Breakthrough by Dr. Abidan Shah

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BREAKTHROUGH by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  The building of the Transcontinental Railroad is one of the greatest construction marvels in our nation’s history. The Union Pacific built west from Omaha, Nebraska, and the Central Pacific built east from Sacramento, California, with a little help from Western Pacific. Through mountains, valleys, rivers, and desert, they laid about 2000 miles of railroad tracks between 1863 to 1869, right in the middle of the Civil War! Now, what would have taken 5-6 months in a stage coach over treacherous conditions could now be done in less than a week in fairly restful conditions. So also, when God is with us, a difficult journey becomes a restful one. Here’s the point of today’s message: God allows us to come to impossible situations in our lives, not to discourage or demoralize us, but to call us to trust him and him alone. When we do that, he not only gives us breakthroughs but he also leads us to a life of rest. Keep in mind: Rest is not the absence of work or conflict. It is the calm assurance that God will give you the breakthroughs as you trust and obey.

Joshua 5     13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand.

Context: Last week, we saw that Joshua and Caleb had wholly followed God. While the other 10 spies had incited fear in the hearts of the people, they had tried to instill faith in them. Unfortunately, the people believed the evil report and God’s judgment came upon them. Over the next 40 years, the entire generation along with the 10 spies died in the wilderness. They never got to experience the rest that God had for them. Listen to how the writer of Hebrews describes it in Hebrews 3     16 “For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? 17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? 18And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? 19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” So, the people of Israel came out of slavery but they could never enter the Promised Land and experience God’s rest because of sin, disobedience, and unbelief. Keep in mind: Rest is not the absence of work or conflict. It is the calm assurance that God will give you the breakthroughs as you trust and obey.

Application: Is that you? Are sin, disobedience, and unbelief keeping you from experiencing God’s rest in your life?

Now it was time for the second generation to reenter the land. Moses was gone and Joshua was to lead them to possess the land. By the way, he was in his 80s and the second generation were the children of the first generation. I can only imagine the fear in his heart. On the eve before the battle of Jericho, he must have been by himself praying, asking God to help. Just then, he saw a man near him with a sword in his hand. Listen to 13 “…And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” 14 So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” This was a Theophany, maybe even a Christophany. 15 Then the Commander of the LORD’S army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. In last week’s message titled Onward, we learned that “When we wholly follow God, he doesn’t let us face our battles alone. He not only shows up but he takes over.”

Application: Are you facing some impossible situation in your life? Instead of fearing and doubting, start following God fully. He will not only show up, but he will take over.

Listen to the next verse – Joshua 6:1 “Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in.” The Hebrew words for “securely shut up” is “sigereth misigereth.” That’s like a double reinforcement. It’s like saying that it was “shut down in itself.” We need to understand a little bit about how the city walls were during the Middle Bronze Period in the Southern Levant to appreciate that statement. I’ve been to Jericho. It is about 13 ½ miles Northeast of Jerusalem, about 6 miles north of the Dead Sea, and the Jordan River is to the east just a few miles away. In the past century, there have been 4 different excavations at the site. Although, it is tough to interpret the date because of the time that has passed from the time of Joshua, there has been much that has come to light. Let’s look at it from the outside in:

  • First, there was the Revetment wall at the foot of the earthen rampart to prevent soil erosion due to rain. It was built using Cyclopean Masonry (massive stones without mortar) and was about 2-10 meters tall and about 1-4 meters wide.
  • Second, there was the Earthen Rampart on which soldiers could be stationed.
  • Third, the Outer and the Lower Wall, which could be about 23 feet tall and as large as 50 feet tall, with each stone about 8-10 feet long.
  • Fourth, there were the Retaining Walls at specific points to make sure the various walls were stable.
  • Fifth, there was another Second Rampart inside that was quite wide and had houses, and maybe even barracks. This would be on an upward slope towards the inner and upper wall. It looked like a terrace. You could also call it a Glacis.
  • Sixth, the Inner and Upper Wall, that was about 4-5 feet wide, 30 feet tall, and could be about 50 feet high in places.
  • Inside were the people. Keep in mind that the people probably lived beyond the walls but they must have come in during the siege.

Jericho was shut down in itself. Is it any wonder that when the people came to the Promised Land, they said in Deuteronomy 1:28 “…Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, ‘The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven…”

Application: How tall are the walls in your life? What are you facing that seems impossible?

So, what is God’s plan? Joshua 6     2 And the LORD said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. 4And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.” Scholars, historian and archaeologists have tried and tried to find ancient parallels to this ritual, but there is none.

Why did God make them go through this process before he gave them the breakthrough?

  1. He wanted them to get a good look at their problem and realize how impossible it was for them. Day after day they had to see the Revetment wall, the 2 Ramparts, the Retaining Walls, the Inner and Outer Walls. God was bringing them to the end of themselves.
  2. He wanted them to patiently obey, even if it didn’t make any sense. What if they had stopped after the first or even the sixth day?
  3. He wanted them to learn that they were not to battle like the world. Their weapons and their tactics were very different.

2 Corinthians 10     3 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

  1. He wanted them to understand his rest.

Hebrews 4     2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them…3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’ ” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; 5 and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains that some mustenter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Keep in mind: Rest is not the absence of work or conflict. It is the calm assurance that God will give you the breakthroughs as you trust and obey.

Invitation: Do you have his rest or are you still struggling? Only Jesus can give you rest.

Matthew 11     28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Are you saved? Do you have his rest? Have you been to Jesus? Only he can give you rest.

Vicious Cycle (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

VICIOUS CYCLE (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the Newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on February 9, 2019)

“The Bible will come alive for you! It will be a life-changing trip!” I could tell that my mentor really wanted me to go on a tour of Israel. Few years later, we took him up on it. Since then, my wife and I have visited the Holy Land several times and it is truly everything and more than you can imagine! In our last tour in January, along with the usual sites (Galilee, Jordan River, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, etc.), we visited six Middle Bronze Canaanite cities in Israel (Megiddo, Hazor, Tel Dan, Beth Shan, Jericho, and Jerusalem). In the chronology of the Levant, the Middle Bronze period is between 1800BC-1550BC. Although scholars disagree over the precise terminology, this is the time period when the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was occupied by the Canaanites and the Amorites. These were the cities that God told Moses to lead the people of Israel to go in and possess. 

Typically, we think that the reason God wanted to drive the Canaanites out of the land is because they were primitive savages. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s what we found:

1. They were master builders. In order to protect their cities, they first built massive free-standing walls (some places 50 ft tall) around the city. This was followed by a massive embankment with crowning walls. All this was psychological warfare to discourage an invading army from wasting their time.

2. They understood hydraulics and built massive water storage facilities, underground drainage, and irrigation lines.

3. They were very good farmers, pottery makers, and metal workers. They learned how to make bronze by alloying copper with tin. Now they had weapons that could be shaped and sharpened. They even had an export business with Egypt.

4. They created the ancestor of our English alphabet. Unlike the Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Mesopotamian cuneiform, their descendants (the Phoenicians) standardized the 22 signs for each sound that we use to this today.

Nonetheless, as advanced and prosperous as these people were, something was not right with them. Deuteronomy 12:29-31“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them…for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.”In other words, they practiced every kind of perversion imaginable but worst of all, they sacrificed their babies to their god Molech! Although literary evidence from Canaan is scant, there is plenty regarding the Phoenicians, the Canaanites who established a colony in North Africa. Siculus, a Greek historian, wrote – “There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.”Plutarch, another Greek writer, added that “the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people.” Historians and archaeologists would deny these accounts claiming that it wasn’t possible for such an advanced culture to do something so heinous. In 2014, Dr. Josephine Quinn of Oxford University along with a team of scholars confirmed these accounts as absolutely true based on further research.

Here’s the point: God wiped out the Canaanites because they chose to kill their children. What do you think God thinks of America today? Over 638,000 are being killed each year. Will we repeat the vicious cycle and face God’s wrath or will we speak out for the innocent and the voiceless? It is much more than a political issue. Jesus said “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE? -2

WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE? – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church

whose in your family treeThis morning I’m preaching the second message in our miniseries titled “WHO IS IN YOUR FAMILY TREE?” This is still part of our ongoing series on the life of Christ from all four gospels. In this subseries we are looking at the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the first chapter of Matthew. Having a genealogy was not uncommon when it came to the biography of a famous person but what is odd are the names of 4 women of questionable character.

Matthew 1:1-6 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: 2   Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.

Overall Background: Matthew being a tax collector knew how to keep records. He was used to writing names of people and families. It was not an accident that he wrote four names of women in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Not illustrious women like Sarah, Rebecca, or Rachel but Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba – women who had an embarrassing past. Why did he do that? If you were here last week, you may remember that he had that because he wanted his readers to know that God did not choose just the best of the best to bring His Son into this world but also the undesirables. He wanted his readers to know that Jesus was the Savior of the decent people as well as the outcast. He wanted his readers to know the grace of God even in lineage of Jesus.

Application: This morning, how do you see yourself? Do you think that God is only seeking the brightest and the best or does He also work with those who are weak and prone to failures? Do you think that God plays favorites or do you believe that He loves everyone? Do you think that Jesus died only for the good boys and girls or do you know that if you were the only one in the world, He would have still given His life for you?

This morning we will see through the life of Rahab that God doesn’t play favorites but He does show His favor on those who are willing to humble themselves before Him.

I. RAHAB THE PROSTITUTE

The first time we meet Rahab is in Joshua 2:1 Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.

Background: Rahab was a citizen of Jericho. Before we try to understand Rahab, we need to understand Jericho a little bit. It was a prominent city for several reasons:

  • First, it was a border city on the west side of the Jordan River. The people of Israel led by Joshua had made it to the east side of the Jordan River. It was situated between east and west and north and south. If you win here, the word would travel to the east and the west and north and south that you are going to win.

Jericho

Jericho1

Jericho2

Jericho Tower

  • Second, it was an oasis – not because of the Jordan River but because of a perennial spring that was there for thousands of years. All to the east was an arid desert but Jericho was the picture of lush fertile vegetation. It was known as “the city of palm trees.” It was also symbolic of the transition of God’s people from being desert wanderers to being inhabitants in a land flowing with milk and honey.
  • Third, it was a well-guarded city. Archaeologists have debated over Jericho for a long time but one thing that is clear is that it had Gene Fackler - Jericho wallsmassive defenses. All around the city was a mud embankment. This was stabilized by a 15 feet high stone wall. On top of that was a mud brick wall about 6 feet thick and about 18 feet high. Then, a second wall further in on the top of the embankment. It had double protection. Later on in chapter 6 we read how God commanded Joshua that the only way to bring down the wall was for them to march around the city with the ark of the covenant for 6 days and on the 7th day they had to march around it 7 times. Only then will the walls come down. By the way, Rahab lived on the wall of this city. Joshua 2:15 says, “Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall.”

Not only was Rahab a citizen of such a prominent city but she was also a prominent woman. When the word got out that some foreigners had come to Rahab’s brothel, the king could have just ransacked her house but he didn’t. Instead, Joshua 2:3 So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, “Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country.” She’s more like Madam Rahab than some no name prostitute from the street corner.

Why did I go into all this? Rahab – a citizen of a prominent city, a prominent woman, someone whom even the king feared – must have been quite a woman. I can picture her as someone who was proud, brash, and arrogant. She had made it through the school of hard knocks. Her favorite line was probably – “You don’t know what I’ve been through.” She didn’t owe anybody anything. She had the dirty little secret on every prominent man in the city.

There are 2 kinds of people when it comes to sin – those who are ashamed of it and those who are proud of it.

Application: Has your past brought pride in your life? Sometimes when people mess up, they become proud of their messes. “I do that. So what?” “Are you better than me?” “Nobody was there to help me and ain’t nobody gonna teach me how I can or can’t live my life.” James 4:6 “…God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” You cannot receive God’s grace until you humble yourself.

II. RAHAB THE PROSELYTE

The soldiers came looking for the two spies but Rahab had hidden them on the rooftop under stalks of flax. But listen to what happens after the soldiers left – 8 Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof,

Now listen very carefully – what we are about to read is the Old Testament sinner’s prayer.

9 and said to the men: “I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you.

Rahab from The Bible Series#1. She admits that that her gods and the gods of her people cannot give her courage against the God of Israel. In other words, she admits that she is a sinner.

10 For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.

#2. She acknowledges that there’s only one true God and He is the God of the people of Israel. In other words, she admits that salvation is of the Jews.

11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.

#3. She confesses her faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In other words, she asks the God of Israel to be her Savior.

Again, this is the Old Testament sinner’s prayer.

Application: Have you ever prayed to be saved? Romans 10:9-10 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Maybe someone here truly believes that they are saved. Do you know when you got saved? If not, choose today as your day.

III. RAHAB THE PEACE MAKER

Rahab could have said – “Good now that we’ve got that settled! Can I just come with you guys? Or, just remember me when you come against our city. I’ll shore appreciate it!”

But listen to her – 12 Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, 13 and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”

I’m just using a little bit of sanctified imagination – more than likely her father, mother, brothers, and sisters did not care much for her. After all, she was a prostitute. She was an embarrassment. She probably was not welcome to family reunions and birthdays and any celebrations. She was an outcast. As far as her family was concerned, she was as good as dead. But, that didn’t matter now. She was saved. She was a different person. Something happens when people truly get saved. They want to tell others about Jesus, starting with friends and family. By the way, that’s not very easy because they know all your faults and weaknesses. 2 Corinthians 5:18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”

So the men tell her “Alright, only if you don’t tell anyone.” Then verse 18 unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home.

Just like the night of the Passover in Exodus 12:7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.

Application: You can imagine someone saying, “That is superstitious. I’m not doing that.” Another saying, “I don’t want to mess up the door. Let’s tie some beautiful words or some gold or some jewels or even a spotless lamb to the door. How about we put the blood on the inside and not on the outside? The Blood had to be on the outside.

So also the scarlet cord had to hung on the window for all to see.

You cannot be saved by your reputation, your good deeds, and your courage. Its only by the blood of Jesus Christ.

What did she do? 21 Then she said, “According to your words, so be it.” And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.

Application: Who do you know right now who is lost? Have you talked to them about Jesus?

IV. RAHAB THE PRINCESS

As I was wrapping up this sermon I kept feeling that something was missing. So I looked up the names in the genealogy again. 4 …Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Where have I heard the name Nashon? Numbers 2:3 On the east side, toward the rising of the sun, those of the standard of the forces with Judah shall camp according to their armies; and Nahshon the son of Amminadab shall be the leader of the children of Judah.” 4 And his army was numbered at seventy-four thousand six hundred.

Nashon was the father of Salmon who married Rahab. Salmon was a prince. Hence Rahab was a princess.

Application: Do you know that through Jesus Christ you and I are sons and daughters of the King of Kings?

Do you need God’s grace in your life? Humble yourself before Him today. Receive Jesus as your Savior. Trust Him with your life. He has great things in store for you.

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