Category Archives: God

Vocabulary of War

If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; 
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts. (Psalm 7:12-13 ESV)

Why would anyone want to invite the wrath of God upon themselves? Why would anyone willfully rebel against Him? This is exactly what both angels and people have done. God commands people to repent of their sin and rebellion against Him. God will establish the righteous after He tests their minds and hearts (Psalm 7:9 ESV). God commands people turn away from that which tempts and trains them to rebel, and turn toward Him. 

God demands repentance. God never asks people to repent. To repent is to turn, to come or go back, to lead away from one thing and toward another, to be restored. God makes repentance possible when He delivers over Jesus’ life as a means of righteously fulfilling the requirements of His law for those created in His image. God’s eternal compassion is on full display on the cross. “Turn,

O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psalm 6:4 ESV). His enemies turn away from Him, ashamed by what they have done. “All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment” (Psalm 6:10 ESV). Either they turn to God at His command, or they turn away from God at His judgment.

God will not simply turn rebellious people away from His presence. He will fight and war against them. David uses words of war to describe God’s assault on those who actively rebel against Him and His authority. He will sharpen His sword, bend and make ready His bow, using arrows that are fiery shafts. God creates and implements new instruments of death, designed to kill, not maim. Those who are steadfast in their assaults and attacks will feel God’s full wrath.

Joshua faced the pre-incarnate Christ as he surveyed Jericho before the fall of the city. Joshua encountered a man standing with a drawn sword.

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 

And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” 

And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” (Joshua 5:13-14 ESV)

Jesus, the Commander of the Lord’s Army, does not take sides between two warring factions of people. He stands for God against all sin. His mission, while living as a man, was to command people repent of their sin and turn toward God. Speaking about people who died by accident or by the hand of a despotic leader, Jesus tells those who are following Him, they must repent or they will also die a spiritual death. In Luke 13 He uses the same phrase twice. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5 ESV). Repentance is not an option. Repentance is commanded and obedience is expected.

The world carries superstitious opinions about God, believing the God of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, is a God of wrath, while Jesus, the God of the New Testament, is a God of love, peace and forgiveness. Scripture is filled with God’s compassion toward His people and wrath toward His enemies. Jesus did not come to bring peace to everyone. He came to separate those who are His from those who hate Him and rebel against Him. “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34 ESV). Those who follow Jesus must pick up their cross, which is His cross, and be willing to die to this world to live for God. Those who hate Jesus will persecute those who walk with Him. Since they cannot persecute and murder God they will do what they can to those who are God’s. Even members of a family will fight against each other. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39 ESV). Those who follow Christ must completely abandon themselves to Him. Obedience is expected and carries no merit before God. Disobedience brings God’s wrath.

War terminology is used in this Psalm because we are engaged in war. Those who hate God, His enemies, want to destroy all God has created and subvert all God’s purposes for His creation. The Deceiver does not care about winning, knowing he has already lost the war. Those people who fight against God think they can win. Their view of God is superstitious and unreasonable. God fights for Himself, not for us. Yet, we receive the benefit of His compassion and mercy, freely given though our time in this world.

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Just and Righteous

God is a righteous judge, 
and a God who feels indignation every day. (Psalm 7:11 ESV)

Psalm 7 poetically presents as a closing statement in a legal trial with God as the presiding judge. God is both just and righteousness. He is just in that He adheres to and upholds the laws of His nature and those laws which He has put in place to govern His creation. He is righteous in that He lives perfectly according to His laws and expects His creation to follow those laws. In the beginning, God created people and endowed them with His image, which gives them the tools needed to know, understand and act according to the nature of God in their every endeavor. Man, Adam and Eve, and all who follow, rebel against God, refusing to acknowledge Him as the eternal Lawgiver and breaking His laws. Since the laws broken are based upon Himself, He is the only One with the authority to judge those who broke the laws. “God is a righteous judge”  (Psalm 7:11 ESV).

God blesses the Righteous Man whose “delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2 ESV). As the eternal government of His creation, God judges the kings and rulers of the world who teach and train their people to rebel against Him by enthroning His King, His Son, Jesus Christ. “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill” (Psalm 2:6 ESV). Those found in Christ, His righteous King, who take refuge in Him are declared righteous and comprise the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Does God feel? Does God have emotions? Can we understand His emotions as we understand ours? God feels indignation every dayIndignation is anger, an expression of irritation and rage, a defiant posture, a denouncement and curse. God is enraged at the violation of His law, which is a direct assault on His character and being. There is never a moment in space-time history where God relaxes His hatred for sin. “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man” (Psalm 5:4-6 ESV).

Jesus felt. He wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). He showed His physical anger over the desecration of the temple by the religious leaders who allowed merchants in the temple courts (John 2:15; Matthew 21:13). He condemned the religious leaders for their hypocritical lives (Matthew 23). He felt deep emotions at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). He had compassion on the hungry, the sick, the disabled, the demon possessed and the dead. Jesus, as Man, felt the full range of emotions given all people. Emotions are part of the image of God in Man, therefore, God also has and feels emotions. The difference is between us and God is neither God nor Jesus as a Man is corrupted by sin. Their emotions are pure and righteous. Our emotions are tainted by sin.

God hates evil and sin yet loves the one who commits evil and sins. His compassion for the sinful does have a boundary yet knows no end. Those who continue to reject Him, even after receiving the grace of His forgiveness through the sacrifice of Christ, have no other path into His presence.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV)

As part of the image of God, our emotions are directional and like warning flags, which tell people when they are in God’s will or tempted to sin against God. Those who take refuge in God may feel joy and love toward God. Those who are facing temptation or have fully embraced sin, feel fear and anger and guilt. Many philosophies have taught we should not trust our emotions. When corrupted by sin, nothing we do conforms to the original intent God had for Man, including our emotions. Those filled with the Holy Spirit have an Interpreter who directs and confronts and counsels the citizen of His kingdom. We are given spiritual tools in the image of God. We are given the Holy Spirit, who is God Himself, embedded in a recreated being stuck in a sinful physical body.

God wants those who are His to hate sin as much as He hates sin. We are to hate sin in the world and to hate sin in those who exist around us. We are to hate sin in ourselves and purge sin from our lives. At the same time, we are to love those who are in the world, created in the image of God and loved by Him. We are to hate sin every day. We hate sin because He hates sin.  Conversely, like God, we are to love people as He loves them. We can only accomplish this though the work of the Holy Spirit giving us the discernment we need to recognize sin yet love those who sin, who are created in God’s image.

Shield of Faith

My shield is with God, 
who saves the upright in heart. (Psalm 7:10 ESV)

True faith in God is one of the major themes of the Psalms and of Scripture. God draws those who are His into His refuge, protecting them and then, in eternity, removing them from the assaults of His enemies. “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you” (Psalm 5:11 ESV). God’s protection comes through faith. Faith is believing the evidence of God’s work, trusting Him to deliver on His promises, and obeying His commands. Believing is an action of the mind or the intellect. Trusting is an action of the moral-emotional self. Obeying is an action of the will. The whole person is involved in the act of faith. Jesus embodied true faith as both God and Man in the flesh, the way God intended from creation.

As Jesus walked through His ministry, He fully obeyed God’s will. Jesus found security in nothing provided by or found in the world. A shield is a buckler, a small, round piece of armor carried to protect the person from the attacks of an enemy. David used the word to describe God’s protection even when surrounded by an overwhelming force. Jesus, when standing trial before the three worldly judges, the Religious leaders, Herod and Pilate, trusted God. Though He died, God lifted up His head from death. “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” (Psalm 3:3 ESV). Abraham was credited with righteousness, because he believed God, who kept His promises. God protected Abraham and his descendants, from whom Christ would descend. “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great’” (Genesis 15:1 ESV).

Only God saves those who are His from all enemies. God’s enemies pursue the life of the righteous to destroy them. To savemeans to be delivered or liberated, to be victorious in battle. Surrounded by sin and sinful people, and constantly tempted by the Deceiver, Jesus was relentlessly pursued by His enemies during His earthly ministry. His enemies continually sought something, anything they could use to destroy His influence and discredit His authority. “O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and deliver me” (Psalm 7:1 ESV). God will not only deliver from the assault of the enemy, He strikes down those who wage war against Him. “Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked” (Psalm 3:7 ESV). God has no obligation to save any who sin. He saves because of His love. “Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love” (Psalm 6:4 ESV). God created people in His image for an intimate, eternal relationship with them. His love is eternal, evidenced by His mercy in sending His Son to die for sin and cover those who are His with His righteousness. God’s compassion is boundless.

Our actions, shown through our obedience to His commands, carry no merit before God. No one can work their way into heaven. God has no obligation to any person because of what they have done or will do, or who they are. 

Still, part of the image of God in Man is dominion. God gave man, Adam and Eve, dominion over His earthly creation. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26 ESV). Dominion is control over a part of creation. Where man lived under God’s authority, the earth and all in it came under the authority of Man. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, He did not remove from them His image. Nor was His image in them corrupted. They were corrupted, the vessel which held the image of God, but His image remained whole and complete. Because of sin, no person exercises the image of God appropriately, or in a godly fashion.

Rebellion brought a war between the corrupted self, which wants control without God, and the image of God, which naturally wants to serve and obey God. Self wants all to focus all attention on self. God’s image wants the bearer to focus all attention upon God. The battle between the two forces is devastating. God’s image irresistibly draws every person toward God while the rebellious, sinful nature, drives away every person from God. We are our own worst enemy.God’s shield is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV). Nothing can remove those who are His from His presence. 

Established

Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, 
and may you establish the righteous—
you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! 
(Psalm 7:9 ESV)

Those who seek God and His righteousness are often troubled in their souls, mourning over the presence and consequences of the sin the see in themselves and in the world in which they live. They know and love truth and hate and abhor evil. Their prayers echo the prayer of Jesus in the Psalms that evil and wickedness would come to an end. To endmeans to cease, be no more, fail, as well as complete. God promises that sin, wickedness and those who rebel against Him, who are sinful and wicked, will come to an end. The wicked person will not cease to exist but will cease corrupting God’s creation with their evil.

God spoke about what will happen to His sinful enemies. They are excluded from His eternal presence and with those whom He has declared righteous. “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” (Psalm 1:5 ESV). Those who continue to rebel, even after commanded to repent and turn toward God, are given a warning about what will happen if they do not submit and serve Jesus. “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled” (Psalm 2:12 ESV). Those who do not repent, continuing to fight against Him, in word and action, are eternally silenced. “For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked” (Psalm 3:7 ESV). Those who would murder God, continually lying about Him, are consigned to a place of destruction, away from His presence. “You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man” (Psalm 5:6 ESV). Though Jesus took upon Himself the punishment for sin, the wicked reject the command of the Holy Spirit to accept and abide in His grace. The evidence of their rejection is their continued, blatant sin. “Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you” (Psalm 5:10 ESV).

The wicked will come to an end and He will establish the righteous. To establish means to make firm, to stabilize, to fix and secure, to make enduring. Those who are righteous in Christ will enter His presence in eternity and never again face the corruption of sin and rebellion.

God knows the difference between those who live and revel in their sin and those who are drawn into His presence, who take refuge in Christ. To test means to examine and prove, to be put on trial and thoroughly scrutinized. Only God knows intimately the thinking of the hearts of all people. He tests the minds and hearts. “For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6 ESV). Peering deeply into the hearts and intentions of all people, God knows and sees the difference between those who hate Him and those who love Him.

For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. (Psalm 5:9-10 ESV).

Jesus knew the hearts of those around Him, who challenged His authority and sought to murder Him. When He saw the faith of those who brought a paralytic to Him to heal, He forgave the paralyzed man of his sin. This irked the religious leaders who watched. They knew only God could forgive sin. To them, Jesus was simply a man and, they thought, sinful. Jesus knew their hearts. “And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’” (Matthew 9:3-4 ESV; see also Luke 5:22). Jesus then demonstrated His authority over sin by healing the man. Many people saw His miracles. They believed He could perform signs and wonders because they watched Him do great things. But, Jesus knew their hearts and that they sought only what they could control. Jesus would not allow anyone to control Him.

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25 ESV)

God is righteous and knows those who have relinquished control to Him and are righteous because of His Son.

Judge Me

The LORD judges the peoples; 
judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me. (Psalm 7:8 ESV)

Jesus appears to issue a challenge to the Judge and the Prosecutor in His spiritual trial. He has already given permission to the Judge to deal harshly with Him if any sin is found in Him. Does God need His permission? Jesus rests in God upon His righteousness

“If I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust” (Psalm 7:3-5 ESV). 

Jesus has violated no law. Jesus requests God judge Him according to His righteousness and integrity. In every thought, motive, action and word, Jesus adheres perfectly to the eternal Laws of God. This is His righteousness. Jesus kept the Law, not because He had to, knowing the consequences of violating any Law. He kept the Law because He is the Law. He is righteous before God. He kept the Law because He loves the Law. His integrity, which is completeness, innocence, simplicity and uprightness, is founded on His eternal character as the Author of the Law.

Psalms begin by describing only One person, the Blessed Man. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2 ESV). He, the One righteous man, and He alone, shows God perfect love and delight. He intimately knows God is His righteousness. “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! (Psalm 4:1 ESV). Because He is righteous, He is set apart for God and heard by God. “But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him” (Psalm 4:3 ESV). Jesus wants to be led by God in all His ways. “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me” (Psalm 5:8 ESV). The final outcome is God’s eternal blessing. God will not allow anything to happen to destroy the Blessed Man. “For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12 ESV).

Jesus walked among a rebellious people without sinning because He is both God and a true Servant of God, Man the way God intended. He showed the evidence for His authority in every action and word. When He saw true faith in a person, He acknowledged that faith.

And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”

And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 

When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Luke 5:20-24 ESV)

His answer to those who question, challenge and accuse Him of sin, is that He is God. He alone can forgive sin. 

His enemies accuse Him of sin by working on the Sabbath and allowing His disciples to break the Sabbath command. Jesus responds to both accusations. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath”  (Mark 2:27-28 ESV). Jesus declares to those accusing Him of breaking the Law that He is the Author of the Law and the Creator of the universe. God first established the Sabbath observance on the seventh day of creation. On that day God declares His creation finished and He rests. He blesses the seventh day, making it a holy day. 

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV)

The integrity of the day is not in the outward observance of strict rules and regulations, followed to show God the self-righteousness of any person. The integrity of the day is found only in those who actually and naturally rest in God because He is at rest. Resting in God comes with a right relationship, had only by the sacrifice of Christ and the taking refuge in Him. He alone is both righteous and has complete integrity before God. Those found in Jesus, though accused of sin by the Deceiver, are declared righteous by God.

God, The Righteous Judge

The LORD judges the peoples; 
judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me. 
(Psalm 7:8 ESV)

God is a benevolent Judge, who responds to sin according to laws based upon His eternal nature and character in both harsh and compassionate ways. God is omnipresent. He cannot abide even one sin in His presence in eternity.

Adam sinned when he ate the forbidden fruit. God warned Adam what would happen when he sinned. “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die (die, die) (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV). God said Adam would die die. Not only would Adam die physically, though not immediately, he would die spiritually. Spiritual death is being denied that which sustains spiritual life. Spiritual life is the presence and sustenance that is God. God did not immediately execute the death sentence against Adam, who continued living in the physical world. Adam lived 930 years and then physically died. God continued to have a relationship with Adam. But Adam’s sin brought both physical and spiritual death to all people. Not everyone who dies physically will die spiritually.

God compassionately prepared a means for those who sin even one sin to be restored to a righteous relationship with Him. From eternity God decided to send His Son to take upon Himself the sin of the people.

To judge means to contend or plead, to act as a legal magistrate by rendering a verdict and executing a sentence. Judge also means to govern. Justice and righteousness are fundamental to God’s eternal nature. God cannot be unjust or unrighteous. Nor can He render unjust or unrighteous decisions or acts in a way contrary to His eternal nature. We struggle with God’s actions and words because they do not seem fair. We equate fairness with justice. We cannot imagine God hating anyone He created in His image. This is because we do not understand the words “love” and “hate” as used by God.

As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Romans 9:13-16 ESV; cited from Malachi 1:2-3)

In Hebrew the word loved means to have human appetite for another, such as a friend or one with whom there is an intimate sexual relationship. This includes God’s love for a person, nation, and all people. The Greek the word is agapao, which is Godly love, which means to be well pleased and to love dearly. Hated is used in contrast to the word loved. God hated, which in Hebrew means to find odious, those persons who continue to rebel against Him after being commanded to return and obey Him. In Greek the word means to detest. God loves those who love Him and hates those who hate Him. Those who hate Him are released from His presence in eternity, driven away from God with whom they want nothing to do.

This does not mean God is controlled by either the love or hatred of those He has created. God acts with love toward those who love and obey Him. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:10 ESV). Conversely, God will act with hatred toward those who hate Him. In both cases God choses to act in a manner consistent with His holy, righteous and eternal character. God will judge people based upon the intentions of their hearts and their actions, which is the outward evidence of their hearts.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:24-27 ESV)

Does judging someone according to the eternal laws of God based upon the evidence of their lives make God unjust? He created people in His image. That image is not contaminated with sin even though the vessel containing His image is corrupt. People are at war within themselves, irresistibly drawn toward Him because of His image in them. Yet, people are tugged and pulled away from God by sin, which is also in them. God makes a way in His compassion and mercy for those created in His image to come to Him through the covering of their sin by the blood of Christ. Those who reject God’s call, disobeying His command to repent, sin. One sin. There is a sin which is unforgivable. It is the rejection of the command to obey God given to each person by the Holy Spirit. “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32 ESV).

God loves those who follow Christ and they will live in His presence for eternity. Those who hate Christ, God will expel from His presence for eternity. God is righteous in His judgment.

Gathered to God

Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; 
over it return on high.
(Psalm 7:6-7 ESV)

All people are naturally attracted to the presence of God because of His image in them. Yet, surrounded by those who hate God, driven by a corrupted body that rebels against God and tempted by the Deceiver, coming into His presence is impossible. Sin drives away people from God. His Spirit calls, motivates and empowers those who are His to obey and they flee the attacks of the world to find refuge in Him. Only in Christ will any enter His presence, for Christ has carried the burden of their sin and reconciled them to God. Their foes come against them and God arises and lifts up Himself and awakens in triumph against His enemies.

The assembly of the peoples is the congregation of God. Throughout history God has wanted His people to gather around Him. In the Garden of Eden, a place where He walked with Adam and Eve, His intent was for them to reproduce and fill the world with people, with whom He would walk. There were no wicked, rebellious, sinful people in this assembly.“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:5-6 ESV). God will not allow evil in His presence. Those who are His will be gathered about Him, which means to turn, to go around, to surround and encircle, to change their direction. When God calls those in rebellion, His call is to repentance and faith. Before any can repent they must recognize the truth of sin, which is a walking away from God, then realize the consequences of sin, which is separation from Him, the eternal source of life. Repentance is changing direction because of the consequences of sin. Once there is repentance, which is turning away from sin, there is faith, which is turning toward God. But such faith is nothing until there is obedience to the will of God, which is a resolute walking toward Him. True faith involves the whole person, the mind, the emotions and the will, and must have the direction of the Holy Spirit. No one returns to God without His Spirit drawing them to Himself.

In the Hebrew Scripture, when God brought His people out of Egypt, He gathered them around Him by tribe and family. Within the center of the encampment was the tent of meeting. “The people of Israel shall camp each by his own standard, with the banners of their fathers’ houses. They shall camp facing the tent of meeting on every side” (Numbers 2:2 ESV). God’s people gathered around God, their refuge, who lead them out of captivity and the enslavement of the Egyptians.

In the Gospels we read people naturally followed Jesus wherever He was, gathering around Him.

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:23-25 ESV)

People followed Jesus because He performed miracles, healed the sick and, on occasion, fed them. They followed Him because of His teaching, healing and feeding them. They followed Him because He is God in the flesh and they are just naturally drawn to Him. But many stopped following Him when He challenged them to true repentance. Jesus made following Him hard.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:63-66 ESV)

God reigns over His people, the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Those who will not, by faith, submit to His authority, will not enter His kingdom. Over His kingdom and His people, He will return on high, which means to resume His eternal, rightful place of authority. People who rebel against Him cannot intimately know Him as the God of the universe. He has no place in the thinking of their hearts. Those who are drawn into His presence, who are chosen by Him, struggle to make Him the center in their physical lives. But, at the end of time, when God finally judges sin, and the Deceiver, and the world of people in rebellion against Him, He will fling away from His presence all evil. Then, even those who rebel will recognize His true, eternal place over all.