Todays podcast is from Isaiah 50:10-11. It is entitled “Light in the Darkness”
Eve – A Mother to be Honored
There are a lot of good examples of mothers in the Bible. In the Old Testament, we have Hannah, Ruth, Bathsheba and Jochabed, to name a few. The New Testament gives us Lois, Eunice and Elizabeth. All of them had great strengths. The two greatest mothers, in my opinion, were Mary and Eve.
Mary, of course, was picked by God to give birth to, care for and raise Jesus. She was a woman of the highest moral character under tremendous pressure. How would you like to be responsible for parenting God’s Son? She did an outstanding job and we talk about her a lot, especially around Christmas time.
Eve, though, she was the very first mother. There was no one to teach her how to be a mom. From pregnancy to childbirth she had no idea what to expect. It had never happened before. Holding her first baby – she had no help, no frame of reference, no example to follow. She had never been a baby, a child, a teen so she couldn’t even begin to know what to expect. She had to figure it out all by herself.
She was the first mother to experience the joy of seeing her children grow, of learning how to crawl, walk, talk and run. Eve was also the first mother to see the consequences of her actions play out. She was the first to experience the heartbreak of seeing a child reject the faith and rebel. Some of you reading this have known that pain. Some of you have children or grandchildren or siblings who have walked away from God,
Eve was the first to experience the pain of losing a child. Some of you may have also experienced this. Mother’s Day is hard for many people as they remember those children who have died and many times the church has been insensitive to your pain. Stillbirths, miscarriages, infant deaths, deaths of children at any age – whether by accident, disease or even abortion weigh heavily on the heart. We expect, as parents, to die first. We don’t expect to have to bury our children. Eve had to bury Abel and live with the knowledge that another of her children, Cain, had murdered him.
Eve was also the first to see her children marry and leave home. She was the first to experience the excitement of grandchildren. She was also the first to lose her home. She lost Eden, a paradise. Some of you may have lost homes, through tornadoes, fire, divorce, bankruptcy or job loss. It is not easy picking up and starting over.
Can you imagine Eve’s life? Only Adam with her. No girlfriends, no mother – not until her own daughters grew to adulthood would she have another female adult to talk with. Can you imagine how lonely she must have been in those early years? These are some of the reasons I vote her as the greatest mother of all time.
But what does that mean for us now, in 2017? Well, let’s think for a moment. Who taught Eve how to be a good mother? Who was there for her, to tell her what to expect, what to do? God, Himself, was her resource. God was her first resource and all the resource she needed.
That is a big lesson for today. God is always enough. When he is all you have you come to realize that He is all you need. There is nothing He doesn’t know, no question He cannot answer. There is no problem, no situation that He is not willing and able to help with. Do your kids have you at wit’s end? Call on Him. Are you not sure what is going to happen next? Call on Him. Think you cannot go one, that there is no way out? Call on Him. He is more than enough.
The stories of the Bible are true stories written for our example. They are there for us to learn life lessons. The story of Adam and Eve reveals to us real people in real situations. They were the first to encounter things we take for granted today. They had each other and God. That was all. That was enough.
So many times, we feel as if no one understands what we are going through. We feel that our problems are bigger than anyone else’s problems. We feel alone, vulnerable and overwhelmed. By reading the Scriptures, we see people who faced the same problems and we find a God who meets their needs and helps them overcome their problems.
We fail, many times, to see God as a God who is present with us at all times. He walks with us, offering us His wisdom, strength and knowledge. He cares if a baby is colicky and cries night after night, keeping us awake. He cares if a child is pushing our buttons, or if a spouse is bitter and angry. He cares when we feel lonely even among a group of people.
God had to teach Adam and Eve how to parent. They didn’t learn it from a book. They didn’t have parents to teach them. They didn’t learn it from watching monkeys or cows. God taught them. That is how involved He is with us. He is never too busy. He wants us to communicate with Him. You will not bother Him by asking for help. He is willing and able. The God of the Bible is always helping us – even with the smallest things. He makes ax heads float so aa person can return a borrowed tool. He turns water into wine at a wedding reception so a young couple will not be embarrassed. To know that God is with us and that He cares is an anchor for our life that holds us fast. When Jesus says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”, it is not just words, it is reality.
Psalm 46:1 says “Our God is an ever-present help in times of trouble.” No place is without God. He is there at our celebrations, the births, weddings, holidays, birthdays and reunions. He is there at times of sadness, in hospitals, at funerals, battlegrounds and prisons. He is there in the normal, boring, mundane days. He is with you today, wherever you are. His Spirit is moving to and fro, softening hearts, bringing understanding of His Word to us.
We need to come to understand God as Eve did. She understood He was her ultimate resource. She had to lean on Him in every aspect of her life. If she wanted to know how to be the best person she could be, how to be a great spouse, how to be a great parent, how to do anything – she had to go to God and seek His help, His wisdom, His leadership. So, too, do we need to be that dependent upon God. You may pick another woman from the Bible to nominate for the greatest mother but in my book Eve is the one. May we all learn from her example.
One of my favorite quotes that is attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr, is “We must accept finite disappointments but never lose infinite hope.” It reminds me of Psalm 30:5b “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.” Whatever troubles are happening now, for the Christian they are only temporary. Whatever hardship we are enduring in the present will fade in the future as out Lord comes for us, vindicates us, and takes us home with Him to live a life of unending joy. Here in this world we will have trouble, as Scripture plainly teaches, but we are not to be dismayed for we serve the One who overcomes all. What a great promise for all eternity — we serve a Risen Savior who is coming again and this is what gives us infinite hope. As we head into Easter, let us lift our eyes from the finite disappointments that so easily beset us and lift our eyes to the One who is hope incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Isaiah 59:1, Scripture records these words, “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear.” (NASB) Why, then, is God treated by so many people as well-meaning in His desire to save individuals but impotent to actually do so? Is God’s arm actually shorter than the prophet Isaiah thought it was? It irks me to no end to hear sloppy preaching that says, “God has done all He can do, now it is up to you to be saved. You must take that final step on your own.” As if God is helplessly standing by watching millions of people slide into outer darkness because they will not take that step and He cannot reach out to them. That is not what Isaiah 59 says! If you go on to read the chapter you see a picture of man’s descent into sin and his impotence to help himself. The verses talk about how we fell so far that we hope for salvation (11) but are unable to bring it about. Then, because we cannot save ourselves, God’s own arm (16) brought salvation.
Jesus was sent to save His people from their sins. His very name reflects this truth. All the Father gave Him, He redeemed. He did not and cannot fail to save those the Father has elected to be adopted into His family. As has been written many times before on this site, God is Sovereign over the affairs of men and Jesus is both willing and able to save those whom He chooses to save.
I also get tired of preachers spouting, “The Holy Spirit is a gentleman, He will never force you to do anything you do not want to do.” Really? Where do they find that in Scripture? Must be from one of those “lite” versions of the Bible. Mine describes Him as a counselor, a rebuker, a teacher, a convicter, a judge, an exhorter, an enabler, a baptizer, and a consuming fire but nowhere in Scripture does it say that the Holy Spirit is a gentleman. Certainly Saul of Tarsus was rudely interrupted on his way to Damascus to merrily kill more Christians. Scripture records Ananias being told that Saul would be taught what things He would suffer for Jesus’ sake. Hardly a gentlemanly way of dealing with someone, and this after being blinded. The Holy Spirit is likened to a wind – it rushes, catches, carries and moves us. It caught up Phillip and deposited him miles away from the Ethiopian eunuch, it swept up Elijah and blew as tongues of fire at Pentecost. Yes, a gentle zephyr is wind also but God works in many ways. Sometimes He does deal gently with us but sometimes He moves violently, swiftly, surely. There are times when God does force people to do certain things. He gives commands – Repent or perish. That is hardly a gentlemanly statement. He whips merchants from the Temple and calls people names. God sends a storm to stop Jonah from going on his merry way and keeps Paul from entering Bithynia. God is sovereign over His creation.
Sovereignty is such a frightening concept to those under the illusion that they are in charge of their little piece of the universe. Instead of seeing sovereignty as a doctrine of complete comfort, allowing us to rest in the hands and plans of a good God who knows what is best for us at all times; instead of seeing sovereignty as God loving us so much He actively keeps us from destroying ourselves, those who undermine this great doctrine do so because of a false notion that they are in charge of their own life. If God is, as Scripture states, sovereign over the affairs of men, don’t you see that this includes their salvation?
I serve a God whose arm was long enough and strong enough to reach down and save me when I was yet unaware of my condition. It was He who awoke my spirit to life, He who gave me spiritual sight to behold His glory, He who gave me faith to believe the promises He told to me, He who granted to me grace, mercy and forgiveness and He who sealed my spirit with His forevermore. Praise be to the God with long arms — great things He has done!
We have had many people tell us how proud of us they are that we became adoptive parents. There are so many children in the foster care system that need a good, loving, Christian home to be raised in that it is a shameful reminder that the Christian church has largely failed to address this issue. Be that as it may, I have yet to run into anyone who has chastised our family for only adopting one child when there are so many at risk. We certainly could not have adopted all the children in our state, much less the country or the world, but we could have, possibly, adopted at least one more. Does this make us horrible people, to only adopt one? Does this make us sinful, when it was in our power to affect, at least theoretically, one more life? Are we to be commended because, by our free choice, we adopted one or castigated because of our free choice not to adopt more than one?
Why am I asking these questions? Because many people object to the thought of God adopting some people to become members of His family and not everyone. The doctrine is called election and the Bible speaks of God electing some to salvation and not electing others, leaving them to their fate. Is God to be commended for saving some people, by His own free will, from an eternity without Him or is He to be castigated for not saving more or all? Your answer tells what you truly think of God — a wonderful Being that did not have to save anyone yet did or a horrible monster who didn’t save all. Or, perhaps, a willing but unable Deity who desires salvation for mankind but cannot effectively bring it about and depends on us to do what He can’t. There really isn’t any other way to look at it.
The same people who champion the freedom of the human will to accept or reject God do not seem to be willing to give God the free will to accept or reject man. The double standard screams out. People want the freedom to choose but not to give God the same right. It is not as if our Creator owes us anything. He is not beholden to us, we are to Him because all we are is His. In Him we live, breathe and have our existence. We are His creation, for His glory, a glory He will not share with any other.
I get amused at those who want the freedom to choose salvation but the guarantee that the choice cannot be taken back. A salvation dependent on the choice of man but secured by the power of the Savior. I believe in a salvation dependent on a powerful Savior who can and will keep my soul secure. A salvation given by grace because God decided to adopt me into His family like I adopted a little girl into mine. Not because of anything she had done or might possibly do but because I was filled with love toward her. God saved me not because of anything I did or might possibly do for Him but by His love and grace. My hope is built on nothing less than the grace of God my Savior, secured by the blood and righteousness of Jesus and the sealing of my spirit by the Holy Spirit.
Proverbs 1:7 states that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (knowledge)”. In almost all discussions in church classes about this verse it becomes clear that people have been taught that the word fear means “reverential respect.” I beg to disagree. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell”. If the people being addressed were believers, it might be appropriate to use the reverential respect meaning. For an unbeliever, a fear (terror) of a holy God who judges righteously would be the beginning of wisdom. If a person has no fear of ultimate judgment, why would they contemplate salvation? If hell is not a real option, a consequence of not allowing Jesus to be the Lord of one’s life, why worry about an afterlife? The Bible uses the word fear (with reference to God) over 300 times. In quite the majority of those uses, fear means “to be terrified.” The lack of fearing God (according to Romans 3:18) is one of mankind’s chief sins.
For believers, we are told in 1 John 4:18 that “perfect love casts out fear.” How many of us love perfectly? And if fear is just reverential respect, why would perfect love cast it out? William Eisenhower wrote an article for Christianity Today about fearing God. One sentence of his article stands out: “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but love from the Lord is its completion.” We are to fear God’s holiness. We get to experience His mercy and grace. I can go boldly into His presence and obtain mercy from Him, not punishment because of my relationship with His Son. I never presume upon it, though. There are times when He withholds complete mercy. Moses is not allowed into the Promised Land. Ananais and Sapphira are struck dead. So is Uzziah. Believers in Corinth also are put in the grave early. Some mercy is still granted – their soul’s security is still guaranteed. Grace is given in that they did not deserve to enter into His presence. I promise you, though, the early church and the Israelites in the desert feared God with more than reverential respect.
It could be that in many churches our people have lost the fear of serving a holy God and that is why the church looks and feels just like the world. It could be the reason so many churches are powerless and have lost their witness. Without a wholesome fear of God, people will not repent of their sins, and repentance is necessary for the remission of sin. I fear God. I don’t serve Him out of fear, I do it out of gratitude for the salvation He has wrought in my heart, but I also fear Him. He is a God who expects holiness and who has high standards of conduct for His people. He also provides His Spirit to direct and guide and empower us to accomplish His will in His way. I believe that we need to teach that it is proper to fear a God who can destroy both body and soul in hell. It will wake up a lost and dying world and keep those awake from presumptuous sins.
Our very first resource, Is Jesus Enough?, which has been enjoyed by thousands worldwide, is getting an update. Expanded content and a study guide has been written and the book is now in the editing stage. Print release date is tentatively scheduled for early March, and Kindle editions should also be released around the same time. We are excited that this has remained popular since its original release a few years ago and have enjoyed the feedback from so many across the globe. Many have said they have used this in small group discussions and have requested a study guide be made available with it.
Thank you so much for your prayers and support of Ta Ethne. God is good and has continued to bless us so that we may be a blessing to church leaders around the world. Other resources will follow this year and we are excited about the opportunities that God is making possible.