Forsaken for Our Sake

God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

Does having a friend nearby make pain more bearable? Researchers at the University of Virginia conducted a fascinating study to answer that question. They wanted to see how the brain reacted to the prospect of pain, and whether it behaved differently if a person faced the threat of pain alone, holding a stranger’s hand, or holding the hand of a close friend.

Researchers ran the test on dozens of pairs, and found consistent results. When a person was alone or holding a stranger’s hand while anticipating a shock, the regions of the brain that process danger lit up. But when holding the hand of a trusted person, the brain relaxed. The comfort of a friend’s presence made the pain seem more bearable.

Because of God’s love, we are never truly alone.

Jesus needed comfort as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what He was about to face: betrayal, arrest, and death. He asked His closest friends to stay and pray with Him, telling them that His soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow” (Matt. 26:38). But Peter, James, and John kept falling asleep.

Jesus faced the agony of the garden without the comfort of a hand to hold. But because He bore that pain, we can be confident that God will never leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Jesus suffered so that we will never have to experience separation from the love of God (Rom. 8:39). His companionship makes anything we endure more bearable.

Jesus, thank You for bearing the pain and isolation of the Garden of Gethsemane and the cross for us. Thank You for giving us a way to live in communion with the Father.

Because of God’s love, we are never truly alone.

INSIGHT:The circumstances that took place on the night of Jesus’s betrayal seemed to be confused, chaotic, and out of control. But our Lord’s measured words in facing His betrayer showed His understanding of the big picture of God’s sovereign plan. Without the cross we could not be redeemed.

Recognize Your Vulnerability

1 Corinthians 10:12-13

Some Christians see a fellow believer fall into sin but fail to acknowledge that they, too, could stumble. That’s dangerous. Satan has them right where he wants them: deceived by a false sense of confidence. Three enemies are constantly at work trying to bring us down—namely, the devil, his world system, and our own treacherous flesh.

Even though believers have a righteous standing before God, we must each, like Paul, acknowledge an internal problem: “sin which dwells in me” (Rom. 7:20). Satan takes full advantage of this weakness, luring us with fleshly and worldly temptations. He stokes our pride so we become unaware of our own vulnerability.

Christians need to be continually on guard. Since ignorance—of the nature of sin, the strategies of the enemy, and our own areas of weakness—sets us up for failure, we cannot afford to be careless in our thinking. Anytime we find ourselves excusing, redefining, or rationalizing sin, we’ve lost our sensitivity to God. His Word must always fill our minds and direct our steps.

If you’ve drifted from the Lord, turn back to Him by acknowledging your sin and accepting responsibility for it. Repentance means changing your mind and going in a different direction—toward God instead of away from Him.

The next step is harder: Respond with gratitude for God’s chastisement. Every time we fall into sin, our Father lovingly works to bring us back into fellowship with Him. His discipline may be painful, but it’s always good because it brings us to our senses and reconnects us with God.

The Aroma

“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Incense in Scripture has a variety of rich and meaningful usages, particularly as related to the blood sacrifice. “And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: . . . And thou shalt put it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee” (Exodus 30:1, 6). Without this incense, it was impossible to meet with God in this prescribed way. It was to be offered both morning and evening (vv. 7-8). Great care was to be taken in its preparation (vv. 34-36), and it was not to be used for any other purpose (vv. 37-38).

In the New Testament we find a totally different application of this principle. As in our text, we see that Jesus Christ Himself has become an offering and a “sweet-smelling savour” to God. His freely offering Himself is an example to us to live a life of sacrifice and love.

While He was the final sacrifice, we are to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is [our] reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). This may even take the form of material “things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).

In the mind of God, our life of sacrifice is a sweet-smelling savor. “Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15). Without our willing, living sacrifice, we cannot approach God, but with it, we are a “sweet savour of Christ.” JDM

“Ye are Christ’s.”

Exodus 35:4, 5, 20-29

Exodus 35:4-5

The Lord loveth a cheerful giver. His revenues are his due, yet they are not levied as a tax, but given spontaneously by willing minds. Every Israelite should be a giver, for he is a receiver.

Exodus 35:20

They went off at once to fetch their offering; promptness is a sign of willingness.

Exodus 35:21

Some there were who loved their gold better than their God, but the majority were free hearted, and gave not of constraint but joyfully.

Exodus 35:22

This is a good example. If Christian women would cast their ornaments into God’s treasury, and if godly men would present their superfluity of gold, there would be enough and to spare.

Exodus 35:23

The gifts varied in value but not in acceptance; where they were willingly given they were graciously accepted.

Exodus 35:25, 26

Work is as good as material. The women worked with their best skill. When the needle is used for the Lord it ought to be the best needlework in the world.

Exodus 35:29

Shall we allow those who were under the law to outstrip us who are under the gospel? Nay, rather let us far exceed them in gifts unto the Lord our God.

Paul gives admirable directions for contributing to the cause of God in

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

2 Corinthians 9:6

Both in temporals and spirituals men will find that this rule holds good. Those who stint the Lord stint themselves. Little give, little have.

2 Corinthians 9:8

Notice the many “alls” here, may we have them all, and then abound in giving.

1 Corinthians 16:2

1 Corinthians 16:2

This is the true Christian custom to lay by the Lord’s portion weekly and then give from the Lord’s purse to the various works which need our help. From the oldest to the youngest let us all be cheerful givers.

 

The mite my willing hands can give,

At Jesus’ feet I lay;

Grace shall the humble gift receive,

And heaven at last repay.

 

Ne’er shall thy service stand in need

While substance, Lord, is mine;

To give to thee is bliss indeed,

For all I have is thine.

 

Led Like a Sheep To Its Slaughter

Matthew 26:57

After Jesus demonstrated His phenomenal power, He permitted the soldiers to take Him into custody. In a certain sense, this was simply an act, for He had already vividly proven that they didn’t have adequate power to take Him. Just one word and He could put them on their backs, yet the Bible says that they “laid hold on Jesus” and “led him away.”

The words “laid hold” are from the Greek word kratos. In this case, this word means to seize, to take hold of, to firmly grip, and to apprehend. Used in this context, it primarily carries the idea of making a forceful arrest. Once Jesus demonstrated that He could not be taken by force, He then allowed the soldiers to seize Him.

Once Jesus was in their hands, Matthew 26:57 tells us that they “led him away.” This phrase comes from the Greek word apagothe same word used to picture a shepherd who ties a rope about the neck of his sheep and then leads it down the path to where it needs to go. This word pictures exactly what happened to Jesus that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. He wasn’t gagged and dragged to the high priest as one who was putting up a fight or resisting arrest. Instead, the Greek word apago plainly tells us that the soldiers lightly slipped a rope about Jesus’ neck and led Him down the path as He followed behind, just like a sheep being led by a shepherd. Thus, the Roman soldiers and temple police led Him as a sheep to slaughter, just as Isaiah 53:7 had prophesied many centuries earlier. Specifically on that night, however, the soldiers led Jesus to Caiaphas the high priest.

Let’s see what we can learn about Caiaphas. We know that Caiaphas was appointed high priest in the year 18 AD. As high priest, he became so prominent in Israel that even when his term as high priest ended, he wielded great influence in the business of the nation, including its spiritual, political, and financial affairs. Flavius Josephus, the famous Jewish historian, reported that five of Caiaphas’ sons later served in the office of the high priest.

As a young man, Caiaphas married Anna, the daughter of Annas, who was serving as high priest at that time. Annas served as Israel’s high priest for nine years. The title of high priest had fallen into the jurisdiction of this family, and they held this high-ranking position firmly in their grip, passing it among the various members of the family and thus keeping the reins of power in their hands. It was a spiritual monarchy. The holders of this coveted title retained great political power, controlled public opinion, and owned vast wealth.

After Annas passed the title of high priest to his son-in-law Caiaphas, Annas continued to exercise control over the nation through his son-in-law. This influence is evident in Luke 3:2, where the Bible says, “Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests….” It was impossible for two people to serve as high priests at the same time; nonetheless, Annas held his former title and much of his former authority. He was so influential to the very end of Jesus’ ministry that the Roman soldiers and temple police who arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane led Jesus to Annas first before delivering him to Caiaphas, the current high priest (John 18:13).

Both Annas and Caiaphas were Sadducees, a group of religious leaders who were more liberal in doctrine and had a tendency not to believe in supernatural events. In fact, they regarded most supernatural occurrences in the Old Testament as myths.

The constant reports of Jesus’ supernatural powers and miracles, as well as the reputation He was gaining throughout the nation, caused Caiaphas, Annas, and the other members of the Sanhedrin to view Jesus as a threat. These religious leaders were control freaks in the truest sense of the word, and it was an affront to them that Jesus’ ministry was beyond their control and jurisdiction. Then they heard the verified report that Lazarus had actually been resurrected from the dead! This incident drove them over the edge, causing them to decide to do away with Jesus by committing murder.

These leaders were so filled with rage about Lazarus’ resurrection and were so worried about Jesus’ growing popularity that they held a secret council to determine whether or not Jesus had to be killed. Once that decision was made, Caiaphas was the one who was principally responsible for scheming how to bring His death to pass.

As high priest and the official head of the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas was also responsible for arranging Jesus’ illegal trial before the Jewish authorities. At first, he charged Jesus with the sin of blasphemy. However, because Jesus wouldn’t contest the accusation Caiaphas brought against Him, the high priest then delivered Him to the Roman authorities, who found Jesus guilty of treason for claiming to be the king of the Jews.

Caiaphas was so powerful that even after the death of Jesus, he continued to persecute believers in the Early Church. For instance, after the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate was healed (see Acts 3), Peter and John were seized and brought before the council (Acts 4:6). Caiaphas was the high priest at this time and continued to serve as high priest until he was removed in 36 AD.

This emphatically tells us that Caiaphas was also the high priest who interrogated Stephen in Acts 7:1. In addition, he was the high priest we read about who gave Saul of Tarsus written permission that authorized him to arrest believers in Jerusalem and later in Damascus (Acts 9:1, 2).

Because of the political events in the year 36 AD, Caiaphas was finally removed from the office of high priest. Of the nineteen men who served as high priests in the first century, this evil man ruled the longest. The title of high priest, however, remained in the family after Caiaphas stepped down, this time passed on to his brother-in-law Jonathan, another son of Annas.

Consider this: Jesus had never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21); no guile had ever been found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:22); and His entire life was devoted to doing good and to healing all who were oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38). Therefore, it seems entirely unjust that He would be led like a sheep into the midst of the spiritual vipers who were ruling in Jerusalem. According to the flesh, one could have argued that this wasn’t fair; however, Jesus never questioned the Father’s will or balked at the assignment that was required of Him.

The apostle Peter wrote this regarding Jesus: “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). The word “committed” is the Greek word paradidomi, a compound of the words para and didomi. The word para means alongside and carries the idea of coming close alongside to someone or to some object. The word didomi means to give. When compounded together, it presents the idea of entrusting something to someone. The prefix para suggests that this is someone to whom you have drawn very close. It can be translated to commit, to yield, to commend, to transmit, to deliver, or to hand something over to someone else.

The Lord Jesus yielded Himself to the Father who judges righteously when He found Himself in this unjust situation. In that difficult hour, He drew close to the Father and fully entrusted Himself and His future into the hands of the Father. Jesus knew He was in the Father’s will, so He chose to entrust Himself into the Father’s care and to leave the results in His control.

If you are in a situation that seems unfair or unjust and there is nothing you can do to change it, you must draw as close to the Father as you can and commit yourself into His loving care. You know He wants the best for you, even though you have found yourself in a predicament that seems so undeserved. Your options are to get angry and bitter and turn sour toward life, or to choose to believe that God is in control and working on your behalf, even if you don’t see anything good happening at the present moment.

When Jesus was arrested and taken to Caiaphas to be severely mistreated, there was no escape for Him. He had no choice but to trust the Father. What other choice do you have today?

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, in times when I find myself stuck in a situation I don’t like or enjoy, help me lift my eyes and look to You for strength. I know that You love me and are looking out for my life, so in those moments when I am tempted to be nervous or afraid, I ask You to help me rest in the knowledge that You will take care of me.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY

I declare by faith that I am kept by the peace of God. Even when I find myself in situations that seem unjust, undeserving, and unfair, God is secretly working to turn things around for my good. He loves me; He cares for me; and He wants to see the very best for my life.

Therefore, I entrust my job, my income, my marriage, my children, my health, and everything else in my life into the hands of my Heavenly Father!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Have you ever found yourself trapped in a situation that seemed unfair? What did you do to stay in peace and to avoid fear and anxiety?
  2. If you were counseling a friend who was caught up in an undeserved situation, what steps would you suggest that your friend take in order to stay in peace?
  3. If you were to lead someone in a prayer of commitment to God, how would you word that particular prayer? Why don’t you take a few minutes to pray this same prayer for yourself?

 

Do You Want Christ To Touch You At Your Deepest Point Of Need?

Here are five observations from an incident in the life of a leper whom Jesus healed :

 

1. We must acknowledge we have a need.

 

A lowly leper falls at Jesus’ feet and beseeches Him, Lord, you can make me clean.

 

Of all the people Jesus could have helped, He chose the one in desperate need. Christ cautions the self-sufficient non-lepers of the world: “You say, I am richI do not need a thing‘… You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17)

 

2. We must come to Jesus.

 

The leper came and besought the Master for the solution to his miserable condition.

 

Many of us in seeking a solution to our needs seem to go to everyone and to everything but Jesus: Friends, seminars, books, tapes… you name it. But not to the Lord Jesus.

 

You refuse to come to Me to have life.” (John 5:40)

 

3. We must come to Jesus in humility.

 

The leper fell on his knees worshipping Jesus and begging Him for help, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.

 

James reminds us, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

 

4. We must come to Jesus believing He can and will help us.

 

The leper cried out, “You can make me clean.

 

Because it is our Father’s intent to conform us into the Saviour’s image, we can be assured that He will do whatever is best for us toward that end:

 

In all things God works for the good of those who love HimFor those (whom) Godpredestined (He)conformed to the likeness of His Son.” (Romans 8:28a, 29a)

 

5. We must come to Jesus and ask Him to help us.

 

James cautions, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2b)

 

By our asking for help we are acknowledging the fact that we have reached the end of our resources and are now relying upon His. Our “extremity” then becomes God’s “opportunity.

 

 

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