“Some things in [Paul’s] letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures.” –2 Peter 3:16

Do you find things in scripture “hard to understand”? Paul Washer says, “Join the exclusive club.” Should we expect anything less from the “Most High” who must “stoop to look down on heaven and earth” (Psa 113:4-5)? It is not an easy thing to comprehend the “eternal God” (Isa 40:28) whose power is “awesome” and wisdom is “limitless” (Psa 147:5), from whose mouth comes “everything—both calamity and blessing” (Lam 3:38), whose thoughts and ways are far beyond our comprehension (Job 36:26; Psa 139:6; Isa 55:9).

God’s glorious gospel is a colossal diamond before tiny human beings (ex: Isa 40:15). Yet because men are wicked (Rom 3:10-12) who themselves “walk in darkness” (Isa 9:2), God shrouds His glory (Psa 18:11; Exo 20:21). Yet for those who approach God in true faith (Heb 11:6) diligently seeking His stunning wisdom (Jam 1:5-6) and meekly led by His Spirit (Mat 5:5; Rom 8:12-15), they have their true sight restored (2Co 5:7; Luke 18:42; 24:31). By the light of God’s word (Psa 119:105), God illuminates one glorious facet at a time (Exo 33:18-23). He transforms a mundane mind (Rom 12:2) into “the mind of Christ” capable of understanding glorious truths (1Co 2:14-16). He removes spiritual scales from our eyes (Acts 9:18) and reveals things too wonderful to behold (Job 42:3-6; Psa 139:6).

O God, bless us this day with new insight. Show us just a facet of your glory!

Billy Neal

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Divided We Fall

Divided We Fall

The men of Ephraim were called to arms, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house over you with fire.” And Jephthah said to them, “I and my people had a great dispute with the Ammonites, and when I called you, you did not save me from their hand. And when I saw that you would not save me, I took my life in my hand and crossed over against the Ammonites, and the Lord gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?” Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought with Ephraim. And the men of Gilead struck Ephraim, because they said, “You are fugitives of Ephraim, you Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and Manasseh.” And the Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan against the Ephraimites. And when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me go over,” the men of Gilead said to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he said, “No,” they said to him, “Then say Shibboleth,” and he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it right. Then they seized him and slaughtered him at the fords of the Jordan. At that time 42,000 of the Ephraimites fell.

Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in his city in Gilead. — Judges 12:1-7, ESV

Men, as with Gideon in ch8, the Ephraimite neighbors of the Gileadites are furious that Jephthah did not call on the tribe of Ephraim to join in the battle against the Ammonites. The Ephraimites come to Jephthah in anger, “Why did you cross over and fight against Ammon, and you did not call us to go with you?” The Ephraimites threaten to burn Jephthah’s house down with him in it. Jephthah answers, he did call on them and they refused to answer.

Remember that Gideon employed some strategic and diplomatic psychology. Jepthah uses his weapons and men. Ephraim regarded Gilead as a land of fugitives and outcasts. Gilead was made up largely of people who fled Ephraim and Manasseh to form their own identity. The Gileadites defeated the Ephraimites and sent them fleeing. Gilead also seized the crossing point of the Jordan River. As the fleeing Ephraimites approached, Gilead would test the people by their accent. Anyone with the Ephraimite accent would there be killed. 42,000 Ephraimites fell dead at the Jordan.

Jephthah continued to judge another six years, and then died, and was buried in Gilead. The arrogance of Ephraim is growing with the discord and disunity in all of Israel’s tribes. But even in the disunity and the failing of Israel as a whole to conduct themselves as children of the Most High God, the Lord God stands with those flawed individuals who trust what He says.

In our own time we find increasing national disunity. Our own great land is turning tribal with cultural identity, class, political and academic distinctions. Like Gilead and Ephraim, we too turn to fight each other instead of our common enemies. We too are jealous of each other’s victories. At what point do we recognize our personal failings to acknowledge the divisive strategies of our common spiritual enemies?

Move forward, men, striving with our brothers in unity. Celebrate with others who find victory by the Lord. Send the glory of our efforts back to the Lord instead of puffing up.

Vance Durrance

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God Has Already Spoken

God Has Already Spoken

“The Lord was pleased that Solomon made this request. God said to him, “Because you asked for the ability to make wise judicial decisions, and not for long life, or riches, or vengeance on your enemies, I grant your request and give you a wise and discerning mind superior to that of anyone who has preceded or will succeed you. Furthermore, I am giving you what you did not request—riches and honor so that you will be the greatest king of your generation. If you follow my instructions by obeying my rules and regulations, just as your father David did, then I will grant you long life.” –1 Kings 3:10-14

Notice how it says “the Lord was pleased” with Solomon’s request for wisdom. Yet it is certain that God was not pleased with all of Solomon’s wayward ways. For surely Solomon had already begun amassing horses (1Ki 4:26) from Egypt (1Ki 10:26-28) after making an alliance with Egypt, the former nation of bondage (1Ki 3:1). This was in direct violation of the law for the king to do (Deu 17:6). Furthermore, he was worshipping on the high places (v.2-3), also in violation of the very law (Deu 12:5) the king was commanded to copy and read (Deu 17:18-19).

We may wonder why God did not address any of these issues in the vision. Yet, need God repeat Himself when He has already spoken from His Word? Is not the stress of absolute obedience (v.14) a confirmation of all that has already been spoken by Him?

Too often we ask for visions and expect personal direction from God, while disregarding the Scriptures where He has already spoken all the truth we need. Did our Savior not say, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments,” (John 14:15)? Are we not commanded to teach disciples to “obey EVERYTHING” that Jesus commanded (Mat 28:20)? His promises (by His divine power) are sufficient to transform our lives and affections (2Pe 1:4), every word profitable for training in righteousness (2Ti 3:16). Yet are we seeking such wisdom in faithful diligence, or in doubtful neglect (Jam 1:5-8)? For blessings reside on the one who delights in meditating on God’s commands (Psa 1:2) and seeks for such wisdom as a priceless treasure (Pro 2:3-5; Mat 13:44-46).

“I will find delight in your commands, which I love. I will lift my hands to your commands, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.” –Psalm 119:47-48

Billy  Neal

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Choose Your Role

Choose Your Role

“The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the power of his anointed.’” –1 Samuel 2:10, ESV

“This day I will give the corpses of the Philistine army to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the land. Then all the land will realize that Israel has a God, and all this assembly will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves! For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will deliver you into our hand.’” –1 Samuel 17:46b-47, NET

Too often the account of David and Goliath is twisted into a prideful parable about pursuing selfish endeavors. We put ourselves in the place of David and cast as Goliath whatever obstacles we seek to conquer. But we are neither the author nor the director of life, although we seek to be such (Gen 3:4-6; Isa 14:14). The main characters and the battle have already been determined. The only available roles are the two supporting multitudes behind each challenger (1Sa 17:3).

How this also parallels the great battle scene in Revelation, where the anointed “King of kings” rides into battle. A great army rides behind Him and serves as witness to His single-handed elimination of His enemies with the sword of His mouth (before the bodies are fed to the birds of the air) (Rev 19:11-21).

Again, where do we stand in this battle?

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” –Luke 11:23

Do you stand with the Lamb, your feet faithfully beside Him in obedience (Rev 14:1), clothed in righteous deeds among a conquering army (Rev 3:5) that then rides behind Him (Rev 19:14)? Are you of this armored army that simply stands (Eph 6:13) as witnesses to the chosen King’s conquering of the enemy (Acts 1:8), charging ahead into a battle that has already been won (1Sa 17:52)?

Or do you stand elsewhere? It matters not what the shape of the face, every idol is connected to the beast and wears a blasphemous name (Rev 13:1). Those who follow “might” and “proud words” ultimately worship the dragon (Rev 13:3-5) and are marked with the same number (Rev 13:17-18) and the same fate (Rev 20:15).

Let us see the clear distinction. Let us see Christ makes a clear divide (Mat 10:34-36). Let us choose this day our role, and call out to the multitudes to see there is no fence on which to sit. A decision must be made (Deu 30:19; Jos 24:15).

“Elijah approached all the people and said, ‘How long are you going to be paralyzed by indecision? If the Lord is the true God, then follow him, but if Baal is, follow him!’ But the people did not say a word.” –1 Kings 18:21, NET

Billy Neal

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