The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart

In the Book of Exodus, there is a report of a fascinating occurrence that is lost to most modern readers of the English Bibles and those not familiar with the Hebrew language and ancient Egyptian religion. Over and over again, the author of Exodus talks about the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. On the surface, it would appear that the only message is that Pharaoh was really stubborn and was determined not to let the children of Israel go. That indeed was true, but there was much more going on than is apparent to the readers of English Bibles.

I was made aware of this ‘inside information’ while sitting in Dr. John D. Currid’s seminary class at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Jackson, MS in 1997. Dr. Currid is, at the time of this post, serving on the faculty of the Charlotte campus of RTS and is currently an adjunct faculty member at the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies in Jerusalem, Israel. Dr. Currid has served as Project Director of the Bethsaida Excavations Project in Israel since 1995. In his first book, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament, Dr. Currid relates the relationship between the condition of Pharaoh’s heart and the prevailing Egyptian religious beliefs at the time. In the afterlife, the Egyptian was judged based on the condition or weight of his heart. Dr. Currid relates an incident taken from The Book of the Dead (the Papyrus of Ani) in which the deceased Ani is standing in the hall of judgment. Ani’s heart is placed on a scale and is weighed against the feather of truth and righteousness. If the heart is too heavy, Ani will be adjudged a sinner and devoured. But, if the heart achieves balance with the feather, Ani will receive the reward of eternal life.[1]

Now, here is the real interesting thing in regard to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart as it is related in Exodus. In the English Bibles, every occurrence is translated as ‘hardened’ or ‘harden,’ but in the Hebrew text, the writer actually used three different Hebrew terms! The first term; ‘qashah,’ is found only once at Exodus 7:3, where the text records Yahweh as saying: “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.” (New American Standard Bible: NASB) The term means, ‘to be hard, to be severe, to be difficult’ and refers to the stubbornness of Pharaoh’s heart not to let Israel go. The second term, chazaq, is found twelve times. Eleven times in direct reference to Pharaoh and once in reference to the Egyptians in general (Exodus 4:21; 7:13, 22; 8:19; 9:12, 35; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17). This term means, ‘to be strong’ and bears the idea of Pharaoh having a strong, determined will not to give in to Yahweh’s demand to let Israel go. The last term is the one that is most significant for our discussion. It is ‘kabad’ (also translated as ‘glory’ and ‘honor’ in other places in the English translations of the Old Testament), which means, ‘to be heavy.’ This term is found six times in Exodus. (Exodus 7:14; 8:15, 32; 9:7, 34; 10:1) Each time, it is a verbal form; five times with Pharaoh as the subject and once with Yahweh as the subject.

The theological point of this discussion is centralized in Exodus 9:34. The text says: “And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.” (KJV) Pharaoh ‘kabad’ his heart! Pharaoh made his heart heavy or weighty and in doing so, he tipped the scales to seal his own destruction and damnation according to his own religious system! When the text says that Pharaoh ‘sinned yet more,’ I don’t think the author was just talking about sinning against Yahweh, I think the author was also saying that Pharaoh sinned against his own religious system! Pharaoh sinned to the point that his own gods condemned him! Dr. Currid notes: “The assertion of the Exodus writer that Yahweh made Pharaoh’s heart heavy has added dimensions for us when we take the Egyptian background into account. Obviously, the God of the Hebrews was serving as the judge of Pharaoh. Yahweh was weighing the heart of the Egyptian king, and then proclaiming the results for all to see. Pharaoh was adjudged an imperfect being worthy of condemnation. This is especially striking in light of the ancient Egyptian belief in the purity of Pharaoh. . . Yahweh’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was a polemic against the prevailing notion that Pharaoh’s character was pure and untainted. . .Yahweh assaulted the heart of Pharaoh to demonstrate that only the God of the Hebrews is the sovereign of the universe.”[2]

Thank you Dr. Currid (or ‘Dr. J.D.’ as we used to fondly call you in class) for your excellent scholarship in this area. There wasn’t a day we sat in your class that we were not amazed at the great treasures of biblical knowledge you shared with us!

[1] John. D. Currid, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, Baker Books House Company, 1997, 96-103.

[2] Currid, 102-103.

Lying on the devil and the Lord

In John 8:44, Jesus characterized the devil as a liar and the father of lies! But did you know that many who preach the Gospel are guilty of lying on the devil and the Lord? Let me show you what I’m talking about!

In John 10:10, Jesus said: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (ESV) Now, I am sure most of you reading this have heard this text preached and taught and nine times out of ten, you heard the preacher or teacher say that the thief in that verse is the devil. Often, I have heard preachers refer to the text by saying: “The devil comes to rob, kill, and to destroy, but Jesus came that we might have a more abundant life! Yes! The devil wants to rob and steal your property! But, go and shake three people’s hand and tell the devil: ‘I’m taking it back! You can’t have my stuff!’ Can somebody shout: Glory!” But is that really the message of the text? I am suggesting to you that it is not and when that text is preached or referred to in that manner, the preacher or teacher is guilty of lying on the devil and the Lord!

First of all, look at the context of the verse. The first mention of the thief is in verse one, where Jesus describes the thief as anyone who does not enter the door of the sheepfold, but climbs up and tries to get into the sheepfold any other way. In the next verse, Jesus says, the one who enters through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. So, the contrast is between the thief who tries to get access to the sheep by some way other than the door and the shepherd who comes through the door. Note that the thief is not after what the sheep have; the thief wants to steal the sheep! In verse eight, Jesus says all who came before him are, or were, thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. So, we can surmise from verses 1-8 that the thief, the thieves and robbers were trying to get access to steal the sheep. Contrasted with the shepherd, who comes through the door and coupled with Jesus, who calls himself the good shepherd (verse 11), we can deduct the thief, the thieves and robbers that Jesus was talking about were illegitimate or false shepherds! By the way, another term for “shepherd” is the term “pastor.” So, in proper context, in this passage, the thief, the thieves and robbers, (bad) shepherds, and (bad) pastors, all refer to the same person or group! Note that Jesus made no reference whatsoever to the devil or demonic forces! He was making a contrast between the thieves and robbers (bad shepherds, bad pastors) and himself: the good shepherd! In keeping with the context and unity of the passage, the thief in verse ten must refer to the same person or group of persons mentioned in verses one and eight!

In looking at the Greek text, performing a word study helps to further clarify who the “thief” is in verse ten. A word study on the word, “kill” reveals the following: In the English, the word “kill” in any form, is found only 10 times in the entire Gospel of John. Of those 10 times, 9 times, the Greek word, “apokteino,” which means, “to kill in any way whatever,” is used. However, in verse ten, the word for kill is “thuo,” which means, “to sacrifice.” This definition holds true for the usage of the word in other places in the New Testament (NT). It only occurs 13 other times, besides in our text in the NT and our text is the only occurrence in the Gospel of John. In every case, the word is used to denote the killing of an animal for the purpose of offering up a sacrifice or of eating a meal in connection with a sacrifice. The use this particular word for “kill” in verse ten, seems to suggest that the thief does not just kill, but rather the thief’s killing is for or in connection with making a sacrifice as an act of worship. With that being the case, we can deduct from our word study and by observing the proper context of the text that the “thief” in John 10:10 is NOT the devil, but rather is a religious person. This ties in perfectly with Jesus’ depiction of the thief as being the religious leader(s), who was (were) sacrificing the people for his (their) own personal benefit and profit. Oh! Do you see that? We’ve been lying on the liar and the Lord! The thief in John 10:10 is not the devil, but rather the pastor or religious leader who illegitimately gains access and kills (sacrifices) the sheep for his own personal profit and gain!

In verse 11, the contrast changes from the good shepherd and thieves and robbers to the good shepherd and the hireling or the hired hand. Jesus said in verses 11-15: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (ESV) Again, Jesus makes a contrast between himself and the religious leaders of that day who came before him. He describes himself as the good shepherd in comparison to the religious leaders, who he called robbers, thieves, and hired hands who didn’t care anything for the sheep, but were just in it for the money! If the devil is implied anywhere in this discourse, he could possibly be the wolf in verse 12, but he is definitely not the thief in verse ten!

In addition to the evidence presented, stealing is not the devil’s M. O! The devil’s bread and butter are lies and deception! There was an interesting conversation that took place between Jesus and the devil during the wilderness temptation. In Matthew 4:8-10, we read: “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” (ESV) Did you notice Jesus did not dispute Satan’s claim of ownership of all the kingdoms of the world and their glory? If Satan was lying and all the kingdoms of the world and their glory were not his to give, Jesus would have known it and the temptation wouldn’t have been a temptation at all! I brought us to this text to point out the fact that the devil doesn’t need to “steal our stuff” because he has already stolen and has all the kingdoms of the world and their glory to give to us if we would just fall down and worship him! The devil already has all of that and we think he wants to rob us of our two cents! Seriously?

Besides that, the abundant life that Jesus came to give in John 10:10 is denoted by the Greek term; “zoe.” Zoe refers to the quality of life, not the quantity of life. Jesus didn’t come so that we might have more stuff in life; Jesus came that we might have more meaning and purpose in life! Jesus said: “Watch out and guard yourself from all types of greed, because one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15 NET)

In conclusion, I think the reason why we have lied on the devil and the Lord in John 10:10 is because many of us do not study the text for ourselves; we merely preach and teach what we have heard others preach and teach. Instead of a voice, many pulpits are occupied by a parrot! Preacher, teacher: If you hope to be approved by God in your handling of the word, you must wrestle with the text for yourself! Don’t even take my word for the conclusions I have drawn in this post. Do the research for yourself! We all should be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11 and study for ourselves to see whether the things we hear is the truth! If we don’t, if we uncritically accept and repeat everything we hear others preaching and teaching, then we, like them, will be guilty of lying on the devil and the Lord!

But My God Shall Suppy All Your Need?

Most Bible readers would readily recognize the subject of this post as being the beginning of Philippians 4:19. The Apostle Paul wrote the church at Philippi a ‘thank-you’ letter in which he told them: “But my God shall supply all of your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (KJV) Often in our day and time, this verse is incorrectly used as a ‘blanket guarantee’ that God will supply all of our needs! But, was that really Paul’s intended meaning when he made the statement?

There are three rules we should carefully follow when we read the Bible. The first rule is context! The second rule is context! And, the third rule is context! So, let’s look at the context of this familiar passage. The first thing we should notice is that the verse begins with a conjunction! From the Greek text, this conjunction can be translated as “but” or “and.” The KJV says “but,” however, many of the modern translations render the conjunction as “and.” But either one is acceptable because one makes no difference in the intended meaning as opposed to the other. But, I wanted to call attention to the conjunction, not so much to highlight the different translations, but rather to remind us of the purpose and function of a conjunction. A conjunction, by definition, is a word that joins together sentences, clauses, phrases, or words. Since the conjunction is at the beginning of verse 19, in order to correctly interpret the verse, we must look at what proceeds it. In order to ascertain Paul’s complete meaning, we need to go back to at least verse 15.

The gist of the conversation is that Paul is commending them for being the only church to supply him with financial assistance since the beginning of the gospel when he left Macedonia. Even when he was in Thessalonica, they rendered assistance to him more than once! Paul told them that, although their giving was much appreciated, he had learned to get along with whatever he had! That was the rationale behind the other statement we often misapply from this chapter, where Paul said in verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me!” The ‘all things’ Paul was referring to was; living with little and living with plenty! He could do all things because he had learned the secret of being content in whatever state he was in! He was telling them: “I’ve learned how to live in poverty and I’ve learned how to live in abundance! So, even if I had received nothing from you, I would have been alright, but nevertheless, I appreciate your gifts!” And because they gave to him, Paul told them; “But (and) my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by (in) Christ Jesus!” Paul was telling them; “Because you took care of my needs, my God will take care of your needs!” In its original context, this wasn’t a unilateral promise; it was a statement of reciprocal blessing! “God will do for you, because you did for me! 

There is a similar principle stated in Matthew 6:33, where Jesus says: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (ESV) Jesus didn’t say that all these things (food, drink, clothing, things needful for life) would be added automatically! No! He said all these things would come as a matter of course as one seeks first to find and submit to the authority of God in their lives!

In both cases, the blessings were and are conditional! The principle is this: God will take care of us and our business when and as we first take care of His business and meet His requirements!  Context is everything! But, when we take scripture out of context, we erroneously make God responsible for commitments God never actually made! And when God doesn’t come through on the promises we misappropriate because we took scripture out of context, it damages our faith and/or the faith of others! So, before we apply and rely on anything anybody said in the Bible, we should make sure of the context! We should make sure the promise is applicable to us and that we met the conditions of the promise!

Have We (the Church) Truly Repented?

Some years ago, I did a word-study of the Greek word that is translated as “repent” in our English Bibles. As I result of this study, I came to a shocking conclusion: Most of us who call ourselves Christians, have NOT truly repented at all! This is mostly in part because of a mis-interpretation which has led to a misunderstanding, and therefore a misapplication the biblical concept of repentance.

Let me show you what I am talking about. When I was first introduced to the concept of repentance as a young Christian, I was taught that to repent means to be ‘godly sorrow for your sins.’ However, I would discover later on, that this definition is based on a faulty interpretation and misunderstanding of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 7:9-10. The apostle wrote: “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (KJV) Here are the same verses in one of the more recent versions; the ESV: “As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Now, here’s the thing that most people have missed about what Paul said. Paul DID NOT SAY godly sorrow or godly grief ‘was’ repentance. He said godly sorrow or godly grief ‘works’ or ‘produces’ repentance! Godly sorrow/grief and repentance are two different concepts; they are not synonymous! They are not the same!

So, to feel sorry for your sins is not the same as repenting, it’s just feeling sorry for your sins! But, feeling sorry for your sins ought to produce repentance! Feeling sorry for your sins ought to lead you to the act of repenting. So, that brings us to the question: If being godly sorrow for your sins is not the same as repentance, then, what does it actually mean to repent? Well, the Greek word that is translated as ‘repent’ has as its primary meaning; to change one’s mind or the way one thinks. Therefore, to repent is to change your mind or to change your thought process; repentance is a change of mind! True repentance is a change in ‘what’ and ‘how’ one thinks! This change of mind will invariably lead to a change in action, behavior and life.

Jesus’ first recorded public declaration is found in Matthew 4:17: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (ESV) The Jewish people at that time were anxiously waiting for and anticipating the coming of the Kingdom of God (the rule, reign, and authority of God among his people on earth). What Jesus was essentially saying was this: “Quit thinking about the Kingdom of God in the future-tense and understand and live in view of the fact that the Kingdom of God has now arrived!” The message of Jesus for us today is for us to quit thinking of the Kingdom of God only as a place called Heaven in the future and start thinking of the Kingdom of God as a present reality!

Therefore, in view of what Jesus said, even most people who call themselves Christians still need to repent! Why? Because most Christians think of the Kingdom of God only as a place called Heaven, in the sweet by and by! But the message of Jesus is that the Kingdom of God is also a present reality on earth in the sour here and now! The message is: Repent! Quit thinking religion and start thinking Kingdom! We’ve got our hearts set on ‘going to Heaven,’ but Jesus told us to pray: “Thy Kingdom come!” We’re want to leave here and go there, but Jesus wants us to stay here, working and praying that the ‘there’ will come here! He prayed to his Father in the garden on the eve of his passion, concerning his disciples and us: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (Jn. 17:15 NIV) We need to repent, because we’ve been praying to the Father to get us out, while Jesus prayed to the Father to keep us in! We need to repent! We need to change our minds; we need to change our thought process! We’ve been thinking religion; but Jesus wasn’t about religion, Jesus was about the Kingdom! Jesus never told us to seek first religion; he told us to seek first the Kingdom! Religion is always about the past and the future ‘over there,’ but the Kingdom is primarily about in the present here! Religion allows evil to win in the present because of a faith in a future victory, but the Kingdom defeats the power of the enemy in the present and will ultimately destroy the enemy in the future! That’s why the enemy doesn’t mind us ‘having religion,’ because religion blinds us to the present reality of the Kingdom! The message to the church today is the same as the message Jesus proclaimed centuries ago: “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” The Kingdom of God is not just pie-in-the-shy-when-you-die-by-and-by; the Kingdom is the present power and reality of God in the world right now! The Kingdom of God is not just later; the Kingdom of God is NOW AND LATER!

Ministry Is No Substitute

Doing great works in ministry is no substitute for a personal relationship with the Lord. In Matthew 7:22-23, we read: “On judgment day, many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’  But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.” (NLT)

When we look at this text in the Greek, it appears that these ‘many’ will come before the Lord fully expecting their great works of ministry to garner the Lord’s approval. But much to their surprise, the Lord will reject them! The interesting thing is that the Lord will not dispute their claims to have done many might works in his name! Now this raises an interesting possibility: Could it be that it is possible to be successful in ministry and yet be ultimately rejected by the Lord? Many people today take ministerial success as a sign of God’s approval, ‘anointing’ and blessing, but according to this text, these people will have had all of that! They will do great things and actually perform many miracles in ministry, but in the end, they will still be rejected! The Lord will not deny the fact that they actually did mighty works; but he will deny them! Why?

The answer is found in the Lord’s reply. He will say: “I never knew you!” In the Bible, the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated as “know” and “knew” are often used as euphemisms to denote close, intimate, and sometimes sexual relationships. It first shows up in Genesis 4:1, where it says: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” (ESV) In that verse, the term “knew” is used to indicate the fact that Adam had sexual intercourse with Eve. So, in Matthew 7:23, the term “knew” does not just indicate intellectual or cognitive knowledge, but also suggests intimate and personal relationship. The Lord will say to the many; “Yes! It’s true, you did all of those things, but you did not have a personal relationship with me! And because you did all of those things without a personal relationship with me; all of those things you did were illegitimate or illegal works! You didn’t do them according to my law! My law is this: The ministry is no substitute for a relationship with me, but rather the ministry evolves, develops and is done as a result of the relationship with me! You substituted the ministry for the relationship, but the relationship is the basis of the ministry! It is the relationship that makes the ministry valid and legitimate!

All too often today, we get so busy with ‘doing’ that we forget to be! We were not created as “human doings,” we were created as human beings! Doing is no substitute for being! We don’t “do” to be; whatever we do is ultimately because of who we are.

Now, here’s another scary thought about this text! All these ‘many’ will die believing they were saved, to discover only after death; they weren’t! That is a terrifying thought! There are some who teach that you should never doubt your salvation. That’s good teaching if you are really saved in the first place! But I’m afraid there are many people in church today, who are saved; only in their own minds! Their salvation is based on their feelings or the word of some preacher who told them they were saved just because they walked down the aisle and repeated a simple prayer! But real salvation is based on the word of God as it is revealed in the Scriptures and the Apostle Peter advised his readers to be diligent to make their calling and election sure! (2 Peter 1:10) Your salvation is too important! Your eternal destiny is too critical to leave in the hands of some preacher or pastor! You’d better make sure of it yourself! It would be such a tragedy to die, convinced of your salvation, only to hear the Lord say in the end: “’I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoer!

The Cart Before the Horse

Have you ever heard of the proverbial expression that speaks of putting the cart before the horse? To put the cart before the horse is to have things out of order. It is the failure to put first things first! It is the act of trying to pull what should be pulling! To literally put the cart before the horse is an act that will only breed frustration and failure; for the cart has no power of its own! The cart cannot even pull itself! Therefore, the idea of putting the cart before the horse is absurd indeed!

Nevertheless, that is how many people are living today! They are living their lives, filled with frustration and failure because they are pursuing riches, fame, wealth, and prosperity, not realizing or understanding that those things are not ‘horses’ but rather, they are ‘carts.’ In Matthew 6:31-33, Jesus is recorded as saying: “Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (ESV) Now, just prior to this statement, Jesus had emphasized the point that if God takes care of and has made provisions for the lesser (the birds and the plants) things of creation, how much more will God take care of and make provisions for the greatest of His creation: humanity?

Let’s take a moment to analyze the text. In this section of the discourse, the KJV translation has Jesus discouraging the idea of “taking thought” in verses 27, 28, 31 and 34. The Greek word behind the translation has the connotation of worry, anxiety, or being anxious. Therefore, Jesus was not saying; don’t even think about those things, but rather he was saying; don’t be anxious, worried, or filled with anxiety about them! Isn’t it ironic that this is the very thing that most people are doing today? Doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies are getting rich because of people immobilized by anxiety, depression, diseases, and psychological disorders that can all be traced back to the fact that they are constantly worried and anxious about what they are going to eat, drink, and wear!

In verse 32, Jesus says: “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” The reference to the ‘gentiles’ was a reference to people who were outside of the covenant that God had with His people. In other words, Jesus was saying to his followers: “When you constantly worry and are anxious about these things; you are acting like people who are strangers to the covenant! You are acting like people who are heathens! You are acting like people who don’t know God! You are acting like orphans who don’t have a father to take care of them!” In view of that statement, it is interesting to note that much of what is being heard in some church-circles these days is really just worldly talk in religious dress! People in the world are anxiously pursuing wealth and riches while many people in the church are ‘faithfully’ (I say this with tongue in cheek!) pursuing Divine favor and prosperity! But Jesus said to his followers in this text: “If you are anxious and worried about your survival; you are acting like unbelievers!” 

Then he said, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” Now, here’s an interesting point: Jesus said that your heavenly Father knows that you need them all, but he didn’t say you should ask your heavenly Father for them! Instead he said: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” The ‘but’ served as a contrasting conjunction. Jesus was saying that instead of anxiously pursuing the things that the people who don’t know God pursue, his followers were to pursue or seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. He was saying that the believer should seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness with the same intensity that people who don’t know God seek food, shelter, and clothing! 

Seeking or pursuing the Kingdom of God and His righteousness should be the believer or the follower of Jesus’ first and far-most priority! Now, Jesus was not talking about seeking to get the Heaven! The term; ‘Kingdom of God’ in the context of the passage is not a reference to Heaven, but rather it is a reference to the authority, rule, and reign of God in a person’s life! It is a reference to the government of God. The term ‘righteousness’ refers to the state of a person being as he ought to be, in right-standing. Jesus was saying that our first and far-most priority should be to seek, that is, find and experience the rule and authority of God; the government of God in our lives and to be in right-standing with that government or authority. We’ve made it so ‘religious’ but actually, Jesus is talking about government! To be ‘righteous’ is to be in right-standing with the Kingdom (Government) of God. To be ‘righteous’ with the government of the United States, means to pay taxes and obey the law of the land. Therefore, Jesus said, our main pursuit and priority should be to seek the rule and authority of God in our lives and to seek to be in a state of right-standing with that rule and authority. When we do that, ‘all these things will be added.’ All what things? The things that the people who don’t know God are seeking and pursuing! 

Now this is where we have really placed the cart before the horse! Jesus said that if we would seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all the things needful for life would be added unto us! According to the Bible, all the things that many people in the world today are seeking and pursuing, should actually be seeking and pursuing them! Instead of us seeking and chasing after blessings; blessings should be seeking and chasing after us! Deuteronomy 28:1-2, Moses said to the people: “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.” (ESV) Do you see that? He told them that if they faithfully obeyed the voice of the LORD (If they sought the Kingdom of God first) and were careful to do all his commandments (sought to be in right-standing; His righteousness) …. then all those blessings would come. . . and overtake them! If the blessings were to come upon and overtake them, it would not be because they were pursuing the blessings, but rather because the blessings were pursuing them! We’ve got it all wrong! We’re putting the cart before the horse, because what most of us are chasing is supposed to be chasing us!

Another case in point is found in Psalm 23:6, where David said: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (ESV) We normally think of the word ‘follow’ in this verse as a passive shadowing or tagging along. But the Hebrew word for follow; ‘radaph,’ in this text is an aggressive word! It means; to be behind, to follow after, pursue, chase, persecute, run after. This is not a picture of goodness and mercy following after David all the days of his life like innocent little puppies wagging their tails. No! This is a picture of goodness and mercy, pursuing and chasing after David like two ferocious dogs trying to catch their prey! Again! We are not supposed to be chasing after the blessings; the blessings are supposed to be chasing after us!

So then, it is because we are out of order, it is because we have placed the cart before the horse, that our lives are filled with frustrations, anxieties, worries. For just as the cart was designed to be behind and pulled by the horse and not in front of the horse, so were the necessities and the abundance of life designed to be added unto us as we seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first and far-most in our lives.

The “Latter-Day” Saints

This, my 200th post, is a combination of a two-sermon-series preached at the New Hope Baptist Church in Covington, GA several years ago. Your comments are welcomed.

“The Latter-Day Saints” (part 1)

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.”  II Timothy 3:1-9 KJV

          Let me begin by saying that this sermon does not and will not have anything to do with nor will it in any way intentionally speak about the Mormon Church, which is officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. No, I am not talking about nor am I referring to “those” latter-day saints. But, of all the times that I had previously looked at this text, it wasn’t until I was browsing through this neighborhood of the scriptures the other day that I made, what was for me, an alarming discovery! You see, all the other times that I read this text and heard it preached and expounded upon, I just assumed that this was a listing of the character traits of people in general in the last days. I mean after all, when you go through this list, it looks pretty grim and hopeless, therefore I assumed that it must be describing people, who obviously know nothing about God! But, the other day, when I looked at this text more closely, I was shocked to discover that Paul was not describing how the people of the world would be in the last days! No! This is a description of the people who will claim to know God in the last days! This is a description of church folks in the last days! Hence, this is how I arrived at my subject, for this is a listing of the character traits of the latter-day saints! It’s right there in the text in verse 5! Paul said that they would have a form of godliness. In other words, they will go through the motions of having church! They will be in regular attendance at the Divine Order of Service and Bible Class. They will claim and proudly wear the name: Christian! But Paul says that although they will have a form of godliness, they will deny the power thereof. In other words, they will pray prayers without believing in the power of prayer! They will be hearers of the word but will not be doers of the word. They will go to church and even support the church, but they will deny the power and purpose of the church. That is why Paul said that the times would be perilous! In the last days, the majority of those who will claim to be Christian will be Christian in name only!

          Now, it is interesting to note that the Greek word that is the basis of the English word “perilous” is the same word that is used to describe the two men possessed with demons in Matthew 8:28. The word means, “dangerous, difficult the deal with.” In the last days, the times will be difficult to deal with and here’s the reason why! First, it will be difficult times because men will have misplaced affections. In this listing, the first two characteristics in verse 2 and the last two characteristics in verse 4 deal with what men will be loving. Jesus said of those days; “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Bobby Blue Bland said some years ago: “Ain’t no love in the heart of the city! Ain’t no love in the heart of town! Ain’t no love, and you know it’s a pity! Ain’t no love cause you ain’t around! Yes! The last days will be fierce, dangerous and perilous because even those who will claim to be Christians will have mis-placed affections.

          The first trait listed in the list of the characteristics of these latter-days saints is that they will be “self-lovers!” In the last days, there will be an obsessive preoccupation with the self! Although the greatest commandment is; to love LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. The worship of the Holy Trinity: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost will be usurped with the worship of the unholy trinity of “Me, Myself and I!” In the last days, the affection and devotion due to God will be given to self. Therefore, “self” will be the “god” of those who will be lovers of self. Well, I think I ought to pause here and tell you that I believe the last days are upon us! Most of the problems that occur in the church today are rooted in selfishness! Everybody insists upon having their own way! Instead of praying and reasoning with one another for the good of the body, people try to tear up the church when they can’t get their own way! The root of most marital problems, problems in professional and personal relationships can be traced back to the domineering demands of self; the ego! That’s why the first requirement of true discipleship is the denial of self! When God is not properly worshiped, honored and given his rightful place in a person’s life, he is usually replaced with the self!

          Now, in the KJV, the second characteristic on the list is “covetous.” However, this is really an incorrect translation of the word Greek behind the text. The Greek word is “philarguros” which literally means “silver-lover.” This is not the same word that is normally used for “covetous.” One can actually be covetous without loving money, they do not mean the exact same thing. Friberg defines the term as, “having a greedy disposition loving money, wanting to be rich.” The term is found in the NT, only in this text and in Luke 16:14. The latter-day saints will be “lovers of themselves,” and “lovers of money!” All one has to do is just flick though the channels of so-called Christian television or browse through the bookshelves of any secular or for that matter, Christian bookstore today and one will find that “self-development, “self-realization,” “money,” “wealth,” “prosperity,” and “financial blessings” are the buzz words of the day! In the last days, the latter-day saints will be obsessed with pleasing themselves and obtaining money and material wealth!

          The next trait is that they will be “boasters.” The word literally means “empty pretender.” It is one whose mouth is bigger than his body. One who talks a big game, but is unable to back up his talk with supporting action. This is one who arrogantly presumes too much about himself. Akin to this is the next character trait. They will be proud with an overwhelming estimate of one’s means and merits, despising others or even treating them with contempt. Don’t you see this trait among the so called latter-day saints today? The spirit of humility is almost non-existent! Many church folks today are not bragging on Christ, but rather they are bragging on themselves! There are Pastors who are bragging about how many members they have and about how big their budgets and buildings are! However, while the emphasis is on building budgets and buildings, the ultimate calling of building people has been neglected and ignored! There is really no time and energy left to lift up Jesus because they are too busy lifting up themselves!

          Well, I’m just about to run out of time, so I guess I will have to break this sermon up into parts and try to finish the list the next time! So, let me close today with the blasphemers. Please note that according to the Bible, to blaspheme is not just speaking against God, but to blaspheme is to speak against God, Jesus, and the things and/or the people of God! So, when church folks talk slanderously about one another that’s actually blasphemy! How can you speak against of the people and/or things of God and not be guilty of speaking against God? The Lord has always identified himself with his own! The Bible says that the king shall say in that day: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

          Well, I really need to leave you alone now, I’ll pick up here next time! But, you need to check yourself to see if you are one of these latter-day saints! As for me, I believe I’ll be like the song the old folks used to sing! Just give me that old time religion! It was good enough for the Hebrew children! It was good enough for old man Daniel! It was good enough for Paul and Silas! It was good enough for my mother and my father and it is good enough for me!

“The Latter-Day Saints” (part 2)  II Timothy 3:1-9 KJV 

          Again, I would like to say that this sermon is, in no way, meant to cast any kind of negative light upon The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. No! We’re not talking about those latter-day saints! But, as we look at this text, we discover that Paul is not listing the characteristics of the world, but rather of people who will claim to be saved! People who will be associated with the church and will wear the label; Christian! People who will have a form of godliness but will deny the power thereof. So, with that being said, let’s continue with the list. 

          We left off last time in the middle of verse 2 with blasphemers, so let’s begin today with the next characteristic. The text says that these latter-day saints will be disobedient to parents. In ancient society, respect for parental authority was extremely important, disrespect and disobedience to parents was not tolerated. Listen to how disobedient children were handled according to the Law in ancient Israel, “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;  And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” (Deut.  21:18-21 KJV). In ancient times, there was zero tolerance for parental disrespect and disobedience, but these latter-day saints will be continually non-compliant and rebellious to parental authority. The next characteristic is that they will be unthankful! They will be ungrateful, unpleasing and ungracious. No matter what they received they will never be thankful. Next, it says that they will be unholy. According to the Analytical Lexicon of the NT, this speaks of those who reject religious obligations, having no regard of duty to God or man. The Greek word used here is only used here and in I Tim. 1:9 in the NT. Hence, in context, the verse speaks of the time when those who are supposedly Christian will make no distinction between that which is holy and that which is not. They will make no separation of holy things and will treat holy thing as common. Then the text says that they will be without natural affection. The NASB says that they will be unloving, the NRSV says that they will be inhuman. According to Louw-Nida, this word pertains to a lack of love and affection for close associates or family. They will be without family love! For the latter-days saints, blood will not be thicker than water! The KJV translation of the next term is really a bad translation. The word truce-breaker means one who makes a treaty and then breaks it. But the Greek term that is behind this translation denotes not those who make a truce or treaty and then break it, but rather those who refuse to make a treaty period! The modern translations render it as, irreconcilable, unforgiving, implacable. The Greek word literally means, “without libation or drink offering.” Hence, it is indicative of one who is strictly unwilling to make a treaty, hence irreconcilable and unforgiving. The absolutely irreconcilable person, who, being at war, refuses to lay aside his enmity or to listen to terms of reconciliation. This person is unwilling to be at peace with others. The latter-day saints will be false accusers or slanderers! The root of the Greek word is the same as the term for the devil. The term is used to describe those who are given to malicious gossip. They will be incontinent, which means they will be without self-control, lacking in moral restraint. They will be fierce, untamed, not gentle, brutal and salvage. And then they will be despisers of those that are good. Not only will they not want to do right, but they will hate those who will want to do right! I’m talking about the latter-days saints! They will be traitors, meaning they will deliver without justification a person into the control of someone else. They will be betrayers and will abandon in times of danger. They will be heady, which means that they will be rash, reckless and thoughtless. They will be high-minded, which means that they will be conceited, thinking of themselves more highly than they ought. And then the text says they will be lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. Their main pursuit will be entertainment and relaxation, things that comfort and pleases the flesh, to the neglectful detriment of the spiritual and the things of God. The Louw-Nida Lexicon renders the definition as, “pertaining to being fond of pleasure and enjoyment – given over to pleasure.”  

          At this point in the text, the main list of the characteristics concludes. Note that the list began with the characteristic of being lovers of themselves and lovers of money and ends with the characteristic of them being lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God! Yes! The main problem with the latter-days saints will be that of misplaced affection! They will have a love for self, money and pleasures but have no love for family, others or God! Now, all the while they are doing this, Paul says that they will have a form of godliness! In other words, they will not quit coming to church! They will not stop offering up praises to God! They will go through the motions and the rituals of godliness. They will have a form of godliness, but it will just be a show! They will perform the rituals of the faith, but they will deny the power of the faith. Now, Paul warns Timothy to disassociate, to turn away, avoid, having nothing to do with such people. Those who are sincere are to withdraw themselves, as much as possible, from those who are hypocrites! 

          Now, I’m not going to deal with verses 6 and 8 because I really need to finish this today! So, let me comment on verse 7 and then I will conclude with verse 9. In reference to the women mentioned in verse 6, Paul describes them as, “Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” I believe that this is a description of the latter-day saints also! The latter-days saints will run from conference to conference, from workshop to workshop, from church to church, from this class to that class, always learning.  But, because they will be determined to remain in their sins, they will not be able to come to a full, saving, knowledge of the truth. People often erroneous apply John 8:32 which says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” But when you really look at that verse, the very first word is “And.” That means that it is connected and predicated on what precedes it. The quote is only part of what Jesus said. The whole of what Jesus said is this, he said: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” You can only be free unless the truth makes you free! The truth will only make you free if you know the truth! And you will only know the truth if you continue (remain, abide and dwell) in his word, thereby proving yourself to really be his disciple! 

          Paul concludes by saying that these latter-days saints will only go so far because their folly will be exposed for all to see! It will not be difficult to tell who is saved and who is not because the Bible says that a tree is known by the fruit it bears! Jesus said, “By their fruits ye shall know them!” Now, we don’t need to know them for the sake of judging them, we need to know them for the sake of knowing the real from the fake, the sheep from the wolves, the real saints from the latter-day saints!