Trials: The (Valuable) Hand of God

I had a dream a few nights ago, and it is in fact a corporate word for the Body of Christ. I will briefly share the dream, for the sake of context, followed by a short explanation of its meaning; and then I hope to expound on its meaning with the support of some Scriptures.

The dream or word is particularly relevant, since I just posted a teaching on justice and judgement under the New Covenant.

I dreamed I was walking alongside a man, who was a lawyer. He wore a very old and worn out suite jacket. I on the other hand wore a brand new suite which was quite lovely. As we got to the bottom of the stairs, he invited me to his restaurant. There, in his restaurant was much revelry and eating and drinking. I chose to go to another restaurant. As I sat down I ordered a starter. It cost of Forty Rand, (About the price of a Mcdonalds burger). When the starter arrived it was a small and ordinary piece of brown bread with a drop of butter on it. The butter had been applied without care and looked sloppy. In fact, it did not even cover the entire piece of bread. There was the small piece of dry meat on the bread as well. I sent the meal back, and I was angry that they presented such a poor starter, for it was not worth the money.

The lawyer in the dream, with the old jacket represents The Law, and the Old Covenant concept of judgement.

My jacket represents a New Covenant perspective on judgement.

The restaurants represent churches, where people feed their souls on the word of God.

The number 40 represents a trial or testing.

The price of the item represents the cost or more importantly the value of a trial or test.

Poorly prepared food, represents an incorrect doctrine or belief system.
I believe that the Lord is saying that when we walk with an Old Testament view of judgement, then we have a distorted view of trials and tests. When we hold this view, we may potentially equate any trial, or test as the judgment of God in our lives. The trials and tests which the Lord allows in our lives are not the result of sin in our lives, whereas the judgment of God, from an Old Covenant perspective is a direct consequence of sin. Maintaining the Old Testament view of judgement then has a two-fold effect:

We believe that everything must always go well with the believer if they keep themselves from sin (Which is why there was so much revelry in the restaurant).

We reduce the value of the testing and trials which God permits  in our lives. We cheapen it, by serving a doctrine to the church that does not reflect the true value of the trial. We either do not recognize the true value and cost of the trial, or we reduce the trial to the consequence of sin in our lives. Both views are false.

Let us evaluate the dream through the Word of God. (As an aside, please refer to my post on 16 December 2015 on the subject of Justice, to gain an understanding of judgment and justice under the present dispensation of Christ. In short: Judgement in Christ is the restoration of Divine order on earth, and is not necessarily the consequence of sin in the life of a Christian).

I guess that a good place to start the discussion is to evaluate if the Lord tests people? Or to consider if trials are the direct consequence of His will?

The Hebrew word “nasah” is translated as “tested” in the Bible. The word means: “to test, tempt, tried or proved”.

The first mention of this word, occurs in Genesis 22:1, and it reads as follows: “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am”. Notice the word is translated “tempt” by the KJV as opposed to test by the ASV. Both the translations stem from the same Hebrew word “nasah”. At this point, I am not overly concerned with the translation, rather, I wish to point out that God is the Source of the test. (Yes, I know, about the passage in James 1:13 that says that God does not tempt us….) The word within context implies that God will not tempt us with sin. In other words, He may, for example, test your heart towards your wife, by seeing if you are willing to serve her as Jesus served the Body. He will however not test your heart toward your wife by exposing you to pornography.

There are yet more words that could be translated as a trial or a test. The Hebrew word “Massah” also translates as: “A test, trial or proving”.

The first mention of this word occurs in Deuteronomy 4:34, and it reads: “Or hath God assayed to go [and] take him a nation from the midst of [another] nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? We again come across that word “tempatation” in this passage. I wish to point out yet again, that the Lord is the source of the temptation, trial and test.

There is a certain reluctance within the Body of Christ to accept that the Lord Himself tests us. What if we understood the reason for the test? What I mean by this is;  what if we had the Lord’s perspective on the test, and we saw His heart in the test. Moreover, what if we, by faith, saw the result of the test – the end from the beginning as it were.

I found six reasons why the Lord tests us. I am sure there are more reasons, but I wish to concentrate on these only. My departure point is simply this: God is the source of the trial, and as a result of Him being Love, we need to try and understand His motives in the trial, through the lens of love that is. Then, we may as a consequence see the tremendous value that the Lord places on the tests He lays before us.

Perhaps the most profound revelation I gained during my study was that God tests the righteous. Psalm 11:5 reads as follows: “The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth”. Notice, that even in trials and testings, the Lord makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked. My flesh, and carnal wisdom would have guessed it to be otherwise. I would have thought that the Lord would put the unrighteous through trials, because He loves us, and hates them. The converse however is true. If we explore De 4:34 it makes a similar point: “Or hath God assayed to go [and] take him a nation from the midst of [another] nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm…..” Notice that one of the distinctions of a chosen people, besides signs, wonders and miracles are tests and trials – or as in the the KJV “temptations”. A loving God must have a very good reason for this testing His elect. Let’s explore further.

As I mentioned earlier, the first mention of the word “tested” appears in Genesis 22:1. Now, the context in which the word appears is critical. The Lord previously gave Abraham a promise, that his son Isaac was a son of promise, and that through the promise, Abraham would become a mighty nation. In this chapter however (22:1), the Lord asks Abraham to sacrifice (that is to kill) his son. In effect, the Lord is asking Abraham to slay his promise. Well, most of us know how the story rolls out, I mean here we are sitting alive and well as Sons-of-Abraham.

Herein lies the key to the story – Abraham was tested by God, he obeyed and passed the test. This is the first reason why God tests us: So that we may inherit that which was promised to us. Reflect if you will, on verse 17 of the same chapter. It reads: “And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice”.

The Lord makes it perfectly clear that because Abraham obeyed God, and (therefore passed the test), he would be blessed – and what a blessing he received!

The author of Hebrews in 11:17 ratifies this promise for us, the New Testament believer by quoting the story of Abraham. His trial becomes our trial, and we who endure the trial, like him will receive the promises of God. Let us look at a few more examples. When we read in Hebrews 11:26-27, of how Moses endured His trial for the reward set before him we are  reminded that on the other side of every trial is a reward. The book of Revelation carries many such promises for us. I list some of those Scriptures here: Revelation 2:26, Revelation 3:12 and Revelation 3:26. Please, please please meditate on the promises on the others side of those trials: Power over nations, pillars in the temple of God, a new name, a bearer of the Name of God, and the promise of not going out anymore. Finally, a promise to sit down with Jesus on His throne. I don’t know about you, but I hope to never cheapen a trial or test from God again.

I guess it is difficult to believe that the Lord intends for us to go through a trial so that we may receive a promise. His ways are however higher than ours, and His wisdom so much greater (Isaiah 55:8-9). I think it may help to study the life of Jesus. His life testifies of  two truths within this context:
1. The Lord himself is the source of the trial.
2. The Lord holds a reward and promise for those who endure, and pass the test.
Hebrews 12:2 reads: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

And then there is Philippians 2:8-9, which proves that the worst of trials produces the greatest rewards. It reads: “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name”.

The Second reason the Lord tests us, is to know our hearts. I sometimes think, through my own experience, that it reveals not so much my heart to Him, but my heart to myself. That said, the Scripture says that he tests my heart, so it must so! Deuteronomy 8:2 reads: “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no”.
Even He who knows everything tests us. Tests manifest the consequence and reality of free-will and choice in a tangible way. Every tests allows us to choose life or death, will we choose God’s Kingdom or the kingdom of darkness. It is just as the Lord said to Moses in Exodus 16:4: “Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no”. Not only is the Lord testing Israel here, but it is a test in reverse. He produces the promise of (providing) bread upfront, only to know and expose their hearts. It is as if He is saying to them, if I made good on My Word, would you still honor and obey Me?

The third reason the Lord may test us, is to produce patience within us. Patience and faith are related. They are sisters within the family of promise, and when they grow up they manifest as maturity. Let us read James 1:2-4: “ My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing”.
The word “perfect” in verse 4 may actually be translated as “mature”. So you see that the patience produced through the trial actually has a maturing process.
The Apostle Paul caught hold of this revelation in Romans 5:3-5. He faced trials with the mark of a truly mature Christian – with joy, and hope, and these qualities in turn produced an experience of God. He then walks away from trials with an experience of His God. Herein lies the fourth reason God tests us. To give us an experience of Him.
God reveals Himself to us through trials. I mean look at poor old Abraham, the man was rich, so rich in fact that his male servants were sufficient to amass a personal army, strong enough to defeat four kings. That said, in Genesis 22, God asks Him to offer the one thing he could not buy – his only son. And what happened later is that God provided a ram in the thicket to slaughter in his son’s stead. From that time forward, Abraham knew God as Yehovah Jireh – The God Who Provides. The trial served as introduction to the character and nature of God. How very strange that God introduced Himself as Provider to a man who had everything, and who was in need of nothing. Perhaps the introduction was always meant to reveal the supernatural character of a supernatural God. He was the God who provided the impossible; a son to a man as who was as good as dead.

Let us read Deuteronomy 29:2-4: “And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land;
3 The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles:
4 Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.
Moses offers some retrospective revelation to Israel. There is a degree of irony in his belated encouragement to them after the trials. They were tested by GOD in the wilderness for sure, (Deuteronomy 4:34 and 7:19, Exodus 16:4), but unto what end? Moses unscrambles the puzzle for them. He reminds them that every trial, came with the promise of a supernatural miracle. More to the point, the trials served as introduction to the character and nature of God. Every trial was God sending them a love letter, inviting them to know Him. Every test, was as if Jesus was sitting before His disciples saying: “I know who the Egyptians and your circumstances say who I am, but who do you say that I am?”. Now, they truly had eyes opened to see and their ears opened to hear, and now were given a heart that understood who their God was. This is what our trials and tests are meant to produce – the assured knowing of who our God is. Job said it best after his test: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee”. Every trial must produce an experiential knowing of our God, or else it is wasted.

There is yet another reason we endure trials; and that is to perfect our faith. 1 Peter 1:7 makes it clear as day: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ”. You see, this is another reason why in my dream I was angry at how cheap they had made the trial or test, because in this passage the Lord makes it clear that the trial of faith is expensive, costly and dear. It is something to be treasured. Some may feel that Peter is referring to faith here as the precious commodity in this context, however gold, like faith is refined in the fire, and I believe herein lies the true context of the passage. It is in fact the trial of our  faith that is the item of value.

The final reason why I believe the Lord tests us,  is so that we may  partake of the sufferings of Christ. 1 Peter 4:12-13 lays it out for us:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy”. This is yet another reason why in the dream I was angry, because it cheapens the suffering of Christ. Just as plainly as Christ had to suffer for the glory set before Him, so we are often called to do the same. It is an honor and not something to be despised. Every aspect of the trials we touched on today points to a reward – a great one at that – if we endure and overcome the test before us. How can this be cheapened, or reduced to a judgement from God because of an act of sin or disobedience?
James 1:12 also proves that there is a reward, or promise for those who endure the tests set before them. But, James a step further and implies that tests come to those who are not only loved by God, but those who love Him. If we love Him, we need to embrace our trials knowing that these are the exclusive domain of His chosen.
Psalm 11:5 makes it clear that these tests are the privilege of those who are called righteous – those in whom God delights. Those He calls His own. In your fire and in your trial know this, that these moments are the exclusive domain of His elect. The Elect-of-the-Elect. Joseph in the pit, Daniel in the Lions Den, and Jesus on the Cross. Let us not be like Peter, who called Jesus away from His trial, thinking the trial to be the work of the devil (Only then to be called satan by Jesus). Or, let us not be like Job’s friends  who reduce the trial to a judgment. God’s wisdom is madness to the world, and there is a method to it. His method in all the madness is the greatest paradox of an infinitely wise and loving God.


Justice: Manifesting the Love of God

The Lord declares that He loves justice (Psalm 37:28, Isaiah 61:8), and so He should for it is the foundation of His Kingdom, and the very expression of His character and nature. Is it possible then to execute and establish justice – a judicial process – without judgement? I think not; and yet for years the church has taught that God no longer judges under the present dispensation, and that we, as His representatives on earth should do the same. Ironically, some teachers on the subject, have come to expect that righteousness and justice should materialize in our lives, without judgement ever having taking place. We long for the equity and peace afforded by God’s righteousness and justice, and yet we have removed the vessel of judgement not only from God, but also from His saints. We have come to preach the burden and responsibility of establishing righteousness and justice in the earth, but we have removed our delegated authority expressed through the vessel of judgement.

Severing Divine justice from Divine judgement is rooted in the misrepresentation of two commonly held believes. The first of these is that judgement is an Old Covenant principle, which no longer has a place in the present dispensation of Jesus. The second misrepresentation is that love and mercy are the antithesis of judgement. Is it not peculiar that love and Divine judgement are portrayed as existing within a rather static tension? We are so careful to preserve the portions of His infinite and unchanging character we deem relevant to a particular dispensation, but would readily discard other aspects of His eternal nature. We re-arrange His eternal character as we see fit, and place it in neat little boxes. For example, God healed in the Old covenant, and He still does today we say. He spoke then, and He still speaks today. He provided then, and He still provides for our needs today. Prophecy and tongues – absolutely! Both these gifts are alive and well within the church today. He is after all the same yesterday, today and tomorrow we argue. And what of justice and judgement? Not today Brother, I hear you say. Really – have we now shut the courts of heaven for a day still to come? Have we removed the Judge and King from His throne? Do we however still expect God to grant us justice when the devil steals from us, or when we are wronged, do we long for vindication? We expect justice to be served in such cases, but we want it to be settled apart from the act of judgement. Have we become such a peculiar people, held captive to our man-made theological dispensation, or have we simply just misunderstood Divine justice?

I contend that justice is not only the expression of God’s love, but that it is the essential product of judgement; and it is a judgement that has been misunderstood, and misrepresented by many. I contend further that justice is not an option, or by product of God’s nature, but the essence of who He is – the manifestation and expression of His very nature and character. I believe that if we let go – if only for a moment – the notion that judgement no longer exists and that it is not loving; we may find that judgement, when rightly understood and expressed, is the ultimate expression of God’s love.

Did you know that words righteousness and justice in Hebrew are one and the same? The word “tsedeq” in Hebrew can mean both “right” and “just”, or “righteousness” and “justice”. In fact, in the King James translation the same word is often translated as justice, whereas in the English Standard Version for example, it is rendered as righteousness. The definition of the word, by implication carries the notion of “a perfect and just weight”. It means that when righteousness is established, or present, then justice exists also. Conversely, in the absence of righteousness, justice is lacking. It stands to reason therefore that the term “a perfect and just weight” implies that the scales of what is right according to God, are in fact in perfect balance. Simply put – There is a state of Divine order.

Now what of the New Testament? Well, the Greek word Dikaisune is translated as righteousness or justice in the New Testament also. It means: “A righteousness of which God is the source or Author”. It comes from the root word dike meaning: “A judicial verdict”. Quite literally – “Divine approval – or God’s judicial approval”. Scholars present the definition as: “That which is approved by His eyes, after His examination”. He weighs and measures to determine what is right, and just as defined by His nature and character, and is unable to look upon that which is evil. Righteousness and justice then, in both the Old and New Testaments are the result of a judicial verdict, according to God’s standard of what is right and just. A judicial verdict is nothing other than a judgement.

Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines justice as follows: “The perfection of His nature whereby He is infinitely righteous in Himself and all that He does. It is His Divine nature expressed in His moral Government. At first God imposes righteous laws on His creation and executes them righteously. Justice is not an optional product of His will, but an unchanging principle of His nature…..”

The irrefutable truth of His word declares plainly in Psalm 89:14: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne, mercy and truth go before Your face”. Let us look at you another example. Psalm 97:2 reads: “Clouds and darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne”. So, His throne, that is His seat of government, is built on the foundation of what is right and just. It is, I might add, an eternal and unchanging throne, as expressed in Psalm 45:6: “Your throne O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom”. So, when did a King on a throne, stop to rule His Kingdom apart from righteousness and justice?

What does His heavenly government mean for us here on earth? Well Hebrews 8: 2-5 tells us that the things on earth are but types and shadows – copies if you will – of what exists in heaven. And so, if the foundation of His perfect government in heaven is righteousness and justice then surely it should be replicated on earth The Bible does tell us to make manifest the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven (Luke 11:2), does it not?. God intends for us to manifest His image and Divine nature on earth as expressed in Genesis 1:27 – 28. We were first made in His image, and then given dominion to rule, reign and govern in the earth. Nothing has changed other than losing our authority and corrupting our God image….
The loss of our authority to govern, and the resulting distorted God-image, was result of our sin, but the good news is that we got it all back through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not only are our sins forgiven, but we now are able to represent the face of Jesus once again. We now hold again the keys to government, to establish His kingdom on earth – that is to make righteousness and justice the foundation of His rule and reign on earth.

I wish to share with you three Scriptures that show how perfectly God intended for His throne and government to be established on earth as it is in heaven. The first portion is from Isaiah 9: 6 – 7: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His Kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgement and justice from that time forward, even forever more. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this”. This scripture irrevocably proves that government, under the dispensation of Christ is eternally ordered by justice and judgment. Notice that ORDER is the result of judgement and justice! Not convinced? Read Isaiah 11: 2 – 5; these verses testify of Jesus and His rule on earth. Verses 3-4 state clearly that He does judge, and that that judgement is unto righteousness, equity and the rooting out of evil. My absolute favorite portion of Scripture on this subject however, comes from Isaiah 28:17. It reads: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation. Whoever believes will not act hastily. Also I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plummet….”. The foundation and standard of God’s government manifest on earth, (as it is in heaven), is irrefutably righteousness and justice. It is as a mirror of what exists in heaven!

Daniel 7:14 goes in to tell us that to Jesus was given an everlasting kingdom on earth, and further that dominion and glory were entrusted to Him to rule this kingdom – to include all nations, and all people. Verse 18 is perhaps more relevant to us, His saints. It carries the burden of responsibility to both establish and govern that Kingdom on earth, just as was the mandate to Adam at creation. We are bound as people of faith to execute His righteousness on earth by maintaining a moral government according to His standard of what is right and just. Our authority as His governmental representatives on this planet lies rooted in our righteousness (Psalm 45:6). It is a fascinating principle of truth and the reality of our faith. Apart from righteousness we have no authority to govern with Him. I might add that apart from justice, the kingdom and its righteousness are strangely absent. Weather we care to acknowledge it, or even accept the burden of such a responsibility; we are called to execute justice in the earth – be it sacred or civil – with the delegated authority bestowed upon us by Christ Jesus.

He said to His followers in Matthew 16:19: “And I give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”. I love the Amplified translation of this verse. It describes the process of binding and loosing in legal terms – a judicial process of sorts. The Amplified version says that what we “declare lawful on earth, will be what is “lawful in heaven”. As I said earlier, justice is simply what meets with God’s judicial approval. Here we too, we are called to rightly judge and decide what is lawful and right. I don’t want to flog this horse to death, but there is a throne and government in heaven and one here on earth. It is our job, (in partnership with God), to make sure the thrones and kingdoms look the same. How do we do this? Again, the Bible offers some insight on the subject.

The Bible denotes that sacred and civil justice were often executed by judges, priests and kings in the Old Testament. When the judges had difficulty in reaching a verdict they were instructed to go before the priests (De 17: 8 – 10, 19: 17). It is worth noting that in cases of judgment, courts were to be held as before the Lord. Even in the Old Testament, justice and judgment were to be conducted as under the shadow of His throne. Do we still dispense with justice today as judges, priests and kings? I ask because under the dispensation of Christ, the concept of king, priest and judge has changed so dramatically.

The theocracy of Christ ushered in a merging of the offices of priest and king. Government and justice were no longer to be divided on earth as secular and sacred, but rather merged in one throne in Christ (Zechariah 6:13). Again, the symmetry of it all defies human understanding, because God in His wisdom has ordained us as priests and kings in His kingdom to dispense with justice and establish righteousness upon the earth (Rev 1:6).

The Lord Himself came to show us how to establish His kingdom and government on earth. 1 John 3:8 gives us a concise vision or mission statement of what that is to look like. It reads: “For this reason the Son of Man was made manifest; to destroy the works of the devil”. Since we know that the devil is an enemy of righteousness (Acts 13:10), we know that Jesus came to restore righteousness and justice on the earth, we know how this movie ends. Here finally, we get a glimpse into what God intended by judgement in and through Christ. Is the destruction of evil (through Christ) not the restoration of Divine order? This principle is replicated when Jesus commissions His disciples in Luke 9:1-2 and 10:19. Essentially Jesus says to them that He has given them authority to destroy the works of the devil, just as He did, by curing diseases etc. and in so doing manifesting the Kingdom of God on earth. Where people are sick, poor, needy and in want; righteousness and justice are absent. How do we know this? It is because His standard – the plumb line and measuring line – of what is right in His eyes has been corrupted. Divine order is absent and therefore righteousness and justice are absent. How do we know this? Well, again, heaven is our example. Within that Kingdom there is no disease or poverty – righteousness and justice are always present.

We may explore further the notion of judgement and justice as the means to restoring Divine order in the story of Abraham. In Genesis 18 we come across the first mention of God being referred to as “the Judge”, and similarly, it is the first mention of the words “judgement / justice”. We all know the story of Sodom and and its destruction, but I wish to highlight three aspects of the story. The first is that the Lord’s judgement of Sodom was the result of what “was approved by His eyes, after His examination”. You may remember that this was the definition of the Greek word Dikaiosune, (translated as righteous in the New Testament). As we read in Habakuk 1:13 His eyes simply could not look upon what is evil. Sodom had become evil, and HE CAME TO SEE FOR HIMSELF IF THE REPORT WAS TRUE. He found the scales of righteousness to be out of balance, and He needed to intervene. The second aspect I wish to highlight is that the Lord involved Abraham in the government of heaven – that is the judicial process. The Lord declares plainly in Genesis 18 16 – 17 that He will not hide this process from Abraham, because he is to become a great nation in the earth. Abraham then intercedes in the process, and lays a foundation of justice to be administered. Intercession is in fact taking part in a judicial process.

The third condition worth meditating on is perhaps a little more profound and personal to us all. The Lord leads us to be partakers of His government and to share in His judicial process here on earth, but unto a specific end. The end is not so much government, but relationship. It is both the means, to the end, and the end in itself. This pearl is hidden in verse 19 which reads: For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him”. God says that He knows Abraham, so that he may do justice and make judgements! You see God know us, He does however, reveal Himself to us intimately, so that we may know His heart to do His will on earth. To see as He sees, to judge as He judges and to manifest His love and mercy as He would have. Moreover, when we walk and execute righteous judgement on earth with His heart, then we may inherit the kingdom. The Lord makes this clear in the latter part of the verse – “so that He may bring upon Abraham what He hath spoken of him”. If we want the promises of Kingdom we need to manifest the kingdom, that is why we know Him! I labour the point, because it is critical that we understand that if we do not walk in a personal revelation of God, and manifest His righteous judgments, then we will not get what is promised to us. If we turn to Jeremiah 22:16, it declares this truth quite plainly:

““Shall you reign because you enclose yourself in cedar?
Did not your father eat and drink,
And do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.

He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
Then it was well.
Was not this knowing Me?” says the Lord.

When we judge the case of the poor and needy we tell the world, that we like Abraham are friends of God! Moreover, if we maintain Divine order through the administration of justice then it will be well with us.

I can always be sure that in a post of this kind, someone will come forward and let me know that this portion of Scripture is from the Old Covenant, and that we are no longer under the law, so they do not consider it a valid example. They would further contend that without the Law, there can be no judgement. Actually, this portion of Scripture pre-dates the Law of Moses, and what is important here is the Spirit of the Law, and not the letter of the law. This is why I explored the principles of truth pertaining to government, Divine order and righteous judgement from the passage, rather than the letter of the law. (Or even the plight of the city that was judged). Quite right though, we are no longer under the Law of Moses, but we are still under a LAW, and God requires us to keep this law, like every one of His other laws. Moral government still exists – His throne still stands, and its foundation has not changed! We are now under the Law of the Spirit (James 1:25 and Romans 8:2). Actually, I love what James calls it in James 2:8 – he calls it “Royal Law”, and Isaiah similarly refers to the court as a Royal Court. Is that not beautiful? We are kings of a kingdom who rule and reign under a Royal Law, and we are both subjects and administrators of a Royal Court! Why would Isaiah prophecy of a dispensation under Christ which is built on righteousness and justice (Isaiah 9:6-7 and Isaiah 28:17) and then dispense with the notion of judgement? Where there is a law, there must be a judicial system, maintained by of a standard of righteousness, and administered by a system of judgement and justice. In all legal matters and their resolution, there is most always a courtroom, a Judge, and Accuser, and an Advocate and a Witness. The Kingdom of God is no different.

We must guard against making The Lord the only unemployed Judge, and Jesus – The Advocate without portfolio. What of the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, or His counsel? Did Jesus not promise that The Spirit would counsel us before magistrates? Let me give you some Scripture here, so you don’t think I am making this up. In Hebrews 12:23, James 4:12, and 5:9 as well as 2 Timothy 4:8 God is referred to as Judge. Furthermore, both John and Peter, elude to Him as Judge on a throne, though not by name. May I further remind you that these are all New Testament references. So, I think we can accept there is a Judge who still (presently) presides in heaven. What of an Advocate? Well, again, there is proof of such a One being active in the New Testament. Read 1 John 2:1 if you are in doubt. Similarly Zechariah 3:1 mentions the existence of an accuser and his existence and operation is validated in Revelation 12:10 – so New Testament also. In summation then, we have an accuser, an Advocate and a Judge, the only thing missing is a courtroom. Here, I refer you to Psalm 82:1 and Zechariah 3:6.

Tell me then, if we can not deny the existence and operation of a heavenly court and we can not dispute the very definition of righteousness as a judicial verdict, then how can we deny judgement in the Church? If God Himself instructs us to maintain righteousness and execute justice, how are we to do it without judgement? Judgment will surely cease when righteousness, or at least God’s desire for it, ceases. What if you were stolen from by the enemy? You know, we regularly make these decrees and declarations in church, I have heard and said them myself. You know what I am referring to – “God will make sure that the enemy repays me ten-fold for what he has stolen from me”…. and “I declare that I will be recompensed for all the years the enemy has stolen from me”. And my reply to this is: “Yes and Amen!” I stand in agreement with you, but, all the same I want to remind you that such decrees are the result of a heavenly court that made a judgement, found the enemy guilty of theft, and ruled in your favour. Judgement took place, justice was served and righteousness was established. It is the foundation of His throne.
Here I believe we get to the crux, or rather the cross of the matter. It is no longer a question of whether God judges – He does, and He must, and so should we. The issue then, is what does judgement look like under the dispensation of Christ, because it has for years been misrepresented and misunderstood. I believe I have already adequately defined judgement, and proved it’s existence, but, I wish to just offer a short synopsis for the sake of both foundation and context, to my next point. Divine Order exists where God’s righteousness is present. When the scales of justice are in balance so to speak, then equity also exists (as refers to in Isa 11:2). When, the scales of justice are not balanced, then Divine order has been disturbed, and God needs to intervene, and restore His standard of what is right. This process of restoring righteousness and justice is called judgement.

Do you realize then that the cross of Jesus Christ is the greatest symbol of justice? The cross also stands unrivaled as His most amazing act of Judgement?! Yes, I just made that statement. In one single act, God restored Divine order through the cross, by re-establishing both righteousness and government on earth. The cross also restored all that was lost through the fall of man. He put the scales of what is just and righteous back in balance through the death of One Man. More to the point, He made it accessible to us. God, through the cross, destroyed the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and in so doing, personally made restitution for all that was previously taken, killed or destroyed in our lives. Isaiah 56:1 prophecies about this Salvation that was to come through Him, and encourages his readers to keep righteousness and justice while we wait on the Salvation of God. The Salvation of God, made manifest through the death and resurrection of Christ; is God’s ultimate form of judgement. It redeems and restores all to us, in Him and through Him. It brings us into right standing with Him, fellow man, and indeed the creation. It restores Divine order!

When God the Father, through Jesus re-established His righteous requirement, He established not only justice, but salvation and redemption. Isaiah 62 captures this concept quite beautifully, but verse 2 really drives the principle home. Isaiah 45:8 also draws us to the heart of God in His restoring Divine order through Salvation. The Bible is in fact, filled with examples of where God’s judgement is manifest through His salvation. So, if you were to ask me what judgement looks like in the New Covenant, I will tell you it looks like the cross of Jesus! Let’s explore more Scripture on the subject.

Isaiah 51:4-5 offers us outstanding evidence: It not only mentions, but merges the concepts of God’s law, God’s justice, God’s judgement, God’s righteousness and His Salvation in two verses. It ties the whole thing together. It reads: “Listen to Me, My people; and give ear to me, Oh My nation: For law will proceed from Me, and I will make My justice rest as a light of My peoples. My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, and My arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands will wait upon Me and on My arm they will trust”. Do you see how in Christ we have Justice? Do you see how through His salvation there is judgement? Read, Isaiah 42:21-22 as a further example. Here He promises the restoration of lost things through the establishment of the righteousness of Christ. Similarly Isaiah 42:1 promises justice to the gentiles through the Servant of Jesus. Isaiah expounds on what justice would look like when He comes – He will not raise His voice, He will not break a bruised reed, or quench a smoking flax. Isaiah continues by saying that justice will come in truth, and that the LORD will not quit until He has established justice in the earth. Later, in verse 7 – 8 of that same chapter He displays to us the substance of His justice: He restores the Divine order of His kingdom by opening blind eyes, letting prisoners go free, and by giving freedom to those who sit in darkness. It is no coincidence then that the One, through whom justice comes is called the JUSTIFIER, of those who believe!

It is we, who have been justified by Him, who now must govern in His stead here on earth. It is us, who are to establish justice where we see oppression, and to restore Divine order where there is an absence of righteousness. We have after all been commissioned, and empowered with His authority on earth. This duty falls to the Ecclesia. This Greek word is used 115 times in the Bible – so it is obviously important, but what does it mean? The Encyclopedia Britanica defines it as: … A governmental assembly duly called out… possessing all political power to perform judicial functions. Clearly the LORD, by definition, intended for His Ecclesia, to come out of the world, and establish justice in every area of society – be it political, social or economic. Isaiah 58 gives us some insight of what God requires of a righteous nation in establishing His justice: To loose the bonds of wickedness, undo heavy burdens, let the oppressed go free, break every yoke, share your home and your bread with the hungry, and clothe the hungry.

Jeremiah 22:3 serves as summation of this task: “Thus says the Lord: Execute judgement and righteousness and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place”. If you want a moral guideline of what this looks like in our daily walk today, scan over the sermon on the Mount. Justice is a moral issue, that permeates every aspect of the lives of those who call Christ their Master. Jeremiah writes that we should establish justice in “this place”. Well, what or where is this place? It is so that all the earth belongs to God, but we as believers have areas of influence and areas of authority in all our lives. I reckon that some of the greatest frustration(s) I have experienced as a believer, occurred when I wanted to change circumstances within an area where I have had little or no authority, but only a degree of influence. Where then is your area of authority, and where is your area of influence?

Amos 5:15 sheds some light on the issue. it reads: “Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate. It may be that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph”. Notice the phrase Amos uses; “establish justice in the gate”. I believe the gate is the symbol of your area of influence. It is both the entry and exit point to your area of authority. You decide what enters and you decide what leaves your domain. It is in effect your little city or garden. It may be your office, your home, or the sports team you coach after hours, but it is where you are king, priest and judge. It is here that you may decide what is fair and equitable. If for example you pay your domestic servant a wage that is less than fair, you are in fact guilty of misrepresenting justice, and you may see the LORD intervene to restore order. If you are stealing from suppliers at work, you are also guilty of injustice within your gates. There are times that we may witness injustice take place, and we are not in a position of authority to restore justice, but, we may influence the situation through prayer, or even a quiet word with the responsible party, or someone in authority.

Zechariah 8:16 – 17 gives further insight of what it looks like to maintain righteousness within our gates. It reads: “Do not fear, these are things you shall do: speak each man to his neighbor; give judgement in your gates for truth justice and peace; Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; and do not love a false oath. For all these things I hate says the Lord”. What is interesting in this passage, is that Zechariah uses the word judgement, as opposed to justice, which is used in the Amos passage. Perhaps this is an opportune time for us to briefly explore yet another aspect of judgement, for it is an issue often tip-toed around.

The Greek word Krino is translated as judgement in the Bible. The contextual meaning of the word is defined within a judicial setting – as in a court. It literally means to pick out (that is to choose) by separating. To make an official or legal distinction between right and wrong. It is important that by distinction, we are only able to judge accurately, through intelligent comparison based on God’s word. i.e. To approve what is right and oppose what is wrong (according to His standard). Interestingly, the same word can also literally mean to condemn or to damn.

Now, we know that we are called to establish justice on the earth, we also know that this process is a judicial process. So, how are we then to make an official or legal choice, by separating right and wrong, without making a judgement? The word, by definition demands that we make a choice. I dare say we are called to make judgements every day. I believe that the key in making sound or acceptable judgement, rests on two pillars:

The definition gives us a clue to the first pillar – and that is that we can only make an accurate distinction between right and wrong based on the word of God. Remember that justice by implication is what is deemed acceptable to God, after His weighing of the matter. So, when we for example judge that homosexuality is wrong, some people may reply that we are not to judge. Wrong! We are in fact by the definition of the word judgement, called to make a decision, using the Word of God as a guide. If then, the Word of God is clear on a particular subject, we are compelled by God to agree with the Word. In Luke 7:43 Jesus commends Peter for judging correctly. Remembering that justice was achieved on the cross, and it was achieved through the judgement of sin. We are not condemning people by calling sin a sin. Jesus made judgements, so did the Holy Spirit and so should we. In John 5:30 Jesus Himself says that He does judge, and that His judgement is righteous, because it reflects the will of His Father.

The second aspect to remember is that we should always judge, or make a judgement unto life, and not unto death. That is to say, that our verdict is to yield the the peaceable fruit of righteousness. It is not meant to be unto condemnation! Let us explore some Scriptures to illustrate: The often quoted Matthew 7:1-2 massage reveals upon closer inspection that the word judge, could quote easily be translated as “condemn” (or to damn). If I am not mistaking, the same word used in Matthew 7:1-2 is the same word used by Jesus in Luke 7:43 when Jesus commends Peter for rightly judging. How is it possible that Jesus commends someone for one thing, and tells us not to do it in another place. As, I said, the key is not to condemn. We are rather to discern between good and evil, or right and wrong – this is a right judgement. More to the point, we are compelled as the representative and delegated government of God on earth, to agree with His Word on what is acceptable. If we are not able or willing to do this, we are unable to institute justice on the earth. We are further not able to reign. Read John 8:11, where Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery that none of her accusers have condemned her. She sinned, and there was no doubt about it – she knew it and Jesus knew it. However, Jesus made it clear that righteous judgment does not include condemnation. He did not however tell her it was OK to live in sin! We merely have to reflect on John 16:8-11 to recognize that the devil has also been judged! The same Scripture reveals that it is a sin not to believe in the Word, and finally that it is our commission to establish righteousness in the world, as delegates of Christ. Sin has already been judged, so we merely have to agree with the judgement. This is critical – the verdict on sin is out! In Luke 12:57, Jesus commands us also, to discern, or to judge what is right. The Apostle Paul motivates us to do the same in 1 Corinthians 6: 2-4.

We must realise that God Himself makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked. We are judged differently. Before God created anything on earth, He separated light and dark. A single act, so profound so that everything that would be created from that point on, would know that they would be bound by the choice of choosing life or death. This truth is supported in Genesis 18:25 , it also states that He does make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked. In fact, this distinction is made within the context of the first mention of the word judgement. God made further distinction between Israel and Egypt – even their livestock was separately judged (Refer Genesis 9:4). One of the most striking Biblical examples of this is found in Malachi 3:17-18, where the Lord makes a clear distinction between the righteous and the wicked, and actually encourages us to do this same – as if it is something to strive toward. There are many more Scriptures showing God’s distinction between the righteous and the wicked (Matthew 25:46, Psalm 37:17, Psalm125:3) are a few to ponder. The end of this is that when God restores Divine order, He does judge differently, and may penalize the unrighteous while recompensing the righteous.

The Apostle Paul, also makes a distinction between those who are in the world and those who are in Christ. He writes in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 that God judges those who are outside the Body, but that we are to judge those who are within. He makes the point in the book of Corinthians that it is sometimes acceptable to have such divisions / or separations, so that we may see who is living in a manner that is acceptable to God (1 Cor 11:9). So judgement within the house is right, and good!

Knowing then, that we need to judge ourselves, and that God makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked; how may we live in a manner to ensure that our lives are acceptable to God. I believe that the key to this is found in repentance. I have not found the end of God’s mercy and surely my choices have often tested His mercy. I say this with slight tongue in cheek, for the truth is, that mercy is not in opposition to repentance but the characteristic that allows the act of repentance. It is so that God often calls us to repentance. I know of some teachings on grace that say that repentance is not needed. I don’t agree, but this is probably not the forum for that discussion. I will just say this: The Lord’s prayer teaches us to ask for forgiveness. (Now, I know some person is going to tell me that the prayer was written before the cross…. Ok mate, the model prayer was in fact only a model for the year it was written, until the corss…..:). The Lord further admonishes His own to change their ways and repent in a number of passages. The following Scriptures are all examples of this: (Revelation 2:5, 2:16, 2:21, 2:22, 3:3, and 3:19. Luke 13:3).

At his juncture, it is probably important to touch on the subject of God’s mercy. The concept of mercy is critical in understanding God’s judgement as a means to the execution of justice. Frankly, I can not labour this point enough. For too long the church has been lead to believe that judgement, and mercy are two polar ends of God’s character – that they are tensions. Nothing could be further from the truth! Firstly, judgement is an act of mercy, for it is intended to establish justice, equity and righteousness. It is intended to establish equity and order where these are absent. He is foremost a just God, who intends to save! (Refer Isaiah 45:21 and Psalm 103:17).

The prophet Zechariah beautifully captures the heart of God in saying that true judgment is to show mercy (Refer Zechariah 7:8-10). These verses read: “And the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:
10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart”.
It is so very important to God that justice is established through acts of mercy, that He commands us to do so in Micah 6:8. And truly, the list of Scriptures supporting the notion that mercy as a product of justice are numerous. I include some below for your own study: (Psalm 72:4, Zechariah 8:16-17, Isaiah 1:17, Psalm 82: 2-4, Jeremiah 22:15, Psalm 37, 21 and 26, Isaiah 11:4, Isaiah 42:3). Was the cross not the greatest act of justice and Mercy.
In closing, I would like to touch on how we may learn to rightly judge. I have already touched on how we need to agree with the Word of God in making distinctions between right and wrong, for it is the only way that we may accurately discern what is right, true and just. That said, there is another key, as great and as important. This key is found in knowing Wisdom. The Bible tells us that Christ Jesus, became for us wisdom, sanctification and redemption. So, wisdom is a person, and His name is Jesus. In Christ we may know what is the perfect and acceptable will of God. Furthermore, when we walk in relationship with Him, we may discern what is just, fair and right (Proverbs 2:9).
The lives of both Solomon and Jesus give us keys to maintaining righteous and making wise judgements in our lives. In 1 Kings 3 Solomon is granted a single wish by God, and he responds by asking God for wisdom. A reading of 1 Kings 3:9, reveals that it was “more” than wisdom – it was in fact a heart to make wise judgements which Solomon asked for. He asked for an ability to judge between good and evil. Solomon knew that righteous governance in the Kingdom of God, dependeds on the ability to discern between what is right and wrong. Solomons’s request for an “understanding heart”, may actually be translated as a “hearing heart”. To me, a hearing heart is nothing other than a heart that hears and responds to the leading of the Spirit of God. It is for all intents and purposes a hearts that beats in rhythm with heart of God. The Bible tells us that Solomon’s request pleased God! When we reflect on God’s own words, we discover that He was impressed that Solomon asked for a “heart to discern judgement”. JUDGEMENT! God was impressed that someone asked for a heart to rightly discern and execute judgement! What follows in the text, was arguably the most talked about court case in history. Solomon renders a wise judgement thereby executing justice, and restoring Divine order. within His gates.
A hearing heart then, is critical in making wise judgements. It was so for Solomon, it was so for Jesus, and it is so for us. In John 5:30 Jesus says that He judges as His Father tells Him to. Perhaps it should be so for us also. Perhaps we should not venture an opinion on a matter, unless we are fully persuaded that we know the heart of God on the matter. I will further venture to say that unless we walk in an intimate relationship with our Counsellor – that is the Holy Spirit – chances are we may have a warped opinion on what is just, fair and right within a specific situation.
Sometimes, it is not sufficient to rely on Scripture alone, not because Scripture is insufficient, but because peoples lives, and the situations that we are called to judge, present their own unique context. Each context, requires a unique form of wisdom, and it is these tensions that require navigation when we decide on a course of action to restore righteousness and order to a particular situation. It requires wisdom to apply principles of truth to a specific contextual situation. Rendering economic justice for example to one person, may require that he gives all his possessions away, while justice for another would require the restoration of all that was lost to them. Justice is after all, the expression of God’s righteousness and the manifestation of His character and nature in a particular situation. We then can not simply reduce the dispensing of justice to a paint-by-numbers exercise, for then we return to the letter of the law, rather than the Spirit of the law. We know that the letter kills and that the Spirit brings life, and therefore it is important to judge according to the Spirit – that is unto life.

False Doctrine: Favour is Seasonal

I recently had a dream, and having prayed and meditated about the dream, I discovered that the dream’s interpretation, holds a corporate word for the body of Christ. I will for the sake of context give a short description of the dream, followed by its interpretation.

The dream is set on a street corner, and there are two ice-cream vendors across the street. I am standing on the street corner having a conversation with two woman. In their hands they each hold an ice-cream cup filled with ice cream. They proceed to explain to me that one particular shop’s brand of ice cream, (unlike the competitor’s brand) may be consumed in any quantity and it does not make you fat. In the dream I contend that it is not possible to eat as much ice-cream as you want without ever gaining weight. There is more to the dream, but, it is not essential to the word.

The ice-cream represents the goodness and / or favor of God.

The ice-cream shops / or vendors represent different denominational doctrines or teachings on the subject.

The women in the dream represent (false) teachers.

The weight gain or fat in the dream, represents the fatness of soul that results from experiencing the goodness and favor of God, in our lives. In short: Fat in this context, is the visible manifestation of the grace or favor of God in our lives.

The Lord revealed that the dream represents a particular doctrine, as taught by some in the church today. This doctrine contends that the favour of God, as represented by the ice-cream, is seasonal, and that it may come and go. These same teachers in effect contend that you may partake of the favor of God, without it ever visibly manifesting in our lives / souls / bodies. In other words they teach that there are seasons when there is no visible manifestation of the grace or favor of God in our lives. Conversely they hold to the notion that you have designated seasons when it is your turn for favour so to speak. They often proclaim things like: “It is your season of favour!”, or “Favour – it is your turn!” I believe this a false doctrine, because it is my contention that favour is constantly accessible to us in Christ. Let us explore this notion further.

Psalm 30:5 states the following: “For His anger is but for a moment, His favour is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning”. I believe that when the Psalmist states that His favour lasts for a lifetime, it serves as irrefutable evidence in support of my argument, but lest I get accused of building a doctrine on one verse, let me delve a little deeper.

I have intentionally  used the words “grace” and “favour” interchangeably in the interpretation of the dream, because they are by definition the same. A quick study of the word grace reveals the following:

Cognate: 5485 xáris (another feminine noun from xar-, “favour, disposed to, inclined, favorable towards, leaning towards to share benefit”) – properly, grace. 5485 (xáris) is preeminently used of the Lord’s favour – freely extended to give Himself away to people (because He is “always leaning toward them”).

5485 /xáris (“grace”) answers directly to the Hebrew (OT) term 2580 /Kaná (“grace, extension-toward”). Both refer to God freely extending Himself (His favor, grace), reaching (inclining) to people because He is disposed to bless (be near) them.

[5485 (xáris) is sometimes rendered “thanks” but the core-idea is “favour, grace” (“extension towards”).]

What I find remarkable about this definition of grace, is the notion that God freely extends Himself to man, revealing Himself as One who continuously  “leans toward” us, primarily to be with us, but also to share His benefits and goodness with us. What is perhaps more revealing is that the truth contained within the definition reflects His unchanging character  in both Old and New Covenants. By virtue of the definition of grace being almost identical in both the Hebrew and Greek languages, we know that He never changes, and that grace is not a seasonal by product. We know then that God’s favour spans two covenants and is the expression and very substance of His nature! The Old Covenant points TOWARD Jesus, and the New Covenant points BACK to the same Christ, and it all testifies of His reaching out to us, to save us, and be gracious to us. He longs to be gracious to us after all (Isaiah 30:18).

It is true that we presently live under the dispensation of grace, as opposed to the Law of Moses, but there was never a time when God was not gracious to man, and when that grace did not manifest in Him CONSTANTLY seeking after us, and inclining Himself to us. I believe it is important to understand that the concept of grace and favour is therefore inherent to the character of God, and not a dispensational consideration. If His grace is inherent to who He is, and a reflection of His nature; then how can grace be seasonal, since He is unchanging (Hebrews 13:8).

A few points to consider then:

  • By definition of the word, we may argue that to suggest that favor is temporal or seasonal; is to suggest that grace is seasonal or temporal. It is as absurd as suggesting that there are seasons in our lives when grace is absent or not visible. Now, I concur that we all have  seasonal aspects to our lives, and that there does exists a particular grace for a particular season. To conclude however that favour is absent in certain seasons, could not be more wrong. Let me give you an example, to clarify an apparent contradiction: My wife and I recently received our second child into this world. We are now in a season where we have to sleep less and do more. We have come to discover that there is a particular grace for this particular dispensation of our lives. We somehow cope and find favor in the strangest of places. An old friend for example has suddenly offered to baby-sit, and my 18 month old son has suddenly / finally started sleeping through the night. Yes, our daughter has ushered in a new type and level of grace, but grace and favor, were never absent with the birth of our first son. I know this because we travelled all over the world while my wife was pregnant with him. Moreover there was a time when my son grew up in airports, hotels, and bed and breakfasts. I recall one particular trip where we visited four nations in three months, and in one particular nation, we stayed in seven different hotels and bed and breakfasts in ten days! We washed bottles in hotel sinks, we almost never knew what we were going to feed him next, and sometimes we did not even know where we were going to sleep that particular night. If you have done any kind of traveling with children, you will know what manner of favor and grace is required to manage this sort of thing. Grace and favor were never absent from our lives; our lives simply look different now, and therefore so does the type and level of grace that is active in our lives. The truth is that we have received grace upon grace in our lives (John 1:16)

Am I then suggesting different levels of grace and favor exist in our lives and by implication in the lives of others? Yes, I am. 1 Samuel 2:26 states plainly that young Samuel grew in both stature and favor with God and man. Notice, he had favor with God and man. He always had it, he simply grew in it. This favour increased, not that it appeared and disappeared. Yes, as I said, one can hardly build a case on the strength of one verse – so I include Luke 2:40 which states that God’s favor rested (abided) on Jesus – as in permanently –  and Luke 2:52 states that Jesus also increased in favor with both God and man. I may have more favor today – God willing – than yesterday, but that does not mean that favor was absent before.

There may at times exist a discrepancy between the favour received from God, and the favour received from man. In fact, I am pretty sure God is most always more gracious than men. David rightly said that He would rather fall into the hands of God than the hands of man. I make this point, because people often experience a lack of generosity from other people and they equate this experience to an absence of favour from God. Sadly this does not mean God’s grace is absent from our lives. Ironically it often means a yet greater measure of God’d grace is needed in our lives. Saul treated David poorly, and yet, David found grace with God. I can assure you that when Jesus went to the cross, He had little favour with most men of influence, and yet He he probably received a extraordinary measure of grace from His Father for that very hour.

Do some people have more favor than others? Yes. There are many scriptures in the bible that state that someone found favour with God, when it appears others did not. Abel in Genesis 4:4, Noah in Genesis 6:8, Joseph in Genesis 39:21, Moses is Exodus 33:12, are all examples where men found favour with God. Does the manifestation of God’s goodness in the lives of a particular individual negate the existence of favour in the lives of another? I do not believe so, since silence on a particular subject is not evidence of its existence is it? Joseph had more favour than his brothers, but the Bible records those same brothers, later, finding favour with both God and Joseph……. Perhaps on another occasion we can explore how to grow in favour, how to find favour in  particular situations, and once revealed how to follow it. For now, my aim is merely to make the point that favour is not temporal or seasonal.

  •  Was there ever a time when God was not leaning or inclining Himself toward man? Was the Son of man not crucified from the foundation of the earth?(Revelation 13:8). He has therefore made an eternal covenant of grace with us through His Son Jesus, so that our sin may not, and never again separate us from Him. He reaches, extends and brought Himself to us through Jesus, so that we may always be where He is.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 states that God reconciled the world to Himself through a single act of grace. If then, we enter Christ through a covenant of grace, and it is here that we live and are sustained by the Spirit of Grace, how then can we say that we are separated from Grace / favour, or that it is a seasonal concept. To suggest such is to suggest that salvation and our union with Christ is seasonal. The  gift of salvation is the ultimate expression of grace and favour – unmerited as it is. The grace and the favour of God will become seasonal only when we become seasonally saved. It must be said at this point that God causes the sun to rise on the evil and He sends forth His rains on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). Even the unsaved experience His favour, as do the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. How much more not for us who live in Him, breathe in Him, and have all our being in Him? It was always God’s eternal plan to unite us with Him eternally through Christ. This is an eternal expression of grace is it not?

We will do well to remember, that the gifts, blessings and indeed everything that is good is contained in Christ (Ephesians 1:3, Colossians 1:17). How then do we attain to these things apart from the grace of Christ, for the Bible assures that we have nothing that was not given to us. So then,  we who are in Christ, are not only sustained by Him, but through this same grace  we have access to all His goodness and fullness.

There are two things that we therefore cannot lay claim to:

a) That we are ever separated from Jesus, and by extension from His grace and His favor. (We know this, because we are seated in Him in heavenly places – Ephesians 2:4-7 – and this very truth testifies the immeasurable riches of His grace toward us. (Note that the Apostle Paul actually uses the words “the immeasurable riches of His grace”, in this context. Last I checked the word immeasurable is without measure.

b) We may further never say that He will ever leave us, and by implication remove His grace from us. Does Jesus Himself not in Matthew 28:20 assure us that He would never leave us?

I therefore want to go so far as to suggest that to claim to be absent from the grace or favour of God is to claim to be absent from God Himself. Does the Psalmist not say that there is nowhere that he can go to separate himself from God – even in the depths of hell (Psalm 139:7-12).  For those of us who profess to be saved by grace, must always be aware that we are in some respect, a recipient of grace and favour, even and more importantly in a dark hour.

Perhaps it is important to add this thought to the discussion: That if favour is the manifestation of His grace then, it is only when we return to works, that we separate  ourselves from His favour and grace. Our reliance on self separates us from the need for grace. This too is a possible thread for another day – Works the Death of Favour!

I pondered the origin of this peculiar doctrine, that spawned slogans like “Favour, it is your turn!”. To my knowledge it is based, in part at least, on the story of Queen Esther who received favour from the king, when he chose her above other maidens to be his wife. It is said that it was Esther’s turn for favour. I understand that it was her time to become Queen, and that she was born for a time such as this. I further understand that she even required favour from God and man to ascend the throne. Was it however her season to suddenly find favour, where it was previously absent? Was it now her turn? I think not.

Esther survived the plunder of her city, the killing of her people and ultimately being taken into captivity when her city, was conquered by an enemy who hated her people with a sincere hatred. Her survival, has the appearance  of the manifestation of favour in her life. Second, she was a orphan, adopted by her uncle Mordecai who was a wise, righteous, and influential man. Later, he too became a prominent man in the very kingdom of his captors. I can not help to think that she owed much of her wisdom in speech, her discretion in decision making, even her manner and her conduct to his influence and upbringing. To lose your parents , and to be placed in the care of such a man is more than a gracious act, it is Divine providence. Esther was a peasant, and yet, she was selected to be part of the line-up of virgins that went before the king as one of his prospective brides. Does this not  also testify of God’s favour? Then, she found favour with the king’s eunuch, and moreover Esther 2:15 states that she found favour with all who saw her. Later, she was selected by the king to be his wife, and even after that this she found further favour with him, when he extended his scepter to her, when she should have been killed. He later  granted her all her petitions – several times – and saved her people. I am of the opinion that Queen Esther’s entire life is a testimony of unmerited, and unconditional favour. Did she grow in favour – certainly. Did she find a greater measure of favour than her peers? It certainly does appear that way. But, was favour absent and it suddenly became her season to experience favour – I believe not, her life was, in my opinion an epistle of grace.

In closing, we may do well to remember the burning bush of Moses. Only a select few, like Moses turn to observe the Holy manifestation. I can not help but feel that it is so when we look and search for the trail of bread- crumbs and stones that God scattered in our lives to lead us home. They are always present, but they are only seen through the eyes of the humble and received by the hearts of the grateful.