God is just (2 Thessalonians 1:1-12)
Paul has been boasting about these Thessalonian believers to other churches. He has been encouraged by their growing faith and love, and also by their steadfastness and faith in the midst of the persecution and the affliction they have had to endure because of their faith.
“Faith under fire becomes faith refined by the fire.”
But what comfort is there for those who are being treated unjustly, persecuted because of their faith in Christ?
“…indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven…” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7)
What comfort is there? Scripture answers that God is just. Implied here is that our Father God who is the righteous all-knowing judge of all sees everything that is done and that which is not done that ought to have been done. God is just, because God will afflict those who have afflicted His children.
And so the knowledge that God is just gives relief/rest to one who has been unjustly treated or who has seen their loved ones unjustly treated.
We are often tempted to make premature assessments, in this life. It can and does sometimes look like the unjust go unpunished, seemingly unaffected by their sin and seemingly free from consequences despite the despicable things they have inflicted on others. Our systems of justice often let people down as the justice they deserve slips away into the cracks of our sin-broken societal systems of justice.
But for those who call God ‘Father’ there will be justice. Our Father will act on our behalf and knowing this relieves us of any need to attempt to ‘repay evil with evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
Rather, we can and should forgive people. As we do, we are stopping that thing they did from continuing to rob or hurt us into the future. Forgiving people sets the forgiver free, and leaves the forgiven before the God of all the earth – who is just.
Ask Father God right now. Is there anyone I need to forgive?
Choose now to set yourself free, choose now to stop allowing that thing from continuing to impact your life. Thank your Father that He is just.
When though? You might say, well I haven’t seen God being just yet!
I believe there are times when we do see the justice of God in this lifetime come upon people, but this passage is very clear that the time everyone will know that God is just is on the day when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with attending angels and flames of fire (vs7-8).
On that day God the righteous judge will ‘inflict vengeance/retribution’ (vs8) on those who wronged his children (implied by the context) and specifically on those who rejected Jesus Christ.
Note how God is the active agent here, God the righteous just judge is the One inflicting retribution. This clear teaching in Scripture confronts the unbiblical popular notion that the God of Scripture is some wishy washy dispenser of ‘love’ or that it is loving to the victim to let the wicked go unpunished for the sin done to them!
And yet on this same day that Jesus comes back in all His glory, on this day when the unrighteous who rejected Christ will face the punishment for their sin (vs9) and will be shut out from the presence of God forever and ever, on that same day those of us who believed in Jesus will be glorying in Jesus, will be marvelling at Jesus in all His revealed splendour and majesty (vs10)!
May, you believe, may you ask Jesus Himself to forgive you of the wrong you’ve done before that Day. May you and I reach out to EVERYONE we can while we still can with the good news that anyone can join that happy crowd (vs10) if they will only bow the knee now and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and ask Him to forgive them of their sin.
For if you do accept Jesus, God is just, and so will forgive you of your sin, you will not face any punishment for whatever you did, because God already punished that sin when Jesus died on the cross in your place for your sin, and so God will be just to save you and welcome you into a glorious eternity with Him.
Have you crossed the line of faith and put your faith in Jesus and asked Him to forgive you of all your sin?
Ask the Holy Spirit now to put people on your heart who don’t yet believe in Jesus, pray for them and DO ANYTHING the Holy Spirit leads you to do…
Psalm 84 was written in the era of the old covenant when God’s presence was tied to a place but now in this era of Jesus having come, the temple curtain having been torn and the Holy Spirit having been sent by the risen Christ this is my re-mix version of the Psalm especially in the light of John 1:1-14 & 1 Corinthians 6:19. Original in italics, remix in bold.
1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
How special & privileged are all people in whom Your Spirit dwells now, God almighty!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord;
My soul longs for, yes even despairs when I am not intimate with You Father;
my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.
My heart, my whole being responds to your tangible presence, God who is alive in me.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
Even sparrows have a place they belong, & swallows a place of safety for bearing young
at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. In Your presence O God almighty
They’re in Your presence continually almighty God, my King and my God
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah
Blessed are those who live aware of your presence, they will always be worshipping You!
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
Blessed are those whose strength is in You,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
those whose hearts are set on eternity with You now and forever.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.
Because You’re with them, even in them, even desolate hard times & places can be transformed into times & places full of the life of God & refreshing;
7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.
Those who walk with You and with You in them are getting stronger each day until each one appears in glory in Your glorious presence at Your appearing at the end of the age.
8 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
God almighty, Father God, God of covenant promises please hear my prayer now.
9 Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!
I speak to myself saying; ‘Behold your defender, God with you’. Father please see me now.
10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
Father God, better is one day with You, in your presence, having You within me than thousands elsewhere far from You.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
The allure of the world has no allure for me I am content to know You, to know Your presence to know I am your child, I don’t need fame or fortune when I have You.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor.
God You’re the One who gives me life, You’re my protector, You bless me again and again and care about my honour.
No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
God, You are better than I could have ever imagined, more gracious, loving, generous & kind towards those who have put their faith in You.
12 O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!
God almighty, blessed is anyone who puts their trust in You!
So where has the romance gone?
Reading the story of how Abraham sent out his servant to find a wife for his beloved son, Isaac, it seems that finding a marriage partner was a very calculated activity. But it is in fact the opposite!
God knows the desires of our hearts, He knows our personalities and habits. Only He can perfectly suit two people to each other. And His choice for Isaac was perfect, because the two of them loved each other dearly. And what a wise servant, to stay close to God in this pursuit (Gen 24:21)
“The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not.”
I have experienced a very similar story recently when a dear friend of mine’s daughter got married. And to illustrate how much God is involved in the choosing of a marriage partner even today (as much as, and even more than, He is involved in every part of our lives), let me briefly recap the story to you.
There was a young South African woman who dedicated her life to God and purposed to also trust Him to provide her with a husband. She set out to get a clear picture in her own mind about the qualities a man should possess to make him a good husband. She allowed herself to dream of her perfect man, and entrusted these dreams to her Father.
On the other side of the world was a young man who, amidst constant pressure to join the dating game, and constant ridicule for not doing so, trusted God to point out to him whom to marry. He decided to keep himself pure until that day.
So the young woman went to the other side of the world for a short period of time, attending a course at the very insitution where this young man worked. And sure enough, God pointed out to him that this is the woman whom He has chosen for the young man. And although the young woman recognised many of the attributes of a good husband in this young man, she had no idea of the conversation between him and God and in due course she returned to South Africa.
Almost despairing, the young man asked God for wisdom in ways to start courting the young woman. Telling the story in detail astonishes everyone as to how God’s masterplan came together in ways no human being can conceive.
The two of them got to know each other through e-mail and a deep appreciation and love for each other grew in their hearts. God opened the way for them to get engaged and then married, and they now have a beautiful little girl and another child on its way.
Their lives still speak of God’s miraculous dealings as they move forward in His plan for them.
Are they a unique couple? Is God really interested in helping young men and women today, find their perfect life partner? YES!
It is not only the old, Biblical story of Isaac and Rebekah, or the recent, modern story of my two young friends above – it can be your story too!
You have entrusted God with your life when you answered “yes” to His call. Won’t you trust Him and WAIT until He shows you the one He has chosen for you?
by Lise Oosthuizen
The sacrifice of worship
And so we encounter the first mention of the word “worship” in the Bible.
In Genesis 22:5 we read that Abraham leaves the young men travelling with them behind with these words: “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you” (my emphasis).
This chapter (Gen 22) is an amazing picture (shadow) of the sacrificial journey of Jesus:
He is the only Son of God, just as Isaac was the son of promise, the heir.
Abraham placed the wood for the sacrifice onto Isaac’s shoulders, foreshadowing the way Jesus’ cross was placed on His shoulders and He had to walk with it through the streets of the city to Golgotha.
Isaac cried: “My father!” and received the comfort of his father’s reply: “Here am I, my son” (verse 7). In contrast, Jesus called out in anguish and pain, forsaken by God (Matt 27:46) so that we never have to go through the utter desperation of ever being without our Father.
And then there is Abraham’s profound answer to Isaac’s concern about the absence of a sacrificial animal: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (verse 8). God, the Father asked His Son, and Jesus offered Himself, to once and for all atone for the sins of the world.
What great courage, what great FAITH! No wonder Abraham is mentioned several times in the faith hall of fame as described in Hebrews 11! He was willing to literally sacrifice this son for whom he had to wait so long!
Abraham had an absolute trust in God – that He would provide an outcome. In Hebrews 11:19 it says that Abraham “considered that God was able even to raise him (Isaac) from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.”
Abraham understood something of the awesome power of God. Some say that he saw a vision of the future redemptive and death-conquering work of Jesus – the Lamb of God, on the cross. He didn’t look up to see the ram God provided, because it was caught in a bush behind him (verse 13).
So, worship, in this context could be interpreted as submission to the will of God, a picture of humility before the sovereign King. The Greek word “shachah” (worship), used here, speaks of a posture of homage, bowing down in worship to God as a response to His great power.
“This act of worship is given to God because He deserves it, and because those who are speaking are people of His pasture” (Strong’s Concordance).
There is a special, priviledged relationship between God and those who are called as His own. As believers, we have the intimacy of children with their father, but we always, always have to remember with reverence that our Father is the Almighty, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Eternal, Immutable God!
We have free access to the innermost parts of the throne room, and our response is to bow down, to submit in immediate obedience, to pay homage to our Great God.
“Shachah” is more than a posture of the body, it is a position of the heart, which influences the actions, words, thoughts and lifestyle of one who worships God. It is a life focused on God.
by Lise Oosthuizen
When I thought about it, I realised that the word “forgive” has much of the abstract difficulty to explain as the word “love”. So I decided to investigate. One of the Oxford dictionaries explains it like this: “to stop feeling angry with somebody who has done something to harm, annoy or upset you.” Simply controlling your emotions then…
The Afrikaans dictionary says: “nie toereken nie; oor die hoof sien; uitwis (sonde)”. So here, the culpable person (the one who deserves blame) is exonerated, set free from his/her accountability…
Looking at it this way, it may not always be such an easy thing to do! When we have been wronged or hurt, or even when someone we love has been wronged or hurt, our natural reaction is to want retribution.
According to the Tyndale Bible Dictionary, forgiveness is a uniquely Christian doctrine. We forgive because God forgives us.
When we consider God’s example in dealing with the wayward nation of Israel in the Old Testament, His forgiveness meant to let go of the transgressions, to remove it – to wipe it away. He never thought on it again, He did not remember it, He put it out of sight.
“The past acts and deeds of sin are not denied, but there is no longer any bondage. Forgiveness brings freedom.”
Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt 18:21-35) puts into perspective how much we have been forgiven, in comparison to the little we need to forgive others. The first servant owed what could be considered MILLIONS of rands to the king, while the second servant owed the first a mere couple of rand…
Some things are arguably easier to forgive than others. Some things may be more easily considered “a mere couple of rands”. I say this with great caution, being aware of how many terrible things are being perpetrated against people, but even the worst of offenses should still be considered small in relation to the fact that Jesus had to offer His completely sinless life as restitution to save ours – for ETERNITY!
If an eternal perspective doesn’t make forgiveness easier, consider the following, more immediate, benefits:
- It sets YOU free
- It sets the offender free (also for God to deal with him/her)
- It prevents the enemy from getting a destructive hold on your life
- It pleases the Father!
Considering everything else, the last reason would be my greatest motivation.
Yes, our emotions often take longer to catch up with our decision, but even in that we can trust God to help us. Once we decide to forgive, we must resist the urge to dwell on the incident, the wrong that was committed. We must make a conscious effort to put it behind us. We learn, we gain wisdom, but we must continue to love.
Jesus ends this parable with a stern warning – God considers this an important matter!
“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (verse 35)
Let’s go back to Matt 18:18. “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Can we read this in relation to forgiveness? To forgive someone is to release (loose) them of their culpability. Is that not what love does? Is that not the way of humility?
In both these instances, Jesus is specifically speaking of our responsibility towards our fellow Christians. Why? Because in the way we act towards each other, the world should see the love of Jesus being portrayed in our lives.
Our interaction with each other should be a testimony to our being one body, connected to the head, who is Jesus Christ.
Yes, we make mistakes. Yes, we hurt each other. None of us are immune to our sinful nature and our human fallibility. So, let’s also be quick to forgive.
by Lise Oosthuizen
The heart of the matter
Do you know that Jesus loved the law?
He grew up a Jewish boy and was schooled in all aspects of the law. He loved the law, because it was given by the perfect lawgiver – His Father.
Why did God give the law? His motivation was love – He wanted to show His children the best way to live.
All of the law, so specifically detailed in the Old Testament, is summed up in two parts: love God with all you are, and love your neighbour.
The thing that made Jesus angry was the way the Pharisees added to the law:
He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matt 15:3)
The only negative thing about the law, is man’s interference: adding man-made rules and traditions to God’s perfect law, and enforcing these as a means of salvation.
The Pharisees did not love God or His law (verse 7-9). They only wanted to control people by means of the law. We have no place trying to control another person. Each person will give an account of his/her own life before God.
Let our focus be to please God, not people. Let us love God with all our hearts, our minds and our strength, and love our neighbour as ourselves.
by Lise Oosthuizen