Remember His Sufferings!

Worthy Christian Devotions » Suffering

by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy Devotions

John 12:36-38 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them. But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"

The apostle John quotes Isaiah 53:1, saying to whom has the z’roah [arm] of the Lord been revealed? It’s a question that God answers throughout the rest of Isaiah 53, describing in detail the life of Yeshua (Jesus) and the ultimate price He would pay for the sins of the world.

The word translated, "revealed" (in Hebrew: "galah") actually has a more negative connotation. One of its meanings is "to be stripped naked in a disgraceful way". It also means "to be treated like a captive", and "to be carried away into exile", or, "to be shamelessly uncovered". So the Lord is not simply revealed, but stripped, humiliated, and deeply degraded in order to save us. The cost He paid was terrible.

It's never easy for us to remember this or to think much about it, since it's hard enough to imagine an innocent human being suffering so much; but then to realize that I had some part in it… Yet, we should remember; because the reality of the Lord's cross belongs to us in every way, and we may yet be called to endure our own share of suffering with Him and for Him. Remembering His sufferings will prepare us for whatever may lie ahead.

Remember the Lord's sufferings. It will keep you spiritually honest, and prepare you for your own small share in them — His memory will also draw out your love and gratitude, and keep your heart tender toward Him and everyone else.

Worthy Christian Devotions » Suffering

Know Him and the Power of the Resurrection!

Worthy Christian Devotions » Suffering

by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy Devotions

Philippians 3:8-11 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

In today's world of Smart Phones, tablets and instant Internet access, there are many things that we can "know." "How long is the Golden Gate Bridge?" Pop out your iPhone, ask "Siri", the golden-voiced digital encyclopedic genius, and you'll have the factual answer in seconds.

But there's more to the Golden Gate than just length; truly another "dimension" of knowledge and understanding of the bridge over San Francisco Bay, which might be acquired from the 95-year-old retired construction worker who spent 2 years of his life building it. The knowledge you'll glean from his salt-parched lips will hold you spell bound as he describes wrestling with massive cables in stormy bay weather, or nearly losing his balance leaning over to paint an inaccessible bolt.

There are facts — head knowledge, and there is the knowing of and from experience. We all know this, and it's why we prefer the mechanic who has been fixing cars for 35 years over the novice who just graduated from vocational training school.

The apostle Paul wanted experiential knowledge of the Lord Jesus. He wanted fellowship with His sufferings, experiential resurrection power, even, if it were possible, the absolute death of his sin nature. Paul wanted the actual reality of the living Messiah manifested in his life, and he knew and believed this to be his inheritance in the death and resurrection of the Lord. Paul wanted to know Yeshua intimately and personally and share in the Lord's own experiences. This Passover Resurrection Day season as we celebrate and meditate on the factual reality of what happened in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, we might also join the apostle Paul in his own sincere passion; "that I may know Him…."

Worthy Christian Devotions » Suffering

Follow your Sar Ha'Chaim!

Worthy Christian Devotions » Suffering

by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy Devotions.

Isaiah 53:8-9 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked– But with the rich at His deaths [plural in the Hebrew], Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

Acts 3:15 and killed the Prince of life [in Hebrew, lives], whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.

An interesting parallel exists between these two passages of scripture: Isaiah 53:9 and Acts 3:15. Isaiah renders the "death" of the messiah in the plural form, "deaths" ("motav"). Acts renders the life of the Prince of Life as "lives" ("chaim"). Some scholars suggest that the plurality of the word death indicates a violent death this servant would suffer, and that making the noun plural is a way of emphasizing the terrible intensity of his experience. Jewish counter-missionaries suggest that the "death" in plural shows that the suffering servant is not an individual man, but a group of people, specifically the nation of Israel, thus denying that the passage refers to an individual messianic figure.

I like to look at this passage as a reminder that Yeshua suffered death for me, personally, but also for every one else who would believe in Him. Since we all died with Him on the cross as He died to sin, it could be said that He suffered many deaths for all those He loved.

Tracing the parallel to the Acts passage we can understand why it says there that He was the "Prince of Lives". The phrase is "sar ha-chaim" in the Brit Hadashah (Hebrew New Testament), indicating a plurality of life. In His suffering of deaths, He became the Prince of lives! How many lives did He save? How many kinds of life? We'll find out someday….maybe.

Yeshua's death was complete; a finished work of comprehensive grace; totally effective and absolutely personal. His resurrection was equally full, final and personal — through Him we died to sin, and need no longer walk in it; and through Him we live to God, and can walk in newness of life, abundant life — for He truly is the Prince of Life!

Worthy Christian Devotions » Suffering

What are your expectations?

Worthy Christian Devotions » Suffering

by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy Devotions

1 Peter 5:8-10 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

The Jewish leaders of His time rejected Yeshua (Jesus) when He first came. He didn't meet their expectations. They were expecting a Messiah who would bring relief from the Romans, restore the Kingdom of David, and usher in an era of tranquility throughout the world. It is probable that their intense jealousy of Yeshua blinded them to the numerous passages in the Tenach (OT) which describe Messiah as a suffering servant, since they were certainly aware of those passages.

The Scriptures present two pictures of Messiah, leaving bible interpreters with a dilemma to explain. Zechariah 9:9 portrays him riding a donkey into Jerusalem, lowly and humble; Daniel 7:13 refers to the Messiah as coming on the clouds of heaven. Some of the rabbis concluded there must be two Messiahs – Mashiach ben Yosef – the Suffering Servant, and Mashiach ben David – the conquering king, bringing judgment to the wicked, restoring the Temple and the Kingdom to Israel. The truth is, one Messiah, two advents.

When Yeshua (Jesus) failed to fulfill the Jewish expectation of restoring the Kingdom of David, he was dismissed as Messiah. Their own lack of humility, their jealously and self centered pride caused them to miss what should have been obvious from the scriptures, that Messiah had to come first to identify with us, and then through suffering and death, break the power of sin, before he could restore the Davidic Kingdom.

Is it possible for our expectations to be likewise colored or even contaminated by sin? We ought not to avoid the question. If our hearts are set in a self centered expectation of victory that fails to apprehend the suffering to which WE too are called, we can make the same mistake the rabbis made, and end up rejecting the true Messiah. While it's true that our ultimate victory is assured, we can never forget that the journey to that victory is a narrow path fraught with all the dangers of real warfare, with deadly enemies.

Check your expectations…what are they based upon? Are there selfish or carnal motives in your expectations of God? If Yeshua said following him would be a narrow path with a cross on your back, then don't presume your victories until they have passed through the purifying fires of suffering. This is simply true fellowship with Him, and leads to the greatest glorious joys and triumphs.

Worthy Christian Devotions » Suffering

He understands our sufferings more than you know!

Worthy Christian Devotions » Suffering

by George Whitten, Editor of Worthy Devotions

Isaiah 53:4-5 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted (me-u-neh). But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

Hebrews 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.

Hebrews 12:2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Romans 8:16-18 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

When I studied Isaiah 53 earnestly in the ancient Hebrew, I was taken back by the Hebrew word for "afflicted" (me-u-neh). In modern Hebrew this word means "tortured". When I was young, and first learned what torture actually involved, my soul was shocked that this could happen to people; in fact that it was happening to people. That a person could be kept alive for the purpose of intentionally causing him intense agonizing pain was an astounding enigma for my young soul. It really frightened me; and I think that fear of torture is probably the greatest fear that humans can experience. We read about people who have been tortured, with a kind of horrified awe. And quietly we wonder inside, "How can this be?" And, "Could this ever happen to me?"

Crucifixion was a form of torture which the ancient Romans used frequently. And while I had a concept of the suffering that our Messiah endured for us, for some reason the understanding that He was tortured for our iniquities brought my awareness to a new level. I did not begin to appreciate or fathom the suffering Yeshua went through. His identification with our suffering and our sin was total, and His experience of this torture so fully absorbed Him that He experienced what must have felt like infinite isolation and pain. Somehow, this is a deep comfort; to know that the Son of God understands by experience, torture and suffering unthinkable.

But then, I suddenly realized that I also could not begin to comprehend the glory that awaited Him after His suffering. And that His suffering purchased for me a portion in that glory as well. It was the other side of the story, and somehow, these two extremes complement one another; suffering, and glory. The apostle Paul states his revelation about our sufferings with almost light-hearted conviction; that they are not even “worthy” to be compared with the glory that awaits us. This, to me, could be the most amazing promise in all of scripture.

Suffering is everywhere, a constant part of this life; it may be you, or someone you love, or people you don't even know but are agonizing over and praying for. This world casts suffering in every direction at every level of intensity. But all of it, every flaming ounce of it has been successfully absorbed into the body of Yeshua the Messiah. He was tortured for us – suffered death for us – so that our sufferings are trifles in the light of eternity. It's been said this way: from heaven the most miserable earthly life will look like one bad night in a cheap hotel. Thank the Lord.

Worthy Christian Devotions » Suffering