When the Wicked Attack the Innocent

I wanted to share a passage from Psalms today.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread of the enemy. Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers, who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear. They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, “Who can see them?” They search out injustice, saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.” For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep. But God shoots his arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly. They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them; all who see them will wag their heads. Then all mankind fears; they tell what God has brought about and ponder what he has done. Let the righteous one rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him! Let all the upright in heart exult!
(Psalm 64:1-10)

The wicked may delay or even escape justice here on earth, but no one can escape God. God is a merciful and gracious God, but He is also a holy and a just God. We are encouraged here by the Holy Spirit through David to take our refuge in God, with full assurance that He is a safe place and He will bring the wicked to justice.

It will not be well with the wicked

Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.
(Ecclesiastes 8:11-13)

It may seem that the wicked get away with their wickedness, but as Solomon reminded us here, it will not be “well” with them in the end.

Read it again, “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life…but it will not be well with the wicked.” There is no “getting away with it” when it comes to God. But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23).

Many times in the Scripture, we see God’s people groaning and lamenting over the wickedness done around them. They, like God’s people today, wonder why God lets it go on and when God’s going to do something about it. It is especially hard when the good people suffer so much at the hands of these wicked people. But remember that God is very aware both of the righteous and the wicked. He will eventually deliver those who fear Him, and He will bring swift justice on those who do not fear Him.

Here is a passage from 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 that once again brings comfort to the righteous that God will take care of them and He will punish those who do not fear God.

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering–since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

Love Your Neighbor

I just finished talking to my neighbor across the street. What a good man. His father, who lived in the house next to him, recently passed away. The family put the house up for sale recently, and they quickly received lots of bids. My neighbor was going through the family’s thought process as they talked through the various bids.

What I absolutely loved about hearing this was that money and top price was not the issue. They were more concerned with who was going to live there and what that would mean for others. The character (not race or creed) of the people buying the house is what mattered. Some bidders were apparently either dishonest or very rude, and that weighed heavily on their consideration.

It just impressed me that this family came together and discussed this matter not based on the best price, but they also considered their neighbors who would be affected as well. That is truly being a good neighbor. This is part of looking down the road to see where certain choices may end up affecting others. It may mean sacrificing a few bucks in the short term but in the end the right decision is worth more than any dollar amount.

Proverbs 3:29 – Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you.

One Mediator

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
(John 20:22-23)

Did Jesus give the apostles the authority to forgive sins? Is that the right way to interpret the above passage? I don’t believe so, because first of all, God is the only one who can forgive sins (Isaiah 43:25). We also know that there is only one Mediator between God and man, and that is Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).

What I believe is meant here is similar to what Jesus told His apostles in other passages like Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18 regarding what they bind and loose on earth. Their job as apostles was to reveal through divine inspiration (the breath of the Holy Spirit) the terms for forgiveness and to bind the will of Christ upon those to whom they preached. What they bound on earth was not of their own will and choosing, but instead were the things that were already bound in heaven. They simply declared the terms of the contract to men.

In their preaching and teaching you can see that the apostles did not forgive people’s sins, but what they did do is reveal the way to have forgiveness of sins. They taught that people had to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38), and to repent and be converted (Acts 3:19-20) in order to receive forgiveness of sins. The apostles “bound” those terms upon others, because that is how those folks would be forgiven. When speaking to those who were already Christians, the apostles taught them to repent, confess to God in prayer and ask Him for forgiveness (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9-2:2). You don’t see the apostles going around doling out forgiveness certificates, rather, what they did was direct people to Jesus. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

All of that to say this: There is one mediator between God and us. There is one who forgives and decides who is clean before God. We must keep this in mind. We are not the arbiters of another’s forgiveness. As followers of God we can direct people’s attention to the Way to be forgiven, but to give or withhold forgiveness of their sins before God is not our task. That’s God’s end of the stick. And thankfully, that end of the stick is in good hands!

Solomon’s Perspective on “Toil”

I’m studying Ecclesiastes right now in preparation for our next class, and yesterday I was in chapter 2. Solomon sure seems all over the board about whether he likes work (toil) or not.

At first he found pleasure in the toil, and the pleasure was his reward for doing the work (2:10-11).  Then he started to get tired, older and reflective, and he realized that he will work his whole life and hand his life’s toil over to someone who didn’t work for it and probably wouldn’t appreciate it. What if that person doesn’t have the sense to tie his own shoes? Seems like a waste doesn’t it?

But then at the end of chapter 2, Solomon is back to saying that we should enjoy our work. What happened? Is Solomon mental or something? No, he realized that his mindset and purpose for work was all out of whack and that God wasn’t in the center of his purpose for work. When pleasing God is your purpose, then work becomes fun again. If you’re out to please yourself and acquire stuff, then it all eventually becomes “vanity” (a complete waste of time).

Is God at the center of your purpose? How would you know? What does that look like when your focus for working is pleasing God versus pleasing yourself and getting stuff? Take time to talk this over with a wise godly brother and do some praying and reflection about it.

Below are the passages I referenced from Ecclesiastes.

And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 2:10-11)

I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind.
(Ecclesiastes 2:18-26)

God will equip you

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Hebrews 13:20-21)

God wants you and me to do his will and to work what is pleasing in His sight. But we don’t know how to do that and we are not equipped to do that. This is no surprise to God. That’s why we see here in Hebrews 13 that the God who raised Jesus the Great Shepherd will also “equip” us with “everything good” so that we can do the things that please Him.

I love this so much. God did not leave us alone out there in the dark with a bunch of expectations and no help on how to accomplish them. He is working on you and me everyday to give us the spiritual tools and talents to work in His kingdom. Many other passages say the same thing, God is working in us and He doesn’t give up on a project (Philippians 1:6,11; 2:13; 2 Cor. 9:8; Ephesians 2:10).

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:12-13)

Thinking Out Loud

Today, I’m talking to the extroverts, those who talk to think. Yes, I fully fit in that category and that is definitely my personality. All of my ideas and thoughts, good, bad and ugly, all come out when I’m thinking about things. But man, it really gets me in trouble.

When you are an extrovert and you talk to think, and you are talking to an introvert who thinks to talk, it can be a toxic combination. You probably know what I’m talking about. The extrovert, in rapid procession, spews out fifteen ideas and possibilities and variations to the introvert who is still thinking about the first idea. That’s a formula for a fight if I ever saw one.

  1. Not every idea has to be vocalized. Look below and meditate upon these passages from Scripture that repeatedly advise us to restrain and limit our words.
  2. Sometimes your ideas, variations and suggestions while innocently offered, can make someone feel guilty or inadequate for the suggestion he or she made. A person comes up with an idea, and you rapid fire a bunch of other things they could add or do or change, and it can really frustrate him or her.
  3. Take time to think more and pray more. Nehemiah is a great example to me in that he took “serious thought” before he responded to something. I really need that more in my life (Nehemiah 5:6-7).

Maybe next week, I’ll pick on the introverts. Gotta be balanced.

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
(Proverbs 17:27-28)

Oh that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!
(Job 13:5)

For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.
(Ecclesiastes 5:3)

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
(Proverbs 10:19)

The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is evil madness. A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him?
(Ecclesiastes 10:12-14)

Be swift to hear slow to speak (James 1:19).

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
(James 1:19)

The Faithful Remnant

We are studying the Kings and Prophets, and we are going into the period of the Babylonian Captivity. Dark times for Judah, no doubt. It seemed like no one cared about God or followed God. That may have been pretty close to true, but there were still a few strong followers of God. Just like we considered yesterday with Noah, even in the midst of corruption and wickedness, there was a faithful remnant.

Jeremiah preached for decades, but was anyone listening? For the most part, no, but here are a few examples of the people who were faithfully following God.

Baruch, the scribe for Jeremiah. He wrote down the words that Jeremiah received from God. He was a faithful servant and assistant to Jeremiah. Just like Jeremiah, he was taken hostage and carried off to Egypt after the Babylonian captivity.

The descendants of Jonadab faithfully followed their father’s commands even after centuries passed. Their faithfulness was contrasted to Judah’s faithlessness to their Father (Jeremiah 35).

Many people were sealed by God before the destruction of Jerusalem, because as God told Ezekiel during these days, they were “sighing and crying” over the abominations committed there (Ezekiel 9). Even in Jerusalem, the hot bed of sin and rebellion to God, there were folks faithfully following God’s word.

Ebed-melech was an Ethiopian eunuch who helped saved Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 38). For his faithfulness and bravery, he was blessed by God. Take note of this promise of God to Ebed-melech:

“Go, and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day. But I will deliver you on that day, declares the LORD, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the LORD.'” (Jeremiah 39:16-18).

Away in captivity, there were also others faithfully serving God during this time. Daniel, Ezekiel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are some examples.

The same can be said today. Scattered throughout the world, and in maybe the most unlikely of places, there are members of the faithful remnant. Most importantly, let’s make sure that you and I are part of that faithful remnant. We can, with God’s grace and help, serve God faithfully in this godless age.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
(Titus 2:11-12)

They Will All Wear Out Like a Garment

And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
(Hebrews 1:10-12)

There is a beginning and there is an end. In the above passage, we see that the earth and heavens are the work of God, and that “in the beginning” God laid their foundation. We also see here that there is an end as well. The things of this earth will wear out, be rolled up and  changed. Newton’s laws are true, things wear out and go from order to disorder. They have an end in contrast to God who has “no end.”

What gets us so frustrated? What distracts us so easily? The stuff that wears out, changes and ultimately will all have an end. The “here and now” will be the “distant and past” one day. It may be that you have to re-center your mind today to remember the One who always was, is and is to come. I know I need that right now. All this stuff is temporary, and we have to deal with it and live in it, but our mind can’t be drowning in it.

God laid the earth’s foundation and one day it will all be burned up and changed. While we are here, remember that “God is the same and His years have no end.”

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
(Colossians 3:1-4)

With All Purity

Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.
(1 Timothy 5:1-2)

How we treat people is based upon how we view people. Look at this passage where Paul gives the evangelist Timothy advice on how to treat others. It is based upon how Timothy sees others and values them.

Treat older men like you would your dad, and older women like you would your own mother. See the younger men as your own brothers, and the younger women as your sisters. Notice this: with all purity.

If we value others as special and precious we will treat them accordingly. However, if we view others as merely objects to satisfy the desires of our flesh, then that’s how we will treat them (2 Peter 2:12-14).

How would Timothy treat a young woman in the faith “with all purity”?

He would avoid being alone with her. For one thing, it would protect against being led to sexual sin. But it would also be part of living blamelessly and above reproach. If you have a Bible study, take someone with you. If you are going on a business lunch, take someone else with you. Protect her purity, your purity and both of your reputations.

He would not ask her nor press her to do things that would violate God’s standards of purity. If he sees her as precious in the sight of God and as an image-bearer of Jesus, then he will value her body and her soul as belonging to God. Think of how Joseph behaved with Potiphar’s wife. He knew that she belonged to another man, and that he belonged to God. How he viewed her and how he viewed his relationship with God affected how he treated her (Genesis 39). Christians were called to greet each other with a “holy kiss,” which implies that there can be an “un-holy kiss.”

With all purity…that is God’s standard.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
(1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)