It's Possible with God
I was eighteen years old when I first encountered Jesus. I remember distinctly a conversation I had with a Christian leader shortly afterwards. I said how glad I was that I had not become a Christian earlier, since I had been able to experience the difference between life without God and life with God. He pointed out the fallacy of this way of thinking and suggested that the sooner we experience life with God, the better.
Looking back on my life now, I see the wisdom of his words. I am so grateful to God that our children can look back on their own lives and say that there has never been a time in their life when they were ‘without God’.
Over the years, I have interviewed hundreds of people who have encountered Jesus on Alpha. They contrast their life without God and their life with God. There is a sense of great joy and relief, and often regret that they did not begin their life with God earlier.
You are created to live in a relationship with God. Without that, life will never really make sense. Being with God is even more important than what you do for God. With God, everything is possible.
5 Save us and help us with your right hand,
that those you love may be delivered.
6 God has spoken from his sanctuary:
“In triumph I will parcel out Shechem
and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth.
7 Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet,
Judah is my scepter.
8 Moab is my washbasin,
on Edom I toss my sandal;
over Philistia I shout in triumph. ”
9 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
10 Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us
and no longer go out with our armies?
11 Give us aid against the enemy,
for human help is worthless.
12 With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies.
Gain the victory
Compared with God’s help, human help is worthless. ‘With God’, David says, ‘we shall gain the victory’ (v.12). He was speaking about physical battles. The apostle Paul writes that our main battles are not physical. They are not ‘against flesh and blood, but… against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12).
David prays, ‘Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered… Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. With God we shall gain the victory’ (Psalm 60:5,11–12a).
Dispute Over Jesus’ Testimony
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”
14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”
19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”
“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 He spoke these words while teaching in the temple courts near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his hour had not yet come.
Dispute Over Who Jesus Is
21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.”
22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?”
23 But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”
25 “Who are you?” they asked.
“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”
27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even as he spoke, many believed in him.
Give God pleasure
Do you realise that you can give God pleasure? Jesus says, ‘I always do what pleases him’ (v.29). This should be your aim in life – to please God.
Jesus models for us a life with God. He says, ‘I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me’ (v.16). He says, ‘The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone’ (v.29a). Throughout this passage, we discover something about Jesus’ relationship with his Father.
Jesus says, ‘I know where I came from and where I am going’ (v.14). So many people struggle in life because they don’t know where they came from or where they are heading. They struggle with a lack of purpose and direction in their lives. In a close relationship with God, you can know where you came from and ultimately where you are heading.
Jesus’ relationship with the Father was also the source of his purpose and direction day by day. He says, ‘I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me’ (v.28). He says, ‘The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone’ (v.29a).
This is the model for us. God was with Jesus. Jesus knew he was never alone. There was not a single thing he did without God. At every moment his desire is to please God: ‘I always do what pleases him’ (v.29b). This is what gave his life such power and effectiveness. ‘Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him’ (v.30).
Not only was Jesus with God, he was God.
Twice in today’s passage Jesus says, ‘I am he’ (8:24,28). The words translated ‘I am he’ are the same words that are used in the Greek translation of Exodus 3:14–16. There, God revealed himself to Moses as ‘I AM WHO I AM’. This name came to express both the identity of God and the closeness of God to his people.
Jesus uses this name himself. We do not possess existence. We are born and we die. We receive our existence. Jesus is existence. He is telling the people that God has once again come near to them in him. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.
It is as you look to the cross that Jesus says you have the clearest demonstration of his identity: ‘So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be.”’ (John 8:28).
Jesus had complete confidence in his own identity. The key to Jesus’ confidence and identity lay in his relationship with the Father. The same will also be true for you. As you spend time with the Father in prayer, in worship and in reading the Scriptures, your sense of identity and confidence in who you are in God will grow. You can know where you have come from and where you are heading.
No matter what people say about you, you can walk confidently with head held high. Your identity is in Christ. It is rooted in what he says about you and his presence with you.
The Danites Settle in Laish
18 In those days Israel had no king.
And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking a place of their own where they might settle, because they had not yet come into an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. 2 So the Danites sent five of their leading men from Zorah and Eshtaol to spy out the land and explore it. These men represented all the Danites. They told them, “Go, explore the land.”
So they entered the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah, where they spent the night. 3 When they were near Micah’s house, they recognized the voice of the young Levite; so they turned in there and asked him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? Why are you here?”
4 He told them what Micah had done for him, and said, “He has hired me and I am his priest. ”
5 Then they said to him, “Please inquire of God to learn whether our journey will be successful.”
6 The priest answered them, “Go in peace . Your journey has the Lord’s approval.”
7 So the five men left and came to Laish, where they saw that the people were living in safety, like the Sidonians, at peace and secure. And since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous. Also, they lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationship with anyone else.
8 When they returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, their fellow Danites asked them, “How did you find things?”
9 They answered, “Come on, let’s attack them! We have seen the land, and it is very good. Aren’t you going to do something? Don’t hesitate to go there and take it over. 10 When you get there, you will find an unsuspecting people and a spacious land that God has put into your hands, a land that lacks nothing whatever. ”
11 Then six hundred men of the Danites, armed for battle, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. 12 On their way they set up camp near Kiriath Jearim in Judah. This is why the place west of Kiriath Jearim is called Mahaneh Dan to this day. 13 From there they went on to the hill country of Ephraim and came to Micah’s house.
14 Then the five men who had spied out the land of Laish said to their fellow Danites, “Do you know that one of these houses has an ephod, some household gods and an image overlaid with silver? Now you know what to do.” 15 So they turned in there and went to the house of the young Levite at Micah’s place and greeted him. 16 The six hundred Danites, armed for battle, stood at the entrance of the gate. 17 The five men who had spied out the land went inside and took the idol, the ephod and the household gods while the priest and the six hundred armed men stood at the entrance of the gate.
18 When the five men went into Micah’s house and took the idol, the ephod and the household gods, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?”
19 They answered him, “Be quiet! Don’t say a word. Come with us, and be our father and priest. Isn’t it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than just one man’s household?” 20 The priest was very pleased. He took the ephod, the household gods and the idol and went along with the people. 21 Putting their little children, their livestock and their possessions in front of them, they turned away and left.
22 When they had gone some distance from Micah’s house, the men who lived near Micah were called together and overtook the Danites. 23 As they shouted after them, the Danites turned and said to Micah, “What’s the matter with you that you called out your men to fight?”
24 He replied, “You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have? How can you ask, ‘What’s the matter with you?’”
25 The Danites answered, “Don’t argue with us, or some of the men may get angry and attack you, and you and your family will lose your lives.” 26 So the Danites went their way, and Micah, seeing that they were too strong for him, turned around and went back home.
27 Then they took what Micah had made, and his priest, and went on to Laish, against a people at peace and secure. They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. 28 There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else. The city was in a valley near Beth Rehob.
The Danites rebuilt the city and settled there. 29 They named it Dan after their ancestor Dan, who was born to Israel—though the city used to be called Laish. 30 There the Danites set up for themselves the idol, and Jonathan son of Gershom, the son of Moses, and his sons were priests for the tribe of Dan until the time of the captivity of the land. 31 They continued to use the idol Micah had made, all the time the house of God was in Shiloh.
A Levite and His Concubine
19 In those days Israel had no king.
Now a Levite who lived in a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim took a concubine from Bethlehem in Judah. 2 But she was unfaithful to him. She left him and went back to her parents’ home in Bethlehem, Judah. After she had been there four months, 3 her husband went to her to persuade her to return. He had with him his servant and two donkeys. She took him into her parents’ home, and when her father saw him, he gladly welcomed him. 4 His father-in-law, the woman’s father, prevailed on him to stay; so he remained with him three days, eating and drinking, and sleeping there.
5 On the fourth day they got up early and he prepared to leave, but the woman’s father said to his son-in-law, “Refresh yourself with something to eat; then you can go.” 6 So the two of them sat down to eat and drink together. Afterward the woman’s father said, “Please stay tonight and enjoy yourself. ” 7 And when the man got up to go, his father-in-law persuaded him, so he stayed there that night. 8 On the morning of the fifth day, when he rose to go, the woman’s father said, “Refresh yourself. Wait till afternoon!” So the two of them ate together.
9 Then when the man, with his concubine and his servant, got up to leave, his father-in-law, the woman’s father, said, “Now look, it’s almost evening. Spend the night here; the day is nearly over. Stay and enjoy yourself. Early tomorrow morning you can get up and be on your way home.” 10 But, unwilling to stay another night, the man left and went toward Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), with his two saddled donkeys and his concubine.
11 When they were near Jebus and the day was almost gone, the servant said to his master, “Come, let’s stop at this city of the Jebusites and spend the night.”
12 His master replied, “No. We won’t go into any city whose people are not Israelites. We will go on to Gibeah.” 13 He added, “Come, let’s try to reach Gibeah or Ramah and spend the night in one of those places.” 14 So they went on, and the sun set as they neared Gibeah in Benjamin. 15 There they stopped to spend the night. They went and sat in the city square, but no one took them in for the night.
16 That evening an old man from the hill country of Ephraim, who was living in Gibeah (the inhabitants of the place were Benjamites), came in from his work in the fields. 17 When he looked and saw the traveler in the city square, the old man asked, “Where are you going? Where did you come from?”
18 He answered, “We are on our way from Bethlehem in Judah to a remote area in the hill country of Ephraim where I live. I have been to Bethlehem in Judah and now I am going to the house of the Lord. No one has taken me in for the night. 19 We have both straw and fodder for our donkeys and bread and wine for ourselves your servants—me, the woman and the young man with us. We don’t need anything.”
20 “You are welcome at my house,” the old man said. “Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square.” 21 So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet, they had something to eat and drink.
22 While they were enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house. Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, “Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him. ”
23 The owner of the house went outside and said to them, “No, my friends, don’t be so vile. Since this man is my guest, don’t do this outrageous thing. 24 Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine. I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish. But as for this man, don’t do such an outrageous thing.”
25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. 26 At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.
27 When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.” But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.
29 When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. 30 Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, “Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something! So speak up! ”
Shine God’s light
The shocking atrocities committed by Isis – beheading and crucifixion of innocent victims, widespread abuse of children, the terrible evil of human trafficking and modern-day slavery – we live in a dark world. But we are not without hope. With God, light can drive out darkness.
Israel was in a dark period of its history. The people were called to walk in a close relationship with God – under the direct rule and reign of God as their King. Had they lived like this they would not have needed a human king.
However, they were now living in the worst possible scenario. They were not living under the kingship of the Lord, and did not even have a human king to keep order and restrain the chaos.
These were bleak days. ‘In those days Israel had no king’ (18:1; 19:1). They turned to idol worship (chapter 18). We read a terrible and distressing account of the evil excesses of a lawless land. The appalling rape, abuse and dissection of a woman caused everyone who saw it to say, ‘Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Think about it! Consider it! Tell us what to do!’ (19:30). This was a time of utter darkness, of life without God.
Terrible as this atrocity was, it is not unique in the history of the world. Appalling atrocities can happen when a society rejects God and his laws: it sometimes descends into utter chaos.
Lt Gen Romeo Dallaire, who, in 1994, was part of the UN mission to Rwanda and witnessed the genocide, was asked how he could still believe in God. He replied: ‘I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists, and therefore I know that there is a God.’
In biblical language, ‘darkness’ is not only the night but also the forces of evil that can seduce us and lead us away from walking in the right direction, towards the light of life – Jesus who brings light into this dark world.
In a staggering claim, Jesus naturally puts himself in the place of God, and says that he is ‘the light of the world’ (John 8:12). A world without God is a world of darkness. Yet Jesus said, ‘Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ (v.12).
When you turn to Jesus you come out of the darkness of life without God into the light of life with him. He leads us out of darkness, conflict and death into the light of life and love. He gives meaning and direction to your life. Not only that, but as you live with God, seeking to please him, you embody together with other believers the ‘light of life’ to bring light into our dark world.
You really can make a difference to the world around you. Your life, in Christ, can shine like light in the spiritual darkness in the world around you. As Martin Luther King put it, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’
I am appalled by the way women were treated in the Old Testament (and still are in some parts of the world today). Thankfully, when Jesus came he restored women’s dignity and broke the gender barriers of the day.
Verse of the Day
‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’
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Martin Luther King Jr, Strength to Love (Fortress Press, 2010 gift edition), p.47
Romeo Dallaire, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda (Random House 2003), Preface xviii.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)