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Tag: sin

Saul’s Schemes, Plots and Plans

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been working our way through 1 Samuel chapter 18 – and we’re discovering that King Saul had quite a complicated relationship with David.

On one hand, David was his most successful military commander! Ever since David killed Goliath and began serving in Saul’s army – David has had nothing but success! No matter what Saul asked him to do – he did successfully! Whether he was playing the harp for Saul or leading the men into battle, David served Saul both faithfully and successfully.

But on the other hand, David’s success was increasingly concerning to Saul. Saul feared that people were starting to like David more than they liked him. David was becoming quite a popular celebrity… What if they decided to make David king instead of him?! Saul’s jealousy and fear had begun to undermine Saul’s relationship with David.  In fact, it got so bad, that Saul determined to kill David!

Now of course, Saul can’t let on to anyone how badly he wants David dead! After all, everybody loves David! The officers in Saul’s army love David because he wins every battle. The people of Israel and Judah love David – even singing songs about how successful David is! Even Saul’s own son Jonathan is best friends with David and has made a lifelong pact with him to support David as the next King of Israel. 

So how can Saul kill David without causing a riot in the streets, mutiny in his army, or ripping his family apart!?

The fact is, he had already attempted to kill David once and had failed. You’ll remember last week that we read in 1 Samuel 18, verse 10 & 11….

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Symbols of Hope

Last week we started looking at the Christmas story. Mind you, we didn’t get very far. We started in Genesis chapter one and we made it all the way to Genesis chapter 3. There’s just 927 chapters to go before we get to the part about the baby in a manger. But that’s ok. You’ve probably heard that part of the Christmas story before anyway.

You see, most people are familiar with the shepherds and the wisemen and the angels – but they might not have heard the parts of the Christmas story that come before all that.

Because as we talked about last week, the whole Bible is the Christmas story. It begins in Genesis with Adam and Eve and it goes right through to the end of time in Revelation. All of history is the Christmas story. 

And so we started in the Beginning – when God created the heavens and the earth. And He set up the perfect design for the perfect life. God designed life to operate by three basic principles that would make life on earth awesome and amazing. And these were the three principles.

#1. God is the source. #2. God is the authority. #3. Life is all about relationships.

And with these three principles in place, Adam & Eve enjoyed a perfect life. 

With God as the source, Adam & Eve had everything they needed. God gave them life, God gave them an amazing place to live, God gave them delicious food to eat, a fulfilling job to do – He gave them close relationships – both with Himself and with each other. It was really the perfect life.

As long as Adam & Eve looked to God as the source of all they needed and as long as they recognized that God was their authority (living within the bounds that He had set), their relationships would be sweet and life would continue to be amazing. That was God’s design. That’s how God intended the human experience to be. That’s the kind of life that God wanted you and I to live.

But unfortunately, as we talked about last week, one day that all changed. Adam & Eve decided to reject God as their source and to reject God as their authority by taking and eating the fruit from the tree that God commanded them not to eat – and as a result, their relationship with God and their relationship with each other was broken. Life would become very painful and hard for Adam and Eve, and all of Creation would suffer.

In fact, to this very day, we suffer the effects of sin in the world. All of us have broken relationships both with God and with each other. Our experience is far from the perfect life that God intended for us to live! But the good news is – there is Hope. The entire Bible is a History of Hope. One day, God would undo the damage that was done in the garden of Eden and we would again experience life as God intended it.

And that part comes a little later in the story, but today, we’re going to continue looking at God’s story, the Christmas story – to see how God continued to give mankind hope throughout the course of history – even as they struggled with the consequences of their sin.

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The Need for Hope

We are now just two days away from December and the Christmas season is upon us. We’ve got snow on the ground, some of you have your Christmas trees up already, and as we just witnessed moments ago, today is the first Sunday of Advent. And so rather than continuing our study of Samuel through December – I thought I’d take a short break and do a series of Christmas messages.

Quite often I shy away from a lot of seasonal-type messages – just because we hear the same things year after year after year. But this Christmas, I do want to take the next four weeks to tell you the Christmas story – the whole Christmas story. I think sometimes we get gypped and we only hear part of the story. We hear about the angels, about the shepherds, about having no room at the inn, about the wisemen, but we miss out on all the stuff that happens before that.

So I want to start us off today, not with the wisemen, not with the shepherds, not with Mary & Joseph – not even with the prophets that foretold the birth of Jesus. Instead, I want us to start in the beginning. Literally. In the beginning – Genesis 1:1 

Because that’s truly the beginning of the Christmas story. In fact, the entire Bible is the Christmas story. Everything that happens in the Old Testament is a lead up to the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Everything that happens in the New Testament is the result of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So this Christmas I want us to take a look at the big picture. I want us to try to see what God was doing right from day one. Because Jesus’ birth didn’t just happen. In fact, all of history didn’t just happen. God wasn’t just making stuff up as He went along. Before He even created the world, God had a plan. And that plan involved all the stuff that we read about in the Bible – everything from Adam & Eve in Genesis all the way to the end of time in Revelation. God had and still has a plan. 

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The Lepers and the Famine

This morning I want to continue on in our story of Elisha. We’ve been going through some of the incredible stories of the Bible and last week we looked at how God, through Elisha, caused an iron axehead to float in the Jordan River. The ax had been borrowed to cut down trees for a new building where Elisha could meet with some of his students – a group known as the ‘sons of the prophets’. Their existing building had grown too small and so they set out to build another. But as they were chopping down trees by the Jordan River, the axehead flew off the handle and landed in the water. Of course, iron tools back then would have been terribly expensive to replace – putting the young man who had borrowed the ax in quite a predicament with whoever loaned him the ax!

But mercifully, God bent the laws of nature so that the iron axehead floated to the surface where if could be retrieved! And we were reminded once again that our God is the God of compassion and mercy. As we read in Matthew 10:29, if God cares about even the little insignificant sparrow, we can know that he certainly cares for us.

So that was last week’s incredible story – not overly dramatic, but certainly a great illustration of God’s mercy and kindness.

Now today, our story is on the opposite end of the dramatic spectrum. While last week’s story was primarily about the mundane activities of life – this week’s story includes the siege of a city, assassins, deadly stampedes, human cannibalism, and lepers. It’s pretty much the opposite of mundane! And like last week’s story, today’s story is again, perhaps not the most well-known story in the Bible – in fact, when I was talking to Brian and described to him the story I had in mind, even he wasn’t overly familiar with it – so you know it must be obscure!

But this story is found in 2 Kings chapter 6 – it begins right in the same chapter as the story of the floating axehead. It’s a significantly longer story than last week, so I won’t read through the whole thing at once, I’ll just read a few verses at at time and point out a few things as we go along.

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Freedom from Sin

Last week we asked the question: “What Good is the Gospel?” When we think about sharing the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ with others, exactly what good is it that we sharing with them?

And I think most of us would quickly point to an eternity in heaven with Jesus as the first and most obvious answer to that question. After all, having the hope that when we die, we won’t be eternally condemned as we deserve, but rather, we have the assurance of eternal life with our Creator – that’s some pretty significant good!

But what if there is even more than that? What if our salvation is more than just a get-out-of-jail-free card? What if there is some significant ‘good’ to be had right here and now – BEFORE we die and see Jesus face-to-face?

Well, actually, that’s just what the Bible teaches! According to the Bible, eternal life doesn’t begin when we die – it starts right from the moment when we accept Jesus as our Saviour. The Gospel brings about a radical life-change immediately. We don’t have until wait to get to heaven before we experience the goodness of the Gospel!

And so last week, we did just a quick overview of just four incredible benefits of the Gospel. And I won’t rehash them all today, but just in point form, here are the four things we looked at.

#1. Jesus’ death paid the price for our sin

#2. Death and sin are both defeated.

#3. God lives within us.

#4. Our lives have meaning and purpose.

Now of course, this is not an all-inclusive list of the goodness of the Gospel – this is just a sampling! And we’re going to dig into these benefits over the next few weeks to see just how good they really are and how they can radically transform our lives right here and now.

So I am really excited to spend the next few weeks with you examining the question: What Good is the Gospel? And I trust that as we look at all this, we will be reminded all over again of why the Gospel is such good news!

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True Repentance

This morning we are going finally wrap up our story of Joseph! It’s been quite a journey to get here, but we’ve finally made it. Last week, we ended right at the climax of the story – with Joseph’s brothers sure that all was lost and this would be the end of them…

But just in case you missed last week, let me give you a super quick summary of how we got to where we are.

Joseph is the second youngest among 12 brothers. He was the favourite of his father – but hated by all his older half-brothers. So much so, that one day when he was 17 years old, they sold him as a slave and he was taken to Egypt. To cover their tracks, they dipped Joseph’s special coat of many colours in blood, so that their father would believe that he had been killed by wild animals. But in reality, Joseph was alive and well in Egypt. He started off as a slave to a man named Potiphar, but Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of a crime he didn’t commit and Joseph ended up in prison.

In prison, Joseph used his God-given gift of being able to interpret dreams to explain the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and his chief baker. This experience is what eventually got Joseph out of prison, as he was called on by Pharaoh a few years later to interpret one of his dreams.

And this really was the turning point for Joseph. The interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream was that God was sending 7 years of great prosperity to Egypt – but they would be followed by 7 years of terrible famine. In order to prepare for that famine, Joseph recommended that someone should collect massive amounts of grain for the next seven years so there would be enough to survive the upcoming 7 years of famine. Seeing Joseph’s obvious and God-given wisdom, Pharaoh decided to give Joseph that exact job – giving him authority over the entire land of Egypt.

Well, several years later, when the famine began ravaging Egypt and the surrounding area, Joseph’s older brother’s all came to Egypt to buy grain – since Egypt seemed to be the only place that still had plenty!

But unbenownst to them, Joseph was the one from whom they would have to buy that grain. Now then they arrived, they didn’t recognize him (as this was 20 years since they had last seen him) – but he recognized them and put a plan in motion to put his brothers through the wringer to find out what kind of men they had become. 

After accusing them of being spies and throwing them in prison, he demanded that they prove their innocence by bringing back their youngest brother from Canaan to Egypt.  Joseph’s younger, and only full-brother, Benjamin, had become his father’s new favourite since Joseph had disappear, and so Benjamin had stayed home with his father.

So with Benjamin not being with the brothers, perhaps Joseph wondered if they had sold him as a slave too, or if they had even killed him. So perhaps this was one way for Joseph to find out. We don’t really know Joseph’s full motivations, but either way, Joseph’s command was that the brothers bring Benjamin back with them to Egypt or they would not be able to buy grain from him again.

And since Joseph was pretty much the only guy in the world selling grain at that time, they really didn’t have much of a choice.

As an additional guarantee that they would return, Joseph kept one of the brothers (Simeon) as his prisoner, while the other brother’s took food home for their starving families. Now remember that Joseph has done all this as the governor of Egypt – his brothers never had clue who he really was. They just chalked all this trouble up as God punishing them for what they had done to Joseph years ago.

So they returned home with the food (but without Simeon) and under the strict instructions not show up again unless their brother Benjamin was with them. Of course, Jacob was very much opposed to sending Benjamin to Egypt. With Joseph gone, and Simeon gone, he simply didn’t want to risk losing another son – especially not his favourite son! But when their food ran out, he really had no choice.

So after much delay and much moaning and complaining by Jacob, the brothers returned to Egypt with Benjamin. And true to his word, upon seeing Benjamin, Joseph released Simeon, gave them food for their families, and even enjoyed a meal with them. (Again, doing this all as the governor of Egypt – never telling them who he really was.)

But then as one final test, as he sent them on their way home, he secretly planted his personal silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. Once they had barely left the city, he sent his household manager to run after them and stop them and accuse them of stealing Joseph’s cup. What would happen next would truly be the test of his brothers’ character.

And that’s about where we left off last week. I’ll begin today by reading the last few verses that we read last week, so there will be a tiny bit of over lap, but I think these verses are important to set the stage for today. So we’ll begin at Genesis chapter 44 – verse 6.

6 When the palace manager caught up with the men, he spoke to them as he had been instructed.

7 “What are you talking about?” the brothers responded. “We are your servants and would never do such a thing! 8 Didn’t we return the money we found in our sacks? We brought it back all the way from the land of Canaan. Why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? 9 If you find his cup with any one of us, let that man die. And all the rest of us, my lord, will be your slaves.”

10 “That’s fair,” the man replied. “But only the one who stole the cup will be my slave. The rest of you may go free.”

11 They all quickly took their sacks from the backs of their donkeys and opened them. 12 The palace manager searched the brothers’ sacks, from the oldest to the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack! 13 When the brothers saw this, they tore their clothing in despair. Then they loaded their donkeys again and returned to the city. Genesis 44:6-13

Now we didn’t really get into this last week, but I’m pretty impressed at how shrewed Joseph was in orchestrating this whole situation for his brothers. This really was a perfect way to test their character to see if anything had changed from when they faced a very similar situation some 20 years ago.

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