For many people around the world, it is not easy to be a Christian. It is a considerable sacrifice and risk. Some pay the ultimate price. It certainly makes you wonder then whether or not the entire thing is worth it. What could possibly justify not going along with the wide path of the world? Revelation 21 begins to give us a picture of that beauty.
Rev 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Rev 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
Rev 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
As Christians, we believe that God is good. We believe that God is beautiful. In fact, St. Thomas Aquinas speaks about God as the ultimate in goodness in his famous five ways. God is the superlative of everything. He is not just good; He is the most good. He is not just beautiful; He is the most beautiful.
Living in the presence of perfection is something I simply cannot fathom, but look at the results it brings about. There will be no more sorrow or pain. Why would there be any reason for despair when we are in the presence of the all sufficient, perfect God?
I know that there are terrible things that happen on earth. I don’t mean to diminish that whatsoever when I say this. No matter what evil we face on earth, it is a drop in the bucket as compared to the infinite perfection goodness of God that we are going to experience for all eternity.
I don’t know about you, but as I read this passage, it is clear that it is worth it. Everything that we might go through because of our faith on earth is worth it. The finite troubles are no comparison to the infinite perfection. God is good, and living with Him eternally is going to be remarkable.
We made it to Amos 1. We are dropped right into the middle of the action where we have a list of people that are going to punish by God for their sins.
Amo 1:3 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron:
Amo 1:4 But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Benhadad.
Amo 1:5 I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the sceptre from the house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith the LORD.
The other locations that are mentioned are Gaza, Tyrus, Edom and Ammon. They all begin with the same prelude regarding three and four transgressions, and God is not turning away the punishment thereof. Obviously, the following verses deviate a little bit regarding what is going to happen or why it’s happening, but the structure is very similar.
This reminds me of the fact that God takes sin very seriously. He has been generous and does not always immediately punish. We can see that from the fact that there were three transgressions already, but the people have reached the boundary where it is time to face the music. Yesterday, I wrote about justice, and I wrote how as humans, we are comforted by the fact that there will be justice.
God, being perfectly just, also executes judgment that we might not be so comfortable with. If you break the law, you pay the price. It is just like our system here in the United States. You do the crime; you do the time. It is perfectly consistent with the just character of God to discipline people for breaking the perfect law.
Some people argue that God should just let everything go. If He was truly loving, He would never punish anyone. However, they forget about this characteristic of God. He certainly is loving, but loving someone does not mean forgetting justice. We confuse our definitions.
In Job chapter 11, we meet a third friend named Zophar the Naamathite. Let me give you the first words that he spoke, and then we will talk a little bit about them.
Job 11:2 Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified?
Job 11:3 Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?
He is basically calling Job a fraud and a liar. You talk about all this stuff, but you can’t justify it. You tell blatant lies, but no one calls you on it.
We need to look at what Job has just said. What would have made his friend bring such a strong charge against him?
If you recall, in chapter 10, Job was basically expressing his confusion over everything that was going on. He wanted God to tell him what he was doing wrong. He thought that he was doing the right thing, but he tells God that if something was wrong to please forgive him. If God would not forgive him, he said that he would rather be dead.
It seems as if Zophar is particularly attacking him for saying that he was without blame.
Job 11:4 For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.’
Job 11:5 But oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you,
Job 11:6 and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For he is manifold in understanding. Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.
I don’t know how many times I have said this about this book, but we are told that Job did not sin in response to this particular situation. The questioning and the pleading with God were apparently not sins because of what we find in Job 1:22.
However, I don’t think that he ever claimed to be perfect for his entire life. Remember, in all the places in this book where perfect is used as an adjective to describe him, the word does not imply absolute perfection. According to my Strong’s Numbers, most commonly this word implies someone who is morally pious. Job was certainly that. He did all of the sacrifices so that he would be forgiven. In the Old Testament system, his sins should have been covered over. It wasn’t the entire work of Jesus, but that was why the sacrificial system was in place until Jesus did His part.
He just wanted to know what he had done that was so bad to deserve all of this. It is not a sin to question God. Regardless, he did not think that he had sinned, but he even acknowledged that it was possible.
Job 10:14 If I sin, then thou markest me, and thou wilt not acquit me from mine iniquity.
The most important thing that I have found running through the book of Job is that we need to be careful what we say to other people. All of Job’s friends assumed that he must have done something terrible to get all of this punishment. They did not understand what we now know by reading the first few chapters of this book. Job himself did not understand either.
At this point, Job is being personally attacked as a liar simply because his friends did not understand. They were misrepresenting everything that he was saying. We don’t want to falsely attack. It hurts our Christian testimony, and it unnecessarily harms other people.
Job 7 is very interesting. In the previous chapters, it seemed as if Job really didn’t know what kind of sin he had committed that caused all of these problems to come upon him. However, when we come into this chapter, we see Job basically caving in and assuming that he must have done something wrong.
Job 7:20 I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?
Job 7:21 And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.
Of course, Job was human, so he had sinned. It is worth pointing out that even though the text in the KJV says that Job was perfect back in the beginning of the book, but other translations are morally pious or upright. It does not imply perfection in the absolute sense like we know that Jesus was.
However, in this particular situation, Job was basically saying that he did something wrong that brought him this terrible set of events. He still didn’t quite know what it was, but he knew that something must have caused God to allow this to come upon him.
Job was wrong in this instance. He did not understand the argument that was going on between God and Satan, but he knew that God needed to have a reason for allowing this to happen. Why else would he be addressing God in this situation?
In our lives, we often times wonder if God has a reason for whatever we are going through. Because we do believe in the God of the Bible, we can rest assured that in there is a reason. We believe that God is watching over us all the time, and we believe that He does have a plan for the universe.
That being said, it is hard to understand that plan at certain times because we do not have that higher perspective. Job could not understand what was going on because he could not see what was happening in heaven. Although we might not be part of this kind of situation where God and Satan are having discussions about us, there are plenty of other thing that we cannot comprehend.
However, like Job in these verses, while we might wonder why God allows what he allows, we should never doubt that God is in control and does have a plan. Job didn’t understand it, but he understood that God did.
In 2 Chronicles 8, we get to see the kingdom of Solomon and all the good things that he was doing. It really seems as if he was doing everything in the way that God would want him to do it.
2Ch 8:16 Now all the work of Solomon was prepared unto the day of the foundation of the house of the LORD, and until it was finished. So the house of the LORD was perfected.
Because he followed all of the specifications that God had laid out, the house became as good as it possibly could. Solomon completed the entire project, and the house was something that was appropriate to honor God in.
I think that this is a pretty good framework of how we should continue to develop in our Christian journey. As we follow the life of Jesus and try to become more like Him, we will certainly get a lot closer to perfection. Naturally, we will never be entirely perfect, but that is the standard that we work towards. Jesus himself told us that this was part of our mission.
Mat 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Another interesting translation of the word perfect in this context according to my computer Bible provided by e-Sword is complete. I only bring that up because we can obviously never be perfect in the sense of not having sin. We have already sinned, so perfection is impossible.
However, in this particular context, perfection is more of a journey. We are working to become more and more complete, and the way to do that is by following God. Solomon made the Temple perfect by following the words of God, and we can work towards perfection by following the words of God. The process transfers over very well.
1 Samuel 8 signifies a major turning point in the history of Israel. Samuel himself was old, so he made his sons the next judges over Israel. However, it did not work out too well.
1Sa 8:3 And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment.
The children of Israel were obviously upset, and I cannot say that I blame them. After all, nobody likes bad judges who do not administer the law correctly. As a result, a bunch of the elders got together and came to Samuel with a request.
1Sa 8:5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
Samuel was unhappy about this, so he prayed to God. I think that God’s response is very important for all of us today.
1Sa 8:7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.
I am not going to make excuses for many churches today. Many churches have wandered away from God, and because of that, many people have said that Christianity itself should be thrown out.
That is exactly what is happening here.
Because of human errors, people immediately attribute that to God. They say that there is no way that God can be real because His people are such a poor reflection of Him.
As Christians, we need to understand that the God has a perfect plan. His perfection is reaffirmed several times throughout the Bible which Christians need to take as fact.
We also need to realize that humans are by nature sinful beings. I don’t think it takes an awful lot of thought to realize that humanity has done a lot of awful things.
Even Christians do bad things. Becoming a Christian does not mean that we are all of a sudden perfect. It means that we are working to become more like Jesus. We can never reach perfection, but we can at least become better mirrors to reflect the glory of God.
A lot of people don’t realize this and all of a sudden turn on God because there are some evil people here on earth. It is probably one of the most important reasons that people turn away from God. It is not because of Him, but it is because of His people.
We obviously have an obligation to be the light of the world, but these critics also need to realize that the essence of Christianity is not watching what other people here on earth do. Christianity teaches that people will do bad things. Everything comes back to your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
God doesn’t mess around. Particularly, He gets incredibly angry when people begin to follow other gods. This is illustrated pretty clearly in Deuteronomy 29.
Deu 29:24 Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?
Deu 29:25 Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt:
Deu 29:26 For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:
Deu 29:27 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book:
I wrote a piece a few days ago about how it is important to keep your promise to God, and it really should be a serious and intentional commitment rather than just a flippant phrase.
That is what is happening here. God is saying that if the people of Israel do not follow through on the promise they made to Him, all of the curses listed back in chapter 28 could very well fall on them.
I know what you’re probably thinking. How could a loving God do this? Why would He ever punish anybody?
Part of the answer to that lies in the fact that God is just. He needs to follow through on His word, and it needs to apply to everyone equally. If anybody, even His chosen people of Israel, starts messing up, the consequences are the same.
If He was not just, then it would be impossible for Him to be the Judge of all eternity.
Another part of this answer lies in the fact that it any type of punishment would be the people of Israel’s own fault. There was definitely a way that they could follow God and avoid all of these problems. It isn’t like they had to guess what God wanted. Through the first five books of the Bible, God communicated His law to the people of Israel.
This also shows the justice of God again. The people of Israel really had to decide what they wanted, but they were working with very complete information. They could follow God, or they didn’t have to. They knew the consequences of both.
In Leviticus chapter 11, we finally get to the definitive list of dietary restrictions that God placed on the Israelites. Obviously, I’m not going to go into detail for all of them, but let’s take a passage from the end of the chapter to talk about a little bit more.
Lev 11:44 For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Lev 11:45 For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
Verse 44 does talk about not eating anything that creeps on the earth, but that is not really the main point of these verses in my opinion. God is calling the Israelites to be holy because He is holy.
Perfection is of course an impossible standard for us to achieve because we are already imperfect people, but it is interesting that we are called to be holy here. What is the difference?
I think that the most relevant definition from The Free Dictionary explains that holy is “specified or set apart for a religious purpose.” That is how we are supposed to act in our lives. We are supposed to be set apart for the purposes of God rather than set aside for our own purposes.
In a way, this is exactly what Jesus was called to do while He was on earth. He always did the will of His Father because He was set aside for a specific purpose. He could have bailed out at any time, and Satan gave Him plenty of opportunities in the wilderness.
Just like Jesus, we need to do what we set aside to do. The Bible is essentially our handbook that helps us determine what we should do, and we need to use it for the glory of God.