Sunday, January 12, 2014

Going Up?

A Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore.  Psalm 121
Everyone has their own particular way of approaching their study of God’s Word, and to be truthful I appreciate learning from others who do things a little different than I do.  Much of the time the topical subjects I chose to study are the result of being led by the Holy Spirit while studying  something completely different.  This week was no exception as while studying the subject of faithfulness, I somehow ended up in the book of Psalms, particularly chapter 121 which is the second of fifteen chapters called the Songs of Ascents.  Now when I saw the word ascents, my thoughts immediately went to the rapture of the Church and the idea of singing as we go up, and to be truthful, if we examine the reason for these chapters we might see that the idea of singing praises as we go up is not all that farfetched.

In the Hebrew, the word for ascents is ma`alah, which when translated means; what comes up, thoughts, step, stair step, stair steps (of sundial), stories (of heaven), ascent, song of ascent to the three great pilgrim feasts.  Many are familiar with the feasts of Israel, but if not, simply explained there are seven celebrations ordained by God for the nation of Israel to observe every year.  You can find those listed in the Old Testament  book of Leviticus, chapter twenty three.  Of these seven feasts, three were to be celebrated in Jerusalem which required everyone travel there from wherever they lived.
If you are not familiar with the geography of Israel, the city of Jerusalem is basically higher in elevation than the surrounding country, with the temple itself built on Mount Moriah.  This means that to travel there resulted in having to climb, or “ascend” to the city.  These Psalms were songs that the people would sing as they traveled towards Jerusalem, praising God as they walked.  I can just imagine what it must have been like to hear hundreds of thousands of people singing these songs of God’s faithfulness to His people as they approached the city of Jerusalem.

How often do you reflect on God’s faithfulness to us?  Do you ever just sit and consider the statements made in this chapter about how faithful God is to us, and allow that knowledge to lift and encourage you?  It is unfortunate that many of us only think about the faithfulness of God towards us when we are in trouble or hurting, and allow the cares of this world to overshadow our thoughts when things are going well.  How different would our lives be if God had that same attitude towards us rather than the one we as His children are fortunate to enjoy?
As I considered that thought, I had to reflect upon my faithfulness to Him, and question my own commitment to being what God Himself has described as a “good and faithful servant”.  After all, if we look closely at how faithful God is towards us, is it too much to ask that we imitate that example in our faithfulness to Him?  With that in mind, I want to share a few thoughts I had about that question in light of what Jesus had to say about being faithful servants for Him.

Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.  Matthew 24:45-47  NKJV
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.                                   Matthew 25:21  NKJV

The Greek word for faithful is pistos, which is translated; of persons who show themselves faithful in the transaction of business, the execution of commands, or the discharge of official duties.  After reading that, I looked for passages that would illustrate those three responsibilities and possibly help us to become the faithful servants God desires us to be.
Transaction of business

And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  Luke 2:49  NKJV
Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.   Luke 2:46  NKJV

What is the “business” we as believers are in?  If we choose to use Jesus’ example then it becomes apparent our business is actually the Fathers’ business, which, if we understand this passage correctly entails studying the scriptures and doing all that we can to increase our knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.                        2 Timothy 2:15  KJV

Execution of commands
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  John 13:34  NKJV

Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.                         1 John 2:8-10  NKJV
What are we as believers commanded to do?  Love one another just as Jesus loves us.  Seems simple enough until you meet someone you don’t especially like.  Yet isn’t that the worlds’ way?  Only love the ones you want and hate the rest?  By choosing to love everyone as the Father does, we demonstrate not only His love in us, we stand out as light in the darkness of this world because we are different from those around us. 

“Therefore by their fruits you will know them.  Matthew 7:20  NKJV
Discharge of official duties

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.  Ecclesiastes 12:13-14  NKJV
Have you ever skipped to the back of a book to see how it all ends?  The book of Ecclesiastes is the last thing to be written by Solomon, described to us as the wisest man who ever lived.  As he sat and reflected on his life with all the good and all of the bad, victories and mistakes, he summed it all up in this passage.  The “whole” meaning of life is to “fear God and keep his commandments.”  Why?  Because the day will come when every man will stand before God and give an account of his life and the choices he has made.

If you are reading this today and have never made the decision to become a believer in God, and accept the gift of eternal life with Him provided by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, I encourage you to do so right now.  Simply pray a prayer like this one and confess your need of salvation to God and He will welcome you into the body with open arms. 
Jesus I know I am a sinner. I have sinned against you, but I know you loved me enough to send your Son, Jesus Christ to die for my sins and then rise from the dead so that I may live forever with You. Lord forgive me of my sins and come into my life and help me to begin to live for You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

As He has told us;
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9  NKJV

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