Enemies of Israel – Isaiah 17:12-14

Great Destruction Will Come Up Against Those Who Oppose Israel

12 Woe to the many nations that rage-
they rage like the raging sea!
Woe to the peoples who roar—
they roar like the roaring of great waters!
13 Although the peoples roar like the roar of surging waters,
when he rebukes them they flee far away,
driven before the wind like chaff on the hills,
like tumbleweed before a gale.
14 In the evening, sudden terror!
Before the morning, they are gone!
This is the portion of those who loot us,
the lot of those who plunder us.

Reckless Roaring

God does not take kindly to those who would overwhelm His people.  Even when He raises up those whom He would use to chastise Israel, their eventual end is destruction.  Even now, the offspring of Ishmael and many nations rage against Israel.  They roar against her like the sea of incoming tide, seeking to wash her from the face of the Earth, to remove her as her very presence is a painful thorn in their side.

The nations rage against her because they hate who protects her.  Her very presence, they beloved of God, is like the brothers of Joseph, watching him in his ornate coat, favored by their father, made them hate him and jealous of him.  And the nations do that today.  They fabricate lies against her and try to cheat her out of her inheritance – the land of Israel, given to her by The Lord God Almighty.  For years they tolerated her, broken and scattered among the people, scoffing at her and gloating over her as God disciplined her.  But when God did the impossible and gathered her again to her home and gave it back to her, it was too much for them to bear.  And even now, they seek to undermine, impugn, and utterly destroy what God has wrought – the fulfillment of His Holy Word.

Regal Rebuke

God, however, does not take this sitting down.  He has prepared a rebuke for the nations that oppress, antagonize, and refuse to recognize the sovereignty of Israel.  This is not some simple rebuke.  The people of the nations that are seeking the eviction and/or the eradication of every descendant of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob (now Israel) will come under a most difficult rebuke.  They will come under a rebuke that is even more terrible than that which they intend to inflict upon Israel

Terrible Terror

God will drive Israel’s enemies far from their homes.  They will flee with such speed that they will look like tumbleweeds in a great windstorm.  They will fly under the pressure of God’s rebuke.  There will be sudden terror in the evening, when light has fallen and they cannot see their attackers.  Terror will fill their hearts, and in a measure that pales in comparison to what they intended for God’s people.  So swift will be their flight, that by morning they will no longer be there.  No one will be exempt – they will all flee.

Guarantee from God

God has declared that this is the portion, the judgment upon and rewards reaped from their actions.  Any who loot Israel, any who plunder her, will be utterly destroyed and driven from their homeland.  Because God’s judgment is not swift and immediate, the nations brag that God does not see, or does not exist, because they do not immediately reap the consequences of their actions.  They incorrectly interpret God’s grace and mercy for impotence or imagination.  But God will certainly cause this, for He has spoken it, and it is the portion of God’s enemies to be reaped in its proper time.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I praying for Israel’s enemies to repent?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy and righteous, and every word that You have ever spoken has or will come true.  Father, remember the enemies of Israel.  Plow through the hardness of their hearts so that they will be positioned to receive the seed of the Gospel.  Grant them mercy in their cruelty, that they would see how good You are.  And when it is time, Father, may your rebuke upon them be so overwhelming that the nations would tremble, and that the fear of You would come upon all the Earth.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

God Protects Israel – Ezekiel 38:17-23

God Doesn’t Take Kindly To Those Who Would Harm His Beloved

17 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You are the one I spoke of in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel. At that time they prophesied for years that I would bring you against them. 18 This is what will happen in that day: When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign Lord. 19 In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. 20 The fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground. 21 I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign Lord. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22 I will execute judgment on him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. 23 And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.'”

Malicious Men

The nations gather and, in word and action, throw their vitriol towards God’s chosen people, the Israelites.  Time and time again, God uses the nations to discipline her for her adultery and idolatry.  But God, for His name’s sake, continues to be faithful to the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God is faithful even when Israel is not.  And after 2000 years, He is gathering His people back to their promised land Israel.

Not everyone is heeding the call.  The pull of wealth and power has many Israelites loathing their own people.

For the love of money [that is, the greedy desire for it and the willingness to gain it unethically] is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves [through and through] with many sorrows.

So now, the Israelites will soon be dealing with all of the nations that hate the offspring of Jacob and the success and protection that God affords them (for more information regarding what God has done and is doing, read Ezekiel 36-39).  God will not turn a blind eye on Israel, but will protect the people and the land in such a way that He will be declared Holy before the nations.

Eventful Earthquake

A great and powerful shaking will occur in Israel and her mountains.   This is not some ordinary earthquake; it will level every wall, mountains will be overturned, and cliffs will fall.  But, as human beings, even such terrible natural disasters such as this type doesn’t keep our attention for very long.

Brother fights Brother

The weapons of the people who come up against Israel will be turned on each other.  Brother will kill brother during the ensuing chaos.  This will not be the first time that God has induced confusion into the armies of the enemy.  There will be a bloodbath.  Israel will need only to watch as God fights for them and rescues them from the blood-thirsty people who would see them harmed.

Powerful Plague

But just to make sure, God will send a plague among her enemies to ensure that any who did not die from the sword will be done in.  God will make certain that EVERY LAST ONE of the people who come against Israel at that time are utterly destroyed.  And then, for good measure, God will do something even better.

Nature’s Napalm

Not only will the enemy fight each other to the death; not only will God send a plague in addition to the bloodshed; God will use the very forces of nature that He sovereignly created and that He sovereignly controls to take care of the rest of Israel’s foes.  God will send torrents of rain, hailstones, and burning sulfur to take care of the rest.  There will be no doubt in ANYONE’S mind that it was God and God alone who did that.  Who else could send torrents of rain, hailstones, AND “nature’s napalm” – burning sulfur – at the same time?

He IS Holy

And when God has completed His thorough destruction of those who would dare come up against the people who are the “apple of His eye“, the nations will acknowledge that God is holy.  He is set apart from sin, and set apart to righteousness, for that is His character, His very essence – God IS Holy.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do my thoughts, words, and actions show that I for Israel, or against Israel?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, bless Your people Israel.  Protect them even now as they attempt to live in peace in the land that You created and gave to them.  Give them Your every support.  Bless them in all that they do, and may they be a blessing to all of the nations.  Strengthen their hands, their will, and their nation, that You would be glorified through them.  And reveal Your Son, Jesus Christ to them soon, so that they will embrace their Savior, and the prophecy You have given will be fulfilled.  Father, help me in thought, word, and deed to do anything and everything that I can to help Your people Israel.  Guard me and my family, for as we takes sides in this spiritual war, the enemy will surely try to overwhelm us.  Give us strength to remain steadfast, even unto death, that You would be glorified.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

National Security and God – 2 Kings 6:13-23

When The Lord God Almighty Guards Your Country, No Harm Shall Befall It

13 “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.

15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.

19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.

20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.

21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”

22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.

Formidable Foes

When faced with an army of your enemy, many would be intimidated.  The prophet Elisha’s servant certainly was when he woke up one morning and saw the entire city surrounded with chariots of the nation that had declared war on Israel.  He was intimidated to the point where he began to experience great fear.

Fear Factor

When we are faced with what appears to be overwhelming odds, we also have a tendency to experience fear ourselves.  The Bible tells us over three hundred and sixty-five times – enough for one every day of the year – that we should not fear.   We have been told by God that there is nothing to fear, for He is sovereign.  Yet our physical eyes may try to deceive us, and Satan, the enemy of our souls, would try to instill fear and panic within us.

When we experience fear, we begin to act irrationally.  We see imaged threats that aren’t even real.  And we conflate the importance of the threats that are right in front of us.  In this case, the servant of Elisha the prophet saw no way out, and only saw himself and his master as being able to stand against this massive gathering of enemy troops.

Concealed Charioteers

But God protects His people.  Most of God’s people do not have the ability to peer into the spiritual realm.  If they did, they would see just how protected they are from the enemy.  Elisha, the prophet of God, prayed to God that his servant’s eyes would be opened to see what he could see, and God honored that prayer and did so.  When He opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant, he saw the most amazing sight – the hills were filled with chariots of fire being pulled by horses.  Immediately, this calmed down his heart, because his faith had become sight.

Supernaturally Subdued

…These aren’t the droids you are looking for…Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi

In what would seem to the world to be a stunning turn of events, Elisha the prophet prays and asks God to strike the enemy blind.  The Sovereign Lord God Almighty immediately answers his prayers, and the enemy is struck blind.  Although this in and of itself is amazing, but what happens next is even more amazing.

Remember that the enemy arrived at night.  They were camped out around the city.  They could clearly see the city, and the road that they came in on – the sun was out.  Scripture says that it was early in the morning (this began around 6:00 AM, as the fourth watch of the night was from 3:00 AM to 6:00 AM).  They were now struck blind.  That certainly would have unnerved them.  But it was what happened next that was most amazing and interesting.  Elisha tells the men that they are on the wrong road, and this is the wrong city.  He would lead them to the man that they were looking for.  They didn’t bat an eye!  Scripture doesn’t record that they even told Elisha why they were there!  Elisha appears to just walk up to them and tell them they are in the wrong place, and he’ll lead them to man.

In Elisha’s defense, he didn’t lie.  Elisha wanted to reveal himself to them in Samaria, so they technically were in the wrong city.  And Elisha did lead them to the right man – himself!  And, being blind (a rather incapacitating handicap at this point), they blindly followed Elisha to Samaria (no pun intended).

Manifest Mercy

Arriving in Samaria, in the land of the king of Israel, Elisha the prophet of God prayed that God would open the eyes of the men that were blinded.  Now, the group of chariots that were arriving would have been both seen and heard from at a great distance from the city of Samaria.  The king of Israel would surely have placed watchmen in distant areas to warn of any pending invasion by the king of Aram, as they were at war.  When news of the prophet of God leading an army of the king’s enemies towards Samaria, the king of Israel would have surely called all men to arms, and had them line up around the army as it approached.

Upon seeing the vast army in front of him, the king of Israel asked the prophet of God for permission to destroy it.  Elisha forbade the king from doing so, pointing out that it was improper for the king to kill those whom he had captured in war.  Elisha instead commands the king to feed them and provide them with drinks.  The prophet of God showed the love of God towards his enemies, and the king did more than what was required.  A great feast was thrown by the king for the army, and then they were sent back to Aram.

Providential Protection

When the king of Aram had heard what had happened, he realized that the land of the king of Israel was sovereignly protected by The Lord God Almighty.  And when the Lord God Almighty guards your nations’ borders, no enemy that comes against us will be able to  have any success in overtaking the land.

We would be well-advised by this historical record to seek the providential protection of the Lord God Almighty rather than trying to protect the land in our own strength with only our own intelligence, plans, weapons, and strategies:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the Lord.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I am in trouble, where do I turn first?

A short prayer of preparation

Father in Heaven, You have said that You would never leave me nor forsake me.  Give me comfort in that promise when my enemies surround me and threaten me with death and torture.  Give me strength that day to know what to say, and to speak boldly about You in the day of threat.  Grant me peace in my spirit, and help me to remember the protection that You provide.  For all that is required to wipe out an entire city is just one angel given authority to do so.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Trust in God – Psalm 56:3-7

The Wicked Twist Our Words And Malign Our Motives

3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise-
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

5 All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
6 They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
7 Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.

Fear is Folly

David recognizes that his heart fears certain outcomes.  Like a man trapped in a burning building with no place to go, the anticipation of the pain of his flesh being consumed by fire is not pleasant.  David recognizes that to fear man is folly.  After all, what can mere mortals do to him?

Train to Trust

Instead, David had trained his heart to trust in God.  God and God alone is the one who can save us, deliver us, provide for us, protect us, and vindicate us.  David lets us know that the first place that his heart went during his times of fear was to trust in the Lord God Almighty.  David made it a practice in his mind to direct his will to trust in God when his emotions were overwhelming him with fear.

When we place our trust in God rather than in men, riches, idols, or even ourselves, we can rest in the peace that God gives to us that defies understanding.  God greatly desires that we come to Him first with our problems and our difficulties.  He knows about all of them, but desires a greater dependence from us upon Him as well as a strengthening our relationship with Him.  It is in times of great distress and need that we see exactly who or what we trust in.  David chose to make God his first option, and he was rewarded for it with the praise of God:

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

Warping Words

One of the tactics of the enemy is to twist the words of their opponents to misrepresent their position or their intent.  This enables them to attack the person by turning attention on their enemies.  This tactic is also used by those who practice the art of sleight of hand (magicians).  They intentionally misdirect your attention to where they want you to look so that you will not see what they are doing.  It provides them with cover to do all sorts of mischief.

For instance, let us say that two people disagree on something.  Person A believes that they are correct in believing that the sky is falling.  Person B says that the sky is not falling, that the droplets of water coming down are rain.  If person A wants to misdirect others concerning person B, they could characterize the words of the person B as disparaging them with regards to some aspect of their physical nature rather than with a philosophical or factual/observational disagreement.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that person A has greatly increased melanin in their skin, and person B does not.  Person A could then say it is because of their skin color and racial prejudice that person B disagrees with them.  This deflects from the true reason that the disagreement has taken place, and positions person A as a victim of racism and person B in the position of racist.  This type of posturing and twisting of words evokes an emotional response from both person B and anyone who hears the argument.  The mere re-characterization of the argument as one of race rather than fact/observation deflects the requirement for person A to defend their position and assassinates the character of person B.  In this scenario, it is a total win for person A:

  • Public trust in what person B is saying is now destroyed through the accusation or racism
  • Person B’s position is seen as the position of a racist, and since it is characterized as such, may be rejected on this basis rather than on any factual or scientific basis
  • Person A no longer has to defend their position in fact or science, and receives sympathy from the public, regardless of the validity of their position
  • Person A’s standing in the public as a victim of a hate crime bolsters the emotional support of the public for anything else person A has to say
  • Person B is unlikely to challenge person A’s positions any longer, knowing the societal cost that they will have to endure should person A falsely accuse them again.

Terrible Tactics

David lists some of the other tactics that his enemies have used against him:

  • Their every scheme is for David’s ruination
    • Their lives have become consumed with ways to discredit and ruin David.  This is the act of vengeful people.
  • They conspire against him
    • They use their collective resources to act in a way to entrap or otherwise cause David to fail.  A favorite tactic of the enemies of God, they look to the past to dredge up anything that their enemy may have done that can be used to embarrass him, disparage his character, or cause public opinion to be soured against him.
  • They lurk about
    • Imagine having someone follow you every second of your day, recording what you say and do, looking for anything they can use to take out of context to give you a bad name.  Welcome to David’s life.
  • They watch his very steps
    • If David breaks the law unknowingly, they will be there to witness it, accuse him of it, and see that justice is swift (usually with paid witnesses).

Judge with Justice

David consoles himself in the character and nature of God.  He remembers that God is a holy, righteous, and just judge.  David calls upon God to remember the wickedness of his enemies, and to judge the nations.  David’s enemies have failed to grasp the love of God as displayed in His mercy and grace towards them, seeking only the destruction of God’s chosen servant, David.  Rather than take matters into his own hands, David rightly gives his life into the hands of the living God – He who is righteous and will deliver him from all evil.  For those who have been justified by God, who can bring an accusation against him?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with enemies, who or what do you turn to first?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is You who have redeemed me from the miry muck.  You have cleansed me of my sin through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Since You have removed my sin from me as far as the East is from the West, no one can lay a charge against me.  Give me shelter and sanctuary when my enemies seek to destroy me.  Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.  Protect me from those who seek my ruination, who conspire against me to assassinate my character.  For I am found in Christ Jesus, and it is His character and His name that I take, and it is His name that they smear and disparage.  Give me strength to endure, and may Your love be displayed in my thoughts, words, and deeds, as my enemies surround me to do me harm.  Blessed be Your name, Lord God.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Sovereignty of God – Job 1:6-12

Nothing Happens In All Of Existence Without The Express Prior Permission And Knowledge Of Almighty God

6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Supreme Sovereignty

The Lord God Almighty is the only non-created being ever to exist.  He has existed before time, matter and the angels.  And in that, God and God alone has ultimate sovereignty and authority over all that has been created.  John the apostle tried to show this in the very first verse of his gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The interesting part about translations is that they don’t always capture the full meaning of the original.  In this particular case, the Greek work for “was” is En, and the verb is conjugated as “was continually (with no beginning)”.  This speaks of the eternity of Jesus (who is the Word of God), and of God, with whom He is:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Created Creatures

God reveals something very powerful in this passage.  ALL of the demons, and even Satan himself, are created beings:

  • The devil can be in only one place at a time
  • As a created being, he is subordinate to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  As such, he was required to present himself before God to give an accounting of his activities and whereabouts.

Powerful Praise

When faced with trials and tribulations, we don’t have all of the facts.  In the case of Job, God highly praised him before Satan.  Scripture speaks of our trials in a favorable way:

  • Trials produce perseverance, which makes us complete, lacking in nothing
  • Trials are to be put in the joy column of our spiritual accounting ledger (the Greek word “count” in James 1:2, hEdEsasthe, is an accounting term as well as an imperative command!)
  • Trials are a way that we identify with Jesus, for the student is not greater than the teacher

When faced with trials, we must remember that God may be praising us as well, and the trials can be a testing of that praise.  If so, we should count it as joy, for if God is praising us, we have truly received the highest praise possible.

Allowed Authority

And as we suffer through trials, we must remember that they are sovereignly allowed in our lives.  Nothing happens to any of us without God’s notice or express prior approval.  In this passage, Satan complained to God that he had placed a hedge of protection around Job and his possessions.  It was only until God permitted Satan the authority to harm all that Job had been provided by God that he was able to do anything.

As we are going through our trials, we must remember that God is sovereign, and that nothing escapes His attention.  Additionally, we must remember that He is the one who has sovereignly approved or appointed our trials.  And while these trials may not directly benefit us (with the possible exception to produce perseverance), they will be used to bring glory to God.  And they may well be used to open the eyes of some who, in seeing the sincerity of our faith and trust in God through the most grueling and difficult circumstances, may see that our faith is not in vain.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I remembering that God is with me as He allows the trials of my life to destroy that which keeps me from drawing close to Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are glorious and beautiful to behold.  Help me to remember Your goodness as I am struck down by sickness and foes.  Help me to remember Your sovereignty as You allow unseen spiritual forces to assault and harass me.  Help me to remember Your faithfulness when You allow me to be dragged through the valley of the shadow of death.  Help me to persevere, and praise you as Paul did after he was severely beaten and placed in prison.  In all things, help me to remember that You and You alone have approved these trials.  Help me to not despise Your discipline, though the trials that You have appointed may not end until I am rejoined with You in Heaven.  For You are good in all that You do, Lord God Almighty, and none may lay a charge against You.  In all this, help me to remember Your character, for if man had done this, it would be bearable to be found worthy of suffering disgrace for Your name.  When there is no one who can be identified as being responsible for the trials – no one I can pray for – it is unbearable.  This I ask in Jesus Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Perspective of God – Matthew 25:21-22

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

In another stunning turn of events, Jesus turned the tables on those who would follow the letter of the law on the outside, but refused to change on the inside. The Pharisees were notorious for following the letter of the law without allowing the law to change their hearts; and in doing so, they broke the spirit of the law.  Jesus makes it clear here that God wants us to follow both the letter and the spirit of the law.

In just this one chapter of scripture (Matthew 5:27-48) , there are no less than five additional places where Jesus provided clarification regarding the letter of the law and the spirit of the law:

[Adultery]
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

[Divorce]
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

[Oaths]
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

[Eye for an eye]
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

[Love for enemies]
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

In each case, Jesus show how we should act when the law is brought into account.  Our sin nature desires what benefits itself most.  It is natural, in our old nature, to merely outwardly obey what the law requires.  We can easily overlook the deeper nature of what is required of us when we just seek to be justified in our perceived fulfillment through a minimalist attitude regarding obedience to the law.

Jesus was so upset with this from the religiously pious leaders that he called them white-washed tombs with dead men’s bones inside.   That is an interesting analogy!  What an insult that must have been to the pious leaders – that they were tombs, places where physically (but in this analogy, spiritually) dead people were placed.  And, appearing squeaky-clean on the outside, giving an appearance of cleanliness and holiness, they were instead filled with the rotting (spiritually dead) corpses that if touched, would make one ritualistically unclean for worshiping God.

Another example of this is a man who claims to know God. He is a very nice guy to all that he encounters, and appears to be of good moral character.  Due to a workplace accident, he is on disability.  He works as many side jobs as possible (perfectly OK), and asks for cash only when performing the work (still perfectly OK).  However, he doesn’t report the additional income he earns from these side jobs to the government so that his benefits are not reduced.  And while we all chafe at egregious taxation, he fails to take into account what Paul said in Romans 13:1-2,6-7:

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

We can easily deceive ourselves into making a righteous justification for just about everything we do that is counter to the Word of God in the name of “circumstantial difficulty”.  This is where moral relativism creeps into our lives.  And once we start down that path, we can then justify everything we do, and then fail to realize just how far short of the glory of God we are becoming.

So let’s ask ourselves the question: Am I following the letter of the law, or the spirit of the law?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, our hearts are filled with deceit, and we deceive ourselves when we merely follow the letter of the law.  Father, cleanse me now of all unrighteousness.  Show me where I have this attitude in my heart, and bring it into the light so that the light would dispel the darkness.  If this is rooted in bitterness of spirit from an experience of my past, please remove it, no matter how painful it is.  Help me to heal, and to avoid this attitude in my life.  Guard my heart, and keep it until the great and terrible day that Your Son, Jesus Christ, returns in Glory to claim what is His, and bring judgement on all that refused Him in life.  Bless not only me, but all who struggle with this issue.  This I ask in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?