with Pastor Smith

With Pastor Smith.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Deacons Qualifications

  Deacons Qualifications
A man must be qualified in order to fill the office of Deacon. The Scriptures lay down a clear set of attributes a mans life must display in order for him to be considered for the office of deacon.  Qualifications are for two purposes:
1. For the church to evaluate individuals for the office.
2. For the individuals to evaluate themselves for the office.
A common mistake made by some is to look at the list as a check list, and if a man has checks in all the boxes he is given a "green light" to serve. The Bible was not written to give people a set of rules and check lists by which they are to live their life (a sort of instruction manual if you will). While it is true many peoples lives would be greatly enhanced if they would live according to the basic statutes of the Bible, the Bible does not teach "do this" and "do that" rules as a way to live your life. Rather, the Bible teaches principles by which we are to live our lives. These principles (when lived out by a believer) instruct us as to the nature and character of "who God is." The qualifications for deacons are all fixed requirements for the office. If a man does not have these things then he can not be a deacon. These qualifications are also examples that are meant to contain a deeper principle, which a man who aspires to be a deacon must live his life by. The outward working of a biblical principle in a believers life often times looks different in every believer. This is why it is important to identify and be familiar with the principle, rather then try to look for a the same things in every mans life. 
An example of the practical outworking of Biblical principle manifesting itself in different ways can be found in the way we raise our children. People who see the Scripture as a rulebook tend to approach the Bible by looking for laws by which they can erect a large framework of rules and regulations to raise their children. Conformity to this framework often becomes the standard by which one family judges the quality of another families parenting "success". This system offers a moderate amount of false comfort to believers when they ask themselves, "am I doing the right thing?" All they have to do is assure themselves "I am following the rules, I'm okay." The problem with this system is self evident to anyone who was raised in it: legalism replaces grace, conformity supersedes sanctification, and christian growth turns into self righteousness and not Christ righteousness. Raising a family by principle means reading your Bible in context, looking for the deeper principle by which you are to grow in a greater understanding, walking with God, and then teaching what you learned to your family. For example in Proverbs 13:24,  "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly." The principle behind this passage may look differently in one mans house than it does in anthers. My child may feel the weight of admonishment more from grounding, and another mans child may from a spanking. It is up to every parent to decide what form of punishment gets through to his children. (After all God has uniquely suited each father to know his children). The principle of Proverbs 13:24 is not beat your child with a rod, but that you as a parent must teach your child that this world has rules built into it. The breaking of those rules must result in consequences and they are to live their lives in light of that reality.  The withholding of proper discipline "spoils" a child by undermining a basic understanding of justice. Proper instruction given by a parent prepares a child to see that God has a rule: sin cannot go unpunished.  The breaking of that rule bears it's own punishment. The truth taught rightly, through principles rather than rules, will help instruct a child more then blind obedience to a standard of conduct. 
In the book of Acts chapter 6, the Apostles lay out guides for the men selected to serve. In Acts 6:3 they tell the church "Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business" 
  1. "men of good reputation"
    • It is important that the men who serve as deacon have a good reputation. The only way you can have a good reputation is by serving in the church. Having a good reputation is different then being well-liked, popular, charming, charismatic, smart, well-educated, or active in the church. The selection of deacons is not a popularity contest. A mans reputation is earned by serving faithfully in ministry over a long enough course of time to put away all doubts as to that persons character. It is important that the man you put in the office of deacon has a proven reputation, because by putting that man in the office of deacon you are putting them in a place of great strain and pressure. As a principle you don't put someone in a position when you do not have justifiable evidence of a favorable outcome. Do not set men up for failure.
    • Determining if someone is a man "of good reputation" demands that you need to make a judgement, or evaluation, of a man and his life. 
    • The office of deacon is no place for a person without a good reputation, because of the kind of scrutiny they will come under. When two parties are quarreling, the person who steps in between them must be the kind of man that (whatever the outcome) both sides can trust he acted impartially. 
  2. "Full of the Holy Spirit "
    • The office of deacon requires an evident spirituality and wisdom.
    • You must ask yourself: "Do you see that man controlled by both the Holy Spirit and wisdom?"
    • This takes prayer and spiritual discernment. One can not identify wisdom unless they are in a position of walking in wisdom. Likewise, one can not judge spiritual matters unless they themselves are spiritual. The Apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 2:13-16, "These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For "who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ." 
    • If a man is not spiritually mature he is not qualified to be a deacon. 
    • The requirement of an evident working of the Holy Spirit in a mans life in order for him to serve as deacon, proves that the office of deacon is not just a practical office but a spiritual one as well.
  3. "And Wisdom" 
    • A deacon must display the principles of Biblical wisdom.
    • Does he fear the Lord?
    • Does he shun the appearance of all evil?
    • Is he a scoffer or a fool?

While the book of Acts gives us an early framework of the office of deacon, the book of I Timothy was written for the direct purpose of instructing believers in church polity. For this reason, I Timothy is the greatest resource in the Bible when looking at the office of deacon and it's qualifications. In chapter 3, Paul lays out what God expects out of the individuals who hold the office of pastor and deacon. In Phillipians 1:1 and in I Timothy 3, Paul addresses the offices of pastor and deacon as two separate and distinct offices. 

This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory. (I Timothy 3)

A bishop (pastor) is one who oversees, and a deacon is one who serves. Both offices require a man to pick up a title of Christ when he takes the office. Christ is the Shepherd, pastors are the under-shepherds. Christ was a servant, deacons are servants. A bishop is one who overseers or rules. A deacon is one who serves. While a comparison is drawn between the bishop and his deacons there is also a connection. Both offices require many of the same qualities.

  1. Likewise deacons must be reverent
    • The word "reverent" is the greek word "semnos." It means to be to be respected or honored for your character. 
    • A deacon must invite respect in their person by their:
      • interaction with people
      • deeds
    • Paul uses the word "semnos" in Phillipians 4:8; "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things. "
    • "whatever things are noble," is "whatever things are semnos."
    • In this world there is a category of things that attract attention because of their virtue. One of those is being worthy of respect or inviting respect from others. Men serving as a deacon need to be the kind of men who invite respect. Different men invite respect in their own way, but the underlying principle is that being respected speaks of a mans character. You can look at what a person does and judge not only the quality of their work, but the quality of their character. The Christlike quality at the root of this qualification is faithfulness. Faithfulness is a prerequisite to the ministry. If a man is faithful in service, and faithful in character it will show. Faithfulness rests on a foundation of confident trust in God. 
  2. Not double-tongued
    • The word "double tongued" is the word "dilogos." It means saying the same thing twice, repeating, or double in speech. The double tongued person is the kind of person who would say one thing with one person and another with another person. It does not matter if it is done with or without the intent to deceive. 
    • Paul was drawing from the Jewish conception of the "talebearer in the book of Proverbs 11:13-14.
        • " A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.  Where no counsel is, the people fall : but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." A "talebearer" is one who hears something one place and tells it another place. Men who are deacons will have to be able to hear something and remain trustworthy about what they have heard, not revealing those things in other places. The things spoken in a deacons meeting stay in a deacons meeting. Churches need men who have a proven ability to keep things were they belong. A balance is needed between being open, and keeping things private that need to be private. In many circumstances, the deacons will be talking to two parties. In those cases, the church needs a man with a trustworthy reputation in this position. When potential problems like anger, hurt feelings, distrust, and instability arise the deacons will be above question. 
    • The spiritual principle or discipline Paul is getting at here is peace or harmony. Personal peace and harmony breeds corporate peace and harmony.
  3. Not given to much wine
    • In the Bible wine is wine, not grape juice. If wine is grape juice, then what is this passage saying? Should a deacon not be given to much grape juice? We must take note of the fact that even though drinking wine was part of Jewish culture, the apostles felt a need to exhort the people about the drinking of wine. Even in a culture where wine was accepted, they identified it as a potential problem and saw a need to warn people about the problem. In the Bible we see a constant exhortation about the drinking of wine. The idea that growing up with something as part of your culture makes it acceptable is not true. Even if you grow up with something evident, that does not mean it can not become a problem in your life. 
      • The Apostles felt a need to speak about wine.
      • The Bible always condemns intoxication. If you are controlled by the wine (intoxicated), you are affected by the wine.
      • Romans 14:21 "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth , or is offended , or is made weak."
      • In speaking of those things that man will surrender for conscience sake, Paul mentions two things specifically. Eating flesh and drinking wine. If there was not a rising concern in those days among believers about drinking wine, then why does Paul address the issue? There was a rising sentiment among the early Christians that drinking wine was either wrong, not fitting, or not profitable for a Christian. Paul has to urge Timothy to drink a little wine for medicinal use. " Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities." Even though his culture did it, Timothy has convictions against drinking wine. There is no good reason to drink wine today. There are a wealth of reasons against it. How can you tell another to stop drinking wine if you are drinking it? Above reproach means going above and beyond to avoid being part of a potential problem. As Pastor, I expect a deacon to obtain from wine. I will not tell a man that I can prove it is always wrong from the Bible, but as a pastor the Lord has put me in charge of setting certain discretionary standards. I do not demand that all men agree with me. Certain activities need to be abstained from in order to preserve all doubt about a mans testimony. Gambling is an example. If a man desires to be in a visible position serving, the church has a right to require reasonable standards. Is a man willing to put the needs and expectations of others in front of his own?
        • The Christlike principle behind this qualification is humility. If you are willing to accept a position that gives you less freedom then you deserve, then you are displaying a Christlike mind. This particular blend of humility and graciousness comes from a attitude that does not seek it's own, so when it is denied it's own rights (like the opportunity to drink) it thinks nothing of it. 
  4. Not greedy for money
    • The greek term here is "aischrokerdes." It implies one who is eager for base gain or greedy for money. The King James uses the term "filthy lucre" meaning the man had gotten money that is not come by properly. 
    • The idea here is that a man is not fit to serve as a deacon if he is greedy for gain, ambitious, looking to gain on the small things. The underlying question is "What are his interests in any given situation?" The early church had a large wealth gap between the rich and the poor.  Some questions we need to be asking are: "Does he do jobs just for the money?" and "Is he satisfied with what God has given him?" and "Is he content/fulfilled?" This is a rare quality for a younger man. Is he constantly looking around at the world and evaluating himself by what he sees?
    • So the next question is "How is money earned Biblically?"
      • The answer to this question is found in Proverbs 28:19-27
      • "He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough. A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent . To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress .He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him. He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue. Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith , It is no transgression; the same is the companion of a destroyer . He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat . He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered . He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.
      • Verse 19 says "He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough." The idea is that dishonest gain is not just stealing. A man should make his bread through honest work and effort and not through empty schemes The kind of person who is taken in by schemes is not the kind of person who should serve as a deacon. Deacons are in charge of dealing with and caring for these people.  They need to be trusted to protect the weak, not use them.
      • Verse 20 says "A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent." The principle here is that a man should not work simply to be rich. That kind of lifestyle comes with its own downfall built into it. 
      • Verse 21 says "To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress." To have respect of persons means "to take a bribe." Deacons have to be free from all appearance of greedy motivations because the deacons are a group that has to be impartial. Deacons are also associated closely with the collecting and distributing of money (Acts 6).  The church needs to know that the decisions their deacons make are fair. One way you can judge fairness is the way a man treats others when it comes to money.  The church will be called to account for who it elects. God will hold you responsible. If you elect a man knowing he is greedy and in his fall you will become a partaker of his sin. 
      • The deeper biblical principle here is joy. If a man attaches his joy to this world and to the circumstances of this world (like money), his joy will come and go as the things of this world come and go. If a man learns to rejoice in the Lord and rejoice in his relationship to the Lord, he will rejoice always because God does not change and his relationship to God does not change, it transcends the circumstances of this world.
  5. Holding the mystery of the faith 
    1. How do you know if someone "holds the mystery of the faith?" What is "the mystery of the faith?" 
    2. The "faith" means our creed, or the body of beliefs, the doctrine we hold on to. That which we share in common with Christ.
      1. A "mystery" is not something that is hidden, but something that was previously been hidden and now has been made known.
      2. This quality speaks of a mans knowledge of the Word and ability to guide himself correctly using the word of God. 
      3. Paul tells us what the mystery of the faith is in I Timothy 3:16 "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory."
      4. Paul quotes an early church hymn, the poems structure goes something like this
        1. A- God was manifested in the flesh,
        2. B- Justified in the Spirit, 
        3. B- Seen by angels, 
        4.  A- Preached among the Gentiles, 
        5.  A- Believed on in the world, 
        6. B- Received up in glory."
        • Paul uses a literary divide called "Double Chiasm" to compare the lower realm compared to the higher realm. Flesh/Spirit; Angels/ Gentiles; World/Glory
        • The poem It starts with God. (Flesh; A reference to the incarnation)
        • Justified by the Spirit (Spirit)
        • Seen by angels- (Spirit; A reference to the resurrection)
        • Preached among the Gentiles (Flesh) 
        • Believed on in the world (Flesh)
        • Received up in glory. (Spirit, A Reference to the ascension)
        • Notice the poem starts with God, coming down to us, then ends with God going back to Glory. It is a short history of the Gospel. The Gospel is the "good news" about one man Jesus Christ. So…what is the mystery of our faith? It is resident, explained, and contained in one person: Jesus Christ. He is the mystery. It is not the mystery about Him, He is the mystery that was hidden in time past and now reveiled. God manifested in the flesh. Immanuel, God with us. Our faith rests and resides with Him.
        • How do you know if someone "holds the mystery of the faith?" Do they hold fast to Jesus Christ?
        • What is "the mystery of the faith?" It is contained in one person Jesus Christ, who was God in flesh. The fact that God was manifest in the flesh. 
        • Because of this truth we know now that we can live our beliefs here and now, God is manifest in us.
        • A deacon must believe and practice the reality of an indwelling conviction that shows to all in his life, which is why they get the good name and boldness. 
        • When under persecution, do they hold fast to Christ? 
        • It's easy to serve and get cynical. You see so much as a minister and you see peoples faults. How does a man see peoples faults and not get cynical?
        • He holds on to the reality of Christ in his life tighter then all the circumstances he encounters in this world. Is Christ alive and living in a mans life? Does he live for Christ? This is the taproot of all the other qualifications for the office of deacon. All other qualifications flow out of this one most important truth of Christlikeness that must be present in a mans life. 
  6. With a pure conscience. 
    • How they will accomplish the mission of "holding fast."
    • You are given within yourself an awareness of what is right and what is wrong. It is not an adequate system for godliness, it needs to be purified or cleansed. You are given this awareness by God. As a moral creature, you recognize that which is right and that which is wrong. (The only people who do not recognize this are sociopaths). Many things contribute to the development of our conscience. For example, our parents who represent God to us or other forms of authority, like our peers, our education, and our government. It's molded by that which demonstrated love. When you are saved that conscience needs to be purified. It's not enough for a man to have resident within himself an awareness of what is right and wrong. He needs to have an awareness of right and wrong that is purified, cleansed, washed by the reading of the Word of God and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. That quality needs to be seen in a deacons day to day activities, work, and relationships. 
    • Hold fast to the teaching that Jesus Christ was manifested in the flesh, through and in cooperation with a conscience that has been purified.
    • "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned… This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck" (I Timothy 1:5,18)
      • Paul ties faith and conscience together.
      • When you set aside the faith (your relationship to Christ and sound doctrine concerning His person), you forfeit a good conscience. This is how many become shipwrecked in the faith.
      • You want deacons who have evident day to day working framework that has been purified before God, and is clearly seen to all as reality of Christ living within them. This reality looks different in every individual, but is just as noticeable in each ones life. 
  7. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless.
    • The Greek word for "tested" is "dokimazo." It means to examine, prove, to scrutinize, to see whether a thing is genuine or not.
    • This implies:
      • Not everyone can be a deacon. Not even all the candidates for deacon can be deacon. 
      • Being a deacon requires not just having the qualities, but also having clear and evident proof of them as well.
    • The Greek word for "blameless" is "anegkletos." It implies that a man cannot be called into to account. The meaning is not just: "Is he guilty?", but can someone bring an accusation against a man?
      • God does not just want people in positions of leadership who pass, He wants models. He wants people to lead who can be patterned after.
      • The emphasis should not be on the lack of sin in a mans life, but on his exemplary Christ likeness. 
    • If a man serves as deacon, then he serves as a model.
  8. Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 
    • This is a qualification over and beyond average membership. 
    • A fault of a mans spouse may be no problem of his own, but it still can lead to an indictment of a him. 
    • The word "reverent" is the same word "sermons" used in verse 11. It means august, venerable, reverend, to be venerated for character, inviting honor on ones self. 
    • The Greek word "slanderer" or "diabolos" is the same word used of the devil, because he is the "accuser" of the saints. It implies one is prone to slander, or make false accusations against other.
      • When looking at a deacons wife the question must be asked "Does she accuse others or speak wrong of others?"
    • The greek word for "temperate" used here is "nephaleos." It means to be sober and is often connected to the abstaining from wine, either entirely or at least from its immoderate use. 
    • The Greek word "pistes" or "faithful" is used here. It means trustworthy, the kind of persons who show themselves faithful in the transaction of business, the execution of commands, and the discharge of official duties. 
      • When looking at a deacons wife, the question is "Is she reliable?"
      • The deeper principle here is that serving as a deacon is a hard job, and we must make sure a man and his wife are fit for the office because the devil will use any and all means to attack them and the church. 
  9. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 
    • Deacons lives need to be able to be held up as a model.
    • Being the husband of one wife means "being a one woman kind of guy." This impies a man who has been married multiple times, or who currently married to multiple women would not be eligible to fill the office of deacon.
    • Being a one woman kind of guy does not mean a single man, or a man who dated before he met his wife would be excluded from the office of deacon.
    • Here are some spiritual people who could not be a deacon: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon,  
      • Not being eligible to be a deacon is not a slight on a mans pride, it can be a blessing by giving a man direction as to what work God would have him do in the church.
    • Ruling their children and their own houses well means being held in a position of honor by their children. 
      • If a man rules well his children may still rebel, but the question is "How does he treat them when they rebel?"
      • Ruling well will look different in every household, but it can still be seen easily.
      • The way a man rules his own home says a lot about a mans ability to rule in other areas.
      • A well led house means a mans children are less likely to stir up strife, but if/when they do, people will see it is because of the childrens rebellious hearts, and not the fathers lack of love and discipline. 
  10. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing 
    • In I Timothy 3:1, the office of bishop is described as a "good work." Here in verse 13, the same word is used to describe a man who serves well as obtaining for himself a "good standing." 
    • Notice a man must first "serve well," this implies the job can be done poorly. 
    • The office of pastor is to be held as "good" because, through the teaching for the word, Christ is displayed for all to hear. The standing or reputation of a deacon is likewise to be seen as "good" because, by serving as Christ did, a man displays Christ in his life for all to see. Both offices are about exulting Christ, not the individuals in that office. To the degree a man does that, he can be judged as doing his job "well."
  11. And great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
        • How does a man earn "great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus?" If a man uses the act of serving as a way of living out his faith in Christ Jesus, then the result of that service will be a greater faith in Christ Jesus. This kind of faith will grow to the point where it is bursting at the seams, and the individual who has this kind of faith will feel like he has to share his faith with others regardless of circumstances. A lack of boldness in deacons may be the result of a lack of service motivated by faith. This is why a man must not serve as deacon because he is motivated by fear, desire for honor, obligation, or just as something to do.   

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Psalms in the Night: Psalm 1

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.  He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.  The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.  Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

A "delight" in the law of the Lord leads the "Blessed man" to meditating on His law "day and night." Meditating is the idea of bringing the creative forces of your mind to bear on a thought effortlessly. Often times we day dream about a hobby of ours, or a trip we would like to go on. In our minds we build it up, create scenarios, tear down assumption, think of possibilities, and run our mind over a thought from multiple angles without even thinking about what we are doing. This is the "meditation" the psalmist is the talking about. When something is so pleasurable or "delightful" to a person they can continue to think about it creatively late into the night even if they are not required to. 

    Our days are for work and our nights are for rest and relaxation, but when our work is our rest and relaxation we do it day and night. The Blessed man is truly "blessed" or "happy" because his work is his rest. That work is meditating on the Word of God. 

The "blessed man's" work is not without reward; "He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season." The word "rivers" is the Hebrew word "Peleg" it means to divide earth. "To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother's name was Joktan." (Genesis 10:25) The word "planted" or "shathal" means to transplant, or intentionally place a tree or branch in a garden. The picture we see painted with these words is one of an orchard. The purpose of an orchard is to yield fruit. The creation of fruit is not an unintentional process on the part of the the farmer, or the tree. Farmers do not direct water in front of a tree without purpose. Also trees are not a passive channel that water flows though one end and out the other. Trees through a creative act take in the water happily, and use it to create fruit that is pleasing to the farmer. God is the "Farmer", the Word is the "water", and we are his "Orchard." God promises to use His Word in our lives to accomplish His goals. "so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11) 

Jesus gave us the truest account of how God plans to accomplish His plans in us. He says in John 15:1-8 ""I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples" The way we are supposed to bear fruit is by "Abiding in" Christ. The grape get's it's nutrient by "abiding" or staying attached to the vine, thus we as Christians are to stay attached to Christ our true vine. Everything flows to us in the Christian life through Christ. Through Him we are granted forgiveness of sins, through Him we are restored into fellowship with the Father, and through His death we are given His righteousness on our account. Our old life is taken away, and a new life is given to us because of what God the Father accomplished through Jesus Christ on the Cross. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

David Asks For Vindication

 A Psalm of David. Vindicate me, O Lord, For I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; I shall not slip. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart. For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth.

David is bearing his heart to the Lord, and he starts with a request. He requests that God "vindicate" or execute judgement over his life. We spend so much of our lives trying to defend ourselves right, and it only makes us look more guilty. We need to let God to vindicate us. Experiencing Gods declaration of righteousness, and allowing God to fight on our behalf is the beginning of opening up our walk with God.  

"For I have walked in my integrity"

David then expresses his deeper desire to walk uprightly before the Lord. Integrity is having pure motives, and having a desire to do what is right. No one is perfect we all sin, but coming before God is about having pure motives, and desires to serve the Lord. 

 "I have also trusted in the Lord; I shall not slip."

David is not trusting in himself. He is coming before the Lord trusting in Him. When you approach God, you trust in HIm to take care of your sin, your faults, your inadequacy. You were brought to the table with nothing worthy, and God brings it all. 

 "Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart"

To prove something is to put something to the test in order to show what is right, and remove what is not. David wants God to test him in order to bring out what was worthy in him, and take away the that which was not. When gold is put into the fire any impurities are burned off, and in the end the gold that is left is more valuable. Our God looks into our heart and sees our motives. Man can not see motives, only God can search man melting down his mind and heart. David wants his motives to be pure, because they are tried by God. David does not want to live in a world dominated by lies. Do we live in a world where we seek to justify our actions, and lie to ourselves in order to mask our pain?

"For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth."

The reason David can ask to be purified by the Lord with such boldness is because he knows of the Lords faithfulness. David is confident of God's love, kindness, and mercy. Knowing God loves us should drive us before God with confidence that He will be merciful to us. God's faithfulness means not only that if He finds fault in us he will remove it, but also that he will remove it because he loves us, and He will do it in the way that is best for us. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Short Theology of Horses. 

"And I saw , and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering , and to conquer ." Revelation 6:2

In order to explain the significance of the horse riders in Chapter 6 of the book of Revelation you must first understand the significance of horses in the Bible.

A person who sits on a horse sits above their enemy, and has the tactical advantage of the high ground. Strength, power, and majesty are all attributed to the horse and rider.  

In the Old Testament the word for horse (soos) is mentioned 131 times in 27 different books. 

In Exodus 14 the children of Israel were at a tactical disadvantage to say the least, they were on foot, and Pharaoh was faster, and stronger then them. 

And the Egyptians pursued , and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. Exodus 14:23 

The Deliverance of the children of Israel from the hand of Pharaoh was seen as a victory of the weak over the strong and nothing less then miraculous, a sign of God's deliverance. 

Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake , saying , I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously : the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. Exodus 15:1

The very sight of Horses inspired fear in the heart of a warrior.

 When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies , and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Horses and chariots took a great amount of military training, and God knew this. God intended to be the nation of Israel's king, and defender. He also wanted Israel to remain a peaceful agrarian society, a model for the  surrounding nations. So God forbade horses in Israel. 

 But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Deuteronomy 17:16 

God wanted the surrounding nations to fear Him, and not the power of Israels military, of which horses are a center piece. 

In the Book of Joshua Israels enemies put on a show of force designed to intimidate the nation of Israel, and discourage their conquest of God's promised land.

"And to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and to the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite in the mountains, and to the Hivite under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh. And they went out , they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many." Joshua 11:3,4

The Lord knew that Israels enemies meant to inspire fear in their hearts, so he reassured Joshua

"And the LORD said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire." Joshua 11:6

In the book of Judges Deborah and Barak fought against the superior military force of Sisera and his nine hundred horse drawn chariots (Judges 4:13.) By the end of the story the Lord mocks the power of Sisera, and his chariots in the song of Deborah;  

"The mother of Sisera looked through the window, And cried out through the lattice, 'Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarries the clatter of his chariots?'Judges 5:28

Many people assume Solomon was that first king of israel to break God's commandment not to multiply horses in Deuteronomy 17, but it was Solomon's brother Absolam who first turned his royal attention on the power of horses to impress. In 2 Samuel 15:1 Absolam moved by hatred of his father set's out to usurp his fathers throne. His first step to making himself look like a king, was to impress the people with his majesty and power. He did this by getting horses and a chariot. 

"And it came to pass after this, that Absolam prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him." 2 Samuel 15:1

By getting a chariot Absolam appeared strong, and undermined Davids kingship, and ultimately power. One wonders how David must have regretted his treatment of daughter Tamar, and allowed Absolam such freedom as a result. In the end David overlooked the fact that one person was disobeying Deuteronomy 17 so flagrantly, and in doing so making himself look like he is above the kings law, and therefore above the king himself. Once again Horses are a symbol of Power. 

Solomon like his brother Absolam took a similar interest in the power of horses, but used horses not for overthrowing the government, but establishing it. Through trade, and a strong military Solomon was able to discourage war, and encourage financial peace in Israels enemies. This peace led to prosperity.  It was an endless cycle to Solomon more horses meant a stronger military, a stronger military meant peace, and peace mean more money to go out and buy more horses. In the end Solomon grew very wealthy through this trade. 

"And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn: the king's merchants received the linen yarn at a price. And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and an horse for an hundred and fifty: and so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, did they bring them out by their means." I Kings 10:28

But Solomon's interest in horses, and wealth was in vain. A generation later the kingdom Solomon built up was split by his son Jeroboam. Truly Solomon spoke right when he said "Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it" Psalm 127. Solomon should have heeded the warning of Deuteronomy 17 and built his house upon the Gods power and not horses. 

In Esther chapter 6 King Ahasuerus seeking to find a way to honor Mordecai asks Haman a question "What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?" Haman thinking the king was seeking to honor him answered "For the man whom the king delights to honor, let a royal robe be brought which the king has worn, and a horse on which the king has ridden, which has a royal crest placed on its head. Then let this robe and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that he may array the man whom the king delights to honor. Then parade him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him: 'Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!' " In a comical scene Haman is forced by his own words to publicly honor his enemy Mordecai, instead of himself. What Hamans thinking shows is that riding on a horse lifts up the individual on the horse in the sight of those who see him lifted up on the horse, and therefore was seen as a great honor. Here the picture of riding on a horse is a sign of nobility, honor, power, majesty, and an elevated stature.  

Job refers to the horse as a symbol of power in Job 39: 19 "Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?" Likewise the Psalms and Proverbs refer to horses as symbols of a strength, and  power man is not to put his trust in. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God." Psalm 20:7; "An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength." Psalm 33:17; "He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man." Psalm 147:10; "The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD." Proverbs 21:31.

The book of Ecclesiastes says " Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place. I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth." Ecclesiastes 10:6, 7. The point  that Solomon is making is that It is "folly" for a servant to give himself "great dignity" by sitting on a horse, and it is wise for princes who could exalt themselves by riding on a horse to act in humility, and walk as servants upon the earth. The horse is a picture of great dignity in this passage. One does not have to go far to see how Jesus Christ the greatest king came "walking as servants upon the earth", and how great a folly it is when His servants try to "sit upon horses." 

In the book of Isaiah the Lord reiterates the folly of Israel trusting in horses. 

 In reference to Jacobs forsaking the Lord for the strength of the Philistines... "Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots:" Isaiah 2:7 

In reference to strong a certain doom...Whose arrows are sharp , and all their bows bent , their horses' hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind:Isaiah 5:28 

In reference to not trusting in the Lord as your strength...Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong ; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!...Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall , and he that is holpen shall fall down , and they all shall fail together. Isaiah 31:1,3

The representative of the King of Assyria mocks the apparent weakness of Israel in comparison to the strength of the Assyrian army...Now therefore give pledges , I pray thee, to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them. Isaiah 36:8 

Gods the creators power is greater then that of His creation the horse, and the army... I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King. Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise : they are extinct , they are quenched as tow. Isaiah 43:15-17

God is all powerful, and man's power is like nothing before Him.  For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire... And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the LORD out of all nations upon horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the LORD, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD. Isaiah 66:15;20

The horse is referred to in reference to power in the book of Jeremiah and Ezekiel as well. 
Jeremiah 4:13 "Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots shall be as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled ."
Jeremiah 6:23 "They shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy ; their voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for war against thee, O daughter of Zion."
Jeremiah 8:16 "The snorting of his horses was heard from Dan: the whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of his strong ones; for they are come , and have devoured the land, and all that is in it; the city, and those that dwell therein."
Jeremiah 12:5 "If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst , they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?"
Jeremiah 17:25 " Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever." 
Jeremiah 46:4;9 Harness the horses; and get up , ye horsemen, and stand forth with your helmets; furbish the spears, and put on the brigandines...Come up , ye horses; and rage , ye chariots; and let the mighty men come forth ; the Ethiopians and the Libyans, that handle the shield; and the Lydians, that handle and bend the bow."
Jeremiah 50:42 "They shall hold the bow and the lance: they are cruel, and will not shew mercy : their voice shall roar like the sea, and they shall ride upon horses, every one put in array , like a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of Babylon."
Jeremiah 51:21 "And with thee will I break in pieces the horse and his rider ; and with thee will I break in pieces the chariot and his rider."
Ezekiel 26:7;10-11 " For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, a king of kings, from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and companies, and much people...By reason of the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover thee: thy walls shall shake at the noise of the horsemen, and of the wheels, and of the chariots, when he shall enter into thy gates, as men enter into a city wherein is made a breach . 11 With the hoofs of his horses shall he tread down all thy streets: he shall slay thy people by the sword, and thy strong garrisons shall go down to the ground."
Ezekiel 38:15 "And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army:"
Ezekiel 39 20 "Thus ye shall be filled at my table with horses and chariots, with mighty men, and with all men of war, saith the Lord GOD."
Notice in Ezekiel 27: 14 Horses, and mules are associated with trade; "They of the house of Togarmah traded in thy fairs with horses and horsemen and mules." Christ came on a mule, a trade God made His righteousness for our sin. 

The minor prophets spoke of horses in reference to God's power being greater then them. 

Hosea spoke of God's mercy being a surer , and more powerful thing to desire then the strength of horses. God would deliver his people, but not by not by the strength of their own hand.
Hosea 1:7 "But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen."
Hosea 14:3 "Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy ."

Joel speaks of strength in reference to horses : The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so shall they run." Joel 2:4
Amos speaks about horses in reference to power; "Neither shall he stand that handleth the bow; and he that is swift of foot shall not deliver himself: neither shall he that rideth the horse deliver himself." 
Amos 4:10 "I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD."

Through the prophet Micah God speaks of cutting off mans strength in horses. "And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots:" Micah 5:10

Nahum refers to the strength of the horse in chariot in Nahum 3:2-3 " The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the pransing horses, and of the jumping chariots. 3 The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear: and there is a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcasses; and there is none end of their corpses; they stumble upon their corpses"

The prophet Habakkuk spoke of the Chaldians, who's great strength laid in the swiftness and fierceness of their horses. "Their horses also are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: and their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat ." Habakkuk 1:8 

In reference to the strength of the kingdoms Haggai refers to horses. "And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down , every one by the sword of his brother." Haggai 2:22

Zechariah is the last book of our Old Testament to mention horses, it has with 10 references to horses. Apart from Zechariah's visions of horses, the horse is a symbol of power. 

Zechariah 9:10 "And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off : and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth."
Zechariah 10:3; 5 "Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds , and I punished the goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle...And they shall be as mighty men, which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle: and they shall fight , because the LORD is with them, and the riders on horses shall be confounded ."
Zechariah 12:4 "In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness."
Zechariah 14:20 "In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD'S house shall be like the bowls before the altar."

In the end of the book of Zechariah the Lord ends with a promise of Bells with the inscription "HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD" Bells were worn and used by priests (exodus28:36.) This passage speaks to a new holy use for horses apart from war. In the end horses, and all instruments of war will ultimately be converted into instruments of peace forever (Isaiah 2:4.)

The greek word for horse (Hippos) is mentioned 16 times in the New Testament, one time in the book of James (James 3:3,) and 15 times in the book of Revelation. 

In Revelation 19:11 Christ is pictured as the conqueror, riding His horse to victory. The picture calls back images of Roman Generals who posed on horses, conquering their enemies. Leaders from Alexander the Great to Napoleon have posed on horses to portray themselves as great military conquerors. 

"And I saw heaven opened , and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war ." Revelation 19:11

In His second appearing Christ will come to conquer the nations, and rule them with a rod of Iron as it is prophesied in Scripture(Psalm 2:9.) We must remember before He could be exalted to rule over the nations the Christ first had to come in humility to defeat the greatest of all enemies the curse of sin, and death. The first time Christ came He came in accordance with Scripture, and humility. His humility was pictured by what he rode on. 

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey." Zechariah 9:9

Jesus fulfilled this prophesy. 

"saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me." Matthew 21:2

Jesus defeated the greatest of all enemies on a donkey. So we see both humility, and majesty are ascribed to pictures of the Christ on an animal. The point is that humility must come before glory. "The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master." Matthew 10:24. If we wish to ride a white horse and rule with Christ, we must first follow him in humility.   

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron." Revelation 19