Haggai – “festivals of God"

I. Background

Prophet Haggai’s name means “festive of God,” or “festivals of God”. He is one of the twelve so-called minor prophets. He was the first of the three prophets whose ministry belonged to the period of Jewish history which began after the return from captivity in Babylon. Zechariah, a contemporary Haggai, and Malachi, who was about one hundred years later, were the other two. Scarcely anything is known of his personal history.

During the captivity of Israelites in Babylon, Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian Empire in 539 B.C. Because the Israelites were largely settled in Babylon, the fall seemed to add great uncertainty to captivity. But the fall of Babylon turned out to be an opportunity for Israelites who were exiled in Babylon. God had a purpose in the change of the course of history. A year later, God stirred up the heart of Medo-Persian King Cyrus to issue a decree allowing the Israelites to return to Israel. This marked the beginning of the great Return of Israelites from Babylon to Jerusalem.

Only a remnant of Israelites returned. But those who returned did with a singular purpose: to rebuild the Temple of God that was destroyed. By 536 B.C., the first group had arrived and soon laid the foundation of the Temple. They came back under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua. The circumstances in which the Temple was rebuilt were recorded in detail in historical books in the Bible, particularly Ezra and Nehemiah. God was with His people. The returned remnant was moved by God to do the impossible. Saying it was impossible is no exaggeration.

Although the second Temple isn’t as great as the first one built by Solomon, it was built under entirely different circumstances. The first Temple was built in a period of great peace and prosperity, while the second Temple was built in a time of total humbleness in terms of what the Israelites had, and under extreme adversarial environment which further made the conditions many times worse. The children of God were constantly attacked by various enemies in forms of both assaults and deception. Soon they were overcome by frustration, and the work on the Temple stopped (see Ezra 4:4-5).

But God was not to give up. 16 years later, God raised up Haggai and Zechariah to again stir up the hearts of His children to complete the reconstruction project. Over a four-month period in 520 B.C., Haggai delivered four messages concerning this effort. The first and third messages brought down admonishing words of the Lord that the land’s lack of productivity was because the Temple lay in ruins and the land was still spiritually unclean. But each of these two messages was followed by words of reassurance that God was with them and the rebuilding of the Temple was to be accompanied by great blessings. The people quickly responded to the call, and the rebuilding of the Temple was completed in 515 B.C.

II. Return from captivity

God called Israelites to return from Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem. The Return from captivity to Jerusalem has a very different spiritual meaning from the Exodus from Egypt. The Exodus is the representation of God saving of His people from the world. The entire nation of Israel was brought out of Egypt. God did not leave a part of the Israel perishing in the world. The salvation is categorically applied to God’s people.

In contrast, in the Return from Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem, the call was given to everyone who was in captivity, but only a remnant returned. Spiritually speaking, the Exodus represents the justification of one who has received the redemption in the Lord Jesus.

Once a person makes the decision of receiving Jesus as his personal savior, the justification (escaping from the judgment of eternal death) no longer depends on his action. But justification isn’t the completion of God’s salvation. It is only the beginning. God wants a people who is not merely justified in position, but is actually sanctified (pure and set apart for God) and ultimately glorified.

In time and on earth, there is such a condition in which the people of God are unsanctified! There is also such a condition in which a child of God is in captivity, not in the worldly Egypt, but in the religious Babylon. How does a child of God end up in such a condition? He desires it, seeks after it, craves for it, and gives in to his idolatrous heart, and eventually God gives him away. That is exactly what happened to the Israelites, God’s people in the Old Testament time.

Remember that the Jews went to Egypt because of a provision of God, not because of a sinful act on their part (not that they were perfect or even mildly good, but Sin wasn’t a premise for Israelites’ sojourning 400 years in Egypt). The Egypt was a cradle, strange as it may seem, chosen by God for His people. At the due time, God brought His people out of Egypt.

In contrast, the Jews were exiled as captives in Babylon because of their repetitive and long-lasting rebellious and idolatrous condition. They rejected the only true God but desired to worship idols because the idols had a stronger appeal to their heart and satisfied them more.

In today’s language, idols were “cool” to them. At the end, God decided that the only way to cure the heart of His people is to allow them to be captured by a nation that is full of spiritual idolatry. But a time was set, by the mercy of God, for them to return. When the hearts of those who are toward God were fully prepared and crying for a return, God called them to return.

Only a remnant listened and returned, but thank God that the Remnant did return. The lesson for us is that the way of returning to the true spiritual worship is a narrow way even among those who are redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus. It is a dangerous condition to feel complacent about being “merely saved.” If one hears the call to return, he must follow the path of the remnant, not the crowd.

III. Rebuild

Yet the Return was more than just an end of exile for the remnant. In other words, God didn’t mean the Babylonian captivity to be merely a punishment, so when the sentence is served, God would allow the captives to return.

The remnant didn’t just return, they returned with a purpose, and only one purpose, which is to rebuild the Temple. Now this is the unity between God’s work and His people’s work. For God, rebuilding the Temple represents recovering the true testimony of Jesus Christ. For God’s people, being motivated to rebuild the Temple is the mark that distinguishes the heart of the remnant from that of the others.

Today, we hear God’s call to return and desire to respond to the call. But those who truly belong to the remnant don’t return for their own sake. They return with only one purpose, which is to recover the testimony of Jesus Christ. For young brothers and sisters today, it might be difficult to grasp the meaning of these types (spiritual signs), but a basic truth should take root in everyone’s heart: being a child of God, becoming a part of the testimony of the Lord isn’t merely one of the many “Church things” or “Christian things” to do. It is an essential part of the meaning of his life.

IV. Festival

Speaking of building, we all think of labor. Under the circumstances which forced the returned remnant to stop building, picking up the hard work was particularly difficult. Yet God’s messenger to deliver the message was Haggai, the “festivals of God.” Certainly God saw something different from what the circumstances showed. God had already seen the completion of the Temple.

In fact, God not only foresaw the completion of the physical Temple that was to be rebuilt by the remnant, He saw the completion of the final Temple in heaven, the spiritual city built in Christ, by Christ, and for Christ. Had God only had His hope set upon the physical Temple, He would be disappointed. The rebuilt physical Temple was a disappointment even by human standard. The elders of Israelites cried when the foundation of the new Temple was laid because it was nothing compared to the original Temple built by King Solomon.

But God has set His eyes on “a latter house” and declared “the latter glory of this house will be greater than the former.” Haggai 2:9. The latter house is the spiritual Temple in heaven.

Here is an important illustration. Just as the new Temple built by a weak people surrounded by adversaries is not comparable to the original Temple built by the mighty King Solomon in total peace and prosperity, our testimony today in its outer appearance will not be comparable to the spiritual Temple built in heaven by the King of kings, our Lord Jesus Christ. But our testimony is a true representation of the testimony in heaven.

The first Temple was marvelous, but it represented the riches of the King not the people. Although it is true that the first Temple was also a result of many people’s labor, the work of the people was not the point and was barely mentioned by the Holy Spirit in God’s Word. After it has served its purpose of illustration, God allowed the first Temple to be destroyed and then be rebuilt by a weak people, so that God’s testimony is worked through His people.

For this reason, God did not think of the new Temple as a setback. He called it a Festival instead.

No matter how little, insignificant, and unimpressive our testimony may appear, if it is genuinely a part of God’s rebuilding and recovery of the testimony of His Son, we are part of the Festival to be celebrated.

V. Consider

When we aren’t making the necessary effort to build the testimony of the Lord, we need to ask ourselves why. God used Haggai to remind the people to “Consider your ways.” Sometimes it may be because of our own laziness in not following the Lord faithfully. It is easy to get caught up in the routine of our own things and forget about the purpose of the Lord.

VI. And Consider

When we are making a great deal of effort but still don’t see the result, we also need to ask ourselves why it is so. God not only asked Israelites to stir up the hearts and become diligent, He also asked people to rid of uncleanness among them and among the offers they bring. God loves His people. He never uses them merely as a means to accomplish something that is separated from His people.

In the end, it’s the people and the testimony of the people that He is establishing. God will not bless the work in our hands unless we are sanctified and set in a proper condition to receive the blessing.

VII. “I am going to shake the heavens and the earth,” twice declared the Lord (Haggai 2:6, 2:21)

Even before the rebuilding of the Temple was complete, the word of God came through the prophet Haggai to the people quickly to announce His ultimate purpose for the Temple. “I am going to shake the heavens and the earth,” twice declared the Lord (Haggai 2:6, 2:21). We often think that God probably made such a declaration to encourage His people to continue the work of rebuilding the Temple. Although the word of God definitely had that effect, the purpose of God’s declaration of shaking the heavens and the earth isn’t about assisting the completion of the Temple, but is about the ultimate meaning of the Temple as a testimony.

Think about it. All things of the heavens and earth will be shaken away but only the heavenly Testimony will stand after the shake. This is what the testimony is about. Would the Lord declare that He will shake the heavens and the earth if He weren’t sure something that belonged to Him would certainly remain after the shaking? Of course not. God already saw all the eternal testimony that will be definitely established through the obedience of His people, and for this reason He declared with confidence that He will shake the heavens and the earth.

God knew that the heavenly testimony would withstand the shaking and thus declared to His people in His eternal purpose concerning the Temple. It is almost as if God couldn’t wait to make this declaration. The book of Haggai ended with a glorious prophecy concerning the coming Messiah, revealing the true blessing that is to come to God’s elect.

When we follow God’s will in faithfulness and obedience, He is eager to reveal Himself and His eternal purpose to us. He will provide what we need.

I am with you,” the Lord has promised (Haggai 1:13).

Ezekiel – “the strength of God”

I. Background

Ezekiel is a prophet of God. He was the instrument of the Holy Spirit for authoring one of the four major prophetic books in the Bible. The book, Ezekiel, is named after the prophet himself. Ezekiel means “God strengthens” or “the strength of God.”

Ezekiel lived about 2600 years ago, during the time that the Babylonian Empire had conquered the nation of Judah and had destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. He was the son of Buzi, a Zadokite priest. It is likely that Ezekiel was born in the days of King Josiah when there was a great reformation going on in Israel. During the reign of Josiah, Ezekiel must have been an infant in the arms of his mother. The Bible does not tell us much about his family except that Ezekiel came from a priestly family. The Bible calls him the Ezekiel, the priest. We do not know to which class in the priestly service he belonged, but by reading the book of Ezekiel, we find that he seems to be greatly respected by his contemporaries.

Ezekiel was among the Jews in Judah who were taken as captives by the Babylonians to Babylon. He was probably taken captive together with Israel King Jehoiachin. Because when Nebuchadnezzar took King Jehoiachin into captivity, he brought with him the royalties, nobilities and the mighty of the land, Ezekiel most likely belonged to a rather important and prominent priestly family.

Ezekiel received his call as a prophet during the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin. Ezekiel’s ministry lasted about 22 years.

Ezekiel’s prophecies about the destruction of Jerusalem caused a terrible and divided reaction among the Jews who were with him in Babylon. But, when his prophecies came true, people began to listen to him more intently. Ezekiel’s wife died during the day that the Babylonians began their siege of Jerusalem, and her death was used as a sign to Jews. This siege began in about 586 BC, after Ezekiel and others had been taken as captives to Babylon. The siege ended with the destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple in Jerusalem.

After the destruction, Ezekiel’s prophecies changed from the theme of unbending judgment to the theme of hope and a glorious future.

Ezekiel was very much a shepherd and a watchman for the nation of Israel. As a shepherd, he protected the people. And as a watchman, he warned of dangers ahead.

II. A prophet is called by God into what God wants him to be, not trained into what he himself wants to be

Ezekiel was trained to be a priest. He probably never expected, or even thought of, becoming a prophet. But God called him to be a prophet. All his training throughout his youth was seemingly wasted. However, Ezekiel saw a heavenly vision and was obedient to his vision. He heard the voice of the Lord and was obedient to the Lord. Not only was this calling initially difficult for Ezekiel to follow (because he would have to give up all he had wanted to do in his entire life), it in fact made the rest of Ezekiel’s life extremely painful in human eyes. Ezekiel was about 25 years old when he was called by the Lord to be a prophet. It was about the age he was supposed to enter into formal priestly service. A priest was trained from his childhood. Ezekiel must have eagerly looked forward to serving the Lord as a priest. But he was in Babylon in exile. Furthermore, the Temple was already destroyed. Serving the Lord as a priest apparently became the most impossible thing. Ezekiel must be in despair given his circumstances. It was at that time that the Lord called Ezekiel to be his prophet.

III. The training of a man is nevertheless essential

If one looks at God’s calling of Ezekiel as an earthly career change, one would regret that a huge waste has been inflicted upon Ezekiel. However, God looks at this entirely differently. First of all, an office of a prophet is not a man’s choice of career. It is in the service of an eternal God. In His sovereignty, God calls whoever into whatever He wants that person to do for Him. If God of wisdom has chosen to do so, who are men to judge what has been wasted and what has been judiciously used? Second, although God’s selection of a servant is entirely His sovereignty, His selection is nevertheless not random but instead based on His infinite wisdom. God looks into a man’s heart and finds what He has prepared in that person’s inner being.

The faithful training of Ezekiel as a priest did not prepare himself as a prophet in terms of skills, but has prepared in his inner being a perfect man to serve the Lord as a prophet. We should always be faithful to the Lord Himself. We should also be faithful to the things that the Lord has called us into, but first of all we should be faithful to the Lord himself. We should be faithful in whatever we are required to do in our position (including being a student, or at work), knowing that even though we may or may not be using in the future the knowledge we learn now, the training and the resultant character will not be a waste in God’s kingdom if we follow His will.

IV. An open heaven, visions of God, voice of God, and the hand of God make a complete revelation of the Lord to the great prophet

The heavens were opened Ezekiel. Note that Ezekiel didn’t open to heavens, but the heavens were opened to him. One doesn’t suddenly start to understand and appreciate the heavenlies and the spiritual matters. Neither can one comprehend the spiritual matters through his own efforts. Heaven has to be opened to us so that we who live on the earth start to see something that is fundamentally different from what we can gather and understand through our own efforts and experiences in this world.

How do we know if the heavens were opened to us? We see visions of God. If we see anything other than God, what has been opened to us is either an illusion, or a satanic deception. God appears to us in His glory. And His glory is much more than just physical glory (which God sometimes also manifests). God’s glory is manifested in His Person, His character, mind, thought, purpose, will, counsel, plan, work, and His working, all embodied and manifested in His only begotten Son.

Not only that, we also hear the voice of God personally. The voice of God is much more than just a physical voice. God is spiritual, and therefore it is far better for Him to communicate with His children spiritually. That means God speaks to us personally through His Holy Spirit. For example, as we read God’s words, our spirit not only comprehends and appreciates the meaning of the words, we in fact sense that the Lord is speaking directly into our heart. That is the voice of God that our spirit hears.

However, the work of God goes even further. After we have heard his voice, we will see the guidance of his hand in our personal life. The purpose of God’s manifesting Himself to us is not to have the most glorious show of Himself, but to transform our lives. And this cannot be accomplished without the actual work of God’s hand. God’s hand works in the life of every child of His. You may be only a young child, but the transforming and empowering hand of God is in your life. The question is whether you will be obedient and subject to his hand.

Ezekiel’s vision is therefore a complete vision, which on a grand scale represents the kingdom of God, but on the personal scale represents our personal spiritual life as a child of God.

V. Son of Man

In the Old Testament, only Ezekiel was called by God “son of man” so many times. It reminds us another One who is called the Son of man. Ezekiel therefore is more than just a prophet. He was a type or a sign of the One who is to come. Our Lord Jesus is the one who eventually came. He is always the Son of God when He is in heaven, but He became the Son of Man only when He took the humble form of man and became fresh.

But He was the perfect man. The Son of Man is the true representation of man. When the God’s chosen people Israelites have totally failed, God chosen Ezekiel to be a representative man of Israelites and called him the son of man. When the whole mankind has totally failed, God sent Jesus, the Son of Man to be a representative of mankind. As the Son of God, Jesus represented God. As the Son of Man, Jesus represented us.

How thankful we are for the perfect representation we have in our Lord Jesus. If God can find satisfaction even in an imperfect Ezekiel to present Israelites, how much more satisfaction God would find in the perfect Man, Jesus Christ our Lord?

VI. A watchman

When God called Ezekiel, He appointed him to be a watchman. What is a watchman? Today, most of us do not understand what a watchman is, but in the old days people did not have watches or clocks. So they couldn’t tell time. Even if they had some type of a clock, they still had a watchman in the night. A watchman was not just there watching the door, but he would go around the place every hour or so and beat a gong to tell the time. The watchman was one who knew the time and who told the time. God appointed Ezekiel to be a watchman, to be one who knew the time in which he was living.

Now it isn’t easy to really know the time in which we living. We are in the darkest watch of the night. We often think that we know the time but we really don’t. But God has appointed a watchman. Of course the true watchman is the Holy Spirit himself. But God also appoints some brothers and sisters who are spiritually mature as watchman among us as ministers of the Holy Spirit.

God’s children should all desire to serve as a watchman, for the night is now dark and most people are asleep. If we are not appointed as a watchman, at least we should hear what the watchman reports.

VII. On earth, the greatest hope always comes after the greatest devastation

It is said that prophet Isaiah is the prophet of faith, Prophet Jeremiah the prophet of love, prophet Ezekiel the prophet of hope. But before the Lord revealed the greatest hope to Ezekiel, the Lord first revealed the greatest devastation on earth to him. Just imagine how Ezekiel felt when he heard that his first prophetic report to the people of Israel is such terrible news. We must understand that although there have been much terrible news delivered through prophets in Israel history, the terrible news reported by Ezekiel is much more severe and has a sense of finality.

It was during the captivity of Israelites. After that time period, no major prophecies were to be given and God was to remain silent for some 400 years before our Lord finally appeared on earth. As far as Israelites – the God’s children on earth – are concerned, nowhere in other places of the Bible is a more terrible scene reported: the departure of God’s glory from the Temple. Just imagine, the glory of God had to departure His children! That’s what Ezekiel was shown after he was first shown the terrible sins and abomination committed by Israelites.

Yet God has appointed Ezekiel as the prophet of hope. For law of the Old Testament was given for only one purpose, which is to manifest and convict the sin of people. Finally, after a long history of dealing between God and his people, the utter failure of God’s people has come to a point that the purpose of the law has fulfilled as far as God’s earthly chosen people were concerned.

The verdict is clear: all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. After that the glory of God would then return and the eternal hope be revealed. It is not because of what Israelites have done, but because who God is. It is as said in Ezekiel 36: 22: “therefore say to the House of Israel, ‘thus says the Lord God, “it is not for your sake, O House of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My Holy name…”

Nathanael/Bartholomew – the Gift of God

I. Background

It is commonly believed that Nathanael and Bartholomew are the same person. Nathanael means “given by God,” or “gift of God,” while Bartholomew simply means “son of Ptolemy,” so it’s likely that Nathanael was often known by others at his time by a nick name Bartholomew. This is very common for Jews.

Nathanael (Bartholomew) was from Cana of Galilee (John 21:2), where Jesus performed his first two miracles. He is one of the twelve apostles of Christ, (Matthew 10:3), (Mark 3:18), (Luke 6:14), (John 1:45-49), (Acts 1:13), whom was sent out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons and to heal every disease and sickness.

Nazareth was a small town in the lower region of Galilee, where Jesus grew up after Joseph and Mary settled there. Nazareth was at the crossroads of many great caravan routes, including one road, which brought travelers from Egypt to the interior of Asia. Due to their location, Nazarenes were in contact with people from all over the world. News reached them very quickly. In Jesus’ day there was a Roman army garrison there. The Jews did not like the Romans. At that time, “Nazarene” was virtually a synonym for “despised”. But our Lord is called Jesus of Nazareth, to fulfill the saying in Ps 22:6 and Isa 53:3, that Messiah would be despised.

In the first three gospels, Bartholomew’s name is always appears next to Philip’s in the lists of disciples. It was Philip who first brought Nathanael to Jesus, just as Andrew had brought his brother Simon (John 1:45-49). Philip was excited about finding “the very one Moses and the prophets wrote about.” He went to find his friend, Nathanael. Philip told Nathanael that Jesus was from Nazareth. Nathanael was skeptical. He did not think anything good could come from that town.

But Philip persisted and asked Nathanael to go and see for himself and Nathanael followed him. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, He said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathanael was astonished and asked, “How do you know me?” When Jesus said, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Upon hearing this impossible statement, light dawned upon his mind, and he cried, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God and the King of Israel.” After that, Nathanael’s doubt turned to strong faith in the Lord Jesus.

Nathanael was one of the disciples to whom our Lord appeared at the Sea of Tiberias after His resurrection (John 21:2). He was also a witness of the Ascension (Acts 1:4, 12,13) and with other disciples all joined together constantly in prayer after Jesus ascended to the Heaven.
II. “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”

Who is it, concerning whom our blessed Lord gives this glorious testimony? Who is this Nathanael, of whom so remarkable an account is given? By what little is said of him in the context he appears to have been a man of an excellent spirit; not hasty of belief, and yet open to conviction, and willing to receive the truth once given. Nathanael took Philip’s advice, without being stubborn in his own opinion.

“In whom is no guile.” It first implied his having his heart true to God. It does not imply any less than that is included in that gracious command, “My son, give me your heart.” Only when we give our heart to Him is our heart true to God. We give Him our heart when we seek Him and seek our happiness in Him. Our heart cannot be true when we seek our happiness in gratifying “the desire of the flesh” in any of the pleasures of sense; in gratifying “the desire of the eye” in any of the pleasures of the imagination, arising from grand, new, or beautiful objects, whether of nature or art; in “the pride of life,” such as “the honor that comes of men,” in being beloved, esteemed, and applauded by others, or taking pleasure in “laying up treasures on earth.”

When we seek happiness in none of these, but in God alone, then we, in some sense give Him our heart and thus preserved our heart so it is “in no guile.”

III. One can be honest and wrong at the same time

It is evident when the Lord said of Nathanael as a man of “no guile,” He did not mean Nathanael was sinless. Far from that. Nathanael’s unsaved heart is evident in what he had believed and said before he met the Lord. Though not deceitful, he was nevertheless arrogantly and ignorantly wrong.

That one can be of “no guile” yet ignorant and entirely wrong is some thing to be carefully considered. When it comes to spiritual matters, many people readily claim that as along as one is being honest, he will be all right. That one is honestly wrong does not save him from the consequence of being wrong.

Nathanael, the one who was with “no guile,” thought of the Nazareth with contempt and despised everything from Nazareth. He was in real danger of rejecting the Lord his Savior, but for the grace of God.

One may be prideful and despise not only his fellow men but also Jesus. But when we come to Jesus, there is nothing hidden from Him, for He knows us better than we do ourselves. We will ask the same questions Nathanael asked, “How do you know me?” The Lord will answer us “Before you came from the womb of your mother, I already knew you.” The only difference may be that most of us are not in a condition nearly as good as Nathanael’s. While he is said to be of “no guile” by the Lord, most of us might only see our corruption exposed by the light of the Lord.

If Nathanael needed grace of the Lord to come to true knowledge, we need it much more.

IV. A glorious confession – gift of faith from God

Concerning Nathanael, as the heart of him that is “an Israelite indeed” is true to God, what is truly remarkable is not his character, but what follows next. It is from this true Israelite that comes the one of the earliest confessions of the true faith in Son of God, our Savoir: “..you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.” This glorious confession isn’t merely a testimonial to a gift from Nathanael to the Son of God, the King of Kings, but first of all to a gift of faith from the Son, the King, to Nathanael, a true Israelite.

The work of life is by God, not by man. We don’t know which happens first, the truth in our heart or the saving faith, but we must come to Lord with an honest and earnest heart before we can receive truth and faith from the Lord. It is not that our limited honesty is worthy of exchanging for God’s gift (eternal life by faith – what a gift that is!), but it is nevertheless a condition that must be met before the gift can be received.

Obadiah – "Servant of God"

I. Background

Prophet Obadiah is the author of one of the Minor Prophets in the Bible. Very little is found in the Bible about prophet Obadiah himself, except for the prophetic book “Obadiah” that is named after him. Usually, individuals in the Bible are identified by their genealogy such as a phrase “the son of someone,” but the Bible contains no reference of this type to prophet Obadiah. It is as if the prophet himself had been hidden. But as we will see, the word of God spoke through prophet Obadiah isn’t. On the contrary, the word is brightly manifested.

The name Obadiah means “servant of God” or “worshiper of God” (literally “one who serves or worships God.”) This name was probably very common among Israelites in the time of Old Testament, because there are more than 10 different individuals mentioned in the Old Testament had this name. Well-known among these different “Obadiahs” is the chief steward to King Ahab’s household (1 Kings 18:3). Obadiah the chief steward was a highly respected and honored figure among the Israelites and he was also known to be able to maintain his faithfulness to God in the midst of spiritual degeneration. Prophet Obadiah probably was of a later date, some think contemporary with Hosea, Joel, and Amos; some think contemporary with Jeremiah and Ezekiel; others think he lived about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, when the Edomites so barbarously revenged the holy city in that destruction.

However, who prophet Obadiah is and when he wrote the book of Obadiah are not as important as what he wrote. What he wrote was what he saw; it is a vision given to him by the Holy Spirit.

The book Obadiah has the distinction of being the shortest book in the Bible. The entire book has only one chapter and 21 versus. However, the value of the book is not to be measured by its length. The book of Obadiah is the word of the same Holy Spirit who authored the other books of the Bible, and is therefore stamped with the divine authority.

This book is entitled “The Vision of Obadiah”. This book is wholly concerning Edom. Probably there was much more which prophet Obadiah was divinely inspired to speak to Israelites in his time, but this is all he was inspired to write; and all he writes is concerning Edom. The name Edom is familiar to all who study the word of God, but the fact that an entire prophetic book in the Bible concerns Edom is still quite remarkable. Much can be learned, and should be learned, about Edom and Edomites from the word of God.

II. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of spirit is spirit

Edom is a nation adjoining to Israel, and yet an enemy to Israelites, the seed of Jacob. The Edomites, the people of Edom, are offspring of Esau who is the twin brother of Jacob. The story of the struggles between the twin brothers since they were in the womb of their mother is one of the most significant types (the Old Testament “parables”) recorded in the Old Testament. The word of God contains subsequent explanations to the typological story. In Malachi 1:3, God declared “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? … Yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau.” The Holy Spirit repeated that declaration in the New Testament in Romans 9-13. Esau is the older brother of Jacob and came before Jacob. While Jacob represents us, the redeemed, Esau represents the flesh, our old unsaved life. The old life came before the new life. And there is a constant struggle between our new life and the old life.

The enmity between Esau and Jacob (and Edomites and Israelites) is by no means a mere unfortunate accident, but an unavoidable conflict rooted in the inherent differences of two different types of lives. This may sound strange to many, particularly to those who are still young, but we have an enemy in us. This enemy is not the same as all other enemies such as Canaanites who are opposing us as an external enemy. This enemy is our own flesh, who will sooner or later prove it the worst enemy. If you are a child of God, regardless of your age, you will experience the battle in yourself between the flesh and the spirit.

The flesh represents your old life and should not be confused with your physical body merely. Our physical body is made to be a subordinate servant. When it is an obedient servant to the spirit, it is not only a useful vessel but in fact an indispensable one. So in this sense we should treat our physical body well and with respect. The same is true with our mind. The problem is that our physical body and our mind in their fallen nature are more inclined to, or more used to, serving their old master which is the flesh. We therefore must be very careful in using our body and mind because they can easily become powerful agents of the flesh to take advantage of our spiritual life.

The flesh works on a principle of deception. The deception is the strongest when influenced through the lust of our eyes and our pride. That is why God teaches us not to love the world and not to lust after the things in the world. It is not that God does not like us to enjoy things in this world (which was originally created by God for our enjoyment), but that God does not want us to be taken advantage of by Satan through the weakness of our body and mind. The battle between the flesh and the spirit is an ongoing battle and must not be treated marginally. On an individual basis, the outcome of this battle determines the spiritual growth of a child of God.

III. What is temporarily prosperous isn’t necessarily a right thing to pursue

Outwardly speaking, Edomites, the offspring of Esau, are much more prosperous and stronger than Israelites. We learn from the Bible that while the Israelites went through 400 years of slavery in Egypt, Edomites developed independently into a very civilized society and a strong nation. Being brothers, the prosperity of Edomites may be a rich source of jealousy for Israelites. An Israelite might ask, “look at what God has done to us! We are much worse off than our siblings who did not follow God. While they progressed and prospered, we have been humiliated and become poor in every aspect, and besides had to go through all this trials and dangers.” But God brought Israelites to Egypt with a purpose and He eventually brought his children out of slavery into a glorious end. It is because Israelites are God’s children that God had these special dealings with them. For 400 years, Edomites was left alone to grow externally prosperous and strong, but all their prosperity mounted to nothing because they aren’t the children of God and will have no part in God’s glorious plan.

IV. God hates prideful people

One quite unique thing about Edomites is that, unlike Canaanites who are idle Worshipers, Edomites are such an independent and self-sufficient people that they did not even worship any external idols. The Edomites had become wise in their own eyes. They had all the answers; had need of nothing; God had been left out of the picture. In the Old Testament there is no mention of any Edomite religion or any Edomite gods. The Edomites had no allegiance to a god. They are an unusual people were so self-sufficient, arrogant, and self-satisfied that they wouldn’t even call upon the name of any kind of god. They believed they had all the answers themselves.

Edomites is a vivid representation of modern humanism that does not believe in anything but man himself. God hated that. God hates idle worshipers, but God also hates self-believers. You might ask why God is bothered by people’s arrogance. There could be many fundamental answers to this question, but one of the practical reasons is vividly illustrated by the relationship between Edomites and Israelites.

The pride of Edomites does not exist by and for itself. It inevitably harms its neighbor (or better put, its “twin brother”) Israelites. So God, who is the God of Israelites, hated that.

People, especially young people, are often offended by the notion that God does not like pride. They often harbor a rebellious thought that God is just mean and jealousy when a person feels good about himself. But pride is a deception of Satan. Viewed as an individual, the pride of Edomites deprives him of a relationship with God. Viewed as the twin brother of Israelites, the pride of Edomites persecutes and harms the Israelites.

In other words, if you are a child of God, God hates your prideful behavior because of (not in spite of) Him love for you. God loves you so much that He treasures your close relationship with Him and does not want your spiritual life to be taken advantage of by your flesh the pride.

“The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in the loftiness of your dwelling place, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to earth?'” (Obadiah 3). The answer is clear — “‘From there I will bring you down,’ declares the Lord.”

V. Don’t live in false security

Obadiah makes it clear that the idea of a nation or individual being invulnerable is an illusion. Edom felt so secure that they believed no one could destroy them. They built entire cities which were hidden within cliffs, and which could only be reached by narrow passes — the famous city of Petra, which was carved from a mountainside, was in Edom. Their security, however, was misplaced. God said He would destroy them, and history demonstrates how this occurred.

VI. As a person sow, so will he reap

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap!” (Gal. 6:7). The Edomites inherited a long-lasting hatred toward Israelites and sought to destroy the Israelites. They had always looked for a good opportunity to do that, and they did just that many times. But to the end, they themselves were destroyed.

VII. The Kingdom of the Lord will always ultimately prevail

“And the kingdom will be the Lord’s” (Obadiah 21 —). As children of God, many find it easy to at least nominally agree that God will always prevail. But Obadiah delivers a message of a victory that is not only very broad but also very specific. Broad because the Holy Spirit categorically declares that the people of God will overcome its enemy. Specific because in Obadiah God lets us know that even though we face a terrible enemy in our flesh, in the end it is the Lord Himself who declares war against the enemy and the enemy will be overcome.

Sometimes we may be so weak that we feel even though God can change the world but He can’t change me. He can, and we will be victorious, not by the virtue of our own efforts, but by the virtue of our being faithful children of God.

Elisha the prophet — "God is salvation"

Bible Verses: I Kings 19:19-21; II Kings 2–9; 13
Please have students read I Kings 19:18-21, II Kings 2:1-2, 9-14; 4:8-17; and 5:1-3, 9-16. Optional: II Kings 6:8-23.

I. Background

Prophet Elisha is introduced to us in the Bible in 1 Kings 19:16 when the Lord ordered prophet Elijah to anoint him as a prophet and successor of Elijah. The Holy Spirit introduced Prophet Elisha when he was already an adult. No record of his birth and childhood was given, except that he was the son of Shaphat. It is clear that Elisha occupies a very special office in the prophetic ministry for the Lord. Not only is he recognized as a prophet, he is also an anointed prophet; Not only is he an anointed prophet, he is to be anointed by Elijah and became the successor of Elijah.

Elijah found Elisha at his native place doing hard labors of the field, plowing with twelve yokes of oxen. He went over, threw his mantle over Elisha’s shoulders, and adopted him as a son, and invested him with the prophetical office. Elisha accepted the call given to him and became the close attendant on Elijah until he departed from him and taken up into heaven. During all these years the Holy Spirit tells us nothing of Elisha except in connection with the closing scenes of Elijah’s life. After Elijah, Elisha was accepted as the leader of the sons of the prophets, and became widely known by God’s people. He possessed, according to his own request, “a double portion” of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9); and for a long period of over fifty years (about B.C. 892-832) held the office of “prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 5:8).

After Elijah’s departure, Elisha returned to Jericho. The Bible records a series of miracles Elisha performed, including:

  • healing of the spring of water by casting salt into it (2 Kings 2:21);
  • calling judgment upon a scornful gang of youngsters;
  • predicting a fall of rain when the army of Jehoram was faint from thirst (2 Kings 3:9–20)
  • multiplying of the poor widow’s oil (4:1–7);
  • the miracle of restoring to life the son of the woman of Shunem (4:18–37);
  • the multiplication of the twenty loaves of new barley into a sufficient supply for an hundred men (4:42–44);
  • the cure of Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy (5:1–27);
  • the punishment of Gehazi for his falsehood and his covetousness;
  • the recovery of the axe lost in the waters of the Jordan (6:1–7);
  • the miracle at Dothan, half-way on the road between Samaria and Jezreel;
  • prophecy as to the relief that would come during the siege of Samaria by the king of Syria, and of the terrible sufferings of the people during the siege (2 Kings 6:24-7:2).

In addition to performing miracles, which are numerous, Elisha was used by the Lord to carry out important divine orders, some of them in fact were original orders given to Elijah. For example, at Damascus, he anointed Hazael king (2 Kings 8:7–15); after that he directed one of the sons of the prophets to anoint Jehu, the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Israel, instead of Ahab. These are part of the three commands given to Elijah (9:1–10) by the Lord.

II. God holds a victory in His hands even when circumstances seem impossible and dark

The circumstances that the Lord appointed Elisha’s anointment are significant. If you recall prophet Elijah’s time, it was a time when the spiritual battle between idol worshiping of Baalism and true faith and worship in the Lord was fierce. Elijah fought a faithful battle, but the righteous prophet often felt he was fighting a lonely battle, and was sometimes discouraged to believe that the whole Israel had fallen away. But it is at that time when the Lord commanded Elijah to anoint Elisha. And the Lord said, “Yet I reserve 7000 in Israel – all those knees have not bowed down to Baal and all those mouths have not kissed him.”

Elisha of courses was one of the 7000, and much more. Needless to say, Elisha’s knees have never bowed down to Baal and his mouth never kissed him.

III. In heaven, God hides His righteousness in His precious Son; On earth, God hides His righteousness in His beloved children, who are but reflections of his Son’s image

Elisha was hidden until he was called by Elijah. And he was found by Elijah in his work field, plowing with twelve oxen. Imagine what Elijah might have thought when he first met Elisha. A farmer? Having no influence over others? And bald? (You must understand that being bald isn’t just a less-than-perfect image of a man at the prophet’s time; it was in fact a symbol of lack of man’s glory or even a sign of shame at the time and place in which Elisha lived.)

That this farmer with absolutely no significant genealogy, background, prominent childhood, nor good looks became a central instrument of God isn’t just a testimony of a God who is of no partiality. It is more about the assurance of the reality of God’s spiritual kingdom which sometimes is discouraging on its appearance but in reality always has its right materials and stones at the right place for building. Today, God’s children face in our lives spiritual battles that are of a similar nature to what Elijah faced. Satan secretly challenges them with this question: If God is powerful, why is no one following him (at school, or at work)? Let us be reminded of these points: (1) God has reserved 7000; (2) the best of the 7000 may be hidden until the Lord reveals them to others; (3) the ones that have been chosen by the Lord may not be very impressive in their outer appearances even after the Lord has revealed them to others; and (4) we should always desire to be chosen and anointed by the Lord, rather than for popularity and having a crowd that follows us.

IV. Double portions of the Spirit – desiring the best spiritual gift

When asked by Elijah what gift he would like to have, Elisha wanted nothing else but double portions of the spirit. As king Solomon asked for wisdom and pleased to Lord, prophet Elisha desired for the filling of the spirit, both perfectly befitting for their own role God has given them. To further understand this, we also need to understand that Elisha was approaching Elijah as a son would approach the father. In the word of God, there is a special meaning of “double portion” which is the portion specially reserved for the firstborn of the family. That is, among the sons, the firstborn would get double portion of everyone else. The “double portion” asked by Elisha is therefore not that Elisha desired twice as much spirit as Elijah had (although the Lord might have indeed given him twice as much spirit as Elijah, but that’s a different point), but that he desired to be the firstborn among all the sons. Let us remember the story of Esau and Jacob. We should always desire, rather than despise, the sonship. For the sake of the service of the Lord and the love of the Lord, desire the best spiritual gift, because it is the will of the Lord.

V. Honor your parents (and fulfill our responsibilities)

After being called by Elijah, Elisha’s first response was “let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and then I will come with you.” It is evident that not only Elijah but also Holy Spirit Himself honored the request. This is in contrast with the story of the man recorded in Luke 9:61-62. In that story, the man seemingly said exactly the same as Elisha did after hearing the calling of Jesus, but the Lord denied the man by saying “no one who puts his hand in the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Our Lord of course never contradicts himself. The difference here is in heart of the person who responses.

The man of God (Elisha) perfectly understood his heavenly calling but chose to honor his parents on earth first to fulfill his responsibilities. The Lord not only approves it, but in fact honors it. The man in Luke puts his hand in the plow but looks back. His heart isn’t sincere and finds a commonly accepted noble thing as an excuse for escaping the high calling. The Lord knows his heart and denies him. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus used in his words the “plow” setting, which is exactly what Elisha was doing when he was called? There might be deeper meaning in this, but at least the Lord is purposeful in telling us that he was aware of Elisha’s commitment when He said that. The Lord is omniscient (all-knowing). Let us be sincere with Him and obey His commands.

VI. Faithfulness to the Lord is first manifested in the faithfulness to the conditions and the people God has given us

Elisha was taken by Elijah but he didn’t start to function as a prophet immediately. In fact, the Holy Spirit continued to hide him for many years until the departure (death) of Elijah. During those many years, there is virtually no record of what Elisha did, but there’s one thing that is very clear: He had grown to be faithful to Elijah. Elisha had determined, as long as he continued on earth, to cling to Elijah, and not to leave him. On numerous occasions Elijah seemed wanting to shake Elisha off, and would have had him stay behind (at Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho, 2 Kings 2:2, 4, 6). Elijah was testing Elisha to make his constant adherence to him the more commendable. But Elisha resolves to be with his master. “Whatever comes of it, I will not leave thee.’’

This reminds us Naomi’s persuading Ruth to go back. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, for today He constantly tests us with this special grace. This is a special kind of test and is of a very different nature than the test of hardships. It is not that we will just have difficulties in our life and service, but that the Lord Himself would seem to not want our service. May our hearts be prepared for both kinds of tests.

The words spoken by Elisha at the sight of Elijah’s ascending touch the heart of both God and men. Seeing Elijah going up with a whirlwind, Elisha cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel.” He cried out “my father” because of his deep personal affection of Elijah; He cried out “the chariots and horsemen of Israel” because he knew Elijah was a divine instrument of God to guard and protect Israel. Elisha was a perfect man both before God and before men.

When God calls us into a heavenly service, He first teaches us to be faithful to the people who are appointed by the Lord in our lives. Let us ask ourselves whether we are faithful to our those around us, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters, co-workers and friends.

VII. God is not to be ridiculed

What happened in Bethel where Elisha called judgment upon a scornful gang of youngsters might be difficult to explain. It’s probably better unexplained than mis-explained. However, it is important to remember that Elisha acted as the prophet of God and called for judgment not out of personal indignation, but out of God’s holiness, for God would not have listened to his prayer had it been a personal vengeance. The youngsters, who at best could be called “broods of the vipers,” came out and scoffed at him as a prophet of God: “Go up, you bald head.”

Evidently, “go up” refers to the ascension of prophet Elijah. By doing so, the youngsters not only cursed Elisha to die, but more importantly ridiculed Elijah’s ascension, one of the holiest events in the Old Testament, an event that must have a very special position in God’s heart because it is a type of our Lord’s ascension.

The judgment at once took effect, and God terribly visited the dishonor done to His prophet as dishonor done to Himself. The terrible result must be accepted as a deserved and necessary consequence for any sinful man (and that includes all of us) who meets the holiness of God, if the man is not under the cover of the blood of Lamb. It makes all the more vividly significant what propitiation we have taken in the blood of our Lord, and what forgiveness the Father has given us because of His Son. On this point, we should also understand that today the entire world, not just we the elected, is under the cover of the blood of lamb until the day of the final judgment.

VIII. Glory be to God

Miracles performed by Elisha are numerous and various, but they all brought glory to God rather than personal gains to the prophet himself. God provided His servant for his daily needs through other people (for example, Shunammite woman, 2 Kings 4:8-10). Elisha accepted the provision with grace, peace and gladness (for the worker is worth of his wages), but he performed miracles only according to the will of the Holy Spirit, not according to his own needs.

Isn’t it beautiful that Elijah did a great favor to the Shunammite woman as a reward to her services, rather than a precondition in order to obtain her services? That Elisha had no selfish motives is also evident in his healing of Naaman’s leprosy. He turned down an offering by Naaman which must have been a fortune. He did that not because he wanted to be condescending or to show his moral superiority to others, but because he follows the Holy Spirit.

Joseph – Husband of Mary

There are also several Josephs in the New Testament. This Joseph, the husband of Mary, the legal and foster-father of our Lord, draws not much attention to himself, but is in fact all together unique.

Joseph means “to increase,” and as used in a name it really is a prayer of a parent: “may He (God) add.” So the name “Joseph” is a pray for the Lord’s blessing. Many characters in the Bible have this name, among them the most well-known is probably the 11th son of Jacob (Israel), namely the Joseph who was sold by his brothers to Egypt but later become a rescue of the whole family.

1. Blessed is he whose name is associated with the Lord

We are saved by association with Jesus and acceptance of Him, the Son of God. In order for the salvation through His Son Jesus Christ to be brought to earth and fulfilled among His people, God uses people as vessels. Earthly eyes view this as if God needed help by people, but through a heavenly revelation we see that it is God’s love and mercy to give His Son to us manifest in flesh. God actually gave His Son to us, not merely as a spiritual principle, but in flesh. The Word became flesh. Ask Joseph and he will tell you what that means him.

Blessed is Joseph! He and Mary are the first to be associated with Jesus our Savior. Other godly people in the Old Testament had known, even intimately known, the Christ in spirit, but only Joseph and Mary knew Jesus in person.

2. Suffering for the Lord and suffering because of the Lord

But the Savior came to suffer, rather than in glory to claim His Kingdom as He would in His second coming, so also would those who are associated and identified with Him. Joseph would have enjoyed his life as many of his forefathers and kinsmen did, and perhaps even more, because he was a righteous man; but through the love and mercy of God Joseph entered into the suffering of the Son of God instead, long before all of us.

Imagine what Joseph had to go through because of Jesus. What perplexing, confusion, and public shame he must have bore to accept Mary who was with a child before marriage. But Joseph had received the secret revelation directly from a messenger of God, so he willingly entered into all the suffering. He had a vision and received the most wonderful truth, and he obeyed to the vision and the truth. This is not the same as merely being a good young man showing his good-will and making a sacrifice to the girl he loved. This is far more than that. Doing that would be moral, courageous and commendable but still just an earthly experience, while doing what Joseph did is all together Heavenly.

It is great to see a person being upright and righteous, but it is far greater if that person receives a heavenly vision and acts with faithfulness accordingly. That is what we desire to see among our youth as they grow up.

For Joseph, the suffering continued because of Jesus. What the Son of Man had to go through in His youth, His father in flesh also bore. How early was the blessed Jesus involved in troubles on the earth! His life and sufferings began together. “Many a time have they afflicted me, from my youth up.” (Psalm 129:1-2). The darkness on the earth followed and persecuted our Lord from His infancy. Joseph, as the legal and foster-father of our blessed Lord, was an inevitable part of that. Just when the Child was born, God’s angle warned Joseph the danger ahead. The wicked King Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

Having already been inflicted in bearing the shame because of the birth of the Child, Joseph might have expected that he had done his part, and now it’s time for God to return a favor, or at least to takeover the Child to give him a break. Even if God does not do him a special favor and offer him special help, there should, at the minimum, be some normalcy, nothing more than what it would take to raise an ordinary child. But now this – to face the darkest and curliest plot by a king because of the child?

We hear no complain by Joseph. He followed exactly what God told him to do and did all he could to protect the Child. God knows all the cruel projects and purposes of the enemies of His Son. God knows how to protect His Son, but He does that not without also accomplishing His will among the lives of those who are chosen. Blessed is Joseph who has suffered for, and with, the Son of God.

Joseph became a father of many children after Jesus. We can assume that he was a great father. But God did not allow him to witness the ministry of our Lord Jesus. Joseph’s name was never mentioned after the year when Jesus was 12 years old and the family went to Jerusalem to visit the Temple. We are all familiar with that story. We learn from the word of Mary that Joseph sought for the 12 year old Jesus with “sorrow,” and that was the last thing we hear from the Holy Spirit about Joseph.

We then consider the heavenly announcement made by our Lord concerning the instance: “Do you not know that I must mind my Father’s business?” From a human point of view, this should add to Joseph’s sorrow because in a sense his 12 year old son just publicly denounced him. But in spiritual reality, this is the glory of Joseph. God trusted His Son to Joseph when He was only a child. Now the Child has grown and turned His mind to His true Father, the Heavenly Father, to mind His true business. For Joseph, it was a job well done. God then asked him to rest from his responsibilities and received him into His glory in eternity. It is almost certain that Joseph died when Jesus was at a rather young age, and quite possibly soon after that instance.

We later learn that Mary and Jesus’ other brothers and sisters became concerned of Jesus because He seemed to have given Himself entirely to His ministry. Mary thus again sought for Jesus, this time thinking not that He was “lost,” but that He had lost His mind. Mary should recall what the Lord said when He was 12 years old: “Do you not know that I must mind my Father’s business?” But Joseph, who was already in glory with the Father, must have smiled in satisfaction watching all that was going on.

Timothy – "Honoring God" – A true child of the Church, the Body of Christ

I. Background

When Paul was on his first missionary journey, he came to a city called Lystra, where the people stoned him and left him for dead.  During Paul’s visit to Lystra, he brought to Christ a boy named Timothy, together with his mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois.  Timothy had a Jewish mother and a Greek father.  He learned about the Lord from his mother and grandmother. Both his mother and grandmother had sincere faith in their heart and they passed this faith to Timothy. Under his mother and grandmother’s care, Timothy had known the Holy Scripture since he was a child. (2 Tim 3: 15)

During the interval between the apostle’s first and second journeys, the boy Timothy grew up to manhood. At the time of Paul’s second visit to Lystra, the brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy. (Act 16:2)

Paul asked Timothy to be his companion and help in the work of spreading the gospel. Timothy agreed; and from then on they grew up a wonderful friendship between the two men. They traveled together, lodged together, and wrote together, even shared imprisonment.

Paul loved Timothy deeply, looking upon him as his own son. When they were separated he sent young Timothy all sorts of good advice to help him in his work and keep him in the strait and narrow way.

Two of Paul’s letters to Timothy, given by an old man to a young man, are so precious to us and have great values for our young people.

II. The precious faith passed from one generation to the next

“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” 2 Tim 1:5.

A person’s saving faith, a personal faith, can’t be passed from one generation to the next as a matter of natural heritage. One can’t be saved and have the new life just because his or her parent was saved and had the new life.

Nevertheless, blessed is a child whose parents are faithful! Blessed is he who has indeed learned from his faithful parents and, with an obedient heart, allowed the Holy Spirit to do the same work as He has done on the lives of his parents.

Timothy is that testimony. Timothy is a carefully chosen example by the Holy Spirit to demonstrate God’s continuing work to build the Body of Christ through normal inner-family relations. To accomplish His eternal purpose in His Church, God is of course not limited to just a particular method of working. He doesn’t have to rely on a believing parent to raise up a next believer. With the heavenly power at His disposal, He can raise up whoever to be a believer, even a great believer, and far beyond. God captured and fully laid hold of Apostle Paul while he was journeying on the road to Damascus. There is no mentioning, and nor any need of such mentioning, of who Paul’s parents were.

But that was just one aspect of God’s administration. In the age of dispensation, God intends to, not that He has to but that He desires to, build a faithful line through the passing of the faith from one generation to another. It’s God’s economy and no one has right to ask why He chooses to do so. We are only sure that God is particularly pleased to see such faithful reproduction in God’s family. Of course God still saves others from the “outside” and bring them into God’s family, but the sight of the Holy Spirit is not only on “Pauls” but also on “Timothys.”

It is worth considering that Paul’s heart in so much on Timothy, to an extent that the last epistle (letter) he ever wrote was to Timothy (2 Tim) and the last person who wanted to see before his departure from earth (and from his imprisonment, literally) was also Timothy. It clearly wasn’t because Timothy was a fruit of Paul’s evangelism, for thousands had come to the faith as a direct result of Paul’s preaching; nor was it because Timothy was the most gifted leader among God’s children. Timothy wasn’t the strongest, or even the most spiritual, among the believers who had followed or co-worked with Paul (consider Barnabas, Apollo, or Silas).

In fact, Timothy is more of timid temperament, showing youthful immaturity. Paul’s heart was on Timothy because the Holy Spirit’s heart was on a true child of faith born in the Church, not through outreaching by the Church (though that is good as well), not through special intervention by the Spirit (though that is good as well), but spiritually born in the God’s family.

A true child of faith to demonstrate the inner life and the reproducing ability of the Church of Christ! It’s fitting that Timothy, as his natural person stood, was not like the mighty Paul but more like most of us.  Timothy’s testimony is his faithfulness, and in his faith he proved the living faith of his mother and grandmother, and also proved the spiritual blessing passed to him by the church elders. He is a child of the Church and by keeping the faith he thus honored the Body of Christ, and that, is true “honoring God” before Christ returns.