November 2007


After talking about Noah, The author of Hebrews talks about the Patriarchs, namely Abraham. Later on Abraham was further expounded.

Abraham

His Past
The story of Abraham is recorded from Gen 11-25. The book initially began with Terah (his father), moving away from Ur of the Chaldean. Ur of the Chaldean is one of the major city. Terah left Ur for the land of Canaan, but on route to Canaan, he stopped at Haran and stayed there.

God’s promise, and Abraham’s reaction
God then appeared to Abraham when he is 75 years old and gave him an order (Gen 12:1-3)

“Get out of your country,
      From your family
      And from your father’s house,
      To a land that I will show you.

 2 I will make you a great nation;
      I will bless you
      And make your name great;
      And you shall be a blessing.

 3 I will bless those who bless you,
      And I will curse him who curses you;
      And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Abraham’s faith is demonstrated at this point as he immediately began moving out to the unknown. If one would notice, Gods did not tell him where to go, or what he intended to do. He only promised him to protect him. Moving away from a place where one is familiar with is not foreign to Abraham, as Terah has did so before.  It requires tremendous amount of trust in God, and obedience to move off from ones comfort zone. Abraham’s act of faith here is manifested strongly. Especially in his obedience and trust in God.

God promised Abraham the land of Israel (Gen 12:7), but if we were to follow on to his story, we would notice that Abraham did not own the land, even his sons Issac and his grandson jacob did not really own the land, in the very end, when Sarah his wife died, he still need to purchase a plot of land for her burial (Gen 23)

The ultimate goals in Abraham’s faith
Just as our description, the author of Hebrews drew the same conclusion, that Abraham did not get the land as he said” Abraham dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country.” He and his sons and grandson all dwelt in tents under this same promise (Heb 11 8-9). Ultimately, all of them can see a reward that is much far reaching. They disregarded the world blessings that God would want to give them, and they dwell in tents, waiting for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. A much better land (Heb 11:10).

Hence the faith of Abraham is that he believes that God has something better for him, although God has not fulfilled the worldly blessings that he promised, he backed that faith by willingly giving up the stable life in Haran and to dwell in tents, to demonstrate his faith.

Abraham’s faith in our lives
As Christians, we all understood that our hope is not in this life, and we all understand God the same way as Abraham. We all knew that Jesus purhased us with a price and the final result is to go to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. We must learn the faith of Abraham, to be willing to move out of the zones that we are comfortable with, to take the walk with God in our christian Journey. We must recognize that this world is never our home, and our real home is in Heaven.

With this i would like to share the a hymn “This world is not my home”

This World is not My Home

This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through;
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

Chorus:
Oh, Lord you know I have no friend like You,
If heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do?
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

I have a loving mother up in glory land,
And I don’t expect to stop until I shake her hand.
She’s waiting now for me in heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
(Chorus:)

Just up in glory land we’ll live eternally;
The saints on every hand are shouting victory.
Their songs of sweetest praise drift back from heaven’s shore,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
(Chorus:)

 

Today’s post is dedicated to my dear Avelyn jie jie… I remember she shared this “wounded oyster” with me when I am all alone in Brunei fending that same project I talked about in “Down by the Salley Gardens”. Attached is the devotional that she shared

When seemingly needless suffering invades our lives, we often ask ourselves, “Who needs all this grief?” But consider, for a moment, the origin of pearls.

Each pearl is formed by an oyster’s internal response to a wound caused by an irritant, such as a grain of sand. Resources of repair rush to the injured area. The final result is a lustrous pearl. Something beautiful is created that would have been impossible without the wound.

In today’s Bible reading, we see Joseph in a position of influence, a position God soon used to feed surrounding nations and Joseph’s family during famine. But how did he become influential? It began with a wound—being sold into slavery (Genesis 39)—which produced a pearl of usefulness. Because Joseph drew on God’s resources when humiliated, he became better, not bitter. He named his second son Ephraim, which means “twice fruitful,” and he said, “God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction” (41:52).

Author Paul E. Billheimer says of Joseph, “If human pity could have rescued him from the sad part of his life, the glorious part that followed would have been lost.” So if you’re suffering, remember: No wounds, no pearls! Joanie Yoder

If we accept adversity,
Enduring every pain,
Then we will learn what we should know;
Our grief will turn to gain. —Sper

Adversities are often blessings in disguise.

Lately i was preparing a lesson on the book of Esther, so i decided to write a bit of the teachings that i learnt during this study.

The time and period of Esther
The period of the book of Esther is very closed to the period of Ezra and Nehemiah returning to Jerusalem. At that time Zerubbabel had already lead the Jews back to Jerusalem, Esther’s husband was king Xerxes, which is the son of Darius the great (The same Persian King in the movie 300).

At that time, there was a plot to end the lives of all Jews under the Persian empire. This book records of how God preserved the people by creating favourable conditions for Esther to become queen. And how Esther risked her life to serve God and accomplish the work that God intended her to do.

In the book of Esther, there is no mentioned of the word God, but one can easily see Gods hand in the events recorded. This book is use by the Jew’s in the feast of Purim. They will read it aloud, and whenever the evil Haman is mentioned, they will use a bell instead of reading his name.

The story of Esther
The book of Esther began with a banquet by king Ahasuerus. When In the middle of the banquet, he requested his Queen Vashti to come to the banquet arrayed in her royal apparel. That was refused by the queen, hence she was no longer queen due to her disobedience.

Later, there was a huge selection of maidens that was sent to the palace for the selection of the next Queen.  Esther was bought into the palace together with other maidens. they were given beauty treatments, and to choose an items to carry with themselves when they meet with the king. Esther won the favour of everybody, from the Eunuch to the King himself, and she was chosen queen.

Then there is a certain Agagite, (Or Amalekite) by the name of Haman who rose to power, When he passed by Mordecai the Jew (Esther’s uncle). Mordecai did not kneel before him, and this made Haman angry, and he plotted to kill all the Jews.

This was then Mordecai requests Esther’s help to talk to the king, Esther was hesitant to do this, because she was not summoned before the king for the past 30 days ( By Persian Law,  if one appears before the king without being summoned, he/she is liable to be put to death unless the king stretches his scepter towards that person)

Mordecai reminded Esther that she will never know if God places her in the palace to save the Jews, and if she remain silent, God will raise deliverance for the Jews somewhere else, and she will perish without a purpose. That was when Esther showed her faith, and request everyone to fast and pray for her.

Esther went into the presence of the king, and miraculously, the king stretch out his scepter to her, and she requested Haman and the King to visit her to have a banquet together with her. After the first night, she requested them to come again, only then she revealed that she was a Jew, and beg the king not to kill them. At that point, the king was furious and stomped out of the hall, there Haman was afraid, and begged for his life, but when the king return, he saw him falling on the couch where Esther was laying.  He got even angrier, and caught Haman, and hanged him.

In the end, Esther and Mordecai with the kings order, manage to reverse the edict to exterminate all the Jews, and instead turn it into an order for the Jews to avenge themselves on their tormentors. This marks the feast of Purim.

Lesson Learnt
1. A lot of times God works in a wonderful way, a lot of incidents in the book of Esther seems to be coincidental, but you can see Gods hand in it.

2. Sometimes when serving God, one need to have faith (like Esther having the faith to visit the king un-invited). And it requires a bit of sacrifice on our part, (Esther famous words, “If I perish, I perish”).

 So it is hope that we will all learn the spirit of Esther in our service to God.

I remember once i was in Brunei, stuck in a middle of a very tough situation. I am made to lead a project that I do not have the capability to handle. All alone in the foreign land, my only comfort is in the song collections and the sermons collections i have in one of my hard disk, that was the first time I heard the song “Down by the Salley Gardens”.

This is a traditional Irish song, and the first time i heard it, it was sung by a very nice Japanese Jazz singer Emi Fujita in her Camomile album. That time i was rushing a proposal document and I am stressed out, the nice melody kind of calmed me down then. So I would like to share this song with all of you.

Did a bit of wiki onto the song and here are some extract of it in wikipedia

Down By The Salley Gardens (Irish: Gort na Saileán) is a traditional Irish song. Sometimes known as “An Traigh Mughdhorna”, “The Maids of Mourne Shore” and “The Mourne Shore”, it can be sung in either English or Irish.

It is sometimes listed as a poem by William Butler Yeats, after the words were included in a book of his poems, The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems, published in 1889. However, the case is that Yeats published the poem as a tribute to oral tradition; it was based on a fragment of a song he recalled hearing an old Irish woman sing. Yeats’ noted that This is an attempt to reconstruct an old song from three lines imperfectly remembered by an old peasant woman in the village of Ballysodare, Sligo, who often sings them to herself. The verse was subsequently set to music by Herbert Hughes to the air The Maids of the Mourne Shore in 1909.

“Salley” is an anglicisation of the Irish saileach, meaning willow, i.e., a tree of the genus Salix. Willows are known as “salleys”, “sallies” or “salley trees” in parts of Ireland.

Down by the Salley Gardens

Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed by the salley gardens on her little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grow on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed by the salley gardens on her little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

Gort na Saileán (For any friends who knows Irish)  

Is thíos i nGort na Saileán
sea casadh dom mo rún
Ba luath a cos ar féar ann
is ba luaineach a leagan siúil
Sé dúirt sí liom bheith suaimhneach
mar a fhásann duilliúr is bláth
Ach bhí mise óg is uaibhreach
is níor éist mé le guth mo ghrá.

Is thíos cois abhann go déanamh
sea sheas mé le mo ghrá
Gualainn ar ghualainn le chéile
is leag sí orm lámh
Sé dúirt sí liom bheith suaimhneach
mar a fhásann féar aníos
Ach bhí mise óg is uaibhreach
‘stá na deora anois mo chloí

Is thíos i nGort na Saileán
sea casadh dom mo rún…

You can sing along by using this Youtube version (this is sung by Emi Fujita for your information

 

In the previous blog post, we talk about Abel and Enoch, their faith. and how they pleases God. The obedience and good conduct of Abel, and the belief of God’s judgement in Enoch. The author of Hebrews concluded Abel and Enoch with the following sentence “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a reward those who diligently seek Him.” God has never turn away anyone who seeks him.

After that. he talks about Noah, The story of Noah is recorded in Gen 6-9. But our focus for this study will be  until Gen 8, covering the story of the flood.

The world at Noah’s time

As more and more humans populated the world. Sin and lawlessness starts to increase. Man started to turn more and more evil, and their thoughts are constantly tuned towards evil (Gen 6:5, 11).  Their sin and lawlessness reached a point that is unbearable, God therefore pronounced his judgement on the world at that time saying “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Noah’s behavior and Gods judgement

In the midst of all these lawlessness, Noah is identified as a just man who walked with God. His resolve to follow Gods law in the midst of such a generation, pleases God. His faith and trust in God saved him. As God appears to him, telling him of his impending judgement.  God wanted to save Noah, as he is a just man, and he wanted to preserve his creations and to allow life to continue after his judgement.

God’s instruction and Noah’s action

Gods instruction to Noah is to build a ark according to his dimension,keep 2  of every living animals and birds of the air (A male and a female),  his family and the animals will stay together in the ark.  He is to prepare food for all. Upon hearing Gods instruction, Noah perform all the work diligently.  As Noah is at work, he also preached to the world at that point. Such that Peter called Noah a “Preacher of Righteousness (2 Pet 2:5).

If we read closer into God’s instruction to Noah, you can see God and Noah working side by side,  God wanted Noah to build the ark (Gen 6:14-16) He wanted Noah to bring some of the animals in (Gen 6:19, Gen 7:1-3) into the ark, and some of the animals will automatically come to him (Gen 6:20, Gen 7:7-9) and he must prepare food enough for all the animals (Gen 6:21)
Finally the flood came and the flood waters filled the entire world (Gen 7-11-12).  God shut Noah and his family in personally. (Gen 7:16) All living things that breath all perished outside the ark (Gen 7:18-24). After raining for 40 days and night, God allowed the flood-waters to subside. When Noah entered the ark, he was 600 years  2 months and 1 7 days old (Gen 7:11),  when he left the ark, he was 601 years old 2 months 27 days old (Gen 8: 13-14). His stay in the ark is approximately 1 year 10 days.

After the flood. God made a covenant with Noah using the Rainbow as the sign, (Gen 8:20-22, Gen 9:8-17) God promised never to destroy the world with the flood anymore.

Noah’s faith

Noah began his life by walking with God and following Gods commandment, one can easily link the first part of his faith to that of Enoch’s. Noah went a step further, such that when God revealed his impending judgement and gave Noah instructions to follow, Noah showed his faith by faithfully following it. You can also see that as Noah manifested his faith by following Gods instruction,  God worked with him to accomplish his plan of saving his creation.

The story of Noah and how it applies to us in the mordern era.

The world of Noah is sinful, man are continously thinking of evil. Remeber that Lord Jesus once proclaimed that in the end of the world, the world will just be like the days of Noah, and Gods judgement came upon that generation at the most unexpected time.(Matt 24:37-39) Therefore as Christians, we should always be mindful that God will come and judge the world.

God has also entrusted to us how he intended to save us, just like how he communicated the dimension of the ark and how the ark should be build. If Noah did not follow what is instructed from God, it would be impossible for him and his family to be save.  In our time, Gods instruction for us to attain salvation is found in the bible, we shoud dilligently seek it and only through it we can be saved (2Tim 3:16-17)

With it i will conclude the study of Noah as a hero of faith.

Today morning as I log into my email account, I am surprised to receive a comment from dove124. Thank you for your comments, and your ponder points. Here are my response to it.

1) Can Faith save you ?
    Yes, As described in my previous post, having faith marks the beginning of a Christian’s walk in life.  A christian is saved by grace through faith, there’s no doubt about it, but my post is meant to help people define what is faith. Consider this, a christian who professed that God is his master, and continued in his ways of darkness, can such faith save him?

2) will you consider “work ” to be added to your faith ?
     That depends on what you mean by work. From my understanding,  if a person has faith in God, his faith is automatically reflected in his actions (“work”). My first example quoted here is Abel and Enoch.  Such acts of faith are complimentary to faith, and do not need to be “added”.

3) What else beside ” work” will save you? Do you know the answer?
   If you believe in what the bible teaches, you will observe the teachings of Christ in it, and if you do them according to his teachings, believing what he teaches about them, that would save you.  Take Naamans leprosy (2 Kings 5) as one example. if Naaman have not followed Elisha’s instruction, will he be healed? There are many of such examples in the bible. (Eg: Blind man in John 9:1-12). There are many things here that i can talk about, but i should not digress from my initial point, to define faith.

 4) Believe is the beginning of faith .  For,  how can you have faith if you don’t believe?       
  This is the reason why I said having faith is the beginning of a Christian’s walk with God. 🙂

Abel
The story of Abel is very short, (Gen 4). Abel was the brother to Cain, the son of Adam (who was created by God). At the time of Abel, sin has already crept into our world, and Man are starting to be disobedient to God. When Abel sacrificed his offering, God accepted his offering for his righteousness and good conduct. God rejected Cains offering as Cain has not done well. And Sin is awaiting for him (Gen 4:6-7). Out of Jealousy, Cain killed his brother Abel, and the first record of murder begins.  interesting fact is, Man only began to call on the name of God after the death of Abel (Gen 4:26) Hence , during Abel’s time, religion is not fully defined yet, yet Abel is able to have faith in God, and live a Godly life.

Abel’s faith is that he believed in God, and he backed his faith through his obedience to God. And when he is unjustly murdered, God avenged him by pronouncing his judgement on Cain.

Enoch
Enoch was the seventh generation from Adam. He is the first person who never seen death, as God took him away, without him dying (Gen 5:1, Heb 11:5). The bible recorded that Enoch lived 65 years, and he had a son called Methuselah (meaning “when he dies, it will be sent”). After that, he walked with God for 300 years, and he lived 365 years. One could easily conclude that he walked with God after the birth of his son. God must have revealed to him that he intended to judge the world with the flood. And after the death of Methuselah, it will be done. Enoch had faith in what God said, he he resolved to walk with God all the days of his life.

 Lessons on faith learnt
 
Abel is able to have faith in God, and is able to make offerings pleasing to God. His faith is manifested in his good conduct.

 Enoch’s faith is that he believed in the judgement of God on evil. His faith is manifested when he resolved to walk with God.

Applying what we learn about faith that we must live this life of faith, by obeying God’s commandments, and keep a good conduct like Abel. Especially in the days where many humans have decided to chase God out of their life. (Eccl 12:13-14)

Like Enoch, God has revealed to us that one day he will come and judge the world (Heb 9:27, Rev 20:11-13) . If we truly believe in what God say, let us hold on to this faith, and resolve to walk in the way of the Lord, all the days of our lives. (Eph 5:8-13)

Authors Note:
There are books in the apocryphal that is suspected to be authored by Enoch, but i guess they are not canonised due to the fact that the origin of the books cannot be ascertained, and can be traced back to the inter testament period only. But i am not here to discuss about Canonisation of the old testament.

Today as I am returning from home, a thought suddenly dawn on me. What is true faith? Is faith mere belief? Most Christian groups teaches that if you believe in God all your heart, you are saved. You are save by grace through faith. Suddenly, i decided to look back into the bible for the verses which can let us understand what is faith.

Some of you may wander, why the sudden interest in the topic? Perhaps lately in the midst of all these fighting for useless prizes, it suddenly dawn unto me that that i should stop my footsteps and spend sometime to think about my faith.

 Why is faith important to a christian? And why should we be concern over the matters? Faith is important to a christian, because a christian without faith, can never be one that can please God (Heb 11:6). Faith is the basis of christian religion, and having faith is the beginning of a Christian’s walk in life.

 According to the author of Hebrews, faith is “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).  The entire chapter of Heb 11 is dedicated to definition of faith. In it contains many examples of the manifestation of faith. In the coming few entries, i will be using each of the examples in the chapter to help all of us understand faith.

After looking pondering through some of the examples in the list, my initial understanding is Faith is a rank higher then believe. Most Christians say that if you were to believe that there is God, that is faith. But even the demons believe God exist, (Jas 2:19). Such beliefs does no benefit to a person.

In most of the examples here, you can see that each character believed in God, and also have beliefs that are entrusted to them from God. These people went one step beyond mere believing, and their faith can be seen through the actions that they do.

 Some Christians may wonder, does this contradicts the idea that it is through faith that we are saved, not by mere performing of rituals. This is heavily emphasised by Paul in the book of Romans. But we must understand that the ancients saints never had this separation of faith and works as of now. The main reasons for the book of Roman is because the believers then believed that righteousness can be attained by keeping the laws of Moses, and they do not understand that one is justified by faith in God.

This entry seeks to define faith, and with the concept, we can understand the books of Romans better as well.

 I would be sharing about the first example, which is Abel in my next blog entry

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