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Bible verses about Separation from God
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 3:7-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Genesis 3:7-10 illustrates how no one is ever quite the same after sinning with knowledge. Notice Adam and Eve's sin occurs after God had instructed them (Genesis 2:16-17). Nobody had to tell them they had done wrong—they knew! Now they looked at things differently than they had before; a sense of wrong rushed in on them immediately. Just moments before, all had been friendly and joyful. All of nature seemed obedient to their every wish, and life was good. Suddenly, however, they felt guilt and fear, and it seemed as if every creature in the Garden had witnessed their act and condemned them. Feeling exposed, they sought to hide, illustrating that separation from the purity of God began immediately. The virtue of their innocence began to lose its luster.

David writes in Psalm 40:11-13:

Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O LORD; let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart fails me. Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me; O LORD, make haste to help me!

Sin creates a sense of estrangement from God, leaving a tarnishing film on a person's mind. Paul reminds Titus, "To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled" (Titus 1:15). Sin perverts the mind so that one does not look at life in the same way as before. Jeremiah 6:15 describes a sickening end to repeated sin:

"Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down," says the LORD.

Some children are adorable because we love to see the beauty of their innocence. But what happens on the trip to adulthood? Sin alters the way a person looks at life and the world. With maturity, people become distrustful, sophisticated, competitive, cosmopolitan, cynical, suspicious, sarcastic, prejudiced, self-centered, and uninvolved. It is sin that drives people apart and creates fear.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment


 

Genesis 3:22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Exile is a form of punishment that God has used from the very beginning. Here in Genesis 3, in the book of beginnings, we have the first instance of exile imposed by God Himself. It was exile from the Garden of Eden, from all that was wonderful and good that God had created, the perfect environment in which He had placed Adam and Eve. They could never go back. God placed an angel with a flaming sword that would turn whichever way any man juked to get back. If it were still there, it would deny us "paradise" even now.

This context shows three reasons we can glean to determine why God uses exile. The first one is evident—it was punishment for their sins. Adam and Eve took of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil when God said they should not take of it. That is sin, breaking a direct command of God. Exile was the punishment.

What else can we glean? What did their exile do? It separated them from access to Him. So, secondly, exile separates man from God. He does not want to be separated from us, but because of sin, it happens. It must happen because He does not like sin in the least. So this is a kind of corollary to the first point. Sin brings exile, and sin causes separation from God.

The third point must be read into it, but it is obvious from God's intent and the way God is. God imposes exile to spur repentance because it should be the natural inclination of men who have known God and all the glorious things that we can have in His presence to return to His good graces.

In summary, the first point is exile occurs because of sin. The second point is exile happens because sinners must be separated from God. And the third point is God uses exile as a goad to motivate sinners to repent.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
How to Survive Exile


 

Genesis 3:22-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Now the separation is very clear, and mankind is cut off from God and from the Holy Spirit. The episode in the garden of Eden, as it is recorded, makes it clear that humanity took itself away from God, not the other way around. In addition, Genesis 3 gives no indication that Adam and Eve wanted the breach to be healed. All they did was justify themselves—Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Genesis 3:23-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sin was introduced and destroyed man's relationship with God, so God drove man out of the Garden. Practically every picture or painting of this scene shows God leading them out. But this is incorrect! He “drove them out,” implying a punishing anger. Their relationship was broken. A major principle is shown at the very beginning of the Bible: Sin destroys relationships and produces separation.

To understand this further, it is good to understand that at the heart of sin is the concept of failure. It is a specific kind of failure, producing a specific result and a specific fruit. Genesis 2 and 3 teach that sin is the failure to maintain a relationship, first with God, and secondly with man. Sin produces separation, first with God, and secondly with man. Eventually, sin produces death—the first death—and then the ultimate separation from which there can never be another relationship, the second death.

In addition to being separated from fellowship with God, Adam and Eve were also separated from the Tree of Life and access to the Holy Spirit.

A very clear progression is shown in the breaking of Adam and Eve's relationship with God:

1. They became convinced that their way was better than God's.

2. They became self-conscious, and they hid from God.

3. They tried to justify and defend what they did.

In order to build a relationship with God, those steps must be reversed:

1. We must drop every excuse and every justification.

2. We must drop our pride and stop hiding from God, thinking He is unaware of what is going on.

3. We must become convinced that God's way is better than ours.

Genesis 3:24 says that the Tree of Life is guarded. The Holy Spirit is guarded. We understand this symbolically, making it clear that our way back to the Tree of Life and access to the Holy Spirit is not going to be easy. In fact, it is impossible! No human being is going to get past a cherub.

There is no relationship possible with God until He removes the barrier. He then personally and individually invites us to come back. But how do we "come back" when we never had a relationship with Him before? We were separated from Him through the sin of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve had a relationship with Him, and Adam and Eve represent all of mankind. Therefore, in God's mind, we had a relationship, but we wrecked it in the persons of Adam and Eve. God invites us back into a relationship with Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 6)


 

Genesis 3:24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Not only were Adam and Eve and their progeny separated from God and removed from dwelling with Him in the Garden of Eden, they were also separated from the source of life, the Tree of Life! The tragic results are evident for anyone to see! Throughout the Bible, God simply and clearly expounds upon the results of sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

Genesis 11:6-9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The people were uniting themselves in disagreement against God, led by the arch-criminal and mastermind of this project, Nimrod. This time, instead of wiping them out in death as He had done through the Flood, God permitted them to live, but He segregated them by confusing their means of communication. In the end, they are separated from one another. All their glorious plans of building a great city and tower had to be abandoned because they could not communicate with each other.

Another tragic resulted from what happened in Genesis 11. All of these people who were scattered over the face of the earth were also separated from the holy line—a family through which God almost exclusively worked, that began with Shem. Actually, the line began after the death of Abel with Seth, the son of Adam, and came down through Enoch to Noah and from Noah to Shem. From Shem the descent finally produced Abraham. After Babel, the scattered people were, in fact, not only separated from that holy line, but also from God's Word, which this family preserved and passed down. This was another tragic result of their sin!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

Leviticus 16:20-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is what will occur to one who will not allow his mind to change and turn to God: eternal separation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

2 Samuel 12:9-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

King David's excursion into adultery reveals that, regardless of one's state in life, one cannot commit it without damaging relationships any more than murder. II Samuel 12:9-14 describes the cause-and-effect process.

Sin produces two overall effects: First, because of the breach of trust, it creates division between us and God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Second, it produces evil results in the world. Upon true repentance, God's merciful forgiveness cancels out the first. However, the second remains, and the sinner must bear it and - tragically - so must those caught within its web. As a result of David's sin, five people, including four of David's sons, died directly or indirectly: Uriah, the illegitimate baby, Absalom, Amnon, and Adonijah!

But the punishment did not end there. II Samuel 16:20-22 relates another step in the unfolding of this sin's effect:

Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, "Give counsel as to what we should do." And Ahithophel said to Absalom, "Go in to your father's concubines, whom he has left to keep the house; and all Israel will hear that you are abhorred by your father. Then the hands of all who are with you will be strong." So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the top of the house, and Absalom went in to his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel.

II Samuel 20:3 adds a final note on this event:

Now David came to his house at Jerusalem. And the king took the ten women, his concubines whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in seclusion and supported them, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood.

God prophesied it, and Absalom and Ahithophel used it politically to discredit David and elevate Absalom. It illustrates Absalom's disrespect for his father, which was at least partly rooted in his father's notorious sex life. Did the adultery make the concubines' lives better? "Can a man take fire to his bosom and . . . not be burned?" (Proverbs 6:27). No, he cannot. Not only is he burned, but those close to him also suffer because this sin's penalty reaches out to destroy what should be very dear and cherished relationships.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment (1997)


 

Psalm 22:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The psalm begins with perhaps the most heart-rending cry in history: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Psalm 22:1). As Matthew and Mark attest, Jesus Himself spoke these words as He was about to die: "And about the ninth hour [mid-afternoon] Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matthew 27:46; see also Mark 15:34).

Our Savior's cry of abandonment marks His awareness that His Father had indeed turned from Him, being burdened and defiled by all human sin (Isaiah 53:6; II Corinthians. 5:21; Hebrews 2:9). As Isaiah 59:2 informs us, "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." Because He had never been sinful, Jesus had never known separation from the Father, and His feeling of desertion and rejection may have been the deepest cut of all.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
David the Prophet


 

Psalm 22:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Consider Christ on stake. He asks, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" And then He thinks of the holy God, the object of all our praise! With the sins of humanity on Him, He is not worthy to have God with Him, for God is holy and cannot stand sin. So His statements in verse 6 describe the gulf between Himself and the Father.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Christ's Death, Resurrection, and Ascension


 

Psalm 69:1-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

David was inspired to prophesy of more details of Jesus' agony at this separation from His Father. Note the words, "while I wait for my God." Even though their separation was only to last for a little more than three days (the actual period depending on the instant that the Father found it necessary to turn away from His beloved Son), and even though Jesus was only alive and conscious for less than a day of this time, any separation at all was almost unbearable for them both. This was certainly the prime case when, with the Lord, one day—His last human day—felt like a thousand years (II Peter 3:8), and to His Father, the three and a half days of separation felt like three and a half thousand years. It is likely that Jesus' human patience was never tried more than during these hours when He had to wait for His reunification with His Father. How wonderful it would be if we—Jesus' brothers and sisters—would have even a fraction of His desire to be with the Father constantly and to have the Father constantly with us! How profitable it would be if we would cease shutting Him out of most of our thoughts, our words, our deeds . . . our lives!

David's prophetic verses picture the human Jesus as losing His footing and sinking in the filthy, putrid mud of the world's sins. We do not like to think of our perfect Lord in this low condition: weary with crying, throat dried out, eyesight failing Him. It must have taken every ounce of Jesus' strength to continue His human sojourn through to the very end. But He bore this agony, knowing that He must wait for the final acts of His human saga to play out before He could be reunited with His loving Father.

Staff
Jesus' Final Human Thoughts (Part Two)


 

Isaiah 1:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse says the same thing in more detail as what Peter writes in Acts 3:19: "Repent." That is how the breach, the separation, between God and man will be healed. That is how atonement is made. Atonment is not all something that Christ does. There will never be oneness with God until man does something with his free moral agency.

The problem in Isaiah 1 is a hypocritical people just going through the motions. They were observing the rituals: burning incense, making the sacrifices. Yet, at the same time, their daily lives were filled with all kinds of unlawful acts—business shenanigans—that, according to God's law, is taking advantage of others. They were lying about the weights and balances, selling shoddy products, and as a rule, not conducting business in an upright way. They were murdering one another's reputations through gossip, and lying to one another using charm and deceit. God is saying that there lives were full of hypocrisy.

In the same way, people who today claim to be children of God, who attended Sabbath services and holy days yet have a heart full of greed, covetousness, anger, hatred, bitterness, envy, and so on, are simply hypocrites.

As it pertains to us, what we see in Isaiah is that there must be a relationship between worshipping God and our character in its practical aspect out on the streets, in our homes, in the way that we conduct business. We might say our character away from church, out of the eyesight of God's people, must reflect what we profess to believe. How can those who treat their fellows with contempt, greed, envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, and revenge, do those things through the week and then come to church services before God, thinking that somehow or another they are not separated from Him? God says in Matthew 5, "If you have something against your brother, leave your gift at the alter and then first go to your brother and be reconciled, and then come back because the gift will not be accepted." That is quite plain.

Because of all these things, God treated His people Israel in the same way as pagan idols treated their worshippers. Remember, the idols are not alive; they do not have ears that can hear, eyes that can see, or mouths that enable them to speak. So idol worshippers made their lamentations, their prayers, and their praises to their idols, and the idol never responded. God says, "I am going to be just like an idol to you. When you talk to me, I am not going to talk to you, and when you look at me, I am not going to look back at you. I am not going to see you." So in this way, He became as one who is dumb and deaf. He did not respond to their prayers.

It is essential to note that God, in His wisdom, knew before creating mankind that mankind would sin. If there were to be both reconciliation and character building, He would have to provide a means that would not only satisfy the legal requirements, but also contain within it the moral and spiritual influences that would motivate a man to cooperate on his own.

We play a major part in this because God has given us free moral agency. By and large, the Protestant world has convinced Americans, Canadians, and Western Europeans that Christ did it all for us. It is a bald-faced lie! But sometimes, we who know better act as though it all depended on God. God gave us free-moral agency so that we can respond to Him, put His word into practice, and exemplify before others what God is like.

It would be nice to say that we live lives like Christ so much that we could say of ourselves what Christ said: "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." There is a Person who was really at one with God.

What God is trying to do with the things that He has provided—namely, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit—is to motivate man to repent—to change, to turn to God, to resist the desire to continue in sin—to work at building character and learn to live by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Isaiah 1:11-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The separation is not real in the sense of distance. It exists because these people who are bearing God's name—they are His people, having covenanted with Him—have offended Him through acts of disloyalty in their breaking of His commands, and as far as He is concerned the covenant is broken. This separation therefore has to be rectified.

Thus, He can hear, but He will not hear because His mind is made up. Men are giving no indication that, even though they are practicing aspects of His way, they want to be reconciled. Does it not seem logical that, if they really wanted to be reconciled, they would submit to Him? that they would be obedient to Him? that they would come to Him in an attitude of humility, seeking forgiveness?

There is no indication of that in either case where the separation is directly addressed. They are not upholding their end of the covenant.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Azazel Goat


 

Isaiah 59:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sin or iniquity or lawlessness, however we want to read it, is what has caused the need for atonement or reconciliation. Iniquity, sin, and lawlessness produce the opposite of atonement. They produce separation, not coming together. Sin separates and builds barriers between us and God and between us and other people.

He says that He will not hear. We have to understand this. It is not that He cannot hear, but because of sin, He will not hear. God does not sin, so if there is a separation between a man and God—between us and God—then it is because we have done something. We are the ones who are drifting away. However, to the human being, it seems as though God has gone far away, when He has not moved at all.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Isaiah 59:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Despite the fact that man is separated from God, the Bible says very little about it, mostly because the writers of the Bible assume it to be so since the separation of God and man at the very beginning of the Book (Genesis 3:22-24). Everyone who reads the Bible with any kind of understanding recognizes that man and God are not on the same wavelength. They are estranged from one another. Despite so little being written about the separation, a great deal is written about how the two will be reconciled.

Isaiah 59:1-2 is one of the very few places that actually clearly states why the separation exists: because of man's hostility toward God. Paul states in Romans 8:7 that the carnal mind is enmity, hostile, against God, and that hostility, he writes in Ephesians 2:2, is motivated by "the prince of the power of the air." Satan has deceived all of mankind (Revelation 12:9).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fall Feast Lessons


 

Isaiah 59:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is evident from the context that the people had been praying to God and then also complaining that, though they are praying, God is not answering. So Isaiah gives them the real reason why God was not answering: It is not that God is not hearing. He is indeed hearing the people's prayers and their complaints—that is, He is actually hearing the sound. But verses 1-2 make it clear in that God has set His will not to respond.

The reason that Isaiah gives is that there is a separation between the Israelites, the people who are praying, and God. What has caused this separation and made God seem as though He is very far away is their iniquities, their sins. He can hear what they are saying, but sin has caused a separation between them and God.

This is one of the few places in the Old Testament where a separation from God is openly stated. It requires an atoning action to be made if the people are going to be right with God. Something has to be able to bridge the gap that exists.

Even though this is one of the few places where a separation is actually stated, like the ideas of atonement or reconciliation in the New Testament, it is something that is constantly implied. In other words, it is a concept that is always on the edge of what is being written but is rarely openly stated as it is here.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Azazel Goat


 

Isaiah 59:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sin involves man's relationship with his Maker. According to this verse, sin damages and can even sever that relationship: "Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." Crime is offense against man's laws, enacted by human legislative bodies. Which law, according to God's Word, has precedence? In the Bible, God clearly establishes His supreme position, as well as the individual's and human government's relationships to Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment (Part 2): War! (1997)


 

Lamentations 2:13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Breach" has a very interesting usage in the English language as it pertains to our relationship with God and the church's present state. Here is a list of synonyms for "breach" taken from The Reader's Digest Oxford Complete Word Finder: "break, gap, opening, rupture, split, alienation, schism."

The first definition for breach is unusually appropriate as far as the situation in the church is concerned: "the breaking of, or failure to observe a law or contract or standard." We have a covenant, a contract, with God, and He has given us a standard, the Ten Commandments. This sounds a great deal like I John 3:4: "Sin [which separates, creates a breach] is the transgression of the law."

The second definition of breach is also rich: "A breaking of relations; an estrangement; a quarrel, a broken state."

Together, these describe almost exactly what has happened to the church as a result of breaking the covenant (as a result of breaking laws, as a result of sin). There has been a breaking of relations with God because of the church's failure, as a body, to live up to the contract that we made with Him.

Spiritually "a repairer of breaches" is one who restores the right way, beginning with himself. He may have no influence or control over what others do, but he does have control over what he does, and when he repairs his own personal breach with God, the breach in the wall closes a bit. It is as if a stone or a brick were added to the wall—another person is again in a good relationship with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Ezekiel 20:12-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verses 23-24 go on to indicate the consequence of Israel's refusal to become sanctified by obeying God's laws: God says He "lifted [His] hand in an oath, . . . that I would scatter them among the Gentiles and disperse them throughout the countries, because they had not executed My judgments, but had despised My statutes, profaned My Sabbaths. . . ." If Israel insisted on acting like the nations of the world, God says He would physically place them among those nations; Israel would become separated from God and the land He promised them. They would become "sifted" (see Amos 9:9) among the Gentile nations.

Leviticus 18:24-30 outlines the inevitable separation that a nation (or an individual) will undergo as a result of commandment-breaking: "The land vomits out its inhabitants" (verse 25). This is the national consequence of breaking the commandments. God states the result to individuals in verse 29: "Whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people." Vomiting and cutting-off are both metaphors for separation.

Nationally and individually, commandment-breaking always yields the same ultimate punishment: separation from God. That separation may come slowly, as Ecclesiastes 8:11 points out, but always surely.

The history of the children of Israel proves the point. God wanted Israel to be a special, sanctified nation; a holy one. He promised to bestow incredible blessings on it if it acted to separate itself from the social and religious practices of other nations. Israel failed as a nation because it failed to be holy!

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Twelve): The Sign


 

Amos 2:6-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The prophet Amos describes three major sins: the sins of covetousness (verse 6); indifference and oppression of the poor, the needy and the weak (verse 7); and unrestricted promotion of self-advantage (verse 8). These are the effects of rejecting the Teacher, the Instructor.

As Israel's destruction neared, conditions worsened drastically. The courts were totally corrupt with the judges in collusion with the lawyers, selling their verdicts to the highest bidder! Amos says, "Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time, for it is an evil time" (Amos 5:13). God advises that the best thing to do was to remain silent and go on with one's life because one could not get a good judgment from the judges! The best thing to do was to settle out of court, if possible.

All the while this corruption ran rampant in Israel, people were worshipping God in droves! A high percentage of the people attended services and kept the festivals. They pilgrimaged to the centers of religion in Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba where the people kept the feasts. The commentators concede Israel may still have been keeping some of the holy days of God.

Notice what God says:

I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings [worship] and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. (Amos 5:21-23)

God hated their feasts, their offerings, and their singing in His name. The wording indicates nausea! Compare this to Revelation 3:16.

Most likely Israel blended the worship of the true God with the worship of Baal and Ashtoreth and other local deities. Despite their worship, this syncretism caused a separation from God. They were at odds with Him, even though, in their minds, they worshipped Him. Society immediately degenerated because the people's love waxed cold. Their worship produced no good effect because it came from an unrighteous source.

When one studies the New Testament, the pattern unfortunately continues. The history of the true church has been one of waxing and waning purity as well. Generally, brief periods of unity and growth precede longer periods of disunity and stagnation. Small, scattered congregations barely hold themselves together during these times and do no active work.

The pattern is very similar to that established in ancient Israel. God would raise up a man, and he would lead a Work and establish what would be orthodox. As time went by, two groups would emerge. One group would be more conservative, disposed to maintain orthodox doctrine and to hold on to their traditions. The other element would be broader-minded, not bound by orthodox or traditional forms.

The appearance of these two groups presents a Christian with a complex question: "I see it, but what do I do?" Christ answers: "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:15-16).

Such fruit as an increase in marital and relationship problems, uncertain judgment regarding what is right and wrong, a lack of discussion of God and His Word, indifference toward prayer and Bible study, relaxation toward making an effective and powerful work, and similar attitudes are ones of which to be wary. In such an atmosphere, if a Christian is not careful, he can take on the enveloping and smothering attitude that invariably arises, which will eventually snuff out his spiritual life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Amos 3:1-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Prophecy is both practical and positive, not all gloom and doom. Most of prophecy begins negatively but ends positively because God is confident that what He prophesied will accomplish His end, which is always good! Much of the thrust of Amos is an education for catastrophe. Amos followed Elijah about 90-100 years later. During that period, Israel's sins continued to mount horribly. Despite this, they became very wealthy and self-indulgent, even oppressively so.

Religiously, they were trying to walk a tightrope between God and Baal. They were behaving and worshipping like Baal worshippers but doing it in the name of the Lord. Does that not sound familiar to an informed observer of our modern, American scene? People in high places are claiming we all worship the same God; they say the God of Islam and the God of Christianity are the same!

Amos, a Jew from the southern kingdom, was sent by God to preach against the sins of the northern ten tribes. In those from the north, there would be a natural resistance to such an arrangement. The first thing Amos needed to do, then, was establish his authority to preach against them.

The prophet begins in the first two verses with a "thus saith the LORD," providing the foundation for all that follows. He sets out two things that construct a basis for what he says. First, God and Israel have a special relationship: "You only have I known." This phrase indicates a very close bond, as in a marriage, from which ensues the sharing of life's experiences. This ties what Amos would say to correct them to their responsibilities within that close relationship.

Second, he makes a veiled warning, contained within the next five verses: Amos' words carry authority. Israel had better heed because his words are not idle. He establishes this through a series of illustrations posed as challenging questions that can logically be answered only one way. His aim is to awaken them from their spiritual lethargy. It is as if he is saying, "Think about the practical ramifications of this." What follows is a general pattern of God's operation in His people's behalf.

First: People traveling in the same direction toward exactly the same destination would hardly meet except by appointment. It is no accident that God and Israel have this relationship. This also applies on a smaller but more immediate scale: Amos has been sent by appointment, and he does not speak promiscuously. He is there by no accident. His utterances are not his own words; they began with God, who sent them because the close relationship is seriously threatened.

Second: Lions do not roar unless they have taken their prey because they do not want to scare their intended prey away. Israel is God's prey, as it were, and He is not roaring yet. This means, "Take heed! He is stalking you, and you are in mortal danger. Punishment is imminent, at the very door. Beware, for the margin of safety is very slim."

Third: One cannot snare a bird unless a trap is set, and then something—in this case a bird—has to cause the trap to spring shut. This illustration is declaring a cause-and-effect relationship, meaning, "Israel, you are already in the trap, and you, through your conduct, are just about to spring it shut on yourself. Your sins brought this warning, and punishment will follow if you continue sinning."

Fourth: All too often, the alarms go off, and then people take notice. "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11). Amos is declaring that God is involved in His creation; He has not gone way off. The Israelites must not allow themselves to be self-deceived. God is managing it, governing it. His warning of impending calamity would not come if they were not deserving of it. They have been flippantly careless and have no one to blame but themselves.

Fifth: It is illogical to think that God would punish without first warning His people. It is an aspect of His mercy. We can infer that Amos did not choose to be there before them. God appointed him to this task and "caused" him to speak. It is from God that the authority for the prophet's message emanates.

An important overall warning from Amos for those of us who have made the New Covenant with God is that great privileges must not be abused, or they will bring great penalties. To whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48). Our great privilege is to have access to Him and His Spirit, and therefore have a far closer relationship with Him than Israel ever had under the Old Covenant. Israel's sin was first neglecting and then departing from God and the relationship. This in turn produced great moral corruption through self-serving idolatry, illustrated as and called "fornication" in other books.

The overall effect of these sins produced a careless disregard for the simple duties people owe their neighbors, as well as oppression of the weak. Amos speaks strongly against public and private indifference toward the keeping of the second of the two great commandments (Matthew 22:37-40). When these are considered, we see that he is truly a prophet for our time, when public morality has fallen so low. We need to heed His words seriously because our cultural circumstances parallel what Amos confronted in his day.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophecy and the Sixth-Century Axial Period


 

Amos 5:25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The giving of the law at Mount Sinai was the climax of a series of events that began at Passover, the moment and the means of the Israelites' redemption. At Passover they killed a lamb and put the blood on their doorposts. When the death angel passed through to slay the firstborn, those who had blood on the doorposts were spared. God was saving, redeeming, buying back His people.

Mount Sinai adds the other half of the equation. Though redemption through the blood of a lamb (Christ) freed them from sin's dominion and death, the giving of the law at Mount Sinai shows that freeing them is not all that God had in mind. Israel came to Mount Sinai after being redeemed, heard the law, and assented to keep it. God gave the law to show the pattern of life, the principles of righteousness, for the redeemed.

On one side of the coin is grace and on the other is law and obedience. They are harmonious; they cannot be separated. They are both vital parts of the process of sanctification leading to salvation. Grace is given upon repentance from sin, but after repentance, what is a Christian to do with his life? Obedience to God and living a life of holiness become his first priorities, and these work to produce character in the image of God (II Corinthians 3:18).

Amos 5:25 reconfirms that the sacrifice, offering, and shedding of blood is a foundational necessity for a relationship with God. "Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?" The answer is, "Yes." The people were sacrificing, but is that all that they did? He implies that though they were sacrificing, something was missing—obedience to the law.

God told Israel that He would dwell in the Tabernacle, specifically the Holy of Holies, the symbolism of which we need to understand. The most important piece of furniture inside the Holy of Holies was the Mercy Seat, a wooden chest overlaid with gold. Its lid functioned as the seat. Inside the chest, under the seat, were stored the two tablets of stone, symbolizing God sitting on His law, the basis of His judgment.

When one sins, he begins to separate himself from fellowship with God (Isaiah 59:1-2). He is no longer permitted, as it were, to come into the Holy of Holies. What means did God provide to heal the broken relationship, to restore the fellowship?

One might think that the giving of a sin offering would appease God, and He would forgive the sin. However, Hebrews 10:4 is very clear: "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins." Then why did God have the Israelites make these sacrifices? "But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year" (verse 3). As Amos does not mention the sin offering in Amos 5:22, it seems that Israel did not even make the attempt to be reminded of sin.

So how was fellowship restored? On the Day of Atonement, once a year, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the Mercy Seat with blood. God's intent in this ritual was to show people that their transgressions of His law were covered by the blood. The redeemed were again in fellowship with God.

The blood and the law are essential parts for maintaining the correct relationship with God. The law is permanent and codifies the nature of God in precepts to help us understand Him clearly. Obedience to His law is a perpetual requirement, with blood available to cover any transgression of it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Matthew 26:28  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The English word "remission" here indicates that the sins flowed out with Jesus' blood. This word is translated from the Greek word aphesis, which can also mean "release" or "liberty," as in the release of blood previously contained by the body's arteries and veins. This word aphesis stems from the word aphiemi, which means "yield up" or "expire." The word aphiemi, in turn, stems from the words apo and hiemi, which together mean "let go" or "sent forth by separation," as in a violent separation of the blood from the body's pressurized circulatory system (which, in Jesus' case, resulted in His complete separation from His Father in death). When God the Father laid the sins of the world upon the head of His beloved Son, they passed into and contaminated Him. They remained in Him until they were poured out with His shed blood.

Staff
Jesus' Final Human Thoughts (Part Two)


 

Matthew 26:37-38  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The depth of Jesus' sorrow exceeded that of any man, either before or since these final moments of His human freedom:

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow, which has been brought on me, which the Lord has inflicted in the day of His fierce anger. From above He has sent fire into my bones, and it overpowered them; He has spread a net for my feet and turned me back; He has made me desolate and faint all the day. (Lamentations 1:12-13)

Note the words "all the day." Jesus, on this last day of His human life, would be afflicted with utter desolation and faintness. We cannot comprehend the level of incomparable sorrow and distress into which Jesus descended on His arrival at Gethsemane. Our modern ideas of depression do not even come near it. The words "even to death" in Matthew 26:38 strongly suggest that, had He sunk any lower, He would have died right then and there. But He was determined to stay alive because He knew that the time set for His death had not yet come and that, to fulfill all things, He had to carry the sins of the world for several hours more.

We tend to equate agony with great bodily pain, but even though no one had physically laid a finger on Jesus at this point, His time of great agony had begun: "And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke 22:44).

But why did our Savior suddenly become so very sorrowful? What was in His mind that brought such agonizing sorrow upon Him? Was it because of the despite and rejection by every generation of mankind? Or that His closest friends were either betraying Him or forsaking Him? Was it because He feared the fast approaching hours of physical torture? Or that He dreaded the blackness of death itself? These may have been factors, but the evidence renders it more likely that the major reasons were these:

» The humanly unbearable weight and pain of the knowledge and burden of seven thousand years of mankind's sins.

» The horrifying fact that, as the sins of the world were being laid upon Him, He was actually becoming the sin of the world (II Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13).

» The knowledge that His Father must now turn away from Him because of the sin that He—Jesus—bore and was now becoming.

» The thought of the fast approaching, total separation from His Father.

On this last point, Isaiah 53:8 prophesies that Jesus would be "cut off from the land of the living." He was to be cut off from His human brothers and sisters who were imperfect, who enjoyed a temporary, physical life, but whose sins had caused His suffering and death. More importantly and painfully for Him, He was to be cut off from communication with His perfect, loving, and eternal Father: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?'" (Matthew 27:46)

"Forsaken" comes from the Greek verb egkataleipo, indicating that Jesus, in the delirium that preceded His death, was crying out to His Father, "Why have You deserted Me? Why have You left Me behind in this place?"

Staff
Jesus' Final Human Thoughts (Part One)


 

Matthew 26:39-44  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Perhaps it was not just the approaching physical torture that Jesus dreaded as He made this plea to His Father. For every microsecond of eternity (with the possible two exceptions of His time in Mary's womb and His human babyhood), He had enjoyed a level of consciousness, involvement, control, and communication with God the Father that no other human could even begin to comprehend. It must have been almost intolerable for the Son of God, the great YHWH of the Old Testament, to contemplate being totally unconscious and "out of the picture," even for a mere 72 hours.

Jesus' agony no doubt included the foreknowledge of the spiritual torture of billions of sins committed throughout human history being laid on His innocent head. Jesus knew that His mind would soon become besmirched, infected, and injected with every filthy sin that man had ever committed in the past and would commit from that time on.

God tells us in I Corinthians 15:56, "The sting of death is sin." Most of us have been stung by a spider, bee, wasp, or hornet. The pain of an insect sting increases rapidly as its poison spreads through the blood vessels, deep into the body part that has been stung, and it can sometimes be almost unbearable. Nevertheless, it is impossible for us to imagine a fraction of the spiritual agony that those billions of "stings of death" caused our Savior as all the sins of the world were laid upon Him.

With all His might, He strove to dwell on better things (Philippians 4:8). He struggled to look beyond those hours of torture, despite His foreknowledge of their severity. Jesus knew what would happen after this day of agony and shame that was just beginning. More than any other human being who ever lived, He understood what lay beyond the split second of death and His short stay in the tomb. Just hours before this prayer in Gethsemane, He had spoken joyfully to His Father about their approaching reunion and regaining His former glory (John 17:5, 11, 13).

How did King Nebuchadnezzar feel when God gave him back his status as a real human being and a great king after living the existence of the lowest, slinking animal in the wild (Daniel 4:29-36)? How much more did Jesus look forward to waking after three days and three nights in the tomb as the Eternal God!

Did Jesus look forward to His death? No. He looked beyond His hours of suffering and beyond the instant of His death. He looked forward to life!

Staff
Death of a Lamb


 

Matthew 27:46  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Could it be that this provides insight into the only thing He feared - the loss of contact and communication with His Father - and that He did not know what He would do then?

We need to consider this deeply and appreciatively because this is the great gift made available to us by Christ's sacrifice. Fellowship with God, being at peace with Him, and having access to Him are admittance to the very fountain of living waters. We can safely say that, once our sins are covered by Christ's blood, access to God is the source of all spiritual strength and growth because the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us (Romans 5:1-5).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Six): The Sin Offering


 

Luke 15:13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The far country symbolizes forgetfulness of God (Deuteronomy 8:11, 14, 19), the condition Paul describes as "alienated from the life of God" (Ephesians 4:17-19). All the dissatisfied young man wants to do is to satisfy his senses and desires. After disillusionment, destitution, and degradation, the prodigal, feeling no longer worthy to be called a son, decides to ask his father to make him one of his servants.

The far country is the place people go to remove themselves as far from God the Father as possible. It represents the world, the place where evil flourishes, where it is the norm, popular, and acceptable. In it, the perversions of society—lying, adultery, abortion, homosexuality, and many others—are tolerated and even celebrated (I John 2:15-17).

The far country signifies the abode of the ungodly, those with whom the prodigal son feels most comfortable. The righteous cause him discomfort because he cannot over-drink, smoke, cuss, or tell dirty jokes when he is with them. The godly stifle him because he feels pressured to produce the fruit of self-control. The far country is the state of mind that is enmity toward God (Romans 8:7).

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Luke 15 (Part Three)


 

Luke 22:42  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We can learn much of Jesus' submission to the Father from His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His crucifixion. This comes from the heart of a man described as meek and lowly of heart. His words paint a vivid picture of what was going through His mind. Sometime during His life, He had likely witnessed a crucifixion, but even if He had not, He certainly had heard one described. As quick of mind as He was, He could clearly envision what lay before Him. Undoubtedly, He anticipated great bodily pain, understanding Isaiah 52:14 to predict He would suffer pain as nobody else ever had. In addition, He had to bear the pressure of resisting the urge to break faith and sin under the burden of the guilt of all mankind's sins that would come upon Him.

He also knew He would have the embarrassment of all the indignities heaped upon Him, knowing full well He was innocent. He had to battle demons throughout His ordeal. Perhaps the most dreaded burden of all was knowing that He would be cut off from God and have to bear everything alone. Yet He did it! Jesus—by faith—consciously chose to submit to the Father based on His knowledge of the Most High.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sovereignty and Its Fruit: Part Ten


 

John 17:20-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Salvation can easily and accurately be described as "being at one with God." As long as we are separated from God, we do not have salvation. When we are "at one" with God, it means that we are becoming like Him, that we are walking along the same path with Him and will be saved.

Jesus Christ's death bridges this impossible situation for us. We can then begin to contribute to being at one with God. What remains yet undone, despite the gap being bridged, is a change in character and in attitude that must be worked in us in order for us to become like God. It takes living God's way for us to become like God. This is why humility is necessary.

We can see from Jesus' prayer and from our own experience (and from the history of man) that mankind is not at one with God, yet that is God's aim. Satan motivated Adam and Eve, and subsequently all the rest of mankind, to separate themselves from God. As long as Satan can keep us separated from Him, salvation is impossible. Satan's thinking, which was passed on to Adam and Eve and then to us, is that we all have the right to set our own standards or codes of right and wrong. He has convinced mankind that they have the same prerogatives and that these Satan-inspired, man-made standards can produce abundant prosperity, good health, peace, and a sense of well-being in our lives.

But they do not, and that is the problem! Humbling oneself means giving up that devilish notion and submitting to what God says. He has given us free moral agency to choose whether to obey His standards and codes, not the freedom to set our own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

Romans 1:18-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Not only does Satan's deception play a part in man's separation from God, but God's Word also shows that there is a willfulness involved in man's choice of the direction in which he is headed. Men "suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest to them"!

In his deception, Satan has been so forceful, his argument so "good," that sincere men will argue and fight against God, thinking they are serving God. Jesus prophesied that people will kill in the name of God and think, sincerely, that they are doing God a service (John 16:2). How effective Satan has been—and is—with his deceptions!

If he has been that effective in deceiving people, how wide is the gulf that separates mankind from God? It is so wide that in the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16, it is described as "impassable," and so it is. Sin brought death, and for humans to bridge the gap to eternal life is impossible.

Mankind is in a horrible state when one looks at it from the evidence that God has on His side. We deserve every bit of pain, torment, hurt, and anxiety that might come our way. We have no basis at all for complaining to God that we deserve His mercy and forgiveness. God has every right, based on our sinful activities, to do what He could do, but in His mercy, will not do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

Ephesians 1:10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We say that we are "in Christ." We say that there is "one church." We say that there is "one Body," "one Family," "one Kingdom." What is said here in Ephesians 1 is where God is headed with all this. He will unite everybody who has ever been born and makes it into His Kingdom into one—one family, the God Family—one kingdom, the Kingdom of God. The church is simply the beginning of an awesome process—a tremendous project—that will eventually cover the 50 or 60 billion people who have ever lived on the face of this earth.

We who are now begotten children of God are at the prow of the ship, as it were, cutting the water as we forge ahead. It is our calling to have gotten in on the ground floor, the very beginning of the process. We have entered the process even before all of the great men and women we have read about in the histories of the nations. They will get their opportunity, but we are way ahead of them.

Why has God had to do this? The basic cause is what happened in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve sinned. Sin is disruptive; it divides, and it divided our first parents away from the one Family. As Paul says in Romans 5:12, "All have sinned." We have all sinned—maybe not exactly as Adam and Eve did, but everybody has sinned. We have followed our parents in becoming separated from God. Sin divides away from God, and man from man. The world has been shattered by sin. One could say, then, that the central object of salvation is to reunite all mankind into one Family.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 6): Ephesians 4 (C)


 

Ephesians 2:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One cannot be separated from God any further than this verse describes.

The Bible's general approach to man's estrangement from God is that it is a fact without dispute. It assumes that the separation is there and that there is good reason for it. The separation is obvious from Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden. They and all mankind were now separated from the presence of God, so every biblical writer after picked up on this fact and assumed everybody knew that man is separated from God.

Atonement, therefore, is necessary if God and man are ever going to be brought back together. So the New Testament approach to it is that our disobedience to God's will—what we know as sin—has alienated us from Him, and that it must be somehow remedied if a right relationship is to be restored.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Azazel Goat


 

Ephesians 2:13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In this context, Paul is speaking specifically to the Gentiles, but in principle, it applies to all of us too—because we too have been far from God. We have been so far from Him that, as Paul writes at the beginning of the chapter, as far as God was concerned, we were dead. He quickened us (made us alive) through knowledge of Himself and His purpose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 6): Ephesians 4 (C)


 

Ephesians 2:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

People like to construe this "middle wall" as being the law, but this is wrong. The middle wall is sin, the breaking of the law. The law gives strength to sin—because, if there were no law, there would be no sin. Thus, it is not the law that "stands between" but sin (Isaiah 59:2). All the law does is tell people how to live—Jew or Gentile, it does not matter. Peace, which did not exist because of our sins, had to be made; we were at war with God. That separation, the gap caused by sin, is bridged by Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 6): Ephesians 4 (C)


 

Colossians 1:21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The New Testament frequently implies a separation between God and man, even though the subject of atonement is not directly named. If we are alienated—if we are enemies—surely a reconciliation has to take place.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Azazel Goat


 

James 3:13-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We can see here why sin involves so much division: There is a demonic influence. Satan is clearly stirring people up against one another and against God. He does not do it openly or blatantly, but he influences them through their flesh to go in a certain direction. Most people have no defense against this, and the result is division among themselves and from God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

1 Peter 5:6-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Satan may or may not be the cause of the situation, but even if he is not, he is prowling around to take advantage of it, in the hopes that he might pick us off. What does the roaring lion most likely attack? The strays, the ones on the fringes, and those not keeping up with the flock. Spiritually, the ones most likely to be attacked are those who are not spiritually with it. Wearied by a barrage of problems, they begin to separate themselves, then Satan, the roaring lion, picks them off.

He is especially adept at taking advantage of people's feelings. All too often, we are dominated by our emotions rather than facts or, we could say, the truth of God. In such a circumstance, it is easy for us to get our feelings hurt, ignore the facts, and proceed to lie to ourselves, just as Satan did to himself when he first sinned.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

1 John 1:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Someone who is guilt-ridden and conscience-stricken because of sin, rather than seeking fellowship with God, will shy away from Him just as Adam and Eve did. After their sin, they ran, not to Him, but from Him—they hid from God (Genesis 3:8-10). Is there a more powerful act that we, as Christians, can do to demonstrate our desire to run to God rather than from Him—to demonstrate the strength of our desire to fellowship—than to pray always?

A lack of desire to fellowship with God and Christ is a distinctive trait of a Laodicean (Revelation 3:18-20). We live in an era when people are apathetic about having a true relationship with God. No professing Christian would admit that he would not care to eat a meal with and fellowship with Jesus Christ, yet He reports that in His own church, some will not rouse themselves to fellowship with Him, though they know that He knocks at the door. By their inaction, they choose not to fellowship with Him.

In fact, they are so far from Him that they do not even see their need! A terrible cycle of cause-and-effect is created: no awareness of need, no desire; no desire, no prayer; no prayer, no relationship; no relationship, no awareness of need. It runs in a vicious circle.

God offers us, not just endless life, but even more—eternal, close fellowship with Him. That is part of our reward as firstfruits (Revelation 3:12, 21). But how does God know if we want to fellowship with Him forever? How can He determine about us, as He said about Abraham in Genesis 22:12: "Now I know"? Simply, if we are earnestly seeking fellowship with Him right now, in this life, our actions prove—just as Abraham's actions were proof—that we sincerely desire to fellowship with Him forever.

What is the major way God gives us to show our desire for eternal fellowship with Him? Prayer! Through prayer, especially praying always, we are consciously deciding to place ourselves in God's presence—to have fellowship with Him and to acknowledge our vital need for Him.

As an example of this, David writes in Psalm 27:8: "When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face, Lord, I will seek.'" The Amplified Bible expands the idea of "seek My face" as "inquire for and require My presence as your vital need." In everything we say or do, we are to acknowledge His presence in our lives and give thanks for it (Colossians 3:17). Our praying always should also include thanksgiving to God for the many blessings He provides to sustain us, prosper us, and perfect us.

Considering this idea of eternal fellowship, it should come as no surprise that by striving to pray always we are in training to do now what we will be doing for eternity—closely fellowshipping with God. It is one reason why we have been called and elected by God—that we might have fellowship with the Father and the Son (Revelation 3:12, 21; John 17:24).

Pat Higgins
Praying Always (Part Six)


 

Revelation 2:1-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

With Ephesus, we are looking at a people who had not so much drifted from the doctrines but had changed in the way that they respected and applied them. The book of Hebrews was written to the Hebrew people in the first century who were drifting. The Ephesus letter applies directly to them.

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip away. (Hebrews 2:1)

The letter to Ephesus shows that they had let them slip or were in the process of doing so.

For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him. (Hebrews 2:2-3)

The Ephesians had become neglectful losing their devotion to this way of life. This is a very stern warning: "I will remove your candlestick." He advises them, "Repent. Go back."

One cannot go back to something that he did not previously have. This is a key to our separation from God. It will be a major key in re-unifying us-going back to what we had before: repenting, turning, going back. We must never forget that we are involved in a relationship with a real live Being, and He is not just any being but the One that we are to marry.

Would we want to marry someone who could take us or leave us? That is what happened to these people: They had lost their devotion to the relationship. They still had the doctrines, but their devotion was gone. They did not cherish Him anymore. They did not cherish the relationship, even though they had not walked away from the doctrines. So He says, "Turn. Go back."

It is good to recognize a hopeful sign-that it does not say that they had "lost" their first love but that they had "left" it. The power to love was still residing in them, but they would have to stir themselves up and use it. Love is what one does out of consideration for making the relationship better than it had ever been before. They needed to stir up the Spirit within them and return to the same zeal and devotion that they had shown at the beginning of their conversion.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

 




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