Wise or Foolish? #2

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:…. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand…” (Matthew 7:24,26 KJV).

Dear friends, are we wise—or foolish?

Today’s Scripture is certainly works-oriented—“doeth them” and “doeth them not.” It is in perfect accordance with Israel’s works program (see James 2:14-26). In that respect, it is quite different from what God tells us in the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon. Howbeit, we would do well to note one common theme. No matter the dispensation, it is always wise to listen to God’s Word, believe it, and obey it. It is always foolish to ignore it, doubt it, and defy it.

As today, so it was in time past. When Jesus Christ began His earthly ministry, there was gross spiritual ignorance. The nation Israel was so far removed from God’s Word that they were unable to spot His Son when He showed up in their midst! Christ’s earthly ministry was a diligent endeavor to lead the Jews back to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These precious souls had drifted away from pure religion and held to false religion. God’s words had been set aside for man’s opinions. Thus, Jesus asked Nicodemus, “Art thou a master [teacher, educator] of Israel, and knowest not these things?” (John 3:10). Even Israel’s religious leaders were clueless to God’s words!!

With every sermon preached, and every miracle performed, Christ was loosening Satan’s grip on Israel. Yet, the vast majority preferred bondage. They wanted to serve sin—it was either that or serve the God of creation (and that they refused)!! Throughout Christ’s earthly ministry, the unbelievers became more apparent, as did the believers. Of course, those unsaved Jews grow more belligerent—yea, bloodthirsty (leading to Christ’s crucifixion). Doctrine had already divided, but now Christ’s sermons had widened the chasm.

In the context of today’s Scripture, Jesus warns of an impending storm (Matthew 7:25,27). A test is coming upon Israel, and the wise men and the foolish men will be separated for all to see….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “How can Jesus Christ be a priest if He is of the non-priestly tribe of Judah?

No Good Deeds, No Good Things #3

Friday, July 20, 2018

Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you (Jeremiah 5:25 KJV).

Here is the result of being under any performance-based acceptance system!

Fast-forward over 400 years after Abraham. His seed through Isaac—the nation Israel—is in bondage to Egypt. Israel is helpless: she cannot rescue herself, and must depend on God’s power to deliver her with mighty signs and wonders (Exodus chapters 1-13). The culmination is God’s parting of the Red Sea to allow Israel to escape Pharaoh and his army (chapter 14). In chapters 15 through 18, God graciously blesses Israel with His provisions. He has done so much to make them His people. Will they rest in this grace?

Notice Exodus chapter 19: “[3] And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; [4] Ye have seen what I [God] did unto the Egyptians, and how I [God] bare you on eagles’ wings, and [I God] brought you unto myself. [5] Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: [6] And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. [7] And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. [8] And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.”

How tragic! They have not learned the lesson that their father Abraham had centuries earlier. Instead of letting God work to fulfill His promises (namely, the Abrahamic Covenant—He will work to make them His people), their sin nature has deceived them into thinking they can perform to get the blessing. They believe they can make themselves God’s nation. Grace has been tossed aside, and thus begins the strict, cruel reign of the Law! Sinful Israel is doomed….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Is Matthew 25:31-46 a plan for our salvation unto eternal life?

No Good Deeds, No Good Things #2

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you (Jeremiah 5:25 KJV).

Here is the result of being under any performance-based acceptance system!

The “Abrahamic Covenant” appears in Genesis chapter 12: “[1] Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: [2] And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: [3] And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” These are God’s promises to Abram rather than Abram’s promises to God. God will work on Abram’s behalf to produce a nation. Abram is to separate from his pagan family—idolaters (Joshua 24:2)—so he can be set apart for God’s purposes. He believed the LORD God, and he relocated as instructed.

Abram is 75 years old (Genesis 12:4); Sarai his wife is 10 years younger. God has pledged to use them to build a great nation, yet they are elderly and childless! In chapter 16, Abram is now in his mid-eighties… and disheartened to still be without a son. Well-meaning Sarai develops a plan to “help” God. She gives Abram her handmaid, Hagar, to use as a surrogate mother. Through Sarai’s plan and Abram’s efforts, Ishmael is born.

Over a decade later, Abram is 99 years old (Genesis 17:1). God changes his name to “Abraham” and his wife’s name to “Sarah,” and then He remarks: “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him” (verse 19). God performs a miracle. Isaac is born in chapter 21, when Abraham is 100 (and sterile!). By the way, the Ishmael–Isaac struggle continues even today as the 4,000-year Arab/Muslim–Jewish war!

God rejected Abraham’s struggles (Ishmael); He accepted only His work (Isaac). If man will receive God’s blessings, it will be God’s efforts and not (!) man’s….

Benoni and Benjamin #2

Monday, April 16, 2018

And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin (Genesis 35:18 KJV).

Dear friend, look and see—herein lies prophecy!

After a 20-year exile in the east, Abraham’s grandson Jacob is resettling in the land of Canaan. He is returning to the Promised Land with four wives, 11 sons, one daughter, and much livestock. One wife, Rachel, is pregnant; in fact, her delivery date is very soon. While the group is traveling—not far from Ephrath (in southern Israel)—she goes into labor quite painful.

Today’s Scripture reads in context: “[16] And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour. [17] And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. [18] And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. [19] And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. [20] And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.”

As her distressed soul is leaving her physical body, Rachel makes it known that she has suffered greatly to bring her child into this world. She uses her last breaths to name him “Benoni” (meaning, “son of my sorrow”). Jacob, her husband and the boy’s father, offers another name for his twelfth son: the child is “Benjamin” (that is, “son of the right hand”). Benjamin is his father’s strength; the bringing forth of a new life soothes Jacob’s soul as he bears the great loss of his beloved wife. Rachel finishes expiring, and Jacob buries her body just outside the little town of “Ephrath” (Bethlehem).

Just why would God include this bittersweet account in His Word? Was it just to take up space? To merely give us interesting reading? What underlying truths is He teaching? Dear friend, take these moments to think critically. Review those names—in light of prophecy—and you will realize a most glorious truth… or two….

 

Their Vanities #4

Thursday, August 17, 2017

“They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21 KJV).

What are these “vanities?”

Recall the two sets of parallel phrases: “that which is not God” with “their vanities,” and “those which are not a people” with “a foolish nation.” Now, we are particularly interested in the latter set. Who are these “not a people,” this “foolish nation?”

Deuteronomy chapter 32 (today’s Scripture and its context) is “the Song of Moses.” Some of Moses’ parting words to the nation, it covers Israel’s history and future (prophecy, events beyond our day). Today’s Scripture points to the future by first pointing to the past. Remember, Israel was to be God’s nation of priests. Every Jew was to have a spiritual relationship with JEHOVAH God, that every Israelite, in a coming earthly kingdom, would share the message of his God with the Gentiles/nations (see Genesis 12:1-3, Isaiah 60:1-3, Isaiah 61:6, Zechariah 8:20-23, Matthew 28:18-20, Luke 24:47-48, Acts 1:8, et cetera).

Jeremiah 2:11, almost 1,000 years after Moses spoke today’s Scripture, says that Israel worshipped idols and abandoned the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit.” God actually gave Moses the insight to see Israel’s apostasy that Jeremiah witnessed centuries later. Today’s Scripture takes it a step further though. God will still get a Jewish people for His name. He will reach within the nation Israel and pull out a believing remnant. That believing remnant will become “new Israel,” His kingdom of priests.

Notice what the Lord Jesus said in Luke chapter 12: “[31] But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. [32] Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” In contrast to the idolatrous Jews, His followers would be that “foolish nation,” heirs of that earthly kingdom. Just as unbelieving Jews had given Him up for idols, He will give them up for believing Jews….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “What does ‘joined hard’ mean in Acts 18:7?

 

Abram Did It Man’s Way

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

“And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai” (Genesis 16:2 KJV).

Abram “hearkened to the voice of Sarai—the verse does not say, “the voice of God!”

We do not know how long Abram waited to see the promised seed God would give him. The Bible gives us an estimate of at least 25 years (Abram entered the land of Canaan around age 75, Genesis 12:4 says, and Genesis 21:5 claims he was 100 when Isaac was born). Some people speculate that it could have been as much as 50 years (since Genesis 12:1-3 was spoken sometime back in chapter 11—how long that was, the Bible is silent). We will stick by the Bible and say at least 25 years. Friend, imagine waiting 25 years for God to do something He promised you He would do on your behalf!

Beloved, Abram was just as human as we are. He held out for about 10 years, before finally listening to his wife Sarai and having a child with her handmaid Hagar (see today’s Scripture—yea, Genesis 16:1-16). This was not something God commanded but rather something Sarai devised. As it turned out, it was not the “God-taking-so-long-to-work” that resulted in a problem; it was man’s “quick fix” that ultimately proved to be so detrimental to Abram and his family. That child he fathered apart from God’s will (Ishmael) now has descendants (Arabs) who persecute the child God gave him through promise (Isaac) and the little nation Israel descended from Isaac and grandson Jacob. This problem, starting out as a silly woman’s bad idea, has plagued the Middle East for 4,000 years now!

If we can learn anything at all, friends, it is this. It is better to wait on faithful God for decades, Him bringing a result that will actually work and last eternally; than depend on our fellow man, as frail as we, to develop a “quick fix” that will disappoint forever! Rather than doing it man’s way, let us do it God’s way!

Rejoicing in God’s Goodness #5

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you (Deuteronomy 26:11 KJV).

Israel is to “rejoice in every good thing which the LORD [her] God hath given unto [her].” What are these “good things?”

The offering in the context of today’s Scripture (verses 1-11) is spoken as though the nation Israel has already defeated the inhabitants of the Promised Land. It assumes that the Israelites will go in, conquer all their enemies, and enjoy the fruits of the land God has given to the fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God through Moses presents Israel residing in the Promised Land as a fact, even though they will not actually enter it and fight those peoples until Joshua assumes leadership (after Moses dies). As before, God believes that He will give Israel the victory. He expects Israel to believe Him, and to worship Him by offering to Him that fruit when they do arrive in that land of Canaan.

Some 40 years prior, remember again, the Jews had complained that they were unable to enter the Promised Land and enjoy its plenteous food supply. The giants living in the land were just too powerful for them to overcome in war. (Of course, Israel overlooked the fact that God had just vanquished the mighty Egyptian armies, thousands of trained soldiers, using just the Red Sea!) With this new generation of Jews in today’s Scripture, they are to go into the land, dispossess it, and rejoice in God’s goodness. They did not deserve that harvest of enormous fruits, but God had simply given them because of His grace.

“And [JEHOVAH God] hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O LORD, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the LORD thy God, and worship before the LORD thy God: And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the LORD thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Is Jesus Christ God’s ‘one and only Son’ or ‘only begotten Son?’