A Quiver Full of Arrows

Behold, children are a heritage (gift NASB) from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Psalm 127:3).

The reason that humans can reproduce is because God gave them this ability.  He could have made them without this ability. However, He chose to bless man with the gift of reproduction.

Children are to be valued.  They are a gift (heritage) and a benefit (reward) from the LORD.

He blesses us with children. However, they ultimately belong to Him (Ezekiel 18:4).  We are stewards of this beautiful gift. This point should not be missed.

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.  Happy is the man who has quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:4-5).

The idea is that children can be a great protection one in his old age.  Adam Clark comments, “Each child will, in the process of time, be a defense and a support to the family, as arrows in the quiver of a skillful and strong archer; the more he has, the more… redoubted he shall be” (Clark’s Commentary, Vol. 3, p. 644).  Matthew Henry comments, “The family that has a large stock of children is like a quiver full of arrows, of different sizes we may suppose, but all of us one time or another; children of different capacities and inclinations may be several ways, serviceable to the family” (Matthew Henry Commentary, Vol. 3, p. 602).

Children are to be of help to their parents (1 Timothy 5:4, 8, 16; Matthew 15:3-6).  Zondervan’s Pictorial Dictionary says of the city gate, “The gate was the place where people met to hear an important announcement (2 Chronicles 32:6; Jeremiah 7:2; 17:19-27) or the reading of the law (Nehemiah 8:1, 3).  Or where the elders transacted legal business (Deuteronomy 16:18; 21:18-20; Joshua 20:4; Ruth 4:1, 2, 11)” (p. 300).  The point is that children can protect their aged parents from being taken advantage of in business and legal transactions.

However, children like arrows must be properly aimed to be of use.  It is up to the parent to: “Train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6).  This should be done from childhood, so that they may be of use later in life.

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No Rejoicing

“It is good for Christians to rejoice.  We have much in which to rejoice.  Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again, I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

However, there are some things in which we should not rejoice.  We should not rejoice in things which are contrary to God’s will.  Our affections need to be brought into line with God’s word.  Thomas Warren has remarked, “The true view… involves the recognition that there is a place for the senses (the physical side of man), there is a place for feelings (the emotions, the volitional side of man), and there is a place for the rational side of man (the use of reason)… But all of these things must be used in connection with the supernatural revelation from God to man (the Bible)” (Warren, Logic and The Bible, p.39).  Let us notice some things in which we should not rejoice…

1.  We should not rejoice when our enemies fall. 

The proverb reads, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles” (Proverbs 24:17).  Rejoicing over the destruction of one’s personal enemy is not righteous behavior (Job 31:29).  We are to show kindness to our personal enemies (Proverbs 25:21 cf. Romans 12:19-21; Leviticus 19:7-8, cf. Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:14).

However, there are times when rejoicing is appropriate. (a) It is appropriate to rejoice when justice is done (Proverbs 11:10).  Hence, the rejoicing of Proverbs 24:17 is, it seems, rejoicing for events outside of justice.  (b) It is appropriate to rejoice in the justice of God (Exodus 15; Deuteronomy 32:43). (c) It may be appropriate to rejoice in the battlefield victory over national enemies (Psalm 58:10 cf. 68:22-23).  Tom Wacaster comments, “There is nothing in the verse that might suggest a personal vendetta on the part of the Psalmist.  God’s saints have, through the centuries, sought Divine judgment upon the wicked.  The fact that the ‘righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance’ is no indication the derived pleasure from punishment (or suffering B.H.) inflicted upon evil doers” (Wacaster, The Songs And Devotions of David, Vol. 3, p. 123).  This is about justice and not sadism.

Proverbs 24:17 is teaching that we should not be filled with hatred, so filled that –  we enjoy hearing about the misfortunes of a personal enemy.  For example: I should not be rejoicing to hear that my personal enemy is dying of cancer.

2.  We should not primarily rejoice in our deeds and accomplishments in the Lord.

Luke recorded, “Then the seventy returned with joy, saying ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.’  And He said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I give you authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.  Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:17-20).

Their deeds had value.  Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:17).  J.W. McGarvey comments, “In their successes Jesus saw Satan falling from lofty heights with the swiftness of lightning” (McGarvey, The Fourfold Gospel, p. 473).  Burt Groves comments, “As they commanded Satan’s unclean spirits Jesus saw Satan in defeat… surely as the gospel is preached today and sinners converts to Christ, Satan continues to suffer loss” (Groves, The Gospel According to Luke Commentary, p. 114).

However, there was something greater; and it’s in this that they were to rejoice.  J.W. McGarvey comments, “Your joy in visible and temporal success, and in the subjection to you of the powers of evil, is not to be compared to the joy that you have the prospect of heaven” (McGarvey, 474).  Burt Groves comments, “Personally they were to be blessed for more in heaven than in serving Jesus in that miraculous work on earth” (Groves, p. 114).

Another thought: It is possible that this is an implicit warning.  It is possible to do many great things, on this earth, for the Lord, and still be lost (see Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 13:1-3). Think about Judas. Maintaining a proper relationship with God is even more important, then the accomplishments in which we may be tempted to boast.

3.  We should not rejoice in iniquity. 

Love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in truth (1 Corinthians 13:6).  Moreover, those without Biblical love will, spiritually speaking, profit nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Some people enjoy sin.  The are entertained by it.  They enjoy engaging in it, and hearing about it (Psalm 50:18; Proverbs 2:14; Romans 1:32; Ephesians 5:3-4).  Alas, sometimes Christians behave no differently, or with little difference, than the world in their morals.

However, God’s people are to be different. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).  Peter said, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against your soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evil doers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12). May we dare to be different in bold colors and not in pale pastels.

4.  We should rejoice in our own work, and not in another’s.

Paul wrote, “But let one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  For each one shall bear his own load” (Galatians 6:4-5).

The context concerns envious comparisons (Galatians 5:26 cf. 6:1-5).  J.W. McGarvey comments, “But let each prove his own work instead of criticizing and judging the work of others, and then shall he have glory in himself alone, and not because he seems superior to his neighbor by comparison of his work with that of his neighbor.  And it behooves us to be concerned about our own work, and to thus test it, for each one of us shall bear his own load of duty and accountability, for which alone he shall be called to answer in the judgment (McGarvey, – Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians and Romans, p. 285).  One does not become a saint by another’s sin, or shortcoming; neither, does one live the Christian life through another.  We each will be held responsible for self.

5.  We should not rejoice if we should mourn.

James wrote, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Lament and mourn and weep!  let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:8-10).

Notice how these people are described.  They are sinners.  They are sinners in behavior (hands = physical behavior).  They are sinners in their thoughts (double-minded = not fully devoted to God). They are not humble.

A change was needed.  Guy N. Woods comments, “Those whose hands are stained with sin, and whose lives are polluted by the corruption of the world, are in no position to laugh and experience joy.  Instead, they ought to mourn over their waywardness, and fall at the feet of Jesus for mercy” (Woods, A Commentary on the Epistle of James, p. 233). “Godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10).  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

How is your life before God?  Are you humbly serving Him?

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Rejoicing

Emotions have a place in the lives of the godly.  Let’s consider some things which should bring us joy.

1.  David worshipped with joy.

He wrote, “I will praise You, O LORD with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.  I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2).  The word “rejoice” appears in some form 66 times in the book of Psalms.  The word “joy” appears in some form 34 times in the book of Psalms.  Consider Psalm 95:1-2 – “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD!  Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving.  Let us shout joyfully to Him psalms.”

Worship is to be in both spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  Worship is not to be “in truth” only (John 4:24 cf. John 17:17).  It is to be “in spirit” (John 4:24 cf. Joshua 24:14).  Worship should involve the “whole heart” (Psalm 9:1; 111:1; 138:1).

Is this the manner in which we worship?  Guy N. Woods asked: “How can we expect to enjoy heaven if we find sixty minutes of religious activity boring and uninteresting, and we are glad when the service is over so that we may resume our earthly and secular pursuits?” (Woods, Shall We Know One Another In Heaven?, p. 47).

Let us be able to sincerely sing  – “Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love; Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee, opening to the sun above. Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; Drive the darkness of doubt away; Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!/ All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays, stars and angels sing around Thee center of unbroken praise. Field and forest, vale and mountain, flow’ry meadow, flashing sea, singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee/ Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest, wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depths of happy rest! Thou our Father, Christ our brother, all who live in love are Thine; Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine/ Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began; Father love is reigning o’re us, Brother love binds man to man. Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife, joyful music lead us Sunward in the triumph song of life” (song: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee by Henry van Dyke).

2.  Jesus taught that the righteous could rejoice, in spite of persecution, because they have a great reward in heaven.

He said, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12).

Never lose sight of the prize.  Paul wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).  Again, he wrote “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory… For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

3.  Jesus spoke in two parables of those who have joy over finding the truth.

He said, “Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).  “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46).

People come to the truth, and discover the Kingdom in different ways.  (1) Some happen upon it.  Nathanael discovered the Lord unexpectedly (John 1:45-51).  The Samaritan woman found far more than she expected when she went for water (John 4:6-26).  The Philippian jailer learned the message of the Gospel on the night in which he was about to take his own life (Acts 16:26-34).  (2) Others are actively and diligently seeking for it.  Nicodemus came to Jesus by night (John 3:1-21).  He no doubt wanted to know more.  He was seeking.  The Ethiopian eunuch was pondering scripture wanting to understand, and humble enough to ask for help (Acts 8:26-40).

However, regardless of how they come to discover the truth of the Kingdom, those with the proper values rejoice in finding it.  The Ethiopian eunuch “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).  The Philippian jailer “rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (Acts 16:34).

Do we so value the truth of the kingdom?  Do we rejoice in it, or does it bore us?

4.  Jesus endured because of the joy set before him.

The writer of Hebrews wrote of Jesus: “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

What was the joy set before Him?  (1) It must include the idea of returning to glory.  He prayed, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5).  Moreover, the seems to fit the context.  Albert Barnes comments, “He endured the cross and is now exalted to the right hand of God” (Barnes Notes, Vol. 13, p. 289).  (2) It must have also given Him joy to know what His death on the cross would accomplish.  He told His disciples, “For this is My blood of the new covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).  “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).  (3) It must have given Him joy to fulfill the will of the Father.  “I delight to do Your will, O My God” (Psalm 40:8).

Jesus not only taught that one could rejoice in the midst of persecution (Matthew 5:11-12), He, Himself,  did such.  We should follow His example.

5.  Paul had joy in church unity.

He pleaded with the brethren at Philippi, “fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:2).  He desired unity.

Others have as well.  Jesus prayed for the unity of the disciples (John 17:20-21).  David remarked, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

Do we value unity?  Does such bring us joy?  Do we strive to maintain unity?

6.  Paul had joy when brethren support his work.

He wrote, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now your care for me has flourished again… Not that I seek the gift, but I seek that fruit that abounds to your account (Philippians 4:10, 17).

Wayne Jackson comments, “The apostle is not interested in his own financial security (only – B.H.); rather he is anxious for the growth of their spiritual bank account which results from their generosity to him” (Jackson, The Book of Philippians, p. 89).  The good one does to others, and for the cause of Christ, does not go unnoticed by God (Proverbs 19:17; Matthew 10:42; 25:31-46; Luke 14:13-14).

What is our attitude toward giving?  Do we give cheerfully? (2 Corinthians 9:7).  Do we rejoice when others are caring and committed enough to give liberally? (2 Corinthians 9:12-13).  Have we truly given ourselves to the Lord? (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).

7.  It would bring Paul joy for brethren to be united with Jesus at His coming.

He said to the brethren at Thessalonica, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?  For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).  Similar thought is also expressed to the brethren at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:14b).

The idea seems to be that Paul would be crowned with joy to see these brethren, in the end, in a proper state before the Lord.  David Lipscomb comments, “To witness that spiritual transformation which he had inaugurated carried on to completion gave the future a greatness and worth which made Paul’s heart leap for joy” (Lipscomb, A Commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, p. 36).  J.W. McGarvey comments, “The passage is a beautiful but effective rebuke to the idle fears of some Christians that they will not recognize their friends in the hereafter.  If Paul could not recognize the Thessalonians, how could he present them as his crown, or glory in them? (McGarvey, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians and Romans, pp. 11-12).

Are we trying to take others to heaven? Will we have this joy of seeing those, whom we have converted to Christ, in heaven?

8.  James indicated, that with a proper attitude, it is possible to have joy in the trials of life.

He wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3).

The trials of life provide opportunity to prove our faith, and to grow spiritually.  Rubel Shelly comments, “Don’t whine, cry and give way to despair, when you have a difficult situation to face or a hard problem to solve. Celebrate!  Sing!  Rejoice!  What?  Celebrate because you have a loving and powerful Lord who will bring you through your problems and turn them into stepping-stones toward your spiritual maturity!  Sing because you are not alone!  Rejoice in the knowledge that you don’t have to let things get the best of you?” (Shelly, What Christian Living is All About: Studies in James, p. 10).

How do we react to the trials of life?  Do we remain optimistic?  Do we believe that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”? (Romans 8:28).

9.  John rejoiced when brethren were found walking in the truth.

He wrote twice of such.  He said to the elect lady: “I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of  your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father” (2 John 4).  He said to the beloved Gaius: “I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth.  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (2 John 3:4).

Do we rejoice when we find, or hear about, brethren doing good and living faithfully?  Does such excite us?  Do we throw bouquets to such behavior?  Do we commend such to others?

In a world full of evil and error, it should be refreshing to find others faithfully doing good, and walking according to the truth.  May we look for such.  When we find such, let us commend such.  Doing this may accomplish a few positive things:  (1) We may develop a more positive outlook by focusing on the good.  This may help prevent us from having a sour disposition.  (2) We may  encourage those doing good to continue doing good, and even motivate them to do even greater works.  Who does not want to feel appreciated?  (3) We may  encourage others to do good. When good behavior is recognized and commended, it may have an affect on others, causing them to also want to do good.

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No Weeping

While there are occasions when godly men and women wept in the Bible, there are also some occasions when they did not.  Let’s notice…

 1.   Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, were not to mourn the deaths of Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron.

Moses ordered them, “Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die and wrath come upon all the people.  But let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD has kindled.  You shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die, for the anointing oil of the people is upon you” (Leviticus 10:6-7).  [Note: The uncovering of the head (cf. Job 1:20; Leviticus 13:45; 21:10-11; Jeremiah 7:29; Micah 1:16) and the tearing of the clothes (cf. Genesis 37:29; 37:34; 44:13; Job 1:20; Leviticus 13:45; 21:10-11; 2 Samuel 1:11-12; Esther 4:1; Acts 14:14) were expressions of grief and sorrow.]  We are informed “And they did according to the word of Moses” (Leviticus 10:7).

Why were they not to mourn, while others were allowed to mourn?  David Brown  comments, “Even in great sorrow over the loss of one’s loved ones God must be sanctified.  The death of Nadab and Abihu was the result of their own sin.  No lamentations therefore, on the part of Aaron or his sons was allowed.  God expected them in their particular office to demonstrate their close submission to the fiery mandate from heaven against unauthorized conduct.  Here is a situation where the house of Israel could ‘bewail the burning which the Lord hath kindled,’ but the priests due to their responsibilities of their station regardless of the family ties, were not allowed to participate.  In fact, they were not allowed to absent themselves from their priestly responsibilities.  Service to God comes before every thing”  (Editor David Brown, The Book of Leviticus and Numbers, p. 90).  Adam Clark comments, “Their mourning might be considered as accusing the Divine justice of undue severity.

This is a highly unusual situation, but there are a couple of points to consider.  First, God demands loyalty to Him over even family.  Second, one should be careful not to leave the impression that God’s justice is being questioned.  This is especially important for those in public roles of religious service and authority.

2.  Phinehas did more than weep.

Balaam taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality (Revelation 2:14).  Josephus indicates “Balaam… did tell Balak and the Midianites of a plan by which they could destroy the Hebrews.  He advised that the Midianite girls should take the young Israelites fall in love with them and then make the Hebrew youths abandon the LORD for Midianite gods” (Josephus, Antiquities 4).

The plan was working.  Israelites became sexually immoral with the women of Moab and the committed idolatry with them (Numbers 25:1-2).  God sent a plague among the Israelites which killed 24,000 (Numbers 25:3, 9).  Balaam found a way to bring a curse upon Israel.

Something needed to be done.  The LORD said that the offenders were to be put to death (Numbers 25:4-5).  The children of Israel met and wept at the tabernacle (Numbers 25:6).  While they met, one of the Israelites (Zimri, v. 14) openly presented a Midianite woman (Cozbi, v. 15) to the congregation and took her into the  tent.  Phinehas (the grandson of Aaron though Eleazar), “rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the men of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body.  So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel.  And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand” (Numbers 25:6-9).  God commends the man to Moses (Numbers 25:10-13 cf. Psalm 106:29-31). [ Thought: I wonder if God’s punishment of his uncles, Nadab and Abihu, left an impression on this man ? (cf. Leviticus 10:1-2)]

There is an application for us.  Some times weeping and prayer are not enough; action is needed.

3.  David did not continue to weep for his child.

David’s servants asked him, “What is this that you have done?  You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food” (2 Samuel 12:21).  David answered them, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’  But now he is dead: Why should I fast?  Can I bring him back again?  I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:22-23).

Later, David would weep over Absalom (2 Samuel 18:33-19:2).  No doubt, David had many regrets with how he raised his family, and dealt with Absalom (cf. 2 Samuel 12:9-10; 13:1-14:33).  However, my point is that David did not have an issue, at least not a lasting issue, over mourning the dead.

However, David had already fasted and wept for this infant.  There was nothing more that he could do, and he knew this.  It was time to move on.

There is a time for us to move on as well.  While there is nothing wrong with mourning our lost, we need to live in the present.  Let us work the works of Him while it is day (John 9:4).  Let us press on to the mark (Philippians 3:14).

4.  Jeremiah spoke of a time when there would be no ordinary mourning for the dead.

He said concerning the future of Judah and Jerusalem, “For thus says the LORD concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning their mothers who bore them and their fathers who begot them in this land: They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented nor shall they be buried, but they shall be refuse on the face of the earth… For thus says the LORD: ‘Do not enter the house of mourning, nor go to lament or bemoan them; for I have taken away My peace from this people… Both the small and great shall die in this land.  They shall not be buried; neither shall men lament for them, cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them.  Nor shall men break bread in mourning for them, to comfort them for the dead; nor shall men give them the cup of consolation for their father or their mother.  Also you shall not go into the house of feasting to sit with them, to eat and drink” (Jeremiah 16:3-8).  [Note: Cutting the flesh is a practice borrowed from the pagan world of Leviticus 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1].

The basic message seems to be that bad days were ahead. When Jerusalem fell [586 B.C.] there would be no time for burials and public mourning.  It would be a terrible time.  Wayne Jackson has written, “The horrors of the destruction would be so intense that the normal expressions of grief would be ignored… The usual customs of consoling the bereaved would be neglected” (Jackson, Jeremiah and Lamentations, p. 40). Things would be so bad that God told Jeremiah not to marry and have children (Jeremiah  6:1-2 cf. 1 Corinthians 7:26 cf. Luke 23:29).

Bad things happen when nations turn their backs on God.  “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).

5.  Ezekiel was not allowed to weep for his wife.

The LORD told Ezekiel that “the desire of (his) eyes” would be taken away (Ezekiel 24:16).  That is: Ezekiel’s wife would die.

Moreover, the LORD instructed Ezekiel: “You shall neither mourn nor weep, nor shall your tears run down.  Sigh in silence, make no mourning for the dead; bind you turban on your head, and your sandals on your feet; do not cover your lips, and do not eat man’s bread of sorrow” (Ezekiel 24:16-17).  He was to publicly show no sign of mourning.  He was to dress as normal and continue his work (Ezekiel 24:17 cf. Micah 3:7).  He was not to partake in the customary meal for the bereaved (Ezekiel 24:17 cf. Jeremiah 16:7-8).

His wife did die, and Ezekiel did as he was instructed (Ezekiel 24:18).  This strange behavior did not go unnoticed.  It caused the people to ask, “Will you not tell us what these things signify to us? (Ezekiel 24:19).  They inferred that this had to be another one of symbolic acts of Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 4:1-5:17; 12:1-28; 21:19-20).

Ezekiel explained that their desired city, Jerusalem, would fall [it would in a year or less cf. Ezekiel 24:1 cf. 1:2]; and they (those captive in Babylon cf. Ezekiel 1:2) were not to publicly mourn over the fall of Jerusalem, though there would be inner regrets for sin (which caused this) and expressions of mourning to one another (Ezekiel 24:20-24).  What is the meaning?  Jamieson, Fausset and Brown comments, “They could not in their exile manifest publicly their lamentation, but the would privately ‘mourn one to another.’  Their iniquities would then be their chief sorrow (‘pining away’) as feeling that these were the cause of their sufferings (cf. Leviticus 26:39; Lamentations 3:39)” (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 705).  Jim McGuiggan comments, “It seems to me… that what he is calling for them to do is to accept the judgment as the will of God” (McGuiggan, The Book of Ezekiel, p. 262).  This was God’s punishment and they would not be able to publicly express their mourning in captivity.

A couple of thoughts: (1) Do not place your trust in nations, but in God and His word.  Some trusted in the temple and in Jerusalem (cf. Jeremiah 7:4, 8-11).  (2) Sin has terrible consequences. We should learn to mourn over sin before we are forced to mourn because of sin (Matthew 5:4; James 4:8-10).

 

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Weeping

“Real men don’t cry,” we are told.  However, this saying is not in agreement with the Bible.  In the Bible, godly men and women wept.  Let’s consider some things which caused them to weep.

1.  Abraham wept over Sarah’s death.

“So Sarah died… and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah and weep for her” (Genesis 23:2).  They had been married for at least 62 years (Genesis 23:2 cf. 12:4-5 cf. 17:17).  It must have been a great loss.

Abraham is not alone.  Others also have wept over the loss of a loved one.  Jacob mourned many days when he thought that his son, Joseph, was dead (Genesis 37:31-35).  The children of Israel wept for Moses thirty days (Deuteronomy 34:8).  Devout men made great lamentation over Stephen (Acts 8:2).  The Ephesian elders wept over the prospect of seeing Paul no more (Acts 20:37-38).

It is natural to sorrow for the loss.  However, when the righteous die, we need not “sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).  Death is gain for those right with God (Philippians 1:21).

2.  Jeremiah wept over the condition of his nation.

He is known as the weeping prophet.  He obviously cared deeply for those he warned.  He said of their coming destruction, “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people” (Jeremiah 9:1).  He warned, “Hear and give ear: Do not be proud, for the LORD has spoken. Give glory to the LORD your God before He causes darkness… But if you will not hear it, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes shall weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the LORD’s flock has been taken captive” (Jeremiah 13:15-17).  He would weep so much that he ran out of tears.  “My eyes fail with tears, , my heart is troubled; my bile is poured out on the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because the children and the infants faint in the streets of the city” (Lamentations 2:11).

It is important to realize that Jeremiah did not simply weep; he pleaded for people to amend their ways (Jeremiah 7:1-3).  Alas, they would not listen (Jeremiah 6:16-17).

Do we care about our nation and its people?  If so, what are we doing to turn people to God? Do we weep over sin? “Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law” (Psalm 119:136).

3. A woman wept for joy.

She stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears and wipe them with the hairs of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil” (Luke 7:38). Jesus explained her actions saying “her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much” (Luke 7:47). The context is that she loved much, because her sins had been forgiven (Luke 7:40-43). J.W. McGarvey comments, “Her love was the result, and not the cause of her forgiveness” (McGarvey, The Four Fold Gospel, p. 295).

Those who have received the forgiveness of God should be appreciative. Those who comprehend how great this forgiveness is should be thankful, and want to serve Him. Tears of joy are in order. Do we appreciate this mercy, as we should?

4.  Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus.

“Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.  And He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’  They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’  Jesus wept” (John 11:33-35).

Why did Jesus weep?  (a) Was it over His loss of His friend?  I do not believe this to be the answer.  Jesus was there to raise Lazarus (John 11:1-4; 11:14-15; 11:38-44.  Notice “for the glory of God” in verse 4 and 40.  Notice “that you may believe” in verse 15).  (b) Was it over the bringing of Lazarus back from the dead?  Some have so thought.  James Burton Coffman comments, “our Lord was about to call back to our world of temptation and sin a valiant soldier who had already won the crown of life” (studylight.org).  Robert Taylor Jr. comments, “Perhaps Jesus wept because Lazarus was about to be brought back from rest, pleasure and comfort in Hadean Paradise to a world of woe and this sphere of sorrow and sighing again” (Taylor, Studies in the Gospel of John, p. 167).  The Chief Priests would plot to kill him after his resurrection (John 12:9-11).  However true things may be, nothing in context suggests that it was for these reasons Jesus wept.  (c) The context seems to suggest that Jesus was touched by the pain and sorrow of others, who were weeping over Lazarus.  Jesus was pained by their pain.

Do we care for others, as He did?  We are instructed, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

5.  Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

“Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it” (Luke 19:41).  Moreover, as He went to the cross, He said – “Daughters of Jerusalem do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28).  It saddened Jesus that this city had rejected their only hope to avoid destruction (Matthew 23:37-38; 24:1-2; 24:15-16).

Does it sadden us when people reject the message of salvation?  Does it sadden us when the enemies of Christ continue their stubborn resistance to their own destruction?

6.  Jesus wept in His suffering.

He “offered up prayers and supplication, with vehement cries and tear to Him who was able to save Him from death” (Hebrews 5:7).  The reference is to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Robert Milligan comments, “Be it remembered that Christ was a man; and that, as a man, he possessed all the sinless feelings and propensities of our nature.  As a man, he had a heart to fear and tremble, like other men, in view of great undertakings and responsibilities” (Milligan, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 196).

Nevertheless, He was determined to do the Father’s will.  He prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).

Life can be difficult.  Do we have the attitude of Jesus?

7.  Paul wept in his trials.

His service to the Lord brought him “many tears and trials” (Acts 20:19).  Paul was a real man, with real feelings. He experienced fear and trembling (1 Corinthians 2:3).

Still he pressed on.  He said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).  Is such our attitude?

8.  Paul wept in his concern for brethren.

He reminded the Ephesians elders of his care for them.  He said, “I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31).  He did not warn them without feelings.  He cared.

A preacher friend once told me that there is a big difference between a preacher who tells someone that he is going to hell, and seems to enjoy it – and one who tells him that he is going to hell, if he does not change, and it seems to break his heart.  Do we truly care?

9.  Paul wept when he had to boldly correct a situation.

The brethren at Corinth should have mourned over the sin which existed in the church (1 Corinthians 5:1-2).  They did not, and they were not correcting the situation. In fact, they were “puffed up.” Perhaps, they were prideful of their tolerance and acceptance (e.g. “All are welcomed and accepted here, even in their sins!”)

Paul rebuked them in a letter.  He said, “Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears” (2 Corinthians 2:4).  However, he knew that it must be done.  He said, “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it.  For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.  Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance” (1 Corinthians 7:8-9).

He cared enough to correct.  Do we?

10.  Paul wept when he had to count some brethren as enemies of the cross.

He warned, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, whose glory is their shame – who set their mind on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19).  It gave him no pleasure to warn these brethren about some bad influences among them.  However, they needed this warning.

He cared enough to warn.  Do we?

 

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Peace Series: Wisdom From Above

When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7).

This is a proverbial statement, a general truth in life; it is not to be taken as an iron clad rule without exceptions.  Jesus was not at peace with His enemies.  They killed Him.  He warned, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master.  If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub how much more will they call those of his household!” (Matthew 10:25-26).

However, the proverbial point is that it is possible to win over our enemies.  It is possible to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).  Peter wrote, “Beloved, I beg you… having you conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).  Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).

There is a reason that it says, “If it is possible…” John Shannon comments, “If it is possible, the Christian is to live at peace with all men.  However, it is not always possible.  Some people in and out of the church are troublemakers, complainers, fighters, and just plain evil people that have no interest in living at peace with anyone… when conflict occurs, we must not be the cause of it; we should do everything within our power to bring and keep peace” (Editor Dub McClish, Studies in Romans, p. 235).  Roy Deaver comments, “Christians must strive to be at peace with their fellow-men.  Verse 18 shows that at times this is not possible… But to the extent of his individual ability, the Christian must strive to be at peace with all men” (Deaver, Romans: God’s Plan For Man’s Righteousness, p. 487).  Robert Taylor Jr. writes, “Christians should seek to be at peace with the world as long as no compromise of truth has to occur to insure it… the lack of peace should be their fault – not ours due to cantankerous dispositions and soured – on – the world attitude and actions” (Taylor, Studies in Romans, p. 223).

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

“See the Lord” refers to seeing Him in glory, and seeing Him in heaven (Matthew 5:9 cf. 5:10-12; 1 John 3:1-3; Revelation 22:4).  Those who will see Him pursue (to seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavor to acquire – Thayer): (1) Peace with all men.  Christians are not just to try to live at peace with their brethren; they are to try to live at peace with all people.  (2) Holiness.  The word “holiness” (hagiasmos) refers to “separation to God” and “the resultant state, the conduct befitting those so separated” (Vine’s).

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).

Wisdom is shown in conduct.  “Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.  This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic” (James 3:13-15).  Andrew Connally points out, “Wise men from of old placed great stress on the getting of wisdom (Proverbs 4:7).  The truly wise is one who fears God (Proverbs 9:10).  The real test of wisdom is the conduct of wisdom (James 3:13)”  (Connally, Great Lessons From Hebrews and James, p. 103).  Let us demonstrate true wisdom!

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Don’t Be A Ring-tailed Monkey

The Zulu people of Southern Africa have an effective way to catch the ring-tailed monkey.  “Their trap is nothing more than a melon growing on a vine.  The seeds of this melon are the favorite of the monkey.  Knowing this, the Zulus simply cut a hole in the melon, just large enough for the monkey to insert his hand to reach the seeds inside.  The monkey will stick his hand in, grab as many seeds as he can, then start to withdraw it.  This he cannot do.  His fist is now larger than the hole.  the monkey will pull and tug, screech and fight the melon for hours.  But he can’t get free of the trap unless he gives up the seeds, which he refuses to do.  Meanwhile, the Zulus sneak up and nab him” (Bible.org).

Some people are like this.  They have things in their lives which they are unwilling to give up.  Satan uses such to nab them.

Consider:

  1.  The praise of men – “Nevertheless even among the chief rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43).
  2. Material possessions – “Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven; and come follow me.’  But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:21-22).
  3. Family – “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and He who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37).
  4. Physical life – “And he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:38-39).
  5. Sinful lusts – “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
  6. Pride – “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall
    (Proverbs 16:18).
  7. Anger and hatred – “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).  “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8).
  8. Evil company – “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits'” (1 Corinthians 15:33).  “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20).
  9. Anything which causes one to sin – “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members to perish, than for the whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).

Hold on to nothing so tightly that Satan can use it to nab you. This obviously includes sinful things. However, this also includes even things which are not even inherently sinful.

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