What the Bible says about
God's Involvement in Our Lives
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Melchizedek seems to appear out of nowhere, without any warning. Aside from a prophecy in the Psalms, this is the sole reference to Him until the book of Hebrews. Not only is this the Bible's first appearance of Melchizedek, but it is also the first time that a priest is mentioned. Furthermore, despite Melchizedek being called a priest, the text makes no mention of sacrifices—understandable since, as the One who would later be called Jesus Christ, He had no need for propitiation to come before God on another's behalf.
Notice also that the priest approaches the man on behalf of God, and not the other way around. This illustrates that God initiates the relationship and not man (John 6:44). It is impossible for man to worship God properly without His involvement first. We see Melchizedek bringing bread and wine, the symbols of the New Testament Passover, rather than a lamb and bitter herbs that were used in the Passover in Egypt. (As an aside, “bread” here is a general term in Hebrew, referring to either leavened or unleavened bread.)
This is also the first time God's title of “Most High” is used. It is used four times in this section on the eve of this Passover. Understanding how and where this divine title is used will help us realize how much of a blessing the Passover is to us.
Both Melchizedek and Abram tack on the description, “the possessor of heaven and earth.” We should consider the nature and the character of that “Possessor.” A landlord may possess a piece of property yet not care a whit about the tenants so long as the rent is paid. This, however, is not the way the Most High feels about His possessions. It is apparent from the rest of the Book that His ownership includes more care and concern for His possessions than we can fathom. His governance in the affairs of men springs from His will and purpose, which, despite human failure to understand them, can be described only as good.
Melchizedek ties the title “possessor of heaven and earth” with the fact that He delivered Abraham's enemies into his hand, showing just how interested the Most High God is in the affairs of men. He is interested enough that He will show Himself strong on behalf of His people and will judge the unrighteous. Without exception, whenever “Most High” is used in Scripture, God is shown blessing His people with whatever is needed for His perfect will to be accomplished, whether that blessing is of knowledge, physical provision, or especially defense and deliverance from enemies. He blesses His people with His perfect personal involvement.
The New Testament records a striking example of this. In Luke 1, the angel tells Mary that her Son will be called “the Son of the Highest,” the New Testament equivalent of “the Son of the Most High.” It is the same title. Just a few verses later, the angel tells Mary that this would take place because “the power of the Highest”—or the power of the Most High God—“would overshadow” her.
Again, we see God's people being blessed with His involvement in order to bring His perfect will to pass. In this case, His blessing includes the supernatural conception of the Son of God, which, as God promised Abraham, will end up being a blessing to all of mankind (Genesis 12:3). This sort of implication is made whenever the title, “the Most High,” is used.
David C. Grabbe
Passover of the Most High God
Because God is sovereign over time all the time, He will be overseeing and working to make the most and best of every situation for us. Time is important to us, but with God, it is not an overriding issue. There is time because He is involved and wants the most and best for us.
In listing the merisms (pairs of contrasting words used to express totality or completeness) in verses 2-8, Solomon is not saying everybody has to go through each of the fourteen pairs, though that would do us no harm. They do, however, give us an overview of major events of virtually every life. Once they are listed, verse 9 asks, “What is to be gained by experiencing these events?” The question is rhetorical at this point. Answers are to be gathered from what Solomon teaches within the larger context of the book.
By way of contrast, understanding verse 10 is quite important to our well-being. Solomon assures us that God is deeply involved in these issues and events of life. In fact, he writes that they are God-given, implying that God has assigned them as disciplines for our development as His children. The dominant fact here is not whether God personally put us in them, since we may have gotten ourselves into them through our choices. The important factor is that we are indeed in them, and God is involved in them with us because at the very least He allowed us to fall into them.
We must not allow ourselves to forget that He is our Creator (II Corinthians 5:17); we are not creating ourselves. Thus, we can be encouraged that He has most assuredly not abandoned us (Hebrews 13:5). Are we accepting and patiently rising to meet these challenges, or are we resisting them in despair and frustration?
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Three): Time
We should tie this directly to the truth of verse 1: “There is a time for every purpose.” The key word, of course, is “time.” In life's challenges to our faith, in which God is involved with us, some purpose is being worked out. In verse 11, we learn that both the timing and what is being worked out are “beautiful.” The event might be challenging, but God, who is involved in the Christian's life and in this challenge, calls it “beautiful.” With that hopeful knowledge, what should our attitude be?
The root of the Hebrew word translated beautiful literally means “bright.” The Hebrew word can be translated “fair,” “comely,” “beautiful,” “suitable,” “appropriate,” and “timely,” depending on the context. In Job 42:15, the same Hebrew word is translated “beautiful” when describing Job's daughters. It indicates something good and admirable, a blessing.
What an encouraging truth! God's timing, His oversight of events, and what He wants them to accomplish are something good! They are not merely broadly good but also suitable, fitting, appropriate, and timely.
Was the scattering of Israel and Judah beautiful in its time? If we read Lamentations without considering God's entire purpose, the situation appears very ugly indeed. However, over the long haul, the answer is undoubtedly, “Yes, it was beautiful and good!” It was suitable for that occasion.
What about the scattering of the church? Was it beautiful? The same is true. Our going through it may have been stressful, requiring painful adjustments while enduring to the end, but in the long term, it will most certainly be beautifully good.
Is correction good? Do we really want to continue doing things wrong? If God had not done what He did when and how He did it, how many serious spiritual character and attitude flaws would have gone uncorrected? How disastrous would they have been to the salvation of many?
How many nice people have we fellowshipped with in the past but who have seemingly been swept overboard and appear lost? The reality may be that they were “nice tares.” They indeed may have been fine people with many social graces but completely unconverted. Perhaps they no longer fellowship with us because God delayed their true calling, sparing them from the Lake of Fire.
Peter states clearly that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9). There used to be a television program called Father Knows Best. Yes, He does! And because of the way God has acted, many more will enter His Kingdom in His image than if He had not intervened. It is even possible to consider that we may all have been lost except for His rough intervention!
It is critical for us to keep in mind always that God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). His overview captures the entire span of events; He sees the entire picture. We, though, live in a time-bound, material universe, and all we have is a mere point of view (I Corinthians 13:12). For the most part, we are restricted to grasping things from our narrow perspective. This is why faith is required of us and why Solomon states in verse 11 that we cannot “find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”
So how can we meet life's challenges in the right spirit?
If we think the scattering of the church has been difficult to accept in a good attitude, we need to be patient because prophecy reveals that things will become much worse as time moves on! I am personally becoming ever more aware that time is moving on for me. My mother, who lived to be almost 93, said to me once, “Getting old is not for sissies.” She was saying in her unconverted way that, regardless of age, the trials of life never do really end. As one ages, they simply morph into another form.
To help us through our current spiritual trials as well as the intensifying times ahead, we must come to know God through a personal relationship and trust Him to work things out. We must use our faith, knowing that we do not see the entire picture.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Three): Time
Pharisee indicates "separatist," one who is separate from others in the world. About 200 years before Christ, the Pharisees seem to have arisen as a brotherhood with a sincere desire to resist the secularism into which Judaism had drifted. As the years went by, however, they added a great deal to God's written law and rejected counterbalancing commands also given in the Old Covenant—even such commands as those which appear in Leviticus 19, such as "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
They then compounded this rejection with a vain sense of self-righteous superiority that in many cases excluded any contact with people of another ethnicity, and they even brought violence against other Jewish people who disagreed—as the apostle Paul's pre-conversion conduct shows. Paul was "a Pharisee of the Pharisees," and he went around throwing people into prison and, indeed, he may have even consented to the martyrdom of Stephen.
All this made these "separatists" very unattractive witnesses; they were in reality an embodiment of a rejection of God's intention of what a witness should be. Our witness does not have to bring about the conversion of others to be effective, because conversion is in God's hands anyway. However, it still has to be right, and being right in this requires personal sacrifices.
Being right—in addition to keeping God's commands—means being humble, modest, kindhearted, concerned, sympathetic, empathetic, helpful, warmhearted, friendly, gracious, serving, giving, charitable, open, hospitable, cordial, thoughtful, considerate, sensitive, cooperative, and on and on. One must do all of these things, while knowing full well that there is a line of separation across which we cannot allow ourselves to wander in our relationships with those as yet uncalled.
This is quite a plateful, but these are qualities that make God's way engaging and an attractive witness. God's involvement in our lives should give us freedom, as well as security against our fears of living and being this way. When combined with the keeping of God's commandments, it will produce quite a witness and go a long way toward keeping us clean—because we will be using God's Word as He intends.
John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part Two)
Do we get the significance of the truth that He works all things in our lives too, according to the counsel of His will? This truth does not apply to just the "big" things of His overall purpose but even to us! Do we really perceive our relationship to Him as being one of the Potter to the clay?
As He formed and shaped Adam and Eve, He is forming and shaping us, and it is our responsibility to accept and submit. Do we live our lives as though He truly is omnipotent, omniscient, and individually aware of us? Do we conduct our lives in such a manner that we fully understand that this awesome Being is actively and personally involved in what we do?
By viewing Him as Potter, do we grasp that He has every right to mold the clay into whatever form or state and make whatever use of it as He chooses? He can fashion from the same lump one person to honor and another to dishonor. He can determine our sex, race, ethnicity, level of wealth, or location. He is under no law or rule outside of His own nature and purpose. He is a law unto Himself, under no obligation to give an account of His actions to anybody else. He exercises His power as, where, and when He wills.
He is not merely overseeing our lives but actively participating in them, and He is ultimately responsible for what happens in them just as much as those national and worldwide occurrences that we hear in the news. The sovereignty of the Bible's God is absolute, irresistible, and infinite. Our trust is to be in Him.
God's purpose and plan has been and is being carried out as He purposed, and nobody can turn Him aside. Now His purpose and plan has reached out to include us just as He predestined when He declared the end from the beginning. Have we caught the vision?
Are we willing to completely turn our lives over to this Being who does not always act in a way that is pleasant to us? God immediately struck Aaron's sons and Uzzah dead, but He has allowed countless others who perhaps did far worse things to live long and seemingly full lives.
God permitted Methuselah to live almost a thousand years. He chose to endow Samson with strength as no other person ever had. Jesus went to the pool of Siloam and chose one man to heal, paying no attention to the others. Why did He allow the Morgans, Carnegies, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and many others to amass incredible wealth, while allowing perhaps billions of people around the world barely to scrape by in miserable poverty?
When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, the city of Jericho and its citizens stood barring their progress. God brought the walls down, and the city's defenses collapsed—the one and only time God did such a thing. Every other city had to be conquered by warfare, risking Israelite lives to take them.
Clearly, He treats and responds to individuals according to the counsel of His own mind, and He answers to no one. He does this even in the lives of His children. The apostle John lived to be around one hundred years old, yet Stephen was stoned to death, Peter crucified, and Paul beheaded.
Considering the witnesses of those great servants, what right do we have to complain about the discomforts He creates for us to endure and grow within? He could rescue everybody in every uncomfortable circumstance, but He does not. Have we fully accepted that He may choose difficult things for us?
John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty (Part One)
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