Category Archives: courage

DEBORAH

The time in which Deborah lived was notable for its lack of heroes. Apparently, there were no men qualified to lead. If there had been, it would have been likely that they would have been used by God to lead and judge the children of Israel. But since there was no one else, God used a woman named Deborah. That is not to diminish Deborah in any way. It is not to say that she was not a great leader, it is not that she did not shine as a virtuous woman, it is not to say that she was not wise enough to judge God’s people, for she was all these things. But God had set man into that leadership role and only in remarkable circumstances would a woman be required to fill it.

The times were desperate. After the death of Ehud, Israel was spiritually weakened, engaging once again in the numerous sins which haunted Israel nearly all its existence (Judges 4:1), and for this cause God sold them into the hand of Jabin, king of Canaan (Judges 4:2). It is during troubled times like these that men turn to the Lord, and this time it was no different. The children of Israel, after twenty years of Canaanite oppression, cried unto the Lord in their distress and the Lord answered their prayer with the leadership of Deborah.

The name Deborah means “bee.” It was a rare name for only one other woman in the Bible wore it, Rebekah’s nurse (Gen. 35:8). We are told that Deborah was the wife of one Lapidoth, about whom we know nothing more (Judges 4:4). Some have rendered this “woman of splendors.” Others have suggested that this means “woman of Lapidoth,” signifying her place of birth. But if it is correctly translated as “wife,” then she was a married woman, possibly even the mother of children, though the role of mother mentioned here probably had more to do with her role as a leader in Israel (cf. 5:7). Thus, she had many roles in her busy life and was capable of balancing them all, as women have done all down through time.

As a judge, she was renowned, for the children of Israel came up to her for judgment (Judges 4:5). Earlier, in the days of Moses, when issues arose among the people, they would bring their concerns to him and he would settle the matter (Ex. 18:13). The same was true in the days of Samuel, who would act as a circuit judge and go between Ramah, Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpeh (I Sam. 7:16,17). Later, when the number of cases increased, Moses added other judges to help, but all hard cases were brought to him (Ex. 18:14-26). The same was true with Samuel, as he grew older and the cases became too much of a burden, he made his sons judges (I Sam. 8:1). But Deborah apparently handled all these cases by herself.

She was also called a prophetess (Judges 4:4). The term “prophet” was applied to no other judge, though naturally these judges were in some fashion guided by the Lord (Heb. 11:32). There were other women throughout Biblical history who were chosen by God to be prophetesses. First, there was Miriam, the sister Moses (Ex. 15:20). After Deborah we find a Huldah during the time of king Josiah (II Sam. 22:14-20). When the book of the law was found, they went to Huldah instead of Jeremiah, though he was available (cf. Jer. 1:2,3). A prophetess named Anna lived during the period of the birth of Christ and spoke of the redemption that Christ would bring (Luke 2:36-38). Finally, the four virgin daughters of Philip, the evangelist, are referred to as those which could prophesy (Acts 21:8-10).

While Deborah was the judge of Israel, she also recognized the need for a military man to execute God’s plan of defeating Israel’s enemies. Whether it was God’s plan to chose Barak or whether this detail was left up to Deborah we cannot say, but he must have had some background in the art of war. He was able to gather ten thousand men out of Naphtali and Zebulon and march against Sisera. This was a command of God (Judges 4:6). While Barak had the skill, Deborah held the moral and spiritual influence to give Israel the confidence to act. Barak would not go up without Deborah by his side (Judges 4:8).

Curiously, in the Hebrews Hall of Faith, Paul mentions Barak but does not mention Deborah (Heb. 11:32). But it was Deborah who surely exhibited the greater faith in following the commands of God. It was she who motivated him to act. It was she who had faith to go. It was she who spoke the commands of God. It was she who judged Israel. It was she who was doing what Barak and others ought to have been doing all along. And while Barak had a major role in the defeat of Jabin, it was two women who were to truly instrumental (Judges 4:9). First, until Deborah, the villages ceased, the highways were empty, and there was no spear among forty thousand in Israel. She brought the country back to God and encouraged the defeat of Jabin. Second, it was Jael who delivered the final, fatal blow to Jabin (Judges 4:21).

Deborah is a great example to women and men of all ages. She was a faithful wife to Lapidoth. She cared for the people of Israel as her own children, and perhaps for her own children, as well. She judged Israel and guided them in difficult times. She motivated Barak to obey God’s commands to take back the country from foreign invaders. May God give us more leaders with the character and charisma of Deborah!

Eric L. Padgett

JOSHUA

More often than not, when an individual follows in the steps of some great person, whatever the situation may be, failure, or at least disappointment, is to be expected in varying degrees as critics compare the latter to the former. This was definitely not the case with Joshua following Moses as the leader of God’s people. While Moses remained unparalleled as a leader, a prophet and lawgiver (Deut. 34:10-12), Joshua came to be trusted as a great leader of God’ people in his own right (Josh. 1:16-18).

When we first meet Joshua (Ex. 17:8), he is apparently already a leader of some note. When Israel met their first foreign opposition coming out of Egypt in the Amalekites, Moses turned to Joshua to lead an army to defeat them. From the fact that out of all the men who came out of Egypt Moses chose Joshua to lead a group of men to fight, he must have already won a reputation as a warrior. The judgment as to whom Joshua would lead, was left up to his impeccable discretion (“choose out men”), implying that all things having to do with battle, could be safely entrusted to the capable hands of Joshua.

Joshua had been born a slave in Egypt and was relatively young (cf. Ex. 33:11), probably between forty and forty-five at the time of the Exodus. What circumstances lead to his being chosen as a leader are not revealed (just as Moses’ exploits are not revealed – Acts 7:22), but God seems to have had His eye on him early, for Moses was instructed to “rehearse” these things in the ears of Joshua and write them in a book for a memorial (Ex. 17:13). God would later charge Joshua to meditate in the things written in the book (Josh. 1:8). The great testimony to Joshua’s character and leadership is that during his days, and the days of those who lived with Joshua, the children of Israel served the Lord (Josh. 24:31).

Moses described Joshua as his “minister” or “attendent” or “servant” (Ex. 24:13; Num. 11:28). It was Joshua who went up with Moses into the Mount of God while Aaron and Hur stayed back to deal with the issues the people raised (Ex. 24:13, 14). It was Joshua who remained at the Tabernacle, presumably to gaurd it from desecration by sinful hands (Ex. 33:11). It was Joshua who, when Moses learned that he would not enter into the promised land, was appointed by God as Moses’ successor (Num. 27:15-23). It was Joshua who lead the children of Israel across the Jordan and into the promised land (Deut. 1:38; Josh. 3). It was Joshua who led the children of Israel in the taking of the promised land (Josh. 1:1-9).

When the time came to spy out the land, Joshua and Caleb were the only two who brought back a positive, good report (Num. 14:6-10). They said “let us go up at once and posess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Num. 13:30). All the rest cried in despair that the land “eateth up the inhabitants” and is posessed by giants and people that are stonger than they (Num. 14:31-33). While the report of the other ten fomented doubt and insurrection, Joshua’s report, along with that of Caleb, exhibted trust, courage and faith in God. But Joshua’s report was also rooted in a military background and was not just a fanatic’s rave.

The one word that is often associated with Joshua is the word “courage.” He is exhorted to be strong and of “good courage” (e.g. Josh. 1:6,7,9). Perhaps the constant use of this term with Joshua suggests that he had unspoken doubts and fears. No good leader leads with abandon. With the sensible, there are always reasonable fears. But courage allows the righteous to be bold as a lion (Prov. 28:1). Paul encouraged us to stand fast in the faith, quit like men, be strong (I Cor. 16:13). God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind (I Tim. 1:7). Let us pray that we have the courage of Joshua.

The Bible tells us that the man we know as Joshua was originally named Oshea (Deut. 32:44). At some point, Moses changed his name to Jehoshua, either when he was sent to spy out the land of Canaan (Num. 13:16) or, perhaps, when he won his first victory over Amalek (Ex. 17:8-16). Oshea means “help” or “salvation.” But “Jehoshua” means the same thing with God’s name attached to the beginning, meaning “Jehovah saves.” Another form of the name is “Jeshua” (Num. 8:17). In the New Testament, “Jesus” is the Greek equivalent to this Hebrew name. The name “Jesus” means “Saviour” “because He shall save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

Just as Joshua brought the children of Israel into the promised land, our Lord Jesus brings us into the promised land of Heaven. In Hebrews chapter four, when Paul wrote about the rest that the Lord had promised to His people, the translators of the King James Version correctly translate this “Jesus” (Heb. 4:8). It was Jesus, the Angel of His Presence, Who led the children of Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the promised land (Ex. 32:20-23, 14:19; 32:34, 33:2, 14; Num. 20:16; Josh. 6:2; Is. 63:9; I Cor. 10:4,9) and it is Jesus which will lead us into Heaven (John 14:1-6).

Eric L. Padgett

MOSES

It is commonly assumed that Moses was unaware of his Abrahamic heritage when he was growing up in Pharaoh’s court. But scripture indicates that Moses knew all along from whence he came. His adventure as an infant in an ark of bulrush, purposefully placed among the flags of the river, was probably not just an act of desperation on his mother’s part, but possibly all part of a well-laid out plan to save this special child alive. It just happened to be where Pharaoh’s daughter was wont to bathe and she just happened to want a son.

Furthermore, his sister was strategically placed to allow her to suggest to Pharaoh’s daughter a very special woman to nurse the child–the child’s own mother! Would she, could she, withhold from her own son the knowledge that he was a Hebrew, a thing which Pharaoh’s daughter already knew? He apparently did know it for when he was grown the Text says “he went unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens” (Ex. 2:13). Paul said Moses “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter” and chose to “suffer affliction with the people of God” (Heb. 11:24,25). Upon seeing the fate of his Hebrew brethren, he sought to rectify an injustice and slew an Egyptian and hid him in the sand (Ex. 2:12).

If he had some knowledge that God was going to use him to deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, as some rabbinic traditions suggest (cf. also Heb. 11:23; Ex. 2:2), he may have thought he might do it on his own. But such a course of action never, ever works. God’s designs will be carried out in God’s own good time and in His own way (e.g., Gal. 4:4). Regardless, his actions incurred the wrath of Pharaoh and Moses’ own hopes of saving his brethren were dashed. Moses failed and fled for his life but God had His own plans for him.

Out in the dried up, harsh and unforgiving climes of the backside of the desert, on Mount Horeb, God appeared to Moses and informed him that he would deliver Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 3:7-10). Though he was once anxious to deliver his brethren out of bondage, Moses now only offered excuses to God as to why he was unfit to lead. “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?” (Ex. 3:11). “What shall I say unto them” when they ask “What is His name” (Ex. 3:13)? “But they won’t believe me” (Ex. 4:1)! But “I am not eloquent . . . but am slow of speech” (Ex. 4:10). “Send someone else, but not me” (Ex. 4:13). These are excuses, perhaps, with which none of us are unfamiliar. But when the LORD God almighty commands a thing, it will be done! And Moses went.

Whatever else might have been racing through Moses’ excited mind, from this point on he acted in great faith. Paul said “he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27). He faced great obstacles. His own people murmured against him ten times (Num. 14:22). Paul explicitly named Jannes and Jambres as having withstood Moses (II Tim. 3:8). Israel constantly joined themselves to false gods and acted sinfully. Enemies, like the Amalekites and the Midianites, constantly stood in the way as he led God’s people out of Egyptian bondage and to the promised land. But Moses endured and sang a song of triumph and faith after he and Israel were baptized in the sea and in the cloud (Ex. 14:21-15:19; I Cor. 10:1,2).

God spoke with Moses as He spoke with no other. God spoke “face to face, as a man speaketh unto a friend” (Ex. 33:11). This was not literal. What Moses saw was the similitude of the Lord, for no man could see God’s face and live (Ex. 33:20; Num 12:8). But because Moses was faithful in all his house, he could speak to God intimately and freely, and God would not speak to him in dark speeches (Num. 12:6-8). In this respect, there arose not a prophet since in Israel, like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew (Deut. 34:10). However, Moses, by inspiration, did prophesy of One Prophet, like unto Moses, which was to come from among them and to Whom they should hearken (Deut. 18:15-18).

When the Lord stood on the Mount of Transfiguration, along with Moses and Elijah, Moses was able to speak with the Lord in person (Matt. 17:3; Mark 9:4). Then Moses spoke to God face to face. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know the contents of their conversation! There, on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter foolishly suggested that three tabernacles be built, one to honor Christ, Moses and Elijah (Matt. 17:4). But God spoke from heaven saying of Christ, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him” (Matt. 17:5). After Pentecost, Peter finally understood, that Jesus was the One to Whom Moses’ prophesy of another prophet like unto him pointed (Acts 3:19-24).

Moses gave the children of Israel the law. The underlying principles of that law are the foundation for all the laws in western, civilized society. The law, itself, however, was given to the Jews. It served it’s God ordained purpose to expose sin and bring us unto the Christ (Rom. 3:20; 7:7; Gal. 3:24). As John states, the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). That Old Covenant was nailed to the cross and now we have a better Covenant, based on better promises and better blood (Col. 2:14; Heb. 7:19,22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:35, 40; 12:24). And now we, after we have passed through the waters of baptism, may sing the New Song of Moses and the Lamb (Rev. 14:1-3; 15:3) as we strive to enter that better, heavenly country (Heb. 11:16).

Eric L. Padgett

JOSEPH

It is understandable, though not excusable, that Jacob would favor Joseph. Joseph was the son he had long sought from the wife he truly loved born in a time of great adversity in his life. But that special favor bestowed on Joseph served only to alienate him from his brothers. Of all people, Jacob should have understood that favoritism in the family by the parents can only lead to hurt feelings and betrayal.

The jealousy his brothers felt toward him was aggravated by Joseph’s own actions, albeit unintentionally. Besides the coat of many colors–which may have signified to them that their father had greater hopes for his favored son than just being well dressed–his report to their father of their evil actions further strained their weakened feelings of brotherly love. Then, his repeating his God-inspired dreams agitated his brothers’ feelings to the breaking point.

But in these things Joseph does not appear to have been malicious. When he brought back the evil report to their father he was simply relating the truth. When he repeated the inspired dreams, he was speaking only what God had revealed, not trying to goad his brethren. But sometimes, the truth is not easily accepted. Sometimes the truth even hurts. Paul had to ask the Galatians Christians, “Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16). Even our Lord said that the world hated Him because He testified that it’s works were evil (John 7:7).

As Joseph was coming to his brethren, they colluded how they might take his life. How lonely and tragic it must be to have your own brethren despise you so much they want to kill you, especially when you have done nothing amiss. The Bible doesn’t go into detail, but Joseph must have heard their very hateful remarks as they forcefully stripped him of his robe and cast him into a pit. What kind of jealousy can lead to this kind of treatment? They were so calloused that they then sat down to eat (Gen. 37:25).

Our Lord must have felt so very alone when He came unto His own and they received Him not. Indeed, not only did they not receive Him but actively sought His destruction (e.g., John 7:1). He was scourged, mocked, had a crown of thorns crushed on His head, smitten with their hands, humiliated, despised and rejected of men, bruised, and spit upon. Even while in the last, agonizing moments on the cross, the crowds jeered Him. His loneliness was manifested when He cried out upon the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). All for simply speaking the truth.

Joseph faced many temptations and trials in his life and he persevered through each of them. Surely nothing could have been harder on his faith in God than having his brethren reject him and seek his death or sell him. But he also faced the temptation with Potiphar’s wife. He faced the temptation of being thrown into prison for something he did not do. He faced the trial of seemingly haven been forgotten about in prison. But through it all Joseph kept his faith in Jehovah and he kept his life pure. I know of no negative thing that is written about Joseph.

Through these series of humbling incidents, Joseph went from the pit to power. He was sold and imprisoned but was ultimately raised to be second only to Pharaoh over Egypt (Gen. 41:40,41). How like our Lord Who was rejected but then exalted by the Father to His own right hand. The life of Jesus was truly pure for He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

Joseph’s trust in God is clear all the way through the account of his life. In the end, after all is said and done, while his brothers cower in fear for any retaliation Joseph might take, Joseph humbly forgives them all. Just as our Lord said while on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”(Luke 24:34). Joseph saw his life in terms of God’s providence. While his brothers “thought evil against” him, Joseph said “God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen. 50:20).

The life of Joseph, and hopefully ours, is one of purity, perseverance and and trust on God’s providence.

Eric L. Padgett

Don’t Pull Your Punches, or Don’t Cushion the Cross

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:9-10).

The church of Christ, the church of our Lord (Matt. 16:16-19; Acts 20:28), is very special. We have in our possession the things which the prophets of old desired to look into, the very things that have now been revealed to us in His word (I Cor. 2:7-13). Those holy men were deprived of that sacred knowledge and yet inquired and searched diligently into the things revealed to them but which they, themselves, could not alone understand (I Pet. 1:10,11). Moreover, not only the ancient prophets but even now the angels still desire to look into these things (I Pet.1:12). Now that is special! That is very special!

Is there any conceivable, intelligible reason why we, as His servants, would not want to make this known to every accountable human being? Paul said it was God’s plan “to make all men see” these truths. This is why He commanded His apostles, and consequently us through them, to take this good news into all the world and to preach it to every creature, and to teach all nations (Mark 16:15,16; Matt. 28:18-20). The great commission gives us the marching orders for the church. It is why we, as the church, exist (Acts 2:47)!

Faithful men and women of God willingly sacrificed their lives to fulfill the great commission. That commission was why Stephen was stoned to death in the great persecution against the early church which was at Jerusalem (Acts 7:59 – 8:4). That is why Christians were assaulted and thrown into prison at the hands of it’s arch nemesis, Saul of Tarsus (Acts 8:3,4). That is why James the brother of John was slain with the sword, when Herod stretched forth his hand “to vex certain of the church” (Acts 12:1,2). That is why Antipas was horribly martyred because he held fast to the name of Christ and did not deny His Faith (Rev. 2:13) and the early church faced the Great Tribulation which resulted in the deaths of many a faithful child of God (Rev. 2:10; Matt. 24:21).

How many preachers, how many elders, how many Christians today would preach the truth and let the chips fall where they may, as these brethren did long ago? How many today would be willing to hazard their lives for the name of the Lord (Acts 15:26)? If the answer is that there are many today who would do this, then why are there so many apparently so timid now when it comes to professing the name of the Lord and His church to the world? Does courage somehow blossom in the bosom of timidity when the danger increases? Is he who is unfaithful in the lesser more likely or less likely to flourish in the greater (Luke 16:10)?

It is hard to conceive of a time when the apostle Paul would have cloaked the message of the gospel in some dress that hid it’s power and truth from men either to avoid confrontation or to lure the unsuspecting prospects by “good words and fair speeches” (Rom. 16:18). It is hard to imagine Paul ever downplaying the importance of the Lord’s church. Certainly, he said our speech should always be with grace, seasoned with salt (Col.4:6). But that does not mean we pull the punches!

Paul pulled no punches when he spoke to the Jews in Thessalonica (Acts 17). He reasoned with them out of the scriptures and opened and alleged that Christ must needs have suffered (Acts 17:1-4). He did not shy away from the truth even though the unbelieving Jews suborned certain lewd fellows of the baser sort against him (Acts 17:5,6).

Paul did not pull his punches when speaking to the Athenians but told them plainly that they were worshiping in ignorance (Acts 17:23). He did not feel it audacious or presumptuous or harmful to instruct them in their religious inscience.

Paul pulled no punches when he, no doubt in exasperation, shook his raiment, as if to shake off the dust of the responsibility for the Corinthian Jews, and declared that he would henceforth go the Gentiles, saying “Your blood be upon your own heads. I am clean” (Acts 18:6). Even if he had been tempted to dull the edge of the Spirit’s sword for whatever reason, the Lord would have disallowed it, for He enjoined him to “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace” (Acts 18:9).

Brethren, is it not plain? Could it be any clearer that the truth is to be spoken, in love to be sure, but spoken without compromise? Let us not be afraid to boldly proclaim either the name of the Lord or His church or His gospel. Let us never soften the edges of the old, rugged cross in order to ease the discomfort of those that seek a soft road to heaven. Let it not be said of any child of God that he willfully withheld some vital truth to lure people with some false sense of comfort.

Don’t pull your punches or cushion the cross.

Eric L. Padgett

The Foundation of God Standeth Sure

Life is full of uncertainty (Prov. 27:1). At any given moment we may receive news that shakes the very foundation of our lives (e.g., Job 1:13-19). Our doctors may give us devastating news about our health. Our employer may give us unwelcome news about our jobs. Our families may be challenged by loss or suffering. Spouses may prove untrue. Nature’s forces may deal us a blow and deprive us of our substance. So many things to trouble us, so many things about which to worry, so many things to shake us.

And yet as uncertain as life often is, there is a confidence we have as Christians which transcends all the worries, trials and heartaches we face (Rom. 8:18). Just as Paul and Silas could pray and sing praises to God at midnight in a damp and dark Philippian jail, even when all seemed bleak (Acts 16:25), so, too, can we face the anguish and disappointments of life courageously and with great inner joy. From whence is this unearthly confidence and joy derived? Paul wrote:

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Though everything about us seems as uncertain as the shifting sands, as Christians we have a confidence and joy derived not from our own sense of ability or power (Jer. 10:23), but from trusting in the One who holds the world in His hands (Ps. 92:4). Those who build their lives on the uncertain sands of mere mortal merit are sure to ultimately find disappointment and collapse. But those who build upon the solid Rock foundation can rest assured that their labors will not fall (Matt. 7:24-27).

The apostle Paul declared that though the world devolves into ever increasing ungodliness (II Tim. 3:13), and many people’s faith is overthrown, there is one thing we can trust, one verity of life that never changes–the foundation of God (II Tim. 2:16-19). Paul further declared that, as Christians, we are of the household of God and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone (Eph. 2:19,20). For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ (I Cor. 3:11).

Throughout the Old Testament, our God is described as a Rock. The Mighty God of Jacob brings forth the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel (Gen. 49:24). “He is the Rock, His work is perfect” (Deut. 32:4). “The Lord is my Rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer” (II Sam. 22:3). “The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation” (II Samuel 22:47). The Rock that was cut out of the mountains without hands was to break in pieces all the kingdoms of the world (Dan. 2:44,45).

The prophet Isaiah declared, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isaiah 28:16). Jesus Christ is that “foundation…stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation” (Is. 28:16). In the words of Peter, he that believeth on Him, “shall not be confounded” (I Pet. 2:6,7; cf. Rom. 10:11). If our lives are built on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ and His teaching, there is nothing that can move us, as long as we choose to remain there.

We express our confidence in our Rock when we sing our hymns, which are replete with references to the Rock. “He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock, that shadows a dry, thirsty land.” “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” “O Thou blessed Rock of Ages, trusting now dear Lord in Thee, Keep me till my journey’s ended, Till Thy blessed face I see. Hide me O Blessed Rock of Ages, Till Thy blessed face I see, When the storm around me rages, Rock of Ages hide Thou me.” “The church’s One Foundation, is Jesus Christ her Lord…” “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” Do we believe what we sing?

If you would find stability in your life, if you would have confidence that you cannot be moved (Heb. 12:28), then build your life on the solid rock foundation of Jesus Christ. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (II Timothy 2:19).

Eric L. Padgett

A Great Man Fallen This Day

It was with great sorrow that we received the news that brother Garland Elkins passed from this life on Friday, October 28, 2016. Because he dad such a profound impact not only on me, but also on the brotherhood, I feel compelled to mention a few things in his memory. Brother Elkins was a prolific writer, dedicated editor, capable debater, sound Gospel preacher and faithful child of God. The value of his work in the kingdom of God is inestimable.

I have spent many hours listening to brother Elkins in meetings and in lectureships and when ever I had the opportunity. Some years ago, I spoke with him on several occasions when he held meetings where I attended, discussed doctrinal and brotherhood issues while eating with him or driving him to his hotel, and generally picked his brain whenever possible. I will forever be indebted to him for his wonderful Christian example and for the truth I learned from him.

Four things impressed me about brother Elkins. The first was his love of the scriptures. As a new Christian, I had heard others quote the scriptures before, but not the way brother Elkins quoted them, nor so prolifically. No matter what the issue was, brother Elkins would quote the scriptures. I remember when Brother Elkins was on the Donahue program, Phil Donahue sarcastically quipped, “I’m gonna guarantee you the minister’s got a section of scripture that covers that in the Bible.” But brother Elkins, with what little time he was given, unflappably quoted the scriptures and spoke the truth. Truly, the word of Christ dwelt in him richly (Col. 3:16).

Second, he was a very kind person. His presentation was always with meekness, yet firmness. When he spoke about an issue with me that I had inquired about, though he knew the truth about it, he would say something to the effect, “Don’t you think that’s right?” He didn’t need my affirmation, but he was trying to gently nudge me in the right direction. He often humorously observed about certain individuals, “Some people are so disagreeable, even their stomachs disagree with them.” He followed Paul’s teaching, “Let your speech be always with grace” (Col. 4:6).

Third, he was dedicated to the Lord’s work in saving souls. I remember in one lesson he recalled how he was with another Christian and he saw a member of their congregation who had become unfaithful. He told the brother that was with him that if they had the opportunity, they would have to encourage that person to return to the Lord. It just so happens that they all got on the same elevator with other people, yet he spoke softly but clearly, and urged this unfaithful child of God to return back to the Lord. He was always trying to convert the sinner from the error of his ways and save a soul from death (James 5:19,20).

The fourth thing that stood out about brother Elkins to me was his energy. He was always going somewhere to preach or else coming from somewhere having preached. He was forty years older than I was but he had much more energy and purpose. I remember one year at the Spiritual Sword lectureship that the atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair was in Memphis on a radio talk show in town, and he encouraged others to call her and challenge her. I don’t remember if he did or not, but if he had the time, I am sure he would have tried. On another occasion he stayed late after the lectureship was over playing tapes of some false teacher for others to be informed. He epitomized Paul’s direction to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).

A couple of years ago I wrote about brother Elkins (and other preachers who influenced me) in an article entitled Honor to whom Honor. “Brother Garland Elkins has also had a profound impact upon me. I can listen to brother Elkins preach for hour on end and never grow tired. His nimble recollection of scripture and his meek but forceful presentation of the truth and defense of it are a pattern for me in my preaching, though I fall far short of his example. His lessons are filled with book, chapter and verse preaching and quotation of scripture, but they also contain the occasional anecdote that brings the point home. He has a great sense of humor, as well. I remember on one occasion in Kentucky when he was encouraging others to attend the Spiritual Sword lectureship, he said “You want to go to heaven, don’t you!” Every young preacher ought to listen to his sermons and learn from them.”

I always checked to see if brother Elkins opened my newsletter. I was proud to know that he, with some other beloved brethren, received and looked at this newsletter. He always did until some time ago and I wondered then if he perhaps didn’t like it.  But I later learned that his health was poor and that this was the reason why.  When Abner fell at the hands of Joab and Abishai, David stated: “Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?” (II Samuel 3:38). And so it is today that a great man is fallen this day in Israel. Brother Elkins will be missed in the years to come. We need more men like him to stand for the truth and defeat error. May God bless and comfort his family in their time of mourning.

Eric L. Padgett

See You At The Finish Line!

I like to win! I don’t like the feeling of losing, do you? Who does? Unfortunately, our society is currently plagued with political correctness regarding this subject. The politically correct thought is that everyone ought to win. But honest competition implies that some will lose and that cannot be tolerated by the philosophical left because it might hurt someone’s feelings. So those in our society who attempt to control thought have tried to remove the concept of losing. Nowadays, every child gets a gold star, every athlete wins, every participant gets a prize, etc. However, that is not reality nor is it scriptural.

The Bible has quite a lot to say about winning and losing. Adam and Eve were accepted of God until they broke His commandments. They lost God’s favor and He expelled them from the idyllic garden paradise He had created for them (Gen. 3:24).

Cain lost when he did not offer the sacrifice God had commanded (Rom. 10:17; Heb. 11:4). God plainly told him, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” (Gen. 4:7). He became a fugitive and a vagabond (4:12).

Even though Abel was murdered by his brother, Abel won. He won because he was righteous and accepted of God. God testified of his gifts and “by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb. 11:4).

Enoch won! He walked with God and was not because God took him (Gen. 5:24). He had this testimony, that pleased God (Heb. 11:5).

The world in Noah’s day lost badly. The world was so wicked and sinful that God saw fit to destroy it utterly (Gen. 6:7). In contrast, Noah won the confidence of God and was allowed to escape the destruction of the world and was even entrusted with the monumental task of repopulating the newly cleansed earth (Gen. 9:1). This list could go on for quite some time but the point is that some win and some lose. That’s life and that’s Bible!

But it should be understood that God really wants all men to win (I Tim. 2:4). He has put into place the means whereby we can be saved and win, but it takes a great deal of effort. Paul wrote, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Phil 3:8). Notice what Paul had to sacrifice in order to be in the running to win! Like many high level athletes, he suffered the loss of all things in order to win.

Furthermore, he did not count himself as having already won or attained to his goal (Phil. 3:12-14). He was striving for it, reaching for it and pressing toward it. Paul often compared living the Christian life to competing in a game. For example, he wrote, “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (II Timothy 2:5). And again, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” (I Cor. 9:24). Scripture tells us the Christian life is a continuous battle for victory and triumph.

When Paul neared the end of his life, he was more confident. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (II Timothy 4:8). He could be confident because God wants us all to win, but we must first keep the faith, fight the good fight and finish the course!

God wants all to be saved but He is not going to award a gold star to everyone just for participating. In fact, the majority are going to lose and it is not going to be pretty. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for many are called, but few are chosen (Matt. 22:13,14). The majority will be lost but sadly they do not have to be. There will not just be one winner. As many as want to may win, but the rules have to be followed and we must finish the course.

See you at the finish line!

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (I John 5:4).

Eric L. Padgett

The Day The Lord Wrestled A Man

Jacob was alone and afraid and distressed (Gen. 32:24-32). He had sent his family on before him to safety. All of his possessions he had divided into two camps so that at least one group might survive. The desperate sound of his prayer to God had earlier ascended up before Jehovah’s Throne as he beseeched the Almighty for deliverance from the hand of his brother. Soon, he would face his brother, from whom he had taken birthright and blessing, and offer himself upon his mercy and God’s. But before this, Jacob was left alone. Almost alone.

We are not privy to the circumstances initiating the encounter, but sometime during that night before Jacob would meet his estranged brother, Jacob encountered a mysterious figure, “a man.” This was not a quiet encounter for the Sacred Record tells us that Jacob wrestled with this “man” until the breaking of day. This scuffle was fairly equal until the stranger “touched” Jacob’s thigh and it came out of joint. He demanded to be let go before day break but Jacob, even though he must have been in pain and very much afraid, refused to set the “man” free until he blessed him.

It seems fairly certain that Jacob, by this point, must have recognized that his opponent was more than a mere man, otherwise he would not have sought a blessing from Him (Heb. 7:7). This “man” then lifted the veil from Jacob’s bewildered mind when He told him that his name would be changed from Jacob to Israel, because, “as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Gen. 32:28). His opponent was no mere man but was, in fact, God in the form of a man. Jacob realized in all this, “I have seen God face to face” (32:30).

This was not the first time the Lord had appeared to man as a man. He had so appeared to Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather, in the plains of Mamre (Gen. 18:1,22,23, 33). It would not be the last time He appeared. One like the Son of man appeared to Daniel and the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:25). Of course, God was with us in the flesh (Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). But this was the only time a man literally wrestled the Lord!

This encounter gave Israel new hope. Not only had he seen God face to face, he had wrestled Him all night and his life was preserved (Gen. 32:30). Now he was prepared to face his brother, Esau, who was coming to meet him with four hundred men. But instead of confrontation, Jacob found reconciliation, for Esau “ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept” (Gen. 33:4). Esau had apparently forgiven and forgotten his brother’s affronts and perhaps had seen the hand of God in them all.

He did not leave the night without scars. He halted upon his thigh, the one which had been touched and came out of joint. Who knows if this lameness followed him all the rest of the days of his life, but it is possible. It is certain, however, when we face spiritual battles in this life, we do not come out of them without wounds. Paul stated, “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). After Paul had faced opposition in Athens he came into Corinth “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” (I Corinthians 2:3). But the Lord told Paul, “in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city” (Acts 18:9,10).

There may be times in our lives when we feel alone and afraid and distressed. Sometimes we are seemingly left alone to face great problems in life. We need to know that it is the Lord who will make us stronger and better prepared for the uncertainties of life. The Lord “hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. 13:5-6).

Eric L. Padgett
* The following hymn, written by Charles Wesley, describes the encounter of Jacob with God. I offer it for your consideration.
Come, O thou Traveler unknown,
Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
My company before is gone,
And I am left alone with Thee;
With Thee all night I mean to stay,
And wrestle till the break of day.

I need not tell Thee who I am,
My misery and sin declare;
Thyself hast called me by my name,
Look on Thy hands, and read it there;
But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?
Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.

In vain Thou strugglest to get free,
I never will unloose my hold!
Art Thou the Man that died for me?
The secret of Thy love unfold;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

Wilt Thou not yet to me reveal
Thy new, unutterable Name?
Tell me, I still beseech Thee, tell;
To know it now resolved I am;
Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

’Tis all in vain to hold Thy tongue
Or touch the hollow of my thigh;
Though every sinew be unstrung,
Out of my arms Thou shalt not fly;
Wrestling I will not let Thee go
Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.

What though my shrinking flesh complain,
And murmur to contend so long?
I rise superior to my pain,
When I am weak, then I am strong
And when my all of strength shall fail,
I shall with the God-man prevail.

My strength is gone, my nature dies,
I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
Faint to revive, and fall to rise;
I fall, and yet by faith I stand;
I stand and will not let Thee go
Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.

Yield to me now, for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair;
Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,
Be conquered by my instant prayer;
Speak, or Thou never hence shalt move,
And tell me if Thy Name is Love.

’Tis Love! ’tis Love! Thou diedst for me!
I hear Thy whisper in my heart;
The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
Pure, universal love Thou art;
To me, to all, Thy bowels move;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

My prayer hath power with God; the grace
Unspeakable I now receive;
Through faith I see Thee face to face,
I see Thee face to face, and live!
In vain I have not wept and strove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

I know Thee, Savior, who Thou art.
Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend;
Nor wilt Thou with the night depart.
But stay and love me to the end,
Thy mercies never shall remove;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

The Sun of righteousness on me
Hath rose with healing in His wings,
Withered my nature’s strength; from Thee
My soul its life and succor brings;
My help is all laid up above;
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Contented now upon my thigh
I halt, till life’s short journey end;
All helplessness, all weakness I
On Thee alone for strength depend;
Nor have I power from Thee to move:
Thy nature, and Thy name is Love.

Lame as I am, I take the prey,
Hell, earth, and sin, with ease o’ercome;
I leap for joy, pursue my way,
And as a bounding hart fly home,
Through all eternity to prove
Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.

A Constituency of One

Politicians are elected and paid to represent the will of their particular electorate, their constituency. That is as it should be in a Republic, such as we have in America. But a politician’s constituency is usually quite large. A Senator’s constituency is one of the fifty states. A congressman represents the people of his district. A mayor works for the people of his city. A president usually seeks to represent all the people of the United States. (Sadly, however, some politicians use their office only to satisfy their own unlawful, immoral appetites.) But when your constituency is so large, it is nearly impossible to satisfy everyone.

A Christian, on the other hand, really only has but one constituency. It is true that as we live the Christian life we should consider others and not go out of our way to offend or seek conflict. We should try to please our neighbors and help to bear their burdens and not seek to please ourselves (Rom. 15:1-3; Gal. 6:2). We should always reply with a soft answer (Prov. 15:1). Our speech should always be spoken with grace, our answers seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6). We should, as a matter of principle, try to get along with others, even taking the wrong if necessary (Matt. 5:39; I Cor. 6:7). But, in the end, when it comes to right and wrong, when it comes down to truth or error, when eternal life and eternal damnation are in the balance, we have a constituency of but One, that is, God.

Paul wrote, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). Our goal as Christians and as gospel preachers should be to please God, not men. To that end, we study and work and rightly divide the word of truth. Our understanding, our preaching and teaching and our actions should not be influenced by how others will respond to the truth. Preachers forsake their obligations when they try to please everyone instead of focusing on teaching the truth that man needs. People will always want to have their itches scratched and they will find a man to do it if they can, but faithful gospel preachers will not succumb to that temptation (II Tim. 4:1-5).

Again, after expressing dismay that brethren in Galatia had so quickly allowed error to creep in amongst them, Paul wrote, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). For many Christians and preachers, popularity and acceptance are more precious than truth or serving Christ. No one wants to be disliked but if that is the price for pleasing God, then so be it. Many errors have been promulgated in the name of Christ because some weak-minded Christians have wanted to either entice or appease the sinner. Many have not learned the lessons that James taught: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Others teach things they ought not for filthy lucre’s sake (Tit. 1:10,11). How many sermons have been altered or not preached at all because the preacher was afraid he would lose his position if he spoke the truth? “They that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:18). How many elders have asked the preacher to not preach the truth because they were afraid they would lose members, and thus lose money, if the truth was spoken (Tit. 1:7). Thank God for preachers who will preach the truth regardless of what others may say, even though it may (and often has) cost them their positions (II Tim. 4:2). Thank God for elders who demand their preachers speak the truth regardless of what some members may say or do.

Like Israel of old, too many brethren today trust in the shadow of Egypt (Is. 30:1-7). They take counsel, but not of God. Isaiah described their attitude: “this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us” (Is. 30:9-11). Some criticize us because we don’t keep up with the times or what the people will tolerate or the latest homiletical fads or social trends. They criticize those who teach doctrine instead of how to feel better about yourself; they despise those who would warn against error instead of embracing the denominational world as fellow-laborers; they turn up the nose to those who boldly wave the Banner of the Old Jerusalem Gospel instead of appeasing the populace with “community outreach.”

If preaching the Old Jerusalem Gospel is out of step with the times, then I am out of step with the times. Truth is, the Old Jerusalem Gospel has never been popular with the devil. As Christians, we should be concerned about how we walk and please God not men (I Thess. 4:1). Pleasing men is fine if it falls within the parameters of pleasing God first (Acts 5:29). God is our only real constituency.

Eric L. Padgett