To a group of discouraged Jewish leaders and workers, who had abandoned their God-assignment for nearly 15 years, God sends a word through his prophet describing the finale or the dedication service. The word was that Zerubbabel, you are going to complete the task that you started, not by your might or power, but only by my Spirit.
1. The beginning – Cyrus’ proclamation after 70 year captivity you are free, now go and build God’s house in Jerusalem.
2. The altar – start with worship to the God who brought you out.
3. The foundation – as of yet, there is no foundation for God’s house. The work has not yet begun. You must start the work God has assigned you to. This is worthy of a celebration when you break ground on what God has assigned you to (Ezra 3:8-10).
4. The opposition – the adversary is faithful to show up to any true work of God (Ezra 4:1).
5. The frustration of purpose only designed to STOP THE WORK (Ezra 4:4).
6. The work ceases – inspired by the adversary, the king issued a STOP WORK DECREE (Ezra 4:22).
7. Work of the prophets – God send Haggai and Zechariah to prophesy his message. Zerubbabel and Joshua RESUMED THE WORK that had been stalled for 15 years now (INACTIVITY) (Ezra 5:1-2. What happens when things go inactive?
8. Not yet finished – the adversary sent word to the king, or a PROGRESS REPORT, and he was CONCERNED about it. But the bottom line still is that the work was NOT YET FINISHED (Ezra 5:16).
9. The 2nd Proclamation – DON’T MESS WITH THE WORK OF GOD (Ezra 6:6). Notice the king had the good sense to know the need for the house of God: 1) may offer pleasing sacrifices (praise) to the God of heaven, and 2) prayers be made for the king and his sons (Ezra 6:9-10).
10. The finished work – in the end, was it the decrees of the kings or the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah that got the project moving again? The verse say, “The Jews built and prospered through the PROPHESYING OF HAGGAI and ZECHARIAH. They FINISHED THEIR WORK by the decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes” (Ezra 6:14-15). So the decree of King Cyrus propelled some of the Jews to return home and start the work, and later, after their adversaries stirred up King Artaxerxes to halt the work until further word came from him. Then Darius decrees a second time for the work to resume and tells Tattenai, the governor of the province beyond the River, to “keep away” and “let the work on this house of God alone” (Ezra 6:6-7).
Then Haggai shows best how the prophets message caused the discouraged group who returned from Babylon to build the temple to get moving again. His account says, “… the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God sent him.” When Haggai spoke the Lord’s message to the people, “The Lord stirred up spirit of Zerubbabel,” and Joshua, and of “all remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God” (Hag. 2:13-14). Also, Haggai 2 shows how the people were operating under a curse for their disobedience to God’s command to rebuild his house, and then indicates that something changed with by use of the words “from this day on, I will bless you” in verses 15-19.
What unfinished Assignments do we need to resume?
Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be ESTABLISHED; believe his prophets and you will SUCCEED (prosper) (2 Chron. 20:20).
It is interesting to read the commentaries on who the two olive trees beside the golden lampstand are in Zechariah’s vision of chapter 4. Some of the tops candidates are: Zechariah and Haggai, Zerubbabel and Joshua, or possibly angels assigned to assist in the work. It is interesting to note that Rev. 11:4 says that the two infamous witnesses that breathe out fire to consume their opponents and even shut up the rain during the days of their prophesying in the last days are “the two olive trees and the two lamp stands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” When God warns the Church of Ephesus that if they don’t repent, their lampstand will be removed. This most likely refers to God’s representative or leader to the church rather than an angel.
This leads me to believe that the prophets assigned to the work were most likely the one who Zechariah was referring to since they were God’s mouthpieces speak his message to the people. That’s why the above verse leads me to conclude that when we truly “believe his prophets,” we too shall “prosper.” This verse is often used to show how that believing the word of the prophet will bring about prosperity to the ones who receive the message. I agree with that; however, putting it altogether, we must include that the word of the prophet would never say, “From this day forward, I will bless you” if you have unfinished work that God has assigned you to. But it does say, that as we RESUME THE work that God has assigned us to, God will also RESUME the blessing with our name on it! Actually, if you read the details of the 2nd decree from King Darius, that blessing will “be paid to these men in full and without delay” (Ezra 6:8).
Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof: Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. Luke 7:6-9
I have often pondered what the centurion said that prompted Jesus to rank his faith as great. I have heard this account of Jesus healing of the centurion’s servant used to show how receiving healing by the word of God alone is greater than receiving healing by the laying on of hands or when the gifts of healing go in operation. While I totally agree with that statement, the Centurion seemed to have some behind the scenes information about healing that caught Jesus’ attention that day.
Let’s recap what the centurion said. First, he said he was not worthy for Jesus to come under his roof, nor that he should come unto Jesus. In Sunday School this week, the commentary went into great lengths to explain the meaning behind the centurion’s statement and the accolades given by the Jewish community on behalf of the centurion. The Jewish community was quite found of the centurion because he had built them a synagogue and thought that Jesus should pay him a house call to heal the servant that was so dear to him. Luke contrasted their sentiments with how the centurion thought himself not even be worthy of such a visit. While it is certainly helpful to know that any Gentile was deemed ceremonially unclean and not permitted to enter beyond a certain point in the Temple, I don’t think that is the point here. None of this stopped the centurion’s faith from working! I think the centurion recognized that Jesus was the Son of God and that a genuine humble approach to Jesus was the best place to start. Otherwise, the rest of what he had to say about authority would make absolutely no sense.
The remainder of what the centurion said is an amazing looking into what is actually going on when the word of faith is spoken. After he properly acknowledged the Son of God and approached him with proper respect, he said that it was not even necessary for him to pay him a house call. He knew all that was necessary was for Jesus to simply say the word, or issue the command, and his servant would be healed. Secondly, he said, I understand authority because I have servants under me. I tell them what to do and they do it. This is where the analogy usually broke down for me. The centurion’s authority structure seems to be a friendly one since he counted the sick servant so dear and valuable to him. Although, I don’t imagine he would have counted any servant so dear if they had not have carried out his orders so swiftly. Romans were known to be intolerant of such subordination.
On the other hand, when Jesus explains what actually goes on in the authority structure in the realm of the spirit, it doesn’t sound so friendly. In Luke 10, Jesus authorizes 70 disciples to go out heal the sick and announce that “the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you” (Luke 10:11). The disciples return with this report: “Lord, even the devils are subject to us through thy name” (Luke 10:17). Do you see the difference? The centurion had servants on his team and the devils certainly are not on Jesus’ team. But the correlation is obviously not on the team but on the authority or the command being issued. This is made clear in account of the demon possessed man among the tombs in Matthew chapter 8. When Jesus came near, note what the devils requested: “If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.” Jesus said one word to them, “Go” (Matt. 8:31-32). That pretty much sums up what the centurion was saying, doesn’t it? Although the demons are not working for Jesus by any means, he still has authority over them. Jesus knew this, and the demons knew it.
Apparently, the centurion had heard enough about Jesus’ ministry or had observed it enough to make such a correlation between him issuing a command to his servants and Jesus exercising his authority over the culprits of sickness and disease telling them to go! The following scripture gives a clear explanation of Jesus’ healing ministry: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth, with the Holy Ghost and power, who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil for God was with him” (Acts 10:38). There are many others places where the same idea can be found if you follow Jesus through the pages of the Gospels. So great faith, as Jesus so defined it, is taking God solely at his word, but also it is knowing that sickness and disease, and the demons causing them, are subject to the name of Jesus. Let’s rise to great faith and put the devil on the run, for when the command is given in faith, he has no choice but to obey!
Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. Matt. 11:11-13
The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. Luke 16:16
From these verses it is clear that John the Baptist marked the end of something old and Jesus the beginning of something new. John’s entire purpose was to prepare the way of the Lord and announce that he had indeed arrived. Not only did he announce the coming of the Lord, but he announced that the Kingdom of God was at hand (Matt. 3:2). When John saw Jesus (the one whom the Spirit would descend upon like a dove and remain), he cried, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John representing the Old Testament, passed the baton to Jesus who represents and is the New Testament! Concerning the Kingdom of God, Jesus announced, “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, THEN the kingdom of God is come unto you” (Matt. 12:28). Later he said that the kingdom did not come by observation but “the kingdom of God was within” (Luke 17:21).
There were other distinguishing factors to be learned from John’s message and Jesus’. Although there was no greater than John born among women, he that was least “in the kingdom of heaven” was greater than John. We have to conclude that although John announced the kingdom’s arrival, he was not in it. (This is the same conclusion we arrived at when John explained that he was the “friend of the bridegroom” ant not the bride (John 3:29). This does not mean that John and the Old Testament saints won’t make it in. No, John marks the end of the old dispensation and Jesus marks the beginning of the new dispensation, or this marks a new way that God is dealing with mankind through his Son, Jesus Christ.)
Also from Jesus’ ethical teachings, we see that in order for one to ENTER the kingdom of heaven, their righteousness must EXCEED that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). That was a pretty tall order! From this we have two major keys: first the kingdom of God must be entered, and second the criteria for entering had to do with a superior righteousness.
Jesus gives yet another clue for entering the kingdom of God. When the disciples sent away those that sought for Jesus to bless their little ones, he was much displeased. He told them concerning these little ones, that “such was the kingdom of God” and that “whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:14-15). So we see that there is something that comes so natural for little children that we older ones must dust off and put back into practice. You don’t have to go far in Scripture to find the two most sought after qualities demonstrated by kids: the first one, mentioned here, deals with childlike faith required to receive the kingdom, and the second is their ability to take an insult or offense and bounce back in no time as if it had never happened (1 Cor. 14:20).
So now we have righteousness, faith, and love as qualities needed to enter the kingdom of God. Here is a good example of how Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom comes back full circle to Paul’s more familiar teaching’s on the new birth and the Church. As one commentator explained, the term “kingdom of God” was Jewish expression, and one that was unfamiliar and possibly misleading to the Gentile. Matthew, Mark, and Luke used the term quite extensively. Paul and John, however, used other terms to express the same concept. In studying the New Testament, it is very helpful to keep in mind who the Gospel or letter was addressed to.
The quality of righteousness will help bridge the gap for those of us who spend the majority of our time in the epistle. First, one must remember that righteousness is a gift from God (Rms. 5:17). It can only be received and never earned by our own merits. Secondly, the righteousness of God is “revealed from faith to faith” (Rms. 1:17). In other words, this righteousness of God is receive only by faith, and it in turn provides the basis for you to relate to God and produce more faith. Righteousness means to be in right relationship with God. Faith is all about our relationship, not about acquiring stuff! Receiving things from God is just a by-product.
That leaves us with the God-quality of love. How does that tie in with righteousness? John distinguishes between the children of God and the devil, “He that commits sin is of the devil,” and “Whoever is born of God doth not commit sin” (1 John 3:8-9). John peels this onion even further. First he says, “Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God.” Then he adds, “Neither he that loveth not his brother.” These two, righteousness and loving your brother, have been made equal by association.
This again checks with what Jesus taught when he explained what the greatest commandment was. The first and greatest commandment is: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37). The second greatest commandment is: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:39). On these two, Jesus said, “hang all the law and the prophets.” Love is the fulfillment of the law (Rms. 13:8). Jesus met the righteous requirement of the Law by demonstrating greater love (John 15:13, Rms. 8:3-4 ESV). Now we are required by the new commandment to “believe on the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another” (1 John3:23).
Next we will look at what all the violence is about.
During the 400 years between Malachi and the first Gospel, Matthew, Antiochus IV from Syria, who was a committed Hellenist,1 enters the land to find division over the priesthood among the Jews. He commits the ultimate sacrilege when he came back to Jerusalem, after failed war efforts in Egypt, in a rage to stomp out the temple worship and the Jewish religion. (more…)
You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him. Deut. 18:21, 22
Speaking on the subject of whether or not a prophet is true, we often refer to the Old Testament litmus test above, did what the prophet say come to pass? We know further from the New Testament that every word out of the prophet's mouth should be judged (1 Cor. 14:29). What do we judge the prophecy by? Every thing should always be judged by the Word of God. Notice the agreement with the Spirit and the Word in these verses:
For there are three that bear record in Heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three agree in one. 1 John 5:7, 8
There is another part of the Old Testament prophet validity test that we often overlook, and one that we must implement today if we are to stay on track. (more…)
Recently, after studying on being established in Righteousness, a phrase from a song was playing in my spirit – "At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." (Ps 16:11) We talk about the "In His presence is the fullness of joy" part of that scripture, but not much is said about at His right hand!
God said, "At thy right hand there are pleasures forever more!" Obviously being the peculiar people that we are, we don't take pleasure in the same things that the world does:
…choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life. Luke 8:14
… lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. 2 Tim 3:4
… than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. Heb 11:25
I heard a catchy phrase in a song today about prayer, “When God’s people pray …. we take the pains of earth to the doors of heaven.” As with many songs today, they sound good on the surface, but they do not line up with God’s Word. That kind of talk is sure to get a tear or a hearty “amen” in most any church services, but will it get your prayer answered?
I don’t want to present myself as one that never “tells God all about my problems,” but I have to be honest, most times at best the crying usually just makes me feel better, and does nothing to the problem. Now you know, if I made a song like, “Don’t tell God about your problem, but tell him about the solution” it probably wouldn’t make the top 10! (more…)