God’s great mercy………

chesed love

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them.  ~  Genesis 1:27

That has become one of my favorite verses lately.  It’s our blueprint… our original design.  No matter what mankind may look like on the outside, no matter what sins we may commit, this is truly who we were created to be and how God sees us – because He always sees us according to our potential in Him.   The very first man walked in that design, and all mankind afterward were supposed to walk in the same pattern.  But although Adam was created in that design and walked in it for at least a few days, he sinned and introduced sin and consequently death into the world.

All men born after him were born in Adam’s likeness and image instead of God’s.  Genesis 5:3 “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth”.  All mankind was born into sin. Made in Adam’s likeness and image – one of sin and death. Romans 5:19 “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners….”  Man isn’t a sinner because he sins, he is a sinner through birth.   Sin in the Greek is hamartia and means to miss the mark.  To sin is to behave out of tune with God’s original harmony.  It is to believe a lie about ourselves.  It is to miss out on sonship.  Sonship is our blueprint… our true, original, chosen design.  Ephesians 1:5 “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…”

Even when the Law was introduced, mankind was still a sinner.  No matter how good he was morally, he could never fulfill the requirements of the law and be made righteous.  The Law simply revealed sin and made mankind aware of his lost state.  Man was unable to save himself — the Law revealed that he needed a Savior! God’s timing was absolutely perfect.

He always had a plan to redeem us.  He had found us in Christ before He lost us in Adam!  Ephesians 1:4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.”  He always loved us too much to leave us in such a wretched state…. He never abandoned His creation!  Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God’s great mercy is far reaching and ALL encompassing.  Just as it took Adam’s one act of sin to condemn all of mankind, it only took Jesus’ one act of righteousness to completely declare all mankind innocent.  Romans 5:18  “So here is the result: as one man’s sin brought about condemnation and punishment for all people, so one man’s act of faithfulness makes all of us right with God and brings us to new life.”  Freely acquitted in the sight of God.  Through Adam we were ALL declared sinners and death reigned in us BUT through Jesus we are ALL declared righteous and life reigns in us.

Jesus’ death and resurrection reconciled us back to God and to our original design of sonship.  Now we are no longer made in Adam’s image and likeness – one of sin and death.  The sin nature has been completely removed and we received a new nature.. a new spirit… His Spirit.  Ezekiel 36:26-27A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.”   

Jesus defeated sin and death ONCE and for ALL.  God did not love us more once we were reconciled.  Reconciliation simply made us free to realize how much He has always loved us and free to enjoy our redeemed original identity — made in His image and in His likeness.  To see ourselves as He sees us — IN CHRIST.  Free to enjoy sonship and all of it’s joys and privileges.  And not just to see ourselves, but our old ways of seeing others is over as well (2 Cor 5:16).  We are now to see everyone through the eyes of our Redeemer.

He has made us ambassadors or ministers of His reconciliation with the world.  Our lives are now to exhibit the urgency of God to persuade everyone to be reconciled to God because Jesus took their life to the Cross in exchange for His resurrected life in them.  He did a finished, completed work on the Cross for ALL mankind.

The language of the Old Covenant… of the old written code was “Do in order to become”.  The language of the New Covenant is “Be, because of what has been done.”  It’s simply a matter of saying yes to God through faith in the shed blood and resurrection of Jesus.  It’s simply a matter of them awakening to their righteousness… of seeing themselves as God already sees them…. IN CHRIST.  So that then they will be able to say “I once was blind, but now I see.”

God’s great mercy for mankind is seen in the riches of His goodness toward us and His absolute passionate refusal to let us go.  His Covenant love for us is because continues to hear the echo of His image and His likeness in us.

I love the Mirror Translation of Romans 3:23-26:

Humanity is in the same boat; their distorted behavior is proof of a lost blueprint. (24) Jesus Christ is proof of God’s grace gift;  He redeemed the glory of God in human life; mankind condemned is now mankind justified!  (25) Jesus exhibits God’s mercy.  In His blood conciliation God’s faith persuades mankind of His righteousness and the fact that He has brought closure to the historic record of their sins (not by demanding a sacrifice, but providing the sacrifice of Himself).  Jesus is the unveiling of the Father’s heart toward us.  (26) All along God refused to let go of mankind.  At this very moment God’s act of righteousness is pointing them to the evidence of their innocence, with Jesus as the source of their faith.

It is the revelation of God’s goodness that leads men to repentance, not our repentance that leads to God’s goodness.

~ Robin

Naaman the Syrian

naaman the syrian

And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”  When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath   ~ Luke 4:27-28

I started this blog post 2 weeks ago but a death in my immediate family forced me to put my study on hold.  Now that life has resumed back to normal, I’m excited to start blogging once again.  We had been talking about Jesus’ teaching of Isaiah 61:1-2 in the past two blogs (see Jesus is our Jubilee and The widow of Sidon) and the people of Nazareth’s response to His teaching.  He was revealing to them that He had come to be a light and a blessing… to show forth His salvation… to the Gentiles (unbelievers) as well as the Jews.  He was reminding them of their covenant responsibility to co-labor with Him in being a blessing to ALL the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3)…. He had blessed them to be a blessing… to release that blessing to ALL we come in contact with.  

This example must’ve struck a nerve with them and just pushed them over the edge…. this example that He gave was unthinkable to their natural reasonings!  The widow represented Gentile sinners but Naaman represents much more than that… he was the captain of the Syrian army… the Syrians oppressed Israel.  They were enemies of Israel.  Much in the same way that the Romans were the oppressors of the group sitting and listening to Jesus.  Surely being a light and a blessing didn’t mean extending it to their oppressive enemies did it?  

Remember, God’s heartbeat is for the nations.  He was so intent on showing the Israelites His love and compassion for ALL people, and that ALL people can have faith in God, that He chose one of the most hated men in Israel at that time to prove it.  God in His mercy pursued Naaman…. there were MANY lepers in Israel but none of them were healed except Namaan the Syrian (Luke 4:27)  

The Syrians were always terrorizing and attacking Israel and then taking prisoners back to Syria… on one of these raids, Namaan carried off a little girl from Israel and made her his wife’s servant (2 Kings 5:2).  Chapter 5 opens with the Lord allowing Syria to win a battle, although we don’t know who the other side is.  The Bible also tells us that Naaman was mighty, honorable to his King (King Aram) and strong in battle.  But his military strength and glory were marred by an incurable disease of leprosy.    

This little girl that he kidnapped tells Namaan’s wife about the prophet Elisha and that Namaan could be healed if only he were with him.  I love the little girl in this story… she is definitely a co-laborer with God…a minister of reconciliation.  She is being a blessing to even the one who took her captive.  She has complete faith that if Namaan were to see Elisha he would be healed!  She had faith in her God that He is not only able to heal but is willing to heal…. even an enemy of Israel!

While this story in Luke 4 is a rebuke to the people that they are neglecting their covenant role of being blessed to be blessing to ALL the people of the earth… thankfully however God doesn’t just rebuke us and leave in our neglectful condition.  It is also an invitation to be His ambassadors of unconditional love… God’s love that He poured out into our hearts (Romans 5:5) … to even our enemies… those who oppose us… oppress us… or even enslave us (as Namaan did to this girl).  

Namaan goes to see Elisha.  An enemy of God, one who has attacked, killed, plundered Israel, one who has leprosy… an outcast of outcasts is standing at the door of the man of God hoping to be healed.  He comes carrying as gifts 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing and with his horse and chariot and wealth.  What a sight Namaan was… power, prestige, a commanding presence.    He had yet to acknowledge with the psalmist that “Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7).  

But rather than respond to such pomp and circumstance as Namaan was undoubtably used to people doing…. rather than come personally, Elisha sends a messenger to him telling him to go and wash 7 times in the Jordan river and he will be made clean. God alone would get the glory for healing Namaan… not Elisha… because Namaan was expecting Elisha, the prophet of God, to heal him… he didn’t even know the God of Israel yet.  His trust was in a man whom he assumed had “magical” powers.  Naaman comes from a pagan country, where his “prophets” made quite a spectacle when they healed the sick. According to the Bible Commentaries, they raised their hands in the air, and shouted for the sick to be healed.  But God was after Namaan’s heart not just in healing his physical body… He was pursuing Namaan.    

However, Naaman almost misses his miracle healing because of pride and self importance.  The first words out of his mouth were “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.  In fact he went away more than just mad… the word used means wrath, rage, full of poison and venom.  

He thought!  He had a preconceived idea of how he thought his healing would come about.  How many times have we missed or almost missed our miracle because we thought God would do something the way we preconceived it?  We had it all figured out in our minds!  Thank God He is not bound to the limitations of our preconceived ideas or the boundaries of our thinking!!  Let’s let go of our limited expectations and have faith in the God of Israel and His limitless way of manifesting miracles in our life.

Naaman thought the resources he trusted in were better than what God was providing.  He said the rivers in Damascus are better than Israel…. they are tov.  Tov is good… to be in proper working order, the way it was meant to… the way God created it to work.  Naaman’s pagan ways were far from tov!  He lived in a culture that didn’t function the way God created us to live.  We were created to love Him… not to serve false gods. 

He was asked to do nothing less than to betray the faith of his fathers. He was being asked to be willing to acknowledge that there was a possibility that Israel’s God could do something the Syrian god was unable to do. Naaman would have to let go of everything he trusted in and trust God for his healing.  The Jordan means to descend… Namaan would have to humble himself… to descend… to lower himself in order to be made clean.  And this was exactly what Jesus was saying to the people in the synagogue listening to Him that day… if they wanted salvation, they were going to have to let go of everything they trusted in… their adherence to the law…their good works…. and admit they were the poor, the blind, the oppressed, unclean.. that they were no different from Namaan.. or for that matter their Roman oppressors…in need of a Savior.    Instead of responding to the rebuke and the invitation to release His goodness and His presence… His salvation…. to the Gentiles (the unbelievers), they responded with offense.  

So, after being encouraged by his servant to do what was asked of him, he steps out in faith and humbles himself by dipping in the dirty Jordan 7 times.  Naaman experienced the overwhelming power, presence, and mercy of Israel’s God and his whole attitude changed.  Naaman had a whole-hearted transformation: “Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, ‘Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.’”  When Naaman goes back to Elisha’s house – he’s a changed man! There is no mention of horses and chariots this time as he returns to Elisha.  And he doesn’t just declare the goodness of God but that God is the only God in the entire world.  This is a radical statement for a man of his time, living in a polytheistic society.

Naaman’s God is now the God of Israel and he declares he will only make sacrifices and offerings to God. Before he didn’t want to wash in the Jordan River, because the waters of Damascus, were better than any of the waters of Israel, and now he wants to take dirt from Israel (v 17). The Bible Commentaries say: he wants to take dirt because God’s presence was in Israel.  His solution to worshiping in Syria was to take Israeli dirt with him.  He asks God to forgive him, when he has to bow to other “gods” because of his obligation to the king. This gentile, knows it’s a sin to bow down to any other “god” that isn’t the God of Israel.  Elisha blesses him and tells him to go in peace.  Luke 4:27 Jesus says there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”  God’s heart is for the Nations…. Naaman was a changed man… a spiritually cleansed man all because of one little Jewish girl who had compassion on him… her oppressor.  

The widow of Sidon

pot of oil

“But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.” Luke 4:25-26

 Yesterday my blog post was on Luke 4:16-30… Jesus is our Jubilee.   When He begins talking to them in verses 23-27 He was addressing their neglect of being a people of The Blessing….Gen 12:3 “I have blessed you to be a blessing to ALL families of the earth”  It’s important when we read Scripture that we really read it with the heartbeat of our Father.… a heart that beats with restoration and love.  

In Luke 4 the people expected God to judge their enemies… to have vengeance on them.  Truth be told, sometimes we all feel that way…. so angry with someone or tired of their treatment of us that we cry out like David “slay the wicked Lord!” or like the disciples “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”.  We tend to like the scriptures like the one in Romans 12:19 that says “vengeance is mine says the Lord, I will repay”…. of course the next part of that scripture is if your enemy is hungry, feed him and if he is thirsty, give him a drink.  And Jesus rebuked His disciples telling them they didn’t know what kind of spirit they belong to because He didn’t come to destroy men’s lives but to save them….. sozo – to heal, deliver, rescue, make whole… nothing missing, nothing broken in their lives.  Remembering Romans 5:10 that we were once enemies of God and yet Jesus laid down His life for us.  Our hearts need to beat for our enemies the way God’s does… with love, restoration, being ministers of reconciliation.  Overcoming evil with love – not judgement.

God’s heart has always been for ALL people, every nation… Jews (believers) AND Gentiles (unbelievers).  Rahab, Ruth and the people of Ninevah are examples of God’s saving grace in the Old Testament.  Psalm 2:8 says ask of Me and I will give you the nations as your inheritance.

In Luke chapter 4 Jesus was giving them examples of the Gentiles that Elijah and Elisha had done miracles among… and this widow woman in 1 King 17:8-16 is one of them.  We don’t know the widow’s name, but we know where she is from, her circumstances and the circumstances of the nation at that time.

The land was in a middle of a drought and the brook that Elijah was at was dry. The drought had been for 3.5 years.. meaning the people of Israel could not grow crops and in turn they could not feed and take care of their own widows.  The verses before that tell us that Ahab was Israel’s king and he had married Jezebel.  And Ahab built altars and groves for her god Baal.  And in doing so angered God more than any of the Israelite kings before him.  And during this time Ahab commissioned the rebuilding of Jericho through Hiel, the Bethelite…. although God had ordered through Joshua that it never be rebuilt (Joshua 6:26).  This is where the widow resided… a place that was full of idolatry and rebellion… and yet it was just the place where God was going to pour out His grace and extend His love to this Gentile woman.  Luke 4:26 says there were many widows in Israel at the time but Elijah was sent to none of them…. he was sent to this widow only.. a gentile widow.

But God tells Elijah to go to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there because He has commanded a widow there to supply him with food.  God chose her… she didn’t choose Him (John 15:16).  She had no idea that God had commanded her to feed Elijah.  Ephesians 2:8-10 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.  God prepared her good works in advance… long before she had the opportunity to do them.

Even though there were 7000 in Israel who were still faithful to the Lord… and many would’ve considered it a great honor to help Elijah.  Instead God chose a widow in Zaraphath… a foreigner outside of Israel’s borders.  God chose a Gentile to take care of Elijah…. she didn’t have the priviledges that Paul talked about in Romans 9:4-5….. the people of Israel, chosen to be adopted to sonship, God revealed his glory to them, He made covenants with them and gave them his law, He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned.   Not only did she not have that great heritage…. she had a distinctly ignoble one.

But she did have one thing going for her… in 1 Kings 17:12 she acknowledges the “Lord, God of Israel lives”.  She is a pagan Gentile widow in the midst of a pagan godless area but acknowledges the true and living God. And then she did what the prophet… the man of God asked her to do.  She added faith to her acknowledgement. She believed the word of the prophet and gave ALL that she had. She gave everything… the last little bit to God.   God also later raises this woman’s child back to life.  Faith pleases God.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.. healing, deliverance, rescue, making whole… to ALL who believe (Romans 1:16).

Next blog post we’ll look at Jesus’ other example, Naaman the Syrian…..

~ Robin