The Standard Banner

The Greek word stauros means ‘stake’, ‘pole’ or ‘post’; but it is always  translated ‘cross’ in the New Testament. When a banner or image is attached to a pole, it becomes a standard. This is the imagery from the Old Testament that Yeshua uses to teach on His purpose.

And as Moses lifted up the (brass) serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:14, 15.

Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death He should die.                                                                       John 12:31-33.

The standard of Christ is a simple statement:

“Death to sin!”

They overcame by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives even in the face of death.                                                               Revelation 12:11.

You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.                                           Hebrews 12:4.

Following the Standard

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.                                            Mark 8:34.

This statement makes no sense until translating stauros correctly, and becomes ‘pulls up his stakes and follows me’. Now we find a statement familiar in all ages as an expression of someone leaving his permanent dwelling to follow the Lord. This has been The Standard from the origins of Messiah.

Now the Lord had said to Abram: Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.                                                          Genesis 12:1.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;  for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.                                                                  Hebrews 11:8-10.

The Heavenly Hope

But Yeshua said to him, “No one who has put his hand to the plow and looked back is fit for the kingdom of God.”                                                                                                             Luke 9:62.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.  And truly if they had called to mind that from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly homeland. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.                                                                                                                               Hebrews 11:13-16.

Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.                                                                                                                                    1 Peter 2:11

To abstain is only accomplished by abiding in the promised Holy Spirit.

Three testimonies from 1 John 3:

Whoever abides in Him does not sin. V.6.

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. V.9.

Now those who keep His commandments abide in Him, and He in them. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit He has given us. V.24.

The Standard of Christ is love

He has brought me to the banquet house and his banner ( ‘standard’) over me is love.    SS 2:4.

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers and sisters. The one who does not love abides in death.  By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.            1 John 3:14, 16.

To make the cross an icon of the church is to repeat what Israel did with the bronze serpent from the wilderness. It became an idol in Israel which was destroyed by Hezekiah hundreds of years later.

He removed the high places, and broke the images, and cut down the groves, and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan (that brass thing).                             2 Kings 18:4.

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.                                                                             Exodus 20:4.

The Cross represents The Standard for Paul

For the message of ‘The Standard’ is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.                                                                                     1 Corinthians 1:18.

As for me, brothers and sisters, if I still proclaim circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case, the stumbling block of  ‘The Standard’ has been eliminated. Galatians 5:11.

Those wanting to look good outwardly are trying to force you to be circumcised—only so they will not be persecuted for ‘The Standard’ of Messiah.                                        Galatians 6:12.

But God forbid that I should glory, save in ‘The Standard’ of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.                                     Galatians 6:14.

He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, death now ‘The Standard’.      Philippians 2:8.

For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of ‘The Standard’ of Christ.                                                                     Philippians 3:18.

The Standard for Life: Crucified with Christ

For if we have become joined together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also will be joined together in His resurrection,  knowing our old man was crucified with Him so that the sinful body might be done away with, so we no longer serve sin.  For he who has died is set free from sin.                                                                                                         Romans 6:5-7.

Now those who belong to Messiah have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24.

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.                                                                                                                           Galatians 2:20.

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.                                                                                       Romans 6:22.

Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.                                                                                                                             Revelation 20:6.

The Standard Banner of Salvation

The Lord their God will save them in that day, as the flock of His people. For they shall be like the jewels of a crown, lifted like a banner over His land.                                   Zechariah 9:16

When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.                                                                                                                                        Isaiah 59:19.

You have given a banner to those who fear You, that it may be displayed for the truth. Psalm 60:4.

And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.                               Isaiah 11:10.

Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people.                                         Isaiah 62:10.

Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.                                                                                           Isaiah 49:22

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Waiting Is Enduring

Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart;  Wait, I say, on the Lord!  Psalm 27:14.

Wait on the Lord is a very familiar expression, used many times in the Old Testament Psalms and Prophets. But it does not seem to be used in the New Testament at all, or does it?

In the Septuagint, the Greek used to express waiting is hupomeno and is used 17 times in the New Testament to express enduring patiently. These passages inform us of the true meaning of “to wait on the Lord”.

And you will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end will be saved.  Mark 13:13.

And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. Matthew 24:13.

This is a very important teaching that Jesus shared with his disciples during his final instructions. Having taken this message to heart enabled them to endure the challenge of being the first apostles of the Gospel.

Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.                      2 Timothy 2:10.

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?  Hebrews 12:7.

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised those who love Him.  James 1:12.

But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure, this is commendable before God.  1 Peter 2:20.

 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.                         1 Corinthians 13:7.

Armor of Light

Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.  Luke 24:49.

Endued means to put on or be clothed in. While abiding with the indwelling Holy Spirit is essential, Christ must outwardly manifest in the character of the new man. This putting on of Christ became a centerpiece of the apostle Paul’s teaching.

Put on Christ

And do this knowing the time, that now is already the hour to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.  Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.       Romans 13.

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.             Galatians 3.

The Spirit of Your Mind

As the truth is in Jesus, put off the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,  and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.    Ephesians 4.

Now you are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. You have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him in Christ, and Christ in all.  Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also.  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body; and be thankful.       Colossians 3.

 

The First Memorial

So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.     Exodus 12:14.

The first memorial found in the Law of Moses is to perpetuate the memory of the night The Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, while ‘passing over’ the houses of Israel having the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintel.

The intent and purpose of this memorial feast is given as an answer to a question anticipated from the children of the household.

And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’ So the people bowed their heads and worshiped.  Exodus 12:26&27.

In passing over the firstborn of man and beast among the people of Israel, a special relationship was established between the Lord and the firstborn, and the consideration of this fact carries over to the feast of unleavened bread.

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine. 

And it shall be, when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as He swore to you and your fathers, and gives it to you, that you shall set apart to the Lord all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the Lord’s.              Exodus 13:1, 12,13.

Thus, the firstborn males who open the womb became the purchased possession of the Lord. This also was established as a memorial for every generation.  The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are linked for this purpose, to perpetuate this memory. 

And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, This is done because of what the Lord did for me when I came up from Egypt.  It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt.  You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year.  Exodus 13:8-10.

Many consider the observance of the Passover to commemorate the children of Israel coming out from Egypt and the deliverance from the bondage of slavery. This is actually given as the basis for keeping the Sabbath.

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.  And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.   Deuteronomy 5:12-15.

The feasts include special Sabbath Days for this observance. This makes the following exchange between Jesus Christ and the Jewish citizens of Jerusalem all the more fascinating.

The Truth Shall Make You Free

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?  Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you,whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.   John 8:31-36.

The intended memory to perpetuate in the keeping of the Sabbath failed to produce the desired remembrance!

The Lord Be With You

 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who abides in Me does the works.  Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.          John 14:8-11.

The Doctrine Of Christ.

Whoever moves ahead (oversteps) and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.  2 John 9.

To Abide in the doctrine of Christ requires a correct understanding of the Father-Son; Theos-Logos relationship.

All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.                                                       Matthew 11:27.

Messiah speaks here in His role as mediator.

And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.                      Hebrews 9:15.

Now one can move ahead with a correct understanding.

Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.         Matthew 11:28-30.

The Son manifests the Father and is; therefore, The Way and The Truth and The Life.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.                                      John 14:6.

 

This is Eternal Life

He said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, so the Son may glorify You. Even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, so may He give eternal life to all those You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Yeshua the Messiah, the One You sent.                                John 17:1-3
How do we come to know God and obtain this eternal life? The ones we know; we recognize their voice.

The shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them; and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.            John 10:4.

Whether we are listening to the spoken Word or studying devotionals, praising God or meditating in His presence, the one goal remains constant: to know His voice.  One of the  earliest ways that the priesthood referred to the Lord was “The Voice.”

And when Moses went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking unto him from above the ark-cover that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and He spoke unto him.                                                                                                                 Numbers 7:89, JPS Tanakh.

The point of this is that we can listen to the Word of God being read aloud or preached, and hear the voice of the Spirit as a living commentary on what is being spoken if we abide in the Spirit. Haven’t you had the Lord drop something into your spirit while listening to preaching?

He has made manifest His Word through preaching.               Titus 1:3.

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.                1 Corinthians 1:21.

How then shall they call on the One in whom they have not trusted? And how shall they trust in the One they have not heard of? And how shall they hear without someone proclaiming? And how shall they proclaim unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim good news of good things!”                   Romans 10:14&15.

This is why the message must not deviate from what was presented by the first apostles.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no benefit. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life.                                        John 6:63.

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment.         John 16:7&8.

It is always the work of the Holy Spirit to convict someone to repentance.
This is why Paul said:
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with excellence of speech or wisdom, proclaiming to you the mystery of God. For I decided not to know about anything among you except Yeshua the Messiah and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.                                                   1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

The public reading of scripture is a true tradition of the Witnesses of Israel.
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to encouragement, and to teaching.          1 Timothy 4:13.
The Message of the Messiah must register to the listener through the Voice of the Spirit, not our own. In this knowledge of God is the continual blessing.

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.                         Revelation 1:3.

 

He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.                         John 3:29

A Lover of Hospitality

Be a lover of hospitality.        Titus 1:8.

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.          1 Peter 4:9.

For many people the mention of hospitality calls to mind Martha Stewart more than the Gospels. While it is worthy to mention the value of opening your home to others, there is a bit more being conveyed in these words.

The word being translated hospitality actually means loving kindness to strangers. And the word strangers refers to resident aliens, minorities, and sojourners in the land. In other words, these scriptures are dealing with the age old problem of ethnicity, prejudice and racism. Do you really think that will ever be properly dealt with outside of Christ?

To demonstrate this truth, let’s start with a narrative from Luke 17 where Jesus is met by ten lepers seeking their healing. He orders them to go show themselves to the priests. As they departed they discover that they have been cleansed and one of them returns to glorify God in giving thanks before the Lord’s feet, and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus comments “there are none found that returned to give glory to God, besides this stranger.”                                                 Luke 17:18.

The Samaritans were the despised people living among the most misunderstood people in history, and are enshrined in the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ by the words  “Good Samaritan”.

These strangers stand out among the members of society by whose treatment the Lord will judge the nations.                  Matthew 25:31-46.

So what does the Law and the Prophets have to say about this thorny topic? Let’s consider this survey:

You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.                                           Exodus 22:21.

Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.                          Exodus 23:9.

The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.                                                Leviticus 19:34.

One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.                                 Numbers 15:14, 15.

He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.                                                    Deuteronomy 10:18, 19.

Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord speak saying “The Lord has utterly separated me from His people”. Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants. Even them I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.”              Isaiah 56:1-8.

Thus says the Lord: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.       Jeremiah 22:3.

The people of the land have used oppression, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger.             Ezekiel 22:29.

And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.        Malachi 3:5.

So we see beyond the prophets condemning society’s injustice, a Law given to Moses that was acutely concerned for the rights of strangers. How then did this wall of separation come to exist that Paul speaks of in his letter to the Ephesians?

At that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.                                                  Ephesians 2:12.

How could this be true when the Law of Moses had made every accommodation for the foreigner who desired to seek the Lord?  In verse fifteen he says that the enmity was created by the law of commandments in ordinances: nomos entole en dogma. This expression refers to what Jesus referred to as the traditions and rules of men undermining the Word of God.

Because of the mutual hatred and distrust that existed between the Jew and all of the neighboring societies, no Jew would even sit at a table and eat a meal with a gentile. This is something that even the apostle Peter was called out on by Paul, the apostle of the gentiles. In contrast, Jesus always ate with publicans and sinners.

Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.  And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?”                             Galatians 2:11-14.

Even though he had fully embraced the gentile as a fellow believer when the Lord had given him a vision that corrected his views in Acts 10, his fear of men resulted in hypocrisy.

Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful (Pharisaic) it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.                     Acts 10:28.

And finally he concludes: Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears Him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him.        Acts 10:34, 35.

As an elder of the first church in Jerusalem, Peter was very familiar with the complications of a Jewish/Gentile fellowship. When he wrote in his letter to show hospitality without grumbling, the word used is more often translated murmuring. This grumbling or murmuring began early on in the church.

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.                             Acts 6:1.

Note the clear racial overtones to the situation at hand. The solution the apostles came up with to deal with the problem was to have the congregation choose for themselves seven men to appoint over the administrative duties.

The apostle Paul recalls for us in 1 Corinthians 10 how murmuring and complaining was the “original sin” of the congregation in the wilderness. The people had just passed through the Red Sea and witnessed a great deliverance when they soon were murmuring against God and Moses.

And the people murmured against Moses, saying, what should we drink?    Exodus 15:24.

And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:               Exodus 16:2.

Now in their defense I would point out that they had traveled three days in the wilderness and not found any fresh water. Most Christians have murmured and complained about far less. The point is that this is far more serious than most give consideration.

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.      1  Corinthians 10:11.

When Paul says that this issue is where the ends of the ages meet, he was ushering in the end of the age of justification by works of the Law and bringing in the age of justification by grace.

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.                                                  John 1:17.

But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.                   1 Corinthians 10:5, 6.

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; While it is said, today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom He swore that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.                              Hebrews 3:14-19.

In other words, regardless of the covenant, grumbling and complaining are an offense to God and will be considered an act of unbelief. And now we can look to Abram to complete the picture and find the purpose.

Paul taught that Abram was the father of justification by faith, for when he was told his offspring would be as the stars of heaven, he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

James pointed out that Abraham later proved his faith by offering his son Isaac in obedience to God. But in Hebrews we are reminded that the first great act of faith, without which nothing else would have followed, was his departure from his home land.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went… he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country…for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God… and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.                                      Hebrews 11:8-16  (highlights.)

James wrote that true religion is to care for widows and orphans and to keep ourselves unspotted by the world.                         James 1:27

Why then does he not mention strangers along with widows and orphans as the Law of Moses and the prophets do so often? Because we are called to be the stranger, the pilgrim, the sojourner in this world. We cannot conform to this world and expect to be translated into a heavenly homeland.

A community church may compromise to be inoffensive and socially acceptable, but any individual who hopes to go from the called to the chosen, or elect; must be willing to step outside that comfort zone. To set hands on the plow and not look back until you have completed your course and remain faithful.

Here is how: Do all things without murmuring and disputing, That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.                                                          Philippians 2:14-16.