Category Archives: Faith

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

Why Don’t People Believe?

The question often arises in business meetings and in general discussions among concerned brethren why more people don’t manifest an interest in the gospel of Christ. Why don’t more people believe? The question is often asked as if there is one, single, simple answer. But the truth is more complex. While unbelief may well be the thread of thought that underlies all rejection of God, the reasons for unbelief are varied and numerous.

Some do not believe simply because they are fools. “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God” (Psalm 19:1). The evidence is there, readily available to them, if they would be honest with the truth and themselves. “Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” (Psalm 19:2-3). Thus, all are without excuse (Rom. 1:20). Some people, however, simply do not believe because they are fools.

Some do not believe because they are blinded. Paul wrote, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (II Corinthians 4:3-4). Unlike the atheist who sees the evidence but denies it, these are blinded and cannot see the evidence (Eph. 4:17-19). Naturally, satan is behind all unbelief, whatever the cause (John 8:44).

Some people do not believe because they hold the praise of men to be more valuable than the praise of God (John 12:42,43). Some of the Pharisees believed in Jesus but were afraid to confess Him because they did not want to be put out of the synagogue (John 12:42). Jesus said: “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (John 5:44). The Bible teaches we cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). If we love the praise of men more than the acceptance of God, then we will not believe or our belief will be vain.

Some people will not believe because their hearts are hardened. Israel’s heart was hardened to the point that they could not enter the promised land (Psalm 95:8-11). There are many causes of hardening of the heart but the end result is that the gospel cannot penetrate enough to bring about repentance. On the day of Pentecost, the Gospel was able to penetrate and prick the heart and three thousand souls were saved (Acts 2:36). Unless the heart can be pricked, there will be no faith (Luke 24:25).

Some people will not believe because they do not love the truth. Jesus said, “And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe Me?” (John 8:46). Jesus here implies that we ought to love the truth enough to accept it, whatever it is. Some people, however, receive not the love of the truth (II Thess. 2:10). Because some people do not love the truth, they will change the truth of God into a lie (Rom. 1:25). We have to buy the truth and sell it not (Prov. 23:23).

Some people will not believe because they know that God requires them to change their life and they do not want to give up their sins. In Romans one, Paul described those that reject God and it was for this cause God gave them up unto vile affections (Rom. 1:26). How many people have embarked on a life of unbelief simply because they did not want to give up their sinful life (cf. Matt. 19:16-22)?

Still others do not believe because they do not seriously and purposefully study God’s word. Paul wrote, “So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Saving faith is a product of evidence. God’s word was written so that we might believe (John 20:30,31; I John 5:13). Want deeper faith? Immerse yourself in the word of God.

Thus, we see that there are several reasons given in the Bible that people do not believe. There are also many others reasons people might not believe. Some people might not believe because they have had a bad experience with religion or with the Lord’s people. Some people might have experienced tragedy and they blame God for it. Some people may not believe because their parents did not believe. Some people may not believe just because they have never given any thought about it. Other may not believe because they are rebellious. Still others may not believe and may not even know why they do not believe.

One thing is certain: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark 16:16 ).

Eric L. Padgett

On Belief, Worldviews and Life

Have you ever come to the unnerving realization that something you once sincerely believed very strongly, now clearly contradicts another sincere belief you now know to be true? When that happens, what do you do? You could dismiss the new information and continue to hold to beliefs now proven to be false (Matt. 12:22-24; Acts 4:16,17). You could just put it out of your mind or lie to yourself and continue as if you had not learned better (cf. Acts 24:25; 26:28). Or, you could give up those old, sincere but erroneous beliefs and embrace the new information and new knowledge (cf. Acts 22:7-10).

Whether we recognize it or not, we face this situation quite often in life as new information challenges our old, perhaps long-held, beliefs. Sincere and honest individuals yield to the new information and boldly accept the truth (Luke 8:15). They embrace it and rejoice in it because they have found something very precious–the truth (Matt. 13:44-46). Serious individuals assimilate the new information into their own body of knowledge, adjusting all previous beliefs to harmonize with the new facts. This is part of what it means to be rational.

Dishonest individuals, however, cringe in fear of any new information that might shatter their own manufactured worldview (John 3:19-21). They do not want to change any beliefs they already hold unless it gives them aid and comfort. Very often they will twist what information they have to fit their worldview at the very expense of truth (cf. II Pet. 3:16). Furthermore, they do not care about unity of knowledge. It makes no difference to them whether or not their beliefs contradict one another, as long as what they believe is what they want to believe.

But the truth is, truth does not contradict itself. If I hold two beliefs that contradict one another, then either one or both are false. I could not both believe “it is raining” and “it is not raining” at the same time and in the same place and way. This is not merely a philosophical exercise, either, but it has practical implications (cf. Gal. 2:14). For example, if I believed that lying and cheating were sinful acts that should be avoided, but then I condoned and excused them in either myself or someone else for whatever reason, I am implicitly contradicting my own beliefs by my actions! At the very least I am being inconsistent.

Truth is also interdisciplinary–that is, for example, a truth of history will not contradict a truth in science. What is true in science and/or history, will not contradict what is true in religion. Unfortunately, too many people disregard this fact and hold to contradictory beliefs depending upon what role they find themselves playing in society. For example, a person may say they believe the Bible as a matter of religion but then hold to a naturalistic view of origins. Logically, however, they could not believe both because the Bible affirms a supernatural origin for the universe.

All of a person’s beliefs together compose that person’s worldview. Most people probably do not give much consideration, if any at all, as to how all their beliefs harmonize with each other or how they harmonize with reality, but simply choose their beliefs as if they were choosing food from a buffet…I like this, I don’t like that, I like this, etc. But sober individuals will always evaluate their beliefs to see if they are correct and if they are consistent (II Cor. 13:5). Sincere, sober and sound thinkers will buy the truth and sell it not (Prov. 23:23).

Perhaps not since the first century has our worldview mattered as much as it does today. Today, the cultural power-brokers are pressing on the people of God situations and circumstances that would involve them in sin. We are being told we cannot criticize homosexuality or same-sex marriage or transgenderism or Islam. We are being told that we cannot preach everything the Bible says to preach because it is not politically correct and would offend certain groups. We are told that we must not talk about sin. We are told we must not speak out too loudly or too passionately. We are told we have to violate Christian moral principles to make America great again because other options are much worse. So we are told. We are told a lot of things that aren’t true.

As Christians, we must make certain that what we believe is scriptural, true, consistent and coherent. All of our beliefs must either be rooted in book, chapter and verse or must not contradict the plain teaching of scripture and all of our actions must be authorized by the word of God. If we disconnect our personal actions from our personal beliefs, then do we really believe? Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:18).

Eric L. Padgett

Be A Christian Where You Are

Some members of the Lord’s church are often discouraged because they feel that they are not good enough. Actually, a sense of inadequacy is a good attitude to have, as long as it is held in the proper perspective (Luke 17:10). We should never feel complacent as Christians and should always strive to be better today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow than we are today (I Cor. 10:12). But sometimes Christians try to hold themselves to a standard that cannot be realistically met and thus are needlessly discouraged (Acts 15:10).

While the apostle Paul is certainly to be emulated (I Cor. 11:1), as are those who follow his example (Phil. 3:17), very few of us, if any at all, will ever attain to the level of intensity that he had as an apostle of the Lord. Not all of us can travel the globe preaching the gospel, as did Paul. While many faithful brethren do engage in tireless efforts for the Cause of Christ, I am certain that most would humbly admit that they compare unfavorably to the apostle in every respect. Very likely none of us have received 39 stripes once, much less five times, or have been beaten with rods or spent a day and a night in the deep in the service of our King, as did Paul (II Cor. 11:25). But the truth is, we do not have to do all these things to be faithful to the Lord. We can be a Christian right where we are!

While I may not be able to travel the globe preaching the gospel to those in darkness and stand before kings and dignitaries (Acts 9:15), I can teach the people I meet every day who need the Light of Life. I can find ways of talking to others about Christ in my every-day conversations with my family, friends, co-workers and individuals I meet along the way.

While I may not be chained and imprisoned in dank and dark dungeons for preaching Jesus (however, watch out, this may come sooner than you might think), I may be rejected by others simply because I live my life according to the Will of God (Matt. 5:1-12). For instance, a boss may not promote me even though I am worthy because he does not like Christians or associates may mercilessly tease me about my faith.

While I may not wield great influence around the brotherhood and my name may not be a household name among the faithful, I can wield influence by my example to those who see me every day (Matt. 5:13-16). When I am tempted to cheat to get ahead at work, I can choose the honest way. When I am tempted to be angry at some wrong perpetrated against me, I can be even tempered (Matt. 5:43-48).

While I am may not have the time to devote hours of study in God’s word, or while I may never become a renowned Bible scholar and pen notable volumes that receive world acclaim, I can study to show myself approved unto God, rightly dividing the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15). I can know what I must do to be saved and teach others the same, simple truth.

My salvation does not depend on being better than some other Christian, only in being a faithful Christian. There will always only be one Noah, one Abraham, one Moses, one Joshua, one David, one Isaiah, one Jeremiah, and only one Peter and only one Paul. While I admire and follow their example of faith, I cannot be them. I have found that I am better at being myself than anyone else and that is all I need to do, as long as I am genuinely trying to follow the Lord.

Now some may feel inadequate because they do not try to do what they know they ought. That is sin (James 4:17). But Paul said there was a crown laid up for him because he fought a good fight, finished the course and kept the faith (II Tim. 4:8). John said, “hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” and His commandments are not grievous (I John 2:3; 5:3). Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Just be a Christian where you are.

Eric L. Padgett

That’s Really Frustrating

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:21).

One of the favorite doctrines of the denominational world is salvation by grace alone. Hiscox’s Standard Baptist Manual states, “We believe the Scriptures teach that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace” (1903, p. 61). Many in the religious world argue that we are saved by grace to the exclusion of any works on our part, especially baptism, since, they say, it is something we do. One of the passages often advanced to prove this point is Ephesians 2:8,9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Does this passage, or any other, teach we are saved by grace alone?

First, it should be mentioned that the same volume mentioned above also states, just one page later, that the “gift of eternal life . . . is bestowed, not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done, but solely through faith in Christ” (p. 62). These two concepts, “wholly of grace” and “solely through faith” are logically mutually exclusive. Both cannot be true, in the same way and same sense. Now, it may be partly through grace and partly through faith, but not both.

Second, the passage in Ephesians comes with a context. In the first verse of the second chapter, Paul contrasts two periods of time and two lifestyles. At one time the brethren in Ephesus were dead in sins, but now they are alive. To be dead in sin is to be living in sin and thus spiritually dead to God. Sin separates us from God (Is. 59:2). But sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4). So when they were living in sin they were acting in a way contrary to God’s law or His will. Now, he says, they are not dead in sin, but alive to God, meaning they are acting in a way that is in harmony with or obedience to God’s will. This language plainly speaks of works, of things done in one’s life.

In verses two and three he continues to describe the distinction between these two times and lifestyles. The former time and lifestyle were lived in the world. John tells us that this is the moral sphere of human conduct satisfying the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye and the pride of life (I John 2:15-17). In verse three Paul says that these Ephesian brethren had previously fulfilled the lusts of the flesh and of mind, but now they are not. Fulfilling these desires requires activity or works. Paul, in fact, describes them as “works” of the flesh (Gal. 5:19,20).

Furthermore, Paul said that they were the children of disobedience (2:2) and deserving of wrath (2:3). Paul elsewhere said that wrath is deserved by those who “are contentious and do not obey the truth” (Rom. 2:28). If, in their former life, they were disobedient, but now they are no longer so, that means they now must be obedient. That is, they are doing acts that God had commanded. This is works! Paul is describing how at one point in time they were disobedient, but now are obeying God.

Paul describes exactly when this time was. Paul said they were quickened and raised up together (2:5,6). When does this quickening and raising up occur? Paul wrote to the Colossian brethren, an epistle written at about the same time as the Ephesian epistle, that they were “buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). They were buried and raised with him in the act of baptism.

Again, Paul wrote “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). Just as Christ was raised from the dead, they were (and we are) raised from the watery grave of baptism to walk in newness of life. That new life came at the point in time when they were raised from the waters of baptism. That is when and where the change occurred, for them and also for us.

Furthermore, Paul says we are raised to sit in heavenly places in Christ (6). It is in Christ “in heavenly places” where all spiritual blessings are, including salvation (Eph. 1:3; II Tim. 2:10). How do we get in Christ? We get into Christ by baptism Rom. 6:1-4; Gal. 3:26,27). Thus, the point at which the change occurred was in the act of baptism, when baptism is preceded by the appropriate moral conditions.

This is borne out in the historical account of the establishment of the church at Ephesus. Paul stated of the Ephesians that they trusted in Christ after they heard the word and were sealed with the Holy Spirit after they believed (Eph. 1:13). When did this occur? In Luke’s account in Acts the people of Ephesus heard the word which Paul preached to them and were baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 19:4,5). After this Paul laid his hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit, and thus were sealed (Acts 19:6; Eph. 1:13). Thus, the point at which they were quickened and raised was when they were baptized for the remission of sins.

Paul further points out in the Ephesian letter’s context that God loved us even when we sinners (2:4). Paul said even while we were dead in sins God quickened us (2:5). What is being spoken of here? Paul tells us that even when we were sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-10). There is the manifestation of God’s grace! We, though undeserving, were the recipients of God’s favor through Jesus Christ’s death. Paul states that in our being saved it shows “the exceeding riches of his grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).

If grace alone could save, then all would be saved for God’s grace has appeared to all (Tit. 2:11). But there is a hell and it is prepared for and will be populated by those whose works did not qualify them to be recorded in the Lamb’s book of life (Rev. 20:11-15). We are not saved by grace alone, or faith alone or works alone, but by all three (Rom. 1:5).

It is in this context that we are to read Eph. 2:8,9. We are saved by God’s grace, by His kindness shown toward us in the sacrifice of His Son. That part is God’s part for we could not save ourselves. We certainly are not saved by works of merit or works of the law of Moses, but we are saved by works of obedience (Rom. 16:26; I Thess. 1:3; Heb. 5:8,9). If we try to be saved by our own merit, or by the works of the law of Moses, then we frustrate (atheteo) the grace of God (Gal. 2:20). But we violate or frustrate (atheteo) God’s command if we suggest we can be saved by grace alone (Mark 7:9; Rom. 6:1). Either of these two views is really frustrating to salvation.

“What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:15-18).

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.

“There Is No Other God That Can Deliver After This Sort”

Within the province of Babylon, in the plain of Dura, King Nebuchadnezzar had constructed a colossal golden image that he demanded all people fall down and worship when they heard the call of the appropriate music, just like so many Pavlov’s dogs. He had gathered together “the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces” to dedicate this image that he had set up (Daniel 3:3). It was announced that all those who would not fall down and worship this image were to be cast into a burning fiery furnace (Daniel 3:6).

Besides Daniel, amongst the Hebrews taken into captivity were three men full of wisdom and understanding named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, better known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan. 1:6,7,20). Like Daniel, who would not desist from worshiping Jehovah, not even for thirty days and not even under penalty of death (Dan. 6), they would not fall down and worship the man-made idol, knowing all the while the penalty for their actions was death in the burning fiery furnace.

There were then, just as there are now, enemies of the One True God and of those who worship Him. Those accusers brought the brave Hebrew men to the attention of the king and he subsequently offered these men of God one final chance to lose their faith and their integrity. Their answer was not something they had to think over nor did they couch their answer in the veiled and shadowy language of weasel-speak to conceal their faith (Dan. 3:16). In effect they said: “Our God is able to deliver us and He will deliver us if it is His will. But if not, we will never, ever serve your false gods or this image you have made” (Dan. 3:17,18).

This bold, uncompromising answer stoked the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar’s anger and he commanded the fiery furnace be stoked seven times as hot as normal, like his own temper. He had Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah bound by the most mighty men that were in his army and had them cast into the fiery furnace. The flame of the furnace was so hot, the men that were casting them down into the furnace were themselves consumed by the heat (Dan. 3:22).

To Nebuchadnezzar’s amazement he saw those three men walking in the midst of the fire unharmed! But he also saw something more, a fourth figure walking with them. But this figure gave every appearance of being more than a man, “the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” reads the inspired Record (Dan. 3:25). Some say Nebuchadnezzar could not possibly have had knowledge of the Son of God, but if Balaam’s ass could be made to speak the truth, so could this pagan king. What better time for God to show His watch care over His people than when these three young Hebrews manifested so bravely their faith in their God at such a bleak period in the history of God’s people.

And when, after these three godly men emerged from the fire with not so much as a hair of their heads singed or even the smell of sulphur emanating from their flesh, he decreed “that every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill” (Dan. 3:29). The reason that he gave for this is “because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” (v.29).

Oh, what lessons of faith may be learned from these three young men. They did not compromise the truth of God, not even to save their lives much less for fleeting popularity among the heathen peoples, as so many try to water down the truth of God’s word today.

They did not hide their faith but manifested it openly by their speech and their actions while so many today can scarcely be convicted of being a follower of Christ by either their speech or their actions or lifestyle or character.

They trusted that God was able to deliver them if it was His will but if it was not they would never allow themselves to do that which was against Him. In contrast to such commitment, to day too many are willing at the first sign of trouble or inconvenience to stray from the straight and narrow path of God’s word to the world’s broader path of easy acceptance.

We need more men in the Lord’s church with the same spirit of faith. They knew that ultimately God would see them prevail because, in the words of the king, “there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.”

Eric L. Padgett

Beneath The Banner of the Cross

In the news recently, there have been several reports of people disrespecting the American flag. In fact, there seems to be a trend in a certain segment of our culture nowadays to manifest a flagrant disregard for the institutions which have been the foundation of this country. Much of this attitude has been brought about by our educational institutions abandoning their charge of teaching our history and, even in some cases, teaching our children that America is to blame for all the ills in the world.

Some will say that the flag is nothing but a piece of cloth. It is true that the flag is made up of cloth but I would suggest it is something more than mere cloth because it stands for an idea. If someone wanted to burn or stomp on their own clothes or some useless rags, that is their choice. But the flag stands for high and lofty ideas and that is what makes it important. Of course, it is only important to those to whom those ideas it stands for mean something.

As Christians, we march under a greater flag, a divine banner. The Psalmist stated, “Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth” (Psalm 60:4). We often sing the words, “There’s a royal banner given for display to the soldiers of the King. As an ensign fair we lift it up today, while as ransomed ones we sing. Marching on! Marching on! For Christ count everything but loss. To the King of kings, we’ll toil and sing, beneath the banner of the cross.” In the hymn “Stand Up! Stand Up for Jesus” we sing “lift high his royal banner, it must not suffer loss.” We march under that holy and royal banner of the cross of Christ.

Isaiah described a time when God would raise up an ensign, or banner, out of Jesse which the Gentiles would seek (Is. 11:10). This prophecy spoke of Christ (Rom. 15:12). Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so was the Son of man lifted up (Num. 21:8,9; John 3:14).

Isaiah (62:10-12) described it this way:

Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highways; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people. Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.

Matthew quoted this passage and applied to the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem just before His arrest and crucifixion (Matt. 21:4,5). Over the New Jerusalem flies the Royal Banner of Christ!

But as in the world, so in the church, there are some who hold disdain for that holy banner. In the world there are those who would remove every vestige of memory of Christ from our culture and bully Christians into submission or out of our society. In the church, there are those who would change the charge under which we march as soldiers of the cross. They won’t preach Christ and Him crucified but prefer some worldly philosophy or some newly imagined sociological theory. They seek to entertain and get along with the world instead of teaching it the Truth or warning it of the coming Judgement. In this, they show just as much or even greater contempt for the Banner of Christ as some do for the flag of the United States by trampling upon or burning it.

Instead, let us march boldly under the Banner of the Cross, lifting it high. Let us preach in the name of the Lord the truth that saves. “Over land and sea, wherever man may dwell, make the glorious tidings known; Of the crimson banner now the story tell, while the Lord shall claim His own Marching on! Marching On! For Christ count everything but loss. For the King of kings we’ll toil and sing beneath the banner of the cross”

Eric L. Padgett

Should We Obey God Or Woman?

In a recent speech given at the Women of the World summit, Hillary Clinton, Democrat candidate for President, stated that “Far too many women are denied access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth…And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” While you might think that she was referring to some far away, oppressed, backward country, she wasn’t. She went on to clarify that what she referred to was “not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

In many ways this is simply a strange statement. The expression “reproductive health care” is just a nuanced way of saying “abortion.” The Planned Parenthood website, for instance, while they offer other token services (very few of which seem to be related to parenting) clearly seeks to promote and advance abortion. It is nearly all they talk about. And yet, apparently, Hillary Clinton thinks there are not enough abortions even in the United States where there have been 57,852,000 since 1973. Already, this year alone, there were 360,187 abortions. Think of this! These are innocent lives being snuffed out just because they were inconvenient to someone else. And Hillary Clinton thinks women are denied this “right”?

Furthermore, she blames religious beliefs for stifling abortion. Whatever else she may be referring to when she says this, she has in mind the Biblical teaching that abortion is murder. She would have Christians to change their “deep-seated religious beliefs” in order to bring about her goal of increased access to abortion. This clearly demonstrates not only a lack of humanity but also a lack of understanding on her part of the nature of truth, the origin of the Bible and the basis of Christianity.

Christians do not arbitrarily decide what they believe. We believe the things we believe because they come from God, not from any man (or any woman). All scripture is given by inspiration of God (II Tim. 3:16,17). Faithful Christians would never, could never, change their view about the sanctity of life. Those who would presume to alter the teaching of God’s word are warned:

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Rev. 22:18-19).

Christians, those who follow and adhere to the teaching of Jesus Christ, know that to add to or to take from the word of God is sinful. Christians would never seek to alter or have others alter their deep-seated views that come from God. Indeed, we ought to obey God rather than men or woman (Acts 5:29). While many will form their worldview based on something other than the Bible, faithful Christians, will have a “Thus saith the Lord” for their deep-seated beliefs.

This country does not now need, nor does it ever need, leaders who tempt its citizens to dismiss the will of God or have disdain for the sanctity of human life, which is made in the image of God. It needs leaders who will lead based upon the word of God. At the very lest, we need moral leaders who uphold the traditional Judea-Christian values that formed the basis of the founding of this country.

May God help us in the upcoming elections to choose men and women who uphold the traditional values upon which this country was founded, who will uphold the sanctity of life, and who will listen to God’s word as they govern.

Eric L. Padgett