The Bible says that when Jesus was baptized at the Jordan River, “the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the spirit of god descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, this is my beloved son, in whom i am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17).
The opening chapter of Hebrews repeats a truth every Christian knows but that few of us actually grasp: “Jesus is greater.” The writer is so focused on this theme he doesn’t take time to offer a greeting. He doesn’t give his readers any instructions, as some epistles do. Instead, he has one thing on his mind: “Jesus is greater!” He is enamored, thrilled and overcome with Christ.
In Mark 5 Jesus had just finished teaching in a seaside town and dismissed the crowd. Now he set his sights on a town called Gadara on the other side of the water. I believe that as soon as Christ set sail for that town, all of hell shuddered.
“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).
If you desire to walk righteously before the Lord, rest assured you will be tested. In fact, the deeper your walk with Christ the more intense your testing will be. The Bible makes this clear: “The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits… When they fall, they shall be aided with a little help… And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time” (Daniel 11:32, 34-35).
Think for a moment of that glorious hour when Israel stood safely on the other side of the Red Sea. Thousands of God’s people lined the shore, watching as a miraculous scene unfolded. The swift waters of the sea had collapsed over Pharaoh’s great army!
What an incredible scene it must have been — the sights and sounds awesome to behold. Horses bellowed, soldiers screamed, chariot wheels spun off in all directions, men bobbed up for air and then disappeared beneath the flood tide.
Every follower of Jesus has a certain hunger in his heart. It’s a passionate zeal to be holy before God — free from sin, victorious over flesh, pure and spotless before the Lord.
This desire is actually something the Holy Spirit plants in the heart of every human being. It’s an innate longing to live rightly. People of every religion — and even no religion — are moved to live well, do right, love others, be the best person they can be. Some obviously flee that desire and do the opposite — but they’re still conscious of a deep desire to do right.
How different would your life be if you were walking in divine favor? Does God give favor, bless abundantly and lavish his grace on hungry, awaiting hearts? The answer is yes — and we find this illustrated in Luke 1, the story of Christ’s birth.
Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables: “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 13:34-35, my italics).
Nehemiah is known as the man who led the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. Israel was in captivity when God first stirred Nehemiah’s heart toward this noble work. And when Nehemiah asked the Persian king to let him return to Jerusalem for this purpose, God moved the king’s heart to grant his request.