Weekly Bulletin Articles
Please understand that clinical depression is a very real malady. However, the depressions people often feel have underlying emotional and spiritual causes. In such circumstances, the Great Physician (cf. Mark 2:17) can “heal the brokenhearted…” (Luke 4:18). Consider God’s prescription for depression.
Find some one to serve. A sure way to improve mental health is to turn our focus upon service. Is it not odd that Paul, a man imprisoned for his faith and who confesses having poured himself out in sacrifice and Service, could say, “I joy, and rejoice…” (Philippians 2:17). This flies in the face of the world’s conventional wisdom. Expending precious time and energy on someone else brings joy and happiness? That is antonymous to depression. Look for ways to encourage others, to brighten and cheer the sick, the unfaithful, or those you know in adverse circumstances. When you do, your efforts will have a double effect. You will be helping not only the struggler, but also yourself.
Find some time to meditate. Many of the people with whom I speak who are suffering from depression admit to being distant from God. They typically do not read and study the Bible regularly, nor do they consistently pray to Him. When doing both more faithfully is suggested, they often discount or dismiss the value of both in aiding their state of mind. Yet, “the proof is in the pudding.” Diligent Bible students are given promises and reassurances of God’s help and power that they see fulfilled in their daily lives. Comfort and peace are side effects of regular Bible reading. Through prayer, one gets the Sense that there is One who is listening, who sympathizes and who cares. Faithful prayer coupled with faithful living yields confidence and coping ability. Meditation works! Delight follows meditation (Psalm 119:15). Strength follows meditation (Psalm 119:27-28). Depression may be defeated by saying, with our deeds, what David wrote, “Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD” (Psalm 104:34).
Find some thing to eliminate. It may be doubt. All doubt, including self-doubt, ultimately points to a lack of faith in God. We may doubt that our circumstances will improve. We may doubt our own abilities. We may doubt God’s existence or ability to help. Such negative thinking must be reprogrammed. Remember, the Christian “can” (Philippians 4:13). It may be dread. Fear of future events, of social, economic, or emotional stress, or of interpersonal conflict all cause feelings of anxiety. Jesus says, “Don’t do this” (Matthew 6:25ff). Again, faith and trust in God is imperative. It may be disobedience to God. It is hard for one who believes in God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit to feel good about willfully continuing in a life of sin. Depression many times results [from continuing in sin, DR]. The solution is not killing the conscience, but amputating the sin problem. Guilt is a first cousin of depression, and guilt is a spiritual consequence of sinning. Failure to do what we know we should and committing what we know we should not causes all kinds of turmoil, including depression (cf. Romans 7:19-24).
Many years ago a young Midwestern lawyer suffered from such deep depression that his friends thought it best to keep all knives and razors out of his reach. He questioned his life’s calling and the prudence of even attempting to follow it through. During this time he wrote, “I am now the most miserable man living. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell. I awfully forebode I shall not.” But somehow, from somewhere, Abraham Lincoln received the encouragement he needed, and the achievements of his life thoroughly vindicated his bout with discouragement.
So far as we know, Mr. Lincoln was not a Christian. Thus, those of us locked in the dungeon beneath the castle of despair have the key to the door of depression. His name is Christ (John 14:27)!
(Editor’s Note: There is a story that Lincoln was baptized into Christ during his presidency; there is no “hard” evidence, although the circumstances certainly indicate that the story may be true.)
The church of the New Testament assembled together each Sunday to remember the cross and to partake of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). It was on these occasions that they also worshiped the Lord in other authorized ways. There was singing and prayer, public Bible reading, and preaching. There was also a collection for the ongoing work of the church (1 Cor. 16:2). But after the Sunday public assembly, the Bible gives no absolutes as to when the church is to come together. If we modeled ourselves completely after the original Jerusalem church, it could be argued that they met in some capacity every day, but probably not all at the same time in the same place (Acts2:42-47).
Any other meeting besides the Sunday assembly is left up to the leadership in each individual church. Over the years, it has been customary to meet on Sunday nights for a second worship service. Perhaps the main idea, in the beginning, was to provide those who were unable to attend the first assembly to have a second opportunity – specifically for the purpose of partaking of the communion. Somewhere in the middle of the week, many churches also meet for Bible study. Each congregation has the freedom to choose, after the Sunday assembly, exactly what it wants to do with regard to further meetings. The church could meet any other time of the week, on any day, as many or as few times as is desired.
Once the decision has been made by the leadership of the church, the rest of the church should obey and support that decision. Local members of the body of Christ are expected to observe and obey the expedient measures decided upon by the eldership (Heb. 13:17). Christians are commanded not to forsake the assembly (Heb. 10:24-25). If, therefore, the elders have chosen to call the church together at another specific time, then each local member should make every effort they can to gather together for worship and study as a family of believers on each and every one of these occasions.
Every church model is different with regard to circumstances which dictate further assemblies. Some churches only meet once on Sunday afternoon because it might be difficult for their members to come twice. It was customary years ago for folks to ride in a wagon to the church house on Sunday morning, bring their lunch for after services to eat on the grounds, and then assemble one more time to worship before the long ride back to the farm before dark. It seems that this example also led to the tradition of Sunday night worship, especially in rural communities.
Whatever the case, further assemblies of the Lord’s church should be viewed by Christians as the most important spiritual opportunities of the week. Those who love the Lord would never view these extra meetings as a burden (1 John 5:3). True converts will only anticipate more assembling. They will want to meet in homes and in public places and, instead of looking for excuses not to assemble with the saints, they will look for excuses to get out of work, ball games, and other activities so that they will never have to miss an assembly.
For me personally, I can’t wait to be at every public assembly of the church. It would be wonderful to meet with the brethren every day of the week. In a sense, as a preacher, I get to do that. If not for the blessings of being with the church, I would not be so spiritually blessed. I could list 1,000 reasons why I love Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. But the supreme reasons are simple. I love God. I love Jesus and what He did for me at Calvary. And I love what the Holy Spirit teaches me in the word!
“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” – Psalm 27:4
The work of the church is unique. The New Testament authorizes the church to work in three areas: 1) Evangelism — teaching and preaching the Gospel (Mark 16:15-16), 2) Edification — teaching and instructing its members (1 Thess. 5:11; Col. 3:16) and 3) Benevolence — helping those in need of the necessities of life (James 1:27; Gal. 6:10).
To do the work God has commanded the church to do requires money (the funds necessary to carry out the work). God has given instruction “where” and “how” the church gets its money to do its work. It is by the free-will offering of its members. The Scriptures authorize a collection to be taken up each first day of the week. In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 we read, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him....” A famine had made many destitute of the necessary things of life. Churches of Christ everywhere were instructed to help the needy. This passage tells them how to do it.
In the New Testament, you never read of the church of Christ having chariot washes, bake sales, rummage sales, 10K walks, etc., etc. to raise money for its work. There is no Scripture that authorizes the church to solicit (request, seek, beg) money, food, clothes (material goods) from non-members (the general public).
Therefore, you should never see the church of Christ soliciting material things from those who are not members of the church in order to help the church do the work God has commanded the church to do.
I Never Intended to Quit!
by: Gus Nichols
A man who had not attended one service of the church in four years told me he had never thought of "quitting" the church. I reminded him that he had:
1) Withdrawn his presence from the worship services. He had failed to sing, pray with fellow Christians, to partake of the Lord=s memorial supper and the fellowship of the saints.
2) Refused to give his moral support to the activities of the congregation.
3) Withdrawn his financial support, for he had not given one dime to help carry on the Lord's work.
Then I asked, "What else would you have to do in order to 'quit' the church? In case you ever decide that you no longer desire to be a member, what other steps will be necessary to 'quit' the church?"
As the true status dawned upon him, his expression reflected his sober thoughts. He replied, "Why, Brother Nichols, I have quit already, haven't I? Well, I surely didn’t mean to! And I don't know when I did it...but I've quit the Lord and His church! I'll tell you right now...I'm coming back." He did, too. At the next service, he was restored and three years later, he was still faithful.
Dear reader, how about you? Have you quit the Lord and His church without resolving to do so? Perhaps no one deliberately decides to quit, but many carelessly drift into backsliding.
If you quit attending services, quit boosting the program of activities planned by the elders and quit giving as God has prospered you to enable the congregation to meet its budget, you need to be restored.
"not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25)
Paul takes us into God’s war room. If we grasp his message we’ll more clearly perceive why the Christian lifestyle is significant. We’ll also realize there is a battle for our hearts.
Perhaps the place to start is by appreciating that Ephesians was written against a bleak background (Ephesians 2:1-3). Evil in all of its forms dominates and subdues humanity. Filled with insatiable fleshly cravings people plunge into pursuing life as they think best oblivious to their spiritual ruin.
Yet there is hope. Evil offers no contest to God’s power. Furthermore from the very beginning, God has had a plan. Paul longed to enlighten those caught in the thick of the battle to know God’s power for his people and the goal toward which God is working (Eph. 1:17-19).
To achieve this the apostle flung open the doors into God’s command center revealing God’s strategic plan. Beholding his plan causes Paul to break forth in praise. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
Our eyes fall upon a plan predating creation that determined what would happen. God would achieve spiritual unity by rescuing people from darkness through adopting them as his own.
What is unexpected is that this adoption would be made possible through God graciously purchasing sinful people by the blood of his beloved Son. Moreover God seals those he redeems with the Holy Spirit as a downpayment of the inheritance that awaits them!
Having outlined God’s plan for achieving unity between heaven and earth through Christ, Paul impressed upon those caught in the battle for their hearts about the nature of God’s power. God can transform those who are spiritually dead into becoming alive with Christ. However, this does not exhaust God’s plan.
The plan also calls for uniting spiritually diverse peoples, the Jews and the Gentiles. And once again the blood of Jesus makes this possible. God creates one new unified community in whom God dwells by the Spirit! Complete unity!
The evil that would separate people from God as well as people from other peoples must melt away before God’s power. Unity within the light dispels the divisive darkness. There is no contest.
While God’s power and working evoke praise, the Lord’s people also have a role to play. God’s plan calls for rescued souls to live worthily of who God has made them to be. They are to live in ways that will further his purposes, step closer to that inheritance awaiting them and preserve the unity of the Spirit which God has achieved.
Thus they are to banish sinful ways from their lives. The devil is not to be granted any footholds in their life. To continue living in ways of darkness would work against God’s purposes thus grieving the Spirit who has marked them for inheritance. Instead, these people purchased by Christ are to exemplify godly characteristics in whatever societal roles they might find themselves.
There is a war raging between God’s light and evil’s darkness. The redeemed need to be aware of this and who their true enemy is. They need to put on the whole armor of God that they might stand against the devil’s schemes.
God’s power creates beachheads of light within the darkness. To be aware of the goals toward which God is working, how God desires us who have been redeemed to maintain the unity he has created, as well as how to be prepared to stand against the adversary’s schemes underscores the significance of living daily for Christ.
“And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them. 8When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. 11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke 14:7-11
Humility. So easy to see yet so difficult to practice.
What is humility? Here is a dictionary definition: “the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance” (Oxford Dictionary of English). I think we can understand that. Humility is when we realize that we are not the most important person and we act accordingly.
What Jesus observed at a dinner he attended was the opposite of humility. At these dinners, and at many formal dinners today, there was a seating order and a place of honour. The place of honour was to be sitting beside the host. What Jesus observed was that many were seating themselves in the place of honour without being invited to do so. Can you imagine at a wedding dinner someone deciding that he would sit at the head table in place of the bridal party or the couple’s family?
Jesus warned against taking the place of honour. The problem is that this distinguished seat may have been reserved for someone more important than you. Then what would happen? You would be asked to take a lower seat and by that time the only seat that may be left is the least important place. You would be humiliated.
Instead Jesus advised that when you come into a dinner to take the least important seat automatically. Perhaps then the host would see you and ask you to move to a better seat. In this way you would be honoured by all present.
Those who humble themselves will be exalted and those who exalt themselves will be humbled. Such a true statement which we still see being played out in our society today. How many people automatically assume that the best is for them? Or that they are the most important? And how often are they humiliated when someone more important is there?
Perhaps in many ways this is a human trait shared by everyone. All people, generally, like to be recognized. And there is nothing wrong with receiving recognition for something that we have done well. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;” the apostle wrote to Christians in Rome (Romans 12:10). But notice that idea here: it isn’t about trying to get others to honour us but it is our being devoted to others to the extent that we are ‘eager’ to honour them.
If we could learn this way of thinking different, of thinking like Jesus, everyone would be receiving the recognition they deserved.
So who is it that we need to recognize for the service they have given to us or to someone else? Be seeking ways to honour them rather than seeking the honour for ourselves. This is worth thinking about.
When we stop to think about a mother’s worth …
In recent years women have made important gains in the workplace. Some take jobs out of necessity, but many who don’t necessarily need the income choose to do so. As a result, those who make the choice to be stay-at-home moms are sometimes disparaged. “What’s wrong with you?” others seem to say. “Why don’t you want to work?”
I learned long ago to carefully phrase my questions. Instead of asking a woman, “Do you work?”, I know it’s better to ask, “Do you work outside the home?” Mothers, whether they work only in the home or also at the workplace, are worthy of great respect when they fulfill their motherhood tasks well.
Salary.com provides an interesting tool for calculating a mother’s financial worth. I entered the pertinent data for my daughter-in-law, a mother of two preschool children. According to the calculator, the median income for the area in which she lives, doing the work that she does as a stay-at-home mom, is $111,853. If you wonder why that figure is so high, consider some of the hats a mother wears, according to that site: housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, janitor, van driver, psychologist, nutritionist, staff nurse, etc. (Now you’re beginning to think mothers are undervalued?)
Long ago King Lemuel mused on this very subject. He didn’t have access to Salary.com’s calculator, but he arrived at a similar conclusion about the worth of a godly woman. “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies” (Proverbs 31:10, NKJV). He also points to some of the many hats such a wife and mother wears: seamstress (vv. 13,19), purchasing agent (v. 14), cook (v. 15), business manager (v. 16a), gardener (v. 16b), benefactress (v. 20), wardrobe manager (v. 21), and teacher (v. 26).
The conclusion naturally follows upon consideration of all that a godly mother does: “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her … a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:28,30). Not all mothers are worthy of such praise, for not all fear the Lord. But there are many of us who can say, “My mother is described well by this beautiful passage.”
Let us not take for granted the gifts God has given us. On Mothers’ Day 2021, may we do our own calculations and praise those women whose words and deeds have taught us to follow the Lord.
“‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth'” (Ephesians 6:2,3).
You can glean ample information from someone’s hands. The hands of a mechanic will differ from those of a seamstress; the hands of a gardener will differ from those of a welder. But no matter your profession or obsession, your hands must be useful to the Lord.
Jesus’ hands were magnificent.
In his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus’ teachings were met with skepticism.
“Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?” (Mark 6:2).
The mighty works done by his hands were miracles of healing. These were undeniable. In Capernaum, a day’s journey from Nazareth, Jesus healed a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-26), and the resulting fame spread all over (Mark 1:27, 28). In Capernaum he healed Simon’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-34), cleansed a leper (Mark 1:40-45), gave a paralytic the ability to walk (Mark 2:1-12), and restored a man’s withered hand (Mark 3:1-6). Here he gave a woman relief from a decade-long ailment (Mark 5:25-34), and gave a dead child back to her father (Mark 5:23, 35-43).
Yet his neighbors could not get over what his hands had been trained to do. “Is this not the carpenter?” they asked. They knew his mother, his brothers, and his sisters. His hands were those of a skilled craftsmen, not those of a “holy man.” Instead of belief, they took offense.
The Nazarene carpenter had a new profession, the Great Physician (Luke 4:23). His hands were healing ones. Note carefully the compassion that Jesus demonstrates with his hands. The leprous was to be put out of the camp (Numbers 5:2). This contagious disease was controlled by quarantine. A leprous person could go the remainder of their lifetime without human touch. Jesus was “moved with pity” and “stretched out his hand and touched him” (Mark 1:41).
Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). His hands were not idle, but in kindness, were deployed for man’s benefit.
These same skilled, gentle, and powerful hands had nails driven through them. The same hands which removed the curse of leprosy, and held formerly diseased and dead children, held the Lord of Glory to the accursed tree (Galatians 3:13).
But this also was an act of love, a mighty act of healing. The nails really didn’t hold Jesus to the cross. The one who controlled nature, time, disease, and death, could certainly overcome his creation’s attempt on his life. When Jesus confessed, “I am he,” the band of soldiers assembled to arrest him fell to the ground (John 18:6). No one takes Jesus’ life from him, but he lays it down of his own accord (John 10:18).
In agony, he allowed his body to be broken, his breath to be taken, and his blood to be spilled. His hands held him to that cross so that the Father would be glorified and so that man could be forgiven.
His hands speak of his perfect love and selflessness.
Your hands might hold children or handle mail, they might make loans or organize books, they might change oil or stock shelves. Whatever they do, make sure they do it to the glory of God. Have compassionate hands that serve others.
What do your hands reveal about you?
Occasionally my oldest will complain to his mother of pains. This is normal. Occasionally I complain to his mother of pains. This is also normal. But the two are not the same. The former holds the promise of growth. The later holds the promise of more pain.
“Growing pains without growth is just pain.”
The life of a Christian is one of growth. We begin as infants (1 Peter 2:2), but we must not stay there. Just as physical growth involves pain, so does spiritual growth. It takes effort to become fully mature (Hebrews 5:14). We must push ourselves, get outside of our comfort zones to thrive.
Yet it is possible to exert effort and suffer soreness, endure embarrassment and sense shame, or otherwise be strained and feel discomfited without actually growing.
Take our spiritual ancestors for example. They strained toward righteousness. They pursued godliness with a dedication often unseen today. Yet they often were chastised. Why?
In Isaiah’s day, God demanded that the Israelites cease their sacrifices. God said, “I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly” (Isaiah 1:13). Their feasts had become a burden to God, such that he hid his eyes from them (Isaiah 1:14, 15). They continued to sacrifice and celebrate, but they had forgotten justice (Isaiah 1:17). Evil deeds and hearts overshadowed their outward shows of devotion (Isaiah 1:15, 16).
Theirs was a hypocritical, outward-focused religion. Since God looks upon and weighs the heart (1 Samuel 16:7; Proverbs 21:2), this type of religion is bound to fail.
The Holy Spirit gives us another reason why many of our ancestors failed in their pursuit of righteousness. Of Israel, he says, “They did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone” (Romans 9:32).
A perusal of Old Testament history will paint a vivid picture of pursuing righteousness by works. One that we, at all costs, must not sketch ourselves.
Certainly the issues in Isaiah’s day were caused by pursuing righteousness by works. Unchecked long enough, such a pursuit will lead to iniquity. But it might not necessarily seem so. It might look remarkably like a pursuit that leads to growth. To many the Jews of the first century seemed righteous. To the discerning eye of Jesus they were anything but.
God knows our hearts. He sees perfectly. We cannot peer into the hearts of others, but we have a view into our own. Laying out God’s word we must test ourselves. Looking at the perfect life of Jesus we must model ourselves in the image of our Lord.
Those who grow do so by God’s grace through faith (2 Peter 3:18; Romans 1:17). Growing pains produce righteousness. Growing pains without growth is just plain old pain.
One leads to glory, the other to condemnation. Choose wisely.
“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15, ESV).
When readers of the Bible begin to consider sin, and to classify those which are most serious and harmful, they almost invariably think of sins of physical action which have the most harmful or offensive results. Murder, rape, child molestation and others of such nature are almost always considered to be the “worst” sins, those for which forgiveness must be most difficult to obtain.
It does not take long however to discover that God’s list of “worst” sins is not necessarily the same as ours. In particular, he is much more concerned with the impact on one’s spirit or heart than on the consequences of sin to our flesh. No statement is more emphatic than the text cited at the beginning of this article — 1 John 3:15.
I remember a popular song of my childhood entitled, “Standing on the Corner, Watching all the Girls Go By.” One catchy line was “You can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking.” Maybe not, but we are accountable for our thinking to an even higher authority than our human courts. In the context of that old song we should remember Jesus’ warning, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
It is that same principle which John appeals to in his condemnation of hatred. One who hates his brother is every bit as guilty, and as evil, as was Cain (Genesis 4:8-10). This is the negative application of the principle, “God is not as concerned with what we do, as with what we are.” That is normally said of good deeds, but it appliesequally to sins.
It is largely true to state, “one is not evil because he sins; he sins because of the evil within him.” Jesus made that plain in his teaching of defilement: “… what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person …” (Matthew 15:18-20).
Without the evil thoughts, the actions prompted by them would not occur. Sin originates from within us. It is only after those inner thoughts incubate and mature that we act upon them. James asked and answered the question as to the origin of our sins: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-2). Always, the inner thoughts are first, then come those deeds which the thoughts inspire.
But one has already committed the evil when he harbors and develops the thoughts and attitudes which lead to the sinful action. The one habituated to pornography is an adulterer in God’s perspective, even if he never commits the actual physical act. The one who hates his brother (who can be anyone) is just as much a murderer as one on death row, so far as his spiritual relationship with God is concerned. Hatred is just as offensive to our Creator as that act which would take his life. It is just as contrary to the nature and will of God.
The real importance of this principle is taught earlier in 1 John 3:7. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
Sin is not just about doing some bad thing, like stealing or killing or lying. It is far more about being ungodly. One who hates is far from the nature of God. One who loves is of God and from God. That should be the ultimate standard of our conduct. Not just what we do, but what, and who, we are.
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Has the Lord’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not’” (Numbers 11:25 NKJV).
About a year after their deliverance from Egypt, after celebrating Passover for the second time, Israel departed from Mount Sinai to journey to Canaan. Shortly after beginning that trip they began to complain about their diet of only manna (Numbers 11:4-6). Remembering the varied diet of Egypt, they demanded meat. Moses cried out to God, who promised to feed them meet for a complete month (verses 19-20). At that incredible statement Moses asked how it could be possible. That brought about the Lord’s response, essentially, “Is my arm too short?”
The idea of a shortened arm suggests a deformity or disease. In 1 Kings 13:4 King Jeroboam’s arm “withered, so that he could not pull it back to himself.” In his conversation with Moses the Lord speaks of his arm “being shortened,” rather than having always been that way. The image projected is that of someone who is handicapped.
Such deformities are common in poorer, less developed parts of the world. It is common to see many who are crippled, blind or otherwise handicapped on the streets of Asia, Africa, or South America. When we pass them, often begging in order to provide food for themselves, we are moved with emotions ranging from pity to disdain or even contempt.
When we doubt God’s ability to solve our problems or provide for our needs we are in danger not only of doubt, but of disrespect. Has his arm become shortened so that he cannot answer prayer or fulfill promises? Is he in fact handicapped?
His answer to Moses was emphatic and specific: “Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not.” In other words, “I am fully capable of doing whatever I choose or need to do.”
God’s arm is long enough for him to do whatever he says he will do. He “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2) and therefore cannot and will not fail to do what he promises. He is “not a man, that he should relent” (1 Samuel 15:29).
Throughout the Bible God’s relationship with mankind is based on “covenant,” which may be defined as “a mutual agreement between two parties which contains obligations and benefits on both sides.” Those are described on God’s part as “promises” (Romans 9:4). Just as his promise to feed meat to the Israelites in the wilderness was certain of fulfillment, so his promises of forgiveness from sin and eternal life are also certain. We can trust him implicitly, without reservation or doubt (James 1:5-6).
God is known in the Old Testament by many names or titles. One of the most frequently used is “The Almighty.” He is “all powerful” (omnipotent), with no weakness or inabilities.
The Hebrew writer defines faith, in part, as the conviction that God “is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” That is, we believe that God will do what he says and fulfill all that he has promised.
That included feeding more than six hundred thousand men, plus their families, in the wilderness. It also includes giving us “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3), and “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). God is not deformed or handicapped. He is all powerful, all wise and all loving – fully capable of ruling over all creation until it has fulfilled its purpose. Let us trust in him.