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When Will All of Our Sorrows End?

We are two-thirds through what has been an uncertain and tumultuous 2020. The number of new COVID-19 cases and their associated deaths are growing every day in the United States, and throughout the world. The quick disappearance of this disease-causing pandemic has not come to fruition as some may have hoped. Instead of this pandemic uniting us in a common effort, it appears to be driving people further apart.

People’s lives have been turned upside down due to the uncertainty about taking care of their family, staying healthy both physically and financially, and seeing that their children receive a proper education. Confusion, fear, violence, and social injustice are running rampant. Medical personnel and facilities have been stretched to their capacity in many cases. Although there has been much speculation, no one knows when things will get better in the near future.

Due to these troubling circumstances, we may ask ourselves, what now? The trouble and sorrow that has borne down upon humanity has been bitter, and many in their distresses have wondered whether God has any pity, or if He even exists at all. We may wonder, what is my level of faith and trust in the Heavenly Father?

To answer these questions, we must look to the scriptures for the comfort and assurance that God provides so that our faith and trust in Him can grow and we will not be fearful. The psalmist David wrote, in the words from which our title is taken, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) This “night” of sin, sorrow, and death began with the disobedience of our first parents in Eden. Indeed, it has indeed been a night of weeping. (Genesis 2:17, 3:1-24)

Do not despair, however, for God promises there will be a morning of joy for the human race. That morning will usher in a new day of blessing for all mankind that will come from the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth with Jesus as its ruler. This government of righteousness has been foretold by all God’s “holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:20 21)

What a wonderful governmental arrangement this will be! It will establish universal and lasting peace between men and between men and God, which man in his selfishness has been unable to do. The divine head of this government, Christ, is described in prophecy as “The Prince of Peace,” and we are promised that “of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” (Isaiah 9:6,7)

This kingdom will bring economic security to everyone. This is shown by the prophecy that every man will dwell under his own “vine” and “fig tree.” (Micah 4:4) Much of the suffering in the world throughout the ages has been due to lack of food, clothing, and shelter. Even today millions of the human race exist on insufficient supplies of food, have little clothing, and live with the most meager of shelter over their heads. This will be corrected through Christ’s earthly kingdom. All shall have the opportunity to live in peace and safety. (Isaiah 11:9) The prophet Isaiah adds: “They will build houses and inhabit them; They will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  They will not build and another inhabit, They will not plant and another eat … And My chosen ones will wear out the work of their hands ” (Isaiah 65:21-22)

Peace and economic security will not be the only blessings guaranteed to the people under the rulership of  Christ’s kingdom. Isaiah wrote, “In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering [death] cast over all people, and the vail [ignorance] that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 25:6-8)

Image Copyright: Lofhi / CC BY-SA

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Samson

Samson was the seventh judge of Israel. His birth and commission to be a Nazarite were foretold by an angel, an honor given to very few in scripture. He was endowed with miraculous strength which he used to fight the Philistines. At this point, the Philistines had ruled over Israel for forty years. (Compare Judges 13:1 and Judges 15:11)
Samson had a preoccupation with the women of Philistia which was overruled by God for the improvement of Israel’s national situation. (Judges 14:4) His romantic interests became a pretext for personal conflict with the Philistines.

At the celebration of his marriage to a woman of Timnah, Samson challenged his Philistine companions to solve a riddle. Unable to solve it, they threatened his bride and her family for the answer. In reponse Samson paid his debt with the garments of thirty Philistines he killed in a neighboring town.—Judges 14:10-19

In his absence, his bride was married to another. (Judges 14:20-15:2) This started his feud with the Philistines that defined his judgeship. This feud led to spoiling the Philistine economy by burning their crops at harvest (Judges 15:3-5), the killing of a thousand men with a jawbone (Judges 15:14-16), and the destruction of the gates of the city of Gaza.—Judges 16:3

Samson’s fall came from his relationship with Delilah who convinced him to share the secret of his strength—his relationship with God, as symbolized by his hair. With his hair cut, Samson lost his strength, was blinded, and imprisoned. In the moment of his greatest weakness, chained to two pillars in the temple of Dagon, Samson asked God for strength. Receiving it, he destroyed the temple, killing himself and 3,000 Philistines, including their leaders. Thus, he freed Israel from Philistine oppression for the next twenty years.—Judges 16:23-30

Samson’s story is an example that God can use imperfect people to accomplish his plans. It reminds us of the danger of giving in to our fallen human tendencies. It reveals that when we are at our weakest, God is still with us. If we ask for his strength to do his will, He is faithful to hear us.—Lam. 3:22,23

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Reflections at the Laver

The laver of the Tabernacle of Israel represents to Christians something of profound significance. (Exod. 30:18-21) The laver was made from polished copper and filled with water for the priests to wash and cleanse themselves before entering the Tabernacle and performing its services. “When they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die; or when they approach the altar to minister, by offering up in smoke a fire sacrifice to the Lord. So they shall wash their hands and their feet, so that they will not die; ….”—vss. 20,21, NASB

We understand from scripture that this polished copper was made from the looking glasses, or mirrors, of the Israelites. Copper is a picture of human perfection, just as the copper snake that was lifted up in the wilderness to heal the snake-bitten Jews. This showed how Jesus took mankind’s place under sin’s penalty by giving his perfect human life as a ransom for Adam. (Num. 21:6-9; John 3:14; 1 Tim. 2:5,6) The water in the laver represented the water of Truth from God’s holy Word which the christian uses to cleanse himself.—Eph. 5:26

Antitypical priests, or spirit-begotten Christians, come to the laver of God’s Word to wash and thus, cleanse themselves from the defilements of sin in their fallen human nature. Like the Levitical priests, they strive to cleanse themselves in a process of sanctification, for the service to which they have been called.—1 Cor. 6:11; Heb. 10:22
When a spirit-begotten Christian bends forward to utilize the water of Truth for cleansing, they see the reflection of their imperfections from the water. However, because the laver itself was made from polished copper, they also see the reflection of Christ Jesus’ perfection and recognize how to better be conformed to his image. Through the process of continual cleansing, they hopefully will see a reflected image that looks more and more like Jesus, and less and less like the old creature they used to be. This is expressed in the words, “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.” We are to humble ourselves and be obedient to the Word of God being “conformed to the image of his Son [Jesus].”—Phil. 2:5; Rom. 8:29 n

Brotherly Love

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Rom. 12:10, NIV) The Apostle Paul specifically mentions brotherly love as one of the characteristics of a Christian. In the twelfth chapter of Romans, Paul states that we should not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renovation of our minds. (Rom. 12:2) If we transform our mind, one of the characteristics we should develop is brotherly love. The Apostle Peter also lists brotherly love as one of the key qualities of a Christian. (2 Pet. 1:5-7) These qualities are so important, Peter writes that “if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”—2 Pet 1:10,11, NIV

What is this characteristic of brotherly love that Paul and Peter identify? It is not just familial love but the love of our brethren in Christ—the love we should have for each other as fellow believers in Jesus. As believers we share the same hopes, interests, and promises. Thus, our aims are the same, and our struggle to overcome our imperfect flesh, the world, and the devil are the same as well. Through these shared hopes and goals, we develop sympathy, love, and care for one another as each strives to do his best to serve the Heavenly Father and our Lord Christ Jesus.

How do we show this brotherly love to each other? The Scriptures give us clear admonitions to follow. Jesus says, “Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12, NIV) This was the new commandment that Jesus gave his followers: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34, NIV) Jesus loved his disciples, cared for them, and watched out for their earthly and spiritual needs.

We are to do the same for our Christian brethren. Paul points out in Romans 12:10 to “honor one another above yourselves.” We should be putting our brethren’s preferences first. Paul used the Thessalonians as an example of this brotherly love. Their love was evident not only among each other but to all the brethren in Macedonia. (1 Thess. 4:9,10) Likewise, our love for our brethren should be easily visible to others.

Image 48507713 Copyright:    Volha Zaitsava  © 123RF.com

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Confronting Our Coronavirus Fears

With new cases of the Coronavirus disease growing every day in the United States, and throughout the world, we recall other disease outbreaks in the past. An influenza pandemic in 1918 effected nearly one-third of the world’s population and killed an estimated 50 million individuals. It was a new or novel flu strain for many people. No antibiotics or antivirals existed in 1918 to fight the flu outbreak.

Since then, other severe viruses have arisen periodically to threaten mankind. These included the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002-03 , the Swine flu or H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009,  and Ebola virus outbreak of 2014. All were eventually brought under control. Additionally, influenza or the flu strikes the world’s population every year, and no two seasons are exactly alike.

The Coronavirus or COVID-19 isn’t the first dangerous disease that has spread around the world. While it is a dangerous disease, there is no need to panic. While many have died from it, the majority of the cases are mild, and most people recover from their symptoms. Still, everyone needs to take precautions to contain the spread of the virus, and to protect those who are most vulnerable to it. This means following the instructions made by our health professionals and local, state, and national leaders. We should be limiting our contact with others, including extended family members.

To combat the spread of COVID-19, we have seen a surge in school, store, amusement park and business closings. Travel restrictions have been put into effect bringing stress and uncertainty to many. People have been told to stay home and not to go to work or if possible, to work from home. American workers are getting laid off at an unprecedented rate which has caused many to become anxious about their financial future.

Daily life has changed drastically for all of us. How are we coping with this? As Jesus stated in Luke 10:29, we are all neighbors and therefore, we are all in this situation together. If we want true peace in the midst of this experience, we can find it in the word of God, the Bible. To his disciples, Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” When Jesus spoke these words, he was about to face his trial and crucifixion. Still, he was at peace, because he had God’s peace abiding in his heart.

God’s peace can help us overcome the chaos, sorrow and pain in the world BECAUSE God’s peace is based upon His power and His love towards the followers of Jesus. We can find this peace if we focus our heart and mind on God and His promises. (Prov. 4:23) The follower of Jesus has access to God’s peace and should realize that “godliness with contentment is a great gain.” (I Tim. 6:6) God’s peace gives us the ability to survive life’s strongest storm’s BECAUSE of our faith is in the love, power and wisdom of God toward us. (Isa. 46:10; Eph. 6:10) That same great power which raised Jesus Christ from the dead is now operating on the behalf of those who believe in Him and His son, Jesus—Eph. 1:19-20

God’s plan for man’s salvation promises peace, not just to the Christian, but eventually, to every human being who has ever lived. Jesus died to take away the sin of the world and the result of that sacrifice is that Jesus returns to establish an earthly kingdom that will bless all the families of earth. (John 1:29; 1 John 2:1; Gen. 12:3) Jesus died to take away man’s sin, and free us all from the curse of death. (Heb. 2:9,14,15) The prophet Malachi wrote about this kingdom saying, “The sun of righteousness [Jesus] shall arise with healing in his wings.” (Mal. 4:2) In that kingdom, God promised “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4) There will be no death nor disease in this kingdom. The current COVID-19 pandemic is an evidence of the nearness of that kingdom.  May your faith and reliance on the Lord continue to be strong in these difficult and trying times as we wait for the soon establishment of Christ’s earthly kingdom.—I Pet. 5:7

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Amos (Burden Bearer)

Amos came from a time when several prophetic figures would arise. His ministry occurred during the reign of Jeroboam II (c. 776-763 B.C.), who was the son of King Jehoash of the Jehu dynasty. During the reign of these kings, the Northern Kingdom of Israel enjoyed
a time of great prosperity. The threat of war was removed, and a great cultural, social, and economic revival took place. People moved from the country to the city, and this prosperity led to nearly unprecedented social corruption. Drunkenness, violence, moral corruption, and idolatry were rampant. As a result, Jewish society collapsed. Amos came upon this scene and his words brought a stern denunciation to the people.—Amos 2:4-16

Through Amos, the Lord foretold of a coming time of trouble and retribution upon Judah, Israel, and the adjoining nations. These nations, Moab, Syria, Philistia, etc., had been subjugated by and incorporated into Israel under David and Solomon. Because of their close identity with Israel, they were made subjects of this prophecy. (Amos 1:2-15) The principle burden of the prophecy, however, concerns Israel, the ten tribes, and Judah, the two tribes. They
were the Lord’s covenanted people, the seed of Abraham.—Gen. 12:7; Ex. 19:5

Although Amos warned the people, he was not an inhabitant of the Northern Kingdom. He came from a small mountain village, Tekoa, which lay to the south of Jerusalem. (Amos 1:1,2) He was a herdsman of goats. (Amos 7:14,15) Amos protested against the luxurious and careless living of Samaria, and the elaborate offerings made at the shrines of Beersheba, and Gilgal. He asserted the moral jurisdiction of God over all nations and warned the Israelites that they should repent. He instructed them to renew their spiritual relationship to God, or they would fall victim to an invader from the east.

Rather than God’s favor making Israel’s heart loyal to him, they continually resisted his favor, and were unfaithful to him. Therefore, the Lord foretold the troubles he would bring upon Israel because of their sins and sought to make them understand that their judgments
of the future were matters of divine providence.—Amos 3:1,2; 6:11-14

Envisioning New Life

With the uncertainty of the events taking place in the world today, and the fear of what tomorrow may bring, the thoughts of the follower of Christ should turn to the him for guidance. (Luke 9:23, Matt. 11:28) We remember Jesus’ words, “Follow me, I will make you fishers of men,” when he called Peter and Andrew to his service. (Matt. 4:19) They would go from fishing the literal sea for their living, to fishing the restless sea of humanity. This descriptive wording depicts the great call to truth seekers to leave the waves of ignorance, superstition, and degradation which have overcome mankind. These are called by the Lord to “by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honor, and immortality, eternal life.”—Rom. 2:7

Our thoughts are taken from Ezekiel 47:8,9, which describes the events that will take place after the call to glory, honor and immortality is closed. (Ezek. 44:1) When the called out class, the church or bride of Christ is complete, the marriage of the Lord and his bride take place. (Rev. 19:7,8) Then, the Lord shall enter into his heavenly Temple, sit upon the throne of his glory and the waters of life will flow from the throne of God. (Matt. 25:31; Ezek. 47:1; Rev. 22:1)

After the earthly kingdom of Christ is established, the waters of truth and the blessings of refreshment and restitution (Acts 3:19-21) will flow to all mankind. These blessings should not be confused with the good news of the Gospel message which are being proclaimed now. (Luke 2:10,11). Instead, they represent the blessings of Christ’s Millennial kingdom to all mankind. “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. (Psalm 46:4) This important part of God’s plan of salvation is shown in the words, “Living water shall go out from Jerusalem.”—Zech. 14:8

This stream of the water of life will flow to cover all the earth, whose fallen condition is represented by the wilderness east ward from Jerusalem. Wherever the waters went, they brought vitality, refreshment, healing, and life. The “water of life, clear as crystal,” (Rev. 22:1) represent the blessings of truth, refreshment and restitution which will issue forth from the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of Messiah, and bring life to mankind.

Image 104080087 Copyright:  Nitirat Utarasin © 123RF.com

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The Awakening of Lazarus

The story of Lazarus is found in John 11:1-44. Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary and lived in Bethany, near the city of Jerusalem. His sister Mary would later anoint Jesus’ feet with very valuable ointment and wipe them with her hair. (John 12:1-8) Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus as dear friends and his disciples.—John 11:5

Jesus had left their home and was across the Jordan, about thirty miles away when the sisters sent word to Jesus concerning the illness of their brother. “He whom thou lovest is sick.” (vs. 3) Since Jesus was a special friend, they thought it proper to send the Master word respecting Lazarus but not proper to ask Jesus to heal him. They knew of Jesus’ power to heal. They had faith that if Jesus would help strangers, certainly he would be glad to assist his dear friend. They manifested their faith and submission also as to what answer would come—whether Jesus would simply send word or come in person.

Upon hearing their news Jesus responded, “This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God.” (vs. 4) Jesus was not saying Lazarus would not die but rather the end result would not be continuous death. Instead, Jesus knew that he would awaken Lazarus from the dead. After tarrying for two days, he announced that they would go to Judea. (vs. 7) When the disciples questioned this, he told them that Lazarus had fallen asleep [died] but Jesus would awake him from that sleep. (vs. 7,8,11) The disciples misunderstood Jesus’ statement and so in verse 14, Jesus plainly said, “Lazarus is dead.”

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. After asking that the stone covering the tomb to be removed, Jesus prayed to God, and then said in “a loud voice, Lazarus come forth.” (vss. 39-43) Lazarus came forth, and went home with his sisters.

The awakening of Lazarus from the “sleep” of death was a glimpse of the power and purpose of God for the liberating of all mankind from the curse of sin and death in his own appointed time through Christ and his earthly kingdom.—John 5:25; I Cor. 15:1-26

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Called to Rejoice

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”—Luke 2:11

These familiar words should gladden our hearts. The prophecy of the birth of the Messiah had now been fulfilled. “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth unto me one that is to be ruler in Israel.” (Mic. 5:2) God chose this city because it was the city of David, Israel’s beloved king. However, few children in Judea or even the entire world were born in humbler circumstances. Due to the crowded conditions caused by many coming to pay their taxes, Jesus was born in a cattle stall. (Luke 2:1-7) But from these simple beginnings, the son of God would go on to complete his mission as the world’s Savior.

The birth of our Lord Jesus, to be properly understood, must be considered as a gift of divine love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) God, through the life and sacrifice of Jesus, provided for the salvation of the entire world. Through the Father’s plan, Jesus was begotten by the Holy Spirit so that after he died as a ransom for Adam, he could be raised from the dead to be the high priest to bring mankind back to God in his earthly kingdom. Jesus would make it possible to recover all that was lost by disobedience in Eden—everlasting life, perfection and fellowship with God and his son. As the effects of Adam’s disobedience were inherited by his descendants, so the results of Christ’s obedient life will be shared by all.

The announcement delivered to the shepherds was sent to those who were humble, and trustworthy. The message of good tidings was an inspired one, and in harmony with the promise that God made to Abraham. (Gen. 28:14) While they were “keeping watch” and guarding their flocks, the shepherds became “sore afraid.” (Luke 2:8,9) This reveals that mankind generally does not view God as being gracious and loving, but God is a God of grace, love, and the father of mercies. (2 Cor. 1:3) The angels told the shepherds to “fear not,” for a message of “good tidings of great joy” was being proclaimed to them.—Luke 2:10

The order of the message is important. First, “good tidings,” then “great joy,” and finally, the crowning feature—it is “to all people.” The message declared a Savior had been born—the anointed one. God carefully declared he was sending his only begotten son to be man’s redeemer, “that he might be just, and the justifier of him who believeth.”—Rom. 3:26

Luke 2:14 adds a grand chorus of angelic voices to the message singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14) This was a declaration of the wonderful character and power of God concerning the work by which this babe just born would bring glory and honor to his Father everlastingly.

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Elisha

Elijah had been a faithful prophet of God. After exposing the false prophets of Baal, demonstrating that Jehovah was God, the Lord had more work for him to do. We read in 1 Kings 19:15-21 that he was to anoint kings, and also to anoint Elisha to succeed him as the prophet to Israel. When Elijah first met Elisha, Elisha was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen indicating he came from a family of wealth. Elisha’s family served the Lord and was not affected by the idolatry of the day. This is shown by his name, Elisha, signifying “God is deliverer.”

Elijah approached and indicated Elisha’s call to a special service by laying his mantle upon Elisha. His call was not to a place of ease, but to become a servant of the prophet. Elisha accepted the service joyfully and sacrificed his oxen. He humbly became Elijah’s servant, learning from him. Here is a lesson for us as Christians. If we are called to a service for the Lord, do we accept the invitation? Are we as quick to follow as Elisha?

Continuing in 2 Kings 2, Elijah asked Elisha what blessing he would desire before their separation. Elisha requested a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. This does not signify his desire to have twice as much as Elijah enjoyed, but rather was the familiar way of expressing an elder son’s double portion. Elijah responded his request would be granted, if Elisha would see Elijah at the time of their separation. Circumstances would tend to separate the two, and if they were separated for any reason, Elisha would not receive the blessing. The Lord led Elijah on a circuitous route. At various stopping places, he suggested that Elisha tarry. Instead, Elisha clung closely to the Prophet, allowing nothing to hinder being with Elijah to the very end. He stayed with Elijah until Elijah was separated by the chariot of fire and the whirlwind.

Elijah’s mantle, a symbol of his authority, fell to Elisha. Elisha took off his own outer garment and tore it in two, showing his grief. He then took Elijah’s mantle, along with the blessing and power of Jehovah that came with it. Elisha continued on to serve the Lord. May we also use our talents and abilities to serve the Lord with joy. as quick to follow as Elisha.

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