Bound by Reputation

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

(Philippians 2:3–11 NKJV)

 

Have you ever wondered how the Lord Jesus could endure such hostility against Himself? No matter how great of things He seemed to do there was always that element of people around who were trying to destroy His reputation. In fact, the religious leaders even stooped to saying He had a demon. The time would fail to simply list all the times in the Gospels when people were trying to slander Him. How would you and I handle such treatment?

Jesus was humble in the extreme. His beginning was humble, His life was humble, and His death was utter humiliation. Yet we never read of Him fighting back. Think of the times He was mocked. Even His disciples once participated in a raucous where a family laughed Him to scorn (Luke 8:50-55). Indeed, He warned the religious leaders that if they continued to say He had a demon they could be blaspheming the Holy Spirit, but He includes in that warning the hope that people who spoke evil of Him, personally, could find forgiveness. How would you and I handle such treatment?

Good Reputation

 

I truly believe that reputation can become an idol in our life that we serve in a way that does not please the Lord and it hinders our effectiveness as Christians. How far are we willing to go to “not allow our good to be evil spoken of” or protect our reputation? True to the image above much of our reputation is manufactured anyhow. How often do we project to people what we want them to believe about us?

It is human nature to seek to control what others think about us. When David sinned with Bathsheba he was willing to murder one of his most trusted friends in order to cover it up. He was far too concerned in the beginning about what people thought rather than God. He wanted his legacy to be that of killing a lion, bear, and Goliath… or a psalmist who could play and sing and demons would flee. Who wouldn’t? Nobody wants to be remembered as an adulterer. Why? Because our primary concern is far too often our reputation.

When Jesus came into the world He emptied Himself and humbled Himself like a slave. This is what it means for Him to “make Himself of no reputation.” He is God and was willing to humble Himself in this way. What a staggering thing to consider. Perhaps the most striking thing is that while Jesus was emptying Himself out (so to speak) — laying down His reputation — we are perpetually tempted build ours up. We want to be respected and recognized. We want people to know what great talents and abilities we have. Or do we?

“Not caring what others think” does not mean that we all become sociopaths. Jesus was no sociopath — He was touched with the feeling of our weaknesses. Nor does it mean we become careless and foolish. When we make ourselves of no reputation we are liberated from the constant pressure to measure up to whatever version of ourselves we are trying to project. All that God asks is that we walk in the Spirit. If we will do that we will live a life pleasing to Him. But when we get caught up esteeming ourselves better than others — making a reputation for ourselves — we are moving in selfish ambition, conceit, pride and a host of other repulsive and destructive things.

The world says, “Guard your reputation!” Certainly, we want to have a good reputation in the eyes of the world. We should be people of moral character, integrity, honesty, etc. That’s not what this is about. It’s about self-exaltation. It’s about lifting ourselves up by projecting comic-book type caricatures of ourselves. If you or I find ourselves behaving this way the only solution is to repent. The same God who hates a proud look gives us a choice. Paul said, “Let this mind be in you.” We have to allow God to do it in us through the Holy Spirit. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merchants of Darkness

Merchants of Darkness
Robert Wurtz II
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: “Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. (Job 38:1–3 NKJV)
But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8 NKJV)

I recently read a quote online that got the wheels turning in my head a bit. A person, almost in passing stated, “The focused, educated, and wary will always recognize the folly of the masses who are deceived into issues that don’t exist.” Almost immediately the two passages above came to mind. Between the people who insist on misapplying truths to people and the rest who deliberately misrepresent facts (they do lie), we have before us a great reason as to why all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. In other words, what Job’s friends were saying were generally truths — they just didn’t apply to Job and his situation. God said that the more they spoke the darker the situation was getting. So He broke in and “shed the light of truth” on the topic.

Edward Bernays was one of the first people to exploit the fact that people tend to move like a herd. They are moved by their unconscious desires and are generally irrational in the process. So if a deceitful person can figure out what will move people they can exploit them in droves. This is what a liar does and liars come in many forms. The greater the platform the greater the potential is for damage. I have always said that someday God is going to expose all lies and liars and when He does we are going to be shocked at how much of our thinking process was based on false information. It may take us a million years to come to terms with some of the ways that the lies we believed impacted us during our earthly life. Are you starting to understand yet why all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death? It is impossible to measure the impact that lies have on people as individuals and society as a whole.

I recall some twenty-five years ago on a Sunday afternoon, as a young Christian, doing research on atheism and macro-evolution at a local library. To my surprise, a gentleman was sitting at one of the large tables editing a new edition of a high school earth science textbook for Holt, Rhinehart and Winston. Being the kind of straight-shooter I was in those days I asked him, “Sir, may I ask what you are doing?” He explained that he was a retired science teacher from a local high school and edited for Holt, Rhinehart and Winston part-time. Pointing out a nearby window I asked him, “Do you think all of this got here by accident?” He explained that he believed that God created it, but he didn’t know how. He even told me that he had attended a local church that morning. I was shocked and disillusioned. How could a man go to church on Sunday morning and then teach macro-evolution to children? I realized then that being a Christian in the school system may be worse than not being there at all. To participate in the propagation of such a damnable lie was to me unconscionable. But again it helped me understand why all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. This man influenced a great many impressionable children with lies.

On August 21, 2017, my hometown Kansas City, MO was ground-zero for one of the most spectacular events in modern history. It was high-noon when the Sun went completely black for a few minutes. Even the crickets were deceived as they chirped away for about five minutes. And just in case you missed it we have another Solar eclipse scheduled in about seven years. I have to admit that it was a bit frightening. As powerful as the Sun is… it was being eclipsed by something and on a massive scale. Darkness at noon? People who love darkness got a taste of it. It got the wheels turning in my head a bit. What is God trying to illustrate to us?

Lies and deception are to the truth what the moon was that day to our sun. And these are the times we are living in. There is more information and access to the truth now than there has ever been. But there are also forces at work to darken counsel by words without knowledge.We are all going to give an account someday for the false words of our mouth. Even when we may be saying things that are generally true, but do not apply in a specific situation. We need to be very careful. Sometimes we can only know the truth about something or someone by specific God-imparted discernment. Job’s friends were counselors — they were not prophets. This was their downfall. Perhaps the Psalmist said it best, Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3).

An Invitation to Armageddon

An Invitation to Armageddon

Revisited

Robert Wurtz II

For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. (Matthew 24:7 NKJV)

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. (Matthew 24:9-12)

Matthew 24 is typically viewed as a passage about end-time events, or what theologians call eschatology (from the Greek eskhatos meaning “last things”). The idea is that the closer we are to the end of the age the more evil and godless society is going to be. The sobering thing is that many end-time things were prophesied over 2000 years ago and are as real today as if they were just penned. In fact, when Jesus said that nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom nation is the Greek ethnos from which we get our English word ethnic. We could read this, “Ethnic group shall rise against ethnic group…” On the very date of this publication, a simple internet news search yielded this headline as the number two search result, The Latest: Threat of ethnic violence looms in Nairobi slum.” We are seeing it in America increasing over the last several years. What is happening?

It is simple, the further people get from God’s word and His influence, the more wicked and evil they become. It is axiomatic. They can do no other. As men dismiss God and His rule from their minds; when they no longer have God’s word as the primary variable under which they make decisions; unbridled evil is always the result. (Jeremiah 6:28-30, Romans 1:26-30) By way of analogy, the influence of God is waning in the world like the battery that runs down on a cell phone. If the phone is used more than it’s charged the battery will get weaker and weaker until it finally switches off. In the case of this present world, as God’s influence becomes less and less — it won’t switch off — it will blow up. It will come front and center into what we read about in Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation. The only thing that can turn the tide of this progress is for God and His word to be more of an influence and not less. 

   

If the people who hate God could have their way and He be purged from society — they would not like the world they would be living in. We have had a couple of great awakenings in America and many revivals. These have kept the lid on things (so to speak). Yet in the 1960s rebellion against God reached a fever pitch and we have been on a slide (like no other) ever since.


Abraham Lincoln once said that “the philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” So it has been in the West. Multitudes of God-hating professors and teachers have taught children against God in unconscionable ways. They grew up and brought forth another fresh crop of God-haters. They probably thought they were winning, but now, in the 21st century, the world is sitting on top of an apocalyptic powder keg. The world will self-destruct without the influence of God.


The “seismic activity” (as it were) that we read in the news every day is indicative of an eruption that seems inevitable. Like a volcano with hot pools of lava swelling under the surface — society is readying itself to explode at any time. If God were to take His hand completely off of this world, we would be plunged into fire and blood in ways unknown in human history. The warfare bloodbaths of the early 20th century, that witnessed the deaths of some 100,000,000 people worldwide, would be mere skirmishes compared to the bloodshed the 21st century will experience without God’s restraining hand. 

God’s Restraining Influences

God declared in Genesis 6:3 that He would not always strive with man, but that His days (of striving) would be 120 years. God’s striving is like a tether — restraining the full expression of evil that fallen men are capable of (Galatians 5:19-21). The Hebrew word for strive in Genesis 6:3 carries the meaning of sailing straight. God works to thwart the expression of man’s evil thoughts and intentions. In fact, God is striving with the very nature of Satan himself, who is working to a greater or lesser degree in all unregenerate people (Ephesians 2:2). 


Satan has been a murderer since the beginning (John 8:44). He enjoys bloodshed. As people resist God and yield more to Satan, they become more like him. They are his children and manifest his nature. Indeed, men become Satan’s slaves to an increasing degree as they resist God. We can see plainly that people are becoming more and more murderous and hateful as society drifts away from God. God is love. Satan is a murderer. Men determine (by who they yield themselves to) who they will ultimately reflect and become like. 

The Holy Spirit Strives With Man

God strives with man to limit his or her iniquity. The word iniquity simply means lawlessness. This does not mean lawless towards man’s law — but God’s natural Law. First, the masses are rebelling against the very law that God has written upon all men’s hearts increasingly by the day. They reject the light of conscience. Their hearts are hardened and in many cases, they are past feeling (they are numb to their conscience) This is where the Church (comprised of the regenerate) must step in. With confusion rife, God has called Christians to be salt and light. In other words, we know that iniquity is going to spread like gangrene though this present evil world, but God has established the Church to be a light in the darkness and salt to help slow the festering wound. The Church should be a serious impediment to the spread of evil. Otherwise, we are worthless for the task and are nothing more than impotent dust that the world treads under their feet. Light is anathema to a person who loves darkness and salt is painful to an open wound. However, we are called to a task and God expects us to do it.

We are on the Road towards Genesis 6. People love their lawless ways but they have no idea about what the consequences are going to be — not just in this world but in the world to come. There is a great effort to rewrite right and wrong on all levels. Satan is doing everything he can to corrupt mankind with all kinds of sexually related sins. Drugs that used to be illegal are slowly being legalized until the day may come when people can buy Opiates at the same liquor store that sells booze and cigarettes. It seems insane now — but so did same-sex marriage thirty years ago. No telling what diabolical wickedness we will face next. God’s word forbids certain behaviors (in one sense) because of the destruction they cause. Do we really want to live in a world where it’s legal to get bombed out of your mind with drugs as people do with alcohol? 

God’s law can be summed up by one word: love. Men are to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength and their neighbor as themselves (Luke 10:27). Take away God’s law and you strip away love. To evict God from our society is to risk being unable to love anything but sin. Paul describes this condition in the closing days of his life when he writes to young Timothy:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

The words “without natural affection” is the Greek word astorgos. This is the natural love that a mother and father ought to have for their young; it is familial love (family love). How could that happen? Think of the fatherless children in the world as one example. When men refuse to take care of their own family and children there are serious consequences. Men who willing do this are worse than infidels no matter what their profession of faith (1 Timothy 5:8). It creates a cycle of bitterness and misconceptions in the hearts of the children. As Mac Davis penned some 50 years ago… “… He’s going to be an angry young man some day! Take a look at you and me… are we too blind to see. Do we simply turn our heads and look the other way? As the world turns.” This is but a single example of a consequence of disregarding God’s word. There are as many examples are there are people who reject God’s word. There is no escaping it. Reject God’s word and there will be a serious consequence.

God: Just Cut Us Loose? 

We are moving towards Armageddon as fast as the unlocked wheels of time will take us. What happens as the collective mind seeks independence from God’s influence and comes completely under Satan’s? Notice our text again. The love of many shall wax cold. Greek scholar Marvin Vincent reminds us that it is not the love of many people only that shall be chilled, but of “the many,” “the majority,” “the great body.” This is the consequence of man wanting God to “cut the tether” that restrains them from sinning. 

Many want freedom from God and their conscience — freedom to sin without restraint. What happens? If Genesis 6 is any indicator; if the current trajectory of things continues; people will become bloodthirsty savages — slaves of hate, and lovers of violence. It can be no other. It is all that will be left once God, and His word are gone from the peoples’ minds and hearts. 

Symptoms of Hard-Heartedness

Symptoms of Hard-Heartedness

Robert Wurtz II

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek. (Romans 2:5–9 NKJV)

There are many occasions in the New Testament when the Holy Spirit will inspire the writer to use a word found only once in the rest of the New Testament. The technical term for this is a hapax legomena. However, Romans 2:5 contains several hapax legomena — suggesting that God is being particularly expressive when warning us about hardness of heart. Our opening sentence gives God’s diagnosis, But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart (…).” Our Greek word for hardness comes from the root skleras and it is found many times in the LXX (Greek Old Testament). It is often used to describe an insensitive, cruel and harsh person. A person who is sklerotes is moving in a selfish disregard of others. This can only happen if a person has hardened themselves against the word of God when it speaks concerning our behavior towards one another.


What is more striking is that Paul turns a statement that was commonly known at the time in order to reveal the fact that the reader is oblivious to their own hardness of heart. He writes you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. In ancient times there was a concept that people who were in covenant with God actually had a personal treasury (with their name on it) that God was building up based on the person’s good works. This “personal treasury” would pay out at the final judgment. Jesus spoke of this when He stated, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19–20 NKJV) Yet Paul informs the people that instead of laying up treasures they are actually storing up wrath for the day of wrath. 


Imagine how shocking that would be to hear. On the one hand, you believe you are storing up good works in heaven to be paid out when you die. Instead, you find out that you are storing up God’s wrath. How could this be? Clearly, Paul is demonstrating to the people that their heart is so hardened that it no longer “smites them” when they do wrong. You will recall that David’s heart smote him when he cut Saul’s robe (1 Samuel 24:5) and when he numbered Israel (2 Samuel 24:10). Unlike David, the people Paul is referring to can see other peoples sins clearly (Romans 2:1), but cannot see or feel their own. In the words of Paul to the Ephesians, “they are past feeling.” (Ephesians 4:19) Their conscience is seared with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:2)


People who fit Paul’s description in Romans 2:1-9 are in need of radical repentance. The person must first repent of the attitude that John the Baptist confronted when he preached radical repentance. You will recall that the Jews had a tendency to evoke “Abraham as our father” as if that birthright was the solution to everything. It was not. No matter what family you are born into (Jew or Gentile) you are expected to walk in line with God’s revealed will. In fact, the Jews had an even greater obligation to live righteously because to them were entrusted the oracles of God. (Amos 3:2) If we have ears to hear we will see that Paul is preaching repentance in these verses. He is challenging the same attitude that John the Baptist challenged.


The second area of repentance is to identify areas of our life where we know that we have flagrantly disregarded God’s word. These are areas where we may have sinned and felt convicted in the past, but now we behave a certain way and it doesn’t bother us at all. This is a symptom of hardness of heart. No matter how many sermons we hear on that topic it will never do any good. One way God illustrates hardness of heart to us is by using the analogy of hard (untilled) ground and seed. This is perfect because many people have tried to plant seeds on hard dirt only to discover that it doesn’t work. Our heart, if hardened, is similar to hard and dry ground. What happens? The heart is hard and beaten down in an area and the seed of God’s word cannot penetrate or take root. It happened as the people resisted and then rejected God’s word. They would hear it and like seed on scorched earth, it bore no fruit. So God told Israel,“Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12b NKJV) 


In the summer of 1980, the Midwestern United States suffered one of the worst heat waves and droughts on record. This natural disaster claimed some 1,700 lives and farmers lost an estimated $20 billion in crops ($60 Billion in 2017 dollars). In those days our family lived out in the country and we witnessed first-hand the destruction of that heat and drought. I recall the day my uncle came to plow up our half-acre garden. As the farm tractor attempted to make its first pass, the ground was so hard that the front wheels came up on the tractor and it rode a wheelie for about fifty yards. This happened each time he cut a new row. I had seen many fields plowed by this time, but as a young boy watching that tractor ride wheelies was very exciting to me. In retrospect, it’s a wonder he didn’t destroy his equipment. Needless to say, 1980 was a disaster for gardeners.

God forbid that our hearts would be as hard and dry as that soil in 1980. Yet if it is, repentance is the only solution. Without it, our lives will be as barren as our garden was that year. The solution for a hardened heart? When need to come before the Lord with an open heart and really let Him speak to us. Nothing is off limits. No excuses. We have to make that first step because God wants to plant the seed of His word on that hardened ground. “Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12b NKJV)

Self-Inflicted Bitterness

Robert Wurtz II

For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. (1 Peter 2:20 NKJV)

In the ancient world, unlike Romans Citizens, Roman slaves were subject to corporal punishment, torture, or the death penalty without the benefit of due process. This is the context of our passage. In the first portion of the verse, Peter makes a clear distinction between justly suffering from one’s own faults and suffering wrongfully. When a slave did wrong, their owner often responded by beating the slave for their error. However, there were times when slaves (and even people like Paul) were beaten for no good reason. When that happened, Peter informs us that it is as an offering to the Lord when we take the beating patiently.

 

In modern times legalized slavery such as the Romans experienced does not exist in the Western world, but the principle contained in this verse can still be applied. People still respond to bad behavior. God still responds to good behavior. Understand that there are times when we suffer (at the hands of others) as a consequence of our own bad choices or behavior. In those situations, we have no one to blame but ourselves. People are simply reacting to your bad behavior or choices. However, there are times when we are wrongfully accused or are simply mistreated for no good reason. If we accept that treatment with patience, God accepts it as an offering of sorts. 

 

The most challenging part of our passage is making a distinction between the suffering that we deserve and that suffering that we don’t deserve. Sometimes people behave in ways that are completely unacceptable to others. Rather than change their ways, they keep on doing it. These people are known to psychologists as sociopaths. Some are warped enough to pretend that their behavior isn’t bad at all, but (in their mind) the problem is with everyone else. They will blame everyone including Satan himself for what they call “attacks of the enemy.” 

 

It doesn’t matter who the person is (or who they think they are) who is acting out, bad behavior is going to solicit a negative response from the people who are subject to the bad behavior. It is common sense that there is only so much abuse someone can dish out before people start responding against it. The sociopath type, devoid of conscience, never sees the error of his/her ways. They paint themselves as the victim. Again, when they abuse people and the abused respond back, the sociopath types reckon it as persecution (or something similar). Nevertheless, it’s not persecution. It’s not abuse. It’s not mistreatment. What it is — is that people will not go on putting up with bad behavior forever. What happens? The sociopath type either changes or there are consequences. 

 

As Christians, we don’t move in an “eye for an eye” mindset. However, neither are we commanded to subject ourselves to perpetual mistreatment. If we treat people in a way we would not want to be treated –sooner or later there is going to be a backlash. And when the backlash comes, what will the response be? Will the perpetrator(s) get angry and bitter because people no longer tolerate their abusiveness? Will they accuse their victims of rebellion or some other cynical trait? Our passage challenges people who are “suffering at the hands of others” to ask themselves whether or not they deserve the treatment they are receiving. People are patient, but they will not allow bad behavior to go unchecked forever. 

 

The Solution

 

In my fifth grade class, way back in the 70s, we had a misbehaving student who was forever acting out. On one particular day, our teacher had had enough and she put her head down on her desk and started to weep loudly. Upon seeing and hearing her, the bad-mannered student ran frantically up to her desk shouting, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry.” The teacher raised her head and with blood-shot eyes growled out words that are forever etched into my consciousness. “Cody, I don’t want to hear ‘I’m sorry!’… I just want you to stop it!” He had no idea until that moment that his bad behavior had him hanging by a thread.

 

 

Some people go through life oblivious to how their bad behavior is affecting people until something tragic happens to open their eyes. For Cody, it was when the teacher broke down and wept. He didn’t blame the Devil. He didn’t blame any of us who looked on. He didn’t get bitter at the teacher. In that moment, he realized that he was the problem. If the problem was going to be resolved, Cody was going to have to change. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? Seeing her tears had the effect of a thousand beatings and detentions. At a young age, he learned that there is a limit to how far people can tolerate bad behavior. So when people “put their head down on the desk” (so to speak) it’s not the time to blame everyone else. While there is still hope… it’s time to stop it… whatever the “it” might be.  

 

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. (Revelation 3:2 ESV)   

Haman in the Midst

Robert Wurtz II

Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “A gallows 75 feet high stands by Haman’s house. He had it made for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.” The king said, “Hang him on it!” So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided. (Esther 7:9-10) 

He who digs a hole for his neighbor will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone rolls it on himself. (Proverbs 26:27 NETS)

 

It is unfortunate for Haman that he either never read, or never took to heart, Proverbs 26:27. Being the son of an Amalekite, he seemed to hate God’s people with perfect hatred. He plotted to destroy all the Jews in Persia and hang Mordecai on a 75 ft gallows. Haman rolled the proverbial stone up the hill until it finally rolled back over the top of him. His story comes down through history as an ever present warning against men and women who seek to destroy others in order to advance their own ambitions and desires. 

Esther Exposes and Denounces Haman

Haman, a man after Satan’s own heart, was prepared to wipe out all of the Jews simply because Mordecai would not bow to him. He was so bent on his destruction that even an invitation to the king’s palace could not calm him down. He stated, “Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” (Esther 5:13) He craved honor. He wanted to be revered and respected. Yet Mordecai comes along and refuses to bow the knee. My question is this, “Who did this man think he was?”

 

Although the king had commanded the people to bow to and reverence Haman (Esther 3:1f), as a Jew he could not show that honor to man which was due to God alone. (C. F. Keil and Delitzsch) And this is often the problem. Men desire the honor and reverence that God alone deserves. In fact, some men have actually confused themselves with God. Like Haman, their position has gone to their head and they won’t tolerate people not honoring them. Sadly, many Christians have been deceived into honoring men in this way because of their alleged “anointing.” I marvel at how well people can twist scripture to maintain and control their following. What did Paul say?

 

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5–7 NKJV)

 

Unlike modern times, the ancient world highly esteemed learning and because of that they practically worshiped teachers. Even the Jews had schools of men such a Hillel and Shammai. However, notice how the Lord Jesus commanded the disciples to view themselves, “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” (Matthew 23:8 KJV) The KJV commonly translates the Greek word didaskalos (teacher) as “master.” This comes from an Old English word that traces its origins to the Latin magister or magis meaning “more” (i.e., more important). Can you imagine what would happen if we called our Bible teachers “Master _____”? Jesus said plainly that we have one “Master,” “Teacher,” “Rabbi” (or whatever honorable term we can come up with to translate the Greek) and the rest of us are all brethren (adelphos). So common is the adelphos (brethren) that it’s found nearly 350 times in the New Testament. That kind of repetition is hard to dismiss. 

 

If everyone would gladly receive the words of Christ in Matthew 23:8 and the words of Paul in Philippians 2:5-7, we could eliminate the “Haman” type figures from our midst. If we could only grasp the fact that God does not want us viewing our leaders as kings and queens — but as brothers and sisters in Christ — we would eliminate the very platform on which the Haman’s of the world build their “empires.” But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. (Matthew 23:8 KJV) 

 

Nevertheless, it is likely that the same old habits and tendencies will prevail. Why? They will not repent. Why? Because people who seek honor from one another tend not to believe God’s word. Why? Because they have their list of self-serving verses, but they don’t accept God’s revelation as a whole. How do we know? Because the Haman’s of the world keep gunning for the Mordecai’s (as it were) and the people of God continue to be at risk. Had they believed God’s word they would want others to succeed in ministry — even if it meant that they would lose influence or position. We live in a day when leaders try to bring each other down because they want the big title. They refuse to help one another succeed. What is worse is that this very attitude is the obstacle to much of what God wants to do. Jesus asked a piercing question, “How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44 NKJV) Selah. 

 

We are not going any place (in terms of ministry success) until the Haman’s of the world either repent or die off. So long as we have men who are consumed with craving honor from other men and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it… we are at a stand still. The solution? Renounce the mind of Haman and receive the mind of Christ. 

 

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5–7 NKJV)   

The Seat of the Scornful

Robert Wurtz II

Now the house was full of men and women, and all the satraps of the allophyles were there, and on top of the house there were about three thousand men and women, watching Sampson being made fun of. (Judges 16:27 NETS/LXX)

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalms 1:1–3 NKJV)

There are few things that have the negative emotional impact of when people make fun of us. We have all experienced it at some point in our lives. Generally, scorning reaches its apex in junior high school. Kids use their tongues to cut one another to pieces. This type of cruelty is best described by Paul in Romans 3:13 when he quotes the Psalmist… They sharpen their tongues like a serpent; The poison of asps is under their lips. (Psalms 140:3 NKJV)

For Judges 16:27 I have chosen to quote from the NETS translation of the LXX (Greek Old Testament). Here is a familiar story that reveals exactly what Samson experienced once he had been stripped of the Spirit’s power. We read that “… on top of the house there were about three thousand men and women, watching Sampson being made fun of.” These pagans enjoyed themselves watching this mighty man who had carried off the gates of Gaza being treated like a circus act. Something in them craved the taste of “blood.” I don’t mean this literally, but figuratively. Here was a wounded man and the people gathered around to laugh and ridicule. I’m reminded of Solomon, who, at the end of his life, made this comment, “For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, So is the laughter of the fool. This also is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 7:6 NKJV)  What laughter could be more foolish than to make fun of people when they are down?

Earlier in his life, Solomon spoke of God’s attitude towards “scorners.” Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. (Proverbs 3:34) Here we have a scorner being contrasted with a humble person. A scorner is one who expresses contempt and ridicule towards others. The implication is that scorners are proud people. We see this verified in the LXX (NETS translation of the verse). It reads, “The Lord resists the arrogant but gives grace to the humble.” It has the familiar ring of James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5. A scornful person is an arrogant person. They think themselves better than others and treat them accordingly. Pride numbs the scorner to the shame they should experience when making fun of people.

The Hebrew word that is translated as scorn is lis or lason. There are characteristics of a scorner that are worth mentioning. Fools scorn and mock at sin (Proverbs 14:9) and judgment (Proverbs 19:28). The scorner (Qal participial form) himself may be described as proud and haughty (Proverbs 21:24), incorrigible or past reproof (Proverbs 9:7), resistant to all reproof (Proverbs 9:8; 15:12), and hating any rebuke (Proverbs 13:1). Wisdom and knowledge easily elude him (Proverbs 14:6). So despicable is the scorner that he may be labeled as repulsive to all men (Proverbs 24:9) and therefore must be avoided (Psalm 1:1). A good way to get rid of strife and contention in a group is to eject the scorner and strife and contention will cease (Proverbs 22:10). Judgment awaits them as they have delighted in their scorning (Proverbs 1:22. Isaiah 29:20). (TWOT 1113)
In Psalm 1:1f the Psalmist gives several things that characterize a blessed person who is fruitful. One of these characteristics is that they do not sit in the seat of the scornful. They are not the type of person who likes to sit around and criticize or make fun of people. They don’t mock God, at sin, or anything else in that regard. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. In other words, he/she meditates and speaks aloud the word of God continually. They are careful that they don’t wrongly criticize, belittle, or make fun of the less fortunate. the benefit? He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalms 1:1–3 NKJV)
A dear lady posted a picture on social media of a large green hornworm that was making havoc of her tomato plants. Scorners are to churches what hornworms are to tomato plants. Do you have trouble in your group or church with fruitlessness? In other words, do you struggle to see real growth and fruit? If you do, there may be a scorner or two in your midst. As a pastor, you may be praying and preaching your heart out and unbeknownst to you, there is a scorner in the midst making fun of someone’s clothes, shoes, how they sing, or an infinite number of other things. There could be people around who are running the congregation off by making fun of them or ridiculing them. The reason why it happens so frequently is that we don’t expect professing Christians to behave in this childish and cruel way. How could someone act so unchristlike?
We should never judge people in the way presented in this blog entry. Sometimes people are going through bad times and they don’t need criticism. They need encouragement. I have to ask, perhaps it’s time to bring the subject up on a large scale? Ask the congregation, “How do you treat one another?” “Do you make fun of your fellow brothers and sisters?” “Are you critical of things that don’t amount to anything?” “Do you judge people by their speech or their appearance?” “Do you judge them by how wealthy or poor they are?” “Are you critical of others when you should be having compassion on them?” Or more pointedly, “Are you sitting in the seat of the scornful?”

The Wisdom of God

Robert Wurtz II

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? (Romans 11:33–34 KJV)

Paris Reidhead once remarked that old time ministers would occasionally preach what he termed, “The wisdom of God’s requirements.” This is a way of saying that God, in His infinite wisdom, established “requirements” that have to be understood in order to be appreciated. Generally speaking, this wisdom cannot be comprehended unless we experience the consequences of someone (or ourselves) rejecting His requirements. Obviously, the Old Covenant saints could visualize (imagine) the seriousness of “thou shalt not murder.” However, when it was their loved one who was murdered then they appreciated and understood thoroughly the wisdom of the commandment. The same could be said for thou shalt not steal, commit adultery, or bear false witness.” 
When we have been wronged (because someone decided to disregard God’s word) we have a greater appreciation for God’s word than if it were merely academic. Sometimes we have to experience the fallout from someone’s disobedience in order to see the wisdom of God. The same holds true for all of God’s directives and instruction. Time will prove that we disregard God’s word at our own peril. As a wise man once said, “We don’t just break God’s word… God’s word breaks us.” God is not mocked. When we disregard his clear instruction, we generally pay a heavy price.
One example that comes to mind that had far reaching implications for the Children of Israel was in the matter of God’s desire to be their King. Part of their identity and uniqueness was that God alone was going to be their King. He would rule from the Holy of Holies. However, God knew that they would reject His will so He accommodated Himself to their rebellion and gave commandments concerning an eventual king. Yet they wanted a king “like unto the nations.” A cursory reading of the Old Testament narrative demonstrates the wisdom of God’s perfect will and the folly of man’s desire for a human king. In fact, the very first king did evil and had to be replaced. We then had David who did good, but Solomon was mixed. When his son, Rehoboam, came to power his actions were so devilish that the nation split into two kingdoms (north and south or Judah and Israel).
After Rehoboam, we discover that for Israel (the Ten Tribes or the Northern Kingdom) they had a perfect record of around 19 straight evil kings. That is insanity. Judah (the Southern Kingdom) did better — but still only managed to have (more or less) six who did good. There were two who were “mixed” (did well in the beginning but fell away late in life). Compare that to the staggering 12 who did evil before the Lord. These evil kings led the people into unspeakable sin and rebellion. Is there any wonder that God, in His wisdom, did not want men being kings? Sadly, many of the best kings fell into some kind of compromise The more they behaved like the Gentile kings the eviler they became.
God knows the corruption that is in the hearts of men. History has proven that above all things bad men desire power. The time would fail to list their names and their dastardly deeds. Show me a person who desires power and control, and I’ll show you an agent of Satan. What did Israel experience? Having a man as a king opened the door to men leading the people according to their own will. It was rare to find someone who would do God’s will (a man after God’s own heart). For our part, we should be able (by this example alone) to see why God utterly rejects the notion of a “king” type role in the churches of God. A careful examination of the New Covenant reveals that God entrusts the care of churches to elders and the term is always in the plural. No kings. The Gentile “hierarchy” type structure was rejected by Jesus in Matthew 20:25-26 and Mark 10-41-44.
Consider how this has played out in modern times. Denominations were established (in part) in order to protect the people from bad ministers. That is, to make sure they were properly trained, licensed, and monitored. Had we hearkened to the wisdom of God we would have known this would not work. The failed kings of Israel prove the fact. What has happened? In many cases, denominations have become a means by which bad people can express their bad behavior. Not only can the denominations not perform their original designs, they are doing the exact opposite thing by empowering destructive people. The whole racket becomes a political and corrupt as the nonsense we see happening in democratic nations. Moreover, instead of having a single church with a limited platform of influence, the denomination creates positions that can wield exponential influence. Bad men work feverously to design rules to make their power absolute. And as the saying goes, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” God never intended for this to be. In the light of all he has revealed in scripture, I think I can say safely that it’s all an abomination to Him.
Do we trust God’s wisdom or do we believe we can somehow improve on his precepts and designs? God’s perfect will was and is for the people to make God Himself their King. Nothing has changed in some 4000 years. Yet people still want a king. They still want to be like the nations. There is almost no sense of our unique destiny and calling. In Romans 11: 34 Paul is expounding on the great wisdom of God in saving the Jews and the Gentiles. But that wisdom extends to all walks of life. If God instituted a method of doing something we are foolish to change it. There will be consequences. Why? Because there is a wisdom to everything God does. It is a gross understatement to say that any deviation from His ways will result in serious side effects (pain, suffering, heartache, destruction, etc.). We flout God’s word and wisdom at our own peril.

Tolerating Fools Gladly

Robert Wurtz II

For you tolerate fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise! For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face. To our shame I say that we were too weak for that! (2 Corinthians 11:19–21b)

Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? (2 Corinthians 11:29 NKJV)

The late great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson explains that Paul was speaking to the Corinthians “with a sarcasm that cut to the bone.” He said (in effect) that they gladly tolerated tyranny, extortion, craftiness, arrogance, violence, and insult. Why did they allow this? We are not told except this simple statement, “(…) you tolerate fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise!” Apparently, they thought it was wisdom to keep on putting up with these type of people. Amazing!

At the time of this epistle, the Pharisees were moving towards the “strangle hold” we know today as Rabbinic Judaism. It is likely that Paul is dealing with Judaizers in this epistle. Matthew Henry passes this comment, “Notwithstanding all your wisdom, you willingly suffer yourselves to be brought into bondage under the Jewish yoke, or suffer others to tyrannize over you; nay, to devour you, or make a prey of you, and take of you hire for their own advantage, and to exalt themselves above you, and lord it over you; nay, even to smite you on the face, or impose upon you to your very faces.” These words leave the impression that the church at Corinth was being treated like children at best or animals at worst. Why was it happening?

Understand that within 30-40 years, the Pharisee’s dream of having total control of the people would be realized. In fact, when Rabbinic Judaism was started at Yavneh (Jamnia CE 70), the Rabbis assumed near total control of the spiritual lives of the Jews. They reserved the right to interpret dreams and could overrule a prophet. Before it was over with, the Rabbis’ reserved the right to overrule God Himself! The basis for their power grab? “It is not in heaven,” they said. That’s right. They said that God passed the authority to them. Really? No kidding. It may seem ridiculous to us as Christians, but it happened and it is still happening. These devilish men found a way to insert themselves between God and people. This is a major reason why so few Jews have come to Christ over the last 2000 years. They are locked up — not in the Judaism of the time of Jesus — but in Rabbinic Judaism. Paul was fighting that controlling spirit in 2 Corinthians.

People can really be gullible. Sometimes men and women who are in reputation for wisdom can behave like the blind fools who deceive them. What did Paul say, For you tolerate fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise! Clearly, he is rebuking them for their capitulation. I would argue that he is even mocking them. I get the impression that he is being as nice as he can be, but their flagrantly inept handling of these trouble-makers made them look foolish and mock-worthy. Perhaps by using such piercing words he could arouse their attention and get them to take the blinders off.

Finally, Paul has to break down and give a list of his experiences to combat the nonsense the deceivers were feeding the people. His life story reads more like a decade’s long nightmare (in one sense). He had been beaten 39 stripes (the same as our Lord before the crucifixion) on five different occasions. Doctors at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota once published an article in JAMA stating that one such beating would have landed a person (clinically) in serious condition. Three times he was beaten with Rods and once stoned almost to death (for starters). He continues, Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Cor 11:25B-27 ESV)

On top of these and many more things he states, And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:28 ESV) Paul was forever concerned about people (like the man the Corinthians gladly tolerated) coming in and destroying the churches that he had planted. And I suggest this one characteristic surpasses all the rest… that Paul was desperately concerned about the condition of the churches. Some ministers are like the harlot in 1 Kings 3:16 who would rather see the child cut to pieces. They don’t have a motherly concern for the churches like Paul did (1 Thess. 2:7). They will rip and tear until there is nothing left. Yet Paul follows up these thoughts with a great question, “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?” (2 Corinthians 11:29 ESV)

Indignant is translated from a Greek word that means to burn. We might say today, he “got heated.” And rightly so. When people are causing others to stumble in the faith because of their foolishness, we should be angry about that. If we’re not, there is something seriously wrong with us. Yet, the Corinthians could seem to care less. What did Paul say, For you tolerate fools gladly. Deceivers and destroyers came in — putting the entire church at risk — and nobody said a word. The Greek word translated as gladly could have been translated as “with pleasure.” They liked it! Is that not astounding? How could that be? Nevertheless, what could Paul do? It was up to the people to stop “gladly tolerating,” “enjoying,” or “finding pleasure” in the trouble makers enough to finally do something. Paul used everything in his power to wake them up — including giving them that long list of trials — and now it would be up to them. At some point, the people would either do something or the church would have been completely destroyed. Tolerate Fools Gladly? Do so and they will destroy the “child.” It’s only a matter of time.

The Spirit of Adonijah

Robert Wurtz II

Now Adonijah, son of David and Haggith, was promoting himself, boasting, “I will be king!” He managed to acquire chariots and horsemen, as well as fifty men to serve as his royal guard. (Now his father had never corrected him by saying, “Why do you do such things?” He was also very handsome and had been born right after Absalom. (1 Kings 1:5–6 NET)


Adonijah was the fourth of David’s sons. Like his brother Absalom, he had aspirations of being the king of Israel, in his father’s place. Yet God had other plans. The objective was to build a house of God and Solomon was selected for the task. The Ark of the Covenant had not been properly situated for a long time and God longed to revisit His people. David desired to build the house but he was a man of blood. The job fell to Solomon — a name derived from the Hebrew word Shalom meaning “peace.”


While God was moving in the hearts of men to build Him a house, Adonijah was plotting to build himself a kingdom. It is unfathomable how anyone could be that out-of-touch with what God was doing. Would a man dare to build his own kingdom at the expense of God building his Temple? Indeed he would. This is ambition run amok. The problem was that his aspirations ran cross with God’s plans.     

Adonijah was Solomon’s older brother and he was upset for having been passed over. Apparently, problems had been brewing for many years. For reasons unknown to us, David refused to discipline him. In fact, the wording of 1 Kings 1:5-6 implies that he refused to disappoint his son. This is extremely troubling. A son who runs wildly unchecked and unreproved is bound for destruction.


I have to wonder if Solomon had his older brother in mind when he wrote concerning disciplining children in Proverbs. Who can tell? Nevertheless, Matthew Henry once wrote, “Those who honor their sons more than God, as those do who keep them not under good discipline, thereby forfeit the honor they might expect from their sons.” This is not the first time we find God placing the responsibility on the parent to correct a child who is acting contrary to His will. Eli refused to correct his sons and paid a terrible price. Though he would not live to see it, David will pay a heavy price as well. We should be sobered by the words, Now his father had never corrected him by saying, “Why do you do such things?”





While the plans were in place to get the Temple built, Adonijah was working to win people over to his cause. His strategy was similar to his failed brother Absalom’s having fifty men run before him as if he were already king. Despite the unlikeliness of success, Adonijah managed to win over David’s “general” Joab. Even Abiathar the High Priest fell for his charm. Nevertheless, he was of the sons of Eli who were already serving on borrowed time. 


Solomon realized what Adonijah was doing and offered him mercy. But the man just couldn’t stop. His ambition eventually blinded him to the danger it had put him in. His brazenness was finally manifest when he asked for permission to marry one of his father David’s concubines. Solomon, wise as he was, knew what Adonijah was doing and was furious. what did he do? He had him put to death for treason. When Joab heard what happened he knew he was next. Solomon had him put to death too. Abiathar was more fortunate he was simply removed from his post and Zadok was installed in his place. I think it more than coincidence that the common element in the judgment of Eli’s “sons” and Adonijah was that their parents did not correct them when they erred in the things of God. 


In 1 Cor. 10:11 Paul writes, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” We could argue that in this dispensation a man cannot be put to death for attempting to build his own kingdom instead of God’s Temple (so to speak). We can’t call fire down from heaven or any of that. However, the example of Adonijah is an expression of God’s estimate of this type of behavior and should be programmatic to our view of things. God may not put to death every man or woman who seeks to build their own “kingdom” rather than falling in step with Christ (who is building His Church), but He shouldn’t have to. 


When a man or woman inserts his/her personal ambitions into God’s plans bad things happen. Adonijah was not fit to do the task that God wanted to be done. He needed Solomon — a man who understood the altar and the meaning of sacrifice. He needed a man who could draw together people who had a mind to work. He didn’t need a man who managed to acquire chariots and horsemen, as well as fifty men to serve as his royal guard. He needed a man of peace who would build His resting place (the Temple). Likewise, today, we don’t need men and women with aspirations for building their own kingdoms. We need people with a mind to work who could care less who received the credit — so long as the “Temple” was being built. This must be the prevailing attitude in our times. Why? Because there is work to be done!