Posts Tagged ‘God’s provision’

We are continuing on in our series on the prophet Haggai. Today we look at his second major message in chapter 2:1-9.


As we saw last week in Haggai’s first message, God challenged the people to build the temple. They thought that bad economic times meant they should delay the work. But God told them that the hard times were a result of their not working; of their disobedience; of focusing on their own houses and not God’s house. So they should get to work on the temple. And this is what they did. They began to work about three weeks later.

Haggai gave his second message on October 17th, 520 BC. This was during the feast of tabernacles which was a time to remember how God brought them “out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:43). Everyone would have been gathered together in Jerusalem for this event. Once again the message is for Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest (the two leaders) and “all the remnant of the people” – v 2.

The background to the message is that –

The people are discouraged

It had been about seven weeks after Haggai’s first message to begin work on the temple, and about three weeks after they began. And it was becoming clear to them that they would not be able to equal the glory the temple used to have, before its destruction. The building would be much the same in design and size, but it would lack the gold and silver – the carvings, items overlaid in gold, the numerous utensils and treasures. They simply didn’t have the resources to provide all this. So they felt their rebuilt temple would be shabby by comparison.

A part of this is that when Haggai spoke this message, as we saw, it was the feast of tabernacles. This was when Solomon dedicated his elaborately ornate temple – 1 Kings 8:2. And so this would have brought back memories of it, as well as the inevitable comparisons between what Solomon produced and their efforts. And the crowds gathered for this holiday may well have made critical comments about the building project. ‘It will never be the same.’ ‘It’s better to do nothing, than to do a poor job.’ ‘What are they thinking?’

And so, after beginning the work, the leaders and workers were now discouraged. This brings us to –

God’s message

Haggai asked the people gathered in Jerusalem, “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?” – v. 3. There would have been a few old enough to remember the temple as it was before it was destroyed 66 years before.

And he acknowledges what these people were saying and thinking, this temple is “nothing” in comparison. It lacked gold and silver. It lacked glory; the glory suitable for the one true God.

But the Lord speaks words of encouragement to them. Despite all this, he tells them to keep up the work! v. 4 – “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord.” He tells them to be strong three times, once to each of the parties that are addressed by the message. He is saying, even though your work looks insignificant, and others are criticizing it – don’t let that cause you to stop.

Rather, the Lord says, “Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.” – vs. 4-5. God has promised to be with them, according to the covenant. God has not abandoned them. And his presence is more than enough to sustain them and empower them to do his will, despite obstacles. And so they should not fear failure and thus give up, but continue to work.

After these words of encouragement to the people, comes an amazing prophecy that –

God will take care of the glory. God will provide glory for this temple. vs. 6-8: “For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts.”

The basic point here is that God is going to do something “so that the treasures of all nations shall come in and I will fill this house with glory.” God is going to personally take care of what is causing them to be discouraged. What they don’t have, he will provide. As he says in v. 8, the silver and gold are all his, and so he can bring all that he wants.

In the background here is the Exodus out of Egypt, which Haggai has already mentioned, and the people would have been thinking about as they celebrated the feast of tabernacles. Two things in particular from this are highlighted:

1. At the Exodus, God shook the earth. This refers to how God “shook” up Egypt so that Israel could escape. Several Scriptures speak of this in terms of the whole earth trembling and shaking – Psalm 77:18; Judges 5:4-5; Psalm 68:8. God shook the order of things and caused his will to be done.

God is saying he will do this “yet once more,” just like at the time of the Exodus. (So here, as elsewhere, the return of the exiles is seen as a second Exodus). vs. 6-7 – “I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations . . ..”

2. At the Exodus, God brought forth treasures. When the people left Egypt, the Egyptians gave them gold and silver – Exodus 12:35-36. And it was no doubt from this that gold and silver was later given to make the original sanctuary in the wilderness – Exodus 35:21-29.

In the same way, God will shake the nations again. Why? v. 7 – “so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory.” So what they don’t have in resources – gold and silver – God will provide, just as he did at the time of the Exodus.

And finally, the Lord says in v. 9: “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.” The temple that they are working on, which seems so meager in comparison with the one before – will become more glorious than before! So, if the source of their discouragement was that their temple was not as glorious – God gives them a look into the future to say that it will be more glorious.

And God will give peace or wholeness through the temple. God will accomplish through it what it was meant to accomplish.

God shares all this with them, to encourage them not to give up, but to keep working.

The fulfillment. Just briefly, this prophecy was literally fulfilled in stages:     1. Within months of the prophecy, as it says, in “a little while,” Darius, the ruler of the nations of the world, paid for the expenses of building the temple – Ezra 6:8. So they had all that they needed to build and furnish the temple as it should be.

2. About 60 years later, Artaxerxes, ruler of the nations of the world, gave treasures for the temple – Ezra 7. He himself gave silver and gold, plus v. 16 speaks of “all the silver and gold in the whole province of Babylonia . . .” being available.

3. And then, still hundreds of years later, Herod made this temple literally more glorious than Solomon’s. It became a true wonder in the ancient world.

Let me also say very briefly that this prophecy will also be fulfilled in a spiritual way with the coming of the kingdom, with regard to the spiritual temple. Hebrews 12:26-29 applies this prophecy of shaking the nations (at least in part) to the coming of the eternal kingdom. And Revelation 21:26 says that “they will bring into [the new Jerusalem] the glory and the honor of the nations,” referring to Haggai 2 and several other Scriptures.


Now there are lots of lessons in these verses – about God’s ability to look into the future, about God’s control over the nations, about God’s ability to provide – but I want to focus on the central theme, and say to you –

Be encouraged as you do God’s work

It is easy to become discouraged in the work of God, just like these people were. If we are honest with ourselves, we will see that we don’t have the resources to do God’ work like it should be done; that our work is as “nothing” like Haggai said their temple was as “nothing.”

We will be criticized, just as, no doubt, some criticized their work on the temple. And our work will be compared unfavorably to others, like their work was compared to the former temple and was determined to be not as glorious.

But as Haggai said, we too need to “be strong” – v. 4. We need to keep working – v. 4 and not allow our lack of resources, criticism and comparisons to stop us from doing God’s work. And we need to stop fearing failure or set backs – v. 5.

For just like with them, God is with us to help us, to empower us and to sustain us. And God will provide what we lack. Here it was material resources, but whatever it is – inner strength, talents, skills – God will make up for our lack of resources if we are doing his will and work. And even if it looks meager now, we can know that God will give true significance and value to our work. God is able to do that.

So be encouraged. It’s not about what we do or can do. It’s about what God can do and will do through us. Let’s keep this lesson in mind as we prepare to do God’s work in Kentucky this week and next week with Vacation Bible School.

William Higgins

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One of my all time favorite foods is Hot and Sour soup. It’s a Chinese dish. I first discovered it when I lived in Boston. Now anytime we go out for Chinese food I try out the Hot and Sour soup to see how it compares. There are different styles and ways of making it and some are better than others.

Well, recently Marie and I were up in Carlisle and we decided to go out for lunch at a Thai restaurant. With my meal I received a bowl of Tom Yum soup. I had never even heard of it before. I wasn’t expecting much. But it was amazing! I was so impressed. It has a kind of citrus and ginger flavor to it.

I told my wife all about it and she tried it when we were out in Pittsburgh a few weeks back and she liked it as well. I remember saying, “Where has this been all my life? Why have I lived this long without knowing about this soup?”

This morning I can tell you all about how good Hot and Sour soup is, or how good Tom Yum soup is, and you can hear others talk about it as well. But here’s the truth: You will never know for yourself, until you try it. You have to taste it, and then you will see, I believe, that it is good.

In our Scripture for this morning, we hear the Psalmist talking about God in similar terms. Psalm 34:8 says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34 is attributed to David. And for sure David knew a lot about the Lord and his goodness. And here he is telling us from his own experience that the Lord is good. He’s saying, “I know. This is my testimony.”

But he us also inviting us to find this out for ourselves – “Taste and see.” He’s saying, “Experience the Lord for yourself and then you will know that he is good.”

What I want us to do this morning is look at three examples from David’s early life, of God’s goodness to him – so that we can hear and clearly understand his testimony to us. We begin with one of the most familiar of all Bible stories –

David and Goliath – 1 Samuel 17

David was just a young man and no one even knew who he was at the time. Goliath was a famous Philistine warrior. And he was a giant – nine feet, nine inches tall. And he was well armed:

  • He had a bronze helmet
  • He wore armor that weighed 125 pounds
  • He had additional bronze armor on his legs
  • He had a thick bronze javelin with an iron spear tip alone that weighed 15 pounds
  • He had a large sword
  • He had a shield bearer with him

He challenged anyone in Israel to come and fight him. And he did this for 40 days. And out of fear, no one would fight Goliath. And so he taunted the Israelites and the Lord God.

But David was not afraid. He said, “The Lord . . . will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” – 17:37.

As David came out to face him, with a shepherd’s staff and a sling Goliath cursed him and insulted him. But David said, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts . . .” – 17:45.

Even though Goliath was older, bigger, had armor and more and better weapons – God was good to David. God saved David’s life and gave him the victory. Without a sword, but with only a sling and a stone.

Next comes the story of –

Saul’s rejection and persecution of David – 1 Samuel 18-20

After killing Goliath, David was famous. He became a part of Saul’s army, a leader and eventually Saul’s son in law. And we are told that David was successful in everything he did – 18:5; 14. And precisely because of this Saul became jealous. He was even afraid David might take his throne. He became paranoid – 18:6-9.

And in his paranoia, Saul determined to kill David. He made a number of attempts on his life:

  • He threw a spear at him and tried to pin him to the wall – 18:11
  • He sent him on a mission designed to kill him – 18:25
  • He threw another spear at him – 19:10
  • He laid a trap for him at his home – 19:11-17
  • He tried to catch him in the city of Naioth when he was with the prophet Samuel – 19:18-34

Saul wanted David dead.

In all this, David was falsely accused, even though he had been faithful to Saul in every way. He was rejected; his own father in law now hated him. He was made an outcast. He had to leave his wife and home and run for his life. And he was in constant danger. The most powerful man in the land wanted him dead. And he had spies and servants everywhere. As David said at one point, “there is but a step between me and death” – 20:3.

But as we learn in the story God watched over and delivered David from all of this. God spared him and saved him. God was very good to him in each of these instances.

And then for a final story, we have the very interesting episode of –

David and king Achish – 1 Samuel 21:10-15

This is actually the story that tradition connects with Psalm 34, our Scripture today.

David, trying to escape Saul’s grasp, fled to Achish, king of the Philistine city of Gath. He must have thought that this would be the one place where Saul could never get him, in the city of his arch enemy.

But then Achish’s servants told him who he was. “Hey, this is David. You know, the one about whom it is sung, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?’ that is, ten thousands of Philistines. Here David is, the most famous killer of Philistines ever, looking for refuge from Philistines. And in the background it has to be remembered that Goliath was from this city of Gath.

When David heard this talk between Achish and his servants he became very afraid. He must have thought, “Wow, this was a big mistake! What was I thinking?” and, “How in the world am I going to get out of here? And his solution is certainly out of the ordinary. It says, “So right there in front of everyone, David pretended to be insane. He acted confused and scratched up the doors of the town gate, while drooling in his beard.” – 21:13 (CEV).

He put on quite a show! Achish was like, “I don’t need any more madmen in my kingdom. Don’t I have enough already?” And so he sent him away. He could have easily taken advantage of David being there, whether crazy or not, and killed an enemy. But somehow God used this unorthodox response of David to save him, keeping Achish from seeing the opportunity that was before him and rescuing David from a bad decision.


Well, we could go on and on with stories of the Lord being good to David. But this is enough to make clear that David knew from personal experience that “the Lord is good.” God was kind to him. God took care of him. And God provided for him. Even in the midst of many troubles.

And what David is doing in Psalm 34:8 is inviting us to discover this as well – “Taste and see.” Find out for yourself. Don’t just listen to others.

Wherever you are at today, whether you don’t know anything about the Lord, or have heard things here and there – “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Discover the truth and the reality of God’s goodness for yourself. If like David, you are facing an impossible situation – look to God for help. If you are afraid or have been rejected or have made bad decisions,  like David – ask God to help you. Enter into a relationship with God. Seek to walk in God’s ways and then receive of his care, his love and his provision, like David did.

William Higgins

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(For more on the interpretation of these verses see the post below – The Story of the Babylonian Envoys).

Today we end our time of focusing on Hezekiah by over viewing 2 Chronicles 32:24-31 and the story of the visit of the Babylonian envoys.  But first we have to set the background, and this means first looking at . . .

Hezekiah’s greatness (background #1)

Last week, in 2 Chronicles 32:23, we saw that after the defeat of Assyria, “many brought . . . precious things to Hezekiah king of Judah so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations from that time onward.” This is further expanded on in vs. 27-30:

“Hezekiah had very great riches and honor, and he made for himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of costly vessels; storehouses also for the yield of grain, wine, and oil; and stalls for all kinds of cattle, and sheepfolds. He likewise provided cities for himself, and flocks and herds in abundance, for God had given him very great possessions. This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works.”

We talked last week a bit about Hezekiah’s water tunnel. It goes from the Gihon spring outside the city, to the pool of Siloam inside the city, 1750 feet long. They dug through rock, starting at both ends and met in the middle. It was an amazing engineering feat.

There are also pottery impressions from jar handles that have Hezekiah’s royal seal on them. Many of these have been found. These were most likely used to store food items – which speaks to the abundance during his reign.

So Hezekiah was great and wealthy. He was exalted in the sight of the nations. And this is background to our story, because the Babylonians came due to his fame and they came bearing gifts as well.

Hezekiah’s recovery from sickness and a sign (background #2)

Chapter 32:24 says, “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign.”

Now, you understand that these stories of the kings of Judah that we have been looking at over the last year, are also told in other places, most prominently in 1 and 2 Kings, but in Hezekiah’s case also in Isaiah. And in these other places there are sometimes different stories or they vary in the level of detail they go into.

In this particular case:

  • in 2 Chronicles the story is covered in 1 verse
  • in 2 Kings there are 11 verses, and
  • in Isaiah there are 22 verses.

So, with this story, we will actually have to look at one of these other sources, because the writer of 2 Chronicles simply assumes that we know this story.

For today, here are the basics from 2 Kings 20:1-11:

  • Hezekiah is told by Isaiah that he will die from his illness
  • But he prays and weeps and God hears his prayer and promises to give him 15 more years of life.
  • And he is given a sign that this will happen – the shadow of the setting sun moved backwards “ten steps.”

This is an amazing story, and I encourage you to read the longer versions. But in 2 Chronicles this is all background (just one verse) for the story he wants to focus on, which is . . .

The visit of the Babylonian envoys

As the writer says in 2 Chronicles 32:31, these envoys “had been sent to Hezekiah to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land.” So he had to mention the healing and the sign.

But even though the visit of these envoys is his focus, again, he doesn’t tell the story! He just makes comments on it, assuming that we already know the story. So lets lay out the story from 2 Kings 20 along side the comments of the writer of 2 Chronicles in chapter 32.

2 Kings 20:12 tells us that envoys came from the king of Babylon. Babylon was still subservient to Assyria, but it was soon to be the next great world power. They had heard Hezekiah was sick and so they brought a gift to him.  2 Chronicles 32:31 comments, “And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.” So there is more going on here than meets the eye. There is a spiritual or faith part; a test from God.

2 Kings 20:13; 15, Hezekiah showed them “all his treasure.” Everything he had he laid out before them. Notice the pronouns. In v. 13 – “his” is used 5 times in connection with his wealth; and in v. 15 – “my” is used 2 times in this way. 2 Chronicles 32:25 brings out what is only subtle in 2 Kings. “But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud.”

Think of all the benefit done to him:

  • God had delivered him from the Assyrians
  • God had healed him and given him an amazing sign
  • God had exalted him, including all his wealth

Yet here Hezekiah was, boasting before the envoys of all that “he” had. He got caught up in his own exaltation and forgot about God, who gave him all that he had. The writer of Chronicles makes this clear in 32:29. It says, “for God had given him very great possessions.”

2 Kings 20:14-18 goes on to tell us that Isaiah confronts Hezekiah and warns of coming judgment. Vs. 16-18: “Hear the word of the Lord: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who shall be born to you, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 2 Chronicles 32:25 says it this way, “therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem.” This refers to Isaiah’s word of coming judgment.

But 2 Kings 20:14-15; 19 tell us that Hezekiah told the truth when confronted by Isaiah. And then after hearing of the judgment, Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” He accepts that what he has done is wrong and he submits to God’s rebuke and will. (See the similar response of Eli to a word of judgment – 2 Samuel 3:18).  2 Chronicles 32:26 says, “But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.”

How many other kings imprisoned or killed the prophets who rebuked them? Yet because of his humility (his response to Isaiah and his change of heart) God had mercy on him and spared that generation from the coming judgment on Judah, for all their unfaithfulness throughout the centuries. The judgment was coming. It was just a matter of when at this point. And God put it off because of his repentance.

[Note on 2 Kings 20:19, “For he thought, ‘Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?'” The sense is not, ‘Oh good, someone else will bear my judgment.’ Rather, it is that judgment is inevitable, given Judah’s past sins (which he has added to) but that it is postponed for now. The tipping point had already been reached, and for now it is just a matter of whether God will be merciful to delay it, which God did. See the similar situation with Josiah in 2 Kings 22:15-20.]

Two lessons from our story

1. God tests us when times are good, not just when times are bad or there is a crisis. And these may well be more difficult tests, because we aren’t as alert as when there is a crisis going on, because we are not as focused.

What I’m really saying is that, the good times are themselves the test. What will we do when things are good; when we have an abundance?

Deuteronomy 8 talks about testing. It talks about having lots of food, herds and flocks, good houses, silver and gold. And it says, “Take care lest . . . your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God” – vs. 11-14. It says, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’” – v. 17. This is exactly what Hezekiah did.

Well, God also tests us when we have an abundance; when things are good. Like with Hezekiah, God wants to see what is in our heart (2 Chronicles 32:31). Is it “lifted up”? (Deuteronomy 8:14); is it “proud”? (2 Chronicles 32:25). Will we “make return according to the benefit done to”  us by giving glory to God? (2 Chronicles 32:25). Or do we think “my power” has “gotten me this wealth”? (Deuteronomy 8:17).

We see the results of pride in Hezekiah’s life and it is a warning to us, to respond differently. Let us not forget God in our good times or take credit for God’s gifts to us.

2. What to do when we fail a test. We all fail at times, sometimes horribly. When we stumble and fall, what should we do to get back up and moving forward again?

Well, “Hezekiah humbled himself” (2 Chronicles 32:26).

  • He received the rebuke of Isaiah (2 Kings 20:14-18). The prophet came to him and told him that what he did was wrong and he received it.
  • He confessed truthfully what he did (2 Kings 20:14-15). Yes, the envoys came and I showed them all of “my” stuff.
  • And he accepted the consequences (2 Kings 20:19) Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.’” Even though it was a hard word. He accepted God’s discipline.

In all of this he showed a true change of heart. From pride to humility. He turned away from his sin. And that’s when the mercy came. So that, although he had fallen, he was able to recover and move forward, and he was remembered as a great and righteous king (2 Chronicles 32:32-33).

In the same way, when we fail, we must also humble ourselves:

  • We need to receive rebuke and correction from others. And this requires humility. We all have blind spots. But how many of us are humble enough to receive correction from someone else without being defensive or even hostile?
  • We need to confess our sins. We need to tell the truth about what we did, which takes humility.
  • And we need to accept the consequences of our actions. When we reap what we sow, we must not blame others, but rather in humility, take responsibility for what we have done.

We must show forth a true change of heart as well; we must turn from our sin. And this is when the mercy will flow for us. It is never too late for God’s mercy for those who repent. And when we repent, then we can get back up and move forward again with what God has for our lives. And we can be remembered as one who loved and served God.

These are lessons we learn from Hezekiah’s failure and from his recovery.

William Higgins

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I want to share with you a short devotional this morning. It’s really an invitation to prayer, and we will have time of prayer afterwards. The title, comes from Psalm 55:22, as we will see. We can all become burdened by . . .

The troubles of life

In contrast to some teachers today, Scripture is very honest in talking about life. It is not all rosy, easy and comfortable. And so we shouldn’t expect this, or be surprised when life isn’t all painless. Scripture teaches us that we will experience lots of hardships.

Psalm 90:9-10 says, “Our years come to an end like a sigh. The days of our life are seventy years; or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble.”

From the New Testament, Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34 that “each day’s trouble is enough for that day.” He’s talking about taking one day at a time, but he is also saying that each day has trouble in it.

These scriptures are talking about troubles like:

  • health problems, the pains and weaknesses of our bodies
  • relationship difficulties
  • tragedies, including the death of loved ones
  • family difficulties, tensions and brokenness
  • and job stresses, which our current situation has made worse for some.

Any one or more of these can cause us to be burdened, weighed down, weary and weak.

But we are not only burdened with our own troubles, we also feel the weight of the burdens of other. And this is right and good, as Paul says in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”

Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as our self, which is what Paul means by “the law of Christ.” And a part of what this means is helping others, standing with them when they are overwhelmed by burdens to help lighten the load.

But as we “bear one another’s burdens,” we do feel the weight of need of those that we love and seek to help.

So, when we are burdened with our own needs and the needs of others, we need to remember that . . .

God loves us

 . . . with an incomprehensible love. We know this because God gave us his Son.

As Paul says in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

If he gave us his most precious Son, how much more will God give us of his love and care as we walk through life’s hardships? God loves us and will take care of us.

Another thing to remember when we are burdened is that . . .

God is able to help us

We sometimes become overwhelmed by our troubles. We feel weak and unable to do anything. And often we are. But God is not helpless.

Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Lord, it is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you!”

 Our God is the God who created the world! If God can create the heavens and the earth, how much more can God act in our situations to help us.

As our verse says, God has “great power” and “nothing is too difficult” for God. God is not overwhelmed. God is able to help us.

Finally, when we are burdened, we need to remember . .

God’s promises to us

Promises to help us in our hardships and difficult situations. These remind us that God is able and willing to help us and we need to keep them before us so that they sink into our hearts and mind. Here is one. 

Isaiah 43:1-3 says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you . . . For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

We had a baptism service last week – a picture of passing through the waters. But we continue to pass through the waters in our Christian lives. We go through deep waters, times of testing and trials. Times of chaos that can cause us to despair.

But this promise teaches us that God is with us in these baptisms of suffering. And so we will not be swept away. But God will bring us through the deep waters. 

This is a beautiful promise that God will bring us up on the other shore of the deep waters and give us new life, a new hope and a future.


And so this morning, as you think of your burdens, as you think of the burdens that you are carrying for others, as you feel weighed down and weary, I want to invite you to come forward to pray and offer up your burdens to the Lord.

As Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.” Pray to receive of God’s presence, love and help; for God’s sustaining mercy.

If you are not weighed down –  give thanks! But would you also pray for those that come forward? And would you pray for the list of needs in your bulletin as well as other needs in our church and in the world? Whether you come forward or whether you stay where you are, let us all now be in prayer. William Higgins

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We’re talking about God today; who God is and what God is like. It’s a big topic and we are only delving into a part of it. 

God was seen as a Father in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 1:31; 8:5; Proverbs 3:12; Jeremiah 31:20; Jeremiah 3:19; Hosea 11:1; Isaiah 63:16; Psalm 103:13). But the prominence of “Father” as a, or perhaps the way of talking about God comes from the New Testament.

God as “Father” in the New Testament

The word “Father” is used 250 times in the New Testament as a reference to God. As one scholar calculates – 43% of all references to God in the New Testament call God “Father.” 

This emphasis on Father language comes from Jesus: 

  • For instance, Jesus uses “Father” 100 times in the Gospel of John as a reference to God.
  • And Jesus addressed God in prayer as “Father” every time he prayed, save one. This was in Mark 15:34 where on the cross he is quoting Psalm 22:1 and says, “My God, my God.” In every other recorded prayer that we have he uses “Father.” 

God as our Father

Now, Jesus’ Father language is certainly connected to the fact that he was God’s unique and beloved Son. And as God’s Son, Jesus called God, “Father.”

But even though he is in a class by himself with regard to being God’s Son, Jesus teaches that God can be our Father too!

When we become a Christian: 

  • we are born of God – John 1:12-13
  • we are children of God – Luke 11:11-13

According to Jesus, our relationship to God is like the relationship between a Father and a young child.

  • And so just as Jesus referred to God as Father, so we also can call God “Father.”
  • And just as Jesus prayed to God as Father, we also are taught to pray to God as “Father” in the Lord’s prayer. 

Now we have to be clear here . . .

God is not male! 

In a Harris poll from 2003, 37% of men and 46 % of women though that God was male. Of the different religious groups surveyed, 49% of Protestants thought that God was male.

  • But God has no gender. God is neither male nor female. It was in the pagan world that the gods had a gender, either male or female.
  • Scripturally, both male and female are created in the image of God, who is our Father – Genesis 1:27 
  • And there are also feminine metaphors for God in Scripture (Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 42:14; 49:15; 66:13; Jeremiah 31:20; Matthew 23:37)

So, when we name God as “Father” – we are referring to a social role with specific attributes. One that is captured by this name and is centrally important to God’s identity. What is at focus is the social role, not the gender. 

The point is that God acts toward us as a loving father acts toward his family. 

So, I want us to look at the attributes of this “father” role, and specifically . . .

The characteristics of our heavenly Father

. . . so we can see what it means to call God, “Father.” We’ll glean this from Jesus’ teaching in the first three gospels:

1. As Father, God is One who is powerful. Just as a small child marvels at what a human father or parent can do, so much more so with our heavenly Father.

  • Jesus spoke of the Father as “Lord of heaven and earth” – Luke 10:21. The Father has all power.
  • And as Jesus said in prayer, “Father, all things are possible for you” – Mark 14:36. God’s power is only limited by his own character and purpose.

2. As Father, God is One who loves us. 

  • The prodigal son’s father presents to us a picture of God as our Father. The Father is characterized by patience, steadfast love and compassion for his wayward son. Luke 15: 20 says, “while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” 
  • God cares for even the weakest among us. In Matthew 18:14, speaking of new Christians, Jesus says, “It is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” 
  • Jesus teaches us that the Father loves even his enemies, caring for their needs – Matthew 5:45. So How much more does he love and care for his own children? 

3. As Father, God is One who is close to us, who is in relationship with us. 

  • Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” – Matthew 6:8. 
  • And he said that the Father sees us in secret. For instance while we are praying in a closet – Matthew 6:6.
  • The Aramaic word “Abba,” which Jesus used for father [although too much has been made of it – it doesn’t mean “daddy”] means “dear father” – Mark 14:36. 

4. As Father, God is One who has authority over us to teach us how to live. Just as earthly parents teach their children about right and wrong.

  • Jesus teaches us that we are to do the will of our Father in heaven – Matthew 7:21.
  • And we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – Matthew 6:10. We pray this because God’s will, not our will, is all important. God is the one who is in charge and we submit to him.

5. As Father, God is One who forgives us when we fail.

  • As Jesus tells us, “Your Father is merciful” – Luke 6:33.
  • And we pray to our Father, “forgive us our sins” – Luke 11:4.

6. As Father, God is One who gives us gifts. 

  • Indeed, the Father gives us “good gifts” – Matthew 7:11.  Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
  • These gifts include the Holy Spirit. As Luke 11:13 says it, “how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.” And these gifts include the coming kingdom. In Luke 12:32 Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This is our inheritance that God, our Father, gives to us.

7. As Father, God is One who provides for our material needs. 

  • Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” – Matthew 6:26
  • This is why we pray to our Father for “daily bread” – Matthew 6:11.

8. As Father, God is One who watches over and protects us. 

  • In the context of persecution, Jesus said about the Father’s watchful care, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered”- Matthew 10:30. We know that he watches over our very lives.
  • With regard to protection, we pray to our Father, “lead us not into testing, but deliver us from the evil one.” – Matthew 6:13. Our Father protects us from situations of testing that we can’t handle; that would overwhelm us; that are too difficult for us.

Having looked at all this we have to say that . . .

Human fathers are imperfect

Jesus certainly knew this. In fact, speaking of earthly fathers Jesus says, “you who are evil” in Luke 11:13, in comparison with our heavenly Father.

And many of us have had bad experiences with earthly fathers who were authoritarian, critical, abusive, distant, or not present for one reason or another. Perhaps we never knew our father. (Jesus’ own earthly father apparently died when he was young). And even the best earthly father is lacking. And so to use the language of Father for God can be jarring

But what I want to say is, to use the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:48 . . . 

“Your heavenly Father is perfect” 

We come to understand what a true father is, not by looking at the imperfect copy of earthly fathers, and projecting that onto God. But by looking at the heavenly Father, the perfect original; the one who defines true fatherhood.

And so for many of us, we need to relearn what a true father is and find healing in this for the damage done by our earthly fathers. 

Our heavenly Father is all that we could have ever wanted and yearned for in our earthly fathers. And he exposes evil human fathers for what they are  – imposters; fakes. And then he invites us to own him as our true Father and to find healing in this.

And so let me end by simply saying to you . . .

  • Our heavenly Father is one who deserves to receive honor, just as the fifth commandment tells us to honor our earthly parents. But so much more so – for our Father in heaven’s power and character.
  • Our heavenly Father is one whom we want to be in relationship with. We want to experience his love and closeness and to find forgiveness when we fail.
  • Our heavenly Father is one who is worthy of our obedience and submission.
  • Our heavenly Father is one whom we want to emulate. As they say, like Father like child. We want to be merciful and loving to all, just as our Father is merciful and loves even his enemies. 
  • Our heavenly Father is one whom we can truly trust to give us good gifts, to provide for us, to watch over us and to protect us.

What a privilege it is to be a child of God! I urge you, if you don’t know God as your Father, seek God out, so that you can have such a perfect Father in your life. And if you know God as your Father, look to God in all these ways, and receive all the blessings of his Fatherly care in your life. Let him be a Father to you.

William Higgins

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I want to share with you this morning about trusting God with our economic lives; with our concerns to provide for our needs, and the needs of our families.

There’s a lot of fear in the air these days regarding the economy. And things have taken a turn for the worse, as we see constantly in the news and perhaps you have seen in your own situations.

Jesus has a word to say to believers in the midst of all this. And this comes from Matthew 6:25-34. Below you can see the text and how it is outlined with its literary structure: 

A. Do not be anxious: “[25] Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life,
food: what you will eat or what you will drink,
clothing: nor about your body, what you will put on.
The more important: Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

B. The birds: food
The example:
[26] Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Argument from lesser to greater: Are you not of more value than they?

C. The futility of anxiety: [27] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

B. The lilies: clothing
The example: [28] And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, [29] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Argument from lesser to greater: [30] But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

 A. Do not be anxious: [31] Therefore do not be anxious, saying,
food: ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’
clothing: or ‘What shall we wear?’
The more important: [32] For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. [34] “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. 

 Jesus’ focus in this passage is to call us to give up our anxiety and trust in God. We begin, then, with . . .

The problem of being anxious for tomorrow

Lets look at how this works. It starts with the fact that life isn’t easy. As Jesus says in v. 34, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Trouble refers to difficulties and misfortune. And given the context, these troubles certainly include providing for our material needs.

So Jesus is not naïve in his call to give up anxiety. The problem is real. Each day truly does have sufficient enough trouble in it.

Well, what happens is that all this trouble creates fear in us, which is the essential problem Jesus is addressing here:

  • the word “anxious” means fearful concern.
  • the admonition, “do not be anxious” occurs 3 times
  • the word itself occurs 5 times
  • specifically in v. 34, the focus in on anxiety over tomorrow

Jesus focuses on such basics as food and clothing, but there are more things that we fret about: housing, providing for children, having enough to care for our health needs, retirement and more.

The bigger point of 6:19-34 is that given these troubles & our fears our natural response is to store up lots of resources to calm our fears. Jesus refers to this in Matthew 6:19 when he talks about laying up “treasures on earth . . ..”

We want control over the future, to try to ease our fears. And the way we do this is by laying up resources for ourselves for the future.

If we don’t have enough to lay up, we are fearful. And even if we do have enough to lay up, we fear that it will be taken away somehow. So, we are fearful either way!

The result is that this seeking after and storing up of resources becomes the focus of our lives. Jesus says in Matthew 6:32, “For the Gentiles seek after all these things.” Jesus is saying that they are anxious for tomorrow and make protecting against future troubles the focus of their lives – storing up resources, or striving hard to do so.

What’s wrong with this?

This is, after all, just the normal way the world works. Well, again, if we look at the larger picture of Matthew 6:19-34 it is teaching us about how we view and use our money. So when we look at v. 24, (which comes right before our passage) what’s wrong with storing up treasures on earth is that . . .

1) We are trusting in another god to care for our needs. Jesus says in this verse, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

When we store up resources to protect us against the future what we are doing is trusting in this treasure to be our god. This is idolatry. This is hatred of God. This is a breaking of the greatest commandment.

The second reason storing up treasures against the future is wrong is that it means . . .
2) We stop being generous with the needy. We have to hold onto our resources to soothe our fears over tomorrow.

This again comes from the larger context of Matthew 6 in vs. 19-20. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth . . .  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . ..” This last phrase is a way of talking about giving alms to help the needy.

Jesus is saying, don’t let fear over tomorrow stop you from giving to the needy. This is to hate our neighbor. This is a breaking of the second greatest commandment.

Now all of this raises some issues and so let me make . . .

Two clarifications

1) Jesus isn’t forbidding all storing up, but keeping above what we need against tomorrow. Turn with me to Luke 12:16-21, a passage that in Luke is connected to the teaching of not being anxious.

“And Jesus told them a parable, saying, ‘The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

The farmer isn’t condemned for having the first barns with crops stored up for his legitimate needs; feeding his family for the year. He is condemned for building bigger barns to keep the excess abundance for himself – vs. 18-19.

So Jesus’ teaching is, don’t store up your excess, beyond what you need, out of fear for tomorrow.

Now, this raises lots of questions, of course, with regard to standard of living: “What do we really need?” and “What is excess?” In our culture, to function, we do need more than just food and clothing, but we certainly need much less than what most Americans think. And we do need to learn to set aside self-indulgence and live more simply than we do.

2) Anxiety for tomorrow is different than planning and preparing for tomorrow. You might get the wrong impression from Matthew 6 that we should not even think or plan for tomorrow.

  • The KJV translation for “do not be anxious” is “take no thought for”
  • The birds don’t “sow or reap or gather into barns” and the lilies “neither toil nor spin”

But again in Luke 12, the farmer is not condemned for planning and preparing – for planting, watering, working ahead in the year so that he would have something for when things don’t grow.

No, this is not a condemnation of all storing up or thought for tomorrow. The contrast of this passage is not between: anxiety that leads to thinking ahead, working and storing up what you truly need – verses – faith which leads you to do nothing for tomorrow.

The real contrast is between: anxiety that causes you to focus on, trust in and hoard your resources – verses – faith that causes you to focus on and trust in God, and to be generous with others.

Finally, lets look at . . .

Why we should give up our fear and trust God

1. Because life is about more than our material needs. This comes from the two A sections in our outline.

Jesus says in the first A section (v. 25), “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” In other words, even if we are ‘dirt poor,’ with only have food and clothing, we still have our life and can have joy in serving God. (Remember, Jesus was dirt poor).

And also, from the second A section, Jesus teaches us that life is not about seeking after material things, but about seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness (v. 33). We can’t let our fear lead us to get focused on what is not important. What is important is God. And we can have God without material possessions.

2. Because our anxiety doesn’t solve anything. This comes from the center point of the outline, letter C.  Jesus says in v. 27, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” In the parallel passage in Luke 12:26 he adds a second question, “If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” If our fear can’t add a single hour, how can it help us with providing for our material needs?

Our fear and worrying about tomorrow is futile. It doesn’t actually help us.

3. Because God will provide for our needs. This comes from the two B sections:

  • God provides food to the birds, and we are more valuable than birds – v. 26
  • God clothes the lilies, and we are more valuable than grass – vs. 28-30

As Jesus says, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need” material provisions – v. 32. And so we should not be those of “little faith” – v. 30.

This is how we break free from our fear, and all the problems it leads to. We break free of fear by choosing to trust in God.

Let’s end with God’s promise to us in v. 33 –

  • “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness . . ..” Jesus is saying, give yourself fully to God, focusing your life on what God wants for you.
  • “ . . . and all these things (the material provisions you need) will be added to you.”

Let us live into this promise and trust in our heavenly Father to care for us.

William Higgins

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