Moses wrote a song unto God in Exodus 15, after the Lord saved them from Pharaoh and his army. “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore” (Exodus 14:30). These mighty Egyptian warriors pursued the Israelites, with the intention of recapturing them. Pharaoh could not stand the idea of seeing these people go free. Now you would imagine that by this time, Pharaoh had learnt his lesson. God sent ten plagues upon Egypt and the final plague was devastating. Perhaps Pharaoh convinced himself that this was merely a coincidence.
After all, there may have been a scientific explanation for all that happened in Egypt. The bible actually says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, in order to get the glory over him. He should have left the people of God alone, but his stubbornness and hard heartedness made him pursue them. What was the result? His entire army dead by drowning. “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea” (Exodus 15:1). I wonder if Pharaoh’s men had swimming lessons. I truly doubt that any swimming abilities, would have saved them from that Red Sea.
God would have made absolutely sure, that everyone of those soldiers were dead at sea. Their death was as a result of their hard heartedness and their desire to cause harm to God’s children. Police officers and soldiers are trained to serve and protect. Soldiers should not shoot unless they are threatened, or to take out someone who is a threat to others. However, officers are trained to protect and will eliminate threats to life and liberty. God is loving, faithful and caring and his desire is that all of his creation are saved. “Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live” (Ezekiel 18:23).
People perish because they choose not to repent and serve God. The devil creates conditions to take the life of the same wicked people who serve him. He wants to ensure that as many people as possible perish with him. The challenge is that people are blind to their sin and wickedness. God will extend mercy and pardon because he wants a relationship with people. However, if anyone allows themselves to be used as an agent of the devil, to harass and antagonise God’s children, the result is disaster. “The Lord will fight for you while you [only need to] keep silent and remain calm” (Exodus 14:14).
David sang to the Lord in 2 Samuel 22, after he was rescued during a battle against the Philistines. David went to battle with his army and during the battle he became weary. “And Ishbi-benob, one of the descendants of the giants, whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of bronze, and who was armed with a new sword, thought to kill David” (2 Samuel 21:16). One of David’s men, Abishai came to his defence and attacked and killed the Philistine who tried to kill him. In the end, David’s men made an oath to him that he would no longer go out with them to battle.
David was viewed by his men as the ‘lamp of Israel,’ which they did not want to be quenched in the event that he died in battle. David was a fierce warrior who fought and won many battles for Israel. David was only seventeen when he killed Goliath and never stopped fighting battles until his final battle with the Philistines. Even as the King of Israel, David continued on the battlefield. His men considered his life too precious to risk and made the decision that it was not necessary for him to continue to fight.
Like David, there are seasons when we are war torn and weary from battle. During these times God will send help and assign people to stand in the gap to strengthen us. It is not a weakness to reach out for help and at times to surrender to God, instead of fighting in our own strength. David’s men continued to fight the battles for Israel and he had brave warriors who won many battles. There are angels surrounding us who are ready to fight on our behalf. Our position is prayer and using the spoken word.
At our words the angels are dispatched to carry out our strategic mandate. Our words have to be in alignment with what the bible says. Once we speak things that are in alignment with the word, then whatever we allow will continue, but whatever we disallow will cease to exist. “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18).
There is a psychological concept related to fight or flight, which describes an innate instinct within animals and humans, when faced with a perceived threat. Built within each of us, is a natural desire to fight to protect ourselves, or to run from a perceived threat. One of my favourite characters in the bible is David. As we follow his journey, we see how God first taught David how to kill a bear and lion which came to threaten his sheep. These challenges were used to prepare David for confronting, challenging and taking down Goliath who threatened the people of God (1 Samuel 17).
There were other seasons in the bible, where David spent running from Saul, who wanted to take his life. David’s conviction was, “Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm” (Psalms 105:15). This was because David knew that Saul was anointed of God. Saul eventually came to his own demise, when he fell on his sword during his battle with the Philistines (1 Samuel 31:4). Saul was so consumed by his pursuit of David, that he missed the fact that the Philistines were planning their attack against him. Except for Saul who was anointed and whom David needed to leave to God to avenge, David did not run away from many battles. He stood and fought once he had consulted God and was convinced that God was with him in battle. David said in Psalms, “He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze” (Psalms 18:34).
There are seasons when God will tell us to walk away and other times, when He wants us to take a stand of authority and declare victory over our circumstances. Our weapons are not physical and we do not fight in our own strength. Our weapons are strategic prayers and worship. When God commands us to fight, we have to remember that there is nothing for us to fear, but we have to be strong and courageous because God is with us in the battle (Joshua 1:9).
God will teach us the strategies of war and train us in warfare against the enemy. We have to do battle against principalities and powers, against the rulers of darkness of this present world (Ephesians 6:12). We need insight and wisdom for the battle and understanding as the Holy Spirit guides and teaches us in warfare. “For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall” (Psalm 18:29).
Paul spoke in Hebrews 12 about the perfecting of our faith. He warned us to lay aside the weights of sin, so that we can run the Christian race. We run with our eyes fixed on Jesus, who is seated at the right hand of God. Paul’s encouragement is to endure, so that we don’t become weary. He stated that our endurance against sin, was not up to the point of shedding our blood. We are sons and daughters of the most high God. Paul’s exhortation is this; “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him” (Hebrews 12:5).
Parental discipline is to help children grow, to become valuable members of society. God disciplines us because he loves us as his dear children. Children feel safe from having discipline and clearly defined boundaries. A parent who fails to discipline their children, is setting them up for failure. “If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Hebrews 12:8). God disciplines us because of his desire to keep us from perishing. Paul said that all discipline seemed painful at the time, however it later produces a fruit of righteousness.
Paul’s encouragement is to take heart and to lift our heads. We are told to strive for peace and holiness, which is a requirement to see God. “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15). Paul also warned against sexual immorality and unholiness. He compared such behaviour to when Esau sold his birthright for a meal. In other words, we cannot trade long term gain for short term pleasure. Esau later sought after the blessing of his father, but lost his opportunity due to shortsightedness.
Don’t become offended when you are corrected. You have to examine where and who the correction is coming from. God will use family, friends and other people around you to point out weaknesses. Ministers and leaders will point out times when we may stray away from the truth. Pride and arrogance can stop us from heeding correction. Stubbornness and hard heartedness can lead to destruction. When someone offers correction, you have to examine whether they mean to harm you, or they wish to see you grow in Christ likeness. “An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” (Proverbs 27:5-6).
Paul spoke to the Corinthians about repentance and cleansing themselves from all filthiness of the flesh. He warned the church about being unequally yoked with unbelievers. “And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever” (II Corinthians 6:15)? The warning was to come out from among them and be separated. We are in the world, but not of the world (John 17:16). God does not compromise and will not share his glory and worship with any other gods. Paul wrote to the church about their wrongdoings and he was joyful that they repented.
“Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing” (II Corinthians 7:9). Paul was happy that his letters to the church made them sad. They were sad because of their wrongdoing and this led them to make changes. Their sorrow produced diligence, indignation of sin, increased their fear of God, their desire and zeal. Paul spoke about the wrongs which they did, in order to look after their souls as a good shepherd.
Ministers and leaders cannot worry about a gospel of popularity. Pleasing people is sure to cause displeasure to God. “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man” (Psalms 118:8). We have to ask ourselves, when we do what we do, who we are trying to please. People pleasing is a snare and we can make ourselves miserable from trying to please others. Saul lost the kingdom because he was more focused on pleasing people, than he was about pleasing God. “Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice” (I Samuel 15:24).
We have to preach the gospel and be instant in season and out of season. We teach the word to correct wrongdoing, to rebuke and to encourage. Ensuring that we address issues produces a balanced diet. Don’t just teach what is palatable or what will appeal to people’s taste and senses. We cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit, listen to the voice of God and teach what God wants us to say. Don’t dilute your message or stifle your conviction because the message offends someone. By all means be gracious and compassionate, but your message should convict people and lead them to godly repentance with sorrow.
Joel wrote about the day of God’s judgement against Judah and Jerusalem. He prophesied regarding the impending disaster which was to come upon Isreal. His call was to repentance. “That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning” (Joel 2:12). God was looking for an inward repentance of the heart and not merely an outward show without meaning. Joel spoke of God’s compassion and willingness to forgive his people.
“Blow the ram’s horn in Jerusalem! Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a solemn meeting” (Joel 2:15). Joel called for a time of consecration of the people of Isreal. He had a special call for the Priests who ministered unto God, to stand at the entrance of the temple and weep. Their cries would be for God to spare his people and to remove their shame. Joel spoke of a promise of restoration, if the people would repent. “The Lord says, “I will give you back what you lost to the swarming locusts, the hopping locusts, the stripping locusts, and the cutting locusts. It was I who sent this great destroying army against you” (Joel 2:25).
Joel’s final discourse in chapter 2, was a promise of God’s spirit poured out on his people. This outpouring would include everyone young and old, male and female. There would be an increase in visions, dreams, revelations and prophecies. God also declared that wonders would appear both in the heavens and earth. Everyone who called on the name of the Lord would be saved (Joel 2:32). Within Joel’s lamentations and warnings, was a promise of restoration. This restoration was conditional and the caveat was repentance.
Joel was specific about the type of repentance which was required. Not an outward show of the rending of their garments, without inward godly sorrow with repentance. Joel had a specific call for the Priests and those who served in the house of the Lord, to cry out on behalf of the people. Fasting and consecration of the entire nation was Joel’s recommendation. The final promise was an outpouring of the spirit of God. Although times and seasons change, the principles of God remain the same. Seasons of restoration require repentance and consecration.
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
John the Revelator was caught up to heaven in a vision where he saw the throne of God. John saw God holding a scroll with the seven seals and an angel cried out, “who is worthy to open the scroll and break it’s seal?” John wept loudly as there was no one available to open the scroll. Except that an elder comforted John, because the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, had conquered so he could open the scroll. Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave. “I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave” (Revelation 1:18).
Jesus came from the tribe of Judah, to whom Jacob conferred the blessing of dominance. Jacob prophesied that the tribes would praise Judah and his hand would be on the neck of his enemies. “Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him” (Genesis 49:9)? David also sprang from this tribe and the blessing conferred to David was everlasting dominion. God spoke through Nathan, that David would never lack a man to sit on the throne. Although Isreal no longer has a physical kingdom, Jesus Christ sits in heaven at the right hand of God.
Jesus disarmed principalities and powers shamed them openly, by his victory over them at the cross (Colossians 2:15). Jesus conquered the grave and was given all power, authority and dominion. Jesus humbled himself even to the death of the cross. Because of his sacrifice, God has given him a name that is above every other name. “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
At Jesus’s first coming, he came as a humble lamb, to be slain for the sins of mankind. Saints, there is a second coming when Jesus will appear as a judge and king. “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:1). Jesus will appear on the clouds with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God. Until his final return, we work to spread the good news of the gospel and to establish the kingdom of God. We do the work of God with the authority given to us and we do all things through the power in name of Jesus.
Throughout this week, we explored the subject of deliverance and looked at what the bible prescribes for gaining freedom. I would like to say that this a broad topic, which cannot be completely covered in a week. I believe that deliverance can seem like a lifelong journey for the believer. When we become born again, we are set free from sin. As we live in a fallen world, we are daily affected and impacted by what happens around us. Maintaining our freedom in Christ and living in peace requires ongoing consecration. We have to also remember that this is not a works based programme.
“not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). As the Holy Spirit lives in us, he continues to renew us as we daily die to the works of the flesh. Paul cautioned the Ephesians against bitterness, wrath, anger, harsh words, slander and malice. These attitudes give place to the devil and gives him legal grounds on which to accuse us. Let us examine whether or not we are harbouring ill feelings towards anyone. Remember that our prayers won’t be answered, if we hold any bitterness in our hearts towards anyone.
Forgive the people who have hurt you, pray for them and bless them. This is a biblical prescription and holding unto resentment is harmful and toxic. It is not sinful to have negative emotions towards others. It becomes sin when we hold unto these emotions and act on them. It is difficult to let go of past hurt and pain. It is even more difficult for us to hold unto these emotions, as they can harm us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You are not doing anyone a favour by praying for, blessing and releasing the anger towards others. You are setting yourself free to live.
Many people are still angry towards a dead parent or relative. We sometimes need support, prayer and help to release some hurts. Some conditions may require counselling or therapy. Avoiding the pain and ignoring it, will not cause it to go away. Cry out to God for help and give him all of your difficult emotions. God will heal your mind and emotions. My final caution is to steer clear of worldly occult practices and do not entertain darkness. Witchcraft, freemasonry, tarot readings, psychic readings and horoscopes are an open door for bondage. If you have been led into any of these practices through ignorance or disobedience, confess, repent, renounce the works of darkness and seek the support of a minister.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).
James taught the church about the prayer of faith. His advice to those who were suffering is to pray. For those who were cheerful, to sing praises and those who were sick, to ask for prayer from the elders. The elders were instructed to anoint the sick person with oil in the name of Jesus. The prayer of faith will save the sick and the Lord will raise them up. If the person had committed a sin, the Lord would forgive them of their sins. James went on to say, that we should confess our sins to one another and pray for one another, that we may be healed. The earnest and sincere prayer of a righteous person, produces great results.
James was referring to accountability and the need to submit to spiritual authority. Elders are set over the church to lead, support and to equip the body of Christ. Christianity is not a ‘solo faith,’ where we do it all alone. We need each other in order to grow, develop and to mature in God. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Paul also said that those who are strong, are to help to bear the failings of the weak (Romans 15:1). Paul also taught about the need to gently restore someone who is caught in a sin. This was described as, bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-2).
The above scripture means that, even born against Christians can at times struggle, with besetting sins. In these instances, it helps when we have people around us who we can confide in and who can hold us accountable. Church elders and those who are mature in the faith, are best placed to support people who are struggling. Sometimes people need spiritual counselling, which supports their deliverance from spiritual strongholds. We all have blind spots that may not be obvious to us. Having people around us who can provide guidance and gentle correction, will help us to grow.
Some sinful conditions can also open a door for sickness and infirmity. For example, someone may struggle with anger, which Paul warns, gives a foothold to the devil. Notice that James stated that the sick person, may at times need to repent of sin. This is not to say that every person who is ill is sinful, neither is every sinful person ill. However, some situations may open a door for affliction. Someone who abuses drugs and alcohol for example, cannot be surprised if they experience ill health. Do not be afraid to ask mature Christians and elders for help, support, guidance and counselling. There are conditions that we will not be set free from, without the help of others. Find someone who you can be honest with about your struggles and don’t be afraid to ask for help.