Because He said so

Genesis 3:3 “but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ “

For the first time, I read this and realized that Eve may not have known what death was. This was before the fall. There was no death. Animals didn’t kill each other. People didn’t eat them. The warning she was given lost its effectiveness because she didn’t understand its consequences.

This is often the case-we disobey God having very little understanding what the consequences of that disobedience might be. Nobody disobeys God thinking they will be the one to die from that sin, or get pregnant from that sin, or catch a disease from that sin. When our mind is contemplating sin, the flesh’s desire for satisfaction will drown out all thought of consequences.

When our obedience to God depends upon the severity of the consequences of disobedience, we live in a dangerous place. Like Eve, we don’t always have the complete picture of what the consequences might be. When we learn to obey God just because we love Him, the consequences of sin will be irrelevant in our consideration of how to act. “Because I said so” was extremely annoying and insufficient from a parent. It is more than enough when it comes from the mouth of God.

Hide and seek

Genesis 3:9-10 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Never before had Adam been afraid. Or ashamed. Or hiding from God. All of these were consequences of his sin. None of them existed in his original unfallen state. And God intends that none of them exist in the new creation. Here’s a bit of proof:

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 10:22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

We were not made to live apart from Him. He designed us to crave and delight in nearness to Him.

If you have drifted away, maybe even ventured into disobedience, can you hear Him calling, “where are you”? If you are hiding, He Is seeking. Don’t run from Him. Don’t hide. There is perfect blood to wash away every stain and every fear so that you can once again delight in Him.

Dark, but lovely

Song of Songs 1:5-6     I am dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, Like the tents of Kedar, Like the curtains of Solomon. Do not look upon me, because I am dark, Because the sun has tanned me. My mother’s sons were angry with me; They made me the keeper of the vineyards, But my own vineyard I have not kept.

Dark but lovely…in a day that placed value on untanned skin, her darkness marked her as one lacking financial resources, which required her to live a life of labor. But notwithstanding her darkness, there was a beauty still remaining.

Every life contains the beauty of God’s image, but in us all it is marred by the darkness of sin. Some may appear darker than others because they have labored much for that taskmaster. But beneath it still is that image…though tarnished, it remains.

So let us not look upon others because they are dark…focused on the blackness of their sin. This is not who they are just as it was not who you truly were. We are to judge no one after the flesh. Look further, past the disfiguring effects of sin, and see….what lies just beneath the surface….tarnished but still faintly seen…the image of the Creator…waiting to be made beautiful again by the blood of Jesus.

At times in my own life I have seen the marring effects of sin so prominently that I have felt identified by it and lost sight of the beauty that remains. I am still His. I am still loved.

Like the coarse tents of Keder

Like the luxurious curtains of Solomon

Treasure in an earthen vessel

Dark, but lovely

What lies just beneath the surface

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’  And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”  Luke 11:24-26

Many times when I know on short notice that someone is coming over to my house, I will do a few things to try to make up for not doing a full house cleaning.  I will sweep the floors and put everything in its place. That goes a long way towards giving the appearance of a clean house, but just a little bit of a closer inspection will reveal that things are not as they seem.  A layer of dust on a table or a cobweb in a corner reveals the true state of things.  The man in verses 24-26 had done just such a thing with his life.  He cleaned it up a bit, got it in order.  The world would have applauded him, but it was all superficial.  There was no heart purity, no filling of the life with the Spirit of Jesus.  And when the tempter comes again, there are no resources for resistance, for everything is merely smoke and mirrors, an illusion that brought a degree of comfort or sense of achievement in the improvement of the life.  It’s like someone who goes through rehab and gets free of an alochol addiction only to find themselves soon a slave to pills.  Swept and put in order, but still empty.  Something will come to fill it.

Many times we find ourselves in this condition.  Rather than the effort and sweat and tears needed to get before God for a complete work, we find ourselves content with a quick pass of the broom and shoving everything into the spiritual closet.  And so things are not dealt with, only suppressed and hidden.  We are not healed and cleansed and the enemy retains his access into our lives.  We have not submitted to God, and the enemy will not flee.  We want merely to be free of the bad feelings of conviction.  We refused to be thoroughly and completely dealt with by God.  The fullness of life that He desires to give us, we do without…..and remain empty.

And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.  Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.  Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?  Luke 11:37-40

The Pharisees would have appeared to everyone to have it all together.  Their lives were so carefully lived in obedience to the law that few would have looked beyond that.  But Jesus saw into the heart and He knew that even with all their outwardly righteous living, they were most unrighteous on the inside.  We see this demonstrated over and over as they raged against the good works that Jesus did and His help to the people. The true state of their heart was revealed in the fruit of their life and their attitude toward Jesus and His works.  ( Luke 6:43-45) When confronted with a true holiness, superficial religious performance lashes out.  Jealous over the beauty of it but unwilling to submit to the obtaining of it.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.” Luke 11:44

On the surface everything appears to be fine.  And maybe people can get very close and still not realize the uncleaness because it is so prettily covered up by religion.  But just beneath the surface there is something of death that will contaminate those who come in contact with it. (Num 19:16).  If the people had known who these Pharisees really were in their heart they would never have held them in such high regard or sought to be taught the things of God by them, but would rather have avoided them lest they also be one contaminated by the pollution of their unholy and unclean hearts.

The true condition of our heart can be disguised and hidden from most people, but God sees through all our attempts at deception. And He desires to bring us into the reality of everything this life is meant to be. It won’t necessarily be easy. The dealings of God rarely are.  But the outcome is glorious, for it is “that we may be partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Amen!

No shame

Each day I check a national and a local news website to keep up on major world and state events.   I’m just about to the point of leaving this practice.   News coverage of recent disclosures of inappropriate behavior by some in the political world have left me reeling.   Why is it necessary that there be all the racy headlines and pictures of a man who has been humiliated before the world?  I hear the people in my office making jokes about it, but I have yet to find the humor.

Jeremiah 8:12 says this: “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed, nor did they know how to blush.”

We are a people that has forgotten how to blush.  We glory in our shame.  We feed on it and crave more.  We find our entertainment in things that are a stench in the nostrils of God.

I do not exclude myself from this number.  All of this has brought me face to face with the revelation that I have more of this in me than I want to admit.  And I hate it.

May the Lord stir his people to a holy hatred of sin again, and a refusal to be entertained by it.  Our time would be much better spent in seeking the face of God that we might be delivered from the flood of evil that is overwhelming our country.  God help us all to wake up to the hour we are in.

Woe is me

Several years ago during a time of prayer the Lord revealed an area of sin in my life. This wasn’t one of those outward sins that anyone else could see. It was an issue of the heart that only He could see. Today I can’t even remember exactly what is was, but I do remember that the first reaction I experienced was deep grief at the revelation of it. But within a matter of moments that emotion gave way to absolute horror as I realized that this was something that had been in my heart every time I had gone before the Lord in prayer or worship. Each time I had brought it with me and unknowingly presented it before Him. Him….the Holy God. At that moment I understood the desperation of Isaiah’s cry – Woe is me! I am undone!

My only recourse was to stand before my Lord and my God with a deeper understanding of my own wretchedness and dependence upon His mercy. The initial guilt and shame of the revelation of my sin was replaced by a deep thankfulness for the cleansing blood of Christ.

PRAYER: Who is a God like You who forgives the sins of His people and remembers them no more? Your purifying work in our lives is a sure sign of Your love for us. May we live in continuous remembrance of the greatness of Your mercy towards us.

Killing the scapegoat

A man who becomes aware of the sinfulness of sin, and the wrath of God against sin, is a man who will feel the need of having that sin removed.   This was the purpose of the scapegoat, who has had the sins of the people of Israel laid upon him on the Day of Atonement.  In “The Temple:  Its Ministry and Services” by Alfred Edersheim, we read the following about the scapegoat:

“Scripture tells us no more of the destiny of the goat that bore upon him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, than that they ‘shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness,’ and that ‘he shall let go the goat in the wilderness’ (Lev 16:22). But tradition supplements this information.

At last they reached the edge of the wilderness. Here they halted, viewing afar off, while the man led forward the goat, ….. leading the animal backwards, he pushed it over the projecting ledge of rock.

….though confessed guilt was removed from the people to the head of the goat, as the symbolical substitute, yet as the goat was not killed, only sent far away, into ‘a land not inhabited,’ so, under the Old Covenant, sin was not really blotted out, only put away from the people, and put aside till Christ came, not only to take upon Himself the burden of transgression, but to blot it out and to purge it away.”

Although the Scriptures clearly indicated that the goat was to be loosed in the wilderness, it was, in fact, killed.  How could the conscience be soothed knowing that the scapegoat was still wandering around in the wilderness and could potentially find its way back?  It seems that a living scapegoat would have left a feeling of an incomplete dealing with sin. 

But this, I am certain, was God’s intention.  Thus preparing the hearts of His people to joyfully receive the Messiah, Who would deal with sin once and for all.

For those who don’t know Jesus as Saviour, the guilt and weight of your sins remains on you.  You carry it with you everywhere you go, daily increasing their number.  In your quieter moments, you feel the weight of your sin.  There is this unexplainable sense of guilt.  And it makes you afraid.

But God has not only provided the scapegoat, He has killed the scapegoat.  Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, accepted on Himself the punishment that was due to us, for our sins.  Those who turn to Him for forgiveness will find that His payment on their behalf was sufficient to put away all sins for all time. 

This is the message of the gospel.   

Sending God away

Then the men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall he go up away from us?” So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to you.” 1 Samuel 6:20-21


The ark of God, the place of His presence among Israel, had been captured by the Philistines and remained among them for seven months. As the judgment of God broke out among their cities, they wisely decided to return the ark to Israel. The Scripture says that the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping the wheat harvest “and when they lifted up their eyes and saw the ark, they rejoiced to see it.”

What could have made any inhabitant of Israel happier than to see the ark of God returning? The people of Beth-shemesh called the Levites to come and handle the ark. They prepared a burnt offering for the Lord. So far, so good. But this is the end of their reverent obedience, for some of the men looked into the ark of God, prompting an outbreak of judgment upon them.

Rather than repenting before God when they see His displeasure over their disobedience, they try to find somewhere else to send the ark of God. They were happy to have the presence of God until it means their sin was going to be judged. And the thing that once brought them great joy, they now seek to be rid of.

They were right to ask the question “Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God?” It is right to recognize and be in awe of the holiness of God. It is right to realize that, possessing no righteousness of our own, we cannot stand before Him, . Their question is right, but their answer is wrong – “come down and take it up to you.”

Many people say that they desire the presence of God not realizing that the nearness of God means that sin will be dealt with. Those pet sins that we have not yet repented of even though the Holy Spirit has brought conviction, will eventually be dealt with firmly. Inevitably we all come to the point that we must make a choice. Send away the sin or send away God.

Will you be offended when God deals harshly with you because of the sin you have cherished? Is so, you will surely be one who sends God away. But let us not be as the people of Beth-shemesh. Let us instead humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, prepared to send away anything and everything except Him. If only we may have His presence, the loss of all else means nothing. Nothing at all.