Identify false prophets

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They keep saying to those who despise me, the LORD says: You will have peace. And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.…’ See, the storm of the LORD will burst out in wrath, a whirlwind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand it clearly.”

Jeremiah 23:16-20

False prophets have always plagued God’s people.  In Jeremiah’s day, sin and apostasy was widespread and God had already purposed to turn Judah over to the Babylonians who would plunder them and carry many off into a distant exile.  The prophet Jeremiah continually warned of pending disaster and deportation.  No one wanted that to happen, so Jeremiah’s message was unpopular, to say the least.  The false prophets, on the other hand, sought to comfort people with promises of peace and safety.  The only problem was, these prophets were not from God and therefore didn’t speak God’s truth.  Instead they spoke what the people wanted to hear—falsehood.  God continued to take the false prophets to task (v.25-40) for daring to claim they spoke in God’s name when they did not.

God’s wrath was against them as He promised (v.39-40): “Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of my presence along... I will bring on you everlasting disgraceeverlasting shame that will not be forgotten.”

Lest anyone think this was merely a problem in “Bible Times,” let us beware that there are MANY false prophets in pulpits and cluttering up the airwaves on TV and radio today.  Like their co-conspirators in Jeremiah’s day, these modern false prophets do not preach the Word of God.  They preach what people want to hear.  They may refer to scripture, but never faithfully or accurately.  And even if they do not speak outright lies, they water down the Word of God so their listeners will listen.

I shudder to think of the judgment of God on these false prophets who pervert the Word of God and mislead who-knows-how-many!

But think also of this: though the false prophets will have Hell to pay, what about the vast numbers of people who profess faith in Christ who listen to and support these wolves in the pulpit?  Are we not also responsible to see that our preachers are preaching the truth—and if they are not, to either throw the deceivers out, or leave?

Meddling and knowing everything

After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by the Euphrates; and Josiah went out against him. But he sent messengers to him, saying, "What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I have not come against you this day, but against the house with which I have war; for God commanded me to make haste. Refrain from meddling with God, who is with me, lest He destroy you."

2 Chronicles 35:20-21 (read v.22-17 for the rest of the story)

Why did good king Josiah insert himself and his army into a battle that was not his?  Even the pagan king Necho of Egypt, warned Josiah that the battle was not his to “meddle” in.  Granted, seldom does godly counsel come from pagans, but in this case we may wonder because as the story unfolds, Josiah goes to war and is killed!

Here again, we may not know for sure that it wasn’t God’s will for Josiah to be killed.  But I sincerely doubt it was since Josiah was arguably the most godly king to occupy the throne of Judah.  What then do I learn from this?

(1) I must be careful about meddling in things that are not mine.  Think about that when tempted to “take a dog by the ears,” as Solomon describes meddling in strife that is not your concern in Proverbs 26:17. 

(2) While it was “ultimately” God’s decreed will that Josiah should die since it happened, that doesn’t mean it was God’s will that Josiah jump into a fray that was none of his business.  This reminds me that I do not have perfect knowledge or insight into why certain things happen as they do.

Mixing worldliness in worship and in marriage?

Then the king [Josiah, 648-609 BC] defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, which were on the south of the Mount of Corruption, which Solomon king of Israel [who reigned from 970 to 931 BC] had built for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the people of Ammon.

2 Kings 23:13

This verse, which might easily be passed over with little or no thought is highly instructive.  First, the circumstance: Josiah was one of the godliest kings Judah ever had.  He led the nation in the greatest spiritual revival in the nation’s history.  The Bible lists that many momentous changes Josiah made, including clearing the temple of all the pagan idols that had been set up there over the many years.  Did you notice what you just read?  Yes, the temple of the Lord was loaded with pagan idols!

Of particular note in the verse mentioned here (2 Kings 23:13), Josiah removed at least three pagan idols (Asheroth of the Sidonians, Chemosh of the Moabites, and Milcom of the Ammonites) from the temple of the Lord.  The Bible notes that these were erected in the temple of the Lord clear back in the days of Solomon (over 320 years earlier).  Two lessons from this:

First, you will remember that Solomon multiplied wives to himself—many of who were pagan.  These pagan marriages led Solomon away from the Lord to serve false gods (1 Kings 11).  These pagan wives and their spiritual influence did not end with the fall of Solomon.  The false gods he erected in the Temple were still there over three hundred years later.  When will the people of God stop becoming romantically involved with, and marrying non-believers?  When will we stop thinking we know more than God in this matter, insisting that our situation is different?  And when will we realize that the effects of this sin will last for generations?

Second, when will the people of God stop thinking it is alright to mix worldliness with worship?  We do this because we love the world more than we realize, and because we want the world to like us.  God’s Word is crystal clear (Deuteronomy 21) that we are not to worship the world’s false gods, nor are we to think it is okay to worship the true and living God in the manner in which the pagans worship their gods.

If there is to be a revival in the church today (and Heaven knows we need one!), among other changes that will have to take place will be to stop intermarrying with non-believers, and to stop desecrating the true worship of God, with worldliness.

Let us learn to be strong while it is easy to be strong so we will know how to be strong when it isn't

“If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, Then how can you contend with horses?...”

Jeremiah 12:5 

In the opening verses of Jeremiah 12, the weeping prophet had grown impatient with God because of His patience.  God had repeatedly spoken judgment on Judah through Jeremiah, but alas, because God is so incredibly gracious, He hadn’t unleashed His judgments on the people.  Jeremiah began, it seems, to wonder why.  He may have even wondered if God ever intended to execute judgment on Judah.

Beginning in 12:5 God answers Jeremiah’s impatience.  Before the chapter is over, God again spoke of impending judgment, but God begins in (v.5) challenging Jeremiah about the weakness of his faith in God.  We all need that same challenge from time to time.  If we cannot remain faithful when things are relatively easy, how shall we expect to fare if and when the going gets tough?

This question is particularly important for American Christians in our day and age.  Compared to most of the world, we have it so easy!  Believers in other places face daily persecution for a faith for which we face none.  And yet our faith wavers.  Our spiritual tottering and frequent complaining, in the face of even the most benign difficulties, should cause us to wonder how we shall survive if the spiritual bubble in which we live, pops!

“Dear Lord let us learn to be strong while it is easy to be strong so we will know how to be strong if & when we find ourselves stripped of our affluence and baptized into persecution.  And as Judah was warned to repent time and again, but didn’t, let us not think that we can claim Christ’s name, while living worldly lives—and survive if Your patience with us wears out.”

Who is ready for the next Day of the LORD?

2 "I will utterly consume everything From the face of the land," Says the LORD;  3 "I will consume man and beast; I will consume the birds of the heavens, The fish of the sea, And the stumbling blocks along with the wicked. I will cut off man from the face of the land," Says the LORD… 7 Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD; For the day of the LORD is at hand…

Zephaniah 1:2-3, 7

Zephaniah, in three relatively short chapters, employs the phrase “the day of the Lord” seven times.  What is “the day of the Lord?”  Ultimately, the day of the Lord is God’s final judgment of all the world when Christ comes again.  We tend to think excitedly of the Second Coming of Christ with glowing expectation of the full realization of Christ’s Kingdom in the New Heavens and the New Earth.  While that is true, the flip side of the day of the Lord is the outpouring of God’s most severe wrath on all sin and on all sinners.  That aspect of that great day of the Lord is not so appealing to us.

There have been other “days of the Lord” along the winding path of biblical history.  The great and terrible day of the Lord for Israel was in 722 BC when the Assyrians destroyed Israel and cruelly marched them into exile, from which they never returned as a people. 

The great and terrible day of the Lord for Judah was in 586 BC when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, enslaving most of the population in far away Babylonia.  God graciously delivered the Judeans back after 70 years, since the Messiah was to come from the tribe of Judah.

As already mentioned, the final great and terrible day of the Lord will be the day of final judgment.  At that judgment, those sentenced to God’s unending wrath will never return.  Those in Christ, will be delivered into the everlasting bliss in God’s kingdom.  Those who will be spared in the final judgment are spared because of another great and terrible day of the Lord.  That day took place 2,000 years ago in a cross on a hill called Calvary, where God the Father poured out the wrath deserved by those He purposed to spare on His only Begotten Son, Jesus.  What a terrible day that was when the Son of God experienced the full fury of Father’s wrath!  What a great day that was for those who will be ultimately and forever spared because of what happened on that day 2,000 years ago!

Is fasting doing without, or doing?

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke?  7  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?”

Isaiah 58:6-7

When believers fast (and that is not a widespread discipline in our world of self-indulgence rather than self-sacrifice), we normally think of fasting as doing without food for a season. That is a kind of fasting, but it is only one kind.  More generally, fasting is denying ourselves something lawful for the sake of seeking the Lord without distraction.  I say “lawful,” since giving up sin isn’t fasting.  It is not sinning!

But through the prophet Isaiah, God reminds us of the flip side of fasting.  It is not only what we don’t do, but what we do

Not eating, or denying ourselves any lawful thing—as we commit ourselves to seek the Lord more diligently without distraction—is a good start, but God says “make your fast complete not merely by what you don’t do, but by doing good instead.” 

Not eating?  Give the money you would have spent on food to the needy.  In other words, seek the Lord, not merely by not doing something for yourself, but by doing something to serve others.

Read all of Isaiah 58 for more insights into God’s idea of fasting.

How vast is God's grace in your mind?

"I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.”

Isaiah 43:25

Chapter 43 begins with the words, “But now, thus says the Lord who created you…”  Clearly, Jehovah God is speaking and He continues to speak throughout the entire chapter.   In verse 25, He states emphatically: I, even I,” am the one who forgives your sins; blotting them out and remembering them no more.  How shall we understand such statements?

First, God deals with our sin because we are incapable of doing so.

Second, by blotting them out and remembering them no more, God comforts His people with the promise than He will never change his mind.  He will never un-forgive us.  He will never throw our sins in our faces.  Are you forgiven, child of God?  Then be comforted that you will never be otherwise.

Third, please note that God says why He deals with our sins so completely.  God says He does so “for My own sake.”  Does God not grace us so richly for our sakes?  While we certainly receive great benefit from God, ultimately He saves His people for His sake.  How can forgiving us be for His sake?  It is for the sake [purpose] of putting His incredible grace on display for His eternal glory (see Ephesians 2:7).

How glorious is God’s grace?  If He had saved good people who had made some minor mistakes, He would be a forgiving God worthy of thanks.  But He did so much more.  He saved terminally sinful people who had no hope of, or even desire to, save themselves (see Ephesians 2:1-5 and Romans 5:6-8).  There is not one thing in any of God’s people that could even mildly commend us to God, and yet He saved us.  And at what cost?  The life of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Thinking on these things, let us be comforted.  Let us be astonished by His grace, and let us give Him all glory both now and forevermore.

Worldliness & Religion, or a Precious Cornerstone?

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.

Isaiah 28:16

In the beginning of this chapter, God scolds His people for their pride and drunkenness (v.1-3, 7).  They appear to have been religious in their devotion to the law, but it was merely rote externalism.  Therefore God promised (v.16) to send “a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation.”

This cornerstone is a Person, and the Person is none other than Jesus Himself.  We need not guess at this, since twice in the New Testament (Romans 9 and 1 Peter 2), Paul and Peter make it clear that these words in Isaiah are about Jesus.

Instead of worldliness and religion, Jesus is a sure, immovable foundation on which we can stand and not fall.  Jesus is not common in the world but precious, worth more than all the treasures we could ever imagine.  Jesus is a cornerstone that squarely aligns all that is built on Him (e.g., His people, His Church, and His kingdom), in line, never crooked or skewed.  Whoever believes [on Him] will not act hastily—which means will not be quick to lay any other foundation, resting patiently on Him.

Let us not be those who profess faith in Christ, but whose lives tell a different tale.  Instead let us trust in and be built upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and on Him alone.

None of us knows the future; no, not one. Only the prideful think they do.

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!  13 For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;  14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’  15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.

Isaiah 14:12-15 

Isaiah 13 and 14 were likely penned about the fall of Babylon in around 732 AD.  That was over 200 years before  Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian armies in around 516 AD. (Remember AD years get smaller, not larger, as time moves forward.)  In fact, Isaiah wrote chapters 13 & 14 before Babylon was even a super power.  When these chapters were written, Assyria was the super power in the near east.  Assyria defeated Israel in the North in 722 AD, and then fell to the Babylonians in 616 AD.  Years later in 586 AD, Babylon conquered Judah in the South—who after 70 years, were liberated and allowed to return home in 516, when the Medo-Persians sacked Babylon.

Why the history lesson including dates?

First, what is written in God’s Word is true and it happened in history, not fictional fantasy.

Second, only God knows the future and He had prophets write the future before it happened to verify that these are not the writings of mere men.

Third, Isaiah 14:12-15 foretells of God’s plan to wipe Babylon off the map and why.  And why did God decree the destruction of Babylon?  As judgment on their pride—thinking they were greater than God Himself.  Foolishness!

But that prophecy is also written in a manner that looks back to the fall of Lucifer from being an archangel to the devil.  Again why?  Pride.

Let us not only learn our history, but a most valuable lesson about what lies ahead for the prideful.

"Peoples"? or "People"?

Hear, all you peoples! Listen, O earth, and all that is in it! Let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, The Lord from His holy temple.

Micah 1:2 

God’s plan was never limited to Israel.  His plan was always to save people from every tribe, tongue and nation.  His plan will be fully accomplished as seen in Revelation 7:9-10.

This saving of “the nations” or the “peoples,” was not Plan B because Plan A failed when the people of Israel rejected their Messiah (John 1:11).

God intended for the Jews to be a light to the Gentile nations bringing them the truth about Him (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 52:10, 60:3; John 8:12; Acts 13:47, 26:23). *

Here the prophet Micah cries out to the “peoples” referring not to all people, but to every people group.  He cries out to the “earth and all who live in it” (NIV).   And what does Micah say?  The Lord God is a witness against us all!  “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23).  All have broken God’s Law (James 2:10).  “All have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Therefore all are guilty before a holy God no matter how well we stack up against other sinners.  This is bad news indeed.

But the prophet Micah is also the one who announced the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem in Micah 5:2.  Jesus, the sovereign God of the universe was born in insignificant Bethlehem so He could live, die, and rise from the dead to secure complete and final forgiveness for those He came to save—a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, who will ever be the Israel of God.

* Many verses (not all) are cited to demonstrate that this is not an obscure doctrine without overwhelming scriptural support.

Are you prepared to meet your God?

“Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; Because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

Amos 4:12

God sent the prophet Amos with a message of judgment on six pagan nations.  Each message was short, though not sweet.  Amos delivered a seventh short message to Judah (in the South), but the longest (the last seven of nine chapters) was for Israel (in the North.)  God denounced Israel for many things: violence, injustice, idolatry, and false outward shows of worship of God.  One of the most terrifying statements is God’s promise that He will visit them with the judgments He promised them, followed by the words: “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

Every human being who has ever lived either has or will meet and answer to God.  Like it or not!  There is a day of reckoning—of Judgment.  The standard by which each will be judged is the righteousness of God.  Next to that standard,  we have all fallen infinitely short—no matter how poorly or well we may do when comparing ourselves with fellow sinners.

Everyone is guilty before God and all will meet Him for judgment. Every human being is in real trouble.

But Wait!

There is a way to prepare to meet our God.  It isn’t the way of trying harder.  Even if we could be perfect from now on (which we can’t!), that would do nothing to undo the sins we have already committed, which by themselves would condemn us.

The only way to prepare to meet our God is to trust in Jesus Christ.  Because we are all sinners and have no hope of saving ourselves, Jesus lived sinlessly and died vicariously (that is, in our place) to pay the penalty for our sins.  His death in our place only helps us if and when we trust in Him, and Him alone for forgiveness.  Prepare to meet your God by trusting in Jesus.  If you do there will be no judgment because Jesus already took that judgment for those who trust Him.

Godliness only when someone is looking

Now after the death of Jehoiada the leaders of Judah came and bowed down to the king. And the king listened to them. Therefore they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the LORD; and they testified against them, but they would not listen.

2 Chronicles 24:17-19

Jehoiada was a godly priest when 7-year old Joash became king of Judah.  Obviously, Joash was not ready to rule the nation, so Jehoiada took the lad under his wing and saw that Joash led the nation back to serving the Lord.  “Back to serving the Lord?”  Yes.  During the previous six years Judah was ruled by wicked Athaliah (daughter of Israel’s Queen Jezabel!), who began her evil reign over Judah by murdering all the heirs to David’s throne—all but the baby Joash who was safely hidden.  During Athaliah’s disastrous usurping of the throne of David, Judah plunged headlong in to every sort of idolatry.  Not surprisingly, the nation suffered!

Under Joash’s reign (under Jehoida’s godly influence), Judah returned to the Lord and experienced God’s blessings.  When Jehoida died however, Joash listened to the people instead of to God, and like a dog returning to its vomit, the nation chose to return to their former ways of idolatry.  Not surprisingly, God’s displeasure was evident as the nation suffered under the rest of Joash’s rule.

Here are two take-aways:  First, that Joash was only good as long as Jehoida was alive, but turned from the Lord when the priest died, is a sober reminder that it isn’t enough to start well if one finishes badly.  This is also why we must not stop praying for our children’s salvation until they are walking with the Lord independently of us; since when many taste “freedom,” they lose all taste for the things of the Lord!

Second, why do people who have known the bitterness of sin and its consequences, who then taste the sweetness of God’s blessing, so often return to what they should know is a recipe for spiritual disaster?  It must be partly that we are forgetful and partly that we are stupid.  God have mercy on our nation, that is largely enamored with godlessness and sin—thinking that doing what history has demonstrated will not work, will be good.  It will be our undoing as it was in Joash’s day.

Why do bad people do good things?

However Jehu did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin, that is, from the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan…  31  But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin.

2 Kings 10:29 & 31

People like to ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  Here is a similar question: “Why do bad people do good things?”

King Jehu (Israel in the North), may have appeared to be a good king since earlier in this same chapter (v.18-28) we read that he killed all the priests of Baal (a false god of the Canaanites, that the Israelites frequently were tempted to worship instead of God). This action appears to be laudable since Baal worship was altogether detestable to God.  That Jehu accomplished this purging of Baal worship by lying, trickery, and deceit is another story for another day.

However good Jehu may have appeared to be while ridding the land of Baal worship, scripture is even more clear that Jehu was not a godly king (v.29 & 30).  After all, he followed in the “sins of Jeroboam,”*  and “took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart.”

What do we make of bad people doing good things?  First, God providentially uses even sinful people to accomplish His sovereign will.  Second, since no amount of good deeds can undo sinful deeds, Jehu was not a good king.  And let us not make the mistake of thinking that one’s good deeds can outweigh and undo one’s sins either in our lives or the lives of people around us.  The only way to have one’s sins forgiven is to trust in Jesus Christ, who alone can forgive sins.

*The “sins of Jeroboam” were related to the false worship of golden calves concocted by Jeroboam, the first king of Israel when Israel split into two nations (Israel and Judah) immediately after Solomon died.

Are believers ever foolish?

And Jehoshaphat said, "Is there not still a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of Him?" So [Ahab] the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil."

1 Kings 22:7-8 

The backstory is important.  Ahab, king of Israel (in the north) was an exceedingly evil and godless king.  Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (in the south) was a good and godly king, but not always wise.  Ahab wanted to war with the pagans in Ramoth Gilead.  He enlisted Jehoshaphat’s alliance—which Jehoshaphat foolishly agreed to.  Ahab summoned a number of false prophets who would tell him whatever he wanted to hear—which they did, promising victory.

Upon hearing the false prophets, Jehoshaphat asked about hearing from a prophet of the true and living God (novel idea!).

Ahab’s response is classic and it continues to reverberate among a vast number of so-called evangelicals to this day.

God’s Word is not bad—but it is always true!  Too many people do not like God’s Word preached because it doesn’t make them feel good—as if that was the point!  Feeling good about the preaching of God’s Word happens when the truth is proclaimed and we embrace that truth.  Feeling bad about the preaching of God’s Word happens when people dislike the truth according to God!

Oh, and by the way, God providentially saw that Ahab was killed in the battle (recorded dramatically in 1 Kings 22:33-39).

Thoughts on an empty life

"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun?

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

Ecclesiastes is one of the most pertinent books of the Bible for modern man.  In a day and age in which people generally do not know why they exist, or where they are headed, either in life or after their deaths, Ecclesiastes speaks of, and to, life’s apparent meaninglessness.

There is one key word and one key phrase in (1:2-3) which are often repeated throughout the book. 

The word is “vanity.”  The word “vanity” means emptiness, futility, or meaninglessness.  The book repeatedly points to things that are often thought to be vital, and calls them vain. 

The phrase is “under the sun,” which provides the context of life’s emptiness.  We understand the book when we bear in mind that “under the sun” refers to life without God.  Compare the vanity of life “under the sun” with life lived under the Lordship of the SON of God—which is the only way life makes real sense.

Ecclesiastes constantly reminds us that while some things are vain in and of themselves, apart from living with a biblical awareness of God, even things that might otherwise have meaning, become meaningless.

The conclusion of the book (12:13-14) reveals two wonderful truths.  First, life only has meaning when it is lived in obedience to God.  Second, since none of us has ever lived perfectly obedient lives.  If we would have anything to look forward to when we die, we’d best put our trust in the One who has lived in perfect obedience: Jesus Christ.

What most do not know about debt and co-signing

he rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender. Proverbs 22:7

My son, if you become surety for your friend, If you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, You are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth… Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, And like a bird from the hand of the fowler. Proverbs 6:1-2, & 5

Funny isn’t it?  Christians say they believe the Bible is the Word of God, and yet when it comes to many details of life, the Word of God is set aside in favor of the world’s wisdom—if we dare call it wisdom.

This is abundantly clear when it comes to money and indebtedness.

The Word of God calls debt, slavery.  Yet statistically, Christians are no less commonly in debt than our unbelieving family and friends.  Why isn’t what God’s Word says about debt as important as other biblical issues?  It is a faith issue.  We do not believe God because we believe the money lenders.

And then there is the issue of cosigning.  God’s Word says if you have done this, get out of this financial entanglement with the intensity that a gazelle displays when running from a hungry lion.  What is the issue?  If debt is a form of bondage we need to stay out of, why would we assist others in getting into debt?  Are we helping them?  Why isn’t this as important as other biblical instruction?  It may be an issue of ignorance since so many people don’t seem to realize the Bible says this about co-signing—which is evidence that some maybe aren’t reading God’s Word much.  If we do know what God’s Word says, but engage in cosigning anyway, this too then is a faith issue.  We do not believe God.

The book of Proverbs is one we should read over and over again throughout our lives, taking careful notes on the practical lessons God teaches throughout.  And then, we would do well to heed His Word.

Most don't know how to read Proverbs

The proverbs of Solomon: A wise son makes a glad father, But a foolish son is the grief of his mother.

—Proverbs 10:1 

Proverbs are generalities, not laws or promises.  They are very generally true, but we must not assume that if we do “A”, “B” will always be the result.  And beware that some Proverbs are observations of what is true, even of what God does not approve of.

Proverbs are mostly written in couplets of two phrases that are generally connected by either the word “and” or “but.”  If connected by “and,” the two phrases are stating a similarity of the two.  If connected by “but,” the two phrases are stating a difference between the two.  The similarities or differences shed light in understanding the lesson to be learned.

Proverbs are Messianic, or about Jesus.  The theme of a father giving wise counsel to his son runs throughout the Proverbs.  The word “son” appears 45 times in 41 verses.  Of those, we read either of the wise son who pleases his father, or the foolish son who shames his father.  The Proverbs are Messianic, in that while we sinners are so often foolish, and displease our Heavenly Father, Jesus is the one and only perfectly wise Son who only always pleases Him.  See this in the New Testament where at Jesus’ baptism and at the Transfiguration, 6 times the Father speaks audibly saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  It is significant that as the only wise Son of the Father, Jesus not only lived sinlessly, keeping the Law for we who have lived lawlessly, but He also lived wisely, following every bit of wise counsel contained in the Proverbs for we who have lived foolishly. 

So in addition to reading the Proverbs to learn wisdom for your life, remember that we fall short of God’s standard of wisdom found in the Proverbs.  Our foolishness displeases our Heavenly Father.  And be reminded that Jesus fulfilled all wisdom for those He came to save, so that the Father sees all those who are “in Christ” as wise sons in whom He is well pleased.

My salvation isn't about me?

When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the LORD, saying: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever.”

—2 Chronicles 7:3

When Solomon’s Temple was consecrated according to God’s instructions,  God was pleased to reveal something of His glory.  The manifestation of His glory on that day was on a grand scale: Fire came down from Heaven to consume the sacrifices (v.1).  God’s glory was demonstrated so dramatically that the priests could not enter the temple (v.2).  And the response of God’s people?

They bowed before God, faces on the ground.  They worshiped and praised God.  And they acknowledged God as being “good,” and that “His mercy endures forever.”

What energizes us about God?  We are grateful when He answers our prayers and gives us what we want, and well we should be.  But consider this: The supreme reason to bow, worship, and acknowledge both God’s goodness and His eternal mercies is not because of what we are receiving from Him.  The supreme reason is His glory.

One of the most important lessons to learn if we would understand God and the gospel is that even our salvation is not about us.  It is about His glory.  When we see His glory, we know His goodness and His mercy.

Cry out to God now; later may be too late

"For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You In a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters They shall not come near him."

—Psalm 32:6

Note the following:

First, the ungodly do not really pray to God.  Being lost in sin keeps the supposed prayers of the ungodly--besides a true prayer of confession of sin and request for salvation from reaching God.  Instead of being true prayers to God, these so-called prayers are to god’s the ungodly imagine, for things they would have done for them while they still reject Christ.

Second, by contrast, the godly pray to God, the one and only true and living God, the God of the Bible.  Why are the godly here instructed to pray to God “when He may be found”?  Is God not always to be found by the godly?  Yes, but note the context of this Psalm: it is about confession of sin.  Let the godly be instructed to confess our sins to God straight away, without delay.  Why?  Because the longer we dismiss our sins by a lack of confession, we are apt to dismiss our sins and become content to live in a state of broken fellowship with God.

Lastly, Proverbs 1:23-33 warns those who do not cry out to God for grace and to receive His forgiveness by faith in Christ, may well cry out when it is too late.  On that day, and no one knows when it may come, that one will call out only to hear God refuse to hear, referring him to cry out to the gods he preferred over the God of the Bible for so long.

Please read Proverbs 1:23-33. It is rather scary.

As David loved Absalom, God loves His guilty children

“O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!”

—2 Samuel 18:33

One way that David was a man after God’s own heart was in his love for his sinful erring son, Absalom.  Absalom was a murderer (he killed his brother Amnon in chapter 13).  Discontent for his father to rule, he usurped the role of king, setting up his own kingdom in place of David’s.  Adding insult to injury, he defiled some of his father’s concubines in broad daylight. 

When David’s men were about to retake the kingdom, David gave strict instructions to “deal gently” with Asalom.  After all, though he was an outlaw, he was still David’s son.  David’s military man, Joab, ever zealous for David’s honor—and as ruthless as he was loyal—killed Absalom.

When David was made aware, he lamented, “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place!” He loved his son, who sinned grievously against him, wishing he could have died in his place.  But alas, David could not.

God loves His erring children; we who are murders at heart, usurpers who refuse His rule and insist on reigning in our make-believe kingdoms.  As Absalom deserved exactly what he got, so we deserve death for our crimes against the Almighty.  But He loves us.  And He was willing to die in our place.  The difference is, while David could not, God not only could but did.  Jesus is God.  When He died on the cross, He willingly died in our place.

Listen again to the love of David for His guilty son Absalom and hear the echo of the love of God for His guilty sons.