!
  • Luke 15:8-10 – God seeks the lost like a housekeeper, trying to find her lost coin!

So while God is Almighty, I agree with Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg: “…instead of “God Almighty”, El Shadai should probably be translated as “God All-sufficient.

When it is all said and done…

Thank God for His multifaceted attributes!

“My Name Is Adonai Jehovah!” Genesis 15:1, 2, 4 – 6

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

One of the key Scriptures in the Old Testament is Genesis 15:1 through 6, especially verse 6:

     After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a 
     vision, saying, “Do not be afraid Abram, I am your shield, 
     your exceedingly great reward.” But Abram said, “Lord God, 
     what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir 
     of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” ...And, behold, the 
     word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This one shall not 
     be your heir, but one who will come from your own body....”  
     Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward hea-
     ven, and count the stars if you are able to number them....
     So shall your descendants be.”  And [Abram]...believed in 
     the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

So key is this truth of verse 6 that it is quoted, or referred to, multiple times in the New Testament!

  • Romans 4:3 – “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
  • Romans 4:5 – “…to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.
  • Romans 4:9, 10 – “Does this blessedness…come upon the circumcised only [the Jews], or upon the uncircumcised also [Gentiles]? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but uncircumcised.” (compare Genesis 15:6 with 17:3).
  • Romans 4:22 – Abraham, at the age of almost 100, “…did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief [that he would father a child], but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’
  • Galatians 3:6, 7 – “…Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’
  • James 2:23 – When Abraham demonstrated his faith in God by his obedience to offer his son Isaac as a burnt sacrifice to God (see Genesis 22:1-12), “…the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’

Six times Genesis 15:6 is quoted, at least partially, in the New Testament! God is very frugal in using words to reveal His mind! The whole Bible, that touches on everything that we could experience in our human lives, amounts to 783,137 words in the King James Version! In comparison, the IRS federal tax code and federal tax regulations were well over ten million words! And that was six years ago!

  • If God says it once, it is important!
  • If God says it twice, we are to sit up and take notice – it is very important!
  • If God says it seven times (Genesis 15:6 and the six times quoted in the New Testament), I can’t imagine anything more important!

What is so important about, And [Abram]…believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness…?

  • Humankind’s attempt at religion always ends up in some form of works – trying to earn God’s attention and approval by good things that we do.

According to the website, nationaldaycalendar.com/world-religion-day, there are today over 4,000 religions in the world. And all but one of these religions are man’s attempt to reach up to God!

And the Bible is clear concerning God’s view of human works to earn His approval:

 Isaiah 64:4 – “...we are all like an unclean thing, and 
          all our righteousnesses [the very best we can do] are 
          like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniq-
          uities, like the wind, have taken us away.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.

Good works must follow our decision to accept Christ as Savior, not before as an effort to try to please Him!For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).

  We are told in Philippians 2:5 through 8, “...Jesus 
         Christ...made Himself of no reputation, taking the 
         form of a servant...as a man.  He humbled Himself and 
         became obedient to the point of death, even the death 
         of the cross.And, according to II Corinthians 5:21, God ...made 
         Him [Jesus], who knew no sin to be sin for us, that 
         we might become the righteousness of God in Him.It is that righteousness of God that Abram received 
         by faith, according to Genesis 15:6.

Quoted above is Romans 4:22. Here it is again in part: Abraham …was strengthened in faith…being fully convinced that what He [God] had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ ” I believe that in the next three verses, Romans 4:23 through 25, Paul gives the best description there is of the Gospel in the very words of the Bible:

     Now it was not written for [Abraham’s]...sake alone that it was 
     imputed to him, but also for us. [The righteousness of God]...
     shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus 
     our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our of-
     fenses, and was raised because of our justification. 

Has God’s righteousness been imputed to you?
Put your faith in Jesus Christ now!

We haven’t yet examined the name of God which Abram used when he addressed Him in Genesis 15:2 – “Lord God….

  • We have already looked at the Hebrew for GOD (which is a variation of Jehovah) in the June 5th Gem. Written in Hebrew the word is יְהֹוִה (pronounced yeh-ho-vee’) and meaning the same as Jehovah, …the self-existant or eternal…[One].” (Scofield’s Hebrew Dicitonary). But the yeh-ho-vee’ variation is “…used primarily in the combination ‘Lord Jehovah’….” (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions).
  • Lord (lower case letters after the L) in Hebrew is אדני (and pronounced ad-o-noy’ ) When the word stands alone, it can mean “…master…” when applied to man, and “…Master…” when applied to God. (ibid.) But when used with Jehovah (or its variation yeh-ho-vee’ ) it always applies to God. These two words together are translated…
     ...in the Contemporary English Version as “...LORD 
         All-Powerful.......in Brenton’s English Septuagint as “...Master 
         and Lord.......in the Good News Bible as “...Sovereign LORD.......in God’s Word to the nations as “...Almighty 
         LORD....

So it can be a bit confusing!

Just remember…
He is God, All-Powerful,
Master, Sovereign, Almighty

Lord!


“My Name Is El Elyon!”– II Genesis 14:18-23

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

Above is another depiction of Abram (Abraham) receiving a blessing from…Melchizedek king of Salem….” (Genesis 14:18). We looked at this mysterious Old Testament personage Melkizedek in the last Gem, but we never got to the study of God’s name, the name by which Melkizedek blessed Abram! Here again is Genesis 14:18-23:

     Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; 
     he was the priest of God Most High.  And he blessed him and 
     said:  “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possesser of hea-
     ven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has deliv-
     ered your enemies into your hand.”  And he [Abram] gave him 
     a tithe of all.  Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give 
     me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.”  But Abram 
     said...“I have lifted up my hand to the LORD, God Most High, 
     the Possessor of heaven and earth...that I will not take any-
     thing that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram 
     rich....’”

…he blessed him and said; ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth.” (Genesis 14:19). God Most High is translated from the Hebrew El Elyon.

  • El in Hebrew is אֵל (pronounced ale – in one syllable) and meaning, “…strength….” (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary). In the Old Testament, El refers to the One True God! However, the word can be used of any deity, even false pagan gods; angels; mighty men (military heroes); and even demons.
  • Elyon in Hebrew is עליון (pronounced el-yone) and meaning when referring to God, “…Highest, Most High….” (Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions).

Melkizedek added the descriptive phrase to El Elyon – “…the Possessor of heaven and earth….” To the Hebrew mind, there could not be anything higher than heaven! And as God created and possesses that sphere, as well as the whole expanse of the earth, so He is the extreme Power and Athority of all creation!

This descriptive name of God must have made a great impact on the mind and faith of the patriarch! There is no record that Abram ever had heard the LORD described this way before, or used this phrase to describe Him. The patriarch had just rescued the king of Sodom and the people of that city from the five-king confederation that took them as prisoners of war (see Genesis 14:11-17).

     Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, 
     and take the goods for yourself.”  But Abram said...“I have 
     lifted up my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor 
     of heaven and earth...that I will not take anything that is 
     yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich....’”

So we read just three verses after Melkizedek pronounced his blessing on Abram, in the name of “…God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth” in verse 19, the patriarch swore by “…the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth…” (verse 22), that he would take nothing of Sodom’s material goods as spoils of war, “…except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me…” (Genesis 14:24). Abram used the same description of God that Melchizedek had so recently said! The LORD, God Most High was the only personal reward the patriarch said he would claim!

Elyon (Most High) – this name of God seems to be especially related to the Gentile world. It is written in Deuteronomy 32:8 and 9 (Good News Bible):

     The Most High assigned nations their lands; He determined 
     where peoples should live.  He assigned to each nation a 
     heavenly being.  But the LORD’s people were His property.  
     Jacob [Israel] was His own possession.

Perhaps this is related to how Melkizedek, a Gentile (non-Jew) could be “…the priest of God Most High.” (Genesis 14:18). God revealed Himself through His creation (see Psalm 19:1-4 compared with Romans 10:9-13, 18, 19; Romans 1:18-20), and through His assignment of heavenly beings* to watch over the assigned Gentile nations!

In the book of Psalms alone, there are twenty two times Elyon is translated as either Most High, High, Higher, and Highest as referring to God. Almost every one of the twenty two times Elyon is used, it is in the context of the Gentile peoples of the world! So, it seems that the name Elyon has to do with God known by, or relating to, the Gentiles! Applied to Abram – when God called him from Ur of the Chaldees, the LORD ended the initial statement of the call (known as the Abrahamic covenant) with these words: “…and in you all the families of the earth [Gentiles as well as Jews] shall be blessed.” (see Genesis 12:1-3).

How does all this apply to us as Christians today? The Church, the Body of Christ, is made up mostly of Gentiles! For Paul tells us in Romans 11:25 and 26, “…that hardening in part has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved….The Jews rejected their Messiah, and so God’s emphasis has turned to the non-Jews! Gentile Christians are of “…all the families of the earth…[that are] blessed…” (Genesis 12:3). “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29). So if El Elyon is ‘God Most High, especially as it applies to the Gentiles, then thank God we Gentile Christians have been reconciled unto the Father by Abraham’s Seed, Jesus Christ!

Thank Him that He revealed Himself as El Elyon!
God Most High!

___________________________________________________________________ *Note: The last part of Deuteronomy 32:8 is translated in the Good News Bible thus: “He assigned to each nation a heavenly being….” A Bible study app called e-Sword that I have on my computer has seventeen translations or paraphrases of the Bible available for study. Eleven translations and paraphrases featured follow with something similar to the translation of the King James Version which reads, “…He set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.” The other six follow more in line with what is written in the Good News Bible. Instead of translating the text as children of Israel, the six versions speak of heavenly beings, angels, or the sons of God. It makes sense that God would have angelic beings assigned to nations, kingdoms, and people groups, because Satan (who is an imitator, and not an originator) also has high ranking demons assigned to various nations, kingdoms, and people groups! (see Daniel 10:13, 20).

“My Name Is El Elyon!” – I Genesis 14:18-23

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

In the print above, Abram (Abraham) receives a blessing from…Melchizedek king of Salem….” (Genesis 14:18). It was just after the patriarch returned from rescuing his nephew Lot from a four-king confederacy that raided Sodom and Gomorrah and took prisoners of the two cities’ inhabitants (see Genesis 14:1-17). Here is the whole featured Scripture of Genesis 14:18 through 23:

     Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; 
     he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and 
     said:  “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possesser of 
     heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has 
     delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he [Abram] 
     gave him a tithe of all. Now the king of Sodom said to 
     Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for your-
     self.” But Abram said... “I have lifted up my hand to the 
     LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth...
     that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you 
     should say, ‘I have made Abram rich....’”

Melchizedek is an interesting character! The author of Hebrews talks of this mysterious character in chapters 5, 6, and 7, and identifies him as a shadow prophesy, a type of Jesus Christ! As it says in Hebrews 7:21 (quoting Psalm 110:4): “The LORD has sworn and will not relent, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

  • The name Melchizedek in Hebrew is מַלְכִּי־צֶדֶק (pronounced mal-kee-tseh’-dek) and meaning “…king of right [or righteousness]…” (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary). Jesus Christ is the true King of righteousness, for He purchased our standing in the righteousness of God by His sacrifice on the cross! (see Romans 4:6; II Corinthians 5:21).
  • He is identified as “…Melchizedek king of Salem….” in Genesis 14:18 and Hebrews 7:1. Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions tells us that Salem in Hebrew is שÑלם (pronounced shaw-lame’ ) and meaning “…peace….Salem was the original name of Jerusalem, where Melchizedek reigned as king. Jesus will not only reign from Jerusalem as King over a worldwide kingdom (see Jeremiah 3:17; Luke 1:30-33), but He is the King of world peace (see Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3) who gives us peace with God (see Romans 5:1), and brings God’s peace within! (see John 14:27; 16:33; Galatians 5:22, 23; Phlippians 4:7).
  • …Melchizedek…was the priest of God Most High.” (Genesis 14:18). How could this be? For he was a Gentile (non-Jew)! But in him, God found a faithful priest! Hebrews 7:11 through 17 explains it this way: Old Testament priests were of the tribe of Levi, one of the twelve sons of Jacob (Israel). They also had to be descended from Aaron, Moses’ brother, who was the first high priest of Israel. But since “…Melchizedek…was the priest of God Most High…,” and obviously not an Israelite (he could not be a Levitical priest), so he being a type of Christ, Jesus also is identified as High Priest…according to the order of Melchizedek…” (Hebrews 7:17, 20), that is, not part of the Levitical priesthood!
  • As both king and priest, Melkizedek was a type of Christ! The two offices were to always separate in the Old Testament. Saul forfeited his kingship when he foolishly offered a burnt offering to God in I Samuel 13:8 through 13. In II Chronicles 26:16 through 21, when King Uzziah in his pride tried to combine the two offices of king and priest by burning incense in the temple, God punished him by afflicting him with leprosy! But in a preview of Jesus as Priest and King, as well as Prophet, Zechariah the prophet is told to make a crown for Joshua the high priest and put it in the temple as a memorial! (see Zechariah 6:9 through 13).
  • In Hebrews 7:3 Melchizedek is described as “…without father, without mother, without geneology, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, [he] remains a priest continually.” It is not as if we are told Melchizedek had no father or mother, or that he never died, but lives forever! But there is no parental or death record! Although Jesus had a human mother, Mary, He did not have a human father! He always has been God, and equal with the Father and Holy Spirit throughout eternity! (see Isaiah 9:6, 7; John 1:1).
  • Genesis 14:18 and 19 record Melchizedek blessing Abram:And he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’ ” The author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 7:7, “Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. As great as Abraham was, Melchizedek was greater, in that he blessed the partriarch. The Jews questioned Jesus’ authority when the Lord made the statement in John 8:51, “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.
     Then the Jews said to Him..., “Abraham is dead, and the 
     prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall 
     never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abra-
     ham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Whom do You 
     make Yourself out to be?” (John 8:52, 53).   

Although the Lord did not specifically say it in so many words, Jesus affirmed that He is greater than Abraham! He said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad….Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:56, 58).

The next point is in Genesis 14:18: “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine….I see an obvious connection to the night before His death, when the Lord Jesus instituted the Eucharist during the Last Supper! Paul writes in I Corinthians 11:23-26:

     For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered 
     to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which 
     He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, 
     He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which 
     is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  In the 
     same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 
     “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as 
     often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”  For as 
     often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you pro-
     claim the Lord’s death till He comes.
  • The last comparison point I want to emphasize is in Genesis 14:20, 21: “And he [Abram] gave him [Melkizedek] a tithe of all…the goods….” To whom did the Israelites pay tithes? To the Levites, who in turn paid tithes to the priests (see Numbers 18:24, 26). The writer of Hebrews shows the greatness of Melchizedek in this matter:
     Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the 
     patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils....Even 
     Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 
     so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his [great 
     grand] father when Melchizedek met him. (Hebrews 7:4, 
     9, 10). 

When Melchizedek met Abram,…he blessed him and said; ‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth.” (Genesis 14:19). God Most High is translated from the Hebrew as El Elyon in the New King James Version.

But we’ll have to wait until the June 12 Gem because we’ve looked closely (and I hope, profitably) at Melchizedek!

“My Name Is Jehovah!”

Exodus 3:13-15

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

The incident pictured above is from Exodus 3:2 through 4:

     And the angel of the LORD appeared to [Moses]...in a 
     flame of fire from the midst of a bush...and behold, 
     the bush burned with fire, but...was not consumed.  
     Then Moses said, “I will...now see...why the bush 
     does not burn.” ...So when the LORD saw..., God called 
     to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses,    
     Moses!”  And he said, “Here I am.”

The LORD then commissioned Moses to go back to Egypt, from which he had fled forty years before after murdering an Egyptian (see Exodus 2:11-15), and lead the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan! Moses argued…

  • Exodus 3:11 – “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and…bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?
  • Exodus 4:1 – “…suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’

Exodus 4:10 – “O my LORD, I am not eloquent…, but I am slow of speech and… tongue.”

  • Exodus 4:13 (Easy-to-Read Version) – “O Lord, send someone else, not me.

God won out, and Moses went back to Egypt, and proved to be an able leader under God’s command! But I purposely left out one of Moses’ main arguments because it is what I will emphasize in this Gem – Exodus 3:13 through 15:

     Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the 
     children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your 
     fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say, ‘What is 
     His name?’ what shall I say to them?”  And God said 
     to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”  And He said, “Thus you 
     shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent 
     me to you....The LORD God of your fathers, the God of 
     Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has 
     sent me to you.  This is My name forever, and this is 
     My memorial to all generations.’”

I AM is often translated today by the words Yahweh or Jehohah. Both come from the Hebrew tetragrammaton YHWH. The Latinized version is JHWH. To make it easier to be read and pronounced, the vowels of the Jewish word for Lord, which is Adonai, were added (with a bit of variation). The result was YaHWeH (Yahweh) or JeHoWaH or JeHoVaH (Jehovah). YHWH (translated I AM) means “the self-existant One” or “the One by whom all things exist” – the One who always has been, always is, and always will be! Hebrews 13:8 puts it this way, “…the same yesterday, today, and forever.

God further identified Himself as “I AM…the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob….” (Exodus 3:15). Jesus used this designated name of God very effectively in His ministry:

• Traditionally, there are seven great “I AM ” statements that Jesus applied to Himself in the Gospel of John (The Jubilee Bible has the right emphasis by capitalizing “I AM ”):

John 6:35 – “I AM the bread of life; he that comes 
         to Me shall never hunger, and he that believes in me 
         shall never thirst. John 8:12 – “I AM the light of the world; he that fol-
         lows Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the 
         light of life.John 10:9 – “I AM the door; whosoever enters in by Me 
         shall be saved and shall go in and out and find pasture.John 10:11 – “I AM the good shepherd; the good shepherd 
         gives His life for the sheep.John 11:25 – “I AM the resurrection and the life; he that 
         believes in Me, though he is dead, yet shall he live....John 14:6 – “I AM the way, the truth, and the life; no 
         one comes unto the Father, but by Me.John 15:1, 5 – “I AM the true vine, and My Father is the 
         husbandman....I AM the vine, ye are the branches: he that 
         abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much 
         fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing.
  • But there is more in John’s Gospel (Jubilee Bible):
     John 8:24 – “...if ye do not believe that I AM, ye shall 
         die in your sins....We are cautioned to believe that 
         Jesus Christ is the very Jehovah God of the Old Testament! 

     John 8:28 – “When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then 
         ye shall know that I AM....The crucifixion and resur-
         rection prove Jesus is Jehovah God!

     John 8:58 – “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abra-
         ham was, I AM.”  Abraham lived 2,000 years before, but 
         Jesus was already the self-existing Jehovah God, forever 
         before Abraham!
  • The Jubilee Bible also capitalizes “I AM ” as Jesus applies it to Himself in Matthew 14:27; 22:32; Mark 6:50; 12:26; 13:6; 14:62; and Luke 22:70.
  • The Sadducees believed “…there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit…” (Acts 23:8). In Luke 20:37 and 38 Jesus refuted their theological error concerning the resurrection by quoting Exodus 3:15:
     Now even Moses showed in the bush passage that the dead are 
     raised, when he called the Lord “the God of Abraham, the God 
     of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  For He is not the God of the 
     dead but of the living, for all live unto Him.

I AM…the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…” (Exodus 3:6 – Jubilee Bible).

I AM,” not “I was.For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, 
         for all live unto Him...,” and all will either live 
         (or exist) throughout eternity, experiencing eternal 
         life with the Lord, or existing in eternal death in 
         Hell!

      It is as if God is saying in Exodus 3:15 concerning 
         Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,Though these three partri-
         archs died physically long ago, to Me, they are still 
         very much alive...and always will be!” (see Luke 16:
         23-25). 

What does all this mean for us today?

  • Whatever characteristics we read of God, either in the Old Testament of the New – He is still the same! And upon this we can depend!
  • Considering all the I AM’s in John’s Gospel, it is as Paul said in Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
  • As Christians, we are headed for an amazing future!
...absent from the body [is] to be present with the 
         Lord.” (II Corinthians 5:8).

     ✞   Jesus, at the resurrection of believers,...will 
         transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to 
         His glorious body, according to the working by which 
         He is able even to subdue all things to Himelf.” 
         (Philippians 3:21).

     And thus we shall always be with the Lord...” (I 
         Thessalonians 4:17), with our Christian loved ones 
         in His eternal kingdom!

Praise God!
He is
I AM !

“My Name Is Elohim!”

Genesis 1:1

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

The featured Scripture is the very first verse vin the Bible – Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew word for God in this opening verse is אֱלֹהִים (Elohim or Elohiym – pronounced el-o-heem’). Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Definitions tell us it is a “plural intensive [word with a]…singular meaning.” The note on Genesis 1:1 in the New Scofield Reference Bible says, “Elohim…, the first of the names of Deity, is a plural noun in form but is singular in meaning when it refers to the true God.” The Genesis 1:1 note goes on to direct one to consider Genesis 1:26 and 27, explaining these verses thus:

  • Genesis 1:26 – “And God ]Elohim[ said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness….Scofield notes, “Emphasis in Genesis 1:26 is on the plurality in Deity….The plural form of the word suggests the Trinity…,” as do the words ‘us’ and ‘our’ in verse 26. Some say that these plural pronouns refer to a conference between God and angelic beings! But this view may just reveal a prejudicial mindset against the concept of the Trinitarian God!
  • Genesis 1:27 – “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” This verse emphasizes the One true God,…the unity of the divine Substance.” (Scofield).

Is it any wonder that even the brightest of Bible scholars cannot fully explain the concept of…One God in three Persons! And cults such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) deal with the issue by denying that the true God even exists as a Trinity!

The Encyclopedia of Gods by Michael Jordan (not the basketball player!) lists 2,500 dieties! But the number is far greater! The Shinto religion alone claims there are eight million gods (kami – spirits of ancesters and spirits behind elements of the landscape and forces of nature) who can influence natural and human events! But there is revealed from three sources that there is one God in plurality!

Nature (creation):

     ✡   Psalm 19:1-4 (International Standard Version) – “The 
          heavens are declaring the glory of God, and their ex-
          panse shows the work of his hands.  Day after day they 
          pour forth speech, night after night they reveal know-
          ledge.  There is no speech nor are there words—their 
          voice is not heard—yet their message goes out into all 
          the world, and their words to the ends of the earth.

Saint Paul takes this statement from Psalm 19 to reveal just how explicit is this general revelation.’ In Romans 10:9, he gets very specific: “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Then he goes on in Romans 10:14 and 15 to address the problem of those who have not heard the good news of Jesus. But Paul makes a startling statement in verse 18:But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed….” And then he quotes part of the ‘general revelation’ Scripture from Psalm 19: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

I interpret it this way: All creation, if we will hear it, is shouting out the news that Jesus Christ is the risen Lord, in whom we must confess our saving heart faith!

     Romans 1:18-20 – “...the wrath of God is revealed from 
         heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of 
         men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because 
         what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God 
         has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the 
         world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being 
         understood by the things that are made, even His eternal 
         power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.

In other words, no one can stand before God and say, I never heard! No one ever told me about Jesus!They are without excuse!

  • Scripture: There is no revelation more specific and detailed than that which God has given to man to be written in our Bible! As it says in II Timothy 3:16 and 17:
   All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profit-
   able for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruc-
   tion in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, 
   thoroughly equipped for every good work.
  • The testimony of the redeemed: While this is the most subjective of the three proofs, it can a be very powerful ‘proof ’ of God’s work among, in and through human beings!
     ✡   Psalm 9:14 – “...that I may tell of all Your praise....”

     ✡   Psalm 26:7 – “...that I may proclaim with the voice 
          of thanksgiving, and tell of Your wonderful works.”

     ✡   Psalm 39:4 – “...that I may know how frail I am.”

     ✡   Psalm 56:13 – “...that I may walk before God in the 
          light of the living.”

     ✡   Psalm 106:5 – “...that I may see the benefit of Your 
          chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of 
          Your nation, that I may glory with your inheritance.”

     ✡   Psalm 119:17 – “...that I may live and keep Your word.”

     ✡   Psalm 119:18 – “...that I may see wonderous things 
          from Your law.”

     ✡   Psalm 119:73 – “...that I may learn Your commandments.”

     ✡   Psalm 119:125 – “...that I may know Your testimonies.”

     ✡   Psalm 142:7 – “...that I may praise Your name....Romans 1:11 – “...that I may impart to you some spir-
          itual gift....Romans 15:32 – “...that I may come to you with joy....Ephesians 6:19 – “...that I may open my mouth boldly 
          to make known the mysteries of the gospel.Philippians 3:10 – “...that I may know Him and the 
          power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His 
          sufferings, being conformed to His death, if...I may 
          attain to the resurrection of the dead.Philippians 3:12 – “...that I may lay hold of that 
          for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.II Timothy 1:4 – “...that I may be filled with joy....

So how important is it to believe there is One God in Three Persons?

  • God the Father – When Christians refer to ‘God,most often they are thinking of God the Father! Here is what the writer of Hebrews says about this First Person of the Trinity in Hebrews 11:1 and 6:
   Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the 
   evidence of things not seen....But without faith it is 
   impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must 
   believe that He is ]that He exists[, and that He is a 
   rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. 

This does not mean that the Father is the primary God! Theologically, the three Persons of the Godhead are described as being ‘co-equal ’! For instance, in Philippians 2:6 (God’s Word to the nations), “Although He [Jesus] was in the form of God and equal with God, He did not take advantage of this equality.

  • God the Son – When He ministered upon earth for three and a half years, Jesus was in total subjection to the Father! He said the same in John 8:28 (International Standard Version): “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM, and that I do nothing on My own authority. Instead, I speak only what the Father has taught Me.

Even into eternity, Scripture tells us that Jesus will be in subjection to the Father! Here is I Corinthians 15:24 through 28:

   Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God 
   the Father; when He puts an end to all rule and authority 
   and power. For He must reign, till He has put all enemies 
   under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is 
   death. For “He has put all things under his feet.” But 
   when He says, “all things are put under Him,” it is evi-
   dent that He [the Father] who put all things under Him 
   [the Son] is excepted. Now when all things are made sub-
   ject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject 
   to Him [the Father] who put all things under Him, that 
   God may be all in all. 

When I was a pastor in my first church and without a lot of experience, I was interacting with a young man who was a new follower of Jesus. But he did not believe that Jesus was God! I was preparing to correct him when an older man, who had for some years believed in the Lord, cautioned me to leave him alone! At least he is following Jesus,” was the advice I received. I regret that I followed his leading! Why? Because of what Jesus Himself said in John 8:24 (Jubilee Bible): “Therefore I said unto you that ye shall die in your sins, for if ye do not believe that I AM, ye shall die in your sins.” (see Exodus 3:14, 15 where God introduced Himself to Moses as I AM). He was saying, “If you don’t believe that I AM the very God of the Old Testament, you will not have eternal life!

It is only the sinless God who could offer Himself to be the perfect sacrifice to pay for [to expunge] our sins!

  • God the Holy Spirit – The Bible presents Him as a Person – and as God! For He has the same thinking and emotions both as a person and as the Father and the Son!
    Ephesians 4:30 – “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of 
         God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.He can be grieved!

      Acts 7:51 – “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and 
         ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your 
         ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!He can 
         be resisted!

     Acts 5:3, 4 – “Annias, why has Satan filled your heart 
         to lie to the Holy Spirit....You have not lied to men, 
         but to God.He can be lied to!

     Luke 12:10 – “And everyone who speaks a word against the 
         Son of Man will be forgiven, but to him who blasphemes 
         against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.He 
         can be blasphemed!

     I Thessalonians 5:19 (Good News Bible) – “Do not restrain 
         the Holy Spirit.”  He can be restrained!

     I Corinthians 2:10, 11 – “...the Spirit searches all things, 
         yes, the deep things of God....no one knows the things of 
         God except the Spirit of God.”  He searches the mind of God!

     I John 2:27 (Good News Bible) – “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....He teaches believers!

      Romans 8:26 (English Standard Version) – “Likewise the 
         Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what 
         to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes 
         for us with groanings too deep for words.He searches 
         our minds and prays for us!

      John 6:63 – “It is the Spirit who gives life....He 
         gives us Spiritual life!

     Ephesians 1:13, 14 – “...having believed, you were sealed 
         with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of 
         our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased pos-
         session....He is our seal that we are God’s!

     John 14:16, 17 – Jesus said, “...I will pray the Father, 
         and He will give you another Helper [another just like 
         Jesus], that He may abide with you forever, even the 
         Spirit of truth....He is just like Jesus, so much so 
         that the Lord could say, “I will not leave you as orphans; 
         I will come to you....” (John 14:18). 

The Holy Spirit is not like that which is taught by…

  • …the Jehovah’s Witnesses who teach in their book, The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life, page 24:
    As for the 'Holy Spirit' the so-called ' third Person of the 
    Trinity,' we have already seen that it is not a person, but 
    God's active force.  John the Baptist said that Jesus would 
    baptize with holy spirit even as John had been baptizing with 
    water.  Water is not a person nor is the holy spirit a person
    ....(the apostles) all became filled with holy spirit.  Were 
    they 'filled' with a person?  No, but they were filled with 
    God's active force.
  • Mormonism teaches that “Jesus Christ, a little babe like all the rest of us have been, grew to be a man, was filled with a divine substance or fluid, called the Holy Spirit” (Key to Theology, Parley P. Pratt, p. 38).

True Christianity teaches the reality of the Trinity, God in three Persons – Elohim!

God the Father!
God the Son!
God the Holy Spirit!-

Levi, A Despised Sinner!

Mark 2:13-17

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

Our Pastor Matthew delivers a great sermon each Sunday. I take notes because there is hardly a single presentation from which I don’t learn something new! Most of the time I heartily agree with him. Last Sunday, his featured Scripture was Mark 2:13 through 17. There is only one point he made about which I would differ. It was a point that did not affect the sound preparation my pastor put into that sermon. But I thought that difference just might make for a good Gem subject.

Here is a shortened version of Mark 2:13 through 17:

     ...[Jesus] went out again by the sea [of Galilee], and all 
     the multitude came to Him, and He taught them.  And as He 
     passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the 
     tax office, and said to him, “Follow Me.”  And he arose and 
     followed Him.  Now...as He was dining in Levi’s house...many 
     tax collectors and sinners sat together with Jesus....And 
     when the scribes and Pharisees saw...they said to His dis-
     ciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collec-
     tors and sinners?”  When Jesus heard it, He said to them, 
     “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those 
     who are sick.  I did not come to call the righteous, but 
     sinners, to repentance.”

First, let me highlight what Pastor Matthew preached, some of which I hadn’t thought about before:

  • Verse 13 (this point was new to me) – “[Jesus] went out again by the sea [of Galilee], and all the multitude came to Him….But not all the multitude was there! For Levi (also known as Matthew – see Matthew 9:9) was still …sitting at the tax office.” (Matthew 2:14).
  • This call of Levi took place in Capernaum (see Mark 2:1). Capernaum, located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, was the home of Peter and Andrew, and (apparenlty) James and John (see Mark 1:29), for “…they were partners with Simon [Peter]….” (Luke 5:10).
  • Their partnership business was fishing, because the Sea of Galilee was a body of water full of fish!
     Mark 1:16 – “As [Jesus]...walked by the Sea of Galilee, 
         He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into 
         the sea, for they were fishermen.Mark 1:19 – “When He had gone a little further from there, 
         He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who 
         were also in the boat mending their nets.
  • A tax collector was in the employ of the Jews’ hated overlords, the Romans! The tax collector himself was a Jewish man who had bought the office from Rome, which entitled him to collect taxes from his fellow Jews. But whatever he could collect (swindle) above and beyond the required Roman taxes, was his to keep!
       Many, if not most, tax collectors were wealthy.  They 
         had made their money at the expense of their fellow 
         Jews!

     Consequently, tax collectors were classed with the worst 
         of sinners, and hated by those they exploited! (see Mark 
         2:16; Luke 18:9-14).
  • (This point was also new to me.) Most likely, there was a tax, a duty on the fish caught in the Sea of Galilee when they were brought to shore. So Levi (Matthew) had probably collected taxes from Peter and Andrew, and James’ and John’s father Zebedee, who ran the family business!
     ✞   Levi was probably initially despised by these four dis-
         ciples who were called by Jesus just before He called 
         the tax collector to follow Him.

      Did the other disciples have to learn to forgive and 
         accept Levi?  Do we have to forgive and accept some 
         people who have wronged us, but now are brothers and 
         sisters in the Lord with us?  What did Jesus say?

     Luke 17:3-4 – “Take heed to yourselves.  If your 
              brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he 
              repents, forgive him.  And if he sins against you 
              seven times in a day, and seven times in a day 
              returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall for-
              give him.John 13:34, 35 – “A new commandment I give to you, 
              that you love one another; as I have loved you, 
              that you also love one another.  By this all will 
              know that you are My disciples, if you have love 
              for one another.✞   No wonder...the apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase 
         our faith...! (Luke 17:5).
  • Levi threw a big party at his house! Remember, as a tax collector He could afford it.
     The party was to honor Jesus, and to celebrate the new 
         direction Levi’s life had just taken – following the 
         Lord!

     Mark 2:15 – “...in Levi’s house...many tax collectors and 
         sinners sat together with Jesus and His disciples....   ➔   Levi invited those with whom he regularly asso-
              ciated!  

         ➔   Shouldn’t we do the same?  “Hey, come and see what 
              I have found – eternal life, full life in Jesus!”

Now, let’s get to the one point in my Pastor Matthew’s Sunday morning sermon on which I disagreed:

  • He thinks the reason why Levi did not join the multitude to hear what Jesus was teaching, but sat in his tax office, was because Levi was totally taken up with his business of collecting taxes and making himself rich! He could not be bothered with distractions! That is a possibility, but…
  • I believe Levi was so ostracized by his fellow Jews, he was not about to put himself in a position to be looked down upon and reviled as a terrible tax collector and sinner! I think he was deeply ashamed of his profession, and didn’t want to be reminded of who he had turned out to be!
  • Then there is this in the Gospel of John:
     John 1:4 and 5 (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible) – 
         “In Him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of 
         men; and the light shines in the darkness, and the dark-
         ness did not overtake it.John 3:19 and 20 – “...this is the condemnation, that 
         light has come into the world, and men loved darkness 
         rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For 
         everyone practicing evil hates the light, and does not 
         come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

But “…the light of the world…” (John 8:12; 9:5) came to Levi and called him, personally! And by responding to God’s call, the despised tax collector found light, life, cleansing, purpose, and direction! According to tradition, Levi ministered in Judea, then to Ethiopia (south of the Caspian Sea, not the country in Africa), Persia, Macedonia, and Syria. He may have been martyred in an eastern country, but that is more legend than fact.

What legacy did Levi give for Christians today?

  • A wonderfully informative Gospel, the first book in the New Testament!
  • The model of a faithful disciple of our Lord Jesus!
  • An example of one who did not allow the negative perception of himself to deter him from finding light and new life in Christ!

Little Sinner, Big Sinner!

Romans 3:9-18

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

Paul doesn’t pull any punches! He tells it like it is! Such is the case in Romans 3:9 through 18:

     ...both Jews and Greeks...are all under sin. As it is 
     written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is 
     none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. 
     They have all turned aside; they have together become un-
     profitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. 
     Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they 
     have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their 
     lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their 
     feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are 
     in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. 
     There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

The phrase “Jews and Greeks” is simply the New Testament way of saying, “Everybody.” ‘Greeks’ is a term that means everybody who isn’t a Jew! So the apostle is saying, everyone is a sinner! And he’s not the only one in the Bible who states that truth! A sampling:

  • Ecclesastes 7:20 – “…there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.
  • Isaiah 64:6 – “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses [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.
  • Romans 5:12 – “…death spread to all…because all sinned….
  • Galatians 3:22 – “…the Scripture has confined all under sin….

So we are all sinners! But, you might say, nobody is perfect! The problem is, I have met people who make light of sin, who might tell me, “Oh yes, I have sinned. Why I remember that in fourth grade I stole a pencil off the desk of another student!It makes me want to scream,Is that it? Is that the only sin you have ever committed? Have you been sin-free ever since?

Jesus had been invited to dine with a Pharisee named Simon. The meal was served in the courtyard of Simon’s house, a courtyard that was generally open to all who wanted to stop in, even if it was just to see what was going on or who was there.

  • The position assumed by those at the tableis important. For the ‘table’ was most likely a large clean cloth spread on the floor of the courtyard upon which the food was placed. Around that ‘table’ those dining would recline on their left side, supporting their head with their left hand and arm, and eating with the fingers of the right hand. Their feet would be out behind them, away from the ‘table’.
  • Luke 7:37 and 38 – “And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.
  • Luke 7:39 – Pharisees tended to be self-righteous! And Simon was no different!Now when [Simon]…saw this, he said to himself…, ‘This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.’
  • Jesus knew what Simon was thinking! (see John 2:24, 25). So He spoke this parable to him:
     There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One 
     owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when 
     they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave 
     them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love 
     him more? (Luke 7:41, 42).
  • Simon gave the right answer: “I suppose the one he forgave more.” (Luke 7:43).
  • But Simon, apply it now to yourself!
     Jesus...said..., “Simon..., Do you see this woman? I 
     entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, 
     but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped 
     them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, 
     but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since 
     the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with 
     oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant 
     oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, 
     are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little 
     is forgiven, the same loves little.” Then He said to 
     her, “Your sins are forgiven....Your faith has saved 
     you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:40-48, 50).

The picture at the top of this Gem represents how we often see ourselves, compared to what we really are, that is, how God sees us!

  • We are good and saintly people………in our own eyes!
  • But in Jeremiah 17:9, it says from God’s point of view, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?

We dare not tell only the Pharisee Simon to correct his thinking! We must also apply this truth to every one of us! I am not a little sinner! NO! I am a big sinner!

  • I have sinned greatly before God!
  • I have caused pain to the heart of God!
  • I, as much as anyone else, have wounded Jesus Christ!
  • I cost Him His death on the cross to pay for MY sins!
  • Jesus Christ died for ME!

Paul, in Romans 3:19 and 23, adds this piercing statement of conviction: “…that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God….for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…. He does not paint a very pretty picture of who we are, but he gives an accurate view! We are sinful human beings – big sinners! – when we are measured against the righteousness of God! (see Matthew 5:48).

We are told in the Great Commandment of Mark 12:30 to “…love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

  • But if we are only forgiven for a few little sins, we will love God only a little bit!
  • And since Jesus challenged us in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My command-ments.” Or, “If you love Me, obey Me…,if we are only forgiven for a few little sins, we will obey the Lord Jesus Christ only a little bit!

The woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed His feet with precious oil had a lot to be forgiven, for she was a big sinner! But, she heard His words,Your sins are forgiven….Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Luke does not tell us who this woman was. But one thing we can for certain know: Thereafter, she loved Jesus, the Lord her God, with all her heart, with all her soul, with all her mind, and with all her strength – following Him and obeying Him!

Little Sinner, Big Sinner!

Little lover of God, Big lover of God?

Where are you in all this?

Finding God’s Perfect Peace Philippians 4:6, 7

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

It was Saturday, April 7th, 1973. I remember that date clearly because it was the night before our daughter was born. I had been called to pastor the First Baptist Church of Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania just six months earlier, my first pastorate. Hope and I moved into the parsonage two blocks down the hill from the church. That April evening, she was very near delivery of our first child. I left her at the parsonage around 10 pm and walked up to the church to practice delivery of the next morning’s sermon. As I was preaching the sermon to a congregation of empty pews, Hope poked her head into the sanctuary and nervously stated, “The pains are two minutes apart!” I grabbed the sermon copy off the pulpit and ran down the vestibule stairs following my wife to where she had parked our 1963 Plymouth Fury. Saint Mary’s hospital was about 9 miles away over the mountian following Route 255. Heading over the peak and down the other side, I glanced at the speedometer – 110 miles per hour!I’d better slow down,” I muttered to myself. But I didn’t want to help deliver our baby on a dark road in the middle of the night! However, we made it to Saint Mary’s Hospital, and Bethany was born just after midnight on April 8th!

But there was a problem – or several problems:

  • Hope had a mild condition of what may be called Purpura (lack of platelets in the blood that can cause abnormal clotting). A person with severe purpura can bruise easily, capillaries breaking under the skin with the mere touch of a finger on an arm. Hope’s case was so mild that it went undetected.

But under the stress of the birth, when the doctor ordered her to “Push!” she didn’t hold back, and capillaries burst! The reddish dots that covered her face and chest made it look like she had a bad case of measles!

What the doctor didn’t know at the time was that my wife had just burst a thousand capillaries in her brain! She had a thousand mini strokes! Hope was experiencing debillitating headaches! She could not hold her eyes open to the light or lift her head from the pillow without excruciating pain!

  • The doctor did not figure out the problem at first. He could not even tell me if my wife was going to live! And there I was, with a brand new infant daughter, a wife who might be dying, new in town, and far from family! We felt we had little close support, though the church folks tried.
  • Our daughter had been conceived when I was in Bible seminary. We had no medical insurance! Day after day Hope was in a private hospital room, away from light and noise; and Bethany was in the nursery where I could only see her through the class partition.

My pastor’s salary was $96.15 a week, with housing and utilities provided by the church. We had learned to get by on that amount. But what we owed to the hospital was increasing by a hundred dollars a day – a lot of money back in 1973!

For three days after our daughter’s birth, I lived and moved as if I was in an overpowering fog! As a pastor, I tried to do what needed to be done, but my heart was not in it! I was overwhelmed with worry and sadness!

One of the men in our church, Alan, suffered a debilatating stroke some months before I arrived at First Baptist. He had been very active as a church member, and in general happy in an acticve life, but the stroke had left him discouraged and depressed! I would visit Alan and his wife Dorothy often those first six months, trying to encourage and uplift this now sad man. One of the Scripture portions I had committed to memory months before was Philippians 4:6 and 7:

     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 
     understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through
     Christ Jesus.

I shared these two verses more than once with Alan and Dorothy, explaining how it applied to life, especially to the hard times of life, such as that which Alan was experiencing:

  • Verse 6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything….” A negative followed by a positive – this covers anything we might face in life…..even a debilatating stroke!
  • Verse 6 – “…by prayer and supplication….Prayer, in this case, covers praying for the needs of others; while supplication means praying for one’s own needs!
  • Verse 6 – “…with thanksgiving….We are instructed to thank God in everything! Thank God even when it hurts? Why?
     ✞   God’s purpose for all Christians is “...to be confomed to the image of His Son...” Jesus Christ! (Romans 8:29 – see also II Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:21).

      Romans 5:3 through 5 (Bible in Basic English) tells us that we grow good and Godly attributes through troubles:

             And not only so, but let us have joy in our 
             troubles: in the knowledge that trouble gives 
             us the power of waiting; and waiting gives ex-
             perience; and experience, hope: and hope does 
             not put to shame; because our hearts are full 
             of the love of God through the Holy Spirit 
             which is given to us. 

     James 1:2 through 4 teaches us much the same thing:  

             My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into 
             various trials, knowing that the testing of your 
             faith produces patience. But let patience have its 
             perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, 
             lacking nothing.

The only One perfect and complete is Jesus Christ! So various trials, when dealt with properly, make us more and more like Jesus!

  • Verse 6 – “…let your requests be made known to God….” We are to thank God when we make our requests, even before we have an answer to (or a reason for) what we are facing!

Verse 7 – “…and the peace of God…, which comes from God only, so He is the only One who can give it!

  • Verse 7 – “…which surpasses all understanding….” By all our human comprehension, we should not have peace in the midst of what we are particularly facing!
  • Verse 7 – “…will guard your hearts and minds….” In Jewish thinking of Bible times, hearts and minds covers all the emotional and mental workings of an individual. That one would be guarded by being held in divine perfect peace!
  • Verse 7 – “…through Christ Jesus.” A related bold statement (and also something implied) is found in James 1:17 and 18: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” The implication is that all of God’s good gifts are because of Jesus Christ, as well as through Him! (see Romans 8:31, 32).

I knewall this concerning Philippians 4:6 and 7, but in my current situation I was certainly not experiencing, …the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding…! I was feeling (and acting) more like a zombie than a dedicated believer held in miraculous peace!

By the end of the third day, when nothing at the hospital had changed, and the doctor still couldn’t give me assurance that my wife was going to live, I had had it! I knelt at our bedside, and laid my Bible on the bed, opened to Philippians 4:6 and 7. I read those two verses again, and then I battled it out with God!

     God, here I am with Hope and our baby in the hospital, and 
     I don’t even know if my wife is going to live!  How am I 
     supposed to take care of my newborn daughter by myself?  
     And we don’t have insurance, and the bills are piling up!  
     And, God, I’m new here, in town and at this church.  I real-
     ly don’t know anyone very well.  And family is far away.

     Lord, I have been telling Alan about this verse, and how 
     one can have peace in hard situations.  But God, I don’t 
     have any peace!  And if this isn’t true for me also, why 
     is it in the Bible? 

     God, if You don’t give me Your “...peace which surpasses 
     all understanding...,I am never going to tell anyone 
     about this verse again!

And I battled on for about the next hour!

Finally, I crawled into bed……and just lay there and grinned! God’s peace had so encompassed me, that it didn’t matter if Hope lived or died! Of course I wanted my wife to live, but I knew God was in control, and He was going to take care of me!

The next several days, I went about my pastoral duties and my family life with a light heart, confident God was taking care of everything! And…

  • He did give my wife back to me! She had a long recuperation from severe headaches and feeling exhausted. But we will celebrate next November 53 years of a wonderful marriage!
  • Our hospital bill was $800! But the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board of our denomination stepped in and paid half the bill!
  • I have shared with many people in many situations that it is true – the promise of …the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus…. And God’s promises can be trusted!

But sometimes you just have to battle for it!

You Gotta Be Kidding God!

I Thessalonians 5:18;

Philippians 4:6, 7

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

Today’s photo is a five part conglomeration of some of the trials and tribulations the world is facing today:

  • Raging fires often concentrated in our westernmost state of the lower 48.
  • Protest marches too often turned into riots and looting.
  • The Corona virus pandemic that has taken over three million lives worldwide.
  • North Korea’s nuclear threat led by dictator Kim Jung Un.
  • The tragic death of George Floyd that has unleased so much civil unrest.

It is just a sample of some of the problems people face – because, if all the possible trials and tribulations of life were represented, the photo would be a mile long……..or more!

There is a children’s book around our house entitled Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. I had one of those yesterday!

  • A very restless night that, although I was quite tired, produced no sleep at all!
  • A slightly upset stomach that just would not go away!
  • Computer problems! I still cannot figure out why my printer will not print from either of my computers! By the way, I spent almost two hours trying to solve the problem the evening before – to no avail!
  • I finally found, after much searching, a long USB cord to bypass my bluetooth hookup to the printer to see if that will make the stubborn thing print! Upon trying to connect the printer to the computer, I discovered I did not have the needed USB cord, but a useless something that only looked like what I needed!
  • I called for tech assistance from a local computer store. The tech was out, but the store manager promised to have him call ASAP! He never called!
  • A misunderstanding with a friend only added to my aggravation!

And now to our featured Scriptures:

  • Philippians 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God….

Well, yesterday I got the first two words right –Be anxious…! And I did shoot a few prayers to God, letting my…requests be made known…”! However, I stopped way short of the next two words: …with thanksgiving…!

     You mean to say, Lord, that in everything – EVERTHING! – I am 
     supposed to include thanksgiving?  And I am supposed to do this 
     even before my prayers (desperate pleadings) are even answered, 
     with no idea of how You are going to respond?  You gotta be 
     kidding, God!
  • I Thessalonians 5:18 – “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

There are those words again, “In everything….” And the last half of the verse that Saint Paul penned (remember, according to I Corinthians 11:23, II Corinthians 12:1 through 4, and other Scriptures as well, the apostle had some pretty impressive direct connections with God), the last half says to…give thanks…[i]n everything…is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you…,for ME! And I can’t escape another verse I have preached to others as, “the most important prayer a Christian can pray.” (see April 29, 2013 Gem). In Luke 22:42, as Jesus faced the imminent crucifixion, the torture of the beatings, whipping, being nailed to the cross – plus the pure and holy Savior being made sin for us (see II Corinthians 5:21) – He prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.

In everything give thanks..., not just some things that are 
     presently pleasant? “...give thanks...” even for the stuff 
     that hurts, that is frustrating, that is humiliating, that 
     breaks my heart, that is just downright nasty?  You gotta be 
     kidding, God! 

No, I am not kidding!” And in the verses following our featured Scriptures, as well as others throughout the Bible, God tells us why He is not kidding!

  • Philippians 4:7 – “…and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I learned this truth early on when our daughter was born and my wife almost died. I will write a Gem about what happened and what I learned sometime in the near future.

You see, the peace of God guarding our hearts and minds can be much more important than the answer to our most desperate prayer! The answer may be on its way, but our lives could be in great turmoil before the answer arrives! Often such peace surpasses all understanding.Wow! Nothing has outwardly changed! God hasn’t answered my prayer…yet! But I have this perfect peace, and I know it will be ok! I don’t know why or how, but I have peace about it!

  • Philippians 4:9 – “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.Never mind that it doesn’t make sense to our finite minds! We do what we are instructed to do, and God will do what only He can!
  • I Thessalonians 5:12 through 17 and 19 through 22 – These ten short verses surround the featured Scripture of verse 18 (above) with a lot more instruction for Christian living than “In everything give thanks….
      And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor 
      among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 
      and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's 
      sake. Be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, 
      brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the faint-
      hearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that 
      no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue 
      what is good both for yourselves and for all....Rejoice 
      always, pray without ceasing, Do not quench the Spirit. 
      Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast 
      what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.  

So how are we supposed to fulfill all this stuff? I have enough trouble with just verse 18! Well, there is one more important verse, I Thessalonians 5:24, “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.We don’t have to generate all that which is listed in the twelve verses from I Thessalonians 5:12 through 22!He…will do it…! This reminds me of another of my favorite verses featured in the March 13, 2013 Gem, A Little Help Here, Please!” Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.He gives us the want to do itas well as what it takes todo it! And nothing is that hard to do when we really want to do it!

So, Chip (yes, that’s me reminding myself), the next time you have Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, give thanks to God for even the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad things going on! Because…

God doesn’t kid around!