Monday, September 30, 2013

Pointing People Back To God: The Prophet Elijah

And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your Word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!”  
1 Kings 18:36-39 (NKJV)

God’s prophets played a major role in the Old Testament kingdoms of Israel and Judah. These men and women cared for people’s everyday needs, confronted kings and priests over their evil, and performed many miracles. Today, many of the prophet’s obligations are carried out by those who faithfully and obediently proclaim God’s Word (2 Timothy 4:2).

The prophet Elijah was one of God’s great prophets. He suddenly appeared on the scene at 1 Kings 17 to serve the northern kingdom of Israel. Elijah faithfully proclaimed God’s Words to the people and was wholeheartedly devoted to God. He had a loyal assistant or apprentice named Elisha, also a prophet. Elijah trained Elisha to continue his ministry to Israel. At the end of Elijah’s life on earth, Elisha inherited a double portion of Elijah’s anointing or spirit (see 2 Kings 2:1–9:13; 2 Kings 13:14-25). God directed Elijah to anoint Elisha to be his successor (1 Kings 19:16-21). Elisha’s name means “my God saves,” “God is salvation,” or “God saves” and salvation was the essence of his ministry. The name Elisha evokes memory of Joshua as Joshua’s name also means “the Lord saves.” Elisha and Joshua are very similar names, Elisha meaning “God saves” and Joshua meaning “the Lord saves.” Jesus’ Name also means “the Lord saves” (Matthew 1:21) and comes from the Hebrew name, Joshua. Elijah is given Elisha to finish his work as Moses was given Joshua complete his work. In crossing the Jordan as Joshua had before him, Elisha is shown to be Elijah’s “Joshua.” Elijah came like John the Baptist, while Elisha followed with a quiet ministry like that of Jesus (see Matthew 3:1-12 and Matthew 11:16-19). In the New Testament, John the Baptist was followed by Jesus to complete God’s saving work of grace and mercy to His people.  

In the Old Testament, the principal foundations of Elijah’s life are found in 1 Kings chapters 17 through 19; 1 Kings 21:17-29; and 2 Kings chapters 1 through 2. Key events in Elijah’s life include raising the widow’s son, the contest on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal, the encounter with God on Mount Horeb, and his departure from this world in a chariot of fire. Elijah was not a sophisticated preacher like the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. Instead, Elijah was a rough yet and courageous reformer. Elijah challenged the people to abandon their Baal worship and their evil ways and return wholeheartedly to God. Elijah’s name means “The Lord is my God,”  “Yahweh is God” or “my God is Yahweh.” Yahweh is the Hebrew Name for God. Elijah’s ministry proclaimed that God was the only true and living God and this declaration was the essence of Elijah’s message to the people (see 1 Kings 18:21, 39 cf. 2 Kings 2:14). 

“I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the Lord's commands and have followed the Baals. . .  . Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow Him.” 1 Kings 18:18, 21 (NIV)

God sent Elijah (and after him Elisha) to serve as His representative to call the people to repent of their sins, to stop disobediences of His commands, and turn to Him as the true and living God (1 Kings 18:18, 21, 39). Wicked King Ahab of Israel had allowed his evil wife Jezebel to bring the worship of Baal into Israel (1 Kings 16:31-33). Baal was the Canaanite fertility god of storm, rain, and bountiful crops. People believed Baal could control the weather and the fertility of the crops, animals and people. Baal was the alleged god of weather who was often depicted carrying a thunderbolt. So, like Solomon who accommodated the idolatrous practices of his pagan wives (1 Kings 11:1-8), Ahab submitted to Jezebel's evil worship of Baal worship in God’s promised land and even built a temple for the people to worship Baal (1 Kings 16:32-33). Even worse, Jezebel installed 950 prophets of Baal in God’s promised land of Israel. 

So, God through the prophet Elijah sent a drought upon Israel (1 Kings 17:1) and that drought lasted for three years (1 Kings 18:1). The drought was not only divine judgment on a nation that had turned to idolatry (worshipping false gods), but also a demonstration that even though Baal was considered the god of fertility and the lord of the rain clouds, he was powerless to give rain (cf. Leviticus 26:3-4; Hosea 2:5, 8). Moreover, God wanted the people to know He was the true Source of their blessings and not a pagan god. God then took Elijah away into the wilderness for three years of apprenticeship (1 Kings 17:3), and miraculously provided for him. In Zarepthath, Elijah learned that God’s power is superior to all the powers of humans (1 Kings 18:10).

In the third year of drought, Elijah designed the contest with Baal at Mount Carmel to expose Baal as a false god. Elijah challenged Ahab, Jezebel, and Baal’s prophets on Mount Carmel to  prove that God is the only true and living God of the world (1 Kings 18:1-40). The prophets of Baal called on Baal in vain while Elijah made fun of them. When Elijah had his turn, he poured water over his sacrifice and prayed a simple yet powerful prayer. Immediately, God sent fire from heaven and revealed He was the true God and not Baal. Then Elijah prayed for rain, and the drought ended (1 Kings 18:41-46). Elijah’s life illustrates God’s kindness and the effectiveness of prayer (Luke 4:25-26; Romans 11:2-6; James 5:17-18). Elijah learned the power of prayer to transform situations (see 1 Kings 17:22; 1 Kings 18:24).  With simplicity and dignity, Elijah rested his case on the certainty that God answers the faithful prayers of His righteous servants for HIS GLORY and honor (1 Kings 18:36-37; see also 2 Chronicles 7:12-15; James 5:16).

Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops. James 5:13-18 (NLT)

In Israel’s religion, Elijah stood firmly in the tradition of the Mosaic faith and faithfulness to God. He warned against syncretism because true faith in God would be lost if fused or mixed with other religions and philosophies. Moreover, Elijah emphasized the intimate relationship between faith in God and obedience to God’s commands (morals or ethics). The incident of Naboth’s vineyard illustrates Elijah’s morality. In this incident, Ahab and Jezebel envied Naboth’s vineyard, and later lied, stole, and murdered Naboth to take away his land (1 Kings 21; see also Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21).  

In later Judaism, Elijah came to be seen as the forerunner of the Messianic age based on the prophecy of Malachi 4:-6. Only six chapters of the Old Testament record Elijah’s life and ministry, but the remainder of Scripture, especially the New Testament, remembers him as a model of faithfulness and the forerunner to Jesus the Messiah (Christ). The Old Testament comes to an end with the expectation that Elijah would return (Malachi 4:5-6) and prophecy went silent for 400 years.

The New Testament begins with John the Baptist. John the Baptist continued the prophets’ Old Testament message of calling the people to turn from their sins and to turn wholeheartedly to God. At least in part, John the Baptist fulfilled Elijah’s expectation (see Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:4). John the Baptist prepared people's hearts for Jesus by urging the people to repent of their sins. He is often compared to the great prophet Elijah, who was known for standing up to evil rulers and turning to God (Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 11:14; Matthew 17:10-13). The angel Gabriel promised John’s father, Zechariah, that his son would anticipate the Messiah by ministering “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon individuals temporarily for some special task (e.g. Numbers 11:25-29; Judge 3:10; Judges 6:34; Judges 14:6, 19; 1 Samuel 16:13), but John the Baptist was to be filled with the Holy Spirit his entire life. Jesus clearly stated that John the Baptist came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” and fulfilled the role prophesied for Elijah (Matthew 11:14; Matthew 17:10–13; Mark 9:11–13). Jesus’ statement that John the Baptist is Elijah indicates that He saw the ministry of John as the fulfillment of the prophecy of the coming of Elijah at Malachi 4:5–6. Jesus declared that John the Baptist was the greatest of the prophets as his ministry’s impact was far-reaching (cf. Acts 19:1–7).  

While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” Luke 1:11-17 (NLT)

John the Baptist is one of the most important and unique persons in the New Testament. He wore odd clothes, ate strange food, and lived in the wilderness like Elijah (2 Kings 1:8; Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:1-8). People were unsure of John the Baptist’s identity. Some believe John the Baptist was (1) the prophet predicted by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), (2) Elijah (Malachi 4:5-6), (3) the Messiah, or (4) a false prophet. Indeed, many people thought that Jesus Himself was Elijah (Mark 8:27-28). John the Baptist denied he was literally Elijah (John 1:20-23). Instead, John the Baptist personally identified himself in the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD’” (Mark 1:2-3 citing Isaiah 40:3). John the Baptist applied the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3 to his own ministry of calling people to repent in preparation for the coming Messiah (Christ) to unite the generations in loyal and obedient service to God (cf. Genesis 18:19). John emphasized that he had come to prepare the way for and introduce the Messiah to the world. John the Baptist was not the resurrected Elijah nor Elijah returning in the flesh, but he took on Elijah's prophetic role — boldly opposing sin and pointing people to the true and living God (see 1 Kings 18; Malachi 3:1). He functioned like that Old Testament preacher of repentance and was therefore a fulfillment of Malachi 4:5-6 (see also Luke 3:4-6). In fact, John the Baptist’s role was almost identical to that of an Old Testament prophet — to encourage people to turn away from sin and back to God. In essence, John the Baptist fulfilled the promise of Elijah’s return as a forerunner of Jesus Christ and took on Elijah's prophetic role (Matthew 11:7–14; Matthew 17:10–13). 

Even more amazing, Elijah and Moses have many similarities. Elijah was with Moses and Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36). The Transfiguration revealed Jesus’ glory, identity, and power as God’s Son (2 Peter 1:16). Three of Jesus’ disciples (Peter, James and John) had the opportunity to observe the dramatic scene of God’s approving His Son Jesus (Matthew 17:5). Elijah and Moses were the two greatest prophets in the Old Testament. Moses, the first great lawgiver, represented the Law, or the old covenant and the promise of salvation. He wrote the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), and he predicted the coming of a great prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).  Elijah represented the first great prophets who predicted the coming of the Messiah and the restorer of all things (Malachi 4:5-6; Mark 9:11-13). Moses' and Elijah's presence with Jesus at the Transfiguration confirmed Jesus' Messianic mission — to fulfill God's Law and the words of God's prophets (Matthew 5:17-20; Luke 24:13-35). God's voice exalted Jesus above Moses and Elijah as the long-awaited Messiah with full divine authority. The apostle Peter described the impact of this experience in 2 Peter 1:16-18. Some biblical scholars believe that Moses and Elijah are the two witnesses described in Revelation 11:1-14. 

The author of Kings highlights many parallels between the ministries of Elijah and Moses. Elijah and Moses were both faithful servants of God with great faith in true and living God. Also, God appeared to both Moses (Exodus 24:12-18) and Elijah (1Kings 19:8-18) on mountains. Moreover, God sent Elijah beyond the Jordan, like Israel in the desert in the time of Moses. Both Elijah and Moses opened bodies of water – Moses opened the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16, 21, 26) and Elijah the Jordan River. Even more, Elijah and Moses both did the following:

  • called down fire from heaven (Exodus 9:24; Numbers 11:1; Numbers 16:35; 2 Kings 1:10); 
  • saw the Lord God provide food – Moses the manna (Exodus 16) and quails (Numbers 11); and Elijah the oil and flour for the widow, plus his own meals (1 Kings 17:1-16);
  • prayed and God altered the weather – Moses prayed and God altered the weather, and Elijah prayed and God stopped the rain and then three years later started the rain again;
  • associated with mountains (Mount Sinai and Mount Carmel);
  • journeyed through the wilderness and sustained by God (Exodus 24:18; 1 Kings 19:8);
  • had unique endings – God buried Moses in a grave no one can find (Deuteronomy 34:4-6; and God carried Elijah to heaven by a whirlwind with chariots of fire (2 Kings 2:11);
  • present with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:4; Mark 9:5; Luke 9:33).

In addition to the Holy Bible, Elijah is also referred to frequently in the Talmud – a collection of Jewish writings consisting of the Mishnah and Gemara. Elijah is believed to be present in the contemporary Jewish ritual of circumcision. Also, many Jews have an empty chair is set out for him as his presence symbolizes faithfulness to the covenant. The Jews remembered that Elijah had not died (2 Kings 2:11) and believed that he would come back to earth to announce the end times. Continuity with the Jewish tradition can be observed in the New Testament references to Elijah. Many Jews hesitated to accept the message of Jesus, claiming that the Kingdom could not come until Elijah had returned. Jewish eschatology based on Malachi 4:5-6 held that Elijah must appear before the coming of the Messiah. Jesus indicated that Elijah had already appeared in the person of John the Baptist (Mark 9:9-13).  Also, Elijah is a significant figure in Islam, being referred to several times in the Koran. His attempt to turn people away from the worship of Baal, back to the true faith, is used in Muhammad’s preaching to exemplify true prophecy.

King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan,1992.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Word in Life Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
Douglas, J.D. and Tenney, Merrill. NIV Compact Dictionary of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1989.
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House Company, 2001.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Jesus Is King!

Moses to Israel:  “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman. Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’ He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself. Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this Law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear (honor, worship) the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this Law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the Commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.” Deuteronomy 17:14-20 (NASB)

Deuteronomy 17:14-20 gives guidelines for the ideal king. God was not encouraging Israel to appoint an earthly king to rule their nation. In fact, God was against the idea of kingship because He was their true and everlasting King (Psalm 24:7-9; Psalm 146:10; Jeremiah 10:1-25). Having a king would make it easy to forget that God was their real Leader. The nation would only run successfully with God’s power and guidance and their wholehearted devotion to God (Zechariah 4:6). But God knew that the people would eventually want an earthly king be like their neighboring nations and for selfish reasons (1 Samuel 8:10–22, particularly 1 Samuel 8:4-5, 10-11). In fact, the Holy Scriptures anticipated a king to rule the people (see Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:7, 17). As the everlasting King, God established guidelines for an earthly kingship for the people’s protection.

Jeremiah:  Lord, there is no one like You! For You are great, and Your Name is full of power. Who would not fear (honor, worship) You, O King of nations? That title belongs to You alone! Among all the wise people of the earth and in all the kingdoms of the world, there is no one like You. People who worship idols are stupid and foolish. The things they worship are made of wood! They bring beaten sheets of silver from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz, and they give these materials to skillful craftsmen who make their idols. Then they dress these gods in royal blue and purple robes made by expert tailors. But the Lord is the only true God. He is the living God and the everlasting King! Jeremiah 10:6-10 (NLT)

The books of 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles show that, tragically, God’s guidelines were never honored completely. In fact, God’s guidelines for a king were followed less and less by Israel. Beginning with David and Solomon, Deuteronomy 17:14-20 were ignored by Israel. Had the people obeyed God's guidelines for a king, they would have thrived beyond their expectations (see Deuteronomy 28:1). So, none of Israel’s kings completely fulfilled God’s requirements (Matthew 1:1-17).

1 and 2 Kings of the Old Testament recognizes numerous kingships. However, only seven kings were recognized as “good” kings – David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah. These good kings were spiritual reformers and obeyed God’s ways. God blessed these good kings for their devotion, obedience, and personal integrity (e.g. see 2 Chronicles 14:2; 2 Chronicles 15:8-12; 2 Chronicles 17:1-10). However, the remaining earthly kings failed to do right in God’s eyes – meaning they were evil kings. Sadly, these earthly kings eventually led Israel further and further away from the true and living God (Jeremiah 10:10) and to their downfall as a nation.

Nonetheless, no king completely followed the ways of God and Deuteronomy 17:14-20. For instance, David and Solomon presided over the golden days of Israel. David is remembered as a man after God’s own heart (see 1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Samuel 16:7; Acts 13:22) and Solomon as the wisest man who ever lived before Jesus Christ (1 Kings 3:12; 1 Kings 4:29–32; 1 Kings 10:3, 6–7, 24; Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:31). Yet as impressive as David and Solomon were, they violated the express requirements of Deuteronomy 17:14-20. Both David and Solomon multiplied wives (2 Samuel 3:2–5; 2 Samuel 5:13; 1 Kings 11:1–3), and Solomon multiplied horses, silver, and gold (1 Kings 10:14–15, 22–23, 28–29). Solomon married an Egyptian princess and many other wives (1 Kings 3:1; see also 1 Kings 11:1-6). Also, Solomon acquired many Egyptians horses for his army, and built “chariot cities" in Israel where he stabled his horses and chariots (1 Kings 10:26, 28-29). Likewise, by buying horses from Egypt, Solomon was symbolically returning Israel to bondage. God had delivered the people from the Egyptians in the days of Moses, and He warned them never to “return” there by making alliances. As for his material wealth, Solomon’s wealth was tremendous and extravagant (1 Kings 10: 14-25, 27). Solomon amassed large sums of gold, built up a large army, and married many wives (cf. 1 Kings 4:26; 1 Kings 10:14-22; 1 Kings 11:1-13). In essence, Solomon ended following an expensive and immoral lifestyle as he turned his heart from God.

What are the requirements of Deuteronomy 17:14-20? First of all, the ideal king was not to be elected by the people but chosen by God (Deuteronomy 17:15). The Holy Bible consistently teaches that God reserves for Himself the right to select kings, prophets, and judges (e.g., see Deuteronomy 17:14-20; Deuteronomy 18:18; Judges 3:15). Moses, Joshua and a succession of judges were chosen by God to govern Israel on His behalf. Yet as Gideon later said, “The Lord will rule over you” (Judges 8:23; see also Jeremiah 10:10) because God must be loved and trusted first as our true King (Matthew 6:33; see also Numbers 14:9–12; 1 Samuel 8:4–9; 1 Samuel 12:12). The Lord God is our protector, strength, and provider. So, the choice for earthly king was not by popular election but a call from God to be His servant to the people (Deuteronomy 17:20). Also, Deuteronomy 17:14-20 requires the king to be a fellow countryman and not a foreigner (Deuteronomy 17:15).

Next, Deuteronomy 17:14-20 requires the king to place his full trust in God and not be depended on horses and armies (Deuteronomy 17:16), foreign alliances (Deuteronomy 17:17), or material wealth (Deuteronomy 17:17). Horses were synonymous with military power (Deuteronomy 17:16). Other kings in the ancient world built mighty armies, trusted in their military strength, and worshipped other gods (idolatry). Yet, multiplying excessive military forces would invariably lead to excessive taxation and pride. Israel was called to rely on God for their military power and strength. Moreover for political reasons, often kings would marry foreign women (Deuteronomy 17:17) but God had already forbidden this practice as this would turn the king’s heart to foreign gods and not the true and living God (see Deuteronomy 7:3–5). In essence, accumulating horses, chariots, foreign alliances, and material wealth would cause the king and the people to rely on their human strength and resources and not God. Wealth and riches sometimes makes people puffed upon with pride and forget God. But God wanted the king’s heart was to be wholly dependent and devoted to Him (Deuteronomy 17:16–20; see also 2 Chronicles 16:6-13).  God owns everything. In fact, all – common citizens, priests, judges, and kings – had an obligation to worship God with their whole heart and serve Him only (see Exodus 20:1-7; Deuteronomy 5:1-11).

The most important qualification for the ideal king was his personal knowledge of God’s Word (Deuteronomy 17:18-20; see also 2 Timothy 3:10-17, especially vv. 15-17). God required the king to write out his own copy of God’s Word, read God’s Word daily – day and night, and diligently obey God’s Word with his whole heart (see also Joshua 1:7-8; Proverbs 4). In other words, the king must be a disciple of God’s Word, and God’s Word was to be the king’s sole source of wisdom (Deuteronomy 17:20; see also Deuteronomy 4:5-8). Intimately knowing God’s Word teaches the king to worship, reverence and love God as the True and All-Powerful King. God’s Word is the true authority and makes one wise – discerning (Deuteronomy 4:5-8). Even more, reading, memorizing, and obeying God’s complete Word day and night leads to internalization in one’s HEAD and HEART which ultimately leads to obedience to God (Deuteronomy 11:18). The command in Deuteronomy that the king not turn from God’s Word to the right or to the left is also repeated in the book of Joshua first by God (Joshua 1:7) and next by Joshua himself at his farewell address to Israel (Joshua 23:6). From the spiritual standpoint, God’s Word is a vital weapon of God’s warfare against evil. “. . . and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17, NLT).

The king was never above God’s Word. By learning and studying the Law, the king would display his devotion to God, govern with personal integrity, and rule wisely. Even more, the king's submission and obedience to God and His Word would keep him humble, selfless, and the people’s servant. The king was never to abuse God’s authority, think that he was better than his fellow citizens, and not be prideful (self-importance). The king was to give God the full honor and first place to his prosperity, time, and talents. In essence, the king was to model trustful obedience to God and His Word (e.g., see Numbers chapters 13 and14). The king needed to remind the people that the secret of the nation’s success was wholehearted love, devotion, obedience, faith, and trust in God (see e.g., Deuteronomy 10:12; Joshua 21:45; Joshua 23:14; 1 Kings 8:56; Mark 12:30).

The good news is that God sent the perfect King that fully met the requirements of Deuteronomy 17:14-20. Jesus Christ is the perfect King and fulfills the job description of the earthly king given by God (see also 2 Samuel 7:11-15; Psalm 2; Psalm 110; Isaiah 9:6-7). Deuteronomy 17:14-20 was given by God through Moses for Israel but carries Messianic features. First of all, the king must be selected by God (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:31-34). He was to be fellow Israelite and not a foreigner (Ruth 4:18-22; 1 Chronicles 3:10-17; Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-28). Moreover, the king must prudent or frugal and not prone to displays of extravagant luxury and military force (Matthew 21:1-17) as his focus is on the true worship of God and not commercial enterprise. As the Gospels reveal, Jesus Christ was never greedy. Jesus did not multiply wealth, women, and horses (a symbol of military might). Instead, Jesus displayed complete trust in God with humility, truth, and faithfulness (see also Psalm 15) as He focused on the true worship of God (see also John 17).

As God’s ideal king, the four Gospels reveal Jesus Christ’s wholehearted commitment, allegiance, and faithfulness to God, the True King of heaven and earth. He fully obeyed God’s Word day and night for life. In Jesus Christ contest with evil, He fought evil with God’s Word and was able to defeat evil’s attacks and temptations (see Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). Jesus answered evil’s temptations from Deuteronomy 6 and 8, the Scripture passages describing Israel’s wilderness testing. Jesus cites Deuteronomy 8:3; Deuteronomy 6:16; and Deuteronomy 6:13-14 in answer to the temptations for immediate food, protection against intentional foolishness, and self-gratification for power. Importantly, Jesus’ answers during His wilderness testing reveal His heart righteous. Jesus refused power, the world’s wealth, instant success, and instant applause. Instead, Jesus chose to wholeheartedly obey, love, and worship God (see also Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Matthew 22:37). In essence, Jesus Christ’s displayed and lived a life worthy of our love, allegiance, and devotion as King.

Moreover, Jesus Christ lived a life of complete reliance and unity with God (John 17) and wholehearted obedience to God’s will (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46). Moreover, Jesus Christ’s daily life from the Gospels revealed His humility, prudence or frugalness, and not displays of wealth and military force. He was more of a student on foot than a ruler being driven around by chariot. Jesus Christ is truly the “the people’s king” and accessible to everyone (Psalm 110; Hebrews 4:14-16). Most important, Jesus Christ always introduced the people to the real King of the world, God.

No king succeeds with a big army alone, no warrior wins by brute strength. Horsepower is not the answer; no one gets by on muscle alone. Watch this: God's eye is on those who respect Him, the ones who are looking for His love. He's ready to come to their rescue in bad times; in lean times He keeps body and soul together. We're depending on God; He's everything we need. What's more, our hearts brim with joy since we've taken for our own His Holy Name. Love us, God, with all you've got— that's what we're depending on. Psalms 33:16-22 (The Message)

In the Gospels, particularly the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is portrayed as King and the Messiah. First, the Magi (or Wise Men) came looking for the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-2), and Pilate asked Jesus if He was the King of the Jews (Matthew 27:11, 37). This revealed that Jesus was the King for all people and not just the Jews. The last words of Matthew’s Gospel spell out Jesus’ kingly authority and mission for the world (Matthew 28:16-20). Moreover, Matthew’s Gospel presents Jesus Christ through his Gospel as King (see e.g. Matthew 1:1; 2:2; 20:25-28; 27:11) and fuller of God’s Word (Matthew 3:15). In fact, Matthew’s Gospel is called the “royal” Gospel because it refers so many times to Jesus’ Kingship. Jesus never denies He is a King and has a Kingdom. However, Jesus does deny His kingdom runs by the same rules as kingdoms with which John, James, and their mother are familiar (Matthew 20:20-28). In Jesus’ Kingdom, service and love for others precedes greatness and self-gratification.

As King, Jesus rules over the Church and over the entire universe (Ephesians 1:20–22; Matthew 28:18; 1 Corinthians 15:25). Jesus was born to be King (Matthew 2:1-2; see also Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:7, 17; Psalm 110). The transfiguration of Jesus witnessed by Peter, James, and John revealed a brief glimpse of Jesus’ true glory as King (see Exodus 34:29–35; Psalms 104:2; Matthew 16:27–28; 2 Corinthians 3:12–18; Revelation 1:16). Nonetheless, Jesus refused any attempt by the people to try to make Him an earthly king with military and political power (John 6:15). Jesus the Messiah was indeed a King (Isaiah 42:1–4; Matthew 12:17–21), as He announced in His Kingdom and in His preaching (e.g., Matthew 4:17, 23; Matthew 12:28). Jesus was a quiet, gentle rule who brought justice to the nations. However, at His second coming, Jesus will return as a powerful Ruler, Judge, and King (see Zechariah 9:9–10; Matthew 21:5; John 12:15). When Jesus returns in all His glory, He will finally be acknowledged by all as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:15-16) and every knee shall bow to Him (Philippians 2:10)!

Believer’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan, 1992.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Spirit Filled Life Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.
Wiersbe, Warren. With the Word Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
Woman’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
Word in Life Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
Branch, Robin. “The Messianic Dimensions of Kingship in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 as fulfilled by Jesus in Matthew.” Verbum et Ecclesia; Vol 25, No 2 (2004): 378-401.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Book of Kings and the Worship of God

The two-part book of Kings can be confusing. Kings start out with one nation, Israel than splits into two nations, Israel and Judah. In all, 39 rulers are profiled in these two part books. The books of 1 and 2 Kings were originally one book in the Hebrew text. The books of Kings give the historical account of Israel’s spiritual lives as God’s covenant people. The people’s repeated spiritual failure, particularly among its leaders, points Israel and the world to the need of a faithful Leader and King, as the Heir to King David’s throne. This King would not only be a righteous King, but a righteous Prophet and High Priest. This promise was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ, a descendant of David and the eternal Son of God (Romans 1:3-4). 

David to Solomon:  As the time approached for David to die, he instructed his son Solomon, “As for me, I am going the way of all of the earth. Be strong and brave, and keep your obligation to the Lord your God to walk in His ways and to keep His statutes, commandments, judgments, and testimonies. This is written in the Law of Moses, so that you will have success in everything you do and wherever you turn, and so that the Lord will carry out His promise that He made to me: ‘If your sons are careful to walk faithfully before Me with their whole mind and heart, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’” 1 Kings 2:1-4 (HCSB), see also Deuteronomy 6:5; Joshua 1:7-8; Psalm 1:2-3; Matthew 22:37.

First Kings begins with the King David's death and the beginning of King Solomon's reign. As Solomon rose to the throne, David instructed Solomon to wholeheartedly obey God's laws, to walk in all God’s ways, and be completely faithful to God (1 Kings 2:3-4). In the beginning, King Solomon followed his father’s advice. When given the chance from God to ask for any special gift, Solomon humbly asked God for a wise heart – meaning good judgment (discernment), to walk righteously and respectfully with God, and shun evil (1 Kings 3:9, 14; 1 Kings 4:29-34; see also Job 28:28). As a result, Solomon's reign began with great success as he walked faithfully with God and for God’s glory. Solomon constructed the Temple of God – his greatest achievement and he brought Israel into its Golden Age of great prosperity and honor (1 Kings 3:16–8:66).

Solomon’s wealth and wisdom were world worldwide (1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 10) and Israel prospered under Solomon’s wise leadership (1 Kings 4:20-21). The nation of Israel enjoyed peace, security, and prosperity (1 Kings 4:20-25). During the height of Solomon’s reign, Solomon governed Israel’s kingdom that stretched “from the Euphrates River in the north to the land of the Philistines and the border of Egypt in the south” (1 Kings 4:21). God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21; Genesis 17:8; Genesis 22:17) finds historical fulfillment in His blessings of Solomon.

However, Solomon’s reign reveal the dangers of turning one’s whole heart from following God. Toward the end of his reign, Solomon turned his heart away from wholeheartedly and faithfully following God (1 Kings 11:4). Solomon married many foreign or pagan wives and concubines and these women turned his heart away from fully following the true and living God to false gods (1 Kings 11:1-4). Even worse, Solomon built structures to these foreign gods for worship within God’s promised land (1 Kings 11:7-8). Thus, Solomon violated the main demands of the Law – to love the Lord God wholeheartedly and worship NO OTHER gods (see Exodus 20:2-6; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Matthew 22:37-38). The Holy Bible is clear that the true and living God must be the center of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 6:33; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:28-31; Luke 10:25-28). Solomon’s spiritual unfaithfulness and non-reliance upon God began the downward failure of Solomon and the nation of Israel (1 Kings 11:4-6, 9-10). This unfaithfulness to God would be the ultimate cause of Israel’s division after Solomon’s death (1 Kings 11:9-13).   

Upon Solomon’s death, God’s judgment came quickly. Solomon’s son Rehoboam succeeded him for the throne of Israel. Rehoboam was an evil king. He had the opportunity to be a wise, compassionate, and just king. Instead, Rehoboam listened to his foolish young friends’ advice and ushered evil into Israel. At Rehoboam's inauguration, he was encouraged to be a kind and generous ruler to the people. The wise older men advised Rehoboam to "be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer" (1 King 12:7). However, Rehoboam rejected the wise advice and decided to be cruel and harsh to the people of Israel (1 Kings 12:8-11). As a result, Rehoboam split the nation of Israel as the people rebelled in 931 B.C. The kingdom of Israel split with ten tribes in the north (Israel) to be ruled by Jeroboam, and only Judah and Benjamin remained with Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:1-24). 

In the north, King Jeroboam feared Temple worship in Jerusalem would lure his northern tribes back to the south to worship God. So, Jeroboam lifted a page from Israel’s past (Exodus 32:1-4) and put up two golden calves for worship in the north (1 Kings 12:32). This false worship directly violated the Law of God (Deuteronomy 12:2-7). One golden calf was built at Bethel and another built at Dan. These two golden calves are often referred to as “the sins of Jeroboam.” So, Israel stopped worshiping God at the Temple. 

Not to be outdone, Rehoboam introduced Asherah poles during his reigned. Asherah poles became a regular feature of Judah’s landscape for hundreds of years. They were dedicated to a mother-goddess and often erected alongside altars on the high places devoted to God. Even worse, these poles came to represent Judah’s further slide into idolatry. Judah’s next king, Abijah, also lapsed spiritually, while the subsequent two kings, Asa and Jehoshaphat, maintained greater, though not perfect, spiritual fidelity to God (1 Kings 15:11; 1 Kings 22:43).

After this division, Israel and Judah fought repeatedly during the era of the first two northern dynasties and Judah’s first three kings (931~874 BC) (e.g., 1 Kings 14:30; 1 Kings 15:7, 32). The fighting eased when King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah found a common cause against the Arameans (1 Kings chapters 20 and 22). With some exceptions, both the northern and southern kingdoms began a path of corrupt and idolatrous kings with only the faithful voice of the prophets and a few goods kings warning the people too faithfully and wholehearted follow God. All rulers of the books of Kings were evaluated by his or her faithfulness to God— success or failure to keep God’s ways.  

Israel’s kingdom in the north had political shakiness resulting in assassinations, contests for power, and the establishment of Israel’s most evil dynasty, founded by King Omri. King Omri was one of the most powerful and evil kings of Israel (1 Kings 16:21-26). Omri gets a grand total of eight verses in 1 Kings, even though secular historians regard him as one of Israel’s most powerful kings. After his rule, Israel was called Omriland in Assyrian records. Omri built the capital city of Samaria in a location that guarded all routes north and south. Yet, Omri also started the religious heresies that led to his nation’s extinction. Politically shrewd, Omri married off his son Ahab to a neighboring king’s daughter, Jezebel. The book of Kings, however, is concerned with Omri’s spiritual health, and therefore he scored poorly by the author of Kings. 

The final section of 1 Kings is primarily devoted to Omri’s son Ahab (1 Kings 16:29–22:40). Under Ahab’s reign, Israel begun worshiping the Canaanite storm-god Baal. With this new Israel low, God called the prophet Elijah to confront Ahab and to reveal that He was truly the all sovereign God of heaven and earth (1 Kings 17:1–18:46). On the political front, King Ahab faced repeated challenges from the Aramean king Ben-hadad (see 1 Kings 20:1-25, 26-43; 22:1-40), the last of which cost Ahab his life. Also, Ahab helped his wicked wife Jezebel to murder and steal Naboth’s property without any cause (1 Kings 21). This evil Jezebel’s utter wickedness also spread to the southern kingdom of Judah when where daughter Athaliah married Jehoram, King Jehoshaphat’s son (see 2 Kings 8:18, 26-27) thereby bring Baal worship also to the southern kingdom (see also Revelation 2:20).

The southern kingdoms did have some good kings. Out of the twenty rulers of Judah, including wicked Queen Athaliah, only eight could be called "good":  Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah and Josiah. Josiah was a great king. Even the prophet Jeremiah used Josiah as an example for the other rulers to follow. Josiah was just and right in all his dealings and God blessed him. He gave justice and help to the poor and needy (see Jeremiah 22:15-16, NLT). However, the kings that followed Josiah exploited and abused the people so they could build their elaborate palaces and live a luxury lifestyle (Jeremiah 22:11-17). Josiah ruled for 31 and walked in the ways of God because David was his model. He was only 8 years old when he became king. But at age sixteen, Josiah committed himself to God and began to seek God’s blessing. In reading the Biblical lists of kings, finding a king that obeyed God completely was rare. Yet, Josiah was such a person. Also, King Hezekiah was called a good ruler (2 Kings 18:1-8). Hezekiah obeyed God and brought spiritual revivals for God during his reign. Both Josiah (2 Kings 23:25) and Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:5) are praised for their honor and reverence toward God. Hezekiah is remembered for trusting God while under great pressure (see 2 Kings 18:5-6; 2 Kings 18:3–20:11), and Josiah earns praise for his devotion and obedience to the law of God (see 2 Kings 23:19; 2 Kings 22:8–23:25, especially 2 Kings 23:4-14). Nonetheless, even Hezekiah and Josiah made critical mistakes of judgment during their reigns (see 2 Kings 20:12-19; 2 Kings 23:29-30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-25). Following Josiah’s death, the final kings of Judah did what was evil in God’s eyes. Eventually, the southern kingdom was ravaged and destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (2 Kings 23:31–25:21). God’s predicted judgment came true (see Jeremiah 38:17-23). God is very patient, kind and merciful (see e.g. Nehemiah 9:17; Joel 2:13; Romans 2:1-4; 2 Peter 2:9); but He will NOT tolerate sin (Exodus 34:6-7; Romans 3:25). 

Throughout this dark period if Israel and Judah, the Bible mentions 30 faithful prophets who proclaimed God's message to the people and their leaders. The prophets continual warned the people of God’s judgment if they did not repent and turn their whole hearts to God in faithful trust, obedience, and reliance in Him. Most notable of these fearless prophets of God were Elijah and Elisha. The prophet Elijah encouraged the people to choose God over all other gods, including Baal (1 Kings chapters 17 through 19). Elijah’s greatest challenge came with his conflict with wicked Ahab and Jezebel in Israel. In one of the most dramatic confrontations in history, Elijah defeated the Ahab, Jezebel, and the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. In spite of incredible odds, the prophet Elijah wonderful proves “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31, NLT).   

As Elijah neared the end of his earthly ministry, the prophet Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit to continue God’s good work on the earth (2 Kings 2:9). Soon after, Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind by a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11) and the Elisha continued God’s good works of caring for the people. Elisha's life was filled with signs, declarations, and miracles of God. He served Israel for 50 years and fought against the idolatry of its kings and called the people back to God. Second Kings 4 records four of God's miracles through Elisha: providing flowing oil and money for a poor widow (2 Kings 4:1-7); healing of the Shunammite woman's dead son back to life (2 Kings 4:8-37); cleansing the poisonous food (2 Kings 4:38-41); and providing food for 100 men (2 Kings 4:42-44). Other memorable miracles of Elisha included the healing of Naaman's leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-27), and the floating ax head on water (2 Kings 6:1-7). 

Following Elisha's death, Israel continued its spiral decline with a series of evil kings that did not wholeheartedly and faithfully follow the living God and God’s ways. Israel’s idolatry by worshipping other gods ultimately caused their downfall. Eventually, God used the Assyrian empire to capture Samaria and took most of the Israelites into captivity (2 Kings 13:20 – 2 Kings 17:41). The northern kingdom fell in 722 B.C. Judah had a short pardon after Israel’s fall because of a few good kings who destroyed idols and worshiped God. Yet, Judah fell to the next world power, Babylon (2 Kings 18:1 – 2 Kings 25:30) and the southern kingdom fell in 586 B.C. Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed and the people of Judah were carried off to exile. So, God used the Assyrians and the Babylonians as His instruments to punish the wickedness and evil of Israel and Judah (see Isaiah 10:5-19). In all the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were united for 120 years and then divided for approximately 200 years. Then, Israel disappeared and the people went into exile. The kingdom of Judah lasted another 135 years and then the people went into exile. After these exiles, no independent Jewish nation existed until the 20th century.

God to Solomon:  “. . . if you will follow Me with integrity and godliness, as David your father did, obeying all My commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty over Israel forever. For I made this promise to your father, David: ‘One of your descendants will always sit on the throne of Israel.’ But if you or your descendants abandon Me and disobey the commands and decrees I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot Israel from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my Name. I will make Israel an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations.” 1 Kings 9:4-7 (NLT)

Scholars debate the authorship of the books of Kings. Some believe Kings were written in their present form from a deuteronomic school of writers whose basic theological viewpoint is the book of Deuteronomy while other critics identity of the author of Kings as unknown. However, Jewish tradition holds that the books of Kings were authored by Jeremiah. 

The books of Kings are historical trustworthiness. However, these books are the telling of God’s spiritual dealings with His often unfaithful people. The author had a number of sources available, including official archives of the palace and Temple and records kept in various prophetic centers to help write the books. In essence, these books stand as a record of God’s reward for obedience and faithfulness to Him and His covenant, and His judgment for evil and disobedience. The book of Kings gives sparkling examples of people who placed God and His ways first and enjoyed God’s covenant blessings. God wants people to be faithful to and obey Him as their God. Reading their stories encourages us to love and serve God. Most important, the books of Kings challenge all of people to be faithful and loyal to God with your whole hearts (1 John 5:21)!

Keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21 (NIV)

Each ruler of Israel and Judah were evaluated on the basis of their faithfulness or lack of faithfulness to God. Either “he did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight,” or “he did what was evil in the LORD’s sight.” Successes and failures of the rulers and people were based upon their response to the covenants and standards of Mosaic Law. The implication is clear. God’s people are to live in accord with the high standards of God’s Word so that they may “do what is pleasing in God’s sight” (see also Joshua 1:1-8; Psalm 119:9-11, 111; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Then their lives will be filled with good (Psalm 84:11; Matthew 25:23; Romans 14:7-8; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; Revelation 2:10). We must keep God’s commandments and faithful trust Him with our whole heart.

History did not stop with the book of Kings. The perfect King of kings and Lord of lords was coming to Israel, Judah, and the world (Malachi 4:2; Matthew 1:1, 17-23). The true King and Lord is coming again too (Revelation 17:14).

King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan,1992.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Why Follow Jesus?

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as He was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased." Luke 3:21-22 (NIV).
Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where He was tempted by the devil for forty days. . . .  Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. Luke 4:1-2, 14 (NLT)

In Jesus, there was never an inner tendency (or bent) to sin that humans’ possess. Jesus had the Holy Spirit without measure, and the Holy Spirit help Jesus defeat evil and sin within His life. The temptation narrative in the Gospels is preceded and followed by references to the Holy Spirit:  Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit . . . and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days He was tempted by evil” (Luke 4:1-2, NIV). Thereafter “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14, NIV). Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus faced real human temptations. Yet, Jesus had the fullness of God living within His heart (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9) and He was kept from committing sins (John 1:2; John 10:30). 

Following His baptism while in the wilderness, Jesus was tempted by evil for forty days (Matthew 4:1–11; Mark 1:12–13; Luke 4:1–13). Jesus’ temptations focused on three crucial areas: (1) physical needs and desires, (2) possessions and power, and (3) pride (see 1 John 2:15–16). However, Jesus did not give in to evil’s temptation. Mainly, Jesus never stopped believing and trusting in God, and He maintained a close relationship with God. Through this close relationship with God, Jesus did not give into the evil temptations of pride, sensuality, fear, self-pity, selfishness, jealousy and greed. Jesus refused to give into unbelief of God and His promises. Unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus never disobeyed God. Instead, Jesus believed God’s promises (Genesis 3; 1 Peter 1:19–22; 1 John 3:5). In essence, Jesus faced every single type of temptation that humans face, yet He did not sin. Hebrews 4:15 teaches that Jesus “has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.”
Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but He died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but He was raised to life in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18 (NLT)

The New Testament states clearly that even in His humanity, Jesus did not sin (see e.g., 1 Peter 1:18–19; 1 Peter 3:18). Jesus maintained His sinless state because He remained in a close, devoted, and personal relationship with God (see John 15:1-8; see 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 3:5). Jesus prayed frequently, especially when making important decisions (Luke 6:12). Still more, the New Testament portrays Jesus as a Man “who went about doing good” to others and wholeheartedly following God (Acts 10:38). 

Jesus never disobeyed God’s commandments (Exodus 20:1–21; Deuteronomy 5). During His earthly ministry, Jesus never lied, cheated, coveted, disobeyed His Father, committed adultery, murdered, nor did He commit any of the many other sins noted in the Old Testament (John 15:10; John 18:38; 2 Corinthians 5:21). No deceit was found in Jesus’ mouth (1 Peter 2:22). Jesus loved God and obeyed God’s will with all His heart, mind, soul, and strength. Jesus was “humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29) and Jesus fulfilled all righteousness and carried out all that God requires (Matthew 3:15; see also Jeremiah 31:31–34; 2 Corinthians 5:21). 

As the Sinless and Righteous Servant of the Lord, Jesus offers Himself for our sins (Isaiah 53:7–12). Jesus is the perfect Lamb of God (Isaiah 53:7) offered for the sins of all people (John 1:29; Revelation 5:6–14). We may go to Him as God and be confident that He has been there before us and so is the Helper we need (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:14-16). Most important as followers of Jesus, we must also follow Jesus’ sinless life by continually believing and trusting in God and obeying God’s will as found in the Holy Scriptures.
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. Ephesians 5:1–5 (NIV).