“He shall seduce with flattery those who violate the covenant, but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action” (Daniel 11:32). …The People Who Know Their God
In Matthew 14, Peter and the other disciples travelled ahead of Jesus, after he had finished teaching the crowds. After Jesus dismissed the crowd, he went into the mountain alone to pray. When he was done praying, the disciples were far away by boat. They encountered a storm and the waves beat against the boat due to a strong wind. Jesus approached the boat by walking on the water towards them, in the early hours of the morning. The disciples did not recognise him and they also did not expect to see him walking on the water towards them. They cried out in fear thinking he was a ghost.
Jesus reassured them that they did not need to fear as it was him walking towards them. Peter being as impulsive as he was or in a manner which some would describe as faith, said to Jesus, “Lord if it is you, let me come to you on the water.” “Come,” Jesus said, to which Peter stepped out and walked on the water toward him. What happened next was the true test of Peter’s faith. He asked Jesus to give him permission to step out and on His word he did, but the wind did not cease. Fear is what overcame Peter and he started to sink and cried out to Jesus to save him. “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Jesus said, grabbing hold of Peter.
Peter had enough faith to recognise that it was Jesus on the water and stepped out to meet him. Stepping out did not calm the wind and Peter’s doubt caused him to sink. We sometimes imagine that if we are sure that we have heard from God and we take a step of faith, that things will automatically be calm.
Dear friends, stepping out on faith often requires maintaining that faith, even when there are winds of doubt and fear around us. It won’t always be calm when God gives us the go ahead to take that first step. But if we continue to walk in faith and do not doubt then Jesus will help us to safety. God is with us and he will guide us and keep us safe, so that no harm can come to us. We have to maintain our trust and confidence in him to help us make it through the storm.
The defence against constant bombardment is saturation in the word, to hide ourselves in God while the storm rages. That way God will shelter and protect us and be our shield and guide. “But despite Jesus’ instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (Luke 5:15-16).
In order to remain full of the spirit of God, in order to be able to minister to others, Jesus knew the answer to prevent burnout. He often withdrew in order to pray and to connect with God in the wilderness. Sometimes we become bombarded by the cares of life and constant exhaustion and distractions can drain all of our energy. This makes it easy for the enemy to attack our minds and filter in fears, anxiety and depression. In order to reconnect with God, we have to pull away to be alone with God, to communicate with him and to be refilled.
God is our hiding place and the only way to shelter from the storms and cares of life is to find rest and shelter in him. He is never far away and it is the noise and chaos of life that drowns out the voice of God. He will not compete with our busy schedules or overly saturated minds in order to speak to us. We have to make time for God and seek him to find refuge in him.
“God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear” (Psalm 46:1). Take yourself away from the daily distractions of the noise and the crowd to pray and communicate with God. He will comfort and shelter you and protect you from the attacks of the enemy.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
Isaiah wrote about Gods perfect peace and proclaimed a song to be sung in Judah. Judah was strong and surrounded by walls of salvation. “Open the gates, that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in” (Isaiah 26:2). Those who place their trust in God, remain in perfect peace. God is our everlasting rock who has humbled the proud and brings down the arrogant. They are trampled by the poor and needy, but the path of the righteous is level. “In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul” (Isaiah 26:8). The song continued to express an earnest desire for God.
Isaiah said that when God’s judgements are in the land, the inhabitants learn righteousness. If favour is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness. The wicked deals corruptly even in the land of righteousness and does not show regard for the things of God. “O Lord, your hand is lifted up, but they do not see it. Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed. Let the fire for your adversaries consume them” (Isaiah 26:11). God’s reward for his people is peace and he causes us to advance. There are other gods and systems that have ruled over the earth. Other gods are dead as God will destroy them and wipe away their memory.
God has increased his people and enlarged their territories. They cried out to him in their distress through silent prayers, when they were being chastened. “Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O Lord” (Isaiah 26:17). Their pregnancy did not bring forth a seed and there was no deliverance. The dead shall live again and those who are downtrodden will sing for joy. God’s people are warned to hide until his fury has passed. “For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain” (Isaiah 26:21).
In this song, Isaiah spoke of God’s love for his people and his gift of peace. He also spoke about judgment for the inhabitants of the earth, in order to teach righteousness. Judgment is punishment for sin and we know that the Lord chastises the one that he loves (Hebrews 12:6). In the same way that children need discipline to learn good morals and values, people need judgment to learn the righteousness of God. No one loves discipline, but it produces fruits of righteousness. “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God” (1 Peter 4:17)?
In Revelations 3, John wrote to the church in Philadelphia, the words from Jesus who holds the key of David. This key of David opens doors that no one can shut, and shuts doors that no one can open. Jesus was sympathetic to the Philadelphian church who seemed powerless. As such, he had set an open door before them that no one would be able to shut. This church had kept the word of God and had not denied the name of Jesus. God would cause those of the church of Satan who lied about his people, to bow down before his church. God would also keep his church from the trials that were to come on the earth, due to their patient endurance.
Jesus told the Philadelphian church to hold fast to their crown of reward, so that no one would take it from them before his return. “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Revelation 3:12). Isaiah also prophesied concerning the key of David, when he spoke about God’s judgement against Jerusalem. God was not pleased with Isreal’s leader who he vowed to move out of office. “I will thrust you from your office, and you will be pulled down from your station” (Isaiah 22:19).
He described God raising up Eliakim, son of Hilkiah and transferring to him the power and authority of Isreal. “And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open” (Isaiah 22:22). God vowed to establish him because of the rebellion of the former leader, who led God’s people astray. This represented a transfer of power from an unworthy ruler to someone who feared God.
The key of David represents power and authority. Before Jesus’s ascension, he spoke to his disciples. “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). This statement followed the great commission to go into the world to make disciples. In Luke, after Jesus’s disciples returned from evangelism, they were excited that even the demons were subject to them. Jesus spoke of Satan falling down from heaven like lightning and again conferred their authority. “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you” (Luke 10:19).
This power and authority is given to us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This same Holy Ghost power, raised Jesus Christ from the dead and has seated us in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. We have power to do the will of God and the power of the Holy Spirit within us, opens doors of authority that no one can shut. God also closes doors that the devil would try to open in our lives in order to afflict us. The keys are in the word of God and our knowledge of the things of God. The Holy Spirit is our guide and teacher and gives us the authority to open closed doors and to shut doors that the devil tries to open.
“for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you”” (Ephesians…Make Yourself Chosen
At the church in Antioch, there were elders and prophets who were worshipping the Lord in fasting and prayer. The Holy Spirit instructed them to lay hands on Paul and Barnabas and set them apart for the work which they had been called to do. After they laid hands on them, they sent them out and they were led by the Holy Spirit to visit Cyprus. As they went through the island, they came upon a magician, a Jewish false prophet called Bar-Jesus. This false prophet was with the proconsul Sergius Paulus, who summoned Paul and Barnabas to hear the word of God. The Magician opposed them and sought to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
Paul being full of the spirit rebuked the magician and pronounced righteous judgement. “And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand” (Acts 13:11). After this happened, the proconsul believed and was amazed. This judgement was handed out by the Holy Spirit through Paul. Like earthly courts, there are courts of heaven that operate in our sphere of influence. In this instance, the Magician’s sin was defying the plan and purpose of God to lead the proconsul to Christ. His judgement was immediate and blindness fell on him for a season.
We see a similar scenario with Ananias and Sapphira who conspired to lie to Peter. His question to Ananias was, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit…?” Peter told Ananias that he had not lied to man but unto God. Ananias immediately fell down dead and was carried off and buried. Three hours later his wife came in and repeated the same story. The result was the same for her. Death and burial was her judgment because they tested the spirit of God. “And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things” (Acts 5:11). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and these lessons are hard ones to expound on.
Someone may say that their judgment and that of the Magician was harsh. On each occasion, we saw the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Peter and Paul did not speak through their flesh or from a place of carnality. We should not devise in our minds to judge someone, or plan to speak death or blindness on others. On each occasion, Paul and Peter spoke as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. In essence it was God’s judgement spoken by the Holy Spirit through human vessels. We saw the prophets in the Old Testament such as Elijah and Elisha, execute judgement against the enemies of God. Judgement did not end in the Old Testament as we saw the Holy Spirit rendering judgement through Peter and Paul in Acts.
We are taught not to quench the Holy Spirit or to grieve Him. The Magician tried to exalt himself and his worldly doctrine against God. The devil used him to oppose the plan of God and the Holy Spirit judged him. Ananias and Sapphira sought to exalt themselves and used deception to make themselves out to be who they were not. They walked into the the presence of God to meet with Peter, who led the church and lied. Their sin was carefully crafted and premeditated. On each occasion the fear of the Lord fell upon those who witnessed judgement. The proconsul feared at the Magician’s blindness and saw first hand what the power of God could do. Ananias and Sapphira should have known better as they were among the saints. Either way, the Holy Spirit was grieved by their actions and judgment fell upon them.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).
David often described times of searching for God and longing to be refreshed in his presence. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God”(Psalm 42:1). He described himself as a deer who was thirsty and in need of water. This was how hungry and desperate David was for the presence of God. He cried and described his tears as food as he poured out his soul unto God. In Psalm 63, he longed to worship God and vowed to worship Him for the rest of his life. In Psalm 84, David longed for the courts of God. “My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God” (Psalm 84:2).
David considered a day in the courts of God, as better than a thousand years anywhere else. He understood when Jeremiah said that anyone who sought after God would find him. “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). David was a man after God’s own heart, because he earnestly sought after God. He understood the all surpassing presence of God. “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence” (Psalm 139:7)? He knew that whether in heaven, in hell or in the deepest parts of the sea, that the presence of God would be with him. Not even the darkness could hide him away from God.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:2). David also experienced peace and rest in the presence of God. He found provision, goodness, shelter and protection. Moses also understood the importance of God’s presence. “And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here”(Exodus 33:15). He knew that the journey from Egypt to Canaan was impossible without God. Moses longed to see the glory of God and spent time in communion with Him.
When we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we will be filled (Matthew 5:6). There is peace, joy, healing, deliverance, freedom and everything good in the presence of God. Most people want to rub shoulders and have association with people with status and power. This is shortsighted, as they miss the fact that everything that we need is in God. When Jesus died, he left us the Comforter in the person of the Holy Spirit. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). Let us spend time in the presence of God. Seek him daily and pursue him intimately, so that his presence will be with us wherever we go.
“And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest”” (Exodus 33:14).
Paul spoke in Hebrews about faith and recalled the stories of many heroes of faith in the bible. We need faith to believe and serve God and our faith increases through hearing the word. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). The stories are recalled from Abel who trusted God and offered a better sacrifice than Cain to Abraham who was the father of faith. Cain envied his brother although he was unwilling to make the same sacrifice, which his brother made in order to receive from God. Although Abel died, he is still considered a hero of faith, because his heart was pure before God.
God made a promise to Abraham that his children would be many as the sand of the sea. What is significant for me, is that Paul pointed out that many of the promises that God shared with these men, were not seen in their lifetime. Yet they died with the hope that what God had promised would come to pass. We know now that the Jews have expanded and the descendants of Abraham grew and did great exploits for God.
Abraham received the promise of Isaac and also conceived Ishmael. This was the hope for Abraham that God would keep the seed of his generation for thousands of years. All those who serve God have also been grafted into Abraham’s family. The man who was childless for over ninety years is the father of many nations. God also made covenants and promises to David concerning his children and kept his vow not to destroy his kingdom. This was despite the disobedience of his children which grieved God. When David received the prophecy concerning his family, he praised God and gave him glory. This is because he believed every word spoken.
John the Baptist was the New Testament prophet who prepared the way for Jesus. John did not live to see the work that Jesus did as he was beheaded after his arrest. Yet John lived to declare with conviction the entrance of Jesus Christ and prophesied concerning what he was here on earth to do. The faith of these prophets transcended time and they did not wait to see the physical manifestations before they took hold and believed. God is not a man that he should lie and if he has promised, it will come to pass.
“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it” (Hebrews 4:1).
Peter stood to address the crowd in Acts 2, to explain the phenomenon of the saints speaking in unknown tongues. “both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11). Some of the people mocked them saying that they were drunken with wine. Peter corrected their saying and explained that this was the promise spoken of by the prophet Joel. Jesus also reminded his disciples before his departure of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16). Jesus also spoke of the power that would come on the disciples when they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). This power represents boldness and strength to advance the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit is the inner witness who speaks to us and gives us direction. In the Old Testament the Lord sent an angel to lead his people. “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared” (Exodus 23:20).
The warning from God to his people was to listen to the angel, to pay careful attention to him and not to rebel against him as he would not pardon them (Exodus 23:21). I believe that similar to the angels who led God’s people in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit acts as our guide after the death of Christ. Paul also warned the church not to grieve the Holy Spirit and we are cautioned to be led by the spirit.
God is not subject to people’s status or consider earthly ranking. Anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is manifested through speaking in tongues which is our heavenly language to God in prayer. The spirit also manifests through the different spiritual gifts such as word of wisdom, preaching, teaching, prophecy, visions and dreams. We should desire the gifts of the spirit and sanctify ourselves so that the Holy Spirit can dwell and work through us.