Proverbs 5:22 – “The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.”
When I was younger (much, much younger) like still in elementary school, I visited the famous La Brea Tar Pits. These black lakes of asphalt are located in downtown Los Angeles, which have been there since the Ice Age according to the museum website. I loved this museum, because it was filled with fossils and as a child, I really wanted to become a paleontologist (due to my exposure to Jurassic Park). The fossils were found in the pits, which is exciting but also sad; exciting because it is history preserved for our generation to see, but sad because an animal had to drown in the tar for that preservation to occur. Fossils of mammoths, sloths, and saber-tooth cats have all been found in this area. Although most people that go to visit there are more concerned about the smell, when I visited as a kid, I was more worried about falling into the pit. Although it was definitely gated for safety, I was still afraid of falling in, because I knew that if I got stuck, my life would be over. I would become a fossil for future generations. Nowadays, I know that I wouldn’t die from drowning in the tar but would likely have my skin burned due to the chemical reactions occurring in the tar (but that is an aside). Whether from drowning or burning, I knew that the tar pits were dangerous so I kept a safe distance.
Sin is similar to these tar pits, in that once you slip in it is very difficult if not impossible to get out. I am not sure how these animals fell into the pits before but I would assume some of them slipped in by playing way too close to the edge. We as Christians do the same thing too. We know that sin can be dangerous; we know that the consequences of sin are grave; and we even know how it puts sorrow into the heart of God, but instead of staying away from it, we play close to the edge. We don’t run from temptation as Joseph did when propositioned by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39) or resolve to follow God as Daniel and his friends did when taken to Babylon (Daniel 1) or even ask God to keep us from sin as David did (Psalm 19:13). Instead we allow sin to continue to invade our lives a little at a time. Take it from me, the verse that says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall,” (1 Corinthians 10:12) is completely true. I personally struggle with sins that I didn’t intend to fall in initially. I thought I was strong; I thought I could resist the temptation; but then I fell and struggle with that sin ever since. Our verse today is Proverbs 5:22, which is a clear reminder that sin entangles, it traps, it imprisons. Sin is like a tar pit, once you fall in, you will sink. I am sure that King David could attest to this, as he fell into the trap with Bathsheba. When he saw her bathing, he should have turned away but instead he indulged his sin and committed adultery. Eventually, when about to be caught he committed murder and tried to hide it. Sin entrapped him.
We as Christians, as disciples of Jesus Christ, need to run from sin. We need to be wary of the Devil, which walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Sin will get us into a sticky situation, and we need to stop playing so close to the edge. But if you have fallen into sin, if you are stuck in this “sticky situation,” know that all hope is not lost, for we have redemption in Christ. If you repent of your sin and return to Him, He will get you out. Let us instead stand strong, place the right guards, and stay away from the tar pit of sin, lest we become a “fossil” for a future generation of what happens when Christians play too close to sin.
Matthew 14:20a – “And they all ate and were satisfied…”
It is expected that after eating a heavy meal like lunch or dinner you feel full and won’t intake any more calories for the next few hours. But oftentimes, within an hour of having a meal, a person will find himself “snacking” on something else like chips or candies or cookies. I’m not sure why this occurs, but I guess it may be because the person wasn’t actually satisfied after eating; there must have still been room in the stomach to fit more. As much as I’d like to say that I am not guilty of this, I have found that I am doing this more and more often this New Year. One of my goals this New Year (similar to everyone else) was to lose some weight, so I had cut my portions during lunch and dinner. But because of this, I was coming out of my meals hungry. So after eating dinner, I often grab a bag of chips or popcorn and chow down. I am pretty sure that this is not helping me achieve my goal in any way.
Although I am using food as an example of not finding satisfaction, we are also unsatisfied with other things in our lives. Sometimes we are unsatisfied with our jobs, wishing that we could do something more enjoyable or purposeful with our lives. Sometimes we are unsatisfied with our salaries, hoping that our bosses would pay us more for all the work we do. Sometimes we are unsatisfied with our cars, our TVs, our homes. We are always looking for more. We never feel fulfilled. We just continue from place to place, thing to thing getting our short-term fix before moving on to the next best thing. This is what many famous stars struggle with. They look like they have the perfect lives, but many of them struggle with alcohol and drug addiction, broken marriages, and a lack of fulfilment. Why is that? I think this quote (which has been attributed to Blaise Pascal) sums it up best, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in every heart that only Jesus Christ can fill.” We will never be able to find satisfaction in this life until we turn to our Lord Jesus Christ. Without Him, we will spend our lives purposeless, seeking only to fulfill our desires with the “next best thing.”
In our passage today, we read about how Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fishes to feed 5,000 people. This was an amazing miracle, because not only did everyone eat, but every person that day came out satisfied. Although this passage is describing how they were satisfied physically, it can help us to consider how He can also satisfy us spiritually. When man fell in the Garden of Eden, our relationship with God was severed. From that point forward, we were missing the one thing we were created for – fellowship with God. When Jesus Christ came to this earth, He died for our sins so that when we choose to accept Him as our Lord and Savior, we could have that relationship restored. By relinquishing our control and self-sufficiency to Him, we fill that God-shaped vacuum with Jesus Christ. So if you are feeling unsatisfied with your life today? As if there is no purpose? No fulfillment? No joy? Then turn to Jesus Christ, for you can only find satisfaction in Him.
For those of you who have yet to place your trust in Jesus Christ, I pray that you will find your fulfillment by accepting Him into your heart today. And for those of you who have and are Christians, I pray that you stop chasing the useless things of this world and instead follow Christ, because your ultimate fulfillment is in knowing Him more and more each day. Only Christ can satisfy.
Genesis 34:12, 19 – “Ask me for as great a bride price and gift as you will, and I will give you whatever you say to me…And the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob’s daughter…”
As a child, I remember the times when my parents would tell me to do something right away. They would say something along the lines of “Go clean your room now,” or “Start working on your school project,” or “Go practice the piano.” But instead of obeying their words immediately, I would sit around and procrastinate. I would tell them that I would do it but would spend the next few hours just lounging around playing video games or reading comics or watching TV. By the end of the day, nothing was accomplished instead I would still have a messy room, an unfinished project due the next day, and an unplayed piano. It was a bad habit of mine to delay doing what I said I would do.
In our passage today, we hear about a man named Shechem. Now, this man has little for us to admire, for he was a man who saw Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and took advantage of her. Genesis 34:2 describes it by saying, “…And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her.” In terms that we can understand today, he raped her. This is nothing to commend. This is nothing to look at with praise. But afterward, he sought to correct his wrong by marrying her. So he went to Jacob and his family and asked for her hand in marriage. Now, he had already done wrong by doing this, so I don’t fault Jacob’s sons for eventually killing him for this wrongdoing, but I feel like we can learn something from this evil man nonetheless. When he came to Jacob to ask to marry Dinah, he told them that he would pay any price and do anything. Jacob’s sons then told him to circumcise himself and his community. And instead of saying he will do it and delay, Genesis 34:19 says, “And the young man did not delay to do the thing, because he delighted in Jacob’s daughter…” He knew what needed to be done and did it quickly without delay. Although we cannot admire Shechem for his inappropriate behavior, we can learn from his swiftness to do what he needed for the person he cared about.
We as Christians should not delay when Christ has asked us to do something for Him. Oftentimes, we are asked to obey God in some way or manner. Maybe to share the Gospel with an enemy. Maybe to give to the ministry. Maybe to start reading our Bible through in a year. Instead of getting right on the job, we tell God we will do it eventually and procrastinate. We should seek to obey God immediately when we are told to do something. Jesus told a parable in Matthew 21:28-32, where he described how there were two sons who were told to tend a vineyard by their father. One said he would but didn’t, while the other refused to go but eventually changed his mind and did. He did this to prompt the Pharisees to repent and turn to God, for they were saying they would obey God but didn’t while sinners at the time were turning to Him in repentance. We should take heed to these words as well. God may be calling you to do something today. Do not delay. Hurry to get the task done for the person you love. If Shechem a wicked man could do this for Dinah. Then how come we cannot do it for the God who loved us so much that He gave His life for us?
If you are a Christian, then do not delay in your work for God. If you are not a Christian, then why are you delaying coming to Him? Now is the day of salvation.
Proverbs 7:19-20 – “For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.”
When visiting Tokyo, Japan, one of the key highlights is to visit a statue of a dog at Shibuya station. This memorial is to a dog named Hachi, an Akita Inu, who faithfully came to the station every day to wait for his master’s return from work. Unfortunately, this routine was disrupted when his master, Professor Ueno of Tokyo University, died of a cerebral hemorrhage during a lecture. Instead of seeing his master that day, Hachi was simply greeted with the cold expectation of nothing. Nonetheless, for the next nine years, like clockwork, Hachi would return to the station at the precise time Professor Ueno was supposed to arrive. Although at times Hachi would be harassed by the station workers, he would continue to show his loyalty till the day he died. Hachi is now celebrated for his unyielding loyalty and faithfulness to his master.1 He has even been remembered through a film starring Richard Gere called Hachi: A Dog’s Tale.
You may be wondering why I am telling this story to you and how this relates to the passage for today. So bear with me for a few moments as I set a little more context to the point I am trying to make. Like Hachi, we as Christians are awaiting our master’s (Jesus Christ) promised return. We are told to prepare and to be ready, for at any moment, He could arrive; but for almost two thousand years, He has yet to come back. Because of this “delay,” many of us have become complaisant with our Christian walks and have decided to walk in a way that is similar to the world. Churches today have lost the fire and fervor of the early Christian church, which lived in expectation of Christ’s return at any moment; instead, we have become conformed to this world, adapting many of its customs and ways. I can hardly argue when someone tells me that there is no difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, because honestly, I don’t see much difference either. Instead of living as the salt of the earth or the light of the world, we have become a dim candle that barely holds a snuff. I hate to admit it but many of us plan our lives as if Christ will never return, and I myself have come to a point where I doubt He will return in my lifetime. But is that the right attitude? Of course not!
I don’t share these words to discourage the church and my fellow Christians but to stir us up to live the way that God has called us to live – to live in a manner that expects His return, to be good and faithful servants. In Matthew 24:45-51, Jesus describes how a servant was asked to watch over his master’s household. Because the master’s return was “delayed,” the wicked servant began to abuse his power, beat his fellow servants, and act unruly. When his master returned at a time he did not expect, the servant was not ready and was punished for his wickedness. Just because Christ has not returned in the last two thousand years does not mean that He might not return today. Though the world may doubt his return, we must remember that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9). He is coming back, and we need to be ready.
Our passage in the Proverbs today is usually used to warn against adultery. For it describes how an unfaithful wife is seeking to lead a young man astray in adultery. But while reading this passage, something that the wicked woman said impressed onto my heart, “For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.” This sounds like what we as Christians say as an excuse for flirting with sin and for not living in the way and manner God has called us to. We as the church are the Bride of Christ, yet more often than not, we act like this adulteresses flirting with sin, because we do not expect His return. We like the woman say, “He is gone on a long journey; He will not return until later, so why not just indulge our lusts for the time being?”
My fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, I urge you to remember that He is coming soon. He may return this year, this month, or even today. Let us be ready as good and faithful servants like the servants described in Matthew 25. Let us flee from sin, lest we be found embarrassed when He returns. Let us share the Gospel, lest it be too late for those who do not know Him miss that opportunity. Let us be the salt and light of the earth. Our husband is coming soon, let us walk in faithfulness this new year.
1 Wikipedia contributors. “Hachikō.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 4 Jan. 2017. Web. 4 Jan. 2017.
Ezekiel 37:27 – My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Shopping for a birthday or Christmas present for someone can often be very difficult. I have always struggled with it; because more often than not, the people I am shopping for simply tell me, “You don’t have to get me anything.” This doesn’t help me in any way, because it still leaves me with no clue what to get them. I just have to guess that they may want what I am about to give them. To make my life easier, for both my parents, I have settled on making them a hand-drawn card and writing a personal note telling them how much I love and appreciate them. They get this on Father’s/Mother’s Day’s, Christmas’s, and birthdays. That is the gift I decided to get them. I still feel fairly cheap for not getting them an actual physical present, but based on their reactions, they seem to appreciate the gift. They rather have a token of love than any new gadget or expensive piece of jewelry. I think this is true for many people; they would rather have something made from the person they love than just a simple store-bought gift, because it shows that the person was willing to give their time and effort for them.
As the Lord of all Creation and the God of the universe, God could have easily just given us anything we wanted. He could throw all the blessings and gifts that we want our way and be rid of us, not being involved with any part and portion of our lives. And after the Fall of man, after we chose sin over following God, He had every right to just toss us aside and treat us like the dirt we actually are. But instead of doing any of that, He chose to be involved with our lives. He chose to send His Son Jesus Christ to the earth to die for our sins, so that we could have a renewed relationship with Him. God chose to show us His love, mercy, and grace. He chose to dwell with us. He wanted to be with us. The greatest gift that God could give us is not money or fame or health; the greatest gift He could give us is Himself. And that is exactly what He did. As Christians, we get to have God dwell with us. His Spirit lives in our hearts, guiding and directing our lives (1 Corinthians 13:6). He is in constant communication with us. He is our God, and we are His people. He is the Shepherd, and we are the sheep of His pasture. He is our Father, and we are His children. God loved us so much that He gave us Himself and continues to do so today.
So if you are already a Christian, then spend time today thanking God for His desire to build a relationship with you. If you are not a Christian yet, then what is keeping you from this great gift? Turn to Him today. You can have God dwell with you too. All you have to do is to trust Him as your Lord and Savior and ask Him into your heart today. No matter whether you are already a disciple of Christ or not yet, I wish you what Scott Wesley Brown did in his song, “I wish you Jesus, cause when I wish you Jesus, I’ve wished you ev’rything.”