Monday, July 31, 2017

God Is Willing To Forgive

King Ahab was one of the wickedest kings Israel ever had.  I kings 16:29-33 describes his reign.  “And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years.  And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him.  And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.  And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.  And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.”

While Jeroboam and subsequent kings had encouraged Israel to worship other religions, Ahab and his wife Jezebel actively sought to kill those who worshipped God and force the people to change their religion.  Finally the corruption had spread so widely that local religious leaders were willing to murder a man named Naboth so Ahab could get a piece of land he wanted for his personal use.  God sent Elijah to condemn his actions in I Kings 21:17-24.

“And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it.  And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.

And Ahab said to Elijah, hast thou found me, O mine enemy?

And he answered, I have found thee; because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD.  Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin.  And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.  Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.”

Because of Ahab’s sin, Israel had suffered repeatedly, and Ahab had blamed Elijah for it, considering him as his enemy, in I Kings 18:17.  He still considered Elijah his enemy, knowing he was God’s prophet.  Elijah told him that because of his sin, Ahab’s entire family would be destroyed, and that they and his wife would just be left for the dogs to eat rather than being buried.   

“And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.” (I Kings 21:27)

When he learned of the punishment for his sin, Ahab realized how bad his sin was, and repented, completely changing his behavior.  He was willing to humble himself, acknowledging he had sinned, and yielding his power and arrogance to show respect to God. 

“And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house.” (I Kings 21:28-29)

Many today worry that God will not forgive some of the things they have done.  As wicked as Ahab had been, even condoning murder on his behalf, God was willing to forgive him for his sin, and he will forgive us as well, no matter how bad our sin may have been. 

It is important to realize that, although Ahab was forgiven, the results of his sin would remain.  His sons would continue to practice the things he had taught them, and would be destroyed, as would Jezebel.  It was not punishment on Ahab. But the natural result of the example he had set before them.  Far too many people ignore the fact that their actions have natural consequences that God’s forgiveness does not automatically eliminate.  For example, being forgiven for sexual sin does not eliminate an unwanted pregnancy or AIDS, nor does being forgiven for murder bring the victim back to life.  We still have to deal with those results, even though God has forgiven us.     

The idea that being justified means everything is just as if I had never sinned is a false doctrine.    Jesus died on the cross for our sin.  The fact that we have been justified does not undo his sacrifice.  The result of sin is still death.  He took our place, paying for the sin so that we would not have to suffer God’s punishment.     If we had not sinned, his death would have been unnecessary.  We have been forgiven for our sin, not proven innocent of it.  

Friday, July 28, 2017

Which Program?

From the scriptures, we know that living people have a body, a soul, and a spirit.  Since it is the visible, physical part, we know quite a bit about the body, with few, except for a sect of so-called “Christian Scientists” questioning what it involves.  The soul and spirit, on the other hand, are far more difficult to define, as Hebrews 4:12 makes clear.  “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” 

Genesis 2:7 tells us, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”   From this we can deduce that the soul seems to be the actual part that makes us alive, the life principle, as some have called it.  From Ephesians 4:22-24, we learn that the Spirit has a close relationship with our mind.  “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;   And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”  The life and the mind are so closely inter related that when the brain stops functioning, the person is considered clinically dead, yet even some whose mind has stopped working recover, making it clear that brain function itself is not what determines life.  Clearly the soul and the spirit are closely related but not the same thing. 

Perhaps an analogy to a computer will help clarify the three parts.  The body is the physical computer, with various printed circuits to carry the current and components to interface with printers, keyboards etc.  The spirit would be represented by the electricity that empowers the computer to function, while the software, the programing that determines how the computer relates would represent the spirit.  It is not a perfect analogy, but perhaps it will help understand the relationship of the three parts.  If any one of the parts is missing, the computer can do nothing.    

God made every living creature able to respond to their environment, but the degrees of response varies with different creatures.  More than any other creature, humans have an ability to choose how they will respond to the environment, much like the operating system of a computer.  In using the computer, we repeatedly do certain things, so we develop programs specifically for those purposes that we save and re use.  In essence, those programs become our computer personality.  In much the same way we develop ways of dealing with life’s situations that become our personality, or spirit.  Our personality is the product of our various attitudes, beliefs, and habits.  In modern English we tend to equate the spirit with the attitude, saying he has a good spirit when a person has a good attitude. 

Many times, when the Bible talks about a spirit, it is talking about a being which has a personality but no physical body such as we have.  Some are angels and some are demons, or rebellious angels.  They have the ability to communicate with us, much like other people do, and we have the ability to choose to listen or ignore them.  Lacking a body to accomplish physical things, demons try to manipulate human’s thoughts to get them to help in their rebellion against God. 

When Adam sinned, he gave Satan and his demons access to our minds, where they attempt to establish control, using drugs or alcohol, anger, fear, greed, etc.   When a person accepts Christ, he breaks that control by Satan, giving the Holy Spirit access.     With his power, we can regain control of our lives, because he changes our attitudes and habits, reprogramming our thinking. 

When we get saved, we are like a guy who has just installed a whole new set of programs on his computer.  He can continue to use the old, familiar programs because he is used to them, or he can begin to use the new programs, even though they are more difficult at first because he expects better results.  It is that learning to use the new programing Paul was talking about when he said, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law,” in Galatians 5:16-18.   

We can be like David, allowing the Holy Spirit to control our thoughts and attitudes so that they are acceptable to God, or we can allow our old nature, as influenced by satanic forces to direct our thoughts as we did before.  The choice is ours.  Which program are you using?  The one you developed from your experiences, the one satanic forces suggested, or God’s?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

David’s Heart Attitude

Comparing Solomon, Jeroboam, and the Samaritans to David, we find the biggest Difference was in their heart attitude.   In I Kings 9:4-5 God promised Solomon, “And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.”    I Kings 15:5 tells us, “…David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” 

Solomon wanted to please God, but he also wanted to have the things the world offered such as wealth, fame, sexual pleasure, and power.  In his efforts to attain those things he began to neglect God’s commands, resulting in his losing the promises.  James 1:8 warns, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”  Because he was not fully committed to pleasing God, Solomon vacillated between obeying God and gaining the things he wanted, steadily getting further from the Lord, even though he never completely turned his back on God.   

Jeroboam retained some of God’s principles, but focused mostly on his own desires and wishes, in particular retaining his power.  God ceased to matter to him, demonstrating what Jesus said in Matthew 6:24.  “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  Jeroboam turned his back completely on the Lord to get what he wanted.  God really didn’t matter to him. 

The Samaritans worshipped their other Gods, but treated God’s law like a set of traditional taboos or moral code that had to be followed to avoid physical problems.  They routinely followed them with little or no concern for God, just as other people habitually follow their family and culture’s traditions. 

David had a completely different attitude.  He was focused on pleasing God with his whole heart, even when it resulted in opposition, as we see in Psalm 119:69.  The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.”    He made a special effort to learn what God wanted, so he could be pleasing to God according to Psalm 119:11. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”   Instead of seeking what he wanted, he found his pleasure in doing what God wanted, according to Psalm 40:8. “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”  Because he knew What God wanted he was able to be sure what he was doing. 

David realized serving God was not just about keeping a set of rules or doing certain actions, as the Samaritans did.  He recognized it took a proper attitude, praying, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer,” in Psalm 19:14.  He asked God to help him be wholly focused on God’s way, praying , “Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name,” in Psalm 86:11. He did not want to be distracted praying, “With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments,” In Psalm 119:10, and in Psalm 139:23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

A heart attitude like David’s is critical if we are to live a Spiritual life   In Matthew 15:19-20, Jesus explained that the heart attitude was what made a person unsatisfactory to God, not the actions themselves.   ”For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.”  The actions only reveal what is in the person’s heart.    People can fake their actions for a while, but their words give away what is in the heart, according to Matthew 12:34-37.  “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.  A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.  But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.  For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” 

Under stress, it is much harder to control one’s words than one’s actions.  James 3:8 warns, “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.”  When people are upset, their words reveal their underlying attitude, no matter how hard they try to cover it up.    We will be judged according to what comes out of our mouth, because it reveals what is really in our heart, and James 1:26 advises, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.”  Unfortunately, many ‘Christians’ today blow off what they say under stress as unimportant.

James 3:2 tells us, “… If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”  It was with this in mind, David prayed, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer,” in Psalm 19:14.   When the heart attitude is right, it will show even when people are upset.   

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Samaritans

God had allowed the Canaanites several hundred years to occupy the land of Canaan and care for it but because they refused to treat the land properly, he allowed Israel to take it from them.  Because the Israelites stopped following his requirements, God divided the land into Israel and Judah, giving each kingdom the opportunity to prove they would follow God’s demands.  Israel chose to ignore God’s commands and do things their own way, following Jeroboam’s teachings.  As a result, after about 250 years of thei disobedience, God allowed the Assyrians to take the land from them and control it for a time. 

To establish their rule, the Assyrians relocated the Jews, scattering them among the nations to prevent them from uniting in rebellion.  II Kings 17:23-25 describes what happened.  “And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.  And so it was at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the LORD: therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which slew some of them. “ 

Because they had rejected God’s authority, God had allowed other nations to be conquered by the Assyrians.  Following their policy of relocating conquered peoples to prevent rebellion, the Assyrians relocated many of them to the land of Israel, mixing them together to prevent their uniting.    Those people had developed their own substitutes for God and no longer knew what God required, worshipping their own religions instead and following their traditions instead.  God sent lions among them to warn them that their behavior was not acceptable.  They got the message. 

“Wherefore they spake to the king of Assyria, saying, The nations which thou hast removed, and placed in the cities of Samaria, know not the manner of the God of the land: therefore he hath sent lions among them, and, behold, they slay them, because they know not the manner of the God of the land.

 Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, Carry thither one of the priests whom ye brought from thence; and let them go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land.  Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the LORD.” (II Kings 17:26-28)

The king of Assyria had one of the priests brought back to teach the people how to serve God properly so the lions would not bother them anymore.  Unfortunately, like Israel had done, they tried to just blend the worship of God with their traditional beliefs, just worshipping God enough to keep the lions away, as II Kings 17:29-33 describes. 

“Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt.  And the men of Babylon made Succothbenoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal, and the men of Hamath made Ashima,  And the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burnt their children in fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.  So they feared the LORD, and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places, which sacrificed for them in the houses of the high places.  They feared the LORD, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence.”

The Assyrians themselves did not adopt God’s principles and about a hundred years later would lose their kingdom.   Because these peoples worshiped God enough to minimize his wrath they would continue to occupy the land through the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and other occupations of the land, becoming known as the Samaritans under the Romans in Jesus’ day.  It is probable that the Palestinians of today are descendants of those Samaritans, although they have adopted the Roman version of the Philistine name.  II Kings 17:34-41 describes why these mixed people were allowed to occupy the land instead of the Jews who God had originally given it to. 

“Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the LORD, neither do they after their statutes, or after their ordinances, or after the law and commandment which the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel; With whom the LORD had made a covenant, and charged them, saying, Ye shall not fear other gods, nor bow yourselves to them, nor serve them, nor sacrifice to them: But the LORD, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt with great power and a stretched out arm, him shall ye fear, and him shall ye worship, and to him shall ye do sacrifice.  And the statutes, and the ordinances, and the law, and the commandment, which he wrote for you, ye shall observe to do for evermore; and ye shall not fear other gods.  And the covenant that I have made with you ye shall not forget; neither shall ye fear other gods.  But the LORD your God ye shall fear; and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.  Howbeit they did not hearken, but they did after their former manner.  So these nations feared the LORD, and served their graven images, both their children, and their children's children: as did their fathers, so do they unto this day.”

Israel had been given exact directions as to what God expected and had refused to follow them.  As a result, God allowed other people to replace them.  The Samaritans would continue to worship God and their traditional religions until after Jesus’ day.   Like the Jews, they would be repeatedly conquered by different military groups because they did not fully serve God but held on to their traditions.  Today, there are great many in the church who try to add and adapt Christianity to their native traditions.  As Jesus warned, you cannot serve two masters, and sooner or later will be forced to pick one or the other. Until they decide, they live in a state of just getting by, constantly struggling to survive just as the Samaritans did.   They are very similar to the church at Sardis in Revelation 3:1-6, with only a few being truly obeying God enough to receive his blessings..   

Monday, July 24, 2017

Israel is Destroyed

After Jeroboams death, over a period of about 225 years, Israel would have eighteen kings.   Those eighteen kings would follow the customs and practices set by Jeroboam in an effort to retain their power, and the people followed their leaders, despite constantly increasing  problems that resulted, as II Kings 13:6 tells us.  “Nevertheless they departed not from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, who made Israel sin, but walked therein: and there remained the grove also in Samaria.”  Finally god had his fill with their rebellion, As described in II Kings 17:6-

“In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.  For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods, And walked in the statutes of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made.

And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the LORD their God, and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city.  And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree: And there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the LORD carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the LORD to anger: For they served idols, whereof the LORD had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing.

Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.  Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God.

And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them.  And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.  And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.  
Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only.  Also Judah kept not the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made.
And the LORD rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until he had cast them out of his sight.  For he rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king: and Jeroboam drave Israel from following the LORD, and made them sin a great sin.  For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; Until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.

People often forget God created the earth and everything in it.  As the creator, it all belongs to Him.  When He created mankind, God made man responsible for overseeing the earth, according to Genesis 1:26-28.  “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

After the flood, he divided the earth and scattered mankind over the whole earth, allowing different groups to settle different places and making them responsible for their area.  Unfortunately, most groups forget ti is God’s land, not theirs, and it is to be administered according to his plans.    When they begin to use it in a way that is not satisfactory to Him. He has the right to take it away from the group that occupy the land if they do not use it properly, and place another group as caretakers.    The various ecological groups are right that man is responsible for how he treats the earth.  Unfortunately, they haven’t bothered to find out what God said either. 

God had taken the land of Canaan from the original inhabitants and given it to Israel because the previous inhabitants had used it in ways that were not pleasing to God.  Because Israel had not cared for it properly, using it in accordance whit his commands, he how took the land from them and gave it to the Assyrians to take care of.  In Many ways, Israel under Jeroboam and his successors was like the church at Thyatira, described in Revelation 2:18-29, refusing to obey God even when warned of the dangers.  Sadly, there are many in the church today who are clinging to traditions and false teachings and ignoring what God said, and like Israel, they will face God’s judgment.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Consequences for Jeroboam’s Sin

Jeroboam had been promised the same results if he would obey God that had been promised to David.  Instead, he had deliberately changed the Jewish religion, in direct disobedience of God’s commands because he didn’t believe God could do what he promised.  God sent a prophet to warn him about what he was doing, in I Kings 13:1-3. 

“And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense.  And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee.   And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.”

The prophet from Jerusalem came to Jeroboams main altar at Bethel and warned that in the future a king of Judah named Josiah would use the altar Jeroboam had built to burn the bodies of the priests who practiced the religion Jeroboam had started, destroying it.  The prophecy was fulfilled in II Kings 23:15-20, 350 years later.  As proof that the prophecy was true, the altar would break open and spill the ashes on the floor.

Jeroboam got really angry that his plan would be destroyed and ordered that the prophet be arrested.  I Kings 13:4-5 describes what happened.  “And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him.  The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD. “  When Jeroboam pointed at the prophet, his arm muscles shriveled up so that he was unable to even let it fall back to his side, and the altar broke open spilling out the ashes just as the prophet had said. 

“And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Entreat now the face of the LORD thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again. And the man of God besought the LORD, and the king's hand was restored him again, and became as it was before.”(I Kings 13:6)  Jeroboam was forced to recognize the prophecy cane form God and ask for God to restore his arm to its normal state, but he refused to repent ad do what God had said, according to I Kings 13:33-34.  “After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places.  And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.”  Israel would continue to practice the religion Jeroboam started for about 250 years, with the result that the nation would be completely destroyed about 700 BC.  The religion would be carried on by the mixed people who occupied the land for about another hundred years before being destroyed by Josiah. 

Jeroboam’s son became ill, and he sent his wife to a prophet to find out what the prognosis was.  The prophet sent back a strong warning, in I Kings 4:7-13.  “Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel, And rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes; But hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back: Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.

Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the LORD hath spoken it.  Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die.  And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.”

Because Jeroboam had not kept his part of the agreement, but had started another religion, causing Israel to sin, his entire family would be wiped out.  The baby he had asked about would die as soon as his wife got home and be mourned because he had not yet done anything wrong.  Nobody would even bother to bury the rest of the family when they died.  Instead, they would just dump them on the trash pile for the animals to eat.   The only thing he’d be remembered for was causing Israel to sin, because they would continue to practice the religion he started.   The prophecy was fulfilled in I Kings 15:25-30. 

“And Nadab the son of Jeroboam began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and reigned over Israel two years.    And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.  And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar, conspired against him; and Baasha smote him at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines; for Nadab and all Israel laid siege to Gibbethon.  Even in the third year of Asa king of Judah did Baasha slay him, and reigned in his stead.  And it came to pass, when he reigned, that he smote all the house of Jeroboam; he left not to Jeroboam any that breathed, until he had destroyed him, according unto the saying of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite: Because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he made Israel sin, by his provocation wherewith he provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger.”   It wasn’t much of a legacy to leave, compared with what God had promised if he would obey.  Even Solomon left a far greater legacy.   

Sadly, there are many in the Church today who have, like Jeroboam, deliberately disobeyed and changed what God commanded.    Their eternal legacy will be as unimpressive as Jeroboam’s.   Matthew 5:17-19 warns, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.  Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”    

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Jeroboam’s Apostasy

Because Solomon turned away from him. God caused Israel to split and gave most of the kingdom to man named Jeroboam.  I Kings 11:28-38 describes What God offered Jeroboam if he would serve God completely. 

“And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour: and Solomon seeing the young man that he was industrious, he made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph.  And it came to pass at that time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field: And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces: And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee: (But he shall have one tribe for my servant David's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel:) Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father.

Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand: but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant's sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes: But I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes.  And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there.  And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel.  And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee.”

God’s promise to Jeroboam was essentially the same as he had given Solomon that, if he would serve God completely his kingdom would last forever.   After Solomon’s death his son Rehoboam refused to listen to the people, so most of them refused to accept him as king as I Kings 12:19-20 describes.  “So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.  And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again, that they sent and called him unto the congregation, and made him king over all Israel: there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.” 

Although God had done exactly what he had promised in giving Jeroboam eleven of the tribes of Israel, Jeroboam did not trust him to fulfill the rest of his promise and  preserve his kingdom forever, as we see in I Kings 12:26-27.  “And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.”

Because he didn’t believe God could fulfill the rest of his promise, Jeroboam was afraid to obey God completely.   Fearing they would rejoin Judah, if they continued to worship God in Jerusalem, he concluded the best thing would be to change their religious beliefs so they would no longer need to go to Jerusalem.   I Kings 12:28-describes the changes. 

“Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.   And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.  And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.   And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.

And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.  So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.”

In the effort to consolidate his position, Jeroboam combined features that had played a part in Israels history, with a style of worship and guidelines similar to what God had established, but incorporating the golden calf that Aaron had made about 550 years before, as described in Exodus 32.  He also adopted various sacred or high places so many of the Jews, including Solomon had worshipped at.  He changed the sacrifices and removed the requirement s for priests so that anyone could serve and changed the services around so that they would not have the same meaning.   Everything was close enough to the old Jewish religion that most people would go along with it while different enough to keep them from going to the temple and worshipping God as he had commanded. 

Solomon had loved the Lord and obeyed his commands and pleasing him at first, but gradually drifted into sin, justifying it as a way to help God.   Jeroboam never really trusted God’ ability to keep his promises, and turned into sin immediately to make the things God had promised happen.    He never please God during his reign. 

Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”    Without that true faith in God, we will never be completely able to just obey his commands, but will always feel forced to try to make things happen by our own efforts and intelligence.   Like Jeroboam and the nation of Israel,  our religious actions become an imitation of Christianity, not the real thing.  Sadly, like the people who followed Jeroboam, many in the modern church accept the changes without question.   

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Just Believe God

Solomon seems to have justified his disobedience as being a deterrent against attack and building the economy.  As we saw, it had the opposite effect, causing them to be in a constant state of war and the people begging for relief.  Looking back in history, we find that God had already promised to take care of the things Solomon used to justify his sin, In Exodus 23:20-33.

“Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.   Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him.

But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.  For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.  Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.

And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee.  There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil.

I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee.  And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.   I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee.  By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.   And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee.  

Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.  They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.”

If Israel would do exactly as God directed, avoiding any ties to the people around them or their religions, God promise to protect Israel from them.    Leviticus 26:3-12 gives more detail about what God had promised. 
“If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;  Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.  And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.

And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.  And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.  And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.  For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.

And ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new.  And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you.   And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.

Other countries would be afraid to attack them, knowing God was protecting them.    When they were attacked, God would fight for them, so that just a few would be able to defeat a huge army.  They would not need a huge military force to protect them, nor would they need to forge treaties to either prevent being attacked or to provide help in case of attack.    

Economically, he promised that if they would obey Him, their crops and herds would always be productive and profitable.   The rains would always come at the right times, and they would never have to deal with famines because there would always be  some of last year’s crop left that had to be disposed of in order to store the new crop.   God would let others farm the land and care for so that as they expanded, he would drive them out as the land was needed so they could use it immediately without needing reclamation projects.   Eventually they would own everything from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red sea and from the deserts of Arabia and Jordan to the Euphrates River. 

God had already promised to everything Solomon hoped to accomplish with his sin and more, if they would just obey him.  There was no justification for Solomon to commit those sins.    By rationalizing his sin, Solomon was implying God was unable to fulfil his promise, effectively doubting God. 

When we begin to justify rationalize disobedience to God, even to accomplish some godly seeming purpose, we imply God is not able to perform what he promised and needs us to do it for him.   If we really believe him and love him we will just do what he said and trust him to make it turn out right.  There's no need for us to try to make it happen some other way.  

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Don’t Rationalize Sin

Yesterday, we looked at Solomon’s life.    God had given him wisdom and power like few other potentates in history.  He had sponsored and directed scientific studies of numerous subject to improve life for the Jewish people, and written books such as Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon to help people teach their children how to have better lives.  Unfortunately, like many other brilliant men throughout history, he became proud, forgetting that it was God, rather than his own intelligence that had made him great, and ignoring the things he had learned and written.    In the process, he destroyed most of the legacy he could have left for future generations. 

Few people start out to deliberately mess up their lives, but are convinced that what they are doing is the best way.  Solomon himself wrote. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes...” in Proverbs 21:2Undoubtedly, had you asked him about any of the things he did at the time, he would have told you that he was doing what was best for the country and for his heirs.  After all, the treaties with all the different governments represented by his different wives were for Israel’s protection.  The vast forces of chariots and horses represented a military force no one would dare tackle, and his vast wealth would make it easy to get more if he needed it.  Worshipping the gods of the people around them would surely demonstrate his tolerance of different beliefs and could be used to produce greater cooperation, possibly even leading other countries to adopt Judaism as well. 

Far too often we rationalize our own actions in the same way Solomon did.  A husband may rationalize working extreme hours by saying it will enable him to provide for his family better, or a wife may take time from her family to earn a college degree for the same reason.  A pastor may tell himself that the time he spends away from his church at conventions and other meetings makes him a better pastor and advances the cause of Christ, or that spending extra time on visitation and counselling is justified because it will lead to more people being saved. 

We forget that the last part of Proverbs 21:2 says, “… but the LORD pondereth the hearts,”   God looks at the underlying attitude, rather than our rationalizations.  He knows when the man works extra hours so he can afford a new motorcycle or the wife gets the degree so that can have more money for herself.  He knows how often the pastor goes to the meetings and conventions to enhance his reputation or to take a vacation from his church, or how often he uses visitation as an excuse for not spending time with his wife or children.   While such rationalizations sound justified, they are really no different that the drunk who goes to the bar because he needs to relieve his stress after a hard day. 

Clearly, Solomon’s actions did not benefit Israel.  During the first 25-30 years of his reign, Israel had had no wars at all.  During the last 10-15 years, they were constantly at war.  I Kings 11:14-39 describes the enemies that attacked and their reasons.  To pay for all his programs, Solomon raised his taxes so high that in I Kings 12:4 the people demanded that the taxes be cut if his son was to be selected as king.  Like modern politicians, his son decided his programs were more important the people’s desires, and caused the country to be divided.   Despite his rationalizations, Solomon’s actions made things worse for the people.  In much the same way, our rationalizations for sin lead to bigger problems.   Neglecting the family to earn extra income or get a college decree often leads to a collapse of the family.  The extra time spent in visitation or counselling may result in rebellion boy our own children.  The cost of hiring replacement speakers and attendance at conventions and meetings may strain church budgets and cause resentment. 

The various things Solomon did were things God had forbidden.   Initially, he loved the lord, as I Kings 3:3 tells us.  “And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.”  Unfortunately, as time passed, he became more concerned with his own goals and began to disobey God in more and more areas. 

John 14:23-24 tells us, “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.   He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.”  As time passed, he became more focused on his own goals, Solomon’s love for the Lord decreased, and disobedience bothered him less.   He even attempted to have Jeroboam murdered to prevent God’s prophecy being fulfilled, in I Kings 11:40.

Unfortunately the same thing is happening in many churches today.   Christ warned the church about the danger iof changing our focus in Revelation 2:1-5.  “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.  Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.  Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. “

When we become focused on our own goals and don’t obey God, we risk ceasing to be a light to the world.    We need to understand that God’s commands are always for our own benefit, as he told Israel in Deuteronomy 12:28.  “Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD thy God.”  

Monday, July 17, 2017

Solomon’s Example

When Solomon became king of Israel, I Kings 3:3-9 describes his attitude.  “And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.  And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar.

In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.

And Solomon said, Thou hast showed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.  And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.  And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.   Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? “ 

When Solomon first became king, he loved the Lord, following the principles David had given based on the Old Testament Law.  As a result, God appeared to him, asking what he would like as king.  Solomon humbly requested wisdom, so that he could understand what was good or bad to properly lead God’s people.    I Kings 3:10-14 describes God’s response. 

“And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.  And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.  And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.  And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.” 

Because of his desire to do what was right, God promised to bless him immensely.   With this in mind, is seems shocking that about twenty five years later, in I Kings 11:11, God told Solomon, “…Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.” 

The change was not a result of a single action by Solomon but resulted from and ongoing pattern of behavior.   Let’s start by looking again at I Kings 3:3. “And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.”  Notice that the only problem mentioned with his initial attitude was he was offering on high places, contrary to the command in Deuteronomy 12:13-14.  “Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest: But in the place which the LORD shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee.”   It didn’t seem like a very big thing and Solomon didn’t take that command seriously, especially since Israel had been doing it for hundreds of years.   

As a demonstration of his love for God, Solomon built the temple, as described in I Kings 6:37-38.  “In the fourth year was the foundation of the house of the LORD laid, in the month Zif: And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it.” 

Unfortunately, as much as he loved the Lord, Solomon’s primary focus was on his own desires rather than God.    I Kings 7:1-2 tells us, “But Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house.  He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon…”    He spent more than twice as much time and effort on his own house and businesses.    Because of that attitude, Solomon disobeyed God in other areas as well.

In Deuteronomy 17:14-19, God commanded, “When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.  Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.

And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:  That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.” 

Their king was not to flaunt his wealth and power by trading with the Egyptians for huge amounts of horses and chariots or marring a lot of wives or accumulating a lot of wealth.  There was the very real danger that in doing so, they would get proud and trust their own power and wealth rather than God.  Instead the king should spend his time reviewing what God had said to make sure he obeyed.  Solomon disobeyed this command on all counts as I Kings 10:26-11:2 tells us. 

“And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen: and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he bestowed in the cities for chariots, and with the king at Jerusalem.  And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars made he to be as the sycamore trees that are in the vale, for abundance.  And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn: the king's merchants received the linen yarn at a price.  And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and an horse for an hundred and fifty: and so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, did they bring them out by their means.

But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. “

God had specifically forbade making treaties or intermarrying with the people of Canaan because it  would result in the Jews being turned away from God, in Exodus 34:12.  “Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.” Solomon totally ignored that warning intermarrying and making treaties with every one of those groups and the results were exactly what God warned, according to I Kings 11:4-8. 

“ For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.  For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.  And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.  Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.  And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.”

Because he was more concerned with getting his own way than pleasing God, God withdrew his blessings as  I Kings 11:9-11 tells us.  “And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded.  Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.”  The last 10 -15 years of Solomon’s reign were filled with more fighting and conflict than all the first 25 years combined and when he died, the kingdom broke up with only one tribe remaining to his family, just as God had promised.

If we are to receive the maximum benefit of God’s promises, we need to follow all his commands completely.  Failure to do so will not cost us our salvation, but it will cost many of the blessings, just as it did to Solomon.   We must not think we can ignore his commands without suffering the consequences, no matter how spiritually strong we may be.    

Friday, July 14, 2017

Teach the Principles

Yesterday, I read an article about a school which had been rated as one worst in the state for teaching reading.  By switching from the Common Core reading program to a traditional program, they became one of the best within two years.    After reading the philosophy behind Common Core, ti was not hard to understand why the kids were having trouble reading. 

In an effort to excite the kids about being able to read, the Common Core program starts by having the kids memorize words, then read them in sentences.  As a result, the kids can begin reading within a day or two, which builds their confidence immensely.   They can only read books which are limited to the words they have memorized, so it at some point it becomes necessary to introduce the concept of sounding out the words by teaching them phonics.  Unfortunately, having been able to read their first few books so easily, the children have difficulty understanding why they need to learn the principles of phonics since they can already read and resent having to learn all the rules, limiting their ability to read. 

The traditional method starts with teaching the alphabet and the different sounds each letter makes, them combining the different sounds to form words using phonetic principles.  It takes several days for the children to learn to read simple words like cat or dog, but before long they begin sounding out words they don’t know.   By using those phonetic rules, they understand their importance, and with practice, can read anything they find.  Their ability to understand what they read is limited only by the size of their vocabulary.   They started by learning and applying basic principles, then building on them.

The traditional approach lays a solid foundation for reading before beginning to tread, while Common core attempts to start reading, then tries to build the foundation later.  It is a little bit like trying to build the house, then put a foundation under it.  What they have already built or learned gets in the way of learning the basics, and many students give up on building the foundation.    

Initially, laying a proper foundation, whether for building a building or for training children doesn’t appear to accomplish much in the way of reaching the goal, but the more carefully the foundation is laid, the easier it will be to construct the building or train the children later, and the more satisfactory the finished product will be. 

Unfortunately, the traditional method of teaching reading fell out of favor because people tried to take shortcuts, just has often happened in building homes.    Just as a contractor may try to save time or money by not properly compacting the soil or skimping on materials, teachers would sometimes teach only a few of the phonetic principles, with the result that the kids struggled to sound out words and became discouraged with reading.  Because they quit practicing, their skills stopped growing and they were unable to read at grade level.   The results were the same as they are with Common Core. 

If we are to train our children so that they will continue to practice the proper lifestyles when they are old, we need to lay a solid foundations for them to build on.  This requires teaching them the principles found in God’s law relating to pleasing God, and those in Proverbs about living a satisfactory and productive life as thoroughly as possible.   We must not stop with teaching them to get saved, be baptized, and go to church.  If we do, they are unlikely grow as Christians, and many will drop out.   If we teach the principles, they will have a solid foundation and can continue to grow

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Thorough Program

In modern schools, we tend to focus on a single subject such as arithmetic or English or reading, analyzing every aspect of that subject.   Isolating the subject in such a manner makes it easy for the teacher to explain and enables the student to quickly gain an understanding of the basic principles involved.   Unfortunately, isolating the subject in such a manner makes it more difficult to understand how it relates to other areas of life, and students are left wondering why they were forced to study subjects such as algebra or the parts of speech.   It is not uncommon to hear someone say they have never used algebra since they finished the class, not understanding that every arithmetic computation they have ever made, whether adding the prices of things they are buying, or computing the gas mileage on their car is dependent on the principles of algebra.    As a result of such isolation of subjects, modern employers complain that graduates today lack critical thinking skills, i.e. the ability to relate principles they learned in school to what they are trying to accomplish at work. 

Proverbs uses an ancient method of teaching than has proven effective in hundreds of cultures for thousands of years.   Life seldom focuses on just one point, and everything that happens affects and is related to other actions and events.  In a similar manner, Proverbs jumps from one subject to another, usually dealing with only one or two aspects of the subject before switching topics.  Because no subject tis isolated, the students are less likely to compartmentalize things, and thus are more flexible in their thinking. 

Fearing the student will not get a complete understanding of a subject modern teachers tend to try to group all the proverbs about a single subject together , because it makes it easier to teach in the modern programs.     To help understand how completely proverbs integrates the various teachings into daily life, let’s look at the teachings on anger that we started in the previous post.  Let’s just see what we learn about anger by going through the book. 

“A fool's wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.” (Proverbs 12:16)  A fool makes his wrath known to everybody, because as we see in Proverbs 14:3, “In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.”  They use their anger like a club to get their way. 

Proverbs 14:17 tells us, “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly.”   People who lose their temper easily do and say foolish things without thinking about the consequences.  Smart people think about the results of what they say, according to Proverbs 14:29.  “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.”  People who are quick to make judgments and get angry promote stupidity. 

Proverbs 15:1 tells us, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”  An agreeable pleasant response to people diverts their anger and makes them more willing to listen.  A confrontational approach only makes them angrier and less willing to listen.  One’s own attitude determines how he will approach others.   Proverbs 15:18 tells us, “A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.”  When we are angry we tend to say things that make matters worse.

Proverbs 16:32 tells us, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”   As we saw in Proverbs 14:29, “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.”  His wisdom keeps him from losing his temper and doing or saying stupid or hurtful things, as Proverbs 19:11 tells us.  “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.”  Because he doesn’t get mad, he is able to reduce the conflict, earning respect from others.  His self-control makes him more valuable than others at whatever he might do.   Proverbs 20:3 tells us, “It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.”  Fools keep stirring things up.

A person with a hot temper does really stupid things that get him ito trouble.  Proverbs 19:19 warns, “A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again.”    Because he doesn’t consider the consequences of his actions when he is angry, sooner or later he will get mad and get in trouble again. 

Just as a pleasant and agreeable response to a person will defer their anger, a gift or reward for something  iverts attention from one’s anger, making it easier to deal with them, according to Proverbs 21:14.  “A gift in secret pacifieth anger: and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.”

Proverbs 21:24 tells us that a person who uses his pride and anger like a club to get his way lacks respect for God and for other people.  “Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath.”  As proverbs 14:3 tells us it is a foolish attitude, and proverbs 22:8 warns, “He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail.”  Sooner or later, people will get fed up, and his anger and threats will not stop people.  He will have to suffer the consequences for his actions. 

Don’t associate with people who are hot tempered or constantly angry, because they will constantly stir up your anger and you will begin to have the same angry attitude they have, according to Proverbs 22:24-25.  “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.”  That angry attitude will cause you the same trouble it causes them. 

Proverbs 27:3-4 tells us, “A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both.  Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?”   A fool’s wrath over unimportant details is terrible burden.  It becomes physically or emotionally abusive, with them making outrageous demands in their anger, and if it turns to envy, becomes even worse.   In a marriage, it can become unbearable.   Proverbs 21:19 says, ”It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.”  It would be better to live in the dessert alone than to have to constantly put up with a mate’s anger.    It would be better to be homeless than to have nice house but be constantly fighting, as Proverbs 25:24 tells us.  “It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house. “  What would be a minor problem in someone you are not married to becomes a real annoyance when you have to deal with it every day, as Proverbs 27:15-16 tells us.  “A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.  Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself.” 

Proverbs 29:22 warns, “An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.”  As we have already seen an angry person says and does things that anger others, foolishly doing things that get him into trouble, and often violating God’s commands.  As proverbs 30:33 tells us his actions and attitude will surely cause fights.  “Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife.”

By simply teaching one proverb at a time, we can teach all these principles to our children in portions they can assimilate.  Because they are intermixed with various other subjects they will begin to see them as integral parts of life rather than some isolated subject.   The subject will have been thoroughly covered in the process.  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Our Training Manual

As I wrote in the introductory post of this series, training requires teaching the principles thoroughly, until the response becomes automatic in any situation.   Training our kids to consistently do what is right starts with systematically teaching what is right and keeping it constantly in their minds, by discussion, and by writing it in places where they are constantly reminded.  Training carries it further, showing how those principles apply in various real life situations.  It involves thinking things through and deciding which principles apply in a teaching setting so that they can quickly grasp what is happening and act effectively and expeditiously in similar situations. 

Solomon compiled Proverbs and wrote the book specifically as a training manual.  He wrote it in the form of a personal letter to his son, but it applies equally to both men and women.  He explains the purpose in Proverbs 1:1-6.  “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.   A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

The proverbs are to give one understanding of what is happening so that those who lack experience or are not yet intellectually mature can make good and intelligent decisions.   Smart people will listen and take the time to understand what the proverbs are teaching, even when the meaning is not obvious.    As we have already seen, learning these principles starts with a respect for God and for one’s parents.  Stupid people assume the laws and principles don’t apply to them and consider it a waste of time to learn them.  Proverbs 1:7-9 advises, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.  My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.”  Stupid people are often very smart, they just don’t bother to learn.  Those who take the time to learn will look very intelligent by comparison, avoiding many of the problems. 

Because Proverbs has thirty one chapters, many pastors have recommended reading a one chapter every day with your children.  Unfortunately, such an approach loses much of the benefit.  Effective training requires dealing with one situation at a time in depth, until the pupil fully understands what is required.  For example a basketball coach may spend a week or more focusing just on lay-ups before beginning to include other moves to be sure the player has that shot down completely.  Proverbs was originally written in the form of individual principles to be studied independently,  In many cases, they comprise no more than one or two verses, although some are longer.  They were intended to be taught one at a time so that the students had time to fully understand one before moving to the next, and the most effective way of teaching them is to teach them one at a time.    

Because there are so many, many people are concerned about the time required to teach the proverbs individually, but experience and numerous studies have shown that young children can only deal with one subject at a time while older ones may be able to handle three or four.  One reason so many children are not learning what they need to learn in school is that teachers feel pressured to introduce new subjects before the children have learned earlier lessons thoroughly.   If we take the time to make sure they understand each one thoroughly before moving to the next, they will attain the maximum benefit from each one.  While it will take more time than going through a chapter at a time, learning will actually progress faster.   For example, Proverbs 15:1 tells us, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”  Quite simply, how we respond to people will affect their attitude toward us.  A few verses later, Proverbs 15:18 tells us, “A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.”  When people are angry, they tend to say things that irritate or hurtother people, resulting in conflict.  People who do not lose their temper say things that comfort and resuce strife.  With that in mind, Proverbs 16:32 tells us, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”    The person who can defuse the situation and prevent a fight is more valuable than a person who can win the fight.  Thus a person who can control his attitudes and keep from getting angry is worth more than a famous general who has won great victories.  Each proverb builds our understanding. 

Our goal is to train our children so they can have the best life possible in this world and be prepared for eternity.  While it takes time to teach God’s laws and the Proverbs properly, it is time well spent as the effects will be felt for eternity.  We must not allow a sense of urgency to short circuit our efforts to train them.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Concentrated Effort To Teach

About two months after bringing Israel out of Egypt, God made his contract or covenant with Israel.  Forty years later, a few days before his death, Moses reviewed the contract with Israel, and reminded them of their responsibility to obey it, in Deuteronomy6:1-5.    

“Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.

Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey.  Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

The laws had been given so that the people would know what God expected of them and how to handle different situations that might arise.  By taking the time to learn what he expected and obeying it they show their love and respect for God, and as a result, They would enjoy the blessings he had promised for generations to come.    It is similar to the promise Jesus made to Christians in John 14:21.  “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”   If we love him enough to learn what he expects and obey him, he will reveal himself to us in special ways, just as he ‘d promised Israel to walk among them.

If they were to experience these blessings in the future generations, it would be incumbent on the Jews to teach their children these same laws.  Their children and grandchildren would have no memory of God freeing them from slavery, or enabling them to cross the Red Sea.  They would not have lived on the manna and quail or seen how God defeated their enemies, so that it would take  a special effort to impress the power and God upon them.  Deuteronomy 6:6-9 describes the extent to which they would need to go. 

“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.  And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.  And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” 

They were to memorize those laws themselves, and teach them to their children.  They were to constantly talk about what God demanded , so the children would understand how very important it was to obey God.  They were to have copies scattered around their homes as a constant reminder of What God demands.  If they failed to impress their children with the importance of obeying, they would develop a sense of entitlement, convinced they were better than other people and deserved the blessings just because they are Jews, as Deuteronomy 6:10-12 warns. 
“And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”  

Today we see that same attitude of superiority and entitlement among the Americans,  If we want to continue to receive God’s blessings, we are going to have to learn to obey God’s laws ourselves and make a concentrated effort to teach our children to do so.    We need to remember, actions have consequences.