Sixth Sunday of Epiphany: “Walking in Kingdom Understanding”
Do we want blessings from God? How can we get something better than blessings from God? Maybe, last Valentine’s Day, some people got blessed with flowers, candies, teddy bears or love notes from someone special in their lives. But when the blessings come directly from God, and it is from Him to us, how can it get better than this? We all love blessings! Does anyone of us not love divine blessings? If it is coming from God, it’s got to be good! I love blessings from God and they are great, and this is what makes life so interesting and worth living!
Some people would say, “Oh, we shouldn’t chase God’s blessings and focus on them. We shouldn’t depend on God’s blessings.” I want to look at what the Bible says. Today, how many times did God say, “Blessed are you…when you do this…!” It seems that God is interested in blessing us. Psalm 1 tells us how we are going to live life to be blessed. If God did not want us to be blessed, why did He spend so much time in the Bible telling us how to get the blessing? In our readings this morning, the word blessed was mentioned at least six or seven times. The fact that God tells us how to be blessed makes us sees that He wants us to be blessed.
In Psalm 1, God tells us exactly how we are to be blessed. A lot of Bible scholars would say that Psalm 1 sets the tone for the entire book and all the other 149 Psalms find their root in Psalm 1. It sets the pattern for the rest to follow. It is basically talking about following God not man, turning our hearts to Him not on any false God. In verse 1, it tells us things that we shouldn’t do to be blessed, but in verse 2, it tells us how to be blessed: delight in the law of the Lord. Delight in the Word of God and meditate on it day and night. We don’t have to dance in incantations; we just have to delight in His Word. Follow His Word and we will be blessed. Blessed is the one who follows God’s law. Blessed is the one who delights in His commandments. This is the path for receiving what God wants for us to obtain His favor.
The Word of God is so important. Romans 15:4, says, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.” When we follow after the Word of God, it builds hope in us. This is the source of our hope and hope is a rare, rare commodity these days. Many people are hopeless to say, “I don’t feel very well.” Look at the movies that are about the future like the sci-fi movies. They are all about dystopia, which is the opposite of eutopia where everything is perfect. With dystopia, everything falls apart. Have you ever seen a movie about the future which isn’t full of dystopia, without any hope for the future? This is because they don’t have hope and that would lead me to believe that the filmmakers have not been abiding in the Word of God. They have not been delighting in God’s Word and meditating on it. The Word of God is our source of hope. The farther mankind gets away from the Scriptures, the farther mankind gets away from hope. We see many people of various ages hopeless in their situations – in their company, in the nation, in this generation. God had told us how to be blessed, that is, meditating on His Word and delighting on it. Lack of hope is the opposite of being blessed. If we have blessings, we have hope. When we get away from the blessings, the hope disappears.
Romans 15:13 says, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” If we have His hope, we have this blessing of His and the understanding comes from the Scriptures. Romans 10:17 talks about faith that is very important in a believer’s life. It says, “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.” This is why the Psalmist says, “Delight in the Lord and His Word. Trust in His Word. Dwell in His Word,” because when we focus on this and the truth of God, then we will be able to hear. When we hear, we will have faith which is very important for us. Hebrews 11 says that without faith, it is impossible to please God for he who comes to God must believe that He is and believe that He is a rewarder (a blesser) of those who diligently see Him. We seek God with all our hearts in the Scriptures. He reveals Himself in His Word. As we look in His Word and we delight in it, faith comes by hearing and hearing God. With this faith, it is no longer impossible to please Him. If we are walking around hopeless, we can’t please Him. We need the faith that comes from hearing.
The Psalmist knew this that he said, “Delight in the Lord,” and then, we will have that faith. And then, we will please the Lord, and in pleasing Him, we know that He is a rewarder or blesser of those who diligently seek Him. The problem today is that a lot of people come in the category of Psalm 1:1 where it says that you are blessed if you do not walk in the counsel of the wicked. Who is wicked? The wicked is the fool that says in his heart that there is no God. The wicked are the ones who deny the Lord. The wicked are the ones who deny His Word. I know that there is a God for the Bibles tells us so. As little children we sing, “Jesus loves Me, yes, I know, for the Bible tells me so.” The wicked would say, “Big deal! What good is the Bible? It is no longer relevant and part of today’s society. It doesn’t connect with us and it is outdated.”
The wicked stand in the path of the sinners which are those who don’t follow what the Word of God tells them to do. If we want to be blessed, Psalm 1:1 says not to sit in the seat of scoffers. Scoffer is a word that we don’t hear a lot anymore. A scoffer is one who makes fun of something that he hears. There are people who scoff at the Word of God on its authenticity and of its relevance. Scriptures says that as long as one is a scoffer, the chances of blessing are two things: slim and none. When we believe in God and delight in His Word, it makes us receive His blessing.
Scoffers belittle the Word of God saying it is not relevant and full of contradiction and errors. Even for the gospel today in Luke 6, people say that it is proof that it is contradictory. When Matthew wrote the Beatitudes at the Sermon of the Mount in chapters 5 to 7, it is a different sermon to what was written in Luke 6. In Matthew, it has eight different beatitudes; in Luke, it has only four. The Beatitudes in Matthew looked nothing as compared to the Beatitudes in Luke. With this, I would agree that it is contradictory because Luke does not record the Sermon on the Mount that is in Matthew. In Luke, what we have is the sermon on the level place, not on the mount because in verse 17 it says that Jesus came down with them (His disciples) and stood on a level place and many people came to Him for healing and then, He turned His gaze and started preaching the sermon. It was a different place at a different time.
Jesus didn’t exactly say the same thing every time He preached. He had different messages in different places. One thing that I can tell you is that Jesus always preached the same sermon or message, that is, it is all about the kingdom of God! Whether it is in the Sermon on the Mount, at a level place, in the Upper Room, Jesus always preached the message of the kingdom of God. The details were different because the crowd was always changing. He preached whatever the Spirit within Him led Him to preach.
There are many scoffers who would use this as a proof that the Bible is full of errors. For years, men have been retranslating the Bible. There are those who would take the Scriptures and rewrite them the way they think they should be. This has been done a couple of times. In one particular time, there was a gentleman who was one of the key figures in the American Revolution, one of America’s first Presidents, one of the main authors of the Declaration of Independence, and he said that the New Testament is pretty good but he doesn’t believe that Jesus said all of it. Thus, he made his own translation of the New Testament and took out the things that Jesus didn’t say according to him. This is the way of scoffing at the Word of God.
There are still translations that don’t have the whole Bible that which the publishers thought was probably not true. They made themselves judges of God’s Word. Jesus had the same problem with the Pharisees. Paul had scoffers that followed him around wherever he went. Moses had his scoffers. Throughout history, there have been those who scoffed at the Word of God, but Psalm 1 says to delight in it and to embrace it because this is where our blessing is. The more we listen to the scoffers, the fewer and fewer will our blessings come. Stay true to the Word of God; stay delighted in it so that the blessings and the favor that God wants to bring us will come our way.
Jesus was hounded by certain scoffers His whole life, in His ministry – the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the scribes. This is a part of what 1Corinthians 15 shares to us. Paul says, “There are some people who are actually preaching that there is no resurrection. How can they disbelieve the Word of God? If there is no resurrection, then, Jesus did not resurrect, so we have no hope for the resurrection, no hope at all. We might as well all be miserable – to eat, to drink and be merry and stay dead.” But in verse 20, Paul says, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” Christ is risen; we also shall rise. This gives us hope because Scriptures tells us about resurrection. Many people have been passing away lately and it would somehow be depressing; except that we know that Christ is risen, the first fruits of those who are asleep, and we also shall follow.
Jesus had these scoffers especially with the Sadducees who didn’t believe in the resurrection. They scoffed at Moses. Jesus was always after them saying, “You Sadducees, you Pharisees, you disbelieve the Word of God. You discount it; you scoff at it. You are scoffers at the Word of God. You put yourself in Moses’ seat and now, you are the one to describe and decide what is Scripture and what is not?” Jesus told the people that they disregarded many Scriptures that Moses wrote and they put their own laws. One time, they went to Jesus to scoff at Moses and rub in the fallacy of Moses in Jesus’ face. They said, “Jesus, You are telling us that not one word of the law will pass away, how good Moses is, and how You validate him and believe in him. We will show You how silly Moses is.” They told him about the silly law of Moses that if a man, who had seven brothers, had a wife and he died, his second brother should marry the wife and bear his name, and if the brother would again die, the next brother would marry the woman again and so forth. For me, what is silly is how could this story ever happen? For one thing, if one was the third or fourth brother, would he be dumb enough to marry that woman?
The Word of God was being discredited and scoffed at. Jesus says, “You don’t understand the Scriptures because you don’t believe Moses, so you scoff at him. You don’t believe in the power of God and this is your problem. I will tell you how you will know that there is a resurrection.” Going back to the time of Moses in the burning bush, when Moses heard the Word of God, he wrote it down. In 2Peter, it says that men don’t just prophesy on their own idea, but men of God like Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible as he received them by the Holy Spirit in his heart and penned them down. In the burning bush, he heard God say, “I AM the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” When Moses wrote this, he wrote about the resurrection. If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob weren’t alive, he would have said, “I WAS the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” God said, “I AM” because Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were still alive because there is a resurrection.
Jesus was saying, “You don’t put yourselves in Moses’ seat and pretend to understand all things without the power of God in you and without the wisdom of God in you. This is because you are not delighting yourself in the Word of God and you, scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees are not blessed anymore.” Jesus was strong with them because they were leading the people astray.
If we begin to foster doubt in the Word of God, we cut off the source of blessing. God wants to bless us! As Jesus said that there is a resurrection, when one passes away from this earth, praise God that he is in the presence of God. To be absent in the body is to be present in the Lord. It is not a time to be in misery, but to be thankful to God for His mercy.
The resurrection is not just about dying as Scriptures says that to live is Christ and to die is gain. Christ is risen from the dead and we, the first fruits, will follow. Resurrection is not just for that last day when Christ comes again. Resurrection is for today as well. The best blessing of all is the resurrection. Once was dead, now is alive. It doesn’t have to wait for the day when we stop living. Resurrection can be today. Maybe, our body organs like the liver, the kidney or the heart may not be functioning like they should. This is the day of resurrection and God can resurrect the functions of our body organs! Scriptures says that blessed are those who delight themselves in the Lord and His Word, and God can resurrect whatever organ that needs to be resurrected.
It doesn’t stop here. Our finances, our relationships with family members or with the company that we are working for can be resurrected by God too. Today is the day of resurrection for these areas of our lives. God is a God of resurrection. Resurrection is the greatest blessing we have when we follow His Word and delight ourselves in His Word.
In our own Church, we started forty years ago. The seed was in the ground and for thirty seven years it was waiting to sprout. Three years ago, it sprouted and we obtained this property. Three weeks ago, the blades sprung forth from the ground. We reached great heights and great depths and probably, we are now somewhere in the middle. The gospel today tells us not to be consumed with where we are right now because things are going to change. If we are sad now, we are going to be happy; if we are poor now, we are going to be filled. If we are feeling depressed now, we are also going to be exalted. If people are giving us a hard time, rejoice and jump for joy because things change. If our relationship with God is substandard, God can resurrect our love for Him. The love is shed by the Holy Spirit in our hearts and God can resurrect this. Resurrection power is here!
God can resurrect our Church to greater heights, just as we experienced before! He is the God of the living and the dead. This is the beauty of the blessing of God, the resurrection that God promises us. There is a resurrection! Christ is risen from the dead! No scoffers are allowed! There is a resurrection in our lives today. We don’t have to wait to die to be raised from the dead in our flesh. All of those things that have ceased to function in our lives can be turned around.
The blessings of God are on us. The favor of God is with us when we delight ourselves in the Lord. This is the path to God’s blessings. We don’t need to chase them. They will pursue us as the Bible says when we follow His Word, His will and His way.