“When God raised up his servant, Jesus, He sent him first to you people of Israel, to bless you by turning each of you back from your sinful ways.”
If you read the Bible, you can see that there are many patterns that are woven throughout it, of history repeating itself, and mankind repeating himself – and often not in good ways.
The Israelites in the old testament were quick to forget the miracles God did for them. They were also quick to run to mischief, turning their back on God seemingly only moments after He had done a great thing for them, in favour of the abominations that were their idols.
Even after many very physical displays of God’s majesty and sovereignty, they still forgot Him in the midst of abundant blessings and in moments when discomfort came again. They continued to forget His power.
No sooner had they left the bondage of Egypt, having seen the ten plagues – an awesome display of God’s power – then they panicked, as soon as pharaoh and his army pursued them in the desert. God had done so much…but they didn’t believe He could protect them from this fast approaching threat. Had Moses took them out here to die?
Even with the vast majority of them being filled with unbelief, God did another miracle by parting the sea for them to cross safely. The Israelites did cross without injury, and they beheld as pharaoh and his army were consumed by the very waters they had just passed through.
When they were hungry, God gave them manna from heaven. But yet they failed to be lastingly thankful and failed to have faith that He would provide them with water. Even so, with great love and mercy, He provided them with water! They grew to despise the blessing of manna, growing tired of eating the same thing day after day. They demanded meat, and even said (as they had many times by this point) that they would have been better off in Egypt. Even so, God provided them with meat – with quail.
These people demanded physical miracle after miracle, and even when they were given them, things they could behold with their own eyes, things they could touch, eat, and drink – they still forgot God and rebelled against Him.
In the New Testament we find during the earthly ministry of Jesus Himself, that the Jews were looking for a Messiah who would come to set up an earthly kingdom that he would win by waging war against the Romans.
Even at this point, the people were still more interested in physical miracles. They gave little (if any) thought or concern to spiritual ones, and on many occasions Jesus’ parables were mistaken as talking about physical things (bread, yeast, for example) instead of having a spiritual meaning. Many demanded miracles from Him as proof He was the Messiah.
Yet still when He told them what the sign would be (destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again), they assumed he meant the physical temple of stone, when in fact He was talking about His own body.
Even His own disciples were quick to forget what Jesus was capable of. We find that He fed not just one multitude with loaves and fishes, but at least two. He fed 5000 men (with women and children included, who knows how large the number was) in Matthew chapter 14:15-21, and another 4000 men in chapter 15:32-38. The disciples witnessed what happened with the 5000 with their own eyes. Five loaves and two fish were made enough to feed the entire crowd, and with twelve baskets of leftovers besides! And yet, when it came time to feed the 4000, they still said, “Where will we get enough food to feed all these people?” instead of saying, “Jesus, you fed an even larger crowd than this before, and we know you can supply all the need of this crowd too – just tell us what to do.”
After all the miracles Thomas must have seen Jesus perform – healing people, casting out demons, feeding the large crowds, calming a storm and showing that even the winds and the waves obey Him – Thomas was still yet a doubter when he was told Jesus had risen from the dead. He said:
I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.
He wouldn’t believe until he saw Jesus in the flesh.
The woman at Jacob’s well mistakenly thought when Jesus told her about Living Water, that He was talking about physical water you drink. What He was talking about was the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus talked about people needing to eat His flesh and drink His blood , many thought He was saying they needed to physically eat His flesh. There are those who think He was just talking about communion with this verse. But that cannot be the case, there is a deeper meaning here. Jesus said:
“But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day.”
Partaking of communion is a wonderful thing, but it can’t give you eternal life, the same way that merely going to church and merely reading the bible cannot save you. Unless there is a relationship with Christ it’s all in vain.
I believe that when Jesus talked about this eating and drinking, He was talking about the full relationship with Him, where we not only “believe on” Him the way many in the church view Christianity, but that this relationship with Christ becomes as real and as important as bread and drink to us – we need Him to live. We crave Him continually. Where in the same way we feed our bodies with food and drink, we feed our souls with God’s word, and obey Him.
Even today, there are many, many people who are only interested in the physical blessings. They don’t give much consideration to spiritual blessings, which in the end are of far more importance. There are many who, even when the physical blessings abound, they don’t feel blessed. They don’t recognize how wonderful God is being to them. They forget all about what God has already done for them when discomfort or trouble comes. Why?
There are many who claim Christ but never really go very deep in their relationship with Him…why?
I would submit that one reason is that mankind has a tendency to dwell too much on and in carnality. On physical things, and more importantly, physical comforts. How many people understand that to be chastised of God is a blessing? That pain, trials, and various suffering, especially for the sake of Christ, can be a blessing? That being put in a place where you have no other way out except a miracle of God is a blessing?
How many people say they believe in Jesus Christ, but don’t obey Him? And how many people understand that belief and obedience are two sides of one coin?
If someone tells you, “Don’t drink poison, it will make you very sick or even kill you,” and you do it anyway, what are you saying except, either, “I don’t believe you,” or else, “I don’t care, I want to harm myself”?
In the same way, when God tells you to either do, or not do something, if you disobey Him, you’re either telling Him you don’t believe Him or that you don’t care.
So, not only is your obedience proof that you love God, it’s the proof that you actually believe Him! Confessing with your mouth alone simply isn’t enough.
These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Actions speak louder than words…that statement definitely applies to our obedience to God. Which leads back to this overlooked, but highly important blessing… “to bless you by turning each of you back from your sinful ways.”