Proverbs 5:22 – “The iniquities of the wicked ensare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.”
I don’t know about you, but I am one of those people who enjoy eating frog legs. I don’t really like them cooked in any old way, but when they are coated with some batter, mixed with salt and pepper, and fried, I cannot resist. That dish is delicious! But it is also pretty pricey. This may be due to frogs being hard to catch but maybe it also has something to do with cooking it. I have heard that when you cook a frog, you cannot just throw it into boiling hot water, because it will jump right back out. Instead, you must place it in nice room temperature water in the pot and slowly bring the heat up to boil. At room temperature, the frog will calmly settle into the water, and as you bring up the heat, the frog is not phased, because it is accustoming itself to each degree one by one. Then finally, when the water is at boiling temp, the frog no longer stirs, for it slowly grew accustomed to its watery surroundings never realizing that it was being cooked alive. It never knew it was being trapped until it was finally too late.
The sad truth is that many people are just like that frog when it comes to sin and addictions. They say that they will only try the drug, take a sip of the alcohol, steal a peek at that bad movie or magazine, but as they take those small steps they are slowly being entangled by what they thought they had control of at the beginning. Like a fly that puts just one foot on a web, they are fully trapped and entangled waiting to have their lives consumed by the predator. The thing about sin is that it always seems okay at the beginning. It always seems to be “controllable.” That is the one reason why many people don’t realize that they are trapped until it is too late, and the sin has already become a bad habit/addiction. Our passage, a proverb from Solomon, stated it best, “The iniquities of the wicked ensare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.” Sin, although it may seem “freeing,” is actually an unanticipated captor that will spring its jaws on you when it is too late for you to run. It promises fun, happiness, and fulfillment to all who take part in it, but all it gives in return is guilt, discontentment, and dependence. Just look at how so many men, and even women, are slaves to pornography, so much so that they cannot even enjoy their marriage for they are glued to their fake fantasies on a computer screen as they slowly destroy their relationship with their spouses. And it usually starts with just a click of a button. Or take an example from those who get entangled in their lies, for their entanglement usually begins with just a “little white lie.” As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must never allow Satan to take even a small toehold onto our hearts, minds, and lives. Satan tries to convince us that just a little bit of sin is okay, just a small step in that direction, a taste of that life is all we need, but in reality, he is just baiting a trap to capture all those unsuspecting Christians who will give him a slight chance. Hebrews 12:1 reminds us to run the race that is set before us, and in doing so, we must put aside the “sin which doth so easily beset us.” We are told to lay aside that sin because of its hindering effects to our growth as a Christian. Not only does it hinder your purpose and ministry in life, but it also hinders your relationship with Christ, for God cannot dwell where sin is present. It must be expunged, which is what Christ came to do. If you as a Christian or even a non-Christian have fallen and are entangled in sin today, turn to Christ, for He, like a master key, will get you free from any addiction. All you need to do is turn to Him in repentance, for He died to free you from sin. If as a Christian, you are being tempted to sin, then remember its capturing properties and run. Run away as fast as you can. Don’t play with sin, for it’ll get you into a messy situation.
Numbers 19:14-21 – “14 This is the law when someone dies in a tent: everyone who comes into the tent and everyone who is in the tent shall be unclean seven days. 15 And every open vessel that has no cover fastened on it is unclean. 16 Whoever in the open field touches someone who was killed with a sword or who died naturally, or touches a human bone or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. 17 For the unclean they shall take some ashes of the burnt sin offering, and fresh water shall be added in a vessel. 18 Then a clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water and sprinkle it on the tent and on all the furnishings and on the persons who were there and on whoever touched the bone, or the slain or the dead or the grave. 19 And the clean person shall sprinkle it on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day. Thus on the seventh day he shall cleanse him, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and at evening he shall be clean. 20 If the man who is unclean does not cleanse himself, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, since he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. Because the water for impurity has not been thrown on him, he is unclean. 21 And it shall be a statute forever for them. The one who sprinkles the water for impurity shall wash his clothes, and the one who touches the water for impurity shall be unclean until evening.”
There are a lot of things that I like about the Bible, but one of the things I love most is the interplay between the Old and New Testament. A lot of people think that they don’t interact with each other, but they are so intertwined that one is dependent on the other; simply put, you need to have knowledge of both if you want a deep understanding of either. The best way to describe it is with the words of a pastor I knew, “You cannot understand the New Testament without a working knowledge of the Old.” Things that many Christians overlook, like the Levitical laws or the Temple/Tabernacle schematics, are actually beautiful pictures and insights into what is revealed in the New Testament. One of these pictures is found in our passage today, which describes how a person is purified after he becomes unclean. According to the law, when a person dies in front of you or you touch a dead body, you are considered unclean for the next seven days. Although this may seem a bit extreme, it makes sense, right? Who doesn’t feel dirty after they have visited a cemetery or a morgue or anything related to the dead? As with all the laws of God, when a person was unclean, he had to be removed from the assembly of the people of Israel, for he was not allowed to defile the sanctuary of the Lord in the midst of the people. In order, for that person to return to the assembly, he needed to be washed and purified from his uncleanness. Like always, God provided a way for those who were unclean to be brought back to Him.
This passage described how that was to be done. First, a red heifer was sacrificed as a sin offering, and its ashes were brought outside of the camp. When a person who was unclean wanted to cleanse himself, he would then go outside the camp and mix the ashes with some water. Another person who had to be clean would then take hyssop, dip it in the mixture, and sprinkle it on the person who was unclean on the third and seventh day of his uncleanness. Afterwards, he would wash himself, would be considered clean, and would be allowed back into the camp. The interesting thing though is that the clean person would then be considered unclean until the evening, because he would likely have touched the water mixture for cleansing (vs. 21). Simply, a person who is clean needed to become unclean temporarily so that an unclean person could become clean. Without the clean person willingly going out and becoming unclean for another, the unclean person could never be restored into the camp.
Can you already see the correlation this passage has to the New Testament and our salvation? The hint is that Jesus Christ, the perfect, sinless Lamb of God, came to earth to die for our sins. Don’t see it yet? It might be easier to see it if you have 2 Corinthians 5:21 in mind, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God allowed His undefiled, pure Son to become sin on that cross, so that we might be righteous before Him. Christ, who was clean, took upon Himself our uncleanness so that we could be clean and have a relationship with the Father. The rejection of God (“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?), the judgment of God, and the wrath of God all fell on Him as He willingly poured out His life for us. Wow! Just look at that picture! That one purification law was foreshadowing what Christ would do for us. He willingly came and took our place as unclean so that we might be clean through Him. What we must do is show our gratitude for His sacrifice by praising Him and living righteously before Him, for that is the reason why He sacrificed Himself – “…So that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Praise God for His awesome and gracious gift!
Today, I would like to share with you one of my favorite stories from the Bible. It is one of my favorites, because it is one of the few times, something seems to catch our Lord by surprise. Of course, we know that God could never be tricked or shocked, because He is all-knowing; but there are a few stories in the Bible, where the verses make it sound like God was pleasantly surprised. The story that I would like us to turn to today is the story of the Syrophonecian/Canaanite woman and her demon-possessed daughter. This story is recounted in two of the Gospels – Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30. The stories are almost exactly alike, but each one gives a little insight to the story that the other one does not have. By reading and examining them both, we get a better picture of what happened and how we can learn from that one Gentile woman and her plea for help. To really get what is happening, we need to first read both passages, so take a minute and look at them with me:
Matthew 15:21-28 – “21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.”
Mark 7:24-30 – “24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. 25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.”
Let’s summarize both iterations of the story into one here. First, Jesus Christ went away from the region He was currently in and went to Tyre and Sidon. Tyre and Sidon are currently cities in Lebanon, but they had their histories steeped in Phoenician culture from which we get our current English alphabet. These two cities are mentioned quite often in the Bible for various reasons, but they were best known for their merchant culture and maritime prowess in ancient history.1 By the time of Christ, they were still likely commercial powerhouses but not as powerful as before.2 Nonetheless, they were Gentile areas. In this area, Christ went likely to rest since it says in Mark 7:24, “…And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know…” But as always, people flocked to see Jesus. One of these people was the Syrophoenician woman we will learn from today. She came seeking Christ to heal her daughter of demon possession. When she called out to Him, at first, Christ did not respond. Then, she went to the disciples, who after getting annoyed by her persistence, called Christ to take care of the “problem.” Christ then told her that it was not fit that He should serve her before the children of Israel, to whom He was called to serve. Interestingly, the woman continued her begging and said, “Lord, help me.” Christ then further elaborated on His first statement by saying, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” By this point, you would have expected that the woman would have gotten the message and left, but she did not; instead she said something quite profound, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Hearing this statement of faith, Christ then healed her daughter and let her go her way. In this story, we can see that the woman desperately needed help from Christ that she could get nowhere else. This need was manifested in her begging and pleading the Lord to heal her daughter. In her plea for help, we can see three admirable qualities that we should apply to our lives and our prayer. These characteristics are easy to remember because they all start with the letter “H” just like the word Help – 1) Hunger, 2) Humility, and 3) Hope.
The first characteristic that we need to notice in the woman’s plea is her HUNGER. She longed for her daughter to be healed, longed for it so much that she would not let anything stop her, which can be easily attested to by her perseverance. Just look at how hard she worked just to find Jesus Christ. She likely knew nothing about this Man outside of the little tidbits she heard about Him from others across the border; yet when she knew that Christ was in the area she did not stop when He was not publicly out. She went out seeking Him, seeking the place where He stayed, even though, He was “in hiding.” She sought for the Lord God, and He was found. Have you ever been in a situation where you are looking for something or someone? With the technology we have today, we can likely find it at our fingertips, and no longer do we need to work very hard to find someone. But in the past, people had to put in a lot of detective work just to learn a smidgen of information about someone. I know that this might sound weird, but I have actually developed a skill in finding people using Google and Facebook. With just a few facts, I can find a person, but usually, I have to work pretty hard and test many search terms just to get a little headway. I need to want that information so much that I will keep trying. One of my favorite comic book characters illustrates this hunger well. Surely, we all know who Robin is. Robin is the sidekick of Batman. To tell you the truth, there were actually a number of Robins, since Batman had some grow up, some die, and some just move on. The third Robin, Tim Drake, unlike all the other Robins, actually surprised Batman by finding out his identity. He did so by doing everything in his power to understand and research who Batman really was. He hungered for the opportunity to work as Batman’s sidekick and did not even let a hurdle like a secret identity to stop him. He did all the leg work needed to find a man “in hiding.” This Syrophoenician woman knew that she needed help and hungered for the One who could provide it, searching with all her heart. We can learn from this woman, for often, when we ask Christ for something, there is no heart of hunger. We don’t really want to know more about Him. We don’t really want to seek His will. We don’t really want His purpose in our lives. We just say we do but put no effort in seeking and asking Him for it. Christ says that those who seek Him, find, and those who ask Him, receive; but it requires a desire for what we seek and ask for. Of course, we must make sure that our desires are in line with the Lord, for those who delight themselves in the Lord will receive the desires of their heart, not because they will get all the lusts of the world but because their one and only desire becomes Jesus Christ and His glory (Psalm 37:4). Like it says in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” If you don’t hunger for Christ, how can you put all the effort needed to find Him?
Her perseverance was not only illustrated in her seeking the Lord, but also in constant begging for His mercy. When Christ did not respond to her first plea, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon,” she pestered the disciples for help. She pestered them so much that they wanted her to go away. Then when Christ told her that He was called to serve the children of Israel, she still asked for help. And even after being told that it was not meet for her to receive that gift, she still begged Him for it. She continued to ask and ask and ask. Now, Christ warns us in Matthew 6:7-8, not to pray in the way the Gentiles do thinking that they will be heard for their many words, but He never condemns the attitude of perseverance in prayer; He condemns faith in words instead of God. Just look at the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 – “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, “Give me justice against my adversary.” 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, “Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”’ 6 And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’” He encouraged people to continue praying, but the thing is so many Christians when they don’t hear from God right away stop praying. They won’t persevere. They won’t continue. They get discouraged. We must continue in prayer with the Lord, for He will answer in His time.
Hunger drives a person to push past his normal limits to achieve something. He will climb the highest peaks, swim the deepest depths, and push through the hardest walls, if that will help satiate that hunger. Take a lesson from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, where Captain Barbossa did anything to satiate the curse of endless hunger. Take a lesson from basketball players, who push towards championships because they are “hungry” for it. Take a lesson from the Syrophoenician woman, who hungered for her daughter to get better, persevering through whatever obstacles were there. As Christians, we must hunger for Christ and what He wants to do in our lives. We must seek it and continue seeking it until it is revealed to us. This does not mean that we keep asking when He says, “No!” But to keep coming to Him when all seems silent.
The next characteristic we must take note of in her plea for help is HUMILITY. The Syrophoenician woman displayed great humility. Before diving into this any farther, let’s take a moment and perform a thought experiment. If you were insulted by a person, you were asking help from what would you do? Would you continue to ask for help? Or would you completely stop, keep what is left of your pride, and leave? Most of us, if we were being truthful with ourselves, would likely stand up and leave. We wouldn’t take the insult sitting down but would rather keep our dignity intact. But look at this woman after Christ said, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,” basically referring to her as a dog in that statement. She simply confirmed the words with the answer, “Yes Lord…” And it doesn’t sound like a “Yes, Lord” that is just said to keep the peace; but one that truly saw this Christ in an elevated position and respected Him. In those two words, she did two things that indicated her attitude of humility. She first exalted Christ, for she respected what He said and confirmed them with a simple “Yes, Lord.” She didn’t accuse Him of bigotry, sexism, or racism; she simply recognized that He was above her and had every right to say what He did. Usually, when you respect a person’s position, you will value their words, and she did just that. Second, she lowered her position by accepting the term dogs. The one place of clear contention for many politically correct lawyers is the term dogs as a reference to Gentiles, yet she didn’t act defensively. She simply accepted her position in the eyes of the Lord and humbled herself before Him. She did not try to dictate to Him how she should be treated; she simply left herself in the hands of God. If she was going to get help from Him, she knew that she needed to humble herself before Him and recognize her need for Him.
Have you ever tried to help someone who asks for your help but is too busy trying to tell you his opinion instead of listening to your advice? I have trouble like this when I try to help people with academic problems like math. Instead of listening to me explain how to solve the problem, they just keep trying to tell me how they did it and how it should be right. But I can’t help them if they aren’t listening. What I have to do is stop them from talking, demand their attention, and then explain the solution to the problem. After they stop to listen, they usually get it in my first explanation. If they really wanted to obtain the help from me, they needed to humble themselves and listen. It takes humility for them to ask and then receive that help.
As Christians we must recognize that we must come to God with humility. The God we serve is no ordinary God. He is the Creator and Lord of the universe, the King of kings, and the Almighty. He deserves our whole respect and praise. Yet very often, we will not come before Him humbly but with a plan in mind for Him to follow. We treat Him like a genie or a servant who should grant our every wish. We must humble ourselves before Him and recognize that what we are receiving from Him is grace and mercy. God need not hear us. God need not answer us. God need not do anything we ask Him to do. He does what He does for us because He loves us. First, we need to recognize our need for Him and to come before Him in prayer. Second, we must be humble enough to accept His will on that request (i.e., If we are asking for guidance, we must be humble enough to take whatever path He guides us to). Each and every one of the pleas we bring before Him should be done with humility, fully trusting Him and recognizing His Lordship over your life. The Syrophoenician woman did not tell Christ, “You must give me bread.” No! She humbly accepted His decision to not be given bread and asked for something else “the crumbs,” which is the highlight word of our next point.
The last characteristic we should take notice of in her plea is HOPE. Hope according to Google is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen” with the archaic meaning of “a feeling of trust.” Today, we only use the word hope to mean a desire for something to happen, as in, “I hope I win the lotto today” or “I hope I get to the party on time even though traffic is awful.” We may have little to no faith in that thing happening, but we “hope” for it. But hope should really indicate a trust that something will happen, that archaic meaning. It should go hand in hand with faith. For hope without faith is wishful thinking. The Syrophoenician woman was not just a wishful thinker but a person who had great hope. You must first notice who she placed her hope in – Jesus Christ. She did not place her faith and hope in man, although one may argue she did when she pestered the disciples; she placed her faith in Christ, trusting that He was the solution to her problem. We can all attest to times when we have wrongly placed our hope on someone or something. This happens a lot in politics where people place their faith in politicians who are lying through their teeth about promises that they will never keep. They trust these men and women to give them a bunch of things, but instead the politicians end up lining their pockets and supporting only those who will back their campaign further. Their hope is misplaced. We must take care who we place our hope in, for misplaced hope is just as bad as hope without faith, it is unfounded trust. Psalm 118:9 tells us, “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.” Instead of placing faith in man or in yourself, place your faith in God. He promises to never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) and to work all together for good to those that love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). He is not some politician whose feelings shift with the wind. No! He never changes and is always faithful. Like the woman, we must place our faith in Him.
Second, take notice of how deep her faith and hope were in Christ. It was no shallow faith that only believed that Christ could do the common; it was a faith that declared, “Lord, even if I were to receive but crumbs from you, it would be enough to heal my daughter.” That word crumbs reveals so much about her faith. For she knew that if she received even just a little of Christ’s mercy, grace, and power that would be enough to work this miracle for her daughter. Christ’s power was not a cheap piece of currency, but one that was worth so much that even a penny of it was worth more than all the world could buy. If it helps to put it this way, its exchange rate was good. Christ told His disciples that if they had faith as big as a mustard seed, they could move mountains (Matthew 17:20), and this woman definitely had bigger faith. This woman’s faith was to be admired, for she did not question Christ’s power; she actually trusted it more than many other Israelites. Just contrast her to the Jewish man, whose son was demon possessed in Mark 9:14-29. When Christ asked him if he believed, he said, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” That man still had doubts but this woman had no doubts in her mind about what Christ could do. It was not that this man did not receive Christ’s mercy for his lack of faith, for his son was still healed; but this woman was commended for her faith.
Much of the time, people place their faith in God hesitantly. They will ask Him to do something but have a backup plan in mind, just in case, He doesn’t follow through. They worry and fear and act like He won’t provide for them yet claim that they trust Him fully. This was not the attitude of George Muller, a famous Christian who started an orphanage in England. Although this orphanage needed funds to continue to serve the children, he never once asked anyone directly for money; instead, he placed his complete faith in Christ knowing that God would provide for them in His time.3 Even when the cupboards were completely empty one day as the boys gathered to the table to eat, he led them in a prayer thanking God for His provisions. God then blessed them with bread and milk. It is amazing what God does when a person trusts in Him fully.
When we come to God in prayer, we must come to Him, trusting Him to do what is best for us. We must trust in His power, His mercy, and His grace. We must trust Him fully. Now, we need not have faith as deep as this woman’s, which could make a declaration like that, but we should earnestly seek to have that type of faith. She received healing for her daughter, when she was not yet a child of God, how can we not receive something greater being His children? We must place our faith and hope in Christ. For our God’s crumbs are worth much more than our world’s gold.
What we can definitely see and learn from this story today is simple – we must be hungry for Christ, we must be humble before Him, and we must trust in Him. This is true no matter what our plea may be. It could be a plea for salvation from a person who is not yet a child of God. He must still be hungry for Christ and salvation from sin; he must still be humble, admitting he is a sinner; he must still trustfully hope in Christ for salvation. It could be a plea for God’s will from one without direction. He must still be hungry for God’s work in Him; he must still be humble in submission to His will; he must still hopefully trust in Him to guide Him. It could be a plea for more wisdom and understanding from one who is not yet mature in the faith. He must still be hungry for God’s Word; he must still be humble to obey God’s Word; he must still hopefully trust that Christ will reveal Himself to him. No matter what the plea, this Syrophoenician woman’s attitude in prayer should be followed. Let us be hungry for Christ; Let us be humble before Christ; let us place our hope in Christ.
2. Holman Bible Dictionary. http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T5886
3. Piper, John. “George Mueller’s Strategy for Showing God” http://www.desiringgod.org/biographies/george-muellers-strategy-for-showing-god
Proverbs 1:32-33 – “For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”
One of the biggest problems in America today is complacency. People have become so apathetic to the things that are wrong that slowly corruption creeps in. This is not only true with American society, but each and every individual life. So often, they allow one thing to slide and then another and then another, until they have finally hit rock bottom and have no clue how they got there; but it all began with complacency with one wrong thing that became another that became another. That is why people call specific drugs “gateway drugs” – they are just a small step in the direction of bigger and worse drugs.
The sad truth is that complacency has also crept into the church, which is the exact reason why the church is no longer the moving force in society that it was in the past. Look at what the church did in the birth of America and how huge a role it played in shaping America’s freedom and growth. Look at what the church did in the abolition movement, helping end slavery in tons of countries. Look at how the church was even abused by power-hungry people to push people to do what is wrong like with the Crusades. It was a force to be reckoned with, and nobody messed with it. But no longer does it do the things that it did in the past. Yes, we try to start huge social movements, but it hasn’t amounted to as much as it probably would have in the past. Why is that? Simply, it is because of complacency. People no longer see the church as anything different from the world. It is just a group of individuals who live and act the same way as any other person but go to church on Sundays. Nothing special or different! Again, this is because of complacency.
Christians need to wake up and stop being complacent. They need to get up from their sleep and speak out in the world, so that people will see them as the light they are supposed to be. Jesus Christ told His disciples in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world…” We are supposed to be different and draw people to Christ. They are supposed to make people hunger for Christ, so that they cannot help but be drawn to the light as moths to a flame. But we have no longer been a light because of the way we handle sin. Our proverb today reminds us that “the complacency of fools destroys them,” and complacency has destroyed the reputation of the church, the reputation of Christians, the reputation of the name of Christ. We must no longer be complacent with sin and allow it to continue in those who call themselves Christians; we must snuff it out. Of course, we must do it with mercy and grace, for our God is a forgiving God, but if our fellow Christians still want to continue in sin, still want to do what is wrong, still want to disobey God, Christ said in Matthew 18 that we are to treat them “as a Gentile and a tax collector” (two things that the Jews hated at the time of Christ). The church has been destroyed by complacency of sin, so let us remove that corruption with mercy and grace. Wake up, dear Christians! Wake up!
Leviticus 26:11-12 – “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.”
A few years back I watched Gone with the Wind, one of the all-time greatest movies to ever be made. This movie is on the top 100 lists of movies that people should watch before they die of so many different lists that it isn’t even funny. This three-four hour movie was released in 1939 and starred both Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable, two of the greatest actors/actresses during that time, and some would argue of all time. The movie is centered on the life of Scarlett O’Hara, a Southern belle who had fallen madly in love with a man named Ashley Wilkes. Unfortunately for her, Ashley was already happily married with another woman. Scarlett would then get into a total of three different marriages (since her husbands would die one after the other) all the while still loving Ashley. Her third marriage was to a man named Rhett Butler who actually loved her dearly, but instead of returning that love, she still constantly had her eyes on the married Ashley (who really did not love her). Of course, like any normal man, this type of behavior, led to jealously, and Rhett, unable to take it any longer, left just as Scarlett realized her mistake and called back to him to return. But by that time, it was too late, the damage had been done, and Rhett was already gone. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_with_the_Wind_(film)). Scarlett had spent her whole life longing for the one thing that she couldn’t have and didn’t realize the blessing she had right in front of her. She is a perfect example of how many people today, especially Christians, get caught up chasing after the temporary things of this world while forgetting the greatest blessing they could ever have right in front of them – the presence of the LORD. In our passage today, God reminded the people of Israel that one of the greatest blessings they could have was His presence in their lives.
In Leviticus 26, the Lord presented the people of Israel with a choice to obey Him and reap the multiple blessings He had in store for them (vs. 3-13) or disobey Him and reap the curses (vs. 14-39). The numerous blessings ranged from bountiful harvests to victory over enemies to multiple children to protection. There is clearly no doubt that these were blessings that any nation would desire, especially a one that was about to enter the Promised Land. But interestingly, God did not stop this list at material blessings but extended it to something even more valuable – the spiritual blessing of having His presence in their lives. In vss. 11-12, He finishes the list of blessings with this statement, “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” God would dwell among them. Imagine that, having the presence of God before you all the time – watching over you, guiding you, comforting you, and even just being there with you. Imagine the security you would feel, the love you would feel, the power you would feel just knowing that you were backed by the God of the universe. And even more than that, they would be considered His people, not just a random object, but His treasured possession. He would also be their God, a personal God; the Creator and God of the Universe, Yes! but also one intimately associated with them. That last blessing was actually the best and most important one, as demonstrated by Moses’ statement in Exodus 33:15, “And he said to him, ‘If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.’” This happened right after the people had worshipped the golden calf (Exodus 32), and God let them know that instead of Him personally guiding them, He would instead send an angel. They would still be given the protection and guidance, just not His direct presence any longer. But Moses knew that what set the people of Israel apart was not just a ton of blessings from God, but it was His presence among them, and he would not let it go. He begged Him for it, and God went with them.
As Christians, we have been promised God’s presence in our lives. We find it throughout Scripture from the end of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:20, “…and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” to the promise of the Holy Spirit in John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” It is even found in other passages like Hebrews 13:5, “…I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God has promised His presence in our lives. But it is sad to see, that many Christians do not hold this blessing dear and instead continue to vie for the things of this world. They long for more money, nicer houses, better careers, and even on the spiritual side, a growing ministry. They live their lives as if they are still empty and missing something, when the greatest blessing has already been given to them – God’s presence. They are covetous of the world and all its material blessings, when they have a personal relationship with the Lord of the whole universe. Let us take heed of this great blessing we have and obey, for God will not tolerate sin His presence; therefore, we must follow Him and live in a way that will glorify Him. The relationship we have with Him must be treasured like the incomparable gift it is. Rejoice and be content that you have this greatest blessing.