Scars in Heaven?

March 23, 2020 at 10:16 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Question: For Christians, if our bodies have scars in this life, will we still have those scars in Heaven?

Answer: I wish I could be more definitive on this one. I don’t know for sure how this will work. It is clear from Scripture that true Christians will have “glorified” bodies after the final resurrection (I Corinthians 15:42-54). These bodies will not experience pain nor sickness nor aging nor decay nor any infirmities, but they will still be “our” earthly bodies which God will somehow transform into a glorified state or form. Most of what we know about these “glorified” bodies comes from what the Scripture teaches us about Jesus’s glorified body after His Resurrection (Luke 24:39-43). They will be magnificent, but I do not know for sure if they will have scars.

I will speculate a little if you will not hold it against me 🙂. Jesus’s resurrected body still had the places (the “imprints” if you will) where His hands/wrists were pierced by the nails and where the Roman soldier’s spear pierced His side (John 20:24-29). I don’t know if those count as “scars” or not, but it may indicate that scars received in our earthly lives which bring glory to God will remain with us for a joyful testimony in our glorified bodies in Heaven. Perhaps other scars will disappear. I don’t know. As my wife has said, scars are, in a sense, evidence of healing, so we might value having those as eternal reminders of God’s grace in Heaven. Whatever the case, God will do what is best, and everything He does will bring eternal joy to true Christians once He calls us home.

Here is an article my wife wrote several years ago for one of our friends, which contains some great encouragement concerning scars: “From Battle Scars to Beauty Marks.”

Was St. Nick a Real Person?

March 5, 2020 at 10:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Question: Was “Old St. Nick” a real person?

Answer: I’m glad you asked about this, not because I know a lot about it, but because there’s a funny story that goes with it. There was a real person named Nicholas of Myra. He was born in the 2nd Century, and he became bishop of a place called Myra. He is known in the Roman Catholic Church as “St. Nicholas.” Because Roman Catholic tradition is notoriously unreliable concerning the people that they have declared to be “saints,” it is hard to tell for sure how many of the stories about Nicholas are real and how many are legend. I’ll tell you the story about him that I read and that I would like to be true, even though there is a lot of disagreement about whether or not it is.

One of the arch-heretics of the early Christian church was a man named Arius. He denied the doctrine of the Trinity, claiming that God the Son was not equal to God the Father, and some other stuff (later known as Arianism). Arius was wrong, but he was supposedly something of a smooth-talker, and had a way of being charming, especially to the ladies. He became very popular for the wrong reasons, and his false teachings became such a problem that the church convened a special council to deal with them.

Nicholas came to the council, too, but he wasn’t like Arius. He wasn’t eloquent or socially charming, but he was well-respected for being holy and generous, while also being a little hot-tempered when someone denied the Deity of Christ. At some point during the council debate, Arius stood up on a chair or a desk to make a speech and promote his heresy. Nicholas couldn’t bear it, and marched over and smashed him in the face. (Some historians say it was a punch, some say it was a slap.) A big melee broke out and chaos ensued.

Ultimately, another man named Athanasius was instrumental in formulating a correct creed expressing what the Bible teaches about the Trinity, and Arius was declared a heretic. I’m not sure how the idea of “Santa Claus” was derived from “St. Nicholas,” but I did find this hilarious meme:

Is It Mean to Talk about Divorce?

February 12, 2020 at 10:47 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Question: Aren’t you afraid that, when you say that God does not condone divorce, you are insulting, embarrassing, and alienating Christians who have been divorced? It’s easy for you talk, because you haven’t been divorced, but not everyone is so blessed.

Answer: That’s certainly not my intention. Divorce is a touchy subject, and I try to be sensitive, not offensive. Let me be clear. Some of my closest friends are Christians who have been divorced, and I do not think of them as “lesser” Christians, or people who are “worse” than me or anyone else. I am well aware that only by the grace of God am I married to a wonderful, forgiving, faithful wife that I do not deserve.

When someone asks me what the Bible says, then I am bound and obligated, as a Christian, and especially as a Bible teacher, to tell the truth, and I believe that the Bible teaches that divorce and marriage-after-divorce are sins (Genesis 2:21-24; Malachi 2:16; Mark 10:6-9; Ephesians 5:23-33; Hebrews 13:4; Matthew 5:32, 19:7-9; Luke 16:18). That has nothing to do with my marriage, or whether or not I have been divorced.

However, divorce is a sin for which Jesus was punished and for which He paid in full on the Cross for all those who believe on Him. It is a forgivable sin, and not a worse sin than pride, covetousness, spite, idolatry, and the many other sins of which I am guilty. I love and respect Christians who have been divorced and/or remarried, but have also confessed and repented, and I very much want their current marriages to thrive and to glorify God. I hope and pray that does not sound mean, unkind, or unrighteously judgmental.

Why Not a Hospital?

January 29, 2020 at 11:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Question: If you say church is not supposed to be like a hospital, what about all the people who are hurting and come there to find acceptance and love, but instead only find judgment and hypocrisy? And keep it simple. Don’t write some long essay full of fancy words.

Answer: Okay, I’ll try. People who are really suffering SHOULD find kindness and love at their local Christian church. When people are mean to them, or treat them in ways that the Bible says is wrong, they shouldn’t do that. However, when that happens, the solution is not to stop going to church. The solution is to go to church with an attitude of honoring and obeying Christ, not depending on other people. You will always find people who don’t live up to your expectations, but you have never found anything in God Himself to cause you to go far from Him, or to walk away from Him. And, ultimately, anything that you are walking after in this life that is apart from God is vanity (emptiness, unfulfilling selfishness). See Jeremiah 2:5.

God is perfect. None of His people are. Even the best of people are only people at best. And even the worst of people cannot separate you from the love of God in Christ. When we stand before God one day, none of us will be able to blame someone else’s hypocrisy or bad behavior if we have disobeyed His direct commands to faithfully attend, and to serve in, a local assembly of Christians.

A Hospital for Sinners?

January 15, 2020 at 12:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Question: What do you think about the expression, “Church is supposed to be a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints?”

Answer: Is that the expression? I’ve always heard that, “Church is a hospital for sinners, not a SHOWPLACE for saints.” Either way, though, I’m not that crazy about it, for a number of reasons. I’ll list some of these reasons.

First, it doesn’t do a good job of defining “church.” I’m as guilty as the next person of referring to “church” as the physical locale where we meet for scheduled worship services and activities, but when we’re talking about people who need a “hospital,” there is nothing inherently therapeutic about a building or a geographical address. The local “church” is really a called-out assembly of true Christians (the body of Christ), and it is made up of “members” that are analagous to your physical body parts and organs: some people are the arms, some the legs, some the eyes, ears, larynx, lower intestines, and pineal glands, just to name a few. Some are visibly serving and up front like foreheads, knee caps, and bulging biceps, and some are buried deep in the guts, doing really, really important jobs that nobody ever sees. Hospitals are sitting around waiting for sick people to show up, and then they treat them (and charge them an obscene fortune), and then hopefully send them on their way. Human bodies go forth and interact with their environment. They know their own weaknesses, but they also see the needs of others, and go to where they are. Bodies are guided by the “head,” and they go and do what the “head” tells them to do. Christ is the “Head” of His spiritual body. You really need to get that straight before you can try to evaluate the rest of the statement about hospitals vs. museums.

Second, the expression doesn’t do a good job of defining “sinners.” In a sense, we are all “sinners,” in that we sin against God often and egregiously. However, those of us who are truly born-again have had our status changed from “sinner” to “son” or “daughter” of God by the washing away of sinful guilt in Christ’s blood, and by His imputed righteousness having been credited to us by His grace. This is even more important to understand before moving on.

Third, the expression begs us to assume that “sinners” need a “hospital” without telling us the nature of their illness. Are we talking about people who are literally injured or sick, or are we taking about people who have given in to temptation, now reaping the spiritual consequences of what they have sown, OR are we talking about people who are in wanton rebellion against God, sinning intentionally with the full force of their energy (perhaps even calling calling it a “lifestyle choice” or their “identity”)? We need to know that before we can determine if “hospital” is a good description.

Fourth, the expression presents a logical fallacy known as a “false dichotomy.” By this I mean that it presents an “either-or” proposition as if there were only two possibilities. Who would reasonably admit that they think of church as a “museum” – just a place to stand around and be seen – or a “showplace” – an opportunity to come show off their clothes, wealth, good looks, or perceived self-righteousness? Oh, I’m sure there are people who THINK that way, but nobody is going to really argue that the showplace/museum option has some actual merit. In reality, though, if we agree it’s not a museum, then “hospital” is only one of many alternatives (and not even the best one). I can show from the Bible that the purpose of meeting together with God’s people in what we call a “church” service is for:
a. corporate worship
b. prayer
c. instruction in the Word of God
d. training for spiritual battle
e. fellowship
f. accountability
g. discipleship
h. exhortation to grow up from immature to mature believers
h. and more, including, I guess, some of the “healing” benefits you would expect to receive at a literal hospital (as long as it doesn’t turn into an extended convalescence that provokes apathy and a “woe-is-me” attitude)

So, to sum up, the expression probably has a good intention at its heart, but, if it is only a platitude meant to replace real hands-on ministry done in love, and done in different ways for different types of hurting and/or sinning people, then we are better off ditching it and replacing it with actual Bible verses that tell us the real purpose of the local “church,” like Ephesians 4.

Proverbs 22:6: Promise or Principle?

January 6, 2020 at 10:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Question: I’m a parent and I would like to claim Proverbs 22:6 as a promise from God, that if I train my children to follow Christ and to do what’s right, then, as they get older, they will continue on that path and not depart from it. But I’ve heard at least a couple of preachers say that Proverbs 22:6 is a principle and not a promise. Is that true, and how can I tell?

Answer: First of all, I want to commend you for thinking Biblically, and therefore correctly, about your responsibilities as a parent, and for your desire to take hold of promises from the Word of God.

The Proverbs are part of the Biblical genre known as “wisdom literature.” They are often described as a collection of “wisdom sayings” gathered by King Solomon and other writers, that are intended as guidelines to help people live God-fearing and God-pleasing lives because they are generally true. Since the Bible must be read in context in order to apply it correctly, it helps to know that the Proverbs are expressions of wit and wisdom designed to be memorable and evocative, while still being inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore inerrant and infallible. This tension has caused problems of interpretation for many Bible scholars and commentators. Before I get to your specific question, let me give you a couple of examples.

Proverbs 21:19 says, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.” Is this a promise or a principle? The promise is that living with a quarrelsome and browbeating woman will always be a miserable experience, and, while living in the wilderness can be rough, it is actually better than the alternative. However, it is not a “blanket promise” in the way that a verse like John 3:16 is. For instance, there might be a rabid grizzly bear roaming in a particular area of wilderness. THAT would not be preferable to sharing a house with even the orneriest, big bad mama we can imagine. So, for this reason, we are tempted to use verses like this to support the argument that the Proverbs are only situation-specific promises, and are really more like principles.

However, look at Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Have you ever heard a preacher say, “That’s just a principle, and not a promise. Most of the time we should trust in the Lord and His direction for our lives, but not always?” I doubt it, and if you have, then I want to meet that preacher. No, we are quick to latch onto certain Proverbs as promises and to dismiss others are mere principles, when the Bible does not authorize us to be that cavalier with the Scriptures.

So, what does all this have to do with Proverbs 22:6? I’ll tell you what. The interpretation and application of Proverbs 22:6 is fraught with situational temptation.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it

Proverbs 22:6

Imagine you are a preacher preaching to a congregation where an older couple is present, and they have served faithfully in church for many years, having brought up their son from his birth to be faithful right alongside them. This couple was consistent with discipline. They attended services faithfully. They gave sacrificially. They weren’t hypocritical. They glorified God in church and out of church, and they did their dead level best to bring up their child in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. However, once Junior moved out on his own, he stopped going to church, got into trouble with the law, took up drugs, alcohol, and fornication, and is now living like the devil’s disciple. What does the preacher say when he gets to Proverbs 22:6? He can’t say God was wrong. The more political spin is to say it’s a principle and not a promise, and that, even though Dad and Mom did a fine job raising Junior, they can’t really be responsible for his choice to deviate from the general principle of Proverbs 22:6.

So, I think the most common answer to your question is that, while it is admirable that you want to claim a promise from God, you had better not be too hasty. You’re just a young parent, and you should do your best, but don’t count on your little tyke growing up to do what’s right. In other words, hope he falls under the general principle, but don’t blame God (or yourself) for breaking a promise if he goes astray.

I am not going to give you that answer, because I really don’t think it’s the right way to read or apply that verse, for two reasons.

1. We have to be careful about importing our modern word-usages into Bible verses that were translated a long time ago. We have a tendency to read “Train up a child in the way he SHOULD go” and place a moral value judgment on the word “should.” If I say, “We SHOULD treat people with respect,” then it is clear that I mean we ought to treat people with respect because it is the morally right thing to do. Likewise, we read Proverbs 22:6 and we automatically think that it means that the way a child SHOULD go is God’s way, and to go another way is the morally wrong way to go. That is a true statement, but I do not think that is the way the Holy Spirit intended for us to use “should” in that verse.

The other way to use “should” is to say, “A round ball placed at the top of a hill SHOULD roll down the hill.” This is not a moral judgment. It’s an expression of a natural tendency. I believe that this was the intention of the translators in Proverbs 22:6 (and the meaning that best matches the original Hebrew text). In other words, the verse is telling what happens if parents train their child in the way he has a natural tendency to go. I would never presume to correct the King James translators, but I think the modern wording (versus the 1611 wording) would sound more like, “Train up a child according to his way…”

This changes the whole dynamic of the principle vs. promise question. Because now we are talking about a couple of additional options for understanding the verse. For one, it could be telling parents to watch our children to see what sort of natural tendencies and talents they appear to have, and then to encourage them along those lines. Then, when they are “old” they won’t “depart” from doing what they love to do and have been naturally gifted to do. Or (and this is the option I really think is correct, although it is admittedly the minority view among Bible scholars), because children are naturally sinful, the way they “should” go (apart from our correction), or the way they have a natural tendency to go, unless they are changed by God, is toward evil and sin. Therefore, the verse would be both a promise and principle, but primarily a warning for parents of the consequences of reinforcing children in their own sinful ways, until they get to the (“old”) age when it would be too late for us to influence them to change.

Now, I will admit that, while I do not hold to the “moral value” interpretation of “should,” in Proverbs 22:6, nearly all other Bible teachers historically HAVE held to that view, and if you are inclined to agree with them, I would only caution you not to adopt a casual view of dismissing what seem to be God’s promises. If Proverbs 22:6 is TRUE (and it certainly is, regardless of whether it is a technical promise or a technical principle), then no parents of grown, and yet wayward, children can shake a fist at God, and accuse Him of not keeping His Word. God’s standards are always higher than ours, and even the best parents in the world have been far from perfect, and need God’s wonderful and amazing grace if they are to even have a hope of bringing up children that glorify Him.

God vs. Sin (Part Two)

October 21, 2019 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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God is not disinterested in sin. As I pointed out in Part One, He actively opposes it. Here are some of the figurative ways the Bible describes how God deals with sin:

1. God subdues and drowns sin in the depth of the sea.

He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

Micah 7:19

To subdue something is to apprehend it, hold it down, control it, and keep it down. The “depths of the sea,” to an Old Testament Israelite, was a forbidden place, a place where no one would ever want to go. God throws sin into outer darkness, where the record of it against His people can not be retrieved or “brought up” again.

How does this image of God’s victory over sin help us? It reminds us to live our lives figuratively up in the open air of God’s presence, not down in the depth of darkness and despair.

2. God places sin beyond reach.

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:12

The joining of the east to the west is a geographical impossibility. These destinations are never connected. There is an infinity of distance between them, and that is the type of removal that God does with the guilt caused by our sins.

How does this image of God’s removal of sin help us? It reminds us that we are free to move in all directions in the grace of God. We may go to places that remind us of our sins and past temptations, but they are no longer in the same hemisphere that we occupy in Christ.

3. God washes sin away.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Isaiah 1:18

Even the strongest detergent can not remove ALL dinginess from a white garment once it has been stained, but the blood of Christ is stronger than the strongest detergent. It completely removes the stain of sin, and grants believers the pure white robe of Christ’s righteousness.

How does this help us? We don’t have to feel the shame of defilement or believe that we are too “dirty” or that we are covered with too many telling stains to be of service to God.

4. God throws sin behind His back and covers it up.

Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.

Isaiah 38:17

Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

Romans 4:7-8

While we have the comfort of knowing that – in Christ – our sins are behind us, here we are told that they are also behind God. He who covers his own sin will not prosper, but the person whose sins are covered by ANOTHER – specifically, by God – is truly blessed. He has placed them out of His view, back in what we think of as the past. We draw near to God, He draws near to us, and, because our sin is now behind Him, it is no longer between Him and us.

How does this help us? It reminds us that a life of Christian service is a life of moving forward. Things thrown behind us do not stand in our way. We are free to advance in our sanctification and out of our former comfort zones, as we stay active in serving Him. Everyone has a garbage can, but no one chooses to hang out near it. This is important in our relationships too. Getting hysterical is bad; getting historical is worse. Don’t retrieve things that God has thrown behind His back.

5. God blots out and forgets sin.

I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.

Isaiah 43:25

Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Colossians 2:14

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

Hebrews 8:12

This blotting-out has a connotation of an official notation made of and the satisfaction and cancellation of a debt in a bookkeeping or record-keeping context. Sin was taken by Jesus and nailed to His Cross. There it was covered by His blood and stamped “paid in full.” This is done not merely for our sakes, but for His own sake – His own glory. He divinely erases, cancels, and “forgets” the record of sin on our ledger and in His holy “books.”

How does this help us? We face an accuser who is quick to remind us of our sin, but God does not remember it. The official record has been erased as though it never existed. With a clean slate, we may serve the Lord with a clean conscience.

F. God expiates (takes away) sin.

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

John 1:29

God has thoroughly defeated sin. He has subdued it and drowned it in the depth of the sea. He has placed it beyond reach. He has washed it away. He has thrown it behind His back and covered it up. He has blotted it out and forgotten it.
He has expiated it by laying it upon Jesus who carried it away. He can therefore forgive us for it, demonstrating His grace, mercy, and love, while remaining holy, just, and righteous.

God vs. Sin (Part One)

October 4, 2019 at 9:13 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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We may define sin as the breaking of God’s law. Sin first showed up in God’s universe when Lucifer, in his pride, rebelled against God, inducing one third of the Heavenly host to join him. Sin appears for the first time in the earth very early in the Bible, as the same Lucifer, now Satan, in the form of a serpent, tempted Eve to disobey God in the Garden of Eden, and she in turn brought sin to Adam. He sinned too.

The word “sin” first occurs in Genesis 4:7: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” It plays a key role in the story of the Bible, and because it is our chief identification apart from Christ, and because it is the cause of the curse upon this world, including death, disease, misery, and the exhibition of God’s wrath against His creatures, it is a serious foe, opposing the glory of God, and one with which God must deal.

One little sin caused God to cast His entire “very good” universe into moral darkness and decay. That’s one example of how “bad” sin really is. Another example also comes early on in the Bible:

And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;

Genesis 18:20

Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.

Genesis 19:24-28

Because God is just, He can not simply ignore sin, and, although we know He forgives sins, there must be some basis other than pure mercy for God to deal with sin in mercy while remaining just.

He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.

Proverbs 17:15

This is the great dilemma. God could “set aside” sin, in a manner of speaking, for a time, but His just and righteous wrath could not be done away with, only stored up.

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

Acts 17:30-31

The “winking” described Acts 17:30 is not a cutesy type of approval. It’s not an inside joke whereby God acknowledges that “boys will be boys” or that “sinners will be sinners, so what am I gonna do?” What it describes is a sort of judicial “overlooking” for the time being with the understanding that what is currently being allowed WILL be dealth with at the proper time.

When my oldest daughter was still learning to walk, my wife and I took her grocery shopping with us, and, one time, she wandered down the wine aisle without us noticing it while we were having a discussion. Before we knew it, she had hooked her finger into the glass ring on the neck of a huge jug of wine, lifted it from a bottom shelf, and begun precariously toddling toward us. Sure enough, before we could reach her, the jug slipped from her finger and smashed on the floor, sending dark red wine and shards of glass flowing in a rapidly expanding ring. Panicked over the thought that I had let my one-year-old break a bottle of wine, compounded by the embarassment that someone might think my wife and I were near the wine aisle because we were there to purchase wine (we weren’t!), my temptation was to “wink at” this accident – to overlook it and leave quietly, trusting some store employee to discover it and clean it up on his/her own. Thankfully, even back in those days, I had enough integrity to report the spill to the store manager and offer to pay for the damage. This is perhaps not that great of an analogy for what the Bible describes when it talks about God allowing the sins of his Old Testament people to be “passed over” until the day of Christ’s atonement, but it does give some idea of the meaning behind the idea of God “winking at the time of ignorance,” before we move on to some of the specific ways that God does deal with sin, which we will look at in Part Two.

How to Handle Unexpected Hostility

September 16, 2019 at 4:45 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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And there was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the man was very great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats: and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel.

I Samuel 25:2

This man, who probably had two separate homes (one in Maon and one in Carmel), was extremely rich. Some wealthy people are generous – and some are mean and stingy. In the historical period described in I Samuel, if there was ever a time when it would be wise to approach a rich man to ask for a favor, it would be during the shearing time – a time of celebration and prosperity.

Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb.

I Samuel 25:3

What a contrast! This evil and rude and mean-spirited man had a beautiful and gracious wife. He was a fool, and she was known for wisdom. He was “churlish” – translated from a Hebrew word which brings to mind a mean dog that bites the hand that would feed it, and is a pun on the name “Caleb,” which in Hebrew sounds like the word for dog. How could a man like Nabal obtain a wife like Abigail? If you know me and my wife, you are probably thinking I should know the answer to that, since it describes me and her! The Bible doesn’t tell us, though. We are left to assume that Nabal changed after the wedding, or that it was an arranged marriage, without Abigail having had a say in the matter.

And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal did shear his sheep.

I Samuel 23:4

David and his men needed food and supplies. Not knowing Nabal’s temperament, David believed this would be a good time to call in the favor implicitly owed to him by Nabal, but instead of charging into the shearing party with 600 unruly soldiers, he exercised discretion and sent ahead ten young, inoffensive messengers.

And David sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name: And thus shall ye say to him that liveth in prosperity, Peace be both to thee, and peace be to thine house, and peace be unto all that thou hast. And now I have heard that thou hast shearers: now thy shepherds which were with us, we hurt them not, neither was there ought missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel. Ask thy young men, and they will shew thee. Wherefore let the young men find favour in thine eyes: for we come in a good day: give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thine hand unto thy servants, and to thy son David.

I Samuel 25:5-8

There was an understanding that the good service done to Nabal’s shepherds in protecting them and his flocks, and in being very scrupulous not to take anything for themselves without permission, would be rewarded in a culture where the custom of hospitality toward strangers was of the utmost honor.

And when David’s young men came, they spake to Nabal according to all those words in the name of David, and ceased. And Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master.

I Samuel 25:9-10

Verse 14 says that Nabal “railed” on them, which is translated from a Hebrew word that means to screech at someone in fury like a predatory bird swooping down on its prey. It is difficult to overstate how insulting this was toward David, especially after he had just had an opportunity to take Saul’s life, and had refused to do it.

Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be? So David’s young men turned their way, and went again, and came and told him all those sayings.

I Samuel 25:11-12

David was a complex character. He was a man after God’s own heart, known for his passion and zeal for God, but passionate and zealous people often have a hard time controlling that passion and zeal. David was someone who rejoiced at good news with his whole heart – as many of the Psalms attest – but he was also someone who could react very violently at bad news – as many of the OTHER Psalms, along with some of David’s actions – attest. When he received word of Nabal’s insults and his refusal to pay what David felt he owed, he did not hesitate.

Sometimes it’s hard to read tone into Biblical dialogue, but it’s not at all hard to hear David’s attitude, and imagine him speaking through gritted teeth with flexed muscles and furrowed brow in this verse:

And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff.

I Samuel 25:13

David angry at Nabal

While this was going on, one of Nabal’s servants had the foresight to see where things were heading, and, when David’s servants left to report back to David, this servant, acting on his own initiative, went and found Nabal’s wife, Abigail, and told her what kind of trouble Nabal had stirred up for himself.

Just as David acted decisively and without hesitation when told of Nabal’s offensiveness, Abigail acted just as quickly and decisively – but with a far different motive and intention. Whereas David had strapped on his sword, Abigail packed a picnic!

Then Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses.

I Samuel 35:18

That sounds like a huge amount of food prepared in a short period of time. As she went forth, the Lord’s invisible hand (what we call His providence) was at work. He arranged it so that David, bearing down on Nabal’s estate, ran smack into Abigail at just the right moment.

And when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, And fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid. Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him: but I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send.

I Samuel 25:23-25

A superficial reading makes it sound like she was being disloyal to her own husband, pointing out that his name was well-deserved, but in reality she was doing him a great service – albeit behind his back.

Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, seeing the LORD hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal. And now this blessing which thine handmaid hath brought unto my lord, let it even be given unto the young men that follow my lord. I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the LORD, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days. Yet a man is risen to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul: but the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the LORD thy God; and the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as out of the middle of a sling. And it shall come to pass, when the LORD shall have done to my lord according to all the good that he hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel; That this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself: but when the LORD shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid.

I Samuel 25:26-31

There is tremendous wisdom in this speech, and it is not flattery. It is truth: David would one day reign over Israel, and the act of vengeance he was on the verge of committing would have been a stain on his reputation that would have hindered his abililty to rule, as well as showing a lack of trust in the Lord to fight his battles for him.

And David said to Abigail, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand.

I Samuel 25:32-3

We can take a few lessons from the account of Nabal, David, and Abigail:

1. Don’t assume that people are good-natured.

David took it for granted that his good service toward Nabal would be returned in kind. We don’t have to resort to gross pessimism, but we do need to remember the doctrine of man’s depravity, so that we are not caught off-guard when someone responds to our kindness with rudeness or hostility.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Romans 3:10-11

2. When you encounter unexpected hostility, don’t respond with rash anger in return.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.

James 1:19-20

There are times when righteous indignation is the appropriate and even God-honoring response, but a cooling-off period in which we seek the Lord in prayer and Bible-consultation helps us to exercise wisdom.

3. Don’t let your mouth write a check your provision can’t cash.

Nabal talked very boldly and arrogantly and provocatively to David’s servants, but he was ill-prepared to deal with the consequences.

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:28-33

4. Peacemakers enjoy God’s favor.

Abigail saved both both men from a tragic consequence – at least temporarily.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Matthew 5:9

Making true peace involves sharing the truth, and it involves self-sacrifice. Abigail took a big risk intercepting David, but she needed to share the truth that ultimate vengeance belongs to God, not us. David’s change of mind turned out to be the right course of action, and Nabal did not escape God’s justice.

And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken: wherefore she told him nothing, less or more, until the morning light. But it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died. And when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the LORD, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept his servant from evil: for the LORD hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head. And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife.

I Samuel 25:36-39

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Romans 12:19

Abigail’s actions remind us in a way of Jesus, Who rescued us from the wrath and the shame we deserved because of our hostility toward God and each other. If you have been rescued from the power of sin, and from even greater sin than you would have committed apart from God’s providence and intercession, then praise Him. If you are still in your sins,  seize this opportunity right now – as did David – to turn from your present course, and turn toward Jesus. Repent, trust Him, ask Him to take away your sin and guilt – and live.

Where to Find Courage

August 28, 2019 at 11:28 am | Posted in Joshua, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying, Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.

Joshua 1:1-4

Moses had been used by God to lead God’s people out of bondage in Egypt. He had led them through the Red Sea. When their disobedience had caused God send them wandering into the wilderness rather than entering into the promised land, Moses had led them in the wilderness – always subject to God’s guidance, protection, and provision. All of the Israelites who had come out of Egypt and gone into the wilderness for 40 years had died – except for three: Moses himself, Joshua, and Caleb.

Joshua had been Moses’s chief military general, his close friend, and a loyal helper. When loyalty among the people had been in short supply, Joshua was the exception. He loved Moses, and, although Joshua was no longer the young man he had been when the people left Egypt, he still looked up to, and admired, Moses. Perhaps you have or have had a spiritual mentor or even sort of a hero like this in your life.

Now Moses died, too, leaving Joshua to lead in his place. How this must have devastated Joshua! Of course, God’s plans are not dependent upon even the greatest of human beings, and Joshua, although I’m sure he FELT alone, was far from BEING alone. God gave Joshua a tremendous promise.

I hope as you read this that you have been born again. If you have, then this is a promise for you, too, and it is a promise that we all desperately need, whether we realize it or not:

There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

Joshua 1:5 (emphasis added)

This promise alone would enable Joshua to do what the Lord was about to command him to do. The land across the Jordan River was not uninhabited. Spies had previously gone there to scout the terrain, and they brought back reports. Tribes and nations of warlike people lived there: Hittites and Hivites and Jebusites and Cannanites and parasites and mosquito bites and tighty whites and all sorts of less-than-friendly people. Some of them were huge warriors, giant in stature, living in walled and fortified cities designed to defeat and annihilate anyone who would challenge them. Joshua would need the promise God gave him in Verse 5 in order to do what God commanded him to do in Verse 6:

Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

Joshua 1:6

Courage is often misunderstood. We contrast courage with fear and we believe they are opposites, but they are not. Courage does not cancel out fear, nor vice versa. Fear must be present for courage to exist. Fear is the sine qua non of courage. The Bible does not condemn the existence of reasonable feelings of fear, but it does exhort us to find the courage to OVERCOME fear. The Bible does not promise us the absence of fearful circumstances, but it does encourage us to act in faith despite our fear, rather than responding with paralysis or retreat.

Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

Joshua 1:6 (emphasis added)

1. The first place to find courage is in the promises of God.

What God has decreed will come to pass. He is not only faithful in character – which makes it impossible to for Him to lie and break His Word – but He has the omnipotent power to perform what He has promised.

There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.

Joshua 21:45

And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.

Joshua 23:14

Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

I Thessalonians 5:24

Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.

Jeremiah 1:12

The Lord stands outside of time at the place of promise and at the place of fulfillment. He comprehensively and minutely supervises His promises so that they come to pass perfectly in His impeccable timing and through His brilliantly organized, ordered, and executed circumstances. By remembering and believing in the demonstrated trustworthiness of God, you will find courage to overcome fear.

2. The second place to find courage is in obedience to the Lord’s commands.

Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

Joshua 1:7-8 (emphasis added)

We tend to think of God’s commands of righteousness as burdensome and fearful things – as though they are given to us as a trap, so that, when we inevitably stumble into disobedience, God can rejoice in shaming or punishing us. This is not accurate, though. God’s commands are given to us for our safety and comfort. They are the commands of a loving Father, not a cruel and sadistic taskmaster.

But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Joshua 22:5 (emphasis added)

O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.

Psalm 119:97-98

God’s love and care for us are not at odds with His desire for our obedience and submission to Him. Our obedience and submission glorify Him, yes, but they are objectively the best things for us, too. We were expressly created to glorify Him, and, in doing so, we find our greatest fulfillment and freedom. Obedience to the commands given by God to you in the Bible will assure you that God loves you, and will give you the courage to overcome the fear that the world tries to use against you when it tells you that sometimes you just HAVE to cheat and disobey God to escape trouble or to prosper.

3. The third place to find courage is in the presence of the Lord even in our trials.

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

Joshua 1:9 (emphasis added)

Joshua had lost Moses. Moses would not – could not – be with him any longer “withsoever he would goest.” No human being can give you the assurance of constant loyalty, consistency, or steadfastness, but God can – and He does. The promise of Jesus that so many of us like to claim (Hebrews 13:5) does not mean that He will start out with us, then forget about us for a while, and then come rushing back just in the nick of time (although it may seem that way from our sinful, lack-of-faith perspective). No, this is a promise to attach us to Himself permanently and to be there in the midst of our worst trials and troubles.

You will experience no greater pain or shame than what He experienced in the Cross, and He is able to comfort you and fortify you so that you can continue to trust Him through absolutely anything.

Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:34-39

When you feel fear, don’t try to deny it. Don’t opt for some distraction. Don’t give up and retreat. And don’t let the devil intimidate you into paralysis and inaction. Be courageous and strong by:

1. Remembering the strength of God’s promises;
2. Remembering that God has given you an assignment that is worthy of obedience;
3. Remembering that God is with you and will not forsake you.

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