Hoping for Mercy

Jude - Fourth in a series

The opening of Jude's letter finishes with these words: Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied. (Jude 1:2)

Love and peace are among the first gifts of the Spirit enumerated by Paul: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness… (Gal 5:22,23) Each of us knows experientially that we cannot love from the heart nor be free of anxiety and worry except by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. Mercy, however, is God's encompassing salvation for man (in the sense of all people, women included).

When Paul wrote to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians and other groups, he bid them grace and peace, (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2; Col 1:2; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:2) but when he wrote to Timothy and Titus, his own sons in the faith, he went further, to include mercy with grace and peace. (1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; Titus 1:4) He wanted his special sons in Christ to be drawn to reflect on their root need of Christ. They were likely to come under the same intense trials he himself had known. They would never survive without crying out for God's mercy.

Paul wished for Philemon God's grace and peace (Philemon 1:3) Philemon was not a close son even though Paul stated he owed him his life, that is, his salvation.

As Peter wrote to fellow believers in various places, he wished them grace and peace (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:2) with the mention of mercy not far behind (1 Pet 1:3) and the need to make your calling and election sure (2 Pet 1:10) urged, for he warned about false prophets in the church.

When the apostle John wrote to warn about deceivers, he wrote from his heart, "Grace be with you, mercy and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ…" (2 John 1:3) Mercy for lambs can protect them from wolves.

Therefore, when Jude's greeting includes mercy, we know he is reaching out to brothers and sisters in dangerous circumstances. There were and are powers that can only be confronted with God's merciful help, not by might, (Zech 4:6) and we sheep are not good at self preservation in any sense.

What is the difference between grace and mercy? A good expression of grace is in 2 Corinthians: God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. 2 Cor 5:19a Grace is God's good will and favor toward men. Mercy shifts the focus to our helpless state. It is good will toward destitute, imperiled and afflicted people. We welcome God's grace, but we cry out for his mercy.

We should enter into Jude's arena where evil men are spotlighted and exposed, realizing we, too, are susceptible to their designs. Christ alone can protect us, and he will, but we should stop to reflect on our helpless state without Him. We need God's mercy.

The Jordan

The River - Sixth in a series

The Jordan speaks to us of initiation. Jesus was baptized there before he began his public ministry.

The Jordan itself was baptized by fire when the Lord rained down brimstone and fire from heaven, transforming its beautiful plain into a dead sea (Gen 19:24), still the lowest place one earth.

Elisha parted its waters, initiating his own ministry, by striking it with Elijah's mantle that fell as he traveled to heaven in a whirlwind. (2 Ki 2:14) Elisha considered it a better river than any other nation's because it belonged to God's covenant people. Thus he sent Naaman the leper to dip in it seven times for healing. (2 Ki 5:10) The Jordan cooperated with Elisha, even floating an axe head for him in a time of need. (2 Kings 6:5, 6)

The Jordan parted its waters for the priests carrying the ark of the covenant as the Hebrews crossed over to Canaan after their 40 years in the desert, initiating their reign in the promised land, and Jericho knew it! (Joshua 3:15, 16)

Jacob was by a stream that flows to the Jordan when he wrestled all night with the angel and was then renamed to Israel, initiating the designation of God's people (Gen 32:28).

Gideon crossed over the Jordan with his 300 troops "faint though pursuing" to return control to Israel after the Midianites had bullied them long enough, initiating a new day of rulership for the Lord. (Jdg 8:4)

It is still a river in Israel that does not dry up, a nahar, and a river of man in the sense that it is not generally chosen for navigation by vessels due to its course and seasonal fluctuations, but man's uses of it are many. In fact, it is still used for the baptism of Christians in Israel, mostly for tourists.

Jesus also spoke of a baptism not of water: "But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" (Luke 12:50) He would be immersed in suffering to the end that we might be reconciled with the Father.

He was anxious to accomplish this baptism and wanted us to understand that if we are faithful, we will also receive that second type of baptism. He explained to his disciples that families, friends and neighbors would part ways as they chose life or death, that is, whether to follow him or to decline: "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three." (Luke 12:51, 52)

All those truly initiated to Life are initiated to War, to defend the faith. May the Lord keep us afloat by rivers of his mercy.

Amalek in Esther

The Amalekites — Tenth and final in a series

My NIV Bible has this note about the book of Esther: "An outstanding feature of this book …is the complete absence of any explicit reference to God, worship, prayer or sacrifice."

Likewise, there is none to the Amalekite, but the book of Esther presents the culmination of God's war against Amalek. Ultimately, the Lord called on all of his inheritance to stand against the attacks rained upon them by the command of Amalek's descendant, Haman, and to defeat the enemy. By this we perceive his call to each Christian to actively defend his life against the adversary.

This story is set in the mid-to-late fifth century B.C. when the Jews still resided throughout the Persian empire that succeeded the Babylonians who had forced the Jews into captivity, but it would not be long before they would begin to return to their land. Xerxes was on the throne in Susa with Queen Esther who was Hadassah the Jewess. Susa was not far from Ur which Abraham departed when called to the Promised Land. Talk about going backward!

Xerxes ruled from Ethiopia to India over 127 provinces, and he was not aware his wife was a Hebrew until it became necessary for him to know. The key people in the book are: Xerxes and Esther; Haman, the king's highest official who was the son of Hammedatha the Agagite; and Mordecai the Jew who was Esther's cousin and guardian.

Even though the king had commanded that all people in his kingdom would honor and bow to Haman, Mordecai refused. This was because God had sworn, "The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation" (Ex 17:16), following the Amalekites' unprovoked and prideful attack on Israel when she had just stepped forth from slavery.

An Agagite was a descendant of King Agag who was spared by Saul though the Lord had required that he completely annihilate the tribe. The kingdom was torn from Saul and given to David because Saul did not carry out God's fierce wrath against the Amalekites. (1 Sam 28:17-18) Agag was killed by Samuel, but in Esther we find that some of his family survived.

Haman did not know that Mordecai was a Jew and when he found out, he devised a plan to kill not only him but all Jews throughout the kingdom. He consulted with astrologers to discern the best time to carry out the scheme and gained the King's unwitting approval, even sealing the order to destroy them with the King's ring, given to him for this cause. Now, God began to deliver his people from the Amalekite's scheme.

On discovering the plot, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth with ashes and went into the city crying loudly. As the edict went forth to each province, the Jews mourned and wailed. Esther was among the last to hear the news. Mordecai urged her to use her influence with the King but that was not so easy, since no person could come before him uninvited or they would die, unless he held out his scepter to permit their intrusion.

Esther asked Mordecai to gather the Jews of Susa for them to fast three days and nights, and then she would ask King Xerxes for mercy and help. So, though we have no mention of prayer in Esther, we are presented with the importance of fasting when in extreme peril; in this way the Lord draws near as our own strength dies and our hearts are emptied of their own devices.

Esther is a book of literary enjoyment by its well-crafted plot that builds suspense so that the demise of Haman and the salvation of the Jews causes the reader to laugh and rejoice. Of course, it is more than a tale, it is the true account of how the annual Jewish holiday of Purim came into being.

A brief blog post can only encourage a reader to enjoy the entire book at leisure, and to think on some of its important points relating to the Amalekites, to finish our series.

  1. Though King Xerxes' edict could not be revoked, the Jews were permitted to defend themselves against their enemies, and the fear of God fell on their attackers so that they were victorious throughout the kingdom. As God's people fought for their lives assured He was with them, the bitterness of their national disgrace was forgotten. Their successful defense sharpened their instinct for self preservation and enlivened their hearts, making them proud once again of their heritage and their God.
  2. God chose the time when the Jews were scattered among heathens to permit Amalek's terror, to show his people that he was yet with them. Likewise, when we are cast down and forsaken, God shows us his faithful love and help after we have suffered for a time (1 Peter 5:6-10). This was an encouragement to the Jews to yearn for their homeland, and for us, the story beckons our return to the Lord from wandering or bitter isolation.
  3. No matter where we are, how far from home, or by analogy, how distant from our roots of faith, God is watching over us and has a plan to bring us home. You need not be far away to benefit from a reviving touch. How easily we part company with the Lord!
  4. When enemies attack at your lowest point, when you have barely crawled out of a place of agony and oppression, when you least expect it, or when they provoke by their boastful, high handed, hotheaded, lying ways, remember: You are under orders to come against them. You have the right! But the weapons of your warfare are not carnal. They are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds — For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor 10:3-5)
  5. When that discouraging, mean, persistent and ugly thought or feeling descends, agitates or seizes you, remember, it's only an Amalekite, and you are Christ's and Christ is God's. (1 Cor 3:23) Don't forget, take EVERY thought captive! Never let the Amalekite win; you not only have the right to defend against his prideful attack, it is your sacred duty, and glorifies the Lord.

Attention Readers

Have you visited the Biotech Blog on this website? Find information and resources to help you think about biotech as a Christian.

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Should you sign your driver’s license to be an organ donor? Is cremation OK with God? Do these practices undermine the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection?

Learn more. The conscience cannot function without facts.

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