Arguing with a Donkey

“The word that God puts in my mouth, that I must speak” Numbers 22:38

Balaam was a prophet of God but was moved by the temptation to use that role to gain material wealth. Balak had promised him wealth if he would come and curse Israel. Balaam knew that God would always bless Israel in accord with the covenant He made with Abraham.

The lure of wealth warped Balaam’s thinking. But God had a purpose for Balaam. He met him along the way but only Balaam’s donkey could see the threat and refused to go on. Balaam’s temper rose so high that he didn’t think it at all odd that he was having an argument with a donkey. At last the Lord revealed Himself to Balaam and then he realised his foolishness. From that moment of meeting with the Lord Balaam was a changed man. No one can meet the Lord and not be changed. Either he will surrender to Him or become outspoken and violent against Him.

The professing church is currently being tested as to whether it will abide by God’s word and only speak the word that God has given. The outcome will be a clear division between those who are the Lord’s and those who profess to be but are not. Those who are not the Lord’s will take the world’s lead and refuse to pay the price of faithfulness to the word of the Lord.

Balaam was in a sticky situation humanly speaking. He would only speak as the Lord directed and that meant that he would not get any money. It also meant that his life was at risk. Those who truly are Christ’s will only speak in accordance with what the Lord has given them in the Bible even at risk of losing all material things or their lives.

Balaam had met the Lord and now understands the words that Jesus would later speak: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37)

There are many faithful Christians in the world today who are living this out. If we refuse to do so it dishonours the Lord Jesus Christ and those who endure persecution for His sake. Let us speak only that which God has given us and leave the outcome to Him.

Choosing a Destiny

“God is not a man that He should lie” Numbers 23:19

The basis of all the covenants that God has ever made is that He speaks the truth with no hidden agenda. To doubt or reject God’s word is to call Him a liar. An example of this can be seen in Romans 3:10 where Paul writes, quoting from Psalm 14, “There is none righteous, no, not one” and in 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There are those who reject these truths and thus call God a liar. John writes as much in his letter, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).

Jesus claimed to be Truth (John 14:6; cf. 1:17; 8:32) and God’s word to be truth (John 17:17). In so doing He was saying that God does not lie and therefore His word can be relied upon. Men do lie so when it comes to a choice whose word are we going to believe?

In his greeting to Titus, Paul states clearly that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). The best a man can say is that he is not lying or will not lie but he cannot truthfully say that he cannot lie. Paul gives us the reason God cannot lie in 2 Timothy 2:13, “He cannot deny Himself.” What this means is that God always speaks and acts according to His Divine Nature. We can observe this in His Creation. All creatures and plants conform to their kind and can do nothing else. In breeding animals and growing crops we rely on this fact.

When it comes to God’s covenants and promises we can rely on them because God cannot lie. If we create an image of God in our minds that is like people we will not be inclined to believe His word. As such we call Him unfaithful and a liar. Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He lied to Eve (Genesis 3:5) and he has been lying to people ever since.

In creating us in His image God has given us free will to make our own choice. We can choose to believe God or we can choose to believe Satan. Our choice will determine the course and destiny of our lives. Believe God to eternal life (John 5:24) or believe Satan’s lie to eternity in the “lake of fire and brimstone” to be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). We are choosing to be either in Christ’s presence or Satan’s.

The Greatest Miracle

“For we have made lies our refuge and under falsehood we have hidden ourselves” Isaiah 28:15

Isaiah had been observing his own nation, Israel, and was writing concerning their situation in his day. As we consider this verse we can’t help but believe that he is observing and writing concerning our own nation as it is today. He is not describing every individual in Israel because we know that God always maintains a believing remnant. We would not apply these words to every individual in our nation either because there are those who are faithful to the Lord and His word. But nationally they suit all too well.

Jesus called Satan a liar (John 8:44) and Peter discerned that Satan had moved Ananias to lie (Acts 5:3). Paul recognised that people had “exchanged the truth of God for the lie” (Romans 1:25). He also wrote that because people choose to turn away from God, God will allow them to be deceived (2 Thessalonians 2:11).

Isaiah is saying what we know to be true. People believe the lie about Jesus Christ because it comforts them in their sin. Hence, lies become our refuge, our place of safety and comfort – but only in the short-term. It is easier for a sinner to believe the lie that God does not exist and that they will not have to give account for their lives than to deal with the truth. So they take “refuge” in the lie.

Secondly we hide from the truth by peddling things that are obviously lies. This is why people believe in evolution. It gives them, in their minds, a place to resist the truth and hide from it. Anyone who does some research desiring to know the truth will discover the great falsehood of the Theory of Evolution but it is a convenient hiding place for people who do not want to face the truth.

Psalm ten reveals the three presumptuous thoughts of the person who wants to conceal in their minds the truth by embracing a lie.

  1. I am okay, I am invincible (v 6)
  2. God is not interested or is dead (v 11)
  3. I will not be held accountable to anyone for my life (v 13)

These are all lies of Satan that people all too readily embrace because they love sin and do not want to face reality. Considering the long-term consequences it is staggering that anyone would choose to take refuge in lies and present falsehoods to their own mind and soul to escape thinking about the truth but such is that nature of sin.

Those who do want to face reality will face the Lord Jesus Christ and discover that He has borne their sin on the cross and is able, therefore, to forgive all their sin and, much more, cleanse them from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). The greatest miracle of all is that God is able to bring any sinner to repentance, most of all me, but He does and still is. Hallelujah!

Vultures and Darkness

“It came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram” (Genesis 15:17, 18).

It is not difficult for us to put ourselves in Abram’s place and to share his experience in this great event in the history of God’s redemptive program. However, there was much that was needed to pave the way for this day. This chapter begins with the words, “After these things …”

There was the first step of obedience by Abram to leave his homeland without knowing his destination. Chapter twelve records his arrival in Canaan. He also had to be separated from his family. Chapter thirteen records his eventual separation from his remaining family member – the worldly Lot.

Abram showed that he wholly trusted the Lord to fulfil His covenant when he rejected the world’s offer of a reward (Genesis 14) and by offering a tithe to Melchizedek, king of Salem. There was still an important experience for Abram to endure, one that we would not desire ourselves but one that we can expect.

In Genesis 15:6 we read that Abram already had God’s righteousness accounted to him so what follows is subsequent to his believing – what we would refer to as subsequent to salvation.

God asked Abram to offer animal blood sacrifices. When they were placed as God commanded, instead of heavenly visions as we might expect, there came vultures. Instead of showers of blessings came the vultures of doubt (v 11). Instead of God’s peace came the thief to steal away that which Abram was offering to the Lord. There was also the great darkness of depression (v 12) that seemed as though it would consume him. We offer ourselves as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) but somehow it doesn’t go to plan and we feel doubt and depression.

The vultures, the deep sleep, the horror of the darkness all made Abram feel absolutely helpless. Doubt and depression may visit us and make us feel helpless. If we did not experience doubt we would not experience having the truth confirmed. If we did not experience the darkness of depression we would not be able to experience the joy of assurance. Out of Abrams’s experience the Lord confirmed all that He had said to him and gave him assurance. God alone passed through the sacrificed animals and Abram knew that the fulfilment of the covenant was based solely on God’s faithfulness and ability.

Our ultimate deliverance from sin and from this fallen world is dependent solely on Jesus Christ. Neither doubts nor fears will prevent Him from delivering us into the presence of the Father. Doubt and depression may at times infiltrate our lives, but they cannot steal away the Gift of God (cf. Romans 8:38-39). Peter writes that we “are kept by the power of God through faith” (1 Peter 1:5).

The Truth Exchanged for a Lie

“It was too painful for me until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end” Psalm 73:16b-17

The writer of this Psalm noted the prosperity of people who gave no thought to their Creator; the One who gives them life and provides their sustenance in gracious abundance. He observes that they are full of pride and count pride in themselves as a blessing (v 6), they oppress others (v 8) and boast in wickedness and blaspheme against God (v 9). They are at ease in the earthly riches (v 12) that God has provided for them.

The psalmist then asks himself what the advantage was of him living a righteous life in which God has frequently chastised him (v 13) when the ungodly appear to suffer no chastisement (cf. Hebrews 12:5-8).

We live in such a world as the psalmist observed. There are many who deny God’s existence and are proud in themselves for their material success. Such blessings were meant to turn their hearts in thankfulness for God’s grace. Instead they boast that they have done it by their own ability and strength.

Those who walk with the Lord Jesus Christ do suffer at the hands of the ungodly. Many have their earthly lives ended prematurely at the hands of the ungodly. All Christians will suffer some form of persecution and oppression.

The psalmist then records that as he entered the sanctuary and bowed before the Lord praying about these matters, the Lord reminded him of the destiny of the ungodly.

The world is still going blindly on in unbelief and instead of receiving the truth the truth is suppressed. By God’s grace there are still many people turning to the Lord Jesus daily but that is against the tide of ungodliness. We live in an age of people “who [have] exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worshipped and served the creature [man] rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).

As he waited before the Lord the psalmist realised that those people who have rejected God and refuse to have a change of heart have no expectation other than the wrath of God. He understood that such people are in dire need of mercy and forgiveness and that it was he who was in the most blessed state.

Jesus related an account of a certain rich man and a beggar named Lazarus to give us understanding when we observe these things (Luke 16:19-31). The most necessary thing for people is to hear and believe God’s word. Jesus said, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31). At Easter we give special attention to the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is another opportunity God has given us to share the truth with family, friends and acquaintances.

Watch out for the Thief

“Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward” 2 John 8

John’s letter is a sober reminder that we are in spiritual warfare and if we drop our guard we will suffer loss both now and in eternity. Salvation is the gift of God so that is not what John is writing of here. In his first letter he mentions the spirit of antichrist and in this letter he revisits this subject.

The spirit of antichrist is a deceiver of believers (v 7) and through error deceives people into believing things that are untrue concerning Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. Henry Ward Beecher wrote, “Whatever is only almost true is quite false and among the most dangerous of errors. Because being so near Truth, it is more likely to lead astray.”

If we allow the spirit of antichrist to lead us to believe false teaching concerning Jesus Christ, it will rob us of our present intimacy and fellowship with Jesus Christ and the joy that accompanies it. It will also cause us to be eternally short of where we might have been in intimacy with Jesus.

The spirit of antichrist will also cause defections from truth and love (v 10). Once deceived by false teaching a person will have defected to Satan’s cause. The only protection we have is to continue abiding in the doctrine of Christ. As Paul writes to Timothy, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).

The spirit of antichrist also necessitates divisions and separations in the church (v 10). Separations are neither desired nor pleasant but because the spirit of antichrist is at work within the church it is sometimes necessary. We should not compromise the Gospel or doctrine of Christ for the sake of staying together. We must be discerning and discriminating. It is a sad thing that some churches, in an attempt to maintain numbers or grow, have sacrificed truth concerning Jesus Christ. The outcome is that people are deceived into defecting from Christ to serving antichrist and they are robbed of present joy and eternal reward. It is this reward that glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ in and for eternity.

Teaching concerning Jesus Christ is so vital that it is the difference between heaven and hell; between being with Christ or antichrist. To diminish its importance will have eternal fatal consequences.

Daniel Webster wrote, “If truth is not diffused, error will be. If God and His word are not known and received, the devil and his will gain the ascendancy.” The church must hold fast to sound doctrine or its people will suffer great loss.

Love and truth always go together. To truly love others is to use truth to serve them in order that they might have full joy and receive a full reward.

Passing the Baton

“When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10

Turning away from following the Lord was as sudden as one generation in Israel’s early history. We see this pattern repeated throughout the book of Judges and we can see it in our generations now. Why did Israel suffer such sudden changes and reversals in their faithfulness to the Lord? It was because Israel had not driven out all the inhabitants of the land as the Lord had commanded and those inhabitants turned Israel’s hearts to idolatry. “So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and Asherahs” (3:7).

Like Israel, we live amidst people who serve false gods. They may not all realise it but they do. One thing for sure is that most people do not worship the One true God in Christ Jesus the Lord. The hearts of people in western countries have turned to worshipping man just as Satan lied to Eve. People no longer look to the Lord for deliverance; they look to the religion of man worship through politics and science. Strangely, each generation gets sucked into this lie even though history and our present world condition reveal this to be a futile hope. Their faith is misplaced in man and not in God.

The Bible teaches us that each generation is born into this world as sinners with the basic need of being born of God. Left to find out for ourselves we will always choose a false god. That is the nature of sin. We must be taught the truth by someone who knows the truth. Those who are ignorant of the truth can only pass on what they believe to be true but that will prove to be futile. We ought not to be surprised that so many people choose to end their lives when they see only pain with no hope of relief in the future. Jesus said that it is the knowledge of that which is true that will set us free from this kind of despair as we live in a fallen world (John 8:36).

In my lifetime I have observed a turning away from the Lord within the churches that has become more and more entrenched. With each passing generation many who call themselves Christian have sidelined the Word of God more and more. The very word of hope that has delivered many and is still able to deliver us from hopelessness and despair is dismissed as unimportant or even irrelevant (Romans 1:16-17). People put their own wisdom over the wisdom of God.

Many people have a veneer of Christianity but have not Christ. In some cases they are in positions of authority in the church. They want the benefits that Jesus brings with Him but they do not want Him. They are most effective in turning people away from the true Gospel. When tested by the world they reveal their departure from the Word of God by caving into the philosophies of sinful men and dismissing or rejecting the Word of God.

When sexual immorality threatened the church at Corinth Paul wrote in very strong words, “deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 5:5). When we allow anything contrary to God’s Word to continue unaddressed among God’s people we are sowing the seed for destruction of the next generation. For the sake of our children and grandchildren we must resist the vain philosophies of men and cling to the Word of God and teach them the truth.