NOT OF DOUBLE HEART

“Of Zebulun, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war, fifty thousand, which could keep rank: they were not of double heart.”
I Chronicles 12:33

The Word of God chronicles the trained warriors who came to David in Hebron, as there was a transferring of the kingdom from Saul to David. Their loyalty and service would now be to David. From the tribe of Zebulun, there were fifty thousand, “expert in war, with all instruments of war.” These were prepared and capable men, equipped to use the weapons of warfare. In addition, these men of war were able to “keep rank.” They were apparently more disciplined than those from the other families. The commentary given about these soldiers spoke highly of their training and courage, and the contribution they could make to David’s army.

The Scripture gives us another detail concerning these men: “they were not of double heart.” These military men were not divided in their loyalty. They could be counted on to be sincere. They would not pretend to be with David, but in their hearts maintain allegiance to Saul’s family. What might a military leader desire in his troops? He would want men who were disciplined and could keep rank. He would prefer soldiers who were proficient with their weapons and willing to learn to prepare for all aspects of war. But, any field commander would also insist that his men be loyal. Field training and combat preparation are extremely valuable, but loyalty is a necessity. Certain aspects of basic training have to do with physical equipment, discipline, and obedience to commands. But, loyalty has to do with character.

As good soldiers of Jesus Christ, we are to prepare and train to serve our Savior that we might war a good warfare. It is important that we wear the armor of God, recognize who the real enemy is, be familiar with the enemy’s tactics, and be courageous on the field of battle. It is also required that we be men and women of single heart, loyal to our Lord and His cause. It is for this reason that we are instructed to avoid entanglements with the affairs of this life. Our allegiance is to the Lord – our King and Captain – and to His Word. Faithful soldiers strictly obey their superior’s commands. We are also to be loyal to our fellow soldiers and commanders. Those who serve with us should never have to question our loyalty.

NUMBERING OUR DAYS

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12

In this prayer, the request is made for God to assist in the matter of appreciating and utilizing the great gift of time. What an important lesson for each of us to consider. Of all the resources we are entrusted with, this is one that cannot be regained when wasted. Once time is spent, it cannot be reclaimed. The Psalmist recognized the need for divine assistance in the management of his schedule, asking for God to “teach us to number our days.”

We need God’s help to become good stewards of our time, and we can be certain that God is interested and available to train us. There is much in the Scripture in this regard. The Bible warns us about the danger of slothfulness, instructs us about the importance of redeeming our time, admonishes us to live by priorities, and cautions us about the brevity of our lives. God promises to grant wisdom to those who request it. With great confidence, we can trust the Lord to help us learn to use our time more wisely.

Perhaps there has never been a busier generation than the one we live in. Most of us have full schedules and never experience the satisfaction of knowing that all our tasks have been completed. We complete every day and every week disappointed that we did not accomplish more. This can become frustrating if we are expending great amounts of time on things of lesser importance, and leaving critical responsibilities undone. Every new year is begun with the sincere desire to somehow squeeze more productive time into our days. As a rule, many activities, responsibilities, and opportunities cry out for our attention. We need God’s help in arranging our schedules so that time is allotted for things that are most important.

The Psalmist tells us that learning to number our days will help us “apply our hearts unto wisdom.” As we consciously seek to prioritize our activities, and recognize the importance of faithful stewardship in our scheduling, we will gain wisdom for our decisions. When a person is careless about the choices he makes and the way his time is used, he will waste much time in his daily schedule. We must learn to put first things first, beginning with time spent each day in Bible reading and prayer. As we look to the Lord and trust Him to guide us, we can schedule our days to accomplish His will.

VAIN RELIGION

“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”
James 1:26

One can only imagine how much of men’s religion is vain, empty, or without profit. Of course, they would not consider it vain; but the Word of God calls it such. The majority of people claim to be religious in some form or another, though many are not active. A large percentage of those who are at least somewhat active are committed to observances that have little meaning, or produce no genuine change in character or conduct. James tells us that they may “seem to be religious,” but their “religion is vain.”

If our religious activity and expression does not affect our attitude and activity, how meaningful is that worship? The Scripture tells us that if a man appears to be a religious person and “bridleth not his tongue,” his religion is worthless. Being able to control our words is only one of our many God-given responsibilities. But, the lesson of James is clear; if our spiritual habits and religious activities do not influence our words, our religion is unprofitable.

God intends for our entire lives to be influenced by our relationship with Him. It seems that many want a form of religion that is socially respectable and soothing to the conscience, but has little affect on our daily lives. The Word of God says that the man with this mentality “deceiveth his own heart.” He makes himself believe that he is a religious person; when in reality, his form of religion is not God-ordained, but man-centered. Much of modern religion could be characterized in this way: It has a form of godliness, but it does not in any genuine way change the way one thinks or lives. It is not pure religion, but vain; and those who practice it are deceiving themselves.

Genuine Christianity includes a transformation of values, attitudes, and actions that proceed from a converted heart. When a person is born again, the process of sanctification begins, which should result in new behaviors, including our words. Anything less is vain religion. Thank God for the power of the Gospel and the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost. Praise His holy name that we become new creatures in Christ! The words of James should be heeded by all, including those who are in Christ. If our relationship with the Lord is not having an affect on our language and general conduct, there is something missing in our walk.

BE STRONG AND WORK

“Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts.”
Haggai 2:4

Haggai the prophet proclaimed the Word of the Lord to those who were returned to Jerusalem after their seventy years of captivity. Their assignment was to build the temple, yet they were being negligent about the project. For a number of reasons, the remnant had been discouraged; and the preaching of Haggai was to stir the people to the importance and completion of their task. God uses the preaching of His Word to motivate and cause His people to focus. That is one of the many reasons we all need preaching and need to be faithful to attend the preaching services of our church. The people in Haggai’s day, including their leaders, Zerubbabel and Josedech, needed to be encouraged.

The preaching of God’s truth challenges us to think biblically. Each of us has been entrusted with responsibilities in the Lord’s work. We are to be witnesses, to love and teach our families, to serve in the ministries of the church, to support the work of missions with our prayers, labor, and finances, to live godly lives that are worthy of our Lord, etc. Sometimes we may also become slack in some of our duties, or find ourselves discouraged in the journey. God uses the preaching of the Scriptures to get us back on task and to help us to stay focused on our responsibilities.

Haggai challenged his listeners to “be strong.” They needed to hear that they could overcome their obstacles and opposition. God’s people have been promised the strength to accomplish and complete His will for our lives. The enemy wants us to doubt our ability, but God encourages us to be strong in the Lord.

He reminded them of their need to “work.” The job could not be completed without their effort. The same is true in our world. Building families, churches, and ministries requires work. It seems that many want the fruit of hard labor without the labor itself. Haggai delivered the message from God for the workers, “for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts.” They were not alone in their work, for God was with them. We have the same assurance in our work. God is with us. Let’s not be weary or distracted in our work. Be strong; and remember, we are not alone.

RISE, LET US BE GOING

“Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.”
Matthew 26:46

After spending an extended time of teaching and communion with His closest disciples, Jesus left the upper room and traveled to the Mt. of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane on His way to Calvary and His crucifixion. While in Gethsemane, He urged the disciples to earnestly pray, and He removed Himself a short distance from them, where He agonized in prayer. Falling on His face, our Savior surrendered in every way to the Father’s will and the torturous path of sacrifice that was necessary for our salvation. What love is manifested in the offering of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who willingly accepted the cruel agony of the cross, that we might be redeemed!

Periodically, Jesus would check on the disciples, only to find them sleeping instead of seeking God. After this time of prayer, Jesus returned to the slumbering disciples, saying “Rise, let us be going.” It was time to face the angry religious crowd, time to greet Judas, time to experience the humiliation, interrogations, and beatings that preceded Calvary. It was time to experience the denial of Peter and the dispersion of His closest allies. It was time to hear the blasphemy of the Roman soldiers and feel the lashes of the scourge upon His holy frame. He would now hear the angry mobs cry out for His crucifixion, feel the tearing of the flesh as the nails pierced His limbs, listen to the jeering of the spectators, and experience the darkness of bearing our sins upon His own body on the tree.

“Rise, let us be going.” The time of prayer was over, now was the time for action. This was the moment Jesus had anticipated for all eternity. We all would have done anything to avoid or postpone the appointment at Golgotha, but not Jesus. In His words, “Rise, let us be going,” there is encouragement for us as well. Though we will never endure anything remotely compared to what He experienced, we all must face dreaded and difficult situations. How do we approach those times that are so difficult they make most other trials pale in comparison? Like our Savior, we should spend time alone with the Father, seeking His face and surrendering to His will. There will be times in our lives when we must choose the Father’s will over our own. When our soul is sorrowful, and we have accepted the Father’s will and sought Him earnestly, then we can rise from prayer and follow the will of God.

AS A FATHER PITIETH HIS CHILDREN

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”
Psalm 103:13, 14

It is completely natural for us to care for and love our children. We may have concern and sympathy for many people, but no one has a place in our hearts like our children do. When they are injured or ill, when they are sorrowing or discouraged, we feel deeply for them in their needs. This empathy does not cease when they become older. As our adult children have struggles or difficulties, we continue to enter into their pain as though it were our own. This ability to feel the hurt of our children is not a learned behavior, but the natural sentiment of parents.

The Scripture teaches us that “as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” God loves and cares for His children. He has compassion for us when we suffer. Anyone who believes that God is somehow far removed from us and is untouched by our burdens does not know his Bible, nor does he know the Lord. The Bible tells us that He is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15). Just as we empathize with our children, God is affected by our needs.

Our Father knows us even better than we know ourselves. We are never out of His sight, and He understands our grief. God is very familiar with our weakness; “he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” God knows our limitations, fears, frustrations, heartaches, and disappointments. Not only does He comprehend our circumstances, but He also has pity on us in our hardships. Satan, the great accuser, works feverishly to convince people that God is not just or does not care. The Word of God, and our personal experiences, tell us differently. We can know when we cry out to God in our times of trouble that He is aware of and interested in our problems.

In this life, we are going to have times of difficulty. We are familiar with periods of discouragement or loss. The pain of rejection or betrayal is often felt by God’s people. In a sin-cursed world, we all will face the emotions of sorrow and anguish. How does God view our hurts? He cares for us the way we care for our children when they are enduring adverse circumstances. When going through the valley of trials, we can be confident that our Father pities His children, as we do ours.

TURNED INTO ANOTHER MAN

“And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man.”
I Samuel 10:6

Samuel had taken a vial of oil and poured it upon Saul’s head, indicating that the Lord had anointed Saul to serve as the first king of Israel. Samuel then disclosed to Saul several signs that would occur soon after, including telling him that “the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee.” Numerous times in the Old Testament, we read of how the Holy Spirit would come upon individual servants of God and equip them for a particular task or assignment. Such is the case of Saul. In preparing Saul for his being endued with the Holy Spirit’s power, Samuel told Saul that he would “be turned into another man.”

The Holy Spirit’s presence and power in Saul’s life would dramatically alter him. Saul would be a different man when he was under the influence of the Spirit of God. The same could be said about every genuine child of God. When a person sees himself as a guilty sinner, repents to God and trusts Christ to save him, he is born again by the Spirit of God. At the moment of conversion, the Holy Ghost indwells the new believer, and he becomes a new creation in Christ. We, too, are “turned into another man.” Salvation changes us from the inside out. Salvation gives us a new heart. It is the influence of the Spirit of God in our lives that transforms us.

The degree and progress of transformation in the lives of Christians is not all the same, but every one that is born of the Spirit of God will be transformed into a different person. The more the Holy Spirit controls or influences our lives, the more we will see evidence of the inner change we have experienced. Sometimes these changes are external and easily detected. Perhaps our language or vocabulary is changed, or maybe there is a change in friendships or associations, or our activities are different. Other changes may not be as evident. Such things may include a level of inner peace that was not possible before salvation, an attitude of humility, the ability to be longsuffering, or the grace to forgive our offenders.

As we walk in the Spirit and allow the Holy Spirit to fill our lives, He will continually change us and turn us into the children of God He wants us to be. We cannot become what we are to be in our own ability, but the Holy Spirit gives us the power to be “turned into another man.”

KEEP SEEKING HIM

“And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper.”
II Chronicles 26:5

Uzziah was named the king of Judah when he was sixteen years old, and he reigned for more than fifty years in Jerusalem. The Lord used Uzziah in many ways, and he was a good and godly leader of God’s people. The Scripture tells us that Uzziah “sought God in the days of Zechariah” and “as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper.” King Uzziah learned and practiced the valuable discipline and devotion of seeking the Lord; and as long as he kept seeking the Lord, God “made him to prosper.”

There should be no question about this simple and powerful fact: God blesses those who seek Him sincerely and consistently. He is “a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). We are to be seekers of God. God created us to fellowship and walk with Him, but sin has damaged that communion and relationship. The natural man has neither desire nor capacity to seek the Lord. It is only through the new birth that we are reconciled and restored to a place of fellowship with the Savior. This should be an evidence of regeneration, a hunger and thirst to know the Lord and seek Him. Uzziah not only teaches us the importance of being seekers of God; we also learn from him the value of continuing to seek Him through our lives.

We know of many who once sought the Lord in a genuine way, who no longer seek Him as they once did. Further reading of Uzziah’s life reveals that he left off seeking the Lord, “for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction” (II Chronicles 26:15, 16). There came a time in the life of this great king that he no longer felt the need for God’s help. It seems that the blessing of God made him strong; and in his strength, he forgot how much he needed the Lord. He quit seeking the Lord and depending on God as he once did. This testimony seems all too familiar. It was true in many instances with God’s people, and it continues to be true today. We want God’s help and blessing, and cry out for His assistance, only to quit seeking Him when we become stronger. We need to keep seeking Him, in good times and in bad. As long as we seek Him, we will experience His grace in our lives.

A COMPASSIONATE FATHER

“And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”
Luke 15:20

This has been a difficult journey and a tough lesson for the younger son. Attracted by the lure of worldliness, he had demanded his inheritance and traveled to a far country, where he wasted it all on riotous living. After all his resources were depleted, he found himself alone. Finally, he started to realize how foolish he had been. The prodigal, with a clear change in his attitude and reasoning, decided to return to his father’s house. He confessed his sin, and in sincere humility, offered to take the place of a hired servant, rather than the place he had vacated as a son.

As he made his way toward home, with a new appreciation for what he had left behind, his heart and mind must have been filled with a mixture of fear and anticipation. How would he be welcomed, or would he be welcomed at all? His guilt was like a weight on his weary back. He wanted to be restored to his family, but how could they forgive him of his selfishness and pride? He was ashamed and sorrowful; humbled by his unwise decisions. Undoubtedly, as he drew closer to the familiar sights of home, his anxiousness grew stronger. The repentant young man could never have predicted how his father would receive him. The Scripture records that while “he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”

The prodigal was not met by an angry and bitter dad. He was not confronted with criticism and condemnation from his father. Rather, the father ran to him, and welcomed him with love and assurance. This is the way our Father is when we come to Him in sorrow for the foolish decisions we have made. God is a compassionate Father. He wants to see His children restored to fellowship with Him and the family of faith. What He is looking for is a repentant heart on the part of those who have erred. God wants to see sinners come to themselves and realize how much better we would be to abide in the Father’s will than to pursue the pleasures of sin. The prodigal’s decision to arise and return to his father’s house, turning his back on the world that abused him, is an encouragement to us all. There is a compassionate Father there to greet us.

A PROPHET HATH BEEN AMONG THEM

“And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.”
Ezekiel 33:32, 33

The response Ezekiel received from his listeners was not wholly unlike the reception faithful preachers sometimes experience today. The people spoke openly about their interest in the messages from God, but they had no intention of obeying God’s Word. To the listeners, Ezekiel’s warnings were “unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument.” The people were entertained by the act of preaching, as many are in our generation. They do not mind attending preaching and even find it somewhat enjoyable. However, the Scripture says of them, “they hear thy words, but they do them not.” They were not at all compelled to obey the commands of Scripture, or to take seriously the personal application of the message to their individual lives.

This lack of response and absence of desire, to receive the Word of God as it should be, can be a cause of great disappointment and frustration to the God-called preacher. How is it that those who should be challenged and changed by the message of God’s Word are virtually unaffected? Somehow the message does not impact them. In order for this to happen, there has to be a serious spiritual problem in the life of the listener. For the majority, they are probably not saved, never truly born of the Spirit of God. They have no capacity to receive spiritual food and direction. There are others who have deliberately chosen to resist God’s truth in their hearts. Their hearts are stubborn and unwilling to repent and correct the error of their way.

The most sincere preacher or teacher does not have the ability to change a person’s heart or attitude toward the message. Each individual chooses how he will respond to God’s Word. For Ezekiel, God said that when these things occur, “then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.” Our commitment is to be the most sincere and effective communicators of truth we can be. Whether they hearken to our message or not, our responsibility is to faithfully give them the clear message from the Word of God.