A Refreshing Resolution

Sometimes we make resolutions, but our hearts are just not in them. There is benefit in recognizing a time of renewal as we perhaps saw with the dawning of a new year. It is beneficial to sinner and saint alike. In Acts 3, Peter and John heal a crippled man, and they take the opportunity to preach Christ to the amazed crowds, and Peter speaks of seasons of refreshing from the Lord in verse 19. He encourages these people to make a conscious change in their lives, made possible through the forgiveness of sins – refreshing our souls.

In David’s life, he needed seasons of refreshing as he was fleeing from Saul who sought his life. In Psalms 32 and 51, however, we can see that his greatest relief comes from forgiveness from those sins he confesses to God. He pleads to be washed and purified of his iniquities, asking for a clean heart and a renewed spirit. Like all of us, David is keenly aware of the sin he carries with him in these verses, and he finds renewal in God taking that burden from him.

Finally, in I Peter 5:10, Peter makes reference to the God of grace who will restore, establish, and strengthen His faithful. Perhaps some of us are glad to have one year behind us with a new one before us, a new start, a fresh slate. We can accomplish a new start in our own lives by cleansing our hearts in the grace of God, allowing Him to restore us and renew us in His love.

lesson by Tim Smelser

Bondage to Sin

In John 8, Jesus proclaims His deity multiple times, and in the midst of His declaring that He is the I AM, he calls on his audience to accept the truth that will make them free. In response, those around respond that they have never been in bondage as sons of Abraham. This is a confounding answer, for their forefathers had indeed been in captivity under the Egyptians, under Assyrians, and under the Babylonians. In this lesson, we’re going to look at these times of bondage for Israel and what we can learn from these periods of history.

God’s People in Bondage

In Exodus 6, God tells Moses to go to Egypt and redeem the Israelites. God says they will become His people, and He will be their God. Deuteronomy 7:17, some forty years after the Exodus commences, Moses calls upon the people to remember their deliverance from Egypt by God’s outstretched arm. In Deuteronomy 2:29 and 11:2, Moses again calls upon them to remember God’s power in His deliverance.

Generations pass. The period of the judges comes and goes. The monarchy is established, and the kingdom divides between northern and southern kingdoms. Hosea 8:13 records God saying the people of the north would return to Egypt. He does not mean literal Egypt, but they would return to the dangers of captivity. In Hosea 11:5, the prophet reveals Assyria to be the new captors. Contemporary to Hosea, to Amos 4:1 begins describing the terrors of this captivity, God giving them over to a people cruel and merciless because they have forsaken Him.

Amos 2 foreshadows another captivity. Verse 4 speaks of the transgressions of the southern kingdom of Judah, and Amos anticipates the bondage under Babylon. During the life of Jeremiah, the temple would be destroyed, the city burned, and the majority of the population carried away. The kingdom of Judah would never completely recover from the damages caused by Babylon.

Captivity Under Sin

What can these stories of bondage and captivity mean for us as New Testament Christians? After converting the sorcerer Simon, Paul in Acts 8:22-23 accuses him of being in bondage to sin. Discussing his inner conflict in Romans 7:14, Paul describes himself sold as a slave to sin, and Romans 6:6 and 16-17 speaks of sin in terms of slavery as does Galatians 5:1. Sin is spiritual captivity. Living in such a state puts us in the same situation as those Israelites being carried off to Assyria by fishhooks.

Longing for Slavery

In Numbers 11:4, the people of Israel remember their days in Egypt fondly. They long for the relative luxuries they had when they were in bondage to Pharaoh. They view their captivity as a form of good old days. Also, in Numbers 14, as the spies return from Canaan, the congregation of Israel weep against Moses, wishing they had died in Egypt or in the wilderness. They even plan to return to Egypt. As terrible as their bondage was, when times were difficult, they sought to return.

Likewise, at the end of the Babylonian captivity, some were content to stay in the land of their conquerors. We shake our heads in disbelief at their resistance to God’s redemption while we do the very same thing. The bondage of sin can look very attractive at times, and we can turn back to sin as the Israelites wished to return to Egypt. We must understand the wretchedness of bondage to sin. I John 1:8 warns us against taking sin lightly, and Romans 6:23 spells out the consequences of sin. Like Israel should have come out of captivity, never looking back, we should come out of sin to never return.

God stretches out His arm to redeem us and pull us from slavery. We can accept that saving grace to live free from the chains of sin.

lesson by Tim Smelser

Naboth’s Spiritual Heritage

We’ve spent a couple of weeks considering the question of suffering, and Satan’s efforts to draw Job from God. Satan believes we all have a price, and, at some point, we will sell God out. In this lesson, we’re going to look at another way Satan tries to find our breaking point, and it begins in In I Kings 21 when Ahab tries to procure the vineyard owned by Naboth. When Ahab tells his wife for Naboth’s rejection, Jezebel appeals to his pride and conspires to kill Naboth. Once he is dead, Ahab takes possession of the vineyard.

Ahab does not have Naboth’s interests in mind at any point in these events. Ahab considers only himself. His first offer is reasonable, even generous, but the problem lies in the uncountable value of the vineyard to Naboth. He seeks to find Naboth’s price, but Ahab finds the Jezreelite has none. Back in Leviticus 25:23-28, God sets a provision that God’s land may not be sold permanently at any time. Any land sold can be redeemed at any time, or it is returned in a Year of Jubilee. The land handed down generation to generation is to stay in the family. Naboth honors God’s law regarding land. He does not sell his heritage.

A Spiritual Heritage

Notice Naboth’s concept of heritage and inheritance. It is more than what comes down from his ancestors. It is more than something he will pass on to his descendants. He recognizes that his heritage is from God. We sometimes sing the song “Faith of Our Fathers,” reminding us that we have a spiritual heritage, that we are spiritual children with a spiritual inheritance. We create a continuous chain from generation to generation that we cannot sell or buy as Naboth could not sell the vineyard passed down in his family.

We receive our faith through those who have come before us, and we pass that heritage unto others as Paul sees Timothy as his son in the faith. The challenge is whether we will stand like Naboth, refusing to be bought out, or will Satan find our price? Back in I Kings 21, there is an interesting contrast between Naboth and Ahab. Nothing Ahab can offer will move Naboth, but after Naboth’s death, Elijah tells Ahab that the king has sold himself to evil in verse 20.

What would we have done in Naboth’s position? Would we have acquiesced to the king, to the path of least resistance? Would we have seen the potential to expand our business or pay off other debts? Could Ahab had found our price, or would we have justified giving in due to the evil of Jezebel and Ahab? Without our convictions, we have nothing. We cannot sacrifice our spiritual heritage.

Never Deserting Our Post

Elijah Lovejoy was a journalist who opposed slavery in Illinois back in the 1800s. One night, because of the large volume of anti-slavery editorials he had published, and angry mob tracked him down and shot him. On the memorial, his words are recorded, “I am impelled in the course I have taken because I fear God…I can die at my post but I cannot desert.” He was killed over his printing press.

We let the things of this world keep us from our spiritual familiy. We teach our children that recreation is more important than the Lord’s work. We let our possessions cloud our morals. In our jobs, we go along with things we know that are wrong to avoid making waves. In doing these things, we devalue our spiritual heritage. We show it can be bought with a price. Hebrews 11:32-40 calls on us to reflect the faith demonstrated in our spiritual forefathers, to continue and perfect the work they started. We owe it to those who came before us, to those who come after us, to our Savior, and to ourselves, to never sell out.

I Corinthians 6:20 tells us we have been bout with a price – the blood of Christ. We have been purchased by God to be his own. Our redemption is beyond value. We should strive to be like Naboth in our struggle against temptation, never deserting our post and never selling out to the devil.

lesson by Tim Smelser