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Twenty years.  That’s how long Mr. Rodeheaver and I have loved each other.  Today is our 17 year wedding anniversary and I could not be more in love.

There were many years where I could not have imagined our marriage being what it is today.  I can say with all honesty and without exaggeration that it is better now than ever before.  This is the result of a faithful God and a faithful husband.

I spent the past week cleaning the house.  School is out – homeschool, that is, where mom is always home but never able to get anything done – and cheer season is over.  Finally, I had time to do all those jobs I never get around to.  Cleaning out drawers, closets and bookshelves, scrubbing floors, baseboards, and walls, and, my personal favorite, throwing away everything that isn’t nailed down.

House cleaning is not my favorite job.  There are only two reasons I clean: 1. I can no longer function due to the chaos happening around me 2. My husband told me to.  If it was not for Mr. Rodeheaver’s consistent reminders about doing “my job” I honestly might be featured on the next episode of “Hoarders.”

It is because of my husband’s unwillingness to overlook or ignore sin in my life that I have grown in the areas that are most difficult for me to find success in.  Because he neither fears telling me the truth nor accepts any nonsensical excuses I make that keep me from being better, I have no choice but to grow.  He understands my potential and he accepts nothing less than my best.

Twenty years is a long time to be learning something.  Most would have given up instructing and encouraging me a long time ago.  Love never fails, though.  Tim’s faithfulness to me extends far beyond dinners out and depositing paychecks.  Tim’s faithfulness to me is often found in his consistent correction in the things I figure out how to continuously fail at.  Housecleaning is just one example.  We can also add cooking, planning, spending, and eating, just to name a few.

If I am honest I would have to say I fail a lot in almost every area of my life in some way.  We all do.  Fortunately life is not a competition against anyone besides ourselves.  If I am better today than I was yesterday, that is progress.  It is a reason to celebrate.  It does not mean I won’t regress and fail again tomorrow.  It means I have victory today and I have a faithful voice to correct me again tomorrow, if need be.  I can think of no greater blessing.  Faithful love instructs, encourages, corrects, and forgives.

If any one of those elements is missing, I would be hard-pressed to call it faithful love with any amount of confidence.  Things I would call it may be idolatry, selfishness, fear, or resentment.  These are what love is not.

Idolatry.  Idolatry worships.  When we make someone an idol, we only encourage and forgive.  Idolatry lacks the ability to instruct and correct appropriately.

Selfishness.  Selfish relationships only do what is best for self – not the other.  They may instruct, encourage, correct, or forgive, but all things are done only in one’s own interests depending on which manipulative action will give them – not the other – the most satisfaction.

Fear.  Fear is not found in true love.  The Bible says,  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” One who fears in a relationship will never correct or instruct appropriately.  They may not encourage or forgive, either, depending on what kind of fear they are entertaining.

Resentment.  Resentment is when a person only corrects and instructs but never encourages or forgives.  Resentment is not a characteristic of true love.

Faithful love instructs, encourages, corrects, and forgives.  Love is not idolatry, selfishness, fear, or resentment.  If I am honest, I would have to say that over the course of our marriage, I have fallen prey to all of these things which are not love at one time or another.  Thankfully, true love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  Thankfully, I have a husband who sent this message to me first thing this morning:

text

Love covers a multitude of sins.  We fail but love never does.  Keep loving no matter what else happens.  I will leave you with a few verses from the song we chose as ours in May, 1997 and has been true of our lives:

Better than I was
More than I am
And all of this happened
By taking your hand
And who I am now
Is who I wanted to be
And now that we’re together
I’m stronger than ever, I’m happy and free

Oh, it’s a beautiful thing
Don’t think I can keep it all in
And if you ask me why I’ve changed
All I gotta do is say your sweet name

It’s your love
It just does something to me
It sends a shock right through me
I can’t get enough
And if you wonder
About the spell I’m under
Oh it’s your love

~Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, It’s Your Love, May, 1997

thirst

Hunger is a strange feeling.  It is a wanting after waiting; a need that becomes louder and louder until it is satisfied.

Often, we try to fill our spiritual hunger with physical food (or other things.)  It is when I am spiritually hungry that I tend to “stress eat.”  I find myself losing control of my diet when I hunger and thirst most for righteousness.  Nothing proves this truer than fasting because fasting reveals to us all the things we are wanting that eating physical food is substituting for.

I have recently felt a strong spiritual need to become physically hungry again.  Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and I am praying that the Lord helps me with this struggle.

In doing so, the first place I turned was to Matthew 5 – to the beatitudes.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied… “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” ~Matthew 5:6, 11-12

We are blessed – living in the favor of God – when we are hungry for the right things.  Unfortunately, as history makes abundantly clear, those who were most hungry for righteousness (the prophets) were also most hated by men.

I began to study about some specific incidences of when prophets were hated and abused and I landed at 2 Kings 2:23-25.

 “He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” 24 And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.25 From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.” ~2 Kings 2:23-25

There is a lot to be said about this brief interaction which conveys many insights as to God’s character.

Earlier in this chapter, we find that there was a problem with the water supply in Jericho where the prophet Elisha was.

19 Now the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.” 20 He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21 Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the Lord, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” 22 So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.” ~2 Kings 2:19-22

Interestingly, Jericho was the city where walls had been built and the people had isolated themselves – locked themselves in so they would not be ruled by God or by His people.  God used unorthodox methods to both bring down the walls and to prove the faith of His people.

So there’s a lesson for us.  It doesn’t matter how strong and tall your walls are, if they are made to resist God, they will soon be broken down.

Later, God cursed the man who rebuilt Jericho and killed his children.  Now, years later, we find Jericho still having problems.  The water supply was tainted and unusable.  The prophet Elisha was asked to help and the Lord healed the water through him.  That brings us to the incident at hand.

Apparently, it was commonplace in this area to mock and scoff at the prophets.  These people hated reproof and correction – so much so that they taught their children to upbraid them.  So common this practice had become of hating and mocking the prophets that even the children had no fear or respect for them.

If it had been the first time, the punishment likely would not have been so severe.  But it was doubtless commonplace to tear down the character of God’s prophets because they so hated correction.

Though the boys were small, they were not afraid or ashamed before God’s prophet.  Matthew Henry says this:

“Elisha heard their taunts, a good while, with patience; but at length the fire of holy zeal for God was kindled in his breast by the continued provocation, and he turned and looked upon them, to try if a grave and severe look would put them out of countenance and oblige them to retire, to see if he could discern in their faces any marks of ingenuousness; but they were not ashamed, neither could they blush; and therefore he cursed them in the name of the Lord, both imprecated and denounced the following judgment, not in personal revenge for the indignity done to himself, but as the mouth of divine justice to punish the dishonor done to God…We may think it would have been better to have called for two rods for the correction of these children than two bears for the destruction of them.  But Elisha knew, by the Spirit, the bad character of these children.  He knew what a generation of vipers those were, and what mischievous enemies they would be to God’s prophets if they should live to be men, who began so early to be abusive to them.  He intended hereby to punish the parents and to make them afraid of God’s judgments.” 

So then, 42 children died for their unruly disobedience and unwillingness to respect and love the prophet and his godly correction.  It was a judgment and a punishment for the parents who allowed such brazen disrespect and abuse to be heaped upon the one chosen to be God’s voice to them.

So my question for myself and for everyone else today is are you hungry for righteousness?  For truth?  For justice?  How hungry?  If you are, expect to be treated poorly – misrepresented, mocked, made fun of, rejected, and even hated.  God says it is all a blessing, though.

On the other hand, if you are the one mocking and hating a person of God for the truth they tell you, be warned.  God is sending that person for your good, because he loves you so much.  His patience will run out eventually and, as the scripture says, at that time there is no remedy.

15 The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy. ~2 Chronicles 36:15-16

 

brat

My one year-old has begun to learn how to test her limits.  As she turns quickly into a full-fledged, card-carrying toddler, she has decided she wants to see just how much she can get away with and just how far she can go without suffering punishment or unfavorable consequences.

All babies do this.  All toddlers, children, and teenagers do this.  Young adults do this.  Even elderly people do this and many do it for the duration of their lives in relation to God.  It is not usually a good sign, but it can be a good indication of where a person is in maturity.

“Sonny, no, no!” I say firmly as she pulls my earring.

We’ve had this interaction before, many times.  I have taken out my earrings and showed her.  I have given language lessons on how to pronounce the word, “ear-ring.”  I have emphatically told her with as much clarity as humanly possible the word, “NO” on many occasions when her little fingers have purposely found these friends who take up residence in my ears.  Still, there is just something irresistible about giving a good yank and feeling the success and satisfaction of holding the shiny piece of metal in her tiny hand once she’s pulled it completely out of my ear.

Yesterday was no different.  All was well in the world of baby blanket peek-a-boo and near naptime nummies until Sonny saw the silver booty sparkling like a new stairwell to climb.  The promise of victory was simply too tempting.  How could she be expected to obey?

She pulled down and I, once again, calmly, but sternly, corrected.

“No, no, Sonny!  That is ouchy.”

She waited.  She played more blanket-boo.  Then, she decided she would see if anything bad really would happen if she deliberately disobeyed again.

This time she pulled much harder and it really was ouchy.  After my yelp of pain, I smacked her fingers and said, “No, no, Sonny!  That is bad!”

At that, she buried her face in the pillow.  She did not cry.  She hid.  She knew what she had done.  She knew better.  She was either ashamed or she was upset that she’d not gotten away with it this time.  She was embarrassed that she’d been harshly corrected because harsh correction, though sometimes very necessary, is never pleasant.  Nevertheless, when injury to another or potential injury to another or self is imminent and one has been repeatedly told and corrected calmly, there is no choice but to correct in a more severe way.  The goal is caution.  The purpose is to arrest repeated bad behavior lest it cause more severe injury and more severe punishment.

No one particularly likes to discipline their children.  It is not pleasant because the love we have for them causes us pain when they are hurt or upset, too.  Yet, we must be faithful to correct disobedience in order to protect and save them from future harm.

It is one thing when we correct our children.  It is quite another when someone else corrects them.

If I do not do my job in properly training, correcting, and disciplining my children – sometimes even if I do – others will find it necessary – other parents, other teachers, other law enforcement agents eventually.  If it is not pleasant for me to do so, consider how unpleasant it will be for me when someone else does it.  Now, not only is my child suffering for disobedience, I am as well, and both of us at the correction of a stranger.

We have all seen it.  A mother or a father pays no mind to the poor behavior of his or her child and then someone comes along and corrects that child for causing injury or chaos on the playground.  This is an unusually awkward situation.  Little Susie (AKA Captain Destructo) is under parental jurisdiction but the parent is AWOL.  It leaves no choice for the more mature and attentive parents in the vicinity of Captain Destructo Susie to step up and intervene before (or after!) their children become hurt or victimized by her bad behavior.

Often, this results in Susie’s parent becoming angry.  The reason Suzie’s parent is mad is the issue of pride.  They did not do their job so someone else had to.  They either thought Susie more valuable and important than all the other children she was hurting or they thought themselves more important than even their own child.  It is likely a little – or a lot – of both.  These things were proven true by their choosing to ignore her bad behavior and selfishly avoid conflict with the child and also failing to take personal responsibility for the correction and discipline of their own family member.

A humble parent, on the other hand, will be thankful and appreciative when their child is corrected by another concerned authority.  The reason is because we know that obedience to authority is protection for our beloved children and a training ground for God’s authority in their lives.  This is doubtless the reason the Word of God instructs us – His children – to exhort one another daily.  Daily!  Every.  Single.  Day.

Consider that next time someone exhorts you or a member of your family for pulling down and pain-making in someone else’s life.  It is not just children who need corrected.  It is not just children who repeatedly test limits, hurt others, and fail to listen to repeated warnings.  There is a time for alarm, caution, and increasing corrective severity when important warnings are not heeded.

Pride is angry when corrected.  Humility is thankful.

highway_exit_signs

In 1 Kings chapter 9, we find King Solomon completing the building of the temple and his own house as well. The text tells us that God appeared to Solomon saying this:

As soon as Solomon had finished building the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all that Solomon desired to build, the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. ~1 Kings 9:1-2

The first time God appeared to Solomon was after he became king and his kingdom was established.  He was visited by God in a dream wherein God asked him what he wanted.

 “At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you…” 

And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” 1 King 3:5, 7-9

So Solomon asked for wisdom and God was pleased.  We all know he got what he asked for.  He was the wisest king who ever lived.  He was humble in his request referencing himself as a child in need of help.  He may well have been very young at the time – likely somewhere between 13 and 30 years old.

So here, in chapter 9, he has now finished building the temple.  God visits him again in the same way he did at first.  God appeared to him and spoke to him in a dream.  God reassures him that he’s heard his prayer and that he was going to be present in this temple in a special way – forever!

Unless…

Unless he or his family turned aside from following, obeying, or worshiped idols in this place.  If that were to happen – if any of those things happened, God promised to cut them all off and tear down the house they’d so painstakingly built for him.  Not only that, but God would make them hated in all the land by everyone.

How’s that for a grand opening?  How’s that for a house-warming speech?  I heard your prayer, Solomon.  I’m with you in a very special way.  My presence will be here, always.  But, if you forget me it is all for naught.  I will tear it right back down.

It’s like, well, a father.  Here is a beautiful new home.  It is for us and all of our family.  Take care of it and always remember it is my house.  We must live by my rules or I am gonna stop paying the bills.  I will not stay in a place where I am not honored and neither will I let you stay in a place with my name on it without your giving honor, respect, and deference to me.

Amen.

Church, God’s name is on our house.  If we’ll not honor, obey, and worship Him rightly in it, He will depart.  He will remove His lampstand and no longer return.  Not only will His Spirit depart, but he will make the house itself a heap of ruins.  This is the warning given to a people who purpose to build a house for God.  This is the judgment for a people who build a house for God and forsake his authority, rule, and reign within it.

Church leaders, let us pray as Solomon did.

 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” 1 Kings 3:9

Ezekiel was God’s true prophet.  He lived among a people who loved to listen to the false prophets who were everywhere.  There were many false prophets with lying tongues who loved to pretend peace when there was no peace.  In Ezekiel chapter 13, God speaks to Ezekiel about the fate of false prophets.

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the Lord!  ~Ezekiel 13:1-2

God says, “Hey, Ezekiel – prophesy against the imitators; the imposters; the false prophets who pretend their visions are from me.”  He says tell them this from me:

 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Because you have uttered falsehood and seen lying visions, therefore behold, I am against you, declares the Lord God.~Ezekiel 13:8

I am against you.  Those are some dangerous words when they are coming from God.  Why is God against them?  Verse 10 tells us exactly why.

Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash,11 say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall! There will be a deluge of rain, and you, O great hailstones, will fall, and a stormy wind break out. ~Ezekiel 13:10-11

The reason God is against these men is because they have misled his people.  They have said, “Peace” when there is no peace.  They have whitewashed the walls of their hearts and allowed others to do the same unashamedly.  The reason God is against these men is pretense and hypocrisy.  They were shiny on the outside and evil, dark, and hateful on the inside.

Therefore, God tells the prophet to set his face against those who falsely speak and lie on his behalf.  God is tired of being misrepresented.  These men were saying untrue things of God and doing disobedient things while professing to be his ambassadors.  God is not pleased.

God is angry for two reasons – two results these false and erring “followers” have caused and contributed to.  They are found in 13:22-23.

Because you have disheartened the righteous falsely, although I have not grieved him, and you have encouraged the wicked, that he should not turn from his evil way to save his life, 23 therefore you shall no more see false visions nor practice divination. I will deliver my people out of your hand. And you shall know that I am the Lord.” ~Ezekiel 13:22-23

They had disheartened the righteous falsely and encouraged the wicked that he should not turn and repent.  They were discouraging and rejecting those who were speaking the truth and doing what God wanted.  They were encouraging and accepting those who were speaking lies and disobeying God.  In the first case, they grieved the saints.  In the second, they contributed to the dangerous condition of depravity and unrepentance in the disobedient.  They should have done just the opposite!  They oppressed the righteous and coddled the wicked. For both reasons came judgement.

In chapter 14, some elders came to Ezekiel to inquire of him.  Apparently, either these guys didn’t know Ezekiel was not one of the false prophets or they were testing Ezekiel to trap him – the latter being more likely considering the severity of the answer God gives Ezekiel for them.

“By the severe answer given them one would suspect they had a design to ensnare the prophet, or to try if they could catch hold of anything that might look like a contradiction to Jeremiah’s prophecies, and so they might have occasion to reproach them both.” ~Matthew Henry

This is what Jesus dealt with.  These men are as the Pharisees were – pretending to seek him and ask questions but in motivation seek only to trap and expose him in some devious way.

God’s answer for these supposed seekers is harsh.  He tells his prophet, “Hey.  These guys are serious idolaters.  So much so that their idols are leading them around by the nose and they are just fine with it.  They want you to be fine with it, too.  Is that ok, Ezekiel?  Should I speak kindly to them?  What do you think?

God is asking a rhetorical question of Ezekiel.  Obviously, NO!  Clearly, NO!  If these guys want an answer from God, he will give them one: REPENT!

“The answer which God, in just displeasure, orders Ezekiel to give them, is this: Let them know that it is not out of any disrespect to their persons that God refuses to give them an answer, but it is laid down as a rule for every man of the house of Israel, whoever he be, that if he continue in love and league with his idols, and come to enquire of God, God will resent it as an indignity done to him, and will answer him according to his real iniquity, not according to his pretended piety.” ~Matthew Henry

These men are separated from God because they have put something created – some idol – in his place.  So God goes on to say that since they have done this and you have answered them harshly, they will seek a different answer.  They will seek something to suit their fancy and their sin.  They will speak to the false prophets who tell them what they want to hear.  But even then—even then, I am sending the false prophet to deceive them as a judgment and I will soon destroy the false prophet as well.  I am in control. (Ezekiel 14:9)

The false prophets were a judgement on the idolaters and all those who refused God as their true God.

“There are those who separate themselves from God, and yet come to the prophets with a seeming respect and deference to their office, to inquire of them concerning God, in order to satisfy a vain curiosity, to stop the mouth of a clamorous conscience, or to get or save a reputation among men, but without any desire to be acquainted with God or any design to be ruled by him.” ~Matthew Henry

The reason for this harsh answer Ezekiel is given and the reason God allows the false prophets to speak is because these men pretend to love and want God but refuse to be ruled by him.  The only straight answer for these guys is found in chapter 14:6.  Repent.  REPENT!!  Here’s your answer, guys.  You know that question you keep asking all the prophets?  Repent!

Come, let us reason together!  Repent!!

He goes on in chapter 14 to talk about all the just judgments he will bring if they do not repent – especially, especially since they so loudly profess to be God’s people.

“For the nearer any are to God in name and profession the more severely will he reckon with them if they reproach that worthy name by which they are called and give the lie to that profession.  They shall be punished seven times more.”  Matthew Henry

He makes sure they know that even if the best men were with them, they could not keep the judgement from coming if they would not repent.

“Abused patience will turn at last into inexorable wrath.” Matthew Henry

In 14:22-23 God gives hope to the remnant and all who will repent.  There is a reason for all of this.  Do not worry.  The destruction my wrath and judgement brings has a purpose and it is for your good and my glory.  Amen.