Dr. W.A Criswell was a well known preacher and pastor of the Southern Baptist Convention several decades ago. He preached a sermon and wrote a book entitled, “The Scarlet Thread Through the Bible.” In this Christian masterpiece, he referenced the numerous places in Scripture that have a clear reference to the plan of redemption through Christ’s blood, starting all the way back in the book of Genesis and continuing on through the book of Revelation.
In our reading today, we are able to read one of the Old Testament passages that allow us to see this “scarlet thread”. Most of us, no doubt, are very familiar with the story of the 10 plagues that God used to judge Egypt and allow His people to escape their bondage. In Exodus 11 we read about the final plague, that being the death of the firstborn child in every home (probably the firstborn male child). However, there was one way to escape the death angel on that particular night. The Jewish people were instructed to take the blood of a lamb and “strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the house.” As long as a family would do as they were instructed, all would be safe in that house, including the firstborn. Imagine the hysterical cries that went up throughout the land of Egypt that night as parent after parent found their oldest child dead. Yet for those who followed the clear command of God and had the blood applied to the doorposts, there was safety and security. Clearly, this is a very clear and wonderful picture of salvation and brings to mind the familiar hymn, “When I See the Blood”. Think about the first verse of that song, “Christ our Redeemer died on the cross,Died for the sinner, paid all his due; Sprinkle your soul with the blood of the Lamb, And I will pass, will pass over you.” What a wonderful song and truth! How about you today, has the blood of Christ been applied to the doorpost of your heart? It truly is our only hope of salvation!
I didn’t think it would happen to me. How hard can it be to follow the color coordinated markers painted on the trees along the trail? We were going to enjoy a beautiful hike in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. As a junior higher, I knew I could lead my sister and mother
The trail was supposed to loop around. Ahem, that’s what we were intending to do. However, we kept wandering further and further. The beautiful day grayed. A storm was rolling in which made our search for the right path more urgent. Feeling as though we would never recover our way, we walked toward the sounds of cars in the distance. With rain-soaked clothes and shoes, we started walking up the road. A man offered to give us all a ride up to the next parking lot. It was a gamble, but we were glad we took his offer for the car was much farther up the road than we had anticipated.
We believe we are naturally following a good path. It makes sense to us. We have seen others “succeed” on this path. It serves our needs well. Whatever the reason, we do not consider whether we may be mistaken. Pharaoh is the “poster child” of rebellion. He had fixed his heart on a path which suited him and he was willing to exhaust all his resources to prove he was right. It’s easy to criticize Pharaoh since we see the end of his way was destruction. The question is are you certain you are on the right path in life? If you are simply following a natural path with little resistance, there is a good chance you may need to find the right path.
In order to find the right path, you must find the compass of wisdom.
Whence then cometh wisdom? And where is the place of understanding? Seeing it
The word “depart” in Job 28:28 means to turn aside from following. Embedded in this verse you see the natural pursuit of mankind is to follow after evil. Jesus preached, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). Staying on the good path requires a “celestial positioning system” where
Check your signal. Make certain your coordinates align with the wisdom of God. This simple investigation is called the fear of the Lord.
Covetousness is “marked by inordinate desire for wealth or possessions or another’s possessions” (Merriam-Webster). Covetousness usually gets excused as an “acceptable sin” by many people because it is not a visible sin but is a sin of the heart. Covetousness is a very subtle sin of the heart that every person is prone to commit. Covetousness is the sin that motivated Lucifer to rebel against God as he desired to be supreme. Covetousness is the sin that motivated Adam and Eve to rebel against God’s created order as they were not content with what God had provided. Covetousness has been the underlying motivation of many wars, strife, divisions, and hatred. The never-ending itch for more things and more power has caused a vast amount of unhappiness and misery in the world.
In Luke 12, a man said to Jesus, “Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus was able to see into this man’s heart and realize that his request was motivated by greed. Jesus said, “Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you.” This man’s problem was not his brother’s greed, but his own greed. The Lord refused to take a role in judging this family problem as he knew that this man’s greatest problem was not material in nature but was spiritual. Jesus warned him, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in abundance of things which he possesseth.” Jesus reminded this man that life is more than material things.
To illustrate his point, Jesus gave a parable about a rich man that had many possessions. One day he realized that he had run out of room to store his abundance of crops and decided to pull down his barns and build bigger barns. This man, then, proceeded to find his sense of security in his possessions and decided that he would take his ease and eat, drink, and be merry. This man had a completely secular view of his goods. He never once thanked God or asked God how he should use his riches. He decided to kick up his feet and spend the rest of his days in luxury without giving a thought to the afterlife. That night, God came to him and said, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
This man’s problem wasn’t his possessions, rather, it was his attitude toward his possessions. This man had lived his life storing up material goods without thanking God, acknowledging God, or preparing to meet God.
We all have two choices in this life: God or Greed. Jesus said “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Those who store up treasure on earth will be numbered among “fools” in eternity. Only those who are rich toward God have found the path of wisdom!
An old western drama begins showing two men facing off in the street. One is on the side of good; the other a desperado. I am reminded of Moses’ and Aaron’s showdown with Pharaoh. This was a face-off between good and evil. As far as Pharaoh was concerned, it was all about pride. Moses and Aaron wanted to be free to serve God. “And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me” (Ex. 8:1). This stands as an example to never get in God’s way.
We’re all prideful. With God’s help we can keep it to a minimum. In chapter eight God sent frogs, lice and flies on the Egyptians. I don’t know how people endured that. Had Pharaoh humbled himself and let the Jews go, all would have been well. Instead it is noted thrice, “He (Pharaoh) hardened his heart.”
Another lesson we take from this is the depth, length and breadth of God’s grace and mercy. God could have blown Egypt off of the map, but He gives everyone ample opportunity to repent (“Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” 1 Ti. 2:4). We all know the deeper lessons of the chapter. God was in a showdown with the Egyptian gods and He dethroned them all for God is omnipotent (Rev. 19:6). It was like taking a club to a gunfight. But God was more than merciful. At anytime we can surrender our pride and restoration begins.
Because of Pharaoh’s pride, his subjects suffered. That is the thing with pride. It often affects others. Folk have left the planet because of pride. (“And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost” Ac. 12:21-23).
In our lifetimes, how many leaders have fallen whose pride choked them. How many ministers have failed, because they gave not God the glory. Look around as you navigate the countryside and look at the abandoned churches. They litter our land like a gravestones. A lot of these closures are due to our increasing pride as a nation. We have become too prideful to worship God, surrender to the ministry or failed to give God His and as a result-churches close. As the protective hand of God moves away from our nation, let us pray Jesus returns soon so we will not experience any plagues. If America is not careful, God may let us go!
As a hockey player, one of my favorite stories is that of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team. As laughable underdogs, they came together to defeat one of the greatest hockey dynasties in history.
But this was not a matter of chance, or luck, but the product of fierce determination and training. Coach Herb Brooks told his team, “I can’t promise you that we’ll be the best team at Lake Placid next February, but we will be the best conditioned.” He then told his players, “Be prepared to grow through pain, gentlemen.” Those hundreds upon hundreds of line drills, off ice workouts, and brutal physical training paid off.
This sentiment is not one that is original to Herb Brooks though. No, Paul penned this idea in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. But even he can’t be given credit for this original thought. In today’s reading, we find 4 oppositions we may face in our lives.
Moses and Aaron, and subsequently the children of Israel faced opposition from the wicked. When Moses and Aaron asked for permission to worship the Lord, Pharaoh responded, “Who is the Lord and why do I care what he wants?” In our lives, there may be pressure to avoid certain activities because the unsaved don’t understand why we would “waste” our time on “religious activities.”
Job faced opposition from his friends. Eliphaz spends the whole chapter basically saying, “Job, you’re not anything special, so quit acting like it. I don’t know what you did, but you probably deserved this for something.” God disagreed with that sentiment in Job 1, but Eliphaz wasn’t privy to that conversation.
The disciples faced physical/natural obstacles in Luke 8. As Jesus slept in the boat, the disciples feared for their lives in a Mediterranean storm. When they wake Jesus in their panic, he chides them for their lack of faith (but that’s getting ahead of ourselves!)
Finally, Paul also suffered opposition from the church! Certain believers were chastising Paul and Barnabas for working to support their ministry. “Well, Paul, if you just had faith, you wouldn’t need to work…” Paul undoubtedly felt a measure of frustration at these remarks because he responds to them very directly. “So it’s ok for all the other apostles, just not for me and Barnabas?” You can almost hear the frustration in him as he pens this letter.
So what happens when we face opposition from the wicked, our friends, fellow believers, or even physical obstacles? Fortunately, Paul gives the answer: be prepared to grow through pain.
Don’t you know that in a physical race, only one person can be the winner? Prepared diligently, so that you can be victorious! How do we do that as believers?
Undoubtedly, you will face obstacles in the Christian Life. As, Jesus told his disciples, faith is key to the other parts. If you are trying this in your own strength, you will fail. In addition to your faith, add determination and endurance. It’s easy to give up when it’s hard, but that doesn’t help you be successful.
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” -Hebrews 12:2
“And let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9
Be prepared to grow through pain.