Posts Tagged ‘Altar’


Hebrews 13:8-10 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.

Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, tomorrow… the way He works in the heart of man today is the same way He worked 2000 years ago. I want to talk about your heart this morning…

  • Hebrews 13:8 says “it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace…”

The KJV translates bebaióō as ‘established’, but a better way might be ‘strengthened’ like the NASB and ESV do. For the Greek word actually means:

To make firm or reliable so as to warrant security and inspire confidence, to strengthen, make true[1]

1.    How is Your Heart today?

Not the organ but your heart of hearts, your vitality, that which gives you passion for living.

Sometimes we can get beat down. We feel like we’ve been run over by a bus. Sometimes family does a number on us, or maybe a close friend. We start to lose heart, we start to feel overwhelmed. It can even affect our health. The Bible (Luke 21:26) says that in the last days, things will get so bad, that many men will have heart attacks because of the fear of what will happen. Ever heard someone say “You scared me to death”?

Things can get bad. They can get so bad that you do stupid things, like give up, take your own life. I’ve known people who have taken their own life. They lost hope, they lost heart.

God never wants us to lose heart. In fact, He has something much better:

Ephesians 3:16-17 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

Now, just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean you won’t ever lose heart and give up. What happens is that you think your problems are greater than God. But God wants us to realize that it is a good thing that our heart can be strengthened by Grace.

2. Strengthened by Grace, not Food.

For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.

This world tries to tell you that your heart health is influenced by what you eat. Healthy food is a healthy heart. I won’t deny that. What I will say is that if you think food is the answer to your depression, your discouragement, your loss of love for life, you are badly mistaken. What strengthens your heart is not food, but Grace!

Some of you are thinking, man, what have I gotten into. They are going to bring out an empty plate and tell me they are serving Grace, and that it is better for me. Cheap people!

No, we will serve you some great food! A full stomach may help you to feel better, but it will not help with problems of depression and discouragement, broken families, lack of employment, bills…No, you need something supernatural, something available only from God, and that is Grace!

3. How do you eat Grace?

We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.

We need to see that there is a special altar. This is not the altar in the Temple of the Old Testament. That altar the Priests and the needy could eat from. The fat and select portions of meat were given to the priests for food. Other was set aside for the hungry and poor. But that is not the altar we have in view. There is another altar we must see, an altar where Grace flowed down, an altar where we can feast on Grace, an altar where our hearts can be strengthened.

  • Hebrews 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
  • Hebrews 10:12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God;

This is the altar where Jesus the Son of God gave Himself as the perfect sacrifice. There, outside the gates, He offered Himself once and for all.

There on the altar He prepared a forever breakfast for us to feast on every day, a forever breakfast of Grace. Don’t they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Well so is the breakfast of Grace if you want a strong heart to face the trials of this life.

4. Breakfast of Grace

Once a year the High Priest would offer a sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. This was a very solemn day. The people were forbidden to work. The High Priest did not where his normal robe, but appeared as a common man, with dull linen garments. There were special sacrifices, offered in a specific order. The sacrifices were to be totally consumed by the fire. There was to be nothing left over to eat. The Day of Atonement was all for God. Man was not to work or assume any office of importance. Everything was in God’s hands.

The result of the waiting people was that their sins of the past year were forgiven, and now they began the New Year with the Hope of God’s blessing and favor.

“For it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you shall be clean from all your sins before the LORD” (Lev. 16:30).

5. We Feast at the Altar of Grace

We have great news from our Creator God. It is written in this Bible, it was put on display for the entire world to see when His only begotten son died on the upraised cross of cursing. Jesus became the cursed goat, the cursed man, the curse for us, when He took our sins upon Himself. There He satisfied the righteous demands of God, and split the veil in two, so that you and I can experience the love and Grace of our Righteous and Holy God. With the Blood of Jesus, mercy and grace came flowing down the Cross and saturated this whole earth.

At the altar of the Cross we have something greater than food to feast on. It is Grace, grace that means that no matter how badly we have messed up our lives, no matter how bad a day you had yesterday, every morning you can wake up to a breakfast of grace and tender mercies. Every day you can know that your sins, your ugly mistakes are wiped clean and forgiven, and instead of despair, depression and discouragement, you can feast on the Hope of Jesus Christ.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

What good is grace and peace when I’ve lost everything? When I’m so deep in debt that I can’t see bottom? I can’t answer that for you. I can only testify that I have been that deep in debt. I can testify that things looked so bad that my thoughts were constantly on running away, and even taking my life. But God kept reminding me that I had given my life to Him, that I was His. He challenged me to trust Him with my needs. He challenged me to give Him my desires. He challenged me with Hebrews 13:5

Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

I listed everything that I needed, and something’s I desired. I drew a circle, a circle of trust & hope, and gave the entire list to Him. Then I hoped and waited upon Him.

Psalm 147:11 The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.

It takes a lot of faith to come to the altar and feed on grace. No matter how badly you have failed, the altar is for you. There forgiveness flows from Calvary. There is the hope that we have in our risen Savior. That hope says that no matter how bad this life is, if your trust in Christ as your Savior, He will make all things good, even if it isn’t until heaven.

My prayer for you echoes Paul’s prayer in 2 Thess 3:5

2 Thessalonians 3:5 And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.

We yearn so much for physical comforts that we miss out on that which really strengthens us, really gives us a strong heart. We miss out on the Grace that Jesus can give us.

May you listen as the Lord directs your heart unto the Love of God, the Love that Calvary revealed. May He then direct you into the patient waiting for Christ.


[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “bebaióō”.

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As we look at all we have “Because of the Cross”, we need to remember three Principles of the Cross:

1. The Cross is the Wisdom & Power of God.

  • The Cross reveals the Heart of God, His delight in mercy, justice and righteousness.
  • At the Cross we partake of the unfailing love of God, the justice of being made right with God, and the Righteousness that is in Christ whereby we have victory over sin, over Satan and over death.

2. The Cross is opposed to the wisdom and power of man.

  • The cross requires humility. The cross strips man of all rights and powers. The Cross reveals the foolishness of man’s attempts at standing and self-righteousness.
  • Man says to love yourself first, seek for yourself first. Instead of submitting to God’s love, We are our own person, we are OK as we are, we can do as we please as long as we don’t hurt anyone. Instead of submitting to God’s Justice, Man emphasizes your own accomplishments, your own standing, your own right to live as you see fit. Instead of depending upon God for our righteousness, Man emphasizes works, riches, possessions as justification for the way he lives.

3. The Cross represents the Perfect Blood Sacrifice required by God

  • God declared that life is in the blood. The only way for sinful man to enjoy life with Holy God is through a blood sacrifice for our sins. The Cross is that perfect blood sacrifice.

We have seen the Principle of the Cross with Adam and Eve, and how Cain quickly established Man’s wisdom in opposition to the Cross. That Opposition grew until we read:

 Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

So God called Noah to build an ark. God saved His creation by a worldwide flood, and the earth was transformed, and Noah and his family went forth to re-populate the earth. This new world was established with the Principle of the Cross, for Noah took of the clean animals and sacrificed them to God.

Kingdom of Man Rears its Sinful Head (NIMROD)

In the Dispensation of Noah it did not take long for the wisdom and power of man to rear its ugly head in opposition to the Cross. Mighty men came along, led by Nimrod, the mighty hunter of men, and directly opposed God. They built a Tower that was reaching to the heavens, so they could worship themselves and insure a place of refuge should God ever decide to flood the earth again.

God confounded the wisdom and power of man, and the languages of the earth were born, and the kingdom of man became fragmented.

In the face of God’s wisdom and power, man corrupted the Principle of the Cross, and began to sacrifice to gods of their own making. They worshipped ‘idols’ and engaged in religious worship in opposition to the Creator God Jehovah. They offered sacrifices as He demanded, but with hearts devoted to the kingdom of man. They created god’s of their own design, god’s whom they could worship as they chose. The altar of sacrifice had been corrupted by man to honor the god’s of their making, instead of the Making God!

It was among these idol worshippers in the “Ur of the Chaldees” that Jewish tradition has a young man named Abram working in his father’s idol merchant shop. This young man was about to receive a special call for Creator God. This is the beginning of the Patriarch Dispensation.

The Calling of Abram

Genesis 12:1-9 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran (best meaning ‘to tarry’). And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar (mizbeah) to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

We know Ur of the Chaldees was a ‘hotbed’ of idolatry for two reasons:

1. Abraham’s father, Terah according to Joshua 24:2, worshiped idols. Jewish tradition refers to Terah as an idol maker. Ur was an idolatrous city worshiping many different Gods such as the god of fire, moon, sun and stars. Sin was the name of the chief idol deity of Ur. Ningal, was the wife of the moon-god, Sin, and was worshiped as a mother God in many other cities. Ur was a evil and sinful city as can be seen in the worship practices of the moon-goddess, Ningal.[1]

Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods.

2. Ur ‏אור‎, which means flame or fire of the Chaldeans, from the worship practiced there. Scholars say the people of this area were worshippers of fire, and there is evidence of fire sacrifices to various gods.[2]

Abram rejected the many god’s of his father’s, and followed the call of the one and only True God. Abram’s journey to Canaan was marked by humility resulting in the altar of sacrifice. At the Oak of Moreh God appeared to Abram and told Him, “To your offspring I will give this land.”

So which is it: Plains, encampments, oaks or terebinths? Different translations have served to obscure the great truth of this passage.

Plains and encampments, I think, can be dismissed immediately. They do not fit other passages using this expression. They cannot possibly be the correct translation of elonei mamre. That leaves oaks and terebinths. I’ll take oaks.

Here’s why. In the first place, while “oaks” is the oldest translation we have of elonei, “terebinths” is the most recent. The Septuagint rendition may represent a genuine tradition passed down from the time the book of Genesis was composed. Moreover, terebinths, whose small leaves indeed smell a bit like turpentine when crushed, may have an impressive-sounding name, but they are not very impressive in appearance. The terebinth is an evergreen shrub that rarely grows to more than 7 or 8 feet and is found all over Israel. The common Palestinian oak, on the other hand, develops into a tall, stately tree. A whole forest or grove of such trees, now seen in only a few places but less rare in Abraham’s time, is an impressive sight indeed. Certainly these could be a landmark worthy of mention in God’s Word.

Would the Bible have bothered to point out that Abraham was sitting by some perfectly ordinary shrubs? In my thinking, the mighty Oak wins this match against the insignificant terebinth.[3].

Evidently there was a significant tree in a grove of trees at Moreh near Shechem. The Hebrew moreh is derived from the verb yarah, “to teach,” “to direct,” and indicates one who directs, or gives oracular answers.[4]  Picture a place known for receiving direction or oracles from God.

Now it was here that God first appeared to Abram, and confirmed to Abram that this was the land that God was giving him. No doubt Abram had seen the Canaanites, and had seen their vileness and fierceness. Perhaps he doubts were running rampant in his mind, doubts about the voice he had heard calling him. In the midst of those doubts, Abram saw God by that majestic tree. There God renewed His promise to Abram. As soon as God went away, Abram built an altar (place of sacrifice) unto God.

Can you picture Abram, a former idol worshipper, seeing Jehovah God? This was no wood carving, no stone object. Abram saw the Living Creator God. In the presence of God there are no doubts, there is only hope, there is only His love. Abram was so in awe of God that his first reaction was to build an altar and offer a sacrifice to God. Sinful man had met Holy God at the tree. At the tree Abram offered himself to God.

Does that sound like anything familiar to you?

It is before this significant tree that an altar is made, sacrifice performed, and Abram’s life, family and possessions are committed to God’s Promise. Here we see the principle of the Cross in establishing Abram’s possession of the Promised Land.

This appearance of God was significant, for just as God walked with Adam in the cool of the evening, so now God appeared to Abram in the coolness of the shade of the Oak Tree of Moreh. When ever God begins something new, His presence is all over it!

The Oak Tree of Moreh was near Shechem

There are 3 references to the Oak tree(s) of Moreh at Shechem in the Bible. Plus there is one more subtle reference worth noting.

1. Genesis 12:6-7

“Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.”

God called Abram out of the kingdom of the wisdom and power of man. He called Abram out of the land of idols and manmade gods. He called him to a new land, to form a new nation that followed Jehovah, their Creator God. He called Abram to follow God’s wisdom and power, and submit to the principle of the Cross. When Abram saw God, he submitted and sacrificed.

You are familiar with his life. Along this journey Abram made mistakes. He lied, he resorted to following the wisdom and power of man in having a baby boy Ishmael. Still, God blessed him, for God had set His Name upon Abram. Instead of being Abram, his name became Abraham, father of a great nation.

Finally, God gave him that promised son, Isaac. As we will see in later writings, the Principal of the Cross was upon Isaac, and upon Jacob. But for today, we are camping under the Oak of Moreh, near Shechem.

Abraham’s grandson had returned to the idol loving land of his great-grandfather. There he met his wife(s) and labored for his uncle, Laban. Jacob was a man who fit in well with the kingdom of Man. He was crafty, deceitful, proud and boasting. God still blessed him, because God had promised Abraham. God issued a call to Jacob to return to the Promised land, and face his estranged brother Esau. God was there when the brothers met. Jacob and his family were spared the wrath of Esau. And Jacob continued on, making a stop in Shechem.

Genesis 33:18-20 Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. He bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. (Meaning “El, the God of Israel”)

Even though Jacob offered sacrifices to God, the God of Israel, he was still living in the kingdom of man. He was still living by his own wiles. His heart was divided. (Notice he did not say “My God!”) Jacob had to learn a costly lesson before he could go on to the House of God (Bethel). Chapter 34 sees the chastening hand of God upon his Jacob and his family. At Shechem, his daughter Dinah was raped by the prince of the land (Shechem). What follows is deceit upon deceit, as Jacob’s sons plot to avenge their daughter, and the leaders of of Shechem plot to take Jacob’s livestock and possession. In a clever plot indicative of the treachery of their father, the sons of Jacob murder the men of Shechem, plunder their riches and livestock, take the women and children, and bring dishonor upon the house of Jacob.

Genesis 34:30-31 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.” But they said, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?”

In Genesis 35 we see that Jacob makes a decision to wholly follow God. Once again, the Oak Tree at Moreh plays a significant role.

2. Genesis 35:4

Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem.

God spells out the problem He had with Jacob. Sure, Jacob professes belief in God, even honoring Him with an altar and sacrifices. But Jacob’s heart was divided. He loved the Kingdom of Man, with its idols and riches. He was a “double-minded” man. His life in the land of idolatry had tainted his already flawed soul. Jacob and his sons were even dressing like the idol loving people of the land, thus the reference to the “rings in their ears” and their garments.

Bethel was the “House of God” Bethel was the place of God that Abram pitched his tent, built an altar of sacrifice to God, and where he called upon the Name of the Lord! There is salvation in the House of God!

Genesis 12:8 Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD.

God appeared to Abram, and he sacrificed to God. He continued on to Bethel, in the heart of Canaan, and pitched his tent, and called upon the Name of the Lord. You can almost see the progression of his heart. He answers the call of God, yet decides to tarry a while in Haran. After the death of his father, he decides to move to Canaan, and stops at Shechem. There he sees his Creator God. He submits and sacrifices. But you get the feeling he is not all in yet. But he travels further into Canaan, and decides to pitch his tent on a hillside at Bethel, the House of God. Abram has made a decision. He is all in. There is no turning back. His tent is pitched, and He cries out to God!

We see the Principle of the Cross at work in his life, and we will see why he did what he did with Isaac next week.

As with Abram, God called Jacob to come to a place of decision. What will Jacob do? Will he come to God with everything, depend upon God for everything? Is he ready to forsake the crafty kingdom of Man and give himself 100% to Jehovah God? There is no use going to Bethel if your heart is divided. God is a jealous God. He wants all of us. Jacob can’t deceive God like he did his father, like he did Laban. God could see Jacob’s heart, that it was divided.

He can offer as many sacrifices to God as he wants, but unless his heart is given 100% to God, it does no good. This is what God means when He says it is better to obey than to sacrifice.

Here at Shechem, in spite of the pain of his heart over Dinah and his sons, Jacob makes a decision to follow God fully. He and his household obeyed God and put all of the idols and their precious possessions at the foot of the Oak tree.

This is what we do at the foot of the Cross!

Fast forward a few hundred years. Jacob died in Egypt, and the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob escaped the slavery of Pharaoh. It had been 400 years since they had been in the promised land. God used a meek man to lead his people from Egypt. Now in Deut. 11 Moses is addressing the people.

3. Deuteronomy 11:29-30.

“It shall come about, when the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. “Are they not across the Jordan, west of the way toward the sunset, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh?

Moses has shared the Law of God with his people. He has detailed all the blessings God promises to those who wholly follow the Lord. He instructs them to go to the Oaks of Moreh, and stand upon the two mountains there, Ebal and Gerizim. There they are to dedicate themselves to following God and His Word completely, and they are to acknowledge the blessings and cursing associated with that commitment.

The account of that event is given in chapters 27 and 28 of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 27:4-8 And when you have crossed over the Jordan, you shall set up these stones, concerning which I command you today, on Mount Ebal, and you shall plaster them with plaster. And there you shall build an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones. You shall wield no iron tool on them; you shall build an altar to the LORD your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God, and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God. And you shall write on the stones all the words of this law very plainly.”

One by one the Levites read the Blessings and Curses of the Law

Can you hear them:  ‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ (Deuteronomy 27:26)

And all the people shout, ‘Amen!’

The vibrating, thundering chorus of two million of voices shouting ‘Amen’ in unison to the terms of the covenant, from hill to hill, echoed powerfully in the streets of Shechem below. The Oaks of Moreh were shaking in response. They were witnesses to this momentous occasion.

The Jordan river signifies death to the wisdom and power of man. When Israel passed over the Jordant, they were symbolically announcing that they were dying to life in the wisdom and power of the flesh, and were now living in the wisdom and power of God and His Word. They were embracing the Principle of the Cross. This was so important, that at the end of Joshua’s life, he had the people return to this spot and reaffirm their commitment to following God’s Word.

Covenant ratified one more time…

At the end of his life, Joshua called for Israel to assemble again — at Shechem. The solemnity of the occasion cannot be expressed better than by its simple yet inspired biblical description:

Joshua 24:1 Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God.

Joshua recounted God’s faithfulness from the time of Abram’s calling until He gave them the Promised Land. He solemnly impressed upon them the importance of keeping faithfulness with God and his covenant. Listen as Joshua brings the point home:

Joshua 24:14-15 “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

The people responded that YES! They would serve the Lord! Joshua tried to tell them they were not able to serve the Lord:

Joshua 24:19-21 Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the LORD.”

So Joshua told them: “Now then, throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” (Joshua 24:23)

So Joshua took a large stone and placed it under the Oak by the sanctuary of the Lord (in Shechem). That stone represented their decision to yield their hearts totally to God! This is what Abram had done! This is what Jacob had done! This is the Principle of the Cross!

Joshua 24:24-27 The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and we will obey His voice.” So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God.”

That stone was not the only witness. The Principle of the Cross was there at Shechem in the form of the Oak tree of Moreh. Eight hundred years had elapsed since Abram first built an altar under the Shechem oak tree. The original oak tree had probably given way to an offspring. But the mention of the ‘sanctuary of the Lord’ confirms this Oak tree was probably near the altars built by Abram and Jacob, and was now taken to be the official substitute.

I can see Joshua pointing to the altars and the tree as he recounts their stories to his people. I can hear him tell them that God appeared to Abram at this very spot. I can see him pointing to the ground and saying, “somewhere down there are the pagan gods your father Jacob buried; do the same, bury your false gods, and serve the one true God only.”  On that day, under Abram’s tree of promise, Israel ratified her covenant with God, the covenant she had made at Sinai nearly one hundred years earlier.

Treason at the Cross

Everyone remembers the story of Gideon and the way God used him in a miraculous deliverance of Israel from the Midianites. After that victory, the men of Israel wanted to make Gideon King.

Judges 8:22-23  Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.”

Now Gideon (Jerubbaal) had seventy sons, for he had many wives. One son was Abimelech, born of a concubine who lived in Shechem. After Gideon died, Abimelech schemed to become King over the land. He got the leaders of Shechem on his side, got them to pay him money with which he hired thugs. Then he murdered 70 sons of Gideon with one stone. One son, Jotham, got away.

Immediately, “all the leaders of Shechem came together, and all Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem.” (Judges 9:6)

At the very spot where, under the very tree where, next to the very pillar where, three hundred years earlier, all Israel had sworn faithfulness to God and His covenant, where one thousand years earlier God first made the covenantal promises to Abram, where Jacob later buried the vestiges of his false gods, the populace of Shechem declared that a mere, evil man, was now their king [6].

Rebellious men refused to humble themselves to the Cross, and so rejected God in favor of man’s wisdom and power. Shechem erected the Kingdom of Man in opposition to the Kingdom of God.

The outcome was utter disaster, perhaps even greater than that which had occurred in the same city hundreds of years earlier when Simeon and Levi slaughtered the entire male population.

Read the entire account for yourself in Judges 9:1-20. In short, the honeymoon between Abimelech and the Shechemites was short-lived. God set animosity between them, resulting in Abimelech’s massacre of the entire population. One thousand people perished in one incident when Abimelech set fire to the temple of Baal in which they were cringing in fear. That one thousand people could fit inside testifies to its considerable size.

Why did this disaster occur? Listen carefully to what Jotham, Abimelech’s lone surviving brother, had to say to the citizens of Shechem days before the massacre:

Jotham told a parable, about the trees wanting someone to reign over them as a King. The tried the Olive Tree, the Fig Tree, a Vine, and each one refused. Finally they went to a lowly bramble bush, and he accepted.

Jotham warned the people:

Judges 9:16-20 “Now if you have acted faithfully and honestly in making Abimelech king, if you have done well by Jerubbaal (Gideon) and his family, and if you have rewarded him appropriately for what he did— for my father fought for you, risked his life, and delivered you from the hand of Midian, and now you have attacked my father’s house today, killed his 70 sons on top of a large stone, and made Abimelech, the son of his slave, king over the lords of Shechem ‘because he is your brother’— if then you have acted faithfully and honestly with Jerubbaal and his house this day, rejoice in Abimelech and may he also rejoice in you. But if not, may fire come from Abimelech and consume the lords of Shechem and Beth-millo, and may fire come from the lords of Shechem and Beth-millo and consume Abimelech.”


Twice in one short message Jotham tells the people to judge themselves, whether or not they have acted faithfully and honestly. Understand, the Cross is a divider of men. It divids the children of God from the children of the world. It divides Spirit-filled believers from fleshly pretenders, or worldly Christians. There is Blessing at the foot of the Cross. There is Cursing at the Foot of the Cross. You can bear the curse yourself, or you can realize that Jesus became cursed for you upon that Cross. Yield your heart to the Cross, and enjoy the Blessings of Jesus Christ!

We have a tree that rules over us. It is the Cross of Jesus Christ. We do not worship the Tree, for it is but a principle. We worship the one who was crucified upon that tree. He is our King, He is our Lord. The principle of the Cross must be applied to our lives if He is to reign!


[1] Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, Zondervan Pub. House, Grand Rapids, page 95.

[2] Adam Clarke, A Commentary and Critical Notes, (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1826), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Genesis 11”.

[3]“Oaks or Terebinths?” Philologos, http://forward.com/articles/11956/oaks-or-terebinths-/

[5] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17, 1990, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, p. 389.


Moses with one wave of his staff was able to see the seas part and the seabed dry up. He was able to see the waters stand tall as if held back by a thick wall of glass. When the enemy army was crossing after them, with another wave of the rod of God, he saw the waters fall upon them and drown every soldier.

But when it came to leading this complaining horde of people across a desert land, Moses was at his wits end.

Moses and the Tent of Meeting

In Exodus 33, we find that Moses would take a tent and pitch it outside the camp, far away from the people, and there Moses sought the Lord. He called it the ʾōhel môʿēd (tent of meeting). This was the forerunner of the tabernacle. Here Moses would speak face to face with God (Ex 33:11)

When Moses would enter the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and God would speak to Moses.

When Moses went out to the tent, all the people would get up, go to their tent door, and watch. And when the cloud would descend, the people would worship, each at their tent door.

Later on, when they constructed the Tabernacle according to God’s commands, it was brought within the camp, and the people worshipped there. I can’t help but wonder if Moses longed to return to that tent outside the camp…

Letter to Concerned Jewish Christians

It is a reference to the Tabernacle that the writer of Hebrews is using to address the concerns of the Jewish Christians in Hebrews 13. Here the writer makes the foundational statement which should guide these Christians, and I believe it is the foundational statement for our church.

Foundational Statement of Hebrews

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore, let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:10-16

The Problem Facing these Jewish Christians

There were pressures from the world-pressures as to how they should worship, how they should not worship. It was so much easier to follow a hybrid Christ-one who was Jewish and Christian. One who was worldly and Godly.

On the other hand, the world was becoming more antagonistic toward Christians, especially those that really followed Him. So the struggles they were facing are the same ones we face in our lives.

Two Problems

1.  Driven by formalism-How they worshiped was more important than Who they worshiped.

2.  Paralyzed by Fear – Faced expulsion or persecution-wanted to have the glory of God and stay in the safety of the camp. Their desire for comfort overwhelmed the command to risk it all.

Remember:

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.

If we insist on serving from a place of comfort, or a place of ‘tradition’, or a place of safety…we can not eat from the altar of Jesus Christ. We will lose out on the sweet abiding fellowship that is in Him alone.

Choice Number 1

  • Will we Die in our Religion or Die in our Devotion?

The writer addressed the plight of the Hebrews by calling their attention to those who wandered in the wilderness:

Num 13:31-14:4; Num 14:20-23, 32-34

Here the Jewish wanderers had the chance to believe in God’s Word, to embrace His power that they had witnessed first hand. However, they refused to see Him Who is able, and focused on their own weakness and inability. Instead of advancing into Canaan and trusting God to overcome the giants, they wept in bitterness and retreated from the mission God had given them.

They had two options:

  1. Retreat from the Mission

  2. Risk everything for the Mission

To risk everything requires the faith to see Him who is invisible. To risk everything requires a total disregard for personal comfort, personal safety, but an overwhelming CONFIDENCE in the power of God to allow you to finish the mission!

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.

Choice Number 2

  • Will We Embrace our Comfort or Will we Embrace His Cross?

If you want to eat from this altar. If you want to experience God face to face. If you want to know the presence and power of God, you must go outside the camp. You must be willing to be disgraced just like Jesus. You must be willing to bear His disgrace.

Let us Go to Jesus …Outside the Camp

Dead and Dirty things

And the bull for the sin offering and the goat for the sin offering, whose blood was brought in to make atonement in the Holy Place, shall be carried outside the camp. Their skin and their flesh and their dung shall be burned up with fire. And he who burns them shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. Leviticus 16:27-28

Diseased and Despised

“The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp. Leviticus 13:45-46

Blasphemers

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death. Leviticus 24:13-16

Dangerous

Murderers, blasphemers, adulterers were all kept and stoned outside the camp.

Do You Really Want to Follow Jesus?

Then you must go to Him OUTSIDE the camp!

  • Mission without suffering is like Christianity without a cross
  • Suffering is not a consequence of our mission: it is the central strategy for achieving our mission.

Moses met face to face with God outside the camp!

If you desire to fellowship face to face with Jesus Christ, you must meet with Him outside the camp, and bear His reproach.

Choice Number 3

  • Will We Live for Pleasure in this World or for Paradise in the World to Come?

The Truth of the Real Jesus

  • Jesus calls the church to live according to a radically different definition of success than the rest of the world.
  • Jesus calls me to live according to a radically different definition of success than the rest of the world

If we do not advance toward Jesus in our Christian walk, we:

  • Give way to formalism
  • Give way to paralyzing fear
  • Give way to a retreating spirit

We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.

Do we desire to stay inside the comfort of our camp? Do not count on feasting on Christ.

Believer’s can be forgiven but cursed to wander in the wilderness apart from the power and presence of God.

God does not need our church to gain glory for Himself. He will glorify His Name regardless of whether we go to the altar outside the camp.

Following Christ does not mean coming to the cross and then neatly carrying Jesus back into our safe and comfortable American lives. It means risking everything and going outside the camp to bear His reproach on His altar of total sacrifice. (A thank you to David Platt for the core points of this message)

Notation about my Faith Journey

In 2004-2005 I became burdened about the nation of Myanmar. I even went there in January 2006, and now serve as Treasurer on the Executive Board of the Friends of Burma, Inc. This all came about as I began to understand the true meaning of discipleship.

While going through a sermon series on Mark, I was struck anew with Mark 8.

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:34-35

The greatest example of these verses was the life of Adoniram Judson. I was fascinated with the truth that what he risked with his life and family was the reason for the Christians in that forsaken country today!

His life led me to became so interested and concerned about Burma (Myanmar).

Adoniram Judson is why I am going outside the camp. Adoniram Judson went outside the camp and bore the reproach of Jesus Christ.

Adoniram Judson

Once when a Buddhist teacher said that he could not believe that Christ suffered the death of the cross because no king allows his son such indignity, “Judson responded, ‘Therefore you are not a disciple of Christ. A true disciple inquires not whether a fact is agreeable to his own reason, but whether it is in the book. His pride has yielded to the divine testimony. Teacher, your pride is still unbroken. Break down your pride, and yield to the word of God.’ (Anderson, To the Golden Shore, 240.)

Judson’s conversion to Christ was due in large measure to the same deist friend who led him away from Christ. After graduation, Judson left home to become a wanderlust. One night in a country inn, his room was adjacent to the room of a dying man. The moaning and groaning of that man through the long night permitted Judson no sleep. His thoughts troubled him. All night questions assailed his soul: “Was the dying man prepared to die?” “Where would he spend eternity?” “Was he a Christian, calm and strong in the hope of life in Heaven?” “Or, was he a sinner shuddering in the dark brink of the lower region?” Judson constantly chided himself for even entertaining such thoughts contrary to his philosophy of life beyond the grave, and thought how his brilliant college friend would rebuke him if he learned of these childish worries.

But the next morning, when Judson inquired of the proprietor as to the identity of the dead man, he was shocked by the most staggering statement he had ever heard: “He was a brilliant young person from Providence College. Ernest was his name.”

Ernest was the unbeliever who had destroyed Judson’s faith. “Now he was dead — and was lost! Was lost! Was lost! Lost! Lost!” Those words raced through his brain, rang in his ears, roared in his soul — “Was lost! Lost! Lost! There and then Judson realized he was lost, too! He ended his traveling, returned home, entered Andover Theological Seminary and soon “sought God for the pardon of his soul,” was saved and dedicated his life to the Master’s service!

In Burma

But opposition came, also. Finally, Judson was imprisoned as a British spy — an imprisonment of twenty-one months. Judson was condemned to die, but in answer to prayers to God and the incessant pleadings of his wife to officials (one of the most emotional-packed, soul-stirring stories in evangelism), Judson’s life was spared and finally British intervention freed him from imprisonment.

Following the missionaries in their holy adventure, we behold scenes too horrible for words. On one occasion Judson, pitifully weak and emaciated, was driven in chains across the burning tropical sands, until, his back lacerated beneath the lash and his feet covered with blisters, he fell to the ground and prayed that the mercy of God might grant him a speedy death. For almost two years he was incarcerated in a prison too vile to house animals. He was bound with three pairs of chains and his feet were fastened in stocks which at times were elevated, so that only his shoulders touched the ground. The room, into which he and many other prisoners were crowded, was without a window and felt like a fiery furnace under the merciless glare of the tropical sun. The stench of the place was terrible, vermin crawled everywhere and the jailer, Mr. Spotted Face, was a brute in human form. And, as Judson saw other prisoners dragged out to execution, he lived in terrifying suspense and was able to say with Paul, “I die daily.”

Surely, he would have fallen and perished under the weight of his cross, except for the tender, persistent, beautiful ministrations of Ann. As often as possible, she bribed the jailer and then, under cover of darkness, crept to the door of Judson’s den, bringing food and whispering words of hope and consolation. Finally, for three long weeks she did not appear; but, upon her return, she bore in her arms a newborn baby to explain her absence. An epidemic of smallpox was raging unchecked through the city and little Maria was smitten with the dread disease. Due to the double strain of concern for her imprisoned husband and the suffering baby, Ann found herself unable to nurse the little one. Tormented by its pitiful cries, Ann took her baby up and down the streets of the city, pleading for mercy and for milk: “You women who have babies, have mercy on my baby and nurse her!”

Near the prison gate was a caged lion, whose fearful bellowings had told all that he was being starved against the day when he would be turned loose upon some of the prisoners. But the lion died of hunger before the plan was executed. Thereupon, plucky Mrs. Judson cleaned out the cage and secured permission for her husband to stay there for a few weeks, since he was critically ill with a fever.

One of the most pathetic pages in the history of Christian missions is that which describes the scene when Judson was finally released and returned to the mission house seeking Ann, who again had failed to visit him for some weeks. As he ambled down the street as fast as his maimed ankles would permit, the tormenting question kept repeating itself, “Is Ann still alive?” Upon reaching the house, the first object to attract his attention was a fat, half-naked Burman woman squatting in the ashes beside a pan of coals and holding on her knees an emaciated baby, so begrimed with dirt that it did not occur to him that it could be his own. Across the foot of the bed, as though she had fallen there, lay a human object that, at the first glance, was no more recognizable than his child. The face was of a ghastly paleness and the body shrunken to the last degree of emaciation. The glossy black curls had all been shorn from the finely-shaped head. There lay the faithful and devoted wife who had followed him so unwearily from prison to prison, ever alleviating his distresses and consoling him in his trials. Presently Ann felt warm tears falling upon her face and, rousing from her stupor, saw Judson by her side.

And there were other sorrows. Before he had been in Burma fourteen years he buried Ann and all of his children. But “the love that never fails” sustained him. “If I had not felt certain,” he says, “that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings.” Judson joined with Paul in declaring: “The love of Christ constraineth me … Therefore I will glory in reproaches, in persecution and in distresses for Christ’s sake.”[2]

The work progressed and gospel power began to open blind eyes, break idolatry-shackled hearts and transform the newly-begotten converts into triumphant Christians. On April 12, 1850, at the age of 62, Judson died. Except for a few months (when he returned to America after thirty-four years from his first sailing), Judson had spent thirty-eight years in Burma. Although he had waited six years for his first convert, sometime after his death a government survey recorded 210,000 Christians, one out of every fifty-eight Burmans! It was a partial fulfillment and a monument to the spirit and ministry of the man, who at Ava, the capital city, gazed at the temple of Buddha and challenged, “A voice mightier than mine, a still small voice, will ere long sweep away every vestige of thy dominion. The churches of Jesus Christ will soon supplant these idolatrous monuments and the chanting devotees of Buddha will die away before the Christian’s hymns of praise.”[1]

Will You Go Outside the Camp?

My question is, if Christ delays his return another two hundred years – a mere fraction of a day in his reckoning – which of you will have suffered and died so that the triumphs of grace will be told about one or two of those 3,500 peoples who are in the same condition today that the Karen and Chin and Kachins and Burmese were in 1813? Who will labor so long and so hard and so perseveringly that in two hundred years there will be two million Christians in many of the 10/40-window peoples who can scarcely recall their Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist roots?

May God use his powerful word and the life of Adoniram Judson to stir many of you to give your lives to this great cause!

We must keep advancing to Him, to His altar which is outside the camp!


Most people are afraid to study the Bible. “Difficult to understand”,”where do I start?”, “hard to read”, and on and on. God has been showing me something in response to my plea with Him to see more of Jesus in my everyday living. Since Jesus is the “Word” as John 1 proclaims, then my desire to see more of Jesus must begin with the Word itself! Now when I read the Bible it is never with a conscious attempt to study it or understand it. I read the Bible to see Jesus.

Since I have started this approach to reading and studying the Word of God, it has opened my eyes to seeing Jesus where I never saw Him before. I even see Jesus throughout the Old Testament! Much of what goes on can be put in terms of our relationship with Jesus. The altar becomes more than a place of sacrifice. It becomes the Cross, the place of judgment. When I see the Lord standing beside the altar in Amos 9:1, I know that judgment is coming, for Jesus experienced judgment upon the altar of the Cross. That is why Zechariah was afraid when he saw the angel of the Lord standing beside the altar (Luke 1:11-12). Besides the obvious of seeing an angel, he knew his presence by the altar signaled judgment. In this case, the world would be judged through the man Jesus that John the Baptist would make the people ready for(john 3:19-20). By seeing Jesus and understanding the application to Him, we can understand the Bible.

Consider the woman taken in adultery. If you try to figure out the teaching or the doctrine apart from seeing Jesus, you will be frustrated or misguided. However, if we see how this event reveals Jesus, we understand this is a revelation of Jesus fulfilling the Law and removing us from its bondage and condemnation. In Jesus Christ we can truly be freed from the condemnation of sin. We can be free at last!

Many call themselves Christians because they embrace certain teachings or ‘doctrines’. Those ‘doctrines’ serve to divide Christianity, for people insist on belief in certain ‘doctrines’ to prove one is a proper Christian. What if ‘doctrine’ is not the basis of Christianity? What if it is the simply the person Jesus Christ living in me?

“We are not to be governed by a system of doctrine, however high and good. What is essential is that everything shall be related to the Person, for it is the Person Who makes the doctrine live, and Who governs it” (T. Austin-Sparks in “God Hath Spoken”)

Read the Bible with Jesus in view, even in the Old Testament. He is the Word! Nehemiah is not a book about building a wall. It is a book about building the testimony of Jesus Christ in our lives. Deuteronomy is not a list of do’s and don’ts. It is the picture of one who depends upon Jesus Christ and allows Him to live and love and relate through him. When we live (abide) in Jesus, blessings will tackle us, because Jesus is the “Blessed One”. We do not fear curses, because Jesus became cursed for us.

Jesus Christ is the Driving Force in Christianity. While Paul certainly knew ‘doctrine’, his doctrinal belief’s flowed from His personal, living knowledge of the risen Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3:7-8 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ…

Even after years of following Christ across the known world, Paul still considered knowing Jesus the most important and excellent thing in the world! Being a Christian is entirely about knowing Jesus!

Do you know Him?


Making decisions in the dark can lead to some regrettable consequences. Back in the days before electricity, a tight-fisted old farmer was taking his hired man to task for carrying a lighted lantern when he went to call on his best girl. “Why,” he exclaimed, “when I went a-courtin’ I never carried one of them things. I always went in the dark.” “Yes,” the hired man said wryly,” and look what you got!”

Have you ever held your Bible in you hand and thought, there is no way I can understand this! There is simply too much in here. How can I even begin to understand it all? I must admit, it seems every week I am thinking exactly that. I keep bringing my thoughts back to this one thought: The Bible is not a history book, it is not an anthropology book, it is not even a religious guidebook. The Bible is the message of God seeking and redeeming men women and children who see His light and respond to His light and walk in His light. That is why so little of the history of the world is not mentioned in the Bible. That is why it is not organized into neat chronological stories. It isn’t about what we can figure out with our little brains. It is all about God and His light. The Bible is written to move us to seek His light.

For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down. For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness. Psalms 18:27-28

Of course we can’t understand it all! But does that mean we give up reading it, loving it? I will never completely understand my wife. Does that mean I give up trying?

We seek after the light because we love the light! Do you sincerely want the light of God in your life?

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Psalms 36:9

This Christmas we are focusing on the “True Light” of Christmas, the birth of our Savior, God in flesh, Jesus Christ. He is the “True Light” of Christmas.

As our world becomes increasingly secular, there will be the danger of relegating Jesus to a display, a manger scene, when in reality HE desires no other recognition than to be Lord of your heart and life. He desires to be your light and life. He does not want to be trotted out every December. He does not want to be honored just on Christmas Eve. Jesus desires to light your life every day of your life. That will take a commitment on your part, a commitment which Satan will do everything in his power to obstruct.

The Scriptural foundation for our study this morning.

  • Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
  • As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. John 9:5
  • …whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness“. John 12:45-46
  • In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4
  • That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Ephesians 1:17-19

John in Chapter one of his Gospel declared that Jesus is the True Light, and His light is the life of men, and darkness will not overcome it. However, that does not mean that the darkness does not try. In fact, a survey of history reveals how the darkness has tried to obliterate the true light.

At the very time, John wrote his gospel there was a falling away from Jesus Christ. People were questioning the deity of Jesus Christ in the flesh. They were saying that He only became God when the Spirit came upon Him at his baptism.

That is why He was inspired to write:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

After a beautiful gospel that presents Jesus Christ in His deity, John concludes with this assurance:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31

However, he questions continued and grew more intense. The doubts about the deity of Jesus spread. Many years later John wrote once more, offering his personal assurance:

In I John:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:1-7

He adds the weight of his own testimony, and bears witness to the life and light of God manifested to the disciples through the Son-Jesus Christ. John declares that the message that Jesus proclaimed to him was that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. Our fellowship with God MUST be based on our walk in His light. If we walk in darkness, we have no fellowship with God. But praise God, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, so that we can walk with God in His light!

That is why John concludes His book with an even greater declaration than that which closed out his gospel. Not only can we have Life in Jesus Christ, but also John declares:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. … We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:13-21

  • Are you really desiring to be in God’s purpose;
  • Do you really seek to know what that purpose is, and to be found in it?
  • Everything depends upon whether you have such a concern. Your desire will determine whether you are simply here to increasing your knowledge about spiritual things or whether you are here because of your strong desire to be in God’s purpose, the eternal purpose of God.
  • Are you prepared to commit yourselves to the Lord and to living completely according to His purpose?

From the very beginning God has sought people to fellowship with Him, to walk with Him. However, because God is light, fellowship could only be in the light of His righteousness. For in Him is no darkness at all.

ADAM & EVE

God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening.

However, Adam and Eve loved darkness, and chose to rebel. Their fellowship was lost, their eyes were changed. Now instead of seeing only the light, they saw darkness. Their eyes were blinded by the darkness of sin.

God responds with Abel and the altar. The altar dealt with the darkness of sin and allowed the Light of God into their relationship.

Cain ignored the light and offered that which was cursed. His blindness then led him to murder his brother.

From their experience, we conclude this foundational truth of our relationship with God.

  1. Fellowship with God is only possible through the light
  2. Fellowship is only possible through the removal of the curse of sin.
  3. The removal of the curse requires a sacrifice.

These truth’s are confirmed as we trace the history of the conflict between darkness and God’s Light

From Abel to Noah

From Abel to Noah the darkness becomes more intense and deliberate. The earth – which is the Lord’s – is taken possession of by man for his own ends.

God says, “you like darkness?” How would you like 40 days and 40 nights of rain? Every living creature is destroyed except those saved by the ark.

Emerging from the judgment, Noah builds an altar and offers sacrifice, and in so doing declares, in intent and effect: “The earth” (the renewed earth) “is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1).

God has fellowship with man again. Light is returned to the world through the altar. Sin was judged by the death of the flood.

However, darkness returns all too soon. Even Noah is an agent when he gets drunk.

Babel

Babel is built by men desperate for a god of their own making, desperate to prevent a future judgment. Babel is cursed by God, and under that curse men are scattered to the four corners of the earth. Then, when, it would appear that the testimony of God has disappeared from the earth, God finds a man willing to obey Him, willing to follow the light.

Abraham

Abraham responds to God’s call. “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia” or (when he was in darkness) – (Acts 7:2).

The God of glory APPEARED, showed Himself. Abraham had his eyes opened to see the God of glory and all the great redemptive work of God went forward through Abraham on that basis.

Their fellowship was secured when Abraham is willing to sacrifice his own son to Jehovah. The altar is once again in view, and Abraham walks in the light of God, and a new nation of God followers begins.

Israel in Egypt

God remembers his people in bondage in Egypt. In the light of the burning bush, God calls Moses to deliver them and lead them to God’s Promised Land.

God once again sets forth the Altar. In the midnight darkness of Egyptian homes a wail is heard as the angel of death slays all the firstborn males. Yet in the Jewish homes, there is the light of God, for He has seen the blood and passed over them.

His people are redeemed and led across the Red Sea on dry ground.

God leads them with fire. He has fellowship with them in the Tent of Testimony.

The Conquest of Palestine

Next, we have His people led by Joshua who is following the Captain of the Hosts. Their very entrance into the Promised Land must be across the Jordan River, which symbolizes death in both the Old and New Testaments. Once they cross, an altar is made as a monument. It symbolizes the death of the Jews to their flesh and sin and their new life of fellowship with the light of God. Their very first victories reveal that this is to be God’s battle, in God’s strength, under God’s Laws. If they go their own way or rely on their own strength, they will suffer judgment and defeat!

Judges and Kings

From here commences the long and infamous history of Israel’s descent into darkness. What had been intended to be a Kingdom of God and God’s light became a nightmare of the darkness of sin. Repeatedly they departed and deviated from God’s light.

Even though sacrifices were made, the heart of the people was dark and far from God.

God stirred men to bring His people back, men such as Hezekiah and Josiah. However, the heart of the entire nation was never stirred back to the light of God’s word. When the leader died, the apostasy set in and deepened.

First the Northern and then the Southern Kingdoms were captured and led into captivity. The nation was obliterated, the Temple, the Altar were destroyed. The darkness appears to have overcome the light of God.

Yet God reveals His light through Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They are faithful to the light of God; they sacrifice their lives to him on the altar of fire and lions. After Daniels prayer, God moves in a handful of remnant, people who still look to the light of God.

We read about this remnant in Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah. It is a great time of revival and restoration, but the darkness creeps back.

Malachi

There is more apostasy, rebellion, until we get the terrible conditions recorded in Malachi, leading up to the awful announcement:

You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Malachi 3:9

How black and dark things were! Were they ever worse? Yet God is not defeated; the light is not obscured; for, in the midst of the blackness, there is that which represents the most blessed victory:

Then they that feared Jehovah spoke often one to another; and Jehovah observed [it], and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared Jehovah, and that thought upon his name. 17 And they shall be unto me a peculiar treasure, saith Jehovah of hosts, in the day that I prepare; and I will spare them as a man spared his own son that serves him. Malachi 3:16-17

Malachi closes, and for four hundred years, there is darkness and chaos. Surely now the testimony has ceased and faithfulness has disappeared? Surely now the Lord has lost everything? The darkness has conquered the light?

LUKE

Now we take up the book that Luke wrote to his friend Theophilus. Luke brings into our view a certain priest

Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth

“And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. Luke 1:6

We also find Mary, to whom the angel Gabriel said:

“Thou that are endued with grace, the Lord is with thee”. Luke 1:28

There was also Simeon and Anna:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Luke 2:25-32

And there was one Anna, a prophetess… she… spoke of him to ALL THEM THAT WERE LOOKING for the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36, 38.

Even in the midst of great darkness, God has always had a faithful remnant who seeks HIS LIGHT! Listen to their Witness:

  • Zechariah:  “because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79
  • Mary: “And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. Luke 1:50
  • Simeon: “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel”.Luke 2:31-32

Throughout history, no matter how deep the darkness, no matter the degree of blindness, there has been a remnant, a peculiar treasure, a group of jewels who have sought the light of God! Even when there has been no written revelation, they have seen that

1. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5)

2. The Kingdom of God is the rule of Divine light.

In the New Jerusalem, the heaven in which we shall one day dwell, it is recorded:

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. Revelation 21:23-25

Birth of Jesus – FOCAL POINT OF CONFLICT

The Birth of Jesus was the revelation of God’s Light in human form. However, what made His light so intense, so beautiful, was that the manger they laid Jesus upon represented the altar that God requires for us to walk in His light.

For Jesus was not born to reign as a King, or Serve as a Priest, He was born to die. He was born to deal for once and for all the mighty deathblow to the prince of darkness.

While we sing of Peace and Silent Nights, the birth of Jesus was a focal point of intense conflict. For God has been set against the darkness from the very creation.

God has always attacked the Darkness

Genesis 1 opens with “Darkness upon the face of the deep”. God did not just look at that darkness and call out in a soft voice: ‘Let us have some light.’ I believe that God attacked the darkness by boldly declaring ‘Let there be light!’ Darkness is contrary to my nature.

In 2 Corinthians 4:4, listen to the stern tone of Paul’s voice as he cries out:

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4

This darkness is the work of the devil, and God is adamantly against it.

The Redemptive message of God’s Word is that the Light will overcome the darkness through the altar, through sacrifice, through removal of the curse!

Jesus declared this about Abraham to the Jews:

“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” John 8:56

The Jews were in darkness, their eyes blind to the truth of Jesus, and took up stones to kill Jesus. They refused the light of God, just as their fathers had before them, and their fathers before that.

Abraham saw the light of Jesus Christ!

Satan does not want our eyes open to see the True Light of Jesus Christ. He wants us to relegate him to a pretty story, a beautiful manger scene. However, God wants us to see the conflict that is raging between the darkness and the True Light.

This conflict is ever at our door, for by nature we love the darkness rather than the light. Look at God’s own people to see how easily they became blind to God!

Where do you stand? Where does your family stand? Are you with the faithful remnant? Are you ever looking to the True Light of God? Are you daily dying on the altar, the altar of death to the flesh, the altar of death to sin?

Are you daily looking to the True Light by looking to His Word, by seeking His light in prayer?

On the other hand, are you so rushed at Christmas time that Satan has stolen the True Light from your life. Are you so busy and stressed that you have no time for the True Light?

The supreme work of Satan is not to get good people to do bad things, not to drag good people into the cesspool of sin, nor does he drag young men and women into moral corruption, nor does he make infidels and atheists. These are only byproducts of Satan’s supreme work! His supreme work is to blind us!

Take away the blindness, open our eyes to the True Light, and all this will be dealt with. Satan wants to keep us in the dark as to the True Light! The True Light is the most fatal thing to the kingdom of Satan. Paul put it simply:

“LEST the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ should shine.”

Satan says:

‘If those people get the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, MY kingdom is gone. The battle is over for me. I am lost.’

Satan will do anything to keep us from having light.

This is why Paul prays in Ephesians that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened. The darkness is ever around us.

Paul mentioned those who are “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” Ephesians 4:18

You may be thinking, ‘Well, we are not in the dark. We are saved people.’

  • That is exactly what the Jews were thinking. What happened to their Temple? What happened to their Holy City?
  • That is exactly what the seven churches were saying, yet every one of their candlesticks is removed today. Today Turkey is covered with the darkness of Satan.

If we want to keep walking in the True Light, we must realize it will only come with sacrifice and conflict. Satan is opposed to the light!

Divine light is POSITIVE.

You cannot have Divine light and be neutral. If God has shined into your heart to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,

Your life is a challenge to the kingdom of Satan, and his attitude to you will be: ‘We will get you out as soon as we can!’

You will find that Satan will stop at nothing to quench that light. You see, Jesus being the True Light of Christmas is not just a pretty story or Bible theory;

It is a menace to the kingdom of Satan.

Are you walking in the True Light of Jesus Christ? Then your very existence disturbs the kingdom of Satan.

Isaiah 60:1-2

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you and his glory will be seen upon you.

We love seeing the Nativity scene. We use it to decorate our homes. We even set them up in our front yard. But understand this. That was no simple manger that nestled the head of baby Jesus. That manger was the altar of sacrifice, the means of our fellowship with the Light of God. It was the means of the defeat of sin and Satan. That manger meant the death of God’s only begotten Son.

1. We must constantly be on guard against the darkness entering our life.

2. Realize that Satan’s number one goal is to bring dullness and/or darkness into your life, so that the Word of God has no effect.

3. Disobedience, disregard, doubt, distraction all work to dull our eyes to the light of God’s Word.

4. The Light of God only enters our life through the altar. We must die to our desires, we must lay aside our pride, we must humble ourselves to God’s sovereign will.

5. We must desire the Light of God’s Word more than Life itself.

6. We must daily seek the Light of God’s Word! We must ask for it! We must set our heart upon it!