17 Men and Women of God        

Click on names below to navigate

 Enoch Walked with God
 Noah Walked with God
 Abraham, Patriarch of Israel
 Jacob I Loved
 God was with Joseph
 Moses, the Meek Problem-Solver
 Joshua, God’s Ethnic Cleanser!
 Samuel Judged and Prayed Well
 Ruth, the Great-Grandmother of David
 David Seeks God’s Directive
 Jonah - Unwilling, Yet Successful Evangelist
 Amos ‘Fires Both Barrels’
 Habakkuk Learns Patience and Truth
 The Legacy of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel
 Esther - Beautiful and Brave
 John Baptist, the Greatest Prophet
 Nathanael, a Man Without Guile

Enoch Walked with God       [Contents]

Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.  Gen 522-24

Consider the greatness of Almighty God who first conceived and designed this very special earth, and then revealed his power to create it - and all the billions of galaxies of the universe. Men today are just beginning to discover the sub-atomic particles that make up each of the 118 atoms from which everything is made. God designed the human body which has over 30,000 billion cells. And each cell has approximately 100,000 billion atoms. God has also created within each physical human being a spiritual dimension, a soul.

How can even the most important man walk with such a great Creator?
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?  Ps 83,4

Walking with God
      A continuous pleasure to both God and to Enoch
      Enoch’s sin was pardoned
      Pardon requires repentance and believing - faith
      Good deeds can never enable entry by Pilgrim’s ‘wicket gate’
      Great grace of the King and Lord of all to walk with him
      Two walk together only if they are agreed
      Each other’s company was constantly desired and appreciated
      When Enoch died he just kept on walking as he had been for 300 years
      His walk was holy, happy, inspiring, revealing.

At the end, they did not search for Enoch. They missed him, but they knew where he was. Some had witnessed how God took him. But with Elijah, only Elisha witnessed his departure, so 50 prophets searched for him, but didn’t find him.

In the moment God took them, both Enoch and Elijah were changed into their resurrection body.

Enoch confirms that there is a God who loves the company of the righteous
      and that there is an after-life.

Noah Walked with God       [Contents]

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. ...
But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD. ...
Noah walked with God.
 Gen 65,8,9

Noah was clearly a loner in a world that had become increasingly wicked; it was filled with violence and sex. There was no law, no commandments and Almighty God was forgotten and unsought. There was a complete ‘free for all’, no restrictions, do whatever you like. Only Noah saw there was good and evil, light and darkness. And he sought righteousness. Like Enoch, ‘he walked with God’, who showed him his planned destruction of wickedness by a mighty flood.

Noah was a witness of righteousness for 120 years, while he built the Ark, but no one joined him. In the last days God warns us it will be much the same. The righteous will suffer persecution. Many, if not most, will be martyred!

God told Noah the required dimensions of the Ark and then taught him how to construct it. Noah had no previous experience. There was no school of naval architects, no saws or machines or even glues.

No doubt God’s servant, ‘the preacher of righteousness’ would have constantly warned them during all the 'building' years; but the evil world would have ridiculed him. It is a reflection of their wickedness that none cared to join the eight who would be saved. They had often been warned, instructed, entreated and prayed for. This is not speculation. The Lord came to Ezekiel and said, “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD.”  Ezek 1413,14  As so often today, those who heard and witnessed Noah refused to cry to God for mercy.

Then came the day when the construction was completed. Noah and his sons continued to obey God and painted the huge boat with hot pitch, both inside and out. God instructed them to do this to make the vessel waterproof. But there was another important, though less obvious, reason. When Moses chronicled this final task he used the Hebrew word ‘Kippur’ that is correctly translated ‘pitch’. But on all the other 80 times in the old testament that the word ‘Kippur’ is used, it is translated as atonement, mercy etc. So whenever Noah saw the pitch inside, or for the short time that the world saw it outside, they could see that salvation is only gained by the gracious atonement of Almighty God.

There was another, and much longer warning. 969 years earlier Enoch had called his first son Methusaleh = ‘in the day that I die it shall happen’. In Gen 525-29 we are told: When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died. When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah. And in Gen 76 Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. Adding these figures 187+782+182+600 = 969. (The flood came when Noah was 600). So Methusaleh died in the same year as the flood - just as Enoch had prophesied. But stubborn man totally ignored God’s gracious warning.

Noah did not have to go on a world-wide expedition to find a pair of each kind of animals, bird and every creeping thing. The Great Creator gathered them; exactly the right numbers. Not too many and none were missing. (There were 7 of the ‘clean’ animals for food). So Noah did not even have to choose which pair of each ‘kind’ to save.

Then the moment came when God told them to enter the Ark. And the LORD shut him in. For all left outside it was now too late. When God shuts the door, no man can open it. This remains a fearful truth. There will come a day when the door to heaven will be closed; and it will be too late to repent. Though none can claim that the Lord is not just. He had given ample, repeated warnings to his creation. What he said in the days of Noah, he has repeated down the centuries. But today wicked men are still careless, stubborn and deaf.

Let us hold fast in our minds that God in his grace shut Noah in the Ark, where he was safe from the impending judgement. As indeed are all who believe the Word of God which says: The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe.  Prov 1822

Jesus reinforces this: “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  Jn 637 Not only was Noah shut in, but it was the action of the Lord God that shut the door and bolted it. It was not Noah’s decision or action. We can only be brought into salvation by Christ. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  Jn 644  It is by faith in Christ that we are saved, not works.  Eph 28 It is also the same divine power of Christ that preserves us in his kingdom. For nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  Ro 833-39

There are some today who encourage people to ‘follow Jesus’ and join the church. One vicar, who teaches this, warned his youth group that 50% of them would no longer be following Jesus in 10 years time. Why so many? Simply because they had not entered by the ‘wicket gate’. They had not entered the Interpreter’s House and then walked along the way of salvation that led to the Cross. This is essential for our redemption and God's propitiation. Becoming a Christian is not by an emotional decision, but by revelation and believing in Christ crucified to forgive our sins. Only thereby we are invited to enter the Ark's atonement, and be safe.

Furthermore Noah was ‘shut in’ with God! For the Lord had invited him, “Come then, and all thy house, into the Ark.”  Gen 71 (KJV) What a privilege. It was a continuation of the pre-Ark situation, where Noah walked with God.

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. ... And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. ... Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.  Gen 711-24

It is common knowledge that ‘the windows of the heavens were opened’ and it rained solidly for 40 days and 40 nights. But what about ‘on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth’? What does this mean? God chose to leave us an example in the Yellowstone National Park, under which there is a large pool of water of 4.6 sq miles at 401 degrees F. When God created this planet he included vast pools of water under much of the earth’s surface. He knew it would be needed in Noah’s day! It was this huge water mass that burst forth as the fountains of the great deep. Today there are over 50 Yellowstone geysers, of which ‘Old Faithful’ still erupts approx every 75 minutes is the most striking.

For nearly 6 months the flood prevailed over the earth. It was not until almost a year had passed that the earth was dry enough for Noah to release all the livestock that he had carefully looked after. So a fresh start was made. Noah made a burnt offering to give thanks to the Lord, who was pleased. And God blessed Noah his obedient servant, his sons and their wives saying to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. They did so.

But the Word of God reveals that man remained sinful. How many live their three score years and ten, eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, and give no heed to what will happen to them in all the years of eternity? (Math 2438) How long will such men despise the Lord Almighty, who has so willingly proved that he longs to bring mercy, life and love?

Great God, what do I see and hear?
The end of things created;
The Judge of mankind doth appear
On clouds of glory seated.
The trumpet sounds; the graves restore
The dead which they contained before:
Prepare, my soul, to meet Him.

The dead in Christ shall first arise
At that last trumpet's sounding,
Caught up to meet Him in the skies,
With joy their Lord surrounding.
No gloomy fears their souls dismay;
His presence sheds eternal day
On those prepared to meet Him.

But sinners, filled with guilty fears,
Behold His wrath prevailing,
For they shall rise and find their tears
And sighs are unavailing;
The day of grace is past and gone;
They trembling stand before his throne,
All unprepared to meet Him.

O Christ, who diedst and yet dost live,
To me impart Thy merit;
My pardon seal, my sins forgive,
And cleanse me by Thy Spirit.
Beneath Thy cross I view the day
When heav'n and earth shall pass away,
And thus prepare to meet Thee.

William Collyer   1782 - 1854

Abraham, Patriarch of Israel       [Contents]

After the flood, Noah lived 350 years. Abraham was 57 when Noah died.
      Gen 53-32 76 1110-32 124
Did they ever meet on earth?  If they did, nothing is recorded.

The choice of Abraham and the nation of Israel was entirely God’s initiative and plan to prepare his fallen world for the coming to earth of the Son of God, first as Saviour and then also to return as King. It is not surprising that Israel has at times not co-operated with God’s plan. But to understand world history and current events it is vital to remember that
      1.  God is always the Lord Almighty and Creator of all.
      2.  His covenant with Israel is both unconditional and eternal.
      3.  Satan has always resisted this to his utmost.
            As prince, but never king, his time and his power are both limited.
Abraham and the Jews have had a far greater affect on the world than any others.
How did it begin?
Terah took his son Abram, Sarai (his wife) and Lot his grandson (whose father had died) from Ur to Haran. When Terah died, God said to Abram,
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  Gen 121-3 Thus did the Lord God reveal his plan for the rest of the world’s history.

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him. Abram did not hesitate because he was not told which direction to go, nor how far. However God did tell the writer to the Hebrews: By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  Heb 118
Abram obeyed because he believed God.  Do we?
Faith is not ‘a blind shot in the dark’.
Each day God gave Abram assurance as to whether the road he journeyed on was right or wrong.
And when they came to Shechem in the land of Canaan (~400 miles)
      The LORD appeared to Abram and said,
      “To your offspring I will give this land.”
 Gen 127

But it would be 500 years before Joshua gained the land when God judged the Amorites in Canaan (Gen 1516). And for the last 3,500 years the world has resisted and contested God’s gift of this small bit of his real-estate to Israel. The Son of God was born in this land and was crucified there to redeem sinners.

Today the Jews are in this land, and soon the whole world, led by the Antichrist, will attack Jerusalem and be defeated by the return of Christ Jesus.

Did Abraham ever receive any of the land that God had promised?  No!
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.  Heb 1113
1. God promised to give the land to his offspring, not to him personally.
      Abraham lived in tents all the rest of his obedient life.
      He only bought a small field with a cave in Hebron, wherein he buried Sarah.
2. When Abraham was 99, before Isaac was born, God repeated his promise:
“I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”  Gen 177,8 (Also 1518)
The faithful Lord God has kept his covenant.
      Although he twice had to exile Israel because of their wickedness.
      Once under Babylon (587-538 BC) and once under Rome (70-1948 AD).
      This punishment did not break his covenant with the offspring of Abraham.

The life of Abraham can be summarised in one sentence:
And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.  Jam 223

2,000 years after Abraham, his great descendant was Jesus, the Son of God, through whom all the families of the earth have been blessed, and continue to be so. God’s choice was good and his word and covenant naturally remain reliable.

May we follow the example of Abraham and learn to believe all that God says,
      and without hesitation or compromise, obey him.

Jacob I Loved       [Contents]

Jacob began his life with a major problem, and ended with ‘problem solved!
What was the problem?
It actually started before he was born!
His mother, Rebekah, was expecting twins. Her pregnancy was not peaceful.
Her babies struggled together within her. So she wisely asked the Lord why.
And the LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.”  Gen 2522,23
When the time for their birth came Esau was born first and Jacob second. And this meant that Esau would always be ‘first’ and would naturally receive the elder son’s inheritance - and especially the covenant of God that was promised to Abraham.

When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.  Gen 2527,28
What a family! Certainly not one that had any expectation of being peaceful. Every day was competitive. Esau was strong; Jacob was weak. How could he ever hope to win? Jacob and his mother daily endured hurt. It seemed that God’s prophetic promise to Rebekah 20 years earlier had no hope of being fulfilled.

But one day Esau came back from an unsuccessful hunting expedition. Jacob had a good stew going (most unusual for a man in those days). Was this an opportunity? Jacob grasped it with both hands. Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” ... Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. ... Thus Esau despised his birthright.  Gen 2530-34

Did this solve the problem? No way. No one told Isaac, and both brothers knew Esau could always just ignore such a promise. Such is the way of strong men who have no intention of keeping any sworn word if it becomes inconvenient or unprofitable. Besides, as the decades went by - at least five - Esau’s word was forgotten. But not by Jacob. Isaac knew he was now close to death so he called Esau to prepare for the blessing. This time Rebekah gave Jacob (and God) a hand to try to fulfill the ‘pregnancy promise’. The story is well known how Jacob pretended to be Esau and the aged, nearly blind Isaac blessed Jacob and not Esau. But this did not solve the old problem. Jacob had to flee for his life.

God appeared to Jacob during his flight and told him, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”  Gen 2813-15

Nevertheless, Jacob had to spend the next 20 years with his uncle Laban, who was even better at trickery than Jacob. ‘The problem’ was still not solved. Eventually God appeared to Jacob one night in a dream and said, “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.”  Gen 3113  So Jacob left Laban.

When faced with the probable wrath of Esau, Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  Gen 3224-28
This was the moment God had been preparing for; the time when Jacob would plead with God, who graciously changed his name to Israel because he had prevailed with God. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”  Gen 3230

The rest of Jacob’s eventful life leaning upon his staff is told in the remaining 17 chapters of Genesis. At the end it is written, By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.  Heb 1121
We are shown a man of God, having the assurance of faith in the Lord, his God.
A man who died in Egypt,
      but commanded that his bones be carried up to Hebron in the Land of Promise,
      to be buried with grandfather Abraham.

In Gen 25 to 50 we are shown how God solved Jacob’s problem. (That’s 25 chapters of the Bible!)
From the start Jacob longed for God and to see his covenant fulfilled.
The Almighty Lord was so pleased to reveal the story of satisfying this longing.
But in stark comparison the ‘macho’ Esau was totally self-sufficient, totally apathetic to the Lord God.
So not only was the ‘pregnancy promise’ to Rebekah fulfilled, but the eternal truth was revealed to Malachi:
      Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.  Mal 12
Jacob, the despised, lonely, longing cheat, became Israel.
The one who prevailed with the revealed Lord God.
And who now loves and lives with him for all eternity.

God was with Joseph       [Contents]

Perhaps this is the best phrase that sums up Joseph’s roller coaster life.
Whoever met Joseph in all the most varied situations, concluded that Almighty God was obviously always with him and enabled him to triumph.

Joseph was Jacob’s 11th son, and without doubt his clear favourite.
Jacob’s beloved Rachel had been barren for many years and at last she gave birth to a son. Naturally she and Jacob treated Joseph as being their ‘firstborn’. He was given a special multi coloured coat to prove it. It is not surprising that his 10 elder brothers were jealous and all of them hated him. Much later Jesus would say nearly all the Pharisees hated me without reason.  Jn 1525  They were jealous too. God had declared, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” But God was not pleased with the Pharisees (See Math 23). And Jesus was also able to work many miracles, which were far outside of their ability.

Joseph told his brothers about a dream. Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” ... So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Perhaps it was not wise to stoke up their hatred. But it was the truth; in due time God would fulfil this prophecy.
Then he had another dream.  “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”  Gen 377 and 9
The result was more jealousy and greater hatred. Jacob rebuked him, but also kept the saying in mind. He realised that God may well also fulfil this prophecy.

An opportunity for the brothers to exercise their hatred came when Jacob sent Joseph to them to see that all was well. They planned to kill him, but instead sold him to some Midianite traders. They took his special coat which they soaked in blood and told Jacob he must have been killed by fierce animals. Joseph was sold in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. The ways of Almighty God sometimes seem strange to our little minds. But the truth is recorded in Scripture that simply says, The LORD was with Joseph.  Gen 292  How was this proven?
Potiphar saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. ... the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge.  Gen 392-6

But life was too easy. Satan was determined to cause the downfall of God’s servant. Potiphar’s wife took a great fancy to Joseph and did her best to entice him to lie with her. Joseph steadfastly refused and told her, How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” One day she grabbed his garment and Joseph had to flee naked. She claimed rape. Potiphar believed her lies and overthrowing justice, Joseph went to prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. ... The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.  Gen 3921,23 That made the major league score: God 2 - Satan nil.

The next round came some time later after Pharaoh sent his cupbearer and his baker to prison. One night they both had disturbing dreams. With compassion Joseph asked what troubled them and was able to correctly interpret them. In 3 days time the baker would be hanged and the cupbearer restored to office. He asked the latter that he would mention him to Pharaoh when it is well with you.
Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
 Gen 4023
However, God did not forget Joseph for a single moment.

It was 2 years later that Pharaoh had a pair of dreams. One about 7 fat cows coming up out of the Nile, followed by 7 thin ones. Then he saw 7 good ears of corn growing on one stalk. These were followed by 7 thin blighted ears that swallowed the 7 plump ones.  Then in God’s perfect timing, the cupbearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh, who called for him. Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favourable answer.” After being told his dreams, Joseph told him the correct interpretation. God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, but after them there will arise seven years of famine. Then he told Pharaoh how he should respond. Pharaoh was so pleased he said, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” And it all turned out exactly as prophesied. Almighty God has many ways of changing the fortunes of men.
Another victory for God! And a major step forward in his plan for Israel.

The famine spread far beyond Egypt. And so did the news that there was plenty of grain stored in Egypt that was for sale. Therefore Jacob sent all his 10 sons to buy grain, but he did not send Benjamin. The story is told in detail. At first they did not recognise Joseph. Then he said to them: “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed ... for God sent me before you to preserve life. ... So it was not you who sent me here, but God. ... Come down to me; do not tarry. You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, ... There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come.”  Gen 454-11 They returned home and had to tell Jacob that Joseph was not only alive, but Prime Minister of Egypt! Thus it was that God brought Jacob and all his household and flocks to come down to dwell in Goshen - just as God has promised Abraham. “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.”  Gen 1513

And Jacob blessed Pharaoh.  Gen 477

Jacob then lived in Egypt for 17 years and made Joseph swear that when he died he would not be buried in Egypt. So after he had blessed the sons of Joseph, his ‘firstborn’, he died. And Pharaoh allowed Joseph to take the bones of Jacob to be with Abraham in the Hebron cave. This was very important. God was with Jacob and Joseph all the way.

400 years later when Israel escaped from Egypt, Moses would carry the bones of Joseph with him to bury them in the Promised Land.  Exd 1319,20

God’s ways are truly amazing. They still are. Although in the last days very few, even in the church, will understand the tribulation judgement or believe the need for mercy that he has clearly prophesied in his Word.

Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty Rock
Within a weary land;

. . .

Oh, safe and happy shelter!
Oh, refuge tried and sweet!
Oh, trysting place where heaven’s love
And heaven’s justice meet.

Moses, the Meek Problem-Solver       [Contents]

Moses was a man of faith, a great leader. Also the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.  Num 123 This teachable humble quality has always been rare among men of high rank.

Four centuries had passed since Joseph had reminded his brothers in Goshen, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abram, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”  Gen 5024
God had enabled Israel to flourish. But the Egyptians had recently adopted a nationalist spirit. The Hyksos Pharaohs from Phoenicia in Joseph’s day had been overthrown and replaced by the native Egyptian Ahmos, Thutmose Pharaohs. And Israel had been enslaved. One family, Amram and Jochebed, were expecting their third child. They had done the maths (see Gen 1513) and knew that God’s appointed time for a deliverer had come. God showed them what to do, so they believed it would work. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was no ordinary child.  Heb 1123

Miriam, who was just 7, kept watch over the baby who had been put in a floating basket that was positioned near where Pharaoh’s daughter used to bathe. She then offered Jochebed (the baby’s mother) to Pharaoh’s daughter to nurse the baby for her. God’s plan was accepted. Moses was born to rescue Israel from slavery. Again it was By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  Heb 1124,25  Jochebed had taught her son well; to have faith in the Lord God also meekness and being a Hebrew which he never forgot. Moses, who had grown up in Pharaoh’s court, was 40 when he was so incensed at seeing a Hebrew being ill-treated by an Egyptian that he killed the abuser. But he had been seen and had to flee to Midian and become a desert shepherd for 40 years. This was also in God’s plan. Then God met him at a burning bush that was not consumed, and sent him back to Egypt to deliver Israel. How does a foreign shepherd deliver an enslaved nation?  God has some outrageous plans!

10 plagues later, when Almighty God had revealed to Egypt how puny their gods were (Exd 1212 Num 334), the Egyptians sent them away; glad to be rid of them. And they even gave them a vast amount of gold and jewellery! (A small, but just payment for their slavery). One might think that all Moses then had to do was lead the million or so Israeli people across Sinai and the promised land was theirs, simple. There were still many lessons to be learned. In every age, leading a sinful people is always going to be a severe challenge and will require a great sacrifice! But it would have to be paid, not by Moses or the people of Israel, but by the Lord God himself!

When John Baptist saw Jesus he cried out, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus was the fulfilment of the Passover Lamb sacrificed so that all who believe in him can escape the penalty and the slavery of sin. Passover has been celebrated by the Jews for 3,500 years. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt.

Problem 1
Moses and all Israel became sandwiched between the Red Sea and the mighty Egyptian army that had followed them. No escape. God sent a very special ‘east wind’ all night and also kept them separated with a thick darkness. In the morning they escaped on dry land. And by noon all the Egyptian army were drowned as the sea returned. Led by Miriam the prophetess, Israel danced on the sea shore, and Moses sang, I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously.

Problem 2
After 3 days they found water at Marah, but it was bitter. The people grumbled against Moses who threw a log into the water and the water became sweet.

Problem 3
Nothing to eat. The people grumbled. God sent quail that evening, and in the morning there was manna. And every morning there was manna to eat for that day. Told not to collect it on the Sabbath and not to be kept more than one day. This continued until they entered the Promised Land.

Problem 4
No water at Rephidim. Moses told to strike the rock. Enough water poured out for all.

Problem 5
Israel attacked by Amalek. Joshua fights while Moses, Aaron and Hur pray. Joshua overwhelmed Amalek. The Lord tells Moses and Joshua, “I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”  Exd 1714

Problem 6
Too many civil cases for Moses to judge. Implements Jethro’s advice and appoints able men to judge all but the most difficult cases.

Problem 7
Moses went up to meet with God on Mt Sinai. Given 10 Commandments. God’s covenant confirmed and instructed to make an Ark, Table and Lampstand to be kept in the Tabernacle. This was not a problem. But while Moses was up the mountain, Israel persuaded Aaron to make a golden calf for them to worship.
Moses furious, orders Levites to kill 3,000 and destroys Commandment tablets.
It was a very bad day for Israel. Moses returned to the Lord and prays for the people. The Lord sends a plague on the people, but tells Moses to continue leading them. New Commandment tablets are made. The Lord proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.  Exd 346,7

Moving on to the book of Numbers the problems continue.
The Lord commanded a census. There were 603,550 men besides the women and men under 20 and the Levites.
A year after leaving Egypt, they celebrated Passover.
And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.” And when it rested, he said, “Return, O LORD, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.”  Num 1035,36

The problems continued:
People complained about manna. They wanted meat, fish, melons and onions ...
God sent quail - and a plague.
Even Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses.
But the worst disaster came after the 12 men returned from their search of the Promised Land with contrasting reports.
10 said: “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there.”  Num 1327,28
Joshua and Caleb said: “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”  Num 1330
The people responded: “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! ... Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” And they intended to stone Moses. But the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel.
Moses prays to the Lord for the people to be forgiven saying that if they were destroyed the name O God would be tarnished.
Then the LORD said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. Only Joshua and Caleb would be enter. All the others would die in the wilderness.  Num 1420-38
Thus Moses prayer would be answered, and justice would be seen to be done.

Next 39 years of problems

False repentance. When the people heard God’s judgement they said they would go up, thereby hoping to escape all dying in the wilderness; but not because they believed God would enable them to be victorious. Moses told them not to be so foolish, but they took no notice and were defeated by the Amalekites.

Korah, a son of Levi, led a rebellion with 250 leaders against Moses, claiming that he had made himself a prince over Israel. Moses told the people to keep away from the tents of Korah and his household. Then God opened the ground and swallowed them up. And he sent fire to consume the 250 leaders and a plague that killed a further 14,700. It only stopped when Aaron took a censer of atonement among the people.

No water at Meribah so the people quarrelled with Moses. The Lord told Moses to take his staff and tell to the rock to yield its water. But Moses disobeyed and struck the rock twice. Water came out abundantly. And the Lord said to Moses, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”  Num 2012  And he didn’t.   But he did enter later and spoke with the Lord Jesus on the Mt of Transfiguration.  Math 173

Backed by their strong army, Edom refused to give Israel any form of safe passage, even though they offered to pay for any food or water consumed.
Arad the Canaanite king was defeated.
Sihon, the Amorite king was defeated.
Og, king of Bashan was defeated until he had no survivor left.
Balak, king of Moab, summons Balaam, the false prophet, who refuses to curse Israel, but he does encourage Balak to entice Israel to practice sexual immorality with the women of Moab and thus worship idols. (Num 251  Rev 214) On God’s instruction, Moses ordered the judges of Israel to kill all who yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.  Num 255

Moses led Israel though a multitude of problems. He trusted and obeyed the Lord wholeheartedly. There was so much to learn. This faithful man of God commanded: To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God ... know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments.  Deut 435-40

Joshua, God’s Ethnic Cleanser!       [Contents]

Ethnic cleansing is usually thought to be the mass expulsion or killing of another defined group of people for your own advantage. e.g. The Holocaust or the take-over of N.America from the native Indians and of Australia from the Aboriginals.
These last two are rarely seen as being wrong because it was to benefit the British. The greatest ‘cleansing’ in world history was achieved by Almighty God in the days of Noah, when only 8 were saved. (Gen 6,7). This was the just judgement upon a people who had become most evil. And it was not an isolated case. God also exiled the northern tribes of Israel in 722 BC Assyria) and Judah was temporarily in 586 BC (Babylon). Both were the just punishment for choosing to disobey God, worship idols and ignore his warnings.

This sets the correct context and the task that the Lord Almighty entrusted to Joshua, the man of God. It was 400 years after God covenanted to give Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan. As prophesied, their sin was then ‘complete’. Gen 1516   His just punishment of the Amorites, the Canaanites was their extermination. But many today are deceived into misunderstanding this judgement by the Almighty. Scripture makes it very clear that the wages of sin is death.  Ro 623   Jesus Christ was willing to be crucified and thereby received the punishment of death that we deserve. But any deceived man who ignores or rejects this gracious offer of mercy, must bear the prescribed punishment himself.

The ’court of heaven’ had watched the growing evidence of the Canaanite sinfulness. Now the time had come for Joshua to be assigned the task of executing the judgement of God. Having crossed the Jordan that the Lord had temporarily stopped, Joshua meets ‘the commander of the army of the LORD’.  Josh 513-15
It was some 40 years earlier that he and Caleb had given a glowing report of the ‘Promised Land’ and told the Israelites that Almighty God would enable them to possess it. So Moses added the name of God to his name, changing Hosea ("saves") into Joshua ("God saves").

Joshua sought the plan for Jericho from his ‘Commander’. It was for trumpet blowing priests to lead and follow the Ark and all the people to march around the strongly walled city each day for 6 days. On the 7th day they marched around 7 times and then all the people shouted. The wall fell down, except for where Rahab lived. As instructed they killed all the inhabitants, including all their animals with the edge of the sword.  Josh 621 Only Rahab and her family were saved and she has lived in Israel to this day.  Josh 625  Math 15

So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.  Josh 627

The next city for conquest was Ai. But they lost the first battle because Achan had taken some of the ‘devoted things’ that God had told them to destroy. After stoning Achan, Israel was then able to be victorious in all the successive battles.

The battles for the land continued for many years. By that time Joshua was old and the people were weary of war.  Josh 131-7  lists the land that had not been conquered; in particular the regions of the Philistines and Gaza in the south and Sidon in the north. It would be another 500 years before king David conquered these areas of the ‘Promised Land’.

Heb 11 tells us of the faith of Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David ... and many others but it concludes with the fact that: all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.  Heb 1139
Although the land was an important part of God’s covenant with Israel, God has prepared a righteous kingdom for all who believe in Christ; a kingdom in which there is no more war, no more sin, but only holiness and truth.

The very name of Joshua assures us of this - ‘God Saves’.
Only Jesus Christ can give us, Jews and Gentiles, eternal salvation.

Samuel Judged and Prayed Well       [Contents]

Abraham and Sarah had to wait until he was a hundred years old before Sarah miraculously gave birth to Isaac. Rachel had to wait many years before giving birth to Joseph, Jacob’s 11th son. Naomi’s husband and her two sons died young. It was only when her daughter-in-law, Ruth, married Boaz that she had any descendants.
Elkanah’s wife Hannah was grievously provoked because she didn’t have any children. The righteous lady wept before the Lord. In the Lord’s due time Hannah gave birth to Samuel. And she kept her promise that when she had weaned him, she would give him to serve the Lord all the days of his life. This was the beginning of Israel’s greatest judge, who would change the fact that the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.  1 Sam 31

Eli the priest had been entrusted with Samuel’s education in the house of the Lord. But while still a boy the Lord revealed to him that God was about to punish Eli and his two sons because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them.  1 Sam 331 Samuel was naturally reluctant to tell Eli, but his tutor insisted that he did so. Very soon the Philistines attacked Israel at Ebednezer, defeated them, captured the Ark of God and killed Eli’s two sons. When the old and blind Eli heard the news, he fell off his chair and died.

Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD. 1 Sam 319,20   Some 20 years later all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.  1 Sam 72,3  The people obeyed. So Samuel then told them to attack the Philistines at Mizpah. The Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were defeated before Israel. ... So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel. And the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The cities that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel.  1 Sam 710-14

Samuel judged Israel well. But peace can be intoxicating and cause men to forget their need of the Lord. When Samuel was old he appointed his two sons as judges. But they turned away from the Lord, accepted bribes and perverted justice. And Samuel forgot what had happened to Eli. The elders of Israel demanded a king. The Lord told Samuel to warn them of the great danger of kings and yet he was to grant the people their desire. Saul was chosen. He was wealthy, strong, tall and handsome - from man’s perspective, ideal. Samuel told them, Today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities. ... And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”  1 Sam 1019,24

But Samuel did not stop praying for the people. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.  1 Sam 1223
It was by consistent prayer that Samuel was able to instruct Israel correctly.

Saul fought valiantly against all his enemies - Philistines, Moab, Ammon, Edom. But when told to utterly destroy Amalek, he disobeyed. He spared king Agag and kept all the best sheep. The Lord was angry and so was old Samuel, who had to kill Agag himself. But Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.  1 Sam 1532-35

On God’s instruction Samuel anoints David as king.

And the rest is history.
Much of it sad because:
1.  Even righteous men who forget history will be disappointed.
2.  Without the Lord, disobedient, sinful men will always fall.

When I am old, Lord please help me to remember what can so easily be forgotten.

Ruth, the Great-Grandmother of David       [Contents]

How did a Moabitess come to be in the direct line of Abraham to Jesus?
God has some fascinating plans.
First he sent a famine on the land of Judah, which drove a man of Bethlehem and his wife, Naomi, to Moab with their two sons. We are not told why, but when the Judean famine passed they decided to remain there. First Naomi’s husband died, so the two sons married Moabite women. After about 10 years both Naomi’s sons also died, so she decided to return to Bethlehem. Then she kissed her two daughters-in-law and told them to return to their Moabite families. But Ruth clung to her and said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”  Ruth 116,17

This determination clearly reveals the hand of the Lord God upon her taking her first steps towards God. For as Jesus would later say, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  Jn 644  And again: No one comes to the Father except through me.  Jn 146  It was God who chose this Moabite woman, and he enabled her to make the right choice!

In God’s perfect timing they arrived at Bethlehem at barley harvest, so Ruth asked if she could go and glean some ears of grain. She happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband. And also it was not by chance that Boaz came down and seeing Ruth, enquired who she was. “She is the young Moabite woman, who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers’.” Boaz, who was ‘a worthy man’, told Ruth to stay close to the young women and that she was under his protection and he would reward her diligence. Then he added, “The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”   He also gave her bread and wine at mealtime and told the gleaners to purposefully leave some stalks for her to glean. That day she took back to Naomi an ephah of barley (23 lbs). Ruth continued to glean each day until the end of the barley and wheat harvests (7 weeks in April+May).

Then comes the climax. Naomi tells Ruth how to claim redemption to enable the family line to continue. She was told to go down to the threshing floor when Boaz was sleeping on the grain, uncover his feet and lie down. When he awoke he asked, “Who are you?”. She answered, “I am Ruth, your servant. Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.” Boaz thanked her for making the claim and that he would gladly fulfill it; but there is a redeemer nearer than I. Before daylight he sent her back to Naomi with 6 measures of barley, as a sign of his intention to redeem Ruth.

In the morning he found the ‘closer relative’ and told him that Naomi had returned and was selling her land, and asked if he would like to redeem it. “I will redeem it,” he said. So then Boaz played his ace and told him, “The day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the widow of the dead, in order to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance.”  So he then replied, “I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I impair my own inheritance.”
This clearly distinguished between the two. The nearer relative (name not given) only wanted the land, not Ruth; Boaz only wanted Ruth, not the land.  And in witness to all Israel, Boaz confirmed his redeeming of Ruth. He drew off his sandal and gave it to the other.

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Their son was named Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

This lovely story tells in detail how the plan of God for this Moabite woman was completed. Many Jews rejoice to read the Book of Ruth on the second day of the feast of Weeks (Pentecost).

For those of us who are Gentiles, Ruth is a most assuring confirmation that Almighty God has planned to save us as well as the Jewish people. And like Ruth we can say to the descendants of Abraham, Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.

Blessed be the Lord who planned and made this possible !

      None is like Jeshurun's God, so great, so strong, so high;
      Lo! he spreads his wings abroad, he rides upon the sky:
      Israel is his first-born son; God, the Almighty God, is thine;
      See him to thy help come down, the excellence divine.

      Blest, O Israel, art thou! What people is like thee?
      Saved from sin by Jesus, now thou art and still shalt be;
      Jesus is thy sevenfold shield, Jesus is thy flaming sword;
      Earth, and hell, and sin shall yield to God's almighty Word.

David Seeks God’s Directive       [Contents]

David was the 8th son of Jesse, but who was his mother? Nitzevit was the mother of his seven elder brothers, but probably not David who had a far higher IQ than they did. To keep the peace, Jesse sent his youngest son away from home to look after the sheep. So he was a ‘loner’. I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother's sons.  Ps 698  He soon sought the Lord God. And the Lord God was delighted to be found by him. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.  Ps 11822 (Both psalms written by David)

Alone in the fields with time on his hands he learned to play a simple lyre and to sing. He learned how to use a sling with consistent and deadly accuracy. And he learned to love his sheep. When wild animals threatened his sheep, he did not have to pray each time to determine what was God’s will; he already knew God’s answer and acted immediately!

One day Jesse told David to go and see how his brothers were faring in Saul’s army. There he heard the arrogant boasting of the uncircumcised Philistine giant, Goliath, who defied the Lord God of Israel. David persuaded Saul to let him put an end to such public blasphemy. Goliath scoffed. David replied what God had assured him: “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. ... For the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hand.”  1 Sam 1745-47 Since it was the word of the Lord to David, it was quickly seen by all Israel to be the truth.

This was the beginning of a life filled with asking, knowing and obeying Almighty God.
And David had success in all his undertakings, for the LORD was with him.   1 Sam 1814
And being with him, God told David what to do and how to win.

Saul became so jealous of David’s success that he tried, unsuccessfully, to kill him. So David fled and for a time lived with the aged judge Samuel.
Then they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the LORD said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” The men who were with David doubted this, so David inquired of the LORD again. And the LORD answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.”  1 Sam 231-5  David was not presumptuous; he was willing to make sure he heard correctly.

While David was hiding in a cave near Engedi, Saul came in to relieve himself. His men thought it was an opportunity kill him, but David knew it was not the will of God to dispatch an anointed king. He even felt guilty after he had stealthily cut off a corner of Saul's robe.  1 Sam 244  The tassels were added to remind the wearer to keep the commandments of the Lord. (Num 1539)   He wanted Saul to keep the Law.

During the 16 months David spent with the Philistines, on one occasion when he returned to Ziglag, he found that the Amalekites had burned it and taken captive all the women. David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?” He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.”  1 Sam 308 Before action David would seek to know the mind of the Lord. On this occasion it was specially important that he knew for sure it was God’s plan, not just his obvious desire. David found them and recovered everything and much more, nothing was missing. All the Amalekites were killed except a few who managed to flee on camels.

After both Saul and Jonathan died in a battle with the Philistines, it was decision time for David. Should he go up to the cities of Judah as the king anointed by Samuel? So he inquired of the Lord. And the LORD said to him, “Go up.” David said, “To which shall I go up?” And he said, “To Hebron.” 2 Sam 21 He went up and Hebron anointed David king of Judah. But Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, anointed Saul’s son Ishbosheth as king over Israel.

After years of war between the house of Saul and the house of David, and after Abner and Ishbosheth were both separately murdered, David was made king of Israel. But when the Philistines heard this they came up against David in the valley of Rephaim. And David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go up against the Philistines?  2 Sam 519  Yes!  And David defeated them there. But the Philistines came up again. And again David did not presume victory, but inquired of the Lord. This time the Lord said, “You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come against them opposite the balsam trees. And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the LORD has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” And David did as the LORD commanded him.  2 Sam 523-25

When the LORD had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the LORD is with you.”  2 Sam 71-3 Then Nathan was told by the Lord to reverse this instruction and told him that his son would build the Temple.

David asked, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?” He was told about Mephibosheth who was lame in both feet. David told him that Saul’s land would be tilled for him and he would eat at David’s table for life.  2 Sam 9

After a period of trouble in David’s life - adultery, murder, Absolom’s rebellion and more fighting - there came 3 years of famine. And David sought the face of the LORD. And the LORD said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.”  2 Sam 211   David made a grizzly recompense. And after that God responded to the plea for the land.  2 Sam 2114

David was a dazzling character, skilled in body and mind, totally dependent upon the Lord God. Like all men he was a sinner; but also quick to wholeheartedly repent, without offering any excuse. He missed out on any meaningful family life; but was a highly pragmatic opportunist. Justice and righteousness were a constant goal.

I long to hear him sing in heaven.   (May have to learn Hebrew first!)

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
 Ps 23

Jonah - Unwilling, Yet Successful Evangelist       [Contents]

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah ... “Arise, go to Nineveh.”
When Almighty God commands a man to do something, what is his reaction?
      It is a foolish man who either ignores or disobeys.
Jonah chose to disobey.  Why?
      He had no desire for the people of Damascus to be saved.
      If they did repent, he would look a fool because his prophecy would prove false.
He was foolish because he thought he could ignore the command of Almighty God by running away in the opposite direction.
On the ship he did have the honesty to admit the storm was his fault,
      and told the crew that if they threw him overboard the storm would cease.
They did; and the storm ceased.
And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.  Jonah 117

And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.
Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”
 Jonah 210-32
The purpose of God to save Gentile Nineveh was not going to be thwarted just because a man had a different plan. In his grace he called Jonah a second time. This time he obeyed.

And the Lord God chose this temporary diversion as a sign, a prophecy.
For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  Math 1240
This confirmation of Christ reveals:
1. The miracle was that Jonah died in the belly of the fish and was then resurrected. (Not as some suppose that he stayed alive for 3 days).
2. He was dead in the belly of the fish for 3 days and 3 nights. Jesus was crucified on the day before Passover at the same time as all the Passover lambs were being slaughtered. Crucified on Thursday, not the traditional Friday. John’s Gospel confirms this. See website Articles ‘When was Jesus Crucified?’

If Jesus had only said ‘3 days’ then it might be argued to be part of Friday, all Saturday and early part of Sunday morning. But Jesus adds ‘and 3 nights’, which can only be Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
It is not Scripture that is wrong, but man’s tradition.

Jonah went to Nineveh and preached God’s warning.
And the people of Nineveh believed God. ... from the greatest of them to the least.
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
 Jonah 35, 10
But instead of rejoicing at the mercy and grace of God, Jonah was exceedingly displeased and he was angry. In this mood, Jonah surprisingly prayed to God. He claimed he was right and God wrong! That was why he had set out to Tarshish, not Nineveh. And he concluded his prayer, “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”  Jonah 43  But God was merciful to Jonah as well as Nineveh. He simply asked him, “Do you do well to be angry?”  Jonah 44

Jonah did not know how to answer, so he left the city and sat in a booth he had made and waited to see what would happen to the city. Would it become righteous? If it didn’t then God would have to destroy it anyway!

God graciously made a plant grow up overnight to give Jonah some shade.
But next day God destroyed the plant.
Then he asked Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?”
Yes, replied Jonah, and “Angry enough to die!”
And the LORD said, “You pity the plant ... And should not I pity Nineveh?”
 Jonah 49-11

And that is the end of Jonah’s testimony.  It would be foolish to speculate further.

To summarise:

This unwilling evangelist to Gentile Nineveh preached most successfully.
Under the merciful hand of Almighty God the whole city was saved from destruction.

This disobedient man reveals the truth of resurrection; his own, and to foretell the resurrection of the Son of God, victorious over sin and death. A great signpost.

God has chosen to include this most extraordinary book in his Word. It wonderfully reveals God’s patience, kingship, his mercy and grace to both Jonah and Nineveh.
Neither had done anything to deserve God’s pity.

The LORD will be awesome against them; ... he will make Nineveh a desolation. Zephaniah 211,13
Nahum also prophesied the destruction of Nineveh.
Jonah preached to Nineveh ~ 760 BC.   The City was destroyed in 612 BC.
They had forgotten the warning preached by Jonah.

Amos ‘Fires Both Barrels’       [Contents]

In 755 BC after 2 centuries and a dozen evil, idol worshipping kings, Israel had become like their kings. God had become side-lined and his challenging or inconvenient commandments ignored by the people who were religious, arrogant, wealthy, unjust, immoral, indulgent, and spiritually smug.

So what did the Lord God do to this people who should have known better?
He sent them the prophet Amos, a ‘plain-speaking’ farmer from Judea who begins:
“The LORD roars from Zion ...”   And continues by denouncing the sins of Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab and even Judah. No doubt Israel endorsed all this. But then he added Israel to the list! “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they:
      sell the righteous for silver ...
      trample the head of the poor ...
      a man and his father go in to the same girl ...
      lay themselves down beside every altar ...
      you made the Nazirites drink wine ...
      commanded the prophets, saying, You shall not prophesy ...
Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities ...
The lion has roared; who will not fear?
 Amos 26 - 38

But Israel was entrenched in their careless, self-interested life-style.
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “An adversary shall surround the land and bring down your defences from you, and your strongholds shall be plundered.”
And then
I will punish Israel for his transgressions ...
I will punish the altars of Bethel ...
I will strike the winter house along with the summer house ...
 Amos 314,15
Jeroboam had set up golden calves at Dan and Bethel and the ‘second homes’ of the prosperous - these would be destroyed.

This would be a minor inconvenience compared with the next warning:
The Lord GOD has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks.  Amos 42
The Lord gave them 33 years to repent before this terrible warning was fulfilled.
      Then the Assyrians would defeat Israel and cart them off as slaves in 722 BC.
Amos told them clearly that during these years there would come a series of calamities and natural disasters that would threaten their prosperity. And they would not be just ‘natural disasters’.
It would be the Lord God who would deliberately send them!!

“I gave you cleanness of teeth ... and lack of bread in all your places ...
      yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.
“I also withheld the rain from you ...
      yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.
“I struck you with blight and mildew ...
      yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.
“I sent among you a pestilence ... I killed your young men with the sword ...
      yet you did not return to me," declares the LORD.
“I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah ...
      yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.

“Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel ...
      prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”
 Amos 46-13

Amos had greater courage and determination to declare God’s truth than the majority of the preachers in the UK today. There are very few who realise that before the Lord returns to be the great Shepherd King of his righteous kingdom, he has prophesied that there will be a time a great tribulation. It is the Lord himself who is going to open the 7 seals, blow the 7 trumpets and command the pouring out of the 7 bowls of wrath as revealed in Rev 6-18.

There will come a day when everyone will have to meet with God, a time when we will either suffer eternal judgement or be welcomed to eternal life with our Redeemer in heaven. This is what Amos prophesied 2,700 years ago and it remains God’s revealed truth. Why is it so largely rejected? The West once had a Christian heritage. Today Almighty God is commonly sidelined and considered safe to ignore or only seen as a God of love who is averse to any judgement. Any preparation to meet him is quite unnecessary.  How foolish, how deceived can man be?

Israel was much the same in the days of Amos. He continues to declare:
Seek the LORD and live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph ...
      the LORD is his name; who makes destruction flash forth against the strong ...
For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate.

And he pleads with them: Seek good, and not evil, that you may live.  Amos 56-9, 12,14,

But they would not listen or heed the timely warning. Many in Israel at that time made sacrifices in Bethel, they worshipped God - along with all the other gods - and attended the feasts.
So Amos continues:
Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! ...
I hate, I despise your feasts ...
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them ...
Take away from me the noise of your songs ...
I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.
 Amos 518-27
It was like the story of the man who on arrival at heaven’s gates was asked why he should be allowed to enter. He replied “I’ve done my best and even gave £5 to a poor man yesterday.” Peter said, “I don’t think that is the right answer. But I will go and ask.” A few moments later he returned and said, “Give the man back his £5.”

There is only one way to enter heaven. As the great hymn says,
      Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
      My beauty are, my glorious dress;
      Midst flaming worlds in these arrayed,
      With joy shall I lift up my head.

      Bold shall I stand in that great day,
      For who aught to my charge shall lay?
      Fully absolved through these I am,
      From sin and fear, from guilt and shame.

Israel lived in prosperity and pride. Amos was instructed to warn them about this.
Woe to those who are at ease in Zion ...
      who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp ...
      who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!” ...

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:
      “I abhor the pride of Jacob and hate his strongholds,
      and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.”
 Amos 61,5-8
There was no doubt about what Almighty God thought about their comfortable complacency; nor about the promised consequences. It has not changed.
For behold, I will raise up against you a nation,
      O house of Israel,” declares the LORD, the God of hosts.
 Amos 614
Would UK today accept the preaching of an Israeli or Iranian prophet?

Although God had revealed to Amos his planned and just punishment of Israel,
      he pleaded with God for them:
“O Lord GOD, please forgive!  How can Jacob stand?  He is so small!”
The LORD relented concerning this: “It shall not be,” said the LORD.
 Amos 72,3
And then God showed him that he intended to punish Israel, this time with fire.
And Amos pleaded again, and the Lord again relented.
Then the Lord asked Amos what he saw. “A plumb line.”
Then the Lord said,
“Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel;
I will never again pass by them; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
 Amos 78,9
This reveals how reluctant the Lord is to punish a sinful people.
      And also that his justice demands that the wages of sin is death.
From the days of Adam and Eve it always was so; and it remains so.

The preaching of Amos was not popular!
Amaziah, the priest said, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”
And Amos replied to Amaziah:
Thus says the LORD:
“‘Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city,
      and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,
      and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line;
      you yourself shall die in an unclean land,
      and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’”
 Amos 712,17

But Israel refused to take any notice. They were religious but not righteous.
They enjoyed singing together in their temples, but their Sabbath was not a time to honour the Lord God, but just an unfortunate restriction on their trading.
So Amos warns them clearly:
The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” declares the Lord GOD.
"So many dead bodies!" "They are thrown everywhere!" ...
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.
 Amos 83, 11,12

But in the final 5 verses of his prophecy Amos tells them of God’s faithfulness:
“In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen ...
I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel ...
I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted
      out of the land that I have given them,” says the LORD your God.
 Amos 911-15

Today God is fulfilling this. Israel has become a nation again. Satan and the wicked world hates this. And many jews are seeking the Lord their God; they are finding and believing in Jesus Christ their most gracious Redeemer. See Zech 1210 - 131

Habakkuk Learns Patience and Truth       [Contents]

Men striving to understand the mysteries of Almighty God often have two questions:
      When?      and      Why?
Habakkuk was a righteous man who lived in the day when Judah had become evil. Probably shortly after Babylon had defeated Assyria (609 BC) and then defeated Egypt at Carchemish (605 BC). Jeremiah was God’s chosen prophet in Jerusalem. Habakkuk was deeply pained by increasing violence, destruction and idol worship. He prayed earnestly month after month, year after year. He clearly expected Almighty God to overcome the wickedness. But nothing happened. If anything it became worse.
O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?  Hab 12
God was not deaf. From the day he first prayed he had heard his cry.
In fact it was the Lord who caused his pain and put it in his heart to pray.

God’s answer:
      “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded.
      For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.
      For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans ...”

Habakkuk looked and saw Assyria and Egypt defeated by Babylon. How did that help? Maybe he had even seen Babylon take away Daniel and several others of the best men in Judah (605 BC). Under the evil king Jehoiakim, evil only increased.
Now God said he was in the process of increasing the domination of evil Babylon.
And this was supposed to answer Habakkuk’s prayer and make Judah righteous!
Finally God tells him about the Babylonian army led by Nebuchadnezzar:
“They laugh at every fortress, for they pile up earth and take it. Then they sweep by like the wind and go on, guilty men, whose own might is their god!”
It would be like saying to us; ‘I have heard your prayer to make UK righteous. I am raising up the Russians to sweep through Europe, overthrow the UK government and impose communism’!!

Then Habakkuk complains again.
In effect he says to the Lord,
Yes, I understand the big picture and about the need to punish wickedness.
Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die.
O LORD, you have ordained them as a judgment, and you, O Rock, have established them for reproof. ...
Is he then to keep on emptying his net and mercilessly killing nations forever?
 Hab 112,17

Then he admits he does not yet understand; but will await God’s explanation.
I will take my stand at my watchpost ... and look out to see what he will say to me. Hab 21

The Lord then reveals the longer term truth.
The Lord would bring just judgement upon Judah by Babylon,
and then equally just judgement upon proud Babylon.
The vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end ...
If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.
Behold, his soul is puffed up (Babylon) ...
      but the righteous shall live by his faith.
 Hab 23,4
The Lord then gives a warning to Babylon - and to all men:
      “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own ...”
      “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house ...”
      “Woe to him who builds a town with blood and founds a city on iniquity! ...”

But in the end your longing for righteousness will be fulfilled.
      “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD
        as the waters cover the sea.”
 Hab 26-14

Habakkuk begins to understand God’s patient plan for eternity,
      he prays and ends with a declaration of trust in the Almighty:
O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it ... in wrath remember mercy. ...
He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations ...
You marched through the earth in fury ...
I hear, and my body trembles ...
Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.
 Hab 32-16

God had taught Habakkuk the vital lesson of faith, trust and patience.
God did not answer his question “How long?”,
      but he knew God was Lord of all his creation, and always would be.
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
      nor fruit be on the vines,
      the produce of the olive fail
      and the fields yield no food,
      the flock be cut off from the fold
      and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
      I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
      he makes my feet like the deer's;
      he makes me tread on my high places.
 Hab 317-19

May the Lord God enable all of us to learn the same lesson
      from such a gracious Schoolmaster.

The Legacy of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel       [Contents]

Daniel as ‘a man of God’ is an obvious choice; but why Nebuchadnezzar?
He started in the way he intended to continue. As a youngster he was C in C of the Babylonian army that routed the Egyptians at Carchemish in 605 BC.
In the same year his father, who a defeated the Assyrians 4 years earlier, died.
      Jehoiakim, king of Judah, submitted without battle.
      Nebuchadnezzar took the Temple gold and the best men of Israel to Babylon.
A couple of years later Daniel revealed his muddled statue dreams.
      He loved the interpretation; especially that he was the head of gold.
      On the strength of it he made Daniel his Prime Minister for the next 40 years.
Nebuchdnezzar became the most feared M.E. despot and used the slave labour gained to build Babylon, its walls, its Euphrates moat and its hanging gardens.
He wasn’t so keen on the 3 Jewish civil servants who refused to worship his image.
      But was very impressed with the way that the God of Daniel saved them.
Finally he took insufficient notice of Daniel’s interpretation of his hewn tree dream.
      Just 12 months later he declared, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” God sent a madness and he was made to eat grass like an ox. ... until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”  Dan 429

Although not in Scripture, Jewish tradition teaches that Daniel cared for him and his throne until the time came for God to restore him. Then Nebuchadnezzar said,
I lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honoured him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion. ... Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.  Dan 434-37

Daniel 4 is the only chapter in the Old Testament that is written by a Gentile and is Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony of how this greatest of despots was humbled to became a man of God. A king who believed that it is Almighty God who rules this earth and all that he created, not man - however powerful that man might become.

The great and beautiful city of Babylon was overthrown by the Medes and Persians after just 66 years. Today it is a mound of sand in the desert - partially excavated. God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar the world history of man’s empires that would each be destroyed in turn (Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome). Today we call them ‘super-powers’. But in God’s time these will also all be destroyed.

As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. ... the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed.  Dan 234,35,44

Nebuchadnezzar had Daniel to patiently teach him the truth. And Almighty God who was patient and gracious to teach us all down the centuries the truth of his Word. We have been granted the opportunity to learn. But few have any thirst. Leaders desire power, popularity, success and personal pleasure.

The legacy of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar is that there will come an indestructible kingdom of righteousness and truth whose king is the Lord God and whose throne is in Jerusalem. The Magi believed this legacy and came to Jerusalem searching for the King. And they found him, not wearing a crown in a palace, but in a little village, a baby in a borrowed stable. And what about the promised kingdom? Some thirty years later the crown this baby wore would not be jewelled but made of thorns, and he would not be seated upon a throne but willingly strung up on a cross. To enter this kingdom all men need to be redeemed; the just punishment for our sin has to be paid.  And this was how God paid it in full!

God has given us 2,000 years of opportunity. Now we await the return of Jesus Christ as King. This time Satan will be finally and totally defeated and cast out; not even Prince any longer. The day when the stone not cut out by any human hand will strike the evil world government(s) so that not a trace of them can be found and the great mountain fills the whole earth ... and Jesus is King for ever.

What a legacy!
What a glorious and certain hope for all believers in Christ!

Esther - Beautiful and Brave       [Contents]

Persia was the dominant power, ruled by Ahasuerus (Xerxes the great), the grandson of Cyrus who had allowed the Jews to return from their exile in Babylon about 50 years earlier. He ruled some 30 years before Ezra and Nehemiah. As so often is the case, the Jews were unpopular, and the top Persian official, Haman, sought to eliminate them. Although God is not specifically mentioned, this is a detailed story of how he protected his chosen people.

In his third year Ahasuerus gave a 180 day feast for all his officials. On day 7 he was ‘merry’ and ordered his wife, Vashti, to appear, to parade her beauty to all. She refused. So Ahasuerus had to find a new wife. He chose Esther, although he did not know that she was a Jew. She had been orphaned and was raised by her uncle Mordecai. But as a Jew he refused to bow down before Haman, who was an Agagite (an Amalekite). The proud Official was suitably incensed and offered the king a huge bribe to allow him permission to kill not only Mordecai, but all the Jews in Persia. He lied, claiming: Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king's laws, so that it is not to the king's profit to tolerate them.  The unthinking king approved the proposal.

Mordecai and the Jews in Susa fasted and wore sackcloth. And he sent a famous word to Esther: “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” To which the brave Esther, realising her responsibility replied: “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”

On the third day she went to the king as promised and he held out the sceptre and promised to grant her request, even to half my kingdom. The Lord God must have made her look absolutely stunning !! She simply invited the king and Haman to come that same evening to a feast she had prepared. At the feast the king asked her again what was the nature of her request. Only that the next day day they should come to a second feast. Haman was delighted until he saw Mordecai outside. His wife and a friend then persuaded Haman to make a gallows for Mordecai, 75 feet high. That night God disturbed the king’s sleep so he asked for a history book that chronicled the recent memorable deeds. And God ensured that he read the account of how Mordecai had revealed a plot to kill the king was read, and that no reward had been given to him. So the king then ordered Haman to arrange for Mordecai to be dressed in royal robes and led through the city on the best horse. Esther then took God’s opportunity to tell the king that there was a man who planned to kill Esther and all her people. “Who is he who dared to do this?” She replied, “The wicked Haman!” The king left Esther’s second feast in wrath. Haman stayed to beg her for his life. If Haman’s plan wasn’t enough, the king returned to find him apparently assaulting his Queen. One of the eunuchs mentioned that Haman had already erected a huge gallows for Mordecai. The king said, “Hang him on that.” So they did. And the king gave Mordecai the signet ring he had removed from Haman.

And that wasn’t the end, because the edict to kill the Jews that Haman had written, and the king had approved, was still in effect. Esther asked the King for the edict to be reversed. It was. So the Jews gained permission to kill 75,000 of those who hated them, but they laid no hands on the plunder.

Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Ahasuerus, and he was great among the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brothers, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to all his people.

Thus did the Lord God protect his people. A story that the Jews celebrate every year at Purim. If only the Arabs, who claim to be Palestinians, and the Iranians, who also only want to kill all Jews, would believe this story and what Almighty God has planned for all who believe in Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

      Thy kingdom come, O God!
      Thy rule, O Christ begin!
      Break with thine iron rod
      The tyrannies of sin!

      Where is thy reign of peace,
      And purity and love?
      When shall all hatred cease,
      As in the realms above?

      When comes the promised time
      That war shall be no more,
      Oppression, lust, and crime
      Shall flee thy face before?

      We pray thee, Lord, arise,
      And come in thy great might;
      Revive our longing eyes,
      Which languish for thy sight.

John Baptist, the Greatest Prophet       [Contents]

A number of God’s eminent families were unable to have children until late in life: Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Rachel, Elkanah and Hannah and Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah was struck dumb because he did not believe Gabriel when told he would have a son. On the 8th day after Elizabeth gave birth Zechariah had to ask for a tablet on which he wrote, “His name is John.”  Lu 163
Zechariah’s voice then returned and he prophesied:
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  Lu 176-79

The virgin, Mary, was also told by Gabriel that she was going to have a son. She believed and said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  Lu 138  She then went to stay with her relative Elizabeth and when they greeted each other Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and her baby (John) leaped in her womb.

Each of the Gospel writers record the ministry of John.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar ... the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  Lu 31-3
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
 Math 31,2
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
 Jn 129
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  Mk 19-11

So John faithfully proclaimed that the Son of God had come to Israel as promised. And his preaching was fulfilling what Isaiah prophesied: A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God."  Is 403
John declared, “I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease. ...
For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
 Jn 328-36

Jesus tells us clearly about John:
I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist ... For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear.  Math 1111-15

Why was John the greatest prophet? Only he could stretch out his arm and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God! ...” And there he was standing in their midst! The long awaited day had arrived. The Saviour who had come to make the perfect sacrifice; the Redeemer, the one whom all God’s prophets had promised. What a day!

Herod’s wife hated John because he revealed her marriage was illegal. Her opportunity came one evening when Herod gave a party. His daughter danced and the sensuous king promised her anything she wanted. Her mother told her to ask for John’s head on a platter. Herod obliged. John’s work for God was complete and he was welcomed, honoured and loved in heaven for all eternity.

      With mercy and with judgement,
      My web of time he wove;
      And aye the dews of sorrow
      Were lustered with his love;
      I'll bless the hand that guided,
      I'll bless the heart that planned,
      When throned where glory dwelleth
      In Immanuel's land.

            * * * * * * * *

Then the angels stand and listen, for they cannot join that song
Like the sound of many waters by that happy, blood-washed throng;
For they sing about great trials, battles fought and vict'ries won,
And they praise their great Redeemer who hath said to them, "Well done!"

Nathanael, a Man Without Guile       [Contents]

Nathanael was also called Bartholomew and as such is listed with Philip and the other apostles in  Math 103  Mk 318  Lu 614 and also in Jn 211,2  Act 113
By tradition he carried a translation of Matthew’s Gospel to northern India.

Otherwise our only information about Nathanael is in  Jn 144-51

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

Philip was clearly excited at having met Jesus, the Messiah they had been taught to expect each Sabbath at the Bethsaida synagogue. But Nathanael was somewhat dismissive. He knew that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, not Nazareth.
Philip was wise; he did not argue. He just said, “Come and see.”
So off they went together to meet him.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him,
      “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”

The Son of God could see accurately what other men were blind to.
His heart went out to Nathanael as a kindred spirit. Here was a rare man indeed. He was not proud, no pretence, no deceit. He was true, honest, and his goal was to walk with God. This was his longing, his dream.
We are not told how the Jewish Jesus greeted him but he must have addressed him by name because Nathanael responded: “How did you know me?”
Jesus answered,
      “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

How could Jesus have ‘seen’ him some hours earlier and several miles away, unless, ... unless he was who Philip had said he was.
What Nathanael was doing alone under the figtree was obviously very significant.
We can only speculate as to what it was. But it is likely that Nathanael was pouring out his longing heart to Almighty God. Pleading for his presence and his righteous kingdom that seemed so far distant and for the end of Gentile Roman rule.
‘Come Lord, please come quickly ...’
And here he was. Jesus knew exactly what he had been praying, yearning for.

Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus was indeed the Son of God. Jesus was also the King of Israel -
      although this would only be fulfilled much later.
Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree.
      You shall see greater things than that.”
What would Nathanael see?
He would see Jesus perform many miracles, people healed, delivered from evil spirits, food multiplied, storm calmed, and even 3 raised from the dead. But the greatest was that he would see the Son of God crucified!
And most importantly, he would learn why this had to be,
      and was also what the Scripture had prophesied.  e.g. Passover Lamb and Is 53.

He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open,
      and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

This would not be the first time a man would see angels ‘ascending and descending’. Jacob was shown this in a dream at Bethel when he was on the run from Esau. What was God showing Jacob? That he was not alone, not abandoned to fate, that God was his protector and in control of his difficult situation. Almighty God would show Nathanael that Jesus would open the kingdom of heaven to all believers, Jews and even Gentiles. He would see the veil of the Temple torn in two.
And he would know that Jesus was telling him the truth; his hope and his dream would be fulfilled.

No doubt Nathanael would treasure these words that Jesus spoke to him.
Many others would thereby also hear this good news and see heaven opened.
And with Christ in times of difficulty and danger, they would be shown that they were also surrounded by angels and the ‘chariots and horsemen of Israel’.

      Immoveable our hope remains,
      Within the veil our anchor lies;
      Jesus who washed us from the our stains
      Shall bear us safely to the skies.

      Strong in his strength we boldly say,
      For us Immanuel shed his blood,
      Who then shall tear our shield away,
      Or part us from the love of God.

            . . . .

      Surely the Son hath made us free,
      Who earth, and heaven, and hell commands;
      Our cause of triumph this - that we
      Are graven on the Saviour’s hands.