Saturday, August 31, 2013
1 "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. 2 When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. 3 Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance. 4 The king by judgment establisheth the land: but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it. 5 A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet. 6 In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice. 7 The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it. 8 Scornful men bring a city into a snare: but wise men turn away wrath. 9 If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest. 10 The bloodthirsty hate the upright: but the just seek his soul. 11 A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards. 12 If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked. 13 The poor and the deceitful man meet together: the LORD lighteneth both their eyes. 14 The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established for ever." (Proverbs 29:1-14)
As we close in on the final chapters of Proverbs, we look back on almost six months of immersion in this book of Wisdom. We are reminded in reflection over the past chapters that these are the proverbs of Solomon. The wisdom he preaches is not a fad or a fashion, but ancient and proven, and also from God. That which is old and has proven itself is much more reliable than that which is being heralded today as politically correct or "based on recent studies from a leading university." Wisdom is immutable - not subject to change. The greater its antiquity, the more sound and trustworthy its truth. It is for this reason that I prefer to read the works of the ancient church fathers and those of the Reformation to the pabulum-filled nonsense posing as theology by modern cuff-linked religious imposters. The present chapter is divided into two separate categories: verses 1-14 are observations on public government while the remaining verses deal with control in private matters. Never believe that the one does not influence the other for the righteousness of a nation is based on the collective righteousness of her citizens. In America, we cannot blame Caesar, for WE are Caesar. We appoint our leaders and our vote determines national policy - moral or immoral.
The opening verse deals with what our law terms today as "repeat offenders." 1 "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." In executions of beheading in Saudi Arabia, the Headsman (sword-wielding executioner) chants like a muezzin as he approaches the kneeling victim. When his chant nears its fatal ending, he jabs the victim in the side lightly with the sword. The natural response of the victim is to lean forward with a stiffened neck which the skillful headsman energetically decapitates from the body with his second blow. This is not exactly what Solomon is referring to here. But the illustration is applicable. When we become steeped in our crimes, they become a part of our nature. In our earlier sins, we may have felt pangs of guilt at the theft of an old lady's treasure, but with time, that guilty feeling fades and we are calloused in our sins - no longer hearing the whispered words of conscience. We will garner such a long trail of guilt that the remedy can only be our execution by the government once captured. Execution by either decapitation or the electric chair is considered quite final and without remedy by those who comment on such matters....but, of course, that which we considered Christian charity is a crime worthy of death in Islamic countries because of their warped and intractable sense of religion.
2 "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn." This is the most articulate expression of government that I have ever read. We, in America, have known righteous government. We have known of the decades of our past when America was a beacon light of hope to the entire world - for peace, for medical advances, for technology, for missionary zeal, and for education; but those days have gone a glimmering. We are not a righteous people who have fallen victim to ungodly rulers because we knew the character of those we sent to Congress and the Presidency long before we voted for them. So we have gotten EXACTLY what we deserve - no more, and no less. So today, those who are righteous in America mourn the decisions of the unrighteous majority.
The trend to unabated immorality in Washington has reached a near irreversible limit. Of course, if our nation heeded the counsel of 2 Chronicles 7:14 (If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.) there would be a miraculous reversal to the wickedness in government and society. But that bares the greater problem: the people who are "called by His Name" are the very culprits at fault. When prayer and Bible were removed unconstitutionally from our public schools, the big churches held their peace. When wholesale abortion was legalized, the same. Now we see the water is seething hot and we wonder how we may extricate ourselves from the boiling death which becomes apparent as a nation. God does not demand the prayers and repentance of all of the people of the land - only "those who are called by My Name." It is difficult to imagine this happening in the Episcopal church while they ordain and consecrate practicing homosexuals and approve of abortion. Or the Baptist churches that insist on a renunciation of their obligations as Christian men and women via the false notion of "separation of church and state." If we believe our mourning is so tragic now, wait just a few more years when the sword of government is turned on those of true faith and religion. We will then recognize the purpose for the First Amendment protecting religion from government.
3 "Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance." A father is made glad to see his sons and daughters practicing wisdom for he knows their futures are made secure from want and famine. A nation comprised of wise sons and daughters will be a nation of far-sighted wisdom in her domestic and diplomatic decisions. But a nation that honors harlots and pimps, whether movie stars of athletes, will be reduced to grinding poverty - not only of treasures, but also of spirit.
4 "The king by judgment establisheth the land: but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it." The great institutions of a nation are made firm by a just and uncompromising ruler. But such a ruler is rejected today for the call is always for compromise with a creeping evil constantly. If totalitarian socialism is bad, then just a LITTLE socialism is bad as well. You may drink a near full glass of pure mountain water with only a tiny drop of strychnine which will kill you though most of the water is good.
Who "receiveth gifts" in America today. You may say, "Corrupt politicians." You would be right as far as you spoke; however, there is a greater number of miscreants than just the politicians. What about all who irresponsibly have babies out of wedlock and demand assistance from the government dole, raising delinquents without known fathers? What of all of the special interests groups vying for advantage at the trough of the public treasury? What of the Congressmen and Senators who respond to lobbying pressures to get grants from the taxpayers money to support special projects in their home state? Unfortunately, this is what the Founding Fathers feared most when they guaranteed us a republican (not party) form of government. They feared that, through unprincipled men, the republic they gave us would degenerate into a full blown democracy in which the loudest minority group wielded power over the larger majority, and laws would not be applied equally to all citizens without exception. Their fears have been presently realized in America. Those who receive gifts in America through the reception of taxpayer dollars for which they have not labored are overthrowing our traditional and beloved America. There is no end to the vicious cycle once it is on track. Now men can feel themselves more beholding to government than to God for their fortunes - the intended result of those who have pressed for socialism as opposed to the liberty guaranteed under our Constitution.
Since flattery, by its very nature, is deceitful, it is a favorite ruse of those who wish to swindle and defraud us. 5 "A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet." Flattery is never sincere else it is not flattery but an honest assessment. So when we feel that someone is attempting to ingratiate himself to us through flatteries, best get the guard up and part company. Politicians are the most adept at this process. I doubt an honest man could ever aspire to an office higher than city councilman in our day. I doubt, as well, that an officer of the caliber of a Patton, or a MacArthur, or a Nimitz, could ever get beyond the rank of 2nd Lieutenant in today's military.
6 "In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice." The righteous do not need to be careful of what they say that may incriminate them. They have nothing to hide. But the evil man is like a monkey in a room full of rocking chairs. The greater his lies, the longer his tail, until he gets it caught under one of the rockers. But the righteous are satisfied, content, and happy always. "The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips: but the just shall come out of trouble." (Prov 12:13) Errant national policy can also ruin the reputation of a nation. When we treat our allies treacherously, they will not come to our aid in time of trouble.
7 "The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it." The best example of this is given by Christ in His parable of the Good Samaritan. The priest and Levite passed by on the other side without so much as investigating the plight of the wounded man by the wayside. But the Good Samaritan came to him, saw his wounds, bound them up, and cared for the injured man left for dead, not only by his robbers, but the religious workers of the Temple.
8 "Scornful men bring a city into a snare: but wise men turn away wrath." It is always wise to confront an aggressor with a reasoned and logical defense, if circumstances permit, than with bristling spears and sabers. He may be angry for no reason, or falsely perceive his national security at risk. Quite often, a small offense garners a swift and overwhelming response. Cannon balls and artillery have no conscience or reasoning capability. A small offense my even be planned by scornful men to provoke the confrontation they desire most. Fort Sumter, a tax collection point off Charleston Bay comes to mind. Rather than responding to that offense by a barrage from the shore batteries, the Southern Army should have simply waited and forced the hand of the aggressor in a more open field of contention. In that way, there would be no doubt of who the aggressor was and what he intended.
9" If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest." The means of approaching a foolish man is irrelevant to the outcome. The wise man must not be so very wise after all if he engages in serious dialogue with a fool. What has been won if you best the fool with reason and logic? Such considerations carry no weight with the fool (because he is a FOOL). Do not waste precious time in such argument or confrontation. Simply ignore the fool and go around him if need be.
10 'The bloodthirsty hate the upright: but the just seek his soul." Here is a profound contrast in the outlook of an evil man toward the righteous, and the righteous toward the evil. Those who thirst for blood HATE the righteous; but the righteous are constantly seeking to redeem and save the soul of the bloodthirsty. How many valiant missionaries have died at the hands cannibals and savages in attempting to inform them of the benefits made available to them in Christ?
11 "A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards." It is not a wise national policy to proclaim your intended military moves before they are taken. A fool will reveal every detail of his plans to the world while his enemy makes appreciable preparations to counter his moves. We see that very thing happening at the top of our national government as I write. General Thomas J. Jackson (Stonewall) never informed even his top staff of the next move of his army. As a result, his maneuvers and engagements were always a shock to an unprepared enemy. Perhaps we need some of that wisdom at the top echelons of government today.
12 "If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked." Stupid is as stupid does" was a line from Forrest Gump that has some application here. The ruler who is unscrupulous will surround himself with councilors of the same caliber. The good ruler will verify every claim and not trust important matters to the word alone of subordinates. And a good ruler will never blame a mistake on his subordinates for he is their mentor.
13 "The poor and the deceitful man meet together: the LORD lighteneth both their eyes." We are all cast upon the sea of life in a common vessel. We encounter the same storms and turmoil. But our approach to life differs from the deceitful man to the simple poor. But it is God who grants the light of life to each. Having a common Maker, why do we deceive and hurt?
14 "The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established for ever." Do you know that there is only ONE King who has faithfully judged the poor in ages past, in the present age, and in all future years? It is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! We certainly have lesser examples in kings such as Solomon and Cyrus the Great. Cyrus the Great was the first King of a broad empire that showed mercy and justice to his conquered subjects. But there is only One King who has, without exception, met the criteria of this proverb. He has faithfully (always) judged the poor in righteousness, and His Throne is established forever.
Friday, August 30, 2013
15 As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people. 16 The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days. 17 A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him. 18 Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once. 19 He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough. 20 A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. 21 To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress. 22 He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him. 23 He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue. 24 Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, It is no transgression; the same is the companion of a destroyer. 25 He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat. 26 He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered. 27 He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse. 28 When the wicked rise, men hide themselves: but when they perish, the righteous increase. (Proverbs 28:15-28)
Verse 15 opens with the description of a wicked ruler that is uncanny in its application to those things we see happening in the United States and Canada today. 15 "As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people." A wicked ruler is an agent of Satan and is his prince: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8) I am baffled that the baptistic and secular society are in agreement that we must obey such wicked rulers. Such wickedness in government is not ordained by God for our good. They have corrupted the purpose of government rather than enacted God's will for a just rule. The ranging bear informs us that wicked men in government will be looking for every shred of evidence to entrap us just as a ranging bear covers hill and dale to find its prey. Today we see the eavesdropping on our personal emails and phone records as being an impingement upon our Constitutional rights. If the Constitutional issue is raised as a deterrent, we are laughed off the public forum as some kind of nut or radical who simply "do not get it!"
We have rulers today who view the US Constitution with contempt. They are fully aware of what the protections that the Constitution provide, but they despise to acknowledge them. To know a thing and disregard its meaning is to want understanding. 16 "The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days." Surely you are astute enough to recognize such rulers in high places of the US government today who boast of being a Constitutional professor yet who disdain and deny the terms that Constitution insures? Can you not see the foundation being laid for increased oppression day by day. The chains of our bondage are being stealthily forged in the backrooms and halls of the Federal government even as I write these words. I thirst for that old and ancient wisdom that informed our Founding Fathers at the outset of this once-great nation: “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” ― Patrick Henry How long shall we while away until a ruler to comes to rule over us who hates the covetous inclinations of labor unions, teacher's unions, so-called tax exempt socio-political advocates who press always for more of the tax payers dollars (all the while casting them under the oppression of unyielding debt)? Where are courageous heroes who once stood in the pulpits of America at her early founding and denounced King George and his oppressive taxation - who advocated for the full measure of freedom and liberty with which each of us are 'endowed by our Creator? Instead of men of steel courageously preaching the Gospel of Liberty, we see today the naive and cringing cowards of modern religion attempting to ingratiate themselves to money and government. WAKE UP AMERICA - THE ENEMY IS NOT AT THE GATE, BUT INSIDE IT! What, pray tell, has happened to the righteous indignation that forged the papers of liberty some 237 years ago? When did our men become wimps, and our ladies so indiscriminatingly wanton? (You know who you are!)
17 "A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him." The proper role of government ordained by God is to insure the execution of justice. When justice is promptly and fairly administered (unlike the laborious process of modern America) the people are at peace. Blood guilt should be satisfied by the hand of the executioner. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. " (Gen 9:6) Have you considered the great loss of treasure in the death of a single human being created after the image of God? Wanton murder cannot be temporally forgiven without a like sacrifice of guilty blood. This is especially true of a child whose image is yet unmarred by sin and whose resemblance to its Maker is fresh and more genuine than that of an unregenerate sinner. But every life is priceless. With the death of any person, a wealth of childhood memories, loves, and experiences are lost forever.
18 "Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once." Those who are conscientious in their following of Christ shall always stand justified before the Lord; but it may often happen that even a righteous man shall fall due to a lack of courage or faith. When we are double-minded, or deal deceitfully behind the back of others, we may be sure of being found out. "He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known." (Prov 10:9) We need not look at the likes of King Saul or Absalom for example - the saints themselves make a more profound reference. Please remember poor Peter as he stood without the court and denied Christ the third time. "And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62) Peter not only wept that night, but for the next three days until Christ arose and the angels, wittingly, told the women: ". . . go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." (Mark 16:7) The Holy Ghost was aware of Peter's misery and, therefore, specifically mentioned Peter. But those who willfully walk in perverse ways shall be taken in their own seductions.
19 "He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough." America's youth are infatuated with, primarily, vain persons. Such infatuation robs them of the labors they should employ to prepare for the future in both academics and religious obligations. If our heroes are profane and vulgar singers, athletes who are on drugs, movie stars who cannot remember the name of their last spouse - what are we made of? When we travel the Broad Way on which the wicked entertainers travel, shall we not arrive in due course at the same destination? The tattooed criminal has become the paragon of emulation to many of our youth. To what end? Those whom we look upon to follow will become the patterns from which we are cut. What has happened to quench that kindly spirit of young and heroic men and women such as William Whiting Borden, Class ')9, Yale University. After hearing the Gospel preached at a Yale function, he dedicated his life, surrendered the inheritance of his family fortune (the Borden's were very wealthy) and, against the desires of family and friends, he undertook to go on mission to India. Leaving all behind, this young man with a thousand promises of worldly success, left all and embarked by sea to India. On the way, the ship sojourned near an Egyptian port. Borden contracted cerebral meningitis and died far from home - his apparent mission not completed, but his true mission as certain as the dawn. Who could see the heavenly host gathered about the dying bed of this fine young Christian who had, from the days of his youth, dedicated and consecrated his life to Christ. Who sensed the words spoken at the last: "Then Jesus beholding him loved him . . . . " (Mark 10:21) Do we longer have such young men at Yale, at Harvard, at Amherst, at University of Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, or UCLA? Where did they go? They must have gone someplace for God has not moved an inch.
20 "A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent." All who place riches ahead of his duty to God (or even on an even scale) is not worthy of the company of God. The blessings of the faithful are hidden to the eye of greed and envy, but abound to wealth and mansions unseen by the wicked. The radiant rays of the Sun provide life and light to the earth, but when a physical object such as the moon comes between, the light will be eclipsed. The same is true of those who allow desires of the world to come between them and God - their hearts shall be darkened in the prime of life. Money itself is not evil, but the "love of money is the root of all evil."
21 "To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress." Do you have a complete trust in any person: your spouse, your Senator, or your Pastor? You would be wrong to do so. Why is this so? Because you cannot even trust your own heart. You must surrender that heart fully to Christ and allow Him to determine its course and heading. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer 17:9) Since you cannot know your own heart, turn it over to the One who can know and who made it. The one you trust most among humanity will certainly betray you for a piece of bread when gnawing hunger grips him.
22 "He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him." In Persia (Iran) the people were very gracious in their expressions. To compliment another on the beauty of an artwork in their home was met by a response: "No, it is not beautiful - it is your eye that is beautiful to see beauty." An evil eye sees only evil everywhere and praises it. The get-rich-quick philosophy, and even modern-day religionist, is wicked at its roots - remember, "The love of money is the root of all evil." But, sooner than later, the nature of evil in the eye comes home to roost in the heart of its owner, and poverty of soul and spirit is the result.
23 "He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue." A true friend will tell you the truth even if it wounds the heart grievously. The truth may not be well received at the moment of its delivery, but time reveals all things and the friend that was wounded by your truthfulness shall return to laud and honor you for doing it. If we speak lies and flatteries that lead to ruin, what will our friends opinion of us be later?
24 "Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, It is no transgression; the same is the companion of a destroyer." To rob a parent is double robbery for it robs the love of our youth and it robs us as well for we are the issue of our parents. The arch-destroyer is Satan. Do you wish to have such a companion in your sins? "For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. " (Matt 15:4-6)
25 "He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat." A proud person, either of station in life, academics, or wealth, looks constantly for ways to prove his superiority to others much like the Pharisee and the publican. But those who trust in the Lord look for ways to extol His virtues and goodness. A nation that places its "Trust in God" does not go about seeking other nation's quarrels in which to meddle.
26 "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered." Here we find a re-affirmation of a principle articulated in verse 21. If you trust in your own heart, you are trusting in the heart of a genuine FOOL. We are neither to trust princes (Ps 118:8) or any man (including self) (Act 29:5) else we are staking our destiny on the 'arm of flesh' and not the "Everlasting Arms" of God. To walk wisely is to walk in the steady counsel of God.
27 "He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse." There is far greater wisdom concisely stated in this verse than first meets the eye. My wife's father was a big landowner who began with a paltry single field of land; however, every harvest season, he gave ten percent of his increase in crops to the poor and hungry of Korea. He was forced to manage his resources wisely in order to spare that donation. In time, he amassed a fortune in giving ten percent of all that he made. But those who act as though they do not see the poor (how could they not for they are all around us), they shall bear the curse of those whom they have neglected. They may enter the tomb in flowing robes of silk, but emerge on the Last Day in tattered rags or even naked.
28 "When the wicked rise, men hide themselves: but when they perish, the righteous increase." Line upon line, line upon line; precept upon precept, precept upon precept. "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:" (Isaiah 28:10) So does the Lord teach us His Word and Wisdom by repetition of principles. Yes, when the enemy is abroad, man has no reason to hide; but when the enemy is the ruler of the land, he must hide from the excesses of government intrigue and abuses. We have wicked rulers in America today because we deserve wicked rulers to represent the morals of those who placed them in power. If America turns from her wicked ways and back to God, then God will give us rulers fitting of our righteous cause.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
1 The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion. 2 For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof: but by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged. 3 A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food. 4 They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them. 5 Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things. 6 Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich. 7 Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father. 8 He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor. 9 He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination. 10 Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession. 11 The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out. 12 When righteous men do rejoice, there is great glory: but when the wicked rise, a man is hidden. 13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. 14 Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief. (Proverbs 28:1-14)
Several years ago, I stopped at a gasoline station in Daleville, Alabama near the large Cairns Army Airfield where my office was located. Another pilot friend was filling up his car. He was laughing a bit so I asked him what was so funny. He said that when he pulled into the station, a policeman came running out yelling something at a lady who was pulling out in an old Ford Mustang. The lady gave the car the gas and sped out toward Enterprise (about 8 miles away). The policeman jumped in his car and tried to catch her, but the terms were now changed. She was speeding and driving recklessly. The policeman called ahead to Enterprise police who were waiting for her. When she arrived at the circle in Enterprise, several police cars pursued. She went all the way around the circle and headed back to Daleville. Just as she was passing the gas station where the chase began, she blew the engine on the Mustang. A subsequent search of the car revealed several packages of illegal drugs. Oh, and by the way: the reason the officer had run out of the station yelling at the lady was because she had not waited for her $10 change from the cashier and the policeman was trying to return it. So the proverb holds very true: 1 "The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion." If we have nothing to hide, we have no reason to run. Guilt is the parent of fear.
"It is a sad calamity to see a kingdom spoiled, and a Church afflicted; priests slain with the sword, and the blood of nobles mingled with the cheaper and; religion made the cause of trouble, and the best of men most cruelly persecuted; govenment turned, and laws ashamed; judges decreeing in fear and covetousness, and the ministers of holy thing's setting themselves against all that is sacred. And what shall make recompense for this heap of sorrows, when God shall send such swords of fire? Even the mercies of God, that shall then be made public when the people shall have suffered for their sins. For I have known a luxuriant rule swell into irregular twigs and bold excrescences, and spend itself in leaves and little rings, and afford but little clusters to the wine-press. But when the Lord of the vine has caused the dressers to cut the wilder part, and make it bleed; it grew temperate in its vain expence of useless leaves, and knotted into fair and juicy branches, and made account of that loss of blood by the return of fruit. It, is thus of an afflicted kingdom, cured of its surfeits, and punished for its sins. It bleeds for its long riot, and is left ungoverned for its disobedience, and chastised for its wantonness. And when the sword hath let forth the corrupted blood, and the fire hath purged the rest, then it enters into the double joys of restitution, and gives God thanks for his rod, and confesses the mercies of God in making the smoke to be changed into fire, and his anger into mercy."-- Jeremy Taylor (Works, vi, 182)
2 "For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof: but by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged." When men are unworthy of the liberty God has granted, they will lose it to a succession of rulers, each worse than the first. Strife and civil war follow hard on the heels of social immorality. Oppression takes the place of freedom, and tyranny fills the role of justice. The citizen may be shocked at the sudden collapse of order and propriety, and blame it upon unprincipled men; but unprincipled men come to power only when permitted by the citizenry. God sends us that which we deserve. If we claim that "character doesn't matter," God will send us someone to PROVE that character DOES matter!
3 "A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food." There is something unnatural and exceedingly repugnant about a man arising from a poor background to wealth and honor who forgets the geography of his raising and puts on imperious airs. If we forget our points of origin, we will likely not know our destination. False pride is greater in one who has become suddenly rich. He has not well adapted to the new reality and thinks himself better than those from whom he arose. We might even suggest that there are Christians, newly coming into the covenant of grace, who now consider themselves more knowledgeable of the things of God than ministers whose studies have been diligent over many years.
4 "They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them." In our day, we are considered radical and labeled with all sorts of insulting labels if we stand against the leading sins of our day. Even our own government has forsaken the law of righteousness and, contrary to Scripture, called that which is good, bad; and that which is bad, good. If an athlete or some Hollywood figure "comes out of the closet" as homosexual, observe the commendation and praise they receive from the media and politicians. They are praised for evil. But we of faith are clearly told that we must not vacate the field of battle, but must CONTEND against them. We place our reputations on the line, our well-being, and our sacred honor in contending with the emerging evil that has become the enemy of God and of our own souls.
5 "Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things." Do you believe that the wicked who are promoting abortion and homosexuality are doing so out of an innocent understanding? You would be wrong. They KNOW the law and judgment of God, but prefer to reject it - even if they argue otherwise. I am presently in a debate with a Canadian group that argue for homosexual marriage (there is nothing GAY about homosexuality). I offer Bible verse upon Bible verse, yet they argue back about social trends and the tastes of modern youth. They will not address the matter from a biblical perspective for they know they will lose that argument. If we "seek first the kingdom of God, all these things shall be added unto us." That includes all needed for life, and it means wisdom and justice as well.
6 "Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich." There is no dishonor in being poor unless we are lazy as well. But many are poor because of oppression and treachery in high places. Heaven will likely have a larger population of the poor than of the rich. First of all, there are a lot more poor people than rich; and secondly, riches often drive our minds and heart from the straight and narrow path onto the broad way that leads DOWN to destruction. Wealth is a tempter.
7 "Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father." How familiar of Solomon's writings are these words. When we keep the law, the books are forever balanced; but when we carouse with the wicked, we exempt ourselves from the observance of righteousness and find, at last, that we are lost and sinful - helpless to get out of the ditch our wicked habits have dug.
8 "He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor." Greed and envy will provide its own judgment and reward in the dark abscesses of Hell. Many years ago, I had a neighbor who was a Major in the Army. He was also a pilot drawing additional flight pay. His wife came to visit my wife and when she left, she damaged another young woman's Mo-ped that was parked in the driveway behind her car. She said nothing, but picked the Mo-ped up and moved it to the side. Later, the young woman to whom the Mo-ped belonged (a beautiful Japanese girl) discovered that the engine case on her Mo-ped was cracked. She was married to a lower ranking enlisted man. She asked me what she should do. I advised her to speak with my neighbors wife and explain her situation. (My son had witnessed the accident) The major's wife denied any culpability. I advised the young woman to carry the matter to small claims court which she did. The physical evidence was convincing against the major's wife, and my son's testimony sealed the case. The major had to pay for all damages and hardships. One week later, a speeding car struck the major's antique MGB sports car, parked in front of his house, which he had worked tirelessly at restoring with all original parts like new. The MGB was totaled and the driver who struck it did not stop. The insurance company did not cover the MGB because it was an antique car. They never found out who destroyed the major's car, but in a roundabout way, I believe God did it. That is consistent with this verse of Proverbs.
9 "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination." This reminds me of the many prayer requests we get from people whose presence never darkens the doors of the church. In a combat unit, the religious nut is ridiculed and demeaned, that is, until the unit is under heavy fire and the position about to be overrun by the enemy. It is then that the worm turns. The former hecklers turn to the "religious nut" to pray for them. Truly, there are no foxhole atheists. Those who care so little for the Word of God as not to read and study it have no right to the claims made by God in His Book of Life. So the prayers offered by such men go unheralded and unheard. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:" (Psalms 66:18)
10 "Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession." That is one who deceives or swindles a righteous man and tries to ruin him in his finances will face the same fate and worse. In a moral sense, the wicked who lead a righteous man into sin through temptations and allurements will sink far deeper than he was at the beginning; but the righteous man shall recover his character and be restored.
11 "The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out." Have you noticed the disproportionate number of children from wealthy families turn out to be rotten to the core? The rich class believe that they are actually a higher breed of mankind and not subject to the same common sense logic that poorer families observe. They give their children every toy they want, and leave them too often to their own imaginations. The rich have an unreasonably high regard for themselves. They believe their wealth gives them expertise in fields they have never travelled. But the understanding man among the poor can detect dandy fraud every time. He may even laugh at the foolish suppositions of the wealthy man who puts on airs.
12 "When righteous men do rejoice, there is great glory: but when the wicked rise, a man is hidden." True and lasting joy comes at the triumph of righteousness. The land itself will be blessed by the works of righteous mean and women and will be a land of rejoicing instead of a land of mourning. When, however, the wicked gain power, there is nothing but fear and sorrow. We see the beginnings of this in our own fair country. Organs of government are being mobilized to spy on every private aspect of the lives of the people. Looking ahead to chapter 29, we see this clarified: "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. " (Prov 29:2)
13 "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." When we are busy covering our tracks of sins, we are overburdened with guilt and stress. Even though there may be moments of success, yet the old record is still there waiting to be discovered of our sins. Sooner or later, those sins will be revealed and our castle of sand will crumble. Confession is the best heart medicine the Great Physician can prescribe. Without it, there can be no salvation; with it, all guilt evaporates and peace of mind is the result.
14" Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief." When I most feared my next physics test, those were the times that I performed best; because I prepared well for the inevitable. When we have wandered away from our Lord, a gnawing fear should possess our hearts. Suppose we should die in our unrepented sins. So we are drawn back to the Table of Grace and confess our careless sins of commission and omission....to what result? We shall then have a happy, relieved, and contented heart. If we deny the reign of the Holy ghost in our hearts for too long, we shall discover that our wickedness grows more and more acute. If we allow our hearts to be calloused to the voice of the Holy Ghost, we will cease to hear His beckoning appeals though He continues to speak them. Have you ever fallen from grace so far that it took much prayer and searching to return?
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
15 A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. 16 Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself. 17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. 18 Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured. 19 As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man. 20 Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied. 21 As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise. 22 Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him. 23 Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. 24 For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? 25 The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. 26 The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. 27 And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens. (Proverbs 27:15-27)
In reading the repeated warnings of Solomon against the nagging and contentiousness of women, I am forced to believe that his experiences emerge from an unnatural desire for more than one of them. Naturally, no woman is going to keep her peace with a husband who is carousing with one thousand mistresses. God intended one wife for one man, and one man for one woman. Solomon learned God was wise above all others in such a natural state of matrimony. 15 “A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.” The old southern proverb – “Ain’t nobody happy if mama ain’t happy” – holds true to form and is consistent with that which Solomon expresses. Just as on a stormy day, one stands in the house and hears the drip, drip, dripping of many leaks in the roof, so is the troubling nagging of a wife; especially a wife who has been slighted. It is miserable to remain in such a house, but the immoderate rains preclude one from travelling outside. 16 “Whosoever hideth her hideth the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which bewrayeth itself.” Trying to calm such a woman is like trying to hold the wind back – impossible; or else the devotion of the man for his perfumed spouse may overcome him if the restrained winds fail.
17. “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Social intercourse sharpens the wit of man. Without social intercourse, there is no mental growth or social grace. Man was never intended to be alone: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” (Gen 2:18) To dispute on points of law, science, and religion sharpens our ability to defend our positions. It takes the hardness of iron to sharpen other iron just as it takes a like nature of man to sharpen the wits of another. If you wish to improve your tennis game, do not play with a partner of less talent than yourself else your skills will suffer; pick one who is better so that you may grow better. Copper is too soft to sharpen iron, and an effeminate and wimpy soldier will never inspire the war-making skills of a fellow soldier.
18 “Whoso keepeth the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth on his master shall be honoured.” Our social graces are honed by loyalty and service. Just as the profits of the fig orchard depend upon the attentiveness and care of the servant who tends the orchard, so does the attentive servant who obeys his superior and diligently applies himself to every task shall be honored by that supervisor. In a larger sense, this proverb applies to the Child of God and his Master in Heaven. If we are faithful in all, we will at last hear: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21).
Do we see ourselves in others? We must if we are to have compassion on others. When we see in the pain of others our own pain and suffering, we will be moved with ‘com” (together) passion (feeling). Compassion means to feel the pain of others. So much so that we act upon it to relieve the suffering. 19 “As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.” When we gaze into a still brook, we can see our own face looking back. When we look into the face of a poor and hungry orphan, we must see our own face looking back at us. The old Anglican priest, John Donne, got it right:
No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less. As well as if a promontory were. As well as if a manor of thy friend's Or of thine own were: Any man's death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind, And therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls; Behold, It tolls for thee.
20 “Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.” On March 1st of 2007, a devastating tornado struck my home town and destroyed the high school. Eight souls were taken from the land of the living at that time. It was the worst catastrophe this little town had ever witnessed. Standing in line at Winn Dixie a few days later, there was a lady paying for her groceries conversing with the cashier. She said, “This storm was the Judgment of God.” A distinguished black minister, who was standing in line behind her said, “Honey child, you ain’t seen NOTHING yet.” How right he was. The dimensions of destruction can always be exceeded and added to – there is no set limit to suffering. May I add as well that Hell shall always be large enough to accommodate the billions who will find themselves confined there at the moment of God’s own choosing. Just because you are not as bad as some of your neighbors is no guarantee that you will not “bust Hell wide open” one day. There is ALWAYS room for ONE MORE. I pray that ONE MORE is not you or me.
21 “As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.” A refining pot for silver and a furnace for gold will bring out the true quality of the precious metals. So does the public reputation of a man bear record of his quality of character and philanthropy. The weak man, believe it or not, cannot stand praise. It will go to the head of the proud and vain so that it will ruin whatever man once occupied the body.
22 “Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.” Merciless beatings will not erase the fool’s foolish ways. In ancient times, incorrigible men were often placed in a mortar among the grains of wheat and beaten with a stone pestle. Even if they died of their wounds, they died fools. Foolishness is a part of the nature and character of a fool. He only can appreciate the presence of a whip to discourage his present foolish behavior. Perhaps as a child he was allowed to grow among the thorns and thistles so that when grown to adulthood, his branches and fruit are stunted. That is why a child must be raised up in the way that he should go. When he is old, that restraining nature will be his guide and defender.
23 “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. 24 For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation? 25 The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. 26 The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. 27 And thou shalt have goats' milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.” These last five verses are an appeal to the beauty and solitude of simplicity in life – the pasturelands, the cultivated fields, and the barns of plenty as opposed to the false lights of the city. There is no graft or corruption in the shepherd’s work of watching the flock as there is on city streets abundant with venders, black-marketers, and street-walkers. The luxuries of the city are a mirage that dissipates with age. There is no kingdom, save ONE, whose crown has endured the years of eternity. We find ample medicine in the mountain herbs, and plenty of warm clothing from the little lambs. All of our household will have healthy food and drink that comes from the gift of God’s Nature – this, the city cannot offer. The city can only afford pollution and poisons to the weary soul. Better to view the night sky from the pristine atmosphere of the desert than the glimmering and unsteady lights of the city.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: 4 And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. 5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Rev 22:1-5)
The Word of God itself is a flowing River of Living Waters. The language in which God speaks to us is figurative and full of beauty, but our minds cannot conceive of the greater meaning and beauty behind those words – for there is no earthly vocabulary whereby the grace, mercy and promises of God can be conveyed to mortal man in whole. The utterances of the Holy Ghost cannot be fully described in the mundane vernacular of mankind. So God has given us symbolic and figurative description of things our minds are otherwise incapable of grasping. It is a testimony to man’s lack of spiritual insight that causes him to habitually mistake the symbol for that which is being symbolized in both scripture and biblical prose. – the ultimate promises of God for their short-term manifestation toward us.
Today’s hymn is an old one written in 1787 by Rev. Samuel Stennett. In this hymn, an old favorite of both the black and white races of days gone by, the symbols refer to that moment when we leave this body of clay behind and cross over the Jordan Waters to God our Father. It restates the very words of John Bunyan describing Christian crossing over the river and the “bugles sounding on the other side.” This hymn has always held a special place in my heart, and I know not why. It may be because I heard it sung so often in my home and church with deep feeling while growing up, or it may be owing to the plaintive voices of the black folk of my early life whose voices cast a spell that I cannot forget. But it is powerful in its words and meaning.
It alludes, in allegorical symbols, to the crossing of the Jordan River of the Children of Israel from the Wilderness of Moab, after forty years wandering, into that Land of Promise, made sure by the Word of God. But that event is only symbolic of the real crossing of Jordan Waters from this wilderness life on earth into the reward of Heaven which awaits every true Christian. Even to a greater extent, the Jordan River is very descriptive of the life of Christ. His ministry began at Jordan Banks and continued for three years - very often along its flowing waters. Some 35 miles north of The Sea of Galilee rises the heights of Mt. Hermon. Some believe it was Mt Hermon upon which Christ was transfigured. There are three gushing springs on Mt. Hermon that form tributaries that combine down the slopes of the mountain to form the Jordan River. The waters of Jordan come from on high, and they have their source in three springs much like unto the Trinity of God. The Jordan flows down to Galilee giving life-sustaining water and nutrients along its way. Either side of its banks are lush and green as it feeds into Galilee. In this way, it is much like the life of Christ – He gave life and sustenance everywhere He went.
The waters of Galilee teem with life, because the Sea surrenders its waters of the Jordan on its southern-most boundary. The Jordan continues plunging down through the wilderness gorge to the lowest point on earth – the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is dead because it never gives anything. It keeps every drop of water it receives. Here the Jordan River dies just as Christ came down to us, gave us life eternal, and died in our wilderness of sin for us. The River is little more than 100 miles long – one of the shortest of rivers. Just so, Christ, too, died in the prime of life – thirty three years of age. So read the words of this hymn thoughtfully, and sing it as well if you remember the tune. It will bless you now, and it will bless you when you feel the earth quake beneath your feet in old age, and the stormy sky scowls and blusters.
On Jordan's Stormy Banks
On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.
I am bound for the promised land,
I am bound for the promised land;
Oh who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the promised land.
All o'er those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day;
There God the Son forever reigns,
And scatters night away.
No chilling winds or poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more.
When I shall reach that happy place,
I’ll be forever blest,
For I shall see my Father’s face,
And in His bosom rest.
This beautiful old hymn from the past reminds us that we all must cross those waters at some point of God’s own choosing. We are not permanent citizens of this world, but merely pilgrims and strangers in the earth. “For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country…..But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:14, 16)
During the War Between the States, a young hero of Smyrna, Tennessee was captured and charged with spying on the Federal Army. Dispatches were found hidden under his saddle and in his boots. He was not a spy, but instead, a courier; but the Union General was desperate to break up a spy ring known as “Coleman’s Scouts.” He demanded of the twenty-one year old Davis the name of the leader of the Coleman Scouts, but Sam Davis refused to divulge the name of his commander and comrade. Finally, Gen. Dodge, the Union General, said, “If you do not tell us the name, we shall be forced to hang you as a spy.” Davis responded, “I would rather die a thousands deaths than to betray my cause.” So, he was sentenced to be hung. He never recanted. His death gained for him the love and respect of men and women on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line. Museum Memorial is located at his former home in Smyrna, and a statue in the city square at Nashville.
The night before his execution, Chaplain James Young, who had spent the day praying with Sam, said that Samuel Davis asked if they might sing, “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks.” Chaplain Young later stated that he would never forget the power with which the young Davis sang this hymn just hours before actually crossing that River’s Stormy Banks. Shall you sing it as well when you cross over?
Sunday, August 25, 2013
Sermon Notes - Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity - Saint Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church - 25 August 2013, Anno Domini
Note: I apologize for the length of this sermon, but I could not make it shorter and cover its meaning in proper depth.
o Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
23 And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: 24 For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. 25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. 29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? 30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, 34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. 36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? 37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. (Luke 10:23-37)
The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity.
LMIGHTY and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service; Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Gospel and Epistle text today deals with not only the acts of kindness and charity expected of the Godly man or woman, but the terms of the law and of grace as well. The Prayer of Collect makes reference to the 'heavenly promises.' These are promises of grace that stand in contrast to the condemnation under which we would all have fallen under the strict application of the law. The law has exempted no one; however, we were justified by the blood of Jesus Christ whose death on the cross paid our sin debt (if we have claimed that justification and salvation). There was nothing worthy in us that Christ should have paid our penalty, but He did so out of an uncompromising love for those who would accept the promise of grace made available to us through His act of sacrifice. Paul makes sound reference to the inability of the law to save us, for we are incapable of perfect obedience. If we were compelled to be the bloodline descendents of Abraham (as the law would require) we could not come to God. But being children who have come to God through the promises made possible in Christ, we are indeed the Children of Abraham. Now let us look at the Gospel text and the opening question of the lawyer which followed on a mysterious moment of Christ's teaching to His disciples:
23 "And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: 24 For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them." I am continually amazed at the understanding of Scriptural truth that can occupy the heart of one with little seeming formal education and, by contrast, the abject lack of understanding that can exist in a mind of one that has received every benefit of extensive studies in theology. Why is this so? I believe it may be attributable to the fertile heart of the humble believer that accepts all that God says without question or equivocation. There were many kings, prophets, and even angels who sought to look into those things to which the disciples were privy through a heart open to Christ.
Simply having a technical knowledge of the Law (Word of God) is not a benefit to salvation. Even the devils know God's Word: and believe - but not unto salvation: "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." (James 2:19) A mental ascent to the Word of God is never sufficient - it must be supported by a complete heartfelt commitment to that Word. There happens to be a lawyer in the midst (a man learned in the Scriptures) who desires to demonstrate his superior intellect to Christ and before many witnesses.
25 "And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" First of all, this was a man who should not have had such a question, but should have known better than his question suggests. Secondly, he had a motive - his motive was to trip Jesus up with a seemingly simple question with complex ramifications. Was his question a good one? No, it was devoid of understanding of the terms of salvation and grace. "... what shall I do to inherit eternal life." It is the same question asked by the rich young ruler, by Mohammad, by Buddha, and by every other false religion. The basis of the question is that salvation must be based on good works, or personal merit, and not the blood of Jesus Christ. "But Christ has not yet suffered" you may suggest. Yes, He was sacrificed from before the foundations of the world were laid, and is the same Seed of Promise to which Abraham looked forward for salvation. So, in reality, there is NOTHING we can physically DO to be saved - we must believe (in our hearts) on the Lord Jesus Christ only! Not a verbal ascent, but a heart conviction!
Perhaps this fellow was an excellent lawyer, but not one as accomplished as the One whose Finger wrote the Law. Jesus now asks a profoundly simple and meaningful question of the lawyer, and of you and me: " What is written in the law? how readest thou?" First of all, in order to know God's Word, we must have read it first - study and digest it; and, secondly, if we have read God's Word, do we understand it aright? Do we allow scripture to explain scripture, or do we trust in our own understanding? Jesus will play the lawyer's game - and win that endeavor by telling a very famous parable. In fact, this parable is so famous that is major character - the Good Samaritan - has become a part of our daily conversation in describing a kind and generous person. The parable, among other things, relates the fact that the DIRECTION we are going often depicts the condition of our hearts as expressed in Psalm 1:1-3.
Before we begin the parable itself, I wish to remind you of what our Lord has told us to do if we would be like Him."If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." (Luke 9:23) Where is Jesus headed when this parable was related? He was going UP to Jerusalem (as was the Good Samaritan) to give Himself a ransom for you and me. In the previous chapter, we read: "And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem," (Luke 9:51) Jerusalem was the Holy City, the City of Salem (Peace) and of God. The direction Jesus was going was the same as the Samaritan, while that of the priest and Levite were the opposite direction and they were going DOWN to Jericho - a city on the southern frontier of Samaria. It is likely that the Good Samaritan was from Jericho.
Due to their intermarriage with other races, the Samaritans were regarded with hate and disdain by the Jews as a less-than-Holy people. Now the Lawyer has not gained any advantage in his first question, so he presses his point with what he hoped would present an over-sophisticated inquiry for Christ to answer. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." This was a correct reading as to the 'wording' of the scriptures, but the deeper meaning was lost to the lawyer as we shall see. Jesus always gives credit where credit is due. "Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live." Yes, sounds simple, but impossible to obey without that love which the commandments demand! As is the habit of most lawyers to defend and justify their position, this lawyer responded: "But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?" So Jesus will provide an answer that I pray the lawyer understood with his heart. Has the question ever arisen in your mind as well? It has in mine, but the answer I give myself has never been as expressive as the one Christ gives.
"And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead." This Jew was going DOWN from Jerusalem (the City of Peace) to Jericho. When we go out from the place of God, we are always going DOWN. Just as Naomi, her husband, Elimelech, and two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, left the House of Bread and Praise (meaning Bethlehemjudah) to go down into the cursed land of Moab and lost all but her daughter-in-law Ruth. They left the place that God would bless and went into the place that God would curse. It didn't turn out very well for them, did it? We always meet with hidden dangers when we go out from the will of God. This Jew from Jerusalem fell among thieves which were so common to this hilly, desert stretch of road. They not only took all that he had, but fairly beat him to within a inch of his life. Satan will do that to us when we forsake our Lord. And Satan, too, will leave us either dead, or half dead. The man may be semi-conscious, but he is certainly unable to arise and help himself. So he lies there waiting fore mercy. There is nothing he can do to deserve mercy, but he has no choice to await what mercy might come.
If he was able to see, he may have had a rise in his spirit when he spotted a priest coming down the road. Surely, there would be no better possibility of help than from a man in the service of God. 31 "And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side." But wait! The priest does not even slow down, or inquire of the man's condition. He has been cleansed in the Temple and does not wish to defile his hands with blood. So his most important thing (to himself) is his petty personal concerns. No time to save the life of a dying fellow Jew. Next, the injured Jew sees another coming DOWN from Jerusalem - a Levite whose duty is in the service of the Temple and also ritually cleansed at the laver. See, if one man will not help, God will send another..... "32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side." Oh, well, at least the Levite "came and looked on him." Perhaps he was touched by the breeze of pity, but not a breeze of such strength as to open his sails and move him to compassion. He continued going DOWN to Jericho. I wonder if the hurt Jew learned something that day about feigned religion and unmoving faith? He might see even more of the same in the modern churches of our day.
But God often supplies our needs from the most unexpected of sources. When we are stripped of our raiment, robbed of our possessions, and lying on the side of the road bleeding and bruised, what could be worse than having one we might consider our enemy of such low estate as a Samaritan coming by to find us there? That might seem the final straw, right? Wrong! 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him." The Samaritan came to where the wounded man lay in his own blood. Did not Christ leave the Ivory Palaces of Heaven and come down to where we lay by the road, wounded and dying in our sins? He SAW the wounded man just as Christ saw us as we wandered about as a toddler. The Samaritan did not ask, "Are you Jew, or Samaritan? Instead, he met the requirements of the Commandment quoted earlier by the lawyer - he had compassion and love for the wounded Jew. Though His race is an heavenly race, Christ does not ask, "Are you Jew, Gentile, African, Asian, or Caucasian - he looks at the inward heart and not the outward appearance.
34 "And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him." What did the Good Samaritan do? 1) He went to the man where he lay just as you and I are to go to the place of need to help others. 2) He bound up the man's wounds just as the Lord has bound up our wounds from sin and healed us. 3) He poured expensive oil and wine into the man's wounds. Jesus gave us the last drop of the wine of His blood for our healing, and the oil of the Holy Spirit to be a continual balm of health to us. 4) The Samaritan provided the wounded Jew with his own conveyance and walked himself. Jesus gave us His own righteousness as our conveyance while He died on the cross for us. 5) The Samaritan brought the man to an inn and cared for him even more. Jesus continues to heal and sanctify our sinful natures.
Well, it seems that the Samaritan has gone beyond the common expectations in helping the man, but, wait, he does even more. Jesus has gone all of the way for us. He never stopped short once he "set his face to go to Jerusalem." He went ALL the way, and still does. 6) "35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee." Jesus paid for our temporary upkeep on earth as we await the glory of His Coming again, and He SHALL come again for us. The True Church is His Innkeeper for us until He returns as promised.
Jesus has presented a beautiful picture of the Gospel in action to the lawyer, but I fear he failed the test. 36 "Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?" Jesus has proven Himself more than a neighbor - more than a brother - He is "One who sticketh closer than a brother." The lawyer MUST admit that the Samaritan was neighbor to the Jew, but he cannot bring himself to so much as say the hated term, Samaritan - so he answers -" He that shewed mercy on him." This is an insincere, but correct, answer. If the lawyer can bring himself to love as the Samaritan has loved, he will stand brightly in the kingdom of Heave - but CAN he? Can you? Take the counsel of Christ and live: " Go, and do thou likewise."