Did Jesus Discover That He Was God?

In many allegories, movies, or hypotheses about Jesus’ younger years, a very particular idea tends to sneak in. It’s the idea that Jesus, while a young boy, learned that he was God through some journey, revelation, maturity, or whatever. These ideas may even go so far as to say that he learned he was God at the time he began his ministry, and therefore for the majority of his life he was not aware of his divinity. Now, while this idea may seem harmless, it’s an attempt to fill in the gaps of Jesus’ life. Indeed, there isn’t an exact account of Jesus’ entire life in scripture, but it turns out that the Bible fills in the gaps for us. We’re going to answer the question of whether or not Jesus knew he was God as a child, and what he was up to before his ministry.

What did Jesus think as a child?

The Bible only gives an exact account about a couple events in Jesus’ young life, and that’s of course what we’re interested in. One of the most powerful stories about Jesus’ true nature and what he thought about this is shown in this short account. Every year Jesus and his parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival, and when the festival was over his parents left for home. But they mistakenly left Jesus behind and didn’t notice for a whole day, and went back looking for him.

After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. – Luke 2:46

This is a sign that Jesus is God before we even get into what he thinks. Consider the symbolism and how it foreshadows his entire purpose. Before Jesus was crucified as an adult, he celebrated the Passover with his disciples in Jerusalem. After this, he died the next day, and for three days he was dead before his resurrection. Likewise, as a little boy, Jesus celebrates the Passover in Jerusalem with his parents. For a day he’s left behind, though they thought he was still with them, and after this realization Joseph and Mary looked for him for three days before he returns to them and goes home.

Now let’s look at what Jesus thought about this whole event, as a mere child who, according to popular culture, shouldn’t even think he’s God yet:

When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” Jesus asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. – Luke 2:48-50

Jesus, as a child, says something no ordinary child could possibly understand or say with such authority. He acknowledges that God is his father, and God’s house is where he had to be. Joseph and Mary’s response is the same as the disciples later on in Jesus’ life:

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. – Luke 18:31-34

Jesus told his disciples where the son of man had to be, just like when he was a boy. And no one understood what he was talking about. Even as a little boy, Jesus knew that he was the son of God, and knew his purpose. He had to be in his Father’s house, and he had to die for us.

What was Jesus doing all those years?

The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. – Luke 2:40

Jesus was growing in wisdom throughout his life. He didn’t receive everything immediately at birth, but grew as we grow, so that he can empathize with our weaknesses:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet he did not sin. – Hebrews 4:15

In the same way he learned wisdom, he learned obedience in life:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. – Hebrews 5:7-9

This is not to say that he was ever disobedient or imperfect, but began life without having experienced the suffering that brings obedience and wisdom. And we know he experienced great suffering to cause this obedience and wisdom:

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. – Isaiah 53:2-3

While Jesus was growing up, there was nothing desirable about him. While he was gaining wisdom and learning obedience, he became familiar with pain. And when the time came for him to triumphantly enter Jerusalem as a King, people still thought he was just a prophet, that unattractive son of a carpenter who would be despised and rejected by mankind. They still didn’t understand what was really going on:

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” – Matthew 21:10-11

What did Jesus think before he became man?

Ok, so what if Jesus knew he was God as a child. So what if we know what he was doing during those years between his birth and his ministry. What about before he was born? Did he even exist anywhere before he was born? Did Jesus become God only when he was born?

And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. – John 17:5

Jesus existed before the world began, and when he was born on earth the big difference was that he had to give up the same glory he had in the presence of God. If he kept this glory, who could survive seeing him?

Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. – Philippians 2:6-7

Jesus did not empty himself of his divine nature, but the glory that he had in his Father’s house before the world began. He always knew he was fully God, even when he was a child, and he experienced through his humanity the same growth we go through today. Jesus has always been fully God and fully man. Jesus was alive before the world began, Jesus was alive in the Old Testament, and Jesus is alive today.

I know that my Savior lives, and at the end he will stand on this earth. My flesh may be destroyed, yet from this body I will see God. – Job 19:25-26

Communion in the Old Testament

What comes to mind when you think about communion? Probably what you eat and drink, and the verses from the Lord’s supper where Jesus talks about what communion is all about. These are all great things, but I want to add more value to them by drawing on acts of communion found in the Old Testament as well. Nothing in the New Testament shows us anything new. This means that all traditions, festivals, and laws found in the New Testament all come from the Old Testament. Now, if communion didn’t start in the New Testament, shouldn’t we look at examples of where it came from, in order to better understand where it is now? Yes, so let’s begin by breaking down what communion is, and applying this definition to an example in the Old Testament.

What is communion? We’re going to follow Jesus’ very simple explanation of what it is. Every example we’ll look at will follow this easy pattern:

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” – Luke 22:19-20

From what Jesus said and did, we can see that communion is:

  1. Being present with a mediator
  2. Remembering that we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God
  3. Remembering a covenant with God

Here is a simple explanation of where this is coming from:

#1 is because the disciples are in the presence of Jesus, the final mediator between God and man. We’ll look into how they and people in the Old Testament fulfilled this after Jesus was gone, which helps us understand communion’s importance today.

#2 is because bread is a symbol used by God to represent the bread of life, that is, what’s really keeping us alive. To elaborate:

So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. – Deuteronomy 8:3

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.” – John 6:32-35

#3 is because the wine represents Jesus’ new covenant made in his blood.

We will be using this pattern with each of the examples we’ll cover. This will show us communion in action in the Old Testament, and lead the way to better understanding how we have communion as well.

Melchizedek

The Bible makes it easy to connect the dots in many circumstances. In my last post I was able to connect John the Baptist to Elijah because he is literally compared to him by Jesus. Well, this time since we’re looking at communion, we get a big hint to begin with. Who is Jesus compared to that’s from the Old Testament?

For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” – Hebrews 7:17

Melchizedek simply isn’t talked about much at all, only a couple times in the Old Testament! But he’s there for a reason, and he’s compared to Jesus for an even bigger reason. So if Melchizedek isn’t talked about much, let’s look at the simple time he shows up:

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. – Genesis 14:17-20

Now, this post is not about who the mysterious Melchizedek is exactly, but how he practiced communion with Abram. From this short passage in Genesis, we can walk through the three points that define communion.

Being present with a mediator

Melchizedek is described as a “priest of God Most High.” And we know that priests are tasked with being mediators between God and man:

Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. – Hebrews 5:1

Communion in the Old Testament always involves a high priest, because Jesus had not yet come to be our high priest, therefore we had to rely on fully human mediators. Today when we practice communion, we know that Jesus is the last priest, because he lives forever and is with us always:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 6:19-20

Therefore we are in the presence of a mediator when we practice communion. Likewise, Abram was in the presence of Melchizedek, a mediator, in the Old Testament. This is necessary because we cannot “commune” with God on our own, we need a mediator, for Jesus says:

“No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

Remembering that we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God

Melchizedek brought bread and wine to Abram, and doesn’t remark about Abram’s greatness or his strength, but God’s. He also mentions the fact that God saved him from his enemies:

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

In response, Abram gives away a tenth of his belongings to the priest. This is a significant sign about Abram’s faithfulness to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives. – Deuteronomy 14:23

Jesus describes bread in the same way earlier during communion:

“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Today, we eat bread during communion to remember Jesus, the bread of life, and that there is nothing else that keeps us alive but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Abram responded to this by giving away a tenth of what he had, to physically put God first in his life and live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Eating bread is not communion, but putting God first is. The bread is a symbol of this to help us remember.

“Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” – John 6:57:58

Remembering a covenant with God

Because we’ve previously established that bread isn’t communion, that means wine isn’t either. The wine is a symbol of what is lastly necessary for communion: remembering a covenant with God. Earlier, Jesus explains this:

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

Jesus is having communion, using wine to symbolize that his blood is the new covenant. Melchizedek gives Abram wine, but wine isn’t communion. He’s making sure Abram remembers a covenant. Which covenant? Surely Abram didn’t know about the new covenant? Jesus was the one who invented it, right? No. Jesus fulfilled the new covenant which was promised in the Old Testament. Consider the covenant God makes with Abram:

The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your seed forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” – Genesis 13:14-17

After this covenant, Abram is victorious against the enemies who captured Lot, which is when Melchizedek shows up. God gave Abram victory that day because of the covenant he made with him. Isn’t this the old covenant? No. The old covenant is the one established with Moses, the one that required something from us to receive the blessings of God:

“‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,’ declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 31:31-32

The new covenant is a gift from God, requiring nothing in return. This gift is Jesus:

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. – Hebrews 8:6

How did Abram know about this? How could his communion fulfill the requirement of remembering a covenant, if the new covenant didn’t even exist yet? Because it did exist, and Abram knew full well who God was talking about when he made his promises to him:

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. – Galatians 3:16

In communion when we drink, we must remember the new covenant in Jesus’ blood which is poured out for us, just like Abram.

Takeaway

Communion is not a symbol, it is a very real and spiritual act. The bread and the wine are symbols to help us remember Jesus, the bread of life and the new covenant. To see how Abram had communion helps us understand what was really going on during the last supper, so that we don’t get hung up on the food and drink. They don’t do anything, it’s what they represent that matters. And why does what they represent matter?

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. – 1 Corinthians 11:27

We were bought with a price, and to commune with God is something very real and serious. So the next time you practice communion, remember who your mediator is: Jesus. Remember that you live because of God, who has given you the bread of life: Jesus. And remember the covenant of blood that was poured out for you, the blood of Jesus.

“Do this in remembrance of me.” – 1 Corinthians 11:24

Baptism in the Old Testament

Baptism is undoubtedly a controversial topic within various denominations in Christianity. But when we ask ourselves when baptism started, I’m 100% sure it’s always John the Baptist that comes to mind. Today we’re putting a stop to this, because the New Testament neither invented anything new, nor abolished anything old, but fulfilled every law and prophecy that came out of the Old Testament. While the word baptism isn’t in the Old Testament, its latin definition, “immersion,” very much occurs all over the place. And if it’s there, it’s important. We’re going to look at baptism in the Old Testament, and why this is important to understand.

Elijah

Our first hint comes from the New Testament, which links very particular people together. When it compares someone in the New Testament to someone in the Old, it deserves a closer look. Because John the Baptist is who we always turn to when we think about the origin of baptism, let’s look at who, in the Old Testament, Jesus compares him to:

“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.” – Matthew 11:13-14

So let’s look at Elijah’s involvement with water. If John is the Elijah who was to come, then Elijah must have been doing something related to immersion. Turns out, he was:

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood. Now do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. – 1 Kings 18:30-34

Elijah’s immersion of the sacrifice to God has far more meaning than meets the eye. You may be thinking that this isn’t related because Elijah isn’t immersing a person. However, immersion, or baptism, is a symbol of something wholly spiritual. John uses baptism with water to symbolize spiritual baptism.

“And this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.” – 1 Peter 3:21

Therefore, Elijah’s immersion of the sacrifice is a symbol of the spiritual baptism of Israel, cleansing them of their idolatry. But the difference here is that the Old Testament is giving us a glimpse of what spiritual baptism actually looks like, something the New Testament only mentions.

Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” – 1 Kings 18:38-39

Why is this exactly what spiritual baptism looks like? Look at this parallel:

1 Kings

Elijah uses immersion with water on the sacrifice, then God uses fire that consumes everything

Matthew

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” – Matthew 3:11-12

So not only does the Old Testament have symbolic baptism, but spiritual baptism. And unlike the New Testament, we actually get to see what spiritual baptism looks like: a consuming, dangerous, hot, and transformative fire. This fire isn’t out of control, however, as Malachi describes:

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness. – Malachi 3:3

It is a very calculated fire, and affects exactly what it means to. And this fire always brings transformation and righteousness, just like how the Israelites responded after God consumed Elijah’s sacrifice:

When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” 1 Kings 18:39

Noah

Now for the part you were waiting for: the baptism of people! Elijah’s side of the story contains incredible symbolism and imagery, but with a sacrifice. What about the symbolic baptism of people? Was this practiced? Yes.

After being made alive, Jesus went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. – 1 Peter 3:19-21

What Peter is saying here is that Noah had faith in God, therefore he was saved spiritually, and the flood was a symbol of this salvation.

Elisha

Do you think the flood doesn’t count as real immersion? Let’s look at an example closer to the kind of things John the Baptist practiced:

Elisha sent a messenger to say to Naaman, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. – 2 Kings 5:10-14

Notice that it was not the immersion of water that cleansed Naaman, but his faith that God would heal him from leprosy after merely washing a few times in not even the best river. The same fire that consumed Elijah’s sacrifice consumed Naaman’s old sinful life. The fact that God healed his body pales in comparison to the fact that he received spiritual baptism that day, and would never be the same again:

Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” – 2 Kings 5:15

The immersion in the Jordan and the healing of Naaman’s leprosy was a symbol of his spiritual baptism, the baptism with fire and the Holy Spirit.

The Law

So what’s the deal with baptism then, if it’s just a symbol? Why are we commanded to be baptized?

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. – Matthew 28:19

Because Jesus follows the law of God perfectly, and if he wants us to be more like him, then he wants us to follow the law too. What law am I talking about that relates to baptism, if Jesus didn’t make new laws? Since when is there an Old Testament law saying that we need to be baptized? Understand first that humanity’s accessibility to God changed after Jesus sacrificed himself for us. We no longer need a high priest to purify himself and follow regulations in order to be in the presence of God, because Jesus is doing that for us. God is uniquely present with us today, which is something the Jews simply couldn’t experience except through a very special circumstance: The day of atonement.

A couple people died in the presence of God because they weren’t clean. And I don’t mean physically clean, but spiritually:

The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the Lord. The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.” – Leviticus 16:1-2

And what did God have the Jews do so that they could be in his presence? Be baptized! Immersed! Cleansed with water! Symbolically made clean, which would reflect their spiritual baptism and allow themselves to be in the presence of a very holy God:

“This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. – Leviticus 16:3-4

How do we know that this is baptism? Because Jesus did the exact same thing as Aaron:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. – Matthew 3:13-15

Before eventually offering himself as the sacrifice, according to the law he needed to be washed clean. Jesus describes that this was proper to fulfill all righteousness. Aaron and all subsequent high priests had to be baptized with fire before offering sacrifices to God, because an unrighteous person would literally die in his holy presence. God had them symbolically washed clean with water so that they could understand the spiritual transformation required.

So let’s bring this back to you and me. What does this law that Jesus was following have to do with us? If God is uniquely present amongst us today, Jesus wants us to be spiritually baptized with fire so that we are clean before God, and we can then have access to the Holy Spirit.

So should you be baptized with water? Remember that it’s a symbol. Mechanically it’s as effective as Elijah’s water on his sacrifice, it just made everything wet. What’s important is what’s going on spiritually. We can use symbols to help understand what’s really going on, or to outwardly show an example of God’s transformation and cleansing of ourselves. But what you really need to do is be baptized with God’s fire. His fire consumes and transforms, it is a refiner’s fire that takes away our past selves and remakes us into something righteous.

As this post ends, consider this final point before the last piece of scripture: Judas was most likely baptized with water because he was a disciple of Jesus, but what good did it do him? But the thief on the cross was most likely not baptized with water ever in his life, yet he was baptized with God’s fire right then and there before he died with Jesus.

“‘I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was honey, olive oil and the finest flour. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect,’ declares the Sovereign Lord.” – Ezekiel 16:9-14

The Verse that Changed My Life

When I was younger I thought I could fix things. I thought there was a way that I could get people to stop doing wrong, a way that I could stop all the pain. If only us Christians could figure it out! If only we could do something about all the evil in the world. These thoughts bled into other areas of life, because thinking that I’m responsible for stopping people from sinning also meant that I was responsible for the good and bad experiences in my own life. As a result, I had a lot of stress and issues with control. What I’m going to talk about today is the verse that I came across that stopped this way of thinking, and helped me to let go. It’s my favorite verse in the Bible, and summarizes the Christian response to both sin and righteousness.

“Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.” – Revelation 22:11

This is my favorite verse. It’s simple and is part of the prophecy about both the future of the world and its current state. God mostly speaks to me through scripture, and this made it very clear that there are things going on that I needed to let go of. This made it clear that I needed to both let people be righteous and let people sin, because in the end we all have our own choices to make. Is there more to this message? Surely it might seem like there’s a lot more going on here. Well, the Bible doesn’t just say one thing once, it says the same thing in many places and different ways in order to finally get it in our head. So let’s look at where this topic comes up in other places, so that it’s all laid out.

Gabriel’s Perspective

We know that Gabriel told Daniel about what’s in Revelation and offers more on the same topic. Let’s look at Revelation again, including one more verse so that the parallel is clear:

Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.” – Revelation 22:10-11

Then, Gabriel has this to say in Daniel:

He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” – Daniel 12:9-10

This is an acknowledgement that sin will continue. There’s nothing we can do about that. Our purpose, which is spreading the message, doesn’t include stopping people from sinning. The wicked will continue to be wicked. There will be people who don’t listen to God, and there will be people who do. We can’t control who does what.

Ezekiel’s Perspective

Ezekiel offers another parallel to Gabriel and Revelation. However, his perspective, like Revelation, comes in the form of a command about what we should do in response to this topic:

“But when I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you shall say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ Whoever will listen let them listen, and whoever will refuse let them refuse; for they are a rebellious people.” – Ezekiel 3:27

Let the wicked be wicked. Let the good be good. Let people listen, and let people ignore. It’s a simple and clear message. Likewise, Jesus said:

“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” – Matthew 11:15

Let people hear the message and make a choice. But know that they will decide to reject God, or follow him. It’s not up to you, and you don’t know when they’ll make that choice in life.

Timothy’s Perspective

The whole point of me discovering this verse, during a point in my life when I wanted to control everything, was for God to start showing me how to let go. But it’s not just about letting go of what other people do, but letting go of what happens to myself. I said at the beginning of this post that I felt like I was responsible for the good and bad that happened to myself, but this verse in Revelation opened me up to seeing that that’s not the case. Gabriel and Ezekiel have elaborations on the topic of responding to other people, but Timothy talks about the response to yourself.

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it.” – 2 Timothy 3:12-14

Revelation says to let the wicked be wicked, and the righteous be righteous. Timothy applies this to ourselves and says that wicked things will happen to us, and to continue to be righteous. Because persecution will happen to us, letting sinners continue to sin means that we also need to let persecution happen. We can’t stop it or control it, God says it will happen. But also continue to be holy. Continue to be righteous. Peter quotes Leviticus 11:44 when he says in regards to continuing to do what is right:

Because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:16

Let the righteous be righteous, and let the wicked be wicked. Do what is good because God is good. Let persecution happen because it is a sign of us being a Christian. We all make choices, some listen, some don’t. Let go of trying to control the world, let go of trying to control the good and the bad in your life, because we’re just not meant to change it. Only Jesus could change the world. And only Jesus can change you.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19

Who Does God Hate?

If “God hates sin but loves the sinner,” then why did he always punish sinners and not the sin? Because that very common statement just isn’t supported by scripture whatsoever. There are countless little sayings like this that exist with the sole purpose of cushioning tough messages that really have simple, encouraging explanations. So today we’re tackling this one, “God hates sin but loves the sinner,” and why it can be confusing to believe both it and scripture that contradicts it entirely. So enough of sayings that people come up with, let’s look at what God has to say.

“I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.” – Malachi 1:2-3

So immediately in the verse above, we see that God is capable of hating someone. But why? Isn’t God all-loving? Isn’t this contrary to his nature? Does this make you uncomfortable at all? Well it should, because that means the wheels are starting to turn. So let’s look at what God’s hatred is exactly, and what that means for us.

Covenant Hatred

The first point is to make the clear distinction between love and hate in the eyes of God. God’s love is a covenant, not an emotion. Therefore, God’s hatred, the opposite of his covenant love, must not be an emotion either, but a choice:

The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. – Psalm 145:20

But doesn’t God love everyone? How is it possible for him to decide to hate someone, and therefore destroy them?

Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live! – Ezekiel 18:31-32

Esau and his people did not repent and live. Take five minutes to read the book of Obadiah, and don’t be scared, it’s only one chapter. It describes the wickedness of Esau’s people, and you’ll see that God’s hatred is fully justified. Not the emotion of hatred, but the covenant of hatred: that conscious choice of Esau to sin and live against God. And God’s side of the agreement is to destroy Esau.

For the violence against your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. – Obadiah 1:10

This covenant of hatred is made even more clear in Genesis, where the agreement that whoever sins will be destroyed is first made known to God’s creation:

“But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” – Genesis 2:17

God’s Love Comes First

If God hated Esau and destroyed him because of his sin, what about you and me? We’ve done the same, we’ve sinned, we’ve rebelled against God just like Esau. Does that mean God hates us too?

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Because God loves everyone so much, Jesus took on all of his Father’s hatred. Before he died on the cross he quotes King David, exclaiming God’s rejection and hatred of him:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? – Psalm 22:1

As said in Ezekiel, God does not delight in destroying sinners. He loves us all far too much for that. This was the purpose of Jesus: to save us from the result of our sin, which is God’s hatred and our destruction.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. – John 3:17-18

How Do We Respond?

If we are called to imitate God, and if he has hatred for people, shouldn’t we have hatred as well? Not so fast! We’ve been describing hatred as a contract, an agreement to someone to be destroyed for rebelling against God. But Jesus took on that hatred so that we wouldn’t be condemned. So what are we supposed to do?

To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. – Proverbs 8:13

That’s fine, that’s hating what the person is doing, right?

Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. – Psalm 139:21-22

Oh dear! Now what? Are we really supposed to hate people who hate God? Even though Jesus literally says the following?

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44

Remember, this hatred is not the emotion that brings about vengeance, grudges, or murder, for the Old Testament makes it clear:

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. – Leviticus 19:18

This hatred is a moral repugnance of what’s going on inside someone who hates God. This Psalmist is exemplifying the very beginning of Psalms itself:

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers. – Psalm 1:1

The enemies of God are certainly not our friends! The Psalmist in chapter 139 is calling them out clearly, because we should not forget what’s going on, and how we are not to walk in the steps of the enemies of God. Jesus wants us to love them, but remember that they are not our brothers and sisters. Because if they were, then we are absolutely not to have any of this hatred for them, just like how God doesn’t hate his own people:

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. – 1 John 2:9

Is There Hope For God’s Enemies?

Is there hope? Yes. One day you will die, and if you die an enemy of God, you will not have eternal life. But while you are living, God will still work in your life to draw you back, but that has to be your decision. Still not sure? Reread Obadiah again, and pay attention to the signs that come to the enemies of God:

God will humble you

See, I will make you small among the nations; you will be utterly despised. – Obadiah 1:2

You will lose what you love

But how Esau will be ransacked, his hidden treasures pillaged! – Obadiah 1:6

Your friends will turn their backs on you

All your allies will force you to the border; your friends will deceive and overpower you; those who eat your bread will set a trap for you, but you will not detect it. – Obadiah 1:7

Nothing will make sense anymore

“In that day,” declares the Lord, “will I not destroy the wise men of Edom, those of understanding in the mountains of Esau?” – Obadiah 1:8

And if you still won’t turn back to God…

Jacob will be a fire and Joseph a flame; Esau will be stubble, and they will set him on fire and destroy him. There will be no survivors from Esau. – Obadiah 1:18

So turn to God now, profess that he is Lord and believe that Jesus died for your sins, and you will be saved! God’s hatred is powerful, and is a result of rebelling against the free gift that Jesus offers us. God wants to give us salvation from a life of sin, and forgiveness for going against him. He doesn’t want to have a covenant of hatred with us, but a covenant of love. But he won’t wait forever, so now is the time!

I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. – 1 John 2:12

One Last Passage

See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled; that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. – Hebrews 12:15-17

How God Responds to Pain

Pity, sympathy, empathy, and compassion are words we use to describe different degrees of emotion we can experience when being around pain in others. They’re all very different emotions, and God has them too, but in a far more interesting way.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. – Psalm 103:13

This infographic was created for a blog post explaining these four emotions, and how each one escalates the amount of engagement. While we experience them at different times, God is able to exhibit all of these at all times. He simultaneously acknowledges, cares about, has experienced, and works to ease our suffering. Let’s jump right in and see this is action.

Moses

The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of My people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their oppressors, and I am aware of their sufferings. I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” – Exodus 3:7-8

God has seen their pain, heard their pain, and is fully aware. This is pity, but the unique nature of God is increasingly showing us that he doesn’t experience only pity, but simultaneously escalates his engagement with our suffering, as it says here when describing God’s pity:

For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight. – Psalm 72:12-14

It’s not enough that he has pity: by his nature he must care, he must have experienced what we feel, and he must do something about it. Continuing from the passage in Exodus, we see that “I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians.” God immediately is going to do something about Israel’s suffering, which is compassion, his final engagement level. But wait, didn’t we skip something? We saw how God shows pity, which by his nature described in Psalm must be followed by sympathy and compassion, for “precious is their blood in his sight,” and “from oppression and violence he redeems their life,” respectively. So what about empathy? The one in between sympathy and compassion? Does God feel all of our pain? Did God feel Israel’s same suffering at any point, allowing him to have empathy? When did God ever experience, as Exodus describes Israel’s plight, oppression and suffering?

He was oppressed and afflicted – Isaiah 53:7

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering – Isaiah 53:4

This happened to Jesus, who is God. Even though to us Jesus suffered after Israel’s enslavement, to God and Isaiah, it was already done for the one who lives outside of time:

“For thus said the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy,” – Isaiah 57:15

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” – 2 Peter 3:8

God, at all points in time, had pity, sympathy, empathy, and compassion on Israel. He heard their cries, was concerned for them, had experienced full well what they were going through, and had a plan to help bring them out. This is God’s perfect response to people’s pain. And if God does something, you can be sure he’ll do it again. Let’s look at another Old Testament passage next.

Elijah

Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. – 1 Kings 19:1-8

When Elijah prays, it wasn’t enough that God heard him and took his time answering the prayer. An Angel was already there. God heard Elijah with his pity, cared about his problem with his sympathy, has experienced being on the run with his empathy, and fed the prophet with his compassion. But how has God experienced people trying to kill him? How can God empathize with Elijah?

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. – Mark 11:18

This is right after Jesus comes to the temple and overturns tables, saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” The priests want him dead, just like how Jezebel wanted Elijah dead for the same reason of driving out blasphemy. So God has certainly gone through what Elijah was experiencing.

Why Does This Matter

So what if God shows pity, sympathy, empathy, and compassion all simultaneously and perfectly in response to our pain? So what? Well, we are called so many times to be like Jesus that the more we understand his nature, the more we can be more like him.

Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. – 1 John 2:6

But how can we exhibit the emotions we’ve gone over like God? How can we simultaneously have perfect balance of pity, sympathy, empathy, and compassion? We can’t without listening, we can’t without caring, we can’t without suffering, and we can’t while we give into omission. Sin stops this from happening, but God gives us guidance on where to begin, and that’s where this post will end:

Pity

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. – James 1:19

Sympathy

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15

Empathy

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. – Hebrews 13:3

Compassion

Above all, love one another deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without complaining. – 1 Peter 4:8-9

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. – Proverbs 14:31

The Impartiality of God

Today we turn to how God doesn’t treat his people different from others. This message is simple, but will illustrate how God loves everyone and has his eyes on all nations, wanting everyone to be saved. We’ll use the Jews in the old testament as an example of this, among other powerful scripture. This small topic is important to understand because we know that God punished Israel on many occasions, and also punished other sinful nations. But God also blessed Israel and delivered them from great difficulties. Because God is impartial, that means he also saves nations other than Israel, and delivers them from their difficulties as well. With this, we can better understand God’s love for everyone, and more about what Jesus really meant with this verse:

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. – Matthew 5:45

The Jews weren’t the only ones

To think that God only cared about the Jews in the old testament is a common belief today, but it simply isn’t true.

“Are not you Israelites the same to me as the Cushites?” declares the Lord. “Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Arameans from Kir?” – Amos 9:7

This is the end all, be all to the fact that God was working in the lives of everyone, not just Israel. Cush, Philistia, and other nations were often the enemies of Israel and full of evil, why would God care about delivering them from their own enemies? Because God isn’t just the God of Israel, but the God of SAVING. He loves to save, no matter who it is. But there’s more in case it’s still not clear.

Anyone can make a covenant with God

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. – Hebrews 11:31

Rahab was not a Jew and was a prostitute! But still because she had faith God didn’t care who she was. He would have waited for anyone in Jericho, because his eyes weren’t just on Joshua. But what about those who didn’t make deals with Israel?

God is at work in all nations

A time is coming when the Lord Almighty will receive offerings from this land divided by rivers, this strong and powerful nation, this tall and smooth-skinned people, who are feared all over the world. They will come to Mount Zion, where the Lord Almighty is worshiped. – Isaiah 18:7

This verse is concerning Ethiopia, a nation not connected to Israel through deals or lineage. God didn’t just look at the Jews, he saw everyone. And we see this prophecy about Ethiopia coming to worship God fulfilled in the new testament:

And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. – Acts 8:27-28

Israel was God’s chosen people, but that didn’t mean they were the only ones he cared about. What were they chosen for, anyway? They were chosen to be the nation that the messiah would be born from:

The Lord says, “The time is coming when I will choose as king a righteous descendant of David. That king will rule wisely and do what is right and just throughout the land.” – Jeremiah 23:5

Israel was NOT chosen to be the only ones given deliverance from their enemies, or the only ones allowed salvation.

God really doesn’t care who you are, he has his eyes on you and has plans for you. No matter who you are, there will be times of deliverance and times of pain. God saved the Philistines from their enemies, Israel from their captors, Ethiopia from defeat, and he wants to save you too. His promise is not an easy life, but salvation. And his promise has always been for everyone, because not only can God deliver any nation, whether they’re righteous or unrighteous, but Christians are all the same to him as well:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28

Finally, let’s return to the original verse we looked at, and expand on it. With this understanding of God’s love for everyone and not just Israel, we know that deliverance is for all nations, and in the old testament God was looking closely at everything going on.

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:45-48

God is not like the tax collectors, he loves even those who don’t love him. He greeted those who weren’t Jews, unlike the pagans. God sees everyone and is ready to save because he is impartial and perfect.

Gabriel in the Old Testament

As we get closer to celebrating Christmas, we often turn to the New Testament for relevant scripture and stories surrounding the arrival of Jesus. But recently a lot of things that stick out to me in scripture are the details we often overlook in order to get to the “good” parts. So what’s overlooked in New Testament stories about Jesus being born? The answer today is the Old Testament, and the angel who showed up to explain things.

While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.” Daniel 8:15-16

The angel Gabriel shows up several times in the Old and New Testament. Why is this so important to talk about? Because when we connect Gabriel’s interactions together, we see a bigger picture of who God is. There are three interactions involving Gabriel that I’m going to go through, and they show us what it takes for God to look on us with favor, that Jesus’ birth was predicted to the very day, and that our prayers are answered before we’re even finished.

Zechariah

And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. – Luke 1:10-12

This is the first time in the New Testament that Gabriel shows up, and it’s while Zechariah is amidst the presence of God in the temple. People are praying outside, and Zechariah is acknowledging God in his obedience to his tribe’s ancient duty, which we understand from Numbers:

Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer, place fire from the altar in it, and add incense. Go quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, because wrath has come out from the LORD; the plague has begun.” – Numbers 16:46

We know God is pleased by this, because God wants us to acknowledge him in all we do:

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. – Hosea 6:6

Gabriel then predicts the birth of Zechariah’s son, John the Baptist:

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” – Luke 1:13

God was pleased with Zechariah, and while this man was in the presence of God in the temple, God sent Gabriel to talk about how he’s going to answer his prayers. We know God looked on Zechariah with favor, as it talks about him and his wife:

Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. – Luke 1:6

God could have sent Gabriel at any time in Zechariah’s life to tell him that he was going to have a child. But God chose a time cast by lots, a time when Zechariah would be uniquely positioned in the presence of God in the temple.

He was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. – Luke 1:9

God looks favorably on us when we acknowledge him and pray. Today we don’t need to be in a temple to be in the presence of God, because Jesus is here with us. We know this because another name he’s known by is Immanuel, which means “God with us.”

Mary

Gabriel shows up a second time in the New Testament, under similar circumstances as the first:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” – Luke 1:26-28

Mary, like Zechariah, was living a life in acknowledgement of God. God is pleased by this, like in Hosea 6:6, as Gabriel describes Mary as “favored one.” But the tasks God gives Gabriel are all the same, and it always revolves around talking about the future. Gabriel continues:

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” – Luke 1:30-31

What makes this interaction with Mary special enough to talk about? It shows us again that God is pleased with us when we acknowledge him, and he wants to work wonderful things in our lives as a result. It’s also a fulfillment of Gabriel’s interaction with Daniel hundreds of years prior, which sparked the creation of this post. We’ll look at Daniel next.

Daniel

While I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. – Daniel 9:21

Daniel, a prophet of God, is a righteous man and is in full acknowledgment of God during his prayer. Gabriel, whom Daniel is well acquainted with already due to past interactions, talks about the same thing he talked to Zechariah and Mary about: someone new coming! Gabriel goes on to say:

“Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’” – Daniel 9:25

To understand Gabriel’s math, check this article out and you’ll see that these periods of “sevens” end around 30 AD, the death of Jesus.

“After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.” – Daniel 9:26

It’s incredible that Jesus’ life and death was predicted with such detail and precision, and by none other than Gabriel, who gets to talk about Jesus over a period of almost half a millennium! So Daniel adds one more example to the pile showing that Jesus’ coming and death was prophesied repeatedly in the Old Testament. But there’s one more message I wanted to talk about, a message we can more easily be encouraged by. Gabriel says to Daniel:

“As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed.” – Daniel 9:23

God answered Daniel’s prayer for mercy over Israel BEFORE he even finished! Know that when you pray according to his will, which is favorable, God hears you and is working well before you’re done!

So to reiterate, understand that God works in us when we acknowledge him and find favor with him, Jesus was talked about all throughout the Old Testament and was predicted to the day, and that God answers our prayers before we’re even finished!

We can look back today at the intricacies of God’s plan, and look forward to celebrating Christmas this year, which marked the beginning of the fulfillment of all prophesy. So pray like Daniel and find favor with God, because God is eager to work in your life, just like how he worked in Zechariah, Mary, and Daniel’s lives too:

“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” – Daniel 9:17-19

Don’t Listen to Your Heart

Temptation comes from many sources, which people mostly attribute directly to Satan. But if that was the only source, then Adam and Eve would have probably never sinned. So where else do sinful decisions come from? There are many things described negatively in the Bible, and one in particular is spoiled in the title of this post: our heart. In fact, even Satan himself is not as deceitful as our heart, and we know this because of this very blunt description:

The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? – Jeremiah 17:9

It is the MOST deceitful of all things. So the question is how do we combat this? We’re given plenty of instruction to resist Satan, but how do we defeat our deceitful heart, the greatest liar of them all?

Listen to Something Else

Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. – Proverbs 28:26

If you’re listening to your heart, you’re listening to something that’s a part of you. You’re listening to yourself. Scripture describes all over the place how this is bad. But whenever you turn to wise people, you begin to stop following your heart, and instead leading it.

Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory. – Proverbs 11:14

And even when we are alone, and our heart is crowding our desires and confusing us, God is ultimately our counselor.

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. – Hebrews 7:25

Listening to people in our lives can be a lot easier than listening to God. While choosing the right wise people to listen to is an entirely different discussion, learning to listen to God instead of our heart is another essential starting point. This is because he helps us know who to talk to. If you want to learn more about how to listen to God, check out my previous post here.

The Bad Example

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. – 2 Samuel 11:2-4

Who did King David consult before sleeping with Bathsheba, a married woman? How did he come to this conclusion? In this part of the King of the Jews’ life, where was God? There’s a simple answer: he didn’t ask anyone, his heart made the conclusion for him, and God was always there but never invited into the situation.

But the thing David had done displeased the Lord. – 2 Samuel 11:27

Make Your Heart a Follower

The first and most important step to stop listening to your heart is to follow something else. Push your heart to follow something other than yourself. Begin by praying and asking God to help you change, consider the people he has placed in your life and how they can help you make decisions, and when you’re alone then look at scripture for an example of someone who has gone through the same thing as you, and what God wanted them to do. But first you need to acknowledge the deceitfulness of your heart, and that something needs to change. Because there will be trouble if you follow your heart, God guarantees this.

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. – Ecclesiastes 11:9

Why Bother Praying?

People pray in many different ways, whether it’s more formal, written and practiced, or casually and in a conversational manner. Either way, it’s how we consciously communicate with God. But because God knows our thoughts and desires before we tell them to him, what’s the point of praying?

Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6:8

Why talk if someone already knows what you’re going to say? In the context of prayer, the short answer is because if we don’t then we’ll spiritually die. But this post is also about the encouragement God gives us to start praying even if we’re not sure how. Prayer ultimately brings us to life and draws us closer to God. We’ll look at examples in the Bible about why you needn’t worry about how to pray; but why you should pray more and not worry about the formalities, the preparations, or the length of prayer.

The Short Answer

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. – James 4:1-2

Reliance on God begins with asking him to provide for us instead of ourselves. The more we rely on God, the less we sin. If we don’t talk to God through prayer, we praise him less, we ask less for forgiveness, and we rely on him less. Without prayer, we fade away spiritually and fall back to sin. Without prayer, the spiritual battle within us is lost: Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? Without prayer, we die.

If that’s not a convincing enough reason to pray more, or you want to know the right way to pray, then let’s go into the more encouraging answer to why bother praying, even in the midst of God already knowing what we’re going to say.

Conscious Reliance

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6

We start placing our burdens on God instead of ourselves when we pray. When faced with problems, the natural response needs to start becoming a desire to consult God first. God knows what we want, but if we never ask, anxiety begins to take over, and he will not provide. And as warned previously in James 4, You desire but do not have, so you kill. We all killed Jesus when he was crucified, all the way back to Adam and Eve. Anxiety leads to impatience and taking control, which is pride, and inevitably replacing God with yourself. So pray and make your requests known to God, with thanksgiving of what he is still doing, and you will become less anxious and more reliant on him.

Discern God’s Will

One common worry is whether or not you’re praying the right way, or asking God for the right thing. The Bible’s first response is do not let this stop you from praying, because the Holy Spirit is actively taking care of this:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27

The more we pray and actively seek out God’s will, the more it will be revealed to us. Jesus had the following to say about praying without this desire:

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. – Matthew 6:7

Don’t think that God will fulfill your prayer because you used the right words, or found this one neat trick. God fulfills prayer that is aligned with his will:

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. – 1 John 5:14

And we cannot know his will without simply praying more and actively seeking his will through this prayer.

Where to Start

These reasons for prayer are great, sure, but honestly what does pray more even mean if you don’t know how to begin? Sure the Spirit intercedes for us in our prayer, but how do we start talking to God? This is simple:

This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ – Matthew 6:9-13

This prayer is the perfect starting point, and contains praise, thanksgiving, recognition of God’s will though we may not understand it yet, and repentance. If you begin here, you can become more comfortable speaking to God from the heart, like in the following example:

Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.” – Genesis 24:12-14

Even though God was already fulfilling this servant’s prayer before he began praying:

Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. – Genesis 24:15

This man exemplifies the behavior God wants from us. Though he knew God was actively providing for him, prayer was so important in his life that he even prayed about simple errands his master sent him on. He made his requests known to God, and he had no anxiety around finding a wife for Isaac. This is what God wants from us: prayer in everything we do.

Without prayer, we die. Without prayer, we never communicate our desires to God, though he knows them already, so we get anxious and take control. And without prayer, we never understand God’s will. There’s no worship, no thanksgiving, no petition, and no forgiveness. So pray to God, starting with Jesus’ instructions for prayer, and begin to make it your natural response to life just like Abraham’s servant.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:18