Month 4:1, Rosh Chodesh, Year:Day 5941:89 AM|
2Exodus 4/40, Omer Count - 7 x Shabbats + Day #22
Gregorian Calendar: Saturday 24 June 2017
Rosh Chodesh IV
Faithfulness to the End
Chag sameach Rosh Chodesh kol beit Yisra'el and Mishpachah - grace be upon you all in this new month that has begun today in Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) our Master.
The Value of Faithfulness and Security
Thamk you for assembling to hear the message I have been directed to convey to you this morning which is a simple reminder of the value that Yahweh places on faithfulness - one of the foundational qualities that our Heavenly Father expects of us, not just in marriage, but in all godly relationships. Faithfulness is so important because it has the effect of building up our security.
The Inspiration of King Hezekiah
We derive our inspiration for faithfulness from Yahweh Himself, of whom King Hezekiah said:
'You are Going to Die'
"Only the living can praise You as I do today. Each generation can make known Your faithfulness to the next" (Is.38:19, NLT).
Hezekiah had every good reason to make this declaration of Elohim's (God's) faithfulness for you will remember that the king had become deathly ill and the navi (prophet) Isaiah had gone to him and told him to set his affairs in order:
"This is what Yahweh says: Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness" (Is.28:1, NLT; also 2 Ki.20:1).
This is a very interesting story because as we know Hezekiah, the great reformer who cleansed Judah of idolatry and sinning, upon hearing this terrible news, prayed fervently:
Healing Promised and a Sign
"'Remember, O Yahweh, how I have always tried to be faithful to You and do what is pleasing in Your sight.' Then he broke down and wept bitterly" (Is.38:3, NLT).
You will recall that Yahweh sent His navi (prophet) Isaiah back to the king with another revelation after this:
Fifteen More Years
"Go back to Hezekiah, and tell him, 'This is what Yahweh, the Elohim (God) of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will rescue you and this city from the king of Assyria. Yes, I will defend this city. And this is the sign that Yahweh will give you to prove that He will do as He promised: I will cause the sun's shadow to move ten steps backward on the sundial of Ahaz!'" (Is.38:5-8, NLT).
And Yahweh was faithful not only in giving the king the sign that was promised him but in healing him, giving him an extra 15 years of life and rescuing Jerusalem supernaturally from the Assyrians. Our Elohim (God) is faithful!
Trusting in Yahweh's Faithfulness
Now in difficult times such as will soon be upon us, Yahweh's faithfulness, and our trust in it, becomes all the more important. I have long ago stopped trying to understand Yahweh's ways. Many years ago I was told that I would die when I was 60 and yet here I am. Did Yahweh deceive me? Or did I deceive myself in thinking I heard Yahweh when it was just my own imagination? Or is there another explanation? You will note here that first Yahweh told the king he was going to die and to get his house in order, only to reverse His decision and heal him, giving him another 15 years for yet more faithful service. Such is the response to sincere, repentant prayer.
Elisha and Hazael
A similar type of incident occurred in the days of the navi (prophet) Elisha that bears remembering if for no other reason than to understand that in the midst of trial and tribulation there is always hope for the faithful but not for the faithless. The following story has an interesting twist of irony to it. Let's take up the text:
The Death of Ben-Hadad
"Hazael went to meet Elisha, taking with him as a gift forty camel-loads of all the finest wares of Damascus. He went in and stood before him, and said, 'Your son Ben-Hadad king of Aram has sent me to ask, 'Will I recover from this illness?''
"Elisha answered, 'Go and say to him, 'You will certainly recover'; but Yahweh has revealed to me that he will in fact die.' He stared at him with a fixed gaze until Hazael felt ashamed. Then the man of Elohim (God) began to weep.
"'Why is my master weeping?' asked Hazael.
"'Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites,' he answered. 'You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.'
"Hazael said, 'How could your servant, a mere dog, accomplish such a feat?'
"'Yahweh has shown me that you will become king of Aram,' answered Elisha.
Then Hazael left Elisha and returned to his master. When Ben-Hadad asked, 'What did Elisha say to you?' Hazael replied, 'He told me that you would certainly recover.' But the next day he took a thick cloth, soaked it in water and spread it over the king's face, so that he died. Then Hazael succeeded him as king." (2 Kings 8:9-15, NIV).
So Hazael, assassinated his master, King Ben-Hadad of Aram, the day after he returned to Damascus to relay Elisha's message that he would recover from his illness. We know this was an historical event from an Assyrian inscription in which Hazael is designated 'the son of a nobody', namely, a commoner. This wicked man usurped the throne. Did King Ben-Hadad recover, as Elisha had prophesied? We aren't told but if he did he only enjoyed his new-found health for no more than 24 hours. What a sharp contrast in both character and prophetic enactment between Ben-Hadad and Hezekiah!
The Reason Given
Yahweh had already delivered Hezekiah from the Assyrian king Sennacherib's beseiging army after Isaiah had prophesied the eventual outcome. Then he became ill and as we saw was saved, his death being postponed by Divine Decree. He has left us a beautiful poem of praise (Is.38:10-20) and explains why Yahweh permitted him to go through this experience:
An Opportunity to Repent and Be Forgiven
"Yes, it was good for me to suffer this anguish, for You have rescued me from death and have forgiven all my sins" (v.17, NLT)
Here then - crically - is the reason that Yahweh put Hezekial through this mental distress for had He not done so he would not have fully repented of his sins. Yes, he had been a great reformer. Yes, he had done good for his people. Yes, he had served Yahweh faithfully but there was unrepented sin and it is not good to die with unrepented sin, for very obvious reasons!
The Greater Purpose
Hezekiah's story is both inspirational, a witness of Yahweh's faithfulness and answers deep theological questions as to why pain and suffering are often permitted. Yahweh was not playing games with the king in first saying he would die and then that he would live. He was not being capricious, and changing His mind like a mere mortal. Yahweh's actions had a greater purpose hidden up in them, and it was to provide the opportunity to repent and be cleansed because such cannot be done in the world of spirits after we have died!
The Measure of Godly Character
Learning faithfulness even when we don't understand why Yahweh is permitting sickness or adversity of divers forms of trouble is a measure of godly character. So many believers fail this test and turn around and accuse Him and turn away from Him, not understanding the grace that is being extended. Why it is we must suffer in order to get right with Him is not a question of Yahweh's method being in doubt but more a question of just how serious and deadly our fallen condition is and how it distorts character and refelcts badly on the image we were made to be in.
When Faithfulness and Integrity Ruled
Back in the days when king Joash was repairing the Jerusalem temple, faithfulness and integrity were the rule, for we read:
Why We Need a Legal System
"No accounting was required from the construction supervisors, because they were honest and faithful workers" (2 Ki.12:14, NLT).
Now if everybody practiced integrity in their dealings like that today, we would have no more need of a legal system. A written agreement is a safeguard in society where integrity is no longer a given. In reality, the integrity of the two parties should be the true contract in an agreement. A person of complete faithfulness or integrity will not break an agreement, signed or unsigned.
A Gentleman's Word Was His Bond
When I grew up in the fading days of the British Empire, I was taught that an English gentleman's word was his bond, a biblical principle if ever there was one. Indeed, we had the expression in those days, if someone was not faithful, and we would say, when being serious: "That's not British!" No longer, alas, now. Today's Britain is unrecongisable and the country of my youth is tragically dead and gone, something I have grieved much over.
Promises were kept, even rash ones, unless voluntarily annulled by the party with whom the agreement had been made. The only exception in Yahweh's Torah is a rash promise made by a woman for Yahweh has given toqef (authority) to her father or husband to annul it if he does so within 24 hours of first hearing it. No such provision is made for men because a leader is expected to assume greater responsibility and accountability.
What Reputation are You Building?
So every one of you ought to be asking yourself the question: What kind of a reputation am I building with others? Would others enter a deal with you and feel no need for a signed legal paper? I hope so, even if your honourableness is not reciprocated. In such behaviour you become an image of Elohim (God) and bring honour to His Name - to His character. Remember:
"Yahweh is faithful; He will make you strong and guard you from the evil one" (Thess.3:3, NLT).
I don't know why Yahweh didn't take me home when I was 60 and I can only assume it was to give me more time to repent and develop a more faithful character and thereby bring Him more glory. It is easy to place emphasis on a believer's faithfulness to Messiah and a qadosh (holy, set-apart) lifestyle and we sometimes forget that the Besorah (Gospel) is based on Yahweh's faithfulness, not our own! Our emunah (faith) - all the good works and spiritual fruit it produces - is our response to Yahweh's ahavah (love) and His faithfulness to His purposes for us. When Paul said those words to the Thessalonians, it was because the Thessalonians were being tried by persecution. Undoubtedly some of them were wavering, even failing, as the surrounding evil put them to the test. This was an important time for the apostle to remind them that, no matter what happened, Yahweh's faithfulness would prevail over evil and strengthen them so that they could endure.
Why Yahweh Permits Distress of Soul
Now I know how hard it is to be told to endure when all you want is deliverance but again Yahweh has His unfathomable reasons - unfathomable this side of emunah (faith), that is. We will understand why later just as Hezekiah came to understand why Yahweh permitted him to go through such distress of soul. It was to enable him to repent and enter heaven with a clean heart.
Preparing for Hard Times
This is such an important lesson to learn in times of persecution which is why I am urging you prophetically to prepare yourselves for it now. Paul gave Timothy a "true saying" which I know will be of help to everyone in the times to come:
When Faith Appears to Run Out
"If we die with Him.
We will also live with Him.
If we endure hardship,
we will reign with Him.
If we deny Him,
He will deny us.
If we are unfaithful,
He remains faithful,
for He cannot deny Himself" (1 Tim.2:11-13, NLT).
Yah'shua (Jesus) will stay by our side even when we have endured so much that we seem to have no emunah (faith) left. I emphasise the word 'seem'. We may be faithless at times, but Yah'shua (Jesus) remains faithful to His promises to be with us always, even to the end of the world (Mt.28:20). Since Yah'shua (JUesus), like Yahweh, is faithful even when we are not, should we not also be faithful when others have been unfaithful to us? How else will others learn of the faithfulness of Elohim (God)?
The Smyrnan Persecution
The Book of Revelation is the book for the Remnant in the end time and for similar, parallel times over the centuries. Speaking to the assembly at Smyrna, Yah'shua (Jesus) said:
Faithful Through Suffering
"Don't be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The Devil will throw some of you into prison and put you to the test. You will be persecuted for 'ten days'. Remain faithful even when facing death, and I will give you the crown of chayim (life)" (Rev.2:10, NLT).
Exhortions to remain faithful through suffering may seem distant to most of us in the comfortable West but other believers elsewhere are already in the midst of trial and tribulation. And it will not be long before it comes to us too. We are to remain faithful through suffering because Yahweh is in ultimate control of the world's ultimate outcome, and His promises of eternal chayim (life) to believers are reliable. Yah'shua (Jesus) never said that by being faithful to Him we would avoid trouble, suffering or persecution. Rather, we must be faithful to Him in our sufferings. Only then will our emunah (faith) prove itself genuine. We remain faithful by keeping our eyes on Yah'shua (Jesus). We need to remind ourselves and others of His promises of help and comfort now and of simcha (joy) and perfect shalom (peace) to come in our eternal chayim (life) to come.
When No Accounting is Required
Remember those honest and faithful construction workers and how no accounting was required of them by their supervisors (2 Ki.12:15). How wonderful it is to have such confidence in your workers! It's how it should be at home for it is at home that we should learn faithfulness before going into the world. Consider Daniel:
"...the...administrators and princes began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling his affairs, but they couldn't find anything to criticise. He was faithful and honest and always responsible" (Dan.6:4, NLT).
How can we become like this? Simple:
As in Marriage
"If you obey the mitzvot (commandments) of Yahweh your Elohim (God) and walk in His ways, Yahweh will establish you as His qadosh (holy, set-apart) people..." (Dt.28:9, NLT).
We cultivate faithfulness by being honest and trustworthy by obeying Yahweh's Davar (Word) and then He establishes our character, making us images. It's exactly the same in marriage with the leadership of the local assembly setting the example, from the deacons upwards. We cultivate faithfulness by keeping our promises and commitments.
"A shammash (deacon) must be faithful to his wife..." (1 Tim.3:12, NLT).
In all of this we are opposed by our neo-pagan society which leads many to ask why they should even bother being faithful when virtually noone else is. What are we told today? Do what you want! But Yahweh says:
"Never let loyalty and kindness get away from you! ... Then you will ... gain a good reputation. Faithfulness brings a good reputation and trust from others" (Prov.3:3-4, NLT).
Yahweh chooses to accomplish great deeds through faithful people (Ruth 4:11) and faithfulness brings eternal rewards:
The Angelic Response to Yahweh's Faithfulness
Know that Yahweh is completely faithful. Indeed, His faithfulness is so great that it causes the malakim (angels) to sing!
The Crown of Life
"All heaven will praise your miracles, Yahweh; myriads of malakim (angels) will praise You for Your faithfulness" (Ps.89:5, NLT).
"He is the faithful Elohim (God) who keeps His b'rit (covenant) for a thousand generations..." (Dt.7:9).
"But Yahweh is faithful; He will make you strong and guard you from the evil one. Elohim (God) is completely faithful. His faithfulness is so great that it makes the malakim (angels) sing!" (2 Thess.3:3, NLT).
What do you suppose are the rewards of faithfulness? The faithful are made governors of cities in the Millennium (Lk.19:17) but even more importantly than that, those who are "faithful, even when facing death" will receive "the crown of chayim (life)" (Rev.2.10. NLT).
Teaching the Coming Generations
Moreover, it is both our privilege and responsibility to help our children and grandchildren to know of Yahweh's complete faithfulness:
The Lasting Inheritance
"...Each generation can make known Your faithfulness to the next" (Is.38:19, NLT).
Indeed, this is the richest inheritance we can leave by building this awareness in the minds of our children and grandchildren. This is of far more lasting value than any other kind of inheritance we might leave behind, and it is what I personally strive to do, both for my flesh-and-blood as well as for my spiritual children in the emunah (faith).
When Others are Unfaithful
OK, but what do we do when others are unfaithful to us? We remain faithful! If we don't, we become as faithless as they are. How do we handle betrayal, when someone hasn't been faithful to us?
The Engrained Character
"If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself" (2 Tim.2:12, NLT).
Faithfulness must be come so engrained in our character through our constantly choosing faithfulness when we are tempted by circumstance to choose unfaithfulness that to be unfaithful would be tantamount to denying ourself. Faithfulness must become an engrained habit.
Why Remain Faithful?
In conclusion, why should we remain faithful? Because:
- 1. Elohim (God) is faithful to those who love Him (Dt.7:9);
- 2. Wherever we go, Elohim (God) is there with us (Ps.23:6);
- 3. Yahweh is faithful in guarding His people from the evil one (2 Thess.3:3); and
- 4. Those who are faithful to the end will share in all Yahweh's riches (Heb.3:14).
As we learn to be faithful in the small things, so we will become faithful in the greater ones, so do not despise small things! May Yahweh bless you in all these things! Amen.