Edmund Burke said, “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites … men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
“When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt … Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.”
Like the Israelites, no matter what the battle or the enemy, we are not to look at the size of the enemy, but at the size of our God!
What Could Cost Us Our Freedom?
But we must remember that this passage follows closely behind the passages we read yesterday where God was giving instructions for choosing leaders and the behavior of those leaders. When the people or their leaders acted presumptuously, repeatedly disobeyed His commands, or followed other gods and put their trust in them, God frequently let them be defeated in battle. Sometimes even allowing them to be taken into captivity, as he did with Babylon.
America has enjoyed years of relative protection from God. We have been blessed with freedoms, resources, and favor on an enormous scale. But we should not think God cannot or will not allow defeat for our nation if we continue to move further and further from Him and His standards.
The great British statesman Edmund Burke said, “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites…in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
God’s Word does not ordain a certain kind of government, but God’s people are to pray, seek His wisdom, and obey His commands in whatever circumstances and under whatever form of government they find themselves.
Also, in what are you trusting? Our government, living in America, your own resources? What do choices have to do with trust?
14 “When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ 17 Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.
18 “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.
God’s Word does not ordain a certain kind of government, but God’s people are to pray, seek His wisdom, and obey His commands in whatever circumstances and under whatever form of government they find themselves.
Leaders should be those “whom the LORD your God chooses.” In a nation like ours where we choose our leaders, they should not be chosen on the basis of political expediency or personal gain. Instead, we should pray, seek godly counsel, and search God’s Word for the characteristics of godly men.
“You may not set a foreigner over you.” Certainly, this has national implications, but more important are the spiritual ones. Look again at verses 18-19, “he shall write for himself a copy of this law … he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes…”
Of course, this was written directly to the nation of Israel. God intended the nation to be a theocracy, led by God Himself through His chosen leaders. Instead, they would demand a king like the nations around them. And while there would be consequences, God still provided wisdom for living under the authority of kings and other leaders. And there is much we can learn from His instructions about living under our government today.
The future, it’s full of promise, but often mixed with uncertainty. Should I marry this person? Does he or she really love me? Is this the right job? Could my spouse be cheating on me? The temptation to want to know what the future holds can be huge. But what does God say about knowing the future or seeking information about things God has not revealed?
And what about your heart? Do you have a wise heart? Are you teachable? Do you listen to godly counsel? Or do you first make up your own mind and then look for justification to believe and do what you desire? What does it means, “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies”? See today’s Proverbs reading.
Fortune Tellers, Palm Readers, and Other False Prophets
Chapter 13, verses 1-4 talk about the false prophets who predict things that come to pass. So many people assume that such a person must be from God, even though he or she says and does things that contradict biblical truth. Verse 3 says:
“… you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”
There are still people out there today, claiming they can predict the future or they can tell you if your husband is cheating or give you a message from a deceased family member. They may even claim to believe in God. James 2.19 says, “… Even the demons believe—and tremble!” And in Matthew 8 when Jesus met two demon possessed men, the demons cried out, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”
You can believe in God and not be of God. We are told to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph. 5.11). And Deuteronomy 18.10-12 says:
10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.
“Everything in the Old Testament points toward Jesus Christ and enriches our understanding of the cross (see Luke 24.27). The drama of redemption begins in the Garden in Genesis 3 and continues to unfold throughout the Old Testament until it reaches its climax at the cross. All along the way the Divine Author prepares us for Calvary. The symbolism of the sacrificial system, the strictness of the law, the repeated failures of man, the steadfast faithfulness of God—all this and more deepens our amazement at the cross.”
Thankfully, like the Israelites, our position with God does not depend upon our own righteousness. As Paul Tripp says, in his book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, we cannot boast in our righteousness because we don’t have any (Phil. 3.9)! We are all sinners saved by grace alone (Eph. 2.8-9) and have been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3.21-23). His righteousness was imputed to us on the basis of His sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf.
But like the Israelites we need to remind ourselves of that fact, because in our pride and self-sufficiency, we see ourselves as basically good (Prov. 20.6). If we are basically good, perhaps with some minor character flaws, then, as someone has said, the cross was “a cosmic over-reaction for a people who only had a case of spiritual sniffles.” That kind of thinking is not only wrong, but it keeps many from seeing their need for Christ.
Many people expect to spend eternity in heaven because they don’t believe they’re all that bad. They have some vague idea that God will weigh their misdeeds against all the good things they’ve done and they’ll manage to “get in.”
A friend told me last night about a quote he’d read. The writer said that Adam and Eve’s sin was basically “petty theft.” Of course, we know they weren’t condemned because they stole fruit. They were condemned because of their disobedience. They broke God’s law, His direct command. But the Apostle John said, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness (1 Jn. 3.4).
I grew up believing that pretty much everyone went to heaven. We believed “in” God, but sadly, a god of our own creation, like those in the popular book and movie The Shack, who loves everyone and who wouldn’t let anyone go to hell.
Perhaps you say, come on, Donna, it’s just a movie! That’s true. But how many of us who grew up watching the movie The 10 Commandments would admit that our conception of those events has been colored by images from the movie or that watching The Passion of the Christ impacted our understanding of the events of the crucifixion. Continue reading →
Rotten: It means something that is decaying or infected.
Ladies, our Proverbs passage tells us we can be like rotten fruit to our husbands! But we have a choice. We can, also, choose to be like crowns bringing them honor through our lives. Which one are you?
Verse 4 says, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.”
Wives, do you do things which cause your husband shame? The way you talk? The way you dress? The way you criticize him in front of others? Does he consider you a “crown” to him or more like rotten fruit?
Are you an excellent wife? Proverbs 31 talks a lot about what it means to be an excellent wife. Among other things, she is trustworthy in all her behavior. She’s industrious, not lazy. She’s generous. She seeks to be organized and prepares for the future. She cares about her appearance, but she understand that inner beauty is the most important part of becoming the woman God wants her to be.
She’s faithful with her responsibilities and that frees her husband to be who God wants him to be. She is faithful to grow in her understanding of God’s Word and it’s reflected in her speech and character. She values her testimony. She wants others to see the light of Christ in her life.
Now a question for you husbands. Do you value what God values in a wife? What are you doing to help her become that “excellent wife”? Continue reading →
Chapter 30 covers the “Law of Vows.” God takes truth and honoring our word seriously. Jesus said, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’” (Matt. 5.37a”]).
God not only takes truth seriously, but He also takes authority seriously. Part of the “Law of Vows” addressed that fact. It said if a woman still lived in her father’s house or if she was married, her father or husband could overrule what she vowed.
Authority is still very important to God whether in our marriages, in the workplace, or in other areas of life.
We need to teach our children the importance of respect for authority, too. That means teaching them to respect their teachers, the police and other civil authorities, and even the other parent where divorce has taken place.
We should teach them both by instruction and by example. That means we must show respect to our spouses (& ex-spouses), their teachers and school officials, civil authorities, and our bosses.
Authority, however, stops when the other person asks us to sin. Sin would include Continue reading →
As we see God’s swift and strong judgment on sin in the Old Testament, we need to remember a couple of things. First, He was protecting the people and the bloodline through which He was going to bring forth the Messiah.
But second, though God is patient and merciful with us in our sin and idolatry, it doesn’t mean He’s changed His mind about sin! It’s only the blood of Christ that keeps us from a similar fate and it was the mercy and love of God that made provision for our salvation. And how great a salvation it is!
We tend to write off the idea that we, too, are idolaters. We may or may not bow down to carved images, but we are frequently guilty of having other things on the throne of our hearts besides God Himself. Things like: I must have a spouse to be happy; I must have a godly husband; I must have a wife who respects me, I must have obedient children; or some other, “I must ..” Even good things can become idols if they are the focal point of our lives in the place of God.
Ask yourself, “Is there something or someone I think I cannot be happy without?”
Our idols can become so important that they blind us (Ezek. 14.1-8). In our blindness we can begin to justify sin or even refuse to see that it exists. We murmur and complain like the children of Israel in the wilderness. We compromise our moral standards, resort to sinful anger, or give in to fear.
When we do, it is sin—pure and simple. No amount of sugar coating will change it, but the answer is just as simple Continue reading →
What does God value in a woman? Does He care about modesty and discretion? About how we dress or talk? Does the Bible have anything to say about these things? Check out our proverbs reading to learn more.
What does our clothing and behavior say about us? Is clothing merely a fashion statement? Is it our right to dress any way we choose? Is off color language simply part of life in the business world? Does the Bible have anything to say about these things and other ways that we relate to those around us?
It turns out God has a great deal to say about these things. Verse 22 in today’s reading for starters.
“As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.”
A beautiful woman without discretion—a woman without modesty, wisdom and grace—is compared to a pig!
A pig is an animal who roots around in garbage, an animal that you can clean up, but who will go right back to the pig sty! The beauty of a woman without discretion is like a jewel put in the nose of an animal that pokes around in the slop!
Ladies, why do we stand around and listen to dirty jokes, or laugh at them, or … tell them? Why do we reveal parts of our bodies that should be reserved for our husbands or future husbands—by wearing things that are too low, too short or too tight? And why do we allow our daughters to dress that way?
Why do we allow gossip and criticism and unwholesome things to come out of our mouths? Why do we watch TV shows and movies and read books that fill our minds with things contrary to the Word and make us look like the rest of the world?
The Bible doesn’t give us rules and regulations about the length of our skirts or the style of our clothes and I don’t want to either. And we need to be extremely careful about becoming self-righteous in this area, especially when it comes to visitors to our churches or with new believers. But as we grow in Christ we should be more sensitive to these issues and more aware of the heart attitudes behind them.
When asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus said in short, love God and love others (Matt. 22.37-40). Our behavior has an effect on others: on our brothers in Christ, on our sisters in Christ who are their wives, on those who look to us as an example, and to the world who is watching to see if there is really anything different about us.
More than once, I’ve heard women say, “I like to dress this way. If men look at me, that’s their problem.” Certainly, men are responsible for what they do with their eyes, but we are also responsible if we’re a stumbling block.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. (1 Thess. 4.3-7).
One definition of defraud is to offer something for sale that you don’t intend to provide.
3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. (Eph. 5.3-4)
Instead, may the Lord help us to be the women Peter talked about:
“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel—rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Pet. 3.3-4).
A Note to the Men:
Men, I pray that you will become the kind of men who value what God values in a woman, rather than the world. Too many men value the wrong things. Sadly, I’ve even seen men with 1 Peter 3.3-4 wives who were demanding they become Proverbs 11.22 women!
Almost 40 years had passed since the Israelites were brought out of Egypt. Most of the adults had died just as God said they would. They did not enter the Promised Land because they listened to the evil report of the ten spies instead of trusting God. Now there was a new generation murmuring against God. They seem to have learned more from their parents’ example than from their parents’ fate!
What are your children learning from you? Do you tell them not to “whine and complain” while you “whine and complain” about your spouse, your boss, your government (this one hits pretty close to home for me), your mother-in-law or whatever?
Verse 8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”
Matthew Henry had this to say about verse 8, “He teaches us by his word and guides us with his eye, by the secret intimations of his will in the hints and turns of Providence, which he enables his people to understand and take direction from, as a master makes a servant know his mind by a wink of his eye.”
Read that quote once again slowly.
It’s that combination of His Word, the circumstances of our lives (the secret intimations of his will in the hints and turns of Providence), and His Holy Spirit’s guidance (which he enables his people to understand and take direction from). They work together, but we won’t recognize the leading of His Spirit apart from a faithful intake and an understanding of His Word.
God had told the Nation of Israel that they would not be allowed to go into the Promised Land because they had believed the evil report of the ten spies, instead of trusting God to give them the strength and the ability to defeat His enemies.
But even so, he continued to speak to them in miraculous ways:
“Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds” (17.8).
When they questioned Moses rightful leadership, He said He would cause the rod of His chosen leader to bud. He not only caused it to bud, but to produce blossoms and ripe almonds! He doesn’t just do the minimum; He is able and willing to do so much more.
Ephesians 3.20-21 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.”
Few of us have trouble believing that God is powerful and able to do miraculous things, but I wonder how many of us really believe He will do great things in our lives?
Do you believe—really believe—that He wants to do great things in your life? your marriage? your children and grandchildren? your finances?
God had delivered the nation of Israel from Egypt and provided for them over and over in the wilderness. So these chapters can’t help but seem astounding, how these people rebelled again and again in spite of how God had revealed Himself to them. And yet, if we’re honest, once again … they are us and we are them!
Verse 15.30 talks about “presumptuous sins.” That is willful disobedience. It means we know it’s wrong and, yet, we do it anyway! Remember, anytime we sin, it’s first and foremost a sin against God. So when we willfully transgress the Lord’s commands to us, we’re shaking our fist at God just as Korah and his bunch did in today’s reading. Instead of fearing God, we’re rebelling against Him!
It may not be as public when we do it, so we think it’s not as bad. But remember God is looking at our hearts and nothing is hidden from Him. Romans 14.23 says, “… for whatever is not from faith is sin.” And James 4.17 says, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (NASB).
Remember, Remember, Remember
The Nation of Israel failed to remember all that God had done for them and quickly turned back to living by their feelings, instead of walking by faith.
God, in His mercy, is constantly showing us ways to “remember.” In 15.37-41 He instructed the Israelites to put tassels on their garments to remind them of the commandments and the importance of obeying them. He was saying “remember, remember, remember”!
Today, we have the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as reminders. We hang plaques on our walls and drink our coffee out of Scripture emblazoned cups.
He has given us His written Word, great biblically sound books, teachings on the radio, on TV, on the Internet and in church. Yet, how often do we leave church after hearing a great message and, instead of “remembering,” … we, immediately, start living for ourselves, fighting and quarreling, and sinning willfully … sometimes on the way home!
In the book of numbers, even after the earth opened and swallowed up the rebels, Continue reading →