God calls us out. He says, ‘Don’t be smug and satisfied with yourself. This complacency is the mark of the foolish, of the simple.’
“To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth — Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:2-7)
The awe – the fear – of God is the starting line for instruction in wisdom. Now that you have put your hand to the wheel, begun the race, started to build, don’t shrink back. Run the full race. Seek instruction, says God. Desire discretion. Hope and strive “to understand words of insight.”
Don’t be complacent, self-satisfied and proud of your spirituality.
“Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: ‘How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:20-22)
“Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.”
James asks, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” And answers, “Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:1-3)
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11) Therefore, “do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged.” (James 5:9) “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.” (Proverbs 19:5) Therefore,”do not swear, either by heaven and by earth or by any other oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” (James 5:12)
“Who is wise and understanding among you?” asks James, and answers, “By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” (James 4:13) “In the meekness of wisdom” is restraint. “Whoever keeps his mouth and tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” (Proverbs 21:23) “The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.” (James 3:6) “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:9-10)
Lord God, our Maker, forgive us for rising so quickly to anger and dissension. Forgive us for and heal us from bitterness and rage. Help us to reign over our passions. Keep us meek and wise. In Jesus’ Name, amen.
God promises, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, My great army, which I sent among you.” God tells us that He sends His great army against us, to swarm, eat, and destroy. As God comes against us, we cry aloud in despair,”Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us: look, and see our disgrace!” (Lamentations 5:1) “Our pursuers are at our necks, we are weary; we are given no rest.” (Lamentations 5:5) “The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning. The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned!” (Lamentations 5:15-16)
After our near total destruction because of our unrecognized sins, the Lord restores to us all He has taken — “what the swarming locust has eaten.” With this restoration, God pours out His Spirit. His great promise comes true: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh: your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out My Spirit.” (Joel 2:28-29) “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Joel 2:32)
“Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong, fear not!'” (Isaiah 35:3-4) “‘He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.” (Isaiah 35:5-7)
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
“How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
What are these “dead works” the author of Hebrews mentions? I want to travel back to Job, and suggest that the good things Job did in his life are “dead works.” “All our good deeds are as filthy rags” to the Lord God.
“Only in the Lord, it shall be said of Me, are righteousness and strength.” (Isaiah 45:24) “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I Am God, and there is no other; I Am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all My purpose.” (Isaiah 46:8-10)
“Woe to him who strives with Him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’? Woe to him who says to a father, ‘What are you begetting?’ or to a woman, ‘With what are you in labor?’ ” (Isaiah 45:9-10)
Do not argue with your Creator. Don’t be fooled into believing that if you do this and don’t do that, if you strive with all your might to be good, you somehow please Him. Believe instead that Christ “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12) Believe that “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)
As we have been delivered from “dead works,” we are now free “to serve the living God.”
God bemoans Israel, who are the people of God, saying: “They turn their backs to me and not their faces; though I teach them again and again, they do not listen or respond to discipline.”
I’ve heard parents bemoan their child, “We’ve tried everything, but he ‘turns his back to [us] and not [his] face.'” “We teach [him] again and again, [but he] does not listen or respond to discipline.'”
I’ve heard that a few parents eventually disown or surrender to the child, usually after many many years of frustrating efforts.
But, I know that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39) God never gives up on us.
Paul writes to the church at Philippi, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The good work, I believe, to which Paul refers is their partnership with him in grace. These brothers and sisters in Christ partner with Paul to establish and defend the gospel. And God “carries it on to completion.” God has not begun this good work to see it fail.
Paul exhorts, “Just one thing: live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith of the gospel, not being frightened in any way.” (Philippians 1:27-28)
Paul calls them and us to stand together in “one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith of the gospel” and to do so without fear. He reminds, “If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare His own Son, but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies. Who is the one who condemns?” (Romans 8:31-34)
Jesus apparently is not sent to his hometown to perform miracles, but to tell his neighbors that He is not going to be accepted by them. He says to them, “No prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24) Then He proceeds to provide two examples of this truth. Jesus speaks of the widows in Israel that Elijah was not sent to “when the heavens were shut up for three years and six months.” (Luke 4:25) Instead Elijah was sent to Zarephath, a widow from the land of Sidon. Jesus also speaks of the many lepers in Israel that Elisha was not sent to cleanse. Instead Elisha was sent “only to Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:27)
Yet, when the Canaanite woman asks Jesus to have mercy on her and drive out a demon from her daughter, Jesus ignores her completely. So, she cries out to His disciples. They beg Jesus to “send her away.” (Matthew 15:23) He says to them (and not to her), “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) The Canaanite woman persists, saying: “Lord, help me.” (Matthew 15:25) Jesus responds, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:26) The woman does not appear to be insulted or even surprised by our Lord’s attitude. Instead she agrees with Him. She says, “Yes, Lord.” But then she uses a perfectly logical argument with Him. She continues, “Yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (Matthew 15:27) Jesus is impressed with the level of this Gentile’s faith, and He proclaims, “Be it done for you as you desire.” (Matthew 15:28) He gives her the desire of her heart because of her persistence and her logic.
The Canaanite woman’s persistence, her acceptance of Jesus’ rejection, and her logical argument are opposites from the reaction of the crowd in Nazareth when Jesus finishes reading from “the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.” (Luke 4:17) When Jesus tells His friends and neighbors that He fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah, at first the crowd “speaks well of Him and marvels at the gracious words that are coming from His mouth.” (Luke 4:22) But when Jesus gives examples of how the prophets Elijah and Elisha were sent to persons not within the house of Israel, “all in the synagogue are filled with wrath.” (Luke 4:28)
Jesus’ neighbors “rise up and drive Him out of the town and bring Him to the brow of the hill on which their town is built, so they can throw Him down the cliff.” (Luke 4:29)
Jesus “passes through their midst” and literally leaves them behind. With the Canaanite woman, He turns the tables just as Elijah and Elisha once did; He gives her that which is meant only for Israel, only for the children of God. He gives her the desire of her heart.
“[Christ] enters once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” The blood of goats and calves secure only a temporary redemption, one that requires repeating and repeating, year after year. “Under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22)
“Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer Himself repeatedly.” (Hebrews 9:24-25) Instead, He “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Hebrews 9:26)
“Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.” (Hebrews 9:28)
Notice when Christ returns, He is not coming back to deal with sin, for He has already finished dealing with sin. Instead, when He comes again, He is returning to save. His sacrifice for us is once for all, and need not be repeated.
Once we were “under guardians,” under and “enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.” (Galatians 4:2,3) Then, “God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law.” Jesus came “so that we might receive adoption as sons” and no longer be “slaves.” (Galatians 4:5,1)
Paul is weary. He laments, “Now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (Galatians 4:9) “Tell me,” he writes, “you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?” (Galatians 4:21) Don’t you understand that you are now “free children of promise” rather than bond “children of the slave.” (Galatians 4:28,31)
“For freedom Christ has set [you] free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) Paul warns, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” (Galatians 5:4-5) “Only faith working through love” “counts for anything” “in Christ.” (Galatians 5:6)
To the church at Corinth, Paul rhetorically asks, “Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? It is in the sight of God that we have been speaking in Christ, and all for your upbuilding, beloved.” Paul reminds the church body that he is “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) He is content in these and “boasts all the more gladly” of them, for “when [he] is weak, then [he is] strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9,10) Paul boasts of his weaknesses because Christ’s “grace is sufficient for [him], for [Christ’s] power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Paul tells the Corinthian church, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.” (2 Corinthians 12:15) He fears “God may humble [him] before [them]” as he “may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier” without repentance. (2 Corinthians 12:21) He knows what he will tell them when he comes in person. He “warns them now while absent, as [he] did when present on [his] second visit.” He tells them that the third time he “will not spare them.” (2 Corinthians 13:2) He can not spare them for “Christ is speaking in [him].” (2 Corinthians 13:3) Paul writes, “[Christ] is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For He was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but in dealing with you we will live with Him by the power of God.” (2 Corinthians 13:3-4)
“Live with Him by the power of God,” Paul tells the church body. “Boast in your weaknesses for Christ’s grace is sufficient for you, and is made perfect in weakness.” Yet Paul warns, “Repent, for Christ is not weak in dealing with you.” And, Paul encourages them. He writes, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”