Nadab & Abihu – Strange Fire

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INTRODUCTION

For the summer here at WPA we’ve been doing a series called, “The Bible’s Biggest Losers”. We’ve been highlighting different people or groups of people in the Bible who we might consider losers because of the bad choices they made and/or actions they took. Really, it’s been a revealing series because, I don’t know about you, but there are many times through this series where I’ve identified with one of these choices or actions and realized that I’ve been acting or choosing as a loser would. The good news, is that God doesn’t want to leave us in our loser choices or actions and directs us to wisdom and right choices if we’ll willingly listen. So for me, this series has been valuable. I don’t want to be a loser. I don’t think any of you do either. If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series you can catch up by tuning in on our website at waterlooassembly.org/section/sermons.

Today we’re actually going to look at two people, a pair of brothers in fact. Their names are Nadab and Abihu and when I first came across their names they sounded a little bit like the kind of names that Disney writers would come up for characters in one of their movies. These two guys have much to teach us about what can happen if you don’t take God seriously!

We first come across Nadab and Abihu in Exodus 6:23;

Exodus 6:23 (NIV)
23 Aaron married Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.

There we learn that Nadab and Abihu are sons of Aaron, the brother of Moses and they have two brothers, Eleazar and Ithamar. Nadab’s name means “noble”. Abihu’s name means “my father he is”. Nadab and Abihu were born into slavery. The first mention of them is located smack dab in the middle of story of Moses coming before Pharaoh of Egypt to communicate God’s command to let his people go. We can assume then that Nadab and Abihu were very much experienced with the slight(!) discomfort of slavery!

We also learn from Numbers 3:2 that Nadab is the firstborn and Abihu the second born – aside from that we don’t know anything about how old they are or their differences in age. However, due to the fact that every time they are mentioned in the Bible they are mentioned together we can assume that they probably were fairly close in age.

The Bible doesn’t say very much about these two men but what it does say proves to be very interesting. For instance, the next mention of Nadab and Abihu is found in Exodus 24.

Exodus 24:1 (NIV)
1 Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance,

The Israelites are camped at Mount Sinai and God tells Moses to come up to Him on the mountain. Notice here, that Nadab and Abihu are included on the list of people privileged to attend Moses. We also find that everyone coming up to the mountain is given explicit instructions to worship from a distance except Moses. He alone is to draw near to the Lord.

But listen to this, a little bit later in verses 9-11 you’ll find that they set out to do as the Lord told Moses…

Exodus 24:9-11 (NIV)
9 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. 11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

Did you hear that correctly? They saw God and lived to tell of it. Nadab and Abihu were among the privileged few to actually see God! Surely this is an honor that was imprinted in Nadab and Abihu’s mind, something they wouldn’t easily forget.

A short time later Moses records in Exodus 28:1-5 God’s plan to institute His priesthood through Aaron and his Sons.

Exodus 28:1-5 (NIV)

1 “Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. 2 Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron, to give him dignity and honor. 3 Tell all the skilled men to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. 4 These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests. 5 Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen.

So Nadab and Abihu have a quite a history of not only seeing and witnessing the miracles of God from the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, and the providence of God while journeying in the desert. They not only witnessed the tremendous power and majesty of God on Mount Sinai when God gave the ten commandments to the Israelites. But, Nadab and Abihu also had the tremendous honor of actually seeing God Himself! Then we read that they are blessed with being God’s chosen priests. Surely Nadab and Abihu appear to have a very privileged and special life. Especially with being able to know and be in God’s presence.

However this isn’t all that the Bible tells us about Nadab and Abihu. For in Leviticus 10:1-11 their lives take an unfortunate turn…

Leviticus 10:1-11 (NIV)

1 Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command.

Leviticus 10:1 (KJV)1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.2 So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. 3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: “‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.'” Aaron remained silent. 4 Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, “Come here; carry your cousins outside the camp, away from the front of the sanctuary.” 5 So they came and carried them, still in their tunics, outside the camp, as Moses ordered. 6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt, and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the LORD will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the house of Israel, may mourn for those the LORD has destroyed by fire. 7 Do not leave the entrance to the Tent of Meeting or you will die, because the Lord’s anointing oil is on you.” So they did as Moses said. 8 Then the LORD said to Aaron, 9 “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the Tent of Meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. 10 You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, 11 and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the LORD has given them through Moses.”

This is one of the instances in the Bible where people faced physical death due to their rebellion against God.

There is also Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who in the wilderness rose up against the authority of Moses and Aaron. Their rebellion flew in the face of God’s provision and lordship so God opened up the earth and swallowed Korah and his followers (Numbers 16,17).

In the New Testament, there was Annias and Saphira, who lied to the Holy Spirit and faced sudden death as a result. (Acts 5:1-10).

It is a serious matter to tamper in a wrong way with the holy things of a Holy God. When God lays out orders for something to be done in a certain way, that is exactly the way IT SHOULD BE DONE.

In this passage of scripture we find one of the most tragic scenes of the Bible. Here we have two brothers who have experienced God in such a privileged way and are truly blessed to have seen His majesty and His glory. And yet here we learn that their reckless and careless attitude about spiritual things provoked their death at the hands of God. They made the terrible mistake of thinking that if they wanted to offer the fire of their own making, it would be alright, and that God would do nothing about it! HOW DREADFULLY WRONG THEY WERE!

Fire through the Bible

a. Associated with the divine presence.

Moses first encountered God in the midst of a “burning bush”, the Israelites were guided through the desert by a pillar of fire by night, God revealed himself to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai in a display of fire.

When Solomon’s temple was dedicated in 2 Chronicles 7:1, there was fire that fell out of heaven

2 Chronicles 7:1 (NIV)

1 When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.

And finally, when the disciples were meeting in prayer and waiting as Jesus commanded them to when departing into heaven the Holy Spirit came on them appearing as fire.

Acts 2:2-4 (NIV)

2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

b. Associated with divine wrath.

If you recall from when I spoke on the man, Lot, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by fire (Genesis 19) and according to 2 Peter 3:12, fire will dissolve the world when the elements shall melt with fervent heat.

2 Peter 3:12 (NIV)

12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.

Some of the events that are yet to occur, that are described in the Book of Revelation will involve fire.

And in this particular story notice what happened to Nadab and Abihu –

Leviticus 10:2 (NIV)

2 So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.

“Strange Fire” is something we see even today.

I think there is a definite contrast here between the “strange fire” that Nadab and Abihu brought into the Lord’s presence and the consuming fire that executed God’s holy judgement on the pair. What they brought before the Lord was “unauthorized” fire, something that wasn’t in keeping with the instructions of God for proper priestly service.

There are all types of “strange things” in the church today. There are strange doctrines, strange practices, and strange thinking.

The NIV translates the word “strange” in Leviticus 10:1 as “unauthorized”. In other words, the fire that Nadab and Abihu brought before the Lord did not have his stamp of approval upon. Well, there are a lot of doctrines, thinking, and practices in the church today that God would never put His Divine approval upon!

What makes strange fire so dangerous is that left unchecked it can lead to something far different then what God wants and knows is best for us. It can even lead to getting a different picture of what God is really all about.

At the heart of Nadab and Abihu’s disastrous mistake was this “strange fire” they brought before the Lord. But this fire was merely the product of some very wrong actions that Nadab and Abihu demonstrated in coming before the presence of God.

wrong timing

It does not appear that Nadab and Abihu had any orders to burn incense at all at this time. It is true that their consecration was completed the day before, and it was part of their work, as priests, to serve at the altar of incense; but thought it appears that while this would be their duty at this particular time it actually was Aaron who is supposed to perform the service in inaugurating the new tabernacle. Aaron slew the sacrifices (ch. 9:8,15,18), and his sons were only to attend him (v. 8,12,18); therefore only Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle, v. 23. But Nadab and Abihu were so proud of the honor they were newly advanced to, and so ambitious of doing the highest and most honourable part, that though the service of this day was extraordinary, and done by particular direction from Moses, yet without receiving orders, or so much as asking leave from him, they took their censers, and they entered into the door of which they thought they had attended long enough, and would burn incense. At this particular moment, it was something that they were not supposed to do.

You see, Nadab and Abihu were so excited and proud about the honour they had that they wanted to rush something that God did not want rushed.

Friend’s, God’s timing is always perfect. Sometimes we want to help God along a little bit and try to speed things up but in doing so we are affronting the holiness and majesty of God. In doing so we’re bringing strange fire before the Lord.

wrong authority

As I mentioned briefly already, they did not consult with their leader Moses or their father the high priest. Moses had received a word from God, but this clearly did not matter to the young men. They were ready to act on their own and did not follow the leadership that God gave them.

This happens so often in churches today. If a person wants to do anything that affects the church in any way, then leadership should be consulted. Those in authority should be consulted. That is God’s way of doing things from the earliest times.

Some of you may be thinking – yeah that’s fine, but what if I know God has spoken to me about something and the leadership just doesn’t agree with me. My answer to you is this – if God spoke to you and wants to use you for a particular task then HE will bring it about – even if the leadership is not responsive – eventually God will put someone in authority who will listen to His voice and recognize what He is speaking into your life! But don’t try to RUSH God and don’t go ahead on your own authority!!! Is this scriptural? Sure it is…

Look what David did! David was anointed as the next King of Israel while the current king, Saul, was still in power. And there was no doubt that David’s anointing was from God! After all, it was the prophet Samuel who did the anointing. Yet if you read the story in 1 Samuel you find that Saul didn’t recognize David’s kingship. In fact, Saul set out to kill David. David was forced to flee for his life and he became a man in exile – on the run. There were a few men that joined David on the run and they became fugitives, hiding and running from Saul and those who would kill them if they were found.

Let’s pick up the story in 1 Samuel 24,

After returning with his men from battling with the Philistines one day Saul heard that David’s location had been found. He was hiding in a place called the desert of Engedi. It’s not your typical desert with blowing sand dunes. Rather, it’s a stretch of land adjacent to the coast of the Dead Sea, where the valley is lush and green, while the mountains are rocky and treacherous.

Without wasting any time, Saul gathers up his men, and announces that they are moving out to get David. Saul was focused in finding and killing David. After a long forced march, “He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself” (v3) Translation, Saul had to go to the potty.

Saul got off of his mule and scanned the terrain for a place to have some royal privacy. Picking a random cave from the many caves in the area, he walked over with a couple of his bodyguards positioned them at the entrance , and stepped inside to do his business. But of all the places to stop, and of all the caves to choose, Saul “coincidentally” picked the very cave where David and his men were hiding….{continue telling the story, emphasizing what David’s men must have been telling him – i.e. “this is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you” (v.4NKJV)…David ended up just cutting a piece off of Saul’s robe). When Saul had left the cave with his guards…

1 Samuel 24:8-13 (NIV)

8 Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 9 He said to Saul, “Why do you listen when men say, ‘David is bent on harming you’? 10 This day you have seen with your own eyes how the LORD delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. Now understand and recognize that I am not guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life. 12 May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.

David recognized the authority in Saul’s leadership – as faulty as it was. Instead of rushing things along David was waiting for God’s timing and obeying His authority.

wrong motive

Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: “‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.'” Aaron remained silent.

Leviticus 10:3 (NIV)

Nadab and Abihu were not seeking to glorify God alone. In Leviticus 10:3 God spoke to Aaron about being glorified. The two young men did not have the glory of God in mind at all. We offer strange fire when our motive in what we do fails in desire to give God glory.

1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

We do not fully know the hearts of Nadab and Abihu, but it appears their hearts were full of sinful pride. They wanted to look important in the eyes of Israel and seemingly did not have in mind at all, the glory of the Lord. They wanted to promote themselves and look important. That seems to be what motivated them in the tragic thing they did.

CONCLUSION

Folks what are the lessons we can learn from Nadab and Abihu?

1. The holiness of God is not to be trifled with!!

The question that nagged at the back of my mind through all my study of Nadab and Abihu and this terrible incident in their lives was, “Why did God have to kill them?” I mean, surely God could have used a little bit less of a deadly approach in discipline? And the only answer I have been able to reconcile with is the nature of Nadab and Abihu’s behavior. Remember that they had seen God and they knew what it was like to be in God’s presence. Remember also that they were not oblivious to the power and majesty and glory of God. They knew all this and yet they acted presumptuously despite that knowledge. In this moment, believe they took God for granted and ignored his holiness. Notice that the first words spoken to their father after their death as God spoke through Moses,

Leviticus 10:3 (NIV)

3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: “‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.'”

Among those who approach me I will show myself holy. Our God is a Holy God and this cannot be forgotten. God set up certain regulations and laws and procedures regarding the tabernacle and the priesthood for the protection of those in his presence. For He is a holy God and sin is consumed in his midst!

In the church today there are many people who are seeking the presence of God – pressing into his glory. And that is good. But do you know what would happen if on any given Sunday God were to honor our pursuit and show up in all his glory? If there is anybody here with an unrepentant heart and who does not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour I believe that they would die!! Friend’s God’s holiness is not to be trifled with! Yes He is loving, yes He is full of grace and mercy, but He is also HOLY, JUST, and RIGHTEOUS – and holy won’t mix with unholy… never forget that.

2. Strange Fire dishonors God.

Also found in Lev. 10:3 is God’s words, “in the sight of all the people I will be honored.” Another reason for God’s swift justice was the dishonor Nadab and Abihu were bringing to God by their “strange fire”. What they were doing flew in the face of everything God had painstakingly spoken through Moses and demonstrated their disregard for God’s word.

3. Strange Fire is destroyed by Holy Fire

Notice that the words used to describe the fire that consumed Nadab and Abihu are the same words used to describe the fire that consumed the sacrifice made earlier.

Leviticus 9:24 (NIV)

24 Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.

Leviticus 10:2 (NIV)

2 So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.

I don’t think this is coincidence. For you see in the first instance the sacrifice was consumed by the Lord indicating God’s acceptance of the offering as a substitution for the sins of Israel. This fire which consumed the Nadab and Abihu came the same way with that which had consumed the sacrifice and showed what justice would have done to all the guilty people if infinite mercy had not found and accepted a ransom; and, if that fire struck such an awe upon the people, then so much more would this. This then would make sense out of why Aaron and Eleazar and Ithamar were instructed by God through Moses not to mourn or show any grief for their loss. You see, they as priests were to understand their loved ones death as an atonement for sin.

Leviticus 10:6 (NIV)

6 Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not let your hair become unkempt, and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the LORD will be angry with the whole community. But your relatives, all the house of Israel, may mourn for those the LORD has destroyed by fire.

The point I want to make here however is that the Holy Fire of God will destroy or consume any strange fire that is brought into his presence.

When we insist on our timing with the things of God rather than his timing, when we resist His authority and the authority He has placed on those over us, when we act out of the wrong motives in our hearts then anything we bring to God is “strange fire”. What does this mean?

  • Salvation without the cross of Christ is strange fire.
  • Attendance without worship is strange fire
  • Service without the Spirit is strange fire
  • Testimony without personal experience is strange fire
  • Teaching without study is strange fire
  • Prayer without practice is strange fire
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Asa: The Man Called Foolish

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This message was part of the series called “The Bible’s Biggest Losers” being preached at Waterloo Pentecostal Assembly.

INTRODUCTION

Tonight, I’m going to continue with the journey we’ve been taking through the Bible uncovering some people that could be called “losers” and step into the era of Israel’s Kings. Actually, I’m going to skip through a few years of the nation’s history past the time where the single nation of Israel split into two nations, Judah and Israel, and the nation of Judah has a king named Asa.

Today we’re going to look at the story of King Asa. In his story we find one that is repeated, I believe too often, in amongst Christians of our world – particularly in our part of the world. It is the story of misplaced hope, a story of a man called foolish.

{READ 2 CHRONICLES 16:1-14}

There is a verse that particularly stands out in this account of King Asa’s later year of life.

2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV)
9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”

In this verse Asa is given the label of foolish and if you’ll remember, he isn’t too happy with it! Here we are told that Asa was foolish for not relying on God. In a moment I want to look at the two reasons mentioned in the text why what Asa did was considered foolish. But first, I’d like to make sure we all have the situation clear.

A thousand years before Jesus was born David was the king of Israel and the kingdom was united and prosperous. After him, Solomon, his son, reigned over the united kingdom. But when Solomon died there was conflict and division, and the southern kingdom, made up of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, separated from the northern kingdom made up of the other ten tribes. The southern kingdom is usually called Judah and the northern kingdom is usually called Israel. The first king of Judah was Rehoboam. When he died his son Abijah ruled for only three years. And after Abijah his son Asa became king in Judah.

Asa ruled for 41 years and thirty-five years of that reign was almost totally peaceful. God was with him and blessed him and protected him and prospered him in wonderful ways. But something happened in Asa’s life over those years, and when trouble came he no longer trusted God.

Chapter 16 describes what happened in the 36th year of Asa’s peaceful reign. Verse 1 says that Baasha the king of Israel (the northern kingdom) went up against Judah (i.e., against Asa). He built a fortified city named Ramah as a kind of siege and blockade against Judah, so that he could control access to Asa’s land.

Now here is where Asa should have stopped and cried out to the Lord. But instead of turning to the Lord, he turned immediately to human resources. Verse 2 describes what he did: he “took silver and gold from the treasures of the house of the Lord and the king’s house, and sent them to Benhadad king of Syria.”

In other words, Asa pays the king of Syria (with temple money!) to attack Israel from the north and get Baasha off his back. Benhadad does exactly that. Verse 4 describes Benhadad’s campaign against the cities of Israel. And it works.

So Asa tears down Ramah, and all is well – or so it seems. Judah is secure. There is peace. Baasha is humiliated.

There is a great lesson to be learned here. So many times when we rely on ourselves and our own resources things seem to go well for a season. But things are not well when we have stopped hoping in God and started hoping in what man can do. We miss tremendous blessings and we bring unnecessary hardship on ourselves. Look at the blessing Asa missed (2 Chronicles 16:7b)!

2 Chronicles 16:7b (NIV)
“Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand.

God would not only have protected Asa from Baasha and Israel, He would have given the entire army of Aram into the hand of Asa. But Asa threw it away by trusting in money and planning instead of God.

As a result, what seemed to be a good plan turned out to be a disastrous mistake. His peaceful life soon faced uncomfortable hardship.

2 Chronicles 16:9b (NIV)
You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”

Now we know from other places in the Bible that if we repent after such unbelief, God will even take the chastisements of hardship or the consequences of sin and turn them for our good, and they will be fatherly discipline and not judicial condemnation. But it seems that Asa never did that. He carried his folly with him to the grave.

2 Chronicles 16:12 (NIV)
12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the LORD, but only from the physicians.

Something tragic had happened in Asa’s life. In the thirty-five years of God’s blessing on his reign he had gradually (it seems) become a secular humanist 2,800 years before the term was invented.

When there is a military threat you don’t think of God, you think of money in the treasury and political alliances and armed forces. When there is a threat to your health, you don’t think of God, you think of doctors and medicine. That is not to say that either of these options are not proper but that often times when we face disastrous threats in our lives our hope is often place more in worldly resources other than God’s! No doubt Asa still went visited the temple But God was gone out of his life as a moment by moment loved and trusted reality. Trusting God, relying on God, hoping in God were not part of his life any more.

I said earlier that there are two reasons mentioned in the text why this is a great folly.

God had already proven Himself

The first reason is that God had proved to Asa in the past that when he trusted him, great things happened for his good.

2 Chronicles 16:8 (NIV)
8 Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the LORD, he delivered them into your hand.

God fought for Asa when Asa trusted Him.

You can find this story in 2 Chronicles 14. Indeed, it is in this chapter that we are first introduced to Asa and there you find that what happens in the beginning of his reign as king is a sharp contrast to that which happened at the end of his reign.

2 Chronicles 14:2 (NIV)
2 Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God.

As you read further in chapter 14 you find that it is obvious that Asa was clearly seeking to obey God and restore his kingdom to God’s favor. As a result, you would think that things would go “hunky dorey” for the young king – that he would have not problems! Guess again! Verse 9 tells us that Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them [Asa] with an army of a million men and three hundred chariots. You wouldn’t describe that as a small army.

Reading further we find that Asa went out to meet Zerah in battle however in verse 11 there is a very important distinction between the way Asa approached this threat and the one he faced near the end of his reign.

2 Chronicles 14:11 (NIV)
11 Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, “LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O LORD, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you.”

Notice well: Asa had an army, he had a lot of worldly resources at his disposal. But he was on his face before God saying that armies are not the decisive thing in battles but only the Lord. Asa says in effect, “We’re not trusting, we’re not hoping in our army [our resources] but in you Lord.” You see, Asa’s prayer indicated in terrible situation of his life, his willingness to hope and trust in God’s resources for the outcome. Now, that does not mean that Asa withdrew his army and sat waiting around for God to do something. The distinction is that while Asa knew he and his army had a role to play and had to be ready for the battle – it was God who would decide the outcome.

Let think of this in terms of going to the doctor. Going to the doctor for aid in a medical problem is not wrong. But banking all your hope and all your trust in the doctor (or the army) and not praying the way Asa prayed here is foolishness.

And did Asa pray! He humbled himself and hoped in God. And verse 12 describes what happened:

2 Chronicles 14:12 (NIV)
12 The LORD struck down the Cushites before Asa and Judah. The Cushites fled,

Then, picking up in chapter 15, verse 1, we find that God sends a prophet Azariah to Asa to make sure that he understood what had just happened.

2 Chronicles 15:2b (NIV)
“Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.

But it seems that Asa soon forgot this lesson. Asa’s trust in money and military might and political alliances and human physicians in the latter part of his reign was folly because God had made it so clear in the beginning of Asa’s reign that He would do great things for him if he would simply trust Him and not forsake him. Asa’s failure to rely on God was foolish because God had been so amazingly good to him and helped him in the past simply for crying out and trusting.

It is God’s nature to show His power on behalf of people who trust Him.

The second reason given in the text for why Asa’s reliance on man was folly is that the very nature of God is that He is eager to show His power on behalf of people who trust Him. He not only did it once in the past when Asa needed it with the Ethiopians, but it is the very makeup of God to do so. This is what it means to be an absolutely all-knowing, all-powerful, all-sufficient God who over-flows with might and glory. God – just because He is God – loves to show off His power on behalf of the weak who trust Him.

Read carefully the first part of 2 Chronicles 16:9:

2 Chronicles 16:9 (Living)
9 For the eyes of the Lord search back and forth across the whole earth, looking for people whose hearts are perfect (=whole, blameless, i.e., wholly relying on God, that’s what the context requires) toward him, so that he can show his great power in helping them.

God means for you to know something very profound about Him from this verse this morning. And he means for it to change your life so you don’t commit Asa’s folly – so that you have more peace and freedom and courage and power in spite of the circumstances and situations you find yourself in.

Now what does God want you to see about Himself? Consider this: if I say, “The eyes of the narcotic agents run to and fro throughout the city seeking to capture drug dealers and make the community drug free,” what I mean is that this is their job and they are really out to do it. It is the nature of narcotic agents to seek out and find drug dealers so that they can be dealt with.

Or if I say, “The eyes of the scouts of the big athletic departments are searching to and fro throughout the high schools of Ontario seeking to find the best athletes,” what I mean is that this is their job, and they are really out to do it. It is the nature of an athletic scout to seek and find good athletes and try to recruit them.

Well, that’s the way we should read verse 9: “The eyes of the Lord (God, the Creator of the Universe) search back and forth across the whole earth to show His might on behalf of those whose heart is wholly relying on Him – on people who trust Him!” When the prophet says that, what He means is that this is God’s job, and He is really out to do it. It belongs to the very nature of God that He overflow with divine power in the lives of people who trust Him. This is right at the heart of God!

This is not something God does on the weekends. It is not something He just does in church or holy places. It’s not His hobby or after-hours recreation. This is what God is doing all the time everywhere. God’s eyes are everywhere always, so that He never misses one single opportunity any time, anywhere to demonstrate His power on behalf of humble people who rely on Him and His resources rather than mankind and our resources. (tie in with Christ’s choice for the disciples)

Asa’s reactions and trust in the resources He had was foolish because He didn’t understand that God is just waiting for the opportunity to pour out His resources and His power in the situation.

Now some of you may be thinking – that’s great – but I have trusted God – I have placed my hope in Him and He let me down. Friend, if that’s the case I am truly sorry – for I have felt the damage that is done to my own faith when I felt that God had let me down. But then, thankfully, one day I realized something. Did God really let me down? You see, after I thought about it I realized that instead of hoping and placing my trust in God for the situation I faced, I was hoping and placing my trust in what I expected God to do. Do you see the difference?

Friends, there is also an important lesson to learn here. God doesn’t always show Himself and His power in ways that we expect! Again, return to the story of Asa and you’ll see that God was prepared to show His power in a way that Asa wouldn’t expect. When the prophet Hanani came from the Lord to speak to Asa the message did not contain anything about Baasha (the king that was giving Asa so much trouble) instead the prophet declared that Asa had missed the opportunity of having the army of King Aram defeated. By trying to deal with the smaller problem with his own resources, Asa prevented God from dealing with the bigger problem with His resources.

So friends if you feel that God has let you down ask yourself this question, “Has God really let me down or am I trusting and hoping in what I expect God will do instead of just trusting and hoping in God and yielding to what HE wants to do!!!”

CONCLUSION

Asa, the man called foolish. His life resembles the lives of so many people today. Maybe as you here his story you recognize certain elements in your own life.

There are those who, like Asa, at some point in their lives placed their trust and hope in God – they faced an incredibly difficult situation or circumstance and simply trusted and hoped in God. Because of this, God displayed His wonderful power in their life and in the situation or circumstance. But here they are now. They are facing other situations, other circumstances – maybe not as dire – or maybe more so but rather than trusting in God and hoping in Him they’ve begun to rely on their own resources and find that for them it seems to work better. Maybe they haven’t had any problems with this choice yet, but they will. You see, our resources can only go so far – but God’s resources are limitless…

Then, there are also those who won’t trust God, who won’t hope in Him. Either they don’t have need to or they feel God has failed them or failed others. Again, there will come a time when one by one those things or persons that they do place the trust and hope in fail them. And if they don’t turn to God there will be nothing to hope for or nothing to trust.

Of course, nobody likes to be called foolish, Asa didn’t – the scriptures say He was angry with the prophet for the message he gave and not only did he put Hanani in prison but he also began to take his anger out on those around him. Friend’s if this message is hitting home this morning – don’t lash out as Asa did. Instead hear these words very carefully, the way to wisdom is to realize that you are foolish apart from God. Don’t ignore it, don’t excuse it, don’t explain it away – just come before God and say, “Lord, I have been foolish – I’ve trusted, I’ve hoped in anything but You – I’ve had a change of heart God – I want to trust you and hope in you alone…”

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Simon the Sorceror: Bargaining with God

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INTRODUCTION

This summer, the messages have been focused on a series we’re doing called “the Bible’s Biggest Losers”. Tonight I’d like to take a look at a man named Simon. We learn about him in the New Testament.

Read Acts 8:4-25 (with commentary – emphasizing certain parts [see observations])
4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city. 9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.” 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. 14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” 24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” 25 When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.
Acts 8:1-25 (NIV)

How many of you like getting good bargains? I know I do. In fact there is a certain feeling of accomplishment that is exhilarating to me after working out a good bargain for something I buy. A few years ago my brother-in-law and sister moved in with Kerryanne and we shared a house together. I remember they wanted to buy a freezer and I went with Chris to buy one and we noticed that there was a small freezer that fit the bill perfectly only it was a bit more than what Chris was willing to spend. But after looking carefully I uncovered a dent in the back. The salesman came along and we managed to get a discount for the dent and then because we said we would be able to take it immediately because we had a truck with us we shaved another $50 off the price. I don’t remember the actual price we paid for that freezer but I remember going home all excited about the “bargain” we had haggled out!!

My friend of my wife’s named Debbie is a terrific bargain hunter. In fact, she is the queen of garage sale hunters. I’m telling you, I’ve seen Debbie in action and I feel sorry for the poor folk wanting to earn a decent living selling off their beloved junk. Deb will never pay the asking price for something in a garage sale and she always manages to shave off at least 25% of the cost. When she begins a sentence, “Guess what I found?” You can be sure that she’s about to launch into a description of some incredible bargains she hunted down in the yard sale market.

But then, some of you probably (as I have!) have been at the wrong end of a bargaining deal. Instead of getting a bargain – you’ve felt ripped off! There are a couple of incidences that I remember in my life and one of them is when I bought my first electronic piano keyboard. It was a well used keyboard but when I played it, I fell in love with it. I thought to myself – I’ve got to have this keyboard! I was young at the time and I didn’t have a lot of income and I was also a little bit naïve as to the price of keyboards but the person selling it to me told me that I could pay them in monthly installments without interest. I thought, what a deal. But after making the last payment I happened across a flyer from a music store advertising new keyboards. There was one listed that was equivalent to or even better than the one I had just paid off and yet it was cheaper and brand new. I was ripped off! This and other experiences have made me just a little bit wiser when it came to purchasing what seems to be a bargain.

So, there are a lot of people in the world who like the thought of getting a bargain or even more – the process of bargaining for something. But this morning I’m not going to be talking about bargaining for things of this world. You see, there are also many people in this world who bargain for spiritual things.

Before I go any further I think I need to clarify what I mean about the word bargain. “Bargain” is one of those tricky English words that can be either a noun or a verb. When it is used as a noun, as in “I got a bargain” then it refers to an item or service received by paying less than what it is worth. When it is used as a verb, as in “I bargained for the keyboard” it carries with the meaning of working out terms for the exchanging of items or services. Sometimes this exchange will result in a “bargain” but sometimes it will result in being “ripped off” – you see the difference?

So when I talk about there are many people in this world who bargain for spiritual things I am talking about the word “bargain” as a verb. In other words there are a lot of people in the world seeking to work out terms for the exchange of spiritual gifts or services for something they do or offer in return. Many religions and cults in the world operate to some degree on this premise. For example, there is some Islamic teaching that states if a person offers their life by dying in a “holy war” they are ushered into paradise. With certain new age cults – there is the “bargaining” with things beyond the grave by attending to certain rituals or actions. You can even see commercials on TV for Psychics where you can call a number and “pay” for “spiritual guidance” for your life. Sometimes these services are even offered at a bargain – “5 free minutes!” The point I’m trying to make is that for a lot of people bargaining carries over from their lives in the world to their dealings with the spiritual.

And if you think you’re immune to this, think again. How many of you have ever found yourself in a crisis situation and you’ve found yourself praying – “God if you bless me in this way then I will do this”! I know I have – “Lord if you bless me with enough money to pay off my debts then I’ll start taking the surplus and giving it to missions”.

As I read the story of Simon, the question that immediately came to mind was “Why is His story included?” I think this is an important question to ask when studying the Bible! Look at the passage, Luke could have left out Simon’s story and we still would have got an interesting look into the work of the Holy Spirit through Philip and the apostles in the region of Samaria. We still would have learned the important lessons being communicated through this account. Lessons such as how the message of the kingdom of God and of Christ is for everyone not just the privileged (the Samaritans were outcasts to the Jew’s “traitors” – The city of Samaria (in the region of Samaria) had been the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel in the days of the divided kingdom, before it was conquered by Assyria in 722 BC. During that war, the Assyrian king took many captives, leaving only the poorest people in the land and resettling it with foreigners. These foreigners intermarried with the Jews who were left, and the mixed race became known as Samaritans. The Samaritans were considered half-breeds by the “pure” Jews in the southern kingdom of Judah, and there was intense hatred between the two groups. But Jesus Himself went into Samaria (John 4), and he commanded his followers to spread the gospel there (Acts 1:8));

Or of the importance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. But Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, chose to include this story of a man named Simon and today I want to focus on one aspect of this particular event in Simon’s life that communicates an important lesson to us and why his story was included here. That lesson is, “THE THINGS OF THE SPIRIT ARE NOT THINGS THAT CAN BE BARGAINED FOR!” That is, the things of the Spirit are not things that we can earn, work towards, or buy! The things of the Spirit are the gift of God and come by simple faith, belief, and willingness to receive His gift!

This lesson is one that springs out of Simon’s offer to Peter to buy what he perceived to be the ability of imparting the Holy Spirit upon others. As we look closely at Simon’s offer there are a few things that can be said about it that highlight why Peter would have such a strong rebuke for Simon. What was wrong with Simon’s request?

he overvalued the wealth of the world

In thinking that the gift of God could be purchased with money Simon was communicating the idea that the wealth of this world is sufficient for anything. That if you have enough of it you can get what ever you want, and because it is the way to obtain all things on this world (in this life) then it is the way to obtain all things relating to the other life.

This folly is one that is perpetuated far too often, I believe among people of the church today. How many times do people overvalue the wealth of the world or shall I say the resources of the world when compared with the things of God? Do you want some examples?

How about the person who stops tithing because they didn’t see the blessings of God unfold in their life the way they were told it would happen? Is that why you “gave your money” so that God would pour His blessing into your life? Did you think that His blessing could be bought? The principle of tithing is one that I believe is one that is vaguely understood by many people in the church. Yes, I know it’s been taught and I have said myself that when you tithe faithfully God will pour out His blessing upon you. But perhaps that aspect of tithing, of giving to the Lord, has been emphasized a bit too much. You see, we don’t give a tenth or more to the Lord in order to receive His blessing – we give to the Lord out of joy for what He has already blessed us with!

But that is just one example. What about some of the promises made to God – like the one I mentioned earlier? Or what about some of our actions? There are many people who think that by going to church and by reading the Bible regularly and by praying on a daily basis and by volunteering in ministry God is more pleased with them and he’ll do more for them. Friend’s if you are in that mindset – you are overvaluing the wealth of this world – you are overvaluing what you are doing for God. Again, we don’t do these things to please God – we do them because of our joyous understanding that He is already pleased with those who follow Him! One man has said,

The error at the root of all false ideas of perfection is this: it is rating our behavior “before” God higher than our relation “to” God – putting conduct before faith, deeds before trust, work before worship. That is the root of all pharisaism, …paganism, and natural and worldly morality.
(quoted in Autoillustrator.com, FAITH)

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

It’s not saying that good deeds, or doing things for God is wrong. But we need to get it in the right order. We don’t do those things for God’s favor but we do them BECAUSE of God’s favor.
Suppose your best friend came by one day with a special gift for you. How would you respond? Would you immediately pull out your purse or wallet for some money to help pay for the gift? Of course not. To do so would be a great insult! A gift must be accepted for what it is – something freely given and unmerited. If you have to pay for a gift or do something to deserve or earn it, it is not a gift. True gifts are freely given and freely received. To attempt to give or receive a gift in any other manner makes it not a gift. So it is with our salvation. God offers us salvation as a free gift. He does not attach strings to it, because to do so makes it something other than a gift. In addition, any attempt on our part, no matter how small, to pay for our salvation by doing something or giving up something is an insult to God. No one in heaven will ever be able to say, “Look at me! I made it! With a little help from God. I made it!” Salvation is all by God. Not even the smallest part of it is the result of what we do or do not do.

John 6:28-29 (NIV)
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is also a gift of God, in fact I believe very much that it is an experience that can be expected as a result of the gift of salvation. Yet Simon thought he could purchase it with worldly wealth. In fact, he went one step further in insulting God in thinking that he could purchase the ability to give God’s gift!! In doing so, Simon grossly overvalued his resources.

We also overvalue our resources when we think we can do the things of God with our own resources. The truth is…you can’t do anything FOR God WITHOUT God.

he undervalued the gift of God

Of course the reciprocal to Simon’s overvaluing the wealth of the world is that in doing so he undervalued the gift of God. He thought he could buy the Holy Spirit for a good fee in the same way as he could buy the advice of a physician or a lawyer!

Simon thought that God’s gift – indeed God himself – is at the beck and call of man. You see, Simon perceived Peter, John, and Philip being the ones in control of the power that was flowing through them when really it was they who were submitted to the control of the Holy Spirit at work through them.

When you look at this story of Simon, you can’t help but wondering why he wanted to become a Christian. Why all of a sudden did he give up “the good life” as a sorcerer to become a Christian with no advantages…none like he was used to anyway? He traded his wand for a cross. He traded incantations for prayers. He traded being the object of everyone’s affections and awe and wonder for being a servant. Why would he do that? What did he want from Christianity? What did he want from God? Perhaps, his was a genuine desire for forgiveness for his past life. Perhaps he recognized his need for salvation as the others in Samaria did. But when you read the whole story you see something possibly very different.

I think Simon wanted power. Simon was a man who wanted to trade one power for another. He wanted to trade his Great Power for God’s power under his control. He looked and saw Philip healing and teaching and doing all sorts of wonderful things through the power of the Holy Spirit. That was what he wanted. He wanted the ability to impart the Holy Spirit and use the power of the Spirit for his gain. And how was he going to get it? How was he going to get this Holy Spirit? Money! Money buys everything. I will just walk up to that fellow Peter and offer him $2000 for the Holy Spirit. I’ll actually go as high as $5000, but I won’t let him know that. Ok ok, $3000 you drive a hard bargain. Hey, if you guarantee that I’ll be able to do any miracle that I’ve seen, I’ll go $3500 and that’s my final offer.

People barter and haggle with God in the same way Simon did. They do it to get what they want from God. What, other than money, do we usually want from God? The right job. Health. Good relationships. Promotions, good grades… Think of what you have bargained for with God. Why do we do this? We do it because we want God to fit into our little picture of Him. We take God out of our pocket, ask Him to perform, and when He’s done we stick Him right back in our pocket. Too often for some people God is like a pet. “Good God, thanks.”

Please don’t misunderstand me, it’s okay to make requests of God BUT it is the attitude with which we approach God that matters. Especially when it relates to things that are spiritual in nature. Friend’s we devalue or undervalue the things of God and the gift of God when we try to bargain with Him!!

CONCLUSION

So in making this insulting request of Peter Simon overvalued the things of the world and undervalued the gift of God. In response to Simon’s brashness Peter gave a stinging rebuke,

Acts 8:20-21 (NIV)
20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.

In this rebuke Peter foretells of two things that will happen because of Simon’s disastrous view of God’s gift.

The first, is that he will sink with his money. In other words – because Simon overvalued the wealth of the world he will fall with it. It is so true that when people try to bargain with God in some way they are really saying that they don’t want God to be in control. They are really saying that they believe what they have to offer is greater than what God has to offer but hoping that they’ll get something better in return!! Sounds crazy? It is! But when this takes place in a person’s life it is often the very thing that people are bargaining with that drags them down and away from God.

For example, a person may say – “Lord it would mean everything to me if I could have this job – if you help me get this job I promise to volunteer to be a Sunday School teacher for this next year” The problem with this is if you don’t get the job then you’ll start to think – maybe I didn’t offer enough, maybe I’ve displeased God, maybe…Notice what’s happening? This person becomes more and more consumed with getting this particular job and pays less attention to God Himself! Or worse, they get the job and then don’t follow through with their promise and then feel guilty about that. OR EVEN WORSE, they get the job and then follow through with their promise EVEN THOUGHT THEY DON’T REALLY WANT TO BE A SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER…and the kids suffer because of it!

The second thing that Peter proclaims to Simon is that he would have no part or share in the ministry, because his heart is not right before God. What was not right about Simons heart? He overvalued the wealth of the world and undervalued the gift of God. If you read further we find out that Simon has bitterness in his heart and is still captive to sin. I believe that the sin Simon was still captive to was the sin of pride. He had enjoyed great prosperity and power among the Samaritans before Philip came along and disrupted everything. But when Simon paid attention to Philip and what he was doing he saw the reality that this “power” that Philip had was greater than anything Simon had ever encountered and used.

It was in his pride and bitterness that Simon approached the apostles with his offer. It was in his pride that he thought that the Holy Spirit was under the control of the apostles and that he should be able to purchase this control for a price. It was what was in Simon’s heart that blinded him to the reality of the gift of God. And that is why Simon would have no part of the ministry of the disciples – for it is a ministry of the humble and of the meek and of the surrendered. It belongs to those who have given up control over their lives and destiny and exchanged it for the life of Christ and His destiny for them.

Anytime a person bargains with God they are really doing so out of a heart filled with pride. Why do I say this? Because they are thinking that they can influence anything that God can do by what they will do in return. That, friend’s is the ugly head of pride. For God is God – do you really think that you have anything to offer that He needs?

Now again, I want to emphasize I am not saying that we shouldn’t ask God for things – that we shouldn’t communicate our needs to Him, that we shouldn’t intercede in prayer for others. But what I am saying is don’t bargain with God. Simply present your request before Him and leave the rest up to God and then LEAVE THE REST UP TO GOD! I repeated myself intentionally. God has His own timing for things.

Now Peter had a great rebuke for Simon and indeed it speaks to all those who recognize Simons’ folly in their own lives. But Peter also holds out a hope. He says first, repent of your wicked heart and pray to God. Simon’s heart was that of a hypocrite one who proclaimed to be saved and baptized but nevertheless one that wasn’t filled with belief. It was important therefore, that Simon be willing to repent of his heart – for his actions flowed out of his heart. Secondly, Peter said PERHAPS, the Lord will forgive you. I believe Peter tagged the PERHAPS on it was because of his doubt about the sincerity of Simon’s repentance, not of GOD’S pardon if his repentance is sincere.

Simon’s response was, “Pray to the Lord for me, so that nothing you have said may happen to me.” And that is the last we hear of him. The sad thing is that no matter how much any of the apostles or the disciples prayed for Simon, the only one who could pray the deciding prayer is Simon himself. He had to come before the Lord in repentance. He had to surrender his life before the Lord. He had to take that step of belief. He had to receive God’s forgiveness. No one else could.

There may be some of you here today who recognize that you are bargaining for things of the spirit in your life. I hope that you have been warned by the life of Simon. Maybe you’ve overvalued the wealth of the world. Maybe you’ve undervalued the gift of God. If you find yourself in this position then you need to repent and pray to God this morning for his forgiveness. And He will forgive the truly repentant heart.

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How To Fail as a Father

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INTRODUCTION

Today I’m going to continue the message series that we are doing here at WPA for the summer entitled, “The Bible’s Biggest Losers”.

One of the things I love about the Bible is that it doesn’t paint all the heroes in the stories as infallible or perfect. In fact, the Holy Spirit is careful to include the “losing” moments as well. It gives hope to all of us who read the Bible who know full well that we’re not perfect people that maybe, just maybe God can use us too!

With it being Father’s day I thought it’d be a good idea to take a look at a father from the Bible and I was drawn to talk about King David. Now, we know David as a great king of Israel and he’s even described as a “man after God’s own heart”. We know the story of David and Goliath, and the incredible odds he overcame to fulfill the anointing God placed on his life as a King of God’s people. David was so great that one of the titles for the Messiah, Jesus Christ is “Son of David” tying the human lineage of Jesus to David himself. What an honor.

However, those familiar with King David also know that there are some tragic stories in David’s life where he failed dramatically and it cost him dearly. If you want to read up on the incredible story of David and his reign over Israel you can find it in 1 Samuel 16-31, all of 2 Samuel, 1 Kings 1-2, and 1 Chronicles 11-29. You can also get a feel for David’s passions and artistry by reading many of the Psalms he wrote.

Today, we’re going to zero in on a particularly tragic moment in David’s life in 2 Samuel 18,

5 The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders. 6 The army marched into the field to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. 7 There the army of Israel was defeated by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great–twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest claimed more lives that day than the sword. 9 Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going. 10 When one of the men saw this, he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.” 11 Joab said to the man who had told him this, “What! You saw him? Why didn’t you strike him to the ground right there? Then I would have had to give you ten shekels of silver and a warrior’s belt.” 12 But the man replied, “Even if a thousand shekels were weighed out into my hands, I would not lift my hand against the king’s son. In our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.’ 13 And if I had put my life in jeopardy–and nothing is hidden from the king–you would have kept your distance from me.” 14 Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree. 15 And ten of Joab’s armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him. 16 Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and the troops stopped pursuing Israel, for Joab halted them..
2 Samuel 18:5-18 (NIV)

In this snapshot of David’s life I chose to begin with the words of David instructing 3 of his generals to be gentle with his son Absalom. Yet dramatically, we discover that they are far from gentle. In fact, Absalom’s life is brutally taken. How did things get to this point? How did things get to the point where Absalom is leading the army of Israel against his father King David? How did things get to the point where David’s generals would kill his son?

To understand the answer to that question I did some reading over the story of David’s life and I’m going to give you a quick rundown of some things I discovered about his children:

  • The Bible names for us 19 sons and 1 daughter that David had but there is the suggestion that he had many more that were born to his concubines.
  • Of those children we gain greater insight into the lives of five: Amnon, Absalom, Adonijah, Solomon and Tamar:
    • Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar
    • Tamar is Absalom’s full-sister and when he hears of Amnon’s deed he is furious and plots revenge. He rigs up a celebratory party and invites all his brothers including Amnon to the party where he has his people murder Amnon
    • Absalom is banished from the kingdom for two years to his grandfather’s (on his mother’s side) land and when is returned to Israel he plots to take the kingdom from his father David. Absalom ends up heading up this conspiracy against King David that hit its peak when he had himself crowned King in Hebron and David fled Jerusalem.
    • Absalom raped his father’s concubines when he arrived in Jerusalem.
    • Absalom leads Israel’s armies out to battle David and his men and they lose (as we’ve already read)
    • Adonijah follows in Absalom’s footsteps and plots to undermine David’s authority and steal the kingdom from him but is kept from doing so when King David is informed by the plot and accelerates the crowning of Solomon as King.

It is clear as you read the story of David and his family that David had some faults. From the example of David and the teaching of scripture I’d like to spend a few minutes today answering the question, “How to fail as a father”. Some of you men here today are fathers. Some of you are going to be a father in the coming months. Some of you know someone who is a father or who is going to be a father. Listen up, because I think God has something to say to you today. For the rest of you I also want you to listen carefully because I’m going to share with you how God as our father doesn’t fail!

Now I need to make a couple things clear.

One, there is the reality that each person is responsible for the actions he/she takes in life. Just because a father fails doesn’t necessarily guarantee that his children will do terrible things or live fruitless lives. Just because a father succeeds doesn’t necessarily guarantee that his children will live exemplary lives and be Godly individuals. But a good father will increase the positive potential for their children.

Two, as you listen to this message you may discover some areas where you may be failing as a father or have failed. Don’t allow this discovery to discourage you but instead take it as a challenge to do something about it. Placed before you is the opportunity to make changes so that what you discover is no longer true in your life as a father. Even as I was preparing this message there were some things the Holy Spirit nudged me about that I need to work on in my own life as the father to my children. Being a father is hard work, and no father is perfect. The biggest losers are not those who fail, but those who let their failure define their future actions and decisions because they become comfortable with that failure.

How to fail as a father…

1. Don’t spend time with your children.

This is obvious but so easily forgotten. You want to decrease the positive potential in your children then don’t spend time with them. The next few points I make are dependent on the time that you invest in your kids.

King David teaches us that it doesn’t matter how important of a role you play in the world – your most important role is the one you have in your family as father. If you don’t spend time with your kids then you are abdicating that role.

In King David’s story it is revealing that when Absalom was plotting to get revenge on his brother Amnon for raping his sister he went to his father…well let’s just read it:

23 Two years later, when Absalom’s sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor near the border of Ephraim, he invited all the king’s sons to come there. 24 Absalom went to the king and said, “Your servant has had shearers come. Will the king and his officials please join me?” 25 “No, my son,” the king replied. “All of us should not go; we would only be a burden to you.” Although Absalom urged him, he still refused to go, but gave him his blessing.
2 Samuel 13:23-25 (NIV)

Now why would Absalom even bother to invite his father to come to the celebration knowing full well that if David accepted he wouldn’t be able to pull off what he had planned? Here’s the thing. Absalom had to give the appearance to David that nothing was up by inviting him but Absalom knew that David probably wouldn’t accept. How would Absalom know that? Because of the pattern David had set in his life of not spending time with his children.

Not only that but did you catch the excuse David gave for not attending? “I don’t think I should come, I don’t want to be a burden to you”. What kind of lame excuse is that? I wonder how many lame excuses like that David had given in to his sons when they wanted to go riding horses with him, or have him teach them how to throw a spear, tuck them in at night, or be at their birthday parties?

What are the lame excuses you give your kids for backing out of spending time with them?

I remember once my daughter Jenna came to me and gave me a hug after I spent some time wrestling with her and my other three children (getting to be more dangerous the older they get!) and she said, “Thanks Daddy”. I asked her, “Thanks for what?” “Thanks for spending time with us Daddy” and I said, “Daddy always has time for you guys” Then Jenna floored me, “Sometimes Daddy, but you’re always on your blackberry or the ‘puter”.

BAM! What a gut-wrenching thing to hear from Jenna. I realized I was failing as a father because my daughter was seeing me on the computer and the blackberry more than she was seeing me with her. Which brings me to an important point,

The amount of time is secondary to the quality of your time.

Paul writes to the fathers in the Ephesian church, “Don’t provoke to anger (or exasperate) your children” (Eph. 6:4). Do you know one of the easiest ways to exasperate your children? When you’re in the same room or the same house, or around you’re kids but you’re not really there. When you are present in body but not present in any other way. Kids pick up on that, they know when you’re around but not really present. That is what affects the quality of the time you spend with your children.

As I said earlier spending time with your children is foundational for any of the other things you do as a father with your children…let’s continue (How to fail as a father…)

2. Don’t discipline your kids (or forgive them either).

Listen to this revealing statement about David’s failure as a father,

6 Now his father, King David, had never disciplined him at any time, even by asking, “Why are you doing that?” (1 Kings 1:6)

The context of this sentence is that Adonijah had begun boasting that he will make himself king and got some chariots and charioteers and recruited fifty men to run in front of him. Yet, it appears as though David is oblivious to this.

What about the rape of David’s daughter Tamar by his son Amnon? All scripture records for us is that David got really angry….um with nothing else. It appears that he didn’t even tend to his daughter for scripture records that Tamar retreated to the home of her brother Abasalom a “desolate woman”. I wonder what seeds of resentment were born in Absalom’s heart towards his father because of the lack action by David in disciplining Amnon?

Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.
Proverbs 13:24 (NLT)

Those words were written by David’s son Solomon. I wonder, if Solomon was thinking of the things he saw as a child as a result of the lack of disciplining in his brothers lives?

Where does spending time come in with discipline? If you don’t spend time with your kids then you won’t know what discipline is effective in instructing your kids on the right and wrong in life. (share about how my children differ in what discipline works best in reinforcing boundaries). If you don’t spend time with your children then how will you know WHAT needs to receive discipline?

3. Don’t pass on any spiritual heritage (don’t let you kids know how much you love Jesus) – oh, and don’t pray for your kids either!

Scripture teaches us that David had a rich relationship with God and spent time with Him. But how much of that relationship did David pass on to his sons? Very little it seems because of his not spending time with them.

Want to fail as a father? Don’t pass on any spiritual heritage…let’s think about his…

To begin with, obviously, you can’t pass on any spiritual heritage if you don’t have any. If you don’t cultivate any relationship with God your self then you’re definitely not going to pass anything to your kids.

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NIV)

Second, if you don’t spend any time with your kids and let them observe how much Jesus means to you and guides you in your daily life then you aren’t going to pass on any spiritual heritage.

6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NIV)

Third, passing on a spiritual heritage doesn’t mean that you have a game face for when you around your kids and a hang loose face when you are not. You need to be authentic with your children. They need to know what living as a Christian is really like. They need to know what to do when they mess up from learning by what you do when you mess up. They need to see you live out authentically what you are learning together as you read God’s word and as you make decisions.

This brings me to the next point – to fail as a father…

4. Don’t recognize and value the influence you have in your children’s lives. In other words, don’t fight for your kids.

The reality is, especially in today’s world – there are many things competing for the influence of your children. The saddest thing is that there are many fathers abdicating their role as the primary influence in their child’s life. The amount of positive influence you have in your children’s lives is proportional to the amount of quality time you spend with them.

David had tremendous influence as the God’s anointed king of Israel and he had tremendous influence as a mighty warrior but his influence as a father in his children’s lives was withered because of the limited time he spent with them, his poor discipline of them, and the limited spiritual heritage he passed on to many of them.

Listen carefully Fathers and this applies to mothers as well – parents ARE the primary influencers in their children’s lives. You influence them even when you don’t engage with them. If you fail to recognize the affect of your influence in their lives then you are missing the greatest opportunity God has given you to build positive potential into your children’s lives.

Here’s an important question when it comes to influence…Can you say to your children, ‘Live like I do with NO exceptions? In other words, do you have exceptions to following Christ, like “except for my anger” or “except for my looking at other women”? Don’t think for a minute that David’s sons behaviors weren’t influenced in any way by the activities they saw in their father’s life (David and Bathsheba for example).

When it comes to the important stuff in life don’t leave it to what their peers say, what the school says, or what they read or see. Be on the constant look out for opportunities to be a positive influence in your child’s life!

CONCLUSION

So what are you going to do about it the answers to, “how to fail as a father”? Are you going to get hung up on how you failed as a father or are you going to pursue the responsibility God has given you and be a good father to your children?

I want to finish off with the reinforcement this morning that one of the ways God wants us to relate to Him is to see Him as our Father. Why? Because as our Father God is forever working to build within us increasing positive potential to be better, to do better, and to live the better life He wants for all of us WITH HIM! Do you realize how much he cares about you?

  • God has unlimited time to spend with you and is ALWAYS available. Do you seize the opportunity to spend time with him? Even more He is fully present when you are fully present. Even more, He understands everything you go through, everything you think about, everything about who you are…even more than you understand
  • God cares enough to discipline when necessary. Do you receive or reject that discipline? Do you understand His desire that you would achiever your POTENTIAL?
  • Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.
    • Deuteronomy 8:5 (NLT)
    • God is perfect but He never expects us to be perfect. He requires it, yes, because He is holy, but He made it possible for us to attain perfection via the willing sacrifice He himself made as Jesus Christ. God wants us to be like him. He wants us to be like Jesus. He wants us to be better and KNOWS OUR POTENTIAL. In some ways, God knows that we fail, and He knows that we fall short of the mark – which IS WHY HE IS READY TO PICK US UP AGAIN AND MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR US TO MOVE FORWARD. (
  • He cares enough to make possible incredible spiritual resources in the scriptures, in the church, and in the investment of Himself as the Holy Spirit.
  • Finally, know that God as our Father FIGHTS for you. Not in the sense that He always takes on your battles but that HE makes sure you have every possibility to know Him as the primary influence in your life. HE paid the ULTIMATE price so you could know Him as YOUR Father. Maybe you’ve lived a life where no one has fought for you. Maybe you are even feeling that way right now. You need to know this morning that God fights for you – HE wants you as His child, He DOESN’T WANT YOU to know the pain of hell, the pain of eternal separation from Him. HE’S made it possible for you to know HIM. Once you understand the wooing nature of God’s GRACE there is an irresistible pull to answer His invitation….
  • As our Father God has ALWAYS initiated communication on the important stuff. From the Dawn of creation He has done so. Creation itself is God’s initiation. Of course, nothing speaks louder than the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf – what more could God do to demonstrate His love for us (and the price that must be paid for sin).

Invitation to the altar.

PRAY

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Lot: The Man Who Compromised

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INTRODUCTION

Tonight we are continuing the series WPA is doing through the summer on the “Bible’s Biggest Losers”.

I’d like to introduce to you the man we will be looking at this evening. His name is Lot – and I guess he could be known as the man who compromised…

We first learn of Lot in the latter part of Genesis 11 where he is described as the grandson of a man named Terah. Terah, it turns out is the father of a man who probably is familiar to a lot of us – Abram (who would later be known as Abraham, the father of Israel). Terah had three sons: Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Lot is born to Haran and in the same passage we learn that Haran died fairly young.

It appears from this passage that Lot comes into the care of his uncle Abram and one of his first journeys recorded in the Bible is when Terah took Abram, Sarai (Abram’s wife) and Lot from where they lived (Ur of the Chaldeans) to go to Canaan. Only, they didn’t make it quite that far and ended up staying in another place named Haran (the namesake of Lot’s father)

In Genesis 12 there is the famous “call of God” upon Abraham and we read how Abram is commanded by God to “…Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1) When Abram gets up to leave we find recorded in verse 4 that, “Lot went with him.” It is interesting to note that the next time we find his name mentioned it is found in the same phrase,

Genesis 13:1 (NIV)
…and Lot went with him.

Lot, it seems, had a good relationship with his uncle and wasn’t about to give that up.

It is in chapter 13 where the Bible starts to fill in a little more detail regarding the story of Lot’s life. Up to this point Abram and Lot appear inseparable but then we find that strife begins to arise between the servants of Lot and Abram. The strife was over the fact that each man’s herdsmen sought water and the best pasture for the animals of their master. This competition inevitably led to conflict between the herdsmen of Lot and Abram. The Bible says that both Abram and Lot had been blessed with many possessions, “…But the land could not support them while they stayed together.” (Genesis 13:6a).

Abram notices this strife and calls Lot to him in order to resolve the issue.

READ GENESIS 13:8-18

8 Finally Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not allow this conflict to come between us or our herdsmen. After all, we are close relatives! 9 The whole countryside is open to you. Take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate. If you want the land to the left, then I’ll take the land on the right. If you prefer the land on the right, then I’ll go to the left.” 10 Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram. 12 So Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom and settled among the cities of the plain. 13 But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord. 14 After Lot had gone, the Lord said to Abram, “Look as far as you can see in every direction-north and south, east and west. 15 I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants as a permanent possession. 16 And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted! 17 Go and walk through the land in every direction, for I am giving it to you.” 18 So Abram moved his camp to Hebron and settled near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. There he built another altar to the Lord.
Genesis 13:8-18 (NLT)

It appears as though Lot has got the better end of the deal but then as we continue into Chapter 14 we learn that Lot finds himself caught in the middle of an international conflict. Some kings begin warring in the area where Lot and his people are living and the Bible records that they are carried off with all his possessions as captives of war.

Abram soon becomes aware of this and rushes in to the rescue miraculously defeating Lot’s captors and freeing him, as well as freeing all the other captives and their possessions.

The Bible is silent about Lot for a while and then he is again mentioned in Genesis 19. In chapter 18 we learn about God communicating with Abraham his intention to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness. Abraham, (knowing his nephew Lot lives there), pleads with God this leads God to declare He will spare the city if only 10 righteous people are found.

READ GENESIS 19 (NIV)

This then is the story of the man named Lot. When I studied his story the first word that came to my mind to describe him was the word compromise. If you look in the dictionary you’ll find that this word is used to describe a method of reaching agreement in a dispute, by which each side surrenders something that it wants. In this way compromise is used in a positive sense. However the word compromise also is used to describe placing something in jeopardy or bringing into danger, or exposing to a loss of reputation. In this way compromise is used in a negative sense. For instance, when a thief breaks into someone’s home we say that the owner’s security has been compromised. In using this word to describe Lot tonight I am using it in the negative sense. In other words I think that Lot is a man that placed many things in jeopardy in his life. Even though he is described by Peter in 2 Peter 2:7-8 as righteous – there is also evidence that this righteous man made some bad decisions that compromised many areas of his life. When we look at Lot’s story we see the process of a life that starts out so well but ends up so badly as a result of the gradual process of a series of poor decisions. It is the story of a man who compromised.

What led Lot to compromise?

We’re going to be looking this morning at just what it is that Lot compromised (or placed in jeopardy) but before we do that I think it is important to establish why or what led him to compromise these things in his life.

And the answer to that is very simple – it is seen in his choice or decision at the resolution to the strife between Abraham and Himself. As Lot gazed over the lush fertile plain of Jordan – he saw the incredible opportunity to improve his place in the world. To improve his life – his view of an ideal life. Lot is the perfect example of the human tendency to look out for number one.

I know I’m not immune to this tendency! I remember when I was young that whenever my sister and I would fight over something we were supposed to share – the fight was always about who got the biggest, the best, or the most! For instance, a single chocolate bar would never be split exactly in half and it was always a given that either my sister or I would put up a fight about getting the “smaller” half even though the difference was insignificant. One day my mom caught to a neat idea that I’ve used this with my children. One of us could split the chocolate bar in half but the other person got first choice of which half to take! A simple solution to a childish problem. It is childish isn’t it? Yet, it seems that this characteristic doesn’t disappear as we grow older. We just learn to be more civilized in looking out for number one.

Lot’s behavior in looking out for number one manifested itself in many ways.

Blinded Him to the dangers of Sodom
When it came to making decisions Lot went with what appealed most to his earthly appetites and was blind to the dangers of Sodom. In other words, Lot saw what was best for him in this world rather than what was worst for his spirit. When he looked out at the fertile valley of the Jordan plain, Lot saw only how he could potentially increase his possessions in this world instead of the spiritual dangers found in the cities of the plain.

It would be naïve to think that Lot was not aware of the spiritual depravity in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham and Lot had been in the area for a while and would have had news of the area. Yet in spite of this knowledge Lot still chose the way he did. In fact we find that Lot first pitched his tent near Sodom, and then eventually lived in the city. Maybe he thought he would be immune to the corruption found in the city. Maybe he thought he could ignore it. Instead Lot compromised everything in his life because of his choice.

Lot’s behavior in looking out for number one also,

Caused him to trust in his own ways rather than God’s ways.
It’s interesting to note that Lot didn’t once consult the Lord about his choice. Even after seeing how God directed the life of Abraham, Lot had his own plans and failed to consult God.

After being caught in an international conflict and being miraculously rescued by his uncle Abraham you would think Lot would have got the picture and said to himself – “maybe I made a bad choice in moving here”. No, instead he sold his tents and bought a condo in the city.

When the angels came to the city of Sodom Lot knew who they were. But in spite of that knowledge he still tried to get out of the jam he found himself in when the mob came to the door demanding that he deliver his guests to be sexually molested. Instead of shutting the door in the mobs face and trusting that God would somehow work out a solution, Lot took things into his own hands and diplomatically called the crowd his “friends” and offered them his two daughters instead! What father in their right mind would do such a thing? Yet, “looking out for number one” meant trusting in his own ways rather than God’s ways.

Even when the angels miraculously delivered Lot from the crowd by making them blind and told Lot God’s plan of destruction for the city the scriptures record that he hesitated when it was time to go and the angels had to physically grab Lot, his wife, and two daughters to remove them from the city!

Then, while on route, Lot pleaded with the angels to let him go to the small city of Zoar rather than the mountain that God wanted him to go to. Lot trusted in his own ways rather than God’s ways because he was always looking out for #1.

So here we have the reason for the compromise in Lot’s life. It began with simply “looking out for number one”. Now we can look at what was compromised in Lot’s life because of this.

What Lot compromised…

Relationship with Abraham

One of the things you notice first about the story of Lot is his apparent closeness to his uncle Abram. From the beginning we learn how Lot “went” wherever his uncle went and his uncle’s willingness to have him along. But things seem to change when their possession increased.

The thing that stands out about the character of Abraham at this point in Lot’s life is his willingness to maintain his good relationship with his nephew.

Genesis 13:8-9 (NIV)
8 So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”

Abram had every right to tell Lot where to go. He was the elder, and the one that God made the promise to. Abram risked everything by giving Lot the choice. Why? Because he was not willing to compromise his relationship with Lot. Clearly, Abraham was not looking out for number one!

Contrast this with Lot. He didn’t even think twice. He was willing to compromise his relationship with his uncle in order to take advantage of the apparent bonanza.

The most unsettling thing that happens when we look out for number one is that we compromise our relationship with those who love us most!

Blessings of God

Something that I think Lot forgot in his choice was that the only reason he had the possessions he enjoyed was because he had hung around with Abram and Abram was being blessed by God. In leaving Abram, Lot was walking away from God’s blessings! He was compromising or “placing in jeopardy” God’s blessing.

As you read to the conclusion of Lot’s life you see the impact that decision had on his life.

Peter writes in 2 Peter 2:7-8;

2 Peter 2:7-8 (NIV)
7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)–

Why was Lot so tormented in the city of Sodom? Because he had known what it meant to be in God’s blessing! It is so true that when those who have known the blessings of God compromise that for the passing pleasures of the world – those pleasures become a torment rather than a joy. NOTHING COMPARES WITH THE PRESENCE OF GOD NO MATTER HOW APPEALING!

His family

Probably one of the saddest things that happened as a result of Lot’s decision was the “placing in jeopardy” of his family! Notice what happened as a result of Lot’s compromise.

The very safety of his family was compromised in the midst of the international conflict.

His married daughter’s and son-in-laws refuse to leave with him when he warns of the impending destruction of Sodom (in fact they “laugh” at him”). They had become “accustomed” to the wickedness in the city.

Lot’s wife looks back at Sodom after being warned not to and is turned into a pillar of salt. She looked back with longing at what she was leaving behind and not believing that the city really was going to be destroyed.

Lot’s remaining daughters commit incest with him in a cave on the mountain of refuge at the end of Lot’s story. Having been exposed to the wickedness of the city of Sodom for most of their lives they saw nothing wrong with what they did.

His integrity

Lot also compromised his integrity as a follower of God. His own family laughed at him when he tried to warn them about Sodom.

The mob at Lot’s door mocked him when he tried to resolve things – by offering his own daughters instead!

In “looking out for number one” Lot compromised who he was and what he stood for.

CONCLUSION

So what can we learn from Lot’s story this morning? What is it about this man’s life that should serve as an example of what not to do?

From Lot we learn of the incredible danger inherent in “looking out for number one”.

The decisions reached by Abram and Lot are the same as those which confront every Christian. We must decide whether to trust in the sovereignty of God or in our own schemes and devices. We must determine whether to trust in the ‘uncertainty of riches’ or in the God Who “richly supplies us’ (I Timothy 6:17). We must decide whether to invest in the ‘passing pleasures of sin’ or the future ‘reward’ which is promised by God (Hebrews 11:25-26)

The world’s way of getting ahead is to look out for number one. That was Lot’s way, as well. God’s way to blessing is looking UP TO NUMBER ONE, and looking out for others.

Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Such a life can only be lived by faith. Such a life can only cause our faith in God to grow.

The beginning point for every man, woman, and child is to look to God for salvation. We cannot, we dare not, trust in our own shrewdness to get us entrance into God’s kingdom. Often what we perceive to be ‘paradise’ is soon to be destroyed by divine wrath. Faith recognizes our sinfulness and trusts in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary for eternal security and blessing. Our own best efforts are doomed to destruction. Only what God promises and provides will endure.

As we saw with the life of Lot – even the “righteous” can make mistakes – but we can avoid compromising as Lot did by “denying our self” and embracing the life of Christ.

Although we still may experience the consequence of “bad” decisions in the past – God extends his grace and mercy (salvation) to those who will receive it.

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