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Archive for November 2014

Job - Why God? - Part 7


Study 7 : Job 29-31

Job’s self-assessment.



We now come to two long speeches: the first by Job, summarizing his thinking, is 3 chapters long; the second by a new guy, Elihu, is 5 chapters long.

Job cannot have been an old man when the disasters struck him. However long he lived (another 140 years according to the last chapter) he was only middle-aged for he had time to have another complete farming career and a considerable family. But much of what he describes in these chapters is remarkably similar to the common experience of an old person in western culture. Up to about 100 years ago most people in the world only lived in one or two or three places their whole lives long, often one as they grew up and just another subsequent to marriage. Consequently as they grew old they would be surrounded by people they had known for a very long time: family, friends and acquaintances. For many today things are very different. Education and job opportunities take us to live in many different places. Sometimes parents demand a weekly visit but that tends to be a disaster, as it leaves one not really belonging in either the place of residence or the parent’s home area. As a result of this mobility we will often enter old age and retirement surrounded mainly by strangers. The situation Job describes in a totally different culture and for very specific reasons is extraordinarily like that which may be your experience, as in part it is mine, or as it may be yours at some future date.

JOB 29: 1 – 6.

Assuming you are or have been married and had a family you will remember that it was great fun when you were in your prime and they were growing up. We then did all sorts of things: building sand castles, playing with toy trains etc. that we now have no excuse to do!

JOB 29: 7 – 25.

Our experience would have been, in detail, very different from Job’s yet it probably had much the same effect. We probably had a job, which gave us status. We mattered. We were somebody. Even if we had no very exalted role, not in charge of anybody else, we still had a position in some firm or organisation or in the family. We may not have realised it at the time but we drew strength from that sense of significance. But, if like me you are old, you will find it easy to relate to what Job says next.

JOB 30: 1 – 15.

What a magnificent phrase that is: “God has unstrung my bow”. Job no longer has the strength, or the will, to pull the bowstring back far enough to send an arrow far enough to matter. I used to pride myself on my ability to run upstairs two, or even three, steps at a time. No longer. Now an old man I go up sedately one step at a time. That is my equivalent to having my bow unstrung.

Question: if you are getting older – what is your equivalent to the unstrung bow: loss of strength or beauty or what?

More significantly, with retirement often comes a great loss of status. (More in Western societies than in those of the Third world where there is usually some role even the aged are expected to fulfil). No one now looks for your advice; no one looks up to you as someone that matters.

Question: that is not true in all societies. How good is the one in which you live at using the advice and gifts of old folk?

If circumstances mean that you, an older person, no longer live where you spent most of your working life then it may well feel as though you are being mocked by younger people as Job was, even when they are being polite to you.

JOB 30: 16 – 41.

Old age commonly brings aches and pains in joints and muscles! Job thinks of these as the work of God “tossing me about in the storm”. We think about such things in a very different way but the experience is just as real; my right ankle, left knee and left shoulder all ache! It is indeed like being tossed about in a storm.

Unfortunately Job’s final chapter is a bad note to end on, here it is: JOB 31: 1 – 40.

Each of us will have a different life story to tell. As we get older we tend to reminisce more and more, telling the old stories of what has happened to us and what we have done. Family and friends may get fed up with stories of the “good old days” if we tell them too often, and they may not have been all that good. It is easy to fail to realise how much the world, and probably our society has advanced during our lifetime.

In our society, and many others, loneliness coming from the mobility of our lives or the smallness of our family can be the curse of old age for many. It probably was not Job’s problem although the depth of his grief will have tended to isolate him from other people.

The element in the equation that is not considered in the book of Job is the role that the company of the Lord’s people should play in the life of those in distress or in old age. In Job’s day they were the people of Israel – but Job was probably not an Israelite – and in our day it is the local church. Sadly, because of the extreme individualism in modern Western society, it may not be very good at supporting the struggling. Even when it tries it is usually a case of one individual helping another rather than any sense of a corporate action supporting an individual. Other cultures in other societies often do these things much better.

Job has succeeded in summarizing very accurately most of the problems of old age. I, for one, can relate to his mutterings very easily (I am now 80 years old). The trouble is that in all these 3 chapters there is very little positive at all. We have to wait until Elihu has had his say and the Lord speaks out of the storm clouds before we get any positive encouragement. Every good doctor makes a careful diagnosis of what is wrong with a patient before he prescribes a treatment or picks up his scalpel. This is the diagnosis – particularly if you are in your later years.

This has been a strange study to write. There is very little that is positive here. But it is important to think about the situation we, or other people, are in. that is diagnosis.

Question: can you think out what might be the cure for you? For others?



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Partakers Friday Prayers!

28th November 2014

We pray together and when Christians pray together, from different nations, different churches and different denominations - that reveals Church unity! Come! Let us pray together!

Order of Prayer Service

Opening Prayer

1 John 1:8-10


Lord's Prayer

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Prayers for those facing challenging situation

Prayers for those grieving & in despair

Prayers for those imprisoned

Prayers for Churches Worldwide

Prayers for the world

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Time for your own prayers

The Creed


Closing Prayer

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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POD - Psalm 14


Psalm 14

14:1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

They are corrupt.

They have done abominable works.

There is none who does good.

14:2 Yahweh looked down from heaven on the children of men,

to see if there were any who understood,

who sought after God.

14:3 They have all gone aside.

They have together become corrupt.

There is none who does good, no, not one.

14:4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge,

who eat up my people as they eat bread,

and don’t call on Yahweh?

14:5 There they were in great fear,

for God is in the generation of the righteous.

14:6 You frustrate the plan of the poor,

because Yahweh is his refuge.

14:7 Oh that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!

When Yahweh restores the fortunes of his people,

then Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad!

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Think Spot - 24th November 2014

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G'day and welcome to Partake! Welcome also to Monday and our Think Spot together!

We have the start of a new week! Its Monday! How and in what circumstances are you trusting God? How did Jesus Christ trust in the Father? Jesus knew that the Father was going to bring Him back to life after his death on the cross. Jesus trusted the Father in this area of His life, just as he did in all aspects of his life. How are you doing? Do you have concerns and areas of your life where you need an assurance that God the Father will help you?

Here are some simple steps which may help you maintain a trust in God.

  1. Pray, casting all anxiety on God. He cares for you because you are His personal concern (The great apostle Peter, one of Jesus' closest friends wrote this in 1 Peter 5v7 "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.")

  2. Accept and thank God that His peace has filled that area (Another great apostle, Paul, wrote this in Philippians 4v7 says "Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.")
  3. Learn to be content whatever your circumstances are, resting in God (Paul goes on in Philippians 4v11-12 "Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.  I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.")
  4. Allow the Spirit to control your mind for life and peace (and again from the pen of the apostle Paul, this time in Romans 8v6 "So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.")

  5. Trust God to fulfil your every need (Matthew records these words of Jesus in Matthew 6v32-33 "but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." )
  6. Obey and follow God's commands to love God and love others (Jesus is recorded in Matthew 22v37-40 "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.")
  7. Finally, be prepared to be obedient to the Father, in supplying the needs of others you meet and therefore showing you love God and other people! One way to show you are trusting and loving God is to be the answer to the prayers of somebody else and showing that love to them! Ask God to show you, how you can help somebody else in need this week and showing your love.

Go in peace this Monday, into this week, knowing God is worthy of your trust! God will take care of you, but not always in the way you expect!  Expect Him to allow circumstances and situations to arise where you are to trust Him fully! He will help you if you ask! After all, He knows you better than anybody! And don't be afraid to help somebody else because by doing that, you show you are loving and trusting in God!

Father, I pray that You would help us to trust in You and that You would supply our needs, calm our concerns and help us to love You and others more fully. I ask this through the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives inside all those who have peace with you. Amen

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A God of Joy and His people

A God of Joy and His people

Some of the words and phrases we commonly use come straight from the book of Leviticus. Words such as jubilee and scapegoat are commonly used today. And what husband hasn’t offered a form of guilt offering to his wife!

Leviticus does have important things to tell us about sin, obedience and holiness. Perhaps most importantly it tells of God dwelling with His people.

Leviticus 16:1-10

The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the LORD. The LORD said to Moses: ‘Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.

‘This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: he must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash round him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

‘Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the LORD at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats – one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.

1. Day of Atonement

  • The Tabernacle / Tent of Meetings
  • The Offerings!
  • The Blood!
  • The High Priest - Aaron!
  • The Scapegoat
  • The people! 

Atonement done!

2. Life worship

  • Leviticus 18:1-5 - Be Holy!
  • Leviticus 19:9-18 – Be Good Neighbours!

3. Reading Leviticus today!

So what is the best way for us in the 21st century to read these ancient laws of Leviticus? Is it just to simply ignore them or are we to slavishly follow them? Perhaps the best way is to simply let Scripture interpret Scripture and see what the New Testament says about the Leviticus laws. Take for instance the food laws. We know in the New Testament that all food is now permissible, whereas under the Old Testament, certain foods were not permitted to be eaten. In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter had a dream in which all food was declared clean!

It is also wise, not to see them as merely a list of “not do” statements, but also as “do statements”. Rather, we should see them as a love letter from a God who wants to save His people from distress and anxiety in order to give them a life of peace, unity, health and a joyful life in all its fullness.

All these laws were to lead ancient Israel to be a holy nation. Holiness was about being set apart for a purpose and making wise, conscious decisions about what was right or wrong. It involved being obedient to God and keeping His decrees and regulations. Being holy, involved having a lifestyle, which was contrary to the cultures surrounding them. To be holy was a lifestyle choice of worship, to reflect their holy God. They were called to be loyal! Called to be distinct! Called to worship! What has all this got to do with us? Where does the Day of Atonement and these laws fit into the life of a Christian in the 21st century?

4. Today

Hebrews 2:14-18

  • Holy Barrier
  • Holy People!
  • Declared Holy!

Lets now, quickly compare the Levitical Sacrifices and Jesus’ Sacrifices!

Levitical Sacrifices:

Performed repeatedly by earthly priests who stood.
Their work was unending as they laboured on earth and their sacrifices could never take away sin.

Jesus’ Sacrifice:

He offered one sacrifice.
Jesus now sits at God’s right hand in power and glory with His earthly work complete.
His sacrifice achieved its goal of fulfilment and made his followers holy! 
At the cross of Jesus Christ on Calvary, the Old Covenant was fulfilled and the New Covenant ushered in!
This New Covenant assures those who follow Jesus Christ have:

  •  Forgiveness!
  • Peace!
  • Reconciled to God
  • Declared right and just before God!
  • Cleansed from sin!  
  • Free from the slavery to sin!
  • Intercedes for us!
  • Given the Spirit to dwell inside!
  • Granted direct access to God the Father, through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit 

5. Live Holy!

As a Christian, the Holy Spirit is living inside you, changing and transforming you into the very image of the holy one, Jesus Christ. Your transformation into that image of Jesus Christ, is the greatest evidence, not only of the work of the Holy Spirit but also of you being a Christian living an obedient life to God.

As a Christian, you are no longer an enemy of God but a friend of God and belong to God! As Christians, we are to live a life of obedience to God – casting off all that hinders and seeks to stop us. And if we fall into disobedience, we can confess our sin to the Father, through the name of the Son and in the power of the Spirit and get right back up again, knowing we are forgiven – totally amazing!

As Christians, we are called to be joyfully obedient to the Lord, serving Him in every aspect of life! In doing so, our whole lives will be acceptable worship to God and not just at a Sunday meeting. Our worship is to be a lifestyle of conscious decisions, reflecting our devotion to a God with whom we are to be in a dynamic and intimate relationship with. This lifestyle will affect the way we work, rest and play!

As instruments in God’s orchestra of joy, we are to be loyal to Him – the joy giver! We are to obey with joyful, effervescent vigour and reflect a living God to a society out there, which is in darkness. They will know we are Christians by the way we act – actions of obedience to God, signified by the love we have for each other and them. Love in action by supplying people’s needs, both on an individual and church basis.

We are called to follow God and not to succumb to the temptations, which seek to mar our relationship with the God who lives inside us. Let's go willingly to obey and serve the Lord with faithful obedience!

But if you are not a Christian here tonight, then please do make yourself known to us afterwards and we would love to talk to you about becoming a Christian. While you have breath, it’s not too late to start this life of joyful obedience to a loving God and enter into a living and dynamic relationship of true Joy with Him. Don’t leave it so late that you incur God’s judgement for your sins and have everlasting separation from Him and others! God does indeed love you and He is calling you to come into a dynamic relationship of true joy with Him today. Take the opportunity today – come and follow Jesus Christ. He is calling you to respond!

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Job - Why God? - Part 6


Study 6 : Job 26-28

Glorious Wisdom.

This study falls into 2 parts. First there are the chapters after number 23 and up to chapter 28. But I am going to skip over these. They do not add a great deal to what we have already thought about and, indeed, appear somewhat muddled. So much so that many scholars think they have got scrambled somewhere between Job and us. Two bits are worth reading. The first is as much for amusement as anything else! Job has already called his friends “miserable comforters” and he now unleashes a real blast of sarcasm against them in 26:1–4..


Much more positively Job once again states that nothing will make him give up his faith in the Lord and his righteousness. Theses are words worth hearing in these days when so many are prepared to give up their faith and thus their integrity for the thinnest of reasons.  Hear that in 27: 1 – 6.


But then the steady progression of argument between Job and his friends is suddenly interrupted by a beautiful poem in chapter 28. At first sight it seems to cut across the main argument of the book and not to be about the same sort of things at all, but in fact it takes us back to and reminds us what the whole book is really about. This is indicated by the last verse of this chapter repeating the main points of the very first chapter of the book. The argument in this chapter 28 is so subtle we reach v 12 before we are told what the subject of the poem, and therefore of the book really is. Though even before we learn that we can still understand the writing as an extended metaphor of all the to-ing and fro-ing that has occurred so far. Here are those first 11 verses of chapter 28.

Isn’t that magnificent? Just like miners, Job and his friends have been hacking away in the dark hoping to find some precious idea that will light up the gloom that surrounds Job. Neither the lion nor the eagle can get anywhere near what the miners are after. It is only mankind that has any interest in things like this.


We finally learn what it is all about in v12. And this is expanded on in the rest of the chapter: first with a great statement of praise of how important it is and then the statement that it is ultimately a spiritual attribute and can therefore only be obtained from the Lord. Here is the rest of this chapter.



Wisdom is a very important Biblical concept that is much neglected so we will explore it in some detail. The word ‘wisdom’ is used in several different ways in the Bible of which we are interested in three:

  • living well in the practical life of every day, equating to the Way of the NT,
  • God’s knowledge and creative power,
  • the personification of this second meaning of Wisdom, with the NT revealing Jesus is that personification.

There are associated concepts of: the Sage, the Wise Man (or Woman), and the books of Wisdom (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs and some Psalms; also Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha).


We, like Job, are most interested in the first of these: how can we live well in this difficult world. There is plenty of wisdom, knowledge and understanding all around us. We use it everyday when we watch the TV or go out in a car, but none of that sort of wisdom says anything about the meaning of life and how we can best navigate all the difficult situations, which are an inevitable part of living. In short, that sort of wisdom is not about what I have called living well. To reach that goal, i) in my list, will mean that we have to understand ii) God’s knowledge in Creation and iii) the role of Jesus in imparting wisdom to us. None of this is being wise in any sense of becoming a graduate, or getting a Master’s, let alone gaining a Doctorate, in either a secular field of study or even a Biblical one. No, it is something well within the reach of each and everyone of us. It may be a little old lady, like my lovely, long dead, grandmother, who is the wise person in this Biblical definition of Wisdom. It is all about something difficult to describe but easy to recognize when you meet a truly wise person. It is about living well, living contentedly, making good decisions, fitting into one’s world well, and relating well to other people. We can all do all those things but we can also all fail horribly to do them!


Question: of the people you know well, who lives wisely? Try to work out what it is about those people that made them go to the top of your private list of wise people.


We cannot live well by accident. Living well doesn’t just happen. We have to think out what our aims and objectives in life are before we will get anything right. It is really sad that so much of western culture refuses to do so. We are like Israel in the time of the Judges when ‘everyone did what was right in their own eyes’. In the ancient world Jewish scribes and Greek philosophers argued about what was the best way to live. We don’t. We just try to accumulate more and better material things, thinking, quite wrongly, that a bigger pile of toys will bring us true satisfaction and contentment in life. They won’t.

Let me reread what the author of the poem said in v12 – 22.  He asks himself, and us, where can true wisdom be found – how can we learn to live well. His answer to his own question is – I can’t find it! I don’t know how to live well. And I am sure we can all say ”amen” to that. Here are those verses.


But then he realises what the answer to his question is: it is found in God, the Lord, and only in him. That is what he says in the remainder of the chapter, v 23 – 28. Here it is.

The crucial phrase is “the fear of the Lord” in the last verse, a surprisingly ordinary common phrase in the OT. But it is easy to misunderstand in our translations.  It has nothing to do with being frightened. It means respecting, honouring, obeying the Lord. To borrow, and change slightly, a NT phrase it means to walk in step with the Lord, with Jesus.


And we do need to consider the NT here. In the eyes of the NT writers Jesus was the personification of the Wisdom of the OT, Wisdom actually walking this earth along the dusty tracks of Galilee and Judea. OT wisdom says “I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” So the hymn writer was right when he talked of Jesus “flinging stars into space”.


Jesus, himself, announced that he was Wisdom. Matthew reports in 11: 19 that he said, in a way very reminiscent of the OT wisdom literature, “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: We played the pipe for you,  and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom (that is me, Jesus) is proved right by her deeds.”


Paul hopes that the Colossian Christians “ may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” This is where Wisdom has got to – it has come into full view in the person of Jesus.


In Romans 6 Paul says “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” And then goes on in v8 “if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him”.


To live with him is to fear the Lord, to use Job’s language. To use more modern language: it is to be plugged in to him so that all his Spirit power and, in particular, all his wisdom can flow into us - you and me - an endless and bottomless resource for living well. We are plugged in if we pray, read, worship and keep the ways and calls of Jesus constantly active in our lives. Wow!


Question: Are you plugged in? Do you live well? Do you know this great resource, which will take you through life, living well, even if your life looks desperately difficult from outside? I do hope so.



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Watch Now:


Partakers Friday Prayers!

21 November 2014

We pray together and when Christians pray together, from different nations, different churches and different denominations - that reveals Church unity! Come! Let us pray together!

Order of Prayer Service

Opening Prayer

1 John 1:8-10


Lord's Prayer

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Prayers for those facing challenging situation

Prayers for those grieving & in despair

Prayers for those imprisoned

Prayers for Churches Worldwide

Prayers for the world

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Time for your own prayers

The Creed


Closing Prayer

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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Think Spot 17 November 2014

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G'day and welcome to Partakers! Welcome also to Monday and our Think Spot together!

Matthew 5:9 records Jesus speaking these words "God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God."

All over the world, people share a common desire for peace! But what is peace? The peace the world wants varies from the peace the Christian knows. The world sees peace as the absence of conflict and people being generally ‘nice' to one another. Peace in the Christian context goes further, saying peace is perfect harmony with God, other people, circumstances and self. Therefore perfect peace will not come until Jesus Christ comes again, and takes Christians to be with Him.

That doesn't give us as Christians a mandate to sit around not doing what we can for peace, because we are commanded to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), our God is a God of peace (1 Thessalonians 5:23), and the Kingdom of God is about peace in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). Peace is to be our business! In a world full of conflicts, such as conflicts between nations, conflicts between neighbours, conflicts even within families and conflicts within and between churches, Christians are to be peacemakers!

With that in mind, here are some thoughts on what the Bible has to say on peace, to help you this week be a peacemaker:

1. Peace with God

  • Justified by faith (Romans 5:1-2)
  • Christ is our peace between God and man and between men (Ephesians 2:13-18)

2. Peace with others

  • Live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:17-20)
  • Do everything possible which leads to peace and mutual encouragement (Romans 14:13-19)
  • Be a peacemaker - a sign of real wisdom producing a harvest of righteousness (Matthew 5:9, James 3:17-18)

3. Peace within/circumstances

  • Peace is a gift of God (John 14:27, 2 Thessalonians3:16)
  • Worldly peace requires manipulation of circumstances, God's peace comes regardless of circumstances
  • We have peace in troubled times - an untroubled, unfearful heart and mind (John 16:33)

Go in peace this Monday, into this week, knowing that the God of peace lives inside you if you are one of His children! Yesterday churches around the world celebrated the feast of Pentecost - the coming of the Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus. If you desire peace with God, with others and in all circumstances, ask this Holy Spirit who lives inside you to help you! If you would not consider yourself as one of His children, ask Him to help you become one!

Father, I pray that this week we will do all we can to be peacemakers and make a difference in world in conflict. I ask this through the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives inside all those who have peace with you. Amen

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Instruments in

God's Orchestra of Joy!


We look today at an aspect of being instruments in God’s orchestra of joy - obedient service!

So, please turn in your bibles to Leviticus 9:22 and let us witness together a scene of great and exuberant joy!

The first seven chapters of Leviticus talk about the different offerings or sacrifices that the nation of Israel was to make to God. Then in chapter 8 we see the beginning of the priesthood and the joyful work of Aaron and the priests. Their main role of service was to act as mediators between a holy God and the people of Israel, particularly in the role of making those offerings and sacrifices. In fact, they were the ultimate multi-taskers, as they seemed equally adept as butchers, doctors, teachers, quality assurors and public health inspectors! The passage we have in front of us tonight shows the culmination of this priestly ordination.

1. Great joy!

Read Leviticus 9:22-24

Israel was a nation, chosen by God, to be His people and to be a shining light of God’s glory to the world around them. This nation, God’s treasured and precious people, however, way back in Exodus 19, refused to be a nation of royal priests. Instead they preferred being represented by Moses and Aaron. So Moses and Aaron have gone into the Tent of Meeting or Tabernacle to meet with God. This was where Moses and Aaron would meet with the Lord during the travels to the Promised Land. The whole nation is waiting for them! So Moses and Aaron, as we just read, come out, give a blessing to the people and God’s glory appeared to the nation!

WOW! That must have been some blessing Aaron gave! Whatever his words were in v24, they were words that invocated Almighty God’s power, presence and peace to be with and upon His people. No wonder the people fell on the ground with their noses in the dirt as an act of joyful worship and praise to God!!

The burnt offering and fat portions on the altar were consumed in a great fire emanating from the manifestation of the glory of God! So amazing was this sight that a tremendous wave of exuberant joy overcame the people and they all fell with their face in the ground! There was probably a mixture of amazement, surprise and reverent fear! That must have been a tremendous sight to behold! Falling face forward was a characteristic method of showing total surrender and submission to a king or master. Here it is adopted by the Israelites as symbolic surrender to their God! The infinite, almighty, majestic and glorious God, was living and being worshipped by His people. This God was a holy God and these people were to be His people.

So there is tremendous joy in the nation of Israel and this is evident in their spontaneous act of submissive, voluntary worship and expressions of thanks to their Almighty God. Moses and Aaron had followed God’s guidelines obediently and the nations true joy was in evidence. Not just joy as an emotion, but true joy as evidenced through sacrifice, praise and testimony!

Now it would be very nice to just stop there, but the story continues! The Bible is an honest book! Just as the celebrations were concluding and the priests were taking up their sacred roles, something happens!

2. Great tragedy!

Read Leviticus 10:1-11

These two men, Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron the High Priest, start their duties. They take their pans, fill them with hot coals from a fire, place aromatic incense on the coals and offer this to God as an act of worship. The fire from the glory of the Lord comes out, engulfs them and they die. What happened? They hadn’t followed the strict guidelines as given by the Lord and had therefore violated all the instructions given to them. Strict regulations were required by sinful humans to be in and work in God’s holy presence!

How different can these two scenes be? In the first passage we looked at, fire represented God’s presence and spoke of His love, warmth, purity and blessing upon His people. Here though, the fire represents a different aspect of His presence through his active holiness and therefore danger and judgement.

Who were Nadab and Abihu? They were Aaron’s eldest sons and had received a privileged upbringing. They had seen God working from close quarters. When Moses went up Mount Sinai to speak with God and receive the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments, they were there. They had just spent the previous week in training for their new jobs as priests in service to God. No doubt they had witnessed at close quarters, the fire we spoke of earlier in Leviticus 9v24. So they were not only important people, but also experienced.

Yet in spite of all this, they did what was contrary to the guidelines given them. They were disobedient. We don’t know why they did it. It could have been old hairy legs satan whispering in their ears “Go on. You have a go now. Your dad did it, didn’t he? So can you. Don’t worry about those guidelines God gave you. it will be alright tonight, my sons. You felt good and happy, didn’t you? Trust yourself.”

It could have been pride, jealousy or impatience that led them to disobey the strict guidelines, or in light of 10v8 perhaps too much wine! Perhaps they were caught up in the excitable fever of the joyful occasion and wanted joy like a drug! What may have seemed right to them, most certainly wasn’t right to God. Perhaps they thought they were doing God a big favour by zealously embracing their roles as priests and wanting to offer as many sacrifices as they could! We will never know!

But we do know, that regardless of the reason for doing so, they actively disobeyed God. They chose to do it! Not only was it a fragrant disobedience but also a flagrant disobedience. In offering a “strange” or unauthorised fire, they had disregarded God’s instructions for the timing, place or manner. They had been set apart and dedicated to a life of serving God and His people and had now paid the ultimate consequence for their disobedience. Their disobedience is referred to again in Leviticus 16 in the regulations for the annual Day of Atonement. Regulations probably given to ensure that this never again occurred! Aaron, their father, was silent – stunned I would imagine! He has seen at firsthand, that in a life of true joy, God requires obedience over sacrifice. Aaron and his remaining sons were not to mourn or appear to be sorrowful. This was to signify the seriousness of Nadab and Abihu’s disobedience. To us this may seem harsh, but Aaron and his remaining sons had to prioritize service to God over commitment to family. This was symbolic of Joy – Jehovah Over Yourself. Aaron and his other sons had to remain engaged in priestly duties and responsibilities. Other members of the family were allowed to mourn however.

3. A God of Judgement

Now today, in the 21st century, we have a problem. We are quite comfortable with a God of love, peace, joy and kindness. In the movie Crocodile Dundee, Mick Dundee announces that “Me and God – we’d be mates”. If that is the limit of our vision of God, then may I suggest that our vision and opinion of God is too small? Perhaps our God is too nice and too comfortable. Yet a problem seemingly remains. How on earth can a God of love, peace, gentleness, kindness and joy act like this against two of his dedicated servants, Nadab and Abihu? Is not that a God who is at odds with himself?

The first thing we can say here about God is that while He is most assuredly a God of love, kindness and peace, He is also a God of judgement – a God who judges. That is plainly evident from this passage. We need to acknowledge him as a great lover, but also as a terrifying Judge. Not just a friend, but also a Judge! The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us that it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God who is a consuming fire! Remember also, that God always prefers obedience to sacrifice.

We all have, I am sure, at some point liked to think of God as being all love and never judging. People say: “It will be alright in the end, because the love of God conquers all.” Well, that love involves judging! The judgement of God is unbiased. God shows no favouritism and He is always just and right. It is a reflection of His mercy, that nobody can claim God is unfair. But God is not merely a God of mercy, peace and love but also as we have seen, He is a God who judges and administers justice impartially in accordance with His mercy, peace and love!

4. A God of Wrath!

Not only is He a God who judges but He is also a God who has great wrath – it is an essential, permanent and indelible part of His character! His wrath may be slow to burn, but it is still anger and wrath! The holiness of God requires that He punish sin through His wrath! What sort of God would He have been if He had not done what He did to Nadab and Abihu? What if He had said, “That’s ok boys, you will get it right next time.” Then He most would certainly be seen as a capricious, unjust, fickle and hostile being.

It’s not a popular subject these days in our churches! Most churches mumble when it comes to bible passages such as this! While most sections of our society, and indeed parts of the church, view God as a doddery benevolent being, sitting benignly in the sky in His rocking chair and mildly ‘tutting’ when people disobey His commands. But God is not a benevolent Grandfather figure and neither is His wrath or anger unwarranted, immoral, cruel, fickle, spiteful or capricious! God’s wrath is always to administer and mete out a divine loving justice, which corresponds to God’s innate and essential characteristics and attributes of light, perfection and holiness. That’s the picture given by all the Bible writers. When we speak of a perfect God in human terms, whether that is His being a wrathful judge or tremendous lover, it reflects the imperfect limitations of our humanity. We were made in the image of God and not the other way around!

Secondly, God’s honour was at stake! He is both zealous and jealous for His own honour and name! He can only act within the confines of His own characteristics and attributes! He must always work out of His immutable holiness! God was passionate about living at the centre of His people and there was no way He could allow renegade priests to disobediently defile His dwelling place!

Nadab and Abihu were punished because they worked in His immediate presence as illustrated by verse 3 “Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honoured.” If God had not punished them, then that would have made God out to be a hypocrite and a liar, acting contrary to His own essential nature and He would be seen as an impotent God with seemingly multiple personalities. This story illustrates that Nadab and Abihu had to serve as an example, which is why we have the story.

Thirdly, Nadab and Abihu broke the guidelines, given by God on how to enter into His presence. They took the wrong fire, went at the wrong time and were ill prepared for such an occasion. They entered a place of God’s holy presence in a sinful and disobedient state. People full of sin can never enter into a place where God resides, because God is uniquely holy, sinless and perfect without fault or defect.

Nadab and Abihu chose, for whatever reason, either intentionally or unintentionally, to break God’s guidelines in how, where and when to offer a sacrifice. There is no indication, however, from the Biblical text that they were eternally separated from God at their death, as in judgement of their sins. But rather it seems they were judged according to what they did with their abilities, talents and gifting as ministers in His service.

5. So what’s all this got to do with us today?

So what’s all this got to do with us today in the 21st century? Over and over again in the Old Testament, we see that the nation of Israel were to be a people of service separated out for God! Under the terms of the covenant God made with them through Moses, that was the core of God’s agreement with them. It commenced with the stipulation Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me (Exodus 19v5)”.

This covenant was with the nation of Israel in order that those who believed God’s earlier promise to Abraham could know how to live a life worthy of being God’s people: to live a life relating socially to God and to other people. It was also to show how humanity could approach God on God’s terms alone and not on their own conditions! God was and is a perfect and holy God! His people, Israel, were to be a holy and separated people of service and to reflect God’s glory and greatness to the other nations!

This covenant was only in place until the Messiah came and made the perfect sacrifice. All the Old Testament Covenants pointed towards the time when the Saviour Messiah would come – God would come Himself to save His people! The Mosaic Covenant was never meant as a means towards salvation. It was given that they could realize the helplessness of their own efforts to save themselves and their need of God's help. One day, there would be a New Covenant between God and humanity and this Mosaic covenant would be fulfilled!

6. New Covenant?

So what is this New Covenant? Four primary features are:

  • · God will write His law on the hearts of people.
  • · God will be their God, and they will be His people.
  • · God will indwell people and they will be led by Him
  • · All sins will be forgiven and removed eternally

This new covenant was and is sealed only through the perfect sacrifice of the God-Man Jesus on the cross. His blood ensures the truth of this New Covenant. His death pays the penalty for the sins of all people who choose to say yes to God and follow Him. This New Covenant finalizes what the Mosaic Covenant could only point to: the follower of God engaged in a dynamic relationship of Joy with a God who loves them.

No longer would human priests need to mediate between God and humans, because Jesus Christ, the full visible manifestation of God, would fulfil that role as mediator and all people would have access to God through Him! Amazing stuff! You and I have instant access to Almighty God. We can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence and assurance because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. God no longer dwells in a Tent of Meeting, the Tabernacle or the Temple made of stone – He now lives in each believer – immediate access guaranteed! Amazing and yet how often we don’t avail ourselves. But it is more than that, because as royal priests of this New Covenant, for that is what we are, we too are called into a joyful life of obedient service of God!

7. Called to service!

Just as it was for Aaron and the Old Testament priesthood, when we serve and minister, God’s honour is released. This is done because service is to show the beauty and glory of God to others. Serving, service and ministry are never to be about what we as mere humans can get out of it. When that is the motive, God is neither honoured nor glorified. God’s glory and supremacy is to be the ultimate reason for service! God is both zealous and jealous for His glory and honour to be upheld! Nadab and Abihu could testify to that I am sure!

As Christians, as part of our life of true Joy, we are called to serve and minister. We are called to exhibit and show our true Joy - just as Aaron and his family were called into a lifetime of obedient service to Jehovah God. Their JOY motto was to be “Jehovah Over Yourself”. For us, true joy is to be “Jesus Over Yourself”. Each of us here tonight is called to perform a unique serving and ministerial function.

Showing love, serving each other and giving to others are a practical outworking of our joyful obedience to God. The ministries of Nadab and Abihu were cut short and hallmarked with disobedience. Our ministry, and all Christians have one, is to be hallmarked by obedience borne out of love for God and Him alone. Devoted obedience to God borne out of a desire to see God glorified, regardless of what other people may say or think.

And we are not left alone to serve in our own power! We would most certainly fail if that was the case! God Himself has lovingly equipped all those who follow Him, to serve! God the Holy Spirit, who lives inside each believer, has endowed each Christian with gifts, talents and abilities for that purpose - service! This is so that the whole church is built up and “that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” God wants you and I to be active in service – life long service hallmarked by loving obedience to Him, which reflects our joyful dedication to Him, to His praise, honour and glory!

8. Judged for our service!

Finally, just as God’s judgement was upon Nadab and Abihu, the Bible also tells us that all those who follow Jesus Christ will be judged according to what they have done, with what God gave them. That includes any spiritual gifts, talents and abilities we have! This judgement will not be for salvation, because if we have decided to follow Jesus Christ, judgement for our sins has already fallen on Him, when He died on the cross.

Of our sinfulness we have been set free and declared innocent! If we here tonight, have accepted God’s free offer of salvation by grace alone, through Jesus Christ alone, then we are declared right with God and in a joyous relationship with Him. Again, it is amazing! However, our belief and faith are to be visibly manifested through joyful obedient service of, and to, God!

This judgement is not for your salvation but for your rewards! As followers of Jesus Christ, God will ask you and I, to give an account of ourselves, and we will be judged according to what we have done. The quality of our work will be tested and our motives exposed – either we did things for God’s glory or we did them for our own glory. We will give an account of the opportunities and abilities entrusted to us as instruments of God’s orchestra of joy.


For those of us who would call ourselves Christians, the Bible is very clear – you are called to lovingly and obediently serve in some capacity. A life of true Joy is seen in obedient service to the glory of God the Father, through God the Son Jesus Christ, in the power of God the Holy Spirit who lives in you. Tonight, if you are engaging in either intentional or unintentional acts of disobedience, then you need to turn your life around to one of utter obedience to the God you profess to follow.

As a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit within you, as a seal of your salvation. Your body is the temple where God now resides! You can’t hide from Him, so you may as well choose to be obedient to Him in a life of joyful service, exhibiting that true Joy and the hope you have in Him! Just as joy followed Moses and Aaron’s obedience in Leviticus 9, so too can it be for those of us willing to lovingly serve obediently!

But if you are not a Christian here tonight, then please do make yourself known to us afterwards and we would love to talk to you about becoming a Christian. While you have breath, it’s not too late to start this life of joyful obedience to a loving God and enter into a living and dynamic relationship of true Joy with Him. Don’t leave it so late that you incur God’s judgement for your sins and have everlasting separation from Him and others! God does indeed love you and He is calling you to come into a dynamic relationship of true joy with Him today. Take the opportunity today – come and follow Jesus Christ. He is calling you to respond!

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Job - Why God? - Part 5


Study 5 : Job 20-23

Job begins to see his way forward.

In chapter 20 Zophar is clearly convinced that Job is a sinner and is suffering as a direct consequence. He doesn’t say so directly but it is the obvious implication of what he says. In the Bible sin is almost always a result of how somebody has failed to live well in relationship to other people. It is seldom about a failure to live well directly towards God by failing to worship correctly or failing to follow the correct prescribed religious observances. So Zophar criticizes Job in his actions towards other people. Zophar raises another and more difficult question. He seems to suggest that there is a major difference between good and evil in how long they last. He says that evil is inherently short lived, unlike good that lasts. Well, he doesn’t actually say that good lasts longer but that, again, would seem to be strongly implied by what he says. Listen out for those two implications as I read the chapter.


Question:       what do you think? Is it true that those who delight in evil things know that they do not last? Are they always looking over their shoulders wondering whether they will be found out? Are good things always more enjoyable than those that are not good?

Answer:        that is a really difficult one, but it is worth thinking about. Think of the things that you do. Is it true that the enjoyment of the good lasts longer than the enjoyment of the not so good? I think it is because I am happy to remember the good things I have done but always try to forget the bad things. But that is a personal opinion with which not everone would agree. Have you got a friend you could argue it out with?


In the next chapter, 21, Job vigorously repudiates the implied accusation against him. He points out that some people behave very badly but God does not punish them. He reckons that we all, good and bad alike, have to live in the middle of the NCL, the Normal Chaos of Life. Here is chapter 21.


I introduced the idea of the NCL early in these studies, which may have surprised or even shocked you! My justification for doing so is here in this chapter and will be confirmed in chapter 23. Very often preachers and teachers will take a very simplistic line: good things happen to good people, bad things to bad people. This may be very subtly done. When we were teaching in a school in Pakistan many of the staff would tell the kids: your parents are doing good things so no harm will come to them. They had a difficult time explaining what had happened when one of the parents was killed by a falling rock on a straightforward local walk. The NCL exists, as Job says.


In the next chapter Eliphaz  accuses Job of wrongdoing, particularly to the defenceless – widows and orphans. I will read that now. READ.  I find that accusation interesting because we have been watching a TV drama series, Downton Abbey. It tells the story of a large household belonging to a senior nobleman, the Earl of Grantham. He is portrayed as having to take the decisions for a great many people, family, friends and servants. It is apparent that in many things, because he is the controlling boss man, he takes views that are strikingly different from those of just about everybody else around him. Perhaps this is what Eliphaz is highlighting here. Job had a huge household, before the disasters hit him, and had to make many decisions, being the controlling boss to an even greater extent than the Earl of Grantham. So, for instance, we read in v6 that he took clothes from the poor to guarantee payment of a debt. Faced with conflicting demands on his resources Job has opted for the rich man’s solution. He has been taking a rich man’s view of what is right and what is wrong and needs to revise his thinking. So we read in v13 – 14, “Do you think the deep darkness hides you from God? / Do thick clouds cover his eyes , as he walks around heaven’s dome high above the earth.” And in 23 – 26 “If you return to God and turn from sin, all will go well for you. / So get rid of your finest gold, as though it were sand. / Let God all powerful be your silver and gold, and you will find happiness by worshipping him.”


That all makes good sense. The trouble is that it is all wrong; it is not a true picture of Job. Job’s self portrait in chapters 29 and 32 is very different and fits much better the view we get from all the rest of the story. He was an essentially good and righteous man.


To return to what Eliphaz said: the NT equivalent is when Jesus said to the rich young man “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”


Are you rich? Am I rich? Our probable reaction is to say – of course not! But by the standards of the ages we are rich. You are using a computer or a tablet to hear or read this. That is an item of enormously sophisticated luxury, unknown to the vast majority of those who have ever lived on this planet. We are rich.


Question:       in what ways do you mistreat the poor? Who suffers so that you can eat cheap food, wear cheap clothes and so on? Are there subtle ways that we, like Job according to Eliphaz, live well because we are rich?

Answer:        up to you of course. But these are difficult things to confront if you, like me, live in the affluent west!


Job continues to struggle with his problem – what is called the problem of Theodicy, that is ‘how can we reconcile so much evil in the world with our understanding that God is a good God?’ First he struggles with his inability to get close enough to God to challenge him over what has happened. Here is chapter 23.


Job has a problem but he is also close to, if not exactly a solution, at least to the best way forward for him, and indeed for us. He wants contact and fellowship with God, not a solution to the academic riddle of Theodicy. He is very right to do so and will eventually achieve that contact and fellowship in the last few chapters of the book.


We have the same problem as Job – how can we understand the world in which we live where so much can go wrong and there is so much evil. And our solution is the same as his – we need to be close to God; we need fellowship with God. But we are much better off than poor old Job because we know about a broken, suffering God-man hanging on a cross, dying, sharing in all the worst that this world has. We are part of his people, Jesus’ people. ‘We have been united with him in a death like his’ therefore ‘we will be united with him in a resurrection like his’ as Paul says in Romans 6. And, as he tells the Colossian Christians (3: 1 – 4) ‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.


Wow! Rejoice in whatever of this world’s difficulties, troubles and agonies may come your way because you have a glorious future with the Risen Jesus.


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