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.

Discerning Between Good and Evil – I

I Kings 3:7-9

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

The caption in the picture above is from James 1:5, and it says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God….That’s just what Solomon did as God appeared to him in a 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 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?”

God’s answer includes these words, from I Kings 3:12 through 14:

     “...behold, I have done according to your words; see, 
     I have given you a wise and understanding heart....And 
     I have also given you what you have not asked: both 
     riches and honor....So if you walk in My ways, to keep 
     My statutes and My commandments, as your father David 
     walked, then I will lengthen your days.

But…

  • Solomon’s days were not lengthened! Although, according to I Kings 11:42, he reigned for forty years, he died at the young age of about 52 to 56 years old!
  • He did not walk in God’s ways! He did not keep the LORD’s statutes! He did not obey His commandments!

We will get back to that. But I find it interesting that God’s challenge to “…walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments…” are followed by “…as your father David walked…! But David messed up big time!

  • In II Samuel 11:1 through 5, David committed adultery with…Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite…” (verse 3), impregnating her!
Bathsheba was bathing on the flat rooftop of her 
          house, just a couple of doors away from David’s 
          palace.  She could have refused David’s call for 
          a dalliance, but she didn’t!  So Bathsheba is al-
          so to blame for this sinful tryst!

     ✡   It says she was “...the daughter of Eliam....” 
          (II Samuel 11:3) Who was Eliam?  In II Samuel 23:
          34 we discover that “...Eliam [was] the son of 
          Ahithophel the Gilonite....”  Besides being the 
          grandfather of Bathsheba, what else do we know 
          about Ahithophel?  

              ➔   According to II Samuel 15:12, “...Ahith-
                   ophel the Gilonite...[was] David’s coun-
                   selor...He was a trusted counselor 
                   to the king!

              ➔   But Ahithophel turned agianst King David 
                   and joined Absolom’s rebellion (see II 
                   Samuel 15:31) when David’s son tried to 
                   take the kingdom by force, even if it 
                   meant murdering his father!  
Ahithophel’s plan focused on killing 
                   King David! (see II Samuel 17:1-3).

              ➔   But Ahithophel’s counsel was opposed 
                   by Hushai the Archite, who was sent 
                   secretly by David to negate what 
                   Ahithophel had proposed for Absolom to 
                   do (see II Samuel 17:5-14).

              ➔   Apparently, Ahithophel never forgot what 
                   David did to his grand-daughter Bathshe-
                   ba!  And his heart burned for revenge!  
                   But when Absolom took Hushie’s advice 
                   over that of Ahithophel, the traitor 
                   knew that his influence was lost! 

     ✡    It says in II Samuel 17:23:

             Now when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was 
             not followed, he saddled his donkey, and arose 
             and went home to his house, to his city. Then 
             he put his household in order, and hanged him-
             self, and died....   

So how could God command Solomon in I Kings 3:14,…walk in My ways…[and] keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked…?

  • It is because, although David was a great sinner, he was also a great repenter! (Read Psalm 51 and 32). And he had great faith in his God!
  • This is why, as Paul preached in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, he said in Acts 13:21 and 22, “…God…raised up…David as king, to whom He also gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David…a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’
  • David’s sins were covered and cleansed by the LORD Himself! (see Isaiah 1:18).

When God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, Heboughtthem to be His own people! The LORD’s perfect will for His redeemed nation was that He Himself would be their King and Ruler!

  • But He also knew the Isaelites’ rebellious heart. He knew they would ask for a king! And so God warmed them in Deuteronomy17:14 through 17, giving them several restrictions concerning that future ruler Israel would insist on having:
     “When you come to the land which the Lord your God 
     is giving you...and say, ‘I will set a king over me 
     like all the nations that are around me,” you shall 
     surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God 
     chooses....But he shall not multiply horses for him-
     self, 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 
     multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn a-
     way; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold 
     for himself.” 

Now remember that Solomon asked the LORD specifically to “…give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil.

How did King Solomon do compared to his own request and God’s previous warning?

There are four prescriptions the LORD laid out in Deuteronomy 17:17. In our next Gem, we will rate Solomon in each of these catagories.

Reunion

I Thessalonians 4:13-18

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

At the end of this month I will attend a United States Air Force reunion! I will see people with whom I served 50 plus years ago at the 656th Radar Squadron outside of Saratoga Springs, New York. And that got me to thinking….

I am now 75 years old. How many more days do I have on this earth? Only God knows! But the longer I live, the more treasure I have in heaven! What treasure? Christians who have gone on to heaven before me!

  • My mother – My wife Hope and I led her to the Lord in 1970, when mom was 68 years old. She died seven years later.
  • My brother Neil – He led a rough life for most of his 69 years – hooked on prescription drugs for the majority of that time. He had developed a serious case of COPD, and was in an Oregon hospital ICU where they were making him comfortable by inducing a morphine coma as he slipped into eternity. I called the ICU to tell him I loved him, but the nurse said it was too late, he was already deep in a coma. But she handed the phone to Neil’s daughter, and I heard her say, “Dad, it’s Chip!Neil came out of that coma to assure me that he had accepted Jesus as his Savior, and that he would see me in heaven!
  • My Uncle Stuart was a wonderful Christian man. I hadn’t been in contact with him for years and years. But he reached out to me at age 82 and we started corresponding – he living in Florida, and I in Pennsylvania. He told me he was going to Israel with a Floridian group of seniors, and I surprised him by signing up to go. Keep in mind we hadn’t seen each other in almost thirty years! We roomed together, and it was like we picked up in our relationship from yesterday! I will never forget serving Uncle Stuart communion at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee, as the sun set over the water! Hope and I visited him and his wife Audrey in Florida, and had a wonderful time. He died in his 90’s, and I was privileged to speak at his funeral.
  • Mitch was a drug addict who had lost his job, his money, and his family. But God sent me to him one cold January night to tell him about Jesus. He opened his heart and life to the Savior with tears rolling down his cheeks! Hope and I started a neighborhood Bible study especially for Mitch so he could grow in his Christian faith. He died unexpectedly in May of that same year!

So many others!

Some I had the priviledge to lead them to the Lord. Others were Christians already, like those of United Baptist Church of Taylor, Pennsylvania – my special prayer support group! I was their pastor in my late 30’s….and they were four women (three in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s!) When I had a problem or challenge in that church (and there were many!), we would gather for prayer and I would benefit from their wisdom of years!

  • Gert was the senior in that group – rough around the edges and tough as nails! But, oh, the wisdom in that gray head…and the love in her heart!
  • Jane was often hilarious, even when she wasn’t trying to be. We would laugh and sometimes cry over the problems we faced! She was a great pray-er!
  • Marion became a strong Christian late in life. I met her when she was hospitalized because, although she was a member, she had never come to church. I asked her if she knew she was a Christian and that she had eternal life in Jesus. She answered in the affirmative, but later told me, “I lied!But that lie led her to reconsider her destiny, and she opened her heart to the Lord! She became a strong prayer partner and supporter of my ministry.
  • Sandy was the youngest of my support group, just a three or four years older than I. She was Gert’s daughter, and she must have learned practical wisdom and godliness from her mom! She is the last living member of those special ladies! She and her husband Bob are both dearest friends!

When I think of those who have gone on to heaven, I do miss them. But I know I will have a reunion! And what a wonderful reunion it will be! Here is what it says in I Thessalonians 4:13 through 18:

     But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, 
     concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you 
     sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we be-
     lieve that Jesus died and rose again, even so God 
     will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For 
     this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that 
     we who are alive and remain until the coming of 
     the Lord will by no means precede those who are 
     asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from 
     heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archan-
     gel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in 
     Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and 
     remain shall be caught up together with them in 
     the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus 
     we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort 
     one another with these words.

This passage is describing the Rapture, when Jesus comes back for His Church (all believers since Pentecost began the Church Age, almost two thousand years ago – see Acts chapter 2). This I Thessalonians Scripture is not referring to the Second Coming of our Lord (see Revelation 19:11-16) when He returns to rule the earth! Between the Rapture and the Second Coming is the seven-year Tribulation when great judgments of God fall upon the wicked of the earth.

But my favorite part of the I Thessalonians Scripture above is verses 16 and 17 which says:

     And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who 
     are alive and remain shall be caught up together with 
     them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And 
     thus we shall always be with the Lord.
  • Those who died believing in Jesus Christ as their Savior will be bodily resurrected (see John 11:25, 26; I Corinthians 15:51-54).
  • Those who are still living…shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…” (I Corinthians 15:51, 52).
  • We will…meet the Lord in the air.” (I Thessalonians 4:17). And when that happens, according to I John 3:2, “…we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as His is.” (see also I Corinthians 13:12; 15:49, 53-55).
  • We will be…together with them [our Christian loved ones]….And so we…together… shall always be with the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 4:17).

I have so many beloved Christian brothers and sisters that I am longing to see again! And I will see them again! And we will have forever to enjoy one another!

I can hardly wait for this heavenly reunion!

Working Your Way Into Heaven John 6:28, 29

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

It is found in John 6, verses 28 and 29:

     And they said to Him, “What shall we do that we may 
     work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to 
     them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in 
     Him whom He sent.”

What have we found in these two verses? The work that we must do to please God and gain eternal life!But I thought that you can’t work your way into God’s favor! After all doesn’t it say in Titus 3:5, ‘Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit…’? And aren’t there a lot of other Scriptures that say we can’t work our way into His favor?

Yes there are!

  • Ecclesasties 7:20 – “…there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.
  • Isaiah 57:12 – “I will declare your [self] righteousness and your works, for they will not profit you.
  • 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 iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
  • Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
  • Romans 4:4, 5 – “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.
  • Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
  • Ephesians 2:8, 9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
  • II Timothy 1:9, 10 –
     God ...has saved us and called us with a holy calling, 
     not according to our works, but according to His own 
     purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ 
     Jesus before the world began, but has not been reveal-
     ed to us by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, 
     who has abolished death and brought life and immortal-
     ity to light through the gospel.

So why did Jesus, in John 6:29 describe as work believing in the Father who sent His Son Jesus to be our Savior? It is because the Jews were sohung up on gaining God’s favor by their works! Here are some examples:

  • Matthew 19:16 – “Now behold…[the rich young ruler] came and said to [Jesus]… ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’
  • Luke 18:11, 12 –
     The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 
     “God, I thank You that I am not like other men — 
     extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this 
     tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes 
     of all that I possess.”  

Jesus said in verse 14 that this Pharisee did not find justification before God!

  • Romans 9:31 and 32 (English Standard Version) – “Israel…pursued a law that would lead to righteousness [but] did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works.
  • Romans 10:3 – The Jews …being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
  • Galatians 5:4 – “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law, you have fallen from grace.
  • Philippians 3:4-6 – Paul’s pre-Christian testimony:
     “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the 
     flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the 
     stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew 
     of Hebrews, concerning the law, a Pharisee; concern-
     ing zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the 
     righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”

Jesus was dealing with a people who emphasized works to please the LORD! So He spoke to them on their level, using their language: “This is the work of God….” But notice, it is the work of God, not of man! And God did all the work necessary!

  • II Timothy 1:9 – The Triune God laid out the plan to save sinful human beings, “…before the world began…
...before anything was created!...before any human being walked the earth!...before anyone sinned and needed redemption!

God knew what work He would have to do!

And what is that work that only God could do?

  • I Timothy 1:15 – God the Son, JesusChrist came into the world to save sinners….
  • Galatians 4:4 and 5 – “…when the fulness of time has come, God sent forth His Son…to redeem [humankind]….
  • I Peter 1:18 and 19; 2:22 – “…you were…redeemed…with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot….who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth….
  • Acts 17:2 and 3 (International Standard Version) – “…Paul…[from] the Scriptures… showed…that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead: ‘This very Jesus whom I proclaim…is the Messiah.’

It is all the Lord’s work, and we can add nothing to it but acceptance of what He has already done!

  • Romans 3:21 through 25 –
      ...now the righteousness of God apart from [obeying] 
      the law is revealed...through faith in Jesus Christ, 
      to all and on all who beieve. For there is no differ-
      ence [between Jew and Gentile]; for all have sinned 
      and fall short of the glory of God, being justified 
      freely by His grace through the redemption that is 
      in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation 
      by His blood, through faith....  
  • Romans 10:9 and 13 –
     ...if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and 
     believe in your heart that God raised Him from the 
     dead, you will be saved....For whoever calls upon the 
     name of the Lord shall be saved.
  • Acts 16:30 and 31 – The Philippian jailer pleaded with Paul and Silas, “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved….’

Do you insist on working your way into God’s favor and acceptance? Remember what Jesus said in John 6:29…

“This is the work of God,
that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

A Good King In Hell!

II Chronicles 24:1, 2, 25

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

Joash was the youngest king of Israel or Judah, crowned when he was only seven years old! There hadn’t been a good king in Judah for sixteen years, ever since Joash’s great grandfather Jehoshaphat passed away (see II Chronicles 20:31-34; 21:1).

  • In those sixteen years Jehoshaphat’s wicked son Jehoram reigned eight years (see II Chronicles 21:1-6).
  • Then came Ahaziah, Jehoram’s wicked son, who only reigned one year before he was murdered by Jehu, who then became king over the northern kingdom of Israel (see II Chronicles 22:1-9).
  • Athaliah ruled next over Judah for almost seven years. (See II Chronicles 22:12). But Athaliah was an anomoly! For she was the only queen to rule in ancient Israel!
And she ruled illegitimately, seizing the throne 
          when her son Ahaziah was murdered! 
          (see II Chronicles 22:9, 10). 

     ✡   Once queen, it says in II Chronicles 22:10, “...
          she arose and destroyed all the royal heirs [all 
          of Ahaziah’s sons] of the house of Judah....all 
          but one! 

     ✡   We are told in II Chronicles 22:11 and 12:

             But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of [King 
             Jehoram and sister of King Ahaziah, and]
             ...the wife of Jehoiada the [high] priest
             ...took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole 
             him away from among the king’s sons who 
             were being murdered, and put him and his 
             nurse in a bedroom....So Jehoshabeath...
             hid him from Athaliah so that she did not 
             kill him.  And he was hidden...in the house 
             of God for six years, while Athaliah reigned 
             over the land.  

The time came when the High Priest Jehoiada decided to establish the true king on the throne (the descendant of King David), and depose the illegitimate queen! Read the whole story in II Chronicles chapter 23. But here is part of our featured Scripture, from II Chronicles 24:1, 2:

     Joash was seven years old when he became king, and he 
     reigned forty years in Jerusalem....Joash did what was 
     right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoia-
     da the priest....

We will get back to II Chronicles 24:25 after we look at the good things King Joash did, listed throughout chapter 24:

  • Verse 4 – “Now it happened after this that Joash set his heart on repairing the house of the LORD.
     ✡   It was now the 23rd year of Joash’s reign – 39 
          years,  since the last godly king of Judah, 
          Jehoshaphat, had cared for the temple of the 
          LORD.  Since then, the temple had fallen into 
          disrepair and had been desecrated by the wick-
          ed queen, Athaliah.  We are told in II Chron-
          icles 24:7:

             ...the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, 
             had broken into the house of God, and had 
             also presented all the dedicated things of 
             the house of the LORD to the Baals [false 
             Canaanite gods].After a delay of some years, money was collected, 
          workmen were hired, and, “...the workmen labored, 
          and the work was completed by them; they restored 
          the house of God to its original condition and 
          reinforced it. (II Chronicles 24:13).
  • Verse 14 – “When they were finished, they brought the rest of the money before the king and Jehoiada; they made from it articles for the house of the LORD, articles for serving and offering, spoons and vessels of gold and silver.
  • Verse 14 – “And they offered burnt offerings in the house of the LORD continually all the days of Jehoiada.

But we read in II Chronicles 24:15 and 16:

     ...Jehoiada grew old and was full of days; he was one 
     hundred and thirty years old when he died. And they 
     buried him in the City of David [Jerusalem] among the 
     kings, because he had done good in Israel, both toward 
     God and His house.

With the passing of the high priest Jehoiada, a terrible turn of events happened in the kingdom of Judah! Here is the last part of II Chronicles 24:

  • Verse 17 – “Now after the death of Jehoiada the leaders of Judah came and bowed down to the king. And the king listened to them.
  • Verse 18 – “Therefore they left the house of the LORD…and served…idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass.
  • Verse 19 – “Yet [God]…sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the LORD…but they would not listen.
  • Verse 20 – “Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada…and [he] said to them, ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He also has forsaken you.’
  • Verse 21 – “So they conspired against [Zechariah]…and at the commandment of the king [Joash] they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD.
  • Verse 22 – “Thus Joash…did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada…had done to him, but killed his son; and as he died, he said, ‘The LORD look on it and repay!’

The next spring, a small army of Syrians invaded Judah and defeated a large Judean defending army!

  • Verse 23 – “…they…destroyed all the leaders of the people…and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus.
  • Verse 24 – “So they executed judgment against Joash.

But that wasn’t enough of a judgment from God against the king! For it is written in II Chronicles 24…

  • Verse 25 – “And when [the Syrians]…had withdrawn from him (for they left him severely wounded), his own servants conspired against him because of the sons of Jehoiada the priest, and killed him on his bed. So he died….
     ✡   It says “...the sons of Jehoiada the priest....”  
          So King Joash must have murdered more than just 
          Zechariah!
  • Verse 25 – A final humiliation!And they buried him in the City of David, but they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings.
     ✡   “...Jehoiada the priest...was so honored that 
          he was buried with the kings....Very unusual!
...but not King Joash!

Here is what God says about this whole situation in Ezekiel 33:13:

     When I say to the righteous that he shall surley live, 
     but he trustes in his own righteousness and commits 
     iniquity, none of his righteous works shall be remem-
     bered, but because of the iniquity that he has commit-
     ted, he shall die.

So where is good King Josah? Is he in heaven? No! He is in hades, suffering in the flames, as the rich man was suffering in Jesus’ parable in Luke 16:19 through 31. Joash is waiting to be cast …in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:9).

And the main point of this study?

Don’t rely on past goodness to get you into heaven!
Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior,
and live day by day reflecting His goodness!

A Bad King In Heaven!

II Chronicles 33:1, 2, 9

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

That is disturbing picture! Represented is Manasseh, king of Judah (697-642 BC); his 55 year reign was the longest of any king of either the united kingdom or the later split kingdoms (Israel to the north, Judah to the south). He was also the most wicked king in the Jews’ Old Testament history! In the twenty-second year of his reign, he was taken prisoner by the Assyrians, and carried off to Babylon! The Contemporary English Version in II Chronicles 33:10 and 11 describes what the picture represents this way:

     The LORD tried to warn Manasseh and the people about 
     their sins, but they ignored the warning.  So he let 
     Assyrian army commanders invade Judah and capture 
     Manasseh. They put a hook in his nose and tied him up 
     in chains, and they took him to Babylon. 

Manasseh’s godly father, King Hezekiah was granted a fifteen-year extension to his life (see II Kings 20:1-6). Since Manasseh was only twelve years old when he began his reign, he must have been born during this fifteen-year extension!

Here are some of the highlights (or should we say, lowlights) from II Kings 21 of Manasseh’s reign:

  • Verse 2 – “…he did evil in the sight of the LORD according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.” God gave the Israelites strict laws, such as in Leviticus chapters 17 through 20, concerning what they must never do! Here is what He said in Leviticus 18:3 through 5:
     ...according to the doing of the land of Canaan...you 
     shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances
     ....You shall...keep My statutes and My judgments, 
     which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the 
     LORD.
  • Verse 3 – “…he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed….The high places were where apostate Jews worshiped the false and degrading gods of other pagan nations.
  • Verse 3 – “…he…made a wooden image, as Ahab king of Israel had done…” (see I Kings 16:33). The second of the Ten Commandments says in Exodus 20:4 and 5:
     You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or 
     any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or 
     that is the earth beneath, or that is in the water 
     under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor 
     serve them....
  • Verse 3 – “…he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them.” The LORD had told the Israelites in Exodus 20:3 (the first of the Ten Commandments): “You shall have no other gods before Me.
  • Verses 4 and 5 – “He also built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, ‘In Jerusalem I will put My name.’ And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.
  • Verse 6 (English Standard Version) – “He burned his son as an offering….” But God explicitly said in Deuteronomy 12:31, “…every abomination to which the LORD hates…[the Canaanite nations] have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.
  • Verse 6 (International Standard Version) – “He…practiced witchcraft, used divination, and consorted with mediums and spirit-channelers. He practiced many things that the LORD considered to be evil and provoked him.” In Deuteronomy 18:10 through 12, God said this:
     There shall not be found among you anyone...who 
     practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who 
     interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who con-
     jures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one 
     who calls up the dead. For all who do these things 
     are an abomination to the LORD....
  • Verse 7 – “He even set a carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the LORD had said…‘In this house…which I have chosen…I will put My name forever….” Yet in Isaiah 48:11 He said, “…how shall My name be profaned? …I will not give My glory to another.

It does not look good for King Manasseh!

But…

…part of our featured Scripture is verses 12 and 13 of II Chronicles 33: “Now when he [Manasseh] was in affliction* [in Babylon], he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and he prayed to Him….” We are told in Isaiah 55:6 and 7:

     Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him 
     while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, 
     and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return 
     to the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to 
     our God, for He will abundantly pardon.

It may sound unfair after all that Manasseh had done, but God is faithful to save the repentant sinner! Consider the man on the cross next to Jesus, the one who rebuked his fellow, and cried out, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42).

  • He was a thief, and insurrectionist, and most likely a murderer!
  • He only had hours to live!
  • He could do nothing physically, for he was nailed to his cross!
  • He could only cry out to King Jesus to remember him!

And he is in heaven, rejoicing in his Savior and Lord Jesus Christ!

So it is with Manasseh! And if his humiliation at the hands of the Assyrians did happen in the twenty-second year of his reign, he had another 33 years to show he meant business when he turned back to God! Is there any proof he was serious in his repentance?

  • II Chronicles 33:13 – God…received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.
  • II Chronicles 33:15 and 16 (English Standard Version):
     And he took away the foreign gods and the idol from 
     the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he 
     had built on the mountain of the house of the LORD 
     and in Jerusalem, and he threw them outside of the 
     city. He also restored the altar of the LORD and 
     offered on it sacrifices of peace offerings and of 
     thanksgiving, and he commanded Judah to serve the 
     LORD, the God of Israel. 

Yes, his many years of sinning still affected his people! (see II Kings 21:11-17). Sin does that! But no one has sinned so much that God will not receive into His arms upon sincere repentance and faith! So from the evidence in Scripture, especially from II Chronicles 33:13 through 20…

Manasseh, a bad king, is in heaven!


*According to the Haggadah (Jewish rabbinic legendary traditions), Manasseh was taken prisoner to Babylon and tortured in a heated oven! It was in the oven that he made supplication to the gods he worshiped in Judah. When none helped him in his misery, he cried out to the One God Jehovah who delivered him!

“If…”

II Chronicles 7:14, 15

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

If… is one of the biggest two-letter words in the English language! It can decide the outcome of a small incident, or world-changing situations! The latter is applied to this opening word in II Chronicles 7:14 and 15:

     ...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 I will hear from heaven, and 
     will forgive their sin and heal their land.  Now My 
     eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer 
     made in this place.

II Chronicles 7:14 is the theme verse in a prayer time we started at our church – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – from 6:30 to 8 AM. I resurrected a three-by-ten foot banner I made 39 years ago for an evangelistic service we had in another church. Having studied revivals that have taken place through history, I have learned that all revivals have been preceded by intense prayer! So we are calling on God to heal our land! America needs to be healed from…

  • …the Covid pandemic now resurging!
  • …political, social, racial, and economic divides!
  • …sexual and gender confusion!
  • …the cultural push to cancel or rewrite our American history!
  • …the ongoing wars and conflicts into which our enemies have drawn us!
  • …the personal and family needs of so many in our country!
  • …the spiritual decline especially prevalent among our younger generations!

All these issues (and more) are addressed when we experience a heaven-sent, Spirit- empowered revival!

Gerald, at age 90, is one of our regular participants in the revival prayer time. He has regularly brought up the importance of the first word in II Chronicles 7:14 –If…!

Accordiing to II Chronicles 7:14, there are three things that God will do – that only God can do! Often in language, there is a second word in relation to the word if. It is the word then. If this or that happens, then this or that will follow. So it is with God!

  • …then I will hear from heaven….God only is in heaven, that is, He and only the ones whom He invites into His presence!
  The angels who did not follow Lucifer in his rebellion 
     (see Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12 -17).  

     ➔    Matthew 26:53 – Jesus said, “...do you think 
           that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He 
           will provide me with more than twelve legions 
           of angels?”

     A Roman legion at full strength was six thousand 
     soldiers! That means Jesus could have had ...more 
     than...72,000 angels come to His assistance!...more than...could refer to millions of angels!  
     Revelation 5:11 appears to refer to at least a hun-
     dred million angels!

     ➔    Revelation 12:3, 4 – “...a great fiery red dra-
           gon [Satan]...his tail drew a third of the stars 
           of heaven, and threw them to the earth....”

     Many Bible scholars believe that “...the stars of 
     heaven...” refer to the angels that followed Satan’s 
     rebellion and became demons!...one third...of 
     the angels would be...more than...36,000 demons, 
     perhaps millions of them! Factoring in Revelation 
     5:11, there could be 33 million demons!

✞    Redeemed human beings!

     ➔    Revelation 7:9 describes “...a great multitude 
           which no one could number, of all nations, 
           tribes, peoples and tongues...” – saved human 
           beings who put their trust in Jesus Christ as 
           their Redeemer!

     Whether this is just those saved out of the Great 
     Tribulation or across the ages of history, it isn’t 
     exactly clear. But it seems to lean toward those so 
     saved. If so, the number of believers in heaven since 
     Adam and Eve must truly be beyond comprehension!

But back to God who ...will hear from heaven...,only He 
is omniscient (knowing all things), and only He can hear 
all the sincere and repentant prayers of His people! 
  • …then…I will forgive their sin….” In Luke 5:20, 21, the scribes and Pharisees had it right when they questioned, “Who can forgive sins but God alone? ” when Jesus said to the paralytic “Man, your sins are forgiven you.
       Only God can forgive sins, because sin is ul-
          timately against Him! As David wrote in his 
          confessive psalm 51 and verse 4: “Against You, 
          You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in 
          Your sight.” And yet he had...

          ➔    ...committed adultery with Bathsheba, even 
                fathering a child with her (see II Samuel 
                11:1-5).

          ➔    ...tried to cover up this adulterous sin 
                by having Bathsheba’s husband Uriah mur-
                dered (see II Samuel 11:14-17). 

          ➔    ...remained unrepentant about a year con-
                cerning his sin.

     I John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is 
          faithful and just to forgive us our sins and 
          to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

         ➔    As David testified in Psalm 32:1-5:

               Blessed is he whose transgression is 
               forgiven, whose sin is covered. Bles-
               sed is the man to whom the LORD does 
               not impute iniquity, and in whose 
               spirit there is no quile....I acknow-
               ledged 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.
See also Psalm 103:12; Proverbs 28:13; 
               Isaiah 43:25; Micah 7:18, 19: Acts 26:
               16; Romans 4:7, 8; Romans 8:1; Ephesians 
               1:7; Colossians 1:13, 14; Hebrews 8:12; 
               I John 1:7-9; I John 2:2.
  • …then…I will…heal their land.
   I will not mention again all the malignant 
          specifics of our society that needs healing.  
          But if you look once more at the opening list 
          of wrongs and malignancies facing our nation, 
          God can heal all these and so much more!

     ✞    ...and He knows we in America need His healing!

But it is all dependent upon that little word – “If…”

  • If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves….
         We cannot stay in our safe homes and havens and 
          say... 

         ➔    “Well, I’m ok! My kids are doing pretty 
               well! We have enough money to live on!  
               And we are all in decent health!”

         ➔    “All is well in my world!”

         ➔    “It is too bad what is happening in Af-
               ghanistan, Haiti, North Korea, and some 
               other parts of the world! But what con-
               cern is that of mine?   What about...

         ➔    John 3:16 – “For God so loved the [whole] 
               world that He gave His only begotten Son, 
               that whoever believes in Him should not 
               perish but have everlasting life.”

         ➔    Mark 16:15, 16 – “Go into all the world and 
               preach the gospel to every creature. He who 
               believes and is baptized will be saved; but 
               he who does not believe will be condemned.”

         ➔    Ephesians 1:22, 23 – “...the church [belie-
               vers all over the world]...is His body....
               Now you are the body of Christ, and members 
               individually....if one member suffer, all 
               the members suffer with it; or if one mem-
               ber is honored, all the members rejoice 
               with it.    We must get off our high horseof self-suffi-
          ciency apart from God and each other, and...
          humble ourselves...to be where God wants us!
  • If My people, who are called by My name…will pray….
       Not just......theLord’s prayer” of Matthew 6:9-13 and 
               Luke 11:2-4.

         ➔    ...Now I lay me down to sleep....”

         ➔    ...“God is great, God is good....   What God wants, and we need, is soul-searching 
          confession of...
...our sins!...the sins of each other!...the sins of our church!...the sins of our nation! 

                (see Daniel's prayer in Daniel 9:4-19).
  • If My people, who are called by My name…will seek My face….
     God told Moses in Exodus 33:20, “You cannot 
          see My face, for no man can see My face and 
          live.God is too glorious for mortal man to 
          see the LORD face onand live!

        But, it is written in...

         ➔    II Corinthians 4:6 – “...God...has 
               shone in our hearts to give the light 
               of the knowledge of the glory of God 
               in the face of Jesus Christ.”

         ➔    John 14:9, 11 – “Jesus said...‘...He who 
               has seen Me has seen the Father....Believe 
               Me that I am in the Father and the Father 
               in Me....  To seek His face is to know Him intimately!To know how He thinks, how He acts, how 
               He loves, how He blesses!To know His furious anger and judgement 
               against sin and sinners!To know the extent of His sacrifice to 
               reconcile sinners unto Himself!

        A great benefit of seeking God’s face in 
          Jesus Christ is found in II Corinthians 3:18:  

             But we all, with unveiled face, beholding 
             as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are 
             being transformed into the same image from 
             glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of 
             the Lord.

	  We become more and more like Jesus when we be-
          hold Him in the mirror of the Word of God.....
          and obey what we behold! (see I Corinthians 
          13:12; James 1:22).
  • If My people, who are called by My name…will turn from their wicked ways….

I once had a friend named Myron, who confessed to me his love of gambling and his desire to “…only once in awhile…” cheat on his wife by visiting prostitutes. He asked me, “How can I stop this stuff, because I guess I shouldn’t be doing it.” I told him, “Myron, you can’t face in two different directions at once. Turn to the Lord heart, soul, strength and mind, and you will be turning away from the sin you don’t want to do.

I don’t know if he took my advice, but it is solid advice! No one can sincerely seek God’s face in Jesus Christ and continue in sin! It is impossible!

The second verse in our featured Scripture is only seventeen words long: “Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer made in this place. Where is…this place…located in which we are to pray?

  • King Solomon prayed to the LORD at the dedication of the magnificent Jerusalem temple just completed under his leadership. II Chronicles 7:14 and 15 are part of God’s answer to Solomon’s prayer. Obviously, …this place…referred to that newly-built temple!
     But there hasn’t been a Jewish temple since 70 AD 
     when the Romans destroyed the third temple King 
     Herod built! So applied to us today, “...this place
     ...can’t mean the Jewish temple!
  • However, Paul wrote in…
       I Corinthians 3:16 – “Do you not know that you 
          are the temple of God and that the Spirit of 
          God dwells in you?   II Corinthians 6:16 – “...you are the temple 
          of the living God.  As God has said, ‘I will 
          dwell in them and walk among them.  I will 
          be there God, and they shall be My people.So the temple is us!  You might say, it is a portable temple, for it is found wherever we are.  So pray,...in this place...,wherever you are!  It is written in I Peter 3:12, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers.
     This is what the Lord calls us to do!

If…
we do our part, what we can do…
Then…
God will do His part, what only He can do!

Operation EAR!

Jeremiah 6:10; Acts 7:51

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

Sometimes ears need operations (surgeries)! From the website of Westchester Medical Center Health Network (wmchealthaps.com/ear-surgery-and-procedures #Acoustic%20 Neuroma), here are a few instances where ear surgeries are beneficial:

  • A cochlear implant is a specialized technology that allows individuals with severe to profound hearing loss to hear and understand sound. The cochlear implant electrically stimulates nerve cells in the inner ear (cochlea), which then sends a signal up the hearing nerve to the brain.
  • While earwax is a healthy and normal part of the ear canal, excessive, impacted, or hard earwax can cause pain, pressure, earache, dizziness, and other adverse symptoms.
  • Also known as surfer’s ear,exostoses is a slow-progressing disease that results from routine exposure to a combination of cold air and water. The exposure causes the bone of the ear canal to overgrow, constricting and in some cases causing the ear canal to become totally blocked.
  • “For individuals with vertigo from Ménière’s disease….Surgery can either stabilize inner ear function…or eliminate sensory information from transmitting from the inner ear to the brain….

There are a lot more instances where ear surgeries are helpful and/or needed. On the above-mentioned website, twenty-seven are listed! But one that is not mentioned is ear circumcision! I’m sure that those who are reading this Gem know what circumcision means – It is the surgical procedure for the removal of the foreskin of the male organ. So what do I mean by ear circumcision? You may get an indication of the meaning from our two featured Scriptures:

  • Jeremiah 6:10 – “To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Indeed their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot give heed. Behold, the word of the LORD is a reproach to them; they have no delight in it.
  • Acts 7:51 through 53 – This Scripture records the end of Stephen’s sermon to the Sanhedrin (the council of Jewish leaders):
     “You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and 
     ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your 
     fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did 
     your fathers not persecute? And they killed those 
     who foretold the coming of the Just One [the Lord 
     Jesus Christ], of whom you now have become the be-
     trayers and murderers, who have received the law 
     by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” 

  So incensed were the members of the Sanhedrin, they 
  condemned Stephen, and took him out and stoned him to 
  death!  He was the first Christian martyr!

Do you see what uncircumcised ears means? Can you hear what God is saying? Or do you need surgery to correct the condition of uncircumcised ears? (I got creative with the title, and call this Gem Operation EAR!’).

How does God communicate with us?

  • He speaks to us through His Word, the Bible!
     Mark 12:29 through 31 – Jesus said, “The first 
          of all the commandments is... ‘...you shall love 
          the LORD your God with all your heart, and with 
          all your soul, and with all your mind, and with 
          all your strength.’ This is the first command-
          ment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You 
          shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

     John 14:15 (The Living Bible) – “If you love Me, 
          obey Me....So we can say of Mark 29:30, “...you shall obey 
          the LORD your God with all your heart, and with 
          all your soul, and with all your mind, and with 
          all your strength.

Have you heard this command? Do you heed this command?

  • He speaks to us sometimes in …a still small voice.” (see I Kings 19:12).
     ✡    Isaiah 30:21 – “Your ears shall hear a word be-
           hind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ 
           whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever 
           you turn to the left.” The context of this verse 
           is when Israel will be experiencing the Millen-
           nial Kingdom. But God has given us the Holy 
           Spirit to dwell within us, to guide Christians 
           today!

     John 16:13 – “...when He, the Spirit of truth, 
          has come, He will guide you into all truth; for 
          He will not speak on His own authority, but what-
          ever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you 
          things to come. Acts 16:6 and 7 – Paul, Silas, and Timothy “...
          were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the 
          word in Asia....they tried to go into Bythinia, 
          but the Spirit did not permit them.  I John 2:27 – “But the anointing [the Holy Spir-
          it] which you have received from Him abides in 
          you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; 
          but as the same anointing teaches you concerning 
          all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and 
          just as it has taught you, you will abide in 
          Him.
  • He speaks at times through other people, especially fellow believers!
     ✡    Proverbs 15:22 – “Without counsel, plans go 
           awry, but in the multitude of counselors 
           they are established.Luke 2:15 – “So it was, when the angels had 
          gone away from them into heaven, that the 
          shepherds said one to another, ‘Let us now go 
          to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come 
          to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’Acts 15:32 – “Now Judas and Silas, themselves 
          being prophets also, exhorted the brethren with 
          many words and strengthened them.”
  • Especially in Islamist countries, God is using visions and dreams to bring Muslims unto Him, and to direct believers as they witness in dangerous situations!

Why don’t we hear what God is saying to us?

  • We may be too busy planning our own agenda! Life is busy and often we are too busy to hear the Lord because we are trying to make plans for the future and to manage the present!
     ✡    We need to heed what the writers of the 
           Psalms tell us:

          ➔    Psalm 27:14 – “Wait on the LORD; be of 
                good courage, and He shall strengthen 
                your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!”

          ➔    Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that 
                I am God....  Do our prayers consist more of telling God our 
          agenda or are we listening to Him? If God speaks 
          would we even hear Him?
  • In all these instances where so many people are not in tune with the Lord……their ears need to be circumcised!
     ✡    Under the old covenant of the Jewish law, cir-
           cumcision was the sign that the people were 
           God’s people, ready to abide by His laws! 

               He who is born in your house and he who 
               is bought with your money must be circumc-
               ised, and My covenant shall be in your 
               flesh for an everlasting covenant. And 
               the uncircumcised male child, who is not 
               circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, 
               that person shall be cut off from his peo-
               ple; he has broken My covenant. (Genesis 
               17:13, 14).

     So the uncircumcised person would be excluded from 
     Israel and Israel’s God! He could not be near the 
     LORD, and so could not hear Him!

By the way, it was a male-dominated society at that time, so the male bore the token of the covenant in his flesh for his whole family.

What about uncircumcised ears?

In Jeremiah’s Old Testament time, the Jews 
           refused to hear and obey God, who had called 
           them to obedience so many times through the 
           years by the prophets He sent unto them.  
           Their ears were...uncircumcised and they 
           cannot give heed. Behold, the word of the 
           LORD is a reproach to them; they have no 
           delight in it.     ✞    In Stephen’s New Testament time, the Jews, 
          especially those in leadership (the Pharisees, 
          the Sadducees, and the Scribes), did not ac-
          cept what the Son of God was bringing them,...[eternal] life, and [life] more abundant-
          ly.” (John 10:10).  They refused to hear, so 
          their ears (as well as their hearts) were 
          uncircumcised!

     ✞    If...

          ➔    ...one is not born again, his or her 
                ears are naturally uncircumcised! As 
                it says in I Corinthians 2:14 (Contem-
                porary English Version), “That's why 
                only someone who has God's Spirit can 
                understand spiritual blessings. Anyone 
                who doesn't have God's Spirit thinks 
                these blessings are foolish.” 

          So to begin the surgery of Operation EAR (to 
          have your ears circumcised), you must accept 
          Jesus Christ as your Savior! ...Christian, if you are not in tune with 
                God, hearing and obeying Him, plead with 
                the Lord to make you willing (see Philip-
                pians 2:13) to submit to Operation EAR, 
                the surgery necessary to open the neces-
                sary path to truly communicate with the 
                Lord!

Let God circumcise the foreskin of your ears!

Light And Darkness, Darkness And Light

John 1:4,-5, 9

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

Light and darkness, darkness and light…

This Gem is late! It was due to be published at 8 AM on Saturday, August 21st. But I had a problem with darkness in my study because my fan light wasn’t working. It would come on for awhile, then go off, then start blinking on and off, and then go quit altogether. So last Friday I began to resurrect a nice brass finish fixture that I had picked up from a neighbor who had a major remodeling of his house underway. I lacked a bracket that mounted the fan light to the box in the ceiling of my study. The bracket from the failed fixture was a quarter of an inch too long. So I reconfigured that bracket to make it fit my resurrected fan light. About six hours later, after a couple of more modifications, I finally got the fixture in place. I turned on the circuit breaker, then the wall switch, then pulled the chains to turn on the light and the fan. Nothing worked! That beautiful fixture is now in the trash!

Then remembered two fan lights I had stored in the attic of the garage. I had bought them a few years before to install on the porch of our cottage which we no longer own. So I retrieved one of the fixtures, thoroughly examined it for any mouse or squirrel damage (I found none), and proceeded to install it. That took another two hours of concentrated labor! But it works! I now have light in my study where before there was darkness!

So this is my explanation for the Gem being late.

My recent experience with darkness and light brought to mind a Scripture from John 1:4, 5, and 9, showing forth a great truth concerning spiritual darkness and light! It would do all of us good if we would understand these three verses!

     In Him [Jesus Christ] was life, and the life was the 
     light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, 
     and the darkness did not comprehend it....That was 
     the true light which gives light to every [person]...
     who comes into the world.

John’s gospel opens in the same way that the first book of the Bible begins: “In the beginning….

  • Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
  • John 1:1 through 3 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

We learn that “…the Word [who] was God…” in verse 1, “…became flesh, and dwelt among us…” in verse 14. So the Word can be none other than Jesus Christ!

In both Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1 through 3, “…God…In the beginning…created everything that is! But it may come as a surprise to some that Jesus was involved in creation to the extent that as explained in verse 3,All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

  • Saint Paul put it this way in Colossians 1:16 and 17 – “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
  • The writer of Hebrews says the same in Hebrews 1:2 and 3 concerning God’s…Son… through whom He made the worlds….and [He is] upholding all things by the word of His power….

So not only was everything created by Jesus, He also sustains everything! If Jesus Christ were to let go,’ everything would fly apart and cease to exist! He is that powerful!

And His light is powerful!

  • For by His own lips He declared in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (see also John 9:4, and in the following verses where He restored the light of sight to a blind man). His light has to be powerful since He…gives light to every [person]…who comes into the world.
  • In Revelation 21:10 and 23, the Apostle John wrote concerning the vision God gave him:
     An angel “...carried me away in the Spirit...and showed me the 
     great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from 
     God....And the city had no need of the sun or of the moon to 
     shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it, and the Lamb 
     [Jesus] is its light.

But God does not force His light on anyone! He just invites us to come, as 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.

But do not ignore the light! Jesus gives this warning in John 3:16 through 21:

     For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, 
     that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have ever-
     lasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to 
     condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be 
     saved.  He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who 
     does not believe is condemned already, because he has not be-
     lieved in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this 
     is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, 
     and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds 
     were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and 
     does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 
     But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds 
     may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.

Light and darkness, darkness and light…! The choice has eternal repercussions!

Choose wisely!
Choose light!
Choose life!