Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Prayer of a King!

Passage 2 Samuel 7:18-29,    
Then King David went in and sat before the LORD and said, "Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant's house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord GOD! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord GOD! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. And you, O LORD, became their God. And now, O LORD God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken. And your name will be magnified forever, saying, 'The LORD of hosts is God over Israel,' and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, 'I will build you a house.' Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. And now, O Lord GOD, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant. Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant, so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord GOD, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever."

There is no question that God answers prayers and that we ought to be as profuse with thanksgiving as we are with petitions. In as far as this prayer is concerned; this is what Matthew Henry says:
David's prayer is full of the breathings of devout affection toward God. He had low thoughts of his own merits. All we have, must be looked upon as Divine gifts. He speaks very highly and honourably of the Lord's favours to him. Considering what the character and condition of man is, we may be amazed that God should deal with him as he does. The promise of Christ includes all; if the Lord God be ours, what more can we ask, or think of? Ephesians 3:20 He knows us better than we know ourselves; therefore let us be satisfied with what he has done for us. What can we say more for ourselves in our prayers, than God has said for us in his promises? David ascribes all to the free grace of God. Both the great things He had done for him, and the great things He had made known to him. All was for his word's sake, that is, for the sake of Christ the eternal Word. Many, when they go to pray, have their hearts to seek, but David's heart was found, that is, it was fixed; gathered in from its wanderings to satisfaction and contentment of heart, entirely engaged to the duty, and employed in it. That prayer which is from the tongue only, will not please God; it must be found in the heart; that must be lifted up and poured out before God. He builds his faith, and hopes to speed, upon the sureness of God's promise. David prays for the performance of the promise. With God, saying and doing are not two things, as they often are with men; God will do as he hath said. The promises of God are not made to us by name, as to David, but they belong to all who believe in Jesus Christ, and plead them in his name.
Clearly Matthew Henry is right when he says that we must turn to God when we receive God’s message, rather than to the messengers of God. And so here is the king of Israel in prayer. He prays in manner that we can glean a number of lessons for our own prayer lives. For the question is, how do we respond to God in prayer when He has dealt with us so graciously?
1.       Approach God with extreme humility
David went in and was very conscious of the fact that he was in the presence of the sovereign God. He sat before the Lord! It is very important to know who is God that we are coming to meet up with – He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. He is infinitely holy and lives in inapproachable light. He is God and we must acknowledge that we are nothing – but just dust and worms in the sight of the Omnipotent God. We are just the work of His hands. Wretched sinners, despicable in God’s sight. This David knew too well and so he prayed, “Whom am I, O LORD God, and what is my house that you have brought me thus far? ... and what more can David say to you?”(vv.18,19). David is here saying that he has no merit of his own that he could dare to present to God. He is wondering aloud if this was the usual way of God dealing with sinners. Therefore, he acknowledged that he did not deserve anything of what God was giving Him. Although David was a man of many accomplishments as a king, yet he knew that they were nothing before God. He also marvelled at the grace of God upon his family – and although his house had been chosen to be a royal house, yet David knew that it had nothing to do with his merit, it all had to do with the grace of God to him and his posterity.
He was receiving far more than he had asked or imagined. It was beyond his wildest expectations and dreams. David was just a shepherd boy, that we first meet in 1Samuel 16 when he was anointed as king by Samuel to take over from Saul who had been rejected by God. David was the youngest in the family and just a lad and yet, he was appointed to be king. He therefore acknowledged that there was nothing special about him – his appointment was absolutely unconditionally gracious. He was particularly amazed that God chose his household to propagate the might Name of God in Israel – this David did not take for granted. It was staggering and you can feel this in his words of supplication to God. Sometimes we tend to take God’s favours for granted and so neglect! But here is a lesson to learn to receive the favours divine with a bowed knee and an outstretched hands of worship. If it is anything else, then it is to be received prostrate.
Prayer is the most necessary before God. Approaching the throne of God is understanding that it is the throne of grace – and we do not deserve anything. So that we receive mercy and obtain grace in time of need and we are ever needy. There are people who are known for their brazenness before God and this must be known as unacceptable since they neither know who God is and who they are. We are so regularly exhorted in the NT not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Rather we should learn humility from our Saviour and Master, Jesus Christ. Clearly, this is a call to reconsider the manner in which we approach God – is it in a humble and contrite spirit? The Lord promises that such a heart, He will not reject.
Humility is a necessary characteristic of contentment. In his humility David shows that all is interested in is God and he humbly submits to God’s rule. When there is pride, there is rebellion and anarchy in an attempt to usurp and reject authority. This is what kings of the earth do – they set themselves and take counsel together against the Lord and His anointed. But David comes before the Lord in humility to praise God and in humility has no regard for Himself! Here we learn from a king that humility is what we need to approach God for indeed God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. The King of kings, the Lord Jesus humbled Himself, even to the point of death even death on the cross, and will be greater than our Master and God?

2.       Enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise
Humility before God will make it very easy for us to be grateful for we know what we are getting is absolutely undeserved, unheeded and unsought. This produces praise to God. David’s prayer is full of praise and thanksgiving to God. It is the real and delightful worship of God for who He is. This is powerfully revealed in this prayer. Here we see prayer of praise at its depth, with sincerity and genuineness that can only be produced by a sincere child of God who is in full satisfaction and contentment.
So David worshipped, “Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.”(v.22). David comes to His God who is infinitely powerful and therefore able to answer His prayers as He had already done. Prayer is one thing that acknowledges and accepts the amazing sovereignty of God, and rightly so, since in prayer we rightly assume that God is around us to hear our petitions. In prayer we accept that God has the power to answer this prayer accordingly. God is in absolute charge of all things and this makes Him absolutely dependable and trustworthy. All those who put their faith in Him are never disappointed.
Therefore, we ought to fill our prayers with worship and adoration. We should exalt God and magnify His mightiness. David  prayed that God’s Name will be forever and eternally magnified by all His creation. God is the only worthy to worshipped. For He demands worship and praise justly. It is for this reason that God created us – to worship Him, to praise Him. For all honour, glory, praise and thanks belong to Him forever. And God has given us access through His worship by His Son to offer sacrifices of praise, since the atoning sacrifice has not only been offered but also accepted!
We have greater reasons to be thankful for what God has done for us in His Son Jesus Christ, who is our Saviour. The present graces and comforts to us are invaluable gifts. Yet these are just tokens in comparison to the eternal blessings we have in Christ. For this reason David says a number of things that show great thanksgiving and praise to God:
1)      These blessings are beyond our expectation
2)      This has a bearing on the infiniteness of God
3)      It shows that the way of our God is far above all ways of men
4)      We cannot ask God for more than He has given already!
This knowledge has to produce thanksgiving for both the privilege of prayer and for God’s willingness to answer our prayers. With this understanding we genuinely acknowledge God’s benevolence in answering the prayers of His people, abundantly, exceedingly above what we ask or even imagine as He so gracious. Who will not worship God who sends rains both to the wicked and to the righteous? Who will not magnify the Name of the Lord who so kindly keeps us, providing and sustaining us? Worship is the automatic response that all creation ought to produce before God.
When it comes to offering worship to God, the first thing that we should ask is whether it is an acceptable worship. Surely we do not want to offer unworthy or unauthorised worship that will be rejected by God, do we? If our worship is to be acceptable then it has to be in accordance to what God has revealed in His Word – the Scriptures. Christ was very specific when He said that God is looking for such worshippers who will worship Him in spirit and truth (John 2:24). Spiritual worship is of the heart, motivated and by love and adoration of who God is. It is therefore tuned by the Spirit of God. But it also has to be worship in truth. This means that it is informed and directed by the truth of God’s own revelation.  We ought only to worship Him in accordance to the light of His revelation to us, according to His word. Since we are receiving a kingdom, that cannot be shaken – greater than the one David had, we should worship God acceptably with reverence and awe for God is infinitely holy – He is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28)

3.       Always remember the Covenant Promises God has given us

David prayed, “…Because of your promise… according to all that we have heard with our ears… And now, O LORD God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken… For you, O LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, 'I will build you a house.' Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you… And now, O Lord GOD, you are God, and your words are true (vv. 21,22,25,27,28). In this prayer we also see David remembering the great and most precious promises of God in His infinite love when He graciously established a covenant with the people of Israel. When we recall the covenant promises of God, our faith is strengthened in trusting in the Lord to provide for us in the future as He has done in the past. David particularly recounts God’s gracious promises and redemptive acts upon His people Israel as a catalyst or encouragement to his prayers and reinforcement to His faith.
David ascribes all the blessings He has to the free grace of God that is informed by His covenantal promises. The emphasis is on both the great things he had done for him and his family as well as the great things he had made known to him. He clearly acknowledges that all these were for God’s word sake. And in this David is saying in the NT language, that it was for the sake of Christ, the eternal Word. For what else did it depend upon if not the merit of Christ? It is the name of Christ which is above every name both in heaven and on earth so that at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. 
David does not only laud and magnify God for His covenantal blessings, but also for His providential blessings for He talks of ‘God’s own good pleasure seemed good to His own eyes’. Obviously God is controlling everything in the universe in a manner most pleasant to His eyes… “His purposes cannot be thwarted,” said Job. “His counsel shall stand,” David affirmed elsewhere. “According to His predetermined will” the Apostles confirmed! God’s purposes in providence are all contributing to His covenantal promises, which are all realized in Christ, and applied by the Holy Spirit. We have to learn to accept all that the Lord brings our way as He is absolutely in charge, directing and ordering all things according to the counsel of His eternal will. This shows that God is absolutely dependable and trustworthy.
 Therefore our confidence is fully established in Him as His people just as the nation of Israel was expected to be, for we are the Israel of God.
4.       Let your sincere motive be the glory of God
David in this prayer shows that he was solely interested in the greatness and glory of God alone and not his selfish interests. So David cries out, Therefore you are great, O LORD God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. (vv.22-24)
David is not praying simply because he has a personal need. He is praying because he is concerned for the glory of God. He is praying to praise and glorify the Lord and in these verses he shows his three-fold interest –
(1)    the greatness of God,
(2)    God’s people and
(3)    God’s redemptive purposes.
God is great because of who He is and David acknowledges this most wonderfully in his desire to see the glory of God shine most brightly in His eternal purposes, specifically  in His covenantal people, Israel. All who are interested in the glory of God come to enjoy the privileges that God promises those who live for Him.
All honour, praise, thanks, blessings and adoration belongs to the Lord God. And David in His prayer shows great reverence and awe in his worship to the Lord God. We understand that the more God brings us closer to His presence, the more we will be astounded by the awfulness and greatness of the glory of God. For this reason, the cherubim and seraphs, never cease to worship God crying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!"(Rev. 5:13). Those who live in the presence of God are the most reverent and exuberant in praising the Lord for He is a great and awesome God to those who know Him truly. Our first commitment in prayer ought to be the glory of God and not gratifying our needs.
5.       Always expect God to answer your prayers
The prayer closes with an expectant hope that his petitions will be answered according to God’s most precious and very great promises. It is not very obvious that David has any petitions to make until you look closely. So we find that he does submit humble petitions to God. He confidently based His petitions and supplication on the message which God had sent him. For you know your servant, O Lord GOD! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it.  (v.7:27): The point here is that without promises from God, there is no ground for prayer. We must always aim to pray in accordance to the will of God. How may do you know that your prayer is in accordance with the will of God? It is by making use of the promises in God’s Word as the basis for your petition. The greatest promise in prayer is that God has invited us to pray and He will answer – Ask and the promise is God will answer! Seek and the promise is that He will get you to find and Knock and He will open it for you! This invitation is sure because the Lord Jesus Christ sits on the right hand of God interceding for us. Furthermore the Spirit of God helps us to pray – and He well knows the mind of God!
Let us look at the petitions that David made:
1)      God to be glorified. (v.26): This ought to be the summary and centre of all our prayer. When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, did He not teach them, ‘Hallowed be Your name? Does the Lord’s prayer not end with and end with “For Thine is the glory for ever.”?
2)      Confirmation and fulfillment of the promise for ever concerning David and his family (v.25). David did not desire or wish to have more than God had promised, an indication that he was satisfied with the promises of God. His hope was only in the promises of God and not his own ideas he had construed. We must learn to turn the promises that God gives us into promises and it will please the Lord to confirm and perform them for His own glory and our good.
3)      Bless David and his household so that it may continue forever (v.29). David for the happiness of his family when he asked God to bless it. He was not embarrassed to pray for the prosperity of his family. Neither should we be ashamed to ask God for anything as long as our basic motive is the glory of God. Men should learn here to be more fervent in praying for their families, towards God’s blessings of peace and happiness.  He prayed that this blessedness will not be withdrawn but will continue to all eternity not just in the presence of men but in God’s presence! What could be a greater petition than this? In this request David had in mind the crown to remain in his family and in faith, was requesting that the Messiah may be from his lineage, that it may be continued and prospered through Christ as the Saviour of the world.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Prayer: When God says NO

Genesis 17:18-19
And Abraham said to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before you!" God said, "No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 

What do you feel when you tell your friend to give you something and he simply says ‘no’? Usually we are not happy when we make a request to someone to do something for us or to give us and we are turned down. No one appreciate a definite ‘NO’ when a request is made. But so often the answers given are “NO’ only that they are given by people who have no guts to say so… many people make promises that they will do something when they have no will or commitment to do it. Then they keep on avoiding you! How many promise-breakers there are!
The Bible teaches Christians to have  very straightforward answers. This is what our Master says so plainly, Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37) and His Apostle James repeats the same,
But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your "yes" be yes and your "no" be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. (James 5:12).
Does God ever tell us ‘NO’ when we pray? He is the One who told us to pray – "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Mathew 7:7).  On the basis of this invitation we pray… so “how can He tell us to pray and deny us when we pray?” Some people ask and then end up with the conclusion that God never answers NO!
Does God answer prayers with a definite NO? We need a Biblical attitude to understand this question. We are supposed to understand what prayer accomplishes for us and in us before the Lord. The basic question is, “What is prayer?” Prayer is depending on God’s will and goodness. It is the understanding that we are not all-sufficient, God is. Is this the same attitude we are to have when we approach God in our petitions and He says a definite no? Do we have more insight?
Two lessons to encourage us about prayer: God answers prayers and secondly God may answer NO to our prayers. These two lessons are meant to encourage us to pray.

1.     God Answers Prayers!

We are to be glad that our God is alive – He hears and acts. He is the sovereign God in total control of the entire universe. He orders all things according to the counsel of His will. He is omnipresent and omnipotent as well as omniscient. He is holy and immutable. He is good and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in love. He has the welfare of His people at heart. That is why He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ to bring us closer to Him. So He gives His people the very best to His glory and to their good.
Our God answers the prayers of His people. He never ignores those who are called by His name because they are His children. When God answers prayers He may answer three ways – Yes, Wait or No! The most difficult answer for us is ‘NO’ and this is what we will consider from the passage that we read.

Abraham was a man of faith and had God’s favour. However, when he sought to pray, (this was the first time recorded, that he was making a direct petition to God) all he got was a ‘No’ for an answer from God!
Abraham was not discouraged from prayer because God told him no. He was glad because although the answer was negative, it was beyond his wildest dreams. What exactly did Abraham ask for? It was a very short prayer but with great implications."Oh that Ishmael might live before you!" was the prayer of Abraham. He was asking that God may give Ishmael the favour of the promise. He was asking that Ishmael would be the one through whom the Saviour Jesus Christ would come!
Why was he praying like this? It was because he had been waiting for the promise of the son for so long. Impatience is a great hindrance to prayer! To him Sarah was too old to bear son (v.17), he was also approaching the end of his life and there was not even a silver lining – no hope! HE WAS LOOSING FAITH!
Praise the Lord that He is so gracious as to answer prayers even of those who are loosing faith. Even those who are growing faint and are feeling like giving up and God comes for them because it all based on the generosity of His grace! No desperation is beyond the richness of the grace of God!
We are not to give up even when we feel like we are against all odds. Let us be prayerful and trust the Lord to come through for us is times of fainting. When we have prayed for the conversion of our husbands and children and relatives and it seems like nothing would happen, let us be persistent and patient to wait. This is the time to particularly to request for more faith to persevere and keep on trusting in the faithfulness of God to do good. Soon God will give an answer even beyond our imagination. God will come at His appointed time. What a wonder that our God answers all prayers!

This is because God answers prayers. In this passage He gave an answer, it was a negative answer, yes, but an answer nonetheless.
We must know that an answer from God is a good answer since it is an all-wise answer, from the infinitely holy, good and gracious God. In fact a negative answer from God is all-dependent on His infinite wisdom. Remember that He gave a negative answer to the Lord Jesus when He prayer for the cup of God’s wrath to be taken away when He prayed in Gethsemane on the eve of His crucifixion. Paul also pleaded with the Lord three times for the thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to be withdrawn but all he got was a negative answer!

2.     God answers ‘NO’

You would think that the man who had so much faith as to please God (since without faith it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11:6) would not be told No by God at all. You would assume that because he was called a friend of God (James 2:23) his prayers will always be answered YES. But God here told No because, he was not always wise in his prayers. Like in this case his prayers were completely unwise because God had spoken to Him.
Abraham was as human as you and I. He had his times of discouragement as to look for shortcuts, even  of sin! Consider such incidents with Hagar (Genesis 16:4). Surely you know that on two occasions he lied about his own beautiful wife Sarah that she was his sister – to Pharaoh (Genesis 12) and then to Abimelech (Genesis. 20). This shows that we are all frail human beings, men of dust with feet of clay – prone to sin and wander away from the Lord who has so dearly loved us with an everlasting love. We are all in need of a Saviour. Thank God we have Christ who helps the sons of Abraham as opposed to angels! (Hebrews 2:16). Thank God who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses for He was tempted in every way, on our behalf, and yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Thank the Lord that Christ Jesus is able to save completely those who draw to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25).
The point is that Abraham was a sinful man and had finite mind. He needed to depend on the wisdom of God. When God says ‘NO’ you can be sure that you are fully depending on His wisdom to grant you what you need. He says that for those He has called according to His purpose – all things will work together for their good (Romans 8:28). Now, if He has given you His Son to die for you, how shall He not give you, along with Him all things? Yes this is the questionHe who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32). You see the point of this verse is that a no is not actually a ‘No’ for God’s children! It is because His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20 CEV). In saying ‘No’ He is giving us an answer that is beyond our imagination. Look at what follows Abraham’s answer:
God said, "No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.
As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation.
But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year." (Genesis 17:19-21)

Three blessings for Abraham concerning the son of the promise  
·         Sarah – His wife shall bear him a son (not a daughter, but a son as promised in Genesis 12, 15, 17 who is born in Genesis 21). (vv.19, 21)
·         Even his name is known far beforehand like Jesus! – he shall be called Isaac (meaning happy one), (v.19). He was a type or was pointing to Christ.
·         And the biggest promise is that God will establish His covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. (vv. 19, 21)
·         The time period of the son of the promise is given – only 12 months from this discussion! (v.21)
Blessings for Abraham concerning Ishmael
·         God had heard him! God Himself told Abraham that He heard His request concerning Ishmael and He would answer him. (v. 20)
·         God would bless him and will make fruitful and multiply him greatly. He will have twelve princes whereas Isaac would have only two sons! (v. 20)
Yes Ishmael, in answer to Abraham’s prayer will enjoy wonderful physical blessings! But notice that Isaac’s blessings are all the spiritual blessings! Abraham had indeed been answered beyond his imagination.

In conclusion:
How many times we have been discouraged because there is no answer forthcoming from the Lord when we pray. We are not to give up … we are not to faint or grow weary. We are to pray with importunity and persistence and vigor. How prayerful are we?
You know if there is a ministry that needs strengthening in this church and in all churches of Christ is that of intercession. Let us pray for others like Abraham prayed for his son Ishmael and for Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:23ff.
We are to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We are to pray with  our spirit and with understanding (1Corinthians 14:15) We are to pray expecting God to answer as we asked because Christ promised that Whatever you ask in my Name this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my Name, I will do it” (John 14:13,14).
Moreover, we are to pray expecting God to answer us as far beyond our imaginations (Ephesians 3:20). Never limit God in you prayers. What is it that we need? Is it wisdom or salvation or healing or money? Ask of God … He is able to give you. There are times when He wants to give you something better than your thought – submit to His will and you will be shocked at where He will take you in His love.

And now To Him who is able to do far more than we may ever ask or even think, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ministry in Pokot


We had been invited to preach at a weekend challenge at Kasei Secondary Schools and to later preach at an annual men’s camp organized by the churches there.  We were, Edwin Kabui, Gaitano Mbati, Murung Igweta and Peter Kivati.
We travelled from Nairobi to Kitale town, from Kitale we travelled about 50km to Kapenguria and then about 130km on a dirt road from Kapenguria to Kasei village in North Pokot. The area is generally hilly and a bit cool.

The first Weekend Challenge at Kasei Secondary School
We had two full days of preaching and teaching on Friday and Saturday at Kasei Boys secondary school, which is one of the schools in the area sponsored by the church. We had five sessions daily each about 45 minutes of teaching and preaching on gospel themes such as sin, faith, repentance, death and judgment. The sixth session was for questions and answers on both days. We had the students asking so many questions. It was surprising on the first day to receive questions on marriage but later in the evening, we learnt from one of the teachers that a number of the students had wives and children! With that knowledge, we were able to engage with them more graciously the next day, Saturday.
We got an opportunity to minister at their Sunday morning service where Pastor Murungi preached on Who is a Christian from Titus 1:1-4. We later joined the brethren at Kasei Baptist church for their Sunday worship service. The church currently meets at one of the halls in Kasei primary school. The upper primary pupils who are boarders join the community in the service. At the service, Pastor Murungi preached on Christ Alone from John 14:6.

Trinity Baptist Church Kasei during the preaching and the coming up church building
While at Kasei, we were also able to minister on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights to the neighbors of our host, Pastor Joshua, who he had invited them specifically to hear the teaching that the guests had come with. A number of women, about 10-15, and children turned up for the meetings at Pastor Joshua’s compound and Pastor Murungi taught very simply on salvation from the conversion of Zacheaus, Lydia and the Philippian Jailer. He preached in Swahili while Pastor Joshua translated to Pokot.
On Monday morning, Pastor Murungi spent the morning counseling a couple that would like to get married in October. Nicholas and Claudina (Claudina is Pastor Joshua’s sister). Later we joined the older men for the camp in Kamketo for their annual camp. There were over 50 men present. We were told that the numbers this year were low because many men had taken cattle to Uganda for grazing. They received very little rainfall this year and so there is not enough pasture for their cows on the Kenyan side.
At the camp themes on the gospel, walking in the Spirit and marriage were handled. There were many questions touching on polygamy and the topic of the Holy Spirit. Polygamy is quite a challenge there and most of the older men even in the church are polygamous. Most of them came to know the Lord when they had already married many wives. Our host pastor told me that polygamy made it a bit difficult to find local leaders for the churches there. Illiteracy is also a problem among the older men as most are not able to read the Bible even in the Pokot language. So there was a request to consider adult literacy from the men, because they would like to learn to read the bible for themselves. One of the ways that the brethren want to deal with this problem is to start a theological college that could train men who do not much education.
Peter got an opportunity to preach Kamketo Primary School on Wednesday afternoon. He preached in Swahili from 1 John 3:1-10 about ‘the children of God and children of the devil’. He found preaching in Swahili very challenging.

During the Q&A session at Men’s camp in Trinity Baptist Kamketo

The brothers there are working on starting a girls’ secondary school at Kamketo. They plan to use part of the primary school’s land. The bricks for the school have already been made and being cured. We travelled with Andrew to pick up the school development plan from the Ministry of Labour and Public Works in Kapenguria.
Please keep praying for the Lord’s work in this area.

Peter Kivati

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lord Let a rebel live!

Numbers 14:13-20

But Moses said to the LORD, "Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for you brought up this people in your might from among them, and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you, O LORD, are in the midst of this people. For you, O LORD, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go before them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if you kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say, 'It is because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land that he swore to give to them that he has killed them in the wilderness.' And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, 'The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.' Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now." Then the LORD said, "I have pardoned, according to your word.

Here we have a case of interceding for a rebel people. Have you ever sought to pray for a person who gloats at iniquity? I was faced with a situation of praying for a rebellious pastor for over a year. Every time I opened up my mouth to pray for his good, I found it so hard, yet I had no choice but to plead for his welfare. Over two years down the line – I still wait for an answer from God. He is still at large in his gloating in his obstinacy, and gloating about his divisiveness.
Do you pray for people who are openly rebellious to God (even more than to men?) This is the task that Moses is faced with in this passage. What are the lessons for us when we are interceding for such people in open rebellion against God? Since it is so difficult to know exactly what to pray for, why don’t you bear these three invaluable lessons in mind?
1.      Be wholly consumed with God’s glory
Why was God so enraged with these people? Because of their sins. They provoked or rejected and, reproached the Sovereign God. Their conduct despised God. They disbelieved God’s promises and so accused God of, not being good enough, not powerful enough, and not dependable enough – here is a display of disbelief of the faithfulness and benevolence of God. Yes, it was their unbelief that made this a day of great provocation in the wilderness, (Heb. 3:8).
But further on, we see here that the Lord’s wrath was kindled against them for their continuance in their terrible sin. The Lord asked Moses, "How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” (v.11) In these two things they marred the glory of God with their own iniquity.
Their intercessor has to come with a great priority on seeking to display the excellency of God’s glory. This is what Moses did for he knew that distrust is not only a great sin (1John 5:10), but even worse it is a root sin, (Heb. 3:12). Moses understood that the God of heaven keeps an account how long sinners persist in their provocations; and the longer they persist the more he is displeased.
So Moses’ priority is not just the pardon for the sins of the people, but to plead with God about His own glory and so he prayed – “No God, please do not annihilate them for the sake of your name and your glory. The heathen will hear and they will think that you became so powerless that you failed to deliver on your own promises. The onus is on you to deliver these people, as rebellious as they are to the land that you promised them.” (Moses’ prayer paraphrased)
Three things that show Moses’ priority is God’s glory:
Ø  He argues from what heathens like the Egyptians would say disdainfully of God - "Then the Egyptians will hear of it…”
Ø  He argues from what they Egyptians are to gossip to the inhabitants of the land, giving occasion to more sin for Egyptians – “…the Egyptians will hear of it … and they will tell the inhabitants of this land.”
Ø  He argues from the fact of God’s presence with His people – “… for you brought up this people in your might from among them … They have heard that you, O LORD, are in the midst of this people…”
Ø  He argues from what the nations who have heard of him are likely to say (these are potential people for evangelism) – “Now if you kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard your fame will say…”
Ø  He requests for God to display His power – “… And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised…”
Ø  He refused to have God propagate His name through Mosaic lineage – he did not even make reference to such a possibility. His primary concern was the glory of God.
Ø  He argued from God’s word – not experience. He quoted promise upon promise, precept upon precept!
Ø  He argued from the understanding of who God is, as He had revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 34 – “'The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.'”
The best prayers are those that seek God's glory and honour. Such prayers are in accordance with the first petition of the Lord's Prayer, Hallowed be thy name. God’s glory is our prime business on earth because God created us so that we may glorify and serve Him forever. Pleading with Him to display His glory is our priority. In fact believers are like the beautiful feather of a peacock displaying its beauty when they are upon their knees pleading with the Lord God to show His glory.
 We must therefore evaluate our intercessory prayers and find out whether our prayer for others is simply so that their welfare may come or God’s glory to be manifest, even in the midst of their obstinate rebellion and lawlessness. We are to understand that God being sovereignly in control of even the evil actions of men is capable of turning everything for His eternal glory and good of His people. While we are praying for them, we are seeking an occasion for God’s name to be glorified as He answers prayers and vindicates His purposes.

2.      Be completely saturated with God’s promises
From Moses’ intercession we see that he is standing on the promises of God as He has revealed them in His Word. He prayed, “And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying…” Moses in this is not asking God to do what He has not said. His prayers are advised and informed by the promises of God. There is no wisdom in asking God to do what He has not promised, if we are concerned to pray according to the will of God. Moses knew that God will do what He has promised and we so we would be wise to emulate this great example.
What is the specific promise that Moses had in mind? He quoted from God’s promise in a time of rebellion over the golden calf in Mt. Sinai… the Lord revealed Himself in this promise: 'The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.'
Moses in strengthening His arguments in prayer clings on three things God had solemnly promised:
Ø  The nature of God as good: God is slow to anger or patient – meaning that His person and nature is that He is not easily provoked; God abounds in great mercy; He is compassionate towards offenders. God is good and we can fully stand on the promise of His nature as a good God, dependable and absolutely trustworthy God.
Ø  His inclination, even eagerness to forgive sins: Forgiving iniquity and transgression, sins of all sorts to all who ask, not counting the sins of parents on their children. This is a specific promise to cling to when faced with lawlessness and wickedness of men.
Ø  His unwillingness to proceed to extremity: Of either clearing the guilty or punishing to annihilate. This is a promise anchored on God’s holiness and justice. He is God who will in His own wisdom and grace punish so as to correct and not to destroy. We must never think it is to a sinner’s good to go unpunished – as it is not in accordance to the character of an infinitely holy God. It is for their good, as a demonstration of God’s love to discipline those He loves (Heb.12:6)
In the 2nd commandment God had said that He would visit the iniquity of fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me (EX. 34:6). So is this then according to the promise and will of God? Clearly this petition is very applicable here and it just shows how Moses knew God’s Word.
Two things here:
1) Moses is not asking God not to punish sins. He is requesting that God does not obliterate the whole nation as one man. He is begging that God does not punish the righteous with the wicked just his father Abraham had prayed for the people of Sodom. This is just like Christ prayed, “Please forgive them Father for they do not know what they are doing”. He is asking that they should not be disinherited of their earlier promises.
2)  Although the Israelites had fallen in all sorts of sins and transgression on this day, yet this was not the sin of idolatry that required capital punishment by stoning – the contest of Exodus 34.
Here is a clear encouragement to pray from the word of God, standing on divine promises. The prayer that is according to the sovereign will of God is a prayer that stands upon God’s Word. We have to pray with our Bibles open. We have to have the promises expressed in God’s Word close to our chests and lips so that we can make them the podium upon which we stand when in intercession.

3.      Plead God’s mercy as the true welfare of the people
We see here that Moses is truly concerned for the welfare of the people in the twofold requests that are made. He prayed,
Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now."

1)      He pleaded the mercy of God for he knew that such a dire situation could only be remedied by God, against whom they had sinned. In this petition we see a sure trust in the pardoning mercy of God. It is also called steadfast love for it is an enduring love. Agape love that bears with the failings of sinners.
2)      He also pleaded with historical mercies of God in forgiveness. The mercy upon which Moses was depending upon had worked in the past and it will certainly work for now. He is calling God to display the same forgiveness again (not just once more because he knew that the failings of men are numerous). I wonder why Moses did not think that having been forgiven in the past is something that could work against them. For why should they be forgiven again? Did they not learn after the forgiveness was extended in the past? God is indeed, 'The LORD  slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.'
Moses knew the Lord well enough to know that another extension of divine mercy and forgiveness to the rebels was not an assault at God’s mercy to forgive again. Did not Christ preach that if your brother sins against you seventy times seven times you forgive? And is God’s mercy not bigger than that?
Sin is an assault at the holiness of God, but a reproach to God’s justice. Where sin is acknowledged and repented, there is a wealth of God’s mercy, an eager willingness on God’s part to forgive and cleanse from all unrighteousness. Therefore you can pray for your unbelieving husband, your rebellious son and wild daughter with the knowledge that God’s mercy in forgiveness cannot be so abused that anyone falls short when requests are made. You can trust the Lord to ask for forgives of the worst sins committed in rebellion against Him. His mercy and grace are inexhaustible!

In this passage we see Moses dimly placed on the intercessory position of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Great High Priest whose throne is on high – whoever lives and pleads for us. When the Israelites were displeased with God they came to Moses and vented their anger against God to Moses. When God was displeased with the sins of the people, He came to Moses and clearly Moses was a type of Christ in interceding for us. Thankfully we have a better Priest for we read from God’s word,
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:14-15).
And again, “… For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens”  (Heb 7:26).
And again, “…Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,” (Heb 8:1)

The Lord Jesus Christ who intercedes for us is better placed to help us having gone through the same temptations as we have, and being without sin. Moses fell short because he sinned in the matter of the rock of Meribbah so that he was not allowed to enter the promised land. Our Lord has entered not just the earthly holy of holies, but has gone up and is now seated at the right hand of throne of the Majesty in heaven. This shows how dependable is His intercession for sinners.
If you live in rebellion against God and His revealed will – the only hope for you is not a man like Moses. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who does not only intercede but will indeed give you true pardon and cleanse you by His blood from all sins and transgression making you to be as white as snow. May you plead with you to be your Advocate before the Father, if you hope for a certain acquittal.
Furthermore, He has left us the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit who is the Helper, the Advocate, the Counsellor so that although we do not know how to pray, He helps us for we read,
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom 8:26).
With such help in prayer, how can we be so negligent of prayer? How can we not pray more and better? In this passage is encouragement for us to pray more and better. Therefore, John Owen said,
I believe that no man can have any evidence in his own soul that he doth 
conscientiously perform any ministerial duty toward his flock, who doth not 
continually pray for them. Let him preach as much as he will, visit as much as he 
will, speak as much as he will, unless God doth keep up in him a spirit of prayer 
in his closet and family for them, he can have no evidence that he doth perform 
any other ministerial duty in a due manner, or that what he doth is accepted with 
God. —John Owen
This is what is expected of me as your pastor – to preach and pray for you. Please pray for me to more keen to be pray for you. I believe that prayer is one thing that I am not as faithful as I ought – so pray that I may be more fervent in prayer for you!
Yet remember that you have a duty to pray for yourself – wait not for Moses, wait not for me, because the Spirit of God who dwells in you helps you so that,
Every true Christian ought to be a man of prayer. All his views, all his affections, 
all his desires, hopes, and joys, ought to be constantly mounting on the wings of 
devotions and flying before him into heaven. Every rub that he meets with in this 
thorny wilderness, every outward combat, every inward struggle ought to make 
his groans and prayers rise incessantly, as memorials before that throne from 
which he expects aid and deliverance. Without this, he is only a nominal, not a 
real Christian…If [he is] not addicted to prayer, [he] is a man without any interest 
in Christ, without hope, and without God in the world. —John Smith
If you must have one single addiction, let it be to one thing – to be spiritually minded and addicted to things that add an eternal value to your life. What could be better than to be addicted to prayer? Pray because the Lord answers prayer as we read in verse 20 that the Lord came to Moses after the intercession and said, "I have pardoned, according to your word!”

This is the great joy we have when we pray that the Lord hears our prayers and will in due time show His grace to us and answer in accordance to His divine wisdom and will.

Isaac Watts so beautifully captures this prayer in this song:

Show pity, Lord, O Lord, forgive,
Let a repenting rebel live:
Are not Thy mercies large and free?
May not a sinner trust in Thee?

My crimes are great, but not surpass
The power and glory of Thy grace:
Great God, Thy nature hath no bound,
So let Thy pardoning love be found.

O wash my soul from every sin,
And make my guilty conscience clean;
Here on my heart the burden lies,
And past offenses pain my eyes.

My lips with shame my sins confess
Against Thy law, against Thy grace:
Lord, should Thy judgment grow severe,
I am condemned, but Thou art clear.

Should sudden vengeance seize my breath,
I must pronounce Thee just in death;
And if my soul were sent to hell,
Thy righteous law approves it well.

Yet save a trembling sinner, Lord,
Whose hope, still hovering round Thy Word,
Would light on some sweet promise there,
Some sure support against despair.