"Self-Examination" (January 2007)
This month I would like to share a word with you that the Lord gave to the Bible study our first meeting of the new year. I believe it is a word for the whole body of Christ, and one we need to heed and practice each day of the new year that is ahead of us.
At the beginning of each new year, we do one of two things (some might do both). We reflect on the past year and examine what we did- did we fail or succeed in meeting our goals? Did we accomplish anything worth wild? Are we any better off now then we were when the year began? Was the year wasted? Or we look ahead at the year before us as if it is a blank canvas and we can start all over again with a clean slate. We make resolutions to be different than we were the year before- resolutions to lose weight, make more money, be a better person, get closer to the Lord, etc. There is nothing wrong with looking at the past and learning from the mistakes we have made, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to be and do better because we aren’t perfect and there is always room for improvement.
But the Lord has something different this year that He wants us to focus on. It comes from the Book of Isaiah. “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel. Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense. Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.” (Isaiah 43:18,19,22-24)
“Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.” He wants us to look at the present- not what we did or didn’t do yesterday, not what we are going to do in the future, but look at today, at this moment. I believe He is saying that it’s time for self-examination. We are going to have to begin to live a life of self-examination. We must make sure each day that our lives are in tune with the Lord. We are living in a time unlike any other time throughout the course of history. The Lord is fulfilling His word concerning the “end time” before our eyes daily. The return of Christ is on the horizon.
In light of this fact, I also believe that the Lord is saying that He is getting ready to do a “new thing”. “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth.” It stands to reason that the Lord would do a new thing before the return of Christ, because He did at Christ’s first coming. He did it through John the Baptist. John the Baptist was the “forerunner” to Christ-- the “voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare, ye the way of the Lord.’” John was of the tribe of Levi- the priests- but you didn’t see John ministering in the temple like his father Zacharias. He came out of the wilderness, clothed in animal skins, eating locust and wild honey. He looked like a “wild man”- not a preacher. He also baptized people unto repentance at the Jordan River, not through the burnt offerings and sacrifices. This was definitely a “new thing”- nothing like they had seen before. This is why the Pharisees and Sadducees questioned him so heavily. It was a “new thing”, but it was preparing the way of the Lord. The “new thing” that the Lord will do in these days will also set the stage for the coming of Christ.
I don’t know exactly what this “new thing” that the Lord will do is, but I know it will be great. He likens it to “a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” But the one thing I do know is that He doesn’t want us to miss it. This brings me to the heart of this month’s message. “Now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? (KJV) “Don’t you see it?” (The Message) “Do you not perceive it?” (NIV) “Will you not be aware of it?” (New American Standard) “Do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it?” (Amplified Bible)
How do we keep from missing what the Lord is doing and going to do? The answer is found in Isaiah 43:22-24. “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel. Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense. Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.” Earlier we talked about self-examination. It’s in these verses where we find the criteria for this self-examination. (They are keys to help keep us in a position to “know” what is going on.)
Verse 22- “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob.” This speaks of prayer- calling on Him, communication with the Lord. How is your prayer life? Is it “hit and miss”? Is it “on again; off again”? Do you even spend time in prayer? If so, how often? Is it just something that you do on Sundays in church, or before you go to bed at night, or when you are in trouble and need His help? What type of communication are you having with the Lord?
Verse 22- “But thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.” The Hebrew word for weary means- to be exhausted, to tire, to toil, make to labor. Have you lost your first love for Him? Does being with Him “bore” you? Would you rather be playing golf, watching television, being with friends than you would being in His presence? Is spending time with the Lord a burden, a chore, something you do out of duty? Or is it a delight- something you look forward to and can’t wait until you have the chance to be alone with Him? Are you like the deer that pants after the water brook- you long for Him more than for anything else?
Verse 23- “Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings.” The “small cattle of the burnt offerings” deals with the sacrifices that were made daily. Exodus 29:38b- “shall be offered day by day continually”. Daily they had to bring a sacrifice to God- a sacrifice given out of obedience. Are you living in obedience to God’s word? Is your obedience on a daily basis or just when you feel like it or when it’s convenient? Do you “pick and choose” what to obey and what not to obey? Do you keep what you like in God’s word and discard what you don’t like? Is your obedience confined only to certain commandments when the situation dictates? Is your obedience delayed obedience- you’ll do it when you get around to it; or is it instantly?
Verse 23- “Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings.” The burnt offerings were to be the “best” offerings. They could not bring the worst of the flock, the diseased, the famished, but the best. Do you give the Lord your best? Or does He get the leftovers? Do you reserve your best for yourself or do you give it to the Lord? When you give it to the Lord, what attitude do you give it with? “The Lord loves a cheerful giver”. Are you a cheerful giver, a stingy giver, a grumbling giver?
Verse 23- “Neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.” We don’t have to bring the Lord sacrifices (burnt offerings) of lambs, goats, rams any more, but we still bring Him offerings. The offerings that are pleasing to Him are a broken and contrite heart. “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:16,17) We are to bring the sacrifice of our hearts before Him each day. How do we do that? By humbling ourselves before the Lord; coming to Him each day and giving ourselves to Him. Also by humbling ourselves and acknowledging that we belong to Him and not to ourselves any longer. Once the sacrifice was put on the altar it was no longer the “property” of the one who placed it there- it now belonged to God. Do you present yourself to Him daily acknowledging that you are no longer your own, but His? “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” (1 Cor. 6:19,20) Or do you reserve the right to do your “own thing”; ignoring that He is to have control and lordship of your life? Do you let Him know daily that you desire Him to lead, guide and direct your life in the way that He wants it to go? Do you each day place your heart and life on the altar- His hands?
Verse 24- “Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money.” When the Lord gave Moses the pattern and instructions on how to build the tabernacle in the wilderness, He also gave him the design of the priests clothing, the furniture, and the oils that were to be used. One of the oils was the Holy Anointing oil. It was used for consecration of the tabernacle, it’s furnishings and the priest. One of the ingredients of that oil was “sweet cane”. “Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels, and of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil.” (Exodus 30:23-25) The sweet cane was calamus. What does this mean to us? We just said that the Holy Anointing oil was used for consecration- that meant that whatever it was put on was to be separated and holy for the Lord. The Bible tells us- “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 20:7) “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation. Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15,16) We are to live lives that are consecrated and holy. We are not like the world, we are “set apart” for the Lord. Are you living a consecrated life? The dictionary defines consecrated as- to make or declare sacred, set apart, to devote or dedicate to some purpose. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate.” (2 Corinthians 6:17a) Are you walking in holiness?
Verse 24- “Neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices.” “And the priest shall burn them upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savour: all the fat is the Lord's.” (Leviticus 3:16) The fat of the sacrifice belonged to the Lord. What is the “fat” of our sacrifices today? It’s our worship. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) Let me read it out of the New Living Translation- “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” So the next question in this self-examination would be- are you giving Him worship? Do you present Him with an acceptable sacrifice daily? Do you confine your worship only to Sunday morning song service at church? Are you a “living sacrifice”- one that is alive with worship and adoration for the Lord? Do you worship Him in “spirit and in truth”? “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23,24)
Verse 24- “But thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.” Are you making the Lord serve with your sins? We do this by being “flippant” about sin, careless about our relationship with Him, disobedient, and abusing grace. When we have the attitude that “He understands so it will be all right”, we are frustrating the grace of God. In this way, we try to make Him our “partner in crime” because we excuse and justify our disobedience and the sin in our lives. Are you wearying the Lord with your unChristlike behavior? Do you condone it and expect Him to also?
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1-2) These are questions that we should ask ourselves- am I spending time in prayer; is He my first love; am I giving Him the sacrifices that are acceptable to Him; am I giving Him my best; am I living a life of holiness, separated to Him; what is my attitude concerning sin in my life? The last question is, “Am I making sure that my life is in line everyday?” Each and every day we have to examine ourselves and make sure that we are not neglecting any of the things that the Lord has pointed out to us through His word. This “new thing” that He is doing is something that He wants us to be a part of, but we have to do our part to make sure that we are in a position to “know it” when it comes. So leave the past behind and leave the future in the future and look at the present and make sure you are where you need to be “today” in order to “know it” when it comes.