Tag Archives: wickedness

The Depth of Wickedness in Man

30 Jan

pitYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week, we reaffirmed that we are privileged to play a part in God’s plan for humanity. Whatever that role may be, we’re part of getting accomplished what God wants to accomplish. Our motives should be pure and holy as we seek to fulfill the purpose He has for our lives. Do right in all facets of life because it’s the right thing to do. Be obedient to His leading, but line His leading up with Scripture. We quickly covered a number of principles for daily living that we’ve seen before in Proverbs. We finished last week talking about a contentious woman. If the woman in your life is contentious, show her the unconditional love of Christ. If you’re the contentious woman, allow the power of God to transform your life. This morning, we’ll see the depth of depravity that’s present in the wicked.

Take a look at what Solomon says in Pro. 21:10-19. Where does wickedness come from? I think that’s a good place to start. We need to understand the foundation for wickedness that is present in man. People born into this world don’t need to make a conscious effort to do wrong – it comes naturally. We’re born with the sin nature that is passed from father to son from generation to generation. We saw this a couple of weeks ago when we looked at Rom. 5:19a that told us, “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.” Remember, “There is none righteous, not even one.” (Rom. 3:10) Sin is the lost person’s master and you have to do what the master says.

Wicked people do wicked things because they have no power to do otherwise. Of course, they can do things that society would call good, but goodness evaluated by a morally bankrupt culture is not the standard. I know that sounds harsh, but we’ve got share the truth of Scripture so people are aware of where they are. Eternity’s too long not to tell the truth. The wickedness is formed in the soul at conception because of Adam’s disobedience. That’s why, “The soul of the wicked desires evil.” Desire can also be translated crave. Evil dominates the thoughts and plans of the wicked. Remember what led to the flood: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5) Remember the second greatest commandment Jesus referred to in Matt. 22:36-40? He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The wicked have no favor for their neighbor.

Let’s do some quick review. V. 11 says, “When the scoffer is punished, the naive becomes wise; but when the wise is instructed, he receives knowledge.” It’s the same principle we saw in 19:25. When people see that others are held accountable for their actions, it will deter bad decisions. That’s one of the reasons the news reports sentencing for high profile crimes. Wise people make themselves available to learn and are willing to receive instruction. This leads into the next verse, “The righteous one considers the house of the wicked, turning the wicked to ruin.” Even though there may be short term gain for wickedness, the righteous wants to avoid the pain and suffering that comes with it. The righteous remember Pro. 12:7 where Solomon said, “The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand.” No amount of prosperity or comfort in this world will turn the righteous from following God. I’m sure this next verse has been used to justify all sorts of pseudo outreach programs. “He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be answered.” This is a verse that speaks to mercy, but it can’t stop there. It’s great to feed people who are hungry and clothe people that are naked, but if that’s where you stop, it’s just a good thing to do. The Gospel must be intentionally woven into that work for it to be a work of God. Our primary goal as a church is to make disciples, but if all we do is feed hungry people, we’ve missed the goal established for us by Jesus Himself. This verse speaks to the cry of the poor being ignored. If we ignore the plight of those in poverty, then our cries will not be heard. Remember Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7)

The next verse is not an endorsement to bribery. A gift in secret subdues anger, and a bribe in the bosom, strong wrath.” Gifts are often appropriate, especially when given in private. If you make a big show of giving someone a gift, then the emphasis is on the giver instead of the receiver. If a bribe is offered to subvert justice, that is clearly unbiblical and must be avoided. “The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity.” This make sense, right? If you are righteous, and the only way to be righteous is through the blood of Christ, you want to see justice done. This is the justice dispensed by our government: you want to see right things accomplished and wrong things squashed. So, the next obvious question is, right according to who? We must stick to the unchanging standard of God’s Word. There may be amendments to the U.S. Constitution, but there are none to the Bible.

“A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead.” The path of righteousness is a straight and narrow path. Last October, Kari and I were in the mountains of NC and we went hiking. What’s nice about hiking off the Blue Ridge Parkway is the hiking trails are marked. If you get off the marked path, chances are good you’ll get lost. If you stay on the path, you won’t get lost. This is the metaphor Solomon is using. If you get off the path of understanding, you’ll end up with the dead because you will be dead. In Matt. 7:13 Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” There are no alternate paths to righteousness. It is only God’s way through Jesus.

“He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not become rich.” I could spend a whole lot of time here because this is sure a verse for today. The pursuit of pleasure drives many people – even in the church. Solomon is not just talking about pursuing pleasure, but coveting pleasure. Now there’s nothing wrong with having a good time, but if that’s your focus, something’s wrong. If you’re looking for the next fun thing, the next thing to entertain you, the next thing to wow you, Solomon says that you will become poor. Solomon also says, “He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.” At the risk of being labeled old fashioned, I think this loving wine thing is an epidemic in the church. I know I spent a lot of time on 20:1, but Solomon addresses the topic again. Do you look as forward to getting into God’s Word as you do having that glass of wine? The oil in this verse refers to olive oil. This seems a strange addition to the wine. Wine and oil were common at banquets. Overall Solomon is saying if you pursue pleasure and luxury, you’re going to be poor. Turn over to 2 Tim. 3 and we’ll tie up this thought nicely with Paul’s warning to Timothy. Look at vs. 1-5. Avoid here means keep away from. That’s a pretty stern warning.

“The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the treacherous is in the place of the upright.” This is a pretty challenging verse that has to do with justice. The same idea occurs in Pro. 11:8 where it says, “The righteous is delivered from trouble, but the wicked takes his place.” The wicked are atonement or payment for the righteous, but don’t confuse that with the atonement of Christ that brings redemption to those that believe. In Exodus 12, the Israelites were told to put blood from a sacrificial lamb on the doorposts and lentils of their houses. The Lord said He was coming and when he saw the blood, He would pass over the house and go to the next. The Jews followed the instructions and were spared at the expense of the Egyptians. In that manner, the Egyptians became a ransom, or payment for the righteous. Righteous and upright don’t mean perfect here, but an overall desire to follow after God.

In Joshua 6, God told Joshua to lead Israel into battle against Jericho where the walls came tumbling down. Israel was instructed to take nothing as spoils from the battle: no gold or silver, bronze or iron – those are holy to the Lord. Following the victory at Jericho, Josh. 7:1 tells us, “The sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel.” Achan’s sin affected the entire nation of Israel. Their next battle occurred against the much weaker Ai where they were soundly defeated causing Joshua to tear his clothes and go into mourning. God told him to get up and told him what had happened to cause Israel to be defeated. God declared that, “Israel has sinned,” and because of that, “Israel cannot stand before their enemies.” (Josh. 7:11ff) God instructs Joshua to cast lots to find the guilty party and the lot eventually falls to Achan. Joshua confronts Achan who says, “When I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.” (Josh. 7:21) Joshua sends people to Achan’s tent and they find the spoils exactly where Achan said it would be. Achan the wicked, was used as a ransom for Israel, the righteous. Achan was stoned to death and then burned. Everyone else in Israel followed God’s instructions – they had a desire to follow after God. I know that was a somewhat lengthy explanation, but sometimes, you really have to work at understanding the meaning of Scripture.

Let’s get one last one in for today. “It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.” This is similar to 21:9 that we looked at last week and Solomon adds vexing here. Vexing means intending to harass and full of disorder or stress. Now, that’s a lovely woman. First, the man is alone on a roof top and now he’s alone in the desert or wilderness. The commonality between the two verses is that it’s better to be alone than deal with an argumentative and unruly wife. I don’t know if that woman from 21:9 found her way to the roof and now the guy has to get away even more or not. It’s better to be exposed to the harshness of the wilderness – the wind, the weather, and the sand than it is to be with that harsh and vexing woman. And before you allow the thought to enter your mind, this is not an endorsement to leave a woman that is constantly arguing and causing stress in your life. The best way to handle a contentious wife is to love her as Christ loved the church.

Another message that covered a lot of ground. We saw where wickedness starts and that’s in the soul of humanity as we are born into sin through one man’s disobedience. Wicked people do wicked things because they don’t know any other way. Righteous people look at pleasing God rather than any short-term gain from wickedness. Don’t shut your ear to the cry of the poor, but make the Gospel an intentional aspect of any acts of mercy you engage in. We looked briefly at gift giving, exercising justice, and staying on the path of righteousness. Don’t love pleasure so much that you forsake God. We looked at the results of Achan’s sin and finished looking at the vexing woman and hopefully we now have a better understanding of the depth of wickedness in man.

The Wickedness of Today

18 Jul

WickedYou can listen and download the podcast here.

Last week, we started by asking the question, what does it cost to be righteous? The answer is that it just might cost everything. Sometimes we find ourselves at odds with the government and it’s just not right to fine people who are doing right. We still live in a society where wrongdoing is punished and there are ways to redress wrongs that have been committed. In a faith based setting, you can’t run down and correct all the nasty things that are said about you. David said in Ps. 54:1, “Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your power.” You must rest on the fact that God is the vindicator of the righteous and if people know you, they’ll know your character. We need to be calm, cool, and collected in our dealings with people and sometimes the best answer is silence. If people part company with you because you have been set apart for the Gospel, that’s one thing, but separating yourself from God’s people and God’s Word is a good sign that there’s spiritual sickness in that person. Ignorance of God’s Word is no excuse to live in the folly of your own mind. This morning, we’ll continue looking at some current events.

Our passage for today is found in Pro. 18:3-8 that says, “When a wicked man comes, contempt also comes, and with dishonor comes scorn. The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook. To show partiality to the wicked is not good, nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment. A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.”

We started last week with something for today and we’ll begin this morning in the same manner. “When a wicked man comes, contempt also comes, and with dishonor comes scorn.” Solomon has often used the adjectives wicked and foolish interchangeably, but that word contempt carries some significance. Contempt carries the idea of having no value, worthless, or beneath consideration. Some have wrongly assigned the contempt to the wicked one, but that’s not what Solomon is saying. When you put it together with all that we have learned in recent verses, Solomon is talking about contempt the wicked have for all things holy and pure. When that wicked guy comes; the guy that says the Bible is outdated, foolish, not relevant, old fashioned, too mean or judgmental, when that person raises his fist and declares that a loving God would not do x, y, or z, he is demonstrating contempt for God’s holy and perfect Word. When the wicked walk into your life, so does their contempt. Ps. 14:1-3 gives us this incredible truth, “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good. The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” We see this happening all around us, but what’s even more disturbing is that we’re seeing it in Christian circles too. Fewer and fewer people are standing solidly on the truth found in God’s Word. We can attribute this to a number of reasons, but I think the primary reason just might be that we have people that profess to be followers of Christ that just are not. We have professing believers that don’t read or study God’s Word, that don’t participate in the things of the church and don’t even want to. These same folks are ones that will claim their relationship with God is special or wonderful. They might even say they pray all the time. I want you to really ponder this question: when you sin; when you fall short of the glory of God, when you fail to live up to the standard of perfection, does God say, “It’s okay, it doesn’t matter.” Do you say that when your employee messes up? Your child? Your friend? When we fall into that trap, we minimize the power of God to perform actual transformation in our lives and we cheapen the incredible sacrifice Christ made on the cross. Don’t live under the false premise that God’s love erases His judgment.

The scorn Solomon mentions means contempt or disdain expressed openly. It really doesn’t freak me out when lost people do this regarding God’s Word. In 1 Cor. 2:14 Paul said, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” There is a bridge that is established when you make a decision to follow Christ. There is a connection made when the Holy Spirit enters you. Things that were unexplainable to you now come together. Things you had such difficulty understanding are now received by faith. I have no problem saying, “I can’t explain it, I just believe it.” How can you believe so easily? They might ask. It’s really a dumb question. Some people aren’t willing to take that step of faith with Jesus even though they do it in nearly every facet of life. People that don’t understand the internal combustion engine have no issues driving a car. People that don’t understand how an airplane can fly have no problem stepping onto that plane. People that have no idea how electricity gets distributed from the power plant to the home have no issues flipping that light switch. People that don’t understand how medicine works still follow the prescription. But when it comes to spiritual matters, they want full disclosure and complete understanding. Have you ever tried explaining the inexplicable? Have you ever tried comprehending the incomprehensible? Have you ever tried figuring out a miracle?

It would be really helpful for you to read 1 Cor. 2 to give us the context for Paul’s statement I quoted a moment ago. Our responsibility is not to convince people about Jesus although there is a tremendous need to reason through the Scriptures. Our responsibility is to demonstrate what Jesus has done in our lives. I think that might be the reason why some professing believers want to distance themselves from absolute truth of Scripture. There’s little to no demonstration of God in their lives. And one final, very timely passage found in 2 Tim. 3:1-9: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.” The times in which we are living in did not catch the Holy Spirit of God by surprise.

Solomon provides us with some more word pictures. “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” Let me help you with this word picture. In our area we have what’s known as shallow wells. While the water drawn may be cool and seem refreshing, it’s not fit for anything except to irrigate your lawn. It contains Sulfur, iron, calcium, magnesium, organic compounds, and bacteria. It stinks; it leaves stains behind, it doesn’t taste good, and the well is affected by drought and overuse. If you want real refreshment that’s suitable for human consumption, you have to dig deep. “The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook” that does not run out. Real wisdom comes from deep within the soul because its source is God. Let me run through these next verses because they’re different ways to say what Solomon has already said. Pro. 18:5-7 says, “To show partiality to the wicked is not good, nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment. A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” All familiar stuff.

Solomon addresses something that I think is destroying a lot of people. “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.” Solomon’s talking about gossip. Before we go any further, we need to understand what gossip is. Gossip is generally defined as idle talk or rumor; especially about the personal or private affairs of others. For the most part, we seem to enjoy gossip, unless it’s about us. We have tabloid newspapers like the National Enquirer, the Globe, and the Star. We have gossip columns, celebrity gossip, and TMZ. Gossip is expressly forbidden in Scripture, but we find it’s commonplace in the church. Sometimes it’s veiled as a prayer request and it rarely comes from the one needing prayer. It comes in the form of, “Pray for so and so . . . they’re having a hard time with their husband’s drinking.” “Pray for . . . their children are so disobedient and rebellious.” “Pray for . . . they’re behind in their mortgage.” “Pray for . . . they’re so sick,” and then a long list of details regarding the sickness is shared. Sometimes it’s even shared with a pained look and there seems to be genuine hurt from the teller. Look at the word picture. “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels.” Dainty means delicately small and pretty. I should tell you that the word morsel is also translated wound. Look at the results of taking in that dainty morsel. “They go down into the innermost parts of the body.” Here’s what gossip does. It gets in your system and destroys you from the inside out. It affects the hearer and the one about whom the tale is told. Think about it like this: there are things that are harmless when applied to the skin, but can be deadly if taken internally. Hydrogen peroxide comes to mind. On some medication, you’ll see the warning label: external use only. Gossip gets in you and affects you in ways you cannot overestimate. Gossip hurts people. So what if it’s the truth? Gossip often comes in unsubstantiated claims. I love it when someone tells me, “People are saying . . .” Really, who are those people? Oh, just people. Those people won’t be named because the one passing on the information doesn’t want it to come back to them because they’re gossiping. Now if you hear something, it’s okay to check it out. Remember, even if it’s the truth, it may not need to be shared.

Solomon uses the terms foolish and wicked interchangeably. Someone that says God’s Word is outdated or irrelevant will bring contempt for anything that is holy and pure, and godly. Even though fewer and fewer people are willing to stand in agreement with the unchanging Word of God does not mean you have to. Don’t dismiss the power of God to change your life. He wants to change you if you’ll allow Him to. A decision to follow Christ will bridge the gap in your understanding of things that are inexplicable, but there will always be things about God that cannot be understood. Biblical and godly wisdom provide an inexhaustible fountain of cool, refreshing living water. Don’t be a gossip. It hurts the listener and the one that it’s about.

Trouble, Trouble, Trouble

18 Jan

TroubleCheck out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us to be sensitive to when it’s best to talk and when it’s best to remain silent. Words used at the right time in the right place can bring great comfort and joy to others. Keep on the path of righteousness, don’t be prideful, and check your plans with God before putting them into play. This morning, Solomon issues some solemn warnings as well as some encouragement.

Pro. 15:27-29 says, “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live. The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

You’ve heard this saying before: crime doesn’t pay. Crime actually does pay, but getting caught doesn’t. There is an illusion that if you don’t get caught, then you got away with it. In the eternal scheme of things, there is no such things as getting away with it. God’s justice is always perfect. Solomon says, “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.” See, even Solomon knows there can be short term gains in illicit practices. The illicit practices cover a wide range of illegal or unethical means used to get money. Charging too much, taking advantage of certain classes of people like the elderly, not doing all that you’ve been paid to do, stealing time from your employer, cheating on your taxes, stealing: you get the idea. This would also include scams of all sorts. Though Solomon is talking about profiting from those things, you can safely conclude that even if you don’t get a profit, it’s bad to engage in those type of activities. When you ignore this teaching, you bring, “troubles to your own house.” What kind of trouble you might ask? How about financial loss? How about ruining your reputation? How about being charged and subsequently convicted of a crime? How about incarceration? How about God’s wrath on you? These consequences don’t just affect the guilty, they can also affect your family. Poor decisions made by parents affect the kids. Ungodly decisions made by adults affect those around them.

One of the reasons behind what Solomon is saying is that the drive for money and material possessions can cause us to do things that are contrary to biblical principle. “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6:10) God knows we need cash to live. It’s what goes beyond basic need that gets us in trouble. There are people that are driven by money. One of the top local stories in our area from 2015 was about the man that plead guilty to embezzling $1.2 million from his employer over a seven-year period. Kari and I used to go to church with him. A couple years after he changed churches, he sought me ought to serve as their pastor. Here is a guy that is serving as a leader in a church. That should be an easy thing to avoid. “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.” A bribe is persuading someone to act in one’s favor, typically illegally or dishonestly, by a gift of money or other inducement. Bribery is illegal on state and federal levels. It’s also biblically wrong. Ex. 23:8 says, “You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.”

Here’s some more guidance on speech. Solomon says, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” Here is another example of where things start. Remember Mary pondered why the angel would greet her as, “Favored one.” (Lu. 1:29) Ponder means to think carefully especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion. If we could just control our mouths, we’d avoid many problems. Ja. 3:2, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” I believe that verse applies to emails, texts, or messaging of any kind. How many of you see or actually post something on social media and then close by saying, “Rant over”? Solomon is saying think before you speak. Take a moment before speaking, that’s what righteous people do, that’s what people do who are controlled by the Holy Spirit.

The contrast to the one who ponders is, “The mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” I can understand getting upset over certain things, or getting mad, but there is no excuse for losing it. James sums it up nicely. Look at Ja. 3:8-12. See, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t praise Jesus on Sunday and profane His name on Monday. It has nothing to do with those that are around you. Just because others use profanity doesn’t mean you have to. People are essentially leading double lives and no one is calling them out. If and when you do, you get the whole intolerant, judgmental, I’m not perfect nonsense. If you’re a follower of Christ, greater is He that’s in you, then he that is in the world. If the only thing people had to go on was how you talked, what conclusions would they make? That is something to think about.

One final concluding principle. “The Lord is far from the wicked.” If you are still unsure of where God stands with wicked people, here’s one for you. This is really interesting given the omni-presence of God. Obviously Solomon is not talking about geographic distance, but spiritual distance. Wicked in this verse conveys the idea of a wicked mind, a perverse mind, an unregenerate mind. It’s a mind controlled by sin, it’s the natural state of the mind and it’s the natural state of man. Take the time to read an incredible passage found in Job 21:1-16. God has no fellowship with the wicked: no relationship. Jo. 9:31 says, “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.” There is a line of separation called sin, but the blood of Jesus erases that line. No matter how often you pray or read God’s word, if you haven’t received the gift of God that is Jesus, He is not obligated to listen to you. Can He hear those prayers? Can He answer the prayers of the wicked? Of course, but He doesn’t have to. “But He hears the prayer of the righteous.” By contrast, God is always available to the righteous who are righteous through Jesus. For certain, God has plans for everyone and He does all He can to get people to understand the salvation that is found in Christ, but He knows not everyone will receive that gift. But for those that are followers of Christ, Ps. 145:18 reminds us, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”

There is no instance where a life of crime is an option for authentic followers. If you profit illicitly, your household is in danger, and I would encourage you to seek the Lord. Think carefully and cautiously before engaging in any form of communication. Ponder answers before you give them. Remember that bitter and sweet water cannot come out of the same well. If you have a real relationship with Christ, you can be sure that He hears your prayers and will answer them. Live your life as a reflection of God’s renewing power of transformation.

Timing is Everything

11 Jan

TimingListen to the podcast here.

When we were last in Proverbs before Thanksgiving, Solomon told us to seek guidance from others. Seek answers from God and get good counsel to confirm it. If something is weighing heavily on you and you think it’s from God, speak with someone that will provide you with solid, biblical, godly, and timely guidance from Scripture. There is rarely anything God gives us that must begin immediately. It took God six days to create the heavens and the earth and all that is within it. Paul spent years walking around Asia and Europe to get the message of Jesus out to the Gentiles and it took more than a century for Noah to build a boat. This morning, Solomon gives us several principles that stand alone.

Take the time to read Pro. 15:23-26.

There is a time and a place to speak. We’ve said before that not everything needs to be said and what does need to be said doesn’t necessarily need to be said right now. Solomon starts by saying, “A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word.” This is definitely a feel good verse. It’s a verse suitable to put on a bumper sticker, Facebook meme, or e-card. But good things said can be off putting when they’re spoken at the wrong time. The wise person knows when to say that good word and when to remain silent. Notice that the perspective is from the giver of the good and timely words. We saw in the last Proverbs message that we should seek wise counsel and it’s from the perspective of receiving that counsel and the joy of getting good guidance. Here Solomon is talking about the blessing of giving that good guidance. It’s not a prideful thing in order for us to confirm how awesome we are. People sometimes come to me for advice and counsel. I know I give good advice because I just tell folks what the Bible says. I try to be persuasive, convincing, and confident in the words I say and it gives me joy and a good feeling that people are listening to the Bible. I get great joy in knowing that the Word is alive and able to help people that need its comfort, guidance, wise counsel, and all the other tangible things that come from within its living pages. You have that same opportunity to give the life changing bread of life!

Here’s another meme worthy quote. “The path of life leads upward for the wise that he may keep away from Sheol below.” The path of life is the same as the way is the same as the gate is the same as the road is the same as the highway. They’re all different ways of saying stay on the path that leads to righteousness. Stay on the path that leads to the Promised Land. Stay on the road that leads to eternity with God. The wise individual knows the dangers that lurk just off the path. When you stay on the path, you will keep away from Sheol, the place of the dead which lies below. Paul said, For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 3:20) He also said, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Col. 3:1) Too often we think of earth as our eternal home and all our efforts are used to secure heaven on earth which just can’t happen.

Don’t be filled with pride. Solomon says, “The Lord will tear down the house of the proud.” There is a difference in parental pride and personal pride. Speaking to Jesus in Lu. 3:22 God said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” That’s the idea of parental pride – it’s a delight or satisfaction in your children. Of course that can spill over fairly easily into personal pride when we think our kids are better than everyone else’s kids. It’s typically manifested in statements like, “My child would never do that.” Solomon is talking about an elevated sense of self-worth. It’s a theme repeated often in Scripture. Pride is the principle that it’s all about me. Ps. 34:3 says, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” God is at the pinnacle of humanity; He is at the top of everything and does not take a back seat to anything that we consider important. When you magnify yourself over the Lord, you set yourself up in opposition to the first commandment that says, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:3) That’s what pride is, right? It’s the idea of self-centeredness. It’s the idea that the world revolves around you. Over and over God says, “It’s all about Me.” That’s what the first commandment is about.       That’s why we have a commandment against idolatry. The house of the proud will come crashing down. Maybe not physically, but that also might be true. God will do what He must to get people to acknowledge that He is what the universe revolves around. There is coming a day where everyone will recognize Jesus for who He is. “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)

The house of the proud will be destroyed, “But He will establish the boundary of the widow.” Being a widow in Scripture is not always glamorous. There are special provisions given to widows because their primary source of support is gone. The church is supposed to, “Honor widows who are widows indeed.” (1 Tim. 5:3) For all the effort and work that goes into accumulating things here, all will be lost, but the boundary of the widow? God will expand her territory and take care of those that are oppressed and afflicted.

I want to hit one more principle. “Evil plans are an abomination to the Lord.” Remember abomination conveys the idea of rotting flesh. Those plans don’t have to come to fruition for God to be displeased. We’ve seen this before. Back in Pro. 6:18, having, “A heart that devises wicked plans,” is in the list of things God hates. Remember the heart is the seat of emotion. What comes out of the mouth reveals what’s inside the heart. When wickedness resides in the heart, evil thoughts and darkness result. When Jesus is in the heart, righteousness and goodness reside there. Because what’s in the heart flows out, the result is Jesus. “Pleasant words are pure.” By definition, goodness and righteousness are there because of Jesus and His working in your life. Jesus being Lord of your life leads to pleasant thoughts, which leads to pleasant words, which leads to pleasing Jesus and many of the people that cross your path. David said, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Ps.19:14)

It’s good to be back in Proverbs. Be sensitive to when it’s best to talk and when it’s best to remain silent. Words used at the right time in the right place can bring great comfort and joy to others. Keep on the path of righteousness, don’t be prideful, and check your plans with God before putting them into play.

Righteousness as a Compass

29 Jun

CompassYou can check out the live version here.

Last week we looked at a fool’s life. The fool thinks he’s right and doesn’t listen to anyone around him. He’s immediately known when things don’t go his way because his anger betrays him. Even if he can control himself, his words readily identify him as a fool. Don’t be a liar, tell the truth and that truth comes from God because His Word is truth. This morning, Solomon continues providing direction for our lives.

Pro. 12:23-28 says, A prudent man conceals knowledge, But the heart of fools proclaims folly. The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor. Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad. The righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. A lazy man does not roast his prey, but the precious possession of a man is diligence. In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.”

Solomon kicks this passage off with an opening salvo of some pretty common sense type stuff. Just because you know something doesn’t mean you are obligated to share that knowledge with every breathing human you come in to contact with. “A prudent man conceals knowledge.” That doesn’t mean cover up or deceit. It means just because you know something, you don’t have to share it. If you have the knowledge and wisdom, it’s okay to wait to be asked. I can admit that I have a problem doing this. I have spent a lifetime filling my brain with great and wonderful things that I want to share with you. It’s best to wait for that knowledge to be sought than it is to go around telling everyone what you know. One the other hand, “But the heart of the fool proclaims folly.” This principle applies if you’re in a seminar, conference, small groups, classroom, or meeting. When I read this verse, my mind is drawn to Bible study. Kay Arthur has said that Bible study often becomes an arena where we share our common ignorance. There is a time in Bible study to share what people think, but that comes after a thorough examination of the Scriptures. Have you ever sat in a classroom and the teacher says, today we’re going to look at nuclear fission. What do you think about that? What does that mean to you? Of course not, that’s not how it works. Too many people think things that are contrary to Scripture because they didn’t take the time to consult what it says. That’s what the fool does. He says what he thinks without any careful consideration. We established last week that you can’t trust your heart of stone. What’s really sad is that the fool doesn’t know he’s being a fool and won’t listen to the wisdom of others. In Eccl. 10:3 Solomon said, “Even when the fool walks along the road, his sense is lacking and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool.” Everyone else knows it.

A principle that is lacking is found next when Solomon says, “The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor.” The idea is that we should be diligent in all aspects of our lives. That diligence applies to our relationships, our studies if we’re in school, our jobs, and our walk of faith and everything that entails. What reputation do you have when it comes to your life? Have you ever heard the saying your reputation precedes you? You will become known by who you actually are rather than what you want to become. If you’re not willing to put forth the effort required in whatever you choose to do, you will end up answering to those that are diligent. This is another indictment on lazy people. We’re not talking a lazy day, but a lifestyle of laziness.

While laziness might plague some folks, the next one is going to resonate with many.“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down.” Wow is there truth in that. One of the hardest things I do on a regular basis is care for people that don’t care. How can you minister to people that do not want to be ministered to? How can you shepherd people that don’t want a shepherd? How can you teach to people that do not want to be taught? How can you encourage people that want to remain discouraged? The short answer is you can’t. For me, the most difficult thing to determine is when to follow the words of Jesus, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.” (Matt. 10:14) That doesn’t mean you pretend they’re dead, but you give them over to the Holy Spirit. Understand the ground with which you’re working. Notice Solomon is not declaring anxiety to be wrong, misguided or sinful. Anxiety is an emotion and as with other emotions, they are given by God. Solomon doesn’t leave you hanging, but gives you the cure. “A good word makes it glad.” You are often afforded the opportunity to employ this principle. Someone comes to you with something that is weighing that person down or you’re weighed down. Remember v. 18 says, “The tongue of the wise brings healing.” This healing is found in God and His Word. “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” (Ps. 94:19) The reminders of Scripture about who God is provide the hope for us to trust in Him.

In Matt. 11:28-30, Jesus gave us this very powerful metaphor: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” This yoke gives us the picture of being physically connected to Christ. The metaphor stems from the practice of training young oxen to work the fields. A training yoke was placed on them and they worked alongside the older more experienced oxen. They were physically connected. Where the more experienced older ox went, so did the ox in training. Too often we try to plow the fields of life alone, but we were never ordained to be alone. We are never called upon to go it by ourselves. We are never faced with aloneness or isolation because Jesus is physically connected to us. The idea Jesus is presenting is that we learn from Him because we are tied to Him. We are connected to Him. He shares in our triumphs, our joys, and our celebrations, and He also shares in our pain, suffering, and trials. We sometimes forget that. In your darkest hour, He is the Light. In your moment of greatest need, He is there.

Good fences may make good neighbors, but in v. 26 Solomon gives us a better principle. “The righteous is a guide to his neighbor.” This is consistent with other verses. There is no stopping the righteous man because he is following Christ. The righteous are righteous because of Christ and that always comes out. It should be evident in our day to day lives and other people will recognize it in you. It’s awesome to be righteous because of the righteousness of Christ. It’s even more awesome when we use that righteousness as a tool to show other people Jesus. In direct opposition to the righteousness of Christ, “But the way of the wicked leads them astray.” The wicked continue doing wicked things. They are of no help to someone seeking truth, seeking righteousness, seeking the things in life Christ wants us to experience. “Lead them astray” literally means cause to wander. This is intentional. I’m not talking about someone who had pure motives, but ends up giving wrong or bad guidance. I’m certain I have done that. The wicked are intentional about their wickedness. They are on the path of destruction and will take anyone foolish enough to go with them. We combat this with the righteousness of Christ.

Another character trait Solomon seems to hammer is that of laziness. “A lazy man does not roast his prey.” The exact meaning of roast is difficult to determine, but the principle seems clear. This guy is so lazy that if he does hunt, he doesn’t want to take the time to cook what he caught. “But the precious possession of a man is diligence.” I find it interesting that people place so much value on things that really don’t matter. To Solomon, this character trait matters. Of diligence, he says it’s precious – it is something of great value. Diligence is careful and persistent work or effort. It’s used numerous times in Scripture and we’ve seen it several times in Proverbs. Isaiah cried out, “At night my soul longs for You, indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently.” (Is. 26:9) Paul said, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15) This is a work ethic. It is a way of life. I’ve often heard people say very positively about others, “He’s a hard worker.” It’s a complement. Who wants to be characterized as lazy? Laziness is still generally considered an unacceptable character trait.

Solomon brings it home by saying, “In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.” We look forward to many things in this life: births, marriages, graduations, anniversaries, retirement, Christmas. As Christians, we look forward to eternity. There is no real death because the end of our physical life allows us to pass through the gates of eternity to enjoy face time with God and His only Son. That’s the path of righteousness. That’s the way of righteousness. It is the way of Jesus.

When we act like Christ and talk like Christ, there are people that will be drawn to us and people that will be opposed to us. As a passionate follower of Christ, some people will throw you in the same category as every so-called Christian that they think act hypocritically, unkindly, unloving, ungodly or whatever else to use as justification to hate us that could cause anxiousness within us. We face the same pressures of life others face and that could bring anxiousness. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7) Give due diligence to your walk of faith. Before I go out and try and fix everyone else, I need to make sure I am walking with Christ every moment of everyday. When we passionately live for Christ, people may not like us or approve of us, but we can rest easy knowing that we are in the center of God’s will.

The Shotgun Approach

13 Apr

ShotgunYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we enjoyed a wonderful Easter service as we celebrated the risen Savior. When we were last in Proverbs, we learned that wicked people are generally defined as those without a relationship with Christ. The memory of the blessed will be remembered fondly, but the names of the wicked will rot. Wise people want to be wiser and welcome instruction. Solomon said to stay on the path of righteousness and do not go astray. This morning, Solomon quickly gives us 14 principles to adapt to our lives and they are going to come fairly fast so let’s hang on.

Take the time to grab your Bible and read our passage found in Pro. 10:18-32.

Here we go. V. 18 really goes with the previous section, but it seemed more appropriate to include it here with v. 19-21. Solomon is not saying put your hatred out in the open. When you inwardly hate someone, but try not to show it, you’re a liar. It’s not okay to hate people and you can’t excuse it by convincing yourself that at least your honest about your hatred. Notice the second phrase is connected with the word “and” so it’s not a contrast. The word slander is better translated stupid. Our speech may be the quickest identifier of what’s in our hearts and when you’re together with someone you don’t like, it’s pretty obvious to everyone else. He’s saying when you hate someone, you’re forced to lie about it because you have to pretend you like the person. So the right thing is not to hate to begin with. Solomon continues with a principle you’ll hear time and time again in Proverbs as well as other parts of Scripture. When you talk all the time, Solomon is saying it’s next to impossible to avoid issues. This is the kind of person that has an opinion on everything, and is likely a self proclaimed expert on those topics. Always talking, but not really saying anything. They love to hear the sound of their own voice. They’ve been there. They were the first, the best, or the only. They ignore the two minute rule. Mark Twain is generally attributed to saying, “Better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” I think he likely got this principle from Proverbs.

This is particularly evident during times of national crisis. People express their opinion, but their opinion is not based on fact, research, or personal discovery. People think something just because they think it. Sometimes, it’s okay to say nothing, but when that principle is ignored, “transgression is unavoidable.” That means there will be trouble. The word translated transgression can also mean sin, rebellion, or breach of trust. Have you ever had a conversation that stated with, “I’m not supposed to tell anyone, but . . .” Lying lips sink ships is an old Navy adage. Don’t be a gossip! Here’s the opposite, “But he who restrains his lips is wise.” There is wisdom in listening. You know how frustrating it is to be in a setting where something is said and five minutes later, someone says the same thing because they weren’t listening? I just have to say this. No you don’t! Don’t think something needs to be said. Some more painting with a broad brush. “The heart of the wicked is worth little.” He didn’t say worth nothing. The contrast is, “The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver.” The word choice means tested by fire or purified and the phrase worth little means dross or the impurities that are removed during the purification process. This leads beautifully into v. 21, “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding.” So when we put vs. 20-21 together we get a really vivid word picture. Words spoken with wisdom are worth their weight in silver. They are valuable, they are timeless, they are reliable, and they are useful. “The lips of the righteous feed many” because they speak the unchanging truths of the Word of God which is the bread of life which is Jesus Christ. The Word of God provides the spiritual food that is so necessary in satisfying the hunger of authentic believers. What comes from the abundance of the heart of a fool is worth little. Little substance, little value, little principle, little thought. If your heart is filled with biblical wisdom, that’s what flows out. If your heart is filled with nonsense, that also will come out. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools starve to death and that’s the way they want it.

Let’s talk about cash. Money is a theme repeated often in Scripture and Solomon has lots to say about it. Here he says, “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that money makes the world go round. Many people have their sights set on the world’s riches. We’re consumed with the idea of money and wealth. And it’s not necessarily that you’re rich as much as having people think you’re rich by what you have. By the car you drive, or the neighborhood you live in, or the school you went to. Even Christians have bought into these cultural definitions that are not exemplified in Scripture. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you’re rich and just because you don’t have money doesn’t mean you’re poor. In God’s economy, money has nothing to do with being rich or poor. It is the blessings of God that make one rich. Shift your thinking to eternity. A couple of scriptural examples jump out at me. One is the rich man and Lazarus of Lu.16:19-31. The other is the widow that gave all she had in Luke 21:1-4.

Here’s another topic shift. Even though these seem random, it all flows together. In v. 23, Solomon conveys the total deprivation of the foolish. “Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool.” They do it for pleasure, for fun, for enjoyment, for amusement. They sin for the fun of it without regard to right or wrong, without regard for consequence. “Wickedness is like sport to a fool and so is wisdom to a man of understanding.”  This is a huge contrast. The fool enjoys sin and the man of understanding enjoys wisdom. The man of understanding is in active pursuit of wisdom. He looks for it, he longs for it, he wants it. The fool finds joy in wickedness, but the man of understanding finds joy in wisdom. 

There are such contrasts in this series of verses. As believers, we should be a vivid contrast to the worlds and its system of thinking.  I encourage you to think before speaking. Oh the problems that could be avoided by simply keeping our mouths closed! Pursue wisdom while she can be found.

Noah: A Movie Review

4 Apr

NoahI don’t often review movies or books on my blog, but I feel the need to take a closer look at the movie Noah. I’ve been doing an inductive study of Genesis with Precept Camden on Sunday nights and the timing of the movie lines up with our study in Genesis.

I heard the hype. I heard the disdain from Christians who vow to boycott the movie. On a side note, I still don’t get the point of boycotting. Does that ever work? I guess I need to ask Disney. Too often Christians want to take a stand where no stand is needed. We’ll stand against a movie (or book, magazine, a store, etc.) and refuse to spend our hard earned money on that trash or in that place. That is your choice. It’s okay. You can do that. I respect your position. Do we go to the movies for reality? Who doesn’t want to be Jack Reacher or at least have him a a friend? Who wouldn’t want to shoot a web out of your wrist and be able climb the side of a building? Who freaked out when the Terminator found Sarah Connor? We ignored the fact that he was a cyborg from the future. Speaking of the future, didn’t we cheer when Marty McFly came back from the future after setting things straight? I loved the movie The Hunt for Red October. You may or may not know that I spent 23 years in the submarine force of the United States Navy. I know submarines. I know submarine life. It was a very accurate, sometimes eerily accurate portrayal of the cat and mouse games of submarines. Tom Clancy has that knack of writing excellent military novels. I also loved Crimson Tide, a nonsensical, totally unrealistic, implausible scenario of a launch of nuclear missiles from a submarine. The premise of an unauthorized launch of  nuclear missile was nearly as implausible as the Commanding Officer of Alabama having his pet dog at sea with him. I should know, I spend three and a half years stationed on board the Alabama and my Commanding Officer did not have a dog on board. Ask yourself this question, “Am I going to the movies to get a clear (or clearer) understanding of biblical principles?” Or, “Am I going to the movies to be entertained?” That’s for you to decide. I want to be entertained, I want the good guy to win, I want the hero to be heroic, and I want the bad guy to lose. I like the stereotypical happy ending. So that brings us to Noah.

My wife and I went to see the movie with another couple. Yes, we went two by two. Russell Crowe played the title role of Noah and he does an excellent job acting. That’s what he does.  Truth be told, my expectations for this movie were not high on the biblical accuracy scale. Noah was real and he had an ark. That much of the movie is true and that’s about where the truth ends as well. This movie is pure fantasy, a science-fiction epic with all the computer generated graphics to boot. It bears little resemblance to Genesis 5-8. Yes, Noah and the ark are in the movie. Noah has a wife and three sons. Yep, that’s true to the Bible. The animals come two by two. The accuracy pretty much disintegrates from there. The movie’s official website states, “Russell Crowe stars as Noah in the film inspired by the epic story of courage, sacrifice and hope.” There isn’t much hope here.

There is not enough space here to list all the inaccuracies with the biblical account, but as I stated, if you go to the movies for accuracy, you might want to stick with documentaries. Tubal Cain takes a leading villainous role and represents all that is wicked and evil in the world that is the source of the Creator’s anger yet Tubal Cain is mentioned only once in the Bible in Gen. 4:22. If I remember correctly, God is not mentioned by name in the movie. He is called the Creator which is of course, true. Noah’s grandfather is portrayed as a wise man/guru that resides on top of a mountain. According to the movie, only Shem has a wife. Unfortunately for humanity, she is unable to bare children due to an injury sustained as a child. Don’t sweat that . . . Methuselah heals her right after imparting some very sage advice for her. There are the Watchers, rock creatures that look like they were mistakenly dropped on the set of Noah from the set of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. These Watchers are supposed to be the Nephilim of Gen. 6 and work with Noah to save the world. The locals are portrayed as meat eating savages while Noah and his family are vegetarians. The locals are so wicked, they trade their women and children for meat. Ham leaves the ark project in search of a wife among these wicked locals and unfortunately falls into a mass grave that must have been dug to hold all the people killed by the wickedness of man. As luck would have it, there is a fetching young woman that ended up in that same grave. They begin an ill fated romance and Ham promises to get her out of the grave. Seeing that Ham is not at his assigned post, Noah goes looking for him. As the rain begins falling, Ham managed to get his girl out of the pit of death and we see them scrambling among the hoards of people that are fleeing to find refuge on the ark. With the ark in sight, Ham’s girl steps in a animal trap and Ham desperately tries to free her. Thankfully, Noah sees them and unceremoniously leaves the girl in the trap telling Ham that they must get on the ark. Among the throng seeking refuge is Tubal Cain who climbs the construction scaffolding and uses his battle ax to chop a hole through the ark and then climbs in and stows away. Ham later finds him hiding in the ark, but does not reveal the intruder because he’s still angry that his father left his new girlfriend in the animal trap. Ham and Japheth are without wives . . .  at least until the sequel. The movie Noah believes he is to save the animals because mankind has destroyed the creation while the animals are innocent bystanders of this wickedness. The impending doom is designed to destroy humanity and then once Noah and his family deliver the animals to the safety of the new creation now void of people, the remaining humans will die thus ending humanity once and for all. I’m sorry, what?

Don’t go see the movie Noah hoping to get to know the biblical character better through some careful research by film maker Darren Aronofsky. Make no mistake, he made an excellent film. It feels like Gladiator wrapped up in Braveheart with some Waterworld, Lord of the Rings, and 300 thrown in there. It is epic. It is visually appealing. It is not real. It is fantasy. So should you go see the movie? That is up to you, but one could certainly use this movie as a springboard for an honest discussion about God’s deliverance from evil and wickedness through His one and only Son Jesus Christ. Open the Bible to the accurate account of Noah and the world wide flood. It did happen. Does the Bible tell us all that we would like to know about the event? Absolutely not. As a sailor, I have some questions about ark construction and seaworthiness. How did Noah feed the animals and take care of house cleaning. The bottom line is that I have to exercise faith just like Noah did when God told him to do something extraordinary, something Noah likely did not fully understand. We have to realize that we likely don’t have all the information Noah had at the time. We don’t have a dialogue like we do leading up to Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the garden of Eden. I have to trust that God provided all He believed we would need. Knowing the biblical account of Noah and the reason God told him to build it, the major issue with the movie for me is that Noah is portrayed as a hero, a villain, a heartless non-thinking cretin, a mood swinging Neanderthal, and perhaps most disturbing of all – totally doesn’t understand what the Creator is telling him to do.  Yes, Noah gets the ark right and the animals right . . . well sort of; he failed to get clean animals by seven. The biblical Noah was chosen because he was a contrast to the wickedness of the world. Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord . . . God’s eyes. God would establish His covenant with Noah (Gen. 6:18).

If you’re looking for biblical accuracy, forget this movie. Also forget The Ten Commandments, One Night with the King, Ben-Hur, The Prince of Egypt, and Barabbas among a host of others. I’ve had people tell me, “I’m not paying money to see that because Aronofsky is an atheist.” Do these same people evaluate all filmmaker’s spiritual background? Or is it because an atheist promised to make the least biblically accurate film of all time? He most likely succeeded in accomplishing just that.

God’s Reaction to Repentance

27 Feb

You can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw Jonah taking advantage of the second chance he was given. He diligently preached God’s message to Nineveh and as a result, the most miraculous transformation in history took place. Everyone from the king down to the most common of people came to recognize the truth of God. The truth resulted in people turning from wickedness to God. The king did what was right and if God wanted to relent and withdraw His judgment, that would be cool. Let’s see what happens next.

Our story continues in Jonah 3:10-4:3 that says, When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. “Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.”

God’s mercy is revealed in Nineveh. Ever vigilant, ever seeing, v. 10 tells us, When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.True repentance leads to mercy, but God is not obligated to give us mercy. It wasn’t the prayers and fasting that led to God relenting although that was good. God relented only after, “They turned from their wicked way.” True repentance always leads to a change of heart, a change of attitude, a change in direction. You cannot say you’re sorry for your actions and continue engaging in the same actions. You cannot say you have a relationship with God and continue to hate your brother, to practice immorality, to continue to lie, cheat, and steal. Actions speak way louder than words. This is really brought home in 1 Jo. 2:1-6. John says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” I don’t know how you can get any clearer than that.

Nineveh turned from their wickedness and God did as the king hoped – He relented. No fire, no brimstone as had occurred in Sodom and Gomorrah. Nobody struck dead where they stood. Are you asking yourself, “But wait a minute, then Jonah’s prophecy didn’t come true and he is a false prophet that should be stoned to death.” In order to understand what just happened, we need to know what the word relent means. It’s also translated as repent or to change your mind. God changing His mind is a hard concept for us. At Nineveh’s repentance, God changed His mind about overthrowing the city. This is consistent with His justice, His mercy, and His righteousness. I often say God can do anything because He is God. I think everyone understands fundamentally what I’m saying, but God can’t really do anything. He can’t break a promise; He can’t lie; He cannot do anything against His inherent character. Ja. 1:17 reminds us that, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  Heb. 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” God always does what He says He’s going to do, but if a condition is met that was previously established, God can change the course of action to suit His purpose. Moses frequently prayed that Israel wouldn’t be destroyed because of their sinful behavior. In fact, the O.T. is full of examples where God responds to His people.

Nineveh recognized the truth that Jonah told them and they turned from sin to God. It must have been genuine repentance or else God wouldn’t have changed the plan. God’s desire is that people turn to Him. 2 Pet. 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” God loves you with an incredible love and wants to spend eternity with you. He will do whatever it takes to get your attention. God’s goal for Nineveh was not destruction, but for repentance and reconciliation between Him and the sinners in that city.

And now for something completely different. We see God’s mercy poured out on Nineveh. For a preacher of God’s Word, this is an incredible response. Peter preached his first message and 3000 people were saved. That’s huge, right? Not compared to Jonah’s message. The response in Nineveh was overwhelming. Everyone responded to the truth of God’s messenger. Oh what a feeling! Jonah has got to be over the moon. Here’s the contrast: Nineveh repented, God relented. Joy all around. Verse 1 says, “But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.” This is not a normal response when people are radically and totally transformed by the Gospel. Why was Jonah so angry? The Scripture is not clear, but there are several possibilities. Remember Assyria was led by wicked leaders that wanted to rule the world. Assyria threatened Israel’s existence and was a likely target. Some say that Jonah was embarrassed that his prediction for destruction did not come true and as a result he lost credibility as a prophet. Others suggest Jonah believed Israel’s devotion to God was declining and this judgment would cause Israel to wake up and serve as a reminder to the Hebrew people that God is God. While the exact reason for Jonah’s anger is not known, this is what we do know. Jonah’s response to Nineveh’s salvation is not a godly one. That’s really an understatement. How much do you have to hate someone to be angry because they responded to what you told them to do? If Jonah’s initial disobedience was not an indication, then his response to Nineveh’s repentance clearly leads you to the conclusion that his heart is not right with God. How quickly Jonah forgot his responsibility to God and the great privilege to be a part of God’s plan.

Jonah’s lame explanation. Verse 2 gives us some insight into Jonah’s heart. He knew exactly what would happen in Nineveh and confesses to the Lord. It’s good that Jonah prayed, but his prayer is a prayer of selfishness, a prayer of complaint – the pronoun “I” occurs four times in this verse. This is way different than his prayer back in 2:2-9. What happened to Jonah’s confession that, “salvation is from the Lord?” Isn’t that the possibility for everyone? People just need to hear the truth of the Messiah? At some point after God told Jonah to go the first time, there was some discussion between the two. In v. 2 Jonah says, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country.” What Jonah anticipated God doing happened and Jonah was the tool God chose to achieve His goal. Jonah was thinking of himself, not the kingdom. Instead of showering Nineveh with the same kind of grace God had granted to Israel, Jonah wanted Nineveh destroyed without the opportunity to repent. Will we join Paul by saying, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31) It’s easy for us to think that God loves us more than our enemies or the enemies of God. We wrongly conclude that God could never love those people that are bent on our destruction, that desire to hurt us, that desire to cripple our country, and our faith. See that’s what happened to Jonah. He was focused on himself. He lacked the wisdom to keep his mouth shut and essentially tells God, “I told you so.” That was his excuse for running to Tarshish. In Jonah’s mind, if he could just delay his trip to Nineveh, maybe God would destroy the place before he got there. Don’t think that Jonah doesn’t know who God is or has a skewed view of Him. He tells on himself in the second part of v. 2. I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” Talk about hypocrisy.

Let’s recap. The Word of God comes to Jonah and tells him to go to Nineveh. Jonah jumps on a boat to flee from the presence of the Lord. God throws a storm at the boat. It was determined that Jonah was the cause. The sailors throw him overboard. Jonah hits the water, a fish swallows him and the storm stops. Jonah recognizes his rebellion and begs God for a second chance. God grants a second chance and the fish vomits Jonah onto dry land. Jonah goes to Nineveh and preaches what God tells him to preach. All the people in Nineveh recognize their sin and repent. God changes the course for Nineveh because they repented. Jonah gets mad because God is loving and kind. What Jonah tells God is really a quote from Ex. 34:6, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.” These people didn’t deserve God’s lovingkindness. At least that’s what Jonah thinks. Since Nineveh repented, Jonah told God, “Please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” How much hatred must be in a person’s heart that he’d rather be dead than see people converted? No joy that God used Jonah in a mighty way. No eager anticipation to see how God would miraculously change these people’s hearts and lives. No thought of how many other people could be reached with the Good News because these people turned from wickedness to God. That’s the problem; Jonah cared about Nineveh getting what he thought they deserved. Jonah forgot all about the grace he was shown and the salvation God provided to him. What’s even more offensive is that Jonah begged God to save him back in chapter 2 and now he would rather be dead.

We cannot forget the love of God that applies unconditionally to humanity. John 3:16 is always applicable. Salvation is not based on our goodness or badness. It’s not based on what we do or have done; it’s all based on what God did through Jesus Christ. Just because we are saved by grace, that is no excuse or justification to live outside of God’s will. Each of us has a mission.

Jonah: Introduction and Setting

9 Jan

You can listen to the podcast here.

This morning we move to the Old Testament for our next study. I want you to forget everything you think you know about Jonah. I want to approach his story with an open mind, with a fresh perspective free from our preconceived ideas about this prophet. Jonah was a runner. Most people know he ran from God, but do we know why? We would never run from anything God told us to do would we? This is much more than a fish story.

I hope you’ll take your Bible and read Jonah 1:1-3.

Does God really speak to us like He did to Jonah? This short book starts off in an exciting way. “The word of the Lord came to Jonah.” We don’t know a great deal about Jonah. We know he was a man because he was the, “Son of Amittai.” 2 Ki. 14:25 tells us that Jonah was from Gath-hepher which means he was of the tribe of Zebulun. All we know about Jonah’s father is found in this verse and in Jonah 1:1. Very limited information. This we do know: Jonah was a prophet because the word of the Lord came to him and that was the system back then. The Lord spoke in dreams, in visions, in the Urim and Thummin, and audibly to His prophets and they were able to speak with the authority of God. Today though, we have the written Word of God. There were people back in the prophet’s day that refused to listen to the Word of the Lord just as there are today that refuse to listen to what the Lord says. That doesn’t change the truth of what God says. The Word of God is as accurate as if the Lord were speaking audibly to us right now.

So, “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” This was a clear command. There was no misinterpreting what God told Jonah to do. It was crystal clear. We spend a lot of time searching for God’s will. We wonder is this thing really from God. We spend days searching our souls, searching Scripture, getting counsel from our friends, we post our questions on Facebook, we solicit input from our Twitter followers. We do all this to find out if God really is speaking to us. The Lord told Jonah what to do. We don’t know exactly how the word came to Jonah. The word of the Lord had previously come to Jonah. He prophesied to Jeroboam II that God would restore the borders of Israel. So that puts Jonah in the time frame of 784-772 B.C. For Jonah, this prophet gig was pretty sweet. All we have prior to this book of Jonah was good news. Life was good for Jonah, but not so much for other prophets. Speaking the Word of God can bring persecution, suffering, pain, sorrow, and sometimes death. In Lu. 11:47 Jesus told the people that their fathers had killed prophets. The only recorded prophesy we have for Jonah was good news and now the Lord speaks again. I wonder if Jonah was eager to hear from God.

I wonder if he had been sitting around waiting for the Lord to speak or was he just going about life as if God didn’t exist? But he was a prophet. When God spoke, he listened. That was his job and there wasn’t anybody else. In the northern kingdom of Israel it had been at least 12 years since Elisha; Amos doesn’t come on the scene until five years after Jonah. In the southern kingdom of Judah, there is a silence of about 71 years between the prophets Joel and Isaiah. So the word of the Lord coming to Jonah is a pretty big deal. God was able to speak to Jonah because Jonah had a relationship with God. If we have a relationship with God through Jesus, He speaks to us too. Can you hear Him? When there is noise all around us, how can we hear God? What are the potential consequences of missing what God has told us?

The word came to Jonah and it was a three part command. Arise, go, cry. Get up and get moving. Jonah was to go to Nineveh. It was a great city, but great here doesn’t refer to anything more than its size. Nineveh was located on the eastern shore of the Tigris River in what is now modern Iraq near the city of Mosul. According to Gen. 10:11, it was built by the great hunter Nimrod. During the reign of Sennacherib, the city was fortified and became the capital of Assyria. God tells Jonah, when you get to Nineveh, cry against it. The phrase means to give an appeal for, or an announcement of the Lord’s judgment against someone or something. Jonah was to proclaim the message of God, the judgment of God. We don’t know the specifics of the message Jonah was to give. But we do know that prophets declare the truth of God. Why Nineveh? Why not some other city like Kish, or Ur, or Sidon, or Tarsus? God is very clear as to why Jonah is to go. God tells Jonah it’s because Nineveh’s, “Wickedness has come up before Me.” Other times God has passed judgment on cities – Sodom and Gomorrah for example. What about Nineveh is so bad? They were well known in the ancient world for their cruelty and inhumanity. The grandson of Sennacherib was known to rip the lips and hands off of his victims. The king of Assyria was known to strip the skin off of people while they were still alive. He’d make giant piles of their skulls. Nineveh was ruled by the most evil people in the world and was likely the worst place on earth and God knew it. So He sends Jonah to tell the people of the Messiah so they could repent and turn from the wicked ways. There are people that think God created the world, set it in motion, then stepped away. This account clearly tells us that God is involved in the daily activities of the world, that He cares, that He hates sin, and that He still wants to do something about it.

The parallel for us is quite clear. Is there a group of people who we despise, that we would run from God’s call to tell them about Jesus who is the Christ? The people God told Jonah to go and preach to are now found in cities like: Bagdad, Mosul, Fallujah, Kandahar, Kabul. These people are Muslims worshiping a false god. Before you get all judgmental on Jonah, think about receiving a command from God to preach the message of salvation to a people you despise.

So how does Jonah responds? Even with the crystal clear command from God, Jonah does something we would never do, right? The opening phrase of v. 3 literally reads, “So Jonah rose.” And that’s good. When God told Abraham to go to a place He would tell him, he went. When God told Elijah to go to Sidon, he went. When God told David’s seer to go, he went. We’re accustomed to prophets doing what God tells them to do. Verse 3 says, “But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” This seems incomprehensible. Jonah was told exactly what to do by God Himself and Jonah chooses to be openly disobedient. At this point we have absolutely no clue as to why Jonah did what he did. Did he think about the consequences for his actions? Did he wonder, “If I don’t do what God told me to do, Nineveh is doomed.” Jonah fled, “from the presence of the Lord.” We see that phrase repeated twice in this verse. Does this reveal Jonah’s ignorance of God’s omnipresence? Jer. 23:25 tells us that God fills the heavens and the earth. Pro. 15:3 says the eyes of the Lord are everywhere. There’s a great passage in Ps. 139:7-10 that says, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.” So you can’t hide from God so what is Jonah trying to do? From the presence of the Lord is the same phrase used in Gen. 4:16 to describe Cain’s broken relationship with God. It’s safe to say that Jonah and God weren’t seeing eye to eye.

Jonah goes to Joppa and buys a ticket to the farthest place from Nineveh he can. Joppa is now called Jaffa, part of modern Tel-Aviv. Tarshish is the farthest west he can go – about 2000 miles. Nineveh is about 500 miles away from where Jonah is. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the direction. Tarshish is in the opposite direction of Nineveh. Jonah buys a ticket on a boat. The level of Jonah’s disobedience is starting to get pretty clear. He pays money for a ticket – on a boat. Some experts suggest he hired the entire ship. Either way, because of the distance, this was not a cheap ticket. What’s really interesting is that Hebrew people were known as a people of the land, so willingly getting on a boat would be considered crazy back in that day. This was a merchant ship, and Jonah chose to place his life in the hands of the sailors.

So we have begun our journey and we’re going to leave Jonah on the boat until next time. Most of the time we focus on Jonah in these beginning verses – his disobedience. But what do these three verses say about God? First, God calls people into service. Jonah is called to preach to Nineveh. Second, God cares enough about people, no matter how good or bad they seem to be, to send people He calls to tell them about the hope, love, grace, and forgiveness available to them through Jesus Christ. Finally, although less obvious (it will become very clear later) no one can run from God.