Saturday, May 19, 2018

Pentecost: Filling of the Holy Spirit

In Scripture, cleansing water (1 John 5:6,8) and burning oil may each symbolize the Holy Spirit, Who has qualities of Living Water (Jeremiah 17:13; John 4; 7:38) as well as of holy fire (Isaiah 10:17). John the Baptist practiced baptism by water as the forerunner to Christ’s baptism by the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:36). John’s baptism by water was an act of repentance for sin, but Christ’s baptism with the Holy Ghost was compared to fire (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16).

Christ’s shed blood washed believers clean of all sins (Revelation 1:5). After Christ’s completed work on the cross and His resurrection, the Holy Spirit, like cloven tongues of fire, landed on the disciples at the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). The resulting filling by the Spirit allowed the disciples to speak in languages other than their native tongue, for the purpose of spreading the Gospel message to people of all nations.

The parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25) suggests that only those virgins with oil burning in their lamps – those who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit – will be admitted to the marriage supper, representing the Rapture to meet the Bridegroom in the air.

To be indwelled by the Holy Spirit, we must be born again, first by water (the physical birth) and then by the Spirit (John 3:5-8). This requires cleansing from our sins through our repentance and God’s forgiveness due to the substitutionary death of His Son (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). We must place our faith in Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (1 Cornthians 15:1-4) as our only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). As we realize, and continue to learn more and more about, Who He is, our hearts will burn within us (Luke 24:32), and we will be on fire for the Lord.

Water is sometimes called the universal solvent, because its cleansing action dissolves impurities and flushes them away. In contrast, oil tends to adhere to small particles, keeping them in contact with the skin or other surface. First we shower and then we apply perfumed body oil or beauty cream – it wouldn’t make much sense to reverse the order!

Similarly, we need the cleansing action of the Living Waters before the oil in our Spirit-filled lamps can burn brightly with a sweet fragrance. God dealt with Jerusalem and His chosen people in a similar sequence – first He cleansed them with water, and then He anointed them with oil (Ezekiel 16:9).

We see a moving example of cleansing and anointing in Luke 7 (38-48), in the sinful woman who wept at Jesus’s feet, washing them with her tears. No doubt her tears were shed in Godly sorrow, in repentance for her sins, as were the tears of David (Psalm 6:60;119:136) and Jeremiah (9:1,18; Lamentations 3:48). First her tears cleansed His feet from the dust and grime of the dirty roads, symbolizing the sins of the world, for Jesus Himself had no sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Then she wiped His feet with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with precious ointment. The oil in ointment allows it to preserve and convey perfume, spices and other costly substances. This woman stored her ointment in a precious alabaster box, which may have represented her dowry or all her worldly treasure. Yet she broke open the box and bestowed all the ointment lavishly on Jesus without considering the cost, because her heart was ignited by the Holy Spirit with passion to serve Him.

In a rainy parking lot, we may see oil drops floating on the wet pavement, causing a striking, rainbow-hued, swirling pattern known as a fractal. The light would not reflect in this jewel-toned design were the oil not aligned in a thin film, buoyed up by the water beneath. Similarly, the light and beauty of the Holy Spirit are not visible unless carried afloat by the Living Water indwelling each believer.

Cleansing, purification and anointing, as symbolized by water and oil, are essential to true worship. Oil and water in Scripture also reflect God’s provision, blessing, power, and judgment. May currents of living water flow forth from each of us, supporting the oil of the Spirit to reflect His brilliant light!

© 2013 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Give Up Your Child to God!

Photo by bigbirdz 2010

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we can be thankful for earthly mothers and Godly women who let the love of Jesus Christ shine through them (Ephesians 3:17,19; 5:2), even if that means surrendering their child to God’s perfect will. But sadly, many mothers relinquish their child not to God’s perfect grace, but to an idol or false god. In Scripture we see two examples of these contrasting motives and outcomes.

Pressured by the demands of false religion, mothers sacrificed their infants to Molech, the fire god, in a barbaric ritual begun by neighboring pagan lands but enforced by Ahaz and Manasseh, kings of Israel (2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6). As children were burned at the altar, drums beat incessantly to drown out the wailing of the infants and their mothers who may have realized too late the horrors of what they were doing.

Even King Solomon, wisest of all men (1 Kings 4:29-34), built altars to Molech to keep the peace with his pagan wives, and I assume he may have even allowed his own offspring by these women to be tossed into the flames. In addition to this punishment, God’s judgment for this evil was the loss of Solomon’s kingdom (1 Kings 11:4-11). God considered this such an abomination (Jeremiah 32:35) that He demanded stoning for those who sacrificed their infants to Molech (Leviticus 20:2-5).

In contrast, Hannah, wife of Elkinah, “gave up” her son to the One true Jehovah God and was richly blessed in return. Although Elkinah loved Hannah far more than his other wife Peninnah and treated her far better, this could not assuage Hannah’s grief over being barren. To rub salt in the wound, fertile Peninnah taunted Hannah for bearing no children, and Elkinah meant well but couldn’t understand why his own love for Hannah was not enough (1 Samuel 1:1-8),

The story has many parallels to that of Jacob, who loved his wife Rachel far more than her sister Leah, even though Leah bore him children whereas Rachel was initially childless (Genesis 29:16-35; 30:1-25).

Hannah fasted, prayed fervently and wept, in “bitterness of soul,” that God would give her a son. Her faith was so strong that she promised to return that child to God in His service, by allowing him to assist the priest and train to be one even as a young child (1 Samuel 1:1-10-16).

Some might say that she was striking a bargain with God, which in my opinion would be a sin of pride and of unbelief. Essentially, offering something to God in exchange for a particular outcome implies that we know what we need better than God does, that He does not love us enough to do what is best for us, and that He needs something from us (Matthew 6:8,32; 7:11; Psalm 50:7-14).

Scripture is clear that those who make a vow to God must honor it or face dire consequences (Deuteronomy 23:21,23; Ecclesiastes 5:4), and that we should think carefully before making a foolish promise or one that we cannot or will not honor (Judges 11:30-40)

But rather than bargaining with God. I believe that Hannah had the faith to know God could answer her prayer for a son and that He is the source of all good gifts (James 1:17). She “vowed a vow” to consecrate that child to Him (Psalm 50:14; 66:13), in essence thanking Him in advance for granting her request (Philippians 4:6).

Eli, the priest who at first thought Hannah was drunk, ultimately recognized her profound faith and believed that God would grant her request. Further evidence of Hannah’s faith is that she came to the altar in utmost distress, yet after she poured out her soul, she left in peace, trusting God for the outcome (1 Samuel 1: 17-18). She conceived shortly after they returned home from the yearly pilgrimage to the Lord’s house, and appropriately named her son Samuel, meaning “God has heard.”

True to her promise, Hannah raised Samuel until he was weaned, then returned to the Lord’s house where she offered him to assist Eli and to be trained by him as a priest. She and Elkinah also gave a generous offering and worshipped the Lord for answering her prayer. How heart-wrenching it must have been for Hannah to “lend her son to the Lord” for as long as he would live, and to return to her strangely quiet home that was once filled with her toddler’s cries (v. 22-28).

But Hannah continued in prayer and in praise, singing a song of worship (1 Samuel 2:1-10) that many centuries later would inspire Mary to sing the Magnificat when she learned God had chosen her to be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:46-55). Samuel served God under Eli’s supervision, and was a shining light in a priest’s house darkened by the evil deeds of his sons and by the spiritual weakness of the priest himself (1 Samuel 2:12-18; 22-25).

Each year Hannah and Elkinah faithfully returned to the Lord’s house for offering and worship, and each year she brought Samuel a new coat she had made to accommodate the growing lad (v. 19). I wonder if she kept a special chest filled with his outgrown garments as a memory of the son whose company she could not enjoy? But thankfully, she would soon need them, as Eli prayed that God would give her a child to make up for the one she had lent to Him (v. 20).

You can’t outgive God (Luke 6:38), so it doesn’t surprise me that God answered that prayer by blessing Hannah with three more sons and two daughters! (1 Samuel 2:21) She was doubly blessed, not only with a large family but with knowing that Samuel was growing in God’s grace and service (v. 26). Ultimately God spoke directly to Samuel warning him of Eli’s destruction to come and making him a great prophet (1 Samuel 3).

Not all of our children are called to be preachers or missionaries, but as parents who believe in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection as the only way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6), we should lend our children to the Lord for whatever service He has intended for them.

Yet we hear of children who want to go to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) by going to forsaken parts of the earth to spread the Good News of the Gospel (Acts 1:8), and of parents who discourage them, out of fear or selfish motives of wanting to keep them nearby.

In truth, “our” children are His, not ours, and He has graciously lent them to us. May we encourage them by our example to trust in Christ alone, to pray, to study His Word, and to serve Him! God will reward us many times over!

© 2014 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives