The Suffering Servant

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:10-12)

In my last post I stated that there didn't have to be an outbreak of God's wrath against a servant of God before there could be a breakout of God's purpose.

I'd now like to qualify that statement: The reason that there doesn't have to be another breakout against a servant of God, is because there has already been a full breakout of God's wrath on the servant of God. And this outbreak was necessary before any of the purpose of God could breakthrough into our lives or this world.

You see, Nadab and Abihu were struck down at the beginning of the priesthood, and this brought a breakthrough in the presence of God amongst his people.

Uzzah was struck down at the beginning of David's kingdom and this brought a breakthrough in the purpose of God - his rule established on earth.

Ananias and Sapphira were struck down at the beginning of the church, and this brought a breakthrough in the people of God - a holy people set apart for the glory of God alone.

But Jesus is the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world! It is because he was stricken for our sakes that we can be joined to his people, called to his purpose and filled with his presence! The full outbreak of God's wrath upon his servant Jesus now releases a full breakthrough of the power of heaven to earth.

It is Jesus who is the Lord of the breakthrough.

If wisdom and the fear of the Lord are foundational to every established work of God, then we must also acknowledge that these cannot come through any other means than through our union with Christ himself. The foundation of the church is not a practice or a doctrine or an attitude but a person, and that person is none other than Christ.

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1Co 3:11)


The Breakout and the Breakthrough

And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God. And David was angry because the Lord had broken out against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzza [the breaking out against Uzzah] to this day. And David was afraid of God that day, and he said, “How can I bring the ark of God home to me?” (1Ch 13:9-12)

And David inquired of God, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up, and I will give them into your hand.” And he went up to Baal-perazim, and David struck them down there. And David said, “God has broken through my enemies by my hand, like a bursting flood.” Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim [the Lord of breakthrough]. And they left their gods there, and David gave command, and they were burned... And the fame of David went out into all lands, and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations. (1Ch 14:10-12,17)

I spotted a connection last night that I had not seen before; a link between 1Chronicles 13 and 14. A progression and a contrast between the breakout at Perez-uzza and the breakthrough at Baal-perazim. In the first the Lord breaks out against Uzzah because of his presumptuous outstretched hand and brings the fear of God to the house of God. In the latter the Lord brings a breakthrough by David's (obedient) hand that brings the fear of God to the nations.

Now I don't believe that there has to be a breakout against a servant of God before there can be a breakthrough in God's purpose in the nations. I thank God that in his mercy and grace that doesn't have to be the way! But there is a progression. Before the fear of God can extend out to the nations it first has to be re-established amongst the people of God. Nadab and Abihu, Uzzah, Saul, Ananias and Sapphira - these warnings are recorded in the scriptures so we can learn from their mistakes and learn to fear God right and remember that to obey is better than sacrifice. God does not need our sacrifices, but he does expect our obedience.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Pr 9:10)

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; (Pr 24:3)

Wisdom, and thus the fear of the Lord, are foundational for every established work of God.


Caption Fun

As the credit crunch hits household spending, some pets take matters into their own hands


Angels and Demons

Here are some word usage statistics from the book of Acts (ESV):

Angel(s) 22:0 Demon(s)
(Holy) Spirit 56:7 (evil/unclean/divination) spirit

One of the things that always gets my alarm bells ringing theologically is an over-emphasis on demons and the demonic. It is so out of step with the emphasis in the New Testament. And yet it is not uncommon to hear Christians talk about being "under spiritual attack", or to hear of spiritual warfare in terms of "discerning the demonic forces over an area." When you listen to some people talking you would think there were demons round every corner, and demons responsible for every little niggle of life!

Now I don't deny that demons are real, or that our battle is against spiritual forces in the heavenly realms; it's just that I don't see a lot of emphasis or talk about demons in the New Testament. When they are mentioned it is usually in the context of Jesus driving them out with a word or having authority over them. When Paul drove out evil spirits in the book of Acts, he didn't even bother to turn up in person, but just sent along a handkerchief. On another occasion (with the spirit of divination) it seemed he would much rather ignore the spirit than even condescend to give it his attention (until his patience was finally exhausted). And when the apostles returned to Jesus full of excitement that the demons submitted to them in his name, he was quick to refocus them upon the good news of the Gospel - that their names were written in heaven.

It is important, therefore, to keep a sense of perspective when talking about demons. Here are some facts to bear in mind.

Demons are a distraction
Satan's rebellion arose when he tried to divert the worship and focus that belonged to God towards himself. Nothing has changed. The main purpose of demonic activity is still to divert people away from giving their worship and attention to God. When we give them too much attention we play right into their hand.

It does not require much discernment to recognise demonic possession
You never read in the gospel accounts of people puzzling over what was the matter with a person who was possessed by demons. Everyone recognised; everyone knew. It didn't require a specialist or someone with a gift of discernment to come in and tell them that was the problem. When Jesus drove out demons, although many questioned how he did it, no one questioned what he had done. Demonic doctrine (distortion of true Christian teaching) is another matter, but direct demonic activity is not subtle or hidden - it's obvious.

There are more angels than demons
By my reconning there are at least two angels for every demon (if we take some prophetic imagery as literal) If we take the emphasis in the book of acts as representative then it is more like 3:1. So if we take the Bible as our guide for what should be normative in our Christian life we should expect at least three angelic visitations for every demonic manifestation! One question I always want to ask those who see demons everywhere is, "How many angels have you seen!?" If like Elisha's servant we have our eyes opened to the heavenly realities around us, we will see it is not the demons that surround us, but the host of heaven! [2Ki 6:17]

Demons fear Christians
Did you ever hear it said of some creepy-crawly or slippery reptile: "It's more afraid of you than you are of it"? Well, the same is certainly true of the demons. You don't need to have some special ministry of exorcism to drive them out - Christ himself is in you - and he is more than enough every time. Acts 19 shows that even the mention of his name is often enough (it took a brave demon to finally call the sons of Sceva's bluff). If Christ is within you you have nothing to fear from any power of evil. He who is within you is greater. [1Jn 4:4]

Don't give your attention to the darkness, look to the light. Live in the light, walk in the light, let the light of God shine on you and in you and through you. You'll find that the darkness beats a retreat by itself! Focus on the realities of heaven and laying a hold of them; focus on the good news of the gospel of the kingdom and you will find that as heaven invades earth it drives out the shadows as a direct consequence.

Don't go looking for demons, there are much better manifestations to pursue!