Cover to Cover
Jesus said you must become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. The Greek word for little children actually means a nursing infant. A nursing infant is completely dependent upon its mother for its care. That is the picture of faith, completely dependent on God for our life. The disciples had been talking about who was considered great in the kingdom. Jesus told them if you humble yourself like a child, dependent, then you will be great in the kingdom. That concept is opposite from the world’s principles! In the world, you have to compete to be great. You have to be self-reliant and strong. You have to make things happen. You have to climb over other people. The principles of God’s kingdom do not only apply in spiritual matters, but they apply for natural matters as well. Rely on God in business, and He will give you favor!
Jesus also said if you receive a child in His name, you also receive Christ. Children’s ministers, you have a humble heart to serve Jesus. If you want to find a humble person, find a person that likes to be around children, and sees their value and worth.
If someone despises a child, causes harm to that child, or pushes that child away from God, then Jesus said it would be better for that person to drown in the depth of the sea than to continue to live and hurt these young, dependent children.
Children, as well as adults, belong to God. We need to treat each other as such. What if a homosexual came into your church or neighborhood? Would you push them farther away from God with your religious laws, or would you draw them closer to His love and truth? I sometimes observe that a sinner has more compassion for the lost than a religious fool.
Jesus talks about going after one of the “little ones” like a shepherd goes after a lost sheep. The angels are always reporting to God over these children. Here is the heart of Jesus, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost (verse 11).” Jesus is going after the children, not wanting them to wander off, but keeping them under His care as they grow in His love.
FORGIVING A SINNING BROTHER
Religion loves guilt, shame, and fear. They will drive it into you that you must keep the rules of the Bible. They will publicly humiliate you. They will cut you off in a heartbeat, even if they have known you for years. They think they are righteous, but they are uncaring, unloving, rule keepers. They feel right, without feeling compassion. They are emotionally numb, lacking empathy. They are hardhearted, unfeeling, uncaring people.
Let’s remember Jesus is speaking to Jews about their synagogues. If a believer sins against someone intentionally, instead of making a spectacle of him or her, that person is to meet with him or her privately. If the man or woman has a humble heart, he or she will receive correction, turn around, and the person is now back on track. Nothing else has to be done.
However, if the person continues to do the wrong thing, take another person, a witness, and try to win the brother or sister. If the person is humble, he or she will receive the truth and turn around. Nothing else has to be done.
If the person continues to do the wrong thing, tell the church leadership. If the person is humble, he or she will receive the correction from the synagogue. If not, the church is to treat that person as a rebel. How does the church treat a rebel? There is a separation, but there is also always an open door to repent and return. The goals is always reconciliation and restoration.
The previous scripture refers to reconciling with a fallen brother or sister. Now in verses 18-20, Jesus continues to speak along the lines of agreement among believers. The word agree in verse 19 is the Greek word sumphoneo, and it comes from two root words: sum, meaning “together,” and phoneo, meaning “to sound.” It literally means “to sound together” as in harmony. We get our word symphony from this word. When Christians come together in harmony, then there is tremendous power available. Why? Because when we are in harmony, Christ is manifested.
If someone is not in harmony, he or she could hinder the anointing and the power of God in church gatherings. If someone is talking negatively about the church, even in the privacy of their own home, he or she may wonder why they aren’t sensing the Holy Spirit anymore. If someone is complaining with another person against their church family, God may choose to remove them so the rest of the church can go forward. However, if people will humble themselves and call on God, God will manifest in great power and glory!
In Exodus 16, the people were hungry and without much food in the wilderness, so God fed them manna, a strange bread that would appear on the ground with the dew. The Hebrew word for manna literally means, “What Is It?” because it was something they had never seen before. It was a light bread that would just sustain them, leaving them wanting for more. It was said to have little taste, like wafers with honey. It was white and similar to coriander seed. The Hebrews called it a loathsome bread.
They were only to gather what they needed for the day, and they could not store it overnight, except for Fridays. On Fridays they could gather double, because the manna was not available on the Sabbath, their day of rest. This was a lesson on dependency on God. If they tried to store it, any day but the night before Sabbath, they would find worms in it. Faith has dependency, and faith will rest in the grace of God.
The manna was also a sign of covenant. A bowl of it was put into the ark of the covenant. It was kept for their descendants, to remind them how God provided for them. They ate manna for forty years in the desert.
God gave the Hebrews manna to test their faith (Exodus 16:4).
After two years, the people began to despise the manna that was keeping them alive. They had manna for breakfast, manna for lunch, and manna for dinner. They were craving for more. They yielded to their craving (Numbers 11:34) and angered the Lord. The Israelites began to remember Egypt, their place of bondage, longing for the fish, the cucumbers, the leeks, the melons, the onions, and the garlic. In Numbers 11:6 they complained and said, “but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!”
In Deuteronomy 8:3, it says, “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy in Luke 4:4 when He was tested. God led Jesus to fast, and He was hungry. Satan encouraged Him to make bread from the stones, something Jesus could have done, but instead, knowing He was in a time of testing, found a power for living in a reliance upon God and His Word. The Father told Him to fast, so He obeyed the Word of God, living surrendered to the will of God. Faith is RELIANCE on God to the point of obedience.
The manna was a foreshadow of faith in Christ (John 6:26-59). Jesus mentioned the manna, and then called Himself “The Bread of Life.” In the same way that we crave food to eat to sustain our life, God gave us an appetite for a relationship with Him and to have His life. He is meant to sustain us as we rely on Him. Jesus boldly says that HE is the bread of life – as we crave Him and rely on Him, He provides life for us. We make Jesus our Lord, and He satisfies the longing of our heart, as well as anything else we need is found in God through Christ.
In John 6:54 Jesus says that you must eat my flesh and drink my blood. Many turned away from Him after making that statement (verse 66). Jesus asked the disciples if they would turn away from Him too, and Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter understood that eating Jesus was not about cannibalism, it was about finding life through His sacrifice. In verse 63, Jesus says, “My words are spirit, and they are life.” Eat them, take them in, and find the satisfaction and sustenance we crave spiritually.
WATER FROM A ROCK
In Exodus 17, God made our bodies to require food and drink to survive. Even more so, God created us to require HIM to live. Was it unusual that the people were craving food and water? No. Was it wrong that they complained instead of looking to God in faith? Yes. When the people were thirsty, Moses asks, “Why do you tempt the Lord?” All they had to do was ask, and God would provide what they needed.
Instead of saying, “Moses, we want to go to the Lord and worship Him, looking to Him to provide the water He knows we need to survive,” they complained and said, “Have you brought us into the wilderness to kill us?” See the difference?
Moses went to the Lord, saying, “These people are ready to stone me!” Believe it or not, there are some pastors whose lives have been threatened, not just in other nations, but in the United States. Being a leader can be troublesome. Jerry and I have been criticized, slandered, betrayed, abandoned, rejected, and withheld from, but we haven’t had our lives threatened yet, at least not by our own countrymen. It is an honor to serve the Lord.
The Lord instructed Moses to strike the rock and water came out. That was supernatural, right? The manna was supernatural, right? God is trying to get the people to realize He is their source. They can put their trust in Him!
AARON AND HUR LIFT MOSES’ ARMS
The Israelites fight their first battle, a battle with the Amalekites. Joshua led the troops, a strong military leader. The Lord helped the army win when Moses would lift up the rod over his head. They built an altar as a memorial there and named it Jehovah Nissi, or “The Lord My Banner.” A banner was a pole standard beneath which armies would rally. The banner was what gathered them and what identified them. Here, the Lord is the name that identified Israel.
MOSES BUILDS A TEAM OF LEADERS
Moses was weary from dealing with people’s problems and disputes. He sees His father-in-law, Jethro, and Jethro sees that Moses is overworked. He suggests training and equipping men to help him with the needs of the people. They were to be men that had qualities over other men – they must fear God, be men of truth, and hate covetousness. They would help to carry the workload of ministry.
How many know your pastor cannot do everything by himself or herself? The pastor needs men and women who will serve, and serving takes time. If a pastor is working with volunteers instead of paid staff, that can be a challenge. If a pastor has to work a fulltime job and try to meet the needs of the church, that can be a challenge. If a pastor doesn’t have the funds to hire quality help, that can be a challenge. One of the best things people can do for their pastors is to obey God, do their part, and tithe to their local church. While a work ethic is a good quality in any person, including a pastor, working a man or woman to exhaustion is cruel. If your pastor has to work a job, then be understanding of his or her time. If the pastor can’t afford to hire help, be understanding of the limits on that team. Work together, do your part, and grow your local church. The local church is about people working together, not putting the whole load on the pastor or the church staff. The local church, when functioning correctly, is a powerful source of life for your community!
If you are on a pastoral team, represent your pastor, not yourself. A pastor is a shepherd. A pastor looks to correct and lead people forward with patience and compassion. A pastor looks to heal and restore hurting people. Do you serve as one who would say what your pastor would say or do what your pastor would do? Or do you want a position of authority so you can do what you want to do? To say what you want to say? The pastor has to know you have his heart, not just the desire to serve.
We are stronger together!