His Kingdom Coming

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” Matthew 13:44-52 (KJV).

We have looked at the beginning of the kingdom of heaven in verses 3 – 23; seen the opposition of the devil within the kingdom in verses 24 – 43; and lastly we will see the finished result of the kingdom in verses 44 – 50. The final thing we will see is the responsibility that those who are in the kingdom have with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The finished result of the kingdom of heaven will be the final putting away of all that is evil and false. The complete redemption of all who are bought and claimed by the Redeemer. All the parables of Matthew 13 give us an outline, together, of the Church Age. First of all in the parable of the “Sower” we see individual’s responses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Secondly, in the parables of the wheat and the tares, the mustard seed, and the leaven; we see Satan’s opposition to the work of God in His kingdom, and his attacks upon it. Thirdly, we see the results of Judgment upon the “Treasure” [Israel], the Pearl [the Church], and the dragnet [Gentile nations]. This parable shows us that there is evil in the kingdom of heaven; the kingdom of Christ while He is not bodily present, and it will progress until He comes again.

In the following parables we see three items; the first being “a hidden treasure”; the second is “a pearl of great price [great value]”, and finally; “a dragnet”. We have mystery, beauty, and “What?”.

For some time and some odd reason many have looked at the parable of the “treasure” and said this treasure is Jesus Christ, and when you find Him you sell all that you have, then take that and buy to obtain Jesus. That may be a great sentiment, but we do not purchase Jesus. He is not for sale. If there is any finding to be done when it comes to the salvation of lost mankind Jesus will do it. Then, just what is the meaning of this parable (v. 44)?

Remember the previous parables. In the parable of the “Wheat and the tares” the field is the world. In this world “a man” is God in the person of His Son, and the “treasure” is true Israel. Hear the words of the Old Testament here: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:” Exodus 19:5 (KJV); another one would be, “For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.” Psalms 135:4 (KJV). When God called Israel to be His people and Nation He had a plan for them, and He still does. Warren Wiersbe says, “That nation was placed in the world to bring glory to God, but it failed. It became a nation hidden, a treasure not being invested to produce dividends for God. Jesus Christ gave His all to purchase the whole world in order to save the nation (John 11:51). On the cross, Jesus died for the whole world; but in a special way, He died for Israel (Isaiah 53:8). The nation suffered judgment and seeming destruction, but in God’s sight it is ‘hidden’ and will be revealed again in glory.” From the Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren W. Wiersbe, p. 47, VOL. 1.

God is the Creator of the world; the Son as the man purchased the world with His own blood redeeming Israel, and all who will receive Him. One day, and it may be sooner than we all think, there will be a manifestation of Jesus Christ in the hearts and souls of the people of the nation of Israel. It will take some time and trial for them to realize their need, and to realize that their Messiah has been here already, but it will come.

Pearls are made through the much tribulation of the oyster. I don’t know all the mechanics behind the making of the pearl, but what we have all heard is that it begins with a grain of sand being on the sensitive part of its body. It senses the irritation, and gives off a substance which surrounds the irritation easing its aggravation, and after several times of this it becomes a pearl; a piece of jewelry which women seem to love and desire.

In the parable of the “pearl of great price” (vv. 45-46), it has seen the similar interpretation as the above “treasure”, the “pearl” being Christ Jesus and those who give up all they have, and purchase the pearl have made a great bargain. Again, there may be great sentiment in this interpretation, but Jesus Christ and His salvation is not for sale, and salvation cost us nothing. Let’s see some Scripture on this matter:

” Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:” 1 Corinthians 10:32 (KJV).

“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:11-13 (KJV).

“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” Ephesians 4:4-7 (KJV).

“The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Psalms 14:2-3 (KJV).

In this parable of the precious pearl the “Merchant man” is truly representing Jesus Christ. Jesus saw the Church as being a precious pearl, and gave up the splendors and glory of heaven to come and redeem fallen men to God. If you use the interpretation of the pearl representing Christ then, you have mankind searching for and finding God. That contradicts the rest of Scriptures. In Scripture we always have God seeking for men. He came in the garden seeking for Adam, and it wasn’t or even isn’t that He doesn’t know where we are; it is important that we know where we are in relation to Him. The Bible says, “that no man seeks God” (Psalm 14:2-3; Romans 3:11). It was Jesus who said, “I came to seek and save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10). The Merchant man is the one who is searching.

God seeks after men – He is in pursuit of the souls of men. Jesus left it all up that He might purchase with His own blood the “pearl of great price” the pearl is one of great value. Precious means that it is rare. There is no other like it on earth, or anywhere else for that matter. “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts 20:28 (KJV). The price He paid was not only in leaving the immediate presence of the Father, but becoming a lowly servant; taking on Himself the stench, the ugly, the weight, of our sins, and enduring the wrath of His own Father; then giving to us His righteousness

The pearl which the Merchant man seeks is the Church. The Church comes from the realms of mankind. The sea is most usually a picture of mankind. The oyster and the pearl are products of the sea. Read 1 Corinthians 10:32; Ephesians 2:11-13 and 4:4-7 again. The growth of the Church is unseen by the world, just as the pearl within the oyster. It is a unified product – just as the pearl is layered in its production, from beginning to end; so too is the Church.

Jesus once again goes to the sea, only in a bigger way. There are a lot of people who like and even love fishing. We look now at a peculiar catch. Keep in mind that we are to understand that the “kingdom of heaven” contains both the good and the bad [evil]; the true and the false. The good and true are the ones who are genuine believers. The bad and false are the ones in it for the wrong reasons – power, politics prestige; they are the hypocrites. The net is the kingdom and the fish represent people from all nations the Jew and the Gentile (Daniel 7:1-3; Revelation 13:1; 17:15).

The time of this judgment is at the end of the age, when God is going to make all things right. Evil will be judged and eventually put away. It will be a time when many will wonder, “What is going on?”, and “Why is this happening to me [us]? The Gentile believers will be separated from the unbelievers. It is not the end of the Church Age, but the end of the age of a “Mixed Multitude”. It will end the time of the tares infiltrating the wheat.

Jesus’s question as to the disciples understanding of the parables was pertinent. They needed to understand that the new thing He was teaching was coming from the old truths of the Old covenant. The new and the old never contradict but complement one another; or complete the other. The new may give fuller, and clearer understanding to the old. Scribes were given the task of writing the laws and preserving them; they, however, became preservers of man’s interpretations of God’s Word and laws, and in many ways fell away from the practice of these laws. The follower of Jesus needed to know and needs to know that there is a time for the study of the Word, and then, God gives us the time to proclaim the Word to those who need to hear.

The reference to the householder is that when he displays or shows the treasures of his house he shows the old and the new. The same is true with those who are followers of Jesus. I think this is Jesus telling us that the Old Testament is needed to be taught and preached as well as the New. Those who neglect the Old are prone to never have a good understanding of the New. Those who would teach only the Old, without the New, will never have a clear understanding of the Old.

“And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence. And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Matthew 13:53-58 (KJV)

After Jesus finished teaching these parables He went home to where He had grown up. A question that comes to my mind as I look at verse 54 concerning the phrase, “He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished…” is, “Does the statement mean that He taught them these parables, or is it just that He was teaching the people in the synagogue?? With verse 53 saying what it does, “When Jesus had finished these parables…”, and the and verse 54 adding, “…so that they were astonished…” it almost sounds as though it is speaking of the parables being taught by Jesus, to the people of his home town. It is clear that He “taught them in the synagogue” and in that reference is of the people. There is no doubt about His teaching the people in their synagogue. Therefore, that is probably the better understanding of it. Everything Jesus taught, wherever He was teaching was astonishing. The people of Nazareth did not understand where this young man, who grew up in their midst, could get such wisdom and understanding.

The people of Nazareth only saw Him as being the son of Joseph and Mary. Their eyes had been closed as to His true identity. After all as He was growing up He had brothers and sisters, James, Joses, Simon, and Judas, and sisters. These people were offended that He had such a wealth of knowledge of God, Scripture, and wisdom. He hadn’t really even been educated, at least not like the Pharisees, and Sadducees, the knowledgeable elite. It seems that thier offense went something like this, “Who does this guy think He is coming in our synagogue and teaching us?”

I am sure that Jesus’s heart was broken in their rejection of Him. He so desired that all would hear His voice and know Him, but He would not force any to follow. Jesus understood the attitude, and that it was their familiarity with Him growing up in their midst. Because of their rejection and rebellion against Him He could not, nor would not do “many mighty works there because of their unbelief”. Of course, this would be refering to the miracles He performed. It seems that the first miracle He did was in Cana of Galilee (John 2).

It is a sad commentary on a city, county, or country when they will acknowledge their war heroes, veterans, and sports stars, but they do not give any recognition to those who are given to the work of God. It just shows that the people “of the earth” have their hearts in another place.

-Tim A. Blankenship

A Dry Wind

“At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, ‘ A dry wind of the desolate heights blows in the wilderness toward the daughter of My people–Not to fan or to cleanse– A wind too strong for these will come for Me; Now I will also speak judgment against them. Behold, he shall come up like clouds, and his chariots like a whirlwind. His horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us, for we are plundered!” Jeremiah 4:11-13 (NKJV).

The prophet continues to warn of coming judgment if there is no true repentance. The heart of God is grieved, and the heart of the prophet grieves as well. He does not speak these words with glee as a child rejoices in a new gift, or a teen rejoices in receiving a new car; or an adult male who has just gotten married and is going on the honeymoon. The prophet is practically in a begging mode, as to say please repent before the judgment comes.

Jeremiah is known as the “‘Weeping prophet”, because of verses like chapter nine verse one. We will look at that later, but we can tell this man’s heart is broken for his people. It does grieve the man or woman of God when they see judgment coming on the people and the people don’t see, or want to see it, and they refuse to repent.

The judgment that was coming was like a dry desert storm, a sand storm, coming relentlessly, and anything that got in its way would be devastated; and it was coming toward the people of God, “My people…” (v. 11). This storm that was coming was not to provide a refreshing breeze to blow away chaff from wheat, nor for cleansing. This was for judgment. In this storm, with this storm would be such strong winds that it is too strong to stand against, because it is for the name of the LORD; “These will come for Me;” and it is the voice of God who is proclaiming judgment, because of their hardened and cold hearts toward Him.

The one Jeremiah refers to as coming “…up like clouds…” is Nebuchadnezzar, and his military might, coming with great speed, and power. It almost seems that the Nebuchadnezzar and his force was almost right outside the city, and if not they were coming with great speed and would be to Jerusalem very soon. When the watchman sounds the warning, there is little time for repentance; it is time, however for repentance. The prophet describes the horses of the king of Babylon as being “swifter than eagles”. The description of the coming is almost as though it had already taken place, yet it is a future event, but not to distant future.. Notice the prophet’s words, “Woe to us, for we are plundered.” They have waited to long to repent to avert the judgment. It is, however, never too late to repnt and receive the cleansing, forgiveness and favor of God.

We live in a world, especially the United States of America, where no one ever sees the judgment of God. Some frown on the thought that AIDS could be the judgment of God upon our nation, and the world because of the “innocent who suffer from it”. Babies, the spouse who was infected due to an unfaithful spouse, a bad blood transfusion all considered to be the “innocent ones”. I wonder how many babies, and innocent spouses died in the flood? God is righteous and just, and He can judge however He chooses, and still be righteous and just in doing so. I myself, am not pleased with what is happening in the State of California, but with the allowance of marriages between same sex couples, I find it to be God’s judgment that there have been hundreds of fires started the week following the States verdict, were started by lightning. Not only that but there have also been a few earthquakes. God is not judging??? What about the floods in the midwest, and the thousands of acres of farmland that is under water??? What about the tornadoes that has touched many lives, homes, cities, and States??? A Dry Wind dries things out, and makes them right for burning. At the time of this writing there is a real “dry storm” brewing on the coast of California, and they need some wet rain. Lord, “In wrath remember mercy.” Habakkuk 3:2.

God is calling for the repentance of His Church, His people; and for His people to be faithful in proclaiming His Word. If you are a Christian, you are a watchman. That requires faithful attention to the judgments of God. If God’s people are blind to them, we can never expect the unrighteous to repent. God’s judgment is coming, it is already here, and it is real. God is patiently awaiting, but for not much longer.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Put No Fire Under…

It is amazing the numbers of people who fall for that which is sensational. Sensational is exciting, enthusiastic, and life changing, at least for that moment.

We have Christians wanting to add something to a worship service by yelling, screaming meaningless thoughts and words, and doing deeds that belong in the zoo. Then, we hear the attenders/spectators say, “Wow! Now that was a great worship service”. Was it, or was it a fire that was encouraged by a motivator of men to actions which can come solely from excitement which are not necessarily godly, or even Christian?

When Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal, he charged them, “But put no fire under…” (1 Kings 18:23-24). It seems that the prophets of Baal, in order to entice more followers to Baal, had the tendency to put fire under their sacrifices in order to give the appearance of something miraculous. Elijah’s challenge suddenly became a real challenge. “And the God who answers by fire, He is God.” (1 Kings 18:24).

There were two priests, sons of Aaron who offered strange fire; “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.” Leviticus 10:1-2. As the writer of Hebrews writes, “Our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29.

It is sad to think that what we have in a lot of churches that is seen as an exciting, fiery worship is something instead that is motivated by fleshly emotions, and human feelings, that get no one in touch with God. All the ranting and raving of the prophets of Baal got them nothing but bloody, sore, and tired aching muscles; and finally death.

Beware of false fire. Let us who are Christian leaders be sure to let the true fire of God fall at the Holy Spirit’s direction, and not according to our own desires and the flesh.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Astonished and Wondered

For sometime Jeremiah had prophesied that judgment was coming if there was no repentance. Now it was “At the door”, and the priests and the prophets – the false ones – were going to be “Astonished and Wondered” about what was coming on them. They were in darkness. They could not see the wrath and judgment of God. They could not hear the message of God’s Word. They were themselves in the darkness of the people.

“The lion has come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of nations is on his way. He has gone forth from his place to make your land desolate. Your cities will be laid waste, without inhabitant. For this, clothe yourself with sackcloth, Lament and wail. For the fierce anger of the LORD has not turned back from us. ‘And it shall come to pass in that day,’ says the LORD, ‘That the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets wonder.” Jeremiah 4:7-9 (NKJV)

The lion here, of course, is reference to Babylon, and that fits because archealogical pictures show the Babylonian symbol of power was a winged lion, at the royal palace, and in the city around it. The lion has been waiting for such an oppportunity to come and invade this proud and idolatrous people. The lion is an animal of stealth. The male, of course works off of fear. In the New Testament we have these words spoken, “…your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…” (1 Peter 5:8). Nebuchadnezzar was a destroyer of nations, and none could stand against him, even God’s people, due to their idolatry and lack of repentance.

Nebuchadnezzar was coming toward Jerusalem, and he would leave it desolate, laid waste, and without any inhabitant. The people of Jerusalem were thinking that Jeremiah could not be right. “This was, after all, God’s city; with God’s temple, and God’s people. He would not allow it to be overthrown, defeated and left in such a way”. Had not God promised that the kingdom of David was an everlasting kingdom?

False security rest in immoral hearts who are not trusting in the Lord, living as they please, and believe that God cannot judge them because of His promises. Can we not see that He judges His people, His children because of the promises made. True security rest in the morality of a cleansed heart and forgiveness that causes the forgiven to live holy lives for the glory of the LORD. It is not a matter of commandment or law, except that law of God that is written in the heart of the child of God.

Jeremiah calls for their repentance. Time and time again he calls for repentance; “…clothe yourself with sackcloth, lament and wail…” was a call for humility before God, recognizing one’s sinfulness, and need of mercy and grace. Where is the call for repentance for the children of God today. As Christians we claim to be the children of God, people of God, the Bride of Christ, the Church, the Body of Christ; and yet there is little to no lamentation, or mourning, or weeping. There is no sorrow over our sins, little lone the sins of a lost and wicked world.

Some have asked and are asking is God judging America? It seems this question is being asked especially with the overwhelming flooding of our country, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and crop devastation due to such. The answer to the question is YES! It started when we began tolerating sexual immorality. The judgment started with homosexuality becoming an excepted practice. Hear what Paul the apostle says,

“For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual intercourse for what is unnatural. The males in the same way also left natural sexual intercourse with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty for their perversion. And because they did not think it worthwhile to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, disputes, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. Although they know full well God’s just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die —they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.” Romans 1:21-32 (HCSB).

This judgment is due to a departure from the Living God to worship things, self-worship; magnifying the created over the Creator. Because of this God gives them up to their depraved minds, and look at what follows. Men with men, women with women. That is the judgment of God on the United States of America, the world and all who will stand and be advocates for evil. Unless there is a mass repentance, and soon, there is no hope for America to stand as the free nation that it once was. God is sending a foreign power to take us, and it may not be by force, but by a religious power through our democracy. Then, child of God, we will be under the rule of a government that hates Christ, and the true God, and those who follow Him. In truth all the governments of men hate God’s rule, including that government that calls itself “Democracy”. The democracy of the United States is gradually working against all that is holy, godly and righteous and just.

The anger of the LORD never turns away from us. The LORD is angry with the wicked everyday (Psalm 7:11), and yet He is merciful. There are going to be those who will say, “Well this prophecy is for the nation of Israel/Judah. It is not for America and the Church of our Lord Jesus.” They are correct, however, Paul the apostle tells us that these Old Testament writings are for an example for us; “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” 1 Corinthians 10:6 (KJV) and “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11 (KJV). It would be good for you to read all of chapter 10 to get the full extent of what Paul is speaking. We are to learn from the sins of the nation of Israel.

The leaders of the nation would fear greatly the roar of the lion of Babylon. He has a track record of victory, and of being mean, vicious, and quite arrogant. It is the lying priests, and the deceiving prophets – false prophets – who will be Astonished and Wondered by the events of Jeremiah’s  prophecy.  In our day and the USA, there is a great amount of lying and deceitful prophets, and priests, who claim to be of God, but are filled with lying spirits.  God will have His way in all the nations of the world. One day every nation will come before God and give an account of its treatment of the Nation of Israel, and they will also give an account of the way of their hatred toward God. We can rest assured that God will win.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The Drink Offering Empty Hope

You can’t tell it by the commercials or to listen to some news commentators or morning show hosts, but there is a drink which seems to be the beverage of celebrities, and those famous and those not so famous, even the infamous. There seems to be a power it holds over those who relish its mystique, its smoothness, its seeming beauty and flow.

Commercials make it look as though it is the best looking, most successful, and most life enjoying people who party with the drink, and they seem Oh so happy. My question to that is: If you are happy why do you need the drug of alcohol? Why does one need the alcohol when life is at is best? The answer to that is: You don’t.

Contrary to what many Christian leaders are saying there is much in the Bible that will give wisdom concerning the avoidance of beverage alcohol. Some would say well there are medicinal qualities in Red Wine, and there is plenty of evidence from scientific studies, that shows that the red grape, and red grape juice has the very same medicinal qualities as Red Wine without the alcohol. The alcohol is a means of false hope, and false courage.

Hear what the writer of Proverbs says concerning the beverage alcohol of wine –

“Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.” Proverbs 23:29-35 (KJV)

Remember I realize that there is no Scripture which says to us, “Thou shalt not drink beverage alcohol”, or anything similar to that, however, there is plenty of practical evidence to show us the evils of drinking the beverage. I have given that to you previously in the drunkenness of Noah, and Lot. I have also shown you that God has commended a family for never putting alcoholic beverage to their mouths (Jeremiah 35), but you will find no such commendation for any who drink that with an empty hope. Since the Bible does not specifically forbid drinking beverage alcohol, then maybe we can use that argument for a lot of other things as well. Let’s justify abortion, by saying, “The Bible doesn’t say, ‘Thou shalt not commit abortion”. The individual who is for abortion could rationalize and say, ‘Well then, since this is not a person, not an individual, then I can rid myself of it”. The man who wants to have more than one wife can rationalize, “Since the Bible doesn’t forbid polygmy, then I can have all the wives I want”. The man who wants to view pornography can rationalize the same way, since “The Bible does not say…” Some have argued and say, “These are strawmen”, very well then the argument for rationalizing the drinking of beverage alcohol is strawman thinking as well.

Notice what the writer of Proverbs says about the affects it has on the drinker of the woes; The ones who “tarry long at the wine have woes, sorrows, contentions, babblings, wounds without cause (probably caused by stumbling, falling, etc.), and red eyes. The alcohol controls their lives, their thinking, and their health. How can we as Christians sit and justify the Beverage with false hopes when we see so many teens who are killed by it, and their parents killed by it. It is foolish for the Christian to argue over the “right to drink”, and call it legalism when we should be opposed to all that is directly harmful to the human race.

When the soft wine is not enough the wine drinker usually will go after the stronger drink; the mixed wine. The phrase “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth its color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.” is speaking clearly of alcoholic beverage. It is clearly said, “Look not thou upon the wine…” Does that mean if you close your eyes before you drink then that is okay? Don’t kid yourself. It means don’t drink it. How much clearer can it get. This is speaking of the wine when it has turned alcoholic.

Notice the results of the one who passes by these verses, ignores God’s warnings, and the consequences they suffer: 1) It bites like a serpent – the serpent is sneaky, beautifully deceitful, and poisonous and will kill; 2) It causes eyes that were not lustful before to become lustful, and a man can find himself with a strange woman, not his wife; 3) language one has never spoke will come from the mouth, because they have a perceived courage they never had, and can even find themselves cursing and blaspheming God; 4) One will find themselves unable to stand, it would be similar to a man who is out on the open sea for the first time in rushing, rising and falling waves, and sickness sets in; 5) will have the marks of being beaten senseless yet not have felt it; and 6) senselessly seek to do it again.

What is the point of drinking beverage alcohol? It is popular, it seems to offer prestige, it seems to offer power. With the exception of “popular” the other two are just outright lies of deception. The man or woman who refuses to drink alcoholic beverage is the one who holds the real power. They have the power to say no to the crowd. They will be admired for their strength and courage. Now that would really be prestige, and prestige worth having.

The wisdom of God is DON’T DRINK beverage alcohol. Drink the water of life that flows from Jesus Christ Himself.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Abraham – The Backslider

There are times it seems we never learn from previous mistakes, or previous sins. We must remember that earlier in Abraham’s journey of faith, and after arriving in the Land of Promise there was a famine which came into the land, and Abraham doubted and went down into Egypt. We read in the twelfth chapter of Genesis that it was in Egypt he conspired with Sarah to deceive the king of Egypt into believing that Sarah was a half sister, which was a half truth.

Why the deception? Because of fear of his life. Why was there fear in his heart? He was out of the place of God’s blessing, though still in the borders of the Promised Land.

“And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife. But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.” Genesis 20:1-7 (KJV)

There seems to be no apparent reason for Abrahams journeying to the “south country”, and Gerar. The man of faith has had a great experience with the LORD. He and Sarah have received a renewed promise of a soon to be born son. He has prayed and his nephew Lot has been delivered from destruction, though by coercion. In their first moving away event it was due to a trial of drought and no food, but what is it now? Could it be that the patriarch has grown comfortable, and at ease and just desires to get away. We have nothing of him building an altar, or anything concerning his worship of God, but of the deceiving of a ruler.

Whatever Abraham’s reason for the move he was putting himself into a dangerous position. He had not moved from the land of promise; he was still within its borders, but near the edge. He was placing himself in Philistine territory. We need to remember Abraham was born a sinner just as we all were, and though he had been justified by faith [15:6], he, as do we, still struggled with the old flesh. When Abraham arrived in Gerar he began walking by sight, and fear set in. Warren W. Wiersbe wrote, “Fear of man and faith in God cannot dwell together in the same heart. ‘The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trust in the LORD shall be safe.’ (Proverbs 29:25 NKJV). Abraham forgot that his God was ‘the Almighty God’ (Gen. 17:1) who could do anything (18:14) and who had covenanted to bless Abraham and Sarah” From BE OBEDIENT by Warren W. Wiersbe, p. 87.

The reason sins are usually committed over again, and sometimes again and again is probably due to the fact of not forsaking that sin. Abraham and Sarah had confessed their sin, maybe even asked forgiveness from Pharoah of Egypt, and from God; but they were still clinging to it; they had not rid their lives of it. For nearly twenty five years they had clung to this deception, and now they use it again.

At this deception Abraham is certainly not a good example of faith. For Abimelech or for believers of all ages his faith stinks at this stage. A man who has for twenty five years awaited the promised son, and has just recently received renewed promise that the birth is going to take place. He jeopardizes the purity of a son. He jeopardizes the life of his wife and her purity too. This king of Gerar has more integrity at this point in Abraham’s life. This king is more honest, and certainly is more forthright, and generous than Abraham. Who appears to be the best neighbor? Who would be the better witness for the power and glory of God at this point? It certainly was not Abraham.

Why does God not come to Abraham and convict him of his wrongdoing? That is something which puzzles me. Could it be because Abraham had convinced himself, and Sarah had convinced herself that they had not lied; that what they had told was the truth; thus, they had not deceived anyone? When we get into that state of mind even the Spirit of God cannot bring us to the truth. At such times God will use the unusual to get our attention. God can use the ungodly to rebuke us, and correct us just as he did with Abraham, here in Gerar.

God appears to Abimelech in a dream by night, and condemns him for taking Sarah from Abraham. Abimelech pleads with the Lord, and reminds the Lord that Abraham has deceived him and the people by claiming Sarah as his sister. For some time Sarah had been in his “harem”, but he had never touched her, and that was God’s doing we see from the words, “I also withheld thee from sinning against Me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her”. When the sins of God’s people forsake His holiness and purity, He does not, nor will He.

Abimelech is to restore Sarah to Abraham, and in doing so God will spare the king and the people he rules. Over and over again through the Bible we see that our sins are never just personal; but they will affect every life we touch.

“Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing? And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake. And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother. And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.” Genesis 20:8-14 (KJV)

There is a confrontation which takes place. Can you imagine, to Abraham’s horror, as the king summons Abraham to come to him, and then he finds out that God has revealed to this man the secret he and Sarah have been concealing? God has revealed to Abraham secrets; such as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as a prophet; but now the prophet has his secret revealed to the king by God. God is a revealer of secrets. Every secret of men will be shouted from the roof tops. Read Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17. Oh, how embarrassing it can be for the child of God to be found out, and chastised rightly by the ungodly.

When Abraham expresses his fear (v. 11) to the king what does that say of his faith? It says to the king that his faith still needs to grow, or this God of his can’t be much. Anytime we allow the appearances of men, and their power or perceived power, prestige or influence to cause us to fear we are poor witnesses of the power of Almighty God.

Abimelech shows great generosity, and gives back Sarah to Abraham, and also gives him sheep, oxen, and male and female servants. Blessings come from God. Even when Abraham has schemed and deceived, and would have ruined the purity of his own lineage, and the purity of his wife God preserves them, delivers them, and does so with blessing.

“And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee. And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved. So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children. For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.” Genesis 20:15-18 (KJV)

As Abraham journeyed around the borders of the Promised Land he would encounter various “kings” and rulers of the various nations within. Some were friendly, as was Abimelec and he was extended the welcome of dwelling where he would choose. When such and invitation or welcome is extended there are some who might take great advantage of that and move right in to one’s own abode. Abraham was a courteous man, and excepted the invitation in the manner in which it was meant, I am sure. As Christians in our neighborhoods, and places we live, we too are to be good neighbors, and not to take advantage of our neighbors, or our friends, and if there is to be anyone having advantage taken of them, then, let it be us.

The rebuke which Abimelech gives to Sarah shows that he knew she had part in the deceptive lie she and Abraham had both concocted many years ago. There has been “a thousand pieces of silver” given to Abraham somehow connected to Sarah’s release to him. It seems to be connected to this rebuke of her by the king. One commentator said that it could be the means of purchasing material for the making of veils to cover the faces of Sarah and her servant girls. John Gill commenting on the following verse writes,

but it seems best to refer this to the gift of the thousand pieces of silver, and read the words, “behold, this is to thee a covering of the eyes”; so the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem; for the words are a continued biting sarcasm on Sarah; as Abimelech twits her with calling Abraham her brother in the preceding clause, so in this he tells her that he had given him so much money to buy her a veil with, and to supply her with veils from time to time to cover her eyes, that nobody might be tempted to lust after her, and that it might be known she was a married woman; for in these countries…” From e-Sword.

It does seem that Abraham and Sarah have gone all these years with the lie in tact and able to use it on a whim. O, how foolish we human beings can be when it comes to covering our fears; especially when we have God defending us, and caring for our every need.

Even at Sarah’s age she is evidently still a “Knock out” in appearance. She is around 89 years of age at this point of her life. What 89 year old woman would be expecting to have a child, but Sarah had God’s promise of it. By the word of Abimelech Abraham “thy brother” [using their lie], is the covering of the eyes. Could it be that because of Abraham being her half brother this could mean that Abraham would protect her and her maids as though a brother. Men would think twice before looking upon Sarah with evil intent.

Finally we have Abraham praying for Abimelech. It would appear that because of Abimelech’s taking of Sarah that God has caused all the women of the kings household to have no children. Abraham’s relationship with God is seen in that the women began to bear children shortly thereafter. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). By the answering of Abraham’s prayer we see that there was a wonderful testimony of faith left, and that God cares, gives mercy and grace to all.

Even though we sin, and at times offend others with our sin, we can still seek their forgiveness, receive their rebuke, and pray for them. God can bless despite our sin; when we have sought His forgiveness and grace.

-Tim A. Blankenship

False Doctrine

“Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” Matthew 13:33 (KJV).

We come now to the matter of the “Leaven”. I see what others say when they see it as a symbol of good within the church, but it doesn’t fit with the rest of Scripture. Leaven, in every case in Scripture, Old and New Testaments, is seen as a symbol of evil. There is not one instance where it is seen as a symbol of a good growth of puffiness. In Exodus 12:15-19 the children of Israel in preparing to leave Egypt baked bread without leaven, they needed to be more concerned with the urgency of leaving rather than waiting on the dough to rise. Leaven puffs up. Some have taken Leviticus 23:17, and taught that this is a picture of the leaven being good. If we would understand the significance of this offering we would see this bread represents the one offering it, a redeemed individual, who being redeemed is still touched by sin and still dealing with sin, yet received by God. The leaven in verse 33 represents false doctrine.

Let’s back up for a moment and look at the beginning of this verse. Jesus is still dealing with the kingdom of heaven, and notice the “woman”. The woman represents false religion; she could even be represented by Jezebel who was the wife and queen of Ahab. A woman is seen as false religion in the Revelation, as the woman riding the beast (Revelation 17:3-6). The doctrine and teaching of Jezebel is seen in Jesus’s letter to the church of Thyatira (Revelation 2:20-23). I do not know the specific reason a woman is used to represent false doctrine, and deception. It just seems to go back to Jezebel who was a very wicked, godless, self-aggrandizing woman. The woman in this parable is guilty of secretly placing leaven in “three measures of meal”, and leaven once it gets into bread dough it permeates the whole batch of dough.

Jesus told His disciples, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” Jesus was referring to their legalism and false doctrine that had bound them in their sins and iniquities. Paul the apostle warns of the dangers of letting iniquity/sin stay and permeate a congregation in 1 Corinthians 5:6-7 “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us”. Since Paul says “Ye are unleavened”, then it must be that the “New lump” he is referring to is a lump of bread dough without leaven.

The modern day religion called Christianity is overwhelmed with a numerical growth. This growth is often done by entertainment, showmanship, salesmanship, and a “fire under the altar” (Read 1 Kings 18).  False doctrine is often associated with much of the aforementioned.  I know that there will be some who read this or hear this that are going to think or say, “Tim doesn’t believe in growing a church.” That is not what I am saying. I want to let God build His Church. Let us who are His children, the children of His kingdom planted in this world, proclaim the gospel as we have been commissioned, as we have been called, but let’s leave the saving to His hands, and the power of His spirit.

Christianity is also getting deeper and deeper into heretical teachings. When we have a document signed by good and godly men calling for the gathering of Evangelicals and Catholics for unity, and the Catholic church has announced anathema upon the gospel of Jesus Christ – saved by grace alone, through faith alone – then how could we ever join hands with someone who hates the pure gospel of Christ? There are those in Evangelical circles, also, who teach a wimpy Jesus dying on the cross, defeated by the devil on the cross, and that is not belief in the cross of Jesus; when the truth of the matter is that Jesus won the battle for sin, death, and hell, and put the devil in his place by His death on the cross. The devil never touched Jesus in His death. He was smitten by God, His own Father (Isaiah 53:4). He paid the sin debt which was owed to His Father by you and me.

It is leaven that puffs up. Read 1 Corinthians 4:18-19; 5:2, 6-8; 8:1. Puffing up is usually evidence of pride. There can be no pride in the true Church of our God. We humbly bow before Him in worship. We have nothing to boast of except that our salvation is the work of God. We boast of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Satan, hates the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, and fears her when she is on her knees, in humility before her Lord. He is, however, still at work sending in the tares amongst the wheat, planted in this world, trying to gain a foothold, and strangle the witness, testimony, and power of the Christian. Sure there is growth in many churches across our land, ie., the USA; but do we care so much about numbers in our churches that we would forsake the truth, holy living, and our fellowship with the Lord Himself, just to receive recognition from others? Are we willing to forsake the essential doctrines of the faith to draw a crowd? We better deal with those who are teaching wrong, and deal with them quickly. If we don’t we lead ourselves to destruction.

Jesus desires that all the lost be saved, and His Church to grow, but only as it rest in Him. She [the Church] cannot have genuine, solid spiritual growth except through the Lord Jesus. Satan is at work to infiltrate, ensnare, and bring the works of Christ to nothing.

The kingdom of heaven grows in every individual who knows, who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Yet, numerically, it can grow in pretense and hypocrisy. False growth is hypocritical and deceiving – to self, and others. It may have the appearance of God’s blessing, but actually be far from God’s blessing, causing the lost, condemned world to have no recourse from hell.

False doctrine destroys unity, while those who teach false doctrine talk of uniformity – you give up the truth and we will have unity – and accuse those who stand for truth as the ones who cause disunity. There can be no unity, except it be by the Biblical doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the doctrines of Christ Himself. False doctrine “puffs up”. It gives the appearance of something which is not there. It is deceptive and always detracts from Jesus and the truth.

-Tim A. Blankenship

A Coming Invasion

Fallow ground, hardened hearts, idolatrous worship, hypocrisy, and judgment seem to go together. It begins with turning of the heart away from God. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened”, so writes the apostle Paul (Romans 1:21). Sad to say, but even a professing child of God can turn away from God, have a hardened heart, get into idolatrous worship, hypocrisy, and the ultimate end is judgment.

The prophet Jeremiah was dealing with a people of God who thought they had it all made. They were secure. Their security was in false messages of hope and goodness of the people. It was in their temple, and God would never allow anything to happen to the temple (7:4, 8-11). They had listened to the false prophets saying, “There will be peace in the land” (4:10), and one false prophet refused, and mocked the word which the LORD had spoken through Jeremiah saying, “The captives won’t be in captive for seventy years, but only two.” (Chapter 28). Like the rest of the lying prophets they meet God on His terms; and pay a tremendous price; their eternal souls.

Because of the idolatry, hard heartedness, along with hypocrisy and pretense God was sending an army from the North to invade, conquer, and take captive those who were refusing the Word of the LORD. Jeremiah is calling them to come together.

“Declare in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say: ‘Blow the trumpet in the land;’ Cry, ‘Gather together,’ and say, ‘Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the fortified cities.’ Set up the standard toward Zion. Take refuge! Do not delay! For I will bring disaster from the north, and great destruction” Jeremiah 4:5-6 (NKJV)

This message from the LORD is not one of, “Let’s wait and see”, but rather “Gather them together now”. It is almost like this was to be and would be their final opportunity to repent, and turn to the LORD with all their hearts. The call was to come by way of the sound of the trumpet; “Blow the trumpet in the land…”. The trumpet was to be sounded by the watchmen on the walls of the city. Jeremiah was a prophet of God. He spoke the message of God, though many refused to listen and hear it, because of the soothing, comfortable, easy, lethargic messages of the false prophets. The warning of coming judgment has been given. The time of repentance is before the enemy comes.

This “Cry” was for the purpose of calling people who lived outside the walls of the city, and giving them time to get to safety. From a spiritual and practical point of view it also gives them time to think about their behavior, their sins, and get right with God.

With many Christians of our modern day (2008 ) we have no “walls” where we can flee. Many people have storm shelters to which they can flee from violent storms here in the United States, and maybe as they are heading to the shelter they should be thinking about getting things right with God. We need Christians who do not just profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior with their lips, but also by the way we live our lives. Our lives should be a clear reflection of Jesus Christ. We have people walking around today professing they are Christians, when it is comfortable for them to do so; and when its not comfortable to do so, then you could not tell the difference between them and the world.

The warning of “Blow the trumpet…”Cry, ‘Gather together” is one of great urgency. Jeremiah sees it as already taking place. He would live to see many taken captive to Babylon, but he himself was not taken there. The city was their place of “refuge”, and it was not the LORD. Despite the fact that they had the temple; despite the fact that they were known as “the people of God”; despite the fact they had the ark of the covenant; God was sending judgment upon Judah and Israel.

There is no security for the individual whose security is in things; such as walls and temples, even professions, and confessions, and not in God.

-Tim A. Blankenship

 

Deluded, Deceived and Destroyed

“Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Surely you have greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem,’ saying, ‘You shall have peace,’ whereas the sword reaches to the heart.” Jeremiah 4:10 (NKJV).

Like the majority of the people Jeremiah wanted peace. He was probably hoping for peace, even heard the false prophets, and thought how wonderful that would be for God to protect them from the coming invasion of the “Lion and company”. God will allow us to believe in lies of deception if we prefer that over the truth. Nevertheless, it is still inevitable that evil will come, and there will be no peace. God does not deceive, nor does He approve of lies and deception, but when He sees the heart of people given to lies, then He will use the deception and lies to carry out His divine will.

Peace is not possible when there is no peace with God. The lies of the false prophets of things getting better. No judgment is going to come on us. We are in a time of extraordinary blessing, not of judgment. There is a great and enormous wealth coming to the Church. Lies, lies, lies. In my heart and mind I long for those things to come to pass, but by the condition of the hearts of the people of God; they are in fact lies and deception.

A man, woman or a nation who believes they are at peace with God while living in immorality, and debauchery are deceived and lying to themselves. A man, woman or a nation that is given to the tolerance of alcoholism, drunkenness, and profiting from it is not at peace with God, and if they think so are deceiving and lying to themselves. Any business man, bank president, loan company manager, or national leader who belives they are at peace with God, while taking advantage of the poor, with housing foreclosures, and higer interest rates than the priviledged, are deceiving and lying to themselves.

Jeremiah was really horrified by the judgment he knew God was sending on Jerusalem. He could not keep silent. The prophet of God must speak the truth of the Word of God. What the feelings and the heart wants is not sufficient. Hope without promise is no hope. Hope based on feelings, or personal desire is merely wishful thinking.

“4:10 deceived. Like Habakkuk (1:12-17), Jeremiah was horrified at these words of judgment, contrasting the prevailing hope of peace. God is sometimes described as if doing a thing He merely permits, such as allowing false prophets who delude themselves to also deceive a sinful people into thinking peace would follow (cf. 6:14; 8:11; 1Kin. 22:21-24). God sees how people insist on their delusions, and lets it happen.” THE MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE note, p. 1068 NKJV.

O, how deceived people can be and often are today. A man in Florida says he heals in the name of Jesus Christ, but kicks an old man in the head, because, “that is what God told” him to do. And, people ask is this of God? Why do we need to ask? The mere fact that people will believe such only shows what is said above to be true. People will believe what they want to believe, even when it is a lie.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Astonished and Wondered

For sometime Jeremiah had prophesied that judgment was coming if there was no repentance. Now it was “At the door”, and the priests and the prophets – the false ones – were going to be “Astonished and Wondered” about what was coming on them. They were in darkness. They could not see the wrath and judgment of God. They could not hear the message of God’s Word. They were themselves in the darkness of the people.

“The lion has come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of nations is on his way. He has gone forth from his place to make your land desolate. Your cities will be laid waste, without inhabitant. For this, clothe yourself with sackcloth, Lament and wail. For the fierce anger of the LORD has not turned back from us. ‘And it shall come to pass in that day,’ says the LORD, ‘That the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets wonder.” Jeremiah 4:7-9 (NKJV)

The lion here, of course, is reference to Babylon, and that fits because archealogical pictures show the Babylonian symbol of power was a winged lion, at the royal palace, and in the city around it. The lion has been waiting for such an oppportunity to come and invade this proud and idolatrous people. The lion is an animal of stealth. The male, of course works off of fear. In the New Testament we have these words spoken, “…your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…” (1 Peter 5:8). Nebuchadnezzar was a destroyer of nations, and none could stand against him, even God’s people, due to their idolatry and lack of repentance.

Nebuchadnezzar was coming toward Jerusalem, and he would leave it desolate, laid waste, and without any inhabitant. The people of Jerusalem were thinking that Jeremiah could not be right. “This was, after all, God’s city; with God’s temple, and God’s people. He would not allow it to be overthrown, defeated and left in such a way”. Had not God promised that the kingdom of David was an everlasting kingdom?

False security rest in immoral hearts who are not trusting in the Lord, living as they please, and believe that God cannot judge them because of His promises. Can we not see that He judges His people, His children because of the promises made. True security rest in the morality of a cleansed heart and forgiveness that causes the forgiven to live holy lives for the glory of the LORD. It is not a matter of commandment or law, except that law of God that is written in the heart of the child of God.

Jeremiah calls for their repentance. Time and time again he calls for repentance; “…clothe yourself with sackcloth, lament and wail…” was a call for humility before God, recognizing one’s sinfulness, and need of mercy and grace. Where is the call for repentance for the children of God today. As Christians we claim to be the children of God, people of God, the Bride of Christ, the Church, the Body of Christ; and yet there is little to no lamentation, or mourning, or weeping. There is no sorrow over our sins, little lone the sins of a lost and wicked world.
Some have asked and are asking is God judging America? It seems this question is being asked especially with the overwhelming flooding of our country, hurricanes, tornadoes, and crop devastation due to such. The answer to the question is YES! It started when we began tolerating sexual immorality. The judgment started with homosexuality becoming an excepted practice. Hear what Paul the apostle says,

“For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual intercourse for what is unnatural. The males in the same way also left natural sexual intercourse with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty for their perversion. And because they did not think it worthwhile to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, disputes, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. Although they know full well God’s just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die —they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.” Romans 1:21-32 (HCSB).

This judgment is due to a departure from the Living God to worship things, self-worship; magnifying the created over the Creator. Because of this God gives them up to their depraved minds, and look at what follows. Men with men, women with women. That is the judgment of God on the United States of America, the world and all who will stand and be advocates for evil. Unless there is a mass repentance, and soon, there is no hope for America to stand as the free nation that it once was. God is sending a foreign power to take us, and it may not be by force, but by a religious power through our democracy. Then, child of God, we will be under the rule of a government that hates Christ, and the true God, and those who follow Him.

The anger of the LORD never turns away from us. The LORD is angry with the wicked everyday (Psalm 7:11), and yet He is merciful. There are going to be those who will say, “Well this prophecy is for the nation of Israel/Judah. It is not for America and the Church of our Lord Jesus.” They are correct, however, Paul the apostle tells us that these Old Testament writings are for an example for us; “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” 1 Corinthians 10:6 (KJV) and “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11 (KJV). It would be good for you to read all of chapter 10 to get the full extent of what Paul is speaking of. We are to learn from the sins of the nation of Israel.

The leaders of the nation would fear greatly the roar of the lion of Babylon. He has a track record of victory, and of being mean, vicious, and quite arrogant. We can rest assured that God will win.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The Perils of Friendship With the World (2)

“Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:24-26 (KJV)

With Lot and what there is of his family safe in Zoar the LORD sends down the rain of fire and brimstone. This brimstone could refer to sulfur which will itself burn, with an unseen flame. It could refer to several different flammable substances. The picture we are given seems to be that of falling substance from the skies. It was in the form of visible flames, and hot, with hard substance as well forming a crushing effect as it hit the cities, and the lands, of the plain. No living person would want to remain in that kind of tragic environment. It would mean certain death.

Some have located the previous area of the cities of Sodom on the Southern end of the Dead Sea. The area is evidently under water. That would actually mean that the judgment was what formed the Dead Sea, or at least a portion of it. According to some archaeological people these cities were destroyed by volcanic eruption or something along that line of thought. It seems that no one wants to acknowledge that God judges sin and rebellion.

The Bible says, and this is our final authority, “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom…” When will those who profess the name of Jesus begin to realize that God still judges sin. When we live in a profligate nation, where sin is more a joke than a problem, and we start seeing tragedies of all sorts begin, surely that should make us wonder. It seems that when sin is on the increase, and mocked at, and promoted as being a normal part of life, then earthquakes will increase, wild storms of wind, and rain continue to increase, but the “scientist” will tell us these are only natural phenomena and is due to today’s popular event called “global warming”. Whether we want to admit it or not all these things are due to sin in the first place; from the sin of Adam and Eve to our sins today; we all stand guilty before God. It is only His hand that keeps this world from flying apart, and when these things begin happening; it is due to His hand gradually being removed. Gradually being removed so as to warn us, and turn our hearts toward Him.

There was not much warning for the cities of Sodom, except what Lot provided for his sons-in-law. The people of Sodom and the plains had the testimony of creation, ie., the stars, the sun and the moon, the singing birds, and all flying fowl. As the Psalmist wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1). They had the witness of Lot and his family, though it may have been a weak one; he was still a witness, which can be used against them. Lot was evidently afflicted by the sins of this city, “And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:” 2 Peter 2:7. We can see that Lot did have a hatred for the sins of his culture. Remember how he sought to protect the visitors from harm by the people of the city.

God so hated the sins of Sodom and cities of the plain that He destroyed all the inhabitants of those cities. They were polluted by immorality, and they were full of themselves, as we saw in Ezekiel 16:49-50. When people get too full of themselves they have no room for God, and God, according to His Word is a jealous God; no matter what Oprah thinks. Nothing much grows where these cities once stood.

One woman has been immortalized by Jesus in a far different way than anyone would want to be. Her name was lost with Lot and His daughters, because we don’t know it. God had warned Lot, his wife, and their two daughters, “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee…”, and it was after they were all safely in Zoar, the city that was protected because of Lot’s plea with the visitors, that the judgment fell upon their city. For whatever reason she “looked back”, and became a “Pillar of salt”. Jesus refers to Lot’s wife in the Gospel of Luke: “Remember Lot’s wife.” (17:32). It is not mentioned why she looked back, and I don’t think we can go far wrong in bringing some things to light concerning her backwards look. First of all, her heart was still in Sodom; maybe it could be daughters who never came with them, the sons-in-law, and maybe grandchildren. Secondly, her heart could have still been there because of the power and popularity she and Lot had in the city, and she just couldn’t leave that behind. A third thing, could have been their wealth; by this time, the years they had spent there they could have achieved much material gains, gold, silver, jewels, precious garments, and the lifestyle they lived was comfortable; she was leaving it all behind. Remember Jesus’s words, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:21. Someone has said of Lot’s wife, “She became in death, what she never was in life. Salt.” The warning of Lot’s wife stands for all time to all who will cherish the physical and material over the Word and will of God.

“And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace. And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.” Genesis 19:27-29 (KJV)

The morning of Lot’s deliverance, and at about the time of the destruction of the cities, Abraham got up early in the morning and went to the place where he had stood with the LORD probably just the day before, and looked toward the direction of Lot’s location; the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and he saw the smoke billowing up through the air and the sky. I am sure Abraham’s heart must have sped up and skipped, and practically stopped. There were surely tears in his eyes knowing the hundreds, thousands of human lives that were given in judgment that day. Abraham surely believed that Lot and his family, or at least some of them had been spared; he was trusting the LORD for that matter and God would not fail.

Is there anything wrong with godly people grieving over the loss of human life even when it is known to be the judgment of God? It would seem to me to be ungodly not to grieve. Though “God is angry with the wicked everyday” (Psalm 7:11); He does not desire to destroy them but to save them. Hear the prophet Ezekiel: “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways and live?” (18:23), and once more, “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and and live ye.” (18:32). It seems quite clear that God grieves in the judgment too. We can rejoice in that God is glorified in the judgment of sin. We can rejoice when justice is carried out, and God is glorified. We must remember this world and this life is not about us; it is, however about Almighty God, and His glory.

“And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, et us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father. And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.” Genesis 19:30-38 (KJV)

 

Zoar was a city of the plains which was spared from the judgment of God. To those in “science” who would proclaim that “This was just a volcanic eruption” would have a hard time explaining how this city was kept from the judgment, and it is just a short distance from the Southern end of the Dead Sea. God’s grace is truly sufficient.

Why Lot feared dwelling in Zoar we are not told. It does tell us that he was fearful there, so he went and lived in a cave. Maybe he was fearful because the people there thought Lot was responsible for the deaths of so many, or at least he may have thought they were thinking that, and fled for his life. We often do not realize it but fear has a very crippling and disabling affect on us. It causes us to flee when nothing pursues us. The writer of Proverbs wrote, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.” (28:1). When our hearts are not with God, that is usually when we are fearful. That is our weakest time, and that is when we flee. To what we have no idea, we just must flee, and it is most likely into more fearful surroundings, and into sin.

We would surely mostly admit that a cave would not be as comfortable as a home in a city. There is much evidence of what happens when we start living with fear. The people of the city of Zoar may have despised Lot, thinking that he was responsible for the demise of the other cities, and maybe accusing him of that, and he may have had just a paranoia thinking such things. Even though he was delivered to this city by God he grows in fear. Fear in the heart shouts loudly and clearly that things are not right with you and God. When you are in the Spirit of God, walking with Him, and doing His will there is no fear, but rather “peace, love, joy…”. John the apostle tells us, “Perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18), and we need to know that when we have the proper fear of God, there is no need to fear anything else.

This fear led him to withdraw from the city. Some of the fear may have been that God would destroy this city too. If that be true then Lot’s faith is certainly wavering, and he is gravely in doubt. God had brought him here and saved this city from destruction, why would he now destroy it? He went to a cave with his two daughters. The daughters determined that they needed to have babies, if their race of people were to continue. They devised a plot of getting Lot drunk, getting him in their beds or them into his. Lot may have not noticed the special treatment, the wine, the excess, because he was hurting from the death of his wife, and most of all he was fearful. Fear mixed with sorrow are two of the strongest emotions that can ruin and take control of our thinking. They can get us to the place of amusements; and it would do us good to do a word study here. The word “Muse” means “thought” or “thinking”. When you add the “a” to a word it usually means basically “No”. When you put these two together you have the meaning of “No thinking” or “No thought”. Amusement is usually for the purpose of taking our minds off of problems, and thus that is what has happened to Lot. From Lot we should learn how our fear, our emotions, and our amusements can so easily detract us from the direction and path of holiness, and righteous living in Christ our Lord and Savior.

There is a lot to be said for sobriety, and sober thinking. Without it you end up with fathers having incestual relationships with daughters, mothers having incestual relationships with sons, cars careening out of control killing an innocent family driving down the highway, on their way to grandma’s house. Without sober thinking you will have step fathers raping and killing their step daughters, and /or their sons. There is really no limit to what evil can come from drunkenness. As a result of this debauchery Lot fathers two of his own grandchildren. One of them is Moab which becomes a nation which hates Israel, desires to curse Israel, hires a false prophet to do so, brings immorality into Israel and a plague ensues (Numbers 22-25). The other son/grandson born to Lot by his younger daughter is named Ben-ammi and these are the Ammonites which also hated Israel. But, then, these were only personal choices; no one was hurt by them were they??? Think again.

Moses, in his writing the Pentateuch wrote, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). I think he knew what he was writing.

-Tim A. Blankenship

There Is A Coming Invasion

Fallow ground, hardened hearts, idolatrous worship, hypocrisy, and judgment seem to go together. It begins with turning of the heart away from God. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened”, so writes the apostle Paul (Romans 1:21). Sad to say, but even a professing child of God can turn away from God, have a hardened heart, get into idolatrous worship, hypocrisy, and the ultimate end is judgment.
The prophet Jeremiah was dealing with a people of God who thought they had it all made. They were secure. Their security was in false messages of hope and goodness of the people. It was in their temple, and God would never allow anything to happen to the temple (7:4, 8-11). They had listened to the false prophets saying, “There will be peace in the land” (4:10), and one false prophet refused, and mocked the word which the LORD had spoken through Jeremiah saying, “The captives won’t be in captive for seventy years, but only two.” (Chapter 28). Like the rest of the lying prophets they meet God on His terms; and pay a tremendous price; their eternal souls.
Because of the idolatry, hard heartedness, along with hypocrisy and pretense God was sending an army from the North to invade, conquer, and take captive those who were refusing the Word of the LORD. Jeremiah is calling them to come together.

“Declare in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say: ‘Blow the trumpet in the land;’ Cry, ‘Gather together,’ and say, ‘Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the fortified cities.’ Set up the standard toward Zion. Take refuge! Do not delay! For I will bring disaster from the north, and great destruction” Jeremiah 4:5-6 (NKJV)

This message from the LORD is not one of, “Let’s wait and see”, but rather “Gather them together now”. It is almost like this was to be and would be their final opportunity to repent, and turn to the LORD with all their hearts. The call was to come by way of the sound of the trumpet; “Blow the trumpet in the land…”. The trumpet was to be sounded by the watchmen on the walls of the city. Jeremiah was a prophet of God. He spoke the message of God, though many refused to listen and hear it, because of the soothing, comfortable, easy, lethargic messages of the false prophets. The warning of coming judgment has been given. The time of repentance is before the enemy comes.
This “Cry” was for the purpose of calling people who lived outside the walls of the city, and giving them time to get to safety. From a spiritual and practical point of view it also gives them time to think about their behavior, their sins, and get right with God.
With many Christians of our modern day (2008) we have no “walls” where we can flee. Many people have storm shelters to which they can flee from violent storms here in the United States, and maybe as they are heading to the shelter they should be thinking about getting things right with God. We need Christians who do not just profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior with their lips, but also by the way we live our lives. Our lives should be a clear reflection of Jesus Christ. We have people walking around today professing they are Christians, when it is comfortable for them to do so; and when its not comfortable to do so, then you could not tell the difference between them and the world.
The warning of “Blow the trumpet…”Cry, ‘Gather together” is one of great urgency. Jeremiah sees it as already taking place. He would live to see many taken captive to Babylon, but he himself was not taken there. The city was their place of “refuge”, and it was not the LORD. Despite the fact that they had the temple; despite the fact that they were known as “the people of God”; despite the fact they had the ark of the covenant; God was sending judgment upon Judah and Israel.
There is no security for the individual whose security is in things; such as walls and temples, even professions, and confessions, and not in God.

A False Count

“Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” Matthew 13:31-33 (KJV).

Remembering the parable of the wheat and the tares will give us a better understanding of these two. The enemy came in under the cover of darkness, while men slept, and planted the tares among the seeds of wheat. When the wheat began to grow, there to be seen by all who could identify it, was the tares. The landowner said, “Let them grow along with the wheat, or you will uproot the wheat also.” The sower is the Son of man, the seeds which He sowed were the children of His kingdom, the tares are the children of the enemy who is Satan. The children of the devil are planted in the kingdom to endeavor to supplant the children of the kingdom, and overrule the kingdom of God.

The “grain of mustard seed” is said to be the smallest of seeds, and yet, it only grows into a normal size of about 6 – 8 feet in height. Jesus uses the mustard seed as a comparison to faith in Matthew 17:20; “…If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say to this mountain, ‘Remove from here to yonder place;’ and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

Trees of great stature and structure are used to show political power through earthly kingdoms in Scripture. For example in Ezekiel 17:23, it is written, “In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it: and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar: and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing: in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.” This, of course speaking of the kingdom of Israel under the rule of Messiah. The kingdom and reign which all Christians look for, with great expectations. Note the tree which speaks of the power of Assyria and its world influence; “Therefore his height was exalted above all the trees of the field, and his boughs were multiplied, and his branches became long because of the multitude of waters, when he shot forth. All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations.” Ezekiel 31:5-6 (KJV). The tree of Israel is like a cedar tree. The tree of Assyria has no like.

Nebuchadnezzar is likened unto a tree cut down. Before he is cut down this is how Daniel describes him, “The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it.” Daniel 4:12 (KJV). John the apostle writes in the Revelation of Babylon, “And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” Revelation 18:2 (KJV).

According to Strongs, “G1186 δένδρον, dendron; den’-dron. Probably from δρύς drus (an oak); a tree: – tree”. According to Jesus, “…when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree…” The word “Tree” in this verse is for the Oak, and is no way what is expected of the mustard seed. One thing that can be seen in this is that this “Tree” is representative of political power. It welcomes every kind of animal under its bushes, because of its great size. It seems to indicate an irregular growth, an untimely growth, illigitimate growth, and an ungodly growth.

These two parables if you will notice are placed between the parable of the wheat and the tares, and the explanation of the wheat and the tares. This was intentional so that we might see His intent of the two parables. He is warning us of the deception of the enemy. We all like to see growth in our churches. Hopefully we mean by growth – people being called to Christ through faith in the shed blood of Jesus’s death, His burial, and resurrection. Too many times churches have crowds, members, and numbers, but no salvations. “But Oh, we had a great crowd. There was excitement in the air.” something along this line said, and everybody is feeling great; but is Jesus truly praised, worshipped, and glorified?

Many will read this and think, “This is sure a different way of looking at this than I have ever heard”. If so, I think that is a good thing. I know the other view or interpretation of it. That being, that the growth of this tree is representative of the growth of Christianity, and the numbers of people who are Christians in the world, being a good and positive thing. If that is so, however, then, it gets us away from the other two parables which have preceded these two. Jesus has just given us two points to consider in the other two; One, that the word of God is not received, and continued in all who hear the message; Two, that there is an enemy who has planted his tares [children] in the kingdom of heaven causing much dissension and division and ungodliness. This is the third thing, and it has to do with how the enemy influences the church within the kingdom of heaven.

The growth of the mustard seed would normally be to become the bush of an herb. It, however, becomes like an “Oak tree”. It represents popularity, power, prestige; and for many years Christianity has fit into that realm. When people begin to see that influence of power, popularity, and prestige sinking or falling away the people who are not genuine in their faith will also begin falling away. However, until that time comes the birds of the air and beasts of the field will continue to come and get under the umbrella of its shade, and nests in its branches. Too many times people are in love with Christianity, but not Christ.

How is it that the power, popularity, and prestige of Christianity has increased in past years. It partly has to do with politics. The woman, or religion (Christianity in this case) riding on the back of the beast, or democracy. The true child of the kingdom; the true Christian; is not in love with Christianity, but with Jesus Christ Himself. The power of Christianity in past years has been its numbers, the votes at the election booth. Every Christian has the responsibility in a free country to vote, and vote our convictions, not parties or politics, but our God given, Biblical and moral convictions. Another thing is when we are having popular singers, strong men, and show men perform acts of entertainment, for the crowds and for profit. There may be a message of the gospel presented, and due to emotional excitement, encouragement or a nudge from a friend, some go thinking, “This thing called Christianity is really exciting. I think I want into this thing.” Then, they find out afterward, that there are problems, tribulations, trials, and maybe they find something a little more exciting. What happened to their “faith”. They had never been told the cost of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. They trusted in a moment and not a Lord and Savior.

In the Christianity of today, we see many leaders of it calling for less rhetoric against the Muslim religion, and all false religions. It is okay to speak against “radical Islam”, but let us not put the whole group in that category. Some are even saying, “Let’s try to get along with the Muslim, and find common ground.” The only common ground we have with Islam is that we are part of the human race. The only thing we have in common with them is that apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ we are all condemned to hell. The only thing we have in common with them is that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world; yours, mine, and ours. There is far too much compromising on the part of Christianity (the religion), going along to get along. This is not the day for compromise. We are in the greatest spiritual conflict since the cross of Jesus Christ. It is time to speak the truth, and to speak the truth boldly, courageously, without malice, without personal offense as is possible, and with love.

The devil likes nothing better than for the church and the kingdom to have an unholy, ungodly, supernatural growth. We are accepting people into congregations that call themselves Christian, but they have had no personal experience with Jesus. They are still in their sins, unforgiven, unredeemed. They have not been regenerated by the power of the Spirit of God, they have not been justified, there is no sanctification, and until they have these things they certainly will not be glorified in the presence of Jesus. There are some in the local church who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, they do not love the Word of God, they are more concerned with the children’s activity than their time with God, and are teaching children, or not, “…because there is no one else willing to do it”, and what a shame. It would be better to have no class for children, than to have an unbeliever leading them into God knows what. In one church I know, they had a woman teaching children – all ages – who would spend 5 maybe 10 minutes of an hour with a flannel chart, telling a story of Jesus, then the rest of the hour they got to go play outdoors. These children had no respect for discipline. They pretty much did as they pleased under her “care”.

Now is not the time to be adding numbers without their conversions. “It is time for Thee, LORD, to work; for they have made void Thy law.” (Psalm 119:126). If there was ever a day the church needed to be pure, and shine forth the light of Jesus Christ, it is today. Let us not be so much trying to win souls, but like Jesus commanded us, “Go and teach all nations… Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” that is the making of disciples. Tell them of Jesus, His death on the cross, His burial carrying our sins away, and His resurrection; and the promises of His return. The teaching and making of disciples would include the Sermon on the Mount, His sending of His disciples to preach the gospel, the Olivet Discourse, and all things that He has commanded us. It would also include the teachings of the apostles, and the epistles of the Bible. But, then, when a pastor will preach the Word and the pure gospel of Christ; that does not bring in the crowds. I recently heard a preacher say, “If a preacher will preach the Word people will come”, which sounds much like, “If you build it they will come”. It sounds good and much like Hollywood, but it is not the truth. If a preacher will love the people, and preach to them smooth, encouraging, entertaining, comforting, messages, then, they will come. If the pastor “loves the people” he can preach just about anything that tickles their fancy, and they will come. Who is going to come to church services when all you have is a preacher who expounds the Scriptures, revealing the wickedness of men’s hearts, and the power of the cross of Jesus, and the power of the resurrection? Most times, only the faithful, who love God, His word and their pastor.

There have been a few times I compromised on some principles of my beliefs, but every time I have done so I ended up regretting it. It seems like each time that I have compromised on a Biblical principle, or belief, and I regretted it, that I always became stronger in that principle and/or belief. Should a pastor love God and His Word more than he does the people God has given him to lead, or should he love the people and neglect the Scriptures? How can you love the people if you have no love for the Scriptures? Teaching them the truth, the power of the Word, and of the personal God who is Jesus is the greatest love we can give the people. We should never compromise Scriptures or preaching the Word to gain popularity, or power, or prestige; or for any other reason. That is what the devil will have us do.

The Psalmist wrote in the song, “Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain who build it.” (Psalm 127:1). Rather than relying on “fire under the altar” (1 Kings 18:23, 25) why can the church not depend on the fire of God? Rather than depending on the fires of men, where is the fire of God? We have left it at the altars, unrepaired, and undesired. We depend too much on the methods of the flesh. Then we have our own converts, but none to Christ. We have numbers, but no one fit for heaven. May God forgive us, and may we get on our knees, rebuild our altars and seek the power and the face of God.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Joshua, The High Priest

In beginning this chapter there are five characters shown which we are to identify. The first is the LORD; then; the Angel of the LORD; then Satan; the angel who is speaking to the prophet; and Zechariah, the prophet. Zechariah is the one who is viewing the vision which is being written.

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. The LORD said ot Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Zechariah 3:1-2 (NKJV)

The one who shows Zechariah that the high priest is Joshua is the angel who has been communicating with him so far. Just where Joshua fits in is only to be figured out from the study of these verses.

Joshua, the High Priest has come out of captivity with the first returning group. He is named by the prophet Haggai, as being the “son of Jehozadak, the high priest” (Haggai 1:1), and by Ezra the scribe (Ezra 3:2; 5:2). This is clearly an actual High Priest who is representing the nation of Israel, being restored to their land.

The Angel of the LORD must be a Theophany, or as I have stated previously, a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus Christ. This seems to be quite the picture. The High Priest Joshua standing before the Theophany of Christ, and Satan – the devil – standing at the right hand of Joshua. Satan is standing there in opposition to him. The devil hates the people of Israel, and he hates any of the Church of Jesus Christ. He stands opposed to any and all who will stand with the LORD and His Word, and His Son.

Joshua, also stands before the LORD in “filthy garments” (v. 3). This is significant in that Joshua the priest represents the nation; they too are filthy with their worship of idols, and their empty attempt to maintain their worship of God. When you turn from the LORD to worship anything else it is clear hypocrisy to “maintain” the empty worship attempts. The nation had committed spiritual adultery against the LORD, despised the sacrifices, despised the Sabbaths, despised their feast days, and worst of all despised the LORD God who had delivered them out of Egyptian bondage, and kept them secure.

God, the LORD, would do a mighty work in them again. He would deliver them from their filth, and filthy garments, restore them to their lands, and remove the reproach of the devil.

One thing I want to point out is that it seems some what odd that the LORD would say, “the LORD rebuke you Satan!” Maybe it is the power of His name, or the use of His name that causes the devil to flee. The Psalmist did write, “For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” (Psalm 138:2). It only shows that His Person and His name are equal. His Word is as good as His name.

These are all reassuring words for a nation which has come out of captivity. For them to have the Word of the LORD revealed to them concerning their future surely would give them hope, increase their faith, and draw them nearer to the LORD. Things are happening with the nation just as the prophets before the captivity had said. Isaiah warned them of it happening. Jeremiah warned them it was coming, and both tell us they would return. Jeremiah revealed that they would be in captivity for seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10), and Daniel the prophet put great hope in this promise (Daniel 9:2, 24).

Satan has gone to great extremes to extinguish the people of Israel. There are examples in the Old Testament. Their wicked practices caused them to turn their backs on the LORD, thus, the LORD sent their enemies to conquer them, and humble them, to call on His holy name. My, how stubborn we human beings can be. Over and over and over again the LORD seeks them out, calls them to return to Him, and many times, for a short time they have; and there has always been a remnant of those who were faithful to continue with the LORD.

Into captiviity they were taken. Many times beaten, flogged, ravaged, and always pillaged for the gold and silver of the temple and other possessions. The LORD’s rebuke of Satan is powerful, and he is unable to combat the Word of the LORD. When we have an example of the LORD Himself speaking His Word to rebuke the devil, we can certainly do no better.

“A brand plucked from the fire…” is speaking of the nation and their being in the fire of the trials of captivity. Yes! We can even look through Scripture and find that many of them that went into captivity made good for themselves. They began to fit right into the society of Babylon, and Shushan, and there were many who had become so successful there they did not want to leave. They had turned their backs on the true God, honoring other gods, and were quite comfortable living in captivity. They were the “brand plucked from the fire”.

The previous paragraph shows us strongly the peril Christians face as we conform to society rather than being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Paul the apostle wrote many years following the return of the captives to Jerusalem, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2 (NKJV). Woe be to the Christians today who become so comfortable, lethargic, and complacent to what goes on around us. We are pressured every day to conform to the idea of many gods, many roads, or ways to heaven, and don’t be so narrow minded. Just conform. Just get along. Don’t rock the boat.

We have this assurance that the LORD has rebuked Satan. He can do nothing to one of God’s children without the permission of our Heavenly Father. Satan desired to sift Peter as wheat, but the Lord Jesus prayed for Peter (Luke 22:31-32). We too have an Advocate with the Father. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God. We too have been plucked from the fire. Our High Priest is Jesus. Joshua, as many of you know is the Hebrew name for Jesus. The names mean, “The Lord is salvation”.

-Tim A. Blankenship

 

The Heart of Hard Ground

There have been times when a farmer has plans for a piece of ground for a certain crop. He goes and plows the ground, spends several hours doing it, and maybe a day or two, three, or more; depending on the size of the piece of land, and the mode of power for plowing. Something happens; maybe too much rain, a family emergency, or just other duties come into play; and the ground goes neglected. That ground may have been plowed, harrowed, completely ready for seed, fertilizer, and all necessary preparations, but it goes neglected.

For a year maybe even two, or more, that ground lays there, growing grass, weeds, thorns – weeds and thorns are mostly what will grow on “fallow ground”. “Fallow ground” is what that land has become. There is no good fruit coming from this land. It really has no beauty to it. It has become hardened and needs to be broken up in order for it to be useful, productive.

Productivity for this land will only come about when that ground is plowed again, or broken up. You would not want to just plow the weeds and thorns under because of their seeds. There will be some in the ground already. Then, you would want to burn the ground off before it is plowed. Burning it off might be all you would need to do before you plowed, with some cleanup following the burn. After cleaning up some of the thorns and weeds following the burn, then you would set about the plowing or the breaking up of the “fallow ground”.

“For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: ‘Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest My fury come forth like fire, and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.'” Jeremiah 4:3-4 (NKJV)

There is a portion of land, a couple of acres, on the farm where I grew up, that is called, “The Pickle Patch”. I have never seen any pickles grown there. I think my Dad has, but I never have. I have seen and helped pick corn from there for feeding cattle and hogs, but that was when I was a very small boy. Today that small amount of acreage has grown up into a thorn patch. It does have a good set of fescue grass growing under all those thorn trees, (also known as “thorny locust”; at least around this part of the world), and it is there for wildlife to eat. That has happened from years of neglect.

The hearts and lives of men and women can become hard, calloused, and of no use to God when they are neglected. That is what has happened with the people to whom Jeremiah is speaking. The men of Judah and Jerusalem are the main ones the prophet addresses.

Just how, does the heart of a man become likened to “fallow ground”? How can a man become hard hearted toward God, and unproductive? There is only one step toward a hard heart. There is only one turn toward that “fallow ground”. That step and that turn is away from God. It may happen gradually with the coming of many blessing, comfort sets in, then, a complacent, apathetic attitude. It happens by missing just one quiet time with God, then one more, then one more. Then, there is the missing of one assembling with the saints of God in the worship of God. It happens by getting too involved in the pleasures and comforts of the society around us.

Jesus uses a parable concerning four different soil conditions in Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23. Jesus calls it the “Parable of the sower” (v. 18). It does deal with the conditions of the soil, however. The first is the hardpacked path area where people walk through the fields (common for that day); the second was shallow soil – shallow due to bedrock directly under a very thin layer of soil; the third could be compared to the “fallow ground”, because it is weedy and thorny soil; and the final soil is “good soil” which means that it is soil that has been worked and prepared for the seed, and it is the only one of the soils which produces fruit.

God is not pleased when His people are hardened by their neglect of their hearts. We know Jeremiah is dealing with their heart conditions when he writes of “circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your hearts…”. The study note from the MacArthur Study Bible says,

 “4:4 Circumcise. This surgery (Gen. 17:10-14) was to cut away flesh that could hold disease in its folds and could pass the disease on to wives. It was important for the preservation of God’s people physically. But it was also a symbol of the need of the heart to be cleansed from sin’s deadly disease. The really essential surgery needed to happen on the inside, where God calls for taking away fleshly things that keep the heart from being spiritually devoted to Him and from true faith in Him and His will. Jeremiah later expanded on this theme (31:31-34; cf. Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Rom. 2:29). God selected the reproductive organ as the location of the symbol for man’s need of cleansing for sin, because it is the instrument most indicative of his depravity, since by it he reproduces generations of sinners.” MACARTHER STUDY BIBLE, p. 1067, (NKJV).

The child of God must never forget to maintain His walk with God. Why are some Christians so cavalier about their relationship with God? Could it be that they really have no relationship with God? Therefore, if that be so they don’t even know Him. God’s call through the prophet is for the people to break up the “fallow ground”. In other words, “Take those hardened hearts of yours, and plow them; do what is necessary to break them and humble yourselves before Me.”

The following is a quote from John Gills Exposition of the Entire Bible:

break up your fallow ground; this is ground that lies untilled, not ploughed, nor sown, on which nothing grows but the produce of nature, as weeds, thorns, briers, &c. is common to men and beasts, and is trodden upon, and, so is hard and unsusceptible of seed; which, if it accidentally falls upon it, makes no impression on it, and is not received by it; and the breaking of it up is by the plough. The “fallow ground” fitly represents the hearts of unregenerate men, which are unopened to the word, and unbroken by it; nor have they the seed of divine grace sown in them; but are destitute of faith, hope, love, fear, and the like; there is nothing grows there but the weeds of sin and corruption; and are like a common beaten road; are the common track of sin, where lusts pass to and fro, and dwell; and so are hardened and obdurate, as hard as a stone, yea, harder than the nether millstone; and who, though they may occasionally be under the word, it makes no impression on them; it has no place in them, but is like the seed that falls by the wayside, Mat. 13:4, unless divine power attends it; for the Gospel is the plough, and ministers are the ploughmen; but it is the Lord alone that makes it effectual to the breaking up the fallow ground of men’s hearts, Luk 9:62, but when the Lord puts his hand to the plough it enters within, and opens the heart; it is quick, powerful, and sharp; it cuts deep, and makes long and large furrows, even strong convictions of sin; it throws a man’s inside outward, as the plough does the earth; and lays all the wicked of his heart open to him; and roots up the pride, the vanity, and boasting of the creature, and other lusts; and so makes way for the seed of divine grace to be sown there:” e-Sword edition.

 It is a hard and evil heart that will not follow the path of our Lord. It is a hard and calloused heart that refuses to hear the Word of the Lord. God holds us, yea, even keeps us from falling. O, how God yearns for His children to continually walk with Him, and those who are His have the heart to walk with Him, but too often are turned aside by the allures of the world, thus the heart can grow fallow.

The prophet calls for a circumcision of the heart, or as it is worded, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD…” This requires a conscience act of the men to whom he speaks. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Well! I am only human, you know.” We are human, and we do sin and make mistakes; however; that is no excuse for the child of God. He has equipped us to overcome the temptations which lure us from our walk with Him. We have His Spirit within us. This is that same Spirit which is in Christ Jesus. That is right. You have the power in you, as a Christian to resist temptation, the hardening of your heart to God, and anything that will turn you away from Him. One thing I might add here concerning things that can cause the heart to grow hard toward God would be the satisfaction and pride, even an arrogance that you are the child of God, leading to an attitude that you are better than anyone else. God forbid we ever do that. That is a hardened heart.

This circumcision of the heart [of yourselves] is taught by Jesus and the apostle Paul. Paul wrote, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2. This requires that the power of the Spirit of God be in you. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:21. When God is on your mind your thoughts will be on the things of God. When God is your treasure your heart will be set on Him, and in neither one of these can there be “fallow ground” or a hard heart.

This message is to the people of God. This message is to those who once had a thriving relationship with the LORD, but have grown hard of heart. He is calling you back. Plow the ground. Get into His Word, seek His face, repent of your sins, confess Jesus Christ is Lord.

-Tim A. Blankenship

The Perils of Friendship With the World

According to the New Testament and the writings of the Old Testament too, God knows how to deliver the righteous from the judgment of the unrighteous. In 2 Peter 2:9 it is written, “…Then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment…” We should understand that the Lord is not surprised by our sins, but He is offended by our sins. He is the offended One. He is the one to whom the debt was owed for sin. There is still sin in our world. Even though that sin debt has been paid in full by the life, shed blood of Jesus Christ it yet needs to be put away.

As Christians we face our sin, others sin, and corporate and national sin each day of our lives. We can choose to deal with it by the flesh; which is to just give in to it, go with the flow, never rock the boat, never speak a word against it, and even at times participate in a little bit of it which gives us some pleasure. We also have the choice of choosing to be like Jesus Christ, standing up, giving our lives, making a difference, being a difference. Being a fresh drink of cold water in a dry, barren desert of sin is far better for the world and us, than to just be part of the barren and dry desert.

What happened to Lot and his family? Lot may get a little more bashing than he deserves, but I do see Lot as being a compromiser. Yet God tells us that He calls him “Righteous” (2 Peter 2:7). A majority of Christians probably fit in with Lot more than with Abraham. Lot representing a “carnal” Christian. Abraham representing the faithful Christian.

“And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;” Genesis 19:1 (KJV)

 

We should notice in this first verse that the LORD who was with these two, when they were visiting with Abraham, is no longer present with them. He has sent His ministering spirits into the pits to deliver the righteous and rain down justice upon the unrighteous (Psalm 104:4). Their arrival at the gates to the city of Sodom is evidently the same day in which Abraham is pleading for the righteous. There are those who would blame God for sin. God cannot look upon sin, nor is He the author of it. It is blasphemy to call Him the author of sin. He does not lead anyone to sin. He delivers us from sin, and can often deliver us from its judgment.

It is quite apparent that Lot has become stable with the world in which he lives. He is in a position of authority and power. “Lot sat at the gate of Sodom” implies that he is a leader of the city. Now, let me assure you that it is good for Christians to have leadership positions in places of authority, such as city, State, National government, but never at the expense of one’s honesty, integrity, character, or Christian witness and testimony. There is nothing that tells us that Lot had done any of these things, but we will see later that even his family had no respect for him or his words.

There are two positions we can take in life. One is like that of Abraham who chose to live in tents; and there is the life similar to Lot’s who chose to live in a permanent dwelling in Sodom. Abraham was trusting in a celestial home, and Lot’s was a temporal home. Abraham had built many altars in his worship to the Lord; there is no evidence that tells us that Lot ever built a single altar.

It is evident that Lot was familiar with the spiritual. He did recognize the strangers when they arrived in Sodom. He did invite them to his home for the evening to get them off the vile and mean streets. He bowed before them implying humility, though true reverence is reserved for our LORD.

“And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.” Genesis 19:2-3 (KJV)

Lot’s hospitality was genuine. He had probably learned much of this from Abraham his uncle. Lot knew the condition of the town, and the town’s people; and that was why He would not except the thought of these two staying out on the street. What kind of hospitality would that be?

Lot “pressed upon them greatly” that they would come to his home, wash their feet, and get in off these streets. It is a great Christian quality to be hospitable, and have people in our homes. Everyone will accept family into there homes, but not everyone will accept a stranger. A stranger being someone we have never met before. Most of the time when we see forms of hospitality in the Bible we see they spare no expense. They “kill the fatted calf” so to speak to be sure that there is plenty to eat. Possibly realizing that these two were special strangers he only gives them “unleavened bread”. They did eat it.

It is almost as though Lot realized that the mission of these two guests was one of haste. It was upon the departure, the night previous to their departure, that God instructed Israel to make only “unleavened bread” because they would be leaving in one big hurry, so needed to have all their things together. They would not have time for the rising of the dough. The guests of Lot also, had no time to waste. The night was about to become even more in need of an expeditious act.

“But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door. And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door.” Genesis 19:4-11 (KJV)

It was the time of the evening that most people would be thinking of laying their heads down on their pillows for a night’s rest. As Lot, his family and the guests of the house were preparing for their complete rest and trust in the LORD; their night’s sleep; there must have been quite the ruckus at their door. O, how the evil and stench of Sodom must have formed and stank in heaven on this evening.

There is perversion in the hearts of those who come knocking at Lot’s door. They have fallen far from the presence, power and grace of God. They plead with Lot, “bring them out unto us, that we may know them.” In Lot and this situation we can get a good glimpse at what happens when believers/followers of Jesus Christ compromise with the world, thinking, “If I can be a little more flexible with my beliefs, and my convictions, then I can have an influence in their lives”, then we lose the respect of any convictions we may have, and the respect of the people we pretend to be helping, we lose respect for ourselves, and most of all lose the power of God.

One of the things that to me shows the backslidden state of Lot is that he offers his two unmarried, virgin, daughters as replacement for the guests. I understand the culture of the day was a low view of women, but it is never seen, or is rarely seen in the godly of the Bible, and that only seen in the godly when they have a lapse in faith. It was the culture with Lot. He had became one with it, and had no impact against it. Abraham had the greatest impact on Sodom outside. With his prayers, at least three were delivered.

We Christians often have said that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of the sin of homosexuality, but that is only partially true. The prophet Ezekiel gives us a fuller message on the matter. “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.” Ezekiel 16:49-50 (KJV). The basic sin of Sodom was they turned away from God. When people turn their backs of God, His Word, His messengers, His grace, and His mercy; sin begins to rage in the hearts of the unbelief. The depravity of man begins to roar against all that is holy, and turns the mind and body against the love of God. All that seems to come out when sin is on its rampage against God is more and more perversity.

The only father and/or mother who could sell their child for sexual exploitation are one’s who have fallen from the mercies of God. They at one time have heard the voice of God, turned their backs on Him, and arrogantly chosen to go their own way. As more and more people turn their backs on God, and choose their own gods, or no god, sins power will begin to get worse and worse. It will reach its climax, and then, Jesus will come and put an end to it.

When the rebellious, licentious men of Sodom were at Lot’s door trying to press their way through Lot, the guests pulled Lot inside to safety, and then, struck the eyes of the “small and great” with blindness. They certainly had no eyes to see and understand the plan and will of God concerning their lives and behavior, and no eyes to see who these two visitors were. The sins of Sodom and surrounding cities of the plain would end on this evening. The judgment of God was about to fall; but what about Lot and his family???

O, God, let us not be a part of our culture or society, but in it as a light, and salt, but distinct from it, that they all may know that there is one God, one LORD and one faith, and that is through our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us hear Your Word when You say, “Come out from among them and be separate.”

“And the men said unto Lot, Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it. And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the LORD will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law. And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city. And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord: Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar.” Genesis 19:12-23 (KJV)

 

It was the task of the angelic visitors, Lot’s guests, to deliver all of Lot’s family where possible. No one would leave under duress though, and when Lot went to warn his sons-in-law they only saw him as a mocker of such a message. How many sons-in-law did Lot and his wife have? We are not told. There are evidently other daughters other than the ones in the house, and which left with them. These sons-in-law had witnessed the life of Lot and his family. They had evidently seen no difference in his life and the lives of the people who lived there, so when Lot came knocking at their door they saw only a man mocking, thus, they would not believe, therefore they stood condemned with the rest of the city, including Lot’s other daughters.

The angels had warned Lot of imminent judgment coming upon the cities. “Whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: For we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD; and the LORD hath sent us to destroy it.” The judgment would be imminent because it was dependent upon the departure of Lot and all who would leave with him. Lot had no power, no right or authority to say to the angels, “Just let me stay and I will see them converted”. The time had passed for that. Lot was not near to the LORD, and needed delivered.

Great haste was in the voice of the visitors as they spoke to Lot, “Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.” There was, however, no haste with Lot, or his family. When family, be they daughters, sons-in-law, sons or daughters-in-law, will not heed the voice and warning of God, and/or His messenger, and judgment is imminent as in NOW; it is too late to linger. The time required haste in getting out of town.

It becomes quite clear in looking at this story of Lot, and his family, that the teachings of the God of Abraham had not been in this family. Lot, his wife, and their servants had been more consumed with the elements of the material world. Maybe it was pursuing his career as a judge of the city, and having that high position. Other things became more important than pursuing God, His Word, His way, His righteousness, and His grace. Had these things been taught, then the married daughters upon hearing the message of judgment coming on Sodom, would probably have went with their father. It seems they must have had the heart and attitude of their husbands instead. I realize that this concerning these daughters is only an assumption on my part, but I believe it to be a good one. The hearts attitudes is later seen in the hearts of the two daughters who were delivered.

Lot and his family were very hesitant about leaving. That can be understood when we know that there was family they were leaving behind, and knowing the fiery judgment of God was about to fall, destroy, and kill every living being within this valley. Nevertheless, the angelic visitors grabbed the hands of Lot, Lot’s wife, and his two daughters and practically dragged them out of the city, and pointed them in the right direction. They are told to “escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed”, but Lot had no desire to go to the mountain. He still wanted a city. The notes of the MacArthur Study Bible says of this:

19:17-21. An urbanized lifestyle was apparently superior to a lonely one in the mountains and might be why Lot, playing upon the mercy already shown him, negotiated for an alternative escape destination–another city! The angel’s reply (v. 21) indicated that this city included the original judgment plan, but would be spared for Lot’s sake.” THE MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE, (NKJV), p.41.

If you look at verse 21 it was the original intent of the judgment to destroy this city. For Lot’s sake, however, it is spared, and the lives within it as well. We will see later that Lot never stayed there; he ended up living in a cave, probably in the mountain.

The journey must have been a long arduous one, because it took them the whole day to get to Zoar; the city spared for Lot; and then the LORD (v.24) destroyed the other cities. The LORD delivers those whose hearts are in Him. Though Lot was not one who was walking with God; God certainly was with Lot.

Why would God deliver a man whose heart was not entirely true to Him? Why would God take the time to send messengers to a family who has lived in despite of God to gain the world’s favor and its goods? There is only one answer to that question, and it most certainly is grace. Someone had paid the price of Lot’s and his families redemption. God was the One who took that task upon Himself, and due to the prayers of Abraham, and his faith; God delivered “Just Lot”.

“And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds; ) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished…” 2 Peter 2:6-9 (KJV)

 

Lot is decreed “Just” by God. He had not earned it. It was a gift. He certainly did not keep it by his goodness, and kind deeds. He is decreed “Just” by God, and thus we have the record of “Just Lot” given to us by God. Our justification is by God, from God, given to us a gift for all time and eternity. No one can ever take that away. It is certain that God will not.

(…to be continued…)

-Tim A. Blankenship

Tares in the Wheat

Tares Amongst the Wheat

“Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew 13:24-30 (KJV)

“Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:36-43 (KJV)

The parable of the soils [hearts] and the parable of the wheat and tares are closely connected. There are, however, some differences; 1) the “Soils” represent the hearts of men; and the “field” is the world; 2) The “Seed” is the Word of God (vv. 3-9); and in the tares and wheat the seed is the fruit of God’s Word; 3) The “Sower” is not identified, and in the tares and the wheat the sower is identified as the “Son of man” (v.37). The parable of the soils shows the condition of the hearts of mankind with and without Him. The parable of the wheat and the tares shows the condition of the kingdom of heaven with the King away.

All the parables of Matthew give us an outline, together, of the Church Age. First of all in the parable of the “Soils” we see individual’s responses to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Secondly, in the parables of the wheat and the tares, the mustard seed, and the leaven; we see Satan’s opposition to the work of God in His kingdom, and his attacks upon it. Thirdly, we see the results of Judgment upon the “Treasure” [Israel], the Pearl [the Church], and the dragnet [Gentile nations]. This parable shows us that there is evil in the kingdom of heaven; the kingdom of Christ while He is not bodily present, and it will progress until He comes again.

The man who sowed the good seed is the Son of man (vv. 24, 37). This is clearly a Scriptural identifying term for the Messiah, even the One who would give His life as the redeemer of mankind. He is Jesus Christ. He came to call many to Himself, to leave us in the world, for a time, that we might glorify His name, even in the midst of a wicked and adulterous generation.

The Good seed are the children planted in the kingdom of heaven in this world (vv. 24, 38). This shows with incontrovertible evidence that Jesus is speaking of the world in which we live. He tells us that the “Field” is the world. Jesus places each of His followers strategically in this world as it pleases Him. His disciples grow in the midst of the world’s children, and at some points the children of God are almost indistinguishable from the world’s children.

When Jesus speaks “But while men slept” there is probably a likeness to the lethargic behavior of Christians who get so accustomed to the world, and its ways, they just begin to go along to get along. I have often stated that “While we are sleeping is the most dangerous times of our lives”, and I still believe that to be so. What I am about to say is not meant to cause you to fear, but to illustrate the point that needs to be made. While you are sleeping someone could break into your house, come into your bedroom and kill you, and the only way you would know it is when you open your eyes in eternity. People have been known to be resting quite will in their sleep only to never awake in this world again. We are vulnerable while we sleep. “While men slept, his enemy came…” that is when the enemy comes. When God’s people are asleep to the things, the works, the evil of the devil is when lives slip into hell.

Evidence of Christian’s sleeping through attacks is clear when we look at court decisions of 1963, and 1973. In 1963 an atheist woman was allowed before our Supreme Court of the United States of America, and got the teaching of anything Christian, and the Bible thrown out of our Public Schools. In 1973 the Supreme Court ruled that abortion – the murder of unborn children – was legal. We slept through those tares that came into the field. Maybe they were our wake up call from God. It took long enough. Before there was really any action taken to begin persuading expecting young mothers to pursue other options, and giving them other choices millions and millions of babies had been slaughtered. May God forgive us.

There is some way, and I am unfamiliar with it, for the farmer to tell the difference between the wheat and the tares. It seems quite clear that it was known that the enemy had planted the tares, and the servants were concerned about their removal. The sower/farmer says let the tares remain among the wheat until the harvest. There was a way to identify and separate them at the harvest. During the growth, and maturing of the plants they were so identical, but at the time of harvest there would be a difference. Wheat when it is growing, and reaching for the sun, is green; and even its grains as they grow are green, but when they are nearing maturity, they begin to brown, and die. It seems likely that the stalk of wheat has died at its root; its attachment to the earth. Evidently the tares are still green and still attached to the earth. If that be true then there would be a clear difference for the people harvesting the crop. The Christian dies to the world – at the root – and brings forth much fruit for the glory of the Lord. The tare or worldly professor of Christ continues to cling to the earth, and lives solely for self only awaiting the judgment of the sun.

Satan’s seed is also in the world as imitators of God and His children (vv. 25-26, 38-39). For some reason, which most likely is his pride, the Devil has a vengeful mind toward God, and it seems especially toward the Son of God. He could not defeat Jesus on the cross, so now he goes about “like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Jesus Christ came down to man, as man; to redeem fallen people for the glory of His name. The enemy, the devil, the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Just as Balaam was unable to curse the children of Israel in the wilderness for Balak, the king of Moab; but as his final act he told Balak how to curse them with immoral conduct (Numbers 25; 31:15-20); thus the devil uses infiltration, deception, apostasy, and heresy as means of attempting to destroy the work of God. He plants his children within the kingdom, within local churches, who are not genuine believers. They will attempt to change the structure of church doctrines, and plea for compromise from those who are standing on the principles of God’s Word.

Jesus has said, “Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). The devil knows that he is a defeated foe of Jesus Christ. Why then would he appear to be attempting the destruction of God, Jesus, and the Church? He hates you and me. We were made in the image of God; the crown of God’s creation. That is partly why he hates us. He hates humanity. Everything he does is connected to his hatred for God and us. He cannot stand the fact that Christians have gained eternal life, and will be in the presence of Jesus and His glory for all eternity. The devil cannot stand the fact that those who have believed Jesus and trusted His finished work are “joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:14-17).

One of the ways Satan works in the kingdom is through hypocrisy through hypocrites. These have the confession of knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior, but do so either by deceit, or they themselves have been deceived. They are sometimes good, moral and well meaning people; at least in appearance. Some questions you might ask concerning your own heart: 1) Do I love God and His Word more than my own personal opinion or feelings? 2) Am I angered when I hear that my works, or the works of my friends and family are not good enough to get us to heaven? 3) When I see or hear of someone being born again is my heart filled with joy, or do I think, so what? 4) Do I love spending time with God in His Word and in prayer or do I find it time consuming, a bore, and unnecessary? There are several questions that could be asked of ourselves to find out our hearts condition with God. Your answers to these questions will show whether you are a true believer or a hypocrite.

In Jesus’s parable the tares are sown among the wheat under the cover of darkness, and while men slept. The tares are allowed to grow among the wheat so as not to uproot the wheat, since they are so identical while they are growing. Jesus, of course, knows the difference between those who are real and those who are false when it comes to His children in the world, and the children of the devil in the world. Why would He allow the tares to remain? It seems to me that one good reason for that is the fruit. The fruit bears out that there is a difference in the two, and it will be evident for all creation to see. Another reason could be that the Christian grows through suffering and persecution and trial or testing; and many times these “tares” will do just that within the kingdom. Paul warned of “wolves” coming in (Acts 20:27-31). The letter of Jude is a letter filled with warning of apostasy, heresy, and contending for the faith.

The tares could not be pulled out from the wheat because in doing so wheat would be uprooted. Uprooted wheat would not yield any fruit. There is coming a day when Jesus Christ will set all things right, the righteous will stand on His right hand, and those who have rejected Him and His finished work will be separated unto everlasting fire (Revelation 20:10, 15). In the BIBLE EXPOSITION COMMENTARY by Warren W. Wiersbe, he has written,

“What will happen to the tares? God will gather them together and burn them. It is interesting to see that some of this ‘bundling’ is already going on as various religious groups merge and strive for union. Spiritual unity among true Christians is one thing, but religious uniformity among mere professing Christians is quite another. It is difficult to tell the false from the true today; but at the end of the age, the angels will separate them.” p. 46, volume one, Matthew 13.

 

The servants respond by informing the landowner of the tares in the field (vv.27-28, 39). Remember the landowner has planted “good seed” (v. 24), and since this good seed is the “children of the kingdom”, then from the rest of Scripture and its teaching of sin, forgiveness, justification, redemption, and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ we must reach the conclusion that the seed is good only by the imputation of the goodness of Jesus Christ into this seed. It should not amaze us that the angels would be so protective of the King’s children of the kingdom, and the danger in which they have been placed. Angels are the ministering servants to mankind (Psalm 34:7; 104:4; Hebrews 1:14). These servants seem surprised that someone would hate their lord. They make a quick and rash judgment that if they had acted without the advice of their lord they could have done great damage to the crop.

Looking at this from the explanation side, we see the angels as being angry with their enemy, but they follow our Lord’s advice. Too many times we as Christians are too quick to make judgments, which may not be ours to make. We rush into situations without so much as a prayer, and think God is going to bless us. If we see a Christian brother or sister enter an establishment which is known for selling liquor, having dances, and all kinds of mischief happens in the place; how do we respond? Do we know why they are entering there? Do they have a family member who is there and having a problem? Are they in the establishment telling people about Jesus? That would certainly be the place where the tares would hang out, but the child of the kingdom would only enter an establishment for the aiding of a friend, or foe who needs help. In most if not all situations of this sort it would be wise to go in by twos, and not alone. There is no doubt in my mind that there are many perishing, condemned, and dying people in these dark, despairing, and lonely places.

The child of the kingdom – of God – should be slow to wrath and swift to patience, mercy, grace and love in the work of our Lord. It has been asked by many; “Since there is so much evil in the world, why doesn’t God just get rid of it?” I used to ask God that question until one day He gave me the answer which solved it for me; “If God were to rid the world of evil, He would need to rid the world of me.” In His mercy the Master allows the tares to grow among the wheat that there might be a harvest for His glory. Though tares cannot be changed into wheat, a deceived or deceiving man or woman, can be changed into a child of the kingdom. It is good that the preacher/pastor preach the gospel every Sunday morning and every time the Word is preached. There are ears who need to hear the gospel message, and with the quickening power of God’s Spirit, can save a deceived and deceiving soul from an eternity without Christ.

Could it be that the time of the harvest is determined by the condition of the fruit? (vv. 30,39-43) In John 4:35 Jesus said, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” John 4:35 (KJV). When the heads of the wheat are white the farmer knew and knows that it is time for harvest and the time is now. The harvest cannot be put off when the wheat is ready now. The farmer/landowner will be the one who makes the determination of when to harvest. Remember Jesus Himself is the sower/farmer/landowner in this parable.

As children of the kingdom we have no idea when the harvest is going to take place. We know it will, and we know the outcome for those who are not true to the kingdom. At the time of harvest the tares are bound, and notice it does not say that the wheat is bound. The tares will be bound and cast into the fire. This is not done in the threshing process; the threshing is reserved for the wheat; but the tares are identified, separated and bound for the fire; it seems stalk and all.

We must understand that Christians are in the world, but not to participate in the wicked deeds of the world. Our root is in Jesus Christ. The root of the tares are in the world and do not bring forth a fitting fruit. The fruit of the tare is poisonous, pride inducing, and wreaking in the scent of death. Those who are actors of Christianity are the ‘tares’ and go to the fires of hell. Depending on one’s own righteousness is rebellion against God, when He has provided that only the righteousness of Jesus Christ is sufficient. There will be no one in the presence of God throughout all eternity who has not arrived there through Jesus Christ.

The fruit of the righteousness of Jesus Christ in His children will shine in glory as the Son of righteousness shines in His glory. Jesus is the Son of righteousness. He is glorified in all who trust in Him.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Shall Not Be Moved

The nation has been a wayward nation. It has deliberately turned its back on God, and served its own gods which are idols; a means of worshipping devils or demons. It is a sad thing for a nation, in this case the Northern kingdom to walk away from God. It is, however, joyous to see that God is gracious, forgiving and still He is just.

YaHWeH [God] has been calling the spiritually adulterating nation to repent. He has been pursuing her. God will have His way with His people. Let us never forget that. He will be glorified through His people as well.

“If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto Me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove. And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.” Jeremiah 4:1-2 (KJV).

This call is clearly to Israel, the Northern kingdom. What is it to “return unto ME [the LORD]”? It is clear from these verses what the LORD expects. “Put away thine abominations…” is one of the clearly sought after things of the LORD. According to Strong’s the word “Abominations” has to do with the filth of idolatry.

 H8251shiqqu^ts shiqqu^ts; shik-koots’, shik-koots’; From H8262; disgusting, that is, filthy; especially idolatrous or (concretely) an idol: – abominable filth (idol, -ation), detestable (thing).” From e-Sword.

You will notice that the word “disgusting” is used, and “abominable filth”. That only shows us the way God sees this adulterous relationship between His people and the gods of the nations. There must be a “Putting away” of all that is vile, unclean, detestable and idolatrous in God’s sight before there can ever be cleansing, renewal and a return to God. When will the people of God come to the place to learn that to depart from God is about the easiest thing we can do. It can happen just by dropping our attention away from the LORD, and putting it someplace else.

In calling the Northern kingdom to return God intends for a true repentance in returning; not as the Southern kingdom of Judah who gave acknowledgement by words, but not in action. Judah gave a lip service to the LORD, but in truth their hearts were far from Him. That is why earlier we see God referring to Judah as being treacherous (Jeremiah 3:11). God does not approve of hypocritical lip service or pretense. Even Jesus says, “Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Those who have a true love for our Lord do not serve Him to gain anything from Him; however we do serve Him with love knowing who he is, and because of His wonderful gift of grace.

Jehovah’s call to Israel to return is for them to turn from their sin, and to Him. We are to worship God and Him alone. There can be no honor given to other gods, which are not gods, but demonic representations of men’s desires. “If you will return, O Israel, then return to Me” is the desire of God’s heart. This could be for their return to God’s land from which they have been carried away captive. There will be no return to the land unless they return to Him could be the meaning.

return unto me; with thy whole heart, and not feignedly and hypocritically, as Judah did, Jer_3:10. Some render the words (and the accents require they should be rendered so) “if thou wilt return to me, O Israel, saith the Lord, thou shalt return” (l); that is, to thine own land, being now in captivity; or, “thou shalt rest” (m); or “have rest”; so Kimchi interprets the last word; see Jer_30:10, and these words may very well be considered as the words of Christ, and as spoken by him, when he entered upon his ministry, who began it with calling the people of the Jews to repentance, and promising to give them rest; and all such who return to God by repentance, and come to Christ by faith, find spiritual rest for their souls now, and shall have an eternal rest hereafter, Mat_4:17,” FROM JOHN GILLS EXPOSITION OF THE ENTIRE BIBLE, e-Sword edition.

 If you will put away these abominations, “Out of My sight” then you will not be moved from the promised place. God would speak to the prophet concerning the return of the people in seventy years (25:12; 29:10-14; Daniel 9:2). This time in captivity would be a time of chastisement, cleansing, and bring glory to the LORD. During this time the Babylonians and the Persians would mistreat the captives, and in this God would be glorified by His wrath and judgment upon the nations for thier evil doing on the people of Israel; both the Northern and Southern kingdoms.

If you will now, notice what happens when the people do return. It is first to be a speedy return, ie., when they realize that they are away from God, they are not to merely speak of returning, but quickly return, and not to the land, but to God, then they will go to the land, after the seventy years have been fulfilled. When they have returned to the LORD, then they will “swear, ‘The LORD LIVES’…” This “swear[ing]” is more than an oath. It seems to be a very full and genuine heart change, realizing the greatness of the LORD our God. Strong’s gives us this concerning the word, “Swear”:

H7650 – sha^ba‛; shaw-bah’; A primitive root; properly to be complete, but used only as a denominative from H7651; to seven oneself, that is, swear (as if by repeating a declaration seven times): – adjure, charge (by an oath, with an oath), feed to the full [by mistake for H7646], take an oath, X straitly, (cause to, make to) swear. From e-Sword.

 The people of Israel will truly see the living LORD, and they will see that He is truth, and He is righteous in all His ways and truly just. When the nations of the world see what God has done for the people of God they will rejoice in Him, and “In Him they shall glory”. They will boast only of the LORD, and His greatness, they will celebrate in His glory, they will shine for His name. John the Revelator wrote,

 “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Revelation 21:22-27 (KJV).

 “And the nations…” is the phrase we need to see in the previous verses. The nations of the world; those who have been saved by the blood of the Lamb; will gather in that new city, and will celebrate the glory of the Lord.

The word that is needed for our day of 2008 is “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” JESUS (Matthew 4:17). The LORD is calling for the return of those who have gone astray, serving false doctrine, false gods, and false christs. He is also calling those who have never known Him to call on the name of Jesus Christ, and He will save you.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Break Up Your Hard Ground

There have been times when a farmer has plans for a piece of ground for a certain crop. He goes and plows the ground, spends several hours doing it, and maybe a day or two, depending on the size of the piece of land, and the mode of power for plowing. Something happens; maybe too much rain, a family emergency, or just other duties come into play; and the ground goes neglected. That ground may have been plowed, harrowed, completely ready for seed, fertilizer, and all necessary preparations, but it goes neglected.

For a year maybe even two, or more, that ground lays there, growing grass, weeds, thorns -weeds and throns are mostly what will grow on “fallow ground”. “Fallow ground” is what that land has become. There is no good fruit coming from this land. It really has no beauty to it. It has become hardened and needs to be broken up in order for it to be useful, productive.

Productivity for this land will only come about when that ground is plowed again, or broken up. You would not want to just plow the weeds and thorns under because of their seeds. There will be some in the ground already. Then, you would want to burn the ground off before it is plowed. Burning it off might be all you would need to do before you plowed, with some cleanup following the burn. After cleaning up some of the thorns and weeds following the burn, then you would set about the plowing or the breaking up of the “fallow ground”.

“For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: ‘Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest My fury come forth like fire, and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.'” Jeremiah 4:3-4 (NKJV)

There is a portion of land, a couple of acres, on the farm where I grew up, that is called, “The Pickle Patch”. I have never seen any pickles grown there. I think my Dad has, but I never have. I have seen and helped pick corn from there for feeding cattle and hogs, but that was when I was a very small boy. Today that small amount of acreage has grown up into a thorn patch. It does have a good set of fescue grass growing under all those thorn trees, (also known as “thorny locust”; at least around this part of the world), and the it is there for wildlife to eat from. That has happened from years of neglect.

The hearts and lives of men and women can become hard, calloused, and of no use to God when they are neglected. That is what has happened with the people to whom Jeremiah is speaking. The men of Judah and Jerusalem are the main ones the prophet addresses.

Just how, does the heart of a man become likened to “fallow ground”? How can a man become hard hearted toward God, and unproductive? There is only one step toward a hard heart. There is only one turn toward that “fallow ground”. That step and that turn is away from God. It may happen gradually with the coming of many blessing, comfort sets in, then, a complacent, apathetic attitude. It happens by missing just one quiet time with God, then one more, then one more. Then, there is the missing of one assembling with the saints of God in the worship of God. It happens by getting too involved in the pleasures and comforts of the society around us.

Jesus uses a parable concerning four different soil conditions in Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23. Jesus calls it the “Parable of the sower” (v. 18). It does deal with the conditions of the soil, however. The first is the hardpacked path area when people are able to walk through the fields (common for that day); the second was shallow soil – shallow due to bedrock directly under a very thin layer of soil; the third could be compared to the “fallow ground”, because it is weedy and thorny soil; and the final soil is “good soil” which means that it is soil that has been worked and prepared for the seed, and it is the only one of the soils which produces fruit.

God is not pleased when His people are hardened by their neglect of their hearts. We know Jeremiah is dealing with their heart conditions when he writes of “circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your hearts…”. The study not from the MacArthur Study Bible says,

“4:4 Circumcise. This surgery (Gen. 17:10-14) was to cut away flesh that could hold disease in its folds and could pass the disease on to wives. It was important for the preservation of God’s people physically. But it was also a symbol of the need of the heart to be cleansed from sin’s deadly disease. The really essential surgery needed to happen on the inside, where God calls for taking away fleshly things that keep the heart from being spiritually devoted to Him and from true faith in Him and His will. Jeremiah later expanded on this theme (31:31-34; cf. Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Rom. 2:29). God selected the reproductive organ as the location of the symbol for man’s need of cleansing for sin, because it is the instrument most indicative of his depravity, since by it he reproduces generations of sinners.” MACARTHER STUDY BIBLE, p. 1067, (NKJV).

The child of God must never forget to maintain His walk with God. Why are some Christians so cavalier about their relationship with God? Could it be that they really have no relationship with God? Therefore, if that be so they don’t even know Him. God’s call through the prophet is for the people to break up the “fallow ground”. In other words, “Take those hardened hearts of yours, and plow them; do what is necessary to break them and humble yourselves before Me.”

The following is a quote from John Gills Exposition of the Entire Bible:

“break up your fallow ground; this is ground that lies untilled, not ploughed, nor sown, on which nothing grows but the produce of nature, as weeds, thorns, briers, &c. is common to men and beasts, and is trodden upon, and, so is hard and unsusceptible of seed; which, if it accidentally falls upon it, makes no impression on it, and is not received by it; and the breaking of it up is by the plough. The “fallow ground” fitly represents the hearts of unregenerate men, which are unopened to the word, and unbroken by it; nor have they the seed of divine grace sown in them; but are destitute of faith, hope, love, fear, and the like; there is nothing grows there but the weeds of sin and corruption; and are like a common beaten road; are the common track of sin, where lusts pass to and fro, and dwell; and so are hardened and obdurate, as hard as a stone, yea, harder than the nether millstone; and who, though they may occasionally be under the word, it makes no impression on them; it has no place in them, but is like the seed that falls by the wayside, Mat. 13:4, unless divine power attends it; for the Gospel is the plough, and ministers are the ploughmen; but it is the Lord alone that makes it effectual to the breaking up the fallow ground of men’s hearts, Luk_9:62, but when the Lord puts his hand to the plough it enters within, and opens the heart; it is quick, powerful, and sharp; it cuts deep, and makes long and large furrows, even strong convictions of sin; it throws a man’s inside outward, as the plough does the earth; and lays all the wicked of his heart open to him; and roots up the pride, the vanity, and boasting of the creature, and other lusts; and so makes way for the seed of divine grace to be sown there:”

It is a hard and evil heart that will not follow the path of our Lord. It is a hard and calloused heart that refuses to hear the Word of the Lord. God holds us, yea, even keeps us from falling. O, how God yearns for His children to continually walk with Him, and those who are His have the heart to walk with Him, but too often are turned aside by the allures of the world, thus the heart can grow fallow.

The prophet calls for a circumcision of the heart, or as it is worded, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD…” This requires a conscience act of the men to whom he speaks. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Well! I am only human, you know.” We are human, and we do sin and make mistakes; however; that is no excuse for the child of God. He has equipped us to overcome the temptations which lure us from our walk with Him. We have His Spirit within us. This is that same Spirit which is in Christ Jesus. That is right. You have the power in you, as a Christian to resist temptation, the hardening of your heart to God, and anything that will turn you away from Him. One thing I might add here concerning things that can cause the heart to grow hard toward God would be the satisfaction and pride, even an arrogance that you are the child of God, leading to an attitude that you are better than anyone else. God forbid we ever do that. That is a hardened heart.

This circumcision of the heart [of yourselves] is taught by Jesus and the apostle Paul. Paul wrote, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:2. This requires that the power of the Spirit of God be in you. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:21. When God is on your mind your thoughts will be on the things of God. When God is your treasure your heart will be set on Him, and in neither one of these can there be “fallow ground” or a hard heart.

This message is to the people of God. This message is to those who once had a thriving relationship with the LORD, but have grown hard of heart. He is calling you back. Plow the ground. Get into His Word, seek His face, repent of your sins, confess Jesus Christ is Lord.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Sing and Rejoice

Sing and Rejoice

The Jewish people of the captivity of Babylon have been called to vacate Babylon and their lands. God is about to rain down judgment upon them because of their harsh and cruel treatment of the people. It is so sad when we find the people of God in compliance with the world, and must be dragged out of their state of complacency, apathy or comfort. Remember Lot and his family (Genesis 19:15-17).

The promises to the people who would return to Jerusalem and the land of promise was that they would be singing and rejoicing. This promise was for the people of that day and for their return to the land, but remember it has future meaning as well, and we must be assured that though the nation of Israel may have their land now, it is still being tread under foot by Gentile lords. So, the promise has never been fulfilled to the letter; but be assured God’s Word will not return to Him without the accomplishment of His intended purposes.

Let us hear the words of the prophet Zechariah:

“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,’ says the LORD. ‘Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem. Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!” Zechariah 2:10-13 (NKJV)

I don’t know how many people realize it, but the Bible is full of songs. It mentions many things concerning singing and music. For an example, there is one whole book of songs. It has been called the “Hymn Book of the Bible”; at least by me. It is the book of Psalms. There is at least one Psalm that is given to the people of Israel in Babylon – Psalm 137. The singing and rejoicing the prophet is speaking of is songs of rejoicing. “We’re going home” could be the title of the song they might sing.

With the words of the prophet God says to the people, “I am coming and I will dwell in your midst…” Is this the words of the prophet or is the prophet speaking for God? It seems clear to be the words of God. A promise of God that He has not forsaken them. It would not mean much to these people to have the prophet assuring them that he was going to be in their midst. The prophet tells us that these are, in fact, God’s words; they can be trusted.

There is a promise here that has not been completed. “Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they will become My people.” Now, we know that with Israel being hidden [as concerning the work and promises of God for a time] He is working through another people, and many Jewish people have become a part of this work – I am speaking of the Church of Jesus Christ, the Bride of Christ which is made of people of all tribes and nations of people. There is coming a time, however, when all nations will go and seek the Lord in Jerusalem, because that will be His throne.

Again, He promises to “Dwell in your midst”. Who is the One who is with us? Immanuel means God with us. Jesus Christ is Immanuel. He is with His people in the Church today, through His Holy Spirit; and there will be a day when we stand before Him face to face, and will SING AND REJOICE in His bodily presence. By this bodily presence of Jesus the people of Israel will know the presence of the One who became man, and died for the sins of Israel and the whole world. They will see Him, and believe and be saved.

The LORD mentions taking possession of His inheritance in the twelfth verse. Now, those who don’t believe in a millennial reign of Jesus Christ have to take this verse and forget about the literal fulfillment of the first coming of Jesus, and then spiritualize this one to come to that conclusion. Maybe the first coming was only spiritual; maybe there was no physical Jesus; maybe there was no body of Jesus that died on the cross: maybe the resurrection was only spiritual, like the JW’s say; maybe it was all spiritual. In this verse (12) is the only place in the Bible where the term “Holy Land” is used. The land of Israel only become holy when our Lord is sitting on the throne of David and glorified.

The final verse of the chapter calls for the silence of “all flesh”. When we see God, there will be no time for speaking; we will all be in awe of Him. Silence is golden when we need to hear Him, and not be demanding of Him. This is a time for God’s people, Christians, to be hearing God, and not making demands of Him like so many believe they can do. “He is aroused from His holy habitation” He has come down from His abode in glory, put on human flesh and died for our sins, carried away our filth, condemnation and guilt in His burial, and has risen victoriously from the grave and came out bodily, ascending to His Father sitting at His right hand interceding for us. He is returning from that abode, will set up His kingdom on earth, and He will reign from His throne from Jerusalem.

Come quickly Lord Jesus.

-Tim A. Blankenship

Wine is a Mocker…

Wine is a Mocker…

“Let’s go and have a drink”, says one friend to another, as they are departing from their workplace. Most times, in the like scenario, of course, this term “drink” is used in reference to the alcoholic version of various drinks. When we live in a world where there are thousands of people killed on our highways each year due to too much alcoholic drinking, the damage it does to families, the work place, medical care, and individual lives why is it even tolerated by civil countries and the laws of our land?

It is not just tolerated, but it is indulged in, and made to appear glamorous, by even those who don’t drink the brews, and wines. How can a alcoholic drink be indulged in by those who don’t drink? When it is not spoken out against. When it is laughed at. When it is seen as a means to the ending of our miseries, or laughingly referred to as medicinal.

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Proverbs 20:1 (KJV)

It is sad to admit, there are however, many people, even professing Christians who have been deceived by the venom of alcohol. Those who refuse to speak against the evils of alcoholic drink, and the debauchery, and vile living that comes from the lives of the people who are ruled by the beverage of choice for many “law abiding” adults. There is an element of Christianity even defending the “right to drink”, and that “The Bible says nothing against drinking of alcoholic beverage”. NO! There is no direct commandment to avoid alcoholic beverage in the Bible, but to use that as a right to do so is foolish thinking.

There are several things not named in the Bible that should definitely be avoided by Christians, and pastors and preachers should be speaking against. For example; there is pornography – the vile and evil use of the bodies of others to make pictures and films of people in the acts of things that should be kept in private. There is also the act of abortion – the murderous act of killing the innocent human baby before they are ever born. There is slavery, are we going to advocate slavery because the Bible tells us how to treat those who are enslaved to us? I would hope not. Someone will probably start crying out, “That is straw men,” so be it, it is based on principles of Scripture. Are you going to burn them, because they wreak havoc on your excuses for alcoholic drink?

Let’s look at the verse of this topic. Proverbs 20:1 warns us clearly of wine being a mocker. Strong’s gives us the meaning of the word mocker in Hebrew to be;

  • H3887 – lûts loots A primitive root; properly to make mouths at, that is, to scoff; hence (from the effort to pronounce a foreign language) to interpret, or (generally) intercede: – ambassador, have in derision, interpreter, make a mock, mocker, scorn (-er, -ful), teacher”. In looking at this meaning it would seem to me that alcoholic wine, [that is the meaning of the word “wine” in this verse]; makes a mockery out of whatever it touches.
  • “Wine” – “H3196: yayin yah’-yin From an unused root meaning to effervesce; wine (as fermented); by implication intoxication: – banqueting, wine, wine [-bibber].If one is not a fool when one drinks the beverage, they will soon be one, especially should they allow the beverage to take control. The wisest choice is to refuse to drink something, or use anything that could take over your mind and body. When you do not touch and drink the beverage alcohol you can never become drunk.Mockery is the act of treating with contempt or ridicule; to defy; to delude; to mimic in sport or derision. Isn’t there enough problems within Christianity today without adding one more item to our shamefulness.

    The verse above also tells us that “Strong drink is raging”.

     

    • “Strong drink” = “H7941

    • shêkâr; shay-kawr’; From H7937; an intoxicant, that is, intensely alcoholic liquor: – strong drink, + drunkard, strong wine.”
    • H7937 – shâkar; shaw-kar’; A primitive root; to become tipsy; in a qualified sense, to satiate with a stimulating drink or (figuratively) influence. (Superlative of H8248.): – (be filled with) drink (abundantly), (be, make) drunk (-en), be merry. [Superlative of H8248.]The purposeful making and distribution of strong alcohol for the very purpose of drunkenness. When people are under the influence of beverage alcohol they are not in control. Men and women under the influence will say and do things they would not normally say or do. Otherwise “good men” or “good women” can be turned into violent, immoral, raging, animalistic creatures they would not otherwise be. It is no wonder that wine is a mocker… 

        • “Raging” = “H1993

          hâmâh; haw-maw’; A primitive root (compare H1949); to make a loud sound (like English “hum”); by implication to be in great commotion or tumult, to rage, war, moan, clamor: – clamorous, concourse, cry aloud, be disquieted, loud, mourn, be moved, make a noise, rage, roar, sound, be troubled, make in tumult, tumultuous, be in an uproar.

        Since the book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom it seems that these two items, “Wine” and “Strong drink” cannot be associated with wisdom. How can one be wise in even taking a drink of something that might cause drunkenness which is directly forbidden by Scripture? Someone has brought the issue of sexual relations between a husband and a wife into the argument of beverage alcohol. The statement going something like this, “God gave the sexual union between a husband and wife for both pro-creation, and pleasure. If one enjoys sexual relations too much does that mean it is evil?” Asking the question, at least in the way I phrase it seems almost ludicrous, and to compare the two is ludicrous. We have been commanded to pro-create, and to enjoy our spouses, but there is no commandment to enjoy wine. Some even go to Jesus’s turning “water into wine” of John chapter two; His very first miracle; and argue that if Jesus turned water into wine, then it must be okay. I am not going to discuss that right now, however I will add this; if the wine is a mocker according to Old Testament Scripture, and it is wrong to “Look on the wine when it moveth itself aright in the cup…” (Proverbs 23:31), then, how could Jesus violate Scripture by making alcoholic beverage? A violation of His own Word is what He would be doing. He does not violate His Word.Surely in an age of undisciplined behavior in children, youth and adults we as Christians need to say, and cry boldly that beverage alcohol is evil, and there is no place for it in the lives of Christian people. One more thought before I close. Why is it when a man or woman who has been an alcoholic and a drunk, when they receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior will turn away from and put away all alcoholic beverages? Yet, so called Christian leaders argue for moderation. Where is the leadership in that? Surely “Wine is a mocker” and is mocking Christianity right now; and “Strong drink is raging”; and those influenced by it are fighting against all that is good and godly, and espousing evil, as it is allowed into the homes of the deceived.

        It seems that the devil is surely laughing at the moderation of the moderates who argue for freedom of beverages. May God help us to believe the Word of the LORD, and shun all that is evil and that wreaks evil in the lives of our leaders, and the people.

        -Tim A. Blankenship

        The Work of Intercession

        The Work of Intercession

        “And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.” Genesis 18:23-33 (KJV)

        The word “Intercession” means, according to the MIRRIAM/WEBSTER DICTIONARY, “1: MEDIATION 2: Prayer or petition in favor of another.” The word is not used in these verses of our text, and according to some hermeneutical professionals we are not allowed to use it in the discussion of the text either. That may be a bit of an overstatement, but it can get quite picky with some folks at times.

        When Abraham heard of the condition of Sodom and in particular Lot, His nephew, he began to petition the Lord concerning the city. That was the place where Lot had chosen. Remember Lot had lifted up his own eyes and determined the place he wanted by its richness, and the way it appeared to be already blessed; but he did not determine by the conditions of the hearts of the people who lived there. There are many professing Christians of our day who see what they think is a “Mission field”, they may have their heart truly on seeing the conversion of the people, but they can, if not very careful find themselves in a situation similar to Lot’s. They had best be very strong in the Word of God and faith of Christ, and guard their own hearts concerning the teachings and beliefs of the group of people to whom they are witnessing. Too many times “Christians” have turned away from their faith in acceptance of the beliefs of others. No, they may not accept the belief of that group, but they begin thinking that they are okay with God, they believe something. In doing that they have turned from the faith of God.

        Whatever Lot’s motive for going to Sodom, and the cities of the plain, he had soon lost sight of the situation. Lot would have been in a desperate situation were it not for the grace of God. Nowhere in our text does Abraham even mention Lot, or his family. It is for the people. The Intercessor begins pleading for the people, believing in the righteousness of God, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” That is really where true intercessory prayer begins; ie., with God. It is He who is offended by wickedness. It is He who will deal with the wicked. It is God who must be approached, petitioned, and given requests from the heart. It should also be done for His name sake. In Abraham’s prayer/petition he addresses the righteousness of God. The Intercessor is not as concerned for the outcome of the wicked as he is the outcome of the appearance of God’s righteousness. Too much prayer is done in the name of the one praying – that meaning; give me what I want- and when we pray in His name we pray as He wants and directs.

        Intercessory Prayer is best defined as To plead with God in behalf of others. Even to provide a wall between God’s judgment and the lost, the sick, the backsliden, etc. In Ezekiel 22:30 we read, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” Ezekiel 22:30 (KJV). Intercessory Prayer can be seen as the power of God at work in His child, and a release of that power in the one for whom intercession is given.

        When Abraham prayed for Sodom he received more than what he asked for. It was by the sheer mercy and grace of God, that Lot, and his two daughters were delivered (See Genesis 19:15-29). It seems that in Abraham’s prayer at the beginning he may have thought in the time Lot had been in the valley, with the people, having developed a name for himself, that there might just be more than the family. Sadly, there were not, and Abraham gets all the way down to the number of ten, stops, and the LORD says, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” We know there were not ten righteous people living in Sodom. In our eyes we would not even have called Lot righteous, nor his daughters. It is by the mercy and grace of God that Lot and his daughters were saved. The city was not spared, but Lot was; after being forced to leave.

        It could be asked, What is the purpose of intercession? To that we would find the answer throughout the pages of Scripture; to be; to exalt the justice and righteousness of God in the intercessor. This first of all shows us that the heart of Abraham was set firmly on God, and not on having his own way. The highest act of prayer is to depend upon the will of God being done, and that was at the heart of Abraham’s prayer. Another thing concerning the purpose of intercession is to plead God’s mercy in behalf of others (vv. 24-32) and in James 5:13-20 we see prayer being offered for things such as sickness, forgiveness, afflictions, calling for the elders to pray, and even praying for rain or no rain. One other purpose for intercession would be to know and receive the will of God concerning unholy practices. The Word of God tells us to avoid the unholy, but sometimes there may be some things that are not really clear; so we must seek for guidance. Most likely if you must pray to find out it is probably not good or right.

        There are results we receive from intercessory prayer. The first one is the intercessor will accept God’s will for how it turns out. The heart of the intercessor will be at rest with God. The Lord’s “Place” and the intercessor’s “Place” is much the same “Place”. People are saved and God’s justice, righteousness, and holiness is fulfilled and done. The intercessor will have and put greater trust in the Lord.

        There is really no great secret in being an Intercessor for others. The secret is revealed in the pages of God’s Word, and they are seen in these verses of our text. First, to know God, and to be known by God (v. 19); Abraham was known by God and he knew God, ie., he had a personal relationship with Him. To know God means we know His heart, His thoughts, His righteousness, His holiness, His justice, and we don’t want to do anything to offend these. To be known by God is the best. When He knows you He will never cast you out of His presence. He knows you as His own. Secondly, to know His secrets (v. 17), and in John 15:13-15 we read, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”; and in Amos 3:7 it is written, “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”; and in Psalm 25:14 the Psalmist has written, ” The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.”. A third matter of being an intercessor is you have a burden to share (v. 23), and you are caring for what the will of the Lord is concerning others, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV). Last of all; but this list is not exhaustive; is the intercessor is of humble spirit. Always humble before the Lord, never seeking their own, always jealous for the Lord’s will, and not that of the flesh (v. 27). The truly humble are lifting up the name of the Lord, and never notice their own humility. It is of a genuine heart and pure motive.

        You will notice in the final verse of our text, “And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.” This shows us the LORD was pleased with His time with Abraham, and Abraham was content to leave the outcome in the LORD’s hands. When we cannot sleep at night because of fear for the one we pray, it is because we have not gained peace in the matter. We have not trusted it to the LORD’s hands and will. It is quite possible that we fear our desire and will is not going to be done. That was not true of Abraham or God in this case. Nor, should it ever be in ours.

        -Tim A. Blankenship

        Return Unto ME

        The nation has been a wayward nation. It has deliberately turned its back on God, and served its own gods which are idols; a means of worshipping devils or demons. It is a sad thing for a nation, in this case the Northern kingdom to walk away from God. It is, however, joyous to see that God is gracious, forgiving and still He is just.

        YaHWeH [God] has been calling the spiritually adulterating nation to repent. He has been pursuing her. God will have His way with His people. Let us never forget that. He will be glorified through His people as well.

        “If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto Me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove. And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.” Jeremiah 4:1-2 (KJV).

        This call is clearly to Israel, the Northern kingdom. What is it to “return unto ME [the LORD]”? It is clear from these verses what the LORD expects. “Put away thine abominations…” is one of the clearly sought after things of the LORD. According to Strong’s the word “Abominations” has to do with the filth of idolatry.

          H8251 – shiqqu^ts shiqqu^ts; shik-koots’, shik-koots’; From H8262; disgusting, that is, filthy; especially idolatrous or (concretely) an idol: – abominable filth (idol, -ation), detestable (thing).

        You will notice that the word “disgusting” is used, and “abominable filth”. That only shows us the way God sees this adulterous relationship between His people and the gods of the nations. There must be a “Putting away” of all that is vile, unclean, detestable and idolatrous in God’s sight before there can ever be cleansing, renewal and a return to God. When will the people of God come to the place to learn that to depart from God is about the easiest thing we can do. It can happen just by dropping our attention away from the LORD, and putting it someplace else.

        In calling the Northern kingdom to return God intends for a true repentance in returning; not as the Southern kingdom of Judah who gave acknowledgement by words, but not in action. Judah gave a lip service to the LORD, but in truth their hearts were far from Him. That is why earlier we see God referring to Judah as being treacherous (Jeremiah 3:11). God does not approve of hypocritical lip service or pretense. Even Jesus says, “Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Those who have a true love for our Lord do not serve Him to gain anything from Him; however we do serve Him with love knowing who he is, and because of His wonderful gift of grace.

        Jehovah’s call to Israel to return is for them to turn from their sin, and to Him. We are to worship God and Him alone. There can be no honor given to other gods, which are not gods, but demonic representations of men’s desires. “If you will return, O Israel, then return to Me” is the desire of God’s heart. This could be for their return to God’s land from which they have been carried away captive. There will be no return to the land unless they return to Him could be the meaning.

        “Return unto me; with thy whole heart, and not feignedly and hypocritically, as Judah did, Jer_3:10. Some render the words (and the accents require they should be rendered so) “if thou wilt return to me, O Israel, saith the Lord, thou shalt return” (l); that is, to thine own land, being now in captivity; or, “thou shalt rest” (m); or “have rest”; so Kimchi interprets the last word; see Jer_30:10, and these words may very well be considered as the words of Christ, and as spoken by him, when he entered upon his ministry, who began it with calling the people of the Jews to repentance, and promising to give them rest; and all such who return to God by repentance, and come to Christ by faith, find spiritual rest for their souls now, and shall have an eternal rest hereafter, Mat_4:17,” FROM JOHN GILLS EXPOSITION OF THE ENTIRE BIBLE, e-Sword edition.

        If you will put away these abominations, “Out of My sight” then you will not be moved from the promised place. God would speak to the prophet concerning the return of the people in seventy years (25:12; 29:10-14; Daniel 9:2). This time in captivity would be a time of chastisement, cleansing, and bring glory to the LORD. During this time the Babylonians and the Persians would mistreat the captives, and in this God would be glorified by His wrath and judgment upon the nations for thier evil doing on the people of Israel; both the Northern and Southern kingdoms.

        If you will now, notice what happens when the people do return. It is first to be a speedy return, ie., when they realize that they are away from God, they are not to merely speak of returning, but quickly return, and not to the land, but to God, then they will go to the land, after the seventy years have been fulfilled. When they have returned to the LORD, then they will “swear, ‘The LORD LIVES’…” This “swear[ing]” is more than an oath. It seems to be a very full and genuine heart change, realizing the greatness of the LORD our God. Strong’s gives us this concerning the word, “Swear”:

          H7650 – sha^ba‛; shaw-bah’; A primitive root; properly to be complete, but used only as a denominative from H7651; to seven oneself, that is, swear (as if by repeating a declaration seven times): – adjure, charge (by an oath, with an oath), feed to the full [by mistake for H7646], take an oath, X straitly, (cause to, make to) swear.,/ul>

        The people of Israel will truly see the living LORD, and they will see that He is truth, and He is righteous in all His ways and truly just. When the nations of the world see what God has done for the people of God they will rejoice in Him, and “In Him they shall glory”. They will boast only of the LORD, and His greatness, they will celebrate in His glory, they will shine for His name. John the Revelator wrote,

        “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Revelation 21:22-27 (KJV).

        “And the nations…” is the phrase we need to see in the previous verses. The nations of the world; those who have been saved by the blood of the Lamb; will gather in that new city, and will celebrate the glory of the Lord.
        The word that is needed for our day of 2008 is “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” JESUS (Matthew 4:17). Will you find peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ or will you for all eternity be in the bath of flames which never go out?

        -Tim A. Blankenship

          Heart Conditions

          Heart Conditions

          “Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 13:3b-9 (KJV).

          “Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Matthew 13:18-23 (KJV).

          The theme of this parable and what Jesus desires His followers to see; and this is discovered by asking; is the condition of the hearts of mankind toward the Word of God. On the surface looking without much thought there appears to be four different types of souls or hearts; however upon further evaluation and study there is only two. Two different heart conditions. The ones who have no heart for God and His Word, and the ones who have a heart for God and His Word.

          We are seeing in these studies of Matthew that is Jesus’s day there was a rebellion against the King, and this continues. Jesus is teaching how these things are going to be. Jesus has had some followers who 1) outright rejected His Word – all through the ages; 2) those who followed for awhile, but when trials set in they ran away; 3) those who said they would believe, but soon discovered they had “more important matters to attend”; and 4) those who remained faithful, and fruitful.

          This is the second discourse in which Jesus names the Kingdom of heaven. The first one being in the Sermon on the Mount from chapters five through seven. and the term “Kingdom of heaven” is mainly mentioned in the Beatitudes, of verses 3-11 of chapter five, and the whole of the sermon dealing with the deportment of those who have been redeemed. The “kingdom of heaven” includes the Church, with both good and evil within it, and the true and the false. If you doubt that just look at the condition of the kingdom now.

          In this parable we find three different aspects of the story. The Sower, the Seed, and the Soil. The first is a person; the second a product; and the third a receiver. The Sower is the witness, the farmer, the broadcaster; the Seed is the Word of God being spread over the field of the world; the Soil is the hearts of men.

          We learn from this parable that in the kingdom of heaven there are those who will reject the message of God’s grace, and in fact are not even interested in it, because they see no need. There are others who seem to receive it, and appear to receive it with joy, but then, because of fear they fall away and never bear any fruit. There is another group who give the appearance of receiving it with joy, but are then led away by the draw of the world, pleasures, comfort, wealth, and just the simple cares of the earth bound, and they go their own way. The final soil condition is a condition which has been plowed, tilled, cared for has had plenty of water of the word, and bears much fruit. The ones who bear fruit are the genuine believers; “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” John 15:2 (KJV) Every Christian will bear fruit. It will be a bountiful harvest. Fruitlessness is wickedness.

          Let’s look at these soils individually:

          First of all there is the soil of rejection (vv. 4, 19). Along side many of the fields of Jesus’s day there were paths which the people would walk. It was hard packed and was not receptive to seeds falling upon it. The path of man’s way is hard topped, and unreceptive to the Word of God. In the days of the Judges of the Old Testament we are told about three times, “There was no king in those days; every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 19:1; 21:25). This is the path that most people would like to walk. To be free of God, free of His Word, free of His witnesses and people, and when the Word of God is preached or sown it is snatched away by the devil and it has no affect on these peoples lives. Let us never think that these are beyond the reach or power of God to grab hold of their hearts and change them into His likeness and image. Let us never think they are unconvertible. God can do marvelous things.

          The second soil is one which makes profession but soon falls away (vv.5-6; 20-21). This seed has fallen on shallow soil. The plant breaks forth toward the light, and grows for a time, but then wilts away because of the heat of the sun. There are many who have professed Christ as their personal Lord and Savior earlier in life, but when persecution comes, their friends have rejected their “new lives”, or they just cannot stand the trials that come with the profession they soon fall away. So many of these will profess to be Christian, based solely on the experience they had at the altar. “I prayed the prayer. I said the words the preacher told me to say. It happened on a certain day at a certain time. Surely if I remember the day and time I said those words I’m alright with God”. Where is the fruit? Where is the changed life? Where is the evidence of your salvation? Once being eager to follow and serve. For awhile were interested in always being in worship services on Sunday morning, Sunday Night, Sunday School, Wednesday night services, but then falls away due to trials and bad circumstance.

          Many times this one happens as a result of shoddy evangelism techniques which are quick to give the Roman road, or other style of presentation of the gospel without telling them of the COST of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. “Oh, we don’t want to do that. We want converts.” Converts for whom you or for Christ? Your converts are going to fall away and many will have your assurances that no matter what they do, they have eternal life. Then, one day they are going to split hell wide open, and to the evangelist shame. Perseverance is a fruit of the true faith of Christ. True believers will not fall away. A false profession is deceptive and condemning. Remember that when you start telling that soul about Christ, but without telling them there is a COST involved, and that COST is “Take up your cross and follow Me” (Jesus).

          The third soil we see is the soil of divided loyalty (vv. 7, 22; James 1:7-8). This soil is under the weeds and thorns, the trash of the field, and is similar to the second, but this one apparently has soil. It is just a matter of its environment. Am I saying that environment makes a difference? Only if that growing seed stays in that environment. When we are talking about agriculture the seed which sprouts forth doesn’t have much choice in where it came up. In some ways this may be so of humanity as well, but as soon as the heart is changed for Christ they would seek the light, and to get out of the environment that would drag it down. The seed has no choice of whether it remains or not the human does. In the case of this type of heart condition it could be that the seed of the Word was received with false motives, such as, beliving that everything will be cushy, and the world will love me. Those things just are not true. This type of heart conditon is quickly sidelined by doing the things of the world, the flesh and the devil rather than the things of God. If there was ever any spiritual understanding it will be lost. Understand spiritual understanding is not equal to spiritual rebirth or godly regeneration. The heart of divided loyalty will be condemned. James tells us that “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8). They allow the material things of earth, friendships and popularity and power become their save all giving themselves to worldliness; “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” 1 John 2:15-17 (KJV). These find themselves choked off from the words of life and condemned.

          The final soil representing heart conditions is the soil of perseverance (vv. 8-9, 23). In content the soil is different. It is not hard, shallow, or shaded over with weeds or thorns. This is good soil and God will accomplish what He wills, where He will, and when He wills. The broadcaster or Sower is only responsible for sowing the seed. Who gives the seed? God gives the seed. Who prepares the soil or hearts of men? God does. How does God prepare the soils? By their dealings in life; their loves and losses. He prepares the hearts due to His grace, and because of the humility of the heart and life. When the heart is receptive to the seed of God’s Word, with depth for the root, there will be fruitfulness. There is also a distinct characteristic of the heart. Those who receive the Word brought forth fruit, some brought forth more fruit, and some brought forth much fruit. Understand this has nothing to do with competition. It is according to the heart condition, and God’s provision, and blessing.

          Just to note; this final soil is the only one called good ground. The fruitful ones are the ones who heard the Word of God and put it to work. These are the ones whose lives have been genuinely changed. Jesus Christ has made a difference in their lives, and they bear fruit. This is the kingdom of heaven.

          In conclusion, When a farmer broadcasts seed upon the soil he is not in full control of where that seed falls. The wind blows and that will change the location of the falling of the seed. The side to side motion of the hand and releasing of the seed will have it landing on the hard places, the shallow places, thorny places and the good places. As God’s people we are called to broadcast the seed of the Word of God. It is not up to us to decide who will hear, or who will not; who will receive the Word and who will not. That is the work of God’s Spirit. Part of the fruitfulness of the receptive soil is not only a changed, pure, contented, joyous, Spirit controlled life, but is also one of sowing the seed.

          -Tim A. Blankenship