"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Raising The Standard: Gratefulness Is Giving Expressions Of Appretiation That Will Honor The Design Of God

"For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost though glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" ~ 1 Corinthians 4:7
Gratefulness in giving:
At the heart of all true giving there must be a spirit of genuine gratefulness. Only as we recognize the truth that we have "freely received" will we be able to obey the instruction to "freely give." (See Matthew 10:8) Our first recipient of gratefulness must be the Lord since "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above..." (James 1:17). When God is given His proper praise, we then receive direction from Him on how to effectively express gratefulness to others.
"That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell all my wondrous works." ~ Psalm 26:7
From The Pages Of Scripture:
People will often express their deepest gratefulness by giving you the very gift which they would like to receive. This is not only true among individuals, it is also true between God and people. God's greatest gift to us was the sacrifice of His Son. Therefore, from the beginning of mankind God delighted in the sweet savor of a correctly offered sacrifice. One man who gave such a gift was attacked by another who attempted to use his gift to exalt his own achievements rather than the redemptive work of Christ.
The true worth of a gift can only be measured by the receiver. Therefore, two mites were worth more than costly treasures and obedience preferred over sacrifice. Who in Scripture gave a gift that was highly treasured by the receiver but ended in the death of the giver? Cain and Abel.
An angry man burst into his home. His raging voice shattered the quietness of the dwelling. He had done his best, but had been humiliated. His grieving parents tried to reason with him, but he glared at them with resentment. He refused to listen to their reasoning and stormed out of the house. The parents in sorrow. Their son's irrational outburst served as a painful reminder of their past sin. They quietly recalled the day he had been born. He had been their joy and hope for the future. They had given him special attention and instructed him in the ways of God. However something had gone wrong in his heart. He had become proud and decided to do things in his own way. When his way was not acceptable, he reacted. In the tension of the moment, another member of the household followed him into the fields and firmly but lovingly rebuked the angry young man for his actions and attitudes. His concern and reproof stung the heart of the listener as he recognized the truth contained in each statement. At that critical moment, he had a choice to make. Hundreds of years later a similar scene took place. A Godly prophet stood before a crowd of frustrated people. They had tried to serve the Lord and prosper, but in their own way. God had turned His back on them. The prophet solemnly proclaimed, "Thus says God, "Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord so that you do not prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He has also forsaken you!" At that moment those who listened to the words of the prophet were confronted with the same choice as the young man in the field. Both made the same decision. The crowd rejected the prophet's admonitions. Infuriated by his rebukes, they rose up and killed him. The young man in the field also rose up against his messenger of truth and slew him. The young man was angry because he had given a gift to God and it was rejected. The one who rebuked him had also given a gift --- a perfect lamb. The lamb foreshadowed the death of Christ and His payment for sin. This sacrifice was accepted by the Lord. The message of that offering and reproof was later praised by Christ Himself as He rebuked the nation of Israel.
"Behold I sent to you prophets so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom you slew between the temple and the altar."
Cain presented the fruit of the ground as an offering to the Lord --- it was rejected. Abel's offering of a lamb was an expression of gratefulness that honored the design of God's plan of redemption --- it was accepted. [From Genesis 4; 2 Chronicles 24:20; and Matthew 23:34-35]
Why Did Eve Name Her Second Son Abel?
The literal meaning of "Abel" is "breath, vanity, or vapor." Before Adam and Eve sinned, they and their descendants had the potential of living indefinitely. But God warned that on the very day that they sinned, that potential would end. After the Fall God compares life to a vapor "...For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away" (James 4:14). Solomon summed up all of life in the word vanity (see Ecclesiastes 1:2). And Isaiah comments, "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils..." (Isaiah 2:22). Abel's name was thus a continual reminder of the brevity of life and the need to live each day in the fear of God.
How Did Abel Achieve The Status Of A Prophet?
Old Testament prophets proclaimed God's truth. They vigorously confronted God's people when they turned from God's ways. They were living epistles of God's message and usually suffered persecution and sometimes death. Jesus acknowledged that Abel was such a prophet when He said, "Woe unto you! ... The blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias..." (Luke 11:47, 50-51). A further function of the prophet is to speak with authority about Christ's righteousness and redemptive work. The offering which Abel gave to the Lord so precisely fulfilled the picture of Christ's atonement for sin that his offering is listed with special distinction in Hebrews 11:4. "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh." Abel fulfilled all the functions of a prophet when he sacrificed to the Lord and then talked with Cain in the field. Scripture clearly indicates that Cain's wrath was not toward Abel but to the truth that he lived and spoke.
What Did Abel Have In Common With Jacob?
Both were secondborn. Both had older brothers who forsook the Lord. And both were recognized by God for their efforts to seek Him. These similarities may also indicate that Abel demonstrated characteristics of secondborn children which were so obvious in Jacob. A secondborn child tends to need greater approval and is often more competitive to get it. The secondborn tends to have a greater capacity for loyalty. When Jacob saw that his older brother despised his birthright, he eagerly bought it up. It may be that Abel similarly snatched up the opportunity of the spiritual heritage which Cain despised. Abel like Jacob developed the heart of a shepherd and, with the accompanying qualities, understood more clearly how to give a gift that honored the designs of the chief Shepherd.
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
Aphids are small pear shaped insects rarely more than one-eighth of an inch long. They come in a variety of colors including yellowish green, dark green, black and brown. Because they pierce the moist tissues of plants and suck them dry, they do considerable damage to cultivated crops, particularly cotton and corn. Amazingly, these feeble creatures migrate incredible distances, perhaps covering sixty miles in a single day. Fortunately, aphids have many enemies which help to keep their numbers in check.
How Is Appreciation That Honors The Design Of God Illustrated In The World Of Nature?
The injured leopard stared nervously into the rain forest. Snarling and pawing the ground, the restless cat frantically tried to escape the hunter's snare. The leopard instinctively sensed that it must flee from an unseen danger. Slowly and methodically the deadly foe approached --- a long column of migrating driver ants,. The determined attackers marched forward, devouring everything in their path. As they advanced, the terrified leopard yanked the steel cable in a final but fruitless effort to escape. Within several hours the once powerful cat had been turned into a pile of bones. The driver ants relentlessly pushed on, not realizing that their next confrontation would be with a much more formidable adversary. Unlike the leopard, a colony of harvester ants had no intentions of fleeing. They would stand their ground and fight to the death. As the aggressive driver ants entered the fields of harvester ants, the battle began. Workers swiftly returned from their food trails to join in the defense of their colony. With jaws open for action, the harvester ants reared up against the vicious invaders. While on harvester ant grabbed a charging enemy by a leg or an antenna, another defender would tear the intruder apart with its powerful jaws. As the brave harvester ants fell, others rushed to take their places. The long column of ruthless aggressors seemed endless. Finally, with sheer numbers, the driver ants overran the community. The courageous harvester ants had not only fought for their own survival. They had also provided protection for a group of fellow workers that had faithfully benefited their colony. Throughout the summer these co-laborers had diligently worked to produce honeydew for the harvester ants. Several pounds of it had already been stored in the ants' nest in preparation for the coming winter. These loyal friends of the harvester ants were aphids. The tiny workers enjoyed an unusual compatibility with the industrious ants. The aphids were not strong in themselves. They depended on the ants for protection. In return, the aphids produced a continual source of sweet honeydew sugar to strengthen the ants for the work they were to accomplish. The ants and the aphids displayed an extraordinary sense of service and appreciation for each other that honored the design of God.
The Characteristics Of The Aphid And Ant In Scripture:
Scripture reveals that the ways of the ant contain valuable lessons for successful living.
"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest" ~ Proverbs 6:6-8
With no guide, overseer, or ruler to force or coerce, the ants' incredible diligence and achievement must come from another motivation --- their mutual interdependence upon one another and upon those that become a part of their community. This is precisely the type of edification that Christ called for in the local church (See Ephesians 4:16). Although not related to the ant, the aphid becomes a part of the ant's community. The interaction between the ant and the aphid gives the clearest explanation of how the ant provides (sets aright, establishes) her meat (feed for the preparation of food) in the summer, and gathers (brings in) her food (edible products and food sources) in the harvest. The aphid is able to multiply rapidly and destroy crops. Thus it is one of those "pestilences" which God uses to judge His people and the wicked when they violate His ways (See 1 Kings 8:35-39).

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