Series: General | Title: Learning from the OT Leaders : Deborah – A Judge, a Prophetess and a Warrior | Sermon by: Pastor Balan Swaminathan | Location: House of Intercessory Prayer Ministries, Halifax, NS Canada | Date: Sunday February 25, 2018
Deborah – A Judge, a Prophetess and a Warrior
Another great leader from the Old Testament – a woman leader, Deborah. A judge and a prophet of Israel. Let us look at the history of what happened during that time.
- Joshua was a servant; he was serving Moses for a long time. He was also a powerful leader and a mighty warrior.
- After the death of Moses, Joshua took over and he brought the children of Israel into the land of Canaan. Moses was called to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt and Joshua was called to bring then into Canaan.
- Joshua exhibited his military power as he was leading the army against the inhabitants of the land. Think about Jericho, many great accomplishments were achieved by this great man of God, Joshua.
- Following the death of Joshua, the Israelites found themselves without a leader. Moses invested in the life of Joshua, but Joshua left the children of Israel without any leader. It is really sad to know that there was no leader in the land (Judges 1 and 2).
- The years of battle continued because the children of God were thrown into the blessed land but then they had inhabitants in the land. The children of Israel continued to fight, there was much bloodshed that was required to further inherit the land. There was a lack of leadership. That was the time God raised Judges, they are very important in the plan of God.
- Judges ruled the nation for a couple of years. They are not like modern day judges, but they have more responsibility.
- They were responsible for the moral life of people, military life and they had to exhort the people of God to follow God.
- Judges had to lead them in the battle. They had to rise people in God and ensure the battlefield is ready for battle at any point of time. There is a lot of responsibility that was vested in the judges.
The Bible says there were around 12 to 15 judges, it all depends on how you count them.
Judges including Eli and Samuel were judging the nation for a short period of time. If you look at the history and try to find out these years from 1350 to 1050 before Christ, that’s the period judges were ruling the nation. That’s around 300 years.
Judges Chapter 4 and 5 describe the story of the Jewish leader – Deborah. She is the only female judge mentioned in the book of Judges. She was a woman who followed God and was greatly anointed and used by God.
Judges 4:1-10 When Ehud was dead, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who dwelt in Harosheth Hagoyim. 3 And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord; for Jabin had nine hundred chariots of iron, and for twenty years he had harshly oppressed the children of Israel. 4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 5 And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. 6 Then she sent and called for Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, “Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, ‘Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and of the sons of Zebulun; 7 and against you I will deploy Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude at the River Kishon; and I will deliver him into your hand’?”8 And Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!” 9 So she said, “I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman. ” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 And Barak called Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh; he went up with ten thousand men under his command, and Deborah went up with him.
- Deborah lived during a period of oppression by a Canaanite King Jabin, who oppressed the Israelites for 20 long years.
- We first meet Deborah in Judges 4:4. She is prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth. She was judging Israel at that time.
- Deborah had a shop that was set up under a tree in the mountains of Ephraim called the palm tree of Deborah. The children of Israel came up there to her shop for judgement. Judgement was a great issue in the land because millions of people are without a leader, without a written constitution, having no rules and law enforcement agencies. You can imagine the fight going on every day. They need judgement every day.
- God led Deborah to summon Barak and this is what God told through Deborah to Barak – you need to gather 10,000 troops and battle against Jabin, the king of Canaan and his commander Sisera.
- Victory is rest assured in the Word of God as Deborah is a prophetess and whatever she says comes true.
- Barak did not agree to go by himself, he asked Deborah to come with him for him to go.
- Deborah agreed to that but claimed that the victory will belong to the woman, it will not go for the man.
- As planned the battle took place. The armies of Jabin were totally destroyed by these 10,000 troops going under the leadership of Barak and Deborah.
- Sisera ran out for his life, he was the only one who escaped. He ran to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. She welcomes him and as he entered, she covered him with a blanket. Sisera is fully covered and thought that she was trying to protect him. Jael took him inside and Sisera asked for water and she gave him a bowl of milk. Sisera started falling asleep. The moment Sisera slept, Jael took a tent nail and drew the nail on his head to the ground. He is dead.
- Barak came running to the tent and was informed by Jail that Sisera died. The whole army died and eventually King Jabin also died. They took the victory; it came because of one woman – Deborah.
Judges chapter 5 is Deborah’s song of worship as she gained great victory on that day.
- If we go through the lyrics, we see that they reveal more details about what really took place in the battle and how God intervened on behalf of His people.
- At the end of chapter 5 verse 31 it concludes saying that they took a great victory over the Canaanites. The Bible says there was no war for 40 long years. It all happened because of one great leader – Deborah.
We are going to see couple of leadership qualities from the life of Deborah.
1. Leaders are just instruments in the hands of God, what matters is God’s power
Throughout the OT & NT we see men and women were used by God as weapons or instruments in His hands. Man or woman, strong or weak, confident or hesitant, willing or unwilling, God used them as instruments to fulfill God’s purpose.
- Here we see Deborah being used in a mighty way.
- She was a family woman – she was a wife of Lapidoth, but she was just an ordinary woman like anyone else.
- But Bible says God filled her with the supernatural ability of prophecy.
- Deborah was a woman of God she had a great power within her to foretell the future of the nation. At that time God raised prophets and prophetess just to speak to the people, warning about their sinful nature and to prophesy about the things which are yet to happen in their nation so that people are led to God. Deborah was filled with wisdom because you need wisdom for judgement.
Let us closely observe the daily life of Deborah. She used to do a couple of things every day in her life. Infact, she had three different offices, she was a very busy personality. Sometimes we think that we are very busy but think about Deborah.
- First office – Judge: The Bible says she comes and opens her shop every morning under the palm tree of Deborah, people are already in a line from early in the morning.
Somebody’s cattle are taken away, house was broken into, jewelry is missing, children are missing, somebody fought with someone else, separated families – many such issues were being addressed. Deborah was very committed; she was judging people from morning to evening.
- Second office – she was a prophetess. She brought the Word of God to people; she was a very busy personality. Deborah had a revelation from God, heard a Word from God, she called Barak and told him to fight with the king who had oppressed them for 20 long years.
- Thirdly – Deborah was a warrior. She was willing to go to war against Sisera, when Barak said that he would not go if Deborah would not go with him.
She was a judge, a prophetess and a warrior.
- There is no reason to doubt that she was an instrument in the hands of God.
- She was not lazy, she was completely committed to her call, she was available to be used by God.
- She was willing to take risks in her life.
When she did all the above, the power of God was seen. Leaders are just instruments in the hands of God, but what matters is the power of God. God will honor a leader when he or she is committed to the call. We know that we are all called to lead, but when we remain committed to the call, God honors our commitment. When God honors us, we will see supernatural things happening. Even though leaders are ordinary people like Deborah – a family woman. Accord to her word, the entire army of King Jabin was totally destroyed.
2. Leaders exhibit God’s tender care for His people
- Deborah utilized all her ability to serve God and people.
- She was not selfish; she was willing to use all her abilities to judge the people of Israel.
- There was a great need for a judge among the people as they were suffering, they were going through great difficulty and pain.
- Deborah was right there; she was caring for His people. Her focus was on helping people, so that their lives will turn to God. It’s the desire of any leader to turn people to God. We see Deborah caring for her people from morning to evening.
- At times people are oppressed without getting proper judgement.
Judges 5:7 Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel, Until I, Deborah, arose, Arose a mother in Israel.
Deborah arose as a mother for the children of Israel, she considered them as her own children. She was there for her people, judging and guiding them to a better life. Leaders exhibit God’s tender care for His people. Today the world expects great leaders. When we look at our present situation, if we go either to downtown around 10 or 11 at night, we see people out there in the streets, they are like orphans. Although they have physical or biological parents, something is missing in their lives.
- They are missing care and love physically
- Those who are having no one to guide spiritually
- Those who are not shown the way of eternity
Somebody to care for them like a mother. Sometimes when we are so selfish, we don’t even care about what is going on in our next door. We see Deborah caring for her people as her own children. She was spiritually helping them to be nurtured and motivated. There was nobody to show them eternity, truth and lead them in the ways of God. But Deborah was right there.
If you consider yourself as a leader, what is important in your life is to care for others. At times all of us are very selfish. We don’t worry about others. It’s a godly thing to care for others, God honors us.
- Mother Teresa said, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody is a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat”.
Jesus the good shepherd, a great leaders taught on how to care for the sheep. John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
- Our God is a God who takes care of His people as a shepherd: Isaiah 40:11 He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.
Do you know there are people who walk into the churches and nobody speaks to them or cares for them. They just walk into the church and walk out. There are churches in this country and city where people into the churches and nobody cares. The question is, will you care for somebody who just walks into the church for the first time? Do you take time to go talk to them and lead them and guide them? Today there are a lot of people who have a lot of ability in them but they’re not able to come up because there is nobody to lead them or put them in the right direction.
God has called you as a leader, you have a responsibility, you cannot deny that. You have a responsibility for your neighbor, for your city. One thing is to pray another thing is to do. Deborah was not just praying she was right out there doing. We cannot lead if we cannot sacrifice. God is looking for somebody who is willing to sacrifice.
There are millions out there who need a leader.
3. Deborah‘s life is a role model of Godly Faith, Wisdom, Boldness and Worship
Let us ask this question – what do you find in yourself? Do we find godly faith within us? Wisdom? Boldness? Are we able to worship God?
- Deborah spoke prophetically to Barak and said God will give Sisera in your hands, go for the battle. This woman of God put all her faith in God, expecting that to happen. She believed and she agreed with God, Lord if you have spoken to me that will happen. She was a woman of faith. But being a woman, she had so much wisdom to judge the people of Israel day in and day out. Boldness – she was a very bold leader.
- When Barak said that he cannot go by himself, Deborah was right there to go with him.
- A mighty woman of God with such great boldness.
Judging people requires a lot of wisdom. Every decision is going to be important. Every word is important. God wants us to have wisdom as we lead.
Proverbs 4:5-7 Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. 6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. 7 Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.
They were oppressed for 20 years, Deborah rose like a lion and she went and fought with Sisera and his army and brought victory, the land was filled with great joy and peace for 40 long years.
Deborah’s worship is filled in Judges Chapter 5.
Judges 5:2-3 “When leaders lead in Israel, When the people willingly offer themselves, Bless the Lord! 3 “Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes! I, even I, will sing to the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel. When she worshiped God:
Judges 40:31 “Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord! But let those who love Him be like the sun When it comes out in full strength. ”
Bible says, So the land had rest for forty years.
4. Women are called, your calling comes through your involvement
Deborah’s calling came through her involvement in the community.
- Deborah’s passion was His people, she had a compassion to listen to the complains of the people. Its very hard to listen to people, but we have to – as a leader God wants us to listen to the people. Deborah was really good, from morning to evening she was listening to her people.
- Her heart was just with her people, those who are going through injustice and she wanted to bring justice in their lives.
- We need to ask this question as leaders – Lord, where is my heart, what am I trying to do Lord?
Calling of Women into the leadership
As a woman how do you know if you are called into leadership? How do you discern God’s call in your life? We know that God has been talking to women. Women are oppressed in churches today, saying that they need to be quiet, that they cannot speak – only men are called. It’s a deception. There are churches today in the city where the women cannot lead. So we need to be careful. This is what they quote,
- God created Eve as a helper to Adam. That is true. They say that women are not to lead, they have to support their husband. Yes, they are supposed to support their husband and encourage them but that does not mean that they should not lead.
- On the other hand people quote this scripture from 1 Corinthians 14:34 Let your women keep silent in the churches for they are not permitted to speak. They wrongly quote this scripture.
Paul was taking in a different context where at that time in Corinth women were totally uneducated and when they come to church, they were running and talking. Paul was annoyed by the things that were happening and said that women are not supposed to speak in church. So he wanted them to ask any doubts to their husbands. God cannot use women in the church is a lie.
- It is time to come out of your thinking. God cannot use you if you limit yourself.
If we look throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament we see great leaders.
Deborah being used by God as a leader
- Ruth a great woman of God. Noami’s husband died and Ruth married Boaz and they had son named Obed whose son is Jesse and whose son is David. In that same lineage Jesus came. A great leader Ruth!
- Esther – God brought her to bring escape from the hands of the spies
- Rahab – God used Rahab to protect the spies. Rahab was blessed, and her household was spared certain death.
- Hu(o)ldah the prophetess, God used Huldah to bring God’s Word to the High Priest and to the King of the Nation.
- In the NT during the ministry of Jesus, the Samaritan woman was commissioned to preach Jesus in her village, Mary Magdalene was commissioned to preach the resurrection of Jesus to the other disciples
- Other Godly women who lead, preached and taught are
- Priscilla instructs Apollos – Acts 18:24-26,
- Paul sends greeting to the apostles Mary and Junia. – Romans 16:6-7
- Phoebe (Feebee) is named as a deacon in the church. – Romans 16:1
- Lydia is named as a powerful influential woman in the community, Acts 16:14-1
God used women in many different ways in the Old and the New Testament.
Deborah’s calling came through her involvement.
- She was not sitting at home with her talents and gifts.
- She was sitting in a public place where she could be used by God.
- I am talking to women – If God has given you a talent or passion to pray, a gift to minister, don’t sit inside your house. You need to come out to be used by God.Husbands,
- Don’t shut your wives inside, release them for the will of God.
- I come across men, who don’t do anything for God and who don’t allow their spouses to do anything.
- Encourage, motivate them to minister to others.
- If they are willing to study theology, send them to Bible schools
- If they are willing to participate in a particular ministry, encourage them to go for it.
- God’s calling and anointing is common for everyone irrespective of their gender
Deborah would have never thought that God would use her in such a way, she fought against a mighty King Jabin and won victory. Deborah found her calling to go in war with Jabin through her involvement in the community.
There is so much potential within you, you are called to lead, Deborah was not just a judge, she had the gift of prophesy, she was not just a leader, she was a warrior.
God wants you to know that and come out of what is holding you today.
- Leaders are just instruments in the hands of God, what matters is God’s power
- Leaders exhibit God’s tender care for His people
- Deborah‘s life is a role model of Godly Faith, Wisdom, Boldness and Worship
- Women are called, your calling comes through your involvement
Series: General | Title: Learning from the OT Leaders : Elijah – Naturally Supernatural | Sermon by: Pastor Balan Swaminathan | Location: House of Intercessory Prayer Ministries, Halifax, NS Canada | Date: Sunday February 18, 2018
Elijah – Naturally Supernatural
In this sermon, we are going to talk about another great leader from the Old Testament – Elijah. A prophetic voice in the wilderness rather than that, a prophetic voice in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. When we think of Elijah, fire comes in our mind. Some may say that bread and meat comes in their mind but for now let that be fire.
I want to take you through a historical timeline for us to understand the situation in which Elijah was operating in. This is very important for this sermon. I want to take you back a thousand years before Christ.
- The Kingdom of Israel was under the leadership of Saul, David and Solomon from 1030 to 931 BC. In 931 BC the kingdom was divided, it’s a biblical story, into Northern Kingdom and Southern Kingdom.
- The Northern kingdom was called the Kingdom of Israel or the Kingdom of Samaria which include the cities of Shechem and the city of Samaria.
- The Southern Kingdom was called the Kingdom of Judah and Jerusalem was the capital city of the Southern Kingdom.
- The Northern Kingdom was formed by ten tribes except the tribe of Judah and Benjamin and the rulership was under Jeroboam. He’s from the tribe of Ephraim.
- The Southern Kingdom was formed by two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, under the leadership of Rehoboam – son of King Solomon.
- Prophets like Elijah, Elisha, Amos and Hosea – they prophesied in the Northern Kingdom. Prophets such as Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi – they prophesied in the Southern Kingdom over a period of time under the rulership of many kings.
- Now remember that Elijah prophesied in the Northern Kingdom around 904 to 850 BC – for over 50 years. During the time of Elijah, the Northern Kingdom was under the rulership of King Ahab.
- Elijah lived during the reign of Israelite Kings Ahab, and a short time under the King Ahaziah and Jehoram during the Ninth Century. We can place Elijah on the timeline somewhere around 864 BC – that was the time Elijah was operating under the anointing that God has given, he was natural, but he was supernatural too.
A quick historical setting to know the condition of the Kingdom of Israel at the moment when Elijah was prophesying.
- The Israelite King by name Omri had allied himself with the Phoenician cities of the coast and his son Ahab who was married to Jezebel. Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal – the king of Tyre and Sidon.
- Ethbaal was a priest in the temple of Astarte, which is the Phoenician equivalent of Roman Venus or Greek Aphrodite – goddess of love, beauty and sexuality.
- Under Astarte, sexual immorality was part of the worship.
- The priest of Astarte was a prostitute. Ahab should have never married Jezebel, but he did.
Her name Jezebel originally means the prince Baal exists. We remember Baal was a weather god and he was worshiped in the Syro-Palestinian world in Biblical Hebrew Jezebel name simply means – there is no nobility.
- Now Jezebel is an evil woman. As Ahab married Jezebel, he went to serve and worshiped Baal. So Ahab became a Baal worshiper at the time when Elijah appeared in front of him.
- Ahab set up an altar in the temple of Baal.
So when the wicked King Ahab married a wicked woman Jezebel, the daughter of the priest of Astarte, the wickedness in the Kingdom of Israel multiplied. Everywhere there were temples made for Astarte and statues were made for Jezebel.
We read that in 1 Kings 16:29-33 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel; and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 Now Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. 31 And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 Then he set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made a wooden image. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
Sudden Introduction of Elijah
Ahab was such a wicked king and Jezebel added to him and they literally spoiled the land, you can imagine the wrath of God that is about to come upon this land. At that set up Elijah appeared suddenly in front of King Ahab as we read in 1 Kings 17:1 And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”
When a nation is going through such a wicked situation God brought this great leader who is now standing in front of Ahab. The nation of Israel is going to be punished for all the support they have been providing for the cult religion.
- Elijah was a great leader who appeared on a political and religious set up to challenge the apostasy – the falling apart or the renunciation of faith. Everybody was denying God and were worshiping Baal.
- Elijah came at the right time and he challenged the cult leaders like King Ahab and Jezebel.
- He confronted them physically and he challenged the people of Israel saying, how long will you falter between two opinions. If the Lord if God, follow Him, or if it is Baal follow Baal.
- If we think about Elijah, it is very interesting as the Word of God does not say that he has any family, he had no friends either. He had nobody to stand with, he was just all alone. But he was totally depending on God.
Elijah’s ministry is characterized by a couple of supernatural instances.
- Elijah was fed by a raven in the brook of Cherith. He was drinking water from the brook. (17:1-6)
- Elijah was asked to go to Zarephath to serve the widow, she had a bin of flour and a jar of oil. She wanted to cook bread and eat the last meal with her son, and they wanted to die. (17:8-16)
- There was a great famine and God sent Elijah to minister to her, the son died eventually, and God sent Elijah again to revive the son. Miraculous things were happening. (17:17-23)
- Fire came down in Mount Carmel when Elijah was standing in front of all the Baal prophets. The fire of God came and consumed all the sacrifices. (18:36-38)
- All supernatural things were happening in Elijah’s life but he was also afraid of Jezebel at times. He came under the broom tree and he was crying out to God and he was praying that he might die. He said, Lord it is enough, take my life. Because I am nothing, I am nobody and I am not better than my fathers. An angel of God appeared there suddenly, fed him and told him, you need to walk, you need to run for a long time Elijah (19:5-7). The Bible says Elijah could walk forty days and forty nights with the meal that was fed by the angel. How good would it have been if you are fed by the angel of God? We don’t need to buy our provisions.
- Elijah again called the fire from heaven and he consumed the captain along with 50 men of the King Ahaziah. A man with fire. (2 Kings 1:9-12)
- He divided the Jordan river and walked through river Jordan, miraculous things. (2 Kings 2-8)
- Eventually he was raptured into the presence of God in a whirlwind, he did not see physical death. (2:11)
His leadership qualities are very evident as he proved himself to be a leader in a non-religious environment. Elijah’s ministry is made of several episodes.
1. Leaders are Ordinary People
Bible says Elijah was a man with a nature like us. 2 Kings 1:8 They replied, “He had a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.”
- Elijah was an ordinary man living in the wilderness.
- Most of leaders in the Bible were down to earth.
- Think about Moses – a great man of God but he was just a shepherd. David – a shepherd boy. Noah – although he was not a carpenter, he was forced to be one. Abraham – his father was an idol worshiper, God pulled him out of his traditions.
- Most of the leaders in the Word of God are just ordinary men and women like us and God used the ordinary to do extraordinary things.
James 5:17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months
What is your nature today? Rebelling? Is that our nature? At times we rebel, we rebel against God too.
Elijah was like our nature, at times we are lazy, Elijah was like us.
- We don’t know about his childhood and upbringing at all.
- But looks like Elijah had a very humble beginning.
1 Kings 17:1-3 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” 2 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah: 3 “Leave here, turn eastward and hide in the Cherith Ravine, east of the Jordan. 4 You will drink from the brook, and I have directed the ravens to supply you with food there.” 5 So he did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Cherith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.
Think about the beginning of this great man of God, he had a very humble beginning. Some of us complain when we come to this nation, I don’t have what I used to have in my nation. I’m not blessed with all the blessings that I still experience when I go back to my nation. We are paid hourly and sometimes we are paid less than the minimum salary, we have complaints. Do you? Yes? But think about Elijah, he had a very humble beginning. He was a prophet and nature obeyed his word. But where is he sitting now? Near a brook.
- Think about his life, he had to start his career with the ration that was provided every day, limited food. How much can a raven carry?
- Every morning he had to wait for the raven to come. He had to look at all the directions as to where the raven is coming from. If the raven doesn’t come, he has to starve. Think about ourselves being in that situation, we complain.
- He had to drink the water from the river.
- The Bible says the brook dried one day, that means he had no water. Leaders are ordinary people. When we look at somebody who is leading, they may appear very great in front of people but they have an ordinary life like you and me. They go through more than what we go through. Think about the great leaders of this nation, how much they struggle, the number of people they deal with, the amount of opposition they face, how many talks they need to deliver. Think about those lives, leaders are ordinary people, they are just like us.
- Elijah went through all the toughness and roughness of life as he was beginning his ministry. Same thing with us.
- At times he felt like giving up. Don’t we feel that too? Elijah was just not an exemption he was just going through the same thing.
To become a leader, we don’t have to be rich or popular, or short or tall, we don’t need to have a great personality to become a leader. Leaders are ordinary people. Elijah is a hairy man, but he is a great leader.
2. Leaders never give up in Prayer
1 Kings 18:41-46 Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.” 42 So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, 43 and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.” 44 Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” So he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’ ” 45 Now it happened in the meantime that the sky became black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy rain. So Ahab rode away and went to Jezreel. 46 Then the hand of the Lord came upon Elijah; and he girded up his loins and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.
Remember this, Elijah declared three years of drought. When the drought ended, Elijah was not sure what should come when the drought ends. He was not sure whether it is not going to rain or not as the clouds were clear. Because Elijah spoke God’s Word, it is supposed to rain. Elijah prophesied over the situation saying that there will not be rain for three years. But he did not expect it to rain automatically. Elijah went to pray. His face touched the ground and put his face between his knees. Some of may not be able to do this. Why was Elijah in such a situation praying to God? Humiliating himself and humbling himself? Prophesy has to come true. Will a prophesy come true automatically on itself? No. Elijah had to pray.
- A Prophesy will come true when we pray about it.
- Prophecy comes true when we obey God and follow His footsteps
- When we cancel the opposing forces of the enemy through prayer a prophesy comes true
Elijah prophesied, but the prophecy did not come true until he prayed for that. Sometimes we have complained, saying God spoke to me through the man of God and prophesied to me but things did not happen. Whose problem is it? God’s problem? Its our problem! We think that things will happen automatically, no that is not the case. When we get Prophetic words, God wants us to hold onto it and keep praying about it. Keep fasting and praying about it. When the prophetic word comes to you, Satan will become very active. He will try his level best to make sure that the prophetic word will not come true in your life. We need to cancel all powers of the devil; to make sure that the prophetic word comes true in your life. That is exactly what Elijah is doing right now.
Verse 44 says – before he even went to pray, as per his faith, he says he hears a sound of abundance rain. But there was no rain, yet Elijah could hear that. A man of great faith.
- He went to Mount Carmel a few days before, and fire had come down.
- There he had knelt down and put his face between his knees; his posture tells us that he is humbling himself to pray.
James 5:16-18 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
He was a righteous man and he prayed earnestly. Now he is praying and humbling himself asking God so that the prophecy will come true. Leaders never give up in prayer. Leading people involves responsibility and we need to pray about it.
3. Leaders are always Zealous for God
- Elijah’s life tells us that leaders have a great zeal for God.
- Leaders are determined, no matter what comes in my way, I will not walk away from God.
- They are determined to achieve what God wants them to achieve. There will be ups and downs, just like the life of Elijah. But we should never lose the zeal. Leaders never take a step backward, instead they will move forward.
- Leaders have a burning zeal within them for God. Do you have the zeal with you right now?
- When things are not going well, leaders don’t keep quiet, they will do something about it.
- They don’t try to adjust or compromise, they will try to do what God wants them to do.
- When they see things that are not in order, they burst out and they try to bring things into discipline.
1 Kings 19:10 So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
1 Kings 19:14 And he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
Do you know when, where, why and how the zeal for God comes in the life of a leader?
- When people forget the covenant (the Word of God) – a zeal comes within the heart; God woke him up in the middle of the night and asked him to pray. Why does God do that? God does that in many others’ life too. The burning zeal comes to us when we see people not walking according to the Word of God.
- Elijah found that altars are brought down. What does it mean? It means there is no prayer. Elijah saw this happening in front of him, the Word of God was being turned down, there was no prayer.
- Even the prophets were being killed, that means the prophetic voice ceases – we stop hearing from God. How can a true leader keep himself quiet when he sees people not praying, stop listening to God and don’t read the Word of God? The zeal inside a true leader rises to bring back the order.
Psalm 119:139 My zeal has consumed me because my enemies have forgotten your words.
Think about it, a very meaningful Psalm. Who has forgotten the Word of God? Not his family, not his church, but his enemies. If we were there we pray saying, Lord put them under wrath, take them to hell. But the Psalmist says, my zeal has consumed me. He couldn’t sleep, eat or drink. He has been fasting, for whom? For his enemies. The zeal of God shakes a man or woman of God. At the same time, he is an intercessor. Leaders are intercessors too.
- Elijah was challenging people to follow God or Baal.
- Elijah saw the people of God coming to church giving offerings and also going to pagan festivals and making their sacrifices.
- Elijah saw people sitting in the front row of the church, taking part in the Holy Communion. They will also go there and eat food that are offered to idols.
- He saw people brining tithes and offering to the church and sacrificing at the pagan altar
He saw this happening and he could not keep quiet. Elijah came to the people of God, not the enemies but his own people – children of Israel.
1 Kings 18:21 And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.
Elijah is saying separate yourself from this wicked generation.
4. Great leaders are hard to be found, but they are easy to be replaced
- True leaders also identify their successor, they mentor them and train them.
- Success without a successor is a failure.
- True leaders don’t invest in buildings, but they invest in the lives of the people. You are called to lead and invest, to invest in the lives of our children. More than buying homes, investing in stock market, we need to invest in the life of our children. True leaders invest in the life of people.
- True leaders, at the end of their lives, make their lives unnecessary – Myles Munroe (Bahamian Minister – in his last Television interview before his death). True leaders when they come to the end of their life don’t hold anything with them because they know they are going to go away. Its already handed over. Even the Bahamas Ministry, when he is gone, the ministry is still continuing. He has already invested in the lives of people there.
God spoke to Elijah, go return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus and when you arrive, you will see Elisha the Shaphat of Abel-Meholah plowing in the field. You shall go and anoint him as a prophet to take your place.
1 Kings 19:19-21 So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Then Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle on him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah, and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21 So Elisha turned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen and slaughtered them and boiled their flesh, using the oxen’s equipment, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant.
Elisha was taken by Elijah during the short span of time to train him in the ministry. Elijah wanted to go from Gilgal to Bethel and Elisha wanted to come with him. But Elijah wanted Elisha to stay, but Elisha insisted to come with Elijah. As a leader Elijah took Elisha there and from Bethel to Jericho, from Jericho to Jordan before he was caught up in the whirlwind. Elisha was willing to make his successor without holding anything in him.
Great leaders train their successor.
- Moses left Joshua, when Moses was gone, Joshua was right there to take up the job.
- Jesus trained twelve disciples.
- Apostle Paul trained Timothy and Titus.
- Here we see Elijah training Elisha so that the next leader can be easily found.
God wants us to invest in the life of people, more than property or buildings.
- God certainly wants us to invest in the life of our children.
- God wants us to invest in the life of people that God has given in our hands.
- God wants us to invest in the church to bring up leadership in the church.
Elijah was a very rare personality; we cannot find another Elijah. God brought him in the right time in the history. But Elisha was already there, it was not hard to replace Elijah. When Elijah was gone, he was already there for the job. He went back to the river Jordan, in the same way Elijah parted the river Jordan Elisha did.
We believe that God has called each one of us to lead and we can apply these principles of a great leader in our own lives.
- Leaders are ordinary people
- Leaders Never Give up in Prayer
- Leaders are always zealous for God
- Great leaders are hard to be found, but they are easy to be replaced
Series: General | Title: Learning from the OT Leaders : Nehemiah – A Cupbearer and A Reformer | Sermon by: Pastor Balan Swaminathan | Location: House of Intercessory Prayer Ministries, Halifax, NS Canada | Date: Sunday February 04, 2018
Nehemiah – A Cupbearer and A Reformer
Another great leader from the Old Testament is Nehemiah. This sermon will focus on this great man of God and the leadership qualities that the Bible teaches about Nehemiah. As we know the history of God’s children in the land of Babylon – children of Israel were taken as captives in the year 605 BC to Babylon by king Nebuchadnezzar. They lived in the captivity for 70 long years and God orchestrated the return very well and he did everything in a supernatural way.
- The first batch of captives returned under the leadership of Zerubbabel in the year 538 BC. God stirred up the mind of a king by name Cyrus to build the temple of God and he released Zerubbabel to go back to Jerusalem so that he could start the building work.
- The second batch of exiles were released 80 years after the return of the first batch of the children of Israel. This happened in the year 458 BC under the leadership of Ezra, a scribe and priest. Under his leadership the second batch of the children of Israel returned to Jerusalem from Babylon.
- 14 years down the line since Ezra brought the second batch of exiles, the third batch of exiles were returning to Jerusalem from Babylon in the year 444 BC. God called a man by name Nehemiah to bring the remnants of the children of Israel who were left in Babylon to bring them back to Jerusalem.
Quick run-through of the book of Nehemiah
There are 13 chapters in the book of Nehemiah, in this Scripture reading there will be a quick run-through of these chapters.
Nehemiah 1:1-4 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, 2 that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” 4 So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
In those days, the wall of the city was extremely important. A city without a wall is vulnerable to the attack of the enemy at any point of time. The citizens of a city without any wall is the same as no citizens without any protection – they are not safe. The Bible says that when Nehemiah heard the report, he sat down and wept for several days. He was mourning, fasting and praying before the God of heaven. All that was told to Nehemiah was that the wall is broken down. The children of Israel who returned from the first and second batch are not doing good, they are not very safe as the wall is broken down. When Nehemiah heard about this, he was crying to God.
In Nehemiah Chapter 2, the Bible says that Nehemiah was a cupbearer to the king. Many kings in those days were poisoned by people who serve the kings. Because of that reason, the kings wanted to appoint someone who is trustworthy and here we see King Artaxerxes appointed Nehemiah as a cupbearer. Nehemiah is not just a cupbearer; he is in a powerful position – it is the same as being a prime minister of that nation. One fine morning, when Nehemiah came with a cup of wine, the king asked him why his face looked so sad. You are not so often, but something is wrong with you. The king realized that it is not a physical sickness, but it is the sickness of the heart. Nehemiah was scared when he heard this from the king and said, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?” He says he was very sick in his heart when he heard this message.
The king asked Nehemiah – “What is it that you want?” Nehemiah then silently prayed in his heart before answering the king. He then asked to be sent to the city of Judah. Nehemiah is in Babylon serving a foreign king and he is asking him to send him back to his nation because the nation is buried. He wants to rebuild the walls. The Bible says that God worked in the mind of king Artaxerxes and it pleased the king to send Nehemiah. Nehemiah now arrived in the city of Jerusalem and he spent three nights just to see the condition of the wall and he found that all the walls were ruined, shattered and brought to the ground. Nehemiah challenged the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. The scriptures say, at the end of Chapter 2, as he challenged, they all come in agreement and said – Let us rise up and build the wall. They set their hands on the job immediately.
Here the building work started, each group was assigned a specific job and a specific section. They built the gates, repaired them and they started building the wall, making repairs and finding all the gaps.
As we move further to Chapter 4, there is a lot of opposition from the people living there. First of all, there was opposition from the people who were ungodly, who did not follow the God of Israel. When they heard that the wall is being restored, there are a couple of names that the word of God mentions – Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites – they all came to Nehemiah to fight against the Jews who were already in the business of building the wall.
The enemies did not like the progression of God’s work. Do you think he likes it today? They were against Nehemiah. Nehemiah had to protect the work of God. The Bible says he protected the work of God by two means:
- He was praying against all the oppositions that were against them.
- He set watch against them day and night so that nobody can destroy the building work that Nehemiah had started.
(Discouragement from their own people Nehemiah 5:1-5)
There is a great discouragement among their own people as they were building the wall. The builders were discouraged. There was opposition from non-believers and now there was opposition from their own people. Their fellow Jews became cruel task masters, they were not paying money for the work that they were doing. The people who were involved in building the wall had to mortgage their houses and pledge their land for food. They did not have anything to eat and had to sell their houses. They borrowed money to pay high taxes. The Bible says they sold their sons and daughters to slavery, so that they can pay the heavy taxes that were laid on them. Nehemiah was angered and he spoke to the authorities and told them not to charge any interest. He even demanded them to return their property to the building workers so that the building work of the Lord can be continued.
A trap was set to kill Nehemiah
If you go further to Chapter 6, people set traps to kill Nehemiah. Non-Jews and enemies laid traps – Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites they all conspired together to kill Nehemiah. They arranged for a discussion to kill him. Nehemiah realized this and replied that he could not come in for a meeting during the building of the wall. It was not an ordinary meeting; it was a time when Nehemiah would have been killed had he gone to attend it.
Tobiah and Sanballat even hired prophets to prophecy to Nehemiah asking him to come to the temple of God. Nehemiah, a man of God, with such great discernment in his mind, understood that it is not from God. Not all the prophets are from God. He escaped.
There were false accusations against Nehemiah by the non-Jewish enemies. He was accused of trying to become a King over them, that is the reason he came from Babylon to Jerusalem. But in the midst of all this, the work of God was completed. The Bible says the wall was completed in 52 days. It did not take a long time. History says the length of the wall is four thousand eighteen meters – around 2. 5 miles. The average height is 12 meters – 40 feet. The average thickness is around 2. 5 meters. We can imagine the size of the wall. The wall contained 34 watchtowers and 8 gates. Such a huge work was done in 52 days.
Nehemiah came to Jerusalem; appointed people and they were all in agreement in the midst of opposition and built the wall. The enemies of the Jews knew that it is the work of God and it is the hand of God that they cannot stand against.
- Nehemiah went ahead and started registering all the people those who came from exile and called the priest Ezra. Nehemiah 7:5
- He asked Ezra to read the Word of God – the book of the Law in front of them. Nehemiah 8:2, 5-6
- They started observing the feast of tabernacle – the feast of the Old testament. Nehemiah 8:17
- People started confessing their sins. Nehemiah 9
- People made covenants and ordinances before God. Nehemiah 10
- The land was divided and disturbed among all the 12 tribes. Nehemiah 11
- Sabbath was brought back in order. Nehemiah 13:15, 19
- Nehemiah stopped the inter-marriages and brought purity to marriage. Nehemiah 13:23-25
Its all happening under the leadership of Nehemiah. The wall was dedicated finally. There was great joy in the city.
The sabbath is brought back in order. Similarly bring the sabbath back in your life too. Sunday is the day for God and sometimes we need to work. But try your level best to keep that day aside for God. God will honor you. After all this hard work Nehemiah went there and the Bible says in Chapter 13 verses 15 and 19, he brought back the sabbath. If that was not important Nehemiah would not have done it. He has done such a thing that pleases God and God expects us to honor Him. At times we may not be able to go to Church on a Sunday, but we need to try our level best. If you pray eagerly and earnestly saying, Lord somehow give me freedom to worship you on Sunday. I’m sure God will do that. Can you start praying about it? It is such a blessing to set this day aside for God and to stand and be found in the presence of God.
Nehemiah finally put a stop to all the inter-marriages. There were inter-marriages between the godly and the ungodly people and Nehemiah put a stop to everything. He did not neglect the cry of his own people. He had boldness to stand before the king and to represent his own nation. He was bold enough to ask him for permission to go back because his people needed him.
He prayed to God and God favored Nehemiah. There were ridicules, mockeries, confusion and misunderstanding, yet in the middle of all this Nehemiah was very keen for the job that God has called him for. God has called you to this nation as a missionary, there is nothing else apart from that. If you have come to this nation with all the efforts, you have come to this nation as a missionary. Because this nation needs God. Nehemiah was willing to listen to the voice of God. There were attacks and lands and houses were taken for mortgage, but he could get them back for his own people. Finally, when the work of God was accomplished God’s law was brought back in the government, sacrifices and offerings started in the temple of God, the temple of God started functioning on the Sabbath day and we see everybody rushing to the temple of God, and inter-marriages were stopped. Everything was brought back to normal. There was great joy in the city. Can you imagine when people start serving God and the government turns to God, God brings great joy in the cities of God.
That is what we need today. You and I have a responsibility in this nation, we are here like Nehemiah. God wants us to build something in this nation. We are talking about the great leader Nehemiah, who was concerned about the spiritual condition of the people. He did not just come to build the wall. His main objective was to bring that nation back to God.
Nehemiah – though his position was a cupbearer, he was also a Jewish reformer. These are the three main leadership qualities of Nehemiah:
Leaders take the initiative – it is always “I”
There is no record of God calling Nehemiah and asking him to do the work of God. Nobody called him to do it, of course the call of God was upon him. But Nehemiah started it: in the first and second chapters we can see the number of times Nehemiah said “I” – Nehemiah says,
- “I asked them concerning the Jews”
- “When I heard these words that I sat down”
- “I was fasting and praying”
- “I pray”
- “I have sinned”
- He surrendered himself to God as “Your servant”, he is coming to God and says, “Lord look at me, I am your servant.
- “I was the king’s cupbearer”
- “I had never been sat in the presence before”
- “I became dreadfully afraid”
- “I said to the king – I may rebuild it”
- “I went to the governors”
- “I came to Jerusalem”
- “I arose in the night”
- “I went out by night”
- “I went on the fountain gate”
- “I went up in the night by the valley to view the wall then I said to them come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem so they said let us rise and build it”
How many “I”’s? Leaders take the initiative. As a leader, at times we are not asked, but we are expected to do it. Do you know the difference? Nehemiah was such a great leader, he was not asked to do it, but he took the initiative. Good leaders take the initiative and say, “I will do it”. Paul says in Philippians 3:14 “I press towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”, and he again says in verse 13 “I can do all things through Christ Jesus”. Nehemiah is not boasting by saying “I”. But he is saying that I just want to do it for God. Nehemiah took the burden and the risk on himself because leaders take the initiate.
The question that we need to ask is – are we taking certain steps that God wants us to take? Or are we hiding behind others? Good leaders take the initiative and we know that we are all called to lead. We are all called to lead somebody or are called in leading something. Leading families, workplace, church, etc. Are we taking the initiative? There are burdens, ideas, desires that God has put in our heart. Where are those things? Are they buried somewhere? We are waiting for somebody to tell us to do what we need to do. Good leaders have to take the initiative.
Good leaders handle opposition.
Nehemiah had to handle numerous oppositions before he built the wall. At times it is not easy, every time they were advancing, they had a setback. Every time they went a step forward, they were brought back by two steps. That is how it is going to be in our spiritual walk with God. How many of you wanted to walk with God? How many of you took a covenant at the beginning of the year? How many of you decided to follow their new year’s resolution? We want to move one step forward, but we are pushed back every time. This was the same in Nehemiah’s life as well. Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites – they mocked Nehemiah. They ridiculed him saying that even if a fox walks on the wall, the wall is going to fall down. The fellow Jews were very discouraged because they lost everything and were struggling to even pay taxes. Nehemiah was falsely accused of trying to become a king over them. But that was not the situation. Nehemiah was so burdened, and his heart was broken because he was not trying to become a King.
As a great leader he wanted to do the work of God, he was able to handle the opposition. Do we handle opposition today? If nobody is really opposing us, we need to worry about what we do. Something is wrong if we do not face opposition. We need to have opposition because it does great things in our lives, it disciplines us, rectifies us, corrects us and makes us the vessels God wants us to be. Sometimes we face opposition within our family, in our workplace, there is opposition in sharing about Christ, and there is opposition within our self. There is opposition from the devil – some say they keep hearing voices, and bad dreams that keep them awake at night, I am so afraid and confused, I don’t know how to move forward. Remember this, leaders don’t move behind and neither do they stand and stare at the opposition, they move forward. Great leaders know how to handle opposition, they walk away from those things as if nothing happened. Think about our Lord Jesus Christ, he faced so many oppositions while He was on this Earth. The gospel of the kingdom suffers opposition in various parts of the globe. Nehemiah handled the oppositions in a great manner and got the job done. Whatever kinds of opposition you may face, think about Nehemiah and set your eyes on Jesus and move forward.
Leaders drive towards spiritual.
Great leaders don’t work for fame in this world, they work in the name of reaching souls to eternity. Great leaders do not work for popularity, they are eternity minded like Nehemiah. All the effort that Nehemiah invested from talking to the king, viewing the broken wall three nights, walking around the city, raising people to support the work and handling all this opposition – not for material gain. His objection was not to become the king. He was not running a political campaign. Nehemiah was building the right surroundings for the children of God so that they can start following God. Great leaders drive things around them with a spiritual mind.
Today whatever we do for our children, let us have that spiritual mind so that we will know if we are able to lead them to Christ by doing what we are doing. When Nehemiah built the wall, he ensured physical protection, but now he worries about their spiritual protection. Now when we do all this for our children and don’t tell them about Christ, eternity and the eternal punishment, everything will go to waste. People were made to listen to Ezra read the book of the Law. The book was found somewhere in the debris, it was dusted off and brought in front of the people and Ezra started reading it. The feast of the tabernacle was brought by children of Israel. They confessed their sins and said that the reason they were captives is because they walked away from God, did not observe Sabbath and they said that they will never do it. Temple responsibilities were assigned, somebody was in charge of the house of God. Some were responsible for the offerings, some as gatekeepers, some for cleansing and the purification of the church. Some were called to serve God Almighty.
Nehemiah started purifying the house. He went into the temple and he did something similar to what Jesus did in the temple of God. Nehemiah found that people had allowed their uncovenanted relatives into the temple. Remember this is the Old Testament and it is important for anyone who is ungodly to walk into the temple of God. But that is not true in the New Testament, we need sinners at the church today to worship God. We need the ungodly people to worship God, they need Christ more than us to wash away their sins. In the Old Testament days, the ungodly could not enter the temple of God but the people allowed everybody in. Eliashib the priest, who was allied with Tobiah had a large room with a big round table and this man was occupying the place. Nehemiah threw everything out of the temple of God. He also noticed that many people were making money by selling things, he rebuked them, warned them and threatened them to not enter the temple of God. Today our life is the temple of God, we need to be against everything that defiles our life. Nehemiah said to the people – if you don’t fear God, at least fear me. He was very strict and rude. Seeing the ungodly things happening in the temple angered him. He also learned that some Jewish people married non-Jewish people, Nehemiah contended with them, he cursed them, slapped them, he pulled their hair and he even pulled their beard. Why? Because he had such a great zeal for God. God speaks to us here. Do we have the zeal for the house of God? For the word of God? He even made them to swear to never give their children in marriage to non-Jewish people again. He brought the purity. Great leaders drive towards the spiritual, not just building the wall but there were so many other things that needed to be accomplished.
Nehemiah did not come just to build the wall. Building the wall was the first thing, but once that is done, he started leading people to God. God wants us to lead people to Christ. Building the wall helped people to serve God. It is about bringing the right surrounding to God. We should be willing to change the surrounding in order to bring the people to God. If we don’t invite people, they cannot hear. Nehemiah was building the wall around so that people can have the right environment to worship God. Whatever it may be, it may be good sound, good lighting, air conditioning, heating system – so that people can come to Christ. Nehemiah was not hesitating to do all these things and he was not satisfied until the wall was built. God wants us to lead people to Christ. Leaders are willing not just to build wall, but to drive people to God once the wall is built.
The life of Nehemiah speaks to us.
- Leaders take initiative, it is always “I”
- Leaders handle opposition
- Leaders drive towards spiritual
Series: General | Title: Learning from the OT Leaders : Daniel – Young and Old, but Uncompromised | Sermon by: Pastor Balan Swaminathan | Location: House of Intercessory Prayer Ministries, Halifax, NS Canada | Date: Sunday February 11, 2018
Daniel – Young and Old, but Uncompromised
Another great man of God from the Old Testament is Daniel. It is best to know the historical background to find relevance in this topic.
Historical Background of Daniel (612 BC to 536 BC – 76 Years)
Some of the key dates to remember as we take this topic further:
- In 612 BC, Nebuchadnezzar captured the capital of Assyria called Nineveh. Assyrians ruled the world from 846 BC. Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, came to throne in Babylon and he rebelled against the Assyrians in 625 BC. Nebuchadnezzar was a General who led the Babylonian army against the Assyrians, and he defeated them in the year 612 BC. You would have heard of the battle of Cal Kamesh, Pharaoh Necho was ruling Egypt. The Babylonians fought against the Egyptians. Nebuchadnezzar defeated them and chased them out to Judah and at Jerusalem Nebuchadnezzar came to know that his father Nabopolassar died in Babylon. He rushed to Babylon to take the throne under his control.
- During that time, in 605 BC, the first group of Jewish captives were taken along with Daniel and his friends to Babylon.
- The second remnants of Jews were taken to captivity in the year 597 BC. Jehoiachin, the king of Judah also known as Jeconiah, followed the reign of his father Jehoiakim. He had ruled the nation for just three months and Nebuchadnezzar took him. 10,000 Jewish people were taken in Babylon under the second captivity. In the first captivity Daniel was taken, and in the second captivity, prophet Ezekiel was taken as a captive to Babylon.
- In 586 BC the temple of God was brought down and was destroyed completely. Zedekiah was installed as a king in Jerusalem. He was very weak and not a very stable king. 11 years later, Jerusalem was completely destroyed and totally wiped away by the Babylonian forces.
- The third group of people were taken into Babylon as captives, but Jeremiah was left alone in the nation. 70 years later, in 536 BC, the Babylonians fell and the first remnant of the children of God returned to Jerusalem. God put that thought in the mind of Cyrus the king of Persia who sent the first group of remnants of the children of God back to Jerusalem under the leadership of Zerubbabel.
Daniel lived through much of this time, when children of Israel were taken into captivity in Babylon, Daniel lived through all the Babylonian captivity from the year 605 to 534 BC. From 70 long years Daniel was living in Babylon and he was the first among the captives. Daniel’s contemporaries, that lived at that time along with him, were Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Jeremiah had prophesied about the exile/ captivity that was about to come upon the people of God. Ezekiel was taken as part of the second deportation and he was ministering to the Jewish people outside Babylon near the Chebar River.
Who is Daniel?
Apart from the book of Daniel, not much is known of him. His descendants are from one of the tribes of Judah, a prominent family at the time of Judah. The Bible says that Daniel was both royal and he had a noble birth. He was such a man who was very peculiar, and he was chosen by God at a time such as that. At a very early age, probably in his teens, Daniel was taken as a captive to Babylon. The main reason why he was taken captive among the first group of captives was because he was very brilliant. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to train Daniel, along with a couple of youths, all about the Babylonian culture. This was because he knew that they would pick it up very easily. He wanted to bring the cultural change among God’s people in an ungodly way, and he found that Daniel was a good candidate.
Authorship & the Scope of the book of Daniel
The book of Daniel is an amazing book that we have in the Word of God. The book of Daniel identifies Daniel as its author, we read that in Daniel 9:2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem and Daniel 10:2 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks.
- Critics always argue and they say that the book of Daniel is not written by Daniel.
- They date the authorship of the book to 2nd century BC but whereas Daniel lived between 7th and the 6th century BC.
- It was a great blow for the critics when Jesus spoke about Daniel in Matthew 24:15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place”(whoever reads, let him understand) and Jesus confirmed that Daniel was the author of the book of Daniel.
The book of Daniel was likely to be written between 540 and 530 BC. The first recorded date in the book of Daniel chapter 1 verse 1 (In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.) is 605 BC. The last recorded in the book of Daniel is the third year of King Cyrus as recorded in Chapter 10, verse 1 – which took place in 536 BC. So, it is from 530 BC to 536 BC. The scope of the book of Daniel involves 69 long years between these two dates.
- Therefore, we can conclude that the book of Daniel covers two separate gentile kingdoms (Babylonian Kingdom and the Medo-Persian Kingdom) and four gentile administrations (Babylonian administration of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, Medo-Persian administration of King Darius and King Cyrus).
Interesting and familiar stories of the Bible are recorded in the book of Daniel
This is very interesting just to see some of the familiar stories of the book of Daniel and associate those instances with the age of Daniel.
- Daniel was taken to Babylon at the age of 15.
- He was standing before King Nebuchadnezzar and interpreting the dream, Daniel was 17 years old.
- Daniel’s three friends were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – they were cast into the fiery furnace, at that time Daniel was between 19 and 20 years old.
- Daniel was interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream – the huge tree, he was at the age of 40-50.
- Daniel’s vision about the four beasts, ram and the goat – he was somewhere at his mid-60’s.
- Daniel was 80 years old when he spoke the prophecy.
- During Belshazzar’s feast, Daniel was interpreting the handwriting on the wall, he was 80 years old.
- When Daniel spoke about the end time prophecies, Daniel was somewhere in the mid 80’s.
- When Daniel was thrown into the Lion’s den – he was 83 years old.
- Now it is believed that Daniel died somewhere between 535 BC and 530 BC, approximately at the age of 86.
Theme of the Book
The book of Daniel has a very lofty view of the Sovereignty of God Almighty – the one who is in authority. Some of the key scriptures that define the key theme of the book of Daniel.
Daniel 2:28 But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.
Daniel 2:47 The king answered Daniel, and said, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.”
Daniel 4:32 And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.”
These three scriptures tell us that God Almighty is in control and Daniel could reveal that very clearly as he spoke about the sovereignty of God.
If we ask Daniel, what are you trying to teach us?
He will look at us and say, As a man of God, I lived through the ruling of four kingdoms.
- The rule of Belshazzar,
- The rule of Nebuchadnezzar,
- The rule of Darius the Mede, and
- The rule of Cyrus the Persians for 16 long years.
I have seen kingdoms rise and fall and I want to tell you through it all, there is one constant factor that we can never deny. He is our God in heaven who rules the kingdom of man and He is in charge. Daniel saw this in his own eyes. Daniel is trying to teach us that the kingdom of this world is going to pass away, all the kingdoms we have seen have passed away. The current kingdom, the current ruler-ship and authority we see are going to pass away. Daniel says that there is one thing – “Kingdom of this world is passing away, kingdom of heaven is coming to pass, one thing I know is the most high ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will“.
Daniel came to Babylon at the age of 16, and he stayed all through the captivity for 70 long years until he died at the age of 86. He had seen four dynasties as he was brought to a very high level over the course of the years.
Nebuchadnezzar saw with his own eyes what God was doing in his kingdom. Daniel saw in his own eyes what God was doing in the life of Nebuchadnezzar. Have you seen what God is working in somebody else’s life? Have you seen somebody going through a terrible time and when you pray for them you see that God is doing something in that person’s life? Daniel saw the way God was working in the life of Nebuchadnezzar. He was such a cruel and wicked king. We can say that he was a combination of Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and Bonaparte. In Daniel 5:19 – he says if he wants to bring somebody down, he will bring them down, if he wants to raise somebody up, he will raise them up, if I want to kill someone, I will kill. That is wickedness that was seen in the life of Nebuchadnezzar and God kept His hand on this man. God started working in his life. When we read about Nebuchadnezzar the next time, we see him in the field on his hands and his knees in the field eating grass like an ox, living like an animal. God straightened him out. Daniel saw this in his own eyes.
Belshazzar – Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson. Nebuchadnezzar’s problem was pride, when he looked at the garden of Babylon, he pridefully exclaimed about how he built it. But Belshazzar’s problem was presumption or assumption or opinion. In Daniel 5:23 And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. He assumed that he himself is God. The only other person who assumed himself to be God was Lucifer. Belshazzar lifted him up above the throne of God. One-night God is there to touch his life. God sent a hand, a miraculous hand appeared on the wall as Belshazzar was in the party. God’s hand started writing on the wall. Daniel was brought into the party because nobody could interpret the meaning of the writing. Daniel said the meaning, he told – your death is at the doorstep. The Bible says on the same night, Belshazzar was slain. Daniel saw this in his own eyes. He saw one kingdom rise and another kingdom fall, but Daniel stood like a pillar in the midst of the blowing sands to see the great work of God and to testify. The God of heaven rules the kingdom of man. The Bible says that Daniel continued even though the kingdom fell. He was there in the Babylonian kingdom and also in the Medo-Persian kingdom.
The message is that there is a God in heaven and he ruled, and He still rules, and He will to continue to rule forever and ever. One day He will come back. As Daniel stood firm, we as children of God should stand firm. At times it appears that he is going to throw us into the fiery furnace or the Lion’s den. But Daniel is standing firm as a testimony to see the kingdoms fall and rise. He comes to a conclusion that the kingdom of God is going to remain forever.
Qualities of this great Leader who lived through the Kingdom of Men
1. Bible accounts Daniel being found with an extraordinary or excellent spirit.
Daniel 6:1-3 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; 2 and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.
The number one quality of leadership is an excellent spirit – this was an obvious attribute in the life of Daniel – an extraordinary spirit.
- The spirit with which he or she operates is one of the greatest attributes behind the leader.
- It is driving force behind a leader.
- The spirit with which we speak, move and carry out the work of God.
This spirit was noticed was King Nebuchadnezzar, King Belshazzar, King Cyrus and King Darius.
- The spirit that made Daniel exceptional among the captives,
- The spirit that revealed secrets to Daniel,
- The spirit provided boldness to Daniel,
- The spirit that caused Daniel to interpret dreams and visions,
- The spirit that made him focus on God’s plan for his life,
- A spirit that even influenced his friends who jumped into the fiery furnace.
As a leader, one must have this driving extraordinary spirit to see success in our lives.
Where did that extraordinary and excellent spirit come from in the life of Daniel? I believe it must be a choice given to Daniel, either to be led by the spirit or to be led by the flesh. I believe that was an option in front of him. Daniel decided to be led by the spirit and now the King is witnessing saying that I see an extraordinary excellent spirit within you. Galatians 5:16 Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
The human spirit is weak, and it gets discouraged easily. Always complaining and gets depressed, the human spirit takes all the burden upon itself, complains and points fingers at others. But Daniel was not of that spirit; if he had that spirit, nobody would have wanted him, and they would not have any clue what he was doing. But Daniel was able to stand in front of the kings and was pointing them out to God and telling them – you see a God in heaven who rules the kingdom of men.
Our human spirit is weak and fragile, but there is another spirit that is the spirit of God. The spirit of God is a spirit that renews our minds, that quickens our inner man and that gives courage, motivation and provides focus in our life. Let us examine ourselves and see what kind of spirit is in us at this moment? We are talking about the human spirit and the Holy Spirit – not the evil spirits. What kind of spirit is in us today?
The Bible says in 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Do you have that power in you or do you get discouraged very easily? Do you have that zeal within you – no matter what comes Lord, I will still move forward. Daniel was possessing that spirit within him, which was pushing him and driving him in spite of all the setbacks. The human spirit is one that seeks vengeance. But the spirit of God is a loving spirit in a sound mind. Today the major problem we see, especially among our teens, is losing their mind. They don’t need medication, they need the spirit of God, they do not operate in the right spirit. The human spirit is already weak, and they are overpowered by the evil spirits. They need the spirit of God to have a sound mind.
Daniel was a man of God who had an extraordinary spirit. We need that spirit to continue to live for God. The days are not going to be easy, there are challenges that we are facing in our lives, families, communities. We need the driving spirit within us and that can come only from the spirit of God.
2. The second characteristic of a great leader is an uncompromised lifestyle.
Great leaders do not compromise their principles and commitments of life with their surroundings. It was Daniel’s custom to pray three times a day. Daniel continued that practice even after knowing that it is against the law, we read that in Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.
Daniel knew that it is against the law, yet he did not compromise his lifestyle for leadership.
- Today leaders bend their values to satisfy the law of the land, we see that if people do not compromise probably, they cannot be good to people.
- At times as children of God, even we are willing to compromise our values, because we think that if we don’t compromise, we cannot save somebody from sin. We need wisdom.
- But Daniel was not willing to compromise his prayer life.
- Daniel could have said, “Okay, from now onwards, I will pray in my mind”. How many of us say that – I don’t have time to kneel down and pray but I will pray in my mind or I will pray while driving to work. Daniel could have very well said that because he knew that it is against the law to kneel down and pray three times to the God of heaven, but Daniel did not say that. Sometimes we say that God knows my situation, He knows how busy I am. The pastor doesn’t know, my wife doesn’t know, but God knows why I couldn’t pray. But Daniel was not compromising, he did not think that can pray in his mind – but he continued to pray the same way he used to pray.
- He was keeping his life at the risk of even getting killed, he did not want to compromise his values to the pattern of the world.
Great leaders stand to what they believe, and they don’t compromise to please others.
- We are all called as leaders, we are all called to lead and as a leader we need to know where to draw the line and where scriptures draw the line. That is where we should be able to draw the line.
- If the truth of God’s word opposes a pattern of the world or world’s wisdom on certain matters, we need to make sure we align ourselves to the Word of God.
- At times we ask questions, we don’t need to get confused. The moment the word of God says, we are expected to obey.
- Sometimes we have questions – can I friends with non-Christians? Can I participate in the pagan festival if my friend was a non-Christian if he/she is inviting me? The answer is yes and no.
– This is important, I will say yes you can participate if you know where scripture draws a line concerning paganism.
– I will say no don’t participate in the pagan festivals, do not go with your friend if we do not know what the scripture says about that situation. At times when we walk into that place, we may end up compromising our Christian values in front of non-Christians.
So, it is very important to know where the scripture draws a line. Daniel knew where the scripture draws a line. Great leaders have an uncompromising lifestyle.
3. He had unashamed boldness.
Daniel 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
Daniel wanted to abstain himself from the delicacies – from the food pattern of the king. Daniel wanted to keep himself away. He could have done a couple of things,
- He could have got the food, the wine and the meat and then he could have thrown the food outside and somehow, he could have sneaked the food from the kitchen.
- The other way, he could have spoken to the kitchen staff and informed them – I cannot eat this food, I need some other food. There are different possibilities.
- But recall that Daniel sought the permission of the commander and he said, I don’t want that food, I don’t want to defile myself with that food. An unashamed boldness, he was respectful and at the same time he was unbending.
He was not bending, he just wanted to remind himself, that shows the unashamed boldness.
- Leaders exhibit boldness in their commitments and in their decisions.
- Leaders wanted their voice to be heard on what they believe. This is important, we are living in a time such a this, where leadership is failing to do this. Leaders make their voice very bold so that what they believe is heard by the people and the authorities.
- Leaders want others to know the moral boundaries of their life.
- Leaders make sure others know their limits based on their value system. Everything is made known to others.
Today when we lead it is important that we have that boldness within us.
4. Courage to tell the Truth
- Daniel had great courage to tell the truth to those kings face to face.
- On many occasions we find God using Daniel in a very special way.
- He was sent to the king most of the time to tell about their end, to tell about their death. Daniel was not hiding himself away from telling the truth.
- Remember that Daniel was taken as a captive, a part of the first batch of exiles to Babylon.
- God lifted him up because he had an extraordinary spirit within him and here is one example where Daniel had the great courage to tell the truth.
Daniel 5:22-23 “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. 23 And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.
The scripture is very clear, when we serve and go behind ungodly things, when we go behind the gods, the schemes and the systems of this world – this is what God speaks to us:
Daniel 5:24 Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written.
Daniel was right there and he had a great courage to tell the truth to Belshazzar.
Daniel 5:30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain.
The destruction came upon Belshazzar that very night, but God sent Daniel to courageously tell the two great leaders. They don’t really look at the consequences, but they obey God. We need that boldness to share the gospel. We all have ungodly friends, Hindu friends and people of other religions. We have been waiting and waiting – how long will we be waiting? God wants us to take that courage and tell them about the God of heaven. God is a jealous God and He wants Himself to be known to the people living around us.
5. Focused to do what God appointed him to do
Daniel was focused to do what God appointed him to do, he was not distracted by anything. Today the main problem of believers who are walking away from God is the distraction. The things that we see in this world, church and the workplace distract our mind easily. When we come to church Sunday morning, that is the exact time all the problems, and complains will come one after the other. Your mind is distracted, you are not coming and sitting in this place to listen to God. Daniel was not distracted; he was focused on what God wanted him to do. Remember at the age of 17 Daniel was standing before Nebuchadnezzar, the Bible says, Nebuchadnezzar the great king fell down to his knees and worshiped Daniel. He was only 17. When he interpreted the dream, Nebuchadnezzar thought he is God.
Daniel 2:46-49 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering and incense to him. 47 The king answered Daniel, and said, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.” 48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.
At the age of 17 God lifted him up, but he remained focused. Daniel could have gone behind the elevation that God has given in his life, but Daniel knew his purpose and why God raised him up to this level. This was Daniel’s lifestyle. No matter who appreciates, no matter who praises him, he was focused on the call of God. Daniel was at the age of 80 was interpreting the handwriting that appeared on the wall at the palace of Belshazzar. Even at the age of 80, Daniel denied that honor that the king wanted to give.
Daniel 5:17 Then Daniel answered, and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another; yet I will read the writing to the king, and make known to him the interpretation.
The leader is always focused on what God wanted him to do. When the handwriting was interpreted.
Daniel 5:22-29 “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. 23 And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified. 24 Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written. 25 “And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; 27 TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; 28 PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” 29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.
Daniel remained focused on the call of God. Daniel’s call could not be removed from his life by the offerings of this world. God has called each one of us and the world is so capable of showing so many things in front of us – all the wealth of this world and the ruler of this world is expecting us to bow down before him. The same way Jesus was tempted, now Daniel is tempted here. But Daniel remained on the call of God. We cannot be a leader if you think about and boast about the honor people give to us.
John 5:41 I do not receive honor from men. Sometimes not receiving honor becomes rude, receive the honor but give it back to God. Tell him, glory belongs to God, not by lips but from the heart.
Great leaders remain focused on the call of God. We cannot be a leader if we set our minds on the things of this earth. True leaders don’t have any hold on this earth.
Paul says in Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above and not on the things of the Earth. We cannot be great leaders in God’s kingdom if we have a love of money. Very dangerous. Money is needed, but love of money is not good. That includes our wealth, our car, our house, our bank balance, everything. Love of money is dangerous.
1 Timothy 6:10 For love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Great leaders cannot go behind money, we need money for the work of God. We need the minimum money to survive, we don’t need more than that. Daniel stood well above all these things, all the honor, all the wealth, position and he was raised as a great leader in all the four different kingdoms. But he remained focused on the call of God.
God speaks to us and God tells you this is why I called you and this is the reason I called you to walk with you. Can you learn from Daniel, can you learn from Paul who considered everything rubbish to gain the knowledge of Christ Jesus.
- Leaders have an Extraordinary Spirit
- Leaders have an Uncompromised Lifestyle
- Leaders have an Unashamed boldness
- Leaders are Courageous to tell the Truth
- Leaders remain Focused on what God appointed him to do
Series: General | Title: Precious in My Sight | Sermon by: Pastor Balan Swaminathan | Location: Marine Dr Pentecostal Church Musquodoboit Harbour, NS | Date: October 20, 2013
Isaiah 43:4 Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you;
Therefore I will give men for you, And people for your life.
“We are precious in the sight of God” is one of the Biblical facts that is difficult to comprehend. Many times we don’t find ourselves precious. We have more complaints than the good things we have to say about our lives.
Self-Deprecation or self condemnation is one of the seven basic character flaws. Self-deprecation means disapproving yourself, or running yourself down, both internally and in the sight of others. It is a drive to make yourself so small and insignificant as we live on this earth.
- Many times we hear an inner voice within us telling:
- Who am I?, I am not good enough, Nothing I do will ever result in something good
- I should feel ashamed of myself just for being me
- Even before I try, I know that I am going to fail— so what is the point in trying
- At least I will always be right about one thing: that’s about my inadequacy
- I have nothing of value that I can bring to anyone else. I don’t belong here. I am a fake.
These are the kind of inner voices that comes in our minds. The fear of inadequacy—never being good enough to please or satisfy someone, never being good enough to deserve success or love or happiness, these have been an ongoing problem in our lives.
- I cannot succeed in life, I cannot feel good about my life, I cannot get on well with others. The best I can hope for is to limit the damage within myself. Why should I open it up in front of others? So I better handle it on my own.
- If I am criticized, I probably deserve it. But at least if I criticize myself first, I leave others with nothing to criticize about me. Quite often we get into self-condemnation or self-disapproving mode in our lives.
These are some of the inner voices we hear in our everyday living on this earth. Many times we get carried away with such thoughts in our minds. We feel so inadequate and inferior about ourselves and we don’t feel like doing anything at all.
- The enemy has kept children of God under such a bondage today. I see that in our community, in all the communities and many churches where I go. He keep repeatedly telling us that you are good for nothing.
- But God wants to deliver us from this self-condemnation
- God made all of us in His own image and he loves us just the way we are. He is the one who brought us to this place, in this church, with a purpose; but the enemy is always trying to put you down and he is trying to make sure that we fail in fulfilling God’s purpose. He doesn’t really care about what do we do, he doesn’t care about what we feel about ourselves; but he is very particular that we miserably fail the purpose of God in our lives.
- Ultimately the devil is interested to see us is failing God’s purpose. It is very important to realize that we have a role to do in God’s kingdom. That’s the reason God has called us to this place. That’s the reason God has called everyone of us by their name.
But God says, Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you;
Isaiah 41:9 (NIV) 9 I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
I want all of you to think about our past, where we are coming from, our past life – how it was, think about our childhood days. God has brought us to this place with a purpose because He loves us, He is our God. Today we are so proud to say that. He blesses us.
Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love;
The love that doesn’t stop here, the love will continue even as we go into eternity. He loved us with such a great love.
Psalm 119:73 Your hands have made me and fashioned me.
If we think about the fact that God has created us in His own image, with His own hands He has fashioned us; the moment the fact gets deep in our hearts, we don’t condemn ourselves. It hurts the heart of God when we think so low about ourselves. God feels bad.
Jesus asked us to look at the birds of the air, look at the lilies of the valley, how much more will I feed you and how much more will I clothe you? Then why are you so anxious? That is the question Jesus asked the crowd. Today, He is asking the same question to each and everyone of us.
Our God is our God, no doubt about that. If you are children of God and you know the power of God, today He is willing to deliver us from that unknown and never ending struggle that we try to handle by our own.
The reasons why I believe that I am precious in the sight of God today, are the following:
1. God’s Word says so
2. He loved me when nobody loved me
3. He understood me when everyone failed to understand me. When everyone around me had no clue what’s going on in my life, my savior understood me perfectly.
4. He called me into this, while there are many out there who are more talented and more able – but they are not called. There are many out there who are capable of doing many more things, but they are not willing to come over here. We don’t find them here today.
5. He trusted me when I was not trustworthy. He trusted us and placed this church in our hands, similarly He placed our family and children in our hands even though we are not trustworthy.
6. He promised me saying, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. Who is going to be with you if you are not precious?
7. He has given me hope that He is going to come back to this world to take me home, what a precious promise it is! If we are not precious, He would not have given such great promises in our life.
What more evidence do we need to realize that we are precious in the sight of God? We need to be proud of it and happy about it.
There are two reasons why we don’t realize that we are precious in God’s sight.
Many times we compare ourselves with someone else and get discouraged. But today God is telling us,”You are precious in my sight”. Do you know that you are made unique in this world? We sing a song and tell God “There is no one else like you“. I believe God looks at each one us and tells us, “There is no one else like you“. We are unique. In this vast universe, on Earth, even though we are one among the 7.2 billion living on this earth, yet, we are unique and we are precious to Him. Isn’t it wonderful?
The moment we compare ourselves with others, we fail to realize that uniqueness in us. The moment we try to look at others, we fail God by saying that I am not like somebody else. God wants us to realize that we are unique. The moment we fail to realize our uniqueness, we get discouraged and we feel so low about ourselves. God is telling us that, I have made you, just what you are today. That is how I want you to be. I don’t want you to be like someone else. Today,
- We may not be an Elijah to call fire from heaven
- We may not be Moses to divide the read sea and take the children of Israel
- We may not be like David who brought Goliath down
- We may not be a Samson who set fire to the Philistines grains
- We may not be talented as someone else
- We may not be popular like someone, like sometimes kids feel that I am not popular in my class, in my school
- We may not be like somebody else who is always liked by others
- We may not be approached by anybody, we just come and go. No one comes and talks to us and spends time with us
- We may not be as successful as our brothers, sisters, or the other family members
- We may not be liked by everyone in our family
- We may not be understood and accepted by everyone around us today
But thank God that each and everyone of us is not like somebody else, we are unique. We are just what we are. I am just what I am and nothing can change me. Similarly, nothing can change you, you are just what you are. We do not have to worry about that, we are not like somebody else.
I thank God that I am not created like someone else, but I am created in the likeness of my God. That’s an amazing fact. We find, we are precious the moment we realize that we are created in His own image. I most often ask, “Have you seen God?” They say,’no’. I say, go and stand in front of the mirror because the Word of God says that I have created you in my own image.
God has certain unique plans for our lives, it doesn’t matter how old we are. It probably cannot be achieved by someone else. The Word of God tells us if God wants us to do something through us, he can do so only through us. Nobody else can replace us.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV) 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
The moment we stop comparing ourselves with others, there is a great relief in knowing that God has a specific plan for me in my life.
2. Dependency on self
There are many out there who are capable, talented, accepted by the society, they are popular, but they don’t have time for God. We are so busy, we come to the church, we go to the Bible study, we go to the intercessory prayer ministry and we do so many things but we question our talents. There are many out there, they are much more talented but they are not willing. Whereas, we are willing to go for it. They boast about their own abilities, in their own achievements, they don’t depend on God, in effect they are useless for God. But as we decide to depend on God, draw strength from him; we can be used by God. We can be a useful vessel in the presence of God.
But God doesn’t want us to go and do things on our own in this world. He wants us to depend on Him. The moment I try to do things by my own strength, I fail there. God brings me to a point, to tell me that you are not trying to do things by My (God’s) strength, you are trying to do things by your own strength, it’s not possible. It will appear that things are flourishing but the end is not going to be good.
When everything is going on well, we tend to depend on God. But God is asking, ”when things are not going well in your life, are you still depending on Me?”
Everyday God expects us to completely depend on him-
For our studies
For our work situation
For our family issues
For our marriage to work well
For our business to flourish
For our church to be built
For our church to bring the gospel out to the community, we need to depend on God.
When we depend on God, we are not limited by our abilities, that’s the secret of depending on God.
When I am depending on God, I am not limited by my abilities
When I depend on God, I need not to worry about what I am capable of doing
When I am depending on God, I do not worry about resources that I have within me but when I depend on God, my resources become limitless
When I am depending on God, my abilities go beyond the limit.
When I am depending on God, He gives me such a strength to do great things for Him.
Today God is asking us to depend on him.
When we depend on ourselves, we are afraid. But when we depend on God, we are courageous.
When we depend on our own strength, we feel weak because we are weaker vessels. More and more we depend on ourselves, we are going to become weaker and weaker. God is telling us,”depend on me”. Because He can strengthen those who are weak.
Once we start depending on God, we will realize, how precious we are in the sight of God.
Many times we get frustrated easily and say
Lord why am I going through all these things in my life.
Why is my sickness not leaving at all?
Why did this happen to my child?
Why no one on this Earth seems to understand me?
The answer is simple. God wants us to depend on Him, He doesn’t want us to depend on our abilities. At times our faith and dependency on God is tested. Even gold which is a precious metal, is tested by fire. You and I are certainly more precious than gold, you and I are certainly more precious than the birds of the air and the lilies of the valley; how true is it that we are tested by fire in our lives.
1 Peter 1:7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,
God wants us not to give up by looking at the difficulties. God wants us to trust in Him and depend on Him.
The more we depend on God, He is going to make us more precious; as gold is taken through the fire, its going to be pure and precious.
Today God is telling you,”just go through it”, it will result in praise, honor and glory.
When we don’t compare our selves with others. We find that we are unique in the presence of the God. We accept that we are so precious in God’s presence.
When we don’t depend on our abilities, we start depending on God’s abilities. We find things start working in our lives.
We realize that we are so precious in God’s presence.
David realized this fact and he says,
Psalm 139:13-14 13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
He says, you looked at my substance even before it was formed, even before shape was given to it; you knew me, right from the beginning. You are able to take care of me until I finish my day.
It is God who created us.
It is God who put our parts together in our lives.
It was not a chance or an accident that we were born in this world. It was God.
He saw us even before we were formed in our mother’s womb.
He called us even before the foundations of the earth was laid.
1 Peter 2:9 9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
Today, if you are frustrated with everything that’s going on in our lives, don’t give up. Keep moving forward because God is with you and He is considering us precious.
We need to give our God another opportunity to work in our lives.
Today, He wants to set you free from the oppressing thoughts that we are struggling with in our lives.
If you are sick and tired, start depending on God.
Your medications may not help at times, but Jesus is our healer.
If you are struggling with family issues and misunderstanding, lets came back to our creator. Tell him,”Lord you created me, you know what I am going through in my life. Lord, I pray that you put all those things together in my life”.
If someone is working against you in your life, if you are experiencing evil in your work place, in your business, in your society; God is telling us to depend on Him.
Zechariah 2:8 for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.
Whatever we are dealing today, God wants us to know that He is able to deliver us because we are so precious.
Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you
Series: Your Priority Decides your Destiny| Title: General | Sermon by: Pastor Balan Swaminathan | Location: House of Intercessory Prayer Ministries, Halifax, NS Canada | Date: December 10, 2017
We are reading from Luke 14:15-24
15 Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ 18 But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ 20 Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ 23 Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’ ”
Here we read a parable where Jesus was sitting at a house of leader of the Pharisees on a Sabbath day. It was not just an ordinary settings, usually we see miracles taking place when Jesus used to be in the synagogue, preach in synagogue. I am giving you setting now. We are reading from Luke chapter 14 and there is an important message for you and for me, that message says “Your priority decides your destiny”.
Think about Jesus sitting in the house of a Pharisee on Sunday morning. Jesus was not going to the temple but instead Jesus chose to be in the house of a Pharisee. There was a man sitting in front of Jesus. Bible says he was a man who had a special sickness called Dropsy, in the current terms we can call it as Edema, a man suffering with swelling all over his body – excessive fluid collection. Jesus was trying to handle the argument there because day being a Sabbath day, Jesus was opening the question “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Jesus was a little naughty there, he was just throwing that question for an argument and Jesus healed him perfectly.
Then he was talking about humbling ourselves when we are invited to a wedding, Jesus was saying, you just go and sit at a lowly place. Don’t go and sit at the place of honor, so that if you need to be honored, somebody will come and lift you up to honor you. Today, at times we try to take honor by ourselves, we don’t wait for the God to lift us up. Jesus was teaching very clearly to take the place that is lowly.
Then Jesus talked about this parable of the great supper. One of the man who sat there said, Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
Then Jesus opened His mouth with this parable that we read.
It says, a certain man hosted a supper and he invited many people. At the time of the supper he also sent one of his servants, to go and tell everybody that the supper is ready – also sent a reminder. But Bible says, they all together made excuses.
- The first one came and told the servant, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I need to go and see it’.
- Second one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them in the field’.
- Third one came and said, ‘I just got married, and I want to spend time with my new wife’.
- Three person came with three different excuses.
- The servant came reporting that to the master, Bible says the master became really angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring here the poor and the maimed, those who got hurt and the lame, those who couldn’t walk and the blind, those who couldn’t see’.
- Servant did as exactly, what the master told. He brought everybody into the supper hall.
- Servant said, ‘We still have room’. And the master said, ‘Go out into the highways and the hedges, and compel everybody to come to the supper, that my house will be filled’. He did so.
- Finally he said, ‘For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper’.
End of the parable was not that great. Jesus said, ‘I invited many but they did not come. They had enough excuses to tell. Those who did not come, they are not going to taste my supper’. Jesus talked about this supper of lamb of God. Jesus talked about, they are not going to get into heaven.
Life priorities taking over kingdom priority:
Master invited people for a supper. What is that supper refers to in the biblical context. It is an opportunity to have fellowship with God, it also means it is an opportunity to hear the Lord- breaking bread and sharing bread refers to the Word of God, supper also means taking time of prepare ourselves to take part in the Holy Communion – supper of the lamb of the God. Don’t miss communion Sunday. You need to be in the house of the Lord on the day of communion. We don’t know how many communions we’ll be able to have together on this earth but we need to be there, don’t miss any opportunity.
What are life priorities?
- Think about the first one, come and told the master, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it’.
- Second one told, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them’.
- Third one came and told, ‘I just got married, and I want to be with my wife, I cannot come’.
Three things that we need for our daily living – a place to build a house, a livelihood or a business, thirdly a wife. All those three things are really necessary necessities for life. Yes, they are very necessary.
Is there anything wrong in buying a land? Is there anything wrong in buying a business ? Is there anything wrong in getting married ?
Some of the churches preaches that too. You cannot have a land on this earth, you have a hold, you cannot go to heaven. That’s not right, that’s wrong. Some of the churches preach against buying a business and doing a business. You need to be careful about whom you partner but God is able to bless you through your businesses. Some of the churches even talk about not getting married. Three things Bible is talking about and these three individuals came with reason, why they are not able to come for the supper. There is nothing wrong, they need to go after these things which are necessary for their life.
What is the problem here? Why Master/ God has to get angry when people said excuses?
1. When the necessities of life becomes as excuse for not meeting the kingdom priorities.
Not just one person doing this. Verse 18 says, But they all with one accord began to make excuses.
So when the necessities of life becomes an excuse for not meeting the kingdom priorities, that’s where the problem began.
What are the kingdom priorities?
- Coming for the supper when invited.
As I said, supper is the time of fellowship, supper is the time of hearing Word of God, supper is the time of being united through Holy Communion with Lord God. At times the kingdom priorities change. Your priority may not be my priority but all of us have kingdom priority.
What else is the problem?
2. All these three life priories that they talk about, were just new and fresh, they are interesting to explore.
He just bought that land. He just bought that the yoke of oxen, he wanted to test. He just got married. All these life priorities were new and fresh, interesting to explore. When life priorities become more interesting than the Word of God, than seeking God’s presence, then there is a problem. When we are not saved, God tells us, you need to give your life to Jesus. We think that’s all we need and we give our life to Jesus. But when we become children of God, God tells us, ‘I want you to move further, I want you to get involved in the ministry, I want you to share the love of God, I want you to sing, I want you to do this or that’. If we don’t do those things it becomes a problem. When we do all this kind of things in our life, God tells us at some point of time, what ever you did in this world is enough, now separate yourself for the work of God. This morning, ‘I am talking to you not to anyone else’. Our God is a God who demands as you yield your lives more and more, the demands of God is so heavy on your life.
3. There is no excuse when it comes to the matter of God.
All three of these individuals asked for excuse, but they were not excused. When we say excuses to God, we take it granted that God accepts our excuses but that’s not true. Their excuses were not accepted. If their excuses would have been accepted –
- The supper would have got cancelled.
- Probably he would have said, ‘I am postponing supper to another day’. But he did not do that.
When it comes to the work of God, if we say excuses, God is not going to wait for us. The precious salvation God brought to his own Children – Jewish people, it was rejected. God did not wait. He invited everybody like you and me. Salvation became so acceptable and available for Gentiles. Our excuses cannot stop God.
The alternate plan of the Master:
Verse 21 says the Master of the house became angry. Think about it, our excuses at times makes God angry.
- the excuses never stopped God from getting angry
- the excuses they asked, never allowed God to give them another chance. There was no other chance given to them.
There are two measures taken by the Master:
Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed (injured) and the lame and the blind.
Who are they? They are the people who are living in the streets. They were not the invitees, they are the Gentiles. They were not the original people of God. They are non Christians. They are not believers.
Initially they were invited but now the measure master is taking, is go and BRING the poor and the maimed (injured) and the lame and the blind.
If we are not available for the work of God, if we can say many excuses in the presence of the God, God is going to bring some people who are living in the street, the poor, maimed and the lame and the blind.
- God is not really pleased in our appearance – God is looking for commitment, people who are committed for the cause.
- God is not really pleased in knowing who we are – God is looking for your availability. God can use anybody. God is not pleased in our spiritual level, but God is pleased when we say, Lord, I am available for you.
Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.
First one was INVITED, second one BRING, they were brought and third one COMPEL them or force them. The master was made aware that, there are more rooms in the supper hall and master told the servant, ‘Go and compel everybody to get into so that house is filled’.
Matthew 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.
We are living in a time where we are compelled to give priority to God. Why do we say that? You need to do this, God has called to do this, you are supposed to be available because it is forced. At times I am forcing you to do certain things because I am forced to do certain things. God has not given us that as an option in our hands, we are forced to do the work of God.
I was in need of help of a commentary there, often I use to refer Matthew Henry’s Commentary.
The violence denotes a strength, and vigor, and earnestness of desire and endeavor, in those who followed John’s ministry, else they would not have come so far to attend upon it. It shows us also, what fervency and zeal are required of all those who design to make heaven of their religion. Note, They who would enter into the kingdom of heaven must strive to enter; that kingdom suffers a holy violence; self must be denied, the bent and bias, the frame and temper, of the mind must be altered; there are hard sufferings to be undergone, a force to be put upon the corrupt nature; we must run, and wrestle, and fight, and be in an agony, and all little enough to win such a prize, and to get over such opposition from without and from within. The violent take it by force. They who will have an interest in the great salvation are carried out towards it with a strong desire, will have it upon any terms, and not think them hard, nor quit their hold without a blessing. They who will make their calling and election sure must give diligence. The kingdom of heaven was never intended to indulge the ease of triflers (who take things easy), but to be the rest of them that labor. It is a blessed sight; Oh that we could see a greater number, not with an angry contention thrusting others out of the kingdom of heaven, but with a holy contention thrusting themselves into the kingdom of heaven.
What it means is God is looking for such people, who don’t take things easy, who takes matter of kingdom of God seriously. Who will not try to push people away from kingdom of God but instead they will try to push people into the kingdom of God.
Master wanted his house to be filled. God is not happy when we have empty chairs here. As I used to say, church is not for believers, if you think church is for believers, you are wrong. Church is for unbelievers, those who are lost in the world. Jesus came to this world to save which was lost in the world. Jesus did not come for those who are healthy, those who are healthy don’t need a physician, Jesus came for those who are unhealthy. If we don’t have a non believer in our worship service, I believe the time that we are here is a waste, when we have such empty chairs God is not happy about it. We cannot please God by our dancing and worshiping, we need unbelievers to be here because only they need cross. Today if we die, we may go to heaven but what about those who are living in the streets. God wants his house to be filled. God is not looking at our outward appearance, spiritual levels but God is looking at those who are available. Even if they are not available, we can go out and bring them into the presence of the God, if we can force somebody, open the door and push people inside, that’s what is expectation of the master. God is looking for those who are:
- Socially neglected
- Whom we consider so low, if we look at somebody with all tattoos and earring hanging in their ears, we think that they are designed, determined, destined for hell but that’s not true. We look at outward appearance, the soul inside of him is so precious, we cannot neglect. There are people in the world around us today, God wants us to bring them into the presence of God because God wants his house to be filled.
Matthew 20:16 Jesus said,“So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen”.
Do not neglect anybody. Churches are talking about separation, it is true that you need to be separated form the sinful world but Jesus never ever asked us to stop loving somebody. Jesus was considered as friend of sinners, he was sitting was Pharisees, he was sitting with the woman who was a prostitute. People who were keep on saying excuses, they were losing their opportunity. God is going to replace them. This is a message to you, stop saying excuses when work of kingdom is about to begin. I can hear your excuses but God is not going accept your excuses. Nothing can stop us, always the kingdom work takes the priority. You are called believers because you belong to the kingdom and your king takes the priority, nothing else.
The Result of telling excuse:
Verse 24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper”.
How painful it was, I thought who were invited they were church members, congregation of the church but they all said excuses, now the master says; none of them is going to enter into my supper. That means even after getting saved, even after coming to church regularly, even after worshiping God, we can go to hell:
- If our priorities don’t becomes the priority the kingdom. God wants to set our priorities right. It’s not important how many hours we pray, prayer is important, living holy life is important, meditating the Word of God is important but what is the priority of God in your life. You need to understand the priority of God in your life, the reason why God chose you, called you from that surroundings. Your family is still not living in a Christian way, biblical way, but God pulled you out of that situation. There is a reason for that. If life priorities become more important than God’s work, we need to question our destiny. People those who were invited they had different priority, they could not consider the kingdom priority higher than their own priority. Today, all of us have priorities in our lives but Bible say when there is kingdom urgency, God wants us to keep our priorities aside. God wants us to take the priority of kingdom of God.
- If we continue to say excuses in the God’s matters, verse 24 may come upon our lives.
- If we refuse and reject invitations God is sending to us, to work in God’s kingdom, Verse 24 may come upon our lives.
- If we continue to fail to be diligent to make our call and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). Once in a while you turn back and see the reason, why God called you? We often forget but God wants you to think about the reason why God chose you? If we fail there, Luke chapter 14 verse 24 may come upon our lives.
Not only God can find somebody else to do the job but there is a punishment. If we don’t set our priorities right , there is punishment, that punishment is eternal. I believe God wants to set our priorities right so that our destiny is determined by what we do.
Series: Who touched Me?| Title: General | Sermon by: Pastor Balan Swaminathan | Location: House of Intercessory Prayer Ministries, Halifax, NS Canada | Date: Sunday, December 3, 2017
We are reading from
Mark 5:25-34 25 Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26 and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28 For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.” 29 Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction. 30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My clothes?” 31 But His disciples said to Him, “You see the multitude thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ ” 32 And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. 33 But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. 34 And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”
Here we read one of the many miracles that took place in the life of Jesus, where we see a woman with the issue of blood, came behind and touched the garment of Lord God and got healed instantly. Jesus turned to the multitude and asked, “Who touched me”? This morning I would like to title my sermon as: “Who touched me”?
We see many kinds of people following Lord Jesus in that particular situation. We see the disciples following Lord Jesus, great multitude following Lord Jesus. Who were all there in the multitude? There were many sick people, just ordinary people like you and me, Pharisees, tax collectors, teachers of the law, women. This morning I want to talk about the kind of people, that were following Jesus Christ.
First group of people – Religious people
- People who strictly follow the law. When Jesus arrived, it was old testament period still people were living in, those who did not realize that Jesus is Messiah. He’s going to divide the history into two. They never realized that the new testament period, the dispensation of grace is about to begin. They had no clue about it. They were still thinking that, they were living in the old testament period, so they were still following the law very strictly.
- People who judge others, they follow the Jesus very closely, wherever Jesus went, they were found there, just to judge Jesus and people who followed Lord God.
- Group of people who think heaven belongs to them.
- Some of those people were spiritually very prideful. Even they considered somebody else inferior than themselves. They considered themselves as better than someone else spiritually.
- There were people, they said I know everything, who is this Jesus, what is he preaching or talking about, I know the old testament law, I know the traditions.
- People who were saying, they are children of Abraham. Who is this Jesus? Son of Joseph and Mary.
- Bible says these people were prideful, they were full of jealousy, they had wrath within them, they did not have any fruit in their lives, they had love for money.
- In fact, Jesus calls such people as hypocrites, they were following Jesus. Jesus also turned to some people and told them you are white washed tombs, brood of vipers, stiff-necked people – they were religious people. Even today in this world, we come across such religious people in Christianity. They hold on to the religion, they are willing to give their life for the sake of religion. Jesus Christ did not come to this world to establish a religion.
- Paul says people who are having a form of godliness but denying its power. We come across such people every where today. They appear to be godly but they deny the power of resurrection.
Second group of people – Needy people
- People like you and me. These people followed Lord God because of their need, because they saw miracles following Lord Jesus. Where ever Jesus went, they were following because they were really fascinated by seeing the miracles that Jesus performed.
- They are like disciples kind of people. When Jesus turned and asked, “who touched me?” Disciple did not have any understanding about what Jesus is asking. Disciples were saying, Lord people are just falling on you, why do you ask, who touched?
- These are the people, who follow Jesus because they are born in the Christian family. They don’t know, why they follow God but they follow Jesus and say they we are Christians.
- These people follow Jesus for material blessings. There are many people who are found in the presence of God, when we are not having job, when we are not having children but when we are blessed with such blessings, do we follow God? If we follow God just only for material blessings, we are more pitiable than those all who do not follow God.
Third group of people – Socially neglected
People who consider themselves so low, they are outcasts, not accepted by the society. Some examples are
- Tax collector- who could not come in the presence of God and was standing far away and saying Lord, I am a sinful man.
- Jesus was sitting at the side of the well, Samaritan women came to Jesus, untouchable, she can’t even speak to a Jew – socially neglected. They are people today following Lord Jesus, they are not recognized by the Christian community or churches.
- The lepers, who used to sit outside the city gate and cry out saying ‘Unclean! Unclean! So that no body will go to that side. They were following Jesus.
- A women with the issue of blood- a social outcast, following our Lord Jesus Christ.
Who this woman was?
(Verse 25 & 26) Bible says that she was a woman with a issue of blood.
- Twelve long years she was suffering with a issue of blood. That was a terrible condition for any woman to go through. Today medically known as hemorrhage or menorrhagia, they go through such as medical condition.
- Bible says, she met many doctors, but could not be cured from that sickness.
- Bile says, she spent all that she had in her life to gain healing but there was no healing.
- Her health was becoming worse than getting better.
- She became so weak and fragile and she could not do anything by herself.
- There were disappointments, frustrations building up in her life.
- Eventually, she had to shut herself in the house because she was socially untouchable according to the law.
She was socially outcast according to the social standards that are defined in the book of law Leviticus chapter 15
- Under the Mosaic law a woman with an issue of blood was considered unclean and was “put apart” for seven days. During those seven days, what ever she touches is considered unclean.
- Leviticus 14 says, if that condition stays more than seven days, all the days of her life, she will be considered unclean and untouchable.
We are talking about a woman, who was going through such condition for 12 long years. I believe, she was totally cut off from the society.
What she did ?
Verse 27 – She heard about Jesus.
- She did not want to make a public appearance. Going and standing in front of Jesus because she is not supposed to go and touch anybody.
- She wanted to come behind Jesus. She found out her way to reach Jesus. From her house, we don’t know, how far Jesus was walking. Jesus was passing that village, I have no idea, how this women can come to Jesus. Such women cannot walk straight, they need to crawl. She was crawling and somehow reached to Jesus and crowd was huge. Crowd was not allowing to go and touch Jesus but somehow she found her way to come behind Jesus.
- She did not even want to touch Jesus.
- She wanted to touch just hem of His garment so that Jesus will not know otherwise she will be caught by everybody and she will be put into death. So she wanted to avoid that.
- It was an unusual touch.
- It was a touch of faith, because bible says power went out of Jesus.
Bible also says, moment she touched garment of Lord Jesus, she got instantly healed. She was so afraid because she wanted to do this in secret. Jesus turned back, she never expected that. She just expected the healing. When Jesus turned back, she was so afraid and trembling because what she did, was not acceptable to the society. Verse 33 says, when Jesus found her in crowd, she was in fear and trembling.
Faith of this woman:
A woman who was having the issue of blood, woman who met many doctors and every appointment was a failure and disappointment in her life, she spent all that she had, given to the doctors and she became so weak and fragile, not accepted by society and could not even come out of the house to be with the society.
She did not miss that moment in her life. She heard that Jesus is passing by. If she would have missed that moment in her life, she would never have gotten that opportunity again in her life. She decided to make an attempt for the healing.
Do you remember about blind Bartimaeus sitting at the side of the road, moment he heard that Jesus is passing by, he was not keeping quiet, he was crying with the loud voice saying, “Lord Jesus have mercy upon me”.
I am talking about something which is important for your life this morning, something that will keep you healthy, that is precious, you cannot take it light.
She knew her moment has come for healing and she did not want to miss that opportunity.
Isaiah 55:6 Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.
This woman realized, my Lord God is near to me. This is the right time for me to tap into the power of God. She decided to go for it.
- She had a tough and rough life unlike what we have today. Her life was miserable.
- She was living in hopelessness.
- She was all alone because husband abandoned her, children forgot about her and she ended up living in house all alone for the entire life. Totally neglected and considered as an outcast.
- But she could push through the crowd to receive the healing from Lord God because of her faith.
- Bible says, her faith came alive when she heard about Jesus, until that point of time she was thinking about end of her life, about not getting cured at all but when she heard about Jesus, her faith came alive.
- Her faith could not be put down by people. How much struggle she would have got to push through the crowd to reach Lord God. She never thought about what people will think about her. Sometimes in our lives, when we want to access the faith that God has given to us, we worry about, what someone else will think. This is awful. We need a healing touch from God, we want to be blessed in our life, why do we worry about what others are going to think about us? This poor woman never bothered about what people will think about, all that she was in need of Jesus- a touch from His garment.
- That faith did not allow her to keep quiet. James says, “Faith without action is dead”. She got that faith.
- She wanted to find a solution for her problem. God want us to find a solution for our problem, God doesn’t want us to live with that problem. Some of us are so accustomed that if we don’t have a problem, we feel odd.
- Her faith is a simple faith not something great. What was the faith- only if I can touch the hem of His garment. What brings healing today- just a simple faith, childish faith. Example was given as mustard seed of faith to move the mountains.
- This faith was not making her to wait for Jesus to touch her. She did not wait for a moment so that Jesus will come and touch her. She decided to go ahead and touch Jesus.
- Her faith was so great, her faith could draw power out of Jesus.
What is our faith today?
God wants us to reach out to touch Him. Not to wait for him to come and touch us. God wants us to go ahead and touch him.
Series: General | Title: Build up your Resiliency | Sermon by: Pastor Balan Swaminathan | Location: House of Intercessory Prayer Ministries, Halifax, NS Canada | Date: Sunday, October 29, 2017
Matthew 7:24-27 24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken (compare/associate) him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
Who is a wise man here? Who ever hears the Word and does them. Who is foolish man, who hears the Word and doesn’t do. When we hear the Word of God, we become wise when we put the Word of God into practice. When we hear the Word of God and we do not practice those scriptures, we become foolish. That’s what scripture says. God says, we need to be found wise, that’s the reason this parable is given. Jesus here is saying that somebody built a house on the rock. Who is that man, who hears the Word of God and who practices that scripture. Somebody did not practice that scripture, he just hear the Word. We hear many sermons but at the end of it, we don’t really practice anything, we don’t apply anything in our lives. Then scripture says we are foolish. We are equivalent to build a house on sand. When wind blows, when flood rises, the house collapses. God says you are foolish. Because you keep hearing but you are not doing anything according to the Lord.
Today I would like to title my sermon as “Build up your resiliency”
- Resilience describes the ability to spring back after being bent or stretched out of shape.
- Resiliency is the status where someone is stretched beyond a limit and when everything is over, he is able to come back or spring back to its original position. The ability to recover from the storms of life, that is what resiliency is.
- Resilient people adapt to adversities. We all go through some kind of adversity. Things are not working the way we want. If everything is working the way I want, I will be the king of this world. But things are not working in the way I want. Things are working in the way God wants probably in my life. So resilient people adapt any adversity.
- They weather or survive life’s storms.
- Most of the time they may get hit by many situations but they raise up again – they are going to be stronger. You look at the trees, they suffer through the wind, storm and the hurricane. I believe somehow they recovered and those bent trees, could be straight little later when the hurricane is over. That is what is resiliency. God expects that character in our lives. God wants to develop that resilience in us so that we will be able to handle any adverse situation in our lives.
Jesus spoke about the house that was rained over, hit by floods and beaten by heavy winds and storms. Still that house was found erect. The house was resilient enough to withstand all the storms that it could face in its life. God is asking you, are you able to withstand the life’s storms that are blowing in your life, that are taking you to time of confusion and you feel like withdrawing from everything that you are been doing for God. You just want to get into a silent mode. Probably you will think, it is the time when I just want to be on myself. God is telling you, you need to be resilient.
Ken Cooper is a kind of guy, I don’t want to have him as my neighbor, I don’t think you want to have him as your neighbor. But he is a loving father and a loving husband, a role model for underprivileged children. But he had a dark side – he was also one of Florida’s most wanted criminals. He began shoplifting when he was a child, he started stealing cars and later on he went on robbing banks. In the middle of all this his wife died with cancer in the very early stage. Many robberies happened in his life after that. When someone asked,”why you do all these things?” He said,”I am not robbing for money. I don’t want money. The purpose was to handle the deep depression that I had after loosing my wife. I wanted to show my anger on something. That’s the reason I do all these things.”
Ken’s double life ended very soon, as he was shot when he was robbing a bank and he was sentenced for 99 years in The Rock, Florida’s most infamous prison. He was there with inmate prisoners. They were murders, rape criminals and everybody was there along with him in the prison. But while Ken Cooper was in prison, he heard about the love of the Jesus, the prison chaplain preached him about Lord Jesus and Ken Cooper became a Christian. He accepted Jesus Christ. Along with Ken, there were many cellmates, they also accepted Jesus Christ. They started preaching about Jesus to all their prison cellmates.
One day Ken and his friends adopted a kitten, its backbone was broken, his eyes were blinded and they named the kitten as Mr. Magoo. Ken Cooper was taking care of the kitten. Ken Cooper was laying his hands on the kitten’s head and praying for God to open his eyes and his eyes opened. Kitten started seeing. All the inmates were taking care of the kitten very well and the prison started changing. There is no more rapist, there is no more thieves in the prison. Everybody started coming into the love of Jesus Christ because of the ministry of the Ken Cooper and his cellmates. Ken Cooper was released very soon. He dedicated his entire life to serve among the prisoners those who are getting out of the prison after imprisonment, that is resilience. God is talking about someone who has gone very far and at the right time he is able to bend back to his original position in Christ.
When Jesus spoke about this, in Matthew 7:24-27 (again). The questions that we need to ask:
- What makes us strong, what makes us resilient, what makes us enduring? It’s not just hearing the Word of God but it is doing the Word of God. We want to put this Word of God in practice. Otherwise Christianity doesn’t mean anything.
- Whose life is founded on the Rock? – The one who listens and does.
- Who can withstand the storms of life? – The one who listens the Word of God and put them into practice. There is great deal of pressure in the Word of God, there is great deal of attention in the Word of God to put into practice what we learn.
- To whom the more is given, much is required. We all are given sermons week after week and we hear sermon online. Much is given, much is required too.
What did they hear? Jesus is almost ending the sermon on the mount. Mathew chapter 5, 6, 7, all talks about the sermon on the mount. Jesus preached a long sermon, at the end of sermon Jesus is saying, you heard me until now, now you go and put everything into practice. What did they hear in the sermon on the mount. Jesus talked about:
“The Be attitudes, Salt and Light, Fulfilling the Law, Anger and Murder, Lust and Adultery, Divorce and Remarriage, Oaths, Eye for an Eye, Love your enemies, Give to the Needy people, How to Pray, How to Fast, False Teacher and False Prophets, The Wise Builder and the Foolish builder”.
They heard so much from Lord Jesus and now Jesus wanted them to go and put them into practice.
- Resilience is the ability of an object to spring back its original shape.
- It is the ability to withstand all the difficult situations of the life.
- Resiliency is achieved by putting into practice the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Life is going to throw a lot of challenges on us. Storm is going to come on our way, we can never stop. If our house is built on sand, it is going to collapse. We can not expect that to come up again. But a house that is built on the rock, when the storm blows, it is going to stand. It may be push little bit here but it is going to come back. That’s what is resiliency.
How do we build up resilience?
- Be aware of your situation
- Be aware of your enemies
- Be built on God
- Be ready for another season
Be aware of your situation
In order to build resiliency in our lives, in order to build that ability to quickly gain back or original position, first thing we need to do is to be aware of our situation. This is Step 1.
Imagine a soldier, who is in the battle front. He may be facing so many unexpected situations in the area of his operation. Sudden threats of the enemy, unforeseen dangers coming on his way, loss of lives in front of him, enemy’s strategy gets changed at times, mistrust and misbehavior of the fellow soldiers, sometimes he lose the commander’s favor etc. The soldier who is at war front is vulnerable to all these attacks everyday.
Where are you today? We are living in a strange world, strange nation, for most of us not the native country, we don’t having any of your family members nearby, at times we wonder what am I doing under the heaven, sitting here in this nation. The soldier on the forefront of the battlefield feels the same thing at times. At times we feel, we are just left all alone in our lives.
What are the threats around us? Health is at risk at times, our future is not guaranteed. What about our study, our work situation, our children, our job, financial situation. We are not stable yet even at the age of 30, 40, 45 . What is going on in our life. By the time we try to settle down, relationships strains. What else? Life is throwing all that it can, on our lives. We are like a soldier, standing and facing the adverse situations in the forefront.
Think of a tree trying to stand in the middle of a storm. During the storm certainly it is going to lose some of its leaves, some of the branches are already broken, tree is still struggling to stand straight in its life.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4, We are hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, struck down.
Is that you today?
Be aware of your enemies
We are living in a world, things are not happening in the favor of us, because we have an enemy. We cannot neglect him.
A young naval captain was commanding his battleship for the first time in his career. The battleship was piercing through the ocean on a particular night, he could spot in the dark pitch night, a spot of light coming towards the ship.
The young commander radioed to the other ship, “Alter your course ten degrees.”
The reply came very shortly, “No, you alter your course ten degrees.”
Captain became very aggressive. He is a fearless captain. He angrily sent a message, “Alter your course, I am a destroyer.”
The reply came quickly, “Alter your course, I am a lighthouse.”
Sometime in the course of our life, we need to alter our ways in order to survive in this world. We came with a plan to this nation, what happened to that plan? We came with the idea of settling down quickly within six months that was promised, three years now passed by, what happened to that?
Sometimes we are called to quickly adjust to our situation to find survival on this earth. That’s the reason Solomon said in:
Proverbs 22:3 A prudent man (sensible) foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple (inexperienced) pass on (keep going ) and are punished.
God is calling you, to know the enemy so that you know to become resilient, when the enemy passes over you. We need to know our enemies.
Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Our fight is not with flesh and blood, there is a power behind. To become resilient God wants us to know our enemy. He is trying to do all this, to put us down. There are prophesies spoken in our life but today those prophecies have not come true, the reason is not that God lied, but there is enemy working behind to make sure to nullify, all that God has promised in your life. Once God’s blessing are cancelled in your life, you are brought to the ground. That’s what enemy is trying.
Be built on God
The reason the wise man put his foundation on the Rock, because he knew his enemy. Even before the house was built, he knew very well, he cannot built his house on the sand. He need to built his house on the rock. He decided to build his house on the rock. Be built on God.
Your christian life, the life that we tried to built in Christ, has to be built by us, that cannot be borrowed. Today we try to borrow our Christian life from others. We look at the videos, the way people preach, the way people do things, we get fascinated by those things and we try to borrow their life. It’s not going to work. This is the life, that has to be built by us. This morning God wants to tell us, we need to built our life in Christ.
You know what deeper foundation means?
Deeper foundation means:
- Having a deeper relationship with God. We don’t see that outside. Saying hundred times praise the Lord doesn’t guarantee that. Having a deeper foundation in Christ, will help us to become resilient.
- Having mounted pillars of strong Biblical principles in our lives – fleeing away from sinful things, meditating on God’s Word, systematic giving, sharing the good news. These are kind of pillars that we can build in our lives. Build those pillars and work around those pillars.
- Having built on strong commitments. These commitments are important. Commitment between you and God. The sacrificial commitment that you have with your God. The decisions that you have taken that no one else knows. But that’s how you move. Those are the commitments between you and your God.
- Having a strong dependency on God.
There may be many more. These are couple of things that we can do to built that strong foundation.
Psalm 31:24 (NLT) So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord!
1 Corinthians 15:58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable.
Those who lay their foundation properly in Christ Jesus, are built with greater resiliency. When wind blow on their lives, they bent, we all bend. Because we all human, nobody can stand. We think, we may fall. We are just at the edge of the situation in our life. But if our foundation is proper in Christ, we are resilient. We bent back and come to our original position.
Be ready for another season
Building up our resiliency means, being ready for another season.
- Trees that are hit by storms, look for a new season of growth. They don’t expect to be in that stormy situation every time. They expect for new growth. Slowly little later, if you go and see in the spring, all the leaves they lost, are going to come back. All the branches that they lost, are going to grow. Trees is going to come back to its original position.
- Be ready for another season. That is the expectation of child of God. It’s not that we have gone away from God, it’s not we are falling part, it’s not that we are disintegrated. God will bring us back. Be ready for that.
God is preparing you for another season – the storm that God has allowed in our lives, is not to break us, but instead to build us, to bring a new season to our lives.
- Trees lose leaves during the winter season. Specially in the month of January and February, if we see trees, we will see only branches. Trees loose their leaves during the fall. They just get ready for winter.
- As the winter approaches, for most of the birds in North America, there is scarcity of resources here, the insects they eat, are not available during winter. So most of the birds, those can fly longer, they migrate to South America and they are going to come back. They just get ready for another season.
- Jonah was in the belly of the fish and he was praying to God. God was about to bring him out and use him in another season. When Jonah came out of the belly of fish, this is what he said:
Jonah 3 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.
Second time Jonah was prepared for the season. Building resiliency is also being ready for another season. God wants us to be ready for another season in our lives.
Children of Israel were fed in the wilderness by Manna, Gilgal is a place where the manna ceased and the children of Israel had to learn to live by faith and not by sight (Joshua 5:10-12).
They were just wondering, Lord what happened? We thought you are giving us food everyday but suddenly manna stopped. Lord, I thought I have a job, but this morning, when I go to work, I saw a letter, you’re suspended from your duties. Today is the last day, make every settlement. Lord, I thought it is all done and you’re taking care of me but Lord why this? We think everything is going in our health well but suddenly something arise there. Lord why?
This morning God wants you to know that he is building resiliency within you. This is not the end of the life. The financial constraint is not the end, the limitations that you deal with today that’s not the end of life. God is preparing us for another season.
God wants you to get ready,
- A season of refining/ purification
- A season of abundance
- A season of new beginnings
- A season of new challenges
No matter how much we are stretched, God is equipping us to the position where we can keep going.
Elijah was crying out to God for his life, Lord take my life away, it’s all done, it’s worth that I’m not living in this world. God said, no, I am making you more resilient. You brought fire from heaven, that’s not all about your walk with Christ. You prayed for somebody for healing and today you go through that same sickness, that’s not end of it. God said, I’m equipping you for another season. I am building resilience within you so that you will be able to withstand.
Rain is going to come down, flood is going to raise in the life, and the wind is going to blow and beat on the house; But we are not going to collapse, we are going to stand firm in the Lord. The reason is, we developed that resilience within us and we can overcome because we know our enemy. Our God is such a gentle God, he says,
A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Matthew 12:20
Today you feel so weak and so low. When you look at the situations there is no hope. When you turn every side, you’ll see things are not working in favor of you. Enemy is trying to throw so many things in your way but God is telling you, I’m making you stronger, more resilient, I’m giving you more stamina and courage so that you will be able to handle the situation by the strength I give you.