June, 2024: Beauty: An Essential of Evangelism

“Human beings are moved by beauty. If we want to change the world, we need, first of all, to be able to make people dream about beauty” (Rubem Azevedo Alves). How do you respond to that statement?

We all agree that there is a lot of ugly in our world: attitudes, actions, words, just to name a few. And it is easy for even Christians to get so caught up fighting ugly that we become ugly. The statement above suggests that the best weapon for fighting ugly is beauty. But where, in this world, can a person find beauty?

At the end of the creation account (Genesis 1:31), God reviews everything He has made and pronounces it “Good.” But “good” is a broad word and even more expansive in Hebrew than English. The simple meaning is pleasant; agreeable to the senses. But the meaning changes depending upon what “sense” you have in mind. When the sense is sight, good can easily be replaced with beautiful. For example, Abraham was concerned about losing his wife in Egypt because she was fair to look upon – beautiful (Genesis 12). Numerous examples could be cited to support the idea that beauty is a key concept in the Bible. If you need proof, do a Google search on “the theology of beauty.”

Few people would debate that “human beings are moved by beauty.” Why are roses so highly valued? They are beautiful, as are mountains, lakes, sunsets, etc. God made our world beautiful beyond description! So why have some Christians become such negative people? One answer is that they have become so focused on the ugly that they no longer see the beauty.

Similarly, few people would debate that God made the female sex beautiful in the eyes of men. The women described as beautiful include Sarah, Rachel, Rebekkah, Bathsheba,  Abishag, Vashti, and the heroine of Song of Solomon. Yes, the New Testament talks about Sarah’s inner beauty, and that will be my next point. But the Bible makes it clear that men were moved when they saw the outward beauty of these women (See quote above.) Being moved by the beauty of a woman need not include the lust Jesus spoke of (Matthew 5:28). God made women pleasant to the eye. The beauty is His creation, not theirs. Thank God for bringing that sense of beauty into your life, just as you do when you see a rose or a sunset. Sin takes place when you attempt to cut that rose and take it home with you. That is what Jesus had in mind in Matthew 5:28.

A third area of beauty we can all agree upon is a beautiful attitude! It may be a spirit of forgiveness or graciousness. Perhaps nothing moves a stranger like a genuine smile that conveys warmth and acceptance. A gift, given without a reason, almost always moves the recipient, as does a quiet word at a timely moment. Suppose a woman leaves off the external claims to beauty spoken of by Peter (expensive clothes, jewelry, or elaborate hairstyles) but does not add the beauty of spirit spoken of here. In that case, that person has no beauty at all – nothing with which to move the world.

Let’s go back to the quote from the top: “Human beings are moved by beauty. If we want to change the world, we need, first of all, to be able to make people dream about beauty” (Rubem Azevedo Alves). We often think of evangelism as presenting God’s Word to the lost, and it is. But evangelism is also “making people dream about beauty.”

How do you do that? Is beauty a part of your evangelistic approach? God has made the world in which we live beautiful; despite sin's effects, it still is! When God saw that the man He had made needed a partner, He created a beautiful woman, and He is still in that business. Beautiful attitudes are the exception in our bombastic world and still get attention.

“If we want to change the world, we need, first of all, to be able to make people dream about beauty.”

2024-06-10T16:22:41+00:00June 10th, 2024|Categories: Banner Editorial|0 Comments

Spiritual Preventive Maintenance

Hebrew 6:1-20

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We accept that proverb in many areas of life, such as medicine and mechanics.  Yet in the most critical area of our lives, we often allow problems to confront us before we examine ourselves.  Spiritually, we often operate under the old adage — the squeaking gate gets the oil.

The warning passages of Hebrews set before us the danger of spiritual regression.  In chapter 2 the writer warns against being a "leaky vessel:" In chapter 4, the threat is unbelief that robs us of rest.  In chapter 5, the danger is spiritual immaturity, which leads, in chapter 6, to a total loss of spiritual life.

How can the believer avoid these dangers?  Chapter six is full of answers to that question.  They come in the form of a spiritual preventative maintenance program.  Three checkpoints are mentioned that, if dealt with daily, will prepare us for the crises likely to face all believers.

Area #1: We must daily maintain our desire to grow. (6:1-3)

Most of us have known the tragedy of a child that could not grow and develop physically or mentally.  In my growing-up years, we had in our church family a twelve-year-old who had proper physical development but the mind of an infant.  He could not walk, so his family carried him.  One night at they were leaving a revival service, the evangelist accused the boy of being too lazy to walk.  Of course, when he realized his error, he was mortified.  But the damage had been done.

In God’s sight, however, it is infinitely sadder to see a Christian that isn’t developing — simply because there is no desire for advancement.  Life crises will almost certainly overwhelm the believer who has failed to maintain a passion for spiritual growth.

One of my favorite Old Testament texts is the prayer of Jabez.  In 1 Chronicles 4:10, Jabez asks God to "enlarge his borders." In short, this Old Testament saint was tired of going in circles, like the repetitive debates mentioned in Hebrews 6:1-3.  Jabez wanted growth – expansion.

Jesus put it this way in Matthew 5:6.  "Blessed are those who continually hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will continually be filled" (Snider version).  God promised us growth, but, as believers, we must feed the desire.  That is a part of the Christian's daily preventative maintenance program.

Area #2: We must daily maintain our desire for God's service. (6:4-8)

A key indicator of spiritual growth is a desire to serve others.  People who are only concerned about their own salvation and welfare, or that of their family, are not growing Christians.  One of the reasons the Hebrew writer expected greater things of these Hebrew Christians is that he observed in them a heart for others.  He says in v. 10, "You have ministered to the saints, and DO minister" (emphasis mine).  That is, they were contributing to the advancement of the kingdom of God!

One of the aspects of the Ukrainian church that impressed me was their insistence that every believer had to have a ministry.  Yes, that requirement could become legalistic.  And yes, they defined ministry quite broadly: from cooking and cleaning to singing in the choir or leading a Bible study.  But the result was that believers focused more consistently on their impact on others.

What are you doing to advance the kingdom of God on a regular basis?  Or do you even see the needs around you?  Christians who are blind to the needs of others or who seldom engage in attempting to meet those needs will likely have their faith swept away in raging rivers of the storms of life.

Area #3   We must daily maintain our confidence in God. (6:9-20)

This text highlights at least three reasons for our confidence.  First, God cares for us as individuals (6:9, 10).  Believers are not just a part of the masses to God; He sees us individually, never forgetting our devotion to Him or our needs.

Secondly, we must maintain our assurance that God will keep His promises (6:11-18a).  We live in upsetting times, and if we are not careful, we will allow our circumstances as individuals, as a church, or as a nation to rob us of our confidence that God is in charge and that He knows what He is doing!  God had Noah build an upper window in the ark, and He also has one in your life!  Are you using it, or has Fox News (or any other news source) so covered your upper window that you can't see through the storm to God?  The songwriter said, "The darker the night; the brighter the light shines!" Despair is a prime source of spiritual failure!

Third, we must maintain our confidence in the hope set before us (6:18b-20).  My mother often used the flannel graph of Pilgrim's Progress as a part of her children's ministry.  I have seen it many times.  Often in that allegory, Evangelist would point him to heaven when Christian became discouraged.  And when that happened, Christian was immediately strengthened for the journey.

How often do you stop to contemplate "the things God has prepared for those who love Him?"  He told us about them because He knew the way could get long and tough.  Like Peter, he knew the danger of getting our eyes on the waves.  Hope will die unless we feed it on the promises of God!

 

There is no surer way to lose the satisfaction of a real relationship with God than to quit your daily maintenance program.  Maintaining your desire to grow, serve, and trust are our best defenses against backsliding.  Is your preventive maintenance program in operation?  If not, why not purpose right now to begin anew?  Your eternity may well depend on it.

2023-07-24T14:38:27+00:00July 24th, 2023|Categories: Banner Editorial|0 Comments

The Best of Life is Ahead

An Easter Message from the Risen Lord

Luke 24:36-49; 46-49

While reading some opinion articles in the news this week, I was startled by poll results presented by columnist Zachary Wolf. The poll asked Democrats and Republicans whether or not they were optimistic or pessimistic about the future of our country. "Toward the end of the Trump administration, strong majorities on both sides of the political aisle (67% of those who lean toward Democrats and 77% of those who lean toward Republicans) said the country’s best days were ahead." By contrast, today, "Just 30% of all Republicans and Republican-leaners say the country’s best days are still ahead of it." (Source available upon request.)

Many, probably most, Banner readers consider themselves at least "Republican-leaners." Have we, too, become pessimistic about the future? I know, the first response is that I am optimistic about God and pessimistic about Biden. But is that truly possible when we believe God is in charge of everything – even the government? Have we fallen into the trap of dividing our lives into compartments that we view as unrelated?

If you had asked the disciples at the cross, "Are the best days of Christ-followers ahead or behind," I do not doubt that the pessimistic view would have prevailed. Jesus seems to have felt that way also, so in Luke 24:46-49, He gives them what could be called a "pep-talk" about the future. The Church of today might need to listen in on that message.

There is some suggestion that these verses are Luke’s summary statement of the teaching of the risen King. They were words designed to instruct, encourage, and challenge the little band that would soon go forth to change the world. In these words, I see a message of commitment, promises from one who has proven His word is true.

As His death was for us, His resurrection was also for us. For bound up in His resurrection is a series of commitments to our world.

Commitment #1 New Life for the Individual (v. 47).

We live in a remarkable scientific age. Virtually every day, researchers seem to make outstanding discoveries that change the projectory of life.  But with all our discoveries,  one crucial link still baffles the scientific community. We cannot create life. We can combine all the ingredients for a human body, but we cannot produce the spark that makes our invention live. That is one reason why it is so difficult to discuss the resurrection rationally. Some people cannot accept that this body could be dead, the spark of life gone, and then live again.

But human researchers have another baffling problem: trying to find a way to bring abundant life out of physical existence.  Despite our scientific advancements, our world is still full of hatred, prejudice, bitterness, unforgiveness, and selfishness. We are locked in a dreadful dilemma. We are trying to find the secret to creating physical life when we have failed to find meaningful life for those already here. That is what makes these words of Jesus so brilliant in our dark sky. He committed Himself to provide abundant life for all.

But to achieve the goal, humans must accept the requirement of repentance; must be willing to turn about where they are and head in a new direction. U-turns are permitted on the highway of life. In fact, they are essential if you want to experience the new life the risen Savior offers.

Quality of life is a phrase made necessary by the medical progress of our generation. But ultimately, the quality of your life is determined by your acceptance of the remission of sins that Jesus here promises. The risen Christ commits Himself to make every life that is bankrupt of meaning rich and rewarding. He arose to make new life a possibility for every person. And because He did, our best days on earth are ahead!

 

Commitment #2 New Hope for the World (v. 47b. 48).

There is no ingredient of life more necessary than hope for the future. If the polling data mentioned earlier is accurate, the last five years have seen an alarming loss of that valuable commodity!

I do not need to tell you that earth is not heaven. The disobedience of our first parents ensured that it never would be. But just because earth is not heaven is not conclusive proof that there is no heaven. For sin and hope have met head to head in the ring of Calvary. There was no number of rounds assigned. This was a fight to the finish. Sin delivered a staggering blow; hope went down. And as the world looked on, it appeared that hope was down for the count; sin, it appeared, had KO’d hope. But when the count reached nine, hope rose from the canvas of Calvary and with one mighty swing, dealt a death blow to sin.

“Death could not conquer the giver of life.”

The commitment of the risen Savior is that this message of forgivenss and restoration would reach all nations, without restriction. There are no "priority people." Those who are sitting in darkness must see the Great Light. Quality life is available to all. The days ahead are bright because we have the privilege of being the agents of change in a pessimistic world. But to do so, we must have the light of hope burning brightly in our own lives. Joining the voices of hopelessness will not likely convince anyone to listen to what we offer!

 

Commitment #3 A New Presence for the Christian (v. 49).

No one has ever walked away from the grave of a dear friend or loved one without feeling emptiness. “This person was such a vital part of my life, how can I go on?”

I am sure the disciples felt that way as they walked away from the garden tomb that Friday night. “But then came the morning!” Jesus was back! They felt Him, saw Him, ate with Him, and listened to His message. Perhaps as the euphoria over the resurrection began to wear off, they began to wonder. “Is He going to stay here this time? Or are we going to experience this again?”

Jesus knew their needs better than they did, so He added a third commitment to His resurrection morning message. "The Spirit of truth dwells with you, but He shall be in you” (John 14:17).

We are no match for sin, but John tells us, “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.” Jesus’ commitment is “Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

 

No greater Easter message will ever be preached than the one the risen Lord Himself preached that morning. He committed himself to making new life available to all; to spreading the message of hope to the world; and empowering us for life through His presence in our lives.

We need to look long at Calvary, for only then can we see the awfulness of our sin. But don’t stay there. For next to Calvary’s bloodstained hill, there is an empty tomb. The stone has been rolled away. The best days of the Church ensued, as the story is told in the Book of Acts. Yes, persecution came, but still, the Church went forward.

I do not know how the political landscape of the US will work out, but it really doesn't matter. Whatever happens, Jesus' Easter message is still in force. Christians and the Church can thrive and grow. Sin can be defeated. Let's put hand-wringing out of style, and replace it with the song of triumph. The tomb is empty; the Holy Spirit is with us. Our best days are ahead!

 

2023-04-05T16:31:46+00:00April 5th, 2023|Categories: Banner Editorial|0 Comments

Awakening or Revival?

The news from Asbury University in Wilmore, KY, has taken the evangelical world by storm. Non-stop prayer, worship, confession, etc., is not the norm today. And it should be noted that young people are leading the way! Could this be the answer to the prayers of so many, "Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? (Ps 85:6).

In a blog post, Asbury Seminary President Timothy Tennent offered his analysis of the events at Wilmore. "Despite the endless coverage in social media and the regular media, which is calling this a revival, I think it is wise to see this, at the current phase, as an awakening. Only if we see lasting transformation which shakes the comfortable foundations of the Church and truly brings us all to a new and deeper place can we look back, in hindsight, and say, “yes, this has been a revival.” *

So what might such a "lasting transformation" look like? What changes does revival bring? To answer that question, one might take a look at the history of revival, or specifically, the history of the Wesley revival. But the most significant revival of history is recorded in the book of Acts. If the current awakening truly becomes a revival, what would change in our lives, churches, and world if that revival follows the pattern of the book of Acts?

The Acts revival led to a new awareness and submission to the direction of the Holy Spirit. Repeatedly, Peter, John, Philip, Paul, and the other disciples sensed God's specific direction and followed it, even when the result meant jail, pain, or death. Revival transforms casual thinking into Holy Spirit-focused living!

In Acts, revival resulted in a focus on others rather than on self. The early Church was not focused on how they felt but on how they could build the kingdom! That is why Philip left Samaria at the height of the Spirit's moving to go to the desert to minister to the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip understood that revival is not about us but "them!"

The early church revival led to a new emphasis on prayer. It was the praying Church that facilitated the release of Peter from prison in Acts 12. While Paul and Silas were praying and singing (another form of talking to God), an earthquake opened the doors of their Philippian jail. Revival puts God's people on their knees!

Revival also restores the centrality of the Word of God into our worship. The Bereans in Acts 17 are a case in point. Paul could preach for hours, and people still listened because they were hungry for the Word! Music, fellowship, and counseling are all fine in their place, but their place is not the central place in the life of the Christian. Revival will restore in God's people a hunger for His Word.

While these changes are all positive, I feel compelled to mention what seems to be a negative result of revival – persecution. Submission to the Spirit, evangelism, prayer and the centrality of the Word are part of the transformation revival brings. But so is persecution! When the Church is revived, so is the devil! Revival will solve some problems, but it will create new ones! That is what happens when the devil fights!
So yes, I agree with President Tennent. What is happening at Asbury is best described as an awakening from sleep. But we have all rolled over, turned off the alarm clock, and gone back to sleep. I pray that this does not happen in this situation. Instead, I pray that the changes that occurred in the early Church will take place in our modern world. Then we will know we have had revival.

For a full reading of Dr. Tennent's comments on the events at Asbury see:
https://timothytennent.com/thoughts-on-the-asbury-awakening/?mibextid=kdkkhi&fbclid=IwAR2c5g4wOpuzEe4pW_XCEnF6N9XtEdAmCMB7P0O7xD-2uETwiSR1DXdxJkE

2023-03-06T19:07:38+00:00March 6th, 2023|Categories: Banner Editorial|Tags: , |0 Comments

Christmas: Winter Holiday or Divine Encounter

                                                                                                        Essentials for Christmas

When Nancy and I moved to Ukraine, we knew we were in for a lot of surprises as we learned the culture. But one of the surprises we did not expect was the believers’ questions about how to celebrate Christmas. Each time we would say, “We celebrate Christmas by…” they would respond. “We do that for New Year’s. So what special do you do for Christmas? You see, their culture had created a winter holiday that sounded to them almost identical to Christmas.

So how would you answer? What is the difference between Christmas and a winter holiday? For many people, there is none. Christmas, for them, is a time to spend with family, eat lots of food, enjoy the good life, and maybe get away from the routine to do something you especially wanted to do. In short, exactly what Ukrainians called a winter holiday. For many people – even Christians – that is Christmas. Our culture has influenced us to substitute a man-made festivity for a divinely orchestrated event.

A biblical Christmas does not require beautiful lights, gift exchanges, human relationships, or even vacation time. There is certainly nothing wrong with any of those, but they are not the key elements of Christmas. So what are the essential elements of a biblical Christmas?

The message of Christmas repeatedly occurs throughout the Old Testament, almost like dress rehearsals for the main event. And whenever it does, it seems to me that three significant themes always are involved:
     1. An unsolvable personal/human dilemma.
     2. A reminder of God's Promise.
     3. A vibrant but tested human faith in that Promise.

There are many narratives in Scripture where those three themes converge to create the spirit of Christmas. I want to mention three of them. I will only give you the outline, so you can enjoy filling in the blanks.

Event #1 – Mt Moriah (Gen 22)
1. An unsolvable personal/human dilemma.
2. A reminder of God's Promise.
3. A vibrant but tested human faith in that Promise.

Event #2 – The Choice of Ahaz (Isaiah 7-9)
1. An unsolvable personal/human dilemma.
2. A reminder of God's Promise.
3. A vibrant but tested human faith in that Promise.

Event #3 – Bethlehem (Luke 2; Matthew 2)
1. An unsolvable personal/human dilemma.
2. A reminder of God's Promise.
3. A vibrant but tested human faith in that Promise.

Conclusion:
Come to think of it, those three themes are present in your happiest memories of Christmas.
     a. There was a need/want that seemed impossible.
     b. There was a promise – likely from an earthly parent – that "something good is going to happen"
     c. There was a faith – however child-like – that the problem could be solved.

If we deny or ignore the unsolvable human dilemma we are facing, we will never again have Christmas. If we find our satisfaction in anything other than God's Promise, we will never again have Christmas. If our faith is in our own resources rather than God's provisions, we will never again have Christmas.

The church at Laodicea illustrates the point. They admitted no personal/human dilemma. They said, "We are rich, increased with goods, and have need of nothing." The result was spiritual disease rather than delight in the Promise.

The angel told Joseph, "His name shall be called Immanuel – God with us." The great human dilemma is that humanity is separated from God! God's promise from Eden on is that someday The Promise would come – the separation would end. The challenge for Joseph, and for us, is to believe that Jesus is that Promise. If we fail to join those three elements, all we have left is a winter holiday.



2022-11-22T17:21:41+00:00December 1st, 2022|Categories: Banner Editorial, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |1 Comment

November Banner Editorial: Truths from the Harvest

Originally, Thanksgiving Day was a time to celebrate the harvest of grain, fruits, and vegetables. As the United States became more urbanized, the emphasis shifted to a general time of expressing gratitude to God for His goodness. And while this change may be fine, it may also be helpful, at this Thanksgiving time, to return to the original meaning of the day – the harvest.

This Thanksgiving Day can be enhanced if we consider some Scriptural truths about the harvest. For the average person, the harvest just means having enough to eat. But a survey of Scripture suggests that the harvest has a greater meaning.

 

TRUTH #1 Harvest is an EXPRESSION of God’s MERCY.

I think you would all agree that humans are naturally very vain. We consider ourselves very important. We love to take credit for success, even if we had little if anything to do with the success. I do understand that there is a human element to the harvest. Without the work of the farmer, very little food would be available. But here lies the danger.

Jesus illustrated it well when he told about the farmer who had harvested an excellent crop. So great was the crop that he did not have a place to store it. And one night, Jesus heard the old farmer talking to himself. And he was saying, “Look what you have done!” And what did Jesus say? “Thou fool!”

According to Jesus’ definition, there are a lot of fools in our world – people who think that the harvest's success is all to their credit. They forget that harvest is an expression of God’s mercy - the fulfillment of God’s promise. Notice the context of the promise that there would always be a harvest - Genesis 8:22.

The harvest does not come because we are so good - just the opposite. It comes even though humanity is so flawed. Jesus declares in Matthew 5:45 that God sends sunshine and rain on the just and the unjust. I know you worked hard for your fruits and vegetables. But don’t be deceived into thinking that you deserve them. They are an expression of God’s mercy. Through them, God has given us a few more days in which we may prepare to meet Him.

Let us give Him thanks.

 

TRUTH #2 Harvest is an EMBLEM of God’s LAW

We often talk about the laws of nature as though there was a person by that name. We talk about the laws of science as though they existed due to their own effort. And some people criticize the Church for being too full of laws. But may I remind you that the laws of nature and science are just as surely the law of God as are the laws found written in his Word.

Our God is a God of order. And we like that, as long as it allows us to do as we please. But when God’s law reprimands us for stepping out of order, the natural man becomes upset. Jesus asked the question in Matthew 7:16, “Do men gather grapes from thornbushes?” The harvest illustrates the law that declares that you receive what you give.

The harvest reminds us that what we receive back from God is related to what we gave Him. That is both a comforting and frightening thought. There will be abundant results for those who have sown a little faith. Jesus said that even mountains could be moved with just a little faith. But for those who have sown selfishness instead of selflessness, there will be an abundant harvest of pain. God will give us what our lives ask for, even if it is to our hurt.

The harvest always yields more than was put into the ground. The harvest forces us to ask an important question. What kind of seed am I sowing in my life?

 

 

TRUTH #3    Harvest is a PICTURE of God’s PLAN

Throughout Scripture, the harvest is used as a figure of speech. The New Testament refers to the resurrection as a harvest.  Jesus is called "the first fruits of the dead." Harvest is also used to refer to the results in our lives. In Galatians 5, Paul talks about the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. But probably, the dominant idea of harvest as a picture of God’s plan can be seen in Jeremiah 8:20, where the prophet cries, “The harvest is past; summer is ended, and we are not saved.”

The harvest we celebrate at Thanksgiving reminds us that a greater harvest day is coming. It is the day that God will reap the fields of the earth, taking the wheat to His barns, but burning the chaff with unquenchable fire. As Christians, we have a part in this harvest. We are to pray for reapers. We are to prepare the ground. We are to plant the seed. We are to respond to the call to reap.

It is sad to see grain, fruits, or vegetables waste because there is no one to gather in the harvest. But there is something infinitely sadder. And that is, souls lost forever, because the Church did not respond to the call to harvest.

 

Connecting Thanksgiving Day with the harvest takes Americans back to their roots. Harvest time is a time to rejoice for the abundant food supply from God. But it is also a time to ponder the truths that the harvest teaches us.

Harvest is     a REFLECTION of God’s mercy.

an EMBLEM of God’s law

a PICTURE of God’s plan

 

2022-10-27T15:57:49+00:00October 27th, 2022|Categories: Banner Editorial|Tags: , |0 Comments

February 2020 Banner Editorial: Sent By God

“I have been sent to you by God!” How do you respond to those words? Excitement? Skepticism? I must admit that my response is more toward the latter. Specifically, I want to know what evidence there is that you have been sent by God. Now please understand, I realize that the God of the Bible is a sending God. And I also understand that a part of the mission of God’s people is to go when and where we are sent. But how am I to know that God sent you?

My preacher father introduced me to an Old Testament story in 2 Samuel 18 that involves this idea of sending. The context is the rebellion of Absalom. Chapter 17 records how God thwarted the wise counsel of Ahithophel. Being right does not always ensure success! And when Ahithophel realized his wise counsel was not going to be followed, he knew his time was up (2 Sam 17:23), so he goes home and commits suicide. Chapter 18 opens with David planning the final battle of the rebellion. He is confident of victory, but he is also worried about the fate of his son. So he clearly charges his generals to treat Absalom kindly (18:5). (Whether this was wise advice is another matter!) Joab, however, pays no attention to David’s order and kills Absalom as soon as he has an opportunity. Now comes the tough part. How does he tell David what he has done? A messenger needs to be sent.

In David’s time, the message to be sent determined the messenger. Bad news was carried by messengers of low social status. Good news was carried by people of high social status. Clearly this message will not be received by David as good news, so Cushi, maybe a name, but more likely an ethnic description, was chosen and sent with the ominous message (2 Sam 18:21). But Ahimaaz, the son of the priest Zadok, wants to be sent to! In fact, he insists on being sent. He keeps bugging Joab to send him, and Joab keeps explaining his reasons for not sending him. Joab knows that Ahimaaz is a better runner, and knows the area better. But the message does not fit him! At length, however, and in what seems to me exasperation, Joab relents and lets Ahimaaz run, thinking that Cushi surely has had enough of a head start to beat Ahimaaz to David.

But Joab underestimated the zeal and skill of Ahimaaz. And when David’s watchman looks out across the valley, the first runner he sees is Ahimaaz. David is encouraged. “He is a good man, and cometh with good tidings” (2 Sam 18:27). And in fact, Ahimaaz does indeed have what should have been welcome news to David. “All is well.” But that is not the news David wants to hear. How does that news relate to Absalom? But when David asks for clarification, Ahimaaz responds, “I don’t know.” The problem was that Ahimaaz had sent himself, and only knew what he wanted to tell. David’s disappointment can be felt in v. 30. “Turn aside, and stand here.” Or in my paraphrase, “Get out of my sight, you are worthless!”

Did Ahimaaz feel like he was sent by God, or at least Joab? I think so. He had the message he thought was needed, and the skill to deliver it better than the one actually sent. But the message he brought did not meet the need of the heart. So regardless of how valuable the message was, it was rejected with extreme disappointment.

As Ahimaaz stands back and watches, Cushi arrives. It seems likely that Ahimaaz looked on him with some disdain. But Cushi had the message David needed. And even though the message caused David great grief, it met the felt need in David’s life.

As Christians, we are to be messengers of God – sent by Him. But we need to be sure that the message we are carrying is God’s message for the person at that point in time, and not our message for that person. Our message may be correct without being timely, and we will be dismissed as worthless. If we feel God is sending us, let’s tarry long enough with God to make sure the message we are going to convey is His and not our own. God may want that person comforted before they are confronted!

 

Dr. Gordon L. Snider

Editor

Church Herald & Holiness Banner

2020-01-31T17:04:02+00:00February 2nd, 2020|Categories: Banner Editorial|Tags: , |0 Comments

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