Bible Study

Jun 2017
Foreheads, Pride, and Leprousy

The hushed whispers grew into a raging din. It’s hard to keep eighty people quiet much less eighty people who were infuriated by what they had just seen. The audacity he must have had to think he can walk right in there and…can you believe what he is doing?

Azariah calms the priests down for a moment. He gives instructions about respecting God’s anointed man. He will be the spokesman, so he pleads with his fellow priests to restrain themselves. They march into the Temple to confront the king, Uzziah. The king had a censer in his hand. Azariah was calm and respectful, but the king was losing his cool. All of a sudden, one of the priests saw it. It flashed upon Uzziah’s forehead. “He’s leprous!” All control was lost in a moment as men zealous for the purity of God’s house put Uzziah out of the Temple. God had smitten Uzziah for his tragic pride.

What an illustration Uzziah’s leprosy is for us. Since it was on his forehead, he could not see it. Everyone else could, but Uzziah was oblivious to his malady. Such is the way pride and arrogance work. They creep in stealthily on the fringes of successful enterprises. Like briars caught in the field carried to the comfort of home, the unwanted prickles of pride go without notice or care. Paul said, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Every day, remind yourself of a few things in order to preen pride from your heart. Remember where you came from. Review Matthew 5 and be poor in spirit and meek. We are unclean and unfit until God has done a work in us (Isaiah 6). Remember who you follow. You must deny yourself, take up your cross which is your daily humility, and follow Christ. He did not call you to follow upon lofty heights of self-aggrandizement. He called you to follow him in the simple things of compassion. Remember there’s more to be done. Never rest on your laurels. Keep running and forget the things behind you whether success or failure. Press toward the prize. “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Has pride begun to show itself in your life? Beware. It usually flairs up in places hard to notice without the mirror of God’s word and the humility of Christ’s way.

Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Neither let the mighty man glory in his might, Let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, That he understandeth and knoweth me, That I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: For in these things I delight, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

Jun 2017
Best Laid Plans

As Robert Burns was plowing his field, his plow turned up a field mouse from its home. One of his hired hands chased after the mouse to kill it, but Burns the poet had another idea. He later showed the poem to his servant the last few lines of which are these:

The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects drear!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

Amaziah in 2 Chronicles 25, had his best-laid plans, but the plow of God’s sovereignty turned them out. Notably, Amaziah hardly counseled God regarding his forthcoming invasion. He also failed to apply the wisdom of his grandfather, Jehoshaphat, regarding alliances with Israel. A prophet stops Amaziah’s march to war and boldly instructs him to send the Israelite mercenaries home. Amaziah’s question is much the same as our personal rebuttals to God’s course changes. “And Amaziah said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel” (2 Chronicles 25:9)? There are so many holes in the question. The prophet could easily see them. His response could have been quite parental. “Well, you should have thought about it before you did it. I guess you’ll learn a lesson, won’t you?”

What is wonderful about God and His message is the overwhelming grace. The simple answer was, “The Lord is able to give thee much more than this.” Burns blesses the mouse in his poem because it only knows the moment. “The present only touches you,” he said, but we can look back “on prospects drear” or forward and “guess and fear.” However, we are more blessed than the mouse, for the Lord has said, “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). Your best-laid plans often do go awry but remember his way is perfect (Psalm 18:30). No man having put his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom (Luke 9:62). Let God have His way with you.

Jun 2017
The Superior God

Ephesians 3:20Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

Shouldn’t the words “above all that we ask” mystify you? This verse is a triumphant statement of God’s power, but a disheartening reality of our prayer. It seems we do not ask enough. We do not desperately seek enough. Much like Jehoash, we are content to smite the ground with the arrows thrice and rejoice about it. Truly the Lord’s power and provision are worthy of glory, but how often we come up short? How much have we lacked because of our feeble faith? Someone said Jehoash received “something better than the human, but he did not get God’s best.”

Think for a moment how powerful the Lord is. He can lead an inferior army to vanquish a superior foe with the same ease as Jehoash smiting the ground with arrows. What is impossible with man is surely possible with God! Is there anything too hard for God? If God can wield miraculous victories and political dominance with the greatest of ease, is your difficulty really too great? Is it sensible to refrain from taking it to the Lord in prayer?

Now can we appreciate the prophet’s response? He was angry. When a man does not go far enough it must be frustrating. When people believe in a small God or only a sufficient God instead of a superior God, we will never know the potential of God’s work.

May 2017
Seeds of Kindness

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. – Robert Louis Stevenson

David has returned from exile to Jerusalem. It has been an emotional time. He left Jerusalem barefoot and returned broken. He had lost his son Absolom. He had caused a division within the nation. While trying to reunite the nation, Sheba disavows his allegiance to King David. However, throughout all the misfortune, David was blessed with a steady stream of compassionate people. Ittai, Hushai, Barzillai and many others aided the broken king. In these turbulent times, why does David still receive such tender support?

You will find the answer after Barzillai helps David cross the Jordan river. David invites the dear old man to his home to enjoy feasts together for the rest of his life. Barzillai personally declines but desires the same generosity to be done for his son. As you look around David’s table and down the corridors of his life, you will find David sowed seeds of kindness. These seeds of kindness were sown into the lives of people at their time of needs and David received a bountiful harvest in his time of need.

According to the law of sowing and reaping, every seed normally has the potential for a fruitful crop. A seed will produce many times more than itself, and the seeds of kindness will do that as well. One act of kindness from David earned him a banquet of compassion. The support David won from others exceeded his simple gestures.

It is important to remember that a seed will always produce after some time. To plant a seed and expect an immediate harvest is foolish. The same is with the seeds of kindness. There would be a harvest and it would come at a natural time. Some seeds of kindness sprout earlier than later. Some sprout perennially and others are a one time annual, but they eventual return a blessing.

It is also fascinating how the seeds of kindness can pollinate into the lives of others. One act of kindness can echo in other lives for generations to come. One pebble’s splash into the pond sends the ripples infinitely in many directions. Others may not have received the seed of kindness from you directly, but they were moved by the story of your kindness to others.

The Bible often associates acts of kindness with acts of righteousness, so it is fitting to remember the proverb from Hosea 10:12, “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, Reap in mercy.” How many seeds of kindness will you plant today?

May 2017
Emotional Revisions

You would think it was a “fish story” the way some liberals play with stories of America’s historical past. They have twisted the background of many good people into darkness, and have shoved into the limelight others who were less than commendable only because their lives resound with the current agenda. These story twisters are known as revisionists. “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

In our personal lives, we sometimes have revisionistic emotions. There are two emotions which plague the people in 2 Samuel 16-18. These emotions cause them to try to rewrite their story the way they thought it should have been. “There is not a lot of money in revenge,” said one sword-wielding assassin. The truth is, there is not much of anything in revenge. Those who secretly wait and conspire against others because of some past wrong are hollow-souled. They want to settle the score, but they are playing a losing game. As David flees from Absalom, Ziba meets David with supplies and a story. He accuses Mephibosheth of consorting with the king’s enemies. He is immediately granted everything that belonged to Mephibosheth. The way Ziba shows up to help David cross the Jordan back to Jerusalem seems to indicate he was getting back what he felt he deserved.

Shimei seizes the opportunity to vent and kick David while he is down. He shouts and hurls insults against David. As a decedent of Saul, it was time to gloat over the humiliation of the rejected king’s successor. Yet another person who could not let go of the past

The most surprising vengeful conspirator is Ahithophel, the king’s faithful counselor. Why would Ahithophel turn against David? He seems to have such a long history with the king? It is possible Ahithophel waited patiently for years to strike back. The shame and humiliation David served Ahithophel’s family was to be repaid at the most opportune moment. It was a decision where David, a man with power and respect, took advantage of a granddaughter and murdered a grandson by marriage. The pain had chaffed at him for years. After Absalom enters Jerusalem, Ahithophel instructs Absolom to humiliate David and eagerly desires to take 12,000 men to hunt down David and slaughter him. This was not a man who was looking for the next ride to the top. It was more than that. He wanted to destroy David while he was helpless…maybe as helpless as Uriah the Hittite might have been when he was killed in battle. As the grandfather of Bathsheba, Ahithophel capitalized on the moment to complete the tortuous revenge against David (2 Samuel 11:3; 23:34).

These vengeful people wanted to rewrite their stories and the lives of others in order to put things the way they should be. Revenge is not the only emotion that desires to rewrite the past. David’s irrational favor for Absolom similarly tries to rewrite history. The times he was not the father he was supposed to be. The times he ignored Absolom. The times he did not deal with sin in the family the way it should have been. All of that was supposed to be rewritten when his faithful and might men met Absolom. They were to deal gently with him, a traitor! The emotion of regret also desires to rewrite the past so we can live in a more comfortable present.

Paul could have lived with revenge or regret, but he said, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Philippians 3:13). Paul realized his life was before him. To live in the past feeds revenge or feeds regret until they overpower your rationale. Forget the past and press toward the future. Strive for the prize.

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