Pastor Turns His Face to the Wall

Pastor turns his face to the wall? It’s an expression taken from a passage in the Old Testament. When King Hezekiah was told by the prophet Isaiah that he was going to die it is written that he turned his face to the wall and beseeched the LORD for healing (2 Kings 20:2-3).

The pastor was in his 60’s when he was diagnosed with cancer. “I believe in faith healing, but not faith healers,” he said. In the hospital, too weak to even get into bed, he turned his face to the wall and cried out for healing.

Just like Hezekiah, the pastor reminded God of his faithful stewardship, and asked that his life be extended. After all, there was unfinished work left to be done. He pastored a vibrant church, and was in the middle of teaching a 2-year bible study on a local radio station.

The doctor told him there was nothing left to do, and that he only had six months to live.

But that’s not the end of the story.

The pastor followed the example of Hezekiah. He said to the LORD, “If you give me five more years I’ll teach your word everyday on the radio.”

Six months passed and the 2-year radio program extended to a 5-year study; and although the doctor said he wasn’t healed the LORD granted him twenty-three more years.

Sitting in his office, one morning, he dozed off and went home to be with the Lord. He was 84-years-old.

Today, his voice is heard on radio stations around the globe — a worldwide ministry that began in a little church atop a red clay hill in Midway, Georgia.

The humble country preacher never forgot the day he turned his face to the wall; and for the next 23 years he gave all the glory, everyday, to fulfill his promise to the LORD.

In all those years of faithful service, the greatest compliment he ever received was from a young man who attended that little church in the backwoods of Georgia.

“It was from a country boy wearing high buttoned, yellow shoes. After a morning service he came to speak to me. He groped for words, then blurted out, ‘I never knew Jesus was so wonderful!’ He started to say more but choked up and hurried out of the church. As I watched him stride across the field, I prayed, ‘Oh, God, help me to always preach so that it can be said, I never knew Jesus was so wonderful.'”

You probably already know the name of the pastor — J. Vernon McGee. He used the initial ‘J’ because all the menfolk in his family were named ‘John’.

“When somebody hollered for ‘John’ nobody knew who they wanted so I went by my middle name.”

Oh, and that 2-year radio program became the 5-year Thru the Bible program which is heard daily in villages where they’ve never even seen a Bible. In the words of Paul Harvey, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

Well, J. Vernon asked that his listeners share today’s program with anyone who has cancer, or is facing a terminal illness. He has a special word of encouragement for you so please listen if you can. Simply click on the image, and you’ll be directed to the podcast. [Follow along at 2 Kings 20.]

I pray you are blessed.

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

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Purim 2016

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Purim 2016 begins in the evening of Wednesday, March 23 and ends in the evening of Thursday, March 24. Originally posted March 03, 2013.

The Word of the LORD:

They have said, “Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more”(Ps 83:4).

The Psalms were written over a span of 900 years from the time of Moses to the post-Exilic period. Psalm 83, written by Asaph, could have been penned today as a song of lamentation (for Israel is surrounded by enemies who have publicly vowed to wipe her off the face of the map). Throughout history Satan has lifted up an enemy to destroy the Jewish people, and so it is even to this day.

Think of Herod who ordered the death of all male children under the age of two who were in Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus (Mt 2:16), or when Athaliah destroyed all the royal offspring from the house of Judah except for Joash who was secreted away thus preserving the messianic line (2 Ch 22:10).

We cannot fail to understand that we are engaged in an eternal fight between good and evil:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ep 6:12).

The face of evil spans the ages — King Herod, Adolph Hitler, Mahmoud Ahmidenijhad — but the ruler of darkness is with whom we wrestle. Brethren, put on the whole armor of G-d so that you may stand firm against the enemy (Ep 6:11).

Haman was one such enemy who sought to exterminate the Jewish people. Had he succeeded the messianic line would have been cut off if not for the invisible hand of G-d. We read about Haman in the Book of Esther. (Ruth is the only other book in the Tanakh, Old Testament, that is named after a woman.) Esther was the orphaned daughter of Abihail. She grew up in Persia, and was raised by her older cousin Mordecai. The Book of Esther covers the period of history after the return from Babylonian captivity when the Persians were the dominant world power. Many Jews, including Esther and Mordecai, stayed in Persia after the return from exile.

It came to pass that Esther found favor in the eyes of King Ahasuerus, and he crowned her queen of the royal palace. A plot to kill the king was uncovered by Mordecai which led to the hanging of the king’s officials, and the promotion of Haman as the king’s chief advisor.

Mordecai would not bow down to Haman for there was bad blood between them dating back to the time of King Saul. To understand the feud we must look even further into Israel’s past all the way to the exodus from Egypt.

In the Book of Exodus (Ex 17:8) we read that Amalek came out to war against Israel as they were leaving Egypt. Moses commanded Joshua to lead a select group of men to fight against the Amalekites, and with the staff of G-d in hand the children of Israel prevailed (Ex 17:13). The LORD told Moses that He would utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven (Ex 17:14so Moses built an altar to the LORD and said, “The LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex 17:16).

In the Book of Deuteronomy (Dt 25:17) the LORD reminded Israel to remember what the Amalekites did when they came out of Egypt and attacked their women and children. Who was this generational enemy? Who was Amalek?

Remember the bitter rivalry between Jacob and Esau the sons of Isaac. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew (Ge 25:29-34). Then, in chapter 27 of Genesis, Jacob stole Esau’s blessing by impersonating his brother before their aged and dimly sighted father Isaac thus prompting Esau to vow that he would kill Jacob.

Amalek was a grandson of Esau, and so it was that the descendants of Esau would war against Jacob (Israel) from generation to generation.

Later, King Saul was commanded by G-d to destroy the Amalekites for how they ambushed Israel on their way out of Egypt (1 Sa 15:1-3), but Saul disobeyed by sparing the life of Agag their king. The prophet Samuel slew Agag according to the command of the LORD, but the Amalekites continued to be a thorn in Israel’s flesh, and an enemy of David.

Who, then, was Haman? He was a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag slain by the prophet Samuel when Saul disobeyed the command of G-d. Haman was an Agagite.

So 550 years had passed from the death of Agag to the Book of Esther, and the hatred that was born in the rivalry between Jacob and Esau continued in the persons of Mordecai (a descendant of King Saul), and Haman (a descendant of King Agag).

Haman was enraged that Mordecai would not bow to him nor pay homage so he plotted to destroy all of the Jews throughout the kingdom. Haman deceived King Ahasuerus into signing a decree to destroy all those who did not observe the king’s law so the order was sent to the governors of all the provinces to kill the Jews and confiscate their possessions (Esther 3:13).

Mordecai learned of these events and there was sorrowful mourning among the Jews (Esther 4:1). Queen Hadassah (Esther) was in great anguish because she had never told the king that she was a Jew (Esther 2:10). Mordecai sent word to the queen that she must intercede on behalf of her people, but Esther feared to approach the king without a summons for that would incur the death penalty. Her cousin replied that she would die anyway once it was discovered that she was a Jew:

Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this? (Esther 4:13-14)

We need to examine briefly what Mordecai told Esther. Are you a silent member of the body of Christ? Are you in a position or situation that defies understanding or reason? Do you speak out against spiritual darkness? Do you stand for G-d without fearing the consequence? Are you at a place in life that makes no sense but for the purpose and will of G-d?

So Esther fasted for three days:

“And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

On the third day Esther entered the royal court, and the Bible says that she obtained favor in the sight of the king (Esther 5:2) who granted her petition to have a banquet in honor (so he thought) of Haman who went away joyously to his home even as he prepared the gallows to hang Mordecai and the Jews.

In the evening the king requested that the book of records be read in his presence. Written in the records was the account of Mordecai uncovering the plot to kill the king, and it was discovered that nothing had been done to honor him for this act.

The king ordered that Haman clothe Mordecai in a robe and lead him through the city square upon the king’s horse. This infuriated and humiliated Haman who went home in mourning.

At the banquet the king asked Esther what was her petition:

If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request; for we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated (Esther 7:3-4).

The long story short is that Haman’s wicked plot was exposed, and he was hung by the king’s order upon the very gallows that were prepared for Mordecai and the Jews. On the thirteenth day of the month of Adar when Haman’s plan of extermination was to be executed the Jews by order of the king exacted judgement against their enemies.

Mordecai, who had risen to a position of influence within the king’s court, issued a letter that all Jews celebrate annually the 14th and 15th days of the month of Adar (usually February or March) as the festival of Purim to remember how Haman the Agagite cast Pur (or lot) to destroy the Jewish people. Hadassah (Queen Esther) issued a command that her people should celebrate Purim with fasting and lamentation.

[Purim and Hanukkah are non-Mosaic festivals that are celebrated still today. Esther is one of the five scrolls of the Megilloth (Song of Solomon, Ruth, Ecclesiastes and Lamentations) that are read by Rabbis on five special occasions each year.]

The Book of Esther is not quoted in the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) nor does it mention G-d, but throughout its pages we can see the providence of G-d and His sovereign will played out in the lives of Hadassah and Mordecai. John MacArthur writes:

There are no miracles in Esther, but the preservation of Israel through providential control of every event and person reveals the omniscience and omnipotence of YHWH.

It is not insignificant to presuppose that G-d enlists people to execute His divine will. Satan will not prevail, and the LORD uses men and women of courage — often the least of us — to thwart the plans of the Evil One.

Recall that Mordecai told Esther if she remained quiet then deliverance would come elsewhere. How unlikely that a harem girl would become Queen of Persia and, by the invisible hand of G-d, save her people.

Will you be that man or woman of courage who will stand with the LORD? To G-d be the glory forever.

Suggested Reading:

Amalek and the Festival of Purim 

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Healing — Rightly Dividing the Word

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We can’t make the Bible say what we desire it to say. We can’t interpret it according to our feelings, or make it conform to worldly standards. And we most definitely cannot build a church based on the dogma and creed of any denomination or tradition of men. With that in mind we shall examine more closely two verses in the B’rit Chadasha (New Testament) that seem to be saying the same thing. But are they?

The preacher on TCT invites the viewer to touch their television screen as he reads this verse from 1 Peter 2:24 …

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Have you ever reached out to touch the screen believing that you’ll be healed? I am reminded of the story in Numbers 21:8 when YHWH commands Moshe to fashion a bronze serpent, attach it to a pole, and when anyone is bitten by a snake if they look upon the bronze image they will live.

Of course, it is not the serpent on a pole that heals, but the power of God through faith. It came to pass the children of God, believing there was power in the healing pole, began to idolize the bronze serpent. Over the next 430 years — until the reign of Hezekiah — they burnt incense and bowed in worship to what Moshe had created. Their behavior was so blasphemous that the king took the pole and broke it in pieces (2 Kings 18:4).

If you believe that touching your television screen will heal you then may I suggest that you follow the example of King Hezekiah.

This is what happens when tradition — based on our feelings — becomes the foundation of church doctrine. If left unchecked we risk the danger of falling into heresy and condemnation. I mentioned last time that I was banned from a Christian blog because I disagreed with the author’s interpretation of 1 Peter 2:24. They hold to the feel-good proposition that the apostle was speaking of physical healing while I argued that he was referring to spiritual healing. Biblical scholars uniformly agree with the latter interpretation (spiritual) while the modern evangelical church espouses the former (physical).

A similar verse — one that is more specific to physical healing — can be found in Matthew 8:17 …

This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES.”

Isn’t that what Peter said? Well, no. In context, Peter is speaking of our sin condition — that Jesus bore our sins so that we would die to sin. Throughout the Bible sin is classified as a disease for which there is only one cure … the blood of Jesus Christ.

Now, the apostles (Peter and Matthew) are both quoting Isaiah.

However …

Peter is citing Isaiah 53:5 …

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

Bible commentators agree with the Rabbin that this is, in fact, a reference to spiritual healing.

Albert Barnes:

We are healed – literally, it is healed to us; or healing has happened to us. The healing here referred to is spiritual healing, or healing from sin. Pardon of sin, and restoration to the favor of God, are not unfrequently represented as an act of healing. [1]

John Gill:

Sin is a disease belonging to all men, a natural, hereditary, nauseous, and incurable one, but by the blood of Christ; forgiving sin is a healing of this disease; and this is to be had, and in no other way, than through the stripes and wounds, the blood and sacrifice, of the Son of God. [2]

The LORD did not lay our infirmity upon the scourged Christ, but our iniquity (Isaiah 53:6).

Matthew, in quoting the prophet, is making reference to physical healing. Both Hebrew and Greek scholars agree on this point, and it has so been taught by the Rabbin:

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (Isaiah 53:4).

Griefs (חלי, chăliy) does not refer to sins, but means literally sickness and disease. So, faith healers would be better served to quote from Mattityahu (מתיו) rather than Kephas (פיטר). Why don’t they? Because Matthew is quite clear that this prophesy of Yesha’yahu (יְשַׁעְיָהוּ) was fulfilled by Yeshua HaMashiach.

We don’t know how many people Jesus healed — only that it was multitudes. But the early church recognized that the Christ in their midst was the present fulfillment of the law and prophets. Messiah conferred the power of healing upon His apostles who performed these acts of miracles — even raising the dead — until the last of the twelve (John) passed from life to death.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee:

He says here, He’s suffering now the sins of the world who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). Now, He’s no example to us here. You and I can’t suffer for our own sins let alone the sins of the world, but now he’s talking about redemption. You say, “How do you know?” Well, let’s keep reading here, in His own body on the tree that we being dead to sins  — that was our condition — should live unto righteousness by whose stripes we are healed. Now, healed of what? And I notice faith healers never use this verse, and rightly so because whose stripes you’re healed it’s evident who he’s talking about. He says we were dead in sins. We were absolutely dead and we should live now unto righteousness by whose stripes we’re healed. Healed of what? Of sin, friends. He’s the great healer. I’ll agree with that, but the great healer heals of sin and no human position can handle that problem. [3]

In McGee’s day faith healers did not allude to this verse. It has since been wrongly divided by charismatic evangelicals.

Let me be clear — God still heals by divine will and authority. But when you touch your television screen (by faith), and are not healed, be alert to the Evil One who might steal your hope.

Take your eyes off the bronze serpent and focus on the Christ.

Credits:

1. Notes on the Old Testament, Albert Barnes, (London, Blackie & Son, 1884).

2. An Exposition of the Old Testament, John Gill, (6 vols., 1748-63).

3. Commentary on 1 Peter, Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible (Five-Year Study).

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