Sunday, November 01, 2009

Finding Reasons to be Thankful

Four people in the Bible had challenges, but God gave them reasons to be thankful.  We look at Job, Rahab, Abigail, and Zechariah  from the Scriptures, then see what we can learn from their example.  Finally, we look at a well-known passage from the New Testament, and see if this is a message from God to our own hearts, today.

Finding Reasons to be Thankful

JOB                 Problem - Solution - Response - Blessing
Job 1,  2:7;   3:1 and 25,    42:10-12

RAHAB          Problem - Solution - Response - Blessing
Joshua 2:1-3   6:17-25   Matt. 1:5   Hebrews 11:31        James 2:25

ABIGAIL         Problem - Solution - Response - Blessing
1 Sam. 25:3    25:14-32    25:36-42

ZECHARIAH  Problem - Solution - Response - Blessing
Luke 1:5-20   1: 57-64    1:67-79

How can we apply these insights in our own lives?


Looking around, and looking ahead we see only the Problem.
We might already be working on the Solution, seeing it partly, inadequately.
We might think we’re doing right with our Response.
We trust God for the Blessing. It comes in His time, not ours and in His way, not ours.

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About Job
He was a wealthy man, well-known, comfortable. He and his wife had a nice family, they got along. He would have been well known in that whole area.

This book was probably written by Moses, this is Jewish belief, too.

We get an unusual look at God and the angels in Heaven. Satan comes and taunts God. Satan wants to ruin God’s creation and His people.

Job has to endure the ungodly attitude and words of his wife. She tells him to curse God and die. She had no faith that things would ever improve.

Maybe people there thought what Job had was contagious? They avoided him, they talked badly about him. We do not know how long Job suffered before he was healed.

Job cursed the day he was born, and said, “What I feared has happened.”
Job confesses his faith in a Redeemer who would one day come.

Some Jews have seen Job as a picture of the history of the Jews. God allows their suffering, but eventually they will be redeemed.

Job had a poetic discourse with these friends (unbelievers?) who thought Job had caused his own suffering. He later prayed for them.

Trouble & suffering is not automatically the result of sin.
We cannot understand why things happen. God is perfect and does no wrong.
What happened to Job, his response and God’s restoration of Job became a part of God’s Word.
We are to pray for those who do not understand God, and who do not understand us! Our testimony may last on earth after we die. God can use our lives and our written testimony.

About Rahab
Gentile, wanted to know God, God honored her due to her obedient faith.
The Canaanites were pagans, grossly wicked people steeped in idolatry. They even sacrificed their children on occasion as offerings to their gods.

Her house may have been an inn for travelers, but was also known as place of prostitution. She may have been a prostitute a single woman providing for herself. Maybe her parents couldn’t have afforded a dowry so she could marry.

She knew what was going on in the town and in the country.
She took a risk if the “spies” hadn’t trusted what she told them.

Rahab said, “we know that Jehovah has given you the land . . . We have heard how Jehovah dried up the waters of the Red Sea. Jehovah is your God, he is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.”

She hid the men, then let them out through her window in the town wall.
She lied to protect the men, but she obtained pardon from her past life.
She faced risk if the people of her town found out.

The scarlet cord was to identify her, she was to bring in her whole family to be delivered.

She was later part of Christ’s genealogy (Matthew 1:5)

Faithful obedience to God will be a blessing to others. Hospitality extends to strangers.
We are to urge our families to come into the place of safety for their salvation. We must take care who we tell, when we tell, how we tell others.

Other people will not approve of the things we believe and do. They ignore the clear warnings from the Lord.
Only by the protection of God will we make it through the hard times.

About Abigail
Her circumstances were difficult. She probably had no say about the marriage to Nabal; women were like property to the men. She treated well the servants and even Nabal. She had no reason to hope things would get better.
She was married to Nabal whose name means “fool” or villainous. He was of the house of Caleb. Caleb signifies a “dog or man who is stingy or mean.” He was a wealthy man, but a man with a big ego and a big mouth.

David asked Nabal for some necessary sustenance, and was refused. One of the servants told Abigail what happened. David and his men had protected Nabal’s men and sheep from outside forces.

Abigail gathered provisions, without telling her husband. She and her servants prepared food and drink Abigail knew what needed to be done; she quickly took 200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep already dressed, roasted grain, raisins, and 200 cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys and traveled to where David and his men were camped.

She risked her life. She bravely rode out to that mountain ravine on a donkey and coming towards here were 400 men with swords and an angry leader at their head. Abigail prevented disaster from her family by humbling herself before David.
She spoke up. She even took the blame for the sin of her husband. I Sam. 25:28. She interceded for her people before David, who granted her request.

When Nabal sobered up from a drunken state “his heart died within him” (I Sam 25:37) and he died in 10 days

She spoke prophetic words. “The Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord. When the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you prince over Israel ...” (I Sam 25:28–30).

Interestingly she mentions a “sling” when she speaks to David. Saying,
“… the LORD your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling”

She was faithful to God. She was rewarded, not longer afterwards she became wife to David, the future King. I Sam 25:42

About Zechariah
Jewish priest, a Pharisee during reign of King Herod the Great. Husband of Elizabeth. Both were righteous before God, observing the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. Her barrenness was a “reproach among men” bringing her humiliation and shame, and gossip.

They were old, they were right before God and before each other.

He would have been highly educated since he was from the priestly line.
He would have known about Abraham and Sarah being old and still being promised, and having a son.

The Jews at that time were under rule of Rome. The land was full of immorality, he had introduced Roman temples and built idols to Roman gods. Gentile money flooded the country, causing great economic instability. He had encouraged a Babylonian immigration into Israel upset the economy. Even the priesthood was corrupt, there was much buying and selling of priestly offices. These were desperate ties in Israel, times of darkness, weariness, injustice, disease, and economic desperation.

Because of the large number of priests no one could hope to perform the task of offering the incense more than once during his lifetime. After a lifetime of waiting Zechariah finally enters at the hour of incense and stands at the altar just before the curtain that separated the Holy Place before the Holy of Holies.

There were two prayer offerings: one that began the day of worship in the temple right at dawn, and the same offering was repeated at night, to close the day. Aromatic spices were put on the coals of the altar, a powerful, beautiful symbol of the prayers of Israel rising to God. As the priest, alone in the temple, placed the incense on the altar, he prayed for the deliverance of Israel, and offered prayers of intercession on behalf of the people of Israel. When he prayed, "a great multitude," as it says here, would have gathered outside the temple, prostrate on their faces in the outer court, praying with the priest who represented them in the Holy Place.
The angel identifies himself as Archangel Gabriel. It had been 400 years of silence, no supernatural manifestations from God, no prophetic word since Malachi.

This is Gabriel, the same angel who Daniel had seen with the host of heaven some 600 years before. At first Gabriel is gentle and understanding of Zechariah’s fear, but at Zechariah’s choice not to believe God’s word, he becomes very stern. This shows strong discipline. God disciplines those He loves.

After his 2 weeks of service he goes home, and had to write to communicate.

Note the place God chose: the temple, even though it was more of a historical landmark, a national shrine.
The time God chose: most believing people would have been gathered to pray for their nation and their identity as a people
The man God chose: The angel did not appear to the high priest, to one of the priestly elite, or even the religious upper crust. They did not live in Jerusalem, only in a little town in the hill country of Judea. Fifty weeks a year they lived and worked there, only 2 weeks a year he would come in and minister in the temple.

“Your prayers have been answered.” He prayed for the salvation of Israel and deliverance of his people. But his prayers for Elizabeth would also be answered.

He announces that because of Zechariah’s doubt he would be struck dumb and unable to speak until these things happen. He was unable to pronounce the customary blessing to the waiting worshippers.

Eight days after birth the baby’s would be circumcised and given his name.
Zechariah wrote his name on a writing tablet, his name is John and regained the power to speak. He praised God with a prophecy v. 57-59

God accomplishes His plan for His people, and God heals the couple’s pain of barrenness.

No matter how long it takes God will accomplish His stated purposes. Everything is on schedule.

Our impatience wears us out, physically and spiritually. God wants us to confront our unbelief and He will heal our spiritual barrenness.

By Elaine & Don Hardt ©2009


Romans 8: 31, b - 39, NLT
“If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
Since He did not spare even His own Son
but gave Him up for us all,
won’t He also give us everything else?

Who dares accuse us
whom God has chosen for His own?
No one — for God Himself has given us right standing with Himself.
Who then will condemn us?
No one — for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us,
and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?

Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity,
or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger,
or threatened with death?

No, despite all these things,
overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.
Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,
neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow —
not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
No power in the sky above or in the earth below—
indeed, nothing in all creation
will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed
in Christ Jesus our Lord.”