Raising Children In A Frightening World! – I

Jeremiah 31:16, 17

All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

I was talking to my friend Dex, and he had found online a short blog from Kenneth Copeland Ministries, entitled 8 Promises From God About Your Children. I like the eight Scriptures chosen to highlight these promises, and want to share them with my readers.

I have increasingly heard people question whether it is wise to bring children into this crazy world.

  • Inflation is heating up, so the cost of living is increasing (led by gasoline, up 42% from a year ago!)
  • Due to the cry to “Defund the police,” and the result of mandated Covid 19 vaccinations,
some cities are facing a reduction of 30% to 50% 
          of their police force!  Murders are up almost 30% across the US in 2020 
          from the year before, and the surge is continuing 
          into 2021.

     ➔   Overall violent crime (which includes murder, as-
          sault, robbery, and rape) was up 5% across the 
          nation from 2019 through 2020. 
  • Because of Covid 19 vaccination mandates, fire departments, health care workers, teachers, and other professions are suffering personnel shortages!
  • Covid deaths in the US are approaching three quarters of a million people! The per day (seven-day average) in America is just over 1,350, but on October 20th there were over 2,500 deaths reported!
  • Racism is on the rise with versions of Critical Race Theory being taught in many schools.
  • Research by Barna found that only about 16% of people born after World War II have a world view grounded in the Bible!
  • 70% of babies born to black women are born out of wedlock! All ethnic groups combined birth 40% of babies out of wedlock!
  • Almost three quarters of a million divorces were reported last year! People are increasingly opting for arrangements of living together rather than marrying.
  • It is expected that Social Security and Medicare will both run out of money in the not too distant future!
  • Another ‘cold war’ is heating up, this time with China. And it has the potential to turn into a hot war!

Not only are people worried about starting or growing a family, they are also searching for the best way to guide children who are already part of the family! But Paul reminds us in Romans 15:4, “…whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of Scripture might have hope.” God’s Word is true, and it will not fail! So let’s look at these eight promises (and I will add one more, making it nine!).

This will take several more Gems!

Number 1: Jeremiah 31:16 and 17 – Thus says the LORD: ‘Refrain your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears; for your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope in your future, says the LORD, that your children shall come back to their own border.

The enemy is the devil! As it says in...

            John 8:44 – “He is a murderer from the begin-
             ning, and does not stand in the truth because 
             there is no truth in him. When he speaks a 
             lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he 
             is a liar and the father of it.   II Corinthians 4:4 (King James Version) – 
             Satan is called “...the god of this world 
             [who]...blinded the minds of them that be-
             lieve not, lest the light of the glorious 
             gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, 
             should shine unto them.He is the god of this world system because he stole 
     the rulership of this world from our first parents! 
     (see Genesis 3:1-7; Luke 4:5-7).

            I Peter 5:8 and 9 – “Be sober, be vigilant; 
             because your adversary the devil walks about 
             like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may de-
             vour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith....   Learn what the Bible says about our enemy, 
             and how to fight and win spiritual battles!The land of the enemy is the world, and the 
          things of the world! So many follow this path 
          and end up losing everything! As it says in 
          I John 2:15 through 17:

             Do not love the world or the things in the 
             world. If anyone loves the world, the love 
             of the Father is not in him. For all that 
             is in the world — the lust of the flesh, 
             the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life 
             — is not of the Father but is of the world. 
             And the world is passing away, and the lust 
             of it; but he who does the will of God a-
             bides forever.

     ➔   Jesus warned us in Mark 8:36 to follow Him all 
          the way to the cross:For what will it profit 
          a man if he gains the whole world, and loses 
          his own soul...?Follow Him, even though it 
          means dying to self so we can live for Him! 
          (see Mark 8:34, 35; Romans 6:1-14).

     ➔   The Lord can bring our children home even from 
          a far land, just like he did for the wayward 
          son who wasted his inheritance, and ended up 
          starving as he fed pigs! 

           When he came home, his father received 
             him with open arms! (see Luke 15:11-24) 

            ...just like God will receive us! (see 
             John 6:37).

The context of Jeremiah 31:16 and 17 is the restoration of Israel, as the LORD said in verse 1: “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people....” Jeremiah was to let the Israelites know who were taken captive to Babylon know that God would redeem them and bring them back to their homeland! But...

     ➔	  ...like many Bible passages, there is an 
          interpretation (speaking to the Jews).

     ➔	  ...and there is an application (speaking 
          to all believers today).

Your children (my grandchildren and great grandchildren) may be off somewhere in their own ‘Babylon,’ captive to the enemy but not really happy where they are! God can give them a hunger to comehometo Him, and live the life He has planned for them!

Keep praying for your children
to be gathered back from the enemy’s captivity,
to ‘home’ where they will find and
embrace their heritage of faith!

“Come To Me…” – IV

Matthew 11:28-30

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

This picture reminds me of what happened to my dear friend Dick. A man in his fifties, he had gotten himself into a bad situation involving theft and an extramarital affair. Dick’s wife came to me, her pastor, with concerns for her husband. I, and a deacon of our church, paid a visit to Dick. A gentle man, he graciously received us, and we sat and talked. We mentioned nothing of the theft or his affair, just that we were concerned that he was going through some hard times, and we were there for him. He thanked us for coming, and we left.

The next week, Dick came to our evening service, and continued to come each Sunday evening for about six weeks. After one particular service, as I was talking to someone near the front of the sanctuary, I noticed several people gathered around Dick in the church vestibule. He later told me what happened that night.

     As I was leaving to go home, I just broke down before 
     I got to the door, and cried. Several people gathered 
     around me to offer comfort. My head was down, and as 
     I cried, I noticed one person who seems to stand out. 
     I later asked those who had gathered around me, “Who 
     was the person standing next to me, who had his hand 
     on me? He was wearing sandals and a white robe?” The 
     folks looked confused. “There was no one there who 
     was wearing sandals and a white robe!” But I insis-
     ted, “Yes there was! He had his hand on my shoulder 
     and was offering me wonderful comfort!”

I firmly believe Jesus showed up (visible to Dick alone) to comfort this penitent man! By the way, Dick became one of the most dedicated and faithful members of our church, and a dear friend of mine!

But back to our series, “Come To Me…” based on Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30:

     “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, 
     and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and 
     learn from Me, for I am gentle, and lowly in heart, 
     and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke 
     is easy and My burden is light.”

We have gone over five reasons why people don’t respond to the Savior’s invitation:

  • Some think they have no (or few) burdens, that everything is going pretty well at this point in their lives.
  • Some feel like they can carry their burdens and solve their own problems themselves.
  • Some are laboring and heavy laden, but don’t know what to do with their burdens.
  • Some have never heard this invitation.
  • Some have heard it, maybe multiple times, but they don’t believe it is true.

Let’s consider the sixth reason:

  • Some don’t feel worthy enough to come to Jesus!
       Here are some of the excuses I have heard:

         ➔   “I’m just not good enough to come to God. 
              He won’t accept me.”

         ➔   “You don’t know what I’ve done. How could 
              the Lord ever forgive me?”

         ➔   “I have never felt accepted by others. Why 
              would God want me?”

         ➔   “I don’t even love myself. How could God 
              love me?   But none of these excuses are valid, because...
  • No one isgood enoughto come to God!
        Paul wrote this in Romans 3:10 and 23: “There is 
         none righteous, no, not one....for all have sinned 
         and fall short of the glory of God.”

     ✡   Solomon concluded the same in Ecclesiastes 7:20: 
          “...there is not a just man on earth who does 
          good and does not sin.”

     ✡   But the most defining statement (or perhaps I 
          should say ‘damning statement’) is found in 
          Isaiah 64:6:

             But we are all like an unclean thing, and 
             all our righteousnesses are like filthy 
             rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our ini-
             quities, like the wind, have taken us away.

     Our righteousnesses are the very best we can do...on 
     our own! And what are they like before God, who is 
     absolutely holy? They are like filthy rags! In a 
     sense, ‘filthy rags’ is a euphemism. What God is say-
     ing in Isaiah 64:6 is our righteousnesses are like a 
     used menstrual rag! 

         ➔   A woman experiencing her monthly period 
              was considered unclean for at least se-
              ven days (see Leviticus 15:19). And she 
              had to wait seven more days after her 
              menstrual flow ceased before she could 
              bring an offering for cleansing on the 
              eighth day. Only then would she be con-
              sidered clean! (see Leviticus 15:28-30).

         ➔   Anything upon which menstrual blood was 
              found was considered unclean and untouch-
              able!

     So the very best we can do on our own is considered 
     foul and unclean before our holy God! That does not 
     leave us in a good position! Left to ourselves, we 
     are damned!

We are all sinners, and sin wrecks havoc in our lives! Even when we want to do what is right and good, too often we end up doing the opposite – which is the same confession Saint Paul makes in Romans 7:14, 15, 17 through 20, and 24 (Good News Bible):

     ...I am a mortal, sold as a slave to sin. I do not 
     understand what I do; for I don't do what I would 
     like to do, but instead I do what I hate....So I am 
     not really the one who does this thing; rather it 
     is the sin that lives in me. I know that good does 
     not live in me---that is, in my human nature. For 
     even though the desire to do good is in me, I am 
     not able to do it. I don't do the good I want to do; 
     instead, I do the evil that I do not want to do. If 
     I do what I don't want to do, this means that I am 
     no longer the one who does it; instead, it is the 
     sin that lives in me....What an unhappy man I am! 
     Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me 
     to death? 

Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death?” Who? Jesus Christ, that’s who!

  • For He lived the perfect life before God that we could never live!
        Even His enemies could find no sin in Him! For 
         Jesus challenged them in John 8:46, “Which of 
         you convicts Me of sin?” 

         ➔   Now, if I had issued that challenge, people 
              could say, “Well, I remember when you....and they could probably name a bunch of 
              times that I have sinned!

         ➔   But those opposed to Jesus and His ministry 
              could find no sin they could truly lay upon 
              Him!

       I Peter 2:22 (International Standard Version 
         quoting Isaiah 53:9) – Christ “...never sinned, 
         and He never told a lie.
  • Then He laid down that perfect life as a sacrifice for us, dying on the cross to pay for our sins!
        Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own 
         love toward us, in that while we were yet 
         sinners, Christ died for us.   I Peter 2:24 (Good News Bible) – “Christ 
         Himself carried our sins in His body to the 
         cross, so that we might die to sin and live 
         for righteousness. It is by His wounds that 
         you have been healed.
  • Having taken our sins upon Himself and paying for them completely, He now offers us His own perfect righteousness!
     ✡   Isaiah 61:10 – “I will greatly rejoice in 
          the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; 
          for He has clothed me with the garments of 
          salvation, He has covered me with the robe 
          of righteousness....  II Corinthians 5:21 – “For He [the Father] 
         made Him [the Son] who knew no sin to be sin 
         for us, that we might become the righteous-
         ness of God in Him.

So if you are trusting anything else other than the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us (as Paul writes in Romans 10:9, 10, and 13)…

     ...if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and 
     believe in your heart that God has raised Him from 
     the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one 
     believes to righteousness, and with the mouth con-
     fession is made to salvation....For whoever calls 
     upon the name of the LORD will be saved.

Trust Jesus Christ as your Savior!


I apologize for the delay in publishing this Gem. Sometimes the demands of life and family take precedence over my time at the computer. I will try to adhere more to my schedule of publishing Gems twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

“Come To Me…” – III

Matthew 11:28-30

All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

With His hand reached out, Jesus gave this invitation to all who would hear:

     “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, 
     and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and 
     learn from Me, for I am gentle, and lowly in heart, 
     and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke 
     is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 
     through 30).

While many have responded and come to Him to have their burdens lifted, especially the heavy burden of sin…

  • …a great many more still need to come and be saved!
  • …even those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior…
        ...are still burdened by transgressions they 
         carry because they haven’t given them over to 
         the Lord!

        ...still need to respond to be relieved of the 
         heavy burdens life can lay upon us!

Between the two classes of people mentioned above, I see six reasons why people have not yet responded to Jesus’ invitation:

  • Some think they have no (or few) burdens, that everything is going pretty well at this point in their lives.
  • Some feel like they can carry their burdens and solve their problems themselves.
  • Some are laboring and heavy laden, but don’t know what to do with their burdens.
  • Some have never heard this invitation.
  • Some have heard it, maybe multiple times, but they don’t believe it is true.
  • Some don’t feel worthy enough to come.

We have covered four in the two previous Gems, so lets consider the last two:

  • Some have heard it, maybe multiple times, but they don’t believe it is true!
        Let me be very clear! I believe what Christ stated 
         in John 14:6 is the utter truth:Jesus said...‘I 
         am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes 
         to the Father except through Me.’”

         ➔   This makes Christianity very exclusive – 
              The one and only true way to be reconciled 
              to God...Faith in Jesus Christ and what He 
              has done to bring us to the Father – dying 
              on the cross and rising from the dead!

         ➔   If this is true, all other religions, past, 
              present, and future, lead people astray...
              because they are false!

        It is written twice, in Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25, 
         and ten of the seventeen versions, including the 
         King James Version, have it translated aright: 
         “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, 
         but the end thereof are the ways of death.”  Here 
         is why the way it is thus translated is so impor-
         tant:

         ➔   “There is a way which seemeth right unto 
              a man....”  A person does not hold multi-
              ple ways to order his or her life. It is 
              one way, a way, and a person will follow 
              what seemeth right to him or her! By the 
              way, that one way which seemeth right may 
              involve the belief that there are multiple 
              ways to heaven – or there is no God at all!

         ➔   “...but the end thereof....” that is, the 
              end of that way which seemeth right – if 
              you follow a path you think is the right 
              way, you eventually reach an end, not mul-
              tiple endsone end to the one way that 
              seemeth right!

         ➔   But since there are so many different ideas 
              of how to please God and get to heaven, 
              probably thousands of ways held in belief 
              by people around the world! And if, as 
              Jesus said, He is the only true way to eter-
              nal life, that means there are multiple ways 
              that end in eternal death! An individual’s 
              way is just one of the ways of death!

        Why is there such unbelief in the one way through 
         faith in Jesus Christ? The answer, which is the 
         main reason for such unbelief, will raise a lot of 
         controversy!Satan, in II Corinthians 4:4, is called, ...the god of this world...! He pulls 
              the strings of the nations of the world, 
              the societies that make up those nations!How did he get such authority? According 
              to Genesis 1:28 (English Standard Version), 
              God told Adam “Be fruitful and multiply 
              and fill the earth and subdue it, and have 
              dominion...over every living thing that 
              moves on the earth.But when Satan tempted our first parents (see Genesis 
     3:1-5), and Adam fell (see Genesis 3:6, 7), Adam, as 
     it were, bowed before Satan and transferred his God-
     given authority over all the earth to the devil!That’s why the evil one could make such 
              an outrageous claim when he tempted Jesus 
              on the mountain in Luke 4:5 through 7:

                Then the devil, taking [Jesus]...up 
                on a high mountain, showed Him all 
                the kingdoms of the world in a moment 
                of time. And the devil said to Him, 
                “All this authority I will give You, 
                and their glory; for this has been 
                delivered to me, and I give it to 
                whomever I wish. Therefore, if You 
                will worship before me, all will be 
                Yours.”

         Satan had usurped the dominion and control of the 
         earth that God gave Adam!
Someday, perhaps soon, “The kingdoms of 
              this world have become the kingdoms of 
              our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall 
              reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:
              15). Jesus will have it all anyway!

        Above I said that Satan is called “...the god of 
         this world....” Now let’s look at all of the sur-
         rounding context, II Corinthians 4:3 and 4 (Modern 
         King James Version):

             ...if our gospel is hidden, it is hidden 
             to those being lost, in whom the god of 
             this world has blinded the minds of the 
             unbelieving ones, so that the light of 
             the glorious gospel of Christ (who is the 
             image of God) should not dawn on them.

     You might say, the devil is the king of unbelief! But 
     God is so much more powerful! Just two verses later we 
     read in II Corinthians 4:6 (Good News Bible):

         The God who said, “Out of darkness the light 
         shall shine!” is the same God who made His 
         light shine in our hearts, to bring us the
         knowledge of God's glory shining in the face 
         of Christ. 

But I warn you, because the Bible warns you in Proverbs chapter one: you can only reject for so long the Holy Spirit’s leading to come to Jesus and trust Him as your Savior! There will come a time sooner or later when you will not be able to come! (Read carefully Proverbs 1:20-33. Read also the Gems from September 13, 2013 and October 27, 2014 – both named Sealed From Beneath! A third Gem from September 16, 2013 called Almost Sealed From Beneath! may also help explain the warning).

Well, I thought I would conclude this series with this third Gem, but it looks like there will be a fourth!

“Come To Me…” – II

Matthew 11:28-30

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Jesus gave this invitation in Matthew 11:28 through 30:

     “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, 
     and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and 
     learn from Me, for I am gentle, and lowly in heart, 
     and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke 
     is easy and My burden is light.”

Before we go any further, it would be beneficial to understand what the Lord is saying here. I wrote a Gem concerning this back on April 24, 2013 entitled The Light Yoke. I would encourage you to go back and read this particular Gem. But here I will briefly describe what Jesus meant when He said, “Take My yoke upon you….”

  • A yoke is designed to go over the necks of oxen so they can both share the heavy load and pull it with more strength than just one ox alone.
  • We must understand that Jesus is all-powerful! How powerful is He? In Colossians 1:15-17 it is written:
    He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn 
    of all creation. For by Him all things were created 
    that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible or 
    invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principal-
    ities or powers. All things were created through Him 
    and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him 
    all things consist. (see also Hebrews 1:1-3).
  • Being so powerful, He can carry a load of amazing weight! But He doesn’t take it all off our shoulders! He shares the load, and that’s where the idea of the yoke comes in.
  • Jesus invites us to share the load we carry, and pull together with Him. But His side of the yoke is so much bigger than ours, so He carries the MUCH heavier load! That’s why He says, “Take My yoke upon you…for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Why don’t people take advantage of this marvelous opportunity to greatly decrease their burdens? We already looked at two of six reasons why this is so:

  • Some think they have no (or few) burdens, that everything is going pretty well at this point in their lives.
  • Some feel like they can carry their burdens and solve their own problems themselves.

Let’s go on to the next two reasons:

  • Some are laboring and heavy laden, but don’t know what to do with their burdens.
     John 5:2 through 9 – The man at the pool of Be-
         thesda was sick for 38 years! 

         ➔   He didn’t know what to do with his burden 
              of severe infirmity, because he was depend-
              ing on the tradition of an angel stirring 
              up the waters of the pool. And “...whoever 
              stepped in first, after the stirring of the 
              water, was made well of whatever disease he 
              had.” (verse 4). But when the water stirred, 
              he could not get there first!  Another step-
              ped in ahead of him! It must have been very 
              discouraging for this man.

         ➔   But then Jesus came on the scene! And He 
              “...said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed 
              and walk.’ And immediately the man was made 
              well...” (verses 8 and 9).

         ➔   Jesus took the big part of the burden when 
              He healed the man! What was the healed man’s 
              part of the burden? “Rise, take up your bed 
              and walk.” I think the Lord was saying “Rise, 
              take up your bed and walk...and live your 
              life to glorify God hereafter!”     

     I met Cathy years ago. She came to the parsonage 
         of my first church. She sat in our living room 
         and cried. She told me she had been to several 
         ministers in the area trying to find out how to 
         get rid of the burden of her sins! They were a 
         heavy load on her life! I shared the gospel with 
         her, that Jesus already paid for our sins com-
         pletely! When we come to Him in faith believing, 
         “As far as the east is from the west, so far has 
         He removed our sins from us.” (Psalm 103:12). 
         Cathy prayed to receive Christ as her Savior, 
         and her tears of sorrow became tears of joy! She 
         had her burden lifted! Her part of the bargain 
         was to live in obedience to the Lord Jesus.....
         which she did faithfully thereafter!

        David carried his terrible sins of adultery and 
          murder for a year by himself. Finally he turned 
          back to God. Here is what he wrote in Psalm 32:5, 
          “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity 
          I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my 
          transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the 
          iniquity of my sin.David had his heavy burdens 
          lifted!
  • Some have never heard this invitation.
     Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “...you shall be witnesses 
         to Me...in all places where people need to hear 
         the good news of Jesus’ procured salvation...which
         is in all places! (see also Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 
         16:15; I Peter 3:15).

We who live in America live in a very blessed 
         country. We are free to share the gospel with 
         very little persecution!  Perhaps the ‘persecu-
         tion’ we might experience in this country is 
         someone laughing at our witness, or telling us 
         to “Bug off! I don’t want to hear what you have 
         to offer!   In Romans 10:13 and 14, Paul wrote (quoting Joel 
         2:32):

           ...whoever calls upon the name of the Lord 
           shall be saved. How then shall they call on 
           Him in whom they have not believed? And how 
           shall they believe in Him of whom they have 
           not heard? And how shall they hear without 
           a preacher?

        But statistics tell us that 90 to 95 percent of 
         Christians in America have never led anyone to 
         faith in Jesus Christ!  We who have Him as our 
         Savior also have to make Him Lord of our lives! 
         We have a big job to do! A lot of sinners need 
         to hear the gospel! They have burdens – especial-
         ly the burden of their sin! – that Jesus invites 
         all to let Him bear that sin load!

We need one more Gem to finish this study of “Come To Me”.

Trials and Tribulations!

John 16:33

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Jesus said in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

I will shortly get back to the Gem series, “Come To Me”. But as hinted from the above photo of a doctor, I want to share with you a few medical problems I have run into lately…which, by the way, has gotten me off track of my publishing schedule.

At age 75 I suppose I should not be surprised with the challenge of some health issues. Here is a brief review of what has been happening lately:

  • I have general osteoarthritis, inherited from my mother (gee, thanks Mom!), affecting hips, knees, back, shoulders, wrists, and a few other body parts.
  • I have had two knee replacements in my right knee (due, I think, to old sports injuries). The first allowed too much lateral movement, so a second one was done four years later.
  • I had surgery on my right knee earlier this year to remove a bone spur from my kneecap. Since then, I have had a lot of pain in that knee.
  • In May I fell hard on a cement floor, and it stirred up a lot more pain in my right knee, shoulders, hips, and so on.
  • I have had two major lumbar surgeries: a laminectomy, and then fusion of the three lower vertebrae about five years later. Since then, the vertebrae just above the fusion has slipped forward almost half an inch.
  • About a week ago, I started coughing up mucus mixed with a small amount of blood. Yes, I was concerned, because I used to smoke (I quit 54 years ago, but was up to three packs a day when I quit!) So lung cancer was in my mind as a possibility. Several doctor appointments later, I was diagnosed with a minor case of pneumonia, and put on antibiotics. I praise God for a good diagnosis! It eases my mind!
  • Today I have a ‘nerve burn’ in my lower back to relieve some of the pain.

Why is all this happening to me? Although we can suffer maladies because of our own wrong choices, I believe there are spiritual implications!

  • A year ago this month, I started a prayer ministry in our church, praying for revival. We desperately need revival…
     ✞   ...in my own life, and that of my family!

     ✞   ...in the church in which my wife and I are 
         members!

     ✞   ...in all the churches in our town, county, state, 
         across the county, and around the world!

     ✞   ...it has been slow going!  Only a handful of 
         people are involved, out of a membership of 
         about 350!
  • Satan hates God, and does not want to see the arrival of revival…
     ✞   ...where Christians come alive!

     ✞   ...when outreach is dramatically increased to 
         those who don’t know Jesus as Savior!

     ✞   ...when the ills of America will be healed, ac-
         cording to II Chronicles 7:14:

         If My people who are called by My name will 
         humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, 
         and turn from their wicked ways, then will I 
         hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins 
         and heal their land.

The few who are involved in this prayer ministry have all experienced trials and problems in their family, health, and finances. It is because the devil…puts himself against all authority, lifting himself up over all which is named God or is given worship…” (II Thessalonians 2:4 – Bible in Basic English). But according to what Saint Paul said in II Corinthians 10:3 and 4 (English Standard Version), we have the weapons to fight against Satan and win:

     For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war 
     according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare 
     are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy 
     [Satan’s] strongholds. 

And so, I ask for prayer for this small band of Christians seeking revival! And this includes me! I don’t fear dying because I have eternal life – guaranteed! But I still have a lot of work to do on this side of heaven, including writing Gems so others can be blessed by them!

“Come To Me…” – I

Matthew 11:28-30

All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Jesus said,

     “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, 
     and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and 
     learn from Me, for I am gentle, and lowly in heart, 
     and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke 
     is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28 
     through 30).

To whom is this directed? Jesus is inviting everyone! But this particular invitation will greatly limit the number of those who come. For the one who responds comes to the Lord because he or she realizes that they are belabored and burdened with a heavy load!

But there are reasons that keep people from responding:

  • Some think they have no (or few) burdens, that everything is going pretty well at this point in their lives.
  • Some feel like they can carry their burdens and solve their problems themselves.
  • Some are laboring and heavy laden, but don’t know what to do with their burdens.
  • Some have never heard this invitation.
  • Some have heard it, maybe multiple times, but they don’t believe it is true.
  • Some don’t feel worthy enough to come.

Let’s look at these six conditions that keep people from responding to Jesus’ invitation:

Some think they have no (or few) burdens, that everything is going pretty well at this point in their lives.

  • Things may be going pretty well at this point in their lives.
     ➔   They may not be facing any serious medical is-
          sues.

     ➔   Their financial situation may not be presenting 
          a strain on their enjoyment of life. 

     ➔   They may feel that family and other relation-
          ships are good.

…and the future looks bright!

  • But…
...they don’t realize there is a life threatening 
          condition presently at work in their lives!

 It is called sin! And everyone has this dead-
             ly disease! 

     For all have sinned and fall short of 
                 the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).

             The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 
                 18:4, 20).

             Jesus will say to them at the judgment, 
                 “Depart from Me, you cursed, into ever-
                 lasting fire prepared for the devil and 
                 his angels....” (Matthew 25:41).

         ...all [sinners]...shall have their part in 
             the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, 
             which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8).

     ➔   ...they are not aware of the temporary nature of 
          wealth!

         ✡   Proverbs 23:5 (Easy-to-Read Version.) – “In 
              the blink of an eye, money can disappear, 
              as if it grew wings and flew away like a 
              bird.Matthew 6:19, 21 – “Do not lay up for your-
             selves treasures on earth, where moth and 
             rust destroy and where thieves break in and 
             steal....For where your treasure is, there 
             your heart will be also.I Timothy 6:17 – “...those who are rich in 
             this present age [must] not...trust in un-
             certain riches....” 

     ➔   ...they don’t think close relationships will ever 
          crumble!

         ✡   Deuteronomy 21:18 – “...a man has a stub-
              born and rebellious son who will not obey
              ...his father or...mother, and when they 
              have chastened him, [he] will not heed 
              them....”

         ✡   Deuteronomy 24:1 – “...a man takes a wife 
              and...he has found some uncleanness in her
              ...he writes her a certificate of divorce
              ...and sends her out of his house.John 7:5 – “For even [Jesus’]...brothers did 
            not believe in Him.Matthew 26:14 – “Then one of the twelve, 
            called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief 
            priests and said, ‘What are you willing to 
            give me if I deliver...[Jesus] to you?’

Some feel like they can carry their burdens and solve their problems themselves!

  • But…
Job, the richest man and most blest man of the 
          Middle East, lost everything in a matter of hours 
          (or days at the most).

         ✡   His wealth! (see Job 1:14-17).

         ✡   His family!

                 ...all his children! (see Job 1:18, 
                  19).

                ...the support of his wife! (see Job 
                 2:9).

         ✡   His health! (see Job 2:7, 8; 30:16-19).

         ✡   His respect! (see Job 19:13-20; 30:1-15).

         ✡   His friends! (see Job 12:4; 16:1-4; 19:
              1-5, 14).

     Yes, he was eventually doubly-blest by God at the 
     end of the book, but it took weeks, or even months 
     for Job to recover!Moses was physically, spiritually, mentally, and 
          socially powerful! But he became overwhelmed and 
          needed help!

         ✡   Apparently Moses had a speech impediment 
              (see Exodus 4:10). So God gave him his 
              brother Aaron who spoke well. “...he shall 
              be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to 
              him as God.” (Exodus 4:16).

         ✡   He tried to be a judge who decided matters 
              for every Israelite – and there were about 
              two to three million of them! Moses’ fa-
              ther-in-law came to the rescue with sound 
              advice to appoint under-judges (see Exodus 
              18:17-23).

         ✡   God supplied manna when the Israelites com-
              plained that they would starve to death in 
              the desert, and all Israel ate manna for 
              forty years! (see Exodus 16:35).

       Numbers 11:4-6 – But after awhile, they 
                 wept and longed for the food of Egypt! 
                 They cried, “Who will give us meat to 
                 eat? We remember the fish...cucumbers...
                 melons...leeks...onions and...garlic...
                 we ate freely in Egypt...now...there is
                 nothing...except this manna...Numbers 11:14, 15 – Moses had a melt-
                 down before God! He thought he had to 
                 supply all the people with meat. “I am 
                 not able to bear all these people along, 
                 because the burden is too heavy for me.  
                 If You treat me like this, please kill 
                 me here and now...!” 

         ✡   Moses even required physical help!  

                Amalek, a Canaanite tribe who was an 
                 enemy of Israel for centuries, attacked 
                 Israel! 

           As Joshua led the troops in the valley, 
                 Aaron and Hur accompanied Moses up a hill 
                 overlooking the battle. Moses took the rod 
                 by which God had done previous miracles 
                 (see Exodus 9:23, 24; 14:16; 17:5, 6). As 
                 he held the rod high, the Israelite sol-
                 diers prevailed! If his arms got tired 
                 and drooped, the Amalekites started win-
                 ning!

       Exodus 17:12, 13 – So Aaron and Hur “...
                 took a stone and put it under him, and he 
                 sat on it. And [they] supported his hands
                 ...until the going down of the sun. So 
                 Joshua defeated Amalek...”


         ✡   Deuteronomy 1:9, 12 (Lexham English Bible) – 
              Just before the Israelites entered the Prom-
              ised Land, Moses again pleaded with God for 
              help: I am not able to bear [the Israelites]
              ...alone? ...How can I bear you by myself, 
              your burden and your load and your strife?”

     So if Moses, this mighty man of God needed help, what 
     about us?
  • Americans are an independent people! Individualism is pronounced and promoted in this country more than just about any other nation. But that old saying is still true: “No man is an island!We all need help at different times, and Jesus offers that help…
...to those who are...burdened and heavy laden
          ...! They are invited to come to Him for help!  

      And if the burdens we carry are not per-
             ceived to be that heavy, the sin that we 
             all carry is the heaviest burden of all! 

     For about a year David ignored his sin of 
             adultery with Bathsheba (see II Samuel 11:
             4, 5), and the  murder of her husband Uriah 
             (see II Samuel 11:14-17). But, when Nathan, 
             his advisor challenged him about his terri-
             ble actions, and when the reality of all 
             his iniquity broke upon him, this is what 
             David wrote in Psalm 38:1 through 4:

                 “O LORD...Your arrows pierce me deep-
                 ly, and Your hand presses me down. 
                 There is no soundness in my flesh be-
                 cause of Your anger, nor is there any 
                 health in my bones because of my sin. 
                 For my iniquities have gone over my 
                 head; like a heavy burden they are 
                 too heavy for me.” 

     ➔   David finally repented. But if we ignore the 
          burden of sin life-long like David did for a 
          year, we are in for a terrible end!  We are 
          told in Proverbs 14:12, and repeated in 16:25 
          (King James Version): “There is a way that 
          seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof 
          are the ways of death.
  • By the way, the burdens that we try to carry have a surprising description in Psalm 55:22 – “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you…. The burden you cast upon Him turns out to be YOU!
But God has been in thecarrying business for 
          a long time!  For He said to the Israelites in 
          Isaiah 46:3 and 4 (Easy-to-Read Version), and 
          it surely applies to us as believers today: 

             “Family of Jacob, listen to me! You who 
             are left from the family of Israel, lis-
             ten! I have carried you since you left 
             your mother's womb. I carried you when 
             you were born, and I will still be carry-
             ing you when you are old. Your hair will 
             turn gray, and I will still carry you. I 
             made you, and I will carry you to safety.”We...are the body of Christ...” (I Corinthians 
          12:27), guided by...the mind of Christ...” 
          (I Corinthians 2:16). As many of the Old Testa-
          ment Scriptures have application to New Testament 
          Christians, so Ecclesiastes 4:9 and 10 apply to 
          us: 

             Two are better than one, because they have 
             a good reward for their labor. For if they 
             fall, one will lift up his companion. But 
             woe to him who is alone when he falls, for 
             he has no one to help him up.

     ➔   As this is applied to Galatians 6:1 and 2, it 
          turns out we are to help carry one another!  

             ...if a man is overtaken in any trespass 
             [burden], you who are spiritual restore 
             such a one in a spirit of gentleness, con-
             sidering yourself lest you also be tempted. 
             Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill 
             the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1, 2) 

          The law of Crist is loving one another as He 
          has loved us! (see John 13:34, 35).

So when in Matthew 11:28 Jesus invites us to

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, 
     and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and 
     learn from Me, for I am gentle, and lowly in heart, 
     and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke 
     is easy and My burden is light.”

     ➔   His invitation is valid, and...We are involved...

         ✞   ...both in experiencing His rest 

         ✞   ...and restoring His rest to others!

More on this in the next Gem.

A Life Verse

I Samuel 3:2-10

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Our featured Scripture is from I Samuel 3:2 through 10. I tried to condense it without losing the meaning, but it is still rather long!

     And it came to pass at that time, while Eli [the 
     priest] was lying down...and when his eyes had begun 
     to grow so dim...and while Samuel was lying down, that 
     the Lord called Samuel....So he ran to Eli and said, 
     “Here I am, for you called me.” And he said, “I did 
     not call; lie down again.” ...Then the Lord called yet 
     again, “Samuel!”  So Samuel...went to Eli, and said, 
     “Here I am, for you called me.” He answered, “I did 
     not call, my son; lie down again.”...And the Lord 
     called Samuel again the third time. Then he arose and 
     went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you did call 
     me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord had called the 
     boy, [so he] said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and it 
     shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, ‘Speak, 
     Lord, for Your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and 
     lay down....Now the Lord...called as at other times, 
     “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for 
     Your servant hears.” 
  • The message that God gave to young Samuel was not good news!
     ✡   I Samuel 3:13 – “‘...I have told [Eli]...
          that I will judge his house forever for the 
          iniquity which he knows, because his sons 
          made themselves vile, and he did not re-
          strain them.’”

     ✡	  I Samuel 3:14 – “‘...therefore I have sworn 
          to the house of Eli that the iniquity of 
          Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sac-
          rifice or offering forever.’
  • The fulfillment of the LORD’s message involved tremendous Israeli losses (30,000 soldiers) in a battle with the Philistines:
     ✡	 I Samuel 4:12, 14, and 17 – 

             ...a man of Benjamin ran from the battle 
             line...to Shiloh...and told Eli...“Israel 
             has fled before the Philistines, and there 
             has been a great slaughter....Also your 
             two sons, Hophni and Phinehas are dead, 
             and the ark of God has been captured.”

     ✡   I Samuel 4:18 – “...when he made mention of 
          the ark of God...Eli fell off his seat...and 
          his neck was broken and he died, for he was 
          old and heavy.
  • Generations later, Abiathar, a descendant of Eli, was a priest during King David’s day, even into Solomon’s reign – probably 45 years! He seemed to be loyal to David, until he joined the king’s son Adonijah in his bid to oust his father and take over the kingdom of Israel! Abiathar even counseled to have David killed!
     ✡	  I Kings 2:28 – When Solomon came to the throne, 
          he sent Abiathar packing!‘Go to Anathoth, to 
          your own fields, for you are worthy of death, 
          but...you carried the ark...and were aflicted 
          [with]...my father David.’”

     ✡	  I Kings 2:29 – “So Solomon removed Abiathar from 
          being priest...that he might fulfill the word of 
          the LORD which he spoke concerning the house of 
          Eli.”

That’s the story of our featured Scripture, I Samuel 3:2 through 10. But what about A Life Verse? That’s the title of this Gem! But what is a life verse? It is a brief portion of Scripture that a follower of Jesus Christ selects that best defines his or her Christain life! My life verse is just nine words from Ephesians 1:6: “…His grace…has made us accepted in the Beloved.” Why did I choose this brief passage?

  • Many years ago, I and my two brothers experienced the loss of our father when he ran off with another woman, leaving my mother in poor health, with three boys (I was the youngest at age ten), and an illegally double-mortgaged dairy farm in Connecticut! We had to sell the farm the next spring to pay off debts. And my life fell apart! I loved that farm! And, for my life’s work, I wanted to be a dairy farmer, taking over that particular farm!
  • I felt like my life had been torn up by the roots! To cope…
I started drinking by age 12!I was an alcoholic by age 15!
  • I ran with the wrong kind of friends, and we were often in trouble – in school and with the police!
  • The consensus was,Those Norton boys, they will never amount to anything good!
We three boys bought into that consensus!I longed for acceptance! But I didn’t know how 
          to go about being accepted. 

…until at age 19 and in the Air Force, I found that in Jesus Christ, I was …accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6).

  • As much as the Father accepted the Son…
  • …in Jesus, by putting my faith in Him as my Savior, I was accepted by God the Father as much as He accepted His own dear Son!

I suppose these few words from I Samuel 3:5 could be used as a life verse in a joking way. It is when God called Samuel and he came to Eli and said, “‘Here I am, for you called me.’ ” Eli answered, “‘I did not call; lie down again.’

‘I did not call; lie down again.’That’s a great Scripture to build you life on, isn’t it? I mean, Eli the priest said it twice (again in verse 6)! It seems like too many Christians have taken this as their life verse – most likely without even realizing it!

  • “I’m thinking about becoming a pastor.” ‘I did not call; lie down again.’
  • “Is God calling me to the mission field?” ‘I did not call; lie down again.’
  • “Should I take that job of teaching that Sunday school class?”‘I did not call; lie down again.’
  • “They want me to be a deacon!” ‘I did not call; lie down again.’
  • “The Lord wants me to begin tithing.”‘I did not call; lie down again.’
  • “God is leading me to spend more time in Bible study and prayer.” ‘I did not call; lie down again.’

…You get the idea!

Somehow, these seven words from I Samuel 3:5 have gotten into the hearts of too mamy believers – invaded their thinking when the LORD calls! Even if they are not consciously aware of this passage, it is still the way a great number of Christians respond to God’s leading!

So which is more important to you?

  • Responding to the LORD’s call in a way that honors Him?

…or…

  • Going back to spiritual sleep?

When the LORD calls…
Don’t go back to sleep!

Discerning Between Good and Evil – IV

I Kings 3:5-9

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Solomon, in his divine visitation dream (I Kings 3:7 through 9) asked a special request of God:

     “Now, O LORD my God, You have made your servant king 
     instead of my father David, but I am a little child; 
     I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your ser-
     vant is in the midst of Your people whom You have 
     chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered 
     or counted. Therefore give Your servant an under-
     standing heart to judge Your people, that I may dis-
     cern between good and evil. For who is able to judge 
     this great people of Yours?”

There are six prescriptions in Deuteronomy 17:14 through 19 that God gave concerning future kings of Israel! Here are four from verses 16 and 17:

     “...he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor 
     cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply 
     horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall 
     not return that way again.’ Neither shall he mul-
     tiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; 
     nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for 
     himself.

In the last two Gems we have covered three mentioned in verses 16 and 17 (and two more from Deuteronomy 17:18 in Discerning Between Good and Evil – II). Here we will finish this four-part series by examining the fourth prescription.

Deuteronomy 17:17 – “…nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.” Why is that? In I Timothy 6:6 through 11, Saint Paul gives some good and godly reasoning:

  • In verse 6 he makes a broad statement: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.
     As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, our highest 
         aim should be godliness – to become more and more 
         like our Master!  

         ➔   As Jesus said in Matthew 10:24 and 25 (Modern 
              King James Version), “A disciple is not above 
              his master, nor the servant above his lord. 
              It is enough for the disciple that he is like 
              his master, and the servant like his lord.”

         ➔   This is the Father’s plan for every believer, 
              according to Romans 8:29:  “For whom He [God, 
              the Father] foreknew, He also predestined to 
              be conformed to the image of His Son, that He 
              might be the firstborn of many brethren....godliness with contentment....”  

         ➔   What is contentment? It is being fully sat-
              isfied with where you are and what you have!

         ➔   The apostle shared his own experience con-
              cerning contentment in Philippians 4:11 
              through 13:

                 “I have learned in whatever state I 
                 am, to be content. I know how to be a-
                 based, and I know how to abound. Every-
                 where and in all things I have learned 
                 to be full and to be hungry, both to 
                 abound and to suffer need. I can do all 
                 things through Christ who strengthens 
                 me.
  • In the next four verses Paul gives supporting arguments against placing too much focus on “…multiplying silver and gold for…[one]self.
       I Timothy 6:7 – “For we brought nothing into this 
         world, and it is certain we can carry nothing 
         out.” (see also Ecclesiastes 5:15, 16).

         ➔   A newborn comes into this world naked, 
              helpless, and has no consciousness of 
              wealth or possessions.

         ➔   As far as departing this life, someone 
              once said, “I have never seen a hearse 
              pulling a U-Haul trailer!”

         ➔   So it is foolishness to pursue that which 
              is not eternal! (see Luke 12:15-21). 

         ➔   And, according to Psalm 14:1 and 53:1, to 
              be a fool is to act like an atheist!  For, 
              “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is 
              no God.’  I Timothy 6:8 – “And having food and clothing, 
         with these we shall be content.” Yes, we need 
         more than having only food and clothing! And 
         the list can get rather long! But Paul’s point 
         is that if our chief concern is to attain god-
         liness (God-likeness), then much of what else 
         we might pursue is unnecessary!

       I Timothy 6:9 – “But those who desire to be rich 
         fall into temptation and a snare, and into many 
         foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in des-
         truction and perdition.”

         ➔   The people under consideration here are 
              those whose main focus in life is to be-
              come wealthy, and so have power, influ-
              ence, and control over those of lower 
              status.

         ➔   In the parable of the sower, found in Mat-
              thew 13:3 through 9 (with Jesus’ interpre-
              tation of this parable in Matthew 13:18 
              through 23), the pursuer of riches does not 
              drown, but any godliness is choked by weeds 
              of materialism! (see Matthew 13:7 and 22).

        I Timothy 6:10 – “For the love of money is the 
         root of all kinds of evil, for which some have 
         strayed from the faith in their greediness, and 
         pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

         ➔   Money is not evil! As a matter of fact, 
              the first mention of gold in the Bible 
              is in Genesis 2:11 through 12 where it 
              mentions the four rivers that divided 
              from the garden of Eden river. “The 
              name of the first [river] is Pishon; it 
              is the one that encompasses the whole 
              land of Havilah, where there is gold.  
              And the gold of that land is good.” If 
              money was evil, God would not have called 
              “...the gold...of Havilah...good...!It is...the love of money [that] is the 
             root of all kinds of evil...! For such 
             love is a consuming love, and that kind 
             of love must be reserved only for the 
             LORD God Himself! (see Mark 12:30).
  • In verse 11, Paul applies all this in a warning to young Timothy: “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, [and] gentleness.” In other words, Get your priorities right! Make sure God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, has first place in your life…not the pursuit of worldly wealth!

Solomon pursued worldly wealth! He ignored God’s prohibition of Deuteronomy 17:17, …nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.The extent of this king’s riches is staggering! Here are a few Scriptures that give us an idea of the wealth he garnered:

  • I Chronicles 29:3 through 5 – David, during the last years of his reign , prepared as much material as he could from Israel’s national resources for the building of God’s temple by his son Solomon. But he also contributed much from his personal wealth!Moreover …I have given…my own special treasure of gold and silver; three thousand talents of gold…and seven thousand talents of refined silver….
     ✡   In today’s dollars, that’s about four hundred 
          billion dollars worth of gold, and thirteen 
          billion dollars worth of silver!  And I’m sure 
          that did not exhaust King David’s personal 
          portfolio!Solomon inherited a lot of wealth from his daddy 
          when he became king!
  • II Chronicles 9:9 – The queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s wisdom and riches, and she came to judge it for herself. She was very impressed! Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold…and precious stones….The gold alone was worth about sixteen million dollars!
  • I Kings 9:26 and 28 – “King Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion Geber…And they went to Ophir, and acquired four hundred and twenty talents of gold…and brought it to King Solomon.This expedition produced about fifty seven million dollars of wealth for the king!
  • I Kings 10:22 – “The king had merchant ships…with Hiram [king of Tyre]. One every three years the…ships came bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and monkeys.
  • I Kings 10:23 through 25 –
     So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth 
     in riches and wisdom. And all the earth sought the 
     presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom....Each man 
     brought his present; articles of silver and gold, 
     garments, armor, spices, horses and mules, at a set 
     rate year by year.
  • I Kings 10:14 and 15 –
     The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was 
     six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold, besides 
     that from the traveling merchants, from the income 
     of traders, from all the kings of Arabia, and from 
     the governors of the country.

     ✡   “...six hundred and sixty-six talents of 
          gold...” is worth in today’s money about 
          ninety million dollars!Ninety million dollars came in each year, 
          and Solomon reigned for forty years! That’s 
          worth about three and a half trillion dol-
          lars!
  • II Chronicles 1:15 – “…the king made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stones….
  • I Kings 10:21– “All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold…not one was of silver, for [silver]…was accounted for as nothing in the days of Solomon.

The king had one more source of great wealth that is not usually counted because it is a bit hidden in I Kings 12:4 (International Standard Version):

  • Solomon’s son and successor, Rehoboam held audience with the people of Israel upon his ascendance to the throne: “Your father made our burdens unbearable. Therefore lighten your father’s requirements and his heavy burdens that he placed on us, and we’ll serve you.
  • Apparently, the heavy burdens the Israelites labored under included a great load of taxes. Being a trillionaire didn’t satisfy Solomon! So he resorted to oppressive taxation!

Adding it all up, is it any wonder that Solomon, the king of Israel, is accounted as the richest man in the history of the world? But although that may be impressive, Solomon failed miserably! He started his kingly life walking close to the LORD, but he left God behind, disobeying His explicit commandments because he didn’t…let the word…dwell in [him]… richly…” (Colossians 3:16). So the great King Solomon ended his life in a shipwreck! And it not only affected him, it affected the whole nation of the Israelites for centuries!

Don’t let this happen to you!
Don’t pursue wrong things as your life’s goal!

…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…!
(Matthew 6:33)

Discerning Between Good and Evil – III

I Kings 3:5-9

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

I want to make a correction from what I wrote in the last Gem. We looked at Deuteronomy 17:18 and 19, part of the passage where God told the Israelites what their king must do:

     “And it shall be when he sits on the throne of his 
     kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of 
     this law in a book. And it shall be with him , and 
     he shall read it all the days of his life, that he 
     may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful 
     to observe all the words of this law and these 
     statutes....” 

And I said concerning these instructions, “There is no record that Solomon ever followed this directive (nor did any other king of the united or split kingdoms of Israel).” But there was one king who followed God’s directive – David! At least most of his private and kingly life he did! For he was, as God said in I Samuel 13:14, “…a man after [the LORD’s]…own heart…! (see also Acts 13:22).

But back to Solomon, and what he asked God for in his divine visitation dream recorded in I Kings 3:7 through 9:

     “Now, O LORD my God, You have made your servant 
     king instead of my father David, but I am a little 
     child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And 
     Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom 
     You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to 
     be numbered or counted.  Therefore give Your ser-
     vant an understanding heart to judge Your people, 
     that I may discern between good and evil. For who 
     is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

…that I may discern between good and evil…includes heeding the prescriptions God laid out for Israel’s future kings in Deuteronomy 17:16 through 19! We have covered four; and while there are two more for our consideration, the next one is so demanding, we may have to go to a fourth Gem to complete this study!

Deuteronomy 17:17 – “Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away….

  • The LORD had warned them more than once concerning this very thing! From the first six verses of Deuteronomy 7, here are some highlights of God’s warning:
     When the Lord your God brings you into the land [of 
     Canaan] which you go to possess...and delivers over
     ...seven nations greater and mightier than you...you 
     shall...utterly destroy them....Nor shall you make 
     marriages with them....For they will turn your sons 
     away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the 
     anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and 
     destroy you suddenly. But...you shall destroy their 
     altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut 
     down their wooden images, and burn their carved im-
     ages with fire. For you are a holy people to the 
     Lord your God...a special treasure above all the 
     peoples on the face of the earth. 

God knew the dynamics of social interaction, love and passion, for He created these dynamics! And He knew the sinful heart of man could be pulled away from loving and serving Him by involvement with those who didn’t follow Him!

  • But more than any other Jewish king, Solomon broke the LORD’s command not to …multiply wives for himself….! For we are told I Kings 11:1 through 4:
     ...King Solomon loved many foreign women...of the 
     Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hit-
     tites — from the nations of whom the LORD had said 
     to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermar-
     ry with them, nor they with you. For surely they 
     will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Sol-
     omon clung to these in love.  And he had seven hun-
     dred wives, princesses, and three hundred concu-
     bines; and his wives turned away his heart...after 
     other gods....

     ✡   Eerdmans, The New Bible Dictionary describes 
          concubines as “A secondary wife acquired by 
          purchase or as a war captive.....Concubines 
          were protected under Jewish law though they 
          were distinquished from wives and were more 
          easily divorced.” (see Exodus 21:7-11; Deu-
          teronomy 21:10-14).

     ✡   Primary or secondary wives – Solomon had one 
          thousand of them! I have enough of a challenge 
          keeping one wife happy.  How could Solomon keep 
          a thousand happy!

     ✡   We do know that the king made political allian-
          ces by marrying foreign princesses, such as the 
          daughter of Pharoah, king of Egypt (see I Kings 
          7:8).  
  • I Kings 11:4 – “…when Solomon was old [probably only in his 50’s]…his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God….What other gods?
     ✡   I Kings 11:15 – “...Ashtoreth the goddess of the 
          Sidonians....” By Solomon’s time, Ashtoreth (or 
          Ashtaroth) was the main goddess of the Mediter-
          ranean coastal region, and also worshiped across 
          the territory of Canaan and the Syro-Arabian na-
          tions. She was the wife of Baal, chief of the 
          gods, and the god of war. Ashtoreth was associ-
          ated with fertility, sex, love, and war. Accord-
          ing to The Old Testament Speaks, by Samuel J. 
          Shultz (Harper and Rowe Publishers; New York; 
          1970) p. 92:

             Since the gods of the Canaanites had no 
             moral character, it is not surprising 
             that the morality of the people was ex-
             tremely low. The brutality and immoral-
             ity in the stories about these gods is 
             far worse than anything found in the 
             Near East....the Canaanites of Joshua’s 
             day [and later into Solomon’s time] 
             practiced child sacrifice, sacred pros-
             titution, and snake worship in their...
             religion. Naturally, their civilization 
             degenerated under this demoralizing in-
             fluence.

     ✡   I Kings 11:15 – “...Milcom the abomination of the 
          Ammonites.” An Ammonite form of Baal, Milcom was 
          the northwest Semitic god of storm and fertility. 
          Little is known about Milcom except (as described 
          above) he was “...the abomination of the Ammon-
          ites.” 

     ✡   I Kings 11:7 – “...Chemosh the abomination of 
          Moab....”  In the days of the prophet Elisha, 
          the alliance of Israel, Judah, and Edom attack-
          ed the Moabites. Mesha, Moab’s king, retreated 
          to the Moabite walled city of Kir Haraseth. 
          Mesha tried to break through with seven hundred 
          warriors to kill the king of Edom, but failed.

             Then the king of Moab took his oldest son, 
             who would become the next king after him. 
             On the wall around the city, the king of 
             Moab offered his son as a burnt offering. 
             This upset the Israelites very much. So the 
             Israelites left the king of Moab and went 
             back to their own land. (II Kings 3:27 – 
             Easy-to-Read Version).

     ✡   I Kings 11:17 – “...Molech the abomination of the 
          people of Ammon.”  Although worship of Molech was 
          promoted by Solomon, we find more information a-
          bout this god from the giving of the law in...

         ➔   Leviticus 18:21 (Contemporary English 
              Version) – “Don't sacrifice your child-
              ren on the altar fires to the god Mo-
              lech. I am the LORD your God, and that 
              would disgrace Me.”

         ➔   Leviticus 20:2 and 3 (Bible in Basic Eng-
              lish) – “If any man of the children of 
              Israel, or any other man living in Israel, 
              gives his offspring to Molech, he is cer-
              tainly to be put to death: he is to be 
              stoned by the people of the land; and My 
              face will be turned against that man, and 
              he will be cut off from his people; because 
              he has given his offspring to Molech, mak-
              ing My holy place unclean, and making My 
              holy name common.

This is not a complete list of the gods Solomon worshiped. For it says in I Kings 11:8, “And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

So Solomon, who started out so close to the LORD, ended up in major idolatry! For idolatry is the most grievous of sins into which one can fall!

  • And he didn’t affect just himself. All Israel followed his lead!
They worshiped foreign gods!They disobeyed the LORD!They sinned and brought down His judgement upon 
          themselves and the whole nation – which included 
          Israel splitting into two kingdoms, Israel to the 
          north and Judah to the south, under the reign of 
          Solomon’s son Rehoboam.  

     And the king’s sin affected the nation for at least 
     three hundred years, until King Josiah destroyed the 
     high places where Israelites worshiped! (read II Kings 
     chapter 23).  Even after that, the Israelites still 
     practiced idolatry!
  • God addressed idolatry in Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.
     ✡   It is called the Shema, the summation of the 
          Jewish law!

      In Mark 12:29 though 31 (see also Matthew 22:37; 
         Luke 10:27) Jesus quoted the Shema, and added 
         Leviticus 19:18:

             “The first of all the commandments is: 
             ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the 
             LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD 
             your God with all your heart, with all 
             your soul, with all your mind, and with 
             all your strength.’ This is the first. 
             And the second, like it, is this: ‘You 
             shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
             There is no other commandment greater 
             than these.” 

     ✞   If, as Jesus said in Matthew 22:38 (New Interna-
         tional Version), referring to the first of the 
         two, “This is the first and greatest commandment
         ...,” then breaking this first and greatest com-
         mandment is the greatest of sins!

     ✞   Jesus added anothertwistto all this in John 
         14:15: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” 
         or “If you love Me, you will obey Me.” (Worldwide 
         English version).  So, if you love God, you are 
         to obey ...the LORD your God with all your heart, 
         with all your soul, with all your mind, and with 
         all your strength...!
  • Anything less than putting God first in your heart and life is idolatry!
     And, if the LORD is vacated from the throne of 
         your life, the primary thing that will occupy 
         that throne is your own self!Solomon replaced God with himself, his own will 
          and way in place of the LORD’s! He was breaking...the first and greatest commandment...”! By 
          so doing, he committed “...the first and great-
          est...” SIN!

But there is one more failure in his kingly record according to Deuteronomy 17:14 through 19, and we will examine that in our next Gem, finishing this four-part study called Discerning Between Good and Evil.

Discerning Between Good and Evil – II

I Kings 3:5-9

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The above print depicts a divine encounter that happened to newly-enthoned King Solomon, recorded in I Kings 3:5 through 9:

     At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream
     ...; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?”...
     And Solomon said...“...O LORD my God, You have made 
     your servant king instead of my father David, but I 
     am a little child; I do not know how to go out or 
     come in.  And Your servant is in the midst of Your 
     people whom You have chosen, a great people, too 
     numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give 
     Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your 
     people, that I may discern between good and evil. 
     For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

A more noble request could not have been made by a ruler over God’s people! And in the early part of his 40 year reign, Solomon showed forth that God-given wisdom! The first recorded display of his wisdom came quickly, recorded in I Kings 3:16-27, just after the king’s nighttime visitation. Here is the gist of the incident:
  • Two harlots who lived in the same house came before Solomon bearing one infant boy, the surviving child of two boys born just three days apart. One claimed the other had killed her baby at night by rolling over on it in her sleep. The other said the first was the one who did this, and then switched her dead son with the first woman’s live infant.
  • Solomon heard their testimonies, then called for a sword. “Divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other.” (verse 25).
  • The two women both gave urgent responses (verse 26):
     ✡   The true mother cried out, “O my lord, give her 
          the living child, and by no means kill him!”

     ✡   “But the other said, ‘let him be neither mine 
          nor yours, but divide him.
  • The king’s decision came immediately (verse 27): “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him; she is his mother.

Verse 28 shows the result of such wisdom: “And all Israel heard…and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.

If only Solomon had held a straight course to his plea,…that I may discern between good and evil.” But he didn’t!

In the last Gem, I directed us back to Deuteronomy 17:14 through 17. Here I will start with verse 16 for the sake of space, and add verses 18 and 19. For I said that there are four prescriptions God gave Israel for choosing their future king. There are actually six that apply to Solomon, and the last two in verses 18 and 19 are the most important!

     “...he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor 
     cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply 
     horses, for the Lord has said to you,‘You shall 
     not return that way again.’ Neither shall he mul-
     tiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; 
     nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for 
     himself. And it shall be when he sits on the throne 
     of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a 
     copy of this law in a book....And it shall be with 
     him , and he shall read it all the days of his life, 
     that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be 
     careful to observe all the words of this law and 
     these statutes....” 

So we will start with Deuteronomy 17:18 – “And it shall be when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book….The king was to himself write a copy of at least the book of Deuteronomy, and possibly the whole Pentateuch!

  • This exercise was meant to ingrain the word of God into the mind and heart of the king!
  • There is no record that Solomon ever followed this directive (nor did any other king of the united or split kingdoms of Israel).

Writing out Scripture is a great way to get it inside of you where God wants to do His work!

Deuteronomy 17:19 – “And it shall be with him , and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes….

  • Did Solomon read Scripture…all the days of his life…?
  • Again, there is no record that he daily read the Word of God!

Colossians 3:16 plainly tells us, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly….” But to have this happen, You must dwell richly in the Word! You should read it, study it, meditate on it, even memorize pertinent Scriptures daily!

So how else did King Solomon fall short of his plea to God, …that I may discern between good and evil…?

Deuteronomy 17:16 – “…he shall not multiply horses for himself….

  • …because we are told in Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” I count a dozen or more Scriptures in Psalms and Proverbs that steer the LORD’s people away from trusting anything or anyone except God to keep our country on the right track! But since we are highlighting dependence upon horses, check out also Psalm 33:17, Psalm 147:10, and Proverbs 21:31.
  • But Solomon …multiplied horses [and chariots] for himself…!
     ✡   I Kings 10:26 – “And Solomon gathered chariots 
          and horsemen; he had one thousand four hundred 
          chariots and twelve thousand horsemen whom he 
          stationed in the chariot cities and with the 
          king in Jerusalem.” No, it does not mention 
          horses here. But you have to have horses for 
          twelve thousand horsemen!


     ✡   And II Chronicles 9:25 confirms it – “Solomon had 
          four thousand stalls for horses and chariots....

Deuteronomy 17:16 – “…he shall not…cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’

  • Isaiah 31:1 is pretty much a parallel verse to Deuteronomy 17:16:
     Woe to those who who go down to Egypt for help, and 
     rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they 
     are many, and in horsemen because they are very 
     strong, but do not seek the Holy One of Israel, not 
     seek the LORD.”  
  • How did Solomon compare to this prohibition?
     ✡   I Kings 10:28, 29 – “And Solomon had horses im-
          ported from Egypt....Now a chariot...cost six 
          hundred shekels of silver, and a horse one hun-
          dred and fifty....”  

     ✡   I Kings 10:29 – Not only did he buy horses and 
          chariots from Egypt to build up His own Israel-
          ite army, but “...through their agents, they 
          exported them to all the kings of the Hittites 
          and the kings of Syria.

Let’s pause here, for there is yet much to say concerning the last two prohibitions God laid out for the future Israelite kings to heed. We will finish this study of King Solomon and Discerning Between Good and Evil in our next Gem.