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“Only the wise can give good advice; fools cannot do so” – Proverbs 15:7

31118_000_034_06At some point in our lives we seek advice from others.  Sometimes we get good advice and sometimes we get bad.  Some people mean well while others don’t.  It is up to us to decide which advice to follow.

After King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became the ruler of Israel. When Jeroboam heard about Solomon’s death, he returned from Egypt where he fled to escape from the former king.  Jeroboam was summoned by the leaders of Israel and he and all of Israel went to speak to Rehoboam.  They said to him, “your father was a hard master.  Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us.  Then we will be your loyal subjects.”

Rehoboam told them to go back in three days for his answer. The people went away and the king went to discuss the matter with the older men who used to counsel his father, Solomon.  “What is your advice?” he asked.  “How should I answer these people?”

They replied, “If you are good to the people and show them kindness and do your best to please them, they will always be your loyal subjects” (2 Chronicles 10:1-7). Very sound advice.  But Rehoboam rejected it.  It wasn’t what he wanted to hear.  How many of us reject good advice because it doesn’t please us?

Rehoboam went to his friends and asked for their advice. They said to him, “This is what you should tell those complainers: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist—if you think he was hard on you, just wait and see what I’ll be like.  Yes, my father was harsh on you, but I’ll be even harsher.  My father used whips on you, but I’ll use scorpions” (verses 10, 11).  This was very foolish advice.  No one in their right mind would follow this.  But Rehoboam did.

When the people came to see him three days later he repeated the advice his friends gave him. As a result the people refused to be ruled by a descendant of David.  They shouted, “Down with David and his dynasty.”

In Rehoboam’s case, this turn of events was the will of God so that this prophecy would be fulfilled,But I will not take the entire kingdom from Solomon at this time. For the sake of my servant David, the one whom I chose and who obeyed my commands and laws, I will let Solomon reign for the rest of his life. But I will take the kingdom away from his son and give ten of the tribes to you.  His son will have one tribe so that the descendants of David my servant will continue to reign in Jerusalem, the city I have chosen to be the place for my name.  And I will place you on the throne of Israel, and you will rule over all that your heart desires” (1 Kings 11:34-37).

But when we make bad decisions based on bad advice we cannot blame the consequences on God or anyone else but ourselves. We are to be wise.  We are to seek godly counsel first and then it is up to God if He wants to help us through another person.  If Solomon had followed his father David’s advice and not worshipped other gods but remained faithful to God, his son Rehoboam would not have been influenced to make a bad decision which had long lasting effects.

We have to be careful whom we seek advice from. Proverbs 12:26 says, “The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.”  Rehoboam’s friends did not give him good advice.  He was led astray and God allowed it to happen.  Sometimes bad things are allowed to happen to teach us a lesson.

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19, 20).

person-listening-300x200James is saying that sometimes we need to listen more and speak less or say nothing.  King Solomon says in Proverbs 10:19, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”

There are times when we speak instead of listening and later regret it because our words lead to bitter quarrels and fights.  Feelings can get hurt and relationships can be jeopardized or destroyed because of words spoken in a fit of anger.  There are times when we ought to just listen and other times when we ought to speak.  We have to have the wisdom to know when to do which.

Problems arise when we stop listening to God and to each other.  Whether in the home, at work, or in the church, arguments ensue when listening stops.  When that happens, talking begins to accelerate and anger builds.  This slippery slope of sinful communication, like the uncontrolled inward desires of James 1:14, 15, can never produce the righteousness of God.  That is why James juxtaposes God’s righteousness with human wrath.  As long as we rely on what bubbles up naturally from our sinful nature, the creative power of God’s Word is blocked, and our own unhelpful or even hurtful words arise instead (The Book of James Sabbath School Quarterly, p. 26)

Notice James advises us to be “swift to hear”.  We must be quick to hear what the other person has to say first before we have our say.  In doing so, we might learn something and diffuse an otherwise volatile situation.   How many times have we been quick to speak and slow to listen and gotten ourselves in trouble?  It takes wisdom to hold our tongue.  It takes maturity to listen. 

We have to be careful of what we say.  If we have nothing good or helpful to say in a situation , it is best to keep quiet.

Proverbs 15:1 says, “a soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.  When we respond to something someone says in a quiet, non-combative way, it will diffuse the situation or prevent it from getting worse.  Once when my husband, Dave made a request, he didn’t like the tone of his co-worker’s reply but he responded in an agreeable manner.  The co-worker, initially surprised, responded positively.  Dave chose a gentle answer instead of a harsh one and turned what could have led to a bad situation into a peaceful resolution.  Both men benefitted from Dave’s wise handling of the problem.

The prophet Isaiah tells us that we should know how to speak and when to speak (Isaiah 50:4).  Paul encourages us to speak only words that will encourage and benefit others.  Our words must not be corrupt or harmful (Ephesians 4:29).  Our words should not be filthy, foolish or coarse.  They should be fitting and full of thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:4).  Our words should always be filled with grace, seasoned with salt so that we know how to answer people appropriately (Colossians 4:6). 

Be a good listener.  Hear what the other person has to say.  The same rule applies to God.  Too often when we spend time with Him, we have our say but don’t wait to hear what He has to say.  Be still and listen for that small, still voice.

He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction (Proverbs 13:3)

 

 

 

RH-EveTemptation“You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” – Genesis 3:4, 5

Eve, the first woman God created was not with her husband Adam when she was deceived by the serpent. At the time the serpent was the most cunning of the species. It was not surprising that Satan used it as his medium. How did the serpent deceive Eve?

We learn that in chapter 2 of Genesis, God gave Adam this commandment, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16, 17). Adam and Eve were allowed to eat freely from all the trees except one. That was not unreasonable. God explained why they could not eat from that particular tree. He said, “…in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” He didn’t say, “you may die” or “it may kill you.” He used the word surely. It is a certainty. If Adam or Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they will die. The word used is muwth which means to die, kill, have one executed. For them death will be their penalty for eating from this tree after God expressly commanded them not to. There is no question as to what would happen to them if they disobeyed His command. Death would be the result.

“Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” it asked her. This is what the enemy does. He questions or puts doubts in our minds about God’s word. The serpent was really asking Eve, “Did God really say that you can’t eat from every tree of the garden? Are you sure He said that? Notice the way he twisted God’s word. He said that God said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden.” God said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.” And the enemy left out the rest of what God said about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan likes to quote God’s word but always out of context or omitting the parts of scriptures that wouldn’t serve his purpose.

Eve’s response is interesting. Here is what she said. “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Now, God did not say anything about touching the tree. Eve added to what God said. We must never to do that. Eve said too much. Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips [is] wise.” As one Bible commentator puts it, “Much speech involves risk of sin; hence the wisdom of restraining the tongue”. Eve would have been better off not saying anything. She misquoted God and she referred to the tree as the “tree in the midst”.

One Bible commentary states that, “Some Jewish writers . . . state that as soon as the woman had asserted this, the serpent pushed her against the tree and said, ‘See, you have touched it, and are still alive; you may therefore safely eat of the fruit, for surely you shall not die.’” This is why it was dangerous for her to add to God’s words. Another thing to note is that she quoted God as saying, “lest you die” when in fact, He had said, “you shall surely die”.

The serpent then proceeded to say to her, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He attacks God’s word. He opposes what God said. He contradicted Him. It is the same thing he did when Jesus told the disciples that He would suffer at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Peter rebuked him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” And Jesus turned and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:21-23). Again we see Satan speaking through Peter and contradicting the Lord’s words. Jesus saw right through that and rebuked him.

The enemy gave Eve the impression that God was being selfish in keeping her and Adam from the tree by telling them that they would die because He didn’t want them to be like Him, knowing good and evil. This was a terrible lie. God’s reason for commanding Adam and Eve from eating from the tree was to protect them. He had provided for them. He had made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food (Genesis 2:9). They could have eaten freely from all the trees in the garden except one. God gives us so much but the enemy tempts us into wanting more. Here Eve was tempted into taking fruit from the tree with the attractive offer that she would be just like God.

The serpent was right. Her eyes would be opened and with the knowledge of good and evil will come devastating results. Eve, believing the serpent, looked at the tree, saw that the fruit looked good, she wanted it and she took it. Then she gave some to Adam. As soon as she gave the fruit to him, both of their eyes were opened. They were aware of their nakedness and when they heard God coming into the garden, they hid. They experienced emotions that were once alien to them–shame, guilt, fear. Their relationship with God and each other was never the same. So, the serpent was right about their eyes being opened but they realized too late the horrible consequences of disobeying God.

The first lie, “you shall not surely die,” is what give way to the erroneous teaching of the immortality of man. Many Christians believe that people either go to heaven or hell when they die. But what does the Bible say? Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). Adam and Eve did not become immortal because of their disobedience. They would return to the dust from where they came (verse 19).

Paul teaches us that it is when Jesus comes the second time that the righteous dead and living will become immortal. ‘Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory”‘ (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). The bodies we have now are not the bodies we will have when we are taken to heaven. We will be changed like Jesus was before He ascended to heaven. Until then the dead will be resting in their graves and the living will be watching and waiting as they continue to serve the Lord.

The Bible says that David, the man after God’s own heart is not in heaven (Acts 13:22). “Men [and] brethren, let [me] speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” (Acts 2:29). Only God is immortal (1 Timothy 1:17).

The idea that people will burn in hell for eternity is the doctrine of demons. This is an attack on a loving and just God. How could we believe that God would have the devil in charge of a place where he is burning people? Does this sound like the same God described in Ezekiel 18:23? “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “[and] not that he should turn from his ways and live? And in order for these people to burn for eternity, it would mean that the devil would have to be immortal too, right? Well, what does the Bible say? “And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:9, 10).

Jesus also mentioned that there an everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Please note that forever and ever does not mean that they will be burning for eternity. Jude said, “as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Are those cities still burning? “…and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6). The fire which destroyed the two cities may have burned for a while but it went out. It’s the same with the fire that will destroy the devil, his angels and the wicked. It will burn for a while and then it will go out. All that will remain are ashes. Eternal fire means that its results are eternal. What is destroyed in the fire is gone forever.

Satan lied when he said that man would not die even though man disobeyed God–broke His law and brought sin into the world. He knowingly deceived Eve into thinking that nothing would happen to her if she ate from the tree and this is why Jesus called him a murderer (John 8). Thankfully, the devil did not get away with it. 1 John 3:8 states, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” Jesus swallowed up death, our enemy. And one day, sin, death, the grave, the devil, his angels, the wicked, pain, suffering, sorrow will be no more.

You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You  With the oil of gladness more than Your companions – Psalm 45:7

8x10ThoseWhoPursueRighteousness is the character or quality of being right or just.  It is uprightness before God.  It is something we practice.  Blessed is he who does righteousness at all times.  Righteousness delivers one from eternal death.  It is everlasting.  It leads to life.  In fact, the way of righeousness is life (Proverbs 12:28).  Righteousness exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34) and it will bring peace.  We are to seek it.

In order to love righteousness, we must first be righteous.  What does it mean to be righteous?  It is to walk in integrity; desire justice for the innocent and oppressed.  It is to have regard for the lives and well being of others; to treat people with love, kindness and compassion.  “The righteous  consider the cause of the poor” (Proverbs 29:7).  The righteous shows mercy and gives (Psalm 37:21).  He or she is always merciful and lends (Psalm 37:26).

God loves the righteous and will not allow them to famish.  King David declared, “I have been young and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken nor his descendants begging bread (Psalm 37:25).  A righteous person and his or her family are blessed.

Like God we are to love righteousness and hate wickedness (Psalm 45:7).

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” – Mathew 6:33

Jesus was tempted when He was in the wilderness for forty days.  He was able to counteract the devil’s claims with the truth—the scriptures.  The devil tried to use His hunger to tempt Him but, Jesus said, “It is written:  Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4) God’s word is food for the soul.  The devil tried to tempt Jesus with worldly possessions if He would worship him.  Jesus’ reply was, “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.”

When we worship God, we have no need for worldly things.  When a person dies these possessions are left behind.  The riches we receive from God when we follow Him surpass any riches of this world.  God’s riches are for the spirit—joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  These things we can take with us to Heaven.  These are what Paul called the “fruit of the spirit” and once we have these things we would no longer look to the world we live in for sustenance.  Material things or worldly pleasures don’t bring us lasting joy.  They only drive us further away from God.  Solomon’s love for foreign women and worship of their gods led him astray.  He realised this when he wrote the book of Proverbs, “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing.  And one makes himself poor, yet has great riches.” (Proverbs 13:7)

By humility and the fear of the Lord are the riches and honour and life.” (Proverbs 22:4)

Spirit vs. Flesh.  Throughout the Bible we see people who live by the spirit and people who live by the flesh and what the outcome is.  Noah was a righteous man who believed in God and obeyed Him.  When he was asked to build and ark, he did as he was told and he and his family were protected from the flood.  Abraham was a man of strong faith.  He trusted God and obeyed Him when God called him out of his home country to settle in a strange land.  He was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac when God asked Him to.  His was a steadfast faith.  The men were surrounded by corruption and sin yet they remained faithful to God.  Abraham was not interested in worldly things (Genesis 14:22-24).  God took care of his needs.  What God had to offer him was worth much more than possessions.  God offered him a son and land.  God made covenants with Noah and Abraham.  He blessed them both.  He set a rainbow, as a sign of the covenant He made that a flood will never destroy life again. (Genesis 9:12-17)  God’s covenant with Abraham was land for his descendants.  These two men did not allow themselves to be touched by the immorality and corruption of the world around them.  They walked with God.

In the beginning Solomon walked in the ways of the Lord.  He asked God for wisdom so that he could govern the people well. (Kings 3:7-9)  He built the temple for God.  He got daily provisions from the different countries and the people ate, drank and were happy.  There was peace on all sides.

He said a prayer of dedication to God, acknowledging that God keeps His covenant with those who continue wholeheartedly in His way, that He kept His promise to David.  Solomon asked God to hear His people’s prayers and pleas when they have sinned against him.  Solomon acknowledged that there was no one who does not sin.  It is a fact that no one was free of sin—not even a wise king.  Jesus was the only One who was without sin until He took on ours.  Solomon was admired for his wisdom and he was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth.  The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. (1 Kings 10:6-10, 23-25)

Then, Solomon’s fleshly desires took over—his weakness for foreign women turned his heart after their gods so that he was not fully devoted to God anymore.  He intermarried with the very people God had told the Israelites not to intermarry because they would turn their hearts to other gods.  Solomon built a high place for these gods, burnt incense and offered sacrifices.  Solomon had been forbidden to follow other gods but he wilfully disobeyed the Lord’s command.  As a result, there were rebellions against Solomon and all the kingdoms except one,Jerusalem, were taken away from him.  It was because of God’s promise to David who never turned away from Him to worship other gods, that Solomon remained ruler all the days of his life and he was able to keep one tribe.

If Solomon had followed this advice, things would have turned out very differently, “Do not be wise in your own eyes.  Fear the Lord and depart from evil.  It will be health to your flesh and strength to your bones.  My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction, For whom he Lord loves He corrects just as a father the son in whom he delights”  (Proverbs 3:7-8, 11-12).



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