Left Alone

Let Alone

Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone. (Hosea 4:17)

After the people of God split into two nations – Judah and Israel, the largest and most influential tribe in the northern kingdom was Ephraim. Therefore, it isn’t unusual to find the prophets addressing the nation of Israel as “Ephraim.” Here in Hosea 4:17, we have a vivid – and tragic – example of this address: Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone.

Left Alone

When the people of God went after idols, it wasn’t because they got a thrill out of bowing down to a statue. It was because the longed for the things the idols represented. Baal was the weather god, and in an agricultural community, farmers often felt they needed to make the weather god happy to ensure rain. Astoreth was the goddess of sex and fertility. People “worshipped” her for the sake of illicit pleasure with a temple prostitute or to appease her for more fertility in the family, flocks, or fields.

When the people of God went after idols, there was rarely a conscious rejection of the Lord God. More often, they just believed they were “adding” the worship of a local deity to their worship of Yahweh. In their minds they said, “We still love the Lord, it’s just that we also want to honor these other gods.” But the Lord God of Israel would have none of it. When He saw that Ephraim was joined to idols, He pronounced His judgment: Let him alone.

On the face of it, it seems like a pretty mild judgment. Let him alone – it doesn’t seem very tough. Most criminals would be happy if the police and courts would just leave them alone. Any debtor would be thrilled if their creditors simply left them alone. But when God leaves us alone, it is judgment.

In the case of ancient Israel, it was judgment because God knew what was coming. When the mighty Assyrian army comes against them, they may fight for themselves – God will let him alone. When a crisis like that comes, suddenly we don’t want God to leave us alone. We desperately beg for His help. But sometimes God says, “You didn’t want Me, so I will respect your wishes. You handle this one on your own.” That’s a bad place to be in.

We don’t want God to leave us alone because we need Him to protect us against our spiritual enemies. Satan wanted to sift Peter like wheat, but Jesus did not leave Peter alone to face the attack. Jesus prayed for Peter, and he emerged victorious (Luke 22:31-32).

We don’t want God to leave us alone because we need Him to protect us against ourselves. Left to ourselves, with our own sinful hearts, we will surely drift away from the Lord. All God must do to make certain a man goes to ruin is to simply let him alone. Our prayer should always be, “Lord, don’t leave me alone. Keep working on me.”

In fact, He never leaves us. It’s just that sometimes He will respect our desire to be left alone. At the end of it all, if you don’t want God to leave you alone, then don’t leave Him alone. Pursue God like the widow who wouldn’t quit (Luke 18:3-5) and you’ll never have to worry about being left alone.

Click here for David’s commentary on Hosea 4

Chariots and Horsemen

Chariots, Horsemen, or the Lord?

Dear Reader of Inspiration by Email: This quick note is a reminder that the non-profit work of Enduring Word is donor supported. I appreciate your prayerful consideration of a generous year-end gift to support our work of providing free Bible resources world-wide. To give, please click here.  Thank you – David Guzik

 

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD! (Isaiah 31:1)

The threat was real and was approaching Jerusalem fast. It was the mighty Assyrian army, infamous for its cruelty and destruction. Because of this threat the leaders of Judah felt they had to do something, but sadly they did the wrong thing. More precisely, they were wrong in what they did and wrong in what they did not do. The Prophet Isaiah confronted both wrongs in this single verse.

Chariots and Horsemen

The first wrong was the sin of trusting in Egypt and their military might. The second wrong was the sin of not looking to the Holy One of Israel. Therefore he said, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots.” God had called the tribes of Israel to a very special relationship with Him, and He promised to protect them in the Promised Land as they trusted in Him. Yet in this circumstance, the leaders of the Kingdom of Judah found it easier and better to go down to Egypt for help instead of trusting the God who was already with them.

To be fair, Judah felt they had a reason to trust in chariots. They looked at the chariot count of Egypt saw that they are many. So, surely many chariots could save Judah from Assyria and be their deliverance!

They also felt they had a reason to trust in horsemen. They inspected the horsemen of the Egyptian army and saw that they are very strong. Surely the strong horsemen of Egypt would deliver them!

While they could find these two reasons, yet they couldn’t seem to find a reason to trust in the Lord. It is important to see that in a sense they did not abandon faith. We might say that everybody lives by faith. Here, the leaders of Judah had plenty of faith, but they put that faith into the chariots and horsemen of Egypt.

In this sense faith is simply part of the human condition. Financial wizards trust market forces. Military leaders trust bombs and weapons. Scientists trust the natural order. According to the same pattern, Jerusalem’s leaders trusted in Egypt.

It makes us think carefully about ourselves. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we need more faith when really we have plenty of faith; we just put our faith in the wrong things. In our own way, we trust in the chariots and horsemen of Egypt instead of trusting in the God who made a covenant promise to be our God, if we would be His people.

How much better to have the heart of the Psalmist in Psalm 20:7: Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. Still further, our trust should only be in the Lord. I like what the old Puritan writer John Trapp said: “He that stands with one foot on a rock, and another foot upon a quicksand, will sink and perish as certainly as he that stands with both feet on a quicksand.”

Make sure that you have both feet on the rock of real trust in God.

Click here for David’s commentary on Isaiah 31

Trading Gold for Bronze

Trading Gold For Bronze

Dear Reader of Inspiration by Email: This quick note is a reminder that the non-profit work of Enduring Word is donor supported. I appreciate your prayerful consideration of a generous year-end gift to support our work of providing free Bible resources world-wide. To give, please click here.  Thank you – David Guzik

 

And he took away the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house; he took away everything. He also took away all the gold shields which Solomon had made. Then King Rehoboam made bronze shields in their place, and committed them to the hands of the captains of the guard, who guarded the doorway of the king’s house. (1 Kings 14:26-27)

Solomon’s temple was one of the great achievements of ancient Israel – this beautiful building was filled with treasures that reflected the blessing and glory of Solomon’s kingdom. Understanding that makes it all the more sad to read of what happened to Solomon’s son Rehoboam: He took away the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house. Solomon left great wealth to his son Rehoboam, both in the temple and in the palace. After only five years, that wealth was mostly gone.

Trading Gold for Bronze

1 Kings 10:16-17 tells us more about this, mentioning these 500 shields, 200 large and 300 small. These shields made beautiful displays in the House of the Forest of Lebanon, but they were of no use in battle. Gold was too heavy and too soft to be used as a metal for effective shields. This was an example of the emphasis of image over substance that began in the days of Solomon and worsened in the days of Rehoboam. Because all they were interested in was image, the substance wasted away. These gold shields were given over to the Egyptians. By some estimates, Rehoboam gave over $33 million that was invested in gold ceremonial shields – and was now in the hands of the Egyptians.

We read, King Rehoboam made bronze shields in their place. The replacement of gold with bronze is a perfect picture of the decline under the days of Rehoboam. We also read that he committed them to the hands of the captains of the guard. In the days of Solomon, the gold shields hung on display in the House of the House of the Forest of Lebanon (1 Kings 10:16-17). Under Rehoboam, the replacement bronze shields were kept in a protected guardroom until they were specifically needed for state occasions.

We can almost picture King Rehoboam walking through the hall of these shields in his palace, assuring himself that there really wasn’t much of a difference between gold shields and bronze shields. Despite his attempts at self-assurance, this was really a sad attempt to simply keep up former appearances.

This may describe our spiritual condition. We are robbed of spiritual strength and honor by our sin, compromise, and all they open the door to. Yet we work hard to keep up an outward appearance of spiritual interest and busyness. Ritual replaces relationship. We serve God on autopilot instead of a real love. Bronze replaces gold.

Think of how far Rehoboam fell in just a few years. He inherited an empire, and five years later he could only protect his small kingdom by bribing his enemies with the treasures inherited from his father. It was said of Solomon’s court that they despised silver (1 Kings 10:21); now his son had to settle for bronze. The dynasty of David went from gold to bronze in five years.

2 Chronicles summarized Rehoboam like this: “And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 12:14) This speaks to the lack of his of personal relationship with the Lord. It’s a sure way to go from gold to bronze.

Click here for David’s commentary on 1 Kings 14

Where To Live

Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. (1 John 2:24)

By nature, we are often attracted to something just because it is new. We almost always think of new as better. But when it comes to truth, new is rarely better. That which you heard from the beginning is better. Paul put it well in Galatians 1, where he told us that even if an angel from heaven should bring us a new gospel, we are to reject the angel. It isn’t easy to do this, because we are tempted to be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:14). We sometimes itch for something “new” and “exciting” even if it departs from that which you heard from the beginning.

But which you heard from the beginning doesn’t describe whatever teaching any Christian might receive when they just begin to follow Jesus. The beginning, for John’s first readers, described the time when they were under the teaching of the apostles, which is now recorded for us in the New Testament. It is the message of the Bible in general, and the New Testament specifically.

Simply said, we abide in what is from the beginning when we stay close to our Bible. If that was your environment when you were a young Christian, that is wonderful. But if it was not, then put yourself in that environment now. This is John’s point when he wrote, let that abide in you. It doesn’t mean just knowing it, but living in it. When we live in the simplicity of the truth of Jesus Christ, then we will abide in the Son and in the Father. Our world is filled with people searching for God, some sincerely and some insincerely. But if someone wants to really live in God, John tells us how to do it: let the message of the apostles (which you heard from the beginning) live in you.

John didn’t say “if you know God’s word, you know God,” because someone can have a bare, intellectual knowledge of God’s word. But he did say, “if God’s word lives in you, God lives in you.” We can come to a living, growing, relationship with God through His word.

Abiding in Jesus (living in Jesus) is not a passive thing; it is active. We must give ourselves, mentally and spiritually, to living in Jesus. Charles Spurgeon said, “We abide in him, not by a physical law, as a mass of iron abides on the earth; but by a mental and spiritual law, by which the greatness of divine love and goodness holds us fast to the Lord Jesus.”

Where are you living today? Live in His word, and you will live in Him.

Click here for David’s commentary on 1 John 2

return and rest

How to Trust God’s Promises

For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not. (Isaiah 30:15)

Isaiah 30 was written in the context of a terrible invasion by the cruel Assyrian Empire. They threatened to destroy the Kingdom of Judah, even as they had other kingdoms stronger. In the shadow of this threat, Judah chose to not trust God and instead chose to trust in an alliance with Egypt.

return and rest

God wanted them to know that He really could protect them against the Assyrians. If they would only trust in Him, then “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” God offered to Judah the promise of protection from Assyria. They didn’t need to look to Egypt for help. They could have trusted God for His promise. Isaiah 30:15 shows us how to trust God’s promise.

Trusting God’s promise means returning. If there is known disobedience in our lives, we must return to the Lord’s ways. Outright sin is never consistent with real trust in God’s promise. Returning also has the idea of drawing close to the Lord.

Trusting God’s promise means rest. When we trust God, we don’t have to strive to protect and guard ourselves. We have the best Protector and Guard in God. We can rest in Him, and when we do, it shows we are really trusting in His promise.

Trusting God’s promise means quietness. You don’t need to argue for your side when God is on your side. Be quiet before Him and before others. It shows that you really trust Him.

Trusting God’s promise means confidence. You aren’t given to despair or fear, because you trust God’s promise. You know He can and will come through, and you have a profound confidence in the God who loves you.

All of these things together mean a real trust in God’s promise, and it means that we shall be saved, and it means that we will find strength. There is no person walking this earth more powerful than a child of God boldly and properly trusting the promise of the living God!

Sadly, this was not the case with Judah in the days of Isaiah. He describes the sad fate they faced in rejecting God’s promise: “But you would not.” If they would have trusted God’s promise they would have had no reason to flee and would have seen the Lord’s salvation and strength instead.

How much better it is to simply believe God and His promises for us; to know that “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” He is good enough and great enough to keep that promise.

Click here for David’s commentary on Isaiah 30

man of god and false prophet

The Man of God and the False Prophet

He said to him, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (He was lying to him.) So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water. (1 Kings 13:18-19)

It is one of the strange passages in the book of 1 Kings. The Lord spoke to a man of God from Judah and told him to go and rebuke King Jeroboam of Israel. God also told this anonymous prophet to refuse any invitation to hospitality as he delivered his message; he was to say his word from God and then return directly to Judah.

Then came another anonymous prophet, but he was from the northern Kingdom of Israel. He spoke to the prophet from Judah, and when he spoke he was lying to him. The prophet from Israel gave a false word, trying to persuade the man of God from Judah to change his course from doing exactly what God told him.

man of god and false prophet

Perhaps the Israelite prophet saw the tired and weak prophet from Judah sitting under an oak tree, faint with fatigue and a lack of food and he felt sorry for the famished man of God. Perhaps the lying prophet was motivated by misguided compassion. No matter what his motivation was, his sin was great because he not only lied, he also represented God as a liar, contradicting His previous word.

He lied convincingly, claiming that an angel spoke to me. Perhaps that was true and it was a deceiving angel. Satan and his messengers can appear as angels of light (2 Cor. 11:14-15). One way or another, the deception worked and he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water. The man of God from Judah listened to the lie from the prophet of Bethel. He did this for several reasons:

  • The prophet from Israel was probably older (an old prophet, 1 Kings 13:11) and had the respect of the man of God from Judah.
  • The prophet from Bethel identified with the man of God from Judah (I too am a prophet as you are).
  • The prophet from Bethel claimed a spectacular experience (an angel spoke to me).
  • The prophet from Bethel claimed to speak for the Lord (by the word of the Lord).
  • The prophet from Bethel did not seem to be an idolater who should be shunned (Bring him back with you to your house).
  • The prophet from Bethel offered no reward, other than simple food (he may eat bread and drink water).

No matter how natural and seductive this enticement was, it was the duty of the man of God to resist it. He had a word from God to guide his actions, and should receive no other word except through dramatic and direct confirmation by God’s Spirit. His failure at this point ended his usefulness as a messenger of God.

F.B. Meyer well applied the lesson to our life: “When we have received a direct command fresh from the lips of Christ, we must act on it, and not be turned aside by a different suggestion, made to us through the lips of professing Christians… Deal with God at first-hand.”

There may be many reasons why it seems sensible to disobey a command from God, but it is our place to simply trust and obey. There really is no other way.

Click here for David’s commentary on 1 Kings 13

anointing oil

You Have an Anointing

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. (1 John 2:20)

All too often, when Christians hear the word anointing, they hear it said in an unusual, super-spiritual and kind-of-strange sort of voice that lets everyone know something really holy is being talked about. Sometimes the word is dramatically drawn out and said with a certain tremor in the voice. More than anything, the word is said with an attitude that anointing is something some Christians have and other Christians don’t.

anointing oil

The New Testament doesn’t know anything about such a particular anointing. John simply says, writing to all Christians: You have an anointing. John spoke of a common anointing that belongs to all believers; an anointing that makes discernment possible for those who seek it in the Lord.

When the New Testament speaks of anointing, it speaks of it as the common property of all believers, though some may not appreciate or use the anointing God gives. Among some Christians today, there is a rather magical or superstitious approach to this idea of anointing. In their mind, “the anointing” is like a virus or a germ, which can be spread by casual contact or infect a whole group. Usually these folks think that when one “catches” the anointing, you can tell because they start talking and acting really weird. This isn’t the Bible’s idea of anointing!

Anointing has the idea of being filled with, and blessed by, the Holy Spirit. This is the common property of all Christians, but something we can and should become more submitted and responsive to. God has blessed you with the Holy Spirit: are you submitted and responsive to Him? God has given you resources of spiritual discernment and wisdom – you can know all things.

To know all things certainly does not mean to know everything as God knows everything, and also does not mean that we never need to learn from other Christians. But you can know everything you need to know to live the life God has put before you. If you need to know it, the Spirit who has anointed you will reveal it as you seek Him.

This idea of anointing – literally, to be blessed with oil, an emblem of the Holy Spirit – was behind one of the punishments given to the apostle John in persecution. Old accounts say that the Roman emperor Domitian ordered that John be cast into a boiling vat of oil, as if to say, “Here is your anointing!”

John came out from the vat of oil unharmed, because he truly had an anointing from God and God had more for him to do. Submit and respond to God’s anointing in your life, and the Spirit of God will protect and inform you also.

Click here for David’s commentary on 1 John 2

how to handle success

How to Handle Success

Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you.” (Genesis 41:38-39)

It’s been said that the successful executive is the one who can delegate all the responsibility, shift all the blame, and take all the credit. That’s the plan some people use to achieve success; but that strategy is like a house of cards – it won’t stand very long. Joseph’s example shows us how to achieve and handle success in a way that honors God.

how to handle success

Notice that timing is important to the success that God gives. Here, in Genesis 41, Joseph just then came to the pinnacle of his success; but it took him a long time to get there. Joseph had been “wasting” his time in prison the previous years; but it wasn’t a waste at all. It all had a place in God’s timing for Joseph’s success. From his youth, Joseph had the idea God had destined him for great things. But Joseph didn’t know the fulfillment of those great things would take so long.

Psalm 31:14-15 says, “But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand.” Can you say this also? Can you say to God, “My times are in Your hand”? So often we feel as though we are all ready for what we know God will do for us or through us; yet we must rest in the Lord, and say to Him “My times are in Your hand.”

Joseph had been promoted by Pharaoh; he had risen from the pit to the pinnacle. But we shouldn’t think Pharaoh was the one responsible for Joseph’s promotion. God was the one responsible. Joseph wasn’t waiting on Pharaoh to get out of jail; he was waiting on God. The Psalmist reminds us: “For exaltation comes neither from the east, nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one and exalts another.” (Psalm 75:6) The credit for Joseph’s amazing rise to power did not belong to Pharaoh, or to Joseph, or much less to blind fate or circumstance. It was the fulfillment of God’s divine plan.

Another thing to notice is that Joseph had two sons, whom he named Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 41:51-52). Joseph lived in Egypt. He married an Egyptian woman. Joseph worked for the Egyptian Pharaoh. Yet he gave his two sons Hebrew names. This shows us that Joseph has not forgotten about God, even in his success. Many people, when they have been promoted the way Joseph was promoted, feel they no longer need God. They think that God is only good for the prison and not for the palace. We should be like Joseph, who was devoted to God no matter what – bad times and good times.

Here’s a good prayer for today: “God, give me a heart that will wait on You, and serve You faithfully, never forgetting You even when I am successful in the eyes of the world.”

Click here for David’s commentary on Genesis 41