The Call of God

I have always been fascinated by the bible passages where the call of God is given directly to His chosen servant. Let me give you a few examples.

Moses:

“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt. But Moses said to God, Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? He said, But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:10-12).

Joshua:

“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go” (Joshua 1:5-7).

Jeremiah:

“Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. Then I said, Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth. But the Lord said to me, Do not say I am only a youth; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord. Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, Behold I have put my words in your mouth. See I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and break down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 1:4-10).

Ezekiel:

“And he said to me, Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you. And as he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard him speaking to me. And he said to me, Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels, who have rebelled against me. They and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants also are impudent and stubborn: I send you to them, and you shall say to them, Thus says the Lord God. And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you son of man, be not afraid of them, nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions. Nor be dismayed by their looks, for they are a rebellious house. And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house” (Ezekiel 2:1-7).

The First Disciples:

“While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-22).

Paul:

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And he said, Who are you, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do” (Acts 9:1-6).

Some Reflections……

The world looks for strategies and programs; God looks for a man.

A few years ago, I heard a sermon by John MacArthur on the prophet Jeremiah. In reference to the call of Jeremiah, MacArthur explained, “When there is a crisis, people look for a program. But God looks for a man.” Is it not true that we constantly look for some magical program to take our church to the next level? We think, if only we could find the right program or curriculum, our church would grow and thrive. But more than programs and strategic planning, God is looking for men and women of faith. When God says, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” God is looking for people like Isaiah who say, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). First and foremost, there must be a willingness to obey the call of God.

The “call” is not based on the skills/abilities/gifts of the man.

Jesus didn’t pick the 12 disciples because they were the most gifted men he could find. They were just ordinary men with an extraordinary calling. I am sure they were skilled in their various trades and occupations, but no one would have suggested they would change the world. Yet in only a few decades, that’s exactly what happened. “The gospel….which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister” (Colossians 1:23). How remarkable that this ordinary cast of characters took the gospel all over the known world in such a short time. What this demonstrates is the power of God. As Paul explains, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

The “called” often feel weak and inadequate for the task at hand.

Moses thought he was a poor communicator (Exodus 4:10) and Jeremiah thought he was too young (Jeremiah 1:6). What is ironic is that God knew these men better than they knew themselves. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” he said to Jeremiah. God was aware of weaknesses they had no clue about, but none of that mattered. If God had truly called them as His chosen instruments, He would certainly equip them for the task at hand. We might also add that too much pride and confidence in one’s own abilities is actually a hindrance to fulfilling God’s plans. Pride has a tendency to produce self-reliance and not God-dependence. That’s why Paul says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Faith and courage were required for the assignment.

It’s safe to say that Joshua never forgot God’s instructions to him, “be strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:7). Joshua would face giants as he led the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan. Their enemies would not simply hand over the land without a fight and therefore, strength and courage would be absolutely essential to victory. This is true for every man of God. I love how God tells Jeremiah, “But you, dress yourself for work; arise and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them” (Jeremiah 1:17). In other words, it’s almost as if God is saying, “if you don’t trust me, I will humiliate you before the people.” Jesus said, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Success was not always guaranteed.

Those of you who are familiar with the ministry of Jeremiah will know that it was not a great success. He was not a prophet who witnessed revival after revival in response to his preaching. But we also know that Jeremiah was faithful and obedient to God. Popularity was not something he enjoyed throughout his life, but he faithfully delivered the Word of God, so there is a sense in which he was successful. Think of all the missionaries around the world who have labored for years on end with few converts to show for their work. Does that mean they were failures? Of course not! The prophet of God is responsible to speak the words of God and then leave the results up to Him. “And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear” (Ezekiel 2:7).

The guidebook for the man of God – the Word of God.

Every year, thousands of new books are published. In my personally library, I have well over 1000 books and have access to thousands more on the internet. Indeed, as King Solomon reminds us, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). What is amazing about this verse is that it was written 3000 years ago, long before the publishing industry flooded the world with books. But for the man of God, it is needful to master only one book – God’s book. As God told Joshua, “Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7). Paul adds to this in saying, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). In short, God’s Word is sufficient!

Those “called” could always count on the presence of God.

God told Moses, “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). God told Joshua, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Joshua 1:5). God told Jeremiah, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:8). And just as the Spirit of God entered into Ezekiel (2:2), so too did Jesus give his disciples the Holy Spirit (John 20:22) before he left them.

Certainly, much more could be said, but as I close, let me leave you with the words of the great apostle, to his young apprentice Timothy. “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:11-14).

 

Comparing the Appearances of Moses and Jesus

I’m going to do something in this post that most people are pretty good at – comparing. Even as Christians we tend to do this, and typically, it is not to our benefit. When we compare ourselves to someone else, we often end up breaking the 10th commandment, which deals with coveting (Exodus 20:17). Let me encourage you to guard your heart from this tendency which only works to hinder your walk with the Lord. However, I think we can benefit from comparing the appearances of two well-know biblical characters – Moses and Jesus.

You will remember that when Moses was born, there was something immediately recognizable about him. As it is rendered in Exodus 2:2, “He was a fine child.” Jumping ahead to the New Testament, Stephen adds, “At this time Moses was born and was beautiful in God’s sight” (Acts 7:20). This tells us that not only was Moses a stand out in appearance, but also that God looked with favor upon him. The author of Hebrews summarizes this in saying, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful” (Hebrews 11:24). Not only did his family recognize this, but so too the Pharaoh’s daughter who took him and raised him as her own. We could go on to take an in depth look at all of the aspects of his greatness, but that is not my intention in this post. I would simply posit that Moses was a beautiful baby and we have no reason to think that his physical attractiveness diminished when he was fully grown. Even as he was about to die, he still had great strength (see Deuteronomy 34:7).

Lets shift gears – what do we know about what Jesus looked like? Answer: not a whole lot. The gospel writers are concerned to describe his humanity (think: fully God, fully man), but they are not nearly as concerned to describe specific details of what he looked like. Perhaps our best clue comes from the Suffering Servant passage of Isaiah 53.  We read in verse 2, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” The reader can immediately spot a contrast between Jesus and Moses. One was beautiful, and One was not. Safe to say – people didn’t follow Jesus because of his looks. And while it would be unwise to say he was “ugly”, it would be more accurate to say he was a typical, ordinary man.

Perhaps a fitting way to conclude is by looking at 1 Samuel 16:6-7. “When they (David’s brothers) came, he looked on Eliab and thought, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him. But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Thank God today for the body he has given you, and resist the temptation to compare.

Special thanks to my friend John Sensenig for these insights.

The Indescribable Majesty of God

What happens when men of the Bible encounter the glory of God?

Moses and the burning bush: Exodus 3:1-6

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Job’s confession and repentance: Job 42:1-6

Then Job answered the LORD and said:

“I know that you can do all things,

and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’

Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,

things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

‘Hear, and I will speak;

I will question you, and you make it known to me.’

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,

but now my eye sees you;

therefore I despise myself,

                        and repent in dust and ashes.”

Isaiah’s vision of the Lord: Isaiah 6:1-7

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Ezekiel’s vision of the Lord: Ezekiel: 1:26-28

And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.

Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Saul of Tarsus’ conversion: Acts 9:1-9

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

The apostle John: Revelation 1:12-17

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.

Be Strong and Courageous

One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is Joshua 1.  Moses had just died and the leadership baton was changing hands.  Joshua, Moses’ one-time assistant, would now assume command.  To say the least, this was no small assignment for Joshua.  By this point in time, the Israelites numbered at least 2 million people, so for Joshua to be taking the place of Moses was a monumental challenge.  Not only would he be leading this enormous group of people, he would be leading them into the Promised Land.  As you know, the Promised Land was not uninhabited, empty terrain.  There were several different peoples and nations they would have to conquer and defeat before it would be theirs. It was into this context that the Lord God appeared to Joshua and gave him this charge:

6 “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Make no mistake about it – we are in a battle today as Christians.  We don’t have to conquer lands and peoples like Joshua and the Israelites – so what do I mean by that?  The battle, at its most fundamental level, is being fought over the Word of God.  What is at stake here is “truth” itself.  Will we affirm that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God – or will we give into the pressure to reduce the Bible to the status of non-authoritative?  There’s no question that there are plenty of people who would affirm the Bible as a good book with some good stories and lessons.  However, they would never allow the Bible to become the authority for all matters of life and living.  As Christians, we must be prepared to take a stand for Biblical truth.  This will indeed take strength and courage.

In John 18:37, Jesus said, “For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to THE TRUTH.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” A few years ago, I read a book by Francis Schaeffer called, “The Great Evangelical Disaster.”  In one of his chapters he explains how this issue is a watershed issue.  Those who hold to the truth of the Bible start very close to those who hold the Bible to be almost-true.  However, just like a watershed, what starts off close together eventually ends up miles apart, and sometimes on the opposite side of the continent.  So the question I want to ask you is – which side of truth are you on?  Do you hold to the authority of the Bible or is it just another book for you?

Let us resolve to submit to the truth of the Scriptures and the authority of God over our lives.

God’s Deliverance

“And Moses said to the people, Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Each time I read these two verses, I find myself amazed. The context of this passage is the crossing of the Red Sea, where God delivered Israel from the hand of Pharaoh. What’s amazing to me is that right from the beginning, this is clearly the Lord’s battle. Through his servant Moses, He would win the victory and destroy Egypt. God was not looking for assistance from His people, just obedience. Their task was only to “be silent” and watch “the salvation of the Lord.”

I will be the first to admit this does come naturally to us, Christ’s followers. To sit in the passenger side of faith and let God take control is not always easy because it requires total surrender, something essential in our Christian walk. Until we are willing to let God fight our battles, we will never experience deliverance. We simply don’t have the strength in and of ourselves to fight the enemy apart from God.

Not too long ago, I stumbled across a similar verse in 2 Chronicles. “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:17) Indeed, we find this same message through the Scriptures – God’s deliverance – when we trust Him by faith.

This all starts with salvation. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Colossians 1:13) In salvation, we are delivered from sin and death and eternal damnation and given the keys to the Kingdom. But the battle doesn’t end at the point of our conversion – it’s just the beginning. As a child of the King, you will face temptations and trials for the rest of your earthly days (2 Timothy 3:12). Deliverance will only come to those who yield themselves to the power of God.

Friend, I don’t know what you are going through, but I do know the battle belongs to the Lord. If you are willing to step aside, surrender, and give it over to God, you will experience His deliverance. You might have to wait awhile (the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years), but take heart, “it will surely come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).