Who is Jesus? That is the most important question any person can answer. Join us for this series as we search the Bible for the answer to that question.
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Lift Up Your Eyes
She was a social misfit. The woman at the well that we meet in John 4 had three automatic strikes against her in first century Jewish society:
These three strikes explain the shock of the disciples in John 4:27, “They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, ‘What do you want with her?’ or ‘Why are you talking to her?’”
As the woman returned to the city and told everyone about Jesus, the disciples went from wondering about her to worrying about food. They were oblivious to the story that was unfolding at that very moment. To direct their gaze to the matter at hand Jesus said, “Lift up your eyes” (John 4:35). When they did, they saw a large crowd of people walking through the fields approaching Jesus. John put the capstone on the story by recording the confession of the multitude, “Now we know that He is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).
How easy it is to get sidetracked with small issues and lose sight of the things that really matter. In one of my favorite movie comedies, “The Return Of The Pink Panther,” the bumbling Inspector Clouseau is busy ticketing a street peddler while the bank directly behind him is being robbed. Distracted by a minor incident, he missed the major event.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were notorious about this. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus called them on it. He said, “For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.” Focusing on the lesser, they failed in the greater.
It takes intentional effort to keep yourself from being distracted. You know what I’m talking about. You get so absorbed in a situation that you cannot see the forest for the trees. Like the disciples who went from wondering why Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman, to worrying about lunch while a major revival was in the making, you have to make yourself lift up your eyes.
Understand in every moment there is a bigger story being written. Realize in every happening there is a greater work being done. Through all the stuff of life lift your gaze upward. “Set your sights on the realities of heaven” (Colossians 3:1). Don’t be discouraged, and don’t get distracted. Remember that through it all, God is at work.
Pastor Todd Weston
The God Who Is There
The three great prophets of the Babylonian Captivity were Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel. Jeremiah remained with the remnant of Jews left in the land of Israel. Daniel was taken into the court of the Babylonian king where he was promoted to a high level of leadership. Of the three, Ezekiel was left to live among the Jewish captives.
Towards the beginning of his twenty-five years in captivity Ezekiel saw a vision of the presence of God departing from the temple and the city of Jerusalem because of the terrible sins committed there (Ezekiel 11:23). But later on Ezekiel was given a vision of the future return of the presence of the Lord (Ezekiel 43:2). While the presence of God withdrew for a season, He would not forsake His people Israel (1 Kings 6:13).
In chapters 40-48 Ezekiel gave a thorough description of the future Jerusalem. And in the final words of the book Ezekiel provided the new name for the city, “And from that day the name of the city will be ‘The Lord Is There.’” (Ezekiel 48:35 NLT).
“The Lord Is There” is the translation of the name Jehovah Shammah. It’s the last name of God revealed in the Old Testament. Of all the names of God, I cannot think of one that brings more hope and comfort than Jehovah Shammah.
Of course, there is an eschatological application of the name. Ezekiel was describing the Jerusalem of the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:4). During this period of one-thousand years Jesus Christ Himself will rule and reign the earth from a renewed Jerusalem.
The name speaks ultimately of the New Jerusalem of eternity about which John wrote, “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God Himself will be with them’” (Rev. 21:3 NLT).
Along with the obvious eschatological application, there is a more immediate and personal application. The title Jehovah Shammah serves not only as the name for the future Jerusalem, but it reminds us of one of the attributes of God. God is omnipresent. The prefix “omni” means all, everywhere, universal. To say that God is omnipresent is to say that God is present everywhere. He is actually, consciously, actively, and simultaneously present everywhere.
David was overwhelmed by the thought! He wrote, “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me” (Psalm 139:7-10 NIV).
In 1975 Eric Carmen recorded the haunting ballad, “All By Myself.” As a Christian that song will never apply to you. You serve a God who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV). You serve a Lord who said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NIV). And Jesus said the Holy Spirit “lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17 NIV).
Take comfort in the name Jehovah Shammah. As a believer you are never alone. Wherever go you, wherever life takes you, God is there. Rest in this. You serve the God Who is there!
Pastor Todd Weston
Maybe you’ve seen the “Don’t Celebrate Too Early” video clips on YouTube. They are videos of athletes who think they have made a great play or won an event only to come up short. The victory within reach becomes an almost victory.
An Old Testament king of Israel experienced one of these incomplete victories. His name was Joash. With the Syrians bearing down hard, the king sought out the dying prophet Elisha for assistance. If anyone knew how to defeat the Syrians it was Elisha. He had done it before.
While Joash was not a godly man, he knew where to look for help. Desperate people facing desperate situations will often turn to godly people for help. They don’t serve the Lord, but they know you do. They don’t pray, but they know you do. They have no faith, but they know you do. When hard times hit they are going to come looking for you, so be ready.
In the midst of the king’s despair, Elisha handed Joash a golden opportunity. Opening a window, Elisha told Joash to shoot an arrow eastward in the direction of Syria (2 Kings 13:15-17). In the ancient world, shooting an arrow in the direction of an enemy nation was a declaration of war. Rather than being in a defensive posture, Elisha directed the king to take an offensive position against the enemy. The fact that Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands when he shot the arrow was symbolic. While Joash would be the instrument of deliverance, God Himself was the agent.
After shooting an arrow eastward, Elisha then instructed the king to take the rest of the arrows and strike the floor. This the king did three times and stopped (2 Kings 13:18). The prophet was livid! He said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times” (2 Kings 3:19). With complete victory within reach, Joash ended up with an incomplete victory.
I have often wondered why Joash stopped after striking the floor only three times. Maybe he was weak in faith and lacked the capacity to believe for more than three victories. Maybe he was full of pride and thought the whole exercise silly. Maybe he failed to see the connection between the private act and the public victory. Some are guilty of that today and wonder how private prayer can change anything. Or maybe he just got tired and quit.
Whatever the reason, Joash stopped short. He thought three times was enough when it wasn’t. Remember, Elisha was the guy who prayed for a double (not single) portion of the Spirit that was upon Elijah. If there was anything the prophet could not tolerate it was mediocrity. It angered him to see the golden opportunity become a lost opportunity. Joash is the king who celebrated too early and lost.
God gave a great promise to Joash, but he failed to cash it in because of some spiritual flaw in his life. God has given us a whole Bible full of promises. He has given us many opportunities. He calls us to bold faith. He wants us to dare to believe Him for greater things.
Don’t let a cycle of unbelief or anemic faith rob you of a complete victory. And don’t be intimidated by an already defeated enemy. Stand on the promises of God and keep on standing. Ask and keep on asking. Seek and keep on seeking. Knock and keep on knocking until the answer comes, and the victory is complete.
Pastor Todd Weston
There are some places that are so sacred you are rendered speechless. A holy hush settles down. A quiet reverence emanates and overwhelms. You don’t want to make a sound.
Gethsemane is that kind of place. There isn’t much talking in the garden. It isn’t a place given to frivolity. Upon entering the garden you sense an inner coercion to get alone with God to listen and reflect. As it was in Jesus’ day, so it is today. Gethsemane is a place of prayer.
Located on the Western slope of the Mount of Olives just across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem, the garden of Gethsemane is a place whose name literally means “oil press.” Luke tells us it was Jesus’ practice to pray in this secluded garden with its grove of ancient olive trees (22:39). Somewhere in Gethsemane was the press used to crush the olives and extract the oil. How fitting then for Jesus to choose this place to pray on the night before His crucifixion.
Jesus knew from eternity past this moment would come (Revelation 13:8). But when it came in all of its dreadfulness, it caused even the Son of God to recoil at the thought. It wasn’t the pain associated with the cross that caused Jesus such agony. It was the association with sin.
What a night it must have been. Jacob’s all-night struggle with God at Peniel was nothing compared to this. The battle that occurred in Gethsemane was that of the Holy One becoming the sin-bearer for the entire human race. He who is so pure that He cannot stand the mere sight of evil (Habakkuk 1:13) would have the weight of the world’s sin laid on Him (Isaiah 53:6).
And what a weight it was! Every sin known to man, every crime under the sun, with all of its guilt, anguish, and sorrow was put on Jesus. No wonder His righteous soul recoiled in disgust as He looked into the vile cup of human degradation. What an awful cup to drink. What an awful price to pay. As the olives were crushed in the nearby oil press, Jesus would be crushed under the heavy load of sin. This is what led Him to cry out, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me” (Luke 22:42a).
Maybe Jesus looked up at that very moment to the Temple standing atop Mount Moriah. Of course, that is the place where the sacrifices were offered. But Moriah is also believed to be the place Abraham took Isaac to offer as a sacrifice to God. Kneeling in the garden Jesus remembered the question asked by Isaac, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’’ He also remembered Abraham’s answer, “God will provide for Himself the lamb.” Jesus knew Abraham was talking about him. He was the Lamb of God.
As Isaac yielded to the will of his father up on Mount Moriah, Jesus submitted to the will of His Father down below in the Garden, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42b). In Gethsemane, the place of crushing, the battle was won. On to Calvary!
We will never understand this side of eternity all of the mysteries of Gethsemane and what Jesus endured there. But this we do know — He did it all for you and me. May we never forget.
Lest I forget Gethsemane
Lest I forget Thine agony
Lest I forget Thy love for me
Lead me to Calvary
Pastor Todd Weston