“For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth” (Ge. 7:4). God has judged. Everyone of us will be judged by Him one day; the redeemed for what they did (or not) with their talents for God and the lost for their unbelief in a loving Saviour. All can say what they want regarding the final judgment. Whether one chooses to believe it, or not, doesn’t change the fact one bit. As someone lightly said, regarding man’s eternal residence, it will be in one of two sections-smoking or non smoking. Heaven or hell. Hopefully we would be more tactful to describe eternity, but sometimes you have to be blunt. Were it not for bluntness, I would still be in the “world” mocking God.
I always felt that no matter what I did, I would answer for it someday. There would be the momentary pleasure and fun of sin, but if you want to dance you have to pay the band. In essence, if I continued in this lifestyle I would answer for it all come judgment day! Praise His Name that the Holy Spirit gave me the wherewithal to heed God’s warning and accept Jesus as my Saviour. I shudder to think where my life of debauchery took me. But I knew it was of my own volition. The devil did not make me do it.
If any comfort in this fact, it would be that God is a righteous judge. We all will get what we deserve; nothing more or less. The punishment will fit the crime. Unlike human judgment, Jesus says, “ And yet if I judge, my judgment is true…” (Joh.8:16). Man cannot meet out justice fairly. There is always something that interferes with total justice; whether corruption, partiality, ecetera ecetera. Simply put, a sinner cannot judge another sinner fairly. “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Mat. 7:3).
Despite society’s attempts at justice, mistakes are made. Even the best intended judge makes errors. Only God can clearly see. An example of wrongful judgment is the case of Stephen. After a Spirit-led message they decided, “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth” (Acts 7:54). I have been called a few choice words and have been threatened, but nobody ever tried to bite me (humanly speaking)! Lastly, is the quintessential misjudgment; that of our dear Saviour. “But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him (Joh 19:15). For what? Preaching God’s plan to save us from ourselves. It cost Jesus His life and will ours for eternity if we don’t reconcile. It’s getting late.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” These opening lines, commonly called your “Miranda rights,” have become familiar through television and film.
In today’s reading, you’ll notice each plotline involves wrongdoing, accusation, or temptation. In each case, the guilt or innocence is clear to us as the jury, seeing an outside view of the facts.
Case #1 “If you did what you are supposed to do, there’s nothing to worry about.”
There is no Scripture preceding Genesis 4 that explicitly outlines what Cain’s sacrifice was supposed to be, but God’s remark to Cain indicates that Cain knew what he was supposed to do and didn’t do it. Cain goes on to further incriminate himself by his quest for revenge.
Case #2 “Bet you can’t…”
Jesus, the sinless Son of God, is in the wilderness at the Spirit’s leading. Three times, the Deceiver tries to trick Jesus. However, Jesus answers each with the Old Testament law. Interestingly though, each of Jesus’ quotations shows guilt – not his but Satan’s! Imagine that: every time a prosecutor asks a question, the defendant quotes a law that shows the prosecutor’s guilt. The prosecutor would probably stop quickly, and that’s just what Satan does. (See James 4:7-8)
Case #3 “Do you know what they did?!”
One of the most frustrating feelings is to finally receive permission after a long wait, only to have that permission revoked. That’s exactly what happened to the Jews. They had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls when their neighbors wrote a letter to the king who had given them permission to build in the first place. The king places the project on hold until he can figure out what to do. Unfortunately, he never restarts the project, and they aren’t able to continue building until the second year of king Darius (nearly 18 years after they first returned to begin the building project!)
Case #4 “You can’t do that!”
Peter and John had just seen God’s miraculous healing of a man who had been lame for 40 years. The leaders of the Jews were irate because this healing was done in Jesus’ name…the same Jesus that those leaders just crucified. Imagine if someone said they gave money to the church in the name of Osama bin Laden. There would be an obvious conflict of interest. The Jewish leaders would have undoubtedly imprisoned Peter and John or worse, but there was a major problem. People were glorifying the name of God. If the Scribes and Pharisees work against Peter and John, they tell the people that they are against the work of God. Their accusation would be a self-indictment.
So what can we learn from these 4 cases? Guilt is known by the guilty. Cain, Satan, and the Jewish leaders each understood their own guilt, while the innocent are vindicated. Sometimes that vindication takes time, as in Ezra 4, while other times, there is an immediate cessation of the accusation as in the cases of Jesus and Peter and John.
Romans 13:3-4 summarize this concept: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”
Listening to podcasts this week, one featured a mother of four who stepped into a challenging New Year’s Eve when she and her husband opted to eliminate everything extracurricular in their schedule. She said her pastor called it a “radical sabbatical.” They opted to make the most important thing, relationship investments in their family, the priority for one year. Using the word “BUSY” as an acrostic, this mother described busy as “Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke.”
Launching into 2019, as I was reading through our second day on this current plan, I was struck with a common thread woven throughout all four passages. Chaos was reigned in through divine order. Notice in Genesis 2, God establishes the order of family. After six days of creation, he rests on the seventh and places man in the Garden to maintain order as the garden grew. God brought to Adam a help meet strengthening the divine expectation of order through this beautiful partnership. Together, they maintain their home in accordance with God’s design for order in the family.
In Matthew 2, what lead the wise men to the Christ-child? The signs in the stars which were created by God and set in the skies to give direction guided these magi to find the salvation of the world. This cosmic order allowed these men to navigate the oracles of prophecy. Jesus Christ who holds all creation together for by him all things consist was born and laid in a manger bringing order to a world disoriented by sin.
In Ezra, we see a list of names which nearly makes our eyes glaze over but notice the detail in the social order. These genealogies gave structure and dignity to the community. Some were disqualified from religious service because they could not trace their ancestry. This same meticulous organization verifies the lineage of Christ in Matthew 1. The social order Ezra and Nehemiah brought enabled their community to rebuild from the chaos of tragedy.
Surprisingly many who emphasize the events of Acts 2 lead charismatic ministries which are characterized by chaos. Spiritual order, however, dominates the scene at the promised arrival of the Comforter. The Holy Ghost debuted upon the corporate body of Christ which led to passionate evangelism, worship, unity, and community as thousands were added to the church.
Maybe you won’t be as extreme to take a radical sabbatical, but chaos has certainly crept into your life. Let’s name it for what it is—the enemy of order which is God’s expectation. Because man failed to manage God’s prescribed order, sin came into the world and death by sin. Stress feeds your brain dopamine which means you can technically become addicted to chaos! Follow the divine prescription and establish order in your home. Just like the Garden of Eden, it is a responsibility which requires vigilance and consistency. In time, your life of order will honor God, the Master of order.
“Take my yoke upon you…and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
When a new year begins, many people take up resolutions and make plans for the next 365 days of the year. Some resolve to get out of debt, to reach a new goal, to get better grades, to lose weight, or one of a thousand other ideas that people begin the year with and usually give up by the end of January. As people enter the new year, they often see it as a blank slate that can be used to accomplish all the goals that were left undone in the previous year. It is another chance to reach a goal. It is a new page in the book of life. It is a new and fresh beginning.
As we enter a new year, we begin our Bible reading with four important words: “In the beginning God…” (Gen. 1:1). We begin our reading in the first book of the Bible: Genesis. The book of Genesis means “origin” and it has been called the “book of beginnings.” In it, we see the beginning of Heaven, Earth, mankind, marriage, God’s Sabbath, sin, sacrifice, prophecy, human government, nations of the earth, and the family of Israel. We see the beginning of time and matter. All that we have and know has its origin in the book of Genesis. Genesis acts as the fountain head for many of the major doctrines that flow through the Bible.
Just as the first book of the Bible begins with God, so we must begin this new year with our hearts aligned with God’s will. All our planning and organizing is vain if it is not submitted to God’s will for our lives. We can scheme and plan but the Bible says “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it…” (Ps. 127:1). Unless the Lord is the director of our plans, we are laboring in vain. James 4:13-15 says, “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the LORD will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” All our resolving, our planning, our arranging must finds its origin in a life that is submitted to God. It is only by God’s good grace that we have another breath, another day, another month, another year. May we begin our year by making a resolution to honor and serve the One who gave us both physical and spiritual life.
Another year I enter
Its history unknown;
Oh, how my feet would tremble
To tread its paths alone!
But I have heard a whisper,
I know I shall be blest;
“My presence shall go with thee,
And I will give thee rest.”
There are a lot of things that we remember in life. You might remember your first car. (Mine wasn’t very memorable, but I remember it.) You might remember your first date or the night you got engaged. Maybe you remember a relative by something they gave you.
Regardless of what event jumps out at you, there’s probably a place, an object, a song, or something that, as soon as you see/hear it, it takes you back to that time. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is a wedding ring. Any time you see yours, it should take you back and remind you of the commitment that you’ve made to your spouse.
In the Old Testament, there was a key way that God’s commandments were kept in remembrance. Small boxes would be tied to the forehead with Scripture passages written on them. Solomon’s wife uses similar imagery when she says in 8:6 “Set me as a seal upon [the idea is “tied around”] your arm, as a seal upon your heart…” She wants to be a constant and permanent reminder of the love that they share.
But perhaps even beyond that, the description of love given in the remainder of verse 6 and into verse 7 paint the most vivid picture of this type of love (the best picture of unconditional love being in 1 Corinthians 13).
“Absence is to love as wind is to fire. It extinguishes the small and kindles the great.” – Roger de Bussy-Rabnutin
Solomon’s wife likens their love to a fire that, even when not shooting big, visible flames, burns with the coals of passion. Even if you were to pour a lake on it, that wouldn’t be able to quench their love. A flood couldn’t drown it out. That is some kind of special fire right there! And yet, that’s how powerful the love between a husband and wife should be. NOTHING even has a chance at stopping it.
If you’ve been married for longer than about 24 hours, you know that your spouse is difficult to deal with at times. But the love between a husband and wife is priceless. In fact, at the end of verse 7, that is exactly what she says. If someone were to try to buy this kind of love, they would simply be laughed at.
You can buy “friendship” with some people. You might always give them something that you know they like in order to keep them happy. But that isn’t the way real relational, and especially marital love works. It can’t be bought, it can’t be taught, and it can’t really even be put into words.
This is the special kind of love that God has planned for marriage is a gift. Accept the love of your spouse as God’s gift and aim to model the perfect love that can only come from God himself.