The Mere Existence of a Prophet

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place.
(2 Chronicles 36:15)

Last Thursday, we observed the simple fact from the Old Testament that the mere existence of a king in Israel reflected the heart of the people of Israel. They had rejected God as their King, so God gave them the king they wanted (1 Samuel 12:12).

In contrast, let’s observe the flip side of the coin: the mere existence of a prophet reflected the heart of God for the people of Israel.  It was pretty bad in Israel. God’s people (and their kings) had wholesale rejected God. That is the setting. But did God just give up and walk away? No.

Take a moment to ponder the above passage from 2 Chronicles 36:15. Here are a few brief points from verse 15:

Because he had compassion.

What was God’s heart? Compassion. We may think the prophet was only there to call in coordinates for God’s next bombing raid. That was Jonah’s thinking, and God had a whale of a job trying to correct Jonah’s attitude. James and John had this same mentality and Jesus rebuked them as well (Luke 9:55). God’s ways are not our ways, thankfully (Isaiah 55). He sees souls that are broken, souls in need of restoration and redemption. He sees people and relationships, and he longs for us to come home.

God’s messengers sent a message from God’s heart.

The prophets are messengers sent to pour out God’s heart to the people. The messages of the prophets are pretty simple: Repent, Remember, Return, Restore, Redemption.

God’s messengers were sent persistently.

Because God loved them and had a deep compassion for them, he didn’t just try once or twice, He sent loads of prophets over hundreds of years! Those prophets were mocked, despised, rejected and murdered, yet God sent more and more. Again, the prophet was a symbol for the heart of God – because God loved, God sent the prophets.

God’s people.

Again, verse 15 says “his people.” This reflects that God cared more about the relationships and the people. To God, they were worth it.

So, what about you and me? If the mere existence of a prophet reflected the heart of God for Israel, what is reflected in my heart when others disobey God and are not walking with Him? Does my heart align with God’s heart of compassion, persistence, and a desire for reconciliation?

The Mere Existence of a King

And when you saw that Nahash the king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ when the LORD your God was your king. And now behold the king whom you have chosen, for whom you have asked; behold, the LORD has set a king over you.
(1 Samuel 12:12-13)

The Mere Existence of a King in Israel was a symptom of Israel’s heart condition before God. They had rejected God as their king, and that is why they asked for a king to rule them.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
(1 Samuel 8:4-9)

Israel, God’s chosen nation, wanted to be like the other nations (1 Samuel 8:5). They wanted a king to fight their battles for them (1 Samuel 8:20). Israel was not content to be a peculiar people and to stand out among the nations as different. Their faith was not in the power of God, but in the power of men. But they did not think this through really well, because that king would not fight “their” battles without them. Their sons would be soldiers and their daughters would be servants, and they would be taxed heavily (1 Samuel 8:10-19).

A thousand years later, Israel still wanted a physical king and rejected God as their king. Jesus was their king (John 18:36), but they wanted a physical king. That’s why they tried to force Jesus into a physical kingdom (John 6:15).

All of this to say again that the mere existence of a king displayed the real heart condition of Israel. That is true in our lives. The mere existence of certain things are symptoms of a greater issue in our hearts. Our credit card statement may reveal symptoms of a greater problem, and that is our lack of contentment and patience. The mere existence of fighting in the home is a symptom of a greater problem in our hearts: lust, anger, jealousy, etc. (James 4:1).

When Jesus is not my true king, the symptoms will raise their ugly heads and they will rule my life instead of Jesus. That’s what happened to Israel, and it’s what happens to us today. Put Jesus back on the throne of your heart. He is a merciful and loving King, and the burden of following Him is light especially when considering the alternative!

Graves of Craving

Take some time to read Numbers 11 and Psalm 78:10-32. It records a time during the wilderness wanderings that Israel gave themselves up to intense craving (lust). Manna wasn’t good enough for them. They were not thankful for all that God had already done for them. They spoke of Egypt like it was a resort vacation spot, talking about how great they had it back there. “We want meat!”, they cried.

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat!
(Numbers 11:4)

So God tells them, “Ok, I’ll give you meat…till it comes out your nostrils” (Numbers 11:20).

Then a wind from the LORD sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the ground. And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten homers. And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague. Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah (GRAVES OF CRAVING), because there they buried the people who had the craving.
(Numbers 11:31-34)

This is a needed reminder from Scripture to help us see the power of cravings and what they can do to God’s people. What can it do to marriage? What can unrestrained lust do to all our relationships?

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life. Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished.
(Proverbs 6:23-29)

A whole bunch of people were buried in a place that was forever remembered as “Graves of Craving.” Just like Arlington National Cemetery, you know what that place means. At Arlington we commemorate the men and women who gave their lives for our country. At Kibroth-hattaavah (Graves of Craving), they commemorated those who gave themselves up to lust. We do not want to create a graveyard that memorializes how we destroyed ourselves and others because of our lusts and cravings.

As God’s men, we must be committed to conquering lust with the power of Jesus Christ and with the help of other godly men in our lives. Help and grace is always there at the throne of God because of Jesus.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
(Ephesians 5:1-11)

God Has Given Them Work To Do

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 2:26)

We all have work to do, whether we are righteous or wicked. God keeps us busy. But in the Scripture we see that God keeps the wicked busy preparing money and things that will in some way end up in the hands of righteous people. This is not to mean that we as God’s people sit around on our duffs and wait for God to take away money from others and give it to us. Nor is it to mean that because we are Christians we are going to be blessed with tons of money.

What it does mean is that God will take care of His people, and sometimes that means He takes care of His people by “transferring funds” from the wicked. How the Lord does that is up to Him, but we see lots of examples of this in Scripture.

What it also means is that the wicked think they are busy taking care of themselves and heaping up riches, but they are only busying themselves in vain. Their purpose in life is selfish and focused merely on getting more stuff. All that stuff eventually goes away, and it is through the merciful hand of God that He directs it toward caring for His children.

Though he heap up silver like dust, and pile up clothing like clay, he may pile it up, but the righteous will wear it, and the innocent will divide the silver.
(Job 27:16-17)

Disaster pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.
(Proverbs 13:21-22)

Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
(Proverbs 28:8)

The Israelites walked out of Egypt with the wealth of the Egyptians. It looks like a lot of that wealth ended up being used to build the Tabernacle (Genesis 15:14; Exodus 12:35-36; 35:21-22). God’s house was built with the wealth of the Gentiles (compare with Isaiah 60:5,11). Moses’ mother, Jochebed, was paid wages from Pharaoh’s house to nurse her own son (Exodus 2:1-10).

Let’s end with two more passages, one from Deuteronomy and one from the Psalms. Why did God pour out the wealth of the Gentiles upon Israel? Look at the following passages.

He brought out His people with joy, His chosen ones with gladness. He gave them the lands of the Gentiles, and they inherited the labor of the nations, that they might observe His statutes and keep His laws. Praise the LORD!
(Psalm 105:43-45)

Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest–when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end–then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.
(Deuteronomy 8:11-20)

Let’s not forget our purpose! Let’s not forget why God put us on our earth. If we are busy, let’s remember God in the busy-ness! Otherwise, we are just busy heaping up stuff that will go to someone else.

The Tongue of the Wise Promotes Health

There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health (Proverbs 12:18).

The focus for this week has been complaining. Words as we all know, have incredible weight and influence. The above proverb provides a great contrast. A stab wound doesn’t promote health, does it? My words can be a sword thrust through someone or I can promote health. Our words at work and school today can promote health: healthy attitudes, healthy dialogue, healthy teamwork, etc. Or, our complaining and criticizing words will just bring everyone down in the dumps.

Here are a couple of examples:

10 of the 12 spies sent by Moses to look over the land of Canaan brought back a bad report. They were faithless and their words discouraged the hearts of the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 1:28). Caleb, one of the 2 faithful spies, said decades later that the discouraging words of those 10 spies “made the heart of the people melt” (Joshua 14:8).

In contrast, consider King Hezekiah. When surrounded by the powerful army of Assyria, Hezekiah took his stand in faith with God. Not only did he prepare the people militarily, he spoke words of faith and encouragement to the people and directed their hearts to God’s power. “And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah” (2 Chronicles 32:6-8).

See the contrast? I think we all, that means me too, sometimes lose sight of how powerful and influential our speech can be. That’s probably why there is so much in Scripture about our words and their power. Hezekiah strengthened his people while the 10 spies made the hearts of Israel melt into discouragement.

The Tongue of the Wise Promotes Health

I found an interesting passage in Isaiah where the Messiah (Jesus) is speaking in the 1st person about what He is coming to do. In that section there is this statement:

The Lord has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary (Isaiah 50:4).

Jesus, the Messiah, has the tongue of the learned (educated, trained, wise). He knows how to speak a word in season (at the right time) to him who is weary (considering the audience and what is appropriate).

May the Lord give us this same tongue today! Let us train and educate our tongues and hearts. Consider what would be the right thing to say, not what would be the easy thing, or sarcastic thing or funny thing to say.

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones (Proverbs 16:24).

Past articles that might be helpful to you in connection to this topic: