John T. Willis

Saturday, November 24, 2012

God Sustains Underdogs

Our God is a God of Steadfast Love and Faithfulness. This assurance permeates scripture. See Exodus 34:6-7; Number 14:18; Psalm 103:4, 8, 11; Nehemiah 9:16-17. We human beings often feel we can never overcome our problems, our enemies, our failures, our opponents, our rivals. But God has demonstrated through history that God sustains us through difficult, even impossible, situations. Here are only a few examples. 1. During the reign of Saul, the first king of Israel, the Philistines constantly overcame the Israelites and moved deep into the land of Canaan. On one occasion, Jonathan, the son of Saul, took his armorbearer and went up against the garrison of the Philistines at Michmash. Jonathan said to his armorbearer: "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncirumcised; it may be that the Lord will act for us; FOR NOTHING CAN HINDER THE LORD FROM SAVING BY MANY OR BY FEW." 1 Samuel 14:6. Against all odds, God sustained Jonathan and his armorbearer and defeated the Philistines. 2. The king of Aram [Syria] brought his horses and chariots and a great army to surround the town of Dothan in North Israel to defeat the Israelites and kill Elisha. Elisha's servant said to Elisha: "Alas, master! What shall we do?" Elisha responded: "Do not be afraid; for there are more with us than there are with them." Then Elisha prayed to Yahweh, and Yahweh showed Elisha and his servant that the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around them. 2 Kings 6:15-17. When we feel like we are paralyzed by our problems, our opponents, our failures, we must considered that God surrounds us, God's angels surround us, and God will sustain us in difficult times. 3. When the Assyrians threatened Judah in the days of Hezekiah, the prophet Isaiah encouraged the underdogs: "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and who rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsement because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or consult the Lord! . . . The Egyptians are human, and not God; their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and the one helped will fall, and they will all perish together." (Isaiah 31:1, 3). God's true, faithful followers through Jesus Christ are always the undergods. It LOOKS LIKE the powerful, the influential, the leaders will prevail. But in reality, God alone is in control, and he sustains the underdog. Share YOUR failures and needs and concepts and insights with others. Let me hear from you. John Willis

Friday, November 23, 2012

Jesus proclaims Woes against the Pharisees and Lawyers--Luke 11:37-54

After the paragraphs on true blessedness, the sign of Jonah, and Jesus' message on the light of the body in Luke 11:27-36, Luke now relates six woes which Jesus declared against the Pharisees and the lawyers in his day. These six woes contain three each against the Pharisees and the lawyers. This appears in Luke 11:37-54, and naturally falls into two parts. [NOTE: Luke 11:37-54 is parallel to Matthew 23]. I. Three Woes against the Pharisees. Luke 11:37-44. A. While Jesus was speaking [related in Luke 11:33-36], a Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him at his house. Apparentely this was the noonday meal. See John 21:12,15. The Pharisee was amazed that Jesus did not first wash before dinner. It was customary to wash the hands before eating. See Mark 7:1-5; cf. Gen. 18:4; Judg. 19:21.11:37-38. B. First Woe: Jesus immediately seized the opportunity to teach the Pharisees an important lesson. God is concerned about the heart, not about the outward appearance. The Pharisees cleans the outside of the cup and dish, but are full of GREED and WICKEDNESS. Thus, they are FOOLS. Jesus admonishes them to "give for alms" things that are WITHIN. 11:39-41. C. Second Woe: Jesus denounces the Pharisees for tithing and neglecting justice and love of God. Here Jesus is emphasizing the two great commandments: Love Yahweh with all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself. 11:42. D. Third Woe: Jesus condemns the Pharisees because they love for people to honor and respect them. Loving self rather than loving God and loving others is a major problem in the world and in the church. 11:43-44. II. Three Woes against the Lawyers. Luke 11:45-54. A. After Jesus proclaimed his three woes against the Pharisees, a lawyer replied that Jesus was insulting the lawyers also. The lawyers were the best instructed among the Pharisees. 11:45. B. First Woe: Jesus rebukes the lawyers for loading people with burdens hard to bear but do not lift a finger to ease them. One example of such burdens was the 39 types of work that the people could not do on the Sabbath. 11:46. C. Second Woe: Jesus condemns the lawyers because they externally build the tombs of the prophets of earlier times. But the Pharisees and lawyers behave just like God's people when they persecuted and killed God's prophets extending from the blood of Abel (Gen. 4:8-10) to the prophet Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24:20-22). They say one thing and do another. Hypocrisy, deceit, manipulation is the real problem. God's people still endure this reality even among leaders in the church today. 11:47-51. D. Third Woe: Jesus denounces the lawyers for taking away the key of knowledge, i. e., God's plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. 11:52. E. After pronouncing these woes, the Pharisees and the lawyers began to be very hostile toward Jesus, to cross-examine Jesus about many things, lying in wait for Jesus, and catching Jesus in something he might say. Sadly, this same picture appears repeatedly in the church today. Slander meetings in high places discuss and plot to hurt good Christians who are attempting to serve God. Share YOUR insights and failures and desires and problems with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis