Nearly every day we face situations that question and test the principles we believe. We must choose between doing what pleases God and what appeals to our own selfish desires.
Officials of the Government may be tempted to accept bribes and to make dishonest decisions. Employees are sometimes asked to rearrange numbers or falsify reports. Even students face temptations such as cheating and plagiarism.
These “principle-testers” are good indicators of how committed we are to serving God. They help us to see whether we are serious about the truthfulness and reliability God expects of us. We know that choices we make will have good or bad consequences, but the real test comes when we must decide what to do.
How do we protect against making the wrong decision? It is through our faith and trusting God to take care of us as we choose to do what’s right, regardless of the outcome.
In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (friends of Daniel) found themselves in what seemed like an impossible situation. A decree was set that at the dedication of a huge golden image, which Nebuchadnezzar had made, all the people must fall down and worship the image. The consequences of not doing this were for one to be cast into a furnace of blazing fire. What a choice to have to make! Yet, the decision was obvious to them. They were NOT going to bow down to the golden image. They dared to disobey the king because they trusted God. They said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire . . . But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O King, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18). The King went on to get angry, heat the furnace seven times more than usual and throw them in it but God delivered them. The point remains clear, however, that the only choice to be made was whether they would follow God or not.
When we face tough choices or matters that test our faith, we too can do the right thing — and leave the consequences with God.
The prophet Ezekiel is a contemporary of Jeremiah. While Jeremiah warns of coming calamity from inside Jerusalem, Ezekiel speaks similar messages among those already taken captive. Ezekiel 22 is a summary indictment of Judah and clearly displays the reason for God’s punitive actions.
* “Behold, the rulers of Israel, each according to his power, have been in you for the purpose of shedding blood” (22:6).
* “Slanderous men have been in you for the purpose of shedding blood, and in you they have eaten at the mountain shrines. In your midst they have committed acts of lewdness” (22:9).
* “In you they have uncovered their fathers’ nakedness; in you they have humbled her who was unclean in her menstrual impurity. One has committed abomination with his neighbor’s wife and another has lewdly defiled his daughter-in-law. And another in you has humbled his sister, his father’s daughter” (22:10-11).
* “In you they have taken bribes to shed blood; you have taken interest and profits, and you have injured your neighbors for gain by oppression, and you have forgotten Me” (22:12).
* “There is a conspiracy of her prophets in her midst like a roaring lion tearing the prey. They have devoured lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in the midst of her” (22:25).
* “Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane…and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them” (22:26).
* “Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain” (22:27).
* “Her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD has not spoken” (22:28).
* “The people of the land have practiced oppression and
committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed
the sojourner without justice” (22:29).
Ezekiel 22:18-19 NAS95 18 “Son of man, the house of
Israel has become dross to Me; all of them are bronze and tin and iron and lead
in the furnace; they are the dross of silver…all of you have become dross,
therefore, behold, I am going to gather you into the midst of Jerusalem…I
will gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you will be
melted in the midst of it…” (22:18-19, 21).
This last observation reflects God’s
futile attempt to avert the disaster. Isn’t there someone – anyone – who will
stand for what is right, confront evil, defend the innocent and honor Jehovah’s
laws? God laments: “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me
for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.”
(22:30). Not literally no one, for Jeremiah and his assistant, Baruch, were
holding steady. But that’s it?! God is saying that there is not enough
righteousness in Judah to spare the nation; the leaven is too weak to make the
dough rise. Therefore, God earlier noted: “Even though these three men, Noah,
Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only
deliver themselves” (Ezk 14:14).
Those words should make every one of us sit up and take
notice because, we too, live in a decadent, treacherous and godless society. As
God examines our nation, does He identity me – you – as someone with enough
courage to “stand in the gap”?
One of the main threads running throughout the tapestry of
Scripture is the “remnant principle.” Regardless of the covenant, regardless of
the time in history, only a sliver of humanity will choose to be on God’s side.
And God has chosen to preserve the world (or a nation) and act benevolently for
the sake of the few that seek righteousness.
Thus, long ago when “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man
was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was
only evil continually” (Gen 6:5), and he sought a man to save the human race,
He found only Noah.
And when God sought a man to lead His oppressed people out
of Egyptian bondage, he found Moses.
And when God sought a cadre of men in a faithless age who would honor
His Son, leave the comfort of their homes and careers and risk their
lives to preach a despised and rejected message, He found a few
unsophisticated Galileans who changed the face of the whole world.
Being recognized by God as a light in the world is an honor
and being selected by Him to be a force for good is a privilege but be warned:
It is also a terrible burden to bear. Noah was sentenced to 120 years of hard
labor for his exemplary faith; Moses was stuck with a rebellious, ungrateful
multitude for 40 years; the apostles were hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed,
beaten and homeless, “reviled … persecuted … slandered … become as the scum of
the world, the dregs of all things, even until now” (1 Cor 4:11-13). Being part
of God’s remnant is not for the fainthearted, for we are choosing to side with
the minority. Noah, Moses and the apostles – and many others besides them –
made such a choice.
What a legacy! Do we have the right stuff to follow in their
footsteps? Can God depend on us to be true and faithful when, so few others
We have all heard the old expression, “Do as I say, not as I
do,” used by people more than once. It seems to be one of the favorites of
those who send their children to church, but never manage to attend themselves.
People, especially parents, never seem to accept this does not work. Children
will almost always emulate what they see their parents do.
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it is easy to
lose sight of important things, while spending too much time on unimportant
things. Families find themselves struggling to make ends meet. They are up to
their ears in debt. Both parents work outside the home. The children are either
at the baby-sitter or more than likely they are “latch key kids.” Either
way parents are shirking the responsibility of raising their children, because
they are not the ones raising the children. They are allowing someone else to
do what God has ordained for them to do (Eph 6:4).
Do you ever wonder why there is so much crime and violence
in the world? Perhaps we need to look at the examples our children have placed
before them. The news media reports only violent crime. Rare is the time when
good things are reported. Entertainment on television is not much (if any)
better, with such as, “Power Rangers,” “Bart Simpson,” “Bevis and Butthead,” “Ellen,”
and MTV. The movies must, they claim, portray life “as it really is,” with all
the violence and sex they can muster.
These are the examples children are left to learn from. Mom
and Dad are never around to instruct the children, so they find their
instruction wherever (movies, TV, back allies). And moreover, when Mom and Dad
do get home, they are not married, they just live together. What kind of
example does this set for children when they see their supposed role models
living in violation of God’s word (Heb 13:4)?
Solomon wrote in Prov 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he
should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” How can you “train
up” a child in the right way is you yourself are not walking in the right way (Jer
10:23)? Parents today, all too often, want someone else to accept the blame for
what their child is doing. We hear phrases such as, “It’s just human nature,”
or “That’s not my responsibility.” How about this, “I just don’t have the time.”
So, someone else gets to set the standard.
Perhaps they just don’t believe in spanking a child when it
does wrong. After all, psychologists tell us spanking will warp the child’s
psyche and he/she will grow up maladjusted. Yet all through God’s word we are
told the parents responsibility is to discipline their children (Prov 29:15;
Prov; Prov 13:24). Even Eph. 6:4 (already quoted earlier) carries the idea of
disciplining the child when necessary.
It is a shame more parents don’t understand they have the
obligation to set an example for their children. The prophet Eli not only lost
the life of his sons for not disciplining them when they were disobedient, but
also lost his life (1 Sam. 2:12-17; 22-34; 4:11-18). Because of the choices Lot
made, he caused his daughters to commit fornication (Gen. 19:30-38). One of the
first things done by Noah after leaving the ark was to plant a vineyard. There
was nothing wrong with planting the vineyard, but Noah got drunk on the drink
made from the fruit of the vineyard. This act caused his youngest son, Ham, to
sin (Gen. 9). All these children had to make their own choice but look at the
influence exerted by their parents.
The apostle Peter says in 1 Pet. 2:21 that Christ is to be
our example. The apostle Paul says, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of
Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul was trying with everything he had to do the will of
God, and we would do will to follow his admonition. Following examples and
imitation are how children learn to do things in life. They imitate what they
see others doing.
If, by your actions, you are not setting a good example for
your children to follow, do not be too surprised when they go wrong. Parents,
it is your responsibility to set the example for your children
and to discipline them when necessary. God commands this. And if you shirk that
responsibility, you are going to have to accept some of the responsibility for
the awful consequences of where your children spend eternity.
area of responsibility is a mystery to some brethren, even though the visible
activities in which he is involved, are easy to understand. For example, he
delivers a message from God’s word on Lord’s Day morning, evening, and teaches
Bible classes at other designated times. And most folks understand that these
godly endeavors require substantial periods of preparation.
The key to the
preacher’s work then, is what he “does” with the Word of God.
Timothy, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove,
rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction (2 Timothy 4:2).
And to the
church at Corinth, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom
did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the
message preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
will not reveal God and His Will (1 Corinthians 2:1-7; 2 Corinthians 1:12) —
that can only be done by preaching (Romans 10:14) — an activity that many in
our world deem as “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:23).
The preacher is
to be involved in a particular form of discourse that requires the active participation
of the listener (Romans 10:17; cf. Mark 4:20; James 1:22-25; Psalm 119:47-48).
While the preacher is responsible for a Bible lesson that has content worthy of
the listener’s time, the listener’s responsibility is to concentrate (Psalm
1:1-2) and consider the things said in light of Acts 17:11.
interested, informed, and obedient listener should be the ultimate goal of a
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