It must have been the most miserable night’s sleep. The day before, Joshua, the nation’s leader, announced an alarming investigation. Sadly, the day before thirty-six men had died in battle as Israel fought with an inferior opponent. The nation was heaving with remorse.
Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you. (Joshua 7:13)
All evening long, he had an opportunity to come clean and repent. Can you imagine as he wonders if he hid his stolen souvenirs well enough? Can you relate to the sweaty palms as he replays the smuggling effort over in his mind? Who could have seen him? It was a flawless operation, right? Joshua must have been bluffing!
Achan must have never realized when Joshua said three times “which the Lord shall take,” he was clearly indicating the Lord would capture the offender. The word “take” is the same word in Proverbs 5:22, “His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, And he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.” Paul explained it, “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:8).
How much serenity can a stash of silver offer? How much comfort can a pillow of gold promise? Yet we allow the sweet “stolen waters” in our lives tranquilize our conscience. Instead of allowing the pleasures of this world to allure us, we should pursue the One whose right-hand offers “pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Take the world, but give me Jesus—
All its joys are but a name;
But His love abideth ever,
Thru eternal years the same.
It’s part of sibling life. Often the older child tries to push the buttons of their younger sibling in order to get a reaction. Several years ago, our son was afflicting his sister with his adolescent annoyance. She almost vented her frustration at him, but instead, she looked to the ones who could intercede on her behalf—Mom and Dad. Our advice to her, “Just ignore him. He’s trying to get a reaction, so if you don’t give it to him, then he’ll probably stop.” Without missing a beat, she turned to her brother and with the enunciation of a two or three-year-old she cried out, “IGNORE!” It was not what we had in mind, but it has been a humorous memory ever since.
In Genesis 4, a keyword surfaces as two brothers approach God with their offerings. Abel brought the firstfruits of his flock. This means his offering was the first blessing from God. It was the fattest which was a sign of tremendous honor. His brother, Cain also brings an offering, however, without the same level of distinction as his brother’s. God’s recognition of those offerings tells the complete story. “And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect” (Genesis 4:4-5).
Focus on the word respect. It is actually a relatively rare word in the Old Testament. It simply means “to gaze upon; pay attention.” The inverse of this word would be simply “to ignore.” Think of a time you were ignored while waiting for some customer service. Or maybe a friend or a family member ignored you in public because of a recent tiff. What was your reaction? More than likely you were…well, look at Cain: “And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” Analyze that emotion for a moment. Why would you be “wroth” when you’ve been ignored? You feel it’s unjust. “Don’t they know who I am!” You feel the other person is to blame. You feel your perspective wasn’t given a fair hearing. It’s one thing to have that feeling when you’re waiting for customer service, but it’s entirely something else when we have this feeling opposite of God.
God knows how it feels to be ignored. Look ahead in Isaiah’s prophecy where God scolds his people, “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; And…look not unto the Holy One of Israel, Neither seek the Lord” (Isaiah 31:1)! For every time people have not “respected” God, He has faithfully extended the hand of hope.
Who are we to judge God? “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted” (Genesis 4:7)? It is our responsibility to align with God’s expectations. Have you ignored God? More than likely, you have felt He has “hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” What’s the cause? “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God” (Isaiah 59:2). Once you have “respect” unto God, He will have respect unto the offerings of your life.
As we turn the page on a new year, many of us have taken at least a few minutes to think about some things about ourselves that we’d like to improve upon this year. Whether it be a bulging waistline, bad habit or besetting sin; many of us, as well as many other Americans, have set some sort of goal to better ourselves in those particular areas.
These “New Year Resolutions” were the topic of a news report last week in which the reporter interviewed several “on the street” as to what their individual resolutions were. One particular young woman stood out as being the most “moral” of the group, saying she wanted to be “much nicer to people this year because there is so much hate in the world.” This is certainly a noble goal and one that we should all strive for in our individual lives.
However, our reading this morning reminds us of the type of people we really truly are. Though man in and of his own strength can occasionally conjure up some temporary form of goodness, Romans 3 reminds us of our true spiritual condition. In verses 10-14 we read, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit, the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:”
Here we are reminded of our true condition, sinners with a heart driven to rebel against God. Left to ourselves we would never seek after God or His righteousness. Our only hope for true goodness and righteousness is found in having a relationship with the Righteous One, Jesus Christ. Paul summarizes this wonderful truth in verse 26, “To declare, I say, as this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
So while we take a few minutes to think about ways to improve ourselves in 2018, may we be reminded of the inadequacy of ourselves and our need to depend upon God for both salvation and genuine change in our lives.
Would you buy a puzzle from the thrift store? I’ve often wondered why they sell puzzles. It is possible all of the pieces are still present, but what are the chances one out of 500 pieces have gone missing? I’m sure they don’t employee full-time puzzle solvers at Goodwill to account for every piece. Could it be the puzzle was given to the thrift store because no one has done the puzzle in ages? And could it be it hasn’t been completed because a decade ago one or more pieces disappeared? I submit to you it is highly likely!
There are few things more frustrating than to invest hours of your valuable time assembling a puzzle only to find it is missing pieces. Would you risk $1 for an incomplete picture?
God was willing to stake everything on one of His masterpieces. At least five times in the first two chapters of Job “integrity” is mentioned. When you see the word “perfect” and “integrity” you are looking at the same root word in the original language.
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil…there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil…and still he holdeth fast his integrity…Dost thou still retain thine integrity? (Job 1:1, 8; 2:3, 9)
The word integrity comes from the Latin integer which means “whole, complete, untouched.” Trophies are awarded to those who exhibit excellence and integrity. For example, the Heisman awards a college football “player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” The world is looking for complete, through-and-through individuals. It is interesting how often when there is someone of integrity, they attempt to dig up dirt on them so they can bring them down to their level.
In the reality of life, Job pursued excellence with integrity, and God knew it. The beautiful way James picks up this idea of completeness indicates integrity is formed by trials.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)
You too can be integrous, complete, untouched, but the demonstration and development of such qualities occur through trials. Do you have the integrity of a thrift store puzzle? Would you allow God to complete your life? Would you allow Him to fill in the pieces which are missing so you can be His masterpiece?
The law of the Lord is perfect…Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: For the end of that man is peace. (Psalm 19:7; 37:37)
Those of the world are on a quest for happiness and often look for it in the wrong ways or places. As Christians, we are fortunate to have God’s Word. If our desire is to live a happy and prosperous life, I cannot think of a better place to start than the Book of Psalms. Through the years, I have come to know Psalm 1 as a recipe for success. This Psalm is a great lesson in comparison and contrast. We have a choice and God sets it before us here in Psalm 1. God simply states, that if we follow Him in all our doings we will be blessed by Him. Yet, He likewise shows the dangers of doing it the world’s way.
Verse 1 describes the downward plunge toward despair and defeat. In our walk with God, if we begin to listen to worldly wisdom, it will start the process; which eventually leads to replacing God with worldly desire. It can happen to the most devoted of Christians. We must place a guard on our senses to prevent this from happening.
Verse 2 is the diamond of life that will satisfy every Christian (and the world if they would only turn to Him for salvation). God says our delight should be in His Word and if we search the Bible day and night we will experience life as a well-watered, well-rooted tree. A lofty sycamore tree, planted by a stream, is a perfect illustration of verse 3.
It is so simple; yet, we as believers sometimes lose sight of His promises. They are often obscured by the so-called wisdom of the world which will only bring about the consequences of vs. 5. While in Washington State, I had occasion to watch the harvesting of many a field of wheat. As the combines cut through the fields, the wheat went into bins, but the chaff blew up in the air and whisked away, never to be seen again. The latter is a sad testimony to the unsaved.
We know the heathen rage (Psalm 2:1-2) and life does not seem fair at times, but God is the true measure of fairness. If we would be honest, who has not thought about the “successful”, godless people that appear to prevail? However, we can be assured if we set our compass toward God, we the redeemed of God will have the victory. Our vindication is none other than Jesus Christ the Lord.
The remaining verses of Psalm 2 describe how God will handle the scoffers. He does not relish this but wishes that all men would come to salvation (2 Pet. 3:9). God keeps records and in Ps. 1:5-6, He tells us where the unbelievers will not stand and that we, as believers, are known (and loved) forever by God.
Finally, God reminds us in the last verse of Psalm 2 that blessed are all they that put their trust in Him! If God be for us who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)! With this said, will we look to earthly resolutions or resolve no longer to linger charmed by the world’s delights.