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– Genesis 8:1
God does not forget like we forget, but He does remember.
Once a year my wife and I fly from our home in Nevada to visit my parents in New Jersey. When the visit is over, we fly back home. The trip takes about five hours. If the flight is during the day, I like to look out the window to see where we are. Below I see cities and towns and the Appalachian mountains. Later I see the Mississippi river, then the plains, followed by the Rocky Mountains. But when the canyonlands of the southwest come into view, I know soon the pilot will remember to adjust the controls to begin our descent. It was always the pilot’s intention to land the aircraft at our destination, but first he had to fly the plane at cruising altitude for a while before he put that plan into action. It would have been useless to ask the pilot to land the plane early, for then we would not have arrived at our intended destination. In the same way, some time must elapse before God “remembers” and acts to begin a new phase of His plan.
In Genesis 7, God sent the flood to destroy all life on the earth except for Noah and those with him on the ark. For forty days and nights, the floodwaters increased until they covered everything. But it was never God’s plan for the human race to live on a permanent cruise. When the 40 days were over, God remembered Noah by turning off the heavenly spigots so the waters could begin to recede. God said earlier the rain would last for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:4), and in the fullness of time, He acted to save Noah.
God remembered other people in the Bible, and every time He remembered, He acted in some way to change their circumstance…
- In Genesis 19:29, He remembered Abraham by saving Lot. In the previous chapter, the patriarch reasoned with God to save his brother from the doomed city of Sodom. When God did so, He acted by sending His angels to bring Lot, his wife and daughters out of the city before it was destroyed. So God remembered Abraham.
- In Genesis 30:22, God remembered Rachel. Like the other wives of the patriarchs, Rachel was barren. But in God’s perfect time, He acted to enable her to conceive. Earlier in Genesis 21:1, God “visited” Sarah to enable her to conceive, which is another way of saying He remembered her. God also remembered Hannah the same way in 1 Samuel 1:19, 2:21.
- In Exodus 2:24, God remembered His people suffering in Egyptian slavery. God had told Abraham his descendants would be slaves in Egypt for four hundred years (Genesis 15:13), but only at the end of the four hundred years did He deliver them from their oppressors.
- In Luke 1:72, Zechariah gave praise to God for remembering His people by sending Jesus to save them. Hundreds, even thousands, of years had passed since God promised to send a Savior, and in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4), He acted to do so.
In each of these examples, God’s people were going through a difficult phase of life. Those who knew the character of God waited patiently for Him, trusting in His wisdom and timing. When we call on God to remember us in our suffering, it is not because we think He has forgotten us (…at least we shouldn’t think that way), but because we desire Him to act now on our behalf. Before He acts, we wait patiently for Him to remember us. But whether we trust Him or not, He will do so and bring us into a new and better phase of life. For a time, life is hard, then God makes it better. Knowing God remembers is the basis of our work and prayers of faith.
For God is not unrighteous, so as to forget your work and the labor of love which you showed toward his name, in that you served the saints, and still do serve them.
– Hebrews 6:10
God does not always act in ways that are beneficial to us. If we rebel against God, He allows it to go on for a time to give us ample opportunity to repent. Just as when God remembers for good, there can be a long period of time before He acts to repay our evil, but eventually He does so if we remain stubborn and refuse to repent.
- In Jeremiah 14:10-12, after hundreds of years of repeated warnings, God remembered the sin and idolatry of His people and acted to punish them.
- On a much larger scale, God will soon remember “Babylon”, the great anti-God world system (Revelation 16:19, 18:5). At that time, He will cause her to drink to the dregs the full cup of His wrath.
For good or for evil, you can count on the fact that God always remembers. One of the differences between the righteous and the wicked is that the righteous know God remembers, so when they sin (for everyone sins), they repent, seek forgiveness, and trust in His mercy and forgiveness. But the wicked don’t know God remembers. They continue in sin because they’re unaware of the consequences of their rebellion. They don’t believe God will pay them back for their actions.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
– 2 Corinthians 5:10
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
– Revelation 20:11-15
This is why, in the book of Acts, the need for salvation in Jesus focused on the final judgment rather than where people would spend eternity. The roads to both heaven and hell go through the judgment seat of Christ.
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
– Acts 17:30-31
Of course, everybody sins. Everybody does things that offend God. If God were to remember our sins, we would have no hope. (“If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” – Psalm 130:3) But God has provided a way for sins to be forgotten for those who humble themselves and repent. This Way is based solely on God’s remembering Jesus’ propitiatory sacrifice. Jesus’ death on the cross is the sole means by which God forgets our sins.
You can use this fact to your advantage. You now have a choice as to how God will remember you. He can remember you for good, or He can remember you for evil. He can remember you for eternal life, or remember you for eternal torment. Billions of people have gone to hell when they didn’t have to. It takes virtually nothing on your part for Him to remember you for life. All you need to do is humble yourself before Him, repent and put your trust in Jesus, and God will remember you for life. I strongly recommend you choose life.
“…he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
– Acts 10:42-43
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will by no means remember any longer.
– Hebrews 8:12
Goodread.com is hosting a give-away for the second edition of my book, How To Gain Victory Over Sin. The give-away is August 19 to 27. You could be one of 10 winners. Click the link below for more information.
The second edition of my book, How To Gain Victory Over Sin is now available. As with the first edition, this one is free in e-book form from Google Play, Smashwords, or here. Kindle users’ have to pay 99 cents because Amazon won’t let me charge any less. Because the book has more pages, the price for the paperback is a little higher than the first edition, but it’s still pretty cheap ($7).
This new edition contains additional articles on sanctification, plus an appropriate and helpful chapter from Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s excellent book, All Of Grace. The original content has been updated slightly, and as before, there’s an over-abundance of endnotes if you need them.
I also completely redesigned the cover, using imagery related to the book’s dandelion illustration.
Information about this book, and my first book, Seeing Jesus, is available on my books pages.
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold.
– Daniel 3:1
..and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power … for the glory of my majesty?”
– Daniel 4:30
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them. It will never be inhabited or lived in for all generations; …
– Isaiah 13:19-20a
Here’s an extract from wikipedia that I grabbed several years ago…
“In 1983, Saddam Hussein started rebuilding the city on top of the old ruins (because of this, artifacts and other finds may well be under the city by now), investing in both restoration and new construction. He inscribed his name on many of the bricks in imitation of Nebuchadnezzar. One frequent inscription reads:
“This was built by Saddam Hussein, son of Nebuchadnezzar, to glorify Iraq”. This recalls the ziggurat at Ur, where each individual brick was stamped with “Ur-Nammu, king of Ur, who built the temple of Nanna”. These bricks became sought after as collectors’ items after the downfall of Hussein, and the ruins are no longer being restored to their original state. He also installed a huge portrait of himself and Nebuchadnezzar at the entrance to the ruins, and shored up Processional Way, a large boulevard of ancient stones, and the Lion of Babylon, a black rock sculpture about 2,600 years old.”
“When the Gulf War ended, Saddam wanted to build a modern palace, also over some old ruins; it was made in the pyramidal style of a Sumerian ziggurat. He named it Saddam Hill. In 2003, he was ready to begin the construction of a cable car line over Babylon when the invasion began and halted the project.”
I find it interesting how Saddam, identifying himself as Nebuchadnezzar, sought glory for his kingdom… and then his rule ended. This prophecy may be the main reason the United States ousted Saddam from Iraq.
The article goes on to say UN officials and Iraqi leader have plans to restore Babylon as a cultural center. In 2009 it was opened as a tourist site, but according to biblical prophecy, it will never be an inhabited city.
Israel went through a time of slavery in Egypt. God had told Abram this would happen beforehand (Genesis 15:13), but He allowed it to happen anyway. Slavery is evil, but God always has a purpose and is able to bring good to His people out of anything.
Whatever manner God deals with His people, whether through something He does or something He allows, it is always to bring glory to Himself. Glory is simply the revealing of God’s character and nature such that we can understand and appreciate Him better. So to find out why the Israelites were enslaved, we need to ask how God revealed His character and nature through the situation. What do we learn about God from this time?
Remember when God told Abram what would happen to His descendants, He also promised to bring great good out of it? Abraham received many promises from God, but he never saw them fulfilled (Hebrews 11:13). Abraham continued to believe God in spite of this, but I wonder what everyone else thought? Imagine you’re one of Abram’s neighbors – say, an idol-worshiping Canaanite. You hear Abram say his God (of whom you know nothing) made a bunch of promises to him… but years go by and, even though Abram dies, you never see them fulfilled. Wouldn’t you think his God is no different than your god? After all, your god never fulfilled any promises either.
Four hundred years later, God appeared to Moses and said He was now going to act to fulfill the promises made to Abraham (Exodus 3:8). But the Israelites didn’t know God anymore. He was the stuff of legends to them. He hadn’t spoken in hundreds of years. Moses had to ask who God was so he could tell his people (Exodus 3:13-15). It was then that God gave His name: Yahweh (Jehovah).
Exodus 6:3 says God wasn’t known by that name to Abraham, and yet Genesis 12:8 says Abraham had called on the name of Yahweh. This is not a contradiction. I take this to mean Abraham knew the pronunciation of God’s name, but didn’t understand it has a meaning. It’s like knowing someone by the name of Cook, and not realizing he’s a great chef. Abram knew what God’s name sounded like, but he never experienced what it meant. Only later did God reveal the meaning of His name to Moses and the Israelites.
One phrase you see repeated in the Old Testament is “…and then they will know that I am Yahweh,” (i.e. Exodus 6:7-8; 14:4; 1 Samuel 17:47, 1 Kings 20:28, etc). Every time you see this phrase, God says He is going to act to fulfill a promise. So the meaning of the name Yahweh is tied with the God who acts to show Himself real and faithful to His promises. God is the great I AM, and He proves it by keeping His promises.
Abraham never saw the promises fulfilled, but the Israelites did. God revealed Himself to them in spectacular ways. As a result, they came to know God better. They knew Him as Savior, Redeemer, Provider, and One who loves them. They knew His holiness and righteousness through His Law. They experienced both His love and His justice, His blessing and His wrath. They knew He was faithful to His promises – even those made hundreds of years ago. They witnessed His power over nature and man. God was glorified in their eyes AND the Egyptians’ (Exodus 5:2, 7:5, 8:20-22, 14:4) AND the Canaanites (Joshua 2:9-11, Judges 9:24). And the glory was greater because God had brought His people out of what was an impossibly difficult situation. That is the same way He works today. He comes through for us even in impossible situations.
The Israelites’ slavery also had other benefits. It helped the Israelites to understand the relationship they had to their God. God did not set His people free from slavery. He redeemed them to be His own servants. He bought them: they were now His.
As Christians, we are also redeemed; we are now slaves of Christ. We have a harder time understanding the ramifications of this because we haven’t come from a slavery background. Israel knew what it meant, even though they rebelled over and over again. Thankfully, we have a Master is extremely good, and loves us. However, too many of us do not really know the name of Jesus. We hear it all the time, but we’ve never experienced its meaning: “Yahweh Saves.” Let’s use our difficult situations for what they are intended: to know and experience the name of Jesus. He is our Savior, Redeemer, Provider and Lover of our souls. He is holy and righteous. He is faithful to His promises… even those made thousands of years ago. This is the meaning of life.
…I have not shrunk back from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
– Acts 20:27
If you’ve watched the news lately, you have probably seen one or more heat maps. A heat map uses areas of different colors to give an overall picture of some kind of statistic. For example, weather reports will sometimes show ocean temperatures in the Pacific to indicate if we’re heading for an El Niño or La Niña. And while technically not a heat map, we’ve all seen recent maps of the United States election results colored red or blue by county. I like heat maps, and it got me thinking of a biblical application.
What if you could view the entire Bible as a map, divided into books and chapters (like states and counties), or divided into topics. How would that map look if it were colored based on what areas you tend to study over the years. Or if you’re a pastor, how would the map be colored based on the subjects of your sermons? Well-studied areas would be red, and little-studied areas would be blue. If you can picture such a map in your mind, would you have large areas of blue because you tend to focus on a few favorite books or topics? Or would the map be mostly red?
There are basic five states which you can be in relating to the essentials of any belief system, whether it be Christianity, Islam, or even atheism:
You can subscribe to a belief system without knowing the details of the belief system. This is not a good state to be in. There are many who identify themselves as Christian, Muslim, Atheist, or whatever without having personally investigated what they believe. Until recently (and maybe still so today), most Americans identified themselves as Christians, but the majority pick that belief system as the default (“I believe Jesus was a good man, and I’m not a Muslim, Buddhist, or pagan, so I guess I’m a Christian.”), not knowing what Christianity is all about.
You can reject a belief system without knowing the details of the belief system. This is also not a good state to be in. These are those who deny a belief system is true without having investigated what that system teaches. Reasons for denial are subjective: “It doesn’t seem right to me.”, “Almost nobody believes that.”, “Look at how those people behave!”, “I’ve always been told they’re wrong.”, etc.
You can subscribe to a belief system knowing the essential details of the belief system. This is much better than ignorant acceptance or rejection. It shows you realize the dangers of believing something without any evidence. You may still come to a wrong conclusion on the matter due to incomplete and/or biased investigation, but you are closer to finding out the truth than blind acceptance or rejection.
You can reject a belief system knowing the essential details of the belief system. This is also much better than ignorant rejection or acceptance. Again, you may come to a wrong conclusion on the matter due to incomplete and/or biased investigation, but you are closer to finding out the truth than blind acceptance or rejection.
You can accept some essential parts of belief system and reject others, and you can combine parts of one belief system with another. This is also a form of ignorance and self-deception: calling yourself a believer in something, but not really believing it. You cannot say you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, if you don’t believe the things Jesus said. That is like saying, “I hate hamburgers, but love cheeseburgers. But I prefer my cheeseburgers without cheese.” You can have your cheeseburger without ketchup, lettuce, or onions, but you can’t have it without cheese. Cheese is essential to the cheeseburger. And Christ is essential to Christianity.
The further away you are from ignorance, the less likely there will be compromise, and the closer you will be to the truth.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers…
– Jeremiah 31:31-34 (ESV)
We Christians today are experts at taking verses out of context. We do it almost as much as Hollywood or the Name-It-And-Claim-It crowd. We just don’t realize it.
How many of us regularly quote Philippians 4:19 (“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.“), taking this verse as an unconditional promise that applies to all believers? Well, it’s not. Paul wrote this to those who, in spite of their poverty, were sacrificially supporting his work in bringing the gospel to the nations. (To see the context, start reading from verse 10, or better yet, read the whole letter in one go.) Paul was merely repeating what Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-33: “…seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” So this is not a blanket promise to every believer. It’s only a promise to those who set the kingdom of God above their own needs. In fact, those who don’t work are explicitly told they won’t have their needs met (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
It’s very important to pay attention to context when reading or studying the Bible, but especially when committing verses to memory. Think of how many false doctrines and even whole cults have arisen by lifting an isolated verse out of a passage, or understanding a biblical phrase in light of today’s culture instead of the culture it was written in. But there’s another context that even those of us who have learned to pay attention to context usually miss, and that is the covenantal context.
A covenant is a binding agreement between two parties. The Bible records many covenants made between God and man. There’s the one God made with Noah after the flood, saying He would never destroy the earth that way again. There’s another one He made with Abram to give the “Promised Land” to his many descendants. Later God gave him the covenant of circumcision and changed his name to Abraham.
But the most prominent covenants in the Bible are the ones that we use to label the two sections of the Bible: the old covenant and the new covenant. The old covenant was given to those God redeemed from slavery in Egypt, and the new covenant was given to all those redeemed from sin through the blood of Jesus. These two are distinct, but many times we unconsciously mix elements of one into the other when we try to understand the Bible. This opens us up to doctrinal and practical error. The Galatian believers, for example, left Christ and fell from grace when they added old covenant law-keeping to their faith 1.
While I could go into detail about the various errors that have come from mixing the two covenants, I think it would be more beneficial to compare the two to show why they are incompatible with each other, because it’s better to show why something is wrong then to just say it’s wrong.
It’s true both covenants share some similarities. Both were put into effect through mediators. Both were enacted the same way: through a blood sacrifice (Exodus 24:6-8, Hebrews 9:15-22, 10:29, Matthew 26:28). But the new covenant is much better than the old one, as the writer of Hebrews declares:
But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
– Hebrews 8:6-7 (ESV)
Why is the new covenant better than the old one? Here are some reasons…
•The old covenant was made at Mount Sinai exclusively with Israel (Psalm 147:19-20). No other people had a part in it: not the Gentiles, and not even any other descendant of Abraham. No one but the Israelites were under the Law (Acts 14:16, Romans 2:14), and they shared the promises with no one else (Ephesians 2:12). But the new covenant was made at Mount Calvary between God and anyone who believes in Jesus for salvation, regardless of any earthly distinction (Romans 10:12, Galatians 3:21-22). The new covenant is for both Jew and Gentile alike, and it has much better promises (Hebrews 8:6).
•The old covenant was temporal. It provided an earthly inheritance and earthly blessings for Israel, because they were an earthly race and kingdom (Leviticus 20:24). The new covenant provides eternal benefits with no earthly inheritance. We are called strangers and pilgrims because this earth is not our home (Hebrews 11:13, 1 Peter 2:11). All of our blessings are eternal, and we lack not one (Ephesians 1:3).
•The old covenant was of human effort. Israel had to keep the Law to receive the promised blessings (Leviticus 18:5, Romans 10:5). The new covenant is by faith in God’s work (Romans 1:17, Galatians 2:20). Our eternal blessings are assured because Jesus has kept the Law for us.
•The old covenant provided not only earthly blessings for those who obeyed, but also cursings and condemnation for those who didn’t (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). The new covenant has no curse or condemnation at all (John 3:18, 5:24, Romans 8:1)! God will never turn His face away from those who are in Christ.
•Those under the old covenant would repeatedly seek God’s mercy (i.e. Psalms 4:1, 9:13, 25:16). But those under the new covenant have already received mercy (1 Peter 2:10). Hence, there are no New Testament examples of Christians asking God for mercy. 2
•The sign of the old covenant was the Sabbath (Exodus 31:13,17, Ezekiel 20:12,20). The sign of the new covenant is the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:28, 1 Corinthians 11:25). The Lord Jesus is now our Sabbath rest, appropriated by faith (Hebrews 4:1-11).
It should be very evident from these points (and others) that the old and new covenants are not only very different, they are incompatible with each other. You can not be under both covenants. You cannot mix elements of one into the other (Galatians 3:15). You cannot live on the basis of works and grace at the same time. When Peter tried to do so in Galatians 2:11-16, he became a stumbling block for other believers. This is what Jesus was referring to when He spoke of repairing torn clothes and filling wineskins…
“No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.'”
– Luke 5:36-39 (ESV)
If you have been saved, you have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ. Don’t wear your old, filthy rags “righteousness” at the same time, or try to weave parts of those rags into the garments of your salvation (Isaiah 61:10, Galatians 3:24-27). Just as the Old Testament Law forbade Israel from making clothes out of two different kinds of fabric 3, we are forbidden from mixing works of Law (human effort) with the finished work of Christ to gain favor with God. 4
Keep this in mind whenever you read your Bible. Be aware of which covenant (if any) a passage belongs to. 5 This will help keep you from many errors.
- Galatians 5:4 ↩
- In Acts 8:18-24, Peter told Simon to ask God for mercy, but Simon had not received the Holy Spirit himself and therefore was not saved. ↩
- Leviticus 19:19, Deuteronomy 22:11 ↩
- We do not work at all towards our justification, but we do work out our salvation in terms of sanctification. These are not works of the Law but works in the power and direction of the Spirit, and they fulfill the requirements of the Law (Romans 8:2-4). ↩
- The new covenant began when Jesus died on the cross. Hence, all of the events before this in the gospels must be understood in context of the old covenant. ↩
The first and main part of my latest book, How To Gain Victory Over Sin, is now available as a free audio book (MP3). Click below to listen, or right-click to save it for later. I intend on making the whole book available.
How To Gain Victory Over Sin (38.4Mb / 112kbs quality)