Category Archives: Disobeying, Rebelling Against, Ignoring God

Christmas on Trial – The Closing Argument

I am sharing an article from LifeHopeandTruth.com. If you really want to test what is pleasing to God in how you approach this holiday, then I encourage you to invest some time to read this article.

Christmas on Trial

Imagine a courtroom where Christmas is on trial, charged with false impersonation of legitimate, godly worship. Both sides have presented their cases. Now it’s the prosecutor’s turn to make his closing argument. It could well go something like this.

By Clyde Kilough

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you’ve heard the defense supporting the religious practice of celebrating Christmas. I trust you noted it was not a biblical defense, because none exists.

Let’s step away from human reasoning and emotion, and revisit the facts presented to you by history, scholars and God’s Word itself.

You’ll recall that all the expert witnesses—secular historians and theologians alike—attested that modern Christmas practices can be easily traced back to non-Christian origins. Their sources were so numerous that no one bothered to present counterarguments.

Please remember these facts:

    • Christmas is a man-made holiday. The Bible has zero reference to celebrating Jesus’ birth, which was probably in the autumn, not winter. Not until nearly three centuries later, in fact, did a “birthday party for Jesus” make its way into religious observance. Not until A.D. 336 did a Roman calendar officially note celebrating Jesus’ birth on Dec. 25.
    • So how was Dec. 25 selected for this celebration? Pope Julius I decreed it. Why? Because syncretism, the blending of religions, had become a common tool employed by the Roman church for assimilating “heathens” into its fold. Midwinter pagan festivals were immensely popular throughout Europe, so mixing these into the church’s rituals was an easy method to induce nonbelievers to embrace their version of Christianity.
    • What were these festivals? They included:
    • The birthday of the sun god Mithra.
    • Saturnalia, a time of debauchery honoring the Roman god of agriculture, Saturn.
    • Northern European celebrations of the winter solstice glorifying the sun’s return.
    • The Scandinavian Norse religion’s yule celebrations Dec. 21 through January, with its abundant superstitious customs.
    • The German version revering their god Odin. Interestingly, Odin is supposed to have made nighttime flights during which he would watch people and decide who to bless and curse. Hmm. Isn’t that reminiscent of a modern tale of a mythical guy who flies at night, somehow having godlike powers to know “who’s naughty and nice”?

People aren’t easily converted from entrenched popular customs, but church leaders had their methods. Let the people keep their customs, they figured, but simply syncretize them with ours and call them Christian. Instead of celebrating Dies Natalis Solis Invicti—the birthday of the unconquered sun—we’ll say we’re now honoring Jesus, the Son of God.

I remind you of the historian who quoted Augustine of Hippo, a great church influence, as saying in a Christmas sermon, “Let us celebrate this day as a feast not for the sake of this sun, which is beheld by believers as much as ourselves, but for the sake of Him who created the sun.”

If Jesus appeared today, would He okay our worshipping on a holiday borrowed from pagan religions that idolized the sun, moon and rocks?

I’ve barely recapped the historical evidence, but clearly, no one can legitimately argue for any biblical support upholding any aspect of Christmas as a Christian holiday. In fact, virtually all of our Christmas traditions—trees, mistletoe, gift-giving, wreaths, caroling, Santa Claus—sprang from these pagan festivals.

It is the thought that counts!

So, ladies and gentlemen, let’s examine the defense’s arguments in support of observing Christmas today, beginning with the contention that “at the end of the day—so what? It’s the thought that counts!”

Actually, I agree 100 percent! It is the thought that matters—and it’s God’s thought that matters most! God left ample evidence of His thought on this in His Word, the Bible.

I remind you of the religious scholars who admitted that God has always adamantly opposed syncretism, often bemoaning how His people mixed their idolatrous neighbors’ customs with their worship of Him.

When God delivered Israel from Egypt, what did He command? “Do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way.”

What part of “you shall not” is so confusing for us humans?

For emphasis, He added, “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” That’s in Deuteronomy 12:30-32.

So, centuries later, after watching the people continually blend pagan practices into their worship, taking from and adding to everything He’d said, God told them through the prophet Amos, “I hate, I despise your feast days” (Amos 5:21).

Did God use lightly the words hate and despise? If not, why should we assume He feels differently today?

In the same verse He also said, “I take no delight in your solemn assemblies” (Revised Standard Version). Today’s most important “solemn assemblies” are Christmas and Easter, but they are not the holy days God appointed. Even then, God told them, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs” (verse 23). They may be beautiful and catchy songs, but because of what they represent and where they come from, to God they are just noise!

Now, since God says in Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, I do not change,” and emphasizes in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” we have to ask, “Has God now changed His mind about such things?” If Jesus appeared today, would He okay our worshipping on a holiday borrowed from pagan religions that idolized the sun, moon and rocks? Because someone mixed it into religion and called it “Christian,” does that mean God sanctioned it?

It is the thought that counts—but what does God think?

But if my heart’s right …

You also heard from a defense witness who reasoned, “I know Christmas’ origins are wrong, but I know in my heart why I go to church at Christmas—it’s to honor Jesus—and I believe it’s what’s in my heart that counts!”

Absolutely—the heart does count! That’s big on God’s list of qualities! But don’t forget what Jesus said about the heart in Mark 7:6-9: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men.” Jesus doesn’t accept just any worship, even if in our heart we think it’s okay.

Notice, too, He said, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”

Christmas offers a prime example of this. Isn’t God the One who said, “Do not lie”? But what is one of the biggest Christmas traditions people cling to? Lying to kids about Santa Claus! How does that honor Jesus, who commands us not to lie! And don’t forget Easter. How do people lie to their kids that rabbits lay eggs, then trot off to church saying it’s all about worshipping God?

Do we really think we can reject doing what God says, instead borrowing religious practices from pagan religions, and think He’ll be happy about it because we say “my heart’s right”?

Tradition does not trump obedience. If our heart’s right, won’t we be striving to worship God “in spirit and in truth,” as Jesus told the Samaritan woman (John 4:24)?

Saying “Lord, Lord” to no avail

You also heard this line of reasoning from the defense: “Yes, everyone knows the bad side of Christmas—the partying, commercialism, indebtedness, greed and so on—but most people have a very merry Christmas. What’s wrong with families enjoying being together with good food, gifts, pretty music and lights, or helping the needy? There’s far more good than bad, and a lot of it involves good Christian acts!”

Well, of course God loves good things and seeing people happy. But do good deeds justify bad actions? Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Who was He addressing? Religious people proudly pointing out all their good deeds!

“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

There is more “Lord, Lord” talk at this time of year than any other, but does it impress God when we persist in lawlessness—doing things He tells us not to do?

We say we’re worshipping the baby Jesus, but we’re not doing what the grown-up Jesus told us to do! If people were really serious about doing God’s will, we’d see real “peace on earth” and “goodwill toward men.” We’d see good deeds all the time, not just during a few days when they get in the “Christmas spirit.”

People of truth?

You also heard the defense try to poke a hole in our case by arguing, “The Jesus I know isn’t so radical about something that brings so much fun and enjoyment to everyone, even the fantasy part for the kids.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this one’s simple. Answer this, please: Would you like it if someone told your kids lies about you and got them to believe it? I don’t think so.

So how do you think God feels when He’s being lied about?

This is so important because of where it comes from. Jesus explained one time—in John 8:44—that the devil “is a liar and the father of it.” The people He was addressing were the religious leaders of the day, and He angered them by saying they were of their father the devil. It doesn’t matter who you are—if you lie, or perpetuate a lie, it’s wrong.

If people claim to follow God, isn’t it logical that He expects them to not lie? Aren’t Christians to be people of truth—telling the truth and practicing the truth?

Sad to say, for thousands of years God has seen people lying about Him, even under the guise of claiming to speak for Him.

Long ago God spoke through Ezekiel words that are just as true today: “Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. … Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord had not spoken.” That’s Ezekiel 22:26 and 28.

Putting words in God’s mouth is just a bit presumptuous, wouldn’t you say?

What’s really on trial?

So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let me ask you again: Given the weight of evidence, both factual and circumstantial, if Jesus were here today, do you think He would attend Christmas Eve services, or exchange gifts around the Christmas tree? Would He have a “Put Christ back into Christmas” bumper sticker—or would He say He was never in it to begin with?

Would He still stand by His words in Matthew 4:4, that man shall live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”? I ask, can you do that and observe Christmas at the same time?

I rest my case; but as you make your decision, I urge you to remember that it’s not really Christmas that is on trial—we are.

 

Doing What the LORD Commands You Is A Big Deal

Most of us may be tempted to make excuses for Saul in this situation we will read about. We may be tempted to empathize with him. We may say his disobedience was “understandable”. However, we should check ourselves. The LORD says otherwise, and so rather than focus on thinking “God is harsh”, we should know that “God is just” and we should seek to learn from this episode.

Doing what the LORD commands you to do is a big deal, even if you think it will not work. It is a matter of faith in God vs. yourself. Wait on the LORD, even when you may begin to worry that you need to get involved and do it your own way with intent to accomplish what the LORD has called you into.

Another key concept to pay attention to is that the consequences are declared by the LORD through Samuel long before they are enacted in a tangible way in which Saul can see them. Consequences from our Father are not always immediate.

1 Samuel 13

War with the Philistines

      1Saul was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty two years over Israel.

      2Now Saul chose for himself 3,000 men of Israel, of which 2,000 were with Saul in Michmash and in the hill country of Bethel, while 1,000 were with Jonathan at Gibeah of Benjamin. But he sent away the rest of the people, each to his tent. 3Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. Then Saul blew the trumpet throughout the land, saying, “Let the Hebrews hear.” 4All Israel heard the news that Saul had smitten the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become odious to the Philistines. The people were then summoned to Saul at Gilgal.

      5Now the Philistines assembled to fight with Israel, 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen, and people like the sand which is on the seashore in abundance; and they came up and camped in Michmash, east of Beth-aven. 6When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait (for the people were hard-pressed), then the people hid themselves in caves, in thickets, in cliffs, in cellars, and in pits. 7Also some of the Hebrews crossed the Jordan into the land of Gad and Gilead. But as for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.

      8Now he waited seven days, according to the appointed time set by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering from him. 9So Saul said, “Bring to me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him and to greet him. 11But Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, 12therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.” 13Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14“But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”

      15Then Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people who were present with him, about six hundred men. 16Now Saul and his son Jonathan and the people who were present with them were staying in Geba of Benjamin while the Philistines camped at Michmash. 17And the raiders came from the camp of the Philistines in three companies: one company turned toward Ophrah, to the land of Shual, 18and another company turned toward Beth-horon, and another company turned toward the border which overlooks the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.

      19Now no blacksmith could be found in all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears.” 20So all Israel went down to the Philistines, each to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, and his hoe. 21The charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares, the mattocks, the forks, and the axes, and to fix the hoes. 22So it came about on the day of battle that neither sword nor spear was found in the hands of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan, but they were found with Saul and his son Jonathan. 23And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Worship The Lord His Way, Not Your Way

Most of us who have followed Yahweh for awhile have had the opportunity to see His hand at work in our lives. I have marveled that He takes such an interest in someone so insignificant as me, but nonetheless He does! He loves each of His children. As we get to know Him more closely, we more easily recognize His hand at work in our lives.

We must take heed, however, and not turn away when we feel distant from Him or when we do not feel His presence. At those times, we must continue obeying His commands and His ways, faithfully believing that He is there, even if we do not see His hand at work. Often we can point back to events in our lives where He intervened to encourage us to remember Him. Do not turn from Him.

Consider His people as they left Egypt. Yahweh delivered them from slavery through many mighty miracles. There were ten plagues, parting of the Red Sea, defeat of Pharaoh’s army, God appearing as fire  and smoke to lead them, manna and water miraculously to meet their needs in the dessert. Surely we would think that generation could never turn from God, but they did.

Exodus 32:1-10

The Golden Calf

      1Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 5Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

      7Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8“They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” 9The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. 10“Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”

I think we can all see clearly that Yahweh was not pleased with His people for making this idol and worshiping it. He was going to destroy them and start over. Let us consider carefully what happened. If we read to quickly we may conclude, as many have, that the Israelites were worshiping an idol of a false god and that is why Yahweh was upset… but this is not the case.

Look closer. Indeed they had created an idol and began to worship it, but in fact they were using the idol to represent Yahweh Himself. Consider the following verses:

“This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 5Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.”

In fact, the people were worshiping Yahweh, and He was very upset! Why? Yahweh does not want His people to worship Him in the way that the pagans worship their false gods. It disgusts Him. He wants us to worship Him in the way He tells us.

Deuteronomy 12:30-32

30beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’ 31“You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

      32“Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.

The Israelites may have been worshipping Yahweh, but they were doing so in like manner to how the Egyptians worshipped their false gods by making idols.

While this may seem like it does not apply today, it certainly does! Yahweh has not changed His opinion on what is good and what is bad. He still does not want us to worship Him with idols or with any of the manners or traditions with which the pagans worship false gods. If we take the time to study our common Christmas and Easter traditions (and other traditions as well), we will certainly find the history of many of these traditions are derived not from God’s word, but from pagan worship practices. Christians have created new meanings for many of these traditions, but they still are derived from pagan worship. Yahweh is not pleased, even if we say it is He whom we are worshipping.

Do not repeat the error of the Israelites, which drew great anger from Yahweh. Instead, learn the history and true origin of the traditions you practice. Reject the ones that are derived from pagan worship. Instead, study and learn the practices and worship that Yahweh instructs us in His word. There is so much to learn!

I feel like I have been on an archaeological dig for a decade to understand and lay down traditions rooted in pagan worship and instead to focus on and adopt practices and traditions that are commanded in God’s word in the Old Testament.

I encourage you to invest time to get to know Yahweh. If He is Lord (and He certainly is!), then we should take time to learn His ways and reject the ways of the pagan worship… even if done in Yahweh’s name. Do not accept something just  because it is a family or cultural “tradition”. Test and explore to understand the true origin and whether or not it may be offensive to our Lord. Choose the Lord’s ways over even dear traditions that may be emotionally difficult to walk away from. Do not be like Lot’s wife who looked back at Sodom while leaving, but rather leave behind the past things without looking back on them.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Let There Be No Darkness In Us

John brings a strong message in his opening to 1 John. He does not sugar coat it. God is light. There is no darkness. If we walk in darkness, we are not with him… period… no clarifications or exceptions. If, on the other hand, we walk according to his ways, then we not only have fellowship with him, but with each other.

John drives home a second point as well. Let us not say or pretend we have no sin. We do. But let us thankfully acknowledge that he cleanses us from unrighteousness from that sin. However, this does not happen just because we claim Yeshua and keep on sinning, keep on doing things our own way instead of his. That is walking in darkness. It is important for us to admit our sin and ask forgiveness and turn from it and stop walking in darkness. There is also an indication here that makes the case that we don’t need to continue animal sacrifices for forgiveness of sin as Yeshua’s blood cleanses us of all sin. (However, let us not forget that sin offering was only one of several types of sacrifices laid out in the Torah for YHWH’s people. It is an interesting study to consider the others, but not for today.)

 1 John 1:5-10

God Is Light

      5This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

The LORD Is In Control; Trust Him And Do Things His Way

Never doubt the LORD is ultimately in control, even when facing difficult circumstances. We are not promised an easy path with no trouble. Quite the contrary. We are warned that we should build our lives on the solid rock of Christ and his teachings so that when the storms come, we can stand firm. (Matthew 7:24-29)

The people of Israel lost the ark and it was out of their power to confront the Philistines and get it back. The LORD brought it back in his own timing after showing his power and glory to the Philistines.

We can also be reminded that, even when we celebrate and want to give glory to YHWH, be sure to do it his way, rather than our own. He smote over 50,000 Israelites who looked inside the ark. Only the Levites were supposed to handle the ark. In their excitement, the people disobeyed, and suffered greatly for it. The ark indeed represented the presence of YHWH. He is holy and the people were to approach him only in the ways he had prescribed, not in whatever way they wanted. There could clearly be a lot of study on this point alone.

1 Samuel 6

The Ark Returned to Israel

      1Now the ark of the LORD had been in the country of the Philistines seven months. 2And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, “What shall we do with the ark of the LORD? Tell us how we shall send it to its place.” 3They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty; but you shall surely return to Him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed and it will be known to you why His hand is not removed from you.” 4Then they said, “What shall be the guilt offering which we shall return to Him?” And they said, “Five golden tumors and five golden mice according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, for one plague was on all of you and on your lords. 5“So you shall make likenesses of your tumors and likenesses of your mice that ravage the land, and you shall give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps He will ease His hand from you, your gods, and your land. 6“Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He had severely dealt with them, did they not allow the people to go, and they departed? 7“Now therefore, take and prepare a new cart and two milch cows on which there has never been a yoke; and hitch the cows to the cart and take their calves home, away from them. 8“Take the ark of the LORD and place it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you return to Him as a guilt offering in a box by its side. Then send it away that it may go. 9“Watch, if it goes up by the way of its own territory to Beth-shemesh, then He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we will know that it was not His hand that struck us; it happened to us by chance.”

      10Then the men did so, and took two milch cows and hitched them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. 11They put the ark of the LORD on the cart, and the box with the golden mice and the likenesses of their tumors. 12And the cows took the straight way in the direction of Beth-shemesh; they went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right or to the left. And the lords of the Philistines followed them to the border of Beth-shemesh.

      13Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley, and they raised their eyes and saw the ark and were glad to see it. 14The cart came into the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite and stood there where there was a large stone; and they split the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD. 15The Levites took down the ark of the LORD and the box that was with it, in which were the articles of gold, and put them on the large stone; and the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices that day to the LORD. 16When the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned to Ekron that day.

      17These are the golden tumors which the Philistines returned for a guilt offering to the LORD: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron; 18and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fortified cities and of country villages. The large stone on which they set the ark of the LORD is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite.

      19He struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck down of all the people, 50,070 men, and the people mourned because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter. 20The men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?” 21So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have brought back the ark of the LORD; come down and take it up to you.”

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Be Vigilant To Avoid False Prophets

Make no mistake, there were and clearly still are false prophets. They corrupt the teaching and instruction of YHWH and mix and mingle it with what is unholy. They lead people astray from YHWH’s path, especially those that do not study the Bible to know what it tells us and to test what others say YHWH wants. By definition, a false prophet is representing themselves in some way like they are bringing truth from the LORD. They do not announce that they are teaching things against YHWH. They slowly mislead people, bit by bit, away from the path YHWH has for us.

We must be intentional. We must seek YHWH. Follow the example of Yeshua to be sure. Study and pray and walk out the life according to YHWH’s word, which we have now in the form of Bibles. Do not be idle or lazy or just take the word of men. Test everything, even that which you have been taught by churches and your family against what God’s word actually says. Study it. Pray about it.

Think about it this way. If I love my wife, do I simply listen to what others say about what she values and wants? or do I listen to her words directly? Which is the better source? If someone tells me something which does not sound right, I would test it with her and what she has told me in the past. I would trust her input over that of others if there is a conflict. If I have a point of confusion, I would seek her out to clarify, not the other person. In this way, we should also pursue the LORD.

2 Peter 2

The Rise of False Prophets

      1But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

      4For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 5and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; 7and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 8(for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 9then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.
Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. 12But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; 15forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.

      17These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 18For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 20For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 22It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”

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Do Not Put Your Children In Higher Priority Than YHWH

1 Samuel 2 is filled with significance. We began 1 Samuel with Hannah praising YHWH for giving her a son as she follows through to dedicate him to the LORD’s service at the temple. Through strong faith she was joyful and trusting in the LORD’s plans for Samuel. She still came to him and provided him new clothes annually and she was blessed with quite a few additional children.

In contrast, we see Eli’s sons committing rebellious and deeply offensive acts before YHWH. Eli rebukes, somewhat lightly, and does not really deal with the situation. At that point, the LORD determines that he is no at fault as well as his sons for not resolving the situation. As the Creator puts it, Eli has put his corrupt sons above YHWH himself. We can read then the repercussions of this in the chapter. They are significant. Though Eli rebuked his sons, he was light and did not stop the offensive behavior. It was not enough. In the end, he did not do his sons any favors either. They would have done better with more consequences from Eli and perhaps had more likelihood to repent.

If there is one message to take from this chapter, and there are actually a handful, let us remember that we are to hold YHWH in higher regard and priority than our children. Of course, we also see the LORD will discipline those of his people who rebel openly against him and defile his name. We do not always see the discipline or identify it as discipline, but all of us face judgment ultimately before him. Many of us also face consequences in our lives as a result of sin and we may not even connect that the sin is the cause. Let us be humble before the LORD, ask him to show us our sin and to help us repent from it.

1 Samuel 2:12-36

The Sin of Eli’s Sons

      12Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD 13and the custom of the priests with the people. When any man was offering a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand. 14Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. Thus they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. 15Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give the priest meat for roasting, as he will not take boiled meat from you, only raw.” 16If the man said to him, “They must surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as you desire,” then he would say, “No, but you shall give it to me now; and if not, I will take it by force.” 17Thus the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for the men despised the offering of the LORD.

Samuel before the LORD as a Boy

      18Now Samuel was ministering before the LORD, as a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19And his mother would make him a little robe and bring it to him from year to year when she would come up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May the LORD give you children from this woman in place of the one she dedicated to the LORD.” And they went to their own home.

      21The LORD visited Hannah; and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew before the LORD.

Eli Rebukes His Sons

      22Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 23He said to them, “Why do you do such things, the evil things that I hear from all these people? 24“No, my sons; for the report is not good which I hear the LORD’S people circulating. 25“If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for the LORD desired to put them to death.

      26Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the LORD and with men.

      27Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Did I not indeed reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in bondage to Pharaoh’s house? 28‘Did I not choose them from all the tribes of Israel to be My priests, to go up to My altar, to burn incense, to carry an ephod before Me; and did I not give to the house of your father all the fire offerings of the sons of Israel? 29‘Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me, by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?’ 30“Therefore the LORD God of Israel declares, ‘I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever’; but now the LORD declares, ‘Far be it from Me—for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed. 31‘Behold, the days are coming when I will break your strength and the strength of your father’s house so that there will not be an old man in your house. 32‘You will see the distress of My dwelling, in spite of all the good that I do for Israel; and an old man will not be in your house forever. 33‘Yet I will not cut off every man of yours from My altar so that your eyes will fail from weeping and your soul grieve, and all the increase of your house will die in the prime of life. 34‘This will be the sign to you which will come concerning your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas: on the same day both of them will die. 35‘But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always. 36‘Everyone who is left in your house will come and bow down to him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread and say, “Please assign me to one of the priest’s offices so that I may eat a piece of bread.”’”

Glorify the LORD Through Your Actions And Words

Do not continue in the desires of those who do not follow Yeshua, in sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and idolatries. Do not expect them to understand why you do not continue in these things with them. However, remain fervent in your love for Yeshua and live according to the Father’s ways, as Yeshua did. Act in such a way that Yeshua is glorified through our actions and words… in how we treat one another. But do not let this be an excuse to accept sin as we should continue to help one another to move away from our previous godless ways so common in culture around us and move ever closer to the LORD.

1 Peter 4:1-11

Keep Fervent in Your Love

      1Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. 4In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; 5but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.

      7The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 8Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9Be hospitable to one another without complaint. 10As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Everyone Did What Was Right In His Own Eyes

Judges 19-21 record a difficult time in Israel centered around wickedness carried out by Benjamin. The scripture reinforces in each chapter that there was no king and each man did what was right in his own eyes. It is a powerful reminder of what human nature leads to without boundaries or laws to give us clear direction.

Judges 21 picks up after the civil war has been won and Benjamin defeated. The Israelites are recorded as seeking YHWH, but it is not clear that he answers at this time or perhaps it seems more like they took matters into their own hands. They are mourning over Benjamin, and then they decide to punish people who did not come as directed to the meeting place. They kill the entire camp except virgin daughters, which they then give to Benjamin. Then they come up with a way to provide more women for Benjamin that just does not seem right… but it seemed right in their own eyes.

Judges 21

Mourning Lost Tribe

      1Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpah, saying, “None of us shall give his daughter to Benjamin in marriage.” 2So the people came to Bethel and sat there before God until evening, and lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. 3They said, “Why, O LORD, God of Israel, has this come about in Israel, so that one tribe should be missing today in Israel?” 4It came about the next day that the people arose early and built an altar there and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.

      5Then the sons of Israel said, “Who is there among all the tribes of Israel who did not come up in the assembly to the LORD?” For they had taken a great oath concerning him who did not come up to the LORD at Mizpah, saying, “He shall surely be put to death.” 6And the sons of Israel were sorry for their brother Benjamin and said, “One tribe is cut off from Israel today. 7“What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since we have sworn by the LORD not to give them any of our daughters in marriage?”

Provision for Their Survival

      8And they said, “What one is there of the tribes of Israel who did not come up to the LORD at Mizpah?” And behold, no one had come to the camp from Jabesh-gilead to the assembly. 9For when the people were numbered, behold, not one of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead was there. 10And the congregation sent 12,000 of the valiant warriors there, and commanded them, saying, “Go and strike the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead with the edge of the sword, with the women and the little ones. 11“This is the thing that you shall do: you shall utterly destroy every man and every woman who has lain with a man.” 12And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead 400 young virgins who had not known a man by lying with him; and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan.

      13Then the whole congregation sent word and spoke to the sons of Benjamin who were at the rock of Rimmon, and proclaimed peace to them. 14Benjamin returned at that time, and they gave them the women whom they had kept alive from the women of Jabesh-gilead; yet they were not enough for them. 15And the people were sorry for Benjamin because the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.

      16Then the elders of the congregation said, “What shall we do for wives for those who are left, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?” 17They said, “There must be an inheritance for the survivors of Benjamin, so that a tribe will not be blotted out from Israel. 18“But we cannot give them wives of our daughters.” For the sons of Israel had sworn, saying, “Cursed is he who gives a wife to Benjamin.”

      19So they said, “Behold, there is a feast of the LORD from year to year in Shiloh, which is on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south side of Lebonah.” 20And they commanded the sons of Benjamin, saying, “Go and lie in wait in the vineyards, 21and watch; and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to take part in the dances, then you shall come out of the vineyards and each of you shall catch his wife from the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. 22“It shall come about, when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, that we shall say to them, ‘Give them to us voluntarily, because we did not take for each man of Benjamin a wife in battle, nor did you give them to them, else you would now be guilty.’” 23The sons of Benjamin did so, and took wives according to their number from those who danced, whom they carried away. And they went and returned to their inheritance and rebuilt the cities and lived in them. 24The sons of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and each one of them went out from there to his inheritance.

      25In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Perhaps if the people of Israel had not been so quick to vow not to give their daughters to Benjamin, then they would not have been tempted to be so drastic in how they provided daughters to Benjamin. In either case, verse 25 reminds us that the events in this passage are not condoned or endorsed by YHWH. It specifically calls out how people were doing whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

We do well to look upon the Torah (law) of YHWH as our helpful guide and book of instructions. He provided it to help us have the boundaries we need to live his way rather than our own. Let us look to his perfect law and not seek to do what is right in our own eyes.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

 

Samson’s Repeated Poor Judgement Brings Him Down

Samson clearly disregarded much of YHWH’s instructions and did things his own way. YHWH used him as he was “seeking an occasion against the Philistines” (Judges 14:4). We should take care not to assume YHWH approves of all the things which Samson did. We have previously covered some of his prior poor decisions and now in Judges 16 we see again his arrogance and poor judgment when it comes to dealing with Philistine women, including spending time with a harlot). He had every opportunity to see that Delilah was going to betray him, and ignored it. He knew he should not tell her, but eventually caved to stop the whining. He already faced a similar situation previously with his Philistine wife and he apparently did not learn from it.

We see now in chapter 16 that Samson, despite his great strength given to him by YHWH has put himself in a position to be defeated and humiliated.

Judges 16:1-21

Samson’s Weakness

      1Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her. 2When it was told to the Gazites, saying, “Samson has come here,” they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. And they kept silent all night, saying, “Let us wait until the morning light, then we will kill him.” 3Now Samson lay until midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts and pulled them up along with the bars; then he put them on his shoulders and carried them up to the top of the mountain which is opposite Hebron.

      4After this it came about that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5The lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Entice him, and see where his great strength lies and how we may overpower him that we may bind him to afflict him. Then we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.” 6So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength is and how you may be bound to afflict you.” 7Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh cords that have not been dried, then I will become weak and be like any other man.” 8Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh cords that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9Now she had men lying in wait in an inner room. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he snapped the cords as a string of tow snaps when it touches fire. So his strength was not discovered.

      10Then Delilah said to Samson, “Behold, you have deceived me and told me lies; now please tell me how you may be bound.” 11He said to her, “If they bind me tightly with new ropes which have not been used, then I will become weak and be like any other man.” 12So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” For the men were lying in wait in the inner room. But he snapped the ropes from his arms like a thread.

      13Then Delilah said to Samson, “Up to now you have deceived me and told me lies; tell me how you may be bound.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my hair with the web [and fasten it with a pin, then I will become weak and be like any other man.” 14So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his hair and wove them into the web]. And she fastened it with the pin and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep and pulled out the pin of the loom and the web.

Delilah Extracts His Secret

      15Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have deceived me these three times and have not told me where your great strength is.” 16It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death. 17So he told her all that was in his heart and said to her, “A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man.”

      18When Delilah saw that he had told her all that was in his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all that is in his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands. 19She made him sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair. Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him. 20She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him. 21Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison.

Reflect on the poor choices that Samson made and the consequences he faced as a result. Despite great advantage given by YHWH, he managed to bring himself to ruin. Let us seek to be wise and use the gifts that YHWH gives us to his glory and not just to our own selfish purposes. There is so much more we can learn from studying Samson than just God gave him strength and he killed a lot of Philistines. Sadly, much of what we can learn is related to what we should not do.

Perhaps one simple summary would be that if YHWH puts an anointing on you with some great gift(s), do not think you can rely on that alone and ignore YHWH himself and his instructions.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.