Danger in the Plains

Danger in the Plains
Robert Wurtz II

Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. (Gen. 2:15 NKJV)

Before God created man He had already determined to prepare a place where He and man could fellowship together face to face and eye to eye. God placed Adam in the place He had prepared and charged him to tend it and keep it. Our words here mean literally to work it and to guard it. “Man was placed there to lead a life of repose (rest), not indeed in inactivity, but in fulfilment of the course assigned him, which was very different from the trouble and restlessness of the weary toil into which he was plunged by sin.” (K&D) Adam was to hedge in this sanctuary to protect it from forces that would seek to destroy the sanctity of such a place that it might be a place of God’s rest. Adam failed, sin came in and defiled, God left and Satan reigned. This is the story of Adam and later Israel. God made a sanctuary in the wilderness as a place of rest where He could dwell among His people as King. Israel was to hedge this place in from forces that would the sanctity of it. Israel failed, sin defiled, God left and Satan reigned. Jesus Christ the Last Adam came as the embodiment of sanctuary. He hedged Himself in from forces that would defile, entertained the presence of God, lived holy and seperate from Sin, and conquered death, hell and the grave. The Church He has called also that we might be sanctuaries of God- temples of the Holy Spirit, hedged in and protected from forces that would seek to defile. To do this successfully we have to bring together 2000 years worth of salvation history and instruction articulated as revelation in the Old and New Testament. 

First steps     

There is a common beginning that all saints must share and it is summarized by these simple words, come out from among them and be separate. God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, Israel out of Egypt and the church from this present evil world. This is old fashioned teaching, but it is indispensable to living a victorious Christian life. God has to begin by calling us out of the place that is challenging Him for our affection and devotion. When God said to Israel, make no treaty with those who live in this land He meant that they were not to come under the control or the influence of the people ortheir gods. One of the ways this plays out is that God was to be the provider of all of their needs. They had been used to depending on Egypt and Pharaoh, but now they have been ‘called out’ and were to totally depend on God. They were not to depend on earthly rulers or false gods for provision and protection. This is important to understand because the Promised Land would not be predictable like Egypt that was watered by the Nile River as it overran its banks. Some have called Egypt “the gift of the Nile” because without the Nile there could be no crops. In fact, the Nile was so dependable that ancient world powers viewed Egypt as strategically valuable because of its crops. During times of famine Egypt often had food when no one else did. This is why Jacob sent his sons to Egypt. He sent them to where the well watered crops were found. So Egypt was a place where one could relax into a predictable and worry-free life. Israel may have been slaves in Egypt, but that was ok to many of them because at least they could depend on a food supply. This is the reason God plagued Egypt by turning the river to blood. It was their life source. Yet God told Israel the Promised Land received its water from the heavens. Each stop of their journey required them to trust God for their needs. This is contrary to fallen man’s inclinations. Men like things comfortable and predictable. 

Mountains and valleys

Contrary to what the prosperity gospel might suggest, coming to Christ is not always peaches and cream. Remember what God told Israel in Deut. 11:11, But the land, where you are going to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinks water of the rain of heaven. Notice, hills and valleys. I have travelled many times by car across Kansas in the heart of America where I am from and I can say with certainty that it is an easy trip; boring at times near to the point of insanity, but steady and easy. But travel on and you come to the mountains and valleys of Colorado. Here your engine may labor for what seems like miles trying to pull the hills and then you come to the ridge and risk burning your brakes up on the way back down. In fact there are runaway lanes for cars and trucks that lose their brakes to drive into and up a slope to slow down. It doesn’t take long to realize that you are not in Kansas anymore. Our lives of faith are not flat plains, but hills and valleys. 

The danger of idleness

God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees into a land that he did not know. It would be a land of up’s and downs where he would have to learn to utterly trust in God. Talk about a step of faith! But it was not just one step, but many steps. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, walked the same path with Abraham until an opportunity came for him to divert to a different path. It happens that they grew so large as a clan that they had to divide up and go different directions. Abraham let Lot choose first and he chose the well watered plainand pitched his tent towards Sodom. This is very sobering to consider. We know that God destroyed Sodom and the cities of the plain with the exception of Zoar (a word that means ‘little’). He baptized them in fire and brimstone until only the memory of them survives. When Israel were drifting away from God He would sometimes refer to them as Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:10) or compare them to Sodom as he does in Ezekiel 16. Here we read, As I live, says the Lord Jehovah, Sodom your sister, she nor her daughters, has not done as you have done, you and your daughters. Behold, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom; pride. Fullness of bread and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters. Nor did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and did abominable things before Me, so I turned away as I saw fit. (Ezek. 16:48, 49) 

Let us observe her first sin, pride. It has been said that pride is the only sin that Satan will not make you feel guilty for. You can commit all kinds of sin and the enemy will be there to accuse and oppress, but not pride. We have to go to God in prayer to have Him show us areas of pride in our lives. It was Satan’s sin and it precedes destruction. Pride is the sin of self-exaltation. It seeks to lift on up above their fellow man or fellow believer in ways that on the surface seem legitimate, but under the watchful eye of God are found wanting. Pride makes one want to be richer, more popular, more powerful, better looking, more desirable, cooler, etc. than our fellow man. 

Second, fullness of bread. That is to say, they had all they needed and could sit back and relax in leisure. They did not have to worry where their next meal was coming from. In the words of the foolish rich man,  And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? (Luke 12:19-20) 

Third, abundance of idleness. This was the common sin among Israel, Samaria and Sodom and Gomorrah. Paul addresses this subject from a slightly different angle dealing with widows. After the man had died and the children were gone there was little for a woman to do in those days besides care for herself. Here Paul writes, But refuse younger widows, for whenever they grow lustful against Christ, they desire to marry; having guilt because they have cast off the first faith. And with it all they also learn to be idle, going around the houses; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things they ought not. Therefore I want the younger ones to marry, bear children, guide the house, giving no occasion to the adversary because of reproach. For some have already turned aside after Satan. (1 Timothy 5:11-15 MKJV) Here we have an example of how the enemy can bring reproach when there is excessive idleness in the life of an able-bodied person. As the late Henry Bohn has noted, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop and an idle man is the devil’s playfellow.[1]Paul then provides us with a powerful New Covenant principal, I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan. If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. (1 Timothy 5:14-16) In order to prevent the idleness and abundance of bread that was the common denominator among Israel, Sodom, Gomorrah, Samaria, and young widows, etc. Paul directed that the widows not be allowed to be on the churches benevolence list, but rather they were to get about marrying and raising a family rather than living a life of sin. That seems to be the plain sense of the principal. In other words, a scenario must not be allowed to develop where people are allowed to be idle all day getting into mischief and sin.  

A life of ease

When Adam fell in the Garden he introduced Sin and Satan into the world. This means that Satan is always plotting and scheming to do evil and he is here trying to influence saint and sinner alike. God changed Adam’s way of life as soon as Satan entered. Understand that before the fall Adam could tend the Garden of Eden, fellowship with God and eat of the trees that bore fruit. His level of work was such, that by implication he never had to break a sweat. Afterward God told him, In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Gen. 3:19) Twenty four hours in a day is too long for a person to sit around listening to the devil. Understand that being born again does not exempt one from his evil influence and outward impressions. In fact, he filled the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira. He is said to tempt Christians that are involved in protracted fasting. (I Cor. 7:5) So he is still here and trying to influence any way he can. For this reason Lot chose the well-watered plain and embarked on a life of total destruction. Several hundred years later the children of Israel would move into the land of hill and valleys, pitching their tents towards the Wilderness Tabernacle. When they woke up in the night they opened the tent door to see the fire of the glory of God. In the morning they saw the pillar of cloud. These were ever present reminders of God. But when Lot opened his tent that was pitched towards Sodom, all he saw was the madness of Sin. What direction is our tent pointed? 

The defiler of sanctuaries

Satan seems to love defiling things that are holy. He defiled his own sanctuaries (Ezek. 28:18). He influenced Antiochus IV Epiphanes (a type of the Antichrist) to defile the Temple in horrific ways. (see apoc. 2 Macc. 6:1-11) He wants abomination to stand in the holy place and that holy place is you and I if we have the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 24:15) As we mentioned earlier, he seeks to tempt Christians in protracted fasting to be defiled by strange men and women. (see also Lev. 18:20) Paul tells us that if any man defile the Temple him shall God destroy. (1 Cor. 3:17) So we must endeavor to guard ourselves against the trappings of this present evil world. How can we do this? We have the fourth sin when God tells Israel, Nor did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. When Israel and Sodom and the others had time on their hands what did they do with it? They refused to work with their hands the thing which was good. They used that time for their own sinful pleasures. This is a tremendous truth. If we are to guard ourselves from the destruction that has befallen multitudes of people and societies in the past, we have to learn from these examples of what to do and what not to do.   

[1]H.G. Bohn, A hand-book of proverbs. 1888  P.311

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