Loud and Clear

March 25, 2020 at 11:10 am | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , ,

In Chapter One, Jeremiah was called and commissioned by God as a prophet to the kingdom of Judah. He was warned that this would not be a pleasant task, but he was also encouraged by the dual promise of God’s Word and His presence. We, too, have these same promises – in some ways to a greater extent: not just periodic revelations and instructions, but the full Book. And not just an intellectual and faith-based experience of God’s presence, but the constant in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit.

We DO have those promises and assurances, but we DO NOT have the promise that our attempts to speak “prophetically” will be well-received, nor that they might not put us in danger. Just like Jeremiah, we should expect skepticism, anger, rejection, struggle, and even battle.

Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.

Jeremiah 1:17

Girding up the loins was what men in Bible times did when things were about to get real: for running or fighting or working.

For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.

Jeremiah 1:18

A defenced city is a place of protection, but the walls do get battered.

And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.

Jeremiah 1:19

After giving Jeremiah the visions or illustrations of the urgency of his mission (God’s judgment was right at hand), He told him him to go right to the “heart” of the problem.

Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.

Jeremiah 2:1-2

Jerusalem was the capital of Judah, and the geographical capital of God’s Kingdom on earth. There was no “time in the minors” for Jeremiah; he was sent straight to the big leagues. Nor was there any “spying out” period; no “getting the lay of the land.” The command to “cry in the ears” was a command to get right in their faces, to be loud and bold. We think of proximity to the ear as an occasion for whispering, but Jeremiah was told to YELL right in their ears, and he started by delivering the preamble to a legal declaration by God against the people and the nation. This was like an indictment or the service of a lawsuit. It began with the history of the unfaithfulness of God’s covenant people.

Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord. Hear ye the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel: Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

Jeremiah 2:3-5

God’s Sugar-Free Calling

March 10, 2020 at 10:10 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , ,

This is what God said to Jeremiah:

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Jeremiah 1:5

Previously, I analyzed Jeremiah’s response:

Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.

Jeremiah 1:6

And here is God’s response to Jeremiah’s response:

But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.

Jeremiah 1:7

“Don’t say, ‘I’m a child,’” said God. God can not be fooled by our pleas of incompetence. In reality we are way more unfit for the work of the Lord than we even know or are willing to admit, but God was telling Jeremiah that because He was sending him, He would also equip him, and that, because Jeremiah would be speaking for God, God would tell him what to say. This is reason number 3411 why we need to be reading our Bible. How will we know what to say? How will we know what to do? How grieved the Lord must sometimes be to hear His children pleading, “Lord, please speak to me,” in a prayer of worried discontent, or saying, “Lord, speak to my heart. I want to see You,” when our Bibles are right there!

Did God love Jeremiah? Of course He did! There’s no greater love than to be chosen by God – to be elected as one of His servants – and then to be given His Word and the promise of His presence with us, but God didn’t say, “It’s okay, I know you’re nervous. It won’t be that bad. I’ll get you a speaking engagement with a friendly audience.” No, He told Jeremiah:

Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 1:8

He told him not to be afraid of their faces, because their faces were going to be mad. Their faces would be “against him,” but God promised to be with him and to DELIVER him. Deliverance presupposes danger and difficulty and even the threat of death. The sine qua non for deliverance is captivity or threats of bodily harm.

God never sugarcoats His calling. He never uses a bait and switch sales pitch. He never covers up the crown of thorns while promising a rose garden. The call to follow God is a call to die to ourselves, to take up a cross, and to follow Him in a world that, really, at the most basic level, hates Him and His message. What building contractor starts a building without first counting the cost? What King declares war without reviewing His troops and the prospect of great losses in the attempt at victory?

God went on to tell Jeremiah this:

See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.

Jeremiah 1:10

This was going to be hard work: pulling down nations, destroying cities, rooting out sin in the heart, building in places where building would be treacherous, planting in rocky, dry, hostile terrain. This list of metaphors is not the prosaic, to-everything-there’s-a-season, rolling-on-the-river-of-life, just-accepting-what-comes-next list that calls to mind the Book of Ecclesiastes. No, this this is a call to war, to battle, to shake the foundations of the mightiest civilizations in the world.

Blooming and Boiling

February 18, 2020 at 5:00 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

When I taught the Book of Jeremiah in Sunday School, I called the study “A Prophetic Heart Attack,” partly in reference to Jeremiah’s shock and awe when the Word of the Lord came to Him to tell him that he would be a prophet, but mostly in reference to one of Jeremiah’s over-arching themes: He was ordained by God to attack the hearts of the people – not to just try to get them to reform outwardly, but to call them to an inward revival – a true revival of the heart. And he did this by “attacking” or exposing the true evil that lurks in the heart of every man before he finds God, or when he wanders from God.

Jeremiah was initially afraid to speak for God, but God encouraged him by promising to be with him and by promising to give him the words to say. You and I are not prophets in the way the Jeremiah was, but do we have the same duty, in a sense? To boldly speak God’s Words and to warn our neighbors of God’s judgment? We sure do. And if so, do we have the same assurances of God’s help? We have His promise to be with us, and we have the promise that He has given us His Word in the Bible.

God had some huge plans for Jeremiah’s ministry, including a command to “throw down” (Jeremiah 1:10). When I was in school, “throw down” was slang for fighting: “Dude, you broke my Der Kommissar cassette! Meet me in the parking lot at 3:00 – we’re gonna throw down!” Many of us today, although hopefully less inclined toward physical violence, are more than ready to “throw down” when someone offends us, messes with our children, tries to cheat us out of a bargain, or makes a political statement with which we disagree. But how willing are we to “throw down” what Satan has built up in our own lives? How anxious are we to “throw down” the vain thoughts that we have entertained in our minds in opposition to the Kingdom of Christ (II Corinthians 10:5)?

God did not spend much time coddling Jeremiah. There are a number of reasons for this, but one was that God wanted Jeremiah to understand that there was an urgency to his mission.

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.

Jeremiah 1:11

almond branch

This may have been in a vision, or it may have been something truly observed by Jeremiah in his surroundings. Jeremiah’s home town, Anathoth, is known for almonds to this day. The Hebrew word for “almond” was similar to the word for “hasten to perform it” (“SEE to it”) or “watch.”

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

Jeremiah 1:12

In the original language, this was a play on words similar to our song, “I’m looking over a four leaf clover, that I overlooked before.” God let Jeremiah know that He would be very hands-on in supervising the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecies and Jeremiah’s ministry.

Do you find God’s omniscience – and His immanence – comforting or disturbing? He is watching you. Is He pleased with what He sees? This is a sobering thought, but it can also be a reassuring thought. It is important to remember that His disposition toward Christians is one of both requiring and encouraging us to do right. He is not anxious to see us do wrong so that He can smack us down with glee, so the primary meaning of the almond tree metaphor was that, just as the almond tree was the first plant to bloom after the winter, and is often a prediction of how the rest of the harvest will go, so, too, was God’s judgment against His own people closer than it had ever been.

And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.

Jeremiah 1:13-14

boiling cauldron

This second prophecy was another image of urgency, although, again, it’s something that anyone of Jeremiah’s day would have recognized as a familiar sight: a kettle boiling over, seething and spilling out its scalding contents. Here it is a reference to judgment coming from the north, as though God had been restraining the enemy army of the Chaldeans from over-running Judah, and now He was about to allow them to tip over or boil over and conquer His people, killing them, or as we know from hindsight, taking them away into captivity.

Open Up and Say “Ah”

January 31, 2020 at 3:47 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

There have been many Jeremiahs, but two Jeremiahs really stand out in the history of the world. One was the famous prophet of the Book of Jeremiah in the Bible. The other one was a bullfrog featured in the 1971 hit song, “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night, which starts starts off with the lyric, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine.” Okay, I will admit I am little biased about the latter Jeremiah due to the fact that I performed that song, to much consternation, in front of my K4 class at the First Baptist Church preschool back in the day, along with dance moves that were more enthusiastic than graceful.

For now, we will stick with discussing the Biblical Jeremiah, whose book is found in the Old Testament section of major prophets between Isaiah and Lamentations. It was written by the Holy Spirit through Jeremiah himself.

The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.

Jeremiah 1:1-2

Jeremiah’s father was a priest, so this means that Jeremiah probably thought he was going to be a priest also, but the Lord had other plans for his life. The Lord spoke to him directly in Josiah’s 13th year as king, when Jeremiah was probably about 20 years old. The life of a priest was not necessarily easy, but it could be very mundane: teaching the law, overseeing temple sacrifices, inspecting lepers and other clean and unclean citizens, and a steady income. It was a noble profession, but it dealt much more with external religion than with the hearts of men and women. The job a prophet was way different.

Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Jeremiah 1:4-5

Prophets were often unpopular. They had to say exactly what God told them to say. Their lives were unpredictable. They didn’t get a steady paycheck, or even room and board. Their provision came directly from God, but that requires more palpable trust. Additionally, prophets were needed when the people were disobeying and getting involved in idolatry. Whereas priests were concerned with external religion, prophets spoke directly to the heart. In a time when God’s people had forsaken His law, Jeremiah was supposed to tell them the truth about God’s justice, wrath, faithfulness to His promises, and, yes, His love.

In Jeremiah’s day, God’s people were engaging in fornication as a means of pagan worship, they were doing this in order to promote fertility in their agriculture, and they were sacrificing their own children. You might think, “How barbaric!” but I’m afraid their wickedness would not hold a candle to us today. Our culture promotes fornication (sex outside of marriage), which results in unwanted pregnancies, and, therefore, sadly, sometimes abortion and other complications and and cruelties, and this is now considered okay in order to keep the population down and protect the environment. The devil does not have lot of new tricks. He’s been lying and tempting people with the same sins since the beginning.

God told Jeremiah that He knew him before he was created: before he was “formed in the belly.” God chose Jeremiah way before Jeremiah even had any consciousness, much less an ability to decide whether he would choose God. God set him apart for a special purpose. He was sanctified to serve God with his life (“and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee,”). God chose his career (vocation) for him (“and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”). You and I need to recognize those same truths about ourselves.

God knew you before He made you. He chose you for himself before you were born. He is in charge of your life, so, whatsoever you do, you are called to do it for Him. But what was Jeremiah’s response?

Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.

Jeremiah 1:6

He did not receive this news with pride or even confidence. How would you receive it? Do you like to speak in front of large groups of people? How about when you know they are going to absolutely hate what you have to say? How about speaking before “the nations” – the whole world?

Jeremiah said, “Ah.” How do we read this? Did he sound like a patient having his tonsils examined by a doctor?

tongue depressor

Was he nearly speechless? Was the “ah” a gagging sound, an attempt to prove he wouldn’t be a good spokesman-prophet? Or was he saying “ah” in the tone of Sherlock Holmes finding a clue” “Ah-ha!”? Perhaps he sounded philosophical, like Confucius rubbing his beard thoughtfully and saying “ahhhh.” I don’t think so.

Like many of us, if suddenly God came to us and said, “Forget all your life’s plans, I need to you to get up and give a speech to the whole world telling them exactly what they don’t want to hear, and, by the way, as a prophet of God, if you get anything wrong, you have to die,” we would probably say “Ahhhhh!” in a terrified exclamation like the wide-eyed and open-mouthed passenger on the world’s scariest roller coaster.

roller coaster scream

That is probably closer to what the word means in the original Hebrew. It was used to express a grunt of pain. I hope you and I have not gotten so comfortable with the Word of God that it no longer produces in us a guttural, primal reaction – yes, even an emotional response – a palpable and passionate cry, depending on the condition of our heart when we read or hear it, that God is not pleased… or that God loves us… or that He has called us to the greatest service that we could never deserve… or that He would send His Beloved Son to die for a sinful worthless wicked wretch like me.

Where to Find Courage

August 28, 2019 at 11:28 am | Posted in Joshua, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Throw Down

April 22, 2013 at 10:14 am | Posted in Common Expressions, Jeremiah | 7 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Lord, I pray that Your Holy Spirit would work in the lives of people and in their circumstances to bring them to a place of confrontation concerning their souls and their standing with You. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.

Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s time to ‘throw down?'”

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcR9wQ5xPDppXSAf4yeQtTA6PZVDfyUMSdbfacPL0tNb-_N5I8g2

This a colloquial expression meaning that it is time to fight. Originally, it meant a challenge to a gun duel or some type of physical confrontation (“throw down the gauntlet”) but these days it can refer to any type of competition – even a barbeque cook-off.

You can find the expression several times in the Bible, but there it usually has a connotation of destroying pagan altars, places of worship, or positions of worldly power: Judges 2:2; 6:25; Jeremiah 1:10; Jeremiah 31:28; Ezekiel 16:39; Micah 5:11; Malachi 1:4.

Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak. Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord. Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.

Jeremiah 1:4-10 (emphasis added)

God knew Jeremiah before he was born. He not only formed him in his mother’s womb, but He already had a special job for him to do.

Jeremiah had objections to God’s command: “I am a child. I can’t speak. I am afraid.”

The Lord touched him, and put words in his mouth. Why? So he could build up a name for himself? So he could be Jeremiah the famous and well-liked prophet? So he could have a Holy Ghost conference and show off his power? So he could get wealthy? No. God set up Jeremiah to root out, to destroy, to “throw down.”

When God calls us to do something, we need to be obedient. Our answer should be “yes.” Not “no,” or even “why?” Jeremiah was humble, but he wasn’t disobedient. It is in our human nature to seek explanations, but it’s easy for us to allow “evaluation” to become an excuse for delay. I had a professor in law school who liked to call on us in class when we least expected it. The result was often a blank stare and an open mouth on the part of the students. He didn’t like that. He preferred a quick answer, even if it was an incorrect answer, to no answer at all. He often referred to a “fatally logical chicken” which starved to death when it found itself poised exactly equidistant between two equally appetizing pans of grain.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSy6WcjRzYFg0LNllPzjWjd5grDjgcNJoz23JfbWjMn7o9sfHeg8Q

All too often, as fallen sinners, we are all too ready to “throw down” for the wrong reasons: someone gets on our nerves; someone offends us; someone cheats us out of something we feel like we deserved. When God tells us to “throw down” we might need to throw our hands down, and throw ourselves down on our knees, and throw ourselves wholeheartedly into what God wants us to do.

The Trap of Leaving Our Limits

February 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Posted in Traps of Lawless Living | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

People are not saved from the penalty of sin by obeying laws or keeping rules. However, Christians (those who have already been saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ) should love God’s laws and should seek to avoid the traps that come with living as though God has not given us laws to obey. In this series of lessons, we will identify several traps of “lawless living” by looking at the account of Samson in the Book of Judges.

Samson’s death occurred when he pulled down a Philistine temple with himself and thousands of Philistines inside. Samson, who was empowered by the Holy Spirit, had the strength to make the most stable structures unstable, but, in a twist of irony, he himself was one of the most unstable men in the whole Bible. According to Scripture, the source of instability in a man is double-mindedness.

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

James 1:8

Those who have the singleness of mind that comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit need not be so double-minded. A single-minded Christian will respect God-ordained boundaries, whereas a double-minded person crosses boundaries at his peril.

Samson was born in Zorah, a city in Dan, near the Philistine border.

And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not.

Judges 13:2

He was one of those babies in the Bible where his birth had been foretold to his mother or his parents, like Isaac (Abraham and Sarah); Samuel (Hannah); and Jesus (Mary and Joseph). Some servants of God are chosen in a special way before their birth.

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Jeremiah 1:4

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,

Galatians 1:15

In Samson’s case the angel appeared to Manoah’s wife, and then to both of them together. Although Manoah’s wife was thought to be barren, the angel told her that the child was to be a Nazarite from birth. John the Baptist is another example of someone who was chosen by God to be a life-long Nazarite. A Nazarite vow was normally a voluntary vow for a stated period of time, but for Samson, it meant that he was supposed to refrain from drinking wine or strong drink all his days.

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the Lord, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. All the days that he separateth himself unto the Lord he shall come at no dead body.

Numbers 6:2-6

He wasn’t allowed to touch dead bodies or get a haircut, either. It is helpful to make a distinction between Jesus, who was a Nazarene (from the town of Nazareth), but not a Nazarite (which means consecrated or separated under those particular Old Testament requirements). These restrictions were Samson’s boundaries. Physically, he crossed the boundary into Philistia, not to serve God, but to satisfy his own appetites. Spiritually, he crossed the boundary of his own Nazarite vow for the same reasons. He went into a vineyard. He had a wedding feast involving wine. He touched the dead carcass of a lion he had killed.

Do we respect our boundaries as Christians? Or are we double-minded and unstable like Samson? Often we excuse ourselves by thinking that we don’t want to really do any harm – that we just want to have a little fun. We think we can just step over our boundaries a little.

And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.

Judges 14:1

Samson went down to Timnath, not to make war against the Philistines, which was his calling, but to look for a woman. We might say he was “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Let us remember that God has ordained boundaries for our own safety. If we cross over into sin, we lose our ability to determine the consequences.


Entries and comments feeds.