Giving Myself Away

“From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering” Exodus 25:2

Contrary to the world’s conception of giving, the above is the biblical base for giving. The world’s conception of giving in the church is derived from people who falsely profess to be Christian and who reject teaching from the Bible for their own material gain.

The Apostle Paul affirms the Old Testament teaching in 2 Corinthians 8 in reference to the churches in Macedonia, “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing” (v 3). The reason behind their willing giving is given by Paul, “They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (v 5).

Key here is that they first gave themselves to the Lord. This is where we may fall short and fail the test of faith by placing limitations on how much we will give to the Lord. In my first year of learning to walk with the Lord I came across the following and I believe it depicts accurately what Christian giving really is. It was written in the front cover of the Bible of teenager Elizabeth Alden Scott on August 3, 1925.

“My Covenant

Lord, I give up my own purposes and plans, all my desires, hopes and ambitions (whether they be fleshly or soulish), and accept thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all, utterly to thee, to be thine forever.

I hand over to thy keeping all of my friendships, my love. All the people whom I love are to take second place in my heart.

Fill me and seal me with thy Holy Spirit. Work out thy whole will in my life, at any cost, now and forever.

‘To me to live is Christ and to die is gain’ Philippians 1:21

Why don’t you reread her covenant and pause to speak with the Lord Jesus. Tell him whether you will accept or reject this covenant as your own. Your carefully and prayerfully considered response from your heart will be a defining moment for now and eternity.

Of course, having made such a covenant you can expect the Lord Jesus to take you on a path to test your heart as to the genuineness of your desire. Then He will lead you to fulfilment. As for anyone walking with Jesus life will be anything other than what is expected. As He did with Israel (Exodus 24+), the Lord will deal with our heart relationship with Him first, not our behaviour. Behaviour is shaped by our heart, never the other way around.

Elizabeth (Betty) Scott Stam and husband, John, missionaries with China Inland Mission, were murdered in China by Communist revolutionary soldiers on 8th December 1934 when she was just 28 years old. Her baby girl was rescued. For more of her life story click the link below.

Biography: Elisabeth (Betty) Alden Scott Stam

Declaration of Ownership

“God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them” Exodus 2:25

As in child birth, pain often precedes pleasure and joy. The birth of the nation of Israel would be no different and it has similarities with the nation’s rebirth at the end of the Great Tribulation.

In the last three verses of Exodus two we find Israel groaning under the weight of bondage as slaves in Egypt. In their pain and suffering they cried out to the Lord. God had been with them all along but now that the people were crying out for deliverance He would act.

First we note that He heard the cries of Israel for deliverance to the point of acting (v 24). But on what basis would He act? In the same verse we are given the answer; “God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” It isn’t that God had forgotten His covenant. This and the preceding chapter are evidence of that but He is now going to act in a special way with regard to that covenant.

When we read that “God looked upon the children of Israel,” it isn’t that He had been distracted elsewhere but that He was taking into account their present situation and their crying out for deliverance. He would now act.

Finally, in these verses, we note that God acknowledged Israel and was concerned for them. The idea here is that of a relationship, that of a father for his son (4:22). God is declaring His ownership of Israel. As such He will act to deliver Israel. He affirms this again in 3:7 where He refers to Israel as “My people.”

This is a beautiful picture of Israel’s future. The closing days of the Great Tribulation will see Israel again crying out to God for deliverance. On that occasion the Lord Jesus Himself will appear for the same reason that He gave attention to Israel as recorded in Exodus two, “God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.” He will then deliver believing Israel and believing Gentiles and establish His earthly kingdom.

These circumstances have a parallel with salvation now. When a person is sick and tired of the corruption of this world, bondage to sin and death, they will cry out to God for deliverance. Jesus promises to respond. He said, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine [teaching], whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17). When a person desires to hear the truth Jesus will ensure they hear it and know that it is true but it is up to the person as to whether they will receive it and trust Jesus and His word.

It is the delight of the child of God to know that Jesus Christ declares His ownership of them and in due course will do so publicly. Of greatest importance is that He will declare His redeemed to the Father.

God’s Faithfulness

‘God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.’ So He called his name Israel” Genesis 35:10

More than twenty years had passed since Jacob left his father and mother in fear for his life from his twin brother, Esau. In that time his experiences with his uncle, Laban, and his meeting with the Lord on the return journey prior to meeting Esau had made him a much changed man.

Before he left the promised land the Lord appeared to him at Bethel and affirmed that the covenant He had made with Abraham would be fulfilled through Jacob in all three aspects; land, descendants and a blessing to the nations (Genesis 28:13-14).

At a time when Jacob was unsettled in his relationship with Laban and began to fear him, the Lord called him back to his father, Isaac. Interestingly it was again fear that disposed Jacob to have a listening ear toward God. That remains a provocation for people to have an ear toward God still. At this time the Lord reminded Jacob of their previous meeting and Jacob’s vow (Genesis 28:20-22; 31:13).

The incident at Shechem (Genesis 34) again stirred up fear in Jacob which apparently disposed him again to have an ear toward the Lord. By commanding Jacob to return to Bethel, the Lord was again reminding him of his vow (Genesis 35:1).

Jacob obeyed all that the Lord said and again the Lord affirmed that the covenant that he had made with Abraham would be fulfilled through Jacob and his descendants. The message to Jacob and to us is that God is faithful to His word no matter how circumstances may appear.

The seal of this affirmation came from the Lord in the new name given to Jacob. First mention of the change of name was given by the Lord after the night long encounter Jacob had with Him (Genesis 32:28) but it was not applied until Jacob had fully returned, built an altar to the Lord and removed all association with false gods. At this time the Lord now called him Israel (Genesis 35:10) and affirmed the three key aspects of the covenant made with Abraham. This name became the name for all Israel’s descendants and remains so to this day and forevermore.

The name means, “Prince with God” and that is what Israel is and shall always be (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-37). The very name, Israel, shouts the faithfulness of God to His word.

Covenanting with God

“They entered a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul” 2 Chronicles 15:12

We don’t hear very often of people, either individually or corporately, entering into a covenant with the Lord. God has revealed Himself as one who makes and keeps covenants so we would expect that His people would do likewise. Fear of failure or an unwillingness to commit may be major reasons we don’t covenant with the Lord. King Asa failed later in life and is an example from which we may learn.

King Asa started out well by doing what was right and good in the eyes of the Lord. In the early years of his reign over the Southern Kingdom the Ethiopian Zerah came against him with an army more than twice the number of his army. Asa cried out to the Lord and the Lord routed the Ethiopians apparently without any effort on the part of Asa’s army. It was at this time that Asa and the people entered a covenant with the Lord. The Lord gave King Asa “rest” from war until his 36th year as king. Then King Baasha of the Northern Kingdom came against him with an army.

Instead of turning to the Lord for counsel and deliverance King Asa turned to the king of Syria for help. The prophet Hanani was sent by the Lord to make him aware of the change in his relationship with the Lord but King Asa refused to repent. Instead, he became angry at Hanani for exposing his sin and had him imprisoned.

What happened in the 35 years of “rest” from war that allowed king Asa to have such a change of heart? There are several observations we can make:

  1. The miracle of the Lord destroying the Ethiopian force did not guarantee Asa’s continued loyalty and reliance on the Lord
  2. A long period of time of prosperity and things going well with the people did not guarantee loyalty and reliance on the Lord
  3. In reality it would appear that the miracle and the extended period of peace and prosperity led to complacency and/or presumption with the result that the King no longer turned to or relied on the Lord

Peace and prosperity do not provoke reliance on and loyalty to the Lord. However, they do not of themselves provoke disloyalty. When things are going well we need to pay double attention to maintaining intimacy with the Lord. The history of God’s people in the Bible, in church history and in living memory of many of us, teaches us that miracles, peace and prosperity do not close the door of disloyalty and unfaithfulness.

Peter wrote, “Brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things (mentioned in the preceding verses) you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10).

When we make a covenant with the Lord it needs to be on the basis of the cross and God’s, gracious enablement and faithfulness otherwise we might follow Asa’s example in which pride welled up within him so that he no longer relied on the Lord.

A Sign in our Day

“’Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have dealt with you for My name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways nor according to your corrupt doings, O house of Israel,’ says the lord” Ezekiel 20:44

It is always wonderfully reassuring to read the Bible and find clusters of the “I will’s” of the lord. They appear frequently in the prophets in regard to the nation Israel. In this chapter there are also two other clusters. One is the phrase, “for My name’s sake.” The third cluster is “Then you shall know …” These three clusters work together to give us a marvellous living image of our God and His desire for His people. It is a most wonderful chapter with regard to the Divine Nature and the Lord’s faithfulness in keeping His word even to wayward children.

The concept that Israel has been put out of the future plan of God because of their disobedience and idolatry is well and truly debunked in the verse above and this chapter. It also debunks the notion God will remove one who has been born of God from His kingdom. Salvation is not based on our works but on Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross and God’s faithfulness to His word. God never rejects anyone who comes to Him (John 6:37).

Several times in this passage the Lord says that He will bring Israel back into the land. This is in spite of the continuing disobedience and idolatry noted in this chapter and in many other places in the bible. In fact, it is the Lord bringing Israel back into the land from being spread among the nations, still in disobedience and rebellion, that is a sign to Israel that He is about to bring to ultimate fulfil His covenant promises to Abraham, David and Israel (vs. 37, 41-42)

When this happens Israel will know that it is the Lord who has done it for His name’s sake and not for their sake or because they are righteous.

When Israel is in the land, still in their unbelief, rebellion and corruption, the Lord will cause the nation to “pass under the rod” of correction (v 37). He will also “purge the rebels from among” them (v 38). “Then you will know that I am the Lord (v 38)”. Then will come the day that Paul spoke of in Romans 11:26, “And so all Israel will be saved.”

The time of the “passing under the rod” and the “purging” is still future but is on the ever nearer horizon. It is not difficult to equate these events with the seven year tribulation period that leads up to Jesus’ re-appearing. The description here matches the description of that time.

The Lord has no pleasure in the many who will die now or at that time (Ezekiel 18:23, 32). What He desires is Israel’s repentance and that is the purpose for the nation “passing under the rod” (18:30-31).

In our life time we are seeing the nation Israel being brought back into the land promised to Abraham even though, as a nation, they are in unbelief and still in rebellion against the Lord. That the Lord is doing this is a sign to Israel, and to the world, that we are approaching the day of Israel’s national reconciliation with the Lord and fulfilment of all that the “I will’s” of the lord promise.

“Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for which I raised My hand in an oath to give to your fathers” (v 42).

Faithful or Fickle?

“Thus says the Lord, ‘If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant.’” Jeremiah 33:20-21

The Lord has just promised Israel that “David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel” (v 17). This relates to the covenant the Lord made with King David recorded in 2 Samuel 7:16. The Lord links the fulfilment of His covenant with His sovereign power over day and night. Only the Creator and Sustainer of all creation could have such authority and ability.

He also states that He would cast off Israel if anyone can measure the heaven above (31:37). For man, that is impossible. Only the Creator can number all the heavenly bodies. Men and computers may be able to make calculated guesses but since they do not know the unseen boundaries they could be out by many factors.

If the Lord is not able to fulfil His covenant with Israel why would He make such statements? Only foolish people make promises they have no hope or no intention of keeping. If any person suggests that the Lord cannot or will not fulfil His word they reveal that their god is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is Creator of all that exists and He sustains it in every detail. It would be totally absurd or deceitful for Him to make this, and all the other similar statements, if He could not perform as He says. This would result in both He and His word being totally discredited. That may be the motivation behind the belief that God has now forever rejected Israel. Some people do not want to believe all that the Bible and Jesus have said. We must be careful that we do not treat the Bible like a cafeteria where we pick and choose what we will believe.

Our God is absolutely faithful to His covenants and promises. Perhaps another reason some people want to believe otherwise is so that they don’t feel so bad or guilty about their broken promises and unfaithfulness to covenants such as marriage. If a person believes that God has turned away from His covenant with Israel then it may ease his conscience when he turns away from his contracts, vows or other commitments and promises.

This would seem to be in conflict with the name given to Messiah when He returns to earth as recorded in Revelation 19:11, “And He who sat on him (a white horse) was called Faithful and True.”

The objection that Israel has so sinned that the nation cannot be reconciled not only contradicts huge portions of the Bible but also disparages the character and nature of our God. Because of Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection God is able to forgive all sin. That is the essence of the Good News, the Gospel.

Whenever the Lord speaks through His prophets concerning Israel’s return and restoration He always acknowledges the nation’s sinfulness. Let us not make nonsense of God’s New Covenant with Israel recorded in Jeremiah 31:31-34 which concludes with these words, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” but rather rejoice in the faithfulness of our God. “And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16).

The Closing Horizon

“As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in your likeness” Psalm 17:15

There are quite a few men in the Old Testament who indicate, like David in this Psalm, that they believed in resurrection. Since they had no precedent, how did they come to believe what the world considers unbelievable? It can only have come from God Himself.

The author of Hebrews writes of faithful Old Testament people, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For these who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland” (Hebrews 11:13-14). People of faith could see the fulfilled promises of God on the horizon of time. For them it was “afar off” but for us it is ever so much nearer. The prophetic Scriptures build our expectation that the horizon we look to is not so far off.

Our expectation is put in New Testament words by the Apostle John, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

Jesus gave His disciples a look into the immediate future as well as to the horizon when, on the night He was betrayed, as He shared the Passover with His disciples and instituted the Lord’s Supper He said, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). On the eve of His crucifixion Jesus pointed His disciples’ eyes to the horizon of reunion in resurrection in His kingdom.

The Apostle Paul writes that he received instruction direct from the Lord in regard to the Lord’s Supper. It is a time when we refresh our personal intimate relationship with Jesus. Only those who have experienced Christ in their lives can “remember” Him. We cannot remember what we have never experienced. Paul ends by saying that when we share in this Supper we “proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). Every time we take the bread and the cup we are testifying that we are looking to the horizon where we see the fulfilment of all the Lord’s covenants and promises. Like Abraham, Job, David, Jonah, Isaiah and Moses we see the ever closing horizon when we shall see Jesus face to face.

Paul affirms, “If we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” “If we died with Christ, we believe we that we shall also live with Him” (Romans 6:5, 8).