Is Ignorance an Excuse?

having not heard the gospel they make thir own

“What will happen to those who have never heard the gospel nor had an opportunity to obey it?” Is ignorance an excuse? Usually the one posing theses questions is asking about those ignorant of the gospel and will reference someone in the jungles of South America or the Dark Continent (Africa). They seem to think there are some tribesman who will never be able to hear the gospel proclamation because of politics or being so far back into the jungle.

It is pointed out these have no modern conveniences with which to hear the gospel (Romans 10:15). They seemingly forget the statement of Paul in Colossians 1:23, “if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven…” But let us leave that thought for the moment.

What the one asking the question is really trying to ascertain is whether or not ignorance is an excuse. Keep in mind that ignorance, as defined by Webster is not necessarily the lack of ability to know but the lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.

Actually there are three classes of people who are ignorant. Some people are ignorant of various ideas and concepts having never been taught. Others are ignorant because they have never taken the time to learn or are unwilling to take the time to learn. Neither of these first two categories of people are ignorant because of inabilities. The third class of people are those who are ignorant because of inabilities. These fit into the same realm as innocent children—safe in the arms of Jesus. Those who we are concerned with in this article are those who fit into one of the first two categories, but the bottom line is “Is ignorance an excuse?”

Those Who Know Not God

Because the Bible provides “to us everything pertaining to life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3), we can expect to find a Bible answer to this question. One passage that bears on this thought is 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 where Paul wrote, “it is only right…to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

Surely, all realize those who are ignorant of the gospel message do not know God. Therefore, those who are ignorant of the gospel message are those who Christ will take vengeance against. Remember Colossians 1:23? At one time everyone has the opportunity to hear. Because someone rejected that opportunity in the past does not excuse someone today.

To an unknown God. Is ignorance an excuse?

When Paul entered into the city of Athens, he passed by an altar with the inscription, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23). In his address to the Athenians on Mars’ Hill, he said that “having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30). Because Paul said “all people,” this admonition excludes no one and because he said “everywhere,” it matters not where they might live.

As Paul begins the book of Romans, he deals with the sins of Jews and Gentiles. Concerning the Gentiles he wrote, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). In this passage Paul notes God manifested Himself in the things that He created. This same line of reasoning can and should be applied to all men. No man is without excuse because we can look inwardly and know that God exists. And we can look at the universe and know that God exists. Since we can know that God exists, we have a responsibility to Him to do His will.

One Way of Salvation

The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one way of salvation and that is through Jesus. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Undeniably, Jesus is the only way to the Father. Since He is the only way, there can be no other way. He is not just the provider of the way, but is Himself the way. Nor is He just the proclaimer of the way for, again, He is the way—the one and only way. If ignorance is an excuse, then there would be two ways of salvation—ignorance and Jesus. Therefore, because Jesus is the only way, ignorance cannot be a way.

Further, Luke records in Acts 4:12, “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Again the emphasis is placed on Jesus as being the one and only way of salvation. Heaven’s door is open because of His atonement, because of His blood, and because of His sacrifice. Thus, “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED” (Romans 10:13). If we for any reason do not call upon the name of the Lord, there is no salvation. Only in Him is redemption found. It cannot be found in ignorance for in Him only is there salvation.

In Christ, we are blessed with “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Certainly, salvation is a spiritual blessing and it, too, is found in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:10). In some cases, ignorance may be bliss, but it is without doubt no spiritual blessing nor is ignorance of spiritual things found in Christ. In Christ, we have redemption, justification, sanctification, and salvation while in ignorance, there is only damnation and condemnation.

Sin Condemns, Not the Gospel

What causes a person to be lost is sin. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Death is separation. Physical death is the separation of body and spirit (James 2:26), while spiritual death is separation from God. Notice what Isaiah wrote to Israel of old: “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). It is sin which separates man from God (not God’s sins but man’s sins). What causes a person to be separated from God is NOT his or her knowledge of the gospel. It is sin.

If a person has the ability to be saved because of ignorance, the gospel is not a gospel of salvation, it is a gospel of condemnation. If someone who is isolated from the rest of the world and never had the opportunity to hear the gospel can be saved because of his ignorance, then when the gospel is preached to him, it would bring condemnation rather than salvation if he did not respond to it favorably. It would not be “the glorious gospel” (1 Timothy 1:11), it would be the horrible gospel. Nor would not be “the gospel of peace” (Romans 10:15), it would be the gospel of conflict. Also, it would not be “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24), it would be the gospel of the brutality of God. There would be no “hope of the gospel” (Colossians 1:23), only despair.

This justification through ignorance would make the gospel of no power rather than “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). It would make the “Great Commission” of Jesus useless, unproductive, and vain. However, even the sacrifice of Jesus would be of no value if man could be saved through ignorance. It would be better for the world not to know than to know and to be condemned. If man could be saved in ignorance, we are doing no favors to anyone by teaching the gospel. We ought not name the name of Christ among the nations for it would be better to leave every person untaught.

Responsibility

To some, these things are hard. However, the hardness is not that they are unloving. Jesus Christ paid the price for every person and that price was His own precious blood. For “though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Because God “will have all men to be saved,” Christ Jesus “gave himself a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:4,6). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). These are the most loving words to ever pierce the hearing of man. These things are hard because of the weight of responsibility placed upon every person.

To those who are ignorant of spiritual matters, it is your responsibility to know God and to obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:8). God would not have you to be ignorant but “to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4) and to purify your souls by obeying the truth (1 Peter 1:22).

To obey the truth, you must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 8:24) and turn from your sins by repenting (Luke 13:3). You then must be “buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). When you are buried with Him by baptism, the Lord adds you to His church (Acts 2:47). If you are faithful in this new life even unto death, Jesus promises that He will give unto you “a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Those who are the children of God are to publish and to herald His word to the four corners of the earth. If we really care about that isolated, ignorant and unenlightened tribesman, we would do everything in our power to send the gospel light to the far reaches of the world. We would not hold back the gospel, but proclaim it at every dawning of the morning and every dusk of the evening. And like the apostle Paul, we feel indebted to every man and compelled to preach the gospel (Romans 1:14-15). Because ignorance is no excuse, woe is unto us, if we preach not the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16).

Some Thoughts to Consider with Our Mothers in Mind

by Abraham Smith

Introduction

“For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears” (Hebrews 12:17). This verse holds many valuable applications for the one who would accept them.

The Value of Mothers

The love of mother

How many opportunities will we miss because we did not recognize the value of those things or love ones in our lives that we should cherish? Sometimes we despise what should be most important in our lives until it is too late, like Esau.

Every person who comes into the world has a valuable gift from God, their parents. It was so important to God that we value our parents that He has given numerous instructions demanding our respect, devotion, honor, and love of our parents. Thus we can read, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you” (Exodus 20:12). “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). “There is a generation that curses its father, And does not bless its mother” (Proverbs 30:11). We all ought to bless our mothers and respect our fathers.

Honor Mother

But the greatest respect we can give our parents is to obey their commands and honor their wishes. So often we offer substitutes instead of obedience. Let us do what they want.

In 1 Samuel 15, we read where Saul king of Israel substituted his wishes instead of God’s wishes. God wanted the sheep and oxen of Amelek destroyed. But Saul and the people saved “the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them” (verse 9). Saul told Samuel, that this was done “to sacrifice to the LORD your God” (verse21). Then Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

If you love your mother, show her love by obeying her voice. If we do anything else, like Saul, it will do no good.

Mother

My mother died in June of 1995. Before she died, I promised to take her out to eat. But I didn’t. She asked me to move some materials in the yard. like our mothers,ike our motherth,”I’ll get around to it,” I said. But I didn’t while she was alive to see it. She expressed other things that I did that bothered her. “I’ll get better on these Mama.” Perhaps I did get better. After she died! And like Esau, I wept. But it was too late. Too late to send flowers, give gifts or make her smile. To late to send her on that trip she wanted. I’d just as soon have ashes in my hands for what I put my mother off for.

But there are many of you today who do not have to make this same mistake. Won’t you please more frequently call, more frequently write, more frequently visit, and do what your parents want you to do as much as you can?

One of the most important things we can learn from thinking about these things is the necessity of obeying God. Just as we should honor and obey our parents, even more we should honor and obey God!

Conclusion

God commands all sinners to believe the gospel of Christ, to repent of our sins, to confess His Son, and to be immersed in water for the remission of sins (John 3:16; Romans 10:10; and Acts 2:38). If we delay too long to obey the gospel, we might end up like Esau regretting it but unable to do anything about it. “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” (Matthew 25:41).

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

By Joe R. Price

Scripture says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

To “rightly divide” means to cut a straight course or “cut along a straight path” (BDAG, 722), “to make straight and smooth” (Thayer, 453). Like taking a road that goes straight to its destination without a detour, we must avoid striving “about words to no profit” that ruins the hearers (2 Tim. 2:14, 16). Instead, we are to be diligent workers of God who properly use His word so that it carries us, without shame, straight to our destination of God’s approval.

The way we choose to handle the Bible is exactly the way we choose to treat God. After all, in these last days God speaks to us “in His Son” through His apostles and prophets who were inspired by the Holy Spirit (Heb. 1:1-2; 2:1-4; Jno. 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 2:10-13; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). We go to the inspired Scripture to hear, believe, and obey God (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

Here are some practical ways to “cut a straight course” when we use God’s word.

1. Do not read into the Scriptures what you have already decided to believe and do. That is, do not come to the Bible with your mind already made up. Handling the Bible this way is called eisegesis, “the interpretation of a text (as of the Bible) by reading into it one’s own ideas” (Merriam-Webster). It is twisting God’s word to say what we want it to say. Doing this results in our destruction (2 Pet. 3:16). We can do this in any number of ways. We can force definitions upon words that are incorrect (like forcing the instrument of music into the word “psallo”). We can discount and exclude additional passages of Scripture because they fail to sustain our predisposed view (like minimizing James 2:24 and the role of “works” in justification). If we intend to let the Bible guide us to God’s approval, then we must follow its truth wherever it takes us, not the other way around. And, that may mean giving up a false view and practice.

2. Take everything Scripture says on a topic to have a full understanding of God’s will. Picking and choosing some passages while refusing others that address the same subject is not rightly dividing the word of truth. All truth must be considered in order to know and abide in the truth that frees us from sin (Jno. 8:31-32). Careful, deliberate Bible study avoids rash conclusions while considering all God’s word has to say (Psa. 119:160). We can properly claim to declare the “whole counsel of God” only when we allow all of it to inform and shape our faith, and therefore, what we declare (Acts 20:27).

3. Be ready to accept correction from the Scriptures. When a map shows we are off course we will never get to where we want to go unless we change course. So it is with our study and use of the Bible. We must accept its corrections so we will arrive at our intended destination – God’s approval. We must study the Bible for our own spiritual growth and improvement. When we do that, change will be in order. We must be ready to radically change ourselves and our lives when the Scriptures show we are off course (2 Tim. 3:16). If we will not do so, then we have abandoned any real expectation of God’s approval for the sake of personal vindication. “Let God be true and every man a liar” persuades us that God’s word is always right, and nothing else will satisfy us (Rom. 3:4). Why? Because our goal is heaven. To get there, we must handle God’s word correctly (2 Tim. 2:15).

A Basket of Summer Fruit

“In the Good ‘ol Summertime,” the local oldie-but-goodie radio station broadcasts Nat King Cole’s song:

Give me those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer,
Those days of sodas and pretzels and beer.
Give me those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer;
You’ll wish that summer could always be here.

How well these words express the natural man’s response to summer! He feels release, even exuberance, as winter loosens its cold grip and the land again becomes fruitful. As the days grow longer and warmer, human nature cries, “Let’s make hay while the sun shines” and characteristically turns summer into a time of “give me,” as the song puts it: Give me those long days to “catch some rays,” to spend time at the beach, or to make money in my business. Give me those warm nights to “eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19).

God’s people are not immune from summer’s contagion of self. Each of us can all too easily misuse summer, devoting ourselves to “sodas and pretzels and beer.” If we dedicate summertime to our own pleasure or to our own business, we turn the blessing of summer into a marathon distraction. We have fallen into idolatry.

Summer can be a real blessing. It is a time of teeming fruitfulness, the land becoming alive with grain and vegetables and fruits. But in this abundance lies summer’s snare. Speaking in a more general context, Moses cites the problem:

    “Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers…to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Deuteronomy 6:10-12).

The snare is forgetfulness. Depending on our nature, we can make summer either “crazy” or “lazy,” as we fill every waking hour with work, play or sloth. During everything that competes for the limited resources of our time and energy, how do we ensure that we remember God? The basket of summer fruit is a symbol, or emblem, God uses to help keep our focus on Him during summer. It teaches us two lessons: one of remembrance, the other of fear.

Exceedingly Abundantly

God connects the basket of summer fruit with its lesson of remembrance in Deuteronomy 26:1-10. We should note several factors.

    The Setting: The Israelites, having endured decades of Egyptian slavery and wilderness wanderings, are poised on the threshold of the Promised Land. Moses instructs them: “Then it shall be, when you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it and live in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground…and you shall put it in a basket…” (verses 1-2).

    The Symbol: a basket of the woven, wicker sort, filled with summer produce. We might visualize a cornucopia. God instructs the Israelite to take the basket “to the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name” (verse 2b), and there he is to make two declarations, the first to the priest, the second to God.

    The Ritual: To the priest, the offerer briefly declares, “I have entered the land which the LORD swore to our fathers to give us” (verse 3). The declaration succinctly affirms that God has honored His promise to the patriarchs. After handing the basket to the priest, who places it before the altar (verse 4), the offerer makes his second declaration, this one to God. This affirmation recognizes God’s faithfulness to carry out what He has promised: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; but there he became a great, mighty and populous nation” (verse 5).

The declaration also rehearses Israel’s “affliction and our toil and our oppression” (verse 7) in Egypt and mentions God’s deliverance “with great terror and with signs and wonders” (verse 8). Then comes that timeless characterization of the Promised Land:

    “He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. ‘Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O LORD have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God;” (verse 9-10).

The basket of summer fruit served as tangible evidence of God’s faithfulness to deliver them. Its existence stood firm proof that He was “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). Remember, God promised the patriarchs land (Genesis 12:7; 13:14-15; 15:18-21; 17:8). But what He gave His people was so special, so grand, that only “a land flowing with milk and honey” could properly describe it.

The “worship” mentioned in Deuteronomy 26:10 was praise and thanksgiving to God for His works “far more abundantly beyond all that we

[in that case Israel]

ask or think.” Yesterday or today, the basket of summer fruit teaches the same lesson: Remember your God amid His blessings to you. Do not neglect Him.

Pretzels and Beer—or Milk and Honey?

Is not God’s “land of milk and honey” a whole lot better than that created by those who have forgotten Him, a land “of sodas and pretzels and beer”?

Perhaps Peter had Deuteronomy in mind when he penned his second letter. In 2 Peter 1:3-4, the apostle mentions God’s

    divine power…by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

Peter then urges us to add diligently to our faith moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and love (verses 5-7). What is the result of this growth process? “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 8).

In verse 10, Peter cries for “more” diligence in fulfilling God’s calling of us out of this world and into His way of life. By doing so, “the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (verse 11).

Israel’s possession of the land serves as an emblem of our possession of God’s Kingdom. Indeed, the Israel of God has already entered that Kingdom in type. Notice the astounding truth God reveals in Ephesians 2:4-6:

    But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Because Christ dwells in us, God sees His people already sitting with Him in heaven! No wonder Paul exults, “we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). But—it takes diligence. Forgetfulness will not do! This is the first lesson of the basket of summer fruit: Remember God’s blessings, especially His greatest gift, the promise of salvation. He is the God of our salvation, Christ having given Himself “for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4).

Fruitfulness to Famine

What of the basket’s second lesson? As if the other side of a coin, it is a lesson in fear. Notice Amos 8:1, 11:

    Thus the Lord GOD showed me, and behold, there was a basket of summer fruit…”Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.”

Amos 8 opens with an image of fruitfulness but closes with a prophecy of famine. Here, the image of the basket is ironic: Seeing it, we are to fear. It is as though the basket is a harbinger of trouble. God makes that meaning clear in verse 2:

    He said, “What do you see, Amos?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the LORD said to me, “The end has come for My people Israel. I will spare them no longer.”

Isaiah 28 best illustrates the link between summer fruit and an impending end, that is, the time of God’s judgment for sin. The context is Isaiah’s prophecy that Ephraim (Israel) will fall (verse 3). Notice carefully verse 4:

    And the fading flower of its glorious beauty, Which is at the head of the fertile valley, Will be like the first-ripe fig prior to summer, Which one sees, And as soon as it is in his hand, He swallows it.

“First-ripe” (bikkoor, bikkoorah or bakkoorah) is a variant of the word firstfruits. A first-ripe fig is a delicacy begging for attention now. When one sees such a “fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14), dripping white sweet through splitting skin, he should eat it promptly. It does not remain long in one’s hand because it is at its peak; it will never taste better. Thus, Ephraim’s fall will be at “noontime”; her enemies will pluck her at her zenith of power and glory and suddenly devour her.

English readers miss the Hebrew pun between the words “summer fruit” (kahyitz) and “end” (kehtz). But even modern-day Israelites understand that vine- or tree-ripened fruit, picked at its best, does not last long. It has come to the end of its course; the rotting process will soon begin. So, we feel a sense of urgency to act upon the fruit now—to eat it before it is too late. In fact, we use such idioms as, “The time is ripe for action” or “That person is ripe for a fall” to convey the idea that the end of the present circumstance is at hand—and deservedly so. Biblical examples of this metaphorical use of ripe occur in Joel 3:13 and Revelation 14:15, 18.

In Amos 8, God cites examples of the social injustice rife in Israel’s society (verses 4-6) and asserts that He is ready to bring the violent civilization to an end: “I will turn your festivals into mourning And all your songs into lamentation; And I will bring sackcloth on everyone’s loins And baldness on every head” (verse 10).

An End—The End

If that is not strong enough, what about God’s words through Ezekiel?

    An end! The end is coming on the four corners of the land.” (Ezekiel 7:2)

Not just any end! The end (kehtz)! To drive home the urgency of His message, God reiterates it in verses 6-7:

    An end is coming; the end has come! It has awakened against you; behold, it has come! Your doom has come to you, O inhabitant of the land. The time has come, the day is near–tumult rather than joyful shouting on the mountains.

God says, “Now I will shortly pour out My wrath on you” (verse 8; see verse 12). Israel, God says, is ripe for destruction (compare Lamentations 4:18).

The story Amos, Isaiah and Ezekiel tell—the story all the prophets tell—is the same. They speak of a rich, glorious people, blessed of God, caught up in everyday life, immersed in the around-and-the-about. Their self-absorption brings their downfall, for they forget God’s faithfulness to bless the obedient and to curse the disobedient. The greatest Prophet of all makes the same point in Matthew 24:37-39:

    For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Noah’s pre-Flood contemporaries were ignorant of their spiritual wretchedness. Revelation 3 makes it plain that we can be in the same boat. Thinking we are “rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” (verse 17), we are blind to our true spiritual state.

Putting God on the Back Burner

In Ezekiel 7:11 the prophet makes plain why the end he describes so vividly is near: “Violence has grown into a rod of wickedness

[lawlessness]

.” Because of rampant sin, “The time has come, the day has arrived” (verse 12). He pursues the same thought in chapter 12:

    Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Son of man, eat your bread with trembling and drink your water with quivering and anxiety. 19 “Then say to the people of the land, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD…”They will eat their bread with anxiety and drink their water with horror, because their land will be stripped of its fullness on account of the violence of all who live in it”‘” (Ezekiel 12:17-19).

When will this time of trouble come? Years in the future? Read the answer in verses 22-28. The violent, hedonistic Israelites dismiss Ezekiel’s comments on two grounds:

    1. The gainsayers contend that “every vision fails” (verse 22). They call God a liar! To this claim, God asserts, “For I the LORD will speak, and whatever word I speak will be performed” (verse 25).

    2. The scoffers declare, even if the prophet’s words are true, “The vision that he sees is for many years from now, and he prophesies of times far off” (verse 27). To this God answers, “The days draw near;…None of My words will be delayed any longer” (verses 23, 28).

With this witness, do we dare put the things of God on a back burner between the Feast of Firstfruits and the Feast of Ingathering? Do we honestly think we can get away with playing spiritual catch-up in the fall, a week after Trumpets? Can we defer study and prayer until winter’s long nights and cold days keep us home? Not on our eternal life!

We dare not become distracted by the wealth of summer’s activities. Review these Old Testament witnesses against neglecting God—any time (Zephaniah 1:14-17; Joel 2:1; Habakkuk 2:3). For a New Testament witness, notice Matthew 24:32, where Christ echoes Ezekiel’s comments that, “in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it” (Ezekiel 12:25):

    Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.

His reference to the early fig is reminiscent of Isaiah 28:4.

Remembrance and Fear

So much happens during summertime that it is easy to place God second or third—or lower—in our lives. That is deadly. James, using an agricultural metaphor, exhorts that we counter this natural, downhill tendency by making a conscious decision to await patiently our soon-coming redemption:

    Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. 8 You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near (James 5:7-8).

Peter also recognizes the threat of spiritual entropy, the tendency to let the things of God slip away (1 Peter 4:7-8).

Peter’s solution—sobriety in the face of distractions—stands in stark contrast to the craziness and laziness of which Nat King Cole’s song speaks. We can express this spirit of serious expectation for God by dedicating our summer nights to prayer rather than to parties, and our summer days to looking after others’ needs rather than after our own pleasures. Peter describes how the truly God-fearing spend their summers—and their lives.

In his second epistle, Peter describes in more detail the attitude we should all steel ourselves to adopt in the face of summer’s activities. He begins chapter 3 by mentioning one of the reasons he wrote the letter: “I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder” (verse 1). Then, in verses 3 and 4, Peter foretells of

    mockers will come…saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”

Mockers indeed! These were the children of the “rebellious house” of whom Ezekiel wrote, those who called the prophet into account for prophesying “of times far off” (Ezekiel 12:25, 27)? “They maintain this (They willfully forget, NKJ)” charges Peter in verse 5, the great Flood of Noah’s day (verse 6). He sets them straight in verse 7:

    But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

In verse 11, Peter asks rhetorically,

    Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…?

The answer is clear from verse 13; We need to live by faith in the promises of God: “[W]e are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” Peter ends his letter as he began it, calling for our intransigent diligence in the faith. His conclusion should set the tone for the way we spend this coming summer:

    Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless…You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness. (verses 14, 17-18)

Peter takes us back to the lessons of the basket of summer fruit: Remember that God keeps His promises and bestows blessings on us. Fear lest the end come suddenly, and we have been too busy or too lazy to see the ripening fruit—too caught up in the around-and-about to prepare.

This summer, amid all the things we do—and before all the things we do—let us call to mind the two lessons of the basket of summer fruit. Make this a summer of thanksgiving, praising God for the above-all-we-think-or-ask cornucopia of blessings He continues to bestow on us. At the same time, always recognize that today’s world is ripe for judgment, ready for picking. The end is near. Refusing even the most appealing distractions, let us diligently prepare for the fall harvest so soon to begin.