Relics and God – 1 Kings 13:21

The True Power Is In God And Not The Item

Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

Powerful Position

Elisha was endowed with a double-portion of the spirit of God at his request.  He recognized the importance of God’s role in the life of Elijah, and as his protégé, desired to be even more effective in ministry than his mentor.  When Elisha saw Elijah taken away by the chariots of God, the sign that Elijah had given to him that his request would be granted, the miracles that began to occur in his life were evidence of the granting of his request by God.  Two other important people who had items of theirs (in these cases cloth they owned or worn) that were directly implicated in the act of a healing miracle were Paul (napkins and aprons were taken to the sick and their illnesses cured and demons fled) and Jesus Christ (a woman with a bleeding disorder touched His robe and she was made well).

Miracles Manifested

In each case, God confirmed their calling with power and might.  Elisha performed great and mighty miracles to men.  This was to glorify God, and to help strengthen the faith of others.  Paul was divinely protected through many shipwrecks, survived what would have been a fatal snake bite, and many acts of miracles.   Jesus Christ fed thousands from a simple lunch of fish and bread, raised the dead, calmed the seas, healed the sick, cast out demons, and many other mighty displays of glorious power as manifested by God for His glory.  The power of God was upon each of these people mightily.

Residual Radiance

In the case of Jesus Christ and Paul, it was the person’s faith that healed.  The true power of God being manifested is through faith and not the object.  God is the giver of all power and might, and He is the one who enables miracles to occur.  In the case of Jesus Christ, He would often say, “Your faith has made you well.”  In the case of Paul, the faith that they had in God, working miracles through him, would make them well when his napkins and aprons were provided to the sick.

In the case of Elisha, we see something a little different.  The Israelites who threw the dead body on the bones of Elisha in his grave were not looking for a miracle.  They were out to bury a body.  But God sovereignly resurrected the dead man when he came into contact with the bones of Elisha as a testament to the calling of Elisha and the mighty power of God.  God sovereignly restored the man’s life to bear witness to His grace, power, and glory.

Some have taken these references to show that God somehow imbued the articles and bones of the past saints of God with special powers, and now call them relics.  But the real reason is that God is manifesting His power and glory for the deepening of our faith.  The items that people touch are not necessarily somehow anointed with the power of God, but rather God uses them to display His glory and grace so that our faith would grow in Him.

Gideon was mightily used by God, and when asked by the people to rule over them, told them that neither he nor his sons would rule over them, but that the Lord would rule over them.  Gideon later made an ephod out of some of the gold plunder of their conquered enemies, and it became a snare to them:

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson-because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”

23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” 24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)

25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.

When we worship created things, rather than the Creator, it becomes a snare to us.  We must understand that all power and authority in is God and God alone.  When we look at items that God has used by others and look to the item for help, rather than God, we will be ensnared ourselves.  Give thanks and praise to the one who cures all illness and reconciles the lost to Himself, for He and He alone is worthy of the glory and praise, and it is God and God alone who is responsible for curing our disease:

He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”

Other Opinion

Another opinion in this is that when you take the scriptures that show that Moses’ face would glow from his presence in the glory of God, that the items worn, used, or physically part of the person were somehow infused with the glory of God.  In Act:19:11-12, it might be taken from the translation to indicate it was the power of God manifested in the miracles themselves that imbued the items with God’s power:

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

This would indicate that it was the belief that when God was working miracles, His power was still in the items.

Yet scripture must be taken as a whole.  And in every case, miracles could not happen without faith, and that in Almighty God.  When Jesus returned to His hometown, He could do very few miracles because of their lack of faith.  In every case, it is faith that enables God to work.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Where do I go first when I am in need of healing?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the one who heals all of our diseases, gives us life and breath in our lungs.  Help us to look to You for all things.  Increase my faith, that I may always keep my eyes upon You.  And when miracles surround one of your disciples, help those watching to have faith in You and not in them or what they wear.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Signs from God – John 2:18-22

God Gives Us Signs So We Can Draw Closer To See The Fuller Message

18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Sign Shown

Signs in the Bible would precede great events, or validate what a prophet was saying.  Jesus had been performing great signs and wonders in front of the people’s eyes day in and day out.  He had cast out demons, healed people, brought people back from the dead, turned water into wine, fed thousands of people from a small boy’s lunch of fish and bread, and many other miracles.

But the people kept demanding signs.  They weren’t satisfied with what they were seeing with their very own eyes.  Like anyone who seeks after signs and wonders, they wanted to see more. Jesus had just fulfilled a prophecy about Himself by exhibiting zeal for His father’s house using a whip, driving out the market that was taking place on the Court of the Gentiles at the holy temple of God.  Jesus decided to use this opportunity to present us with an object lesson.  When asked what sign He would give to prove His authority, He gave a cryptic puzzle.

Esoteric Enigma

Jesus provided them with something that they could not possibly have understood at the time.  He gave them a cryptic puzzle indeed – How could a temple that took forty-six years to build be rebuilt in three days?  The Bible gives us clarification – Jesus was talking about His body.  And on April 5, 33 C.E.***, Jesus rose from the grave.  This sign confirmed that what Jesus said was true and accurate.  But they didn’t know or understand that until it happened.

Rightly Remembered

John records that it was only after Jesus had died and rose again that they remembered the words that He had spoke on that fateful day – a day they would not soon forget.  Their meek, compassionate teacher, in righteous anger and indignation, created a major scene at the temple, and did things that were shocking to everyone.  Many times, we will only remember the sign and understand its meaning and significance AFTER it has occurred:

In every sign ever given by God, we tend to recognize them only after they have occurred, and remember the prophecy of the sign later.

Forming Faith

John records that after they remembered Jesus’ words, they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.  It was the fulfillment of the sign that had catalyzed their faith and made it solid as rock in their hearts and minds.  Signs are given to us to believe and to verify.  But every sign is designed to draw us closer so that we might see the fuller message:

  • When Moses saw the burning bush, what did he do?  He drew close to see the fuller message.
  • When the Magi from the East saw Venus and Jupiter in conjunction, what did they do?  They traveled from Babylon to Jerusalem to see the fuller message.
  • When we see a headline in a story about something important or sensational, what do we do?  We draw closer to see the fuller message.

People were created by God in His own image.  God must be very curious, for humans are very curious creatures.  When we see something, we draw close rather than run away.  And when we do, and we gain the greater understanding, we are rewarded with a firmer faith and trust in God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What will we do when we draw close and get the fuller message once we see the sign?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have created all things, and have given us signs and wonders to behold, as recorded in Your word.  Help me as I read Your word, and see the signs that You have provided, that I will draw closer to You and get the fuller message.  Strengthen my faith, and provide me with understanding, wisdom, and discernment as I read Your word that I would better understand what You are trying to tell me.  Help me to recognize the signs, and to be vigilant when I see them to draw close and learn.  Blessed be Your name forevermore!  Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

*** This can be verified through clues that we have from the Bible.  Jesus was crucified on Preparation Day, the day before Passover started.  This is important, because the Bible tells us this was a Friday (the next day was to be a special Sabbath).  Passover starts on the Jewish day of Nisan 15, therefore Nisan 14 is Preparation Day.  Every year, dates appear on different days (for instance, January 1st is not always a Monday…).  By calculating when Nisan 14 would have been on a Friday in the known time frame for Jesus’ crucifixion, there was only one day in history that fit that profile – April 3, 33 C.E.  Therefore, Jesus rose from the grave on April 5, 33 C.E.

Faith in God – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

Christ Will Not Come Again Until The Great Falling Away…

1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.

Separate Speculation

Paul warns the disciples of Christ to not be alarmed or unsettled by alleged teachings of the apostles that the second coming of Christ has already occurred.   There were people who were spreading false rumors that Jesus had already come, and that the faithful disciples had been left behind.  Paul was putting an end to these rumors, and sought to help any who had heard these rumors that they were not true, and to assure them that any such teaching did not come from them.

Remember the Rebellion

And here we see a very interesting sign that will precede the coming of our Lord – the great rebellion must first take place.  Paul is very care to remind us that before Jesus comes in the clouds, with a shout at the last trump of God, there will first be a great rebellion.  The people of God will abandon Him.

This seems to be odd, because once the Holy Spirit sets up residence in us, we would think that He would continue to witness to us about Jesus.  But for some reason, there will be a great number of people who will give up their faith.  Jesus warns about letting our love grow cold in the great Mount of Olives discourse in Matthew chapter 24:

9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Paul gives us a more in-depth look at what the rebellion will look like in 2 Timothy 3:1-9:

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 9 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

Paul is not talking about people who do not profess faith in Christ – these are people who claim to be believers – Christians!  But by their very actions, they demonstrate that they are not disciples of Christ, nor do they indicate that they love God.  If they did, they would obey His commands and submit to the Holy Spirit:

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Christ will not come until the rebellion first appears.  Love is the primary characteristic of God that is prized above all.  Remember to guard your heart, and grow in love, even when everyone else around you is abandoning their faith.  Remain faithful unto death.  And when the Son of man returns, let Him find faith on Earth.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I growing in love in the midst of the increase of lawlessness in the world?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given me the gift of eternal life in Your Son through His shed blood.  Help me to find peace in my heart as the world becomes increasingly filled with lawlessness and injustice.  Help me to cling to You and Your word through the most difficult of times.  See me through the valley of the shadow of death, and help me to be prepared that the lamp of my body, my eyes, would be filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, fully prepared for the return of the groom, Jesus Christ, when we least expect Him.  Grow in me the love that You have for all of us, that I would properly bear Your image before men.  Guard my tongue and my heart that I would not sin against You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Faith in Christ – Hebrews 11:35-38

No Servant is Greater Than His Master

35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

Faith Followed

Are you being persecuted for your faith in Christ?  Rejoice!  You are in good company!  You have been found worthy!  Most of us, when reading about faith the book of Hebrews, want to dwell on the earlier portion of Hebrews 11.  But since Christ suffered for His faith, we shall suffer also.  Following Christ in many nations is worthy of the death penalty.

Here in America, a country founded on Christian principles (Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence), we embarked on an experiment in liberty that afforded to its citizens great freedom (especially of religion, not just worship) through the idea that people who are able to self-govern themselves through the belief in accountability to God don’t require draconian authority over them to live civilly in society.  When this occurs, the founding fathers of the United States of America reasoned, it was possible that such a level of freedom was achievable.  It should be very evident now, that in light of the people of the United States of America throwing off the yoke of Christ for the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, that such a government is untenable, the citizens will (and do) selfishly seek to codify in law government favoritism towards their particular desires, passions, and industries at the expense of the liberty of others.  As such, Christians are now being persecuted for living out their Christian faith in accordance with the freedoms that they were promised in their founding document of law.  But rejoice!  Here is how we should respond:

You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

Creating Character

Faith helps us to endure all of the trials of life.  And when we endure, we gain character:

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Sometimes it is tough when we are going through trials that test our faith (especially at night while we sleep).  But you can be confident that God will never leave you or forsake you, for His character is perfect.  And since God will not allow you to be tempted (tested) beyond your ability without providing a way, there is always a glimmer of hope – even if that means your release from trouble is when you go to be with Him in glory.  God may place circumstances in your life that overwhelm you.  However, this usually happens when He is trying to get your attention.  But let’s not forget that many have been tortured and murdered for their faith.  And in those trials, God can give you peace beyond comprehension to help you through the difficulty.

Faith Fortified

When we are suffering for our faith, we are told to rejoice!   For as we surrender to God in our suffering, it strengthens our faith in Him to be able to get us through it.  Jesus said that only a little faith is needed to accomplish mighty things:

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

If only a little faith is required to move mountains, and that nothing will be impossible for us, what great and mighty things does God want to accomplish through us that would require the great faith and trust that comes through enduring our trials as we walk with Him?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Do I merely endure my trials, or does my faith mature in reverential trust and fear of God with joyful expectancy of what God will do next in my life?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, my strength is failing as I wait expectantly for You to act in these dark and evil days.  Give me the strength to go on so that I will not faint as I wait for my character growth to be completed in the crucible of trials.  Help me to trust You as a young child trusts their parents, completely and without reservation, as these fleeting difficulties are worked out by You, for I know that You are sovereign, and nothing happens without your express prior knowledge and approval.  Help me to soar like an eagle, for I feel grounded, unable to even spread my wings.  Comfort me in my sorrows and difficulties, and guard my heart with Your peace, that no weapon formed against me shall prosper.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?