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Uplifted Arms

by Jean Jantzen-Duperrault
Charl Durand on Unsplash
 
“Is the Lord among us or not?” It was a question the Israelites had for Moses. God had saved them from Egypt, divided the Red Sea, provided a cloud to guide and protect them, and provided manna. He also gave them a human deliverer whom He had called to lead and guide them. Yet the Israelites seemed to have forgotten what God had done for them.

Do we remind ourselves what God has done for us? What miracles it must have taken to call us out of the world and place us within the body of Christ! Yet over time many of us have become cynical and wary of those in positions of authority, even on occasion wondering, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Much has happened in our Christian experience, but are there lessons we can learn from the Church in the Wilderness? Like the Israelites of old, are we murmuring against those God had put in positions of authority? In spite of their human foibles, idiosyncrasies and weaknesses (that we all have), God sees fit to place them over us. We have heard of our predecessors’ murmuring and God’s hot displeasure with them. Do we think He is happy with our murmurings today? Paul warns against grumbling (1 Corinthians 10:10-12).

Those placed in positions of authority need our full support to do the job and, in fact, we have a responsibility to give it to them.

Remember the story of the Israelites and the Amalekites.  Whenever Moses held up his hands, the Israelites won; when he lowered his hands, the Amalekites won (Exodus 17:8-13).

Deuteronomy 25:18 fills in some more details: “(Amalek) smote the hindmost of you, even all that were feeble behind you, when you were faint and weary”. So Israel was “faint and weary.” Some of them had fallen by the wayside, others were being picked off almost daily by the bands of aggressive Amalekites. There are similarities with the weakened state of the scattered churches of God today as members murmur, waver, some turning back to the world. Satan, the roaring lion, without mercy continues to assault the body of Christ.

As we read at the beginning of Exodus 17, Israel was living through the aftermath of their rebellion against Moses. If we are murmuring against authority we will be chronically thirsty like them. Perhaps their tiredness was matched by the mental and physical faintness of dehydration. The effects of this can last quite some time after liquid is received. So they were at low ebb. Anyone who is striving to fight the fight will go through this sense of exhaustion and depression at times.

It’s customary to look inward when suffering instead of outward.  But have we instinctively shifted our position from “What can we do for the Church?” to “What can the Church do for me?”

As Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses to win the war, we must hold each other and the elders of the church up in prayer, in accountability and in love. In Mystery of the Ages, Mr. Armstrong asked what part does the individual local member have in taking the gospel message to all the world.  He answers “Much.” He goes on to relate that members and ministers are a team. He also said that without continual encouragement those in charge could not bear up under the pressure, frustrations and trials.

Have you seen the commercial of the Special Olympics where six are running a race? One individual falls down in the middle lane and the girl stops, goes over and helps him up and then you see all six contestants arm in arm holding up his arms and running toward the finish line together and break through the ribbon together. It was a heartwarming scene and I pray that we can be more like them.

Paul tells us in Romans 15:30 “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.”

Maybe, just maybe, we haven’t been striving like we did in the past to keep the elders of the church in our prayers that they may do their jobs effectively, that they may be encouraged and that they may be protected from the evil one. They are doing the best they can with what they’ve got and the time frame they have. The ministry is spread thin and most are getting on in years. Maybe we expect too much, or have become too critical, even expecting them to work for nothing to prove their dedication. Would we expect that of ourselves? I realize we may have become disillusioned, but we can’t abandon our responsibility toward the elders.
The New Testament continues to emphasize the need to support those who minister in the church and how we are to treat those over us. 1 Timothy 5:1, 18 notes that those involved in preaching and teaching are “worthy of double honour.”

In his article Tithing In Force Under the New Testament Herbert W. Armstrong points out that tithing is not abolished but the priesthood has changed. He explained that the tithing law is also changed of necessity, so as to become God’s system for financing the ministry of Jesus Christ!

We must remember that Satan is working daily to dishearten us and the elders of God’s churches and to cause dissension, division and discouragement.  Remember, we are all in this endeavour together, whether we are elders, teachers, deacons or lay members. We are all brethren and have a responsibility to uphold those arms who are trying to do the work. Our eternal life depends on it. “For we are labourers together with God…”(1 Corinthians 3:9).

Paul tells us “Obey your leaders and defer to them; for they are tireless in their concern for you, as men who must render an account. Let it be a happy task for them, and not pain and grief, for that would bring you no advantage. Pray for us…” (Hebrew 13:17-18).

When we ponder the question, “Is the Lord among us or not?”, we should not forget the words of Isaiah “Fear you not; for I am with you; be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yea, I will help you; yea, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10). God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
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