Frederick Douglass was one of the great movers, shakers, and thinkers of the 19th century. As a young slave in Maryland, he learned to read – and began to teach his fellow slaves by reading the Bible.
Determined to be free from slavery, young Douglass escaped and fled to New York to a safe community for freed slaves.
Then his attentions turned to freeing others.
Frederick Douglass established a newspaper, North Star, and became a writer and orator. Douglass traveled the United States and into Europe speaking for the abolition of slavery – and for women’s rights.
He wrote several autobiographies, sharing his stories of slavery, deliverance, and his Christian views.
Douglass was truly a remarkable man. One who stood up before his time. Before it was fashionable.
His quotes are significant nearly 2 centuries later.
One is especially significant today.
I have one great political idea. . . . That idea is an old one. It is widely and generally assented to; nevertheless, it is very generally trampled upon and disregarded.
The best expression of it, I have found in the Bible.
It is in substance, “Righteousness exalteth a nation; sin is a reproach to any people” [Proverbs 14:34].
This constitutes my politics – the negative and positive of my politics, and the whole of my politics. . . .
I feel it my duty to do all in my power to infuse this idea into the public mind, that it may speedily be recognized and practiced upon by our people.
An amazing man. An amazingly accurate outlook.
[Frederick Douglass, The Frederick Douglass Papers, John Blassingame, editor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), Vol. 2, p. 397, from a speech delivered at Ithaca, New York, October 14th, 1852.]
What is God saying to you? That is one of the most important questions you will ever ask yourself. Are you listening? Do you hear Him? How can you know for sure what He is saying?
As you read the Bible, you realize that God has always wanted to talk to us. From the time of Adam when He met with His people in the cool of the day, until this present time, God has been speaking. So what is He saying? And how does He speak to us?
The first means by which God will speak to us is through His Word: the Bible. This miraculous book contains the thoughts and plans of God as He has walked with men throughout the centuries. Line upon line, precept upon precept, we begin to capture His nature and His intentions toward us. We begin to see His love and faithfulness toward His people.
I recently read an article written by a supposed Bible scholar, saying that to understand the Bible, you had to realize that it wasn’t consistent, but a hodge-podge of writings by many people of many different cultures. Boy, did he miss it.
Sure the cultures were different throughout the centuries as the many tribes and civilizations emerged on the scene. However, the one thing which caused the story to be consistent was God Himself. God never changed. He had a plan, and He continued to work with imperfect human beings to lay the foundation for His plan and then to build upon that foundation bringing His plan to fruition.
Think about it. If God had just beamed Jesus down from heaven and had Him fulfill His mission on the cross, no one would have understood what He had accomplished. To most people, He would have been just another man who died on the cross.
But that’s not what God did. He took centuries developing His relationship with Abraham’s children – the nation of Israel. He needed a family of people through whom He could bring His Son into the earth legally – that is, to be born into the earth. He also wanted these chosen people to understand the blood sacrifice Jesus would make when the day came for that. So He instituted patterns of worship which would lead the people to understand His perfect lamb. And He instituted patterns of the tabernacle which would point to God’s true temple in heaven. He showed all of the elements of heavenly worship so that His people could get a glimpse.
To accomplish His goal, God had to be very strict. If the people couldn’t stay focused on their relationship with Him, they would start copying the cultures around them, and they would abdicate their mission ordained by Him. To accomplish His plans, these people had to be true to Him. So when God’s people turned away from Him and followed after other gods – the gods of the surrounding neighbors – they received strict punishment in order to keep them on track.
So this unchanging, all powerful, all knowing, forever loving God dealt with His chosen people so that His Son could be brought to the earth. When the day finally came for His entry, the Holy Child Jesus came to earth as the son of Mary, from the family of Abraham. Though His entry had been prophesied and promised for centuries, most of the leaders could not understand who He was and what God was doing.. They were too focused on outward, prideful appearances, and they were offended by the humble entrance of the Savior.
So we can see that these supposed Bible scholars didn’t recognize their Savior when He arrived. They were too caught up in the pomp of their positions, and they wanted to look good to those around them. So they missed it.
Now we come back to our original question. How can we know what God is saying? How can we know His character and His nature? How can we know His will for us?
When we come to the Bible and receive it with humble, teachable hearts, we will begin to see who He is. He will speak to us through the passages of scripture written so long ago. He will open our eyes to His plans and His purposes in the earth. We will truly come to know our God and to hear what He is saying to us.
As you read the Bible ask the Holy Spirit to show you what He wants you to know. There will be times when you will start reading in a ho-hum manner and suddenly some divine thoughts will leap off the page. You will see things you never saw before – even in passages you have read over and over.
As you and I continue this journey, we will begin to hear more and more from God. He will reveal Himself – and He will reveal His will. We will begin to know what we are to do in order to fulfill our purposes in the earth. Then we will grab hold of the grace available for us to accomplish those purposes.
We will hear what He is saying.
P.S. If you would like a Bible reading plan with notes for understanding, check this out. If you want the big picture, you must read it from cover to cover.
What’s so significant about the Bible?
Why is the Bible truly one of God’s greatest miracles in the world today? For the next few posts I want to be sharing my perceptions about this.
Let me start with a story. You may remember – or remember having heard about – a horrific incident which happened in 1979. It was right after the Shah of Iran was overthrown by radical Muslim clerics. (The same radical group still in power there today).
Thousands of radicals screaming, “Death to America,” stormed the American Embassy and took 66 Americans hostage – and held them captive for 14 months. We are talking about U.S. government officials being taken captive and held by this evil regime. It was unbelievable.
Jimmy Carter was president at the time, and it was the greatest embarrassment of his presidency as he was totally ineffective in trying to obtain their release. In fact, when President Carter directed an attempt to rescue the people, 8 American servicemen died in the effort, without obtaining their release. The mission was a dismal failure.
The United States was humiliated – and shocked at the treatment of their officials and the inability to find a solution. The release of these people didn’t come until Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president. That very day, they were released. (more…)
Everyone wants a confident prayer life. We want to know that when we pray, God hears and He answers. Yet many don’t know how to attain this. So let’s talk about that.
First we have to be honest with ourselves and determine where we are in our journey. with God. Is Jesus truly our Lord? We want our eyes open to God’s plan and we can only do this if we do it His way. For our prayers to be answered the way we want we have to have faith in God, so every step we take is part of the process of building our faith.
We come to the last book in the Old Testament. Malachi was written about a hundred years after Haggai and Zechariah. The temple had been rebuilt and the descendants of the returning Jews were back to their old habits: the habits of the flesh.
Do you remember when we read Obadiah and talked about Esau and Jacob? Esau was the child of the flesh, and represented that person. Jacob, however, represented the child of the spirit. The natural man is the first-born man; the spiritual man is the one we get when we get born again. The second man.
God makes it very clear in Malachi, as He did earlier, that the spirit man, Jacob, is the one He loves. Natural men can never please God, even though He loves them. There is too much sin and selfishness.
In this final book the Lord reminds the priests once again that He is not pleased with disobedience and rebellion. They are bringing their second-rate lambs to be sacrificed, instead of their best. They are being unfaithful to their wives. They are not bringing their tithes into the temple.
All of these issues are tell-tale signs of apathy toward the Lord. They were going through the motions of their religious rituals, but their hearts are not there.
God hates that attitude. Apathy is the worst attitude we can have, because it signifies indifference. There is no way someone can be apathetic and full of faith. Those two mindsets don’t go together.
So the Lord chastises His people, but finally He brings hope, as He always does. “The day is coming…for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.” (4:3)
We always have a promise from our Father. If we will pursue Him, there are wonderful promises in store.
That’s all, folks, until Jesus appears on the scene. Nearly 400 years go by with no more prophetic Words from God. Now I’m quite sure that some men had words or dreams, but nothing that was to be included in the Bible.
This was a long wilderness time for His nation Israel, but think about what was coming. At the right time, God is going to bring His Son to the earth, and the fulfillment of His promises will be more than any could ever imagine. (We can never guess what great things our Father is going to do. His plans are much higher than we can think).
His ideas are always worth waiting for.
Do you remember Ezekiel 47 and the river of God flowing from the temple? Well here we see the same river: the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb. And once again we see that trees line the banks of this river, bearing fruit in every season.
And there shall no longer be any curse. We shall see His face and His name shall be on our foreheads. The glory of the Lord shall be so bright that we will no longer need the sun. His light will be our sun. (V.3-4)
These events will take place for certain, because God’s Word is always true.
John goes on to tell us to “hold fast” the words of this prophecy. We are not to add to it nor take away from it. This Word is true. (V.18-19)
Our finite minds can’t imagine a day when the sun would no longer need to shine, or when we could just look at Jesus, or when there would be no more evil in the earth. Those things are hard to imagine.
This is why it’s important for us to pursue our God with all diligence. We want to have His best.
Right now His best involves us having joy in the world – with our family and friends. He loves for us to have a good time in this life. Yet always we should put Him first, keeping our minds on things above so that our faith grows along with our love.
I pray that you and I will be right in the middle of all that our God is doing in the earth. It’s forever upward for us as we journey on with Him.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this year of reading the Word along with you. The Bible is not a book which can be mastered by reading a passage a day. Each book could be studied in depth to derive all that the Lord wants us to know. However, by reading straight through, as we did, we get to see the common threads.
We get to see the nature of man, and we get to see the nature of God. We see God’s love as He has pursued man so diligently. We also see His faithfulness.
As we continue in our study, we will uncover more and more layers of understanding. So hope you will continue!