What Is The Bread of Angels? 

What Is The Bread of Angels? 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

“Man did eat the bread of angels; He sent them food in abundance” (Psalm 78.25 NASB1995).  

The Bible is a book whose depths we cannot comprehend. As a result, we discover something new every time we read the Scriptures. Recently, as our devotional Bible reading turned to Psalm 78, I had one of those moments. In verse 25, Asaph refers to manna and says God gave the Israelites “bread of angels.” I couldn’t recall hearing that addressed by any preacher I’d heard, nor had I previously read any commentaries on the verse. So I put on my “scuba gear” and went for a dive. 

We must establish the context first. The main goals of Psalm 78 are that Israel should not repeat their unruly past and properly instruct future generations about God’s Law. Asaph recalls God’s miracles in Israel’s history, but Israel still rebelled. Asaph mentions one of these wonders: God feeding the people with manna from heaven. And God did this, although the Israelites had repeatedly enraged Him. According to Asaph, they put God to the test in their hearts (78.18). 

As a result, our “bread of angels” was a providential answer to a need. The people were hungry, and God satisfied their hunger and provided more than they required. However, Asaph recalls that the people believed God should cater to their food preferences (78.18). So, God punished them again because they complained after He sent the manna (78.31-33). Asaph’s point was that they were unappreciative of a lavish gift. 

Following the context, we will move on to the Hebrew language. Lechem abbirim is Hebrew for “bread of the mighty ones.” The word “abbir” appears 47 times in the Old Testament, referring to everything from animals to strong or stubborn men. However, only twice in some of our English translations is this word rendered as angels (Psalm 78.25,cf. Psalm 103.20). Why is this the case? The Septuagint is most likely the answer because the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures uses the word “angels” here. We should also mention that the Latin Vulgate uses the phrase “panem angelorum” (bread of angels). And the translators of the King James Version were heavily influenced by the Latin Vulgate. But there could be more to it than that. 

Another hint comes from a non-canonical book written by a Jew living in Alexandria during the first century BC who pretended to be Solomon. People refer to this as the Book of Wisdom. “In contrast, you fed your people with the food from angels,” Wisdom 16.20 says. Again and again, you provided your people with a bread that had been prepared in heaven. It was a bread that was able to satisfy anyone’s longing and please anyone’s taste.” (Common English Bible) Even though it lacks the weight of what God-breathed (cf. 2 Timothy 3.16), it still provides valuable commentary for understanding Jewish thought before Christ’s birth. 

As a result, Asaph may have referred to angels—mighty ones—as ministering spirits (cf. Psalm 103.20-22; Hebrews 1.14). In other words, God prepared and sent the manna from heaven via the angels. If true, it would not be the first time the Bible mentions angels in passing. For example, Stephen stated that an angel was present in the burning bush (Acts 7.35). Otherwise, all we know about manna is that it came with the dew (Numbers 11.9). As a result, it descended from heaven. 

Finally, most commentators agree that the bread of angels refers to food fit for angelic consumption or the king’s table (cf. Daniel 1.8). Manna, in other words, was a dish fit for heaven. Nonetheless, God gave it to men who did not value it. We might find a modern parallel in being given a free meal at a three-star Michelin restaurant but complaining that we would rather have eaten at McDonald’s. (With no offense to McDonald’s.) 

Fortunately, this is not a matter of salvation, and there is room for debate. I agree with most commentators that the phrase refers to the quality of the food rather than the consumers’ identity. However, it is intriguing to speculate that angels may have been responsible for distributing it to the people. After all, people did not always see the angels who were present. The Arameans, for example, once pursued Elisha to his home in Dothan. The servant of Elisha was terrified, but Elisha prayed to God to open his eyes. God complied, and the servant saw the heavenly host encircling Dothan, protecting Elisha (2 Kings 6.15-17). So, even if manna arrived with the dew, it could still have been brought down from heaven by angels. 

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[No, I haven’t given up on the book of Proverbs. Chapter 8 will pick up where the previous installments left off. I believe that my articles on Proverbs have become white noise for some of my readers. And they’ve lost interest. I appreciate the kind words of individuals who have read and valued those posts. Your kind words always make their way to me. Before tackling another block of Proverbs for a month or two, I’ll present a few weeks of non-Proverbs-related content. And God willing, I shall eventually conclude my study of Proverbs. Even once I resume the series, I anticipate taking a few more breaks, so please be patient with me until we finish the book of Proverbs. Thanks, Brent] 

Come Receive Your Wisdom at Jehovah’s School

Come Receive Your Wisdom at Jehovah’s School

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

“This chapter is one of the most excellent in all this book, both for argument to persuade us to be religious and for directions therein,” Welsh Nonconformist theologian and commentator Matthew Henry said of Proverbs 3.1 I agree that it is a practical chapter. And a couple of verses of this section land on my toes. However, Proverbs 3 contains surprises for everyone, such as one verse that tells us that Jehovah has a school. This phrase is used in verse 11 by Lutheran commentators Karl Keil and Franz Delitzsch. 2 

I’ve seen different plans for Proverbs 3, but the one I like best right now is to divide the chapter into 8 points. Lady Wisdom tells her students to do the right thing first (1-4). Next, she advises students to believe in God’s plan (i.e., Providence; 5-10). The student is then told by Lady Wisdom not to look down on the “school of Jehovah” (11-12). After that, Lady Wisdom will offer a discourse about the practical applications of wisdom in our lives (13-26). Then, in verses 27 and 28, Lady Wisdom tells people not to put things off. (There go my toes!) Lady Wisdom then tells students to love each other and be patient, and then she tells them not to feel sorry for bad people who get what they deserve (29-32). Finally, lady Wisdom ends by comparing the house of the wicked to the home of the humble and wise (33-35). 

However, those who do the right thing will avoid many pitfalls into which the foolish repeatedly fall. Sin can have both natural and long-term consequences. Sexually promiscuous people are at risk of contracting a disease. A car accident may kill a drunken driver. When a curious teen tries illicit drugs for the first time, he or she may overdose. Those who do the right thing will avoid these scenarios. Those who do good will also have peace of mind. Their conscience does not interfere with their sound sleep. They also have peace because they have a good relationship with God. Before I go, I’d like to make one more point. Doing the right thing gives someone a sense of purpose (Ecclesiastes 12.13-14). That certainly adds to the quality of life. 

Lady Wisdom advises us to put our trust in God’s plan (i.e., Providence). Following God’s plan leads to our greater industry and avoiding the previously identified pitfalls. Lady Wisdom says wealth results from working in concert with God’s Providence, as opposed to the prosperity gospel’s teaching that faith alone can produce wealth. We trust God for the increase, but we contribute by working. Unlike those who make rash plans, we pray for God’s will to be done (cf. James 4.13-16). We have faith in God’s wisdom. 

We are now at the text portion where Lady Wisdom enrolls us in the “Jehovah’s school.” Interestingly, this passage shows that Keil and Delitsczh change God’s “chastisement” to His “school.” According to their understanding of Hebrew, the word in the original text means “taking one into school.” 3 But isn’t that in line with what God says about His correction elsewhere in the Bible? He corrects us through His love for us to share in His holy nature and bear righteous fruit (Hebrews 12.1-13). Of course, God could let us go without discipline, but that would not be in our best interests. 

Lady Wisdom describes the practical benefits of wisdom obtained through diligence after we enroll in Jehovah’s school. On a much smaller scale, the person willing to apply himself or herself can receive the same information God used to create and sustain the cosmos. No, our wisdom will never be as great as God’s (Isaiah 55.8-9), but it can be significant enough to serve as a badge of honor. Wisdom, once established, also provides a peaceful life. It’s worth noting that Solomon mentions peace twice in Proverbs 3. We could say that wisdom makes life easier, which leads to peaceful outcomes. 

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, what do you do? Anxiety and fear fill your heart. Those thus afflicted shut down and cannot process rational thought, and there is no peace. I jokingly referred to this phenomenon as “panic logic” to my speech therapist. In other words, one loses reasoning and follows the first impulse that comes to mind. I told her about when I stepped into a fire-ant bed as a kid. The ants were already halfway up my leg and stinging when I realized what I had done. My rescuer was watering his garden when he ran over to me with the garden hose. Rather than spraying my legs with water and sending the ants flying, as would have been more logical, he began swatting them away with the hose itself—what a way to add insult to injury. So, I had to contend with stinging ants as well as stinging blows from a rubber hose. A person who follows Lady Wisdom not only has peace of mind because of his relationship with God, but he can also keep his cool in worldly dealings because he “knows stuff.” It’s no surprise that wisdom is valuable! 

And now we come to the part of Proverbs 3 that I need to remind myself of daily. Lady Wisdom instructs us not to procrastinate by using a benevolent illustration. If we are in a position to act and have the resources to do so, we should act immediately. Why? It is because we are easily distracted. Remember how Joseph predicted in Genesis 40 that an imprisoned servant would return to serve the pharaoh as a cupbearer? Joseph requested that the cupbearer communicate his plight to the pharaoh since he had his ear. But the cupbearer managed to forget Joseph. Was it because he was a bad guy? No, not necessarily. We can get caught up in the minutiae of life and lose sight of our responsibilities or promises. Or, if it is a matter of money, it vanishes (Proverbs 23.5). You may intend to assist someone with his financial burden “tomorrow,” but tomorrow arrives with an illuminated check engine light. So, whenever the opportunity arises, do good (Galatians 6.10). 

Outside of the example of benevolence, how does this relate to the overall procrastination problem? When given a deadline or promise to do something, it is easy to become distracted by other things or waste resources, such as time. As someone who has written many term papers in the final hours before they are due, I can tell you that procrastination is not a good idea, even if you claim that you need the adrenaline rush to finish projects! 

At the end of the chapter, our other lessons from Lady Wisdom in Proverbs 3 now flow together. Solomon says God gives people what they deserve and sometimes uses men in His Providence. As a result, we can be blessed by others while also becoming a blessing to others. We should maintain good relationships with others and avoid arguing with anyone without justification. When we come across someone who is suffering as a result of his foolishness, we are to leave him alone. That may appear harsh, especially considering Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19.10). However, God explains it to us by making it clear what He means when He speaks of the fool. Remember that a fool is someone who lacks moral character. As a result, a fool is rebellious and stubborn. When people rejected the message, Jesus told His disciples in the limited commission to shake the dust from their sandals and walk on (Matthew 10.14). So, we preach the Gospel to the world (Mark 16.15-16), but we recognize when it devolves into throwing pearls before swine or giving holy things to dogs (Matthew 7.6).  

Finally, there is a clear distinction between these two paths. Those seeking wisdom live in homes where God’s grace has healed their wounds and declared them righteous. The foolish scoffer will live in the filth of his own dishonorable home. God will laugh when he sees his house. Are you paying attention to Lady Wisdom? Do you refrain from disparaging Jehovah’s school? All the decisions you make today and the effort you put in to become wise will make all the difference. 

Sources Cited 

1 Henry, Matthew. Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete). Biblestudytools.com, Salem Media Group, www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/proverbs/3.html

2 Keil, Karl, and Franz Delitzsch. Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament. Worthy.Bible, Worthy Ministries,www.worthy.bible/commentaries/keil-delitzsch-commentary/commentary-on-proverbs-3

3 ibid 

Wisdom Calls, Can You Hear?

Wisdom Calls, Can You Hear?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

 

Brent Pollard

Last week we noted that one has two reliable sources of wisdom: God and one’s parents. However, we might alter this slightly to include the adjective “godly” to describe our parents. If one’s parents are not godly, then they cannot offer much in the way of wisdom. Everything else is a tertiary source of wisdom. This truth invites harmful consequences for the one listening to the wrong source of wisdom. Solomon warns that sinners seek to seduce you with their words (Proverbs 1.10-19). 

But what do we mean by “sinner”? We have in mind those who habitually sin, not just those who have yet to enter a covenant relationship with God. In other words, these individuals make no pretense of doing good or being righteous. Solomon’s example seems extreme to us since we have a blood-thirsty gang willing to kill to plunder others’ property. How could anyone be seduced into committing an act God hates (Proverbs 6.16-19)? Unfortunately, it is not as difficult as you might think. 

Adolph Hitler remains an easy illustrative target because he is so infamous. However, during an economic depression, Hitler rose to power, promising a return to prosperity. Hitler convinced the Germans that only the Jews stood between them and their restoration. Hitler was charismatic, and he had helpers like Joseph Goebbels, able to package his message for easy consumption. How many otherwise “good” Germans turned a blind eye to atrocities committed under the pretense of creating the thousand-year reign of the Third Reich?  

When Patton discovered the atrocities committed at Buchenwald, he brought the locals into the concentration camp to see what had happened there. Some still feigned ignorance, but one eyewitness at the time declared that one could smell death in the air even outside the camp. “Death” has an unmistakable smell. Visitors to the concentration camps of Europe have told me that the scent lingers today. It is inconceivable that they didn’t know that something nefarious happened behind the locked gates of Buchenwald.   

I’ve watched enough documentaries to note how many older Germans living during that time say that Hitler had them under a spell. And some of the Hitler youth have struggled to adjust to the post-war world. But today, it is common for Germans to refer to the events of the Second World War as the liberation of Germany by the Allied Forces. In other words, contemporary Germans see the period of Nazi rule as an occupation even though the citizenry widely supported Hitler at that time. 

But what of a “softer” despotism? We have U.S. politicians parroting the Marxist ideology of redistribution. (“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”) And younger generations are quick to point out the disparity between the salary of the CEO and the employee, even though the CEO may have blood and sweat equity invested in his business and that no job would exist for the employer without him. And there is this disconnect between those desiring that we plunder the “rich” and redistribute to the “poor” and the “foot soldiers” willing to “Occupy Wall Street.” The latter may be ready to commit violence to achieve revolutionary goals, but those sympathetic are likewise content to stay silent as the rabble fights. Lest we forget, the failed economic ideology of Karl Marx has never worked anywhere it has been tried. Furthermore, it has given us men like Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong, who have killed far more of their citizens than even Hitler did of the Jews.  

It is much easier to follow a multitude to do evil than we care to admit. Thus, Moses warned against such (Exodus 23.2). It is a matter of companionship. As Paul warns, if we surround ourselves with evil people, it will corrupt our good morals (1 Corinthians 15.33). On the other hand, if we tolerate the presence of evil, we will discover its shared nature with yeast that permeates the dough into which one introduces it (1 Corinthians 5.6). This cascading effect is one of the reasons a church must practice discipline when needed (1 Corinthians 5.1ff).  

Lady Wisdom’s call stands in stark contrast (Proverbs 1.20-33). But, like the effort required to enter the narrow way (Matthew 7.13-14), one must be determined to hear her voice over the noisy crowds (1.21). Lady Wisdom is especially desirous to grab the attention of three groups: simpletons, mockers, and fools. Simpleton sounds derogatory but means that one is gullible. Aren’t the gullible especially vulnerable to the misinformation supplied by the tertiary sources of earthly wisdom? Indeed. And it is not necessarily a matter of ignorance, but lack of experience making them simpletons.  

Mockers, also called scoffers, are those flouting God’s authority. As with the simpleton, this does not mean one is stupid. Instead, a mocker chooses to be such by his disposition. Like the pharaoh to whom Moses spoke, mockers ask, “Who is God that I should hear His voice?” (Exodus 5.2) Finally, we have the fool. As we have said previously, “fool” has nothing to do with intellectual capacity. A biblical fool is a morally deficient person despising wisdom and discipline. Thus, the fool is “happier” living without the intrusive “advice” of a Creator God. 

But as Lady Wisdom warns, her unheard pleas will become a calamity for those refusing her counsel. And on that day, not only will she not be an advocate at one’s side, but she will join the chorus of laughter at their downfall (1.26). Lady Wisdom sounds cruel, but truthfully, she is just a strict teacher. She knows that one eats the fruit of his own way (1.31, cf. Galatians 6.7-8). Thus, she leaves you to your own devices. And the isolation one feels when facing the consequences of his actions is not even abated by the knowledge that God’s grace is available to forgive. The fallen one wishes he could call on Lady Wisdom but realizes that all she can tell him now is, “I tried to tell you.” 

David illustrates this feeling of loneliness in facing the consequences well in Psalm 51. Do you recall his misery? He could feel the separation between himself and God. He cried out to God to restore the joy of his salvation (Psalm 51.12). As recompense, David would then teach others (Psalm 51.13). We might add that bargaining is a noted process of grief. David was grieving. It mattered not that David knew God could forgive him because he still felt that loneliness that began when Nathan pointed the finger at him and said, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12.7). Lady Wisdom was absent from David. Even if present, all she could have done was remind him of what he had done wrong. 

Today, Lady Wisdom still calls. Can you hear her? You may have to strain to listen to her over the world’s noise. But do not spurn her invitation lest you share the fate of the simpleton, mocker, and fool. Instead, hear her offer of security and peace of mind (1.33) and accept her counsel.   

Wisdom 101’s Syllabus

Wisdom 101’s Syllabus

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

I doubt I’ve ever fully appreciated the book of Proverbs more than now as I’ve undertaken the task of teaching it in a Bible class. The reason for this, I suppose, is that I always viewed Proverbs as a group of wise sayings that one could visit and choose from as you might items on a buffet. “Yes, I will take a side of the ‘virtuous woman’ with ‘train up the child,’ please.” But it is an anthology about wisdom whose contributors include Solomon, Agur (Proverbs 30.1), and King Lemuel (Proverbs 31.1). Moreover, we know scribes during the reign of King Hezekiah took proverbs attributed to Solomon and added them at that later date (Proverbs 25.1). So, the book of Proverbs came together over an extended period. Yet, we know that by the time scholars translated Proverbs into Greek for its inclusion within the Septuagint, it was in its present form.  

Despite being an anthology, the compilers have done a marvelous job fleshing out two “characters.” One character, whom we must pursue, is “Lady Wisdom.” The other character we are to shun, “Lady Folly.” (Is she Lady Wisdom’s doppelgänger in the original sense of that word? An evil counterpart?) The ultimate form of “Lady Wisdom” is King Lemuel’s mother, the woman of virtue. However, there is a question about whether this woman is real, like Bathsheba, if Lemuel is a pseudonym for Solomon or a metaphor for the woman who embodies all Lady Wisdom’s traits. Solomon’s section treats his audience as a son, so we get the idea that Lady Wisdom is like that ideal woman for whom a young man should pine. How much more thrilling, then, when one catches a glimpse of the beautiful Lady Wisdom as she calls out in the streets or lifts her voice in the square (Proverbs 1.20). It is evident that the authors don’t anthropomorphize wisdom with every usage of that virtue, but enough to conceptualize wisdom as God’s companion, His daughter, perhaps, with whom we must also associate ourselves.  

Given this elaborate backdrop, the first six verses of Proverbs 1 strike me like a collegiate syllabus. Professor Solomon enters the classroom and passes out his plan for the material he will cover during his course. Wisdom 101. It is a level one class since it is  “To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion” (1.4 NASB1995). So, there are no prerequisites for this “class.” Even so, enlightenment is granted even to the more learned by the assistance of the one giving them wise counsel (1.5). But the authors outline their intentions. Their “purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, help them understand the insights of the wise…teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, and to help them do what is right, just, and fair” (Proverbs 1.2-3 NLT). After one has learned the basics, he will “receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles” (Proverbs 1.5-6 NLT). 

I will be honest with you. I didn’t always pay attention to the syllabus when I was a student earning my degree. I’d hear my classmates talking about a due research paper. When I protested that the professor had said nothing in class about a term paper, my friends pointed me back to the syllabus, where the professor had given details of the assignment in black and white. My previous problem of not appreciating the book of Proverbs likewise extended from my failure to read Solomon’s syllabus in the first chapter. It is not just a collection of pithy sayings. God introduced me to the most remarkable woman whom I could ever hope to meet. And if I play my cards right, I will make her my companion also. Along the journey, I will become a better person and, subsequently, a better person to others. Eventually, I will even stand in a position to help guide others through life. Not bad for a book of poetry.    

Guard Duty

Guard Duty

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

carl pic

Carl Pollard

What does it mean to “guard our hearts?” The word “guard” means to watch over in order to protect and control. So we’re supposed to protect our hearts…but not the physical heart. This isn’t an article on cholesterol, so what do we mean by heart?

Scripture uses the word “heart” when referring to our inner self. The center of emotion. What we believe in, the things that motivate our actions all come from the heart. We must protect/guard our hearts (center of emotion).

What do we guard it from? Proverbs 4 tells us. But there’s something important that we should understand. You can guard your heart from good as well as evil. People can and will protect their heart from letting God’s word change them. As Christians we can even build a wall that will keep us from making the proper changes in our lives.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” If we wish to have character we must guard our hearts. But this verse is kind of vague if we read it by itself. The context of Proverbs 4:23 is the key to understanding, So, how do we guard our hearts?

Fill your heart with God’s Word (20-22). Once it is filled, guard your heart that is now full of truth (23). Guard it by paying attention to the way you are living your life (24-27), making sure that you stay in line with the truth that is in your heart.

The writer then goes into detail on what actions we must be guarding:

Our Speech (24). “Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. “ The things that we say are a direct reflection of what’s in our heart. If we lash out in anger, that anger comes from the heart. If we have a habit of speaking evil, the source is the heart.

Our Eyes (25).  “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” The only way to properly guard the truth in our hearts is by constantly looking to God. Recognize the end goal, with “eyes on the prize” (Matt. 14).

Our Mind (26), “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.” Think about the direction that you are heading. Is it closer to God, or further away? Our minds must have the knowledge to know what is right, and then the willpower and self control to stay true to the path of salvation.

Our Direction (27), “Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” As we ponder the path of our feet, we must then turn our feet away from evil so as to keep our direction headed towards an eternity with God.

Heart failure has a variety of different symptoms, including shortness of breath, swelling, coughing, confusion and memory loss, rapid weight gain, and fatigue. Heart failure increases the risk of death and hospitalization, and many times these symptoms go unnoticed. Spiritual heart failure symptoms can also go unnoticed. But these include lack of proper desire, sinful speech, no self control, weak character and a lack of prayer and study.

If we fail to guard our hearts as Christians, we will never be able to experience an eternity with God the Father.

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“You Can Find Somebody To Tell You What You Want To Hear”

“You Can Find Somebody To Tell You What You Want To Hear”

Neal Pollard

Someone wants to be involved in an illicit relationship, defend an unscriptural marriage (or enter into one), engage in some vice or sinful behavior “in moderation” (or otherwise), and they talk to someone who shows them from scripture why it should not be done. Perhaps they ask several people and get the same discouragement. Sometimes, the inquirer is wise enough to let that guide them away from wrongdoing. Other times, they persist in looking for someone to tell them what they want to hear. Without exception, such a searcher will eventually—and probably sooner than later—find someone to validate and endorse their desire.

Solomon wrote, “The thoughts of the righteous are just, But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful” (Prov. 12:5). His father kicked off the songbook of Israel by saying, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…” (Psa. 1:1a). Job speaks of how he shunned “the counsel of the wicked” (Job 21:16; 22:18). Wicked Ahaziah was rejected by God, in part, “for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly” (2 Chr. 22:3).  This characteristic of human nature, whether giving or taking wicked counsel, is timeless. But, seeking counsel from the proper sources is encouraged by Scripture (Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). How can we make sure that we are hearing what we need to hear, not just what we want to hear?

  • We must realize our personal accountability (2 Cor. 5:10). No matter what anyone else tells us, we’ll stand individually in the Judgment. Christ’s word, as Judge, is the only one that ultimately matters. What has He said?
  • We must pray for wisdom and discernment (Col. 1:9). Are we ignoring a pricked conscience, clear teaching, or red flags? Is self in control, or is the Savior’s will?
  • We must grow in knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18).  Have we studied this out yet? Are we convinced beyond a doubt? What does the Lord say?
  • We must be honest with ourselves (Psa. 15:2). We cannot deal fairly in any situation if we’re deceiving ourselves. Lying to ourselves does not change God’s truth. It simply hurts us.
  • We must train our hearts to desire what is good (cf. 2 Pet. 2:14). This can be excruciatingly hard! Proverbs 21:10 says, “The soul of the wicked desires evil.” But listen to a cleansed heart: “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom” (Psa. 51:6).
  • We must put emphasis on the eternal rather than the temporary (2 Cor. 4:16ff). Is what we wish to pursue destructive to heavenly objectives? Are we risking an eternity in heaven for a few years of fleeting pleasure on earth? Nothing is worth sacrificing salvation!
  • We must weigh the advice of our counselors on the scales of truth (Prov. 18:17). The Berean Christians fact-checked an inspired apostle (Acts 17:6). We owe it to ourselves to compare what our advisers tell us—however much we love and respect them—with what God’s Word says. Many times they will align. If they do not, we must choose God’s Word every time!

Beware! At times, what we want to hear is right and good. Many times, it is not. As we lean on others, let us lean most heavily on “the rock” (Mat. 7:24)!

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The Eye Of The Beholder

The Eye Of The Beholder

Neal Pollard

The theme of our recently completed lectureship was, “Every Man Did What Was Right In His Own Eyes.” This seems to be the summary statement of this entire period of Bible history. It is interesting that this idea shows up more than in just the two verses where the statement appears (Judges 17:6; 21:25). Samson wanted the woman of Timnah because “she looked good to” him (Judges 14:3,7; literally, “she was right in his eyes”). In reality, she was a loose, treacherous, and idolatrous woman, but she seemed right to him. In that dark story about the Levite man, the elderly Ephraimite man, the Levite’s concubine and the Ephraimite’s virgin daughter, the old man, seeking to placate the wicked Benjamites, offered the women to them “to do with them whatever” they wished (Judges 19:24; literally, “the good in your eyes”). Obviously, what was right in these men’s eyes was reprehensible and vile. It is one of the most extreme examples of wickedness recorded in the Bible.

Elsewhere, the Bible says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15a), and “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2a). We often think things seem right when they are far from it (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25; 18:17).  After talking about those who mix up right and wrong and good and evil, Isaiah tells us why they do this. He warns that they “are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:21).

In the world, the church, and our own lives, we are tempted to do what is right in our own eyes. We justify habits, relationships, desires, religious practices, lifestyles, and choices about which God warns in His Word by ignoring that and rationalizing, rewording, and reframing them. We use emotional arguments. We twist Scripture. In the end, when we do these things, we reject God’s authority and seek to become the standard ourselves. The book of Judges was written, in part, to show us what happens when we do it and how God feels when we do it.  The well-worn phrase goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” That may be. But right and wrong is not such as is in the eye of the beholder. That is determined by the One who possesses “the all-seeing eye” (Proverbs 15:3).

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THE POWER OF THE TONGUE

THE POWER OF THE TONGUE

Neal Pollard

One of the leading stories in today’s news concerns a young woman, Michelle Carter, facing manslaughter charges for allegedly coercing her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, to commit suicide. He was 18 and she was 17. While at earlier points in their relationship she tried to dissuade his talk of suicide (he had attempted suicide before meeting her), by the end she was insistent and even steered him onto the subject of taking his own life. The night he succeeded in killing himself by carbon monoxide poisoning, she even urged him at one point to get back into the truck. The hundreds of text messages she wrote are disturbingly callous and malicious, and she faces 20 years in jail if convicted. Her words are at the heart of this case, and prosecutors say she is complicit in his death because of all that she said (The Washington Post online, 6/7/17, Kristine Phillips and Swati Sharma).

It is incredible to consider that this young woman used her words to so discourage and deflate another human being, to even actively push him to die. Yet, Scripture tells each of us that, spiritually, we all are exercising the power to either promote life or death through our words. Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.…”  This is why Paul urges us to give thought about the character and nature of our speech, saying, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:6). Our speech can kill in many ways:

  • Vulgar, coarse speech that can encourage others to think of the unwholesome and sinful
  • Hypercritical speech that can deflate and discourage people’s good works
  • Gossipy speech that can cause people to be divided and distanced from undeserving victims
  • Dishonest speech that can lead people astray from the truth
  • Railing, sinfully angry speech that can be self-destructive to the speaker
  • Hypocritical speech that can cause people to be turned off by Christianity

We may be prone to excuse our words as harmless when in fact they can be a matter of spiritual life and death for ourselves or someone else. Our prayer should mirror that of the psalmist, who pleads, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psa. 141:3). We possess such power! Let us harness it and use it for life, not death (cf. Jas. 3:2-12).

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Rebuke Requires Relationship

Rebuke Requires Relationship

Neal Pollard

  • A child scolded by an austere stranger may get frightened or bullied, but not persuaded or “reached.” A parent, grandparent, a sibling, or good friend will be much more effective.
  • A church member reprimanded by an aloof elder with none of the skill and instincts of a shepherd will get offended, hurt, and angered, but will likely ignore the admonition. A caring, involved elder, even if what he says is difficult and narrow, will prove much more effective. Jesus makes this clear in John 10:5.
  • A preacher who isolates himself from the members, though golden-tongued and 100% right, will cause rankling and roiling rather than remorse and repentance when dealing with sensitive, “hard” subjects. Yet, a man people know cares about them will be given a hearing on even “hot button” matters delivered in loving conviction. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 makes this clear.
  • A brother or sister bringing a criticism or dispensing blunt advice, who has done nothing to establish rapport and relationship with the object of their censure, will have zero impact for good and most likely widen the distance already existent between them. Galatians 6:1-2 implies one who has worn the yoke with the one approached about the trespass.
  • A “Facebook friend” or social media connection, who does a drive-by, verbal “shooting,” devoid of real life connection and bond, is seen as an obnoxious oaf at best and more likely as an impertinent intruder. That forum is not typically going to work for effective exhortation, especially if the dressing-down comes from one who has established no meaningful link. Remember, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6). That’s a real friend; not a virtual one.
  • A neighbor who has taken no time to be a friend or neighborly delivers hollow requests, suggestions, or demands. Without benefit of time and shared experience, this is received as bad manners and bad form. One who takes the time to demonstrate care will be much better heard (cf. Prov. 11:12).
  • A co-worker or schoolmate will be unpersuaded by someone who makes no time for them or takes no time to get to know them but who gets in their business is wasting their time. But, one who proves genuine concern will much more likely get a thoughtful hearing.

It’s just the way we are. We bristle at cold, heartless interference from the seemingly disinterested party. But we are open and receptive to people who take the time to get to know, understand, and care about us. The same thing said the same way will make a big difference, depending on the presence or absence of a relationship. We would do well to strive to build more and better relationships, especially if we desire to help people grow closer to Christ and go to heaven. May we first work on the connection before we attempt the correction.

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Deadly and Dangerous

Deadly and Dangerous

Neal Pollard

The book of Proverbs is divided into 31 chapters and 915 verses. So, nearly 1,000, divinely-authored truisms are packed into this one book penned by Solomon and others. In Proverbs 13, the writer begins by talking about what a wise son does, then describes a prudent man, a lazy man, a righteous man, a wick man, a rich man, and a poor man (2-10). Then, in verses 11-13, an alarm is sounded against three deadly behaviors.

A warning is sounded against dishonest wealth (11). “Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, but he who gathers by labor will increase.”  Financial scandals, surrounding company presidents and CEOs, often dominate current headlines. Not all swindlers, defrauders, embezzlers, and cheats are found out—in this life (cf. 1 Tim. 5:24). Cheating, lying, misrepresenting, deceiving, and otherwise acting unethically to get gain causes one to forfeit the riches of eternal life (Ti. 3:7). Be careful how you get what you get.  “…Attend to your own business and work with your hands…” (1 Th. 4:11; see Rom. 12:17).

A warning is sounded against deferred hope (12). “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” This verse is not about choosing instant gratification over delayed gratification. It recognizes a principle played out daily. Look at an elderly person, relatively strong in body but who has “given up hope.” Such do not usually live very long. Consider a couple whose problems so overwhelm them that they surrender in some way to despair. Divorce cannot be too far off in the distance. For the human spirit to thrive, it must have hope. Hope anchors the soul (Heb. 6:19). Paul, oft-imprisoned, oft-persecuted, muses, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19). What pulls the Christian through his or her troubles? It is the present help of hope. Those who throw it away often say goodbye to their faith, too!

A warning is sounded against despising the word (13). “He who despises the word will be destroyed, but he who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” Few physically take their disgust for God’s will to the point Jehoiakim did, the wicked king who cut out with a penknife the portions of scripture he hated (Jer. 36:23). Not everyone is so bold as their atheist, the satanist, or the pagan in expressing their disdain for the Bible. Yet, everyone who transgresses against it in willful, habitual, and premeditated ways, despises the word. The price for such rebellion is eternal (2 Th. 1:7-9).

Interestingly, these three verses deal with three pitfalls—of deeds, depression, and doctrine. As God’s people, we must guard against the wiles of the devil as he seeks to destroy us. Our souls are at stake. Don’t let him win. Let Christ reign!

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