Tags: adultery, Biblical wisdom, followers, Jesus Christ, paths of righteousness, Proverbs 5, seduction
The Lord Jesus recruited disciples with this command and invitation: “Follow Me.” His, however, is not the only voice in this world that will beckon you. Therefore, we must beware of temptations that will lead us, like dull-witted sheep, astray.
The Bible warns us specifically of the sinful seductress, who, with enticing and deceptive words, lures us in a deadly direction:
Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.
It is risky to follow someone who promises something rewarding. It may lead to a great blessing or a terrible trap, and often we can’t know for certain until we take the chance. However, here the Bible gives us the gift of insight into the future. The feet of a “strange woman” lead ultimately to death, but her feet are already “taking hold” of the powers of darkness and pulling them toward the foolish follower lured by her false charms. Let us take careful heed to the wisdom and warnings found in Scripture. Following Jesus leads certainly to eternal life. Following the temptress in Proverbs 5 leads certainly toward damage, despair, destruction, and death.
Tags: attributes of God, commentary on Psalms, Egypt, Exodus, God's mercy, immutability, mercy, Psalm 136, Psalm 85, Sunday School lessons on Psalms
All 26 verses in Psalm 136 end the same way: “his [God’s] mercy endureth for ever.” When we see the great and wonderful and awe-inspiring things that God has done for His people in creation, in blessings, in salvation, and in deliverance, we become enthusiastic worshipers, and joyfully repeat the mantra, “His mercy endureth for ever,” over and over again.
He is the God of gods and Lord of lords! (vv. 2-3)
Yes! His mercy endureth for ever!
He made all the lights in the sky and the heavenly bodies! (vv. 7-9)
Amen! His mercy endureth for ever!
He killed all the firstborn sons of all the Egyptian moms and dads! (v. 10)
Praise His name! His mercy endur… Wait… Hold on a minute… Suddenly, we’re not so enthusiastic, are we?
To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:
And what about verse 15? “But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.” How many families lost their loved ones in the watery grave of the Red Sea when the Egyptian army followed the Israelites into the parted waters? How many 15 and 16 and 17 year old Egyptian little brothers lost their lives, adding to the grief of their mothers and grandparents who had already lost their sons and grandsons and husbands by the hand of the Lord? This doesn’t sound like forever-enduring mercy to us.
See, in Christian ministry, our primary goal is to teach and to learn God’s Word so that we can apply it to our lives. But doing this often means doing the difficult task of staring straight into God’s revealed truth without dressing it up or watering it down. When we get happy about the truth of God’s mercy, we need to remember that God’s mercy toward some can at the same time be His judgment and vengeance toward others. God does not offer a smorgasbord of His attributes for us to sample. We don’t get to pick and choose what we happen to like about Him, or what is easy to understand about Him, and leave the rest.
Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:
And God’s mercy never needs to be reconciled with His righteousness, holiness, justice, or wrath, because, in God, His attributes are never at odds with each other. They simply flow from His divine nature in perfect sovereign harmony.
Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation. I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly. Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
We did not cause God’s mercy; we were not the source of God’s mercy; and we do not get to dictate the terms of God’s mercy. It endures forever, because God endures forever. He is immutable, and all His attributes are likewise. He is the Redeemer. We are the redeemed. This makes us sing and shout, not dispute and doubt.
Tags: commentary on Esther, divine providence, Esther 2, God's favor, lust, myrtle trees, sovereignty of God, Sunday School lessons on Esther, Vashti
In Esther Chapter 2 the king deposed Queen Vashti. Then we meet Mordecai. Mordecai was one of the Jewish exiles who probably could have gone back to Jerusalem during the events described in Ezra and Nehemiah, but we see God’s hand of providence at work in keeping him in Persia.
Mordecai’s adopted daughter, Esther, was beautiful, and was taken into the harem for a tryout with the king. “Esther” was her Persian name and it means “star.” Hadassah was her Jewish name, and it means “myrtle.” Apparently, a myrtle tree flower looks like a star.
In the narrative of Esther we see God using all sorts of ungodly activities, exiled Jewish citizens, and even unbelievers, to carry out His will. This is the way God works among the nations of the world. Hegai, the keeper of the harem, gave Esther a year-long beauty treatment, including diet.
And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king’s house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women.
Esther had some inexplicable favor with everyone she met, which helps us to see God’s providential hand at work in the story.
And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.
It is possible that Ahasuerus had become bored with an endless series of concubines, but that is not how sinful lust usually works. Typically, the man involved in sexual sin craves more and more perversity, so that feeding lust in an attempt to quench it is like throwing logs on a raging fire in an attempt to smother it out. The better explanation for the king choosing Esther is that God’s sovereignty was at work in making him somehow find Esther more favorable.
When the king chose Esther, he threw a big banquet. What else would we expect? This is the fourth one, and we’re only in Chapter 2!
In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. And the thing was known to Mordecai, who told it unto Esther the queen; and Esther certified the king thereof in Mordecai’s name. And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out; therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king.
God allowed Mordecai to find out about the plot to kill the king. Mordecai told Esther, and she gave the credit to Mordecai, but Mordecai didn’t get a reward or recognition at that time. Instead, he got his name written down in the official account – which will be important later in Chapter 6.
Lord, thank You for making me free from the bondage of sin, and from my old cruel slavemaster, Satan. Thank you that you have taught us to avoid getting caught up in the commercial pressures of this world, and to avoid getting caught up in unholy worldly traditions. Help me to truly rejoice in the freedom from worldly bondage. In the Name of Christ Jesus I pray. Amen.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 14, 1 Timothy 3, 1 Timothy 4, behavior in church, church members, church membership, hypocrisy, hypocrisy in church, order in church
The “R” in C.H.U.R.C.H. is for “Responsibilty.” There are great privileges that come with being part of a church. But there are also great responsibilities.
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
I Timothy 3:15 (emphasis added)
Christians should not be hypocrites. A hypocrite is someone who acts completely different in church from the way he acts outside of church. However, we do need to watch how we behave in church. Church is not a place where “anything goes.”
Let all things be done decently and in order.
I Corinthians 14:4
What are some things you would do outside of church that are not sinful, but that you should not do in church? When I go to the park to have a good time, I am free to run, yell, throw things, make a mess, speak loudly and freely. I might even dress in a way that allows me to sweat and have some freedom of movement. But church is a place where these things are rightly restricted. And it is a place where you do need to take special care about what you wear. Modesty and appropriateness in dress is important everywhere, but it is especially important in church.
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
I Timothy 4:12
If you are a young person, don’t give people at church a reason to excuse your bad behavior by saying, “He’s just a kid, what do you expect?” Don’t give anyone a reason to dislike you for being young. You need to watch older men and older ladies in church, depending on your own gender. Mark how they behave and follow their examples.
Tags: Acts 4, Christian marriage, confidence, endurance, Genesis 39, Isaiah 3, Job 31, marriage counseling, Matthew 5, principles for marriage
Confidence is not arrogance. One of the Bible words for confidence is “boldness.”
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13 (emphasis added)
And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,
Acts 4:29 (emphasis added)
It’s not that the Apostles asked God to make them unafraid. It’s that they asked Him to make them irascible – able to face the fearful situation. What is the sine qua non for courage? It’s fear. God has not given us a “spirit of fear,” but that does not mean that God will keep us out of fearful circumstances. He has given us the ability to be confident in knowing that in Him we can overcome fear.
Are you courageous, constant, and confident enough to minister while being married? To stand at the gate that Satan is battering and to protect your marriage while still showing the love of Christ to a voraciously evil world?
I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?
In a world filled with illicit sexual imagery, it doesn’t take courage to look. It takes courage to look away.
Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.
The immodesty we see in society is not only Satan’s assault on godliness – it may also be part of God’s judgment for our pride. It takes courage not only to keep from looking, but to keep from imitating.
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
That is the zenith of irascibility! Jesus is not promoting self-mutilation. He’s teaching about just how dangerous adultery is, for He turns immediately to the topic of marriage and divorce (Matthew 5:31).
Being married – and especially being a married Christian – in 21st Century America requires irascibility in the form of courage, endurance, and confidence in order to combat the pervasiveness of overt sexuality. Earlier I compared this irascibility to a more masculine attitude toward combat, but this “masculinity” is not based on a “tough-guy” caricature of manhood. It comes from a fear of God.
And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
Genesis 39:7-9 (emphasis added)
Joseph didn’t want to betray his earthly master, but, more than that, he was downright determined not to sin against his God! Fear and courage are not mutually exclusive. The first must be present for the latter to exist. The fear of the Lord provokes the greatest courage of all. If Satan knocks that wall down, I could lose my wife, my home, my kids, my job, my reputation. That frightens me. But what frightens me more is sinning against the God Who loved me and redeemed me and made me His Own.
Tags: Colossians 3, experience, Galatians 5, Judges 14, Judges 16, Psalm 119, Romans 7, Samson, Samson and Delilah
They say that the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I don’t think that Samson was “insane” in the clinical sense, but we sure have to wonder about his tendency to repeat the same mistakes. They also say that those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Two times, with two different women, Samson was tricked into revealing a secret to his own detriment: Judges 14:16-18; 16:6-19. In fact, on the second occasion – with Delilah – he was fooled multiple times by the same ploy.
Where was Samson’s ability to gauge cause-and-effect? Where was his “nonsense” filter? Where was his aptitude to learn from his own mistakes? The same place yours and mine so often is: buried beneath a layer of sinful flesh.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
If you are a Christian, then the Lord has set you free from the bondage of the Law by His love and grace. However, our march toward complete surrender to His will and total conformity to the image of Christ is more of an uphill climb over rocky terrain than a casual stroll though a peaceful park. Thankfully, God has given us His Spirit to indwell us, His Word to instruct us, and His body to influence us.
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.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Experience can be a valuable teacher, but it is in our nature – apart from God – to repeat our mistakes. Our best method for learning from our failures is: (1) to yield to the Lord’s Spirit, remembering that He has set us free from the power of sin; (2) to stay focused on the Bible with the intention of obeying it; (3) to find brothers and sisters in Christ in a local Bible-teaching and -believing church who will hold you accountable in love.
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
Tags: commentary on Psalms, idol worship, idols, peronhood of God, personality of God, Psalm 135, reality of God, Sunday School lessons on Psalms, the true God
Psalm 135 seems to be somewhat of a collection of other parts of Scripture. It was authored by the Holy Spirit Who inspired a temple singer or musician to collect and arrange the passages within it – probably for a special occasion. It contains four “praise the Lords” and four “bless the Lords.” It is a very balanced Psalm. It praises the Lord both for Who He is and for what He has done.
Q. Who is He?
A. He is OUR God.
Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the name of the LORD; praise him, O ye servants of the LORD. Ye that stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God,
Psalm 135:1-2 (emphasis added)
If you belong to God, then He is “your” God, but not in the sense that you are His owner. He says to you, “I am your God,” in a “distinctive” way: You belong to Him rather than to other people’s false gods. This is a good test for what your testimony says about your relationship with God. Is He your God? When everyone else’s gods are entertainment, leisure, drugs, alcohol, money, possessions – if our God is in fact the God, then we should look, act, and speak very differently.
Q. What does He do?
A. Whatever He wants.
Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places. He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries. Who smote the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast.
Do you think the wind and the rain disobey God? What about the birds and the fish? We are creatures. If He rules over creation, we need to realize He rules over us.
Q. What’s to stop Him from hurting us?
A. He is compassionate on those He has chosen.
Thy name, O LORD, endureth for ever; and thy memorial, O LORD, throughout all generations. For the LORD will judge his people, and he will repent himself concerning his servants.
Q. What’s so different about Him?
A. He is real.
Everybody who has a false god pretends to think the above answers are true about their god, too.
The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths. They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them.
You have probably heard the expression, “It takes one to know one.” It applies to idol-worshipers. It takes an intentionally blind and deaf person to make a blind deaf god and to act as though he really thinks it’s a god.
Our God is different. He speaks. He makes covenants, gives promises, gives guidance. He sees. His “eyes” are so sharp and so penetrating that we can not hide from Him in sin. He hears. He hears prayers. He hears cries of injustice. He hears the plans of His enemies. He has the power of smell. Worship to Him is like a sweet-smelling savor. We don’t burn incense in New Testament worship the way they did under the Old Testament system, because our sacrifices are obedience and praise and Godly living. Those things smell sweet to Him. He “touches.” Idols are made by men’s hands. Men are made by God’s hands. He walks. Idol-worshipers have to carry their idols. God carries His followers, and walks with us.
Q. Where is He?
A. Right here in the midst.
Blessed be the LORD out of Zion, which dwelleth at Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.
He is in the middle of His people both positionally and figuratively. He’s with us on the mountain tops and in the green pastures. He is with us in the valleys (even the valley of the shadow of death). No true Christian will ever truly die alone.
Tags: Ahasuerus, Artaxerxes, commentary on Esther, Esther 1, flattery, intoxication, Marathon, Proverbs 27, Sunday School lessons on Esther, Xerxes
One of the meanings of faith is believing the promises of God even when they don’t seem to be supported by observable evidence. But another definition of faith is obeying God in spite of what seem to be the obvious consequences.
The name of God is not mentioned once in the Book of Esther, yet it is full of His Words. The same is true for Song of Solomon. There are different theories on why God is not named in Esther. It may be to illustrate how little His people thought about Him at that time.
The events in the Book of Esther took place between 483 and 473 B.C. Chronologically, they would fit right between Chapters 6 and 7 of Ezra. During this time, the rebuilding of Jerusalem had halted. Zechariah and Haggai preached and prophesied about the people putting roofs on their own homes while the house of God had no roof.
The king of the Medo-Persian empire at that time was Ahasuerus (Khshayarshan in Persian, Artaxerxes or Xerxes in Greek). Ahasuerus was really into putting on spectacular banquets.
Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:) That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him: When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days. And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace; Where were white, green, and blue, hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble: the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black, marble. And they gave them drink in vessels of gold, (the vessels being diverse one from another,) and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king. And the drinking was according to the law; none did compel: for so the king had appointed to all the officers of his house, that they should do according to every man’s pleasure. Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to king Ahasuerus.
The particular feasts described here were the result of the failure of Ahasuerus’s father to successfully invade Greece. Ahasuerus was probably excited at the prospect of revenge and greater glory for himself as he prepared to give it a try. As an aside, the defeat of Darius (Ahasuerus’s father) happened at a place called Marathon in 490 B.C. 25,000 Persians were met by 10,000 Greeks. Some of the Persians left to go attack Athens, and a runner ran 26 miles without stopping to warn them – upon which he probably died from a heat stroke or exhaustion. That’s where we get the name of the 26-mile-long race.
On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king,
There seems to be a great deal of drinking, partying, and extravagant celebrating going on in the Book of Esther. One of the king’s chamberlains was named “Mehuman,” and I might jokingly suggest that his parents gave him this name so that, no matter how drunk he got with the king, he wouldn’t forget he was still a human and not a wild beast. (You have to imagine him talking like Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan for this to be funny: “Me human, you Jane.”)
To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.
It is very common for anger to follow drunkenness. Ahasuerus’s heart was merry (after seven days of drinking, we can only imagine!), but look how quickly it swung form merriment to wrath. Drunk driving is a huge problem in our society, but it may surprise you to learn that more drunks are still arrested for fighting than for driving while intoxicated. Ahasurerus mastered his whole kingdom, but he couldn’t even master himself.
Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment:
Esther 1:13 (emphasis added)
This is probably a reference to astrology, but these “wise” men also knew the times in which they lived, and they knew they had a king who was susceptible to flattery. They gave foolish counsel, and the king listened, because they flattered him with words.
He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.
Flattery should make us cautious.
Tags: 1 Corinthians 6, Acts 2, Acts 4, Ephesians 4, Galatians 5, Lord Jesus Christ, Numbers 11, outpourings, redemption, the Comforter
Redemption occurs when a person is brought from spiritual death to spiritual life. It may also refer to the physical redemption of the body from the slavery of death which will one day happen to all born-again believers on the Lord Jesus Christ. Redemption is a work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a Person. He is God. God is three Persons in one – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is a Person, because He is sometimes incorrectly thought of as a force or a mystical power. If you have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, then you have been indwelled with the Holy Spirit. You don’t have to travel to Florida or Texas or Canada to some “outpouring” event to find Him or to chase Him down.
The guaranteed indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit for true New Testament Christians is different from the way the Spirit was sometimes given to people in the Old Testament.
And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.
Numbers 11:25 (emphasis added)
And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!
Numbers 11:29 (emphasis added)
The Holy Spirit has many functions. He teaches us the Word. The Bible doesn’t make sense to a person who is not truly a Christian in the same way it does to a true Christian. All sorts of signals and programs are being broadcast through the room you are in right now, but you are not perceiving any of them unless you have the right kind of antenna or receiver. This is an illustration of the way the Holy Spirit illumines Scripture for believers.
The Holy Spirit also convicts us of sin. This is for the purpose of bringing the non-Christian to the point where he realizes he needs a Savior, and for the purpose of aiding Christians in their sanctification.
The Holy Spirit also produces spiritual fruit in the lives of believers.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
The Holy Ghost is the Comforter, and He brings inward peace to believers. He does not cause Christians to thrash around and throw a fit, the way you will sometimes see people doing on religious television or in certain Pentecostal or Charismatic churches.
Another function of the Holy Spirit is to enable us to live for God, and to do the work of God.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Acts 2:38-42 (emphasis added)
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
Acts 4:31 (emphasis added)
Ephesians 4:30 tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will never leave a person who has trusted Christ unto salvation, but disobedience, fornication, hurting others who we are supposed to be loving and helping, entertaining sinful thoughts and desires – all these and more can and do grieve the Spirit. We would be far better off surrendering to Him and allowing Him to have His way as He leads us to follow Christ and to obey the Bible.
What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
I Corinthians 6:19.