Favor With God and Man

Acts 2:46-47(NKJV) 46So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

This week we have been looking at the concept of favor as a force to benefit the people of God and help them build the Kingdom of God. We began by looking at the children of Israel during their deliverance from Egypt. The bible tells us that the Lord gave the Israelite women favor with the Egyptian women so that when they asked them for gold, silver and clothing, the Egyptian women simply gave them what they asked for. They did not do this because they were afraid of the Israelites. They did it because God had moved on them in such a way that they had deep goodwill towards Israel. God gave Israel favor with the Egyptian women.

I believe we need this same force at work for the church today. I also believe that it has always been part of what God has done for the church. In today’s scripture we see that the first church began with favor. The bible tells us they had favor with both God and man. The result was that the Lord added daily to the church those who were being saved. I believe we can and should expect the same in our day.

There is something we need to understand about the kind of favor I am talking about. It is not necessarily favor with leadership. In Egypt, the children of Israel did not have favor with the government or the Pharaoh. They had favor with the women who were approached by the Israelite women. The government was completely antagonistic toward Israel. We find that this is often the case when we are talking about God given favor.

We can see many examples of this in the bible. One of my favorite stories is the account of the prophet Elijah and his encounter with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. When we read the story, we see that Elijah had favor with the people. They listened to him and followed him. Yet he had no favor at all with the King and even less with Queen Jezebel. She made a vow to kill him.

In the life of David we see the people crying, “Saul killed his thousands and David his ten thousands.” The people loved and favored David. In the end, they would make him their king. Saul, who was king, hated David and sought to kill him. The favor of God was so strong in David’s life that Saul’s own son Jonathan loved David and made a blood covenant with him. He protected David at his and his father’s expense.

The point I am making is that we need to understand that God given favor does not always mean things will be easy. Usually it involves the disfavor of those who may be in charge. It is with people that God will give us favor. Sometimes it is with many people and sometimes it may be with one key person. Earlier in the week, I mentioned Rahab the harlot. The whole city of Jericho was at war with the Israelites, but God gave them favor with one woman who had a house in a key place. Because of her, the two Israelite spies were able to escape back to their lines with information that helped defeat Jericho.

We see this in an even greater measure in the New Testament. In the life of Jesus, we see that the political and especially the religious leaders were constantly coming against Jesus. They were always plotting and often attempting to kill him. At the same time, we read that multitudes followed him, were healed by him and taught by him. He had favor with people but strong opposition from established institutions.

A question might be asked about the crowd in Jerusalem who cried out “Crucify him, crucify him.”, when he was offered to them for release. Was not this the “people” who were opposing him? No, that was the crowd that was opposing him. There is a difference between a crowd and people in general. The established authorities controlled the crowd. In addition, a crowd has a different mentality than people individually. The multitudes that followed Jesus were people not just a crowd. Some were there simply for what they could get from him and some were there because they believed in him, but they were people joined together to follow him. God gave Jesus favor with these people.

In today’s verse, we see this pattern repeated with the church. The believers in Acts 2 were hiding in the upper room because the authorities had just crucified their leader. They were not a “favored” group in Jerusalem. However, once the Holy Spirit fell on them and empowered them the bible tells us that they had favor with both God and man. With what men did they have favor?

They did not have favor with the Jewish counsel because they were repeatedly arrested, beaten and threatened by them. They did not have favor with Rome since we know that they were ultimately persecuted by Rome. May suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Empire. With whom did they have favor? They had favor with the everyday people. They had favor with those to whom they preached. How do we know this? We know these were the people because God was adding them to the church on a daily basis.

I believe we need to realize that God wants to give us favor in 2013. I believe he wants to give us favor in our personal lives so that we can prosper. I believe that the Lord wants to give us the favor that the early church had so that people can be added to the church in great numbers. I also believe we need to understand that favor often accompanies persecution.

This is a bit of a strange thing to consider but it is the pattern we see throughout the bible. Why is it important for us to understand this? I believe if we do not realize that this is the scriptural pattern we may be deceived by what we see happening around us. We may see an increase in opposition by the governmental and religious authorities against biblical Christianity. We will certainly continue to see cultural rejection of biblical truth in favor of increasingly sinful activity. I do not believe righteousness is going to become the “in thing” in our society.

We could interpret this to mean that the church is in retreat or worse that God is not involved in helping us. The truth as highlighted by bible history is very different. The kinds of opposition we see today have always been accompanied by a wave of favor with common people. In times of great opposition, we see God giving favor with multitudes as in the ministry of Jesus and with key individuals as in the case of Rahab and the battle of Jericho.

I believe this is a day when we will see the same pattern released in the earth. In the early days of Christ’s church, we see that there was persecution and opposition from the established powers. At the same time, there was great favor with the people that resulted in a great revival. Throughout the New Testament, we read of those who gave favor to Jesus, the apostles, and especially to Paul. Given where we started this study, I find it interesting that we often read how wealthy women favored the people of God.

I am not saying we should believe for persecution or opposition from the government or religious establishment. On the contrary, I believe we should believe for favor there as well when we need it. I am saying that the historical pattern suggests that this will not often be what we see. I am saying that we must not be discouraged if we see the opposite of favor from those places. God will give us favor with whom and when we need it. God will give us favor so that we will “not go out empty handed” and so that we can “add to the church daily” those who are coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

I believe 2017 is to be a year of great favor to those who will trust God for it.

Advertisements

Favor Defined

Exodus 3:20-22(NKJV) 20So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go. 21And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. 22But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

Yesterday we saw how the Lord gave favor to the children of Israel so that the Egyptians simply gave them silver, Gold and clothing when they asked for them. Favor became a weapon in the hands of Israel by which they plundered Egypt when it was defeated by the power of God. I believe that the Lord wants to use this same weapon for the church in 2013. Part of this equation is favor with God, called grace in the New Testament. However, the word favor in the bible most often points to God given favor with people.

To understand what this means, we must remember that we are not talking about favor won by intimidation or power. In the Exodus account, we find in chapter 12 that the Israelite women had gone to the Egyptian woman long before the fatal last plague had come upon Egypt. They did not give to the Israelite women because they were afraid. They gave to them because they wanted to give. God had moved upon the hearts of the Egyptians so that they went against logic and their own best interests to “favor” the interests of the Israelites. This is a sovereign work of God.

What is favor exactly? The English definition is interesting. It has a number of components. Favor means something done or granted out of goodwill rather than justice or for payment. It also means to be friendly or well disposed toward someone or to regard them with good will. Finally, it means to show excessive kindness or unfair partiality or to give preferential treatment.

This was not how the Egyptians should have seen the Israelite women. The bible says that each woman went to her neighbor and asked for her neighbor’s treasure. The Israelites were slaves. There is no reason for the Egyptians to give them anything. The Egyptian women should have looked down upon them. Yet the Egyptians simply said, “Yes, of course we will give you Gold and silver. Would you like these fine clothes as well?” I have to wonder how they explained this to their husbands!

What happened? Somehow, the spirit of the lord moved upon the Egyptian woman and they simply felt goodwill towards the Israelites. They had an overwhelming desire to be friendly towards them. They felt compelled to give them what they asked for without any sense of obligation and not as payment for anything. They showed unfair partiality and gave preferential treatment to the Israelites. Why did they do this? The only answer is that God gave Israel favor with the Egyptians.

The Hebrew word used here has some interesting connotations as well. It means Graciousness, kindness or beauty. The root means to bow to an inferior. God moved upon the Egyptian women so that they saw through the eyes of kindness and graciousness when they saw the Israelite women. Instead of ugliness and slavery, they saw something beautiful. They even responded to the Israelites as they might respond to their superiors even though the Israelites were inferior to everyone in Egypt because they were slaves. What is the explanation for this? There can be only one. God caused the Egyptian women to see the Israelites in a way that made no sense naturally. God gave them favor.

Finally, the Greek word used in the New Testament for favor is usually translated grace. However, there are instances when the bible is speaking of favor with men and in those cases; it is translated “favor.” The implication found in the Greek word is that which is due to grace or the token or proof of grace. The tokens of favor in the Exodus story are the gold, silver and clothing the Egyptian woman gave the Israelite women. God had given the Israelites favor and the Egyptian’s gifts were the evidence of that favor.

We live in a world that is increasingly unfavorable to the church. Our culture is opposed to godliness. Many in our government seek to eliminate the voice of Godly people from the political discussion. The intentions of the founding fathers of the United States to keep any one religion from controlling the state have been perverted into a campaign to remove religion from public life entirely. Those in the minority who want to believe in no God have won court case after court case demanding that any religious expression be removed from public sites.

Though all religion has been under attack, no group has been so marginalized in America as the born again Christian Church. We are portrayed as intolerant backward and hateful because we believe in the absolutes of the Bible. Our Bible has been removed from schools and our Christian heritage has been removed from our history books. Other religions are studied and praised for their cultural strengths but the Judeo-Christian heritage of America is being systematically removed from our schools and our culture.

How can we combat this trend? I believe that we need to continue to stand for what is right. I believe we need to vote according to our conscience and continue to preach the Word of God in public. I believe we need to stand for our rights as Americans and as Christians. However, I do not believe this will be enough.

I believe that the Lord is saying to me that 2013 is to be a year of supernatural favor for the church. It is impossible I know but I believe we can look at the story in Exodus and see that God can do what is impossible. They Israelites were slaves with no standing in Egyptian society. They worshipped a God foreign to the Egyptians and one who actively opposed all that their religion stood for. In the midst of this intolerable situation, God gave Israel favor with the Egyptians. I do not understand it but it happened and the Israelites left Egypt carrying the wealth of Egypt because of it.

God wants to give us favor in 2013. How did the Israelites obtain this favor with the Egyptians? In obedience to God, they asked for it. I am not sure what that will mean to us this year, but I believe God is saying we must expect to see the favor he has promised. When the Lord shows us a direction, we need to ask for favor. This may mean approaching people with requests such as a raise in pay or a better job. It may mean applying for things we should not be able to get. It may mean other things entirely. I believe we will know when we see them and when we do, if we obey God, he will give us favor where we need it and blessing will be the result.

I believe this is a blessing God wants to use for the church in 2013. It seems impossible given the climate of the world today. However, that is just the kind of challenge God loves to overcome. Pray for favor. Expect favor. Obey the direction of the Lord even when it seems outrageous. God will back you up and you will “not go out empty handed.”

Favor

(We are traveling again, this time in Kenya for the next two months.  It is hard to get time to write and sometimes harder to get internet access to post.  To save time I like to go back to some of the things I have done in the past.  I think this is one of my favorite topics.  Keep us in prayer as we exercise the privilege of ministering to the pastors and leaders in Kenya.)

Exodus 3:20-22(NKJV) 20So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go. 21And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. 22But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

As I was praying about what God might be saying to our church for the year 2013, I felt the Lord continually impressing me with the word favor. My first reaction was to look up scriptures relating to favor with God. I found that there were not many. There is another word that more fully describes favor with God and that is the word grace. Although I believe grace is part of what the Lord is emphasizing, that was not the word the Lord was impressing on my heart. The word was favor.

As I looked up scriptures on favor, I found that most of them did not deal with having favor with God, but with the Lord giving his people favor with man. As I struggled with exactly where the Lord was leading me with this, I went back to the emphasis he had given me for the last two years. On Monday, I wrote some about the journey of Israel and, in type and shadow the church, from Egyptian bondage to destiny in Canaan. One scripture in particular connected this journey with the idea of favor. That scripture was the one quoted above.

Exodus 3 is a very famous chapter. This chapter details Moses’ burning bush encounter with God. Moses had been in exile from Egypt for forty years. His attempts to help Israel had ended in disaster but now the Lord is about to send him back to Egypt in order to deliver Israel by God’s power and not his own. Among other things, this chapter highlights much of what the Lord is giving to Moses to equip him for the task. The list is impressive. God gives Moses:

· An encounter with God.
· The revelation of what God will do.
· Identification of who Moses is in the plan.
· The revelation to give the people as to who God is.
· A plan of God as to how to proceed.
· A promise of the power of God made available.

Verse 20 is a powerful statement of how God is going to move on Israel’s behalf. “So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.” To me, this list of things God gives Moses and this statement of how God is going to judge Egypt should be followed by a great “Amen!” and be the end of the chapter. However, it is not.

The next two verses do not look like they are as important as the ones preceding them. Yet it is with this statement that God ends his equipping of Moses. He is going to give the people of Israel favor with the Egyptians. The Lord places this on the same level as all of the other things on this list. In fact, it is by favor that they will plunder Egypt.

The idea of plunder is very important in bible days. If a nation is conquered by another nation, the conquerors have the right to take whatever they want from the conquered. If there is no plunder, the victory is not complete. Plunder was how conquest was paid for. A truly powerful nation grew rich because it took from those it defeated. That is just the way it was. If Israel was to conquer Egypt completely, there had to be plunder.

I find it interesting that Israel obtained its deliverance from Egypt by the power of God. However, Israel plundered Egypt by obtaining favor from the Egyptians themselves. There are some interesting things about this favor.

First, it came through the women. Each woman went to her neighbor and asked her to give some gold, silver and clothing. Had the men gone it might be said that they obtained this plunder by intimidation. However, women intimidated no one. Although Egypt was defeated by the power of Israel’s God, the things they obtained from Egypt were given freely from the Egyptian women to the Israelite women. This is important to show that it is not by the power of Israel that they plundered Egypt but by favor that comes from the Lord.

Second, they put the gold, silver and clothing on their children. This was not about selfishness. This was about providing for their families and the future. This also showed their children that God was able to provide in the midst of impossible circumstances. This plunder was the legacy that Israel took out of Egypt.

I want to point out something here. Israel was not being unfair to Egypt by taking these things. Abraham was the richest man in the east. His descendants were also wealthy. They came to Egypt because of famine not because they were poor. They had the resources to buy what they needed. Joseph brought them to Egypt because that is where the food was and so he could better protect them. They did not come to Egypt empty handed.

While in Egypt, everything was taken from the Israelites. They lost their goods, their freedom and all opportunity for the future. The things that Israel took from the Egyptians repaid what had been taken from Israel. This was fair and just.

Let me draw your attention once more to the fact that this came because God gave Israel favor with the Egyptians. They simply asked and the Egyptians gave them what they asked for. In Exodus 12 we see the fulfillment of the promise in Exodus 3.

Exodus 12:35-36(NKJV) 35Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. 36And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

Notice the past tense here. This scripture is taken from the part of the story just before Israel leaves. The plagues had come and Egypt was ready to let Israel go because the people feared they would all be dead if they did not. However, the past tense in these verses indicates that this did not happen because of the plagues. We do not know exactly where in the process the Israelite women went to the Egyptian women, but it was no at the end after the death of Egypt’s first born. This is important to show that the favor God granted was not because of the fear Egypt eventually had of Israel.

I do not believe the Egyptian women had any idea why they granted the requests of their slaves. It defies logic that they would give the Israelites so much of their treasure, but they did. God moved on them in such a way that they favored the Israelites and willingly gave them whatever they asked for. Favor became a powerful weapon in Israel’s arsenal. I believe God wants to make it a powerful weapon in the arsenal of the church this year.

What is favor exactly? Come back tomorrow and we will see.

The Prodigal Son’s Elder Brother

Luke 15:25-28 (KJV) 25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.

(It has been a while since I posted. It has been a busy summer. We leave August 15th for Kenya and Uganda. They have just finished their presidential election and we are believing that there will be no violence. Please keep this situation in prayer. Let us catch up a bit.)

We have been looking at the kind of Father our God is to us. We have found in this study that God is a perfect Father. He loves us unconditionally. He will give us good things. He will never leave us nor will he abandon us. His motivation for all he does in our lives is our good. We have also learned from Hebrews 12 that he is a Father who will discipline us when needed.

His discipline will always be according to what he knows will bring us into his highest for our lives. Any good parent must be willing to discipline their children as part of training. God is a perfect parent and gives us perfect discipline.

We found that this discipline follows a pattern. I do not believe God disciplines through sickness or calamity. I do believe that these things can come when we ignore God’s discipline and we allow sin to pay its biblical wage (Romans 6:23.) God will use what happens when we ignore discipline to continue to train us but the bad thing is not the discipline.

I would rather allow God to do in my life what he needs to do in order to make me the person he wants me to be. I do not want to ignore God’s dealings and receive the wages of my own foolishness instead. We see an example of what happens when we do in Jesus teaching on the prodigal son in Luke 15.

As we get older in the Lord, the things we need discipline for become much more subtle. They also become more justifiable in our own minds. In the story of the prodigal son, we need to take a look at the older brother. If you are like me, you are probably more like him than his foolish younger brother.

When the prodigal came to his senses and returned to his father’s home, his father received him back into his good graces. There are some consequences the father can do nothing about. The son has lost his inheritance. He is not getting another. He restores him by giving him a robe of righteousness or right standing with the family. He gives him shoes because only slaves were barefoot and he gives him a signet ring which will allow him to do business in the father’s name.

We do not know how this all plays out for the younger son since he has no inheritance. I think the father has restored relationship. This gives the younger son a way to earn a living again even though he will never have what he threw away in his original inheritance.

The older brother is furious at his father’s actions. This foolish young man did not deserve a celebration when he got home. As we read on we find that the brother is offended because the father did not throw a party for him. It is interesting that when we allow pride and offense to cloud our vision we begin to think illogically. The father points out something that the son seems to have forgotten.

Luke 15:31 (KJV) 31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

The son owned everything on the farm. He was with the father and had all the benefits of being with the father. He could have had any kind of party he wanted at any time he wanted. He could not seem to see that. All he could see is that his brother did not deserve what he got from father.

There are many things we could learn from the elder brother. Let me say that he needed discipline as much as the younger one. His sin was different and his father chastened him with his words. If he did not choose to receive his father’s discipline he would have descended into bitterness. There would be a wage to pay for that sin. It might not be the same wage as his younger brother had to pay, but it would still be death of some kind.

I am not saying he would “go to hell” as it were. I think the wages we pay involve the things that happen to us here on earth. Paul said some men’s sins go before them and some follow after them (1 Tim. 5:24). The prodigal’s sin was open to all. The elder brother’s sin was not but it was still sin. What can we learn from the older brother? I believe we can learn what to look for in our lives when we experience the chastening of the Lord. What was the Older brother’s sin?

First, the older brother did not understand the depth of the love of God. God’s love does not make sense to us most of the time. The elder brother was right. His brother did not deserve what the father did for him. One of my main themes for me this year is the mercy of God. The father gave the son mercy and grace. He withheld what the son deserved and gave him what he did not deserve. The father did not give this until the prodigal repented be when he repented, mercy and grace were waiting. The older son could expect the same but he did not think he needed it. This is important. Sometimes we are deluded into thinking we are above sin.

The older brother judged his brother’s actions by his own. We cannot do that. God looks at each of us and deals with us according to what we need. God dealt with the younger brother by allowing him to end up in a pigpen. He did not rescue him from the pigpen. He dealt with the older brother by pointing out the error of his thinking. Each is what was needed. He honored the younger brother’s repentance but he also honored the older brother’s faithfulness. The reward for faithfulness can sometimes seem mundane compared to the reward for repentance from extreme sin. That is how we see it. It is not how God our Father sees it.

The older son’s reward was that he received his inheritance. Part of that inheritance was the authority over the father’s estate. What the younger son squandered did not change his position at all. What the father did for the younger son was none of his business. The older son had everything that was his. He had no reason to be angry.

What should he have done? He should have rejoiced with his father over the return of his brother. His brother had learned a great lesson. It would take time for him to earn back everyone’s trust. What the father gave him was the opportunity to do that.

If you are a faithful Christian, there are many ways sin can enter and reasons you may need discipline. After over 50 years as a Christian I know I still need it. Be careful of offense. Understand that when the Father shows mercy to someone it is his business. When he shows mercy to your brother, let that be an encouragement that it is there for you as well. Do not judge lest you be judged. Those are Jesus’ words. God knows things you do not. You cannot apply to someone else what applies to you.

When God does deal with you over these things or any other thing, do what it seems the elder brother did. There is no indication that he repented but there is no indication he did not. He was a good man. He was loyal to his father and a good manager of their estates. I think he joined the party and received the blessing of his brother’s return. It cost him nothing to do so. It costs you nothing to reject offense and receive the blessing that comes with repentance.