Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflections on the Old Testament

by Ruth Verrinder

In 1 Kings chapter 19, fire falls from heaven to consume the altar which Elijah erected in the sight of all Israel, while the prophets of Baal strove all day to bring fire down. But should Elijah really have executed all the prophets, wicked or not? What Jezebel says to him sounds just enough: “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them…” (1 Kings 19:2, NKJV).

This is the outlook the world might take, but for Christians it is blasphemous. The prophets of Baal doomed themselves to death when first they sinned; they were no worse off, spiritually at least, when Elijah executed them than they had ever been in life—if their sinful existence can even be called life! For Elijah’s part, he is God’s obedient servant; subject to His righteous will and judgement, and his life, sanctified by God, should never be compared with those of Baal’s prophets, as Jezebel so errantly did. Elijah’s life, just like ours, can never be taken (see 1 Kings 19:10).

“So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.”

--1 Kings 19:8, NKJV

When we eat and drink the Bread of Life and living water, we can go in the strength of that food until we reach the mountain of God. God is always offering it, we have only to “arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you” (1 Kings 19:7).

In 1 Kings 21, it is interesting that Jezebel, in her scheme to kill Naboth, accused him of blaspheming God. So, to all her innumerable wrong-doings, Jezebel must add murder and hypocrisy—for the sake of a vineyard! It was blasphemy itself for Jezebel to accuse someone else of blasphemy!

And yet, all too often, we will accuse others of sins of which we ourselves are guilty—many times because we see some selfish gain in so doing. Why should Christians ever seek gain in sin? It is as hypocritical and blasphemous as Jezebel, and it displays an abominable doubt of God’s ability to provide.

“…And pronounced a curse on them in the name of the LORD.”

--2 Kings 2:24, NKJV

For the sake of His children, the Lord will often curse the wicked—what may appear as a blessing to us, may be a curse to them. Many perverted persons view the Cross of Christ, and indeed Christ Himself, as a curse. Although we, as Christians and children of the New Covenant, are commanded to bless our enemies, we should understand that the Lord has every right to curse whom He will. We should not pray for that outcome, or even idly wish for it (quite the contrary), but we must not be angry with God for dealing judgement on wickedness.

Two miracles are performed in 2 Kings 4 that are very similar to miracles performed by Jesus in the New Testament (several hundred years later). The account of the Shunammite woman’s son reminds me of the death and resurrection of Lazarus—a trial meant to challenge and strengthen the faith of God’s servants and glorify God Himself.

And, in verses 42-44, when food for one man is distributed to one hundred men with “some food leftover,” it is so very like “Feeding the Five Thousand” in the New Testament as to be quite stunning.

The lesson learned? “[God] is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He uses little things to confound the mighty, all throughout history. His character never changes, and He uses the same methods today as He did thousands of years ago. That’s why the Bible continues to be valid, despite its age—because it tells us of the God who never changes. No matter how much the world may seem to shift and shake, our God remains solid and steady. He is the Rock of Ages; the Constant in our world of variables.

“Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?”

--2 Kings 5:11-12, NKJV

We cannot pick and choose our salvation—we must be washed in the Jordan or not at all. Christ says: “Wash, and be clean,” knowing full well that His blood is the only river that can cleanse us. The rivers of Damascus cannot cleanse us, nor anything else of this world—“nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

“My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

--2 Kings 5:13

Wouldn’t we go to the ends of the earth for God? We get our little human hearts pumping wildly and say: “I will die for You, Lord!”

But we have it all mixed up. Christ died for us, and moreover, His burden is light—would we not do great things for Him? “How much more then, when He says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” Yes, we should be willing to do great things for God, but, more importantly, we should obey Him in the small things. It is the little duties fulfilled that make all the difference.

“So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

-2 Kings 6:16-17, NKJV

We don’t always see what God is doing in our lives—we fuss and fume over the armies of darkness that apparently surround us, but we do not see or acknowledge the shield which God has placed between us and them.

We have only to ask God to open our eyes, and we will see His protection surrounding us. “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Reflections on the Old Testament-Continued
by Ruth Verrinder

More reflections on the Old Testament! God continues to reveal to me “wondrous things in His law,” and compels me to jot them down just as quickly as He gives me the words. I pray that they will be as insightful to you as they have been to me, or at least that they would bring a smile to your face.

“Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the LORD?”

--1 Chronicles 29:5 (NKJV)

“The work is great, because the temple is not for man but for the LORD God.”

--1 Chronicles 29:1 (NKJV)

The Lord builds His temple in us, as a result of Christ’s death. Yes, it is through the suffering of Jesus Christ that we are granted this privilege, therefore should we not willingly give all that we have toward the building of that temple? For, as David put it, “…all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You.” Why should we withhold that which God has given us? Let us “set our affection on the house of God,” and “give to the house of God over and above….”

In 2 Samuel chapter 12, when the LORD judges David’s sin and sends Nathan the prophet to tell him of his wrongdoing, I find it interesting that David did not at first recognize “the rich man” in the parable as himself. And yet, every human being has that unfortunate tendency—all the more detestable in Christians—to ignore their own faults but quickly spot those of others. David was instantly indignant toward “the rich man,” exuberantly pronouncing him deserving of death, but was entirely blind to his own wickedness. No human being can ever honestly say that they are not guilty of this very same hypocrisy. So why is David called “a man after God’s own heart,” when he is capable of such wickedness? When Nathan accused David of wickedness, rather than becoming angry and casting Nathan into prison as many another king would do (like Asa, in 2 Chronicles chapter 16), David simply said, “I have sinned against the LORD,” and in Psalm 51 we see his penitent prayer. This is what set David apart as “a man after God’s own heart”—repentance. It should set us, as Christians, apart as well.

Despite the horror of David’s sin, God made something good come of it through the birth of Solomon. Some may argue that, had David not sinned, Solomon, who made many valuable contributions to God’s word, would not have been born and that in this way David’s sin was somehow good. This is a lie of the devil. Sin is never good and without it, everything would have turned out a thousand times better. Solomon was born at a tremendous price—we must remember that both Uriah and Solomon’s brother lost their lives, not to mention the insane guilt David, and probably Bathsheba as well, suffered—and who knows what glorious things God might have done had this not happened? Solomon was God’s way of making up for David’s sin, and we can all agree that He did an excellent job, but this does not make the fact that David acted wickedly any less true.

In 2 Samuel 15:8, Absalom says: “If the LORD indeed brings me back to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD.”

There is no “if” in Christianity. But so frequently we tease God with our “ifs”—if You do this for me, I will serve You. Is Christ’s agony not enough? He suffered so much for us, in Gethsemane and on Calvary, there are no words to describe it. He has already done so much for us, the least we can do—and yet the only thing He asks of us—is serve Him without a sigh, take up our cross and follow Him. There is no “if.”

Often God takes the form of a cloud, so that He may fill His house in us with His glory. Do not lose heart when a cloud overshadows you, “so that you cannot continue ministering,” for afterward, if you persevere, the Lord will fill you with His glory, which will be all the brighter after the shadow. (See 2 Chron. 5:13-14.)

“He made darkness canopies around Him, dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.”

--2 Samuel 22:12 (NKJV)

Sometimes, God appears to us clothed in darkness. There is a face of God that we too often forget about or choose to ignore. The fact that God is a “consuming fire” and that He makes “darkness canopies around Him” is just as important as Jesus Christ being the light of the world, for it is the darkness that makes Jesus Christ shine all the brighter—and not necessarily the darkness of an evil world. What we may think is darkness could very well be God, robed in thick clouds that we may shine brighter for Him. What we may perceive as burns and scorching flames may be the Consuming Fire that purifies us and melts away our dross. 2 Samuel 22:13 says: “From the brightness before Him, coals of fire were kindled.” Though He is clothed in darkness, there is brightness before Him, ready to kindle a fire in you—but will you be too blinded by the clouds to see the light? Sometimes Christ appears in darkness, sometimes in light; can we see Him in both? Sometimes He speaks in thunder, sometimes in the “still, small voice”; can we hear Him in both? Do not be too quick to rule out the darkness or the thunder in God’s character. Even so, we must never confuse God’s darkness with our own. The cloud of sin is terrible, and God will never clothe Himself in it. As David says in verse 29: “…You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD shall enlighten my darkness,” (emphasis added). Jesus Christ is the light that eradicates our darkness, and it is through His light that we see God in His darkness.

2 Samuel 24 appears to be a retelling of 1 Chronicles 21, in which God punishes David for taking a census of Israel; yet the first verses of these chapters differ greatly. 2 Sam. 24:1 says: “Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah.’” This is a stark contrast with 1 Chronicles 21:1, which says: “Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.” If these chapters indeed record the same event, then who moved David to number Israel: God or Satan? Furthermore, what caused the LORD’s original anger in 2 Samuel 24 and why did He use such a roundabout method of punishment?

Given the truth of the entire Bible, we must assume that both God and Satan moved David to number Israel; the difference is that Satan would stand up against God’s people for no good reason at all, whereas God stood against them because He was angry (there is no use asking Him “why,” since we know His anger is always just). As for His “roundabout method,” God could have punished Israel any way He liked, but chose to let Satan “stand up against them” and move David to sin, thus incurring punishment. Why He chose this route is a topic of speculation, but we do know that it was a learning experience for David and still contains many valuable lessons for Christians today. Furthermore, the fact that God’s original anger was not, presumably, a result of David’s sin leads me to believe that the deaths of those “seventy thousand men of the people” by the plague that God sent (see 2 Sam. 24:15) was not just punishment for David’s sin, but for, perhaps, some sin that those seventy thousand men committed.

“…Whoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.”

--2 Chron. 15:13 (NKJV)

This doesn’t seem right: the fear of God being forced upon someone, and the penalty of rebellion being death! But let’s take a closer look:

1)      This commandment was made by the people of Judah, not by God. God simply reminded them that if they forsook Him, He would forsake them, which would render them susceptible to all the evils thereof.

If all the people acknowledged the truth of God’s word, then such a commandment would make complete sense, for without God Judah would be doomed
2 Chron. 15:13 contains a valuable New Testament truth: the rejection of the Lord most certainly leads to spiritual death for all—“whether small or great, whether man or woman.”
, therefore even the very smallest rebellion could ruin the nation. With this line of thinking, it is possible that the people of Judah were thinking more in political terms than in spiritual.

Reflections on the Old Testament
by Ruth Verrinder

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off…but the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”

--Deuteronomy 30:11, 14 (NKJV)

There is nothing mysterious or distant about the Word of God. That is just a silly excuse invented by man to ignore God’s commandment. “But the word is very near you,” you have but to reach for it! However hard you try to suppress it, it is lurking in your heart, is sleeping on your lips; you have but to call to God and He will waken it, He will “stir the slumb’ring chords again”! God’s commandments are entirely within reach, “that you may do [them].”

Sadly, many modern-day Christians often neglect the Old Testament because they think it is “too mysterious”; because they do not understand it. While it is true that the New Testament is much clearer and applies more directly to our lives, it is also true that a thorough understanding of the Old Testament will lead to a better understanding of the New. This year, I have been making a fairly thorough study of the Old Testament, and God is continually revealing wonderful things to me—things that astound me and have, consequently, made their way onto the humble pages of my journals. Though I could not possibly write down all the wonders, here are some, which I pray you will enjoy and benefit from.

Why would a merciful God…?

The Old Testament has many puzzling sayings that seem to contradict our God’s merciful character. But if we look a little closer, God may just shed some light on the subject. Here are a few examples.

“…as he has done, so shall it be done to him—fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth…”

--Leviticus 24:19-20 (NKJV)

Before Jesus Christ made atonement for the sin of mankind, everyone got what they deserved. If you did something wrong, you paid for it—and oftentimes with your life. There is always a penalty for sin; if not on this earth, in hell. God sent His Son to save as many as follow Him from the ultimate penalty, i.e., hell; but there are still consequences for sin on this earth. There are so many examples of how sin can wreck a life…most of the time God doesn’t even have to punish it! Sin is its own punishment, and its victims will always pay a price, and, unless they are saved, they will be tortured eternally for their sin in hell.

“Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

--Deuteronomy 19:21 (NKJV)

Observe the stark contrast between the Old Testament laws and the mercy of Christ in the New Testament! If God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever,” then why is this so? God is always seeking to cleanse His creation from evil. Before the coming of the Messiah, the way to do this was to set up strict laws concerning sin and the administration of justice. Mercy was unaffordable, because Christ had not died and conquered mankind’s sin at that time; therefore mercy (or pity) accomplished nothing save to allow wicked people to cumber the earth a while longer. If you took a life purposefully, your life would be taken in punishment. Everyone got what they deserved. Now, those who are washed in the blood of the Lamb are spared the judgement they deserve because Christ has paid for our sin and forgiven us. This contrast helps us realize just how marvelous Christ’s love is.

In Deuteronomy chapter 13, God gives what appears to be an exceedingly harsh commandment, saying that if someone entices you to serve other gods, even if that someone is a dear family member or beloved friend, you are to kill him/her for their sin. This seems cruel, especially coming from a loving God, but such is the commandment. Let’s take a closer look: we know that God is good, and that God is love, therefore we must blame any cruelty in this commandment on sin. This world is cursed, and that’s mankind’s fault, not God’s. This world is cruel, and our loving God has to make commandments to keep our sin in check. It may seem harsh, at times, but our way is much harsher in the end. Always remember: we mortals tend to think only in terms of our short lives, but God thinks in the context of eternity. Our loved ones won’t last forever, but God does. We should always put God first, knowing that He is eternal, that He is good; and if, in so doing, we must give up our loved ones, the so it must be. Pray to God that you may escape this anguish, but remember that everything God does is for the greater good and that God is more important than ten thousand families.

In 1 Samuel chapter 2, the LORD caused Eli’s wicked sins to ignore Eli, when he urged them to change their ways, because He (God) “desired to kill them.” Now why would God do that? Because Eli’s sons were beyond saving. It was too late for them, therefore God desired to kill them, lest they turned back to Him and be saved, after all the harm they had done to the LORD’s people.

Near the end of 1 Samuel chapter 6, after the ark was returned and the people had made burnt offerings to the LORD and rejoiced, God struck "fifty thousand and seventy men of the people because they had looked into the ark of the LORD.” Now, many people might ask why a merciful God would do this. There is no doubt that God is incredibly merciful—our very existence attests to this—but He is also just. Those fifty thousand and seventy men knew the law, but they looked into the ark anyway. Despite all their sacrifices and praises, they committed outright disobedience to God, a sin punishable by death, in those days. The very sin, in fact, that cursed our world in the first place. The death of those men was not cruel, but deserved and necessary.

Amazing Analogies and Lessons of the Old Testament

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks on it, shall live.’”

--Numbers 21:8 (NKJV)

The bronze serpent on the pole is a powerful symbol of Jesus Christ. All who look to Him shall live, though they were bitten and poisoned by sin. Christ Himself makes allusion to this in John 3:14-15, saying: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  This is only one of the many New Testament analogies found in the Old Testament. The entire Bible is filled with parables and lessons; we have but to look for them.

The Year of Jubilee (see Leviticus 25) is symbolic of Christ’s Resurrection: in the Year of Jubilee, all Israelite slaves were set free, and when Christ arose, mankind, having hitherto been enslaved to sin, was set free; Jesus having paid for their redemption.

“…No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, who has any defect, may approach to offer the bread of his God.”

--Leviticus 21:17 (NKJV)

Who is truly perfect: faultless, without defect? Who can stand, perfect, to offer the Bread of God? This would be, of course, our own High Priest, Jesus Christ. He approached the altar and offered Himself as the Bread of Life…He was (and is and will be) perfect in every way, and He died to make us perfect, to make us sons and daughters of God: “faultless to stand before the throne.”

In Numbers chapter 23 (the story of Balaam), when Balaam repeatedly refuses to go against God’s command to curse Israel, Balak proposes again and again that Balaam move to a new location and see if God will change His mind, which, of course, He never does. How often we, as Christians, test God in this way! He refuses some silly request of ours that is entirely against His nature to indulge, as we should know, but we stubbornly wheedle around, stupidly trying to show Him all the perspectives (as if He Who created the eye cannot see!) and convince Him to change His mind! “Has He said, and will He not do?” Once God has made up His mind about something, there is no revoking it, and it is stupid and belligerent of us weak, little mortals to try.

In Judges 13:18 (NKJV), the Angel of the LORD says: “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?” Who are we to ask God’s name, since it is too wonderful for us? Yet we so frequently take that wonderful name-above-all-names in vain, or speak it lightly, without even a hint of reverence! We have the great privilege of knowing God’s many wonderful names, and, rather than taking this for granted as we often do, we should desire to speak them in complete awe and reverence more often, and we should never let them fall from our lips in vain!

“…You shall drive out the Canaanites, though they…are strong.”

--Joshua 17:18 (NKJV)

The Holy Spirit in you will drive out the “Canaanites”—troubles, afflictions, etc.—in your life. Though they are strong, God is stronger.

“Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan…”

--Joshua 3:17 (NKJV)

Those who bear God’s covenant, i.e. His seal of salvation, will stand “firm on dry ground” in the midst of a tumultuous Jordan.

“’I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’—as though the drunkard could be included with the sober.”

--Deuteronomy 29:19 (NKJV)

The idea of obtaining peace while “following the dictates of one’s heart” is as ridiculous as including a drunkard with the sober. “Following your heart” will give you nothing but chaos and tribulation—it can never bring peace. That delusion is absurd, since the hearts of mankind are “fully set to do evil,” and wickedness never brings happiness or peace.

“So [Samson] awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.”

--Judges 16:20 (NKJV)

How often we insist that we can “shake ourselves free” from our sin without God’s help! No, if the LORD is not with us, we will be bound and imprisoned by the forces of evil just as Samson was.












Thursday, July 9, 2015

 From the June 2015 Literary Lamp
“When Christians meet together, they talk too much about religion, preachers, and sermons. I cannot but think that if they communed less about religion and more of Jesus, it would give a higher tone of spirituality to their conversation, and prove more refreshing to the soul.”  -Mary Winslow
How true are the above words! I selected this quote from an article
by Mary Winslow which I recently received from a good friend and customer. The wisdom and truth in these words struck me then and unfailingly does so every time I read them. It is shocking to discover how often the devil uses “religion” to lead Christians away from Christ. The word “religion” implies beliefs, creeds, and laws, rather than the simple truth of God’s Word and the blessings of a life committed to Christ. God wrote but one book for His servants, with only ten chief commandments, and yet mankind muddles it all up by adding their own rules and instructions, which only succeeds in swaying would-be believers from a walk with God. Satan will use every possible way to distract Christians from Christ, including our own “religious laws.” We must always remember to look first to God, and let Him take care of everything else. Jesus Christ is everything we need; we as Christians should endeavor to be more and more like Him and draw closer and closer to Him every day. Too many of us try to be more like “Christians” and forget altogether that true Christians should endeavor to be like Christ…hence the title, “Christian.” More time devoted to Jesus and less time devoted to religion is certain to “prove more refreshing to the soul.” More meaningless words replaced with Christ’s name will most assuredly give a “higher tone of spirituality to [your] conversation.” -Ruth Verrinder


Friday, June 26, 2015

As we approach the 4th of July it is fitting we remember the faith of the Pilgrims

Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

The Pilgrims
by Ruth Verrinder

They took their lamps, but newly-lit,

Each one with holy light;

And strove to keep the narrow path

And for their Master fight.


They set out in the grim unknown,

Their Father’s will to do;

To walk the path He set for them

And to the cross stay true.


Through rain, through storm and raging sea,

They held their torches high,

And strove to bear their cross with strength

And utter not a sigh!


What strength they had!

What vigilance!

Their Father taught them well,

To bear His flaming torches up

And shadows all dispel!


A crown to those who overcome,

A crown for every lamp! 

Their names are written up above,

Seal’d with the Father’s stamp.


How great to be the Master’s child,
How great to serve Him so;
I wish no more than He should keep

My lamp ever aglow!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Little Things

           By Ruth Verrinder

Oh humble flower on the way,

You'll not see day again;

My careless tread hath brought thou low,

I've crushed thee; what a sin!

Your life was short enough before,

But now-barely in bloom!

My heedlessness hath crushed thou life!

I brought your death too soon!

But for my clumsy, stomping boot,

You might have lived 'til fall;

Now all the vibrant, color'd leaves

You will not see at all.

How oft, by thoughtless word or deed,

We tread on little things!

Or stomp upon a seed of hope

To which a brother clings!

Our tongues too oft fly loosely,

And sometimes we forget

that nothing is too small to God,

Nor insignificant.

Too wrapped up in our own concerns,

How frequently we smite

The little things upon our way

That pride veils from our sight.