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.   

Reliable Sources That Boost Your Wisdom

Reliable Sources That Boost Your Wisdom

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Last week, we looked at our syllabus for Wisdom 101. Professor Solomon has outlined the aims of our course. And now, Solomon will introduce us to the “texts” we will be studying. The primary “text” will come as no surprise to the believer. That source is God (Proverbs 1.7). But there is also a secondary “text’ that Solomon encourages us to study. We will examine this more in a moment. 

Wisdom begins with the “fear of the Lord” (1.7). That fear is the primary text. But what do we have in mind when we say “fear?” It cannot mean that God causes an unpleasant emotion making us apprehensive to approach Him. If God were scary, how could we entice another to listen? In their commentary, Old Testament scholars Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch give a superb definition. Fear is a “reverential subordination” to God.1 In other words, when you recognize the superiority of God, you stand in awe of Him. Who better to learn wisdom from than the One you admire? You should desire to hang on His every word. God, for His part, is glad to impart His wisdom to us. As James reminds us, if we ask Him, He will generously give us wisdom (James 1.5). 

Yet we know not everyone esteems God highly. Those disrespecting God are called “fools” (1.7). But by calling them fools, we are not suggesting that such people lack the intellectual capacity for growth. Rather “fool” demonstrates their disposition. In the original Hebrew, the word translated as “fool’ is “evil.” No, not our English word, evil, but a word transliterated as such from the Hebrew language. Hebrew scholars Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Bridge observe that the word always denotes one is “morally bad.”2 Confirming this interpretation is the Septuagint version of the Scriptures. The 70 or so Jewish scholars translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek used the word “asebēs” for “fool.” That Greek word means “impious.”3 Thus, one who is impious (i.e., morally bad) despises wisdom and instruction. Such foolish persons might echo the pharaoh who asked, “Who is God that I should listen to Him?” (Exodus 5.2). So, if we were to cite a secular maxim to explain this part of our proverb, it might well be that “you can lead a horse to water but cannot make him drink.”   

Yes, God can boost your wisdom, but you must desire to sit at His feet, develop a relationship with Him, and learn from Him those words leading to eternal life (John 6.68). But since I used the plural form of source in our title, you know there must be at least one other source. Indeed. You have probably heard of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is essentially an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It is supposed to be an unbiased source of information, but a quick perusal of hot-button topics often reveals the bias of Wikipedia editors and publishers. At best, though, Wikipedia is a tertiary source of information. The word “tertiary” is from the Latin tertiariesmeaning “of or containing a third.”4 So tertiary is a fancy way to say that Wikipedia provides third-party information (i.e., information twice removed from its source). But what sources come before the tertiary one? The educational field gives us a clue by using the terms “primary” and “secondary” when describing its schooling. Primary is the category coming first and takes youth through to the age of 12, or 14, depending on the country. Following primary education, a child enters secondary education. Secondary schools will see the child through graduation from high school, the highest level of compulsory education. From there, a young person may elect to pay for “post-secondary” education in college or university.  

So, for the believer, God is the primary source of wisdom. And though we can learn wisdom elsewhere, before listening to those tertiary sources of wisdom, Solomon reminds us of our secondary source of wisdom in Proverbs 1.8. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Note that God makes parents the secondary source of wisdom. Hence, parents become the secondary “text” for Wisdom 101. Recall the first institution created by God in Genesis 2.18-24. That institution was the home, the family.  

Despite causing great harm to the family by signing the so-called Great Society Legislation, Lyndon Baines Johnson nevertheless stated that “the family is the cornerstone of our society.”5 Indeed, Johnson’s “reforms” helped break the home. He bolstered single-parent households and turned birthing children out of wedlock into a cottage industry. The State stepped in to fill the vacancy left by the absent parent, and education became the responsibility of the public-school educator. This innovation was never the intention of God.  

Solomon was aware of the Law given to Moses. Fathers were to instruct their children at every opportunity (Deuteronomy 6.1-8). What we observe today in our society is that which played out countless times in Old Testament history. First, you would have a faithful generation that failed to impart wisdom to the next generation. God’s people would then enter a decline, followed by apostasy. God would then punish them using the military might of their pagan neighbors until they repented and cried out for mercy. Finally, God would bring a deliverer who would lead the people into a new righteous era. This period would persist until a new untaught generation arose, and the cycle would begin again. 

Though we are not a theocracy, righteousness still exalts a nation (Proverbs 14.34). And this democratic republic is buoyed by the faith of its citizenry. As a result, we have noted prosperity resulting from periods of “goodness” (e.g., the post-WWII boom). And times of difficulty that seem to result from times of “excess” (e.g., the “Roaring Twenties” and the Great Depression). One wonders where we are within our cycle of apostasy and renewal when he hears news stories of public-school teachers confusing children about being oppositely gendered or talking openly about their perverted lifestyles. There is a significant disconnect between what parents would teach their young and what some teachers teach in schools. That was, at least, one blessing from the COVID pandemic shutdown. Parents overheard what teachers were teaching their children and would have none of it.  

So, what happens when you have children who do not have a trustworthy secondary source of wisdom (i.e., parents)? Tertiary sources step in and instill man’s wisdom, which arises from man’s dark heart (Romans 1.21ff). The children worship the creature rather than the Creator. And these progenies ignore all authority: God, parents, and even the civil government (Romans 13.1ff). There can be no substitute for the wisdom mom and dad are to instill. You cannot even delegate instruction over to the faithful brethren of the church. The Bible school teacher can be a trusted tertiary source, it is true, but he or she does not have the amount of time with the child given by God to parents. Christian parents must stop abdicating God’s role in their children’s lives.  

And the result from having the proper primary and secondary source for wisdom? Wisdom becomes one’s attractive accessory, like a graceful wreath upon one’s head or a necklace around their neck (Proverbs 1.9). We observe this in Peter and John. We trust the secondary wisdom imparted to them by their parents was adequate but take note of the primary wisdom they received spending time with Jesus. As they stood before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leaders noted the confidence with which they spoke. They concluded these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4.13).  

So, what are the reliable sources you have that boost your wisdom? First and foremost, it is the fear of God. The second source is the godly instruction you receive from your parents. But wherever you are in your journey to find Lady Wisdom, whether one who is still learning from his parents or who may soon be the secondary source of wisdom for a child or grandchild, remember the words of our Lord to those feeling deficient. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7.7-8 NASB1995).   

Sources Cited 

1          Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. “Commentary on Proverbs 1”. Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/proverbs-1.html. 1854-1889.   

2          “Strong’s Hebrew; 191.” Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Unabridged, 2006, biblehub.com/hebrew/191.htm.   

3          “Strong’s Greek; 765.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, 2011, biblehub.com/greek/765.htm 

4          “Tertiary English Definition and Meaning.” Lexico Dictionaries | English, Lexico Dictionaries,www.lexico.com/en/definition/tertiary.  

5          Johnson, Lyndon B. “Lyndon B. Johnson Quote: ‘the Family Is the Corner Stone of Our Society.”.” Quotefancy, Quotefancy, quotefancy.com/quote/1017793/Lyndon-B-Johnson-The-family-is-the-corner-stone-of-our-society

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.    

12 Truths You Can Hang Your Hat On

12 Truths You Can Hang Your Hat On

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

In every chapter of Ecclesiastes you can expect at least two kinds of verses. At least one verse will make you wonder what Solomon is talking about and one verse will hit you in a profound way. As it turns out, humans haven’t changed that much over the years and our current experience of life share many similarities. Here are twelve amazing truths found in this book. 

1.4-8 

Some things never change. 

2.24-25 

Pleasing God will bring you more joy than chasing the things that bring momentary pleasure. 

3.9-11 

God has given us a desire to know the future. Because of this, we understand that while we don’t know the future we’re better off serving a God who does. 

4.9-12

It’s by design that we can accomplish more with help. God can do more with us when we are team players. 

5.19-20 

There’s joy to be found in hard work and that too is by design. Satisfaction is a natural feeling produced by the work of our hands. 

6.6

If you don’t find joy in life then life will drag on and feel slower. 

7.13-15 

When life is good, enjoy it. When life is hard— remember that it’s like that for everybody. Ups and downs are part of living. 

8.16-18 

This world is not just but don’t let that fool you into thinking that God isn’t just. We can’t understand how God’s mind operates in every circumstance. 

9.11-12 

Not everything happens for a reason! God might have a hand in any event, Satan may have something to do with it— or maybe it’s all a coincidence.

10.8-15 

Every job has it’s dangers but wisdom can make a job run smoother just as a sharp knife can make a task easier. 

11.7-8

It’s good to be alive! It’s nice to see the light from the sun. You should enjoy the life you live with eternity on your mind. 

12.11 

You can put your trust in any wisdom and teaching that comes from God. 

Each chapter of Ecclesiastes is filled with wisdom and life changing words. Our world needs to spend more time studying this inspired collection of truth. 

Dead Sea Scroll 109 (Ecclesiastes, commons image)
Where Vanity Leads

Where Vanity Leads

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

When my father and I travel in the car together, we listen to one of three SiriusXM stations: 40s Junction, Bluegrass Junction, or Willie’s Roadhouse. Today, we tuned the radio dial to Willie’s Roadhouse as I made my way to a gastroenterology appointment. On the way home, Tom T. Hall’s tune, “Faster Horses (The Cowboy and the Poet),” played as we started back up the mountain towards Blairsville, Georgia. I have heard this song by “The Storyteller” before. “Faster Horses” never fails to remind me of King Solomon. 

Within Hall’s song, a poet asks a cowboy for words of inspiration. Instead, the cowboy tells the poet that the best things in life are “faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money.”1 The poet balks at the idea, but the cowboy calls him a liar. The poet desires to punch the cowboy, but the cowboy draws a weapon, and the poet backs off. Eventually, the poet drops his philosophical pursuits, settling on the “wisdom” imparted to him. He supposes the “wisdom” sage enough to share with his offspring. I would venture to guess that alcohol, at least, figured prominently in Hall’s life as he also wrote the songs “I Like Beer” and “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine.” Even my favorite of Tom T. Hall’s discography, “I Love,” contained the lyrics “bourbon in a glass and grass.” (As an aside, there was a radio edit that substituted those lines with “old TV shows and snow.”)  

In Ecclesiastes 2.1-3,8, Solomon admits, “I said to myself, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself.’ And behold, it too was futility. I said of laughter, ‘It is madness,’ and of pleasure, ‘What does it accomplish?’ I explored with my mind how to stimulate my body with wine while my mind was guiding me wisely, and how to take hold of folly, until I could see what good there is for the sons of men to do under heaven the few years of their lives…Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men—many concubines” (all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated).  

Yes, Solomon said it was futility (vanity—KJV and ESV). Solomon tried the cowboy’s life and found it wanting. It may well be that the late Tom T. Hall found out the same thing. On August 20, 2021, Tom T. Hall took his life. He was 85 years old.2 Though I do not wish to debate the wisdom of Chilon of Sparta, who in circa 600 BC was the first recorded speaker of the aphorism, “Do not speak ill of the dead,”3 I will add that many suicides stem from a sense of hopelessness. Depression is typically the common factor among those choosing to end their life. If this was Hall’s motivation, and only God knows, we note how the vanity of “faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money” can create a downward spiral. 

Vanity is an unhealthy type of narcissism. One is preoccupied with best satiating his desires, as Solomon well documented. In Ecclesiastes 6.7, Solomon says of his pursuits, “All a man’s labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied.” Thus, Solomon assures us that he found his pursuits futile despite trying everything he could. So why didn’t Solomon’s dissatisfaction cause him to lose hope or become depressed? Because he still had enough wisdom to draw the proper conclusion: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12.13-14). 

If we are to develop the mind of Christ (Philippians 2.3-8), our focus must be outward. Rather than following one’s vanity to inevitable destruction, one must look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2.4). Therefore, whether said initially by Benjamin Franklin, John Ruskin, or Henry Emerson Fosdick, we note the truth in the expression, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” Embiggen yourself by obeying the law of Christ (cf. Galatians 6.2,10). Don’t follow vanity where it leads.    

Sources Cited 

1  “Tom T. Hall – Faster Horses Lyrics.” AZLyrics.com, AZLyrics.com, www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/tomthall/fasterhorses.html.  

2   Leimkuehler, Matthew, and Cole Villena. “Country Music’ Storyteller’ Tom T. Hall Died by Suicide, Medical Examiner Says.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 6 Jan. 2022, www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/music/2022/01/06/tom-t-hall-died-suicide-medical-examiner-autopsy/9120690002/

3 “De Mortuis Nil Nisi Bonum.” The Free Dictionary, Farlex, encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/De+Mortuis+Nil+Nisi+Bonum

Courtesy: Max pixel
Rehoboam’s Folly

Rehoboam’s Folly

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

One of the facts I remember and retained from elementary school is that the purchase of the Alaska Territory by the United States from the Russian Empire was known as “Seward’s Folly.” $7 million for a frozen wasteland thousands of miles from Washington, D.C., right after the Civil War surely must have seemed bizarre (at the time, it was also called [President Andrew] “Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden” and “Walrussia,” among other things)(a few details from History.com).  History has long since vindicated the wisdom of Seward’s vision.

Rehoboam’s folly was folly from beginning to end. Though God’s foreknowledge and providence caused Him to work through these events to keep His promise of bringing the Messiah, Rehoboam was no willing accomplice. Instead, he committed an inexcusable blunder that proved him to be an apple falling light years from his father’s tree. How could he be so foolish?

First, let’s quickly review what happened. Jeroboam hears about Solomon’s death, and he leaves his exile in Egypt to return to Israel. The nation had high regard for the son of Nebat and summoned him to go with a delegation of them to ask Rehoboam to lighten the yoke of taxation his father, Solomon, had levied on them in order to fund the building projects the chief of which were his own house and the temple (cf. 9:15). Rehoboam asked for three days to consider their request. When they return in three days, he not only refused their request but answered them harshly (10). 

So what contributed to his foolhardy decision at the start of his reign? There are several implications. Cronyism appears to have played a part. He favored the flatterers from among his own friends and associates, “who grew up with him” (10).

Ego likewise factors in. Their flattering suggestion was to tell the people, “My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions” (10-11).

Akin to cronyism was his bias against the older, wiser counselors who served his father. It’s certainly not unique to Rehoboam to consider the counsel of the aged to be out of touch and irrelevant (cf. Job 12:12).

Then, there was a lack of empathy. Leadership is doomed where leaders fail to hear and grasp the plight of the people.

Finally, there was divine foreknowledge. God knew the arrogance and pride of Rehoboam and He used it to fulfill His divine will. The writer ends the paragraph, saying, “So the king did not listen to the people; for it was a turn of events from the Lord, that He might establish His word, which the Lord spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (15). 

God’s people today do well to revisit the folly of Rehoboam in order to be reminded of the wisdom of impartiality, humility, empathy, and compassion. Failure to do so is foolish indeed!

Considering Our Legacy

Considering Our Legacy

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

brent-portrait

Brent Pollard

Have you ever heard of a necropolis? It means a “city of the dead.” We are most likely familiar with the necropolises left by the ancient Egyptians, but they exist among other cultures as well. For example, there is a necropolis near Dargavs, Russia. They say that if you look inside the windows of the “houses” in this city, you can see the inhabitants with their possessions. Unlike Egypt, Russia’s necropolis, which I’ve referenced were for the commoner. There are about 10,000 “residents” of this necropolis. Such monuments to the dead fascinate me. Why do men build such monuments and, indeed, cities for the dead? 

I think the word that most often comes to mind is legacy. People want to leave a legacy, the proof of their existence. Legacy derives from the Latin “legate.” A legate was a post in the Roman army. The Roman Senate tasked a general with a particular task which the soldier faithfully performed. It is not difficult to see how the word evolved likewise to indicate a messenger or diplomat. By the middle ages, a legate became someone executing another’s will. Thus, as we think of our legacy, we are referring to that which outlives us. It is something testifying about our life. It serves to impart a message or gift to the future. 

The Hebrews’ writer says Abel left such a legacy. “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11.4 ). The remarkable thing about Abel’s legacy is that God serves as his Legate. Thus, God provides this testimony about the departed Abel. Hence, one cannot doubt the truthfulness of the testimony. That, friends, is better than any pyramid or endowment. 

Men often praise those unworthy of such following their demise because they held power or prestige. Plus, their efforts to honor the deceased eventually come to naught. Again, I am mindful of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias. A traveler tells of a monument upon which he happened. The monument’s inscription suggests the visitor look upon his works and despair. But there was nothing but a desert waste as far as the traveler could see. Even so, the fictional Ozymandias was so proud. He was confident in his legacy, which decayed with time. 

As we contemplate our legacy, we may think of progeny to carry our DNA into the future. God even says that children are a reward (Psalm 127.3). But we are powerless to change the people our offspring become in adulthood. Yes, we trust Solomon’s proverb about a trained child not departing from the way (Proverbs 22.6). But we know this is not universal. Therefore, future generations may soil one’s genetic legacy by their conduct. This phenomenon was undoubtedly the case with the few righteous kings of Judah, whose sons often did evil in worshipping foreign gods. 

No, the only suitable legacy is one whose Legate is God. Like Abel, we need to ensure that our deeds please Him to Whom we must give account. Our righteousness is like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64.6 KJV). But when we are faithful, like the man with five talents, we will be welcomed into the joys of our Master (Matthew 25.20-21). It may be that when I “shuffle off this mortal coil,” none but my family and close friends will note my passing. If I have the testimony of God, though, I will have something far greater than any monument people may leave for me. So, strive not for earthly accolades or a fleshly heritage. Instead, work to ensure that God provides your eternal legacy.  

Spirit One 

Spirit One 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

In the first chapter of Genesis we read that God made man dominion over every creature He had made. Then in James 3:7 the inspired writer says, “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind.” When we think about the implications of that and then apply it to the world of the Old Testament it becomes even more impressive. The first humans lived with all kinds of beasts, including the dinosaurs. Whatever image comes to mind when you think of those extinct reptiles, it’s probably not that of a tame animal. God gives us a curious glimpse into the past where humans and dinosaurs not only coexisted, but we managed to tame them. In Ecclesiastes, the preacher concludes his sermon in chapter 12 by saying we must prepare ourselves for the day we meet our Creator. The spirit that He made will one day return back to Him. Solomon then says, “fear God.”

The correlation between “spirit” and “fear” is also seen in the New Testament. Paul writes to a fearful and wavering Timothy, “God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). The message in the Old and New Testament then is, “fear nothing but God.” When Adam and Eve were in the garden they feared nothing because that’s not the spirit that God gave them. He gave us one of power, because of the God we serve. He is our Father and He has all the power. He gave us a spirit of love. We aren’t animals. We aren’t lions who display great power but lack the ability to love. We were made in the image of God and that means we have both a spirit, which is our life force, and a soul— our eternal life force. On top of all this God gave us the spirit of a sound mind. The Greek word used there means a mind that is calm. Even in the face of calamity and craziness, we can be calm. Why? Because we are God’s children and God is in control. One day every faithful Christian will get back that perfect spirit given to His original creations. Spirits without fear.

“Leviathan” by Lewis Lavoie
(https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=1247)
We’ve Not Reached The Judgment Yet

We’ve Not Reached The Judgment Yet

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

Neal Pollard (pinch-hitting for Carl today)

Solomon makes an interesting observation in the book about his grand experiment seeking the meaning of life. In Ecclesiastes 8, he is writing about the “evil man” who is basically living life as he pleases, doing what he wants with no regard for judgment. There seem to be multiple reasons for him to continue living this way:

  • He’s doing evil and is not suffering immediate consequences for it (11).
  • He’s repeatedly doing evil and is even living a long life (12; cf. 7:15).
  • He doesn’t seem to suffer a fate any worse than the righteous, and sometimes seems to do better than the righteous (14). 

Frankly, Solomon is making a timeless observation. Perhaps you have sung the song, “Tempted and tried, we’re off made to wonder why it should thus all the day long, while there are others living about us never molested though in the wrong.” Billionaires, movie stars, professional athletes, politicians, and the like provide public examples of this passage and that song. We can produce more local, if lesser known, examples of those who seem prosper, living so wicked year after year. 

Solomon does not have the understanding we have this side of Calvary, but he ultimately grasps the principle that should guide our lives today. At the very end of Ecclesiastes, he says, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (12:13-14). This is a vital principle for me to internalize and live by.

When I am tempted to live like this world is my home and the pleasures of earth are what life is about, I need to understand that I may not be struck dead while pursuing life on those terms, not even if I persist in it over a long period of time. I may not die a horrible death as the result of pursuing what God calls “evil.” However, Ecclesiastes 8:11-14 does not describe the end. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 does.

If I drift away from fellowship with God and His people, if I live like the world when I am out of sight of the church, if I put someone or something above my faithfulness to God, I probably won’t suffer immediate consequences. God loves me enough to let me know that. He will let me make whatever choices I want, but He wants me to know the results of my decisions. Solomon rightly says, “Still I know it will be well for those who fear God, who fear Him openly” (Ecc. 8:12; cf. 3:14; 5:7; 7:18; 12:13). There is an appointment for every one to “be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). It is when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and Paul says we must all do so. Wisdom is living this life preparing for that moment, understanding that judgment is not now but then. Such knowledge should move us to “fear God and keep His commandments.”

Everything You Want

Everything You Want

 Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

There is a rite of passage dreaded by aging music fans; It is the day that your favorite music, your youth’s music, becomes relegated to a niche station on platforms like satellite radio. Fortunately, music providers have found more creative ways of marketing such specialty stations than slapping the “classic” or “oldies” label upon it. Instead, you are now a member of an exclusive club of people with exquisite musical taste. Yes, I am such a club member, and I listened to “my station” while running errands. The unofficial theme of my present love life began playing on the radio: “Everything You Want.” As one who finds illustrations in practically everything, I started drawing religious parallels. However, before you can understand those parallels, I first need to fill you in about the song. 

“Everything You Want” was released by the alternative rock band Vertical Horizon in 1999 and became a hit in July of 2000. It became Billboard’s Most Played Single of 2000. Matt Scannell, the songwriter, explained that an ex-girlfriend inspired the song. She looked for love and acceptance everywhere but the person who loved her the most. Obviously, as a listener unaware of the backstory, I interpreted the song differently. I thought of those times when a member of the fairer sex made an offhanded comment about wanting to meet someone “just like” me. (I seem to live in a place called “the friend zone.”) I wished to reply, “Why do you want ‘just like’ when the original is available?” Unrequited love can be frustrating, as it has been for me, or sad, as with the songwriter. 

Would it surprise you to know God experienced unrequited love too? God compared Himself to the husband of two faithless women, Oholah and Oholibah (Ezekiel 23.1ff). Elsewhere, Solomon admitted his spiritual infidelity in the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon looked for happiness and contentment in EVERYTHING but what ultimately mattered. After his vain pursuit of such things, Solomon says, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (Ecclesiastes 12.13 NASB1995) The famous baseball player-turned-preacher, Billy Sunday, once summed up such people as Oholah, Oholibah, and Solomon. They have only enough religion to make them miserable. Sunday added, “If there is not joy in religion, you have got a leak in your religion.” Indeed. The problem lies not with the Bridegroom but the bride. Yes, if there is no love for Him, or our love has faded, the fault lies in us.  

How do we show our love for the Bridegroom? He says we show our love by keeping His commandments (John 14.15). Is it that simple? Yes, obedience springs from the mindset of putting God and His kingdom first (Matthew 6.33). We stray when we look for fulfillment elsewhere. And for the one yet to put on Christ in baptism (Galatians 3.27), the preference is for another whom he or she believes can bring similar joy: “The love of God enamors me, but the world gives me pleasure without requiring ‘burdensome’ commandment-keeping.” Jesus assures us that His yoke is not a burden (Matthew 11.28-30). As Saul discovered on the road to Damascus, we only hurt ourselves when we fight against that yoke. Jesus told Saul that he was kicking against the sharpened sticks (i.e., goads) used to pen cattle (Acts 26.14). Thus, I urge you, whether you have left your first love like Ephesus (Revelation 2.4) or have not confessed your love for the Savior, that you don’t ignore the Greatest Love you have ever known or can ever know (John 3.16). 

It may seem odd to close devotional thoughts out with secular lyrics, but I will do so anyway. I pray that you do not find a relevant metaphor for your relationship with Jesus Christ in these lyrics. He loves you. Don’t make His an unrequited love: 

“He’s everything you want 
He’s everything you need 
He’s everything inside of you 
That you wish you could be 
He says all the right things 
At exactly the right time 
But he means nothing to you 
And you don’t know why.” 

Works Consulted 

“Vertical Horizon.” Billboard, Billboard Media, LLC, www.billboard.com/music/Vertical-Horizon/chart-history/HSI/song/67304

Erica. “Out and About in Jax.” Out and About in Jax: Interview with Lead Singer of Vertical Horizon Matt Scannell, Blogger, 18 Nov. 2010, web.archive.org/web/20120326110903/www.outandaboutinjax.com/2010/11/interview-with-lead-singer-of-vertical.html

“Vertical Horizon – Everything You Want Lyrics.” MetroLyrics, MetroLyrics, www.metrolyrics.com/everything-you-want-lyrics-vertical-horizon.html