Reflections on Covid-19

It was Saturday morning. In fact it was Holy Saturday, a religious day that my particular flavour of the Christian faith doe not put much recognition into. In fact so little recognition that I struggle to dredge the depths of my memories to recall if I have ever even heard it referred to. I have concluded for brevity that I have not.

Holy Saturday is a much more recognised holy day in the established churches such as the Church of England. I am pentecostal by birth. And by that I mean “born again” birth, John 3:16 birth.

And none of that really matters about what I am wanting to mention in this post simply because on this particular Saturday, Karen and I had taken the dog for a walk and was planning on stopping at the local shop just down the road from where we live to get a few essentials in.

Now the astute amongst you who are reading this soon after I posted it will understand that this was the Saturday morning of 2020’s Easter weekend (I really do hate that term, Easter). It was the Holy Saturday that will be unlike any that most of us have experienced ever before and God willing ever will again, because it was in the throes of the Covid-19 lock down and things were not normal.

To that point I had worked form home for a total of 5 weeks. Karen had been sent home from work for the past three weeks and we had been holding church meetings via YouTube and Zoom. Social distancing was in force (even though the WHO wanted everyone to stop using the phrase social distancing), and we were not allowed to go about our daily lives in the free manner that we were all used to because Covid-19 was, and at the time of writing, still is, running rampant!

We, that is Karen and I were doing our bit for the NHS and staying at home save, for the odd essential visit to the supermarket, as allowed by Government decree, and for a bit of daily exercise, the two things in this instance that we married together.

The fort thing that hit me, bearing in mind this is only a local shop, was the 30 plus minute wait we had outside as the staff studiously only allowed two customers in at a time. We had arrived clearly at a busy point in the day!

But as we stood, and smiled at passers by some of whom joined the queue behind us, as they took the wide sweep mostly into the carriageway of the road to avoid the line of would be customers to the local shop, I got to thinking.

There are many lessons that will come out of this stint of lock down many lessons in society, for the Government, for us individually, for the church and I suspect it will be a period oft referred to in sermons from the pulpit in months and years to come.

But what may we learn from it now?

The reason we are in local down is because in order to fight the virus the Government has imposed the rules on us using legislation. An urgent Act of Parliament was passed and now those who are selfish enough to ignore the rules can be fined for doing so. There is a penalty for breaking the rules.

There is a clear Gospel message in this, but that is not where I want to go.

What I started thinking was how we are all going to feel when this is over. When we are free again to visit family, when we are free again to go to church and meet in our Life Groups, and church services.

Imagine for a moment the feeling of relief and joy and happiness and well, you think of the rest……

We will once again be able to hold our relatives in our arms, our grandchildren can give us loads of cuddles again, we will be able to hug brothers and sisters in Jesus name we will be able to simply pop down to the shop and buy none essential things when we want to rather than having to think about getting everything in one visit (per week) if you are sticking to the rules.

Pause and think forward to that time.

What a picture of Salvation this is.

The Old Testament has a lot of laws, rules and regulations in it. (Not as many as some people think, but it has a lot). These rules and regulations are there for a purpose, (for many actually), but one of the main purposes of those rules, regulations and laws is to demonstrate to us that God loves us and rather then wanting to take our freedom and joy, and happiness away, he wants us to live within certain parameters that will make us safe. Or more accurately make His chosen people safe, be those chosen ones native born Jews or people adopting the Jewish faith as their own.

You see laws and rules are essentially there to keep us safe from harm.

So life is possible under these rules, regulations and laws, as evidenced by the Jewish nation, in just the same way that life is possible under the current lockdown as a result of Covid-19, and please do not get me wrong I realise that it is easier for some and much harder for others, but the truth of the matter is that life is possible, because we are living it.

The rules and regulations bring their own sets of problems and issues, there is no doubt about it, but they place a restriction on us. Shopping, once a week for essentials only. Is one of them. Not been able to go and sunbath in the local park is another, not meeting up with friends, family and workmates except through the internet is another and there are many many more.

But life is possible.

However, what joy, what relief, what happiness there will be when Boris eventually gets on his podium and tells us the restrictions are lifted.

And so it is like this in the New Testament, in the New Covenant made possible through Jesu and the sacrifice he made on the Cross. Pertinent given it is the weekend Chrstinedom is celebrating this very event.

What joy, what happiness, what peace the new believer (and hopefully us older ones) experience when we realise that our sins are forgiven and that we are “free” in Christ. Free to worship, free to love, free to not keep the religious ceremonial laws of the OT. A freedom that is rooted in life and life eternal, free from the curse of sin, free from the consequences of sin.

So perhaps take time to think on this a little. We take our freedom for granted until such a time as it is taken away form us or restricted in some way.

The believer can take their freedom fro granted. If that is you, pause and remember what it was like before you met Jesus and what you have gained since then and thank God afresh for it.

And any unbelievers reading this, pause please and think how it might be. Compare the restrictions of the Lockdown to the freedom of movement you will have when the lockdown is finished and try to imagine this magnified 10,000 times and more if you compare your life not knowing Jesus to knowing Jesus -Probably impossible so let me encourage you, take that step, ask Jesus into your life and experience it for yourself.

Passover 2020

Have any of you considered what/if there is anything to be learned from our lockdown situation?

Tonight at sundown Passover starts for our Jewish friends and one of the criteria imposed on the Israelites that first Passover once they had daubed the door posts with the blood of the lamb was to stay indoors.

Maybe, and this is simply a thought that I have not fully worked through yet, we might take something from our lockdown and our celebration of the risen Jesus on Sunday.

Do we feel any connection?
Do we achieve a deeper understanding of that first Passover?
Can we achieve a deeper connection between Passover and the weekend that we erroneously call Easter?

I don’t know the answer to these questions and there will be others that pop into your mind but maybe go read about the exodus afresh and let Gods Spirit speak into your life.

Jesus Clears the Temple

Matthew 21:12-17
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”
And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

Soon after Jesus entered Jerusalem on the donkey we get this story.

Again it is a popular part of the narrative in the events of Holy Week and one of the events that Messers Lloyd Webber and Rice dramatise well in their musical re-telling of the Holy Week story. Their interpretation of the theology is rubbish but for entertainment its enjoyable enough!

Anyway, what is it that stands out for you when you read this passage?

Maybe it’s the violence of the act? In one version from the pother gospels Jesus forms a whip to assist Him in his cleansing of the temple, so this is no polite and orderly request for the traders and customers to vacate.

Maybe it’s the healings. There is probably much that can be gleaned from this, much sermon material about how the traders were there to profit and possible “con” the customers, yet Jesus freely gives of His power and Love? Maybe!

Maybe it’s the reference to the OT by Jesus a little odd maybe of Matthew to have reimbursed this part of the speech when and I think it is Luke who recounts that Jesus the disciples recalled that the OT makes reference to “zeal for thy house shall consume him” (I paraphrase so please don’t criticise me too much). To my simple mind the zeal quote is much more apt to the situation, but hey, there must be a reason why Matthew here recounts these words of Jesus.

What stand out to me, presently at least, is the contrast between the words fo the author, “the many wonderful things that he did” against the attitude of the religious leaders of the time “they were indignant”.

What if anything can we learn from this?

In our men’s bible study on Saturday mornings (at 7:00 pm Saturday mornings when there is no lockdown or at 7:30 online at the moment due to the coronavirus pandemic ask me for mor details if you are interested in joining in), we looked this week, in part, at spiritual pride. Or knowledge that puffs up.

The leaders here clearly were suffering from a big dose of that! Here was Jesus doing many wonderful things. Healing, blessing giving sight to the blind, helping the lame to walk and probably lots of other things as well, and all the leaders could do was look on indignantly!

HOWEVER, before we get on our own moral/spiritual high horses, I encourage you, and me (because if you didn’t realise this by now, most of what I write in these posts are actually for my own edification and if they speak to or bless you then that is a bonus), let us pause and take time to consider how many times have I looked indignantly upon a brother (or sister) and in my mind have though “pah” or worse?

To be brutally honest far too many times.

So now, I am going to take myself off to a quiet place and think on this a little I hope I come out the other end a better person.

The Triumphal Entry

Matthew 21:1-10,
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?”

Mark 11:1-11
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Luke 19:29-44
When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

John 12:12-19
The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

Above are the 4 Gospel accounts of the events of what have ben known as Palm Sunday throughout the Christian era. I have fond memories of sitting in Sunday school classes, green wax crayon in hand vigorously colouring in a pre-printed palm leaf ready to celebrate through re-enactment of the entry of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem. At that time it all meant very little to me and the hastily coloured in “palm” leaf was quickly relegated to the rubbish within days of returning home.

Little did I realise those days that there were 4 accounts of this event, one in each of the Gospels, and for your ease of reference I have reproduced them above. Can I ask you to take the time to prayerfully read them through each maybe even a few times and digest and see the variations on the accounts.

What is interesting about this particular event is that it is one of the few that is recorded within all four Gospels. We know that there is an over-lap between them all but there are few incidents recorded that are recorded in all 4 accounts. Oftentimes John leaves out much of what is in the other three but this event was so significant that all four Gospel writers felt compelled to include it.

Let me encourage you to prayerfully meditate on why that was so.
Clearly the principle reason is that this event marks the beginning of the end of Jesus mission for coming in the first place. Jesus could see the cross at the end of this week, He knew that this would be the last time that He would visit Jesus before the mission parameters were completed and He knew the mighty mountain that he was to climb for yours and my salvation.

Notice how the three synoptic Gospels specify that Jesus was approaching Bethany and Bethpage near Jerusalem. John on the other hand was only interested in informing us that Jesus was on the approach to Jerusalem, why do you think Johns account appears “less accurate” that the others?

When we read the differing in accounts of the Gospels we need to understand that the writers had different primary reasons for writing their “versions” of the events and the likes of Luke was using the first hand sources available to him at the time when composing his account. Interestingly it appears that Luke who wasn’t present when these events took place (unlike Matthew, Mark Peter and John who were followers of Jesus), makes a longer account from the various sources he uses.

But parking this as interesting as these things are the question I want to pose is what are these accounts about?

Yes they are about Jesus entry into Jerusalem!


Yes they are about a miracle in that Jesus foreknew that there would be a colt standing waiting for him to use and that the colts owners would be amenable to letting the colt go off with the disciples!


Yes it is about the fulfilment of prophecy – even the intentional fulfilment of ancient prophesy by Jesus – I think we need to understand that just because there are critics out there that will “argue” Jesus sought to fulfil some of the OT prophesies about Him, that argument does not invalidate the fulfilment of those prophecies in any way whatsoever. This is potentially a whole separate subject that a whole article can be devoted to, but suffice it to say here and now, this miracle is no less a miracle for the appearance that Jesus may have “self-fulfilled” it)!

What I would like to draw attention to is that whilst these passages are clearly about all the things listed above and probably more, they are principally about showing, even proving who Jesus truly is to the people of the day.

Fulfilment of the Jeremiah prophecy (9:9) is a significant event. Apart from the first century backdrop of Roman occupation and that the Jewish nation was looking for a “saviour” that would rise up as a political and/or military leader and kick the Romans out of their land, the idea that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem in such a significant manner, was a key indicator to them that whoever entered the capitol city like that was making claim to be Gods chosen one.

Can I encourage you to meditate prayerfully on the significance of this. We tend to look in these verses at the story of the donkey, as if the story is about that, or we concentrate on the contrast that we see in the crowds reactions in a short space of time and how all these people worshipping Jesus soon turned on Him, or we tend to concentrate on the fulfilment of the Zechariah prophesy, all of which to various degrees are important elements of this event in Jesus life.

But let us also take time to consider the implications of this whole event. Jesus here is clearly marking himself out through the nature of his mode of transport to be The Messiah, it is one if not the only time he allows public worship/adoration of His earthly self or at least the only time it is recorded for us.

The spontaneous reaction of the crowds, was this inspired by the Holy Spirit? Was it a natural reaction to the circumstances of celebrating the Passover for which they were all in Jerusalem for, and that reports of Jesus’ miracles prior to His arrival at Jerusalem? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but what I do know is that in the clearest possible way, at least to the first century Jew, was that He was proclaiming to be The Messiah!

We know that His subsequent resurrection emphatically proved this claim but back then? Well they were reacting in faith. How much more should we, in faith, worship and glorify our King, Lord, brother, master and God.

As we move into Holy Week let em encourage you to read carefully the accounts of this week and to be fed spiritually by them and to share, especially in these times of lockdown, with those who you are in contact with and who may themselves be looking for answers.

Words again…………

The Words That We Use

Language is important. It is one of the many things that separate us from the animal kingdom. We might share something like 99% of DNA with our ape friends but that 1% or so difference is what matters. It allows us to communicate complex ideas using a complex code called language. It even allows us to create many hundreds of these codes so that as you traverse the globe we call Earth, you can pick up on a cacophony of language. Being able to utilise words means that we can paint pictures in our imaginations that, if done right, can be more vivd and spectacular than even the best paintings. We can convey the experiences that we have had in our lives to others so that they can share them with us and if stimulated enough go out and get their own version of that experience.

Politicians use words and language to convey promises to us and convince us why we should vote or follow them. (Ahem). Words are powerful things, and I suspect we should take more care than we do in how we use them.

One aspect of words and the way we use them that I find interesting is their origins. It is why I have a Strong’s Hebrew and Greek concordance installed on my Bible reader App. I can go to the original word in a particular scripture and look up its original meaning or the root word from which the word used by the writer originated. It well worth the investment if you have any inclination towards in-depth Bible study and can help open up whole new meanings of Gods word to you.

I am also intrigued by the origin of words that we use in everyday life today. one example, merely to illustrate the point you understand is something like the word “bender” or more accurately its use in sentences such as “They went on a bender”. Now for the benefit of all you good clean living Christian people out there who may not be aware, such a phrase is often used to describe the experience of going out and drinking excessive amounts of alcoholic beverage. (How do I know this? Google is such a wonderful source of information if used correctly!) Ahem.

Anyway, the use of the word in a certain context gives it a totally different meaning to what one may find in the dictionary. (Although Chambers English Dictionary does have this definition in it as it’s second definition for the word Bender and identifies it as a slang term). What this shows however is that language is an ever-changing evolving beast!

So what? Well I have referred in other posts to the power of words and Saint John’s use of the term The Word in relation to Jesus, so I will not repeat that here. But I am intrigued with how we use certain words as believers without a second thought. The two main ones that I think of that we use in daily lives without a second thought are “lucky” & “fortunate”.

No big deal I hear you say? (Well I don’t actually hear you say, but I do have this image in my mind’s eye of you shrugging your shoulders in disappointment (Possibly)). What of it? Well I was wondering, why as believers in God and Jesus specifically we constantly fall back on the usage of these words in our daily lives. After all, luck and fortune have nothing to do with our situation at all.

Turning to our trusty dictionary once again it defines these words thus:

luck /luk/ noun

• Fortune

• Good fortune

• An object with which a family’s fortune is supposed to be bound up

ORIGIN: Prob LGer or Du luk; cf Ger Glück prosperity

[Chambers Dictionary (iOS) © Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd.]

And Fortune it defines Thus:

• Whatever comes by lot or chance

• Luck

• The arbitrary ordering of events

• The lot that falls to one in life

• A prediction of one’s future

• Success

• A great accumulation of wealth

• A large amount of money (informal)

• An heiress (obsolete)

• intransitive verb (obsolete)

• To befall

• transitive verb (obsolete)

• To determine the fortune of

• forˈtunate adjective

• Happening by good fortune

• Lucky

• Auspicious

• Felicitous

• forˈtunately adverb

• In a fortunate way, by good luck

• I’m glad to say or happy to report

[Chambers Dictionary (iOS) © Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd.]

But what of it? You may be asking yourself once again. Well the Bible teaches us that all good things proceed from God. And what do we know about God? That He is omniscient and omnipresent. The He “foreknows” everything. So for the believer chance, luck and good fortune has nothing to do with us. God is in control, anything good that befalls us He knows about it beforehand, anything bad that befalls us He knows about it beforehand, anything of an indifferent nature that befalls us, He knows about it beforehand.

What we have are God’s promises, such as

2 Corinthians 1:20

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians 9:8

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

2 Peter 1:3

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Psalms 9:10

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Psalms 37:25

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.

Romans 5:17

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Philippians 1:19

for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

AND of course the famous Romans verses:

Romans 8:28-30

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

I could go on but I think this selection of verses from The Bible shows that we are in safe hands and do not have to rely on things such as luck, we are not lucky, neither are we fortunate, but we are blessed!

Its a small thing in many respects but in my everyday life I try not to use words such as lucky or fortunate, instead I try to use blessed.

Why?

Because in today’s world it is different. People don’t expect to be blessed, they expect to be lucky. They do the lottery in the hope they are lucky enough to guess the 6 numbers necessary to win the jackpot. They go to Bingo in the hope that they are fortunate enough to get a full house. They place a bet on the Horses or the dogs, hoping that the form of the animal and it’s past performance with their own judgement will make it lucky enough for them to win. People hope that they will be lucky enough not to be victim to crime, or be fortunate enough not to fall ill or catch some incurable disease, they hope that their lot in life will be a pleasant one, that any coincidences they experience will be happy ones, that they will not befall to any accidents that might hurt or injure them.

But we, those of us who are brothers and Sisters in Christ, we have so much more. Re-read those scriptures above if you need to. We have Gods provision, we have God’s promises, We have God’s blessing, we have God’s strength and we have God’s word to guide and teach us. How BLESSED are we?

My hope, my prayer is that in just this small way, if I use a term like “I am blessed” it will raise a question in someone’s mind. It will make their ear’s prick up in interest, it will drive them to ask more about being blessed and subsequently the faith that I have in our great God that provide’s for all my needs. A bit like the mighty Oak that grows from the tiny Acorn, we should look to these small ways that can and I pray, do make a difference.

Job 1v1

Today’s post is from the notes that I used when I was asked to speak at the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in 2018.

Our church takes the service in the chapel at the HRI twice a year and it is my privilege at the moment to speak into this place at the times we do take it.

I often will rely on something that God has spoken to me through and this time we had been studying Job in our Saturday morning mens bible studies. Job is an Old Testament book that I find fascinating.

Many scholars consider it to be one of the oldest books written, pre-dating the Books of Moses and probably known by Abraham.

If this is in fact the case, it is interesting because it testifies to a deep knowledge of God within mankind well before the Law was given to Moses and supports ails contention in Romans Chapter 1 that mankind is without excuse because God has revealed Himself to us in creation and depending upon how we respond to that, will depend on how God will respond to us. It also helps in a deeper understanding of the great hall fo faith chapter in Hebrews chapter 11.

The book of Job is an epic poem and the last few verses where God speaks into Jobs situation are epic in themselves and offer a deep spiritual insight into the nature and Character of our creator God. These chapters where God speaks are made even more dramatic when one reads them after to toning a froing between Job and his supposed friends.

Anyway the reading is short, the notes are short but I hope that they help your interest in this most amazing of books . Ancient it certainly is. Relevant it certainly is. Thought provoking defiantly, challenging yes. A blessing simply put yes. Read enjoy and be blessed.

Job 1:1-5

Job

A Man Devoted to God

Job was a man who lived in Uz. He was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God and hated evil with a passion. He had seven sons and three daughters. He was also very wealthy—seven thousand head of sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred teams of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and a huge staff of servants—the most influential man in all the East!

His sons used to take turns hosting parties in their homes, always inviting their three sisters to join them in their merrymaking. When the parties were over, Job would get up early in the morning and sacrifice a burnt offering for each of his children, thinking, “Maybe one of them sinned by defying God inwardly.” Job made a habit of this sacrificial atonement, just in case they’d sinned.

This morning I want to concentrate on Verse 1:

The English Standard Version puts verse 1 like this:

Job 1:1

Job’s Character and Wealth

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

One of the amazing things that I have found about the Bible is that there is so much we can glean about the Character of God, Man and God’s expectations of us. And oftentimes we can learn so much from just one verse. Job Chapter 1 Vs. 1 is I believe one such verse.

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

Verse 1: There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job.

What does this tell us straight away?

The story took place in a geographic Location Uz, even though we may not be sure of the exact location of Uz today. God knew where Job was, God was looking out for Job.

The story is a personal one. It is not just about a man, but is about a man called Job

Thus, God’s dealings are personal – Why is this important? Because God wants to deal with each and every one of us on a personal level. You me, the person sitting next to you, the person in the next bed, everyone on this planet is important to God and He knows each of us by name.

The God of the Bible is a personal God.

Blameless, Upright, Feared God and Turned from Evil – What an amazing epitaph that would be!

What does each of these indicate about Jobs character?

BLAMELESS: Some versions use perfect, but blameless is a better translation of the word. It does not mean sinless, there has only ever been one sinless man and that Was Jesus Christ, and indeed it cannot mean that Job was sinless as he confesses himself at 13:26 the iniquities of his youth.

Fundamentally this speaks of authenticity before God. Whilst still someone who failed from time to time, he knew that his standing before a righteous God was right. He confessed his sins, his wrong doings his failures and maintained his relationship with his creator, even to the point of offering sacrifices on behalf of his children whom he feared might slight the name of God.

UPRIGHT: Speaks of his relationships with others. He is seen to be upright, straightforward, not doubleminded, honest, Genuine?

Job 31:13-23 is Job testimony to the effect of his dealing with other people go away and read it at your leisure.

DO you know anyone who is genuine? When you do come across such people you find that you can trust them, they are authentic, what you see is what you get. They are not hiding anything, they do not have an hidden agenda, they look out for others needs, oftentimes at the sacrifice of their own needs. This is what it is to be blameless before God.

The two greatest commandments are Love the Lord your God with All your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul, and Love your neighbour as yourself. A blameless person seeks to fulfil both those commandments above all others.

FEARED GOD: We don’t know how much Job knew about God, especially if we understand that these events occurred pre-Moses and the Law but there is a sense where that is un-important. What is important? If we don’t realize it yet you will if you continue to read the book of Job, that whoever Job was, whatever his ethnic origin, which is probably not Hebrew/Jewish, Job knew God! Is there a lesson here for us today that its not what we know about God that is vital but that we know Him?

As you read through Job, you will observe that Job believed God was Sovereign, Just and had the power to run the world the way God saw fit, marked by justice and fairness.

TURNED FROM EVIL: Jobs character is marked by daily repentance, habitual turning from evil in thought and deed and word. The sacrifices we read about that he made on behalf of his children all point to this. Not only did he watch out for evil in his own life and turn from it, he also petitioned God on behalf of those he loved.

Job is thus not perfect, but he is bracketed together with Noah and Daniel In Ezekiel 14:14 “Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in a land, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness”

These men all lived prior to the coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, so what was the nature of their righteousness? Good works, observance of the Law? They probably did these thing in abundance but it was their faith that made them righteous.

If you do not have faith yet in Jesus Christ, you can turn to him now where you are in whatever situation you find yourself and ask Him to make Himself known to you

Solomon’s Wisdom

The Wisdom of Solomon.

Imagine the scene, the Queen of Sheba had heard of the the wisdom of this Hebrew king. I suspect it started with the odd comment here and there in her royal courts, her officials who would trade with travelling merchants might have picked up snippets of information, stories told and re-told about how this king could give answers to any dilemma put to him. I imagine the story of the two prostitutes arguing over the baby and whose the baby was, was rampant throughout trade routes between Israel and the rest of the then known world. But the queen, she would keep her own counsel for many a long period. Listening to the stories, the tales that were been told of this Solomon, reputed to be the wises man alive!

Now bear in mind back then there was no mass media, no newspaper, no telegraph, no radio, no TV, no telephone, no internet, no e-mail, no instant messenger. It would have taken time for the reputation of Solomon to grow and become so great that the queen of another kingdom could no longer bear the mystery of it all and decided to set of on a journey to meet this man of such fame and basically test him!

Imagine it, a foreign dignitary arriving with all the pomp and circumstance that could be mustered at the time. I’m sure that as Solomon stood in the windows of his recently completed palace he would have seen the dust cloud first, the sand of the desert volatile in the air as the queen and her entourage disturbed the dusty sand drawing inexorably closer to the great city of Jerusalem. He would have stood and watched as his courtiers prepared for the visiting queen, making sure that the palace was impeccable, they after all would not have wanted to let their king down.

The Queen, I am sure would have been impressed, after all the world had not seen such a magnificent temple dedicated to any god built like this before and Solomon’s palace would have been second only to the temple in its magnificence and grandeur. I’m sure whilst on the outside she would have kept her feelings hidden she must have felt a jolt of excitement that at least on face value the stories of Solomon’s wealth were not exaggerated. But she had come, bearing gifts, to test his wisdom. And test it she would!

Following her arrival she questioned him exhaustively until as the Bible records:

1 Kings 10:1-5 (ESVST)

Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. And when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more breath in her.

Then she concludes:

1 Kings 10:6-7 (ESVST)

And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard.

Now those words are a study in themselves there is much to plunder them about seeing and believing and listening to the testimony of others, but that is not what I want to draw out in this post.

Rather I want to ask a question.

What was Solomon’s wisest act or decision?

Was it writing all those wonderful nuggets of wisdom in the proverbs?

Or maybe the writing of the greatest love poem ever written in Song of Songs?

Was it the recorded incident of the two prostitutes arguing over the baby? Solomon realised that there was no way of deciding which of the two was telling the truth from the way they were talking to him in seeking his counsel. So Solomon suggested something which on face value could be seen as an act of exasperation.

Picture it, you have two, presumably highly emotional women arguing over something as precious as a new born baby. Neither is seeing reason, one because she is desperate, she has lost her baby to the other woman and desperately wants her child back. The other, presumably because she was a scheming devious woman who, even in a highly charged emotional state of post child birth and being responsible for her own babies death, was going all out for making sure she came away with a child!

I can imagine Solomon, looking first to one, then the other and eventually throwing his hands up in the air and blurting out in a loud voice:

“Okay, okay, okay, just shut up the two of you, I know what I will do, fetch me my sword and I’ll cut the baby in half and you can both leave me in peace and quiet with your own half of the baby.”

If this had happened I suspect there would have been stunned silence. After all this was the king speaking. The implications of the argument would have laid heavily on the mind and heart of the true mother of the baby and unlike the woman who had stolen the baby she relented and said no, give the baby to the other woman.

But you know I don’t think this is how it played out. Why? Because if it had Solomon’s words would have been borne out of his exasperation in the situation not his faith in God. Instead what I prefer to believe is that Solomon knew he was in an impossible position and so he asked God to guide him. And God gave him the words to say. But more importantly he also gave him the wisdom to analyse the resultant reactions and to make the wise decision that the true mother of the baby would not wish any harm to come to her child, even if it meant losing that child.

But even in this, the story that is recorded in the Bible as an example of Solomon’s wisdom I do not think was Solomon’s wisest act or decision. I think we have to go back further in Solomon’s history way back to the beginning of his reign. Before he had even really started in earnest to rule the people of Israel, Solomon uttered these words to God:

1 Kings 3:9 (ESVST)

Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

This pleased God because despite his position of privilege Solomon asked for wisdom above all else. He did not think to feather his own nest or seek long life, he sought the wisdom to govern Gods people properly.

I think there is a principle here that we can all learn from. I think the same principle was uttered by Jesus in his words found in Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Put God first, others second and yourself last.

You see, I believe Solomon was putting God first because he knew he was being charged with ruling over Gods people and at this time in his life he really wanted to do it properly in accordance with Gods will. By default this put him in the position of putting others second, in Solomon’s case, the whole nation of Israel. And because he had not sought to ask God for riches, wealth or long life he was not thinking of himself or his own comforts.

I pray that through His grace, God can make me more like that.