As David embodied the model God wants followed when he reproves, corrects, disciplines or punishes us, Cain embodied what must be avoided. David admitted God’s justice; Cain bewailed God’s prejudice. He unconscionably killed Abel but instantly censured God’s sentence as MORE than he could bear! Amazing hypocrisy!
But murder in Cain’s mind began with his rejection of God for his rejection of Cain’s offering. He gave, not the first-fruits of his husbandry, as an act of faith, but what he thought adequate. When God refused to honor it by fire, he hated God. A lack of scruple that encouraged him to kill his spiritual superior.
Then, when Cain cursed the soil by killing Abel—mankind’s second abuse of creation—God turned it to a curse on Cain. Which the hardened, self-willed sinner adamantly defied by “building a city” Genesis 4:12, 17, intending to be a settled resident, not the “restless wanderer on earth” God foretold.
Since even the wicked can teach us something useful—learn these lessons from Cain. First, our entire life-style of behavior and decisions are determined by our relationship with God. Never underestimate this truth. Second, Cain’s response to God explains why, to this day, some people readily admit they’re wrong merely by have it called to their attention; while others refuse any suggestion of faulty behavior, however clearly demonstrated. The former want to change; the latter see no reason they should. Christians appealing to the unsaved to accept Christ’s sacrifice for their sins should be prepared for both reactions.
Some people will breathe a sigh of relief that the correction wasn’t MORE severe; others will glare in revulsion that it was so pitiless. Indeed, some sinners will be delighted that faith, repentance and baptism are the steps taken to forgiveness; others will consider any requirement from God a maximum restriction on their free-will. The first response makes God an admirable benefactor; the second a never-satisfied dictator.
The Cain-disposition considers any limitation on behavior unacceptable, all freedom of behavior too little and any penalty imposed “more than they can bear.” Even if their sin is cold-blooded murder. The inconsistent philosophy against capital punishment is a Cain-response. No matter how violent the crime, or merciless the criminal’s acts against innocent people, the murderer shouldn’t be executed. God’s word dashes the theory to bits and pieces, and human standards of justice follow, demanding the heaviest punishment for the worst crime. Of which murder is the poster child of infamy since it arrogates to us what God reserves as his right alone Genesis 9:5-6.
One final admonition. When, as faithful believers in Jesus, we experience what: we can’t explain; seems unfair to us; is more than we can bear—always seek God’s strength to endure. Ask God to help us learn in the situation what would make us stronger witnesses for Jesus. Never...never...question WHY we’re asked to bear the burden. That leads to Cain’s response to correction, not to David’s. Fini
The first result of David’s confession of sin was positive: forgiveness meant he would retain his position over Israel and his personal relationship with God. The second, and negative result, proved that even those devoted to God, in higher positions by his appointment, receiving greater honors by his grace, suffer equivalent punishment when their behavior flagrantly despises God. Keep that principle in mind when calculating God’s sentence on the Jews for rejecting Christ. Since he made Israel the center—navel—of history Ezekiel 38:12, their rebellion against God reached its completion in Christ’s ministry.
The sentence God imposed on David proved particularly humiliating by having the sword slashing from within his “own household.” Furthermore, though three of his sons, each in line for succession, experienced violent deaths, the most dangerous adversary humiliated the king by lying with his “wives in broad daylight” II Samuel 12:11—treasonously usurping David’s throne, a crime not to be forgiven.
Leading to a spiritual principle. First, parents need to model, practice and TEACH self-denial. The self-denial by which David lived—we can thank father Jesse for modeling that for his sons—and forsaken but once, had no positive impact on his infamous sons Amnon, Absalom and Adonijah. Whoever tutored them had no success tempering their egotism. When tutors reported their preening selfishness to David, he refused to get involved. An offense against them that I Kings 1:6 detailed. If Jesse had been so permissive with David, he would never have been the king of Israel and the namesake of Israel’s Messiah. In that sense, Jesse proved a greater man than David. Jesse produced a David, who produced at first only three malcontents.
The lesson is: being a devoted Christian doesn’t automatically make one a competent parent. Different rules apply to each. Sinning against God brings the magnificent grace of Jesus to us on confession and repentance. While offenses against children—the most important being a refusal to model a disciplined self-denial followed by punishment when that fails. The one response parents want to avoid is thinking the phases of childish self-will naturally vanish as they mature. They instead grow into more intransigent self-will. A child must learn that God rewards obedience to his word and dishonors any disobedience.
The second spiritual principle is to learn and practice objectivity in dealing with people. Particularly the people we love too much to apply to them the same objectivity we use for others. For example, David couldn’t believe Absalom would be the Hebrew equivalent of mythical Greek Narcissus, thoroughly in love with himself. David let himself be convinced that Absalom would be true to the rules of hospitality in his day: that all guests in a man’s home had safe conduct. All the while, Absalom pre-determined to slay Amnon II Samuel 13:23-26.
However, once Absalom advertised his treason, David had no doubt about his ruthlessness, even towards him as ruling king II Samuel 15:13-14. Then there was Sheba’s far less dangerous usurpation after Absalom’s uprising had been destroyed. David was more objective about Sheba’s danger than Absalom’s. End Part V
Consider the results when David confessed his sin. First, God forgave him and removed the death penalty otherwise accrued Leviticus 20:10. Psalm 51 records the king’s ego-shattering admission of: betrayal, remorse and desperate fear of losing his personal relationship with God.
David’s ready admission differed from King Saul’s reluctant acceptance of guilt for not annihilating Amalek I Samuel 15:1-35. Even prophet Samuel’s merciless hammering on the king’s conscience brought only his provisional admission 15:24. Only when Samuel predicted the end of Saul’s reign did the secular leader offer unconditional agreement of his guilt—and then only to save face with the nation’s elders 15:30.
Saul’s response surfaces a mighty truth: while we may feel the need to explain, clarify or excuse our decisions to others, never even TRY that approach when coming to God. David confessed that he sinned. He never called it a mistake, a stupid decision or a thoughtless, selfish act. He never explained it wouldn’t have happened had he been able to sleep, (obviously); or he had been so anxious about his army before Rabbah he couldn’t sleep (then he should have been in the field with them). Nothing but, “I have sinned against the Lord.” The plain, ugly truth! The black-hearted spiritual betrayal of God’s word, God’s Person, God’s holiness.
Unpleasant as it was, hard as it hit David’s ego to admit it, bad as it reduced the integrity before God long maintained, David confessed his wickedness before God. The very response God wanted and would bless with healing the gaping fracture in their relationship. For, what I John 1:9 promised under Grace, Moses promised under Law: if we confess our sins God is faithful and will forgive us! Amen. End Part IV
God’s retributive justice is recorded in II Chronicles 15:5-7. He troubled the nations with “every kind of distress” in the ninth century B.C. II Chronicles also records God’s use of disease as retribution against the kings of Judah. Asa’s of the feet 16:12; Jehoram’s of the bowels 21:16-21; Uzziah’s of leprosy 26:16-23. He also punished Herod Agrippa I with a fatal attack of worms Acts 12:21-23.
Perhaps we should at least consider that the principle still applies to modern nations, including America. Especially when the unrest percolating through the world may well presage even-more troublesome disasters!
Assuming for the purpose of this blog—and speculating that it may well be more than an assumption—what will determine our response if God has greater corrections, disciplines and punishments for all societies? It all depends on our spiritual state, our personal relationship with God and our willingness to accept God’s judgments as just and ultimately redemptive, not unfair and ultimately punitive. King David and Cain, the first-son of Adam and Eve, serve as models.
David, a man of spiritual integrity, fell to a momentary passion that led to worse abominations. But when confronted and accused, found forgiveness by admitting his sin II Samuel 12:13. Which had positive results.
Cain, a man of soaring egotism, at home only with self-will, felt at ease defying God’s rules of sacrifice. Having committed that colossal sin, he had no compunction about killing brother Abel. And, when confronted, engaged in a verbal argument with the Creator. Which had negative results. End Part III
God avenged himself on Babylon for destroying the Temple Jeremiah 50:28, 51:11. Indeed, Ezekiel 25:1-7, Obadiah 11-12 and Zephaniah 2:8-11 condemned the nations bordering Israel for delighting in Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon, its vaunted Temple reduced to rubble. God also avenged himself on Imperial Rome for shedding the blood of Christians Revelation 17:6, 18:1-24. For no reason except they believed so strongly that Jesus Alone was Lord that they wouldn’t pinch incense before a bust of Caesar as lord. That refusal made Christians an illegal religion and subject to the animosity of an Empire that tolerated all religions—even Judaism—BUT the ONE that defied Caesar’s deification!
Because later Israelites trusted in the Temple, Jeremiah 7:4-8, as earlier Israelites trusted in the Ark, I Samuel 4:3, God let both be removed. However, since he directed the construction of both Ark and Temple as SYMBOLS of his Presence, HE remained sovereign even when the symbols vanished. That’s why we need to understand both judgments as God’s attack on Satan, not merely on the powers he inspired to attack God’s possessions. Satan arrogated to himself the right to remove God’s Presence from humanity and his sovereignty over all human history.
As the ultimate con man, who fools himself first, Satan thought to eliminate God’s memory in his people by removing symbols that represented him. Instead, back from exile Israel returned to the Holy Land and re-built the Temple—more modestly than Solomon’s to be sure, but just as meaningful to the people. In addition, with prayer to replace animal sacrifice, the synagogue to replace the Temple and rabbis to teach God’s word as the personal possession of each believer.
Satan also knew that he couldn’t deny the efficacy of Christ’s forgiveness of sin on Calvary, and verification of it on Resurrection Sunday. He couldn’t eliminate Christianity in the first century, but hoped to punish believers so harshly it would deter unbelievers from confessing Christ. He persevered in his hatred of God, knowing the multitudes in Heaven, Revelation 19:1-10, applauded God’s presence empowering his people through every trial, every bloodshed, every loss to achieve the greater gain of eternal life. For knowing he’s damned, and can ever be redeemed, Satan settles on any soul, or combination of souls, stupid enough to believe his claim that God is no longer relevant. Make no mistake, every effort by humanity to harm, limit or erase God’s Presence in society is a wind from Satan that reaps God’s whirlwind sweeping away the devil and all his allies.
The warning should terrify those in American culture who presently denigrate Christ’s Singularity and Christianity’s claims. Who say God isn’t needed and Christ is but one of a number of equally-gifted world religious leaders. That it hasn’t surfaced the fear of God in our society YET simply proves we have made such deities of our minds, our education, our technology, our politics that we’re spiritually blind.
Which is now, and has increasingly been since the 1960’s, the opinion of “shakers and movers” from academia, business and politics. But take heart, Christians. God in Christ, and no one else, certainly not the human ego, with all its egotists, determines truth. End Part II
The virus has made us look at and into each other’s eyes. A not-unpleasant experience since eyes are windows into the soul. I’ve seen some very interesting eyes in the past few weeks. It’s permitted us to see masks worn as everyday necessities, even in banks, convenience and grocery stores. Refreshing, when it used to mean a robbery in progress Sign of the times, however: I read this past week of a masked woman, hidden behind sunglasses and a hat, robbing a store.
The virus had led to washing and re-washing of hands. Conclusion: we’re either wonderfully over-hand washed now or previously woefully under-hand washed. From observing hand-washing habits of loved ones and strangers before they eat, it’s more likely the latter.
The virus has also forced an isolation on us that’s led to creative ways to amuse ourselves. One San Diego artist has found painting rocks a pleasant avocation since her art-shows don’t exist now. She then stashes them in neighborhood yards for perfect strangers to find. It’s certainly changed the long-time habit some of us have enjoyed: giving hugs! Tracy, our resident church-hugger, has been reduced to elbow touches.
And speaking of change: watching a preacher on TV ain’t the same as sitting in a group seeing a preacher proclaim God’s word. To say nothing of being in the assembly as all of God’s people SING to the glory of God in Christ. To say nothing of sharing the Lord’s Supper with the entire group instead of with your wife each Sunday.
What this writer has especially noticed: we’re suddenly afraid: of each other; of what’s happening; of what may happen; of staying inside; of congregating anywhere. Indeed, we’re now afraid of everything but Judgment Day. And of everyone but God. We want to avoid every activity that could hazard our health, but remain unafraid of habits, associations, entertainments, materialism and secularism that blacken our soul before God. And, having experienced an alarming disruption in our national life, nothing in the media has suggested what surely more than a few Christians have pondered: could the COVID-19 be the beginning event in a series of afflictions sent by God to punish us for rejecting his Son? To awaken us to our basic need of forgiveness of sin? To renew faith in the Gospels as true accounts of Jesus Christ’s life? To renew acquaintance with and commitment to Jesus Christ as God’s Last, Final, Full Revelation of himself to humanity? To ready us for a spiritual revival that can come only when we have suffered the BLOW that brings us to our knees before God in Christ?
Surely...given what we have become as a nation, contrasted with what we began as a nation, raises the threat of divine judgment on us to far more than a possibility! End Part I
Ancient Israel had recurring periods of commitment to God and apostasy from God. They never mastered persevering commitment and escaped permanent dismemberment from God by his merciful appointment of Judges and Kings to purify land and people.
Christians have a better hope, as the writer of Hebrews constantly reminded his readers. We’re not yet the people we can be. But we’re better than the people we used to be. And, by God’s grace, will in the future be far better people than we ever thought to be.
Now, for daily life, the Holy Spirit empowers discipleship. Even now we can be the “more than conquerors” Romans 8:37 declares us and the “overcomers” Revelation 3:21 promises faithful disciples. Even now. And the Holy Spirit has just begun. When Jesus puts an end to history, incinerates the present world system and creates the new heaven and earth, all of God’s people will begin to perfectly be “more than conquerors” and “overcomers.”
If God, in faithfulness to Israel, would provide them with saviors and judges, he won’t be less faithful to Christians who persevere in discipleship. If the Holy Spirit worked under the Judges to free sinful Israelites from oppressive foreign kings, he won’t less successfully plant, nurture and mature in Christians the fruit of the Spirit while minimizing in and banishing from us the works of the flesh!
Therefore, Christians, lift up your heads and hearts. Be strong in faith and confident in hope. We’re presently better than anyone else by possessing the Holy Spirit of God. And the best is YET to BE!
Significant differences distinguish Christian ambassadors from motivational speakers.
The first is authority. A motivational speaker relates experiences from his own life; a Christian ambassador relates God’s word, whether or not he has personally experienced it. (We are commanded to be Christ-like. We aren’t told to be silent if we aren’t. Indeed, if all disciples could teach about Jesus only what we have practiced, we would mostly be silent).
The second is purpose. A secularist can urge others to overcome a problem, a disease, a failure because he has. A Christian has only one message to the lost: God through Christ wants to forgive your sins so you can be restored to fellowship with him. The Bible, as seen in Berea, Acts 17:11-12, is our textbook, not our personal experience.
The third is potential. The secularist offers possibility, the Christian inevitability. A call to hope exists in any success story: if it happens to another, it CAN happen to me. The Gospel message isn’t, “it could happen to you”, but “you absolutely will be forgiven and restored to God’s presence if you accept Christ and are baptized.”
The fourth is permanence. Overcoming a near-death experience now prolongs our life only temporarily, for we still die. In Christ, blessed promise, believers “cross over from death to life” John 5:24, meaning eternal life with him begins at our baptism and continues past physical death. Since Satan had no power to prevent Christ’s resurrection, Acts 2:24, death has none to keep God’s people from rising from the dead at the Last Day, no tubes poked into our nose into our vitals, no extensive, stressful therapy needed, no consultations with medical practitioners to make us whole. No...but instantly renewed in body and brain—alive as never before, alive forever and ever by the Presence of God’s Spirit!
In short, what Peter preached on Pentecost remains the uncrossable divide between motivation and proclamation: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact” Acts 2:32. Proclaim Christ’s resurrection every way possible: by word, by example, by song. HIS guarantees OURS! Fini
While still duking it out with a nasty sinus infection, this writer returns to blogging.
A story in Judy’s Woman’s World Magazine , 1/21/19, told the story of a young lady afflicted by a rare but life-threatening brain-stem stroke. Given little hope for survival, she nonetheless survived. Then, given no hope to ever move again, within a month she could use her right arm. That began a grueling therapy that eventually returned her to physical health.
Once restored to health, she became an author and a motivational speaker: a poster-child of hope when physical disability hits. She survived in order to encourage others suffering life-threatening diseases and accidents to persevere in hope and effort.
As Christ’s ambassadors Christians don’t motivate; that’s the Holy Spirit’s role in teaching, preaching and conversion. Nor do we relate our personal experiences as proof of God’s integrity; though an excess of such “sharing” gluts books and pulpits today.
No, ambassadors devoted themselves to their country’s resources, potential, interests and destiny. They served so zealously that a historical saying quipped that ambassadors were good men sent abroad to lie for their country. Christians have an entirely different role as they serve as Christ’s ambassadors. End Part I