And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” 6 So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. 7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. Numbers 21:5-9 NKJV
The above text recounts a significant part of Israel’s journey in the wilderness, after leaving Egypt, headed to the Promise Land. The trek had become hard, long and difficult, causing the Israelites to become discouraged and weary. The Israelites, like many people today, choose to complain and assign blame to God and others when faced with these and similar circumstances—rather than put their trust in God. Many Israelites died after being bitten by the poisonous snakes.
When Moses prayed, God instructed him to make a serpent of brass and erect it on a pole, which prefigured and foreshadowed Jesus hanging on the Cross (John 3:14, 15). Every Israelite who had been bitten by a fiery serpent lived if they looked upon the brass serpent (Heb. 12:2). In the same way, every unsaved person who believes in Jesus Christ is promised everlasting life—not necessarily a spiritual conversion, nor a rebirth—but “everlasting life” (John 3:16). God’s proposition to the sinful Israelites was: “look and live.”
The serpents were a type of sin; the brass was a type of judgment, as in the case of the Cross upon which Jesus Christ offered Himself much like the elevated brass altar in the Tabernacle of Moses (Ex. 27:1, 2. This brass serpent was a picture of sin judged and punished, and whoever looked at this serpent lived and not died. This is also a wonderful picture of Christ who bore our sins, and of the judgment of God against sin. Now anyone who “believes” on the Son of God and look to Him shall be saved (John 3:16, 17). This is not the new birth—it is salvation. Look and live!
“. . .And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, To give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins . . .” Luke 1:76, 77 NKJV
The priest, Zacharias whose wife, Elizabeth, was barren, but God heard their prayer and sent the angel Gabriel to announce the birth of John the Baptist. But Zacharias doubted and was struck dumb and mute, in his unbelief, because he and Elizabeth were too advanced in age to give birth to a child. But in the proper season of time, John was born and at John’s circumcision, Zacharias obeys the angel Gabriel and names the child “John.” Unbelief had closed the lips of Zacharias, now his faithful obedience opened them; then, he begun to prophesy about John’s ministry as a forerunner of Jesus: “to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins” (text, verse 77).
What is the knowledge of salvation? To adequately answer this question, you must go back to the Garden of Eden where man first sinned. The fall of man was about the knowledge of good and evil; the salvation of man is about the knowledge of God (Gen. 2:16, 17). God’s people widely understand how to get saved (Rom. 10:9, 10), but many lack the knowledge of salvation; as a result, the enemy destroys you for a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge and “[t]he fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). The knowledge of salvation, spiritually speaking, is like understanding the “ABCs” of the alphabet. For example, the knowledge of salvation is:
A—The remission of sins which is total forgiveness and God totally forgetting your sins ( Matt. 26:27, 28). The remission of sins is not being on spiritual probation, if you will, where if you ever commit another sin, God places in the “jail of hell.”
B—Salvation is always now—here and now! (2 Cor. 6:2; Heb. 4:7; Rev. 12:10).
C—The Gospel is God’s ordained method of bringing all who believe into His salvation. There is no other path; no other way. The Gospel is the strait-gate that you must enter (Matt.7:13).
D—Salvation has three tenses: Past, Present, and Future: Past—believers have been saved from guilt and the penalty of sin (Luke 7:36-50); Present—believers are saved daily from the power of sin in their lives (Rom. 6:14); Future—believers will be saved from the presence of sin in their nature (1 John 3:2).
E—Salvation is eternal—yes, everlasting life is everlasting. Once saved always saved as long as you decided to be saved (Heb. 5:9; 10:14). This is the knowledge of salvation, the ABCs of salvation!
So the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore . . . Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and spoke, saying: “I will sing to the Lord, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him. Exodus 14:30-15:1-2 NKJV
The song that Moses and the children of Israel sang is undoubtedly the oldest recorded song in the world. It was a festive song celebrating God’s victory over Pharaoh. After having been saved and delivered from the bondage of Egypt, Israel lifted their voices loud—with great joy—to celebrate being saved and delivered.
What God did for Israel is a picture and a parallel of what it means to be saved and delivered in Christ Jesus. When God saves and delivers, He delivers you from something to something. And, between the “from and to”, He carries you through. Just like He did for Israel: God saved and delivered Israel from the bondage, degradation, and destitute of slavery by destroying Pharaoh and his army; then God led them Israel through a wilderness onto the Promise Land.
The words for salvation in the Old Testament (yeshuwah) and the New Testament (soteria) are parallel in their definitions. Both of these words mean to save, to deliver, to rescue victory, prosperity, and safety. When God saves and deliver, He becomes your Source—an overflowing fountain (John 4:14; 7:37-38). And, when God saves and delivers, He changes your life for the better. No longer are you in a spiritually dark “Egypt” forced to make bricks with out straw, but rather, you are brought to a “well of salvation” where you can draw from the living waters that never run dry (Isa. 12:3).
Also, when you’re saved and delivered, your life changes, and that positive change convinces people of Christ’s power. Your greatest testimony is not the one you may give at church, but it is the difference others see in your life since your salvation (Acts 4:12, 13). Salvation and deliverance is a significant change and transition in your life which consist of: (1) God’s qualification of you; (2) God’s deliverance of you from evil; (3) God’s rescue of you from darkness to His kingdom in light; (4) God’s redemption of you; and most importantly, (5) God’s forgiveness of your sins (Col. 1:12-14).
The above song that Moses and the children of Israel sang was a proclamation of God great salvation and deliverance: “the Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him”!
So they brought the ark of God, and set it in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before God. 2 And when David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord . . . And he appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the Lord God of Israel . . . On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the Lord . . . Sing to the Lord, all the earth; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. 1 Chronicles 16:1, 4, 7, 23 NKJV
What is salvation? What does it mean to be saved? What is the essence of true salvation? To celebrate the return of the Ark to God to Jerusalem, David first composed a Song of Thanksgiving and gave it to his chief musician to be used in worship to celebrate and show forth God’s salvation. The Ark had provided Israel great salvation and deliverance in battle against their enemies, David enjoined Israel to celebrate their great salvation. For New Covenant believers, salvation is a proclamation and celebration of new life and liberty in Christ Jesus.
Salvation is not joining the church, church attendance, giving tithes and offerings, nor water baptism. To conflate these things with salvation, borders on idolatry (Ex. 20:3). Then what does it mean to be saved? It is simply: “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10). The definition of noun “salvation” and the verbs “save” and “saved” all include deliverance, to revive, to live, and safety (Strong). All these are reasons to celebrate.
Take Noah and his family. During the great flood, they experienced deliverance, revival, new life, and safety. Noah found grace in the eyes of the lord (Gen. 6:8), and by faith, God warned him of things not yet seen, and being moved with godly fear, he prepared an Ark for the salvation of himself and his family (Heb. 11:7). Just like God did for Noah, He delivers you from something to something. And, between the “from and to”, He carries you through as He carried Noah through the flood.
The Ark of God is symbolic of God’s presence and power (Ps. 16:11). God’s presence saves you from the power of sin, the presence of sin, and the penalty of sin (Rom. 6:23). The Ark in your life now becomes a place of the King; a place of revelation; a place worship; and, a place of mercy (Heb. 4:16). Salvation is a celebration that the “Ark of God” has come to you!
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? Proverbs 18:14 KJV
Many people are resigned to live with a physical infirmity and never seek God’s healing or medical care. There are also many people wounded in their spirit, who never seek help or healing. They just walk around wounded—knowingly or unknowingly— inflicting pain upon others. But this begs the question: what is the motive of the wounded?
Well, as a case study, let’s take a closer look at Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve men chosen by Jesus to be an apostle. Judas betrayed and double-crossed the Lord. So, what was Judas’ motive when he betrayed Jesus? How can such disloyalty and unfaithfulness be explained? I believe that Judas was a painfully wounded man, and wounded people are motivated out their own pain to injure others.
At some point in Jesus ministry, the devil had already prompted Judas to betray Him (John 13:2). Wounded people are targets of demonic suggestion and direction in their unhealed state of being —not able to victoriously resist the devil. As a result of little or no resistance, the devil, through one’s pain, will motivate them to injure others. Like many wounded spirits, Judas was wounded without showing any visible signs of his pain John 13:22). None of the other disciples of Jesus suspected Judas to be the betrayer. Yet, days earlier, he went to the Chief Priest and offered to deliver Jesus; he entered a covenant with them for thirty pieces of silver; and, then sought an opportunity to betray Jesus (Matt. 26:14-16). How could this be? Judas was a wound soul acting out of his pain.
People who are motivated to inflict wounds on another are often wounded in some way, themselves. They are the “walking wounded.” But what was Judas’ specific motivation? Greed—the love of money! Like Judas, wounded people in some way have unmet needs, unresolved issues, and unhealed hurts. Satan will always motivate someone close to you or in relationship with you to wound you, as he did with Judas’ double-crossing Jesus.
The world and the Church are filled with wounded spirits. So, how should Christian brothers and sisters respond to the “walking wounded” who wittingly or unwittingly inflict pain and trespass against them? Both Jesus and Apostle Paul taught believers to “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse (Matt. 5:11; Rom. 12:14). Paul further taught us saying, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge . . . It is [God’s] to avenge . . . In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:17-21).
To “heap burning coals of fire” does not refer to a type of revenge. It is believed to refer to an Egyptian tradition of carrying a pan of burning charcoal on one’s head as a public act of repentance. Regardless of the motivation, you make the wounded ashamed of their hostility by surprising them with undeserved kindness. “The best revenge is not to be like your enemy . . . [but] to be unlike him who performed the injury” (Marcus Aurelius). So, overcome the wounded spirit with acts of love and kindness!
Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me. 10 But You, O Lord, be merciful to me, and raise me up, That I may repay them. 11 By this I know that You are well pleased with me, Because my enemy does not triumph over me. 12 As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, And set me before Your face forever. Psalm 41:9-12 NKJV
A “backstabber” is a betrayer, i.e., someone disloyal and unfaithful who commits an act of infidelity or treachery—they double-cross you. The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? (Prov. 18:14). Nothing hurts more than the wound from a friend. You expect an enemy to say and do all kinds of evil things against you—but not a friend. In times of trouble, you expect a real friend to support you with love, acceptance, healing, and understanding (Prov. 17:17). But a real friend doesn’t abandon you, slander you, conspire against you, and betray you. “A real friend walks in when others walk out” (Anonymous), but a traitor will stab you in the back!
David, the great King of Israel, was betrayed by a close friend and trusted counselor (See 2 Sam. 15, 17). The betrayer was a man whom David considered to be a valued companion, a close friend, with whom he enjoyed sweet fellowship, and one whom he walked together to worship in the house of God (Psalm 55:13-14). David’s close friend and counselor, Ahithophel, was a backstabber.
Jesus was betrayed by Judas who was a fellow member of the tribe of Judah as was Jesus, one of the twelve apostles who traveled with Him, ate with Him, and handled the finances of His ministry (John 13:2-5, 18). Jesus’ hand-picked disciple, Judas, was a backstabber.
In both David and Jesus’ cases, they were both “stabbed in the back” and both, undoubtedly experienced a feeling of being deeply wounded in their humanity. But there are different levels of friendships; thus, there are varying degrees of pain when double-crossed by a friend. Some friends are just acquaintances, some are casual, some are close friends, and a few others you would probably consider to be intimate friends, e.g., a spouse, a sibling, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, or one that you deem to be a best friend forever (BFF). A “stab in the back” by an intimate friend hurts deeper than the betrayal of an acquaintance or casual one—it hurts to the inner most parts of your being (Prov. 18:8).
But be encouraged. God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3). What the “backstabber” meant for evil against you, God intends it for your good, in order to bring about His greater good and plan and purpose for your life, and the lives of others that you may impact (Gen. 50:20). Beware of the “backstabbers.” “They smile in your face, but all the time they want to take your place” (Ojays).
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3 NKJV
“The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” (Prov. 18:14). Church hurt can an unbearable wound in your spirit. And, you know what hurts so bad? When a person in the church made you feel so special yesterday, makes you feel like you’re a nobody today. Ouch! Human instinct is fight or flight—usually flight is chosen. In stead of running to God in prayer, most broken-hearted people run from the church. When church hurts so badly. It hurts to leave, but sometimes it hurts more stay.
Why does church hurt occur among brothers and sisters of like precious faith? Well, every Christian isn’t in the place spiritually as some others in the church. Some believers are fragile and need to be handled with care—some are “babes” and some are more spiritual” (1 Cor. 3:1-2). There is—oftentimes—an insensitivity towards some and a spirit of superiority displayed towards others. Both dispositions can cause hurt when unwholesome words are spoken or irresponsible acts perpetrated against another believer. The tongue can bring healing as a tree of life, or deceitful and vicious words can crush one’s spirit (See Prov. 15:4).
Many in the church inflict hurt on others in the name of the Lord, claiming to “speak the truth in love” but speaking the truth in love results in personal growth and love never fails (Eph. 4:15; 1 Cor. 13:8). The irony of the Church and Christianity is that: the Church, figuratively speaking, is supposed to be a spiritual hospital and its members should be vessels of love and instruments of healing. Is this why, perhaps, the famous civil and human rights activist, Mahatma Gandhi, was quoted saying, “I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians.” We can do better and love one another rather than hurting each other, showing the world that we are Christ’s disciples (John 13:34-35).
There numerous causes of church hurt when the hurt is too much to bear: church splits, heresy, being openly embarrassed and humiliated, neglect of pastoral care, financial greed, and malicious gossip. rejection, sexual sin of a church leader, selfish ambition, legalism (manipulation and control), and false personal prophesies, etc. These are just a few examples of church hurt when it hurts so badly. It hurts you to leave the church, but sometimes it hurts more stay. What can you do? Pray! (Jas. 5:13).
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? Proverbs 18:14 KJV
A man’s spirit can endure all kinds of physical infirmities, but a wounded spirit can be just too much to bear. Emotional wounds are often more serious than physical sickness.
For example, a person can fight a long hard “good fight of faith” and recover from cancer or some other debilitating disease, and a short time after their victory they die of a broken heart. Many elderly people discharged from a hospital—with the prospects of a living a relatively healthy life at home with a family member—will die shortly thereafter because a loved one wounded their spirit by having them confined to a Nursing Home. What about the spouse, whose long battle with some crippling disease is pronounced disease-free; shortly thereafter dies, when they learn that their spouse was cheating on them in an extramarital affair during their sickness. A Medical Examiner may conclude that they died of natural causes—but the truth be told—they died of a broken heart. A broken spirit is a wounded spirit, and an unhealed wounded spirit can cause you to die naturally or spiritually of a broken heart.
In the church, you don’t have to inflict hurt on another to help them. You don’t have to break a heart in the name of the Lord under the color of leadership authority. The Word of God clearly enjoins that we walk in love with others in the church, and that we speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). How does love speak? “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always persevere. Love never fails . . .” (1 Cor. 13:4-8), but it never hurt to help!
Metaphorically the Church is the only Army that wounds and kills its fellow soldiers (2 Tim 2:3); it is the only Body that inflicts pain and suffering on its own members (1 Cor. 10:16); it is the only Building that pulls down and damage it parts (1 Cor. 3:9); it is the only Bride that acts ugly and mean-spirited in the presence of the Bridegroom (Rev. 21:2, 9); and, it’s the only Candlestick that throws shade rather than light (Rev. 1:20).
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt”—not true! Unwholesome vicious words spoken in the guise of helping someone can really hurt and wound their spirit (Prov. 15:4). But thank God for Jesus: “He heals the broken heart, and binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3). Whenever you find yourself on the painful end of church hurt, don’t run from the church, run to God!
The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, But who can bear a broken spirit? Proverbs 18:14 NKJV
There is a spirit of offense that runs rampant in churches causing deep hurt, broken relationships, and wounded spirits. Some church leaders have abused or neglected the sheep, and some sheep have also offended or disrespected others in the church. A wounded spirit can also be the result of your own sinful mistakes, or others committing a sin act against you, or because of a failed church leader. A broken spirit is a wounded spirit, and an unhealed gaping wound is the main source of church hurt.
What is church hurt? The hurt and pain experienced that leaves you so broken that you no longer want to be part of the church. You’re afraid that you will be hurt again if you return to church; so, you begin to question the place of the church in your life, and many choose to become unchurched (Heb. 12:15).
Caveat: being unchurched doesn’t mean that a hurt person is unsaved. The unchurched can be spiritual without being religious. So, what causes church hurt? This is the “$64,000,000 dollar” question—almost anything! For example, someone didn’t speak to you, or they looked at you the “wrong” way; being a victim of a sinful act that causes deep pain; legalistic preaching and teaching designed to control and dominate your life; the teaching of heresy; church splits; selfish ambitions; and of course, greed—that insatiable fleecing the sheep for money and more money.
How can a church hurt be healed? Let me offer you five measures to effect your healing: first, pray about your affliction (Jas. 5:13); second, forgive and judge not (Luke 6:36-38); Jn. 20:23); third, go to the trespasser and tell them that they have hurt you (Matt. 18:15-17); fourth, use your power to bind the pain and loose the hurt (Matt. 18:18); and, fifth, stand fast and be free in Christ (Gal. 5:1). Unforgiveness is not only a yoke of bondage, but it is also a bleeding wound. Take the rule over your own spirit and stop blaming somebody else for your hurt (Prov. 25:28). Whenever there is church hurt, you can choose to be a victor rather than a victim. Don’t be part of the conspiracy of allowing someone else to abuse their power against you while you deny yours. God has given you the power to be healed of your church hurt!
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25 NKJV
Christmas shouldn’t be just about giving gifts; but rather, it should be about receiving and celebrating the perfect gift, i.e., Jesus Christ, the greatest gift of all, which God placed in the “lay-away of Eternity”, if you will, and paid for in the fullness of time with at least four installment payments:
(1) the Father offered Jesus’ blood before the foundation of the world (Re. 13:8); (2) after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God covered their sin with a blood sacrifice, cursed the Serpent, and promised the seed of a woman, i.e., Mary, the mother of Jesus, who would utterly defeat the seed of the Serpent (Gen. 3:15, 21); (3) promised the coming Messiah at the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4-5); and, (4) further promised sanctification for sins forever through the offering of Jesus’ blood and body once and for all (Heb. 10:4-10).
Jesus was born— as a perfect gift— here on earth to save His people from sins (Matt. 1:21). God’s perfect gift came with perfections. There are at least three perfections when Jesus saves: (1) He saves with a perfect blood sacrifice to take away sin (John 1:29; 1 Peter 2:24; Hebrews 10:12-14); (2) He saves with perfect power to destroyed the works of the devil (1 John 3:8; Revelation 12:10-11); and (3) Jesus saves with perfect love that He gives those who believe which also includes everlasting life (John 3:16-17).
Thank God for Jesus Christ, our Perfect Gift. Merry Christmas and Happy Holy Days!