How God grows his church! – Ephesians 4:11-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 9, 2020
Family is important. It is important because it is the foundation for a stable society. This is why families that are secure, stable, and functional are a necessity. And it explains why our society is so fractured, insecure, and dysfunctional. Healthy relationships and a healthy view of self is where and how we as individuals have healthy lives, learn to function, and mature. It is how we grow.
I have shared before that the church is a sacred thing that we as Baptists often take for granted. The reason we do is because like most evangelicals we think that church is about us and that is should meet our needs and make us feel better when in fact that is not what a church is supposed to be at all. Church is not a social club, fraternity, or a secret society. It is where we as believers are to develop a healthy spirituality, learn to function, and mature. Let’s learn how God grows his church…
READ: Ephesians 4:11-16
The church is Jesus body in the world and is to function in unity in order to do his work and will in the world until he returns. God has given us spiritual gifts to use within the church for specific purposes. We learn that…
I. God grows his church through his people! (Vv. 11-13)
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
1. The list that Paul gives is not one listing a succession of importance or of rank but rather it is simply a list that Paul was given through the Spirit’s inspiration. Paul knew that it was Jesus who established the church in order that after “he ascended on high” would have followers who would be his body in the world and it “was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers” to serve in his church. We are to be his spiritual ambassadors, speakers, preachers, and shepherds of his flock! These duties are not for us to make us feel good about ourselves but instead “to prepare God’s people for works of service”. This is extremely important because as his people we are to be his servants serving others! We are to put others before ourselves. Paul saw God’s household, his church, as being “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:20 NIV)” Evangelists came later spreading the gospel and pastors and teachers held the church together “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”. The notion therefore is that the purpose of the gifted believers is to equip other believers for the ministry within the church so as to give them stability doctrinally and practically and thereby lead them to mutual edification. All believers are to be involved in the spiritual maturation of God’s church. God grows his church through his people!
EXAMPLE: Church was never meant to be simply a Sunday morning experience or a once a week empowerment. It is to be a place whereby God’s people help one another mature so that they can be all they can be in God; his full measure. Paul would write “‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’–but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NIV)” And it is only the spiritually mature who can understand this. God grows his church through his people!
The church is supposed to be the family whereby its members are cultivated so that they can reach the world for Jesus. Perhaps we have forgotten the fact that…
II. God nurtures his church to maturity! (Vv. 14-16)
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
1. Paul came to understand that Jesus gave us his church so that as human beings we would not fall prey to an ungodly world. Sadly, it seems as if the church today is in a rush to be accepted by the world rather than to preach, teach, and minister the gospel message it is supposed to! Instead of maturing many have remained mere spiritual babies. Churches today are often founded on personality rather than the power of God. If we were maturing the way we are supposed to be “Then we [would] no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming”! Far too often churches are often taken in by liars who use their deceitfulness in order to gain power over others. Paul would warn his friend Timothy: “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3 NIV)” Spiritually mature believers will not fall for such deception because “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” The leaders we chose, from Sunday school teachers, deacons, Team members, and the pastor should all be able to help us a church body mature in Christ and stay away from false doctrines! Just like a healthy body is held together through proper exercise, nourishment, and mental stability a healthy church focuses on the Lord and what his will is. It is because of him that “the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”! Therefore we learn that God nurtures his church to maturity!
EXAMPLE: The man we chose to be our pastor must a man who will help us as a church to “grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Because it is “From him the whole body,[is] joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”! Our desire as a church and as individuals should be not for the moment but for the future of God’s work here in this community into the future! Our purpose is not momentary but eternal in nature and we are to focus on establishing his church so that future generations will come to know him! We must never forget that it is God who nurtures his church to maturity!
God grows his church through his people! God nurtures his church to maturity!
This article is copyrighted © 2020 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.
Tag Archives: spiritual
How God grows his church! – Ephesians 4:11-16
Believers will be ill-treated! – Matthew 10:16-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 3, 2019
In today’s politically correct climate individuals can feel threatened by anything, everything, and anyone. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, then you have a personal right to whine about it and make a spectacle of yourself concerning your hurt feelings. It makes one wonder what these same wilting Willies would do if they were truly persecuted.
Jesus knew that his message was not and would not be popular with the established religious leadership. And in fact they would do anything to silence it and its messengers including lying, threatening, and imprisoning those who dared share it. Evil does not like to be exposed and the world was enshrouded in evil. I believe this is why there are those who are emboldened in our day and age to not just disagree with the gospel message but to personally persecute in any way possible anyone who dares to try and share it. Jesus knew believers would be persecuted; let’s discover what he taught about it…
READ: Matthew 10:16-25
Last week we learned that believers are not to waste their time with those who are not interested or who disdain the gospel. Yet we are to share the good news in a sin-stained world. Jesus knew that believers will be ill-treated and that…
I. Believers must be spiritually shrewd! (Vv. 16-20)
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
1. Never forget that once you come to Christ you are now a stranger in a strange land. You are now in enemy territory. You are to be “on your guard against men” who do not believe. The disciples needed to understand that Jesus was “sending
out like sheep among wolves”! Christians live and breathe in a world that hates Jesus! Just as Israel had become enemy territory to the disciples, our world, our families, our neighbors, co-workers, and fellow students who do not believe are now part of a pack of spiritual wolves waiting to tear us apart given the chance! And if we are weak in our faith, the worldly pack will go after us first! Do not doubt me in this. Jesus therefore tells them to “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”. The same advice applies to us! Do not be spiritually naïve because a spiritually dark world wants each one of us back into the fold. Why, because these same people we once thought of as friends, family, or good people “will hand [us] over to the local councils and flog [us] in their synagogues”, churches, communities, colleges, schools, workplaces, and family gatherings. Do not be shocked or surprised when those whom we once thought of as friends or family now hate us because of our faith. Jesus bluntly tells his followers that “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.” And guess what? They were! We live in a day and age whereby many believers are more afraid of not being accepted by their unbelieving concentric circle of acquaintances than being true to the Lord! However there is great news for the disciples and for us because “when they arrest [disdain, dismiss, or distrust] you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” If we have Jesus we have the Spirit of God within us! Believers must be spiritually shrewd!
EXAMPLE: The whispering and allure of the world can cloud the weak-willed believer who is not walking with the Lord the way they should. I’ve seen many a young person getting caught up in ungodly relationships only to try and justify them. There is a reason the Scriptures remind us that the friends we keep or the relationship we make can rot our relationship with God. Paul quoted the writer Menander when he reminded the Corinthian Church that “bad company corrupts good character”. Even those we love can lead us astray when it comes to our faith and this is why Jesus related that believers must be spiritually shrewd!
Family and friends, co-workers and community members will rebel against the spiritual truth if they do not know Jesus themselves. When those around us disdain us for our faith we should not be surprised. Believers will be ill-treated and…
II. Believers must understand whose family they belong to! (Vv. 21-25)
Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!
1. Jesus does not soft-sell to his followers what awaits their future. Far too often in churches today we have preachers telling their listeners all about the love of Jesus and how he can make life better but few relate that with belief comes a personal sacrifice. The sacrifice is being able to say “no” to the rest of the world and its deluded promises. Jesus bluntly tells them that “Brother will betray brother to death and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.” Faith is more than getting it all, it is also about personal spiritual and physical sacrifice. Remember, “Freely you have received, freely give” (v. 8). When we come to Jesus we are immediately thrust into a spiritual battle whether we like it or not. Jesus graphically relates that “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Now he was not relating that our salvation is contingent upon our standing firm because Jesus knew better and he knows human nature. Rather he is speaking to Jewish men who would face severe persecution and consequences because of their faith in him. Later Jesus will tell them, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 NIV)” They are to fear God just as we are! Yet in our day and age we would rather have the smiles and phony acceptance of ungodly friends or coworkers, family members or neighbors, than stand firm in Christ! Our final destiny and reward is not here but in a much better place and existence. Jesus knew his disciples faced some very tough days ahead after his crucifixion. “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” Some believe he was speaking of the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem itself, the dispersion of the Israelite nation, and referencing the future church and its witness to the entire world until he returns. Whatever the case like his disciples we must realize that “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master” and in fact “If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub” like Jesus just was, “how much more the members of his household!” Believers must understand whose family they belong to!
EXAMPLE: To be honest there are fellow believers I am a lot closer to than some of my own family members. The reason is obvious because fellow believers share my faith which is far more intimate than what some of my relatives believe. Jesus experienced this when his own family thought he had gone off the deep end and wanted him to either come home or declare his messiahship publically (Mark 3:21 & John 7:3-4). Yet later Jesus reminds them that his real “brothers and sisters” are those who hear the good news and respond to it by following him wholeheartedly (Matthew 10:37). Believers must understand whose family they belong to!
Believers must be spiritually shrewd! Believers must understand whose family they belong to!
This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.
John the baptizer – Matthew 3:1-12
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 20, 2019
Everyone is known for something. Notice I did not say that everyone is famous, well-known, or publicly recognizable. But each of usually is known for something. When I was in elementary school I was known for organizing all of the younger grades into a force to be reckoned with on the playground. You pick on one of us, we all attacked you. It stopped bullying in its tracks. I was surprised years later when this guy at Portland State University asked me if I was the same Lee Hemen who organized that group because he was one of the younger kids we “rescued”!
Here we discover John, and no, he was not the first Baptist, rather he is known for his baptisms. He should be known correctly as John the Baptizer. We will discover that not everyone follows the normal dictates of social decorum or dress and John was one of these folks. He was not homeless as I have heard some liberal preachers try to emphasize; he was a man with a mission. Therefore, let’s discover this morning John and what his ministry was all about…
READ: Matthew 3:1-12
The Government wants warning labels placed on everything thinking that we cannot understand the dangers we face or that we might be deceived. Often God uses those he calls for a particular purpose to warn the unsuspecting or those who deliberately ignore him. Here we discover that…
I. John came with a spiritual warning! (Vv. 1-6)
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
1. “In those days”, meaning during the time of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, “John the Baptist came,” Matthew writes. John was Jesus’ cousin. In Luke’s gospel we learn his mother was Elizabeth and his father was Zechariah who was a priest and had served in the temple in Jerusalem. God fulfilled a promise he had made to Zechariah to give him a son by his barren wife Elizabeth. They were to name their child “John” (Yochanan) meaning God is gracious. John became Jesus’ herald announcing his coming. God had told Malachi “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. (Malachi 3:1 NIV)” John was seen as like the prophet Elijah, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6 NIV)” Matthew writes that John came “preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’” Literally “turn away” from sin because the promised kingdom of God was “now”! John saw the coming Messiah and was given a message by God to prepare the way for him. Matthew sees John’s ministry as that foretold “through the prophet Isaiah”. John was “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” John’s message was different just as his attire and diet: “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” John was a different kind of guy; he was God’s messenger and not the people’s. He lived off the land and was only concerned for his message. In spite of his eating habits, dress, or message “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” John came with a spiritual warning!
EXAMPLE: We have warning labels on just about anything nowadays. It seems as if people are simply too ignorant not to follow directions, take their medications properly, or keep children safe anymore. I suppose some warnings are good to have. Isn’t it interesting that God saw the need to have a warning as well. In fact he had in mind all along to use a specific person, John, to give his warning to the people of Israel. John came with a spiritual warning!
Calling people to turn from their ungodly lifestyles in never popular and recently a Presbyterian pastor was asked to step down after he put on his church’s outside reader board: “Bruce Jenner is still a man. Homosexuality is still a sin. The culture may change. The Bible does not.” The church would rather change the biblical message to fit society’s acceptance of perversion. We discover here that…
II. John came to expose spiritual hypocrisy! (Vv. 7-10)
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
1. Matthew tells us that John did not filter his message to sooth the ears of either the poor or the potentate. And he knew a hypocrite when he saw one. Matthew writes “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.’” Can you imagine our politicians, Hollywood elites, or the general public listening to John’s message? John calls these men snakes, a viperous gang, who had evidently come to have their ears tickled. And you have to understand that these were the religious hierarchy and leaders of the day who came to hear his words. John asks them an interesting question that demanded an answer, who had warned them to flee the coming wrath that was about to happen? We forget that the message of Jesus is one that demands a personal challenge; it demands the individual decide and it demands that the listener understand the consequences of their response! If they chose not to heed his warning, which came from God, they would not be ready for the kingdom and they would reap the consequences of their decision! Ergo the wrath of God! John instructs them to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” This fruit would be apparent both spiritually and psychologically. Paul would teach that this “fruit of the Spirit is” manifested in a person’s “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV)” Only real spiritual repentance, turning from one’s sin and turning to God, produces a changed life! Religion or believing there is a God does not hack it. John knew what these men would immediately think: “We have Abraham as our father.” Not good enough! James, Jesus’ brother would write, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder. (James 2:19 NIV)” John tells them bluntly, “I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” True spiritual fruit comes from God and if they could not repent, they would be cut down and condemned! John came to expose spiritual hypocrisy!
EXAMPLE: Acting religious, kind, or even holy does not mean a person knows God personally. One can be close and miss the reality of the gospel. The confusion exists in today’s world because we have begun to think that what we feel is as important as Godly truth. The Apostle John would write that one does not become a Christian by birth; one has to be born again. Born into the world first and then by making the conscious decision to be born of God. Being good, doing good things, or even living a good life does not make one a Christian. John came to expose spiritual hypocrisy!
So many things can get in the way of a person coming to faith in Jesus. Thinking they are “good enough”, that a “good God would not cause anyone to suffer”, or that “as long as I feel good about myself I’m okay” are not spiritual reality. In fact it is so much spiritual fog. And here we discover that…
III. John came to clear the way! (Vv. 11-12)
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
1. John’s message was radical. A lot of others had called the Hebrews to repentance over the centuries but none had told them that they had to repent and be baptized in their faith through the power of God in order to receive the one that was coming! John knew who he was and for whom he cleared the way: the Messiah! John declared, “I baptize you with water for repentance.” Having water poured over you by a teacher, rabbi, or proclaimed prophet signified one’s willingness to confess their sins. It only cleansed the individual for the moment because as soon as they sinned again, and they would, they had to be baptized again to show their repentance. This is why John related, “But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.” John could only pour water over a person to signify their repentance; what God required would take much more effort on the part of the recipient. It would take someone with a lot more spiritual pull than John had! And so he warned his listeners that he did not have the means to totally cleanse them, only God does. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Contrary to the heretical teaching that John meant speaking in tongues, what he actually is teaching here is a reference to the burning of the sacrifice in the Temple. One would receive the Holy Spirit, often seen as a flame or fire, just as Jesus promised when a person’s places their faith in him! They would go through the fire of having their sins burned away, so-to-speak, by the presence and power of Holy God! Jesus would later teach that he would send his followers the Holy Spirit who would be with them forever. (John 14:26) and Paul would write that God “set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 1:22 NIV)” John knew the message the Messiah would bring would change things forever. Either folks would repent and live or refuse and die: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” John came to clear the way!
EXAMPLE: In olden times there would be heralds who would walk in front of the king to announce that he was coming and that the people should clear the way. We have seen where new products have used clever commercials in order to get people’s attention ahead of their release. Here we discover that God used a man named John to clear the way for the Messiah Jesus that was coming soon. People needed to realize that John wasn’t the one they needed to follow or watch for but rather the one who was coming after him. John came to clear the way!
John came with a spiritual warning! John came to expose spiritual hypocrisy! John came to clear the way!
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.
Condemned by conformity! — 2 Kings 14:8-14; 15:10, 13-14, 16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 28, 2018
I used to go fishing for crawdads. As we caught them we would put them in a bucket of water. As the bucket got full of crawdads they would try to crawl out but the ones trying to get out were pulled back in by others trying to get out. As parents we warn are children about the influence of peer pressure. Peer pressure can be just like those crawdads that pulled others back into the bucket. I have learned however that peer pressure does not end in childhood, it continues into our adult life. There are those in our Christian lives who try to pull us back into conformity rather than live the lives God desires.
2 Kings 14–15 contains a brief history of the reigns of 3 kings over Judah and 6 kings over Israel. Their reigns were characteristic of life in Judah and in Israel. The reigns of the kings of Judah did okay but they compromised God’s requirements. They allowed people to offer sacrifices and offerings in the high places instead of in the temple in Jerusalem. Their disobedience resulted in Judah moving further away from God. And the six kings of Israel all did evil by worshiping golden calves and Baal. Both kingdoms went to war against one another and the final result of their unfaithfulness led to their conquest by Assyria. They were condemned by their conformity! Let’s discover why…
Believers who disobey God, who do not worship him, and who do not repent will suffer the consequences of their sinful behaviors. This is true for common folks as well as leaders of nations. Here we learn that…
I. Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride! (2 Kings 14:8-14)
Then Amaziah sent messengers to Jehoash son of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, king of Israel, with the challenge: “Come, meet me face to face.” But Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah: “A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot. You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?” Amaziah, however, would not listen, so Jehoash king of Israel attacked. He and Amaziah king of Judah faced each other at Beth Shemesh in Judah. Judah was routed by Israel, and every man fled to his home. Jehoash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash, the son of Ahaziah, at Beth Shemesh. Then Jehoash went to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate–a section about six hundred feet long. He took all the gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace. He also took hostages and returned to Samaria.
1. Let’s break down what’s going on for the Israelites during this time. Amaziah the king of Judah to the south did some things right in God’s sight but not like his forefather David. He did evil by not removing the high places where people worshipped idols. David permitted no worship except that of God and no sacrifices except those offered in the temple in Jerusalem. Embolden by his military success against Edom, Amaziah challenged Jehoash to the north by telling him “Come, meet me face to face.” Jehoash was no dummy and responds by telling Amaziah, “A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot. You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant.” Jehoash of Israel answered Amaziah’s challenge with a fable! Judah was just a small, weak weed and Israel as a strong Lebanon cedar. Jehoash’s army would be like the wild animal. Amaziah would be trampled to death in battle. Amaziah had become arrogant in his victories. Was he truly going to threaten northern Israel? Jehoash advised Amaziah: “Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?” Amaziah refused to listen and “so Jehoash king of Israel attacked… at Beth Shemesh in Judah”. Jehoash did not stop there, he “went to Jerusalem and broke down the wall of Jerusalem from the Ephraim Gate to the Corner Gate–a section about six hundred feet long. He took all the gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace. He also took hostages and returned to Samaria.” What occurred was because in his pride “Amaziah… would not listen, for God so worked that he might hand them over to Jehoash, because they sought the gods of Edom. (2 Chronicles 25:20 NIV)” Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride!
EXAMPLE: Many mainline churches today that had been spiritually great in the past are mere shadows of what they once enjoyed. They sent missionaries around the world with the Gospel. They fed the poor and helped the weak but now more often than not they are more involved in socialism than the spreading the Gospel. Arrogantly they depend upon spreading liberation theology than sharing the good news of Jesus Christ thinking that mankind can change the sinful condition of the world. Mankind can’t only the good news can. Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride!
Pride often leads to disastrous consequences. Pride led Amaziah to declare war on Israel, one in which he suffered a humiliating and disastrous defeat. Not only did Amaziah suffer personally but also he brought disaster on his people, the city, the temple, and his palace. Pride should not be found among God’s people. As we continue we learn that…
II. Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition! (2 Kings 15:10, 13-14)
Shallum son of Jabesh conspired against Zechariah. He attacked him in front of the people, assassinated him and succeeded him as king… Shallum son of Jabesh became king in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah, and he reigned in Samaria one month. Then Menahem son of Gadi went from Tirzah up to Samaria. He attacked Shallum son of Jabesh in Samaria, assassinated him and succeeded him as king.
1. “Shallum son of Jabesh” of Israel, whose name means “retribution”, was originally a captain in the army of King Zechariah and now he “conspired against Zechariah”. He wanted to be king himself. And so we learn that “He attacked him in front of the people, assassinated him and succeeded him as king.” See, politics haven’t changed much in thousands of years! This is the culmination of ungodly spiritual conformity that goes back to Jehu. He was a king who had “destroyed Baal worship in Israel” (2 Kings 10:28). However, he was warned that because of his spiritual conformity of not turning “away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit—the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan” his descendants would only be in power for 4 generations. Jehoahaz, Joash, Jehoram, and Zechariah were his successors until it was abruptly ended by Shallum! However what goes around comes around and even though “Shallum son of Jabesh became king in the thirty-ninth year of Uzziah king of Judah” we quickly learn that “he reigned in Samaria one month”! And we think that our elections are so bad. They are nothing compared to those ungodly men who decided against following God and decided on their own to usurp power for themselves. Shallum was opposed and slain by Menahem, who, according to the historian Josephus, was the commander of the forces, which, on the report of the king’s murder, were besieging Tirzah, a town twelve miles east of Samaria, and formerly a seat of the kings of Israel. Stopping the siege, he marched directly against the usurper, “attacked Shallum son of Jabesh in Samaria, assassinated him and succeeded him as king.” Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition!
EXAMPLE: How often have we seen as large ministries or churches fall because of their leadership? The scandals that plague the Joel Olsten’s of the world are rife. Basic Youth Conflicts was one such organization. Here locally we had a fast growing mega church that was lead by one man fall into ungodliness. The Senior Pastor and his relatives made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was later caught involved in ungodly perverted behavior and is serving time in prison for his crimes. We have seen the same kind of corruption in the history of the Catholic Church and other denominations when they become full of themselves rather than following the Lord. It is easy for those caught in the corruption of sin to acquiesce and excuse their ungodly behavior. Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition!
Many atrocities occur in today’s world. God’s people should renounce these brutalities that often characterize the ungodly. Christians should do what they can to help defend people who are helpless before such atrocities. These people include the unborn as well as children, youth, women, and elderly people who are abused. We discover that…
III. Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response! (2 Kings 15:16)
At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates and he sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women.
1. Before WWII churches were becoming complacent in Germany and the rest of the world. Some even took the posture that National Socialism was a good thing for Germany and perhaps the rest of the world! When the first reports of Jewish genocide reached the shores of America many did not believe it was occurring. Some reported it was a false narrative. Sadly it was not. Spiritual leaders simply refused to stand against the evil they saw rising around them. This is exactly what occurred in both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The nation of Israel should never have been split into two separate nations. It should have remained true to God. What occurred afterwards is a horrendous example of what happens when God’s people do not remain true to him. Being a military man and only knowing aggression and the horror of war Menahem used his knowledge to subjugate Israel: “At that time Menahem, starting out from Tirzah, attacked Tiphsah and everyone in the city and its vicinity, because they refused to open their gates. He sacked Tiphsah and ripped open all the pregnant women.” What a horrendous act! He was a horrible leader and led his people into debauchery and ungodly worship: “In the thirty-ninth year of Azariah king of Judah, Menahem son of Gadi became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria ten years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD. During his entire reign he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit. (2 Kings 15:17-18 NIV)” It is a sad commentary to the outcome of the once great nation Israel! Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response!
EXAMPLE: Believers who disobey God, do not worship him, and do not repent suffer the consequences of their sinful behaviors. We live in a time when there is societal pressure to shame believers into accepting perversion as normal and godly. TV shows like Young Sheldon offer viewers a distorted view of Christianity. The Pastor of the family’s church is often ridiculed and displayed as a dolt. The church secretary is seen as a chain-smoking crass elderly woman; and the mother is displayed as a hypocritical weakling who doesn’t have a clue about Christianity. What mainstream media desires is that Christians conform to their worldview or suffer the ridicule of their peers. Paul reminds us that “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV)” Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response!
Spiritual conformity brings about destructive pride! Spiritual conformity brings about sinful ambition! Spiritual conformity can bring a brutal response!
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.
Look with faith! – 2 Kings 6:8-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 30, 2018
There are those men and women who look beyond their circumstances in life and see God working right in the midst of every situation. I would like to think that I am such a person but I confess this is not always the case. However in those times when it is difficult for me to see the hand of God working in my life I am reminded of this incident in the life of Elisha and kind of find comfort in how he deals with his servant. The reason I do is because more often than not I am like Elisha’s servant and I need to learn to look with faith.
When the king of Aram sent a large military contingent against Elisha, the prophet did not fear because he saw by faith that God had sent him protection and help. God had provided a large spiritual contingent that was more powerful than even the Aramean army. God protected Elisha when the Aramean king sent his forces to surround Dothan and capture Elisha and in the process taught those around him to look with faith, let’s discover how this morning…
We need to view every situation in life with faith. God desires us to see him and his resources are always available for every experience in life. This incident recorded in the life of Elisha teaches us that…
I. When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning! (Vv. 8-12)
Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”
1. Arameans were sometimes at war and sometimes at peace with Israel during the years of Elisha’s ministry. At the time of this particular incident the Arameans were making profitable surprise raids into Israel. So we are told that “Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” The dates for these events are not clear. Therefore the names of the kings of Aram and Israel are uncertain. History tells us that Hazael or Ben-Hadad were two possibilities for the king of Aram. Jehoram, who was also called Joram, might have been Israel’s king at the time. Whenever the Arameans set up for such an attack, God would reveal the Aramean’s plans to Elisha. Thus God’s prophet always knew where the Aramean forces were waiting to ambush Israel’s forces, or where they were planning to attack Israel. Then the man of God would tell the king of Israel about the Arameans’ movements and what they planned. Elisha was Israel’s early warning system! “Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.” This failure and frustration “enraged the king of Aram”. He did not recognize God was at work through Elisha’s supernatural knowledge of the Arameans’ troop movements. The Hebrew word translated enraged means “to storm.” The Aramean king’s first reaction was to suspect a traitor among his officers. So he “summoned his officers and demanded of them, ‘Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’” One of Aramean officers told his king that no one of the officers was a traitor. The person responsible for leaking information about the king’s raiding plans was Elisha, the prophet in Israel. Elisha could tell the king of Israel even the words the Aramean king spoke in his bedroom! Elisha knew even the innermost secrets of the king! These verses illustrate how people look at situations. The Aramean king saw his military plans fail and concluded one of his men was a traitor. When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning!
EXAMPLE: These verses illustrate how people look at situations. The Aramean king saw his military plans fail and concluded one of his men was a traitor. Such a conclusion was understandable for surely the king knew about or even had experienced the work of traitors. His conclusion was reasonable and humanly possible. He chose to look at the problem from a human viewpoint and through human reasoning. The king did not know God was working. However, the Aramean servant saw the situation differently. The passages do not explain how or why the servant saw their problem was the result of Elisha’s work. Whether the Aramean was conscious of God or not, God enabled him to believe and declare to his king that Elisha was behind what was happening. His actions teach us that when we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning!
Whether the Aramean soldier was conscious of God or not, God enabled him to believe and declare to his king that Elisha was behind what was happening. This officer’s actions illustrate the biblical truth of this lesson that seeing life through the eyes of faith is both a choice and God’s gift. In fact we learn that…
II. When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us! (Vv. 13-17)
“Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
1. To his credit the Aramean king believed his officer and ordered all of his officers to go into Israel and see where Elisha was. The king began making plans to capture the prophet. This Aramean king was another of many kings who tried to silence prophecy that was not in their favor. After a period of time a report came to the king that Elisha was in Dothan, a city about 12 miles south of Israel’s capital city of Samaria. “Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.” The “strong army” translates a Hebrew word meaning “strength” like the strength of an army. The king sent a powerful military force to capture one scruffy man of God. “They went by night and surrounded the city.” By sending them at night, the king thought they could slip up on Elisha. The forces moved to encircle Dothan to keep Elisha from escaping. The king was still looking at the situation only through physical sight and reasoning through human reason. He did not factor God into the situation at all. Elisha’s servant was the first to report their situation. In a panic he rushed to Elisha and said, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” The Aramean king wasn’t the only one looking at the situation through human eyes, so was Elisha’s servant. The servant’s exclamation “Oh” can mean “Oh, no!” Seeing the enemy forces all around them, the servant could only react in hopelessness and fear. He was looking through eyes of human sight and not of spiritual faith. He saw only the overwhelming enemy, not the more than adequate resources of help available from God. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” “Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” Where the servant only saw the enemy’s mighty forces, Elisha saw God’s mightier forces. Both forces were there but God’s were stronger. God answered His prophet’s prayer, and the servant was able to see the mountain was covered with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. The servant needed his eyes of faith opened so he could see God’s protecting presence. When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us!
EXAMPLE: Enemy troops really did surround Dothan, which frightened the servant. But Elisha was right. God’s protecting forces really did surround Elisha and Dothan as well. Both were acting realistically. The servant either didn’t know or had forgotten that God is always present with his people; just like we can when we are in the midst of life’s circumstances. The servant needed to stop looking at situations with human sight alone. The psalmist said, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (Psalms 34:7 NIV). When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us!
Looking through the lenses God provides requires that we walk with him by faith. We cannot always we see the outcome but we can always rest assured God has our back and desires the best for our lives. In fact we discover that…
III. When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working! (Vv. 18-22)
As the enemy came down toward him, “Elisha prayed to the LORD, Strike these people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria. After they entered the city, Elisha said, “LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the LORD opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria. When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.”
1. We discover this must have been a firsthand account because of the detailed personal information given. We learn that “As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, ‘Strike these people with blindness.’” Elisha and Israel did not have a great army nor did they have the resources to wage an ongoing campaign, all they had was their dependence on the Lord. That was enough and in fact more than they needed because God held the victory. “So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.” Think of a situation in which you had difficulty seeing any evidence God was at work. Did you eventually believe He was at work? How can that experience help you begin to view each situation today with faith? After God answered Elijah’s prayer to strike the Arameans blind, Elisha led these sightless soldiers the 12 miles from Dothan into the heart of Samaria. “Elisha told them, ‘This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.’ On entering Samaria, Elisha prayed again. This time he asked God to open the eyes of the men of Aram so they could see. When their sight returned, they saw “they were inside Samaria”! This city was encircled with a defensive wall. The Aramean military force was surrounded by Israel’s forces and enclosed within Samaria’s walls. And he led them to Samaria.” Seeing his enemy helpless before him the Israelite King asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” Calling him this showed his respect for Elisha and he could have had the soldiers released, enslaved or killed. Yet this was not the King’s victory, it was the Lord’s! Elisha’s answer revealed the prophet (and God) had other plans for the Aramean forces. Elisha wanted to show mercy to them, not vengeance. Also, he wanted to make the point both to the king of Aram and the king of Israel that God’s horses and chariots of fire had captured and defeated the enemy. Elisha wanted the Israelites and the Arameans to see the hand of God in the situation. When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!
EXAMPLE: Instead of having the enemy soldiers killed, the prophet instructed the king of Israel to prepare a great feast for the conquered forces (v. 23). After the feast was over, Elisha instructed Israel’s king to release the captives and allow them to return to their master; his instructions to refrain from killing them and to feed them and let them go free was a demonstration of God’s mercy. Showing mercy and offering forgiveness are expressions of God’s nature and reveal what He prefers to extend to all people. Elisha wanted God to receive the glory for what had happened and his actions teach us that when we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!
When we look with faith we do not see circumstances through human reasoning! When we look with faith we realize that God is always with us! When we look with faith God opens our eyes to see him working!
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.
Being Faithful – Malachi 2:10-16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 25, 2018 AM
After learning to say, “No!” we quickly learn to ask the question, “Why?” It is an innate thing with us and it goes back to the Garden of Eden when Eve rebelled and then asked the very same question. It exists in every preschooler and manifests itself in adolescence through our demand to be told the reason for everything that happens to us. We especially hate it when someone dares to tell us, “Because I said so, that’s why!” We want and expect an answer to our inquiry. But guess what? The simple truth is, we do not deserve an answer for every “Why?” we ask, nor should we expect one.
In God’s economy trust is manifested when we obey without asking “Why?” When we pridefully think God should justify himself to us God reminds us that his ways are not our ways, nor are his thoughts our thoughts. He desires his children to live by faith and trust. Israel had failed to do just that. Instead they came up with their own way of worship, their own manmade guidelines, and fashioned gods into the images that made them feel comfortable about themselves. God, through Malachi, called them back to a fresh beginning in himself. Would they listen? Let’s find out as we discuss being faithful…
When Israel was faced with the scathing retort from Malachi, they demanded to know “Why?” God literally says, “Okay, if you want an answer here it is!” For a fresh start they needed to realize…
I. They were faithless! (V. 2:10)
Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?
1. Spiritual questions stab the soul and our answers reveal our faith — Malachi asks three!
1) The first question is: “Have we not all one Father?” The issue here goes to the idea of what a person truly believes. Malachi is addressing the teaching that God is the spiritual father of us all. Malachi is making the case of one God, who is our father and it goes back to verse 6 where God asks, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me?” So the correct answer would be, “Yes. We have one father and he is God.” If we recognize God is our spiritual father, then he is to be obeyed!
2) The second question is: “Did not God create us?” This idea goes to who is in charge—just who is the Creator and who is the creation?! In our day we like to think we are in charge. “It’s my life and I’ll do what I want!” We want to decide what is best for ourselves. We do what we like. We worship God how, when, and where it suits us. It is the profane notion that says, “I can worship God anywhere.” Yet God says, “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you, and I will accept no offering from your hands (v. 1:10).” If the One who created us wants us to worship him are we not obligated to worship him the way he desires, when he desires, and where he desires? The answer of course is, “Yes.”
3) The final question Malachi asks is: “Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?” God had created and worked with Israel as a nation and as a people. Now Israel was divided. This was totally against God’s will. Amos related that God had “chosen” them from “all the families of the earth (Amos 3:2).” Yet they acted like bickering children and rival siblings. They had profaned God’s sacred covenant by splitting the nation! They were faithless!
EXAMPLE: Being the siblings we were, Ed and I used to pick on one another. It is a brotherly love/hate thing. Anthropologists believe it goes back to establishing dominance within the gorilla group, establishing a pecking order. Not that I believe this is true for human beings who are created in the image of God. Anyway, I do know that when my Mom would have her fill of our rivalry she would tell my Dad, “You handle it. They’re your boys!” All he had to say was, “Boys, behave because I said so.” And we did. We behaved because Dad had set the law down. He was our Dad and we respected him and the punishment that followed if we didn’t “behave” because he said so. The same was true for Israel and it is true for us as well. Christians are to honor and follow God for no other reason except he said so and it is a matter of being faithful not faithless!
Like all people who have been caught doing what they should not have been doing, the Israelites demanded proof of their untrustworthiness of not being faithful. God responds by telling them that if they wanted a fresh beginning they needed to realize…
II. They were Spiritual adulterers! (Vv. 2:11-12)
Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the LORD cut him off from the tents of Jacob–even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty.
1. Spiritual adultery occurs when we fool around on God!
1) Malachi describes their sin, “Judah has broken faith!” The KJV gives us a better idea of what had occurred and just how God looked at their sin by describing it this way: “Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the Lord which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god!” The unfaithfulness Malachi had in mind (v. 10) is called “a detestable thing” (lit., “an abomination”), something abhorrent to God. The abominable unfaithfulness that profaned Israel’s holiness was spiritual intermarriage with pagan idols. They had married themselves to foreign gods instead of being faithful to the one who loved them! They fooled around on God!
2) Malachi declares the result of sin, “As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord cut him off from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings offerings to the LORD Almighty.” The prophet invoked a curse on any Jew who had committed or would commit the sin of idol adultery. It meant that the man would die or that he would have no descendants in Israel. This was a horrible notion to the Israelite. Notice also that “even though he brings offerings to the Lord Almighty” God would see through his hypocrisy. Christians do this very thing when they say they love God, believe in Jesus, yet live with one foot in the world. Christians can commit adultery with their faith and deaden their walk when we fool around on God!
EXAMPLE: Spiritual adultery doesn’t mean a person has to totally leave God. It occurs when our spiritual affections are lukewarm because we have diluted them. Jesus told the church at Laodicea “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:15-17 NIV).” We leave our first love when we allow the world to attract us more than our love of Jesus does. When the things of God become second place to our success, our education, or our relationships we have done a “detestable thing” and married the “daughter of a foreign god.” We have fooled around on God!
Not wanting the Israelites to think that they were getting off easy God, again through Malachi, continues in his chastisement of his children. God illustrates for them exactly why their sin had affected their relationship to one another as well. They wanted a fresh start, yet they were not being faithful…
III. They had committed spiritual divorce! (Vv. 2:13-16)
Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.
1. Breaking faith with God is like divorcing a devoted spouse – we are to remain faithful!
1) Malachi teaches us about the outcome of our actions (v.13)! Malachi said the people had “flooded the Lord’s altar with tears.” People are always sorry when they get caught in sin or when they need God’s help. The idea here is one of begging, pleading, or false and phony repentance but God did not care any longer. He knew their true inner nature. John wrote to his friend Gaius, “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:3-4 NIV) It does not matter how “sorry” we are what matters is if we put into practice and renew our marriage vows to the Lord. God is filled with joy over our walk with him!
2) This is why Malachi shows them the exact sin they were guilty of (2:14-15a)! God doesn’t heed their tears or hear their crying. They asked, “Why?” and he replies, “Because the Lord is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant (v. 14).” God had made them “one flesh” with himself. God wanted a holy people totally devoted to him! This is why Peter warns us that “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).” God hates divorce and especially our spiritual abandonment from a personal relationship with Him!
3) Malachi then mentions the cure (2:15b-16)! God’s people are to “guard” themselves in their “spirit” and “not break faith with the wife of your youth (v. 15b).” They were to return to the one they loved in the first place! It would show true repentance. By guarding their spirits they would be acting in accord with God’s purpose and would help preserve the unity of the nation as well as their individual relationship to him! We forget that God sees divorce as an act of spiritual “violence.” This is why he “hates divorce”! This is why he asks, “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his.” He continues by asking, “And why one?” God then gives us the answer, “Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.” Christians are God’s spiritual children, “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:13 NIV) We are to remain faithful!
EXAMPLE: The other night I watched an old John Wayne movie called “The Cowboys”. During the movie some boys that were supposed to be moving a herd of cattle through dangerous country found a bottle of whiskey and got drunk. John Wayne and his cook knew they had done it and the next day when the boys were suffering from the effects of too much alcohol, the cook gave each one a dose of castor oil. As he ladled a large spoonful into each boys unwilling mouth, he remarked sarcastically, “I wonder why you ‘boys’ all of sudden are so sick?” That’s the way the cure for sin is. The cure for our sin may seem distasteful to us but God is gracious and desires that we return to Him. And, yes, it can be hard to swallow! We need to remain faithful!
We all at some time want to ask the question “Why?” Yet for some of us the answer may be more than we want to hear. These people revealed their true faith; they were spiritual adulterers, who had divorced God from their lives. The writer of Hebrews teaches, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV) It is a matter of being faithful!
This article is copyrighted © 2018 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.