PSALM 37

THIS, TOO, SHALL PASS

Read Psalm 37, underline the words and phrases you want to remember and consider these reflections:

Legend has it that an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent a sentence, to be ever in view, and which would be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” The expression was made popular in the Western world due to a retelling of ancient Persian stories by English poet Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883). Abraham Lincoln called the phrase to mind when he addressed the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society on September 30, 1859, then added: “How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!” True, it is not a Biblical expression, but it is appropriate to remember that whatever crises and troubles godly people face today, these trials are temporary. They will pass! Sickness, financial setbacks and the death of loved ones will come to an end. Better days are coming! In the words of David, the ancient king of Israel: “Fret not yourself because of evil doers… for they will soon fade like the grass…. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” (Psalm 37:1-2, 5-6).

Our families, our friends and the Lord’s church need an anchor that will give strength to carry on. All of us struggle with discouragement, fear and doubt when we realize that COVID-19 is not a respecter of persons. No one enjoys having to “self-quarantine” at home or to make sure we practice “social distancing” while around others. This is not the lifestyle we would choose. Our children want to go back to school. Adults want to be able to visit their aged mothers and fathers in the nursing home. Worshipers want to be able to meet together on the Lord’s Day. Brokers want the stock market to stabilize. Investors want their portfolios to restore financial security. Soul-winners want to go into the homes of people willing to study the Scriptures. The bereaved want to be able to get together to eulogize loved ones. The unemployed want to find work. Those contemplating suicide want to find hope. People all over the world would like to discover peace again.

As a photographer needs to adjust the camera lens to make sure things are in focus, we need to look at life through the lens of faith. In Psalm 37 we are reminded us that God knows all about us and when we “commit our way” to Him, He will “give you the desires of your heart” (verse 5-6). The “meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace” (verse 11). Meekness is an important concept. It describes how a trainer of horses “breaks” the wild and strong-willed stallion through daily discipline. Becoming “meek” means allowing God to take charge of our lives like a horse yields to the control of its trainer. The present crisis can be the discipline we need so we can “inherit the land and delight in abundant peace.” We must “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (verse 7).

God’s people receive a multitude of spiritual blessings––our greatest need–– even if some physical wants are denied. “Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked” (verse 16). Those who rely on their own mental and physical stamina for comfort will find that their arms will not support them. However, the righteous knows the arms that hold him up are the mighty arms of God (verse 17). “Underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). When his closest friends abandoned the apostle Paul he realized “The Lord stood by me and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:17). Let all of us who stagger under the weight of heavy burdens, allow the Lord to “establish” our “steps,” so even though we may stumble, it will be only for a moment; we will not be “cast headlong, for the Lord upholds our hand” (verse 23-24). When the law of God is in our hearts, our “steps do not slip” (verse 31).

After serving Christ for 78 years, I can testify to the truthfulness of David’s observation: “I have never seen the righteous forsaken” (verse 25).

Truly, “there is a future for the man of peace” (verse 27)! God is our stronghold “in the time of trouble” (verse 39).

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PSALM 34

“THIS POOR MAN CRIED AND THE LORD HEARD HIM”

Please read all verses of Psalm 34, then consider these reflections.

The words of this Psalm were appropriate for any number of high-risk encounters David experienced as he was challenged and threatened by ambitious men who wanted to put him to death and to “grab the power” in Israel. These words could apply to many experiences of our own, some of which are entirely out of our control. At times our own well-being is at stake and our hearts are filled with fear of dangers that surround us and bad things that may be anticipated in the future. Psalm 34 is a powerful encouragement in our international pandemic of COVID-19.

The Psalm is divided into three parts:

(1) verses 1-3 is an invitation to praise God –– the One worthy of being continually magnified by all the people, at all times, under all circumstances. “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together!”

(2) verses 4-10, the power of prayer in difficult times. My own father, Thomas Hendrix Tarbet, preached the gospel over 60 years in mission-fields of the United States and Australia. His pulpits were from the west coast to the east coast and included “Bible-belt” congregations in the southwest as well. Dad was not often acknowledged for his accomplishments. He went through many trials. He had very little money, and left almost nothing of this world’s goods to his family. Yet, he was one of the finest Bible teachers I ever knew. He treasured the book of Psalms. On one occasion, he told me of some of his struggles and said, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and delivered him out of all his troubles.” This part of Psalm 34 will always have a special place in my heart. These words can be written on our hearts: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (verse 8)

(3) verses 11-22, a life focused on God’s providence will help His people live in every generation. Here are practical applications for a person who is learning how to walk “in the fear of the Lord,” (verse 9) and “desires life and loves many days, that he may see good” (verse 12).

From this Psalm one learns that to have a good life he must “seek” the Lord (verse 4), “look to Him” (verse 5), cry out to Him (verse 6), “taste and see that the Lord is good”, “take refuge” in Him (verse 8), “keep the tongue from evil,” “do good”, “seek peace and pursue it” (verses 12-14). Those who set their hearts on “fearing” the Lord (verse 7) with godly respect and awe, walking “humbly(verse 2) before Him, depending upon Him to provide daily necessities are not promised exemption from sicknesses, viruses, poverty, enemies and a multitude of disappointments. On the other hand, they will receive what is needed to endure every trial, to rejoice in the “radiant” light of God’s face (verse 6), and “lack no good thing” (verse 10). In the words of John T. Willis, “By no means is a righteous man free from affliction, but suffering cannot touch him at the depth of his existence.” Though the righteous may have many “afflictions” Scripture promises that “the Lord delivers him out of them all” (verse 19). A Bible commentator wrote that Psalm 34 was “sung by the church of Jerusalem at the time of Communion,” and “was on the lips of martyrs as they faced the arena.”

Here is the “bottom-line” promise: “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears are toward their prayer…The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned” (verse 18, 22).

NOTE: The heading-introductions to various Psalms were added after the Psalms were written and are not inspired by God. It may or may not be accurate to attribute Psalm 34 to the time when king David, fleeing from king Saul, came to the pagan king Achish, king of Gath, and pretended to be insane in order to protect his own life (1 Samuel 21:10-15).

–– David Tarbet, Outreach Minister
Church of Christ, New Milford, Connecticut
davidtarbet.blog
(Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version.)

Posted in 1 Peter 3:10-12, 1 Samuel 21:10-15, English Standard Version, Eyes of the Lord, Magnify the Lord, Poor man, Prayer, Providence, Psalm 34, Psalm 34:6 | 2 Comments

PSALM 28

A DESPERATE MAN WHO PRAISED GOD FOR DELIVERANCE

Read all 9 verses of Psalm 28 then consider these reflections.

The trials that came upon King David were not common place or trivial. David realized he was in the midst of life or death experiences. In desperation he cried out to the Lord, asking that He not turn a deaf ear to his trials. Things were so serious that David knew if the Lord did not help him he was doomed to die, to go “down to the pit.” Some have suggested he was facing the possibility of becoming an invalid, or confronting strong nations in war, or pestilence or sickness. It is sufficient for us to know that even an anointed king who knew the Lord was not exempt from very serious dangers. Neither are we.

Like his son, Solomon, David prayed to the Lord facing Jerusalem’s temple and with hands uplifted (verse 2). In 1 Kings 8:37-40 Solomon asked the Lord to hear the prayers of His people when they were in serious trouble (famine, pestilence, blight, mildew, locust, caterpillar or sickness) knowing the affliction of each person’s heart (“for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind”). He asked God to “hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways.” The only person who can pray such a prayer is one who thinks about the Lord’s works and determines to live a godly life. Hypocrites “who speak peace with their neighbors while evil is in their hearts” need not bother asking for God’s deliverance from their troubles (verses 3-5). As the blind man whom Jesus healed put it: “God does not listen to sinners” ––that is, deliberate, willful, persistent and unrepentant sinners (John 9:31). David, like other god-fearing people, was far from perfect, but he loved the Lord, confessed his sins and sincerely set his heart to please God. God still listens to sinners like David, even now. Even in personal hard-times. Even when deadly diseases may put us in the hospital or require that we “shelter-in-place”.

With full confidence that the Lord would respond to his desperate cries, David broke forth in praise for God’s response! (verses 6-7). He declared “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.” The Amplified Bible explains what it means to truly “trust” in God: “My heart trusts, relies on and confidently leans on Him.”

Psalm 28 ends with acknowledgment of God’s loving providence even in the times of peril. He is the “strength of His people (His covenant people) and the saving refuge of his anointed” (the king). In words expressing passionate requests to the only One who has the ability to help both David and the nation, he called upon God to “be their shepherd and carry them forever” (verses 8-9). We are reminded of the greatness of God in Isaiah 40:11––”He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” With such a great God on our side, who can be against us?

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PSALM 27

Read Psalm 27 and consider these reflections.

We live in a time of crisis effecting our physical and mental health and financial loss. This is the “day of trouble!” As the coronavirus continues its march through New York, California, Louisanna and other great states, Christians need to focus each day on God’s power and God’s provisions, clearly expressed in Psalm 27.

The psalm opens our spiritual eyes to the light of salvation and reminds us that the Lord is our “stronghold.” Under the normal circumstances the victory goes to those who have mustered the biggest army, who “have the most toys,” and who intimidate godly people with threats that terrorize us. The psalmist assures us that there is no place for “fear” where the Lord’s mighty power shines upon us. Even if an army were to surround us we need to keep focused on our confident assurance that God is in charge of our lives and that we do not stand alone (verses 1-3).

Keeping the Lord first in our hearts will cause us to seek God, to make our relationship with Him the number one priority of life. In prayer we ask Him to enable us to grow spiritually here on earth and ultimately to enjoy the “house of the Lord” in heaven. Life’s most important goal is to “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” Diseases and disasters have not disappeared, but we continue to trust the Lord to “lift us high upon a rock” and to “conceal us under the cover of His tent” (verse 5). This very day it is most appropriate to “sing and make melody to the Lord.” (verses 4- 6).

The blessed “tie that binds” us to the Almighty God will not be broken, even though we are sinners and people who mean much to us in this life (like parents and children) disappoint us, hurt us and let us down. The “tie” that binds us to other believers and to God Himself is very strong (verse 7-10). In some nations religious persecution is a daily experience, and the Lord will “take us in” when others disown us, discourage us or to try to destroy our faith.

Churches of Christ often have a place on their websites to explain “What We Believe”. These are things that matter; these are things that make us unique in the community; these are things we want to share with unbelievers as well as those of strongest faith. Here, the psalmist give us his “Statement of Faith” so to speak, when he announces: “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Whatever may come our way today, whatever the disappointments we may go through, let all who “wait for the Lord” be strong and take courage• He praised God for all the good things He already “stored up” for him personally — both physically and spiritually (verse 19). David knew the Lord, and only the Lord, would bring him through national crisis and his own rough days.

(Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version.)

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PSALM 31

WHAT WILL THE NEIGHBORS SAY?

Please read Psalm 31 and consider the following reflections:

Most people make good neighbors, but some neighbors are difficult to live with.  King David had neighbors who were the difficult kind. They treated David more like an enemy than friend. In Psalm 31 he wrote:  “I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances” (verse 11). His neighbors  pointed out David’s sins and spread the word around the neighborhood that David was being punished by God for his sinful behavior. It’s not that the ancient king disagreed with  them about the reason he was having to endure sickness ––  “my strength fails because of my iniquity” (verse 10). However, David’s neighbors were just down-right mean. When they met him on the street they crossed over to the other side ––“those who see me in the street flee from me” (verse 11). They treated him like a “broken vessel,” once used to hold wine or water, now useless (verse  12). Their intentions were to ruin his reputation, assassinate his character. Whispering about him behind his back, they schemed for a way to put him to death ––”I hear the whispering of many ––they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life” (verse 13).    He did not live by the naive philosophy that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”  He felt the pain of untruthful hostile neighbors. David was truly a victim of the “strife of tongues,” and he was hurting (verse 20).

Who is your difficult “neighbor”?  It may be a bully at school, a fellow-worker, an ex-spouse, the person next door, even a member of your own family. 

When life is miserable and the future is not bright, what does a godly person do?  David called upon God to rescue him. “In your righteousness deliver me…rescue me speedily…be a rock of refuge for me…take me out of the net they have hidden  for me!” (verse 1-4). He committed himself to God for safekeeping. Our Lord Jesus in His darkest hour, suffering on the cross for us, enduring the pains of nails and the loud verbal  insults of those who passed by, recalled David’s desperate cry and repeated it:  “Into your hand I commit my spirit” (verse 5 and Luke 23:46).

Psalm 31 ends with an encouragement to “wait for the Lord” (verse 24). Whatever the illness, virus or disease, whatever unjust things are said about us, whatever physical and emotional perils we go through, whatever loss of employment and financial income, we need to “wait for the Lord.” On one occasion (1 Samuel 23:11-13), a whole city turned against king David and in near panic he thought he had been “cut off” from God (verse 21-22)! But he waited for the Lord. Notice what he did as he “waited”: 

• He prayed earnestly about the situation (verse 2)

He rested his cause on God’s grace, not his own innocence (verse 3)

He re-committed his life to the Lord (verse 5)

He was thankful that God understood what he was going through, even if others didn’t (verse 7)

• He confessed his sins to God (verse 10)

He remembered that his “times” were in “God’s hands”  –– that the loving and eternal and almighty God was ultimately in charge of his life (verse 15)

He asked the Lord to make His face shine on him (verse 16 and Numbers 6:24-26)

he prayed for the defeat of wrongful and hurtful things that had been committed against him (verses 17-18). NOTE: “To pray for the overthrow or the just punishment of the wicked is not wicked. It is generally a vigorous desire that the iniquity of evil men might be brought to an end. Old Testament saints would have far preferred to see the conversion of these their enemies (cf. the close of Psalm 2); but since in most cases this was out of the question they prayed earnestly that God would put an end to their ungodly career and so to the harm that they sought to bring upon the godly.” (H.C. Leopold, Exposition on the Psalms).

He praised  God for all the good things He already “stored up” for him personally — both physically and spiritually (verse 19).   David knew the Lord, and only the Lord,  would bring him through national crisis and his own rough days.

How, then, does this psalm encourage us as we go about our daily living in an imperfect world filled with imperfect neighbors some of whom say and do imperfect things?  “Love the Lord, … be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” (verse 23-24). Be assured that “Those who wait upon the Lord will never be put to shame” (Isaiah 49:23).

Posted in 1 Samuel 23:11=13, Contentment, I Commit My Spirit, King David, King David's Prayer, Kuke 23:46, Luke 23:46, Neighbors, Painful Words, Psalm 31, wait for the Lord | 1 Comment

OUR DIVINE MISSION: TO GLORIFY GOD

A Fresh Look at the Lord’s Prayer

(John Chapter 17)

While it is common to speak of the ‘model prayer’ of Jesus recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 as the “Lord’s Prayer,” the prayer of Christ given in John chapter 17 is the one in which Jesus pours His own heart out to His heavenly Father. For this reason, it is correct to speak of it as truly “The Lord’s Prayer.” No other recorded prayer of Jesus recorded in scripture shows us the depth of Jesus’ commitment to glorify God by His life and His death. No other recorded prayer of Jesus teaches us what it means to glorify God by the way we live and the way we die. In this prayer Jesus says: “I have glorified you on earth” (John 17:4)*. He asks God to “glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you” (John 17:1). God is “glorified” in those who believe in Him (John 17:10). In this prayer we discover the divine mission of life is to glorify God.

Jesus praying on his knees

WORTH PRAYING ABOUT.  Jesus set the example for us by asking that God be “glorified” in His life.  There are no steps of spiritual growth more important than to ask the Lord to bring glory to Himself by the way we live. If Jesus made His relationship with the Father the ultimate focus of prayer, how much more should we!  We need to begin very day asking the Lord to direct us in paths that bring glory to Him.

ACCOMPLISH THE LORD’S WORK BY THE WAY YOU LIVE. Jesus said: “I glorified you on earth having accomplished the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4).  The decision to glorify God is to be active, to accomplish something that really matters. Jesus looked for opportunities to talk with others about God’s plans for their lives — He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). He cared about people and responded to their needs.  While you and I cannot perform the miracles Jesus performed in healing the sick and raising the dead, there are many ways we can accomplish the Lord’s work by talking with others about God’s plans for their lives, lifting up those discouraged by loses and defeats, sharing what we have with those who are hungry, lonely, persecuted for righteousness sake or confused by the world’s temptations. These are not the times for Christians to withdraw from involvement in the lives of others. These are the times for Christians to speak up, to remind people of what the Lord has done for them, to let friends and neighbors (even enemies) see what being a Christian is all about. In the words of the Isaiah Baltzell: “I want to be a worker for the Lord, I want to love and trust His holy word; I want to sing and pray and be busy every day in the vineyard of the Lord.”

MAKE THE NAME OF GOD KNOWN AMONG THE PEOPLE.  Let these words of Jesus become your prayer:  “I have manifested your name to the people….” (John 17:5). He refers not to a covenant “name” of God (Jehovah) but to the person and character of God Himself.  In the words of John, “No one has ever seen God; the only God who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known” (John 1:18). Only by “knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent,” can we receive eternal life” (John 17:3). We are surrounded by people who do not know Him personally in their hearts!  The key to getting to know the Lord is to hear the words of God.  Jesus said, “I have given them your word” (John 17:14). God’s word is “truth,” and by His word we are “sanctified” (John 17:17). The “Great Commission” given in Matthew 28:19-20 (“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”) is reflected in Jesus’ prayer in John 17:18 — “I have sent them into the world.”  Our “Great Commission” is not to tell people to meditate on nature nor to practice personal introspection. Our message is not to find the church of our choice, a preacher whose sermons make us “feel good” or a musical group that entertains us in worship.  There is a rightful time and place for giving our “testimony” about what God has done for us. However, telling sinners our “religious experiences” is no substitute for teaching them the very words of God. The testimony that matters most is the testimony God has given about Himself –– testimony contained in the Scriptures. In order to share the word with others we must be serious students of the Bible ourselves, we must “let the word of Christ dwell in us richly” (Colossians 3:16).  This is how people learn about the “name” of God. This is the message Jesus has sent us into the world to proclaim. Our divine mission is to teach the word of God (the Bible).

FIGHT YOUR SPIRITUAL BATTLES WITH DIVINE WEAPONS.  Jesus believed Satan was real and the battle between good and evil a serious battle with eternal consequences. Christians are vulnerable to the deceptions and designs of the evil one.  As long as He was on earth, Jesus protected His apostles from Satan’s attacks. He “kept” them in God’s name and “guarded” them (John 17:12). But now that He was leaving this world to return to His Father in heaven, He was concerned about them.  The whole scheme of redemption rested on the shoulders of those He had chosen to be His apostles in establishing His church and proclaiming the truth of His gospel.  If the apostles failed in their mission there was no “plan B.” He prayed:  “Holy Father keep them in your name” (John 17:11). He said: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Only by remembering what He had taught them, holding firmly to the words of God and allowing the truth to “sanctify” them would they overcome victoriously. These are still the keys to overcoming the evil one in the spiritual battles God’s children face. The victory that “overcomes the world” will always be our “faith” (1 John 5:4), and the foundation of faith is hearing the “word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

PROMOTE THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH. Four times in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus prayed that His apostles and disciples would be “one”  (John 17:11, 21, 22, 23). Unfortunately, some have made the primary application of this “oneness” what the apostles and subsequent church leaders teach as if our Lord’s greatest concern was that Christian leaders not promote false doctrines or man-made traditions. However, the “oneness” of Christ’s disciples is not only defined by what they believe and teach. There are other challenges which threaten to undo the unity of the church, especially unloving attitudes,  internal contentions and clashes between brothers and sisters. If members of His church do not get along with one another, if there is constant grumbling and bickering, gossip and backbiting, conflicting teachings and factions, pride, selfish ambition, jealousy and envy the future of the church will look bleak indeed. But love will keep the disciples together. Our Lord’s disciples need to resist the temptation to become discouraged and disheartened by the rough times that lie ahead. They need to recognize the things that threaten to divide them. They need to be bound together in oneness, to stick together, to support one another, to keep Satan from gaining advantage over them. Christians of every generation need to be warned about being “outwitted” by Satan, for “we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11). The evil one is constantly on the prowl seeking to devour those whose commitments are fickle, whose knowledge of the truth is shallow, and whose jealous and selfish ambitions create disorder and every vile practice (James 3:16). Perhaps more than ever before, the conversion of the unbelieving world depends on seeing the church of Christ united in love and teaching.  Jesus prayed that His disciples be “perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you love me” (John 17:23).  There are few stumbling blocks facing unbelievers more significant than animosity, strife, thirsts for power, selfish ambition, discrimination and in-fighting among believers.  That is why Jesus prayed: “I have made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

ANTICIPATE LIFE IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD.  Listen to these words of hope found in the Lord’s Prayer:  “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:4). And again, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me may be with me where I am to see my glory that you have given me” (John 17:24). There is a reward for faithful service. No matter how difficult it may be from time to time to remain faithful to Christ, no matter the struggles and sacrifices, when our eyes are set firmly on spending eternity in “the presence” of God it renews our courage and fortifies our resolve. In the words of the hymn writer, “What rejoicing in His presence, when have banished grief and pain; when the crooked ways are straightened, and the dark things shall be plain! Face to face shall I behold Him, far beyond the starry sky, face to face in all His glory I shall see Him by and by.”

May these fresh thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer strengthen all of us so we will fulfill our divine mission to glorify our heavenly Father. 

–– David Tarbet

dtarbet@swbell.net

Church of Christ

New Milford, Connecticut

2019

Scripture quotations from English Standard Version

Posted in Brotherly Love, Church of Christ, Divine Mission, Divine Weapons, Glorify God, Jesus, John 17, Lord's Prayer, Name of God, Oneness, Presence of God, Spiritual Battles, The Lord's Prayer, Unity of the Church | 1 Comment

GOD’S SPECIFIC COMMANDS AND DIVINE SILENCE

 

When a pharmacist receives a “script” from the doctor he knows he cannot change the medicine the doctor specifically prescribed. Whether or not the pharmacist thinks he can improve upon the doctor’s prescription, or thinks changing the prescription would make the patient feel better, the fact remains that the pharmacist is obligated to fill the prescription exactly as the doctor gave it. The silence of the doctor does not permit the pharmacist to add to or take away from the prescription.

In a similar way, when God expresses His desires by giving specific instructions, He expects His people to do exactly as He commanded. Human beings are not to add to, subtract from or change what He has specifically instructed. Neither is it is necessary for God to list all the changes people may invent, or to forbid them by stating: “You must not do this or that!” If the scripture contained every single thing God did not approve it would be such a large book we would be unable to carry it! The very nature of specific instructions means that whatever is not authorized by Scripture is not permitted. This is the significance of specific instructions.

According to Leviticus 10:1-2 two priests were put to death because they offered fire on their censers which was “not authorized.” God had authorized the divine source for holy fire on the altar, but when these priests obtained fire from another source God destroyed them. God did not prohibit priests to get fire from another source, but when they offered “unauthorized fire” they displeased God. We should learn from this Biblical example that when God specifies what He wants, all changes, additions and subtractions are forbidden by His silence.

In 1 Chronicles 13:7-10, the Israelites put the Ark of the Covenant on a “new cart” to transport it into Jerusalem. God had not forbidden a “new cart,” but it was a change in what He had specifically commanded. The project ended in disaster! King David said: “It was because the Levities, did not bring it up the first time that the Lord our God broke out in anger against us. We did not inquire of Him about how to do it in the prescribed way.” Only when the Levites carried the Ark of the Covenant with poles resting on their shoulders as God commanded did the mission meet with God’s blessing and success.

Everything taught and practiced in God’s name must be authorized by scripture. Today Christians need to ask if the things practiced in religion truly please God. Are we honoring His specific instructions? Since He has specified immersion as the mode of baptism, grape juice and unleavened bread as the food of communion, elders in each congregation as the form of church government, singing as the music of worship and Jesus as the mediator in prayer, by what authority does anyone change, add to or subtract from what God has authorized? If one of God’s specific instructions can be changed, they can all be changed! God’s silence prohibits all innovations and changes; it does not permit us to ignore His directions.

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