The Exalted Word by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE EXALTED WORD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, HendersonThe Exalted Word

Introduction:Kids come with a degree in psychology. They know the difference between our nature and our instructions. Nature is who we are. Instructions is what we tell them to do. One of our kids understood that difference more than the others. She loved to explore and check things out. We would tell her not to touch the electrical socket but she would look at us as she stretched her little finger towards it. We gave her some books of her own but she loved to get into my books. Of course, we would pop her hand but it did not stop her. Somehow, she knew that we weren’t going to sell her to some Midianite traders. So she trusted our nature but disobeyed our instructions. So also, in the Christian life, there is God’s nature and there is God’s instructions. They are both very important. In fact, they are inextricably linked. His instructions proceed from his nature. Having said that, one is exalted over the other. His Instructions, his Truth, his Word. He does want us to trust him but he really wants us to obey him.

Psalm 138    A Psalmof David. 1I will praise You with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You. 2I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.

Question: God’s name is his nature. It is who he is. God’s word is what he expects us to do. Trust God’s nature, but obey his Word. Do you obey God’s word, the truth? Have you received the Truth of God? Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Background:When we began planning for the first few weekends in this new sanctuary, we prayerfully decided that one of the messages should be about the importance of the Word of God at Clearview. Our desire is to build this ministry on this book. The psalm we just read tells us that God has magnified his Word above his name.That’s an odd statement. Scholars have long disagreed over its meaning. Some have suggested that there must be some grammatical mistake in it. Others have proposed some alterations to make it sound better. The more I have studied it, the more I have concluded that there is nothing wrong in it. The problem is in our failure to grasp the true value and seriousness of God’s Word.

Context: To start with, this is a psalm of David, i.e. composed by David. Besides being the shepherd boy who killed the giant Goliath and later became the great King of Israel, Davd was also a great song writer. In fact, as many as 76 out of the 150 psalms in the book of Psalms were written by David. That’s half of all the psalms! But he was more than just a song writer. In fact, listen to how the Word of God records David’s last words in 2 Samuel 23:1“Now thesearethe last words of David.Thussays David the son of Jesse;Thussays the man raised up on high,The anointed of the God of Jacob,and the sweet psalmist of Israel.” Now listen to the first line of the final words of David –2“The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and His wordwason my tongue.” Meaning: David was the human instrument of God’s truth. In I Samuel 13:14, God reciprocated by calling him a “man after his own heart.” In other words, his words should not be taken lightly. They are God’s inspired, infallible, and inerrant words to us.

Before we begin in verse 1, let’s first go to verse 3 to get the context:“In the day when I cried out, You answered me,andmade me boldwithstrength in my soul.” Meaning: The context of this song is a time of trouble in David’s life. We don’t know for sure what that trouble was. Maybe Saul was chasing him through the Wilderness of Ziph. Maybe the Amalekites had taken their women and children as captives. Maybe Absalom had just declared his revolt against his father David. Nonetheless, this was a tough time.

Application:Tough times come but be careful about creating doctrine based on what you are facing. Don’t let your experiences decide your beliefs.

Now let’s look carefully at what David wrote in Psalm 138:1“I will praise You with my whole heart.” Meaning: David declares his desire to give thanks and praise to God from the bottom of his heart for all he has done for him. A good way to bounce out of discouragement and defeat is to praise God with all your heart for what he has already done for you.

Application:Do you ever thank God and praise him for all he has done for you? Do you do it with your whole heart?

Then David says,“Before the gods I will sing praises to You.”Don’t misunderstand this. David is not saying that there are other gods in this world. He is just boldly declaring before the watching world and the pagan nations that there is no other god before the Living and True God of Israel.True boldness is not telling God what to do but telling the world that you are not ashamed to declare the praises of God and share his gospel.Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:2“we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.”

Application: Do you shy away from declaring the name of God in public? Are you bold regarding your faith?

David continues2“I will worship toward Your holy temple…” Keep in mind that the temple has not yet been built but David has solid confidence that one day it will be. “and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness…” Don’t miss this. When the psalm writers and even David mention the name of God, they are not talking about a title of God. They are referring to the nature of God. They are declaring that his name reflects his lovingkindness. By the way, the word “lovingkindness” in Hebrew is “chesed” which does not have one single English word that adequately translates it. It can be “goodness,” “kindness,” “mercy,” “love,” “steadfast love,” “unfailing love,” and “lovingkindness.” In fact, everyone of God’s names reflects his lovingkindness towards us.

Application: Do you ever give God thanks and praise for his name, for his lovingkindness towards you? Do you ever thank God for being the faithful and loving God?

But David adds something more to God’s “lovingkindness.” 2“I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth.” Meaning: Inherent in God’s name and nature is not only his kindness towards us but also his truthfulness for us. The Hebrew word for truth is “ameth.” David is teaching us something here. He wants us to see God more than just a loving God. He wants us to see him as a truthful God.

Now he says – “For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” The word for “word” means God’s commands and his promises. Because God is also a truthful God, he will not just sit back and love you and do the best he can to help you, he also wants to speak to you. He has something for you to do and to obey. For you to be able to get the seriousness of his commands and his promises, he has magnified them even above his name, his character. No matter the circumstances, always let the Word of God win.

Application: Don’t compromise your morals and don’t justify your experiences.

Was this a problem for David? Of course not. 3“In the day when I cried out, You answered me,andmade me boldwithstrength in my soul.” Don’t think of God’s Word as a burden. Instead, it brings boldness in our soul. When you obey God and do things his way, you are able to stand against whatever comes your way.

Listen to what follows – 4“All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD,when they hear the words of Your mouth.” Once again David extolls the Word of God. 5Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,For greatisthe glory of the LORD.6Though the LORDison high,Yet He regards the lowly;But the proud He knows from afar.7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;You will stretch out Your handagainst the wrath of my enemies,And Your right hand will save me.8The LORD will perfectthat whichconcerns me;Your mercy, O LORD, enduresforever;Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Listen carefully: God’s name is his character. His character is one of lovingkindness towards us. He will take care of us. But, his character is also one of truthfulness. Because of his truthfulness, he will always give us the right instructions. The Bible is God’s instruction for us. He expects us to obey him. Obedience to his word is now the standard for the proper understanding of his character.

Luke 6    46“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? 47Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. 49But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.”

Question:

  • How important is this book for you?
  • Is it the final authority on all your understanding about God?
  • Do you use the Word to justify your morals and your experiences?
  • Do you obey his Word no matter the cost?
  • Do you know the Word of God, Jesus?

John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

DIGGING DEEP 9 BY ABIDAN PAUL SHAH

DIGGING DEEP – 9 by Abidan Paul Shah

Digging Deep

Digging Deep

The Bible was not written in a vacuum. It was in the context of paganism, idolatry, and demonic worship that the truth of God’s Word came to humanity.

What is religion? “Human organizations primarily engaged in providing general compensators based on supernatural assumptions.” – Rodney Stark and William Bainbridge

They gave 5 dimensions of religiousness: belief, practice, experience, knowledge, and consequences.

Religion can come in many forms – animism (animals, plants, and inanimate objects have spiritual essence), henotheism (worshipping one but acknowledging others), polytheism (many gods), and monotheism (one god).

  1. Mesopotamia
  • Began as early as the third millennium
  • All the divine families were under Enlil
  • They had as many as 3000 names, many repeats.
  • Some of the gods included – Anu-An (Father of the gods who was described as a bull); Enlil (son of An and the most prominent; lord of the air and ruler over the earth; In “Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Underworld,” when heaven and earth were separated, An chose the heavens and Enlil chose the earth; he created the humans; he also decreed the flood because humans disturbed his sleep); Nanna-Sin (first born of Enlil; moon god; god of Ur and Haran); Marduk (Son of Enki-Ea; god of thunderstorm and Babylon; known as Bel); Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14), etc.
  • Images were made out of wood and plated with gold. They also had precious stones and jewels for eyes, which were lit up in nighttime rituals to depict “opening of the eyes.”
  1. Egypt
  • As many as 40 gods and goddesses known, many repeats
  • Several religious centers in Ancient Egypt – Thebes, Hermopolis, Heliopolis, Abydos, and Memphis
  • The gods’ depictions were in the form that would express their special characteristics.
  • They were considered to be responsible for the forces in nature – Ra (sun god); Hathor (heaven); Ma’at and Seth (balance and order vs chaos and death).
  • Afterlife was a key component. It was often depicted by the Ankh.
  • The symbol of continuity and order was the Pharaoh. The king was the official priest.
  1. Canaan
  • Sometimes known as the Amorites and was the most immediate context for the people of Israel.
  • 2 divine pairs: El and Athirat (sovereign king and queen over the world) and Baal and Anat (brother and sister in a state of turmoil and change, struggling for survival and dominance).
  • El was the chief god known as the begetter of the other gods and creator of the world.
  • Baal was the most popular god among the Canaanites. He was a fertility god who provided rains and rode on the clouds. (Psalm 68:4)
  • There were also many minor gods like Dagon (Judges 16:23)
  • The god of the Moabites was Chemosh and the god of the Ammonites was Molech. (Judges 11:24 and 2 Kings 3:26-27)
  1. Greco-Roman
  • Very diverse forms of paganism – Pisidian Antioch (Men – the moon and fertility god); Syrian Antioch (Zeus, Astarte, Tyche, etc); Athens (Athena, Dionysius); Corinth (Aphrodite – goddess of love, Apollo, Asclepius, Demeter, etc); Ephesus (Artemis – her temple was 5 times larger than Athens’ Parthenon, 1000 female servants, and one of the Seven Wonders of the World – Acts 19); etc.
  • There was also much unity.
  • They considered monotheists to be not much better than atheists.

 

Test Passages:

  1. Joshua 24:1-3, 14-15 

 

  1. Psalm 19

 

  1. Jeremiah 50:1-2

 

  1. Acts 17

Secret Religion – Fasting

SECRET RELIGION – FASTING by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

secretreligion_fastingIntroduction: This morning we are in part 3 of the series – SECRET RELIGION – and our focus is on fasting. Again, God wants us to fast, not for self-praise but to seek His face.

Matthew 6   16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Overall Background: In the past 2 messages Jesus exposed the giving hypocrites and the praying hypocrites. Giving hypocrites – those who give charity but only for public praise. Praying hypocrites – those who pray but only to look spiritual and jab their enemies. Neither of them gets anything from God. Now He turns His attention towards the fasting hypocrites. Listen to what He says – “For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting.” Meaning: The fasting hypocrites are not really fasting. They only appear to be fasting. I guess they have a Snickers bar hidden in their robe somewhere and now and then they take a bite when no one’s looking. But when someone comes along, they act all famished – “I’m suffering for Jesus.” Jesus says of them what He said about the other two – “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” Meaning: God knows their hypocrisy and their fasting remains fruitless (no pun intended).

Here’s the gist of this message – Fasting is simply God’s people setting aside food, entertainment, and any distraction to get serious with Him. God wants us to fast. It brings tremendous results, especially when we are facing painful and impossible situations. But fasting with the wrong motives may impress some but not God.

Question: Do you fast? Are you facing a hopeless situation? A difficult marriage, a wayward child or grandchild, finances or employment, a frustrating habit, something in your past, a dream that’s too big and too risky. Are you concerned about our church, community, or nation? Then it’s time to fast and pray. Are you saved? No amount of fasting can help you. You’re just dieting all the way to Hell!

2 questions we will ask about Secret Religion and Fasting:

I. WHY FASTING IS VITAL? 

16 “Moreover, when you fast…

Background: Just like regarding prayer, Jesus does not say “if” you fast but “when” you fast. Meaning: Fasting, like prayer, was expected for God’s people. It may surprise some of you that fasting is all over the Bible. Let me give you some examples:

  1. Fasting when in the presence of God – Moses fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, without bread and without water, before he received the 10 Commandments. Let me make it clear: the reason he was able to do this is because of the presence of God.
  2. Fasting when humbling oneself before God – On the Day of Atonement God commanded in Leviticus 16 29 “…you shall afflict your souls, (humble yourself) and do no work at all…30 For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD.” Although the word “fasting” is not mentioned, Jewish people fasted on this day to humble themselves before God.
  3. Fasting when mourning before God – Job fasted after the tragedy hit his home, as he says in Job 3:24 “For my sighing comes before I eat…” The people of Israel fasted all day before the Lord because of the civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of Israel. Hannah fasted before the Lord because she could not have any children. It says in 1 Samuel 1:7 So it was, year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, that she (sister wife) provoked her; therefore she wept and did not eat. When David and his men heard that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle, they fasted until evening. By the way, mourning was the main reason for fasting.
  4. Fasting when repenting over sins before God – Joshua fasted all day after the defeat of Israel at Ai. Under Samuel, the people of Israel fasted all day in repentance for their sins. The prophet Joel called for a fast because of the plague of locusts and the famine in the land. When Jonah pronounced God’s judgment against Nineveh, the entire city fasted; even the king and God turned away His wrath. Daniel fasted before the great vision in Daniel 9 and he begins his prayer with – 4“O Lord, great and awesome God…5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled…”
  5. Fasting when facing a major challenge – Esther fasted for 3 days along with her maids and all the Jewish people in Shushan before she went before the king to intercede for her people. When Nehemiah heard about the plight of the Jewish people in Jerusalem, he was so burdened that he wept and mourned for many days but he didn’t stop there. Listen to Nehemiah 1:4. He says, “I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”

———–For time’s sake, let’s jump over to the New Testament————

  1. Fasting when beginning a new ministry – Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights before He started His ministry. The early church fasted and prayed before they sent Barnabas and Paul on the mission journey.
  2. Fasting when doing ministry – Paul mentions fasting as a sign of being God’s servant. In 2 Corinthians 6 4 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings…” Ministry has problems and will always have problems. Before you complain and criticize have you considered cutting back from food? When I come across people like this, I’m thinking – “has this person enough spiritual maturity to put down that hamburger or that fried chicken and actually pray?!!”

Application: Are you facing a difficult time, a tough challenge? Are you willing to set aside the plate of food and humble yourself before God? Andrew Murray (Dutch Reformed South African pastor and writer) said, “Fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God.”

II. HOW FASTING GOT DISTORTED? 

16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance.

Shofar

Shofar (All images © 2016 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Background: Just like everything else, we human beings know how to distort everything good that comes from God. God condemned all such fasting. Listen to Isaiah 58   1 “Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; (the word is actually shofar, which means a horn from a ram or an antelope). They would blow the shofar to announce the fast and there was a whole system and rituals of how to do this. What God is saying here is – “Put down your shofar and your rituals and speak like a shofar to my people.” What should Isaiah say – “Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness…They take delight in approaching God. Then they complain – 3 “Why have we fasted…and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ God says, “Let me explain to you why.” 3 “…in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers. 4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness…5 Is it a fast that I have chosen…6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, “Here I am.’…11 The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In…14 Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth…The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

So also Zechariah the prophet – Zechariah 7   4 Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, 5 “Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me?…7 Should you not have obeyed the words which the LORD proclaimed through the former prophets…9 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.’

Let’s return back to what Jesus said – 16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. After the Babylonian exile the Jewish people were very strict about their fasts but by the time of Jesus, they began to fast for the wrong reasons. Since humbling was described as “afflicting oneself,” they would not shave or wash their clothes or take a bath. As bad as that sounds, this was how they communicated to others that they were more spiritual. Sometimes it got really extreme – One rabbi (Eleazer ben Azariah) from the time of Jesus fasted until his teeth turned black. Why? Atoning for the sin of opposing a majority view! Rabbi Joshua made a derogatory remark against the school of Shammai and went on a fast until his teeth also turned black. Rabbi Simeon insulted Rabbi Aqiba and fasted until his teeth turned black. In a sense, this was probably what was happening during the time of Jesus. They were taking pride in their penitence.

Application: People are no different today – How many times I have heard people judge someone walking in with a beautiful dress or makeup or nice suit and judge them on that. This is reverse prejudice!

What did Jesus say – “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” People may be impressed but God is not. Instead, 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Meaning: Don’t let your spirituality distract people from the Savior.

Fasting is no fun. I fast every week. I tell you this not to brag but to urge you to do the same. I am not a very good faster. On days I fast, everything looks like food to me. The pen looks like a French fry and the paperweight looks like a sandwich! Just put a little ketchup on it! But the benefits are unbelievable. God has answered repeatedly in response to my prayer and fasting.

Remember—Stress can either drive you to indulge or it can drive you to get serious with God. Fasting is simply God’s people setting aside food, entertainment, and any distraction to get serious with Him. You may say – “I don’t know how to fast.” We’re not talking about 40 days and 40 nights. Can we not set aside a day to fast unto God? There are several great resources out there on fasting.

(To preview or purchase these resources, click on the images.)

Ronnie Floyd - "The Power of Prayer and Fasting"

Ronnie Floyd, The Power of Prayer and Fasting: God’s Gateway to Spiritual Breakthroughs.

Elmer Town - "Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough"

Elmer Towns, Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough: A Guide to Nine Biblical Fasts.

 

Do you know Christ as your Savior? Do you need to fast?

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