Second five of our list of overlooked but unforgettable Scriptures

I love coming across powerful but brief summations of God’s story. Sometimes it’s a paragraph or story, but often it’s two or three or four words.

We must emphasize that these are not isolated exceptions to the overall message of Scripture. Instead, they are small insights into the entire theme of God’s word.

Continuing the series….

6) Romans 8:31 “God is for us.”

The entire 8th chapter of Romans is a mother lode of spiritual riches if one has ever existed.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote several books on just this one chapter.  But let me call your attention to verse 31.  “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

This is the hinge verse of that great chapter. For 30 verses, Paul has been declaring that God the Father is for us, God the Son is for us, and God the Spirit is for us. (He does not do this in consecutive passages, but braids all three points together throughout.)  Then, in verse 31, he says, “What are we to conclude from all this? Just this: If God is for us, then who in the world can be against us?”

This needs saying: When Paul says “IF God is for us” here, he is saying “SINCE God is for us.”  He’s just established repeatedly that God is for us. Now he says, “Since God is for us, what does it matter who is against us?”  Answer: It doesn’t.  Some people will always oppose you, but Romans 8:37-39 says it really doesn’t matter.

That “God is for us” is the consistent message of Jesus. Look at Mark 1:41 (“I am willing”) and Luke 2:10 (“I bring you good news of great joy.”).   “Fear not little children,” our Lord said, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).  Notice how in Mark 2, Jesus forgives the sins of the paralytic without even being asked! God is for him!

Jesus said, “No one takes my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18).  And see Him on the cross as He is surrounded by the cursing, howling, spitting mob: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing!” (Luke 23:34).

What a wonderful Savior we have!

You and I have to make no sacrifices or bring no offerings or say no novenas to “get God on our side.” We do not have to ask Mother Mary to intercede with Him on our behalf.  He is already for us! This is the consistent teaching of Scripture from one end to the other.

This is not saying to the wicked, “God is on your side” or to the hypocrite, “Do as you please, God will bless you.”  What it is saying is that when people want to do right and find the life the Living God meant for them in the first place, He is there for them. God wants to bless us, to give us the full and abundant life.

God is far more for you than you have ever been for yourself.

7) Romans 8:26 “He helps us in our weakness.”

Nothing inspires us to study biblical Greek and Hebrew languages like coming across wonderful insights overflowing with blessing.  “Helps” in Romans 8:26 is such a word.

In the English, it’s 5 letters. But the Greek translated as “helps” is a compound word of 17 letters. Synantilambanomai. 

Syn = prefix for “together, with.”  Anti = A prefix meaning “opposite to, in front of.”  Lambanomai = a form of the verb “to lift.”

Put them together and Paul says, “Likewise the Spirit also HELPS us in our weaknesses. For we do not know how to pray as we should….”

So, what does the Lord do?  He (ahem) gets on the other side of the load (opposite to, in front of you) and together with you, gets under the load and lifts.  He does not do so in your place but He empowers your prayer.  After all, “We do not know how to pray as we should.”  You knew that, I hope.  That statement should be the first principle of prayer taught in every seminar in the land.  First, we don’t know how to pray. Our prayers are baby-talk. But the Holy Spirit takes them and translates them into Heaven’s language and deals with the intent.

How wonderful is our Lord!

(Two notes: A. The single other place in the New Testament that synantilambanomai is used is Luke 10:40, when Martha stepped out of the kitchen to say, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to HELP me.”  As the writer of Ecclesiastes said, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor….” Martha wasn’t asking Mary to do it all, but to “get on the other side of the task and lend a hand.”  — B. Also, while we do not encourage pastors to overdo the use of Greek and Hebrew in their sermons, the occasional helpful insight can work wonders.  Nothing inspired me more to study these languages in seminary than hearing preachers bring in some small treasure from the Greek in their sermons. Think of it as seasoning in the food we serve the family: too little leaves the meal bland; too much can destroy it. )

8) Leviticus 19.  The chapter of the forgottens.

Everyone knows that the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36ff) was plucked by our Lord from Deuteronomy 6. But very few are aware that the “Second Commandment,” the one “like it,” found its origin in Leviticus 19.  Leviticus is a difficult book for a lot of reasons, and I suspect that many of the Lord’s people who started out reading through the entire Bible bogged down in this third book of Scriptures and never got out of it.  (My suggestion is to read it all, difficult or not, but to keep an eye out for the nuggets.  Keep the treasures and leave the rest for another time. If you stay in the word through a long lifetime of serving Him, the day will come when Leviticus becomes one of your favorites.  I promise.)

Now, Leviticus 19 contains a mishmash of laws, some memorable and some rather strange to our minds.  But among them, we find these….

–Leave the harvest around the edges of the field for the poor (19:9).  And do not return to harvest it a second time (for late-producing blossoms); leave it for the poor (19:10). (As a farm boy from Alabama, I recall that the rows next to the edges of the field usually produced poorly.  And I remember being surprised when Dad sent us back over the cotton field we had just finished, a week or two earlier, to gather up the late-blooming cotton.  It wasn’t nearly as productive or fun the second time.)

–You’re not to cheat your neighbor or keep a laborer’s wages overnight. A poor man needs his pay now to feed his family. (19:13).

–You’re not to curse the deaf or mistreat the blind. Do not take advantage of the handicapped. (19:14).

–But no one should misinterpret this as a command to be partial to the poor. Be fair in all your dealings (19:15).

–Treat the foreigner in your country as a citizen.  After all you were visitors to Egypt and you know how it feels to be misplaced and deprived of your rights (19:33-34).  Does this speak to illegal aliens crossing into this country? It’s worthy of our prayerful reflection.

–God wants honest weights and measurements. He will not condone one set of scales for friends and another for outsiders.  “You shall love (the outsider) as yourself” (19:34,35).

Repeatedly, as the Lord issues these pronouncements, He sets them in stone by adding, “I am the Lord!”  The implication is: “These are not suggestions or helpful hints. Do them!!”

Now, check out the Gospel According to Luke, noticing how it gives special place to the outcasts, the handicapped, the poor, and the forgotten. Do not miss Luke chapter 14.

The church with no planned ministry to helping the poor and deprived is ignoring so much of Scripture’s teachings.

9) Exodus 34:6-7  God introduces Himself to His creation.

I’m tempted to say there is nothing else in all Scripture like these two verses where the Living God reveals Himself to Moses.  However, for one huge reason that would not be quite true: These two verses are quoted all through the Old Testament.

“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation.”

There is so much here.  This is how God is, what He is like, what He does, and what we must not miss.  (Note: “Keeping mercy for thousands” is thought to mean “thousands of generations” whereas He visits the iniquity on the fathers only to a few generations.)

–Numbers 14:18  Moses quoted those words back to God as he interceded for Israel.

–Deuteronomy 4:31 Moses quotes these words to Israel to remind them of God’s mercy.

–Nehemiah 9:17 Nehemiah, Ezra, the Levites–somebody!– preached these words to God’s people as they confessed their sins.

–Joel 2:13 Joel quotes them as incentives for turning to God.

–David (or other psalmists) used these words in various Songs of Israel. Psalm 86:5,15, 103:8 and 145:8, among others.

–Jeremiah 32:18 shows how Jeremiah preached from this text too.  There are snippets of it found all through the prophets.

Clearly, the servants of the Lord a) knew their Bibles and b) quoted from it perfectly at no time.  We may assume that all were going from memory.  Few possessed a scroll which they could open and locate the exact text so they could read it perfectly.  So, in worship when someone stood and read the Word, everyone listened!

That they did not quote it exactly all the time tells me that we should not be slavishly devoted to the letter of the law, but always go for the spirit.  See 2 Corinthians 3:6.  The issue is not what precisely does the Hebrew or Greek say–with details on syntax, historical roots, and etymology of those words–but what is the point God is making. (I recognize that saying this wo;; be seen by some as opening the door to “private interpretation”–see 2 Peter 1:20–but God’s people must always seek the meaning of the Word in context with everything else He has revealed and spoken.) We who preach should never leave our people with the impression that only those knowing the original languages have access to the (ahem) “true meaning” of Scripture. Gnosticism is alive and well in our pulpits today, I fear.

10) Genesis 21:6 “Abraham and Sarah named their child Laughing Boy.”

The Hebrew for Isaac is Yitzhak.  My Hebrew/Old Testament professor, Dr. George Harrison, told us, “Yitzhak is a form of the word for laughter.” Then he added, “They named their son Laughing Boy.”

“God has made laughter for me,” said Sarah.

How wonderful is that!  And lest we at this great remove think she was being ironic or facetious, she was not. She was dead serious.  In her old age, long after all hope of ever bearing a child was gone, God empowers her to bring forth a male child. She is beside herself with joy.

I tell people, “God has made laughter for you too–and some of you are not getting your minimum daily requirement.”

A couple of my favorite texts on the subject of joy and laughter….

–“You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and new wine increased” (Psalm 4:7).  There is joy in grain to a farmer.  A large crop means additional income.  The farm family rejoices.  And I’m also told there is joy in new wine (or old wine either, for that matter).  I would not know personally, but I’ll tell you this: The joy of the Lord is not superficial (like a fat paycheck) nor artificial (like a glass of alcholic drink), but beneficial. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” His joy works on the deepest level, meeting the greatest needs, doing a heavenly work in HIs children.

I’m for all the joy I can get. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy….” (Galatians 5:22).

–“In thy presence there is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).  Joy, C. S. Lewis wrote, is “the business of heaven.” I imagine he had in mind the way angels rejoice, as our Lord revealed in Luke 15:7 and 10. When his wayward son returned home, the father of the prodigal told the elder brother, “Son, it was right that we should make merry and be glad” (Luke 15:32).

God loves to hear His children laugh.  It’s a vote of confidence in Him.  “You have turned my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness” (Psalm 30:11).




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