Are You a “Draftee” or a “Volunteer?”

“Draftee” or “Volunteer?”

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

Isaiah 6:1-8; Jeremiah 1:4-8; Jonah 1-4; Acts 9:1-16

Introduction:

There is a tendency to think, “I will do this for you, Lord!” This is especially true among religious people who think they can earn God’s favor, but have never received His Grace. Unfortunately it is not uncommon among saved individuals, either, as it is a product of the flesh…self-will.

On the other hand, there are those who shrug, and say, “Well, if God wants something of me, He will tell me…” That is a confession that they have not read God’s Word, where He says that He does want something from us, and for us!

Is there a balance between these two ideas? Are we simply “Draftees?” Can we not volunteer? Is our whole life predestined to the extent that we have no choices? Is there no room for volunteerism as a form of worship and thanksgiving?

Who is in Charge, Here?

There is no question that the Lord is the supreme authority in all things. If there is any doubt about this matter, Psalm 24:1 should put it to rest. “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.”

I realize that some teachers claim that Satan somehow gained all authority when Adam sinned. Please remember that when Satan claimed (In Luke 4:6, 7) that “all this…is delivered unto me and to whomsoever I will, I give it!” He was lying! Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies! (John 8:44) Satan is a Liar! The earth was not given to Satan.

Born Sinners

To be sure, the people born to Adam (the whole Human Race) are born sinners, with a bent toward slavery to Satan. But Jesus came to free us from that spiritual slavery. That does not make Satan the owner of the world. He is a pretender to the throne at best, and they that serve him claim more authority for him than he actually possesses, because they follow in his footsteps as his children (John 8:44, again.)

That is Why We Need to be Born Again

But God has never “abdicated the throne,” and He never will. We still belong to Him, body and soul! “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.”  If we continue in our rebellion, as unbelievers, we will face the same judgment as Satan. But if we accept His Grace, offered through Jesus’s Blood at the Cross, we enjoy eternal life with Him. We are born again, into God’s Family…separated from Adam!

So, Having Received His Grace, through Faith, What do we do, Now?

Consider Isaiah

There is an interesting passage in Isaiah 6:1-8, where we see what may be Isaiah’s conversion experience, or, at least his call to service. He saw the LORD, and the seraphim worshipping in the temple. He was dismayed at his own sin, and he was sure that he was in trouble, but God cleansed him with the result of the sacrifice—a coal from the altar, and then Isaiah heard what we see as his “call.” But notice, that the Lord framed it as a question, not as a command. He asked, “Whom shall I send, and Who will go for us?”

Isaiah’s instant response was “Here am I, Lord: send me!” That sounds an awful lot like God “calling for volunteers,” and Isaiah jumping to “volunteer” for whatever the mission was. (Notice that Isaiah did not ask what the job was: He jumped at the chance to be sent by God.)

So, Which is it? Are We Draftees, or Volunteers?

In a sense, we are both!

Isaiah heard the call and jumped to “volunteer.” Is it possible for God to call someone to His service and they really are not interested? Perhaps they even refuse? Certainly, it is possible!

Consider Jonah:

In Jonah 1:1-3, God gave a very direct call—a command, and Jonah tried to run away from God! What amazing folly! If what we read in Psalm 24:1 is true, then to where could you hope to flee? In Psalm 139:7-13, we see the hopeless folly of attempting to flee from God. He is the Creator, and He is Omnipresent! Wherever we could travel, on the land, on the sea, under the land, under the sea, in the place of the dead, or even in outer space, God is there!

Yes, Jonah rebelled, and tried to run away. But God intervened with a supernatural storm. It got the attention of the professional sailors on the ship in which Jonah was a passenger. They cast lots to see which among them was the “cause” of the storm, because they could see this was a supernatural storm, and they had no idea what “god” had brought the storm.

The lot fell to Jonah, and they asked him what he had done. He confessed that he was a servant of “the LORD, the God of Heaven and Earth.” They already knew he was fleeing from his God, so now they were terribly frightened, and asked what they could do to appease that God: He simply said, “Throw me overboard!”

They couldn’t agree to do such a thing, so they rowed frantically, trying to get to land. But the wind fought against them, and they finally gave up, and prayed to Jonah’s God, asking that He not condemn them for throwing Jonah overboard.

They Obeyed by Faith

Ultimately, they complied with the word Jonah had given: They threw Jonah overboard, and the storm immediately ceased! Then they were overcome with respect and fear toward Jonah’s God, and they immediately made sacrifices to Him, and made vows to Him.

We don’t know what happened to those sailors, after that, but we do know what happened to Jonah: God had prepared a great Sea-Creature (KJV says “fish,” here ) to swallow him and give him a “Divine water-taxi ride” back to land. (He did not get to “travel first-class!”)

Some teachers believe Jonah died, there in the belly of the sea creature, and that he was revived to serve. But, read carefully: in Jonah 2:1 it does not say “Jonah prayed from Sheol;” (the place of the dead) but rather, “Jonah prayed from the belly of the fish.” If he had been dead, he would not have been “in the fish,” but rather, in the place of the dead.

And, in Matthew 12:39, 40, Jesus confirmed that Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale [great sea creature.]”

Languages and Translations

(Yes, the King James Version says “whale,” there in Matthew, but the original language simply means a “great sea-creature.” Possibly a whale; perhaps even probably so, but we need to realize that not all languages are precise in the same fields. In English, we make a sharp distinction between “whales,” which are air-breathing, warm-blooded mammals, and “fish,” which are cold-blooded, have gills, and obtain their oxygen through the water.

The ancient Hebrew and Greek languages are not as specific as English in some areas. We may find that frustrating, but we have to accept that some of the original words are not specific enough to be clearly translated one way or another into English. Choose to be at peace with that!)

A Famous Draftee and Deserter

The point is, Jonah was clearly being “drafted.” He was being called to serve, and he was not given the option to just “go do something else.” He ran away! Deserted! Had he persisted in his rebellion, he would have died right there, in the belly of the sea-creature, and that would have been the end of the story. He would have been saved, but dead.

But he repented, and the rest of the story tells how God used Jonah to reach the people of Nineveh. Did Jonah volunteer? Not exactly. He rejected the call, initially, but he repented under duress. He changed his mind. That is what “repent” means. Change your mind about something. Turn around, and go do what you were told to do! Was he “forced to do it?” Not exactly: it’s just that God made the alternative results very clear, and Jonah confessed his rebellion and chose to obey.

Two Results

There are two results of his repentance, beyond the simple fact that Jonah survived the ordeal:

One result was that the people of Nineveh were spared destruction. (A full-scale revival resulted, in Nineveh, the capital of Assyria…the mortal enemies of Israel! That is why Jonah didn’t want to go, in the first place! He wanted God to destroy the people of Nineveh!)

But the other result is that, today, we have a specific prophecy regarding the resurrection of Jesus! You see, Jesus treated this as history, not a myth! You can either trust Jesus to know the truth about Jonah, or rebel against God and disbelieve. But Jesus said it was true! He said it was given as a picture of His own resurrection: that “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

What about People who do not “Feel Qualified” to Serve?

Consider Jeremiah

In Jeremiah 1:4-8, we see that the prophet Jeremiah was a reluctant witness. He protested that he was too young to do the job God called him to do.

But, to begin with, God pointed out that He, God., had foreknown Jeremiah, not only before he was born, but before God “formed him in his mother’s womb.” God sees every human as a direct creation, procreation notwithstanding. God told Jeremiah that He had chosen him for the job of being “a prophet to the nations” before he was conceived.

The Weeping Prophet

So, Jeremiah reluctantly accepted the assignment: it was never a case of outright rebellion as was Jonah’s case:Jeremiah simply did not “feel qualified” to serve. But God enabled him, and he proved a very reliable man of God, serving in an exceptionally difficult ministry. He acted as a spokesman for God to people who hated him and who rejected everything he said. They publicly mocked him, they beat him and threw him in a pit, and they planned to kill him.

He had a Very Difficult, unfulfilling ministry!

Ironically, he had been telling them of the imminent conquest of their nation under Nebuchadnezzar: when it finally happened, exactly as predicted, the enemy captain treated Jeremiah more courteously than did his own people. Further, the enemy captain plainly stated that the reason they had been sent to conquer Israel was that the people of Israel had abandoned their God!

The enemy soldiers understood the matter more clearly than did the “chosen people of God,” who were in rebellion against God. What a shameful state of affairs! (Sometimes we find that unbelievers today have a better idea of what Christians are supposed to do than the believers do.) And Israel still continued in their rebellion, despite their defeat under the Babylonians (also called the Chaldeans.)

What About Us?

I have frequently heard people say words to the effect of, “I don’t feel called!” I can understand their “feelings,” but feelings are not an accurate reflection of reality.

Romans 8:28 is a popular verse, and people usually quote the first clause, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,” but they forget the rest of the verse:  “…to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Yes, you are called! If you still doubt it, read the next two verses there in Romans 8:

 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

If You are a Believer, You are Called to His Service!

So…every believer has been “called” to God’s service. We all have received our “Draft Notice.” And the only question left is, “Will we respond with joy, eagerly volunteering for the mission, (whatever it is,) or will we hold back, trying to bargain with God for a job we like better?”

That is something that each of us has to decide personally. If we respond as did Isaiah, volunteering for the “mission,” saying “Here am I, Lord, send me!” Then He is free to have us serve wherever He wants.

If we “volunteer,” but with restrictions, and reservations, saying,“I’ll serve, but only if….” then we are no better than Jacob, who said, (Genesis 28:20-22) “If you bring me along safely, and if you provide for all my physical needs, and if  you bring me safely home, again, then you can be my God, and this rock can be your house, and I will give you ten percent of whatever you give me!” (Such a deal! How could God fail to be impressed?)

The Privilege is to Serve!

Jesus said in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work!” That work included evangelism, for Jesus, but it also included the Cross. We can look and see what God calls us to be, for Him (Ambassadors, in 2nd Corinthians 5:20; Lights, reflecting His light, in Matthew 5:15, 16 and Philippians 2:15… and others.)

We will either emulate Jesus and Isaiah, counting it a privilege to even be invited to serve with Jesus, or we can count it an unreasonable burden, and reject His offer.

Remember that the result of faithful service is eternal reward (don’t misunderstand: salvation is a gift, not a reward.) The things we do, as believers, are either of eternal value, and thus eternally relevant, or eternally a waste of time, and ultimately, without value. Working with Jesus (no matter how simple the task) is always an eternally good investment.

Working on our own, without His direction and blessing, regardless of how “famous” we become, how “impressive” we are, in the eyes of other humans, or how “great and important” our work looks to others, is still an eternal waste of time!

Do I Have to Know God’s “Whole Plan?”

James indicates (James 4:13-16) that we do not know the future, and that we are fools to make our plans as if we do know it. He says that our plans need to be subject to God’s approval.

Psalm 37:3-6 tells us that we need to allow God to direct our paths. Proverbs 3:5, 6 says something similar. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him. and He shall direct your path!”

God Doesn’t Make “Deals,” as a Rule

So the idea of trying to “make a deal with God,” as Jacob seemed to do, as opposed to simply accepting what He has given us as His will and looking to Him for further direction (as Joseph did, in Genesis chapters 39-50) would be really a bad decision. Joseph served faithfully in bad circumstances and was rewarded by the God he served. Jacob tried to “make deals” and he had a pretty rough life.

I do not know the future God has for me. Every day, I hope to choose to respond to His call, regardless of the “mission.” I want to respond as Isaiah did, not as Jonah did.

In the Church age, we could make consistently good decisions and still have a “rough life,” as Jeremiah did, but we also look for eternal reward, as he did. Philippians 1:29 says that “suffering for the sake of Jesus” is part of our calling.

Embrace Reality!

Not all of life will be the way we “want things to be.” We truly need to remember “Who is In Charge.” (It is not us…)  Yes, you have been “drafted,” but God asks that you respond as if you were eagerly “volunteering.”

That is how we find His richest blessings.

What is the Link between “Idols, gods, and demons?”

  

What is the Link between “Idols, gods, and demons?”

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

Psalm 106:37, 38; 1st Corinthians 8:1-6; 2nd Corinthians 4:4

“Thou Shalt Have No Other God Before Me”

We have sometimes asked the question, “What (or who) are the “other gods?” What ere the gods which the heathen nations served, and which Israel was warned to avoid?”

The LORD (the God of Israel) repeated the warning many times, that Israel must not serve other gods. Yet, in Isaiah 43:10, and other places, that same God of Israel (YHWH, “the Great I AM,”) says that there are no other gods…there never have been and never will be!

What other gods?

So, what is going on with the various other “gods,” mentioned, (sometimes by name,) in the Old Testament? (The scriptures mention Nisroch, Dagon, Baal (Baalim, plural), and Astarte (Ashtoreth, plural.) In addition, there are Moloch (sometimes spelled Molech, or Milcom), ‘The Queen of Heaven,” Tammuz, and others, by name.)

It sometimes confuses us, a little, to see them all named in various contexts, and then to see in other contexts that God, the Creator says that “there are no other gods.” God understands our confusion, so, He explains it to us:

The Physical Idols are not the Only Issue

In 2nd Corinthians 8:1-6, we see that the physical idols themselves, at least, are nothing. They are just a piece of wood, stone, metal, plastic, or whatever. But, in that passage, Paul says that, for believers, there is another problem. There is a “testimony issue” involved, regarding the “eating of meats sacrificed to idols.”

If your host (or whomever) told you that the meat in question was sacrificed to an idol, then don’t eat it. In that way, they cannot claim that “you took part in a sacrifice to an idol.” But, he also said, “if you are not told, don’t ask.” (The meat is not hurt by the sacrifice, nor are you. But your testimony could be damaged.)

The Spirits behind the Idols

However, in Psalm 106:37, 38, God gives us another, grimmer perspective. There, we see that there is a “spirit-entity” behind the worship of those idols. The service of those spirits is what is so strongly condemned. Notice that in verse 37, it says “…they sacrificed their sons and daughters to devils (literally ‘hairy ones…goat-gods.’)” As if in explanation, in verse 38, it says they sacrificed these innocent children “…to the idols of Canaan.”

Therefore, the idols themselves were just physical materials. But, as we understood from the passage in 2nd Corinthians 8, there were spirits represented by those idols. God concludes that, in reality, the people were sacrificing their children to those demonic spirits!

The God of this World

Finally, in 2nd Corinthians 4:4, Paul refers to Satan as “the god of this world.” (Hinduism is said to have 200 million gods…it is hard for me to even to imagine it. And there are thousands of other religions.) Ultimately, the millions of idols and false deities in the world all can be traced back to Beelzebub, the “prince of the demons.” (It literally means, the ‘lord of the flies.’) The same spirit is also simply called Satan (meaning, “the adversary.”)

The adversary (also called “the devil,” as we are told, in 1st Peter 5:8) is “prowling about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He is not omnipresent, but he has millions of “henchmen” in the persons of the demonic host. As believers, we need have no fear of him. However we are warned that he never sleeps. He is always watching for the opportunity to entangle believers in sin, so as to render them ineffective for God. So, we are admonished to be sober and vigilant, watching against such traps. (Sober means “take this seriously.” Vigilant means “be watchful.”)

Covetousness and Idolatry

As believers, we may never find “classic idolatry” (with an image we worship) to be a problem. But, in Colossians 3:5, we see something that should reduce our complacency. “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:”

The usual word for “covetousness,” (Greek philargurion… “the love of silver”) is not used here. Rather, it is the broader term (Greek pleonexian…”greed” or “avarice”) used, here. God says that our constant yearning for “more,” (whether for physical things or worldly honor or whatever,) is a form of idolatry. We don’t see it that way, but God’s clear warning is there for us to read.

What Conclusion can we Draw?

We have to draw the conclusion, that, just as there was a “spirit entity” behind the idols of the ancient world, there is also a Spirit enticing us to greed. The whole pattern of Worldly pursuit draws us away from the path the Lord is walking, and in which He desires to lead His people.

There is a passage describing people who followed that lure. Philippians 3:19 says, “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”

You see, these people had chosen an “attachment to things.” They never learned a genuine “attachment to the Savior.” And, the result is everlasting shame, instead of the glory of God. We really want to avoid any form of idolatry in our lives. Be warned: even though it is invisible to us, this is reality!

What Does the Bible say about “Judging?”

What about “Judging?”

© 2023 C. O. Bishop

We usually think of “judging,” and “judgment,” only in a negative sense. The unbelieving World claims that “all judgment is bad.” But, Jesus is the Judge of all things, and He is completely GOOD. Abraham recognized Him, face to face, and addressed Him as “the Judge of all the earth.” “(Genesis 18:25…compare John 5:22) therefore, we see that NOT “all judgment” is a bad thing. Furthermore, the specific Greek word being translated often determines the usage.

Primary Greek Root: Krinō  

For a primary example, the New Testament uses the verb “krino” to mean, “to judge.” This includes, but it is not limited to, the concept of condemning. In addition, it also includes the concept of making a good decision or discerning between good and bad. Next, it can also include making an authoritative decree , in a civil matter, as a Judge; or in church matters, making a weighty decision that calls for good judgment.

Finally, it can even involve something as common as just stating an opinion. (The New Testament uses this root 110 times as some form of krino, and translated it as “judge” 87 times.) So, in the following passages, we will see examples of each of those ideas, and the particular grammatical changes in the Greek root.

Other Root Words

Moreover, translators have also translated a few other Greek roots in the New Testament, as “Judge,” or “Judgment,” but these words are far less common:

The New Testament translates the Greek word Krima second-most-often as “Judge.” Krima means “to judge or condemn.” (We derive our words, “crime,” “criminal,” and “incriminate” from this root.) (The New testament uses Krima 29 times… and it translates it as “judgment” 13 times.)

Other Greek Roots:

Next, Hegeomai means “to consider.” The New Testament only uses it once, carrying the idea of “regarding, or considering.” Hebrews 11:11 (referring to the faith of Sara) says, “…because she judged Him faithful Who had promised.” We rarely use this form in modern English, but it was once quite common. (“We judged that a quart of water ought to be enough to prime the pump…”)

There are others, (dikē)  related to the concept of the judgment decreed by a ruler. (The New Testament only uses it in that regard nine times.)

And a few others are related to the concept of “knowledge…(thinking:)” three from the Greek root (“gnosko.”) Or the concept of perception, one from the Greek word (“aesthesis.”)

Various meanings of “Judgement from th e Root Word “Krinō

The majority of the occurrences of “judgment” in the New Testament are from the root “Krinō.

Judge notMatthew 7:1 (most commonly quoted.) (krinete with negative prefix mē.) but “krima” (condemnation) appears in the next verse “with what judgment (krima) you judge (krino) So, in this context, the “krino” judgment is connected to condemnation.

Judging, as righteous, ordained JudgesMatthew 19:28 (Jesus said that the apostles would serve as judges over Israel.) (krinontes…judging)

Judge: (krino, krinete) (meaning, to “give an opinion:” especially an authoritative opinion…a judgment) Acts 13:47, and Acts 15:19.

Judge,  (krinate) (meaning “sit in Judgment”…in court) John 18:31

Several Examples in One Passage

1st Corinthians 6:1-8 supplies us with several different examples, so it is a very good passage within which to see the various uses of the verb “krino.

1Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law (krinesthai) before the unjust, and not before the saints?

Do ye not know that the saints shall judge (krinousin)the world? and if the world shall be judged (krinetai) by you, are ye unworthy to judge (kritērion)the smallest matters?

Know ye not that we shall judge (krinoumen) angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

If then ye have judgments (kritēria) of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge (the word “judge” actually is not in the original, it is implied by the context…it just means “set them up”) who are least esteemed in the church.

I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge (diakrinai) between his brethren?

But brother goeth to law (krinetai)with brother, and that before the unbelievers.

Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law (krinata)one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?

Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.

Conclusion

We see, obviously, that there are several different ideas lumped under the Biblical word “judgment,” and not all of them are negative. God advised some, He commanded others, (for example, 1st Corinthians 5:1-6) and He prohibited still others (See Romans 14:1-4.) We must read carefully and understand the context, to know what “judgment” is in question.