THE GOD OF SECOND CHANCES
by Wayne S. Walker
“When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream” (Psalm 126:1). The general assumption is that this Psalm was written after the Israelites were allowed to return to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. The children of Israel were God’s chosen people under the old covenant. The descendants of Abraham were to become a great nation (Genesis 12:1-2). By accepting God’s covenant, He said they were “a special treasure to Me above all people….a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6). Today, all who become Christians under the new covenant are also “His own special people” (Titus 2:14).
However, Israel rebelled. During the days of the Judges “a generation arose after then who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). While there were times that were better than others, they continued to go downhill spiritually. “But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16). We also rebel against God from time to time. Even though Christians are God’s chosen people, we are told that “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
Therefore, Israel was punished. Moses had prophesied that if they disobeyed one of the curses would be that “the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other…and among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place” (Deuteronomy 28:64-65). And that is exactly what happened as God sent the Chaldeans to take His people into captivity (2 Chronicles 36:17-20). When we sin, God punishes us too. We may not always understand exactly how, but we know that “whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6).
Yet, Israel was restored. God raised up Cyrus who allowed the Israelites to return from captivity to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of God (Ezra 1:1-4). Of course, this involved the people’s repentance. On one occasion, they confessed their national sins, saying, “However, You are just in all that has befallen us; for You have dealt faithfully, but we have done wickedly” (Nehemiah 9:33). God enables Christians who sin to be restored too, telling us to repent of our sins and pray that the thoughts of our hearts might be forgiven us (Acts 8:22).
God offered Israel a second chance. Even though my aim is to live a righteous life, as I look back over my life I realize that I too have sinned many times. Yet, because He loves me, through the blood of Jesus Christ He always offers me a second chance as well. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Eternal praise and thanks be to the God of second chances! And as homeschooling parents, we need to treat our children as God treats us, always ready to give a second chance.
New Testament Stories My Daddy Told Me
THE DISCUSSION OF CIRCUMCISION (Acts 15:1-41)
By Wayne S. Walker
While Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch, certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren that unless they were circumcised after the custom of Moses they could not be saved. As Paul and Barnabas disputed with them, it was determined to send them to Jerusalem to find out from the apostles and elders if these Judaizing teachers had any apostolic authority. This was not some kind of “church council” in which a group of men decided, whether by voting or some other method, what the church was going to teach on this subject, but simply an attempt to determine what God’s inspired messengers had to reveal from the Lord on the matter.
At the meeting in Jerusalem, Peter talked about the necessary inferences that he had learned in his contact with Cornelius and his household and applied them to the situation. Next, Paul and Barnabas cited their approved apostolic example of preaching to the Gentiles in which God never required them to be circumcised. Then James quoted a direct statement from the prophet Amos in Old Testament Scripture to show that God had promised that when the Messiah came He would accept the Gentiles without circumcision. Thus, all the evidence clearly demonstrated that the Gentiles did not have to be circumcised to be saved. A letter to this effect was written to be sent to Antioch, so Paul and Barnabas, along with prophets Judas Barsabas and Silas, returned to Antioch with the news.
Sometime later, Paul suggested to Barnabas that they return to the churches established on their first preaching trip to see how they were doing. Barnabas agreed and wanted to take John Mark with them again, but Paul was determined not to have him go with them, most likely because he had departed from them in Pamphyllia. The disagreement was so great that the two men decided to part company. Barnabas took Mark and set sail for Cyprus. Paul chose Silas as his new travelling companion for his second journey, and they went throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
1. What did certain men who came from Judea to Antioch teach?
2. Who disputed with these men?
3. How did the brethren determine to find the truth on this subject?
4. Who talked about the inferences he learned by the conversion of Cornelius?
5. Who cited their example of preaching to the Gentiles without requiring circumcision?
6. Who quoted an Old Testament passage showing that God would accept the Gentiles without circumcision?
7. What suggestion did Paul make to Barnabas?
8. Whom did Barnabas want to take with them?
9. Whom did Paul choose as his new travelling companion?