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What the Bible says about Pressure of Trials
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Leviticus 2:2

Nearly forty times in the Old Testament, God declares how pleasing the aroma of a burnt offering is. This positive imagery of scent represents God's satisfaction in experiencing the proper worship of Him. In the meal offering, frankincense contributes to His satisfaction because it always accompanies the burnt offering.

Frankincense has a sweet fragrance, and honey a sweet taste, but the effect of heat—representing the pressure of trials—on them is vastly different. Heat corrupts, breaks down, and eventually destroys honey. This characteristic is probably why God did not permit its use in the sacrifices (Leviticus 2:11). However, frankincense does not release its greatest fragrance until heat is applied.

Incense has a long history of use in offerings to God. The priests used it daily on the incense altar, which stood directly in front of the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holies of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant, representing God's throne, stood. The incense billowed up in a smoky cloud, filling the rooms with a fragrant odor. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest burned incense in the Holy of Holies itself before the Ark.

Isaiah 6:1, 4 describes the vision Isaiah saw of God's heavenly dwelling place:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. . . . And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

The imagery of the smoke of incense and its fragrance, representing the prayers of the saints is well known. For instance, Psalm 141:2 says, "Let my prayer be set before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice." Revelation 5:8 confirms this: "Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."

However, in the context of the meal offering, incense carries additional significance because of its overall meaning of dedication in service to man. Notice Jesus' words in Matthew 13:20-21:

But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation of persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

Incense portrays a person's attitude during his trials endured in service to fellow man. A person might be all sweetness and light until the hardship of service hits him, and he grows bitter and turns aside.

Frequently, a Christian's trials involve people, often those close to him: relatives, business coworkers, or social acquaintances. Nothing is more consistently difficult than interpersonal relationships. Paul writes in Philippians 2:14-15, "Do all things without murmuring and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." He tells the Corinthians, ". . . nor murmur, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer" (I Corinthians 10:10). Finally, Peter advises, "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling" (I Peter 4:9). Frankincense represents the pleasant satisfaction God experiences when His children endure without grumbling the hardships of unstinting service, especially to their brethren.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Three): The Meal Offering

Matthew 13:7-8

The thorny ground symbolizes those who become consumed by the anxieties of this physical life and the deceitful enticement of wealth. The constant pressures of everyday life?providing sustenance, maintaining employment, seeking education, performing social duties, etc.?can be distracting, causing Christians to ignore God and spiritual growth.

The desire for wealth magnifies this distraction. It is enticing but yields the expected rewards: It promises to make us happy, but when gained, leaves us spiritually empty (I Timothy 6:7-10). The temptation and pursuit of wealth produces bad fruit: dishonesty, stealing, oppression of the poor, and taking advantage of others.

The good ground corresponds to those whose hearts and minds are softened by God's calling and receive it genuinely. They are a rich and fine soil?a mind that submits itself to the full influence of God's truth (Acts 22:14; Ephesians 4:1-6). The called of God not only accept His Word?the message of Jesus Christ?as rich soil accepts a seed for growth, they also bear much fruit (John 15:5, 8).

Martin G. Collins
Parables of Matthew 13 (Part Two): The Parable of the Sower

Galatians 6:9-10

If somebody who was known to you—maybe even somebody who was close to you—came up to you, and seemingly with no provocation whatsoever, punched you right in the nose and you fell on your backside—of course, wondering "What in the world is going on?"—the chances are that the very first emotion that would hit you would be one of surprise. "What did I do to deserve this?" You would be ready to gather yourself together, and get up on your knees. As one foot is pushing you up off the ground, and just as you get up again—wham!, right in the ol' kisser. By now, the attitude is beginning to change. It is no longer surprise. You begin to feel the color coming up in your neck, and maybe the hair standing on the back of your head. Anger is beginning to surge into you.

Nonetheless, you get up again. Just as you get on your feet—wham!, right in the nose again. By this time the anger is giving way to rage. Still, you gather yourself together and stand up again, and, wham!—you get hit right in the kisser again, and down you go. Now the rage is beginning to give way to another reaction. Another emotion is beginning to enter your mind, and you are beginning to think, "When is he going to quit? When will this end? I can't stand it much longer."

But you drag yourself again, just as you confront the problems that hit your life. You gather yourself and you get up. Just about the time that you get steady on your feet, whoop!—right in the kisser you get hit with another one, and down you go. Eventually, brethren, you are going to come to the place where you think, "I don't care what he does any more. I just wish he would stop." You will have reached the point of apathy. You no longer care.

That was described by Abraham Maslow, and it is a true cycle. It is a series of emotions that we go through when we are hit by a seemingly unending set of pressures. We eventually become apathetic to what is going on around us, and we stop caring.

That is what happened to the people in the book of Hebrews. It was not a bloody persecution. It was constant pressures being applied to the mind: Economic pressures, health pressures, persecution on the church pressures, social pressures, family pressures—you name it—one coming right after the other in a wave that never seemed to end. We need to confront this because things are not going to get any better! The pressures are going to continue to build. We had better have aResource that we can go to in order to weather the storms of psychological damage that might be inflicted upon us because we have nothing to resist the tribulations (pressures) that are coming upon us.

Apathy has an effect: we not only no longer care about life itself, but we no longer care about God. It begins to wane.

Apathy makes a person feel tired, like not doing anything. But there comes a time when we have to 'buck it up', and sacrifice ourselves, and push ourselves, and do right things that we do not want to do, and not allow the weariness to overtake us. That kind of psychological weariness can make us sick of body, so that we will not be able to do anything.

Doing good is a witness that God wants from us. He knows how much we can bear, and He wants to prepare us for the things that are coming. So trial upon trial upon trial is going to come upon us. It is part of the preparation that we have to go through, to see whether or not we are going to endure to the end (Matthew 24:13).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today

2 Thessalonians 2:7

Pressure was mounting for these people. Jewish civilization was in turmoil. It would not come to a climax for some nineteen years after this in AD 69. An end would come upon Judea in 70 AD The church was already beginning to experience some of that turmoil. About a dozen years after the writing of I and II Thessalonians, Nero was emperor in Rome and persecuting Christians.

Tribulation against Christians broke out in one place and then another. It was scattered all over the world, a little bit here, a little bit there, some in Rome, some in Corinth, some in Thessalonica, some down in Jerusalem. Gradually, it built until the church was driven to the wilderness for 1,260 years, where it barely maintained its existence.

We cannot depend on that escape; that prophecy has been fulfilled. There will be no running away, not this time. There will be no disappearing into the woodwork, except for those to whom God gives the privilege of going to the Place of Safety. And who knows what true Christians will have to face between now and then? As it intensifies, the time of the end will be a very tumultuous period. We find in verse 10 that some were falling away, and unfortunately, that will be the "escape" some choose to take.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 




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