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Bible verses about God's Intervention
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 1:4-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God describes His adjustment of the earth's rotation speed so that the length of the day and night would be correct to permit the sustenance of life. He may have also adjusted the tilt of the earth's axis to cause seasons to occur.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Genesis 1: Fact or Fiction?


 

Exodus 2:23-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A cursory reading of these verses might give a person the impression that God was just sitting on His throne, twiddling His fingers, and waiting for Israel to do something. But God had already begun to act. He had ensured that Moses would live through the slaughter of the Israelite children. He had directed the little ark into the hands of the Pharaoh's daughter. He had ensured that Moses would receive the benefit of a tremendous education, the best kind of secular education that one could receive at that time. He had put thoughts in Moses' mind that he could be Israel's deliverer. He had spared Moses' life when the Pharaoh tried to take it. He had prompted Moses to flee the land and led him into the wilderness to the family of Jethro. He had given Moses the time and the opportunity to continue his preparation for leading His people out of Egypt.

Who initiated all this? Certainly not the children of Israel! God did! We find all the way back in the book of Genesis that God had already prophesied that in about 400 years, he would move to bring the children of Abraham out of a captivity, which He also arranged.

Could God - who does not change, who sets patterns in His Word so that we will understand - ensure, long before we were born, that there would be a church for His people at the end time and that someone would be prepared by Him to get the doctrines they would need to understand at the end time? We know very well He could - and did.

How did Israel get out of Egypt? Not through any rebellion, revolution, intelligence, or negotiations on their part. They got out because God wanted them out. It was part of His purpose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unleavened Bread and Pentecost


 

Numbers 22:24-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What does God do? His first attempt to get Balaam's attention fails—not with the donkey, but with Balaam. The man is totally oblivious to what is going on. So God narrows him in or hedges him in. The path that Balaam was taking led between two hedges or walls. There was enough room,however, for the donkey to turn aside, which is what she did. She turned away, but in doing so, Balaam's foot became crushed against the wall, causing him pain. Perhaps God thought that a little pain would help him come to his senses.

However, Balaam does not think about God at all. He thinks, "You stupid donkey! Why did you do that to me?" He does not say anything at this point but beats the poor donkey. His injury does not cause him to consider at all that God may be trying to get his attention. It never comes to mind that God may be telling him something. He takes all his pain and rage out on this innocent donkey, which was only trying to obey God.

Think of the donkey in terms of this passage:

But my eyes are upon You, O GOD the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave my soul destitute. Keep me from the snares they have laid for me, and from the traps of the workers of iniquity. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I escape safely. (Psalm 141:8-10)

The donkey who saw God would have avoided the trap and escaped, if it were not for Balaam controlling her. He made her go back into the trap—and on to his own ruin.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 2)


 

Numbers 22:26-27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Again, the donkey proves herself wiser than Balaam.

God frequently does this: First, He gets us in a wide place and allows us to make our decisions. It soon becomes apparent which direction we are going, which path we are taking. Then God begins to narrow the way, especially if He sees us going in the wrong direction. He catches us in a place where we can turn around and gives us an opportunity to make a right decision. If we do not do what He wants us to do, He will go a little further down the path—a little bit later in our life—to catch us in a place where the answer is obvious, and we can do nothing except stop, and say, "God help me! I've gone the wrong way, and I need You to open the path for me."

He does this to Balaam. He gets him to the point where there is only plunging on to destruction on one hand, and on the other, stopping and retracing his steps to where he can head in the right direction.

This is the point where Balaam is in these two verses. The donkey simply lies down, as that is all she can do. Proverbs 22:3 says, "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished." The donkey is the "prudent man" here, and blind Balaam is "the simple." He is so without any spiritual acumen that he is just like a foolish simpleton. He cannot see wisdom; he cannot make a wise choice. However, the dumb donkey can!

As a last resort, God takes matters one more step. He is always full of mercy, willing to give us that one more chance to make the right choice. But now He has to do something drastic!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 2)


 

Deuteronomy 28:7-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Is God involved? He is anything but passive, constantly participating across the full spectrum of the life of His people specifically and the whole earth generally. The Bible certainly does not show nature automatically producing great benefits merely according to natural laws. If it did, then the Bible would have to show the uniform laws of nature as sovereign, not the Creator God. In addition, God would be guilty of at least gross generality when He claims He does this or that.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Five


 

Deuteronomy 29:5-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses serve two purposes: They are a reminder and a warning. He reminds them that He miraculously provided in their time of need due to the unusual circumstance He devised. The wider context shows this to be a warning that, despite all He did for them, His aid was ineffectual because they did not take His instruction to heart and do it. Consequently, they received God's grace—His gifts or favor—in vain.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part One)


 

2 Kings 6:14-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is likely that Elisha could not literally see all of these spirit beings that were out there on the mountain. But by faith, through the eyes of faith—because he knew God, because he was close to God—he understood that God was with Him always and a tremendous army of angelic protected His servant Elisha.

Whether that army was always there is a moot point. They may have been there simply because the Syrian army was there. It does not matter whether there was one or many angels. It is really an indication of God through Elisha and through the vision to this young man that wherever God is things are weighted in our favor. We have no need to fear the many who may come against us.

We need to realize that there are more for us than there are against us, and a great deal of spiritual activity is taking place around us that we are not physically able to discern. Nevertheless, it is there. God is showing us here that this is true. God intends this section to give us some encouragement.

From this, we ought to be able to understand that God is greater than any emergency we might find ourselves in. He tells us in Psalm 34:7, "The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and delivers them." This man of God understood by spiritual discernment that things were going on around him, and by the same token, because we have the Spirit of God, we should also be sensitive to this because God's Word shows that this is indeed occurring.

Most people only see what is human. In fact, physically, that is all we can see. But we have to know—it has to be part of the way, the means, or the wherewithal by which we act. Jesus Christ, a divine Spirit, is the guiding force of His church. He tells us He will never leave us or forsake us. Just as sure as there are spirit beings who rule and guide the church, there are spirit beings who rule and guide the world. We see both sides of it here.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 3)


 

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

This says clearly that God was able to stir the spirit of Cyrus. There is no indication that Cyrus was aware that God was stirring him up. He just somehow was motivated to issue this proclamation. He may have thought the idea really came from him or from one of his advisors. But for some reason, all of a sudden, he had an inclination to give the Jews the opportunity to go back to their own homeland.

This verse also suggests that our spirit can be communicated with without our being aware of it happening. Understand, however, that we will not always be blind to this or insensitive to it. It is God's intention that we become very sensitive to the fact that something or someone is trying to communicate with us on a level that is not discernable by the eye or the ear. Nonetheless, our spirit can be stirred to go in a certain direction for good or for bad. We need to begin to realize that we may or may not be aware that our spirit is being communicated with.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 3)


 

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

God is superintending or managing events on this earth. When He wants something done through a man, He interfaces with him. Perhaps without the person even being aware of it, God can insert thoughts into the person's mind to do what He wants him to do.

The event related here is Jeremiah's Seventy Years Prophecy. This verse does not tell us what political, military, social, or economic events God may have manipulated to get Cyrus to consider and finally to choose to issue this edict. It would be beyond belief to think that Cyrus thought of it on his own, out of the blue. Nations act in their national interest. Somehow, Cyrus concluded that it was in the national interest of Medo-Persia to relocate a small portion of the Jews, and he also gave them the opportunity to restore the Temple in Jerusalem. This particular occasion was not unique: Cyrus did this for other peoples that the Medo-Persians had conquered, perhaps to curry the favor of their gods or as a carrot to dissuade them from rebelling.

However it occurred, God inspired it without removing Cyrus' free moral agency. Some modern translations translate the phrase "stirred up the spirit of Cyrus" as "God moved Cyrus' heart."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 3)


 

Psalm 11:4-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A major point of instruction in this brief psalm is that, though it may seem to men as if God has gone off somewhere and is not paying attention, He is indeed very aware and patiently timing His interventions. Many evil people believe that God exists and created all things, but their belief is shallow. He is not part of their choices of conduct, so they live assuming that He is not personally managing His creation. Life goes on, they believe, without His involvement. This psalm refutes that, as do many other passages. It is a foolish, careless, and presumptuous basis for life's choices.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Psalm 16:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"Cup" usually implies trial. David is showing God on both sides here, in blessings and in trials. God is our inheritance, but He is also with him in these trials.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Resurrection From the Dead


 

Psalm 62:1-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When a person is in ordinary trouble and needs help, does he not seek out someone who has more of whatever it takes to help him overcome his situation? The need may be as simple as an additional hand or a bit more physical strength, or it could be something more complex like wisdom, a specialized skill, practical expertise, or community influence. The helper's power may simply be that he or she has more experience in the area of need. The need may be legal, so contacting a lawyer is a wise move. If the need is medical, seeing a doctor makes sense. One would consult an auto mechanic if the car needs to be repaired, etc. We frequently seek the powers of others.

Psalm 62 instructs us that the supreme power in all creation is God. In verse 1, David begins to express this fact by saying that from God comes salvation, that He is our Deliverer from trouble, implying that it should be to Him that we run. In verse 2, God is our rock, meaning our foundation and source of stability, who keeps us grounded and free from unreasonable anxieties. He is also our defense; He can deflect attacks in ways humans cannot provide.

Verses 3-4 are said to David's attackers, who were attempting to undermine his reputation before the public while also seeking a way to assassinate him. He warns them that their lies will prove to be their undoing.

In verses 5-7, David turns his attention back to himself, trying to encourage himself by resolving to wait patiently upon God as his only trustworthy hope. In verse 7, he reminds us that God is our glory: We take pride in Him for all that He is. He can give us favor even before those who may be against us. He is our refuge, an unqualified place of safety in any circumstance. In verse 8, he exhorts others - friends, companions, and supporters - urging them to pray because God is a solid place of refuge in our times of trouble.

Five times in this brief, twelve-verse psalm, he exhorts himself or instructs us that God is the only sure place of refuge and of help in times of need. How can God be and do all these things? David names Him as our Rock, Salvation, Defender, Refuge, and Glory. He can hold all these titles because, as David says simply in verse 11, "Power [or strength] belongs to God."

This confronts us with a major reason why God is the only One we can rely on fully in our time of need. Power is not only something God possesses, but when we come to understand it, all power belongs to Him. All power flows from Him, and He gives it to whomever He will. God not only has power as a possession, but He can use it in any situation or distribute it as He sees fit! Who can fight God or gainsay His choice of whom He chooses to give it to? Who has sufficient power to nullify God's doing of anything He desires to accomplish?

Notice that in Psalm 62:11 the word "belongs" is in italics, meaning it was added by the translator. It is not a wrong addition but appropriate. It is as though He owns it; it is His to use and/or distribute as He alone sees fit. It begins to open an awesome thought to consideration: Nobody has power unless God provides it for his use.

Understanding this truth makes David's exhortation in verses 9 and 10 more understandable. Compared to God, men are so puny as to be nothing. They may appear strong on the surface, but with our powerful, trustworthy Resource, we do not have to retaliate stupidly or be overwrought by anxiety.

This powerful Being is on our side by His choice! We have not earned it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part One)


 

Psalm 103:1-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This psalm praises God's sovereignty over all His creation, yet it also shows His awareness and care of us as individuals. To Him, we are not nameless, faceless blobs in an endless ocean of people. The world likes to claim the incredible promise of Romans 8:28 for itself, but it really applies only to us, "those who love God . . . those who are the called." This is something to be thankful for! Each one of us is in His capable hands! God requires us to give thanks because it is good for us. Those convinced that God rules have a distinct advantage over those who believe things happen randomly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sovereignty and Its Fruit: Part Ten


 

Psalm 105:16-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's sovereignty and involvement with the details of Joseph in Egypt persist from beginning to end; everything happens when, where, and how God planned. Undoubtedly, God is already working in and through Joseph as a lad of 17. But between 17 and 30, Joseph's life is a veritable roller coaster ride from top to bottom and from bottom to top.

The story shows his faith in God; through it all he trusts Him, not fully understanding every detail until after it is over. But God works throughout those years and in all the details toward a purpose and a time He had determined in advance. The same is true regarding Abraham and Sarah's 25-year wait for Isaac.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Four


 

Psalm 111:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The psalmist uses sought out in the sense of "meditated upon" or "thought about." All of us ought to be searching out the works of the Lord—whether it be in history in what He did for His people or in salvation in the redemption of His people and how He supplies all the needs of His people.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 10)


 

Psalm 121:1-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Once we recognize that the psalmist uses "hills" as an image of a problem to a pilgrim, we easily understand the rest of the psalm as an encouragement to those on a spiritual pilgrimage to the Kingdom of God. It certainly does not give the impression that God—at any time—lets His mind wander, unaware of what is happening in His children's lives. Not only is He ever on guard, He is also ready, willing, and able to intervene with strength. He is not a parent distracted by other concerns so that He neglects His children. We can be greatly encouraged that God is always alert to His responsibilities.

Because God is this way, all things work together for our good, even though there are times when we sin and nothing evil appears to have happened to us. Human nature easily deceives itself into thinking it has gotten away with something. This, however, is like saying we can defy the law of gravity, and nothing will happen! God does not let us get away with anything pertaining to His purpose, but He is never overbearing in thoroughly following through.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Nine


 

Psalm 139:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The psalmist does not really want to flee. He is posing ideas and questions so that we can see that wherever we are, we are always under God's scrutiny. God is a positive spirit. Everything that He creates has positive function and beauty. His intention in everything for us is always positive, right, and good. He does everything in love and concern for our well-being so that we will fit within His purpose, and it will be worked out in our lives. Psalms 139 contains no negative connotations.

From this, because His mind permeates the entirety of His creation, we ought to derive great confidence that God is always with us. He is omnipotent. He is omnipresent. He is actively using His powers, His Spirit, to govern and manage His creation.

The beginning of the source of all power is in the mind. Remember, man is in God's image. A man may make tools to intensify his powers, but the real power is in the mind because without it, he would not be able to create the tool that expands his powers.

God's Holy Spirit is the essence of His mind. Just like a man, His power resides there too, only He does not have to use steam shovels and power tools to get things done. He speaks, and the laws He has created go to work. The tool by which He carries everything out is His Spirit, the essence of His mind.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power


 

Proverbs 16:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sometimes those steps move sideways, backwards, or perhaps over a circuitous detour. Sometimes God steers us away from horrendous unseen obstacles while we mistakenly think that He is thwarting us or not answering our prayers. Verse 25 suggests, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." Is it possible that, if we always received what we prayed for and set our minds upon, it would also lead to death? Jeremiah 10:23 affirms, "O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps." He implies that, without God, man's plans always end in failure and ruin.

David F. Maas
The Spiritual Hard Hat Zone


 

Proverbs 29:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What if a ruler, the one to whom we are to submit, is an oppressive person? What if he is just incompetent or stupid, and we know better how to do the job that he is supposed to be doing? What if the person is sexually immoral or financially greedy? Does God still want us to submit? What protection do we have in these kinds of circumstances?

Abomination that is it, those in authority often do evil. They might have serious character flaws that catch their victims in the effects of their flaws. What is so maddening is that they justify their ways—seeing them as good—and they will turn around and blame the innocent for the evils that occur.

For example, the proverb says that "all the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes." The incompetent man does not think to himself, "I am really dumb, stupid, idiotic, and should not even have this job." The sexually immoral person does not see himself as perverse. Most prostitutes will say, "Yes, I am doing wrong according to the law, but I am providing a needed and wanted service. If it were not, I would have no customers." They justify themselves; they are pure in their own eyes.

Consider the enemies of Jesus. They felt justified in taking His life on the grounds that He was stirring up the people. No one on earth has ever been more innocent, yet they justified what they were doing because the people were being stirred up by Him. They accused Him of being a revolutionary, a threat to community stability.

If we are in a position like this—under an oppressive ruler who justifies the way he is doing things, and we are suffering the effects of his actions—we feel like powerless pawns being taken advantage of. We feel that he is denying us the liberty to do what we want. Should we submit or rebel?

To know what to do, we must look at what Jesus did in a similar circumstance. This is not an occasion in which the authority figure demands submission, and in submitting, we must break the law of God. The situation does not involve being forced to sin, but simply submitting to one who is unreasonable and oppressive.

John 19:10 is part of Jesus' trial for His very life before Pilate, and occurs after He was scourged: "Then Pilate said to Him, 'Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?'" He could choose to do either. Pilate was a corrupt official. His record, according to secular history, was not at all good. The Jews despised him for his harsh ways.

"Jesus answered, 'You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin'" (John 19:11). His response is very meaningful. It clearly shows His attitude, His approach, to every circumstance of His life.

To be in the same frame of mind, we must ask ourselves, "Do we see God?" Is He really a part of our lives? Is He really running this creation? Is He really sitting at the controls of things? Is He really aware of us as individuals? Does He have every hair on our heads numbered? Are we really the apple of His eye? Are our lives really in His hands? Have we really given them to Him, or are we holding part of ourselves in reserve?

"You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above." Jesus saw life very clearly and simply: that God was in complete control of everything going on in the universe. Not that everything was being directed by Him in the sense that He was causing it to occur, but that Jesus believed with every fiber of His being that God was with Him all the time, everywhere, and at every moment. He knew that His life was in His Father's hands and that Pilate could do nothing against Him unless God allowed it.

Would God have us submit, or be faced with submitting, to somebody who was cruel, hard-hearted, incompetent, sexually unbalanced, perverted, stupid, or financially greedy? Would He have us live and work under such a person? He put His own Son in that position! Everything at Jesus' trial and crucifixion looked as though it was totally stacked against Him. Carnally, it seems as if He had every right to rebel. He could have replied, "Do you not know to whom you are doing this?" Instead, He says, in paraphrase, "You would not have the power to do anything except that My Father passed on this. And He is now looking at Me to see how I am going to respond. Will I submit to the authority that He has permitted to be over Me right now?"

Do we see God in our lives like this? We have to begin to look at ourselves differently than the way people in the world look at themselves. We must decide whether we are in God's hand or not. Do we have the faith to trust that we are, and that these constituted authorities are also in His hand? Do we believe that He is aware of what is going on and that He deeply cares about what we will do in each situation? As He did with Abraham, He must know what kind of witness we are going to make (see Genesis 22).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

Ecclesiastes 1:3-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Overall, how do we, as Christians, perceive time? Every day we are witnesses to its progression. Daylight comes and passes, and night arrives only to be followed by daylight again. We can look at a clock and see that its hands are moving. But how - in what manner - is time moving?

As a culture, the Greeks have become known as a people sensitive to the rhythms of time, and this, though written by Solomon, a Hebrew, is a decidedly Greek view of life and of time's movement. This perception of life and time - their acute awareness of things like the perpetual ebb and flow of tides, the continuous cycle of the four seasons, and the constant repetition of weather patterns - became a major building block of Greek philosophy, leading them to develop the concept that time is cyclical.

They concluded that man's life is lived within a series of continuous, changeless recurrences. To them, time works like a wheel turning on an axis, and the events that mark time's progress repeat themselves endlessly. They believed that nothing could be done about it because such events will happen eternally. Thus, a person is born, lives his life on a stage, and when his part is done, he exits. Such belief inexorably leads to a fatalistic view of life.

Notice verse 8 especially. The Soncino Commentary opines that Solomon is saying that this inescapable repetition in life is such weariness that he lacked the words to describe it aptly. Despite what Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 1, the general Hebrew outlook is decidedly different. The Hebrew concept of time greatly benefited from God's revelation. In Jude 14-15, the apostle quotes an Old Testament personality, Enoch, whose pre-flood prophecy deflected Hebrew thought about time in a far different direction:

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." (Jude 14-15)

This quotation shows that the Hebrews who believed God knew that time was headed on a very different path from the Greek view. Events do not just happen in a vacuum; they are moving in a definite direction. Enoch is warning that a time is coming when men will have to answer for what they have done during their lifetimes.

Even so, he is nowhere near the earliest indicator that time and the events within it are moving in a specific direction. Notice Genesis 3:14-15:

So the LORD God said to the serpent; "Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."

God had revealed Himself to the Hebrew descendants of Abraham, and some among them, like Moses, believed what He said. Thus, they knew that time was not cyclical, as the Greeks perceived it, but linear: The Creator is moving time and all that happens within it in a definite direction.

The prophet Amos receives credit for giving that "sometime" a general title, or at least the term is first used within his prophecy. He called it the "Day of the Lord." Generally, he appears to mean the time when God will intervene with a strong hand in the affairs of this world - an act that is definitely not repetitious.

However, it remained for the Christian church to define time and its right usage for its members. The church's conception of time blends the cyclical concepts of the Greeks and the linear concepts of the Hebrews. It is true that many things in life - things like wars, economic depressions, and political revolutions - do recur in an inexorable manner. Yet, as the New Testament shows, much of this happens as a result of man's self-centered nature. In other words, they do not have to happen, but they do happen because man's choices make them happen. Man continually makes bad choices because his nature is unchangingly anti-God.

Thus, in general, the Christian view is that time indeed contains stressful, repeating cycles, as Solomon describes, yet the New Testament calls these cycles "evil" (Galatians 1:4). However, it also shows that time is moving in a definite direction and that God Himself is orchestrating many of the events within its progress toward the return of Jesus Christ, the Day of the Lord, and the establishment on earth of His Family Kingdom.

This led the church to develop, under the inspiration of Jesus Christ, an overall concept of time management unique to church members. It has its roots in the Old Testament: Isaiah 55:6 urges us to "seek the LORD while He may be found."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part Two): A Foundation


 

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God keeps the "natural" cycles recurring (in the weather, for instance, as well as other cyclical events mentioned in chapter 1). There is security in knowing that a steady Hand rests on the helm—one that can be absolutely relied upon. It is likely that Paul derived the major part of the principle in Romans 8:28—that all things work together for good—in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Life, then, is not out of control. Do we believe this? We have a desire to know the future but cannot know it—not completely. God has not given anyone that much insight into what is happening. Thus, Solomon's conclusion is that we should make the most we can of our life right now. (He is not talking about being imbalanced or hedonistic. He means doing things properly, successfully, with dedication.) We can give it our all knowing that there is a steady Hand at the helm and things are not out of control. Our part in this is to trust God. Are we willing to do that?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)


 

Isaiah 33:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In other words, who will survive? Who will escape these things? The answer comes in verse 15.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 4)


 

Isaiah 45:4-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice that God gives examples of things He does from behind the scenes that people are unaware He is doing. By this, He is revealing a principle. He is doing similar things all the time, and people are just as unaware today as the ancients. He is manipulating events to cause people to react. In these verses, God is speaking to Cyrus, who is totally unaware that God has made it possible for him to be in the position to carry out what God wants him to do. He also informs Cyrus that he will do this job for Jacob's benefit, in this case for the Jews living under the Persian Empire.

In addition, we discover in verse 6 that the Jews do not know this either. The time will come, however, when they will know that God worked these things for their benefit and His purpose, and they will give God glory as the one and only Almighty God. A small-scale fulfillment of this occurred under Ezra and Nehemiah, but the greater fulfillment will not take place until the Great White Throne Judgment. Isaiah 45 gives the impression He is actively working, but that we are aware of only a tiny portion of His activity even in our own lives. Yet, as His children, we should be intently looking for His hand in our affairs.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)


 

Jeremiah 30:6-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God is, of course, speaking of the nations of Israel. They will be going through it—we know that for sure because "they shall be saved out of it." In other words, their protection will not come until they have gone through perhaps most of it. They are going to suffer through it. Then God will intervene—save them out of it. If God does not save them out of it, then what Jesus says in Matthew 24:22 ("no flesh would be saved") will come to pass. They will all die in it. It is going to be that bad!

We must put ourselves into this because the church of God is largely located in the nations of Israel. The overwhelming majority of us are in the United States and Canada. Are we consigned to the same fate as Israel (in this prophecy) because we live in Israel? My hope is that God has a place of safety, and that I am worthy to escape. Nevertheless, you can see that we, as a nation, are facing very terrifying times.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 1)


 

Daniel 2:19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses show God's supremacy over the nations. Twice God states through Daniel that He, the supreme Creator and Ruler, gave Nebuchadnezzar his dominion over men.

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


 

Daniel 5:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse ought to make us consider how deeply God is involved in our lives. We should not deceive ourselves into thinking that this principle does not apply to us because we are insignificant. It applies to all men, high or low, rich or poor, slave or freeman, Gentile or Israelite, converted or unconverted. It is deeply moving to consider that the breath on which our life depends, itself such a frail thing, is in the "hand" of an invisible Being over whom we can have no control. He can stop our breath at any time. We continue living only at His pleasure! There is perhaps nothing more absolute than the power God holds over us, yet we do not seem disposed to acknowledge it.

In addition, He claims to have the power to control all our ways. We can go nowhere without his permission; once we leave, we cannot return home without His allowance. We like to think we have faith, but do we really live our lives considering His nearness to us? How little we recognize this! Yet it is what the apostle Paul means when he tells the Athenians, "[I]n Him we live and move and have our being." Solomon reiterates this thought in Proverbs 19:21, "There are many plans in a man's heart, nevertheless the LORD 's counsel—that will stand." Again he writes in Proverbs 16:9, "A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps," and in chapter 21:1 it says, "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD , like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes." The Living Bible paraphrases this last verse, "Just as water is turned into irrigation ditches, so the Lord directs the king's thoughts. He turns them wherever He wants to."

If the king's heart is in God's hand, and He is influencing his decisions, is it not clear that all governors of men are completely beneath the governmental control of the Almighty? What ruler can resist Him? This does not mean He is inspiring the evil things they decide to enact as policy, but He oversees and thus allows them, or they would never be able to implement them. Belshazzar seemingly had a free hand until God dramatically intervened to bring about His will. We should consider this in light of the "sovereign citizenship" movement gathering grassroots support among certain elements in America. It presents a growing danger to some church members who are being deceived into ignorantly opposing the very governance of God!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Five


 

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

In the wild a lion roars just as it is about to pounce on its prey. Symbolically and metaphorically, the roar of a lion or the crack of thunder shows the imminent intervention of God in human affairs (I Samuel 2:10; Isaiah 29:6; 31:4; Hosea 11:9-11; Revelation 16:18).

In the mid-eighth century BC when Amos preached, Israel's economic base was largely in agriculture, but a drought had begun to destabilize that foundation. The pastures had already begun to feel the effects of God's roaring, as had Carmel, the most verdant part of Israel, and incidentally, the supposed stronghold of Baal. Amos proclaims that the drought is the result of God's judgment.

The prophet uses this drought to illustrate that God is not an absentee landlord. He governs His creation (Psalm 104; Matthew 6:26) and knows everything that happens in it (Psalm 139; Matthew 10:29). He has neither abdicated nor delegated these responsibilities. If calamity strikes, God is involved in some way, possibly executing judgment.

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


 

Amos 4:6-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's people were very busy making money, accumulating things, and practicing their religion. But God was also very busy—sending famines, droughts, blights, locusts, epidemics, warfare, and possibly earthquakes in judgment for their unrighteousness (Amos 4:6-11). He hoped that they would heed these "minor" warnings before He sent the rod of His anger against them (Isaiah 10:5).

Rain fell on one part of the country and not on another. When it rained, it rained too much, causing floods. In other places just enough rain fell to deceive the people into feeling a sense of hope—that it was not so bad after all.

We see this in the United States. Natural disasters—insurance companies call them "acts of God"—are growing more frequent and more intense, killing many and causing billions of dollars in damage. Floods ravaged the Midwest in 1993, while drought killed crops in other areas. After a year or so of good rainfall, California fell back into drought conditions—only to suffer from floods a year later! Fires rage over thousands of acres after periods of drought, destroying forests and homes. Sudden earthquakes, storms, tornadoes, and extreme temperatures destroy homes, businesses, and lives.

It never seems to get quite bad enough to send the nation into a real tailspin, but it is just enough that, like the Egyptian Pharaoh of the Exodus (Exodus 7:13-14), we continue to harden our hearts. We fail to repent. If the unrepentant attitude continues, the "natural" disasters will intensify, bankrupting the nation economically. Since money seems to be the nation's foremost god, the true God will hit where it hurts most.

The vast majority of Americans have become so far removed from God that they lack the eyes to see and the ears to hear the warnings He sends. Educated in a system that fundamentally denies God, they lack understanding. They interpret God's warnings as natural events—just nature running her course. An earthquake or flood or drought is viewed as "nature doing her thing."

Rather than heed the warning and repent, Americans turn to their other false gods—science and technology—to bail them out. "Design better levies to protect us from floods," they cry. "Seed the clouds to produce more rain." "Engineer stronger buildings to withstand more powerful earthquakes." "Science will someday give us the ability to predict—even stop—earthquakes." Americans have eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear (Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:14-15).

In these disasters, God is saying something quite different—something vitally important. He is warning the people that they have a responsibility, and if they fail to live under their covenant with Him, He has the power to correct them so that they will repent. So, in fairness and mercy, God lays a simple choice before them: "Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" (Amos 4:12). Their choice is either to face their sins and repent, or face the wrath of a just God.

To bring about His purpose, God is active in His creation, especially among His people, whether physical or spiritual Israel. "If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?" (Amos 3:6). Is God involved in our lives? Do things happen by chance to the people of God? This world would have you believe that God really is not aware, that He does not care or even exist! But He says, "I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things" (Isaiah 45:7).

Is God involved? "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:29-30). Do we see God working in our lives? Events do not happen accidentally to God's people, of whom God is very aware. He is very concerned and thus very involved.

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


 

Amos 7:7-9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In construction, the plumb line tests whether what was erected is perpendicular to the square, that is, if it is straight up and down, if it is upright. It provides a standard against which one can measure what he has built. Metaphorically, when God draws near with the plumb line, He is looking for those people who are living and abiding in His grace and His law. The Israelites' moral standards had degenerated, so their religious profession was not verified by the right kind of works. They were not upright; they failed the test.

Amos has no opportunity to intercede at this point. God will no longer relent. "I will not pass by them anymore" means that God would not overlook their sins any longer. And, if He will not pass by them, He must pass through them. The plumb line shows that He will pass through "with the sword" in judgment; His patience and forgiveness have finally ended. He could no longer defer the punishment for their sins—the time had come to destroy them.

God passes through by destroying "the high places of Isaac," the altars and idols of the false religions responsible for the moral, spiritual, and ethical decline of the people. They worshipped Baal and a host of other foreign deities (Judges 10:6). They set up sacred pillars and idols throughout the land (I Kings 14:23; II Kings 17:10-13). Some of them even burned their sons in the fire to Molech (Ezekiel 16:20-21). Through their spiritual harlotry, they abused grace—the free, unmerited pardon of God—and rejected His law.

"The sanctuaries of Israel," the religious shrines of Bethel, Dan, Gilgal, and Beersheba, would also be among the first to fall. They were the fountainheads of the attitudes of the nation. In them the people were taught to seek the material prosperity that characterized the nation, and in part they sought this physical abundance through cultic fornication and fertility rituals done in the name of the eternal God. The religions taught the people how to sin and do it religiously.

Next, "the house of Jeroboam" would fall through war. Amos refers to Jeroboam I, after whom Jeroboam II was named, and worse, after whom he followed in his sins. God selected Jeroboam I to become king of the northern ten tribes of Israel after Solomon (I Kings 11:29-31), however He made the continuance of Jeroboam's dynasty contingent upon his obedience (verse 38).

But Jeroboam did not trust God. He thought that the religious festivals and sacrifices would entice Israel to return to David's line in Judah (I Kings 12:25-27). To counter that possibility, he set up counterfeit shrines in Bethel and Dan and changed the Feast of Tabernacles from the seventh month to the eighth (I Kings 12:27-33). Jeroboam turned away from the law of God, causing the people to sin.

Historians examine economics, social conditions, and military strength to determine what causes the rise or fall of nations, but God shows that His purpose and the morality of the people are the true causes. Thus, God makes sure that the two major motivators of Israel's spiritual decline, the religious and political leadership, would feel His wrath first (Isaiah 9:13-16).

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


 

Amos 9:1-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The vision in Amos 9 is different from the four visions in chapters 7 and 8. There is no conversation between God and the prophet. The time for talk is over; God simply acts. The situation has moved beyond Amos' ability to intercede—God's time to act has come, and He will not relent.

The background of this final vision is interesting. To make his rule more secure, Jeroboam I devised what the Bible calls "the sin of Jeroboam," the use of religion in the service of politics. Using the system in place in Judah, he counterfeited the holy days, the priesthood, and the temple ritual. On his altar his priests offered sacrifices to the two golden calves, and the king stood by the altar to burn incense (I Kings 12:26-13:1). It apparently became a custom for the king to stand at the right-hand side of the altar at his counterfeit feast in the eighth month.

Who is standing beside the altar in Amos 9? Not Jeroboam, but the Lord! Instead of officiating, God is destroying everything in sight!

Amos also draws on the story of Samson destroying the temple of Dagon by toppling the supporting pillars. If a man tries to pull a house down with his bare hands, he has to undermine it from the bottom, but God is not restricted like a man. He strikes the house down from the top! God, as the Supreme Omnipotent One and the Sovereign Lord, has every right to crush the house of Israel. Since the people had ignored all the numerous warnings He had sent for them to repent, He is now fulfilling His promise.

In the type, the temple of Dagon fell on everyone's head; no one survived (Judges 16:30). The same holds true in this destruction. No matter where the people of Israel flee in the day of calamity, they will not find any rest, ease, safety, or security (Amos 9:2-6). They had tried to get security by building multiple homes for themselves, but God will wipe away this assurance by smashing their houses to bits. Anything that they thought would provide them security in the day of punishment God will destroy.

God is omnipotent. When He decides to judge His people in this very painful way, there is no escaping it. He reminds His people of the covenant they made with Him, that He called them to His service, yet He is also the God of all the earth and Lord of every nation (verse 7). In other words, He has the same responsibility to judge and punish them as He has to the other nations of the world. The Philistines and Syrians, by the way, are two of the nations He judges in Amos 1. God is judging Israel in the same manner.

We find a manifestation of Israel's problem—false reliance that the covenant would save them—in modern-day "Christianity." Many professing Christians believe in eternal security, commonly called "once saved, always saved," a devastatingly subtle deception of Satan the Devil. It is a belief that one can never fall out of favor with God, no matter what one's behavior or attitude.

As members of the true church, we need to beware lest we bring this false idea into the church with us. When God called us, chose us, and granted us repentance, we were baptized. But that does not exclude us from His scrutiny. He is no respecter of persons; He will judge us as justly as He does anyone else on earth.

That we chose to follow God's way of life is good, but having that fact on our spiritual resumé is not enough. God is not interested in past actions but in present performance. What is happening today? Are we living righteously each day? Or, have we fallen from our past performance and profession? What God did in the past to give us the opportunity for salvation does not absolutely bind Him to work everything out to our benefit, if we do not produce the corresponding good works, character growth, and obedience He expects (Ezekiel 18).

He wants us to see that we should not make the same mistake ancient Israel made—that is, take His salvation for granted. We can rely on Him and trust Him, but we also have a responsibility to submit to and obey Him. We must strive to produce the best character possible and be a light so He can say of each of us, "That's My son! He looks and acts like Me! He is definitely part of My Family."

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


 

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

Edom lived in the area east of the Jordan in the mountainous areas south of the Dead Sea—a dry, barren, rocky place. Here, in this end-time prophecy, Edomites are still living in this inhospitable place.

Verse 1 contains a parenthetical statement that informs us that God has sent a messenger among the nations, urging them to "rise up against her." This is how things really work: God is the prime mover of world affairs. He determines His purpose and starts affairs rolling toward its fulfillment by inspiring an idea. Then the political and diplomatic mechanisms of nations take over to bring it to fruition, guided and pushed all the while by God (see Isaiah 46:9-11; Isaiah 55:11).

In this case, a national leader decides to send an ambassador to other nations to form a military alliance against Edom. The complaint, as explained in subsequent verses, is that Edom must be brought down to size, perhaps because she is not a team player, wanting all the glory and plunder for herself. That God is the ultimate author of this message means that it will happen as advertised.

Obadiah 1:2 adds emphasis to verse 1. The "I" is God Himself; it is His purpose to bring about Edom's national deflation. He wants Edom to recognize this! He thinks that the Edomites need to be brought into account for their actions and severely punished. Those among the nations who are scheming against Edom are merely agents God will use to fulfill His decree.

Verse 3 strikes at the root of Edom's problem: "The pride of your heart." It was easy for the Edomites to believe themselves to be invincible due to the nearly uninhabitable territory they dwelled in. To the west, where Israel lay, the geography made their territory nearly impregnable. Otherwise, they could feel secure because their fortresses were carved out of the rock, so they could either hunker down for long periods or engage in guerilla warfare. An attacking army could in no way pry them out, and they knew it. They felt invulnerable, and this filled them with pride.

"Pride" in verse 3 is the Hebrew word zadon, from the root, ziyd. This root is translated "cooked" in Genesis 25:29, where Jacob cooked a stew that the famished Esau desired. "Cooked" would be better translated "boiled" or "seethed." When heat is applied to water, it boils, and from this process, the Hebrews gained their understanding of pride.

Obadiah, it seems, specifically used this word to draw the reader's attention back to this incident, perhaps suggesting that Esau's selling of the birthright was rooted in his pride. Esau became heated and angry, and it manifested itself as haughtiness, arrogance, pride—the major trait he passed on to his descendants. Just as stew boils up under heat, so Edom puffs herself up thinking that she is self-reliant and invincible. God, however, is out to prove her wrong.

The Edomite challenge at the end of Obadiah 1:3 bears some scrutiny: "Who will bring me down to the ground?" This is remarkably similar to the words of Lucifer in Isaiah 14:13-14 and to those of the great harlot in Revelation 18:7. This same pride will lead Edom into trouble. The Bible declares that, in all three of these examples, God will have the last word: He will humble them all. In Obadiah 1:4, He decrees, no matter how high and mighty Edom considers herself to be, "from there I will bring you down."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Three): Obadiah


 

Habakkuk 3:1-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Chapter 3 is Habakkuk's prayer. The best part of this song is that it shows that Habakkuk truly grasped what God was teaching him. The song is a prayer, the response that he promised God in Habakkuk 2:1. After being greatly chastened, he tells God that he understood what He was saying.

One commentator called this section "the greatest expression of faith in all the Bible." Habakkuk is a good example of what a person of true faith does. He obeys God by listening. He waits patiently for God's answer to his dilemma, and he receives understanding. Then, he expresses his faith in this song.

We could almost compare it with Job's expression of faith in Job 42:2-6. Habakkuk finally sees God as He really is, and he expresses his joy and his faith that God is on his and Judah's side. In the same way, we could express our faith and joy that He is on our side and the church's side because we know Him.

The prophet goes through all the ways that God has worked on behalf of His people, particularly the Exodus. He admits that he had forgotten all these things. He realizes that, though they were not understood at the time, all these acts of God worked to bring about what He had planned. God's acts brought Israel into the Promised Land and made them into a nation. No matter how much we fail to understand, God is still wonderful and working hard to bring us blessing. So he tells God, "I am sorry that I forgot all your power and that I let my fears get in the way."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Zechariah 14:16-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses give us a small window into the Millennium, showing that God will then be involved in actively blessing or cursing all nations, not just Israel. The Bible clearly shows that God is now exercising His sovereignty over His creation and will continue to do so beyond the return of Jesus Christ, even in the area of inanimate things like the weather and ground. Blessing or cursing is an act of His sovereignty conditioned to our response to Him. He is not merely passively paying attention and responding as He sees fit, but even more so initiating actions to bring His people to His desired end.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Four


 

Malachi 3:18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

After He spares the God-fearing, it will be clear who is really part of His ekklesia. God will intervene on behalf of His people!

Will Christ intervene directly to correct His church? Most members hope that He will. Most agree that problems exist. They agree that they dislike what is going on. But their justification for remaining with it is that they expect that Christ will intervene.

If Christ is going to intervene, then why did He not intervene during the Ephesian era? If He would have intervened then, the Catholic and Protestant churches would never have begun. But He did not intervene. Instead the Ephesian church broke into small groups of those who wanted to hold fast to the doctrines that the apostles had given them. The main body went on and eventually blended back into the world.

So how will God make the distinction between the righteous and the wicked (Malachi 3:18)? What form will His intervention take?

The context of Malachi 3 indicates it, but a clearer prophecy of this time can be found in the book of Revelation.

But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent . . . . And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:14, 17)

This is how He will intervene! This is how He will fulfill what He said in Malachi 3.

He will cause a separation!

Those who are to be spared will depart from the main body and be protected from the great time of trouble just ahead. The other group must prove their dedication to God by bearing the full force of Satan's wrath. There must be two separate bodies of people, or they would share a common fate!

The exact time the separation is to occur is not given. Revelation 12 only shows that it will occur. When it occurs, it will be abundantly clear who was faithful and righteous and who was not. Compare these scriptures with Revelation 3:10-11, 16-19.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Matthew 8:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

After relating the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew brings the reader back into the story flow by reiterating how great multitudes followed Jesus. Verse 2 begins, "And behold a leper came. . . ." This statement becomes significant when we consider that no man can come to Christ unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). That the leper came to Christ - amongst a great multitude, no less - was in itself an act of faith in response to what he heard (Romans 10:17). For him to come to Christ as he did, God had to have revealed to him that Christ was the only One who could truly cleanse him and provide him the fresh start he so desired (Matthew 16:15-17). Notice, too, the humility the leper portrays in expressing his understanding of Christ's abilities.

What makes this encounter so interesting is that, under Old Testament law, the leper was completely defiled in his uncleanness. He was to live alone and warn any who would venture near of possible contamination (Leviticus 13:44-46). Albert Barnes, commenting on Leviticus 13:45, notes, "The leper was to carry about with him the usual signs of mourning for the dead. . . . The leper was a living parable in the world of sin of which death was the wages."

In fact, all disease and degeneration are ultimately products of sin and neglect, but none is so gruesomely picturesque of the effect sin has on a person and a community as leprosy. The disease progresses slowly at first, deeply seated in the bones and joints, essentially undetectable until spots appear on the skin. Gradually, these spots grow to cover the entire body. They give the appearance of foul wounds, sore and festering as the body slowly wastes away in a ruinous heap. Parts of the body actually begin falling off, leading eventually to the individual's death.

A leper can live up to fifty years in indescribable misery, as he watches himself die bit by bit, falling to pieces as a hideous spectacle. For the leper of Matthew 8, it was a hopeless predicament; nothing could be done, apart from God's miraculous intervention (Isaiah 1:4-6; Jeremiah 13:23).

Staff
The Gift of a Leper


 

Matthew 13:54-58  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Here, He did not affect people positively. The overwhelming evidence of Scripture is that mankind did not see Him. Instead, they were perplexed or disturbed. He created divisions. Some were outright offended. Notice Jesus' reaction: "But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.' And He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (verses 57-58).

His statement begins to reveal an application of "seeing" to us. Will He be working in our lives if we do not see Him? If we do not understand His purpose, what He is working out in us? We have come out of a world in which there is just as much, if not more, confusion today regarding Him as when He walked the earth. The concern is not whether we can identify Him, because we recognize Him as the Christ—we "see" the real Jesus—but do we see Him as a vital part of our lives?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Do You See God? (Part One)


 

Matthew 24:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Verse 7 presents a challenging proposition regarding prophecy and God's active involvement in the governance of His creation. Jesus can say this only if God will use His powers purposely to increase the number and intensity of these plagues in a variety of places, even where they are not normally experienced. No study has ever shown that these things increase or decrease according to uniform law, especially in widely divergent places. Jesus intimates that they will increase unusually and rather suddenly.

Psalm 147:15-20 shows God actively exercises His sovereignty daily in good times and bad. His involvement is not limited to the big disasters we call "acts of God," though they are certainly included:

He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; He casts out His hail like morsels; who can stand before His cold? He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow. He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any nation; and as for His judgments, they have not known them. Praise the LORD.

Regarding "acts of God," Amos 4:6-9, 13 provides arresting insight into why God uses them to intervene in the affairs of men:

"Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities. And lack of bread in all your places; 'Yet you have not returned to Me,'" says the LORD. "I also withheld rain from you, when there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, and where it did not rain the part withered. So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, but they were not satisfied; yet you have not returned to Me," says the LORD. "I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, your vineyards, your fig trees, and your olive trees, the locust devoured them; yet you have not returned to Me," says the LORD . . . . For behold, He who forms mountains, and creates the wind, who declares to man what his thought is, and makes the morning darkness, who treads the high places of the earth—the LORD God of hosts is His name.

Is God involved? Certainly! He does these things to grab people's attention and turn them back to Him!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Four


 

Matthew 24:15-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

How will the days be shortened? Is God going to lessen time than would normally come? That is a part of the explanation. The implication, though, within the context, is that God will stop short what is occurring lest everybody be killed. If He allowed the events that were taking place to continue, everyone would die. When He stops the event, time in a sense stops—at least as far as this event is concerned.

To whom are the pronouns referring here? Verse 15, "Therefore when you." Verse 16, "Then let those." Verse 17, "Let him." Verse 18, "Let him." Verse 19, "But woe to you." These pronouns refer to those who understand the prophecies and are alive at the time these things are taking place. How many people are involved? It is unspecified.

One thing is clear. There is no doubt that, in this prophecy, deliverance involves flight (at least to those who are around Jerusalem during this unprecedented distress). In this case, to flee in no way implies flying. The verb here is phuego, and it means to flee, to escape danger. It indicates nothing other than escaping by running—shoe-leather express.

The context of the chapter is "literal and physical." It is not "figurative and spiritual." It involves physical survival worldwide, though the prophecy itself focuses on Jerusalem. It is worldwide because verses 21-22 make it clear "that no one would be saved alive." He means no one on earth, not just that no one around Jerusalem would be saved alive. This time is so bad that even the elect would die, except for God's intervention. Notice that God, through His servant Jesus Christ, says, "Don't stay in the midst of the trouble—get out."

Considering the timeframe, Psalm 91 would have to be modified to apply it directly to us, because our understanding from other portions of God's Word is that He expects us to get out, to flee to some designated place called "your chamber" or "her place." It involves segregating ourselves away from something. We can also understand that we will have help from God in segregating ourselves, as I Corinthians 10:13 indicates. He makes a way of escape that His people can take, just as He did for Israel. He opened up the Red Sea so that they could escape. They walked to safety, fleeing from the Egyptian army. Nevertheless, God intervened.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 1)


 

Mark 1:41  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Under the Old Covenant, touching the unclean defiled a person (Leviticus 5:3), but Christ showed that under the New Covenant, this was not so. Instead, evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies are what defile a person (Matthew 15:18-20). Jesus never did any of these evil acts, and contrary to what the Jews thought about touching a leper, He could never be defiled.

However, when we view His touching the leper as a defiling act according to the Old Covenant, it reveals a realistic picture of the distinction between man and God. God put the filthy sins of the world on Christ so that we may be cleansed and forgiven. Christ "who knew no sin [took sin on Himself] that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21).

God's power to intervene is apparent in this healing, as the cleansing of the leprosy occurred immediately, instantaneously, upon touching him. If the healing had taken a prolonged time, the world would have had an opportunity to deny that Christ had healed the leper. They would likely have claimed that the natural healing process of the body made him well. Following Jesus' example, the apostles also laid hands on the sick, by which the power of God's Holy Spirit healed them (see Acts 10:38; I Corinthians 12:9).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Leper (Part Three)


 

Mark 6:51-52  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Mark characteristically records details that the other writers do not, and here, he describes the disciples' astonishment. If they had truly believed, nothing should have amazed them. They knew Jesus was the Messiah, but their faith was too weak to believe deeply that He was the powerful God of creation. Mark explains that His multiplying of the loaves and fish just hours earlier should have demonstrated Jesus' true identity to them (Mark 8:18-21), but neither that miracle nor the appearance of Jesus on the water could open their hearts to the reality of His divine nature.

When Jesus had calmed the storm earlier, the disciples had struggled with faith versus fear (Mark 4:40), and now, they struggled with faith versus fear plus hard-heartedness. Their hearts were hardened because their minds were slow to recognize the significance of Christ's miracle. This does not mean that they were conflicted about Jesus, but simply that they were slow to recognize His omnipotence. Once the excitement of the raging sea had settled down, the disciples gained a greater appreciation for the breadth of His power. From this they were able to admire and worship Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God" (Matthew 14:33). The disciples' hearts were beginning to soften.

The encouraging lesson of this miracle is that faith is tested by the stormy trials in life, but despite our being tossed about on the waves of a troublesome world, Jesus is always near. We may feel abandoned in times of stress, but Christ has not forgotten us. His intervention may sometimes come suddenly, at other times slowly, yet depending on the will of the Father, there is always the potential for a miraculous solution.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Walking On Water (Part Two)


 

Mark 16:17-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Of the gospel writers, Mark is the only one to record this account. These verses are similar to both Matthew's and Luke's versions of Christ's commission to the apostles (Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 24:36-49). However, only Mark includes the "signs [that] will follow those who believe." Are they commands for the followers of Christ or promises? In particular, does Jesus say Christians should handle snakes, or does He promise to protect them if they are bitten?

Many in the church believe, and it may well be, that Christ was speaking only to those God has called to preach the gospel. After all, in verse 15, He had said to the eleven remaining disciples, "Go into all the world." Combine this with the fact that we can see examples of the apostles fulfilling these signs in the New Testament and a case can be made for this view.

A snake bit the apostle Paul while he was on the island of Malta, and no harm came to him (Acts 28:1-6). However, he did not go looking for the snake in an effort to prove his faith. The snake bit him unexpectedly, in front of others, and God protected him as promised.

Luke writes that "the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name" (Luke 10:17). He also records in Acts 5:12, ". . . through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people." It is quite possible that this section of Mark applies to the apostles and perhaps is further limited to their lifetimes, that is, the first century. A slight problem with this conclusion is that Mark 16:17 says, ". . . these signs will follow those who believe." It would appear that these verses apply to all believers, all Christians, regardless of when they live.

In Matthew 4, Satan tempts Christ in various ways. At one point, he tries to get Jesus to throw Himself off the roof of the Temple, saying, "For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge concerning you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone'" (verse 6). Here Satan twists Psalm 91:11-12, which says, "For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone." God is promising protection to His people here, telling us that He will place His angels about us. He is not telling us to attempt to hurt ourselves in a deliberate effort to see if He will come through for us.

Interestingly, the next verse tells us that we will "tread upon the lion and the cobra" and that we will "trample underfoot" the "young lion and the serpent" (verse 13). Again, within the context of Psalm 91, God is promising His protection.

When Satan attempts to persuade Christ to jump off a building to prove that He truly is the Son of God, He answers the Devil, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God'" (Matthew 4:7). Certainly, Jesus knew that God's angels were all about Him, but He also knew not to test God deliberately. Christ was quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16, where hundreds of years earlier, He Himself had said this very same thing to the Israelites.

In Deuteronomy 5, through Moses, He had rehearsed to the children of Israel the Ten Commandments. Then, in chapter 6, He told them to "love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might" (verse 5). He further told them to teach God's ways to their children, fear Him, stay away from other gods, and do "not tempt the LORD your God" (verses 7, 13-14, 16). As Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 show, God's blessings would flow to them if they were obedient—blessings that include the promise of protection.

In Luke 10:17, the seventy that Christ had sent out returned with great joy, amazed that even the demons had been subject to them. Jesus responds:

Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. (verses 19-20)

Protection is promised here, not a command to flaunt their God-given authority. He specifically instructs them "not [to] rejoice in this" because it was not of their doing, not a show of faith. It was God's protection pure and simple.

The prophet Isaiah pens words of God similar to these in Isaiah 43:1-3, 5:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; . . . you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. . . . Fear not, for I am with you.

Throughout His Word, God has promised us His protection. He is especially watchful over those He has commissioned to carry out His work, as well as all those whom He has called to make a witness for Him. The Bible is full of examples of His power to deliver His servants from life-threatening situations.

However, He does not guarantee to cover our foolishness when we put ourselves into potentially dangerous situations. He abhors being tempted—tested—as if He needs to prove Himself and His power to us. Psalm 78 shows His distaste for the Israelites' constant testing of Him in the wilderness. The last thing He desires is for members of His church to follow their example of unbelief (see Hebrews 3:7 through 4:2).

Mike Ford
Should Christians Handle Snakes?


 

Luke 4:9-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The theme here is protection. Satan quotes from Psalm 91:11-12, which has the same theme. He is quoting back to Jesus the very words that He had inspired, but he does it without quoting the entirety of the two verses. He leaves out one phrase: "in all your ways." Jesus immediately replies, showing him that he had misapplied it: God does not guarantee He will protect us "in all our ways."

Will Jesus protect us in our rebellion? Will He protect us if we are downright foolish? God certainly expects us to do things involving faith in Him, which the unconverted may consider to be foolish or dangerous. But willfully exposing ourselves to any danger, presuming that God is going to protect us, is tempting Him. Man has no right to dictate to God what He should do.

It is as if Satan is saying to Jesus: "Since you are God's Son, certainly He will protect You from whatever danger You may get into. His angels will always be there to help You. You cannot be hurt. Deliverance will always be there. You can trust Him." It sounds good, but it is built upon a presumption.

Some ministers, when they are counseling people on a trial, say, "You just do what I told you, and everything will work out." The implication is that, even if the minister's counsel is wrong, God will smooth it over and make it work simply because he is God's minister and they are God's people. From this temptation of Jesus, we can see that He does not believe that. We cannot tempt God and expect His promises to force Him to rescue us. God may, in His mercy, rescue us because of our ignorance, but that is not the spiritually mature way to think.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 2)


 

John 4:46-50  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The nobleman must have had a bud of faith, for his urgent need moved him to seek Christ. At least a glimmer of faith was necessary to believe that, if he could only convince Jesus the Healer to go to his dying child, his son would be healed. This first example of Jesus' healing miracles is important, as it emphasizes the link between miracles and faith. Those who desire to be healed or to have a loved one healed must exhibit faith.

Jesus miracles of healing are instructive in that they give us kinds and actions of faith. By refusing to go with the nobleman, Jesus emphasizes and illustrates the potency of strong faith. Another time, Jesus teaches that a miracle is not the cause of faith as much as its reward (Matthew 9:22). Belief in Christ as Healer leads people to faith in Him as Savior.

We all desire divine intervention when we are in dire need; "there are no atheists in a foxhole," it is said. Though the nobleman's human faith was limited and weak, it was still real. Jesus helped him to develop it, leading to deeper belief. However, no matter how strong our faith is, if it is in a wrong object, it will do nothing to relieve suffering, but if our faith is properly directed, despite being weak, it will bring deliverance and comfort. Note, however, that faith itself does not relieve affliction, but the power of the One in whom we believe does.

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Nobleman's Son


 

Acts 15:14-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Acts 15:14-18, the apostle James makes an astounding series of statements following Peter's address to the assembled elders. Notice how clearly God states that He initiates His works through men. Acts 10 relates the story of the conversion of Cornelius and his house. Neither Peter, whom God sent, nor Cornelius, who received him, knew of the other's existence. God, working in both men, opened the door and brought them together.

God Himself pledges to rebuild the tabernacle of David. Certainly, He works through men, who, on the surface, appear to observers to be doing the work. Nevertheless, it is the invisible God who initiates and enables the rebuilding by determining when it will begin, who among men will work on it, and how completely they will finish it. He also gives gifts to those concerned to bring it about. Surely, God activates, sustains, and completes.

The Living Bible renders verse 18 as, "That is what the Lord says, who reveals His plans made from the beginning." How carefully crafted are His plans? How detailed are they? Has anything been left to chance? One thing is clear: He is a Creator who knows where He is going and has known from the outset of the project. He made His plans, and they proceed as and when He planned. When we begin to think of what James says here in terms of all the nations of the earth as well as the church, we are considering events of tremendous magnitude involving billions of people and millennia of time.

But we need to make this more personal.

Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4-5, ". . . just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. . . ." Predestined means "marked out in advance" or "appointed beforehand." Verse 4 indisputably says this occurred "before the foundation of the world." When we combine this with Acts 15:18, this event must have occurred some time before what happens in Genesis 1:2-26.

Is this a generality that predestines only the existence of a church and not the individuals who would comprise it? The overall impression of the context in combination with other passages suggests an answer of "No," but it is not certain. It can be taken as a generality, which is indeed a safe conclusion. Regardless, Paul's words describe a Creator who is not only actively working toward an ultimate end, but also toward specific intermediate accomplishments, such as the church. He is the One in control, moving things in whatever direction they need to go. It begins to become clear that events relating directly to God's purpose of reproducing Himself do not happen randomly. One should not have the impression that God sits at the controls in heaven constantly making adjustments to accommodate for what He did not foresee we would do down here.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)


 

Romans 8:27-30  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

With such positive statements about our salvation, why should we be hopeless and fearfully doubt that God will supply all our needs? Does He ever fail to succeed in whatever He undertakes? These verses flatly and dogmatically state that, if we want to cooperate in faith to bring God's purpose for us to its intended conclusion, we must, I repeat, must, believe that His watchfulness over us involves every circumstance of our lives.

Verses 31 and 32 put a cap on this issue: "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"

In verse 30, note that the term "sanctified" is missing from the list of the general stages of God's purpose. Sanctification is the only part of the salvation process in which our cooperation plays a major, consistent, and daily role. Why does Paul exclude it? This was not an oversight; he deliberately leaves "sanctified" out because he wants, for the remainder of this section of this epistle, to focus entirely on the absolute certainty of God's providence, not on any works we may perform in cooperation with Him during the sanctification process.

Paul is not saying that God will always do what we might want Him to do; he is reminding us that He will always do what is right according to His purpose. God has the necessary powers to do as He sees fit for His purpose and us. He is watching, which is even more reason for us to draw on that power.

Nobody can successfully stand in the way of His completing that purpose in each of us, but based on our knowledge of those powers, are we willing to accept His providence? Do we accept what He provides in any given circumstance, even though what He provides might not be what we would like to have?

All of the things Paul writes here are wonderful, but the key to this particular subject is the answer to the question he asks in verse 30: "If God be for us who can be against us?" God has the power and the will, and He does not make mistakes or empty promises. Paul then lists what God has already done for all concerned. Our responsibility is to choose to put these facts to work in our specific circumstances.

The handwriting on the wall for us is this: Terribly difficult times are coming, and they will affect all of us to varying degrees. The only successful way to complete our minute part in God's purpose is to choose to draw on His power. We must begin at once to cultivate the habit of cooperating by faith, accepting whatever He chooses to provide in our circumstances. If this habit is in place through long practice, we will be ready when the pressure really mounts.

Because He is the Source of our deliverance in every circumstance, it is crucial for us to know God as well as we can. Our relationship with Him through Jesus Christ is the key that gives us access to the deliverance He provides. He has the power, and it is His will to meet our every need. It is incumbent upon us, therefore, to use our time now to build on our present relationship with Him, making it stronger and more intimate.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)


 

Romans 8:29-30  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

No one has been glorified yet but Jesus Christ. God is so confident that He can finish what He has started that He states the promise as though it is already completed.

Verse 29 says, "For whom He foreknew." "Foreknew" applies to that period before His calling of us. Before He caused us to turn to Him, before He actually extended the invitation, He knew us. He was watching over our lives. Who knows how many times He intervened to alter the course of our lives in order to bring something critical about, whether it was our education or saving us from injury or death or disease? Who knows how He may have intervened because He "foreknew" us?

My study Bible comments about the word "foreknew":

This is not simple prescience or advanced knowledge. This knowledge should also not be understood in the sense of being acquainted with, but in the sense of bringing into a special relationship with, as Adam knew Eve his wife.

In other words, foreknew does not merely mean "to be acquainted with" or "to have advanced knowledge" of us. When God foreknew us, He was so close to us that He was sticking right by our side. He had clear insight and attended closely to what was happening in our lives.

God said to Israel, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth" (Amos 3:2) Jesus said, "I know My sheep" (John 10:27). In Matthew 7:23, He said to another group of people, "I never knew you."

Foreknowledge is God's determination to bring certain ones into a special relationship with Himself. Since it is foreknowledge, He determined to bring us to glory long before He called us, long before He caused us to turn to Him. He has been personally involved with us. We were not just personally selected, but also personally sought out. Why? We could say "for glory," that is, to be admitted into His Kingdom. This is certainly true, but it was also so that, first, He could have a relationship with us, that we would seek Him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 7)


 

Romans 9:18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Can we take what he says here by faith? We had better! We have no other choice. We must accept the fact that God is running His Creation, that He is holy, and that everything He does is in love, wisdom, and for the benefit of His purpose. He does everything so that the most will be produced in every person and His Kingdom will be the most greatly expanded.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

1 Corinthians 1:26-29  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Nobody will ever come before God and say, "I did it by the strength of my own hands." Though this person may have faith and a strong will, he is certainly not perfect. Many times, when the Israelites' faith broke down, God had to intervene in some way to save them. Whether it is Israel at the Red Sea or Israel out in the wilderness, time and again He had to intervene and spare them, even in times when they showed a measure of faith.

Since man's creation, humans have been exalting themselves against God by choosing to do things their own way. However, there is only one way that works eternally, and every human being will be led to see his weaknesses and know that it is by grace that we are saved. This realization does wonders to a person's feelings about himself, making humility possible. This, in turn, makes it possible for him to yield to God, which makes it possible for him to deal with other human beings, not with a high hand or as a master to a slave, but as a friend—as an understanding brother or sister who has gone through similar experiences and seen their own failures, and who can commiserate, sympathize, show compassion and mercy, encourage, and inspire the one who has failed.

God will work in each person and will do it in such a way that he will come to realize that merely knowing the truth—and even believing the truth and acting on it—are not enough. God must save them by grace.

This is not to say that works are unimportant. They are vital to maintaining and developing a relationship with God. They are important in building character, and in this sense, without works we will have a difficult time being saved. If nothing else, doing good works shows that a relationship exists between a person and God. So works are important to earning rewards, to building character, to providing a witness for God, but they still will not save us of and by themselves because, since we are imperfect, they are also terribly flawed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 10:12-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is no need for us to fail. Trials and tests will come—and they will be common tests. They will not be something so unusual that our situation will be absolutely unique. But God is faithful in that He promises to provide us a way out of it—not avoiding it, but through it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10


 

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

Notice Paul says God "works all things according to the counsel of His will." This thought comes in the midst of a paragraph in which some commentators believe Paul reflects on how God arranged every detail to bring Israel out of a seemingly impossible situation in Egypt and into the Promised Land. It is perhaps most directly tied to Deuteronomy 7:7-8.

Consider Israel's roots, geographic location and history. They were a slave people in a foreign land, freed without a revolution, taken on a 40-year journey during which their needs were supplied, led to a stronger people's land and given it when they should have been easily defeated. This land, situated between stronger and larger nations, was constantly fought over, yet Israel somehow survived. Even today, they continue to exist, though the world thinks they have virtually disappeared!

Did all of this happen more or less accidentally? Paul is saying indirectly that even as Israel's history is no accident, and since the church has succeeded Israel as God's inheritance, God has a far grander purpose that He will just as surely work out in His sovereignty. Who can withstand what He wills to do? It is no accident that we are in the church because God has been working toward these events from the beginning, and what God wills is done. God is sovereign over His creation in all things.

Stretch that "all things" generally into other areas of life. It makes this subject very interesting in light of Jesus' statement that a sparrow cannot fall without God taking notice (Matthew 10:29-31). Perhaps we could make a case for saying that some things occur out in the world that are of no significance to God's purpose, but what about in His church, the apple of His eye, the focus of His attention? This is Paul's theme in Ephesians 1. Is God so unaware, so unconcerned about His children that things happen without His notice, without His scrutiny and His judgment about what He should do?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

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

Paul would never have become an apostle if God had not done what He did. He made Paul an apostle. God converted Paul, an enemy of the church, and turned him into the hardest worker, probably, that the church has ever seen. He converted him, changed him.

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


 

Colossians 3:22-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Is God involved in our lives? Paul is bringing the example of Christ, and His attitude toward those who were in authority, all the way down to an employment level. In Ephesians 5:21, he brought it down to a relationship within a congregation. But in both cases, the submitting was done out of respect for God—not because the authority was great, not because the person was a better man or woman—in fact, it had nothing whatever to do with the character of the person in authority.

Our submission has everything to do with our relationship to God, what we know of Him, and the purpose He is working out. The biblical definition of submission is clear. This instruction is in perfect harmony with Romans 12 where he says, "Live with all men in peace," as well as, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay!"

Submission is an act of faith. It has nothing at all to do with the quality of character of the person to whom we are submitting. It does not matter whether he is a good or a bad guy. It does not matter whether or not we feel what he is doing is unjust. It may be very unjust—as the taking of Christ's life was very unjust. But Christ submitted to whatever God permitted—out of fear, out of respect, out of faith that God had Him in His hands and nothing would happen before its time. He knew God was concerned about the outcome of His life.

So then, biblical submission is respecting divinely appointed authority out of respect for Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)


 

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

Sufficient pressure comes from the world, so that, if we are lackadaisical in carrying out our Christian responsibilities, we can easily allow ourselves to follow Satan's arrangement of things, as shown in the world. There is much out there that is attractive to human nature and to true Christians, and we can see, despite two thousand years of preaching by the church, the overwhelming majority is still following the broad way.

The world makes it seem as though Christianity is an abject failure—an altruistic experience that has gone awry. The world gives every impression that God has either gone far off, and that His whole creation is nothing more than a kind of cosmic joke. Some believe God never really did care, and the creation is a mere plaything of His with no positive, beneficial purpose in mind.

Thus, with that kind of approach, if we are lackadaisical, the world can be very persuasive. When viewing the expanse of Christian history, it is not difficult for a carnal person to reach the conclusion that God has good intentions, but that He is frequently disappointed because Satan outwits Him or man thwarts Him. God, then, is frustrated in everything that He tries to do. It is as if He says that He wants to bless men, but they will not let Him.

Who with that perspective could take God seriously? It makes it easy to think—and thus to live—as though God really is not sovereign in His creation. We must take these thoughts and questions seriously, yet considering them directly, as we are doing now, we are likely to say that we do not think that way.

We think that God is in complete and total control, ruling His creation. We hope and believe that is true. Even so, experience shows that, though we confess this, we sometimes—perhaps often—live and talk as the world does. Who will not think or live that way? Those who really live by faith.

What does "walk by faith" mean? It means that we are allowing our thoughts to be formed, and therefore our conduct guided, by God's Word, because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by means of the word of God (Romans 10:17). The most frequently repeated command, charge, or exhortation of Jesus Christ during His ministry can be reduced to one word: "listen"! It appears 18 times! What did He mean? "Listen to the message!"—because this is the very thing that mankind has not done. Faith comes by hearing.

Faith comes by means of listening to the Word of God. How much faith is being displayed on earth today? Not very much! There is so little, that Jesus wondered, "When the Son of man comes, will He find any faith on earth?" He will not find much because not very many people think God is the Sovereign Ruler of His creation. It's that simple! They may think they believe it, but their lives do not show it. If their lives showed it, it would prove that they really were listening to the Word of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God (Part 1)


 

Hebrews 11:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We have generally understood this verse to mean that the material creation, which we can clearly see, was produced from invisible spirit. It is certainly a possible meaning, but it is probably not its primary one. In his book, Great Cloud of Witnesses (pp. 12-14), E. W. Bullinger provides an alternative that appears more accurate and fitting within the context of Hebrews 11.

The word "worlds" is translated from the Greek aion, meaning "age," in the sense of a period of time or a dispensation. It derives from a root that means "continued," and it is used as "world" only when "world" gives a better sense of a period of time, not the physical creation. It could be used if one said "the world that then was" or "the world to come."

"Framed" also appears in Hebrews 10:5, where it is more clearly and accurately translated "prepared." It means "to complete thoroughly," "to rule" (even "overrule"), or "to order" (by God in this case). "Word" is not logos but rhema, meaning "revealed words." Finally, "made" is ginomai, which means "to generate," "to cause to be," "to happen," or "to come to pass." It is not the word normally used to indicate God is creating.

Using these definitions, we could translate the verse as, "By faith we perceive by the revealed words of God that the ages were prepared, so that the things we see come to pass not from things that appear." Those of us who walk by faith know that a great Unseen Hand guides, indeed overrules, events on this earth. This verse means that the historical events we read of in God's Word were not chance occurrences, but God was working behind the scenes to bring His purpose to the conclusion He has foreordained. In short, it says, "God controls the march of history." The great men and women listed in Hebrews 11 lived their lives firmly knowing this truth. That is why they could live in faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Promises Are Sure!


 

Hebrews 11:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This concept reveals the solid base of faith toward God: that He is Creator and Ruler. "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?" God Himself demanded of Job. The answer to this question is why we can understand the existence of things by faith.

E.W. Bullinger has an additional thought on this verse that is worth considering. He takes this beyond creation, as the word translated "worlds" is literally aiones or "ages." Thus, the verse is literally stating that God framed or put into order the ages. Zodhiates agrees that aiones indicates ages or times, in contrast with kosmos, often translated as "world," which indicates people as a society. Bullinger shows that God, unseen and sovereign, is not only Creator, but also actively shapes events within the expanses of time. As Jesus says in John 5:17, God is always working, directing the movement of history to bring about His desired ends. Bullinger's approach is to be preferred as more appropriate to the entire epistle.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Three)


 

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

Peter comments on God's operations in this sphere of His work. The King James Study Bible has an interesting note about the intent of this verse: "This is not merely advanced knowledge of, but when connected to 'before the foundation of the world,' [Ephesians 1:4] it means God determined in eternity past to bring certain ones of His creation into a special relationship with Him and each other at specific times" (emphasis added).

Consider the construction of a large building. As a new building is erected, the workers follow blueprints made by architects, engineers, designers, and draftsmen. Every detail of what is being built—where it sits on the property, perhaps ten thousand individual dimensions, water pipes, sewer lines, specifications of the foundation, composition of the flooring, steel columns, girders, electrical lines, conduit, brackets to support pipes, roofing materials, the color and composition of paints both inside and out, etc.—is determined, designed, and drafted on the plans before the actual construction began.

In principle, is this not a human form of God knowing the end from the beginning? Does this not compare to God appointing beforehand or predetermining when, where, and who does what? If men can do this on a small scale, why cannot God do this on an immensely more massive and complex scale with His vastly superior mind? Is not God's intellect of such magnitude that He can easily do this (Romans 11:33-36)? Does He not have sufficient time to plan, prepare, and bring these things to pass (Isaiah 57:15)? Dare we even think of Him as getting tired or wandering from the purpose He established for Himself (Psalm 121:3-4)?

Even so, do not get the impression that He does not react to how we use our free moral agency. If He did not react, chapters like Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 would not be necessary, for in these chapters He definitely says, "If you do this, I will do that." They obviously depict Him reacting to our choices. He contemplates and judges what we do. However, this in no way negates the fact that the Bible reveals Him as the Prime Mover in His creation, always in control even in what we consider bad circumstances that directly affect us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part One)


 

2 Peter 2:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Peter clearly understands that Satan is somewhere in the picture, and he wants us to be encouraged, to be filled with hope, because these ungodly people, though they appear to be gaining strength, are still under God's control. God knows how to deliver His people from their schemes—even as He delivered Noah, Lot, and others in the past from plots that were going on in their days.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

2 Peter 3:1-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

II Peter 3:1-6 contains vivid illustrations of God ruling and overruling to bring His purpose to a successful conclusion in spite of men. Because the Creator God truly is sovereign, He is constantly moving His creation, including us, toward the conclusion of the purpose He determined from the beginning. All things do not continue as they were. God is working and intervening, making adjustments in the course of international, national, and personal events, as the incidents of the Flood and the Tower of Babel vividly illustrate. Peter could have added many more examples, such as freeing Israel from Egypt, guiding Israel to power and destroying it, and scattering the Israelites over the face of the earth. God has done this so completely that most have no idea where Israel is or that they themselves might be Israelites.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

Revelation 6:10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This plaintive cry, "How long . . .?" is a New Testament echo of the Old Testament prophets, many of whom were persecuted and slain for their testimony. The psalmists use it most frequently: from David in Psalm 13:1 ("How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?") to Asaph in Psalm 74:10 ("O God, how long will the adversary reproach?") to Moses in Psalm 90:13 ("Return, O LORD! How long? And have compassion on Your servants"). Even Ethan the Ezrahite gets in on the act: "How long, LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire?" (Psalm 89:46; see also Psalm 6:3; 35:17; 79:5; 80:4; 94:3).

This question continues in both the major and minor prophets. Isaiah writes, "Then I said, 'Lord, how long?' And He answered: 'Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, the houses are without a man, the land is utterly desolate. . .'" (Isaiah 6:11). Later, Habakkuk asks, "O LORD, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, 'Violence!' and You will not save" (Habakkuk 1:2; see also Daniel 12:6; Zechariah 1:12). "How long?" has been a constant prayer to God through the ages, especially during times of great distress, particularly when God's servants are under intense persecution, when the surrounding culture has reached its nadir and the nation is ripe for judgment, or as it often works out, when both are happening simultaneously.

The intent of the request in Revelation 6:10 is for an indication from God of how long the saints have to endure the worst that Satan-inspired humanity can throw at them before He acts on their behalf as He has promised. As early as Deuteronomy 32:43, the conclusion of the Song of Moses, it is promised, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries." Jesus Himself promises, "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily" (Luke 18:7-8). Paul later expands this considerably:

. . . it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. (II Thessalonians 1:6-10)

There is never a doubt about God's eventual intervention to avenge the deaths of His saints. God's promises are sure (Isaiah 46:11; 55:11; Matthew 24:35; John 10:35). Obviously, "How long, O Lord . . .?" is a query about the duration of events until God intervenes, and the souls under the altar ask it, not in impatience or exasperation, but in anticipation of the end of the saints' tribulations and of the receipt of their reward.

In reading this, however, we must not forget that these martyred saints are dead, resting in their graves, as Revelation 6:11 confirms. Thus, the answer to their question is not for them—they know nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5), their testimony having finished in death (Acts 20:24; II Timothy 4:7; Revelation 11:7)—but for living saints, who will undergo persecution and eventual martyrdom.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Seal (Part Two)


 

Revelation 6:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The effect of these cosmic signs from God is to produce terror in earth's populace, triggering humanity's strong drive to preserve itself. Despite mountains moving, men and women of every origin, status, and creed—from king to slave—flee for the caves under the mountains in a vain attempt to hide themselves from God (Revelation 6:15). This is reminiscent of Isaiah 2:19, a prophecy of the Day of the Lord: "They shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily."

John sees these fearful people speaking to the mountains and rocks, commanding them to hide them from the sight of God the Father and from the "wrath of the Lamb" (verse 16). Their cry, "Fall on us!" is not a death wish or a suicidal means to avoid God's judgment but a hope that the mountains will cover and conceal them. "Fall on us and hide us" is typical Hebrew parallelism, as can be seen from an Old Testament parallel in which Israelites "shall say to the mountains, 'Cover us!' and to the hills, 'Fall on us!'" (Hosea 10:8).

It is somewhat startling that earth's sinners correctly identify these catastrophic events as evidences of God's wrath. We are used to them being termed "natural disasters" and in no way a result of God's intervention in humanity's affairs. Yet, this time, these cataclysmic signs are indeed "acts of God," and men know it. Such a succession of disturbances can be nothing other than divine anger.

Further, people seek to be "out of sight, out of mind" to both the Father—"Him who sits on the throne" (Revelation 6:16)—and the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Often, the phrase "face of Him," "face of God," or "face of the LORD" suggests being in His presence (Genesis 33:10; I Samuel 26:20; II Chronicles 7:14; Lamentations 2:19; Luke 1:76). However, it can also imply being under the judgment of an angry God (see Leviticus 26:17; Psalm 34:16; Jeremiah 44:11; Lamentations 4:16; also Amos 9:4). Obviously, the latter idea fits this instance.

Initially, it seems incongruous to pair "wrath" with "of the Lamb," but it makes perfect sense on two levels. First, "Lamb" is only one title of this complex Individual, Jesus Christ, who is not a cute, cuddly, little lamb. As the Johnny Cash song, "A Boy Named Sue," relates, a person's name cannot describe his entire personality, and one may rue the day he made the assumption it could! The same Jesus Christ who took little children in His arms and blessed them also made a whip of cords and angrily drove the moneychangers from God's Temple.

Second, as it pertains to Christ, the lamb represents a sacrificial Redeemer, One who gave His life to buy back others who had been enslaved. The meaning of the symbol contemplates, not only the force of character it would take to perform such a selfless act, but also the position of mastery to which it elevated Him due to its success. In other words, the imagery of the lamb contains both the Suffering Servant and the Exalted Lord and Judge of all (John 5:22).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Seal


 

Revelation 17:16-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses contain an astonishing statement of God's unseen influence in earthly events and how personally involved He is in what is planned for these end times. God motivates both the destruction of the harlot by her fellow conspirators and the very drives for the union of nations into the Beast. He is working this very moment as men conspire to bring this to pass!

How could it be otherwise? If God makes prophecies about what He will do, He had better have the power to bring them to pass. He does this by influencing the thinking of those He has put into positions to fulfill them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility: Part Eleven


 

 




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