The Few, The Righteous

One of Jesus’ more famous statements is found in Matthew 7:13-14:

13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide [is] the gate and broad [is] the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow [is] the gate and difficult [is] the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. [Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV]

When examined in the light of Biblical history, “the few” becomes quite an interesting statement. Standing in a small crowd is not new for those who try to live righteous lives and follow God. Consider some of the following examples:

  • When God chose to bring judgment on the world in the form of the flood, only eight people (1 Peter 3:20 NKJV), Noah and his household, had enough faith to board the ark. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how many people inhabited the earth at the time of the flood, but considering people were living to be well over 900 years old, it seems reasonable to conclude that it was quite a large number. And, Noah had 100 years (Gen. 5:32Gen. 7:6) to preach to the people of his day (2 Peter 2:5). Can you imagine the scorn and ridicule that Noah faced as he built this huge boat when the world had never seen anything like the flood before (Hebrews 11:7)? And yet, he pressed on because of his faith in God.
  • What about Lot in the cities of Sodom and Gommorah? God would have spared those cities for the sake of only 10 righteous people (Genesis 18:20-33). But, Lot only left the city with his wife and two daughters (Genesis 19:16). His wife didn’t make it very far (vs. 26) and his daughters certainly were not righteous, causing their father to get drunk so they could bear children by him (vs. 31-38). How few were the righteous!
  • Then there was Caleb and Joshua. When the Israelites had an opportunity to take the land that God had promised them, they were the only two of twelve spies that believed they could take the land (Numbers 13:27-14:10). But, more significantly they were only 2 of over 600,000 soldiers (Numbers 2:32) who believed they could take the land God had given them. But, like Noah and his family, they were the only ones of their generation to reap the blessing of their faith. When the people were numbered again at the end of the wanderings in the wilderness, the numbers were similar (Numbers 26:51). However, Joshua and Caleb were the only two people still alive the second time the people were numbered (Numbers 26:64-65).
  • While other examples could be supplied (Elijah, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego, etc.), the greatest example of standing alone is Jesus Christ, our Lord. When the time came for Him to face death the crowds of 5,000+ that once surrounded Him were gone. Even His closest followers had fled (Matthew 26:56), just as Jesus had predicted they would (Matthew 26:31). Peter went so far as to deny Him three times (Matthew 26:69-75). Jesus knew all this would happen, yet had clearly told his disciples He would not turn back from what He came to to do (John 12:27). As Jesus stood before the Jewish council, Herod, and Pilate, He stood completely alone. Aren’t we thankful that his willingness to sacrifice Himself for us was not dependent on whether or not others were willing to stand beside Him?!

Stop and think for a few minutes about times when being counted amongst a very few can tempt us to turn from that which is right. This is not a comprehensive list, but designed to give us pause before we give up our principles because we are among the few:

  • Being part of congregation that is small in number because they stand for truth and are unwilling to compromise the truths of God’s word.
  • Being amongst a small group in school willing to keep yourself pure until you are married. Or, refusing to fill your mind with porn and the filth of dirty jokes and movies.
  • Being one of few unwilling to wear immodest clothing or go to places where large groups of people dress immodestly (public swimming pools, water parks, the beach, etc.).
  • Being unwilling to engage in activities that encourage lust and lead to immoral behavior (cheerleaders, dance teams, dances, etc.)
  • Being unwilling to drink to and socialize in ways that are ungodly and lead immoral relationships (bars, dance halls, frat parties, make-out parties, being alone in tempting locations, etc.)

Dan Fontenot

(editor’s note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

Advertisements

The Lord's Hand Is Not Shortened

Sometime after I finished the last post, I went to my daily Bible reading schedule to do some catching up. It just so happened that the reading for the day was Isaiah 59-61. Immediately, the first three verses of Isaiah 59 jumped out at me:

1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden [His] face from you, So that He will not hear. 3 For your hands are defiled with blood, And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken lies, Your tongue has muttered perversity. [Isaiah 59:1-3 NKJV]

In a previous post we looked at the fact that since the beginning of time, God has desired for mankind to follow Him and make Him the focus of their lives. What jumped out of this passage as I read it is another principle that has existed just as long: God gives man the ability to make that choice! And, with the wrong choices come consequences. Let’s start in the Garden of Eden:

  • God said: “16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. ‘” [Genesis 2:16-17 NKJV]
  • Adam and Eve chose: “6 So when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make [one] wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” [Genesis 3:6 NKJV]
  • God rendered judgment and they suffered consequences for not following God’s command. These included leaving the garden, death, working for food, pain in childbearing, and the serpent was condemned to crawling on his belly (Gen. 3:13-20).

This pattern, started in the Garden of Eden, has continued in every generation and dispensation since then. God gives man a choice and man must decide whether to “walk with God” or suffer consequences of his failure to do so. We must also recognize something else from the Garden of Eden. Sometimes sin has physical consequences that reach beyond the person who actually committed the sin. Every woman who bears a child suffers pain because of the sin of Eve. Every one that has faced “thorns and thistles” in toiling for their food does so because of the sin of Adam. And every person on the face of the earth faces certain death because of the sin committed at beginning of mankind. Know this: all pain, all suffering, all death is ultimately not the consequence of an incapable or unwilling God, but of sin. As long as there is sin in the world, pain, suffering, and death will continue. In many cases we have no choice or control over the physical consequences of sin, especially that which results from the sin of others. But, this must not be confused with the spiritual consequences of sin and our ability to choose right or wrong . Many in the “Christian” world would argue that Adam and Eve were the only ones who really had a choice. But the scriptures do not support that concept. The verses below could be multiplied many times over, but these should provide a sampling of the evidence that God did not make beings forced to do His bidding (compare the instinct of animals), but rather beings that must choose to love and follow Him, and in so doing avoid the spiritual consequences of sin. (I have added emphasis in red, bold letters)

  • “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” [Joshua 24:15 NKJV]
  • “And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD [is] God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.” [1 Kings 18:21 NKJV]
  • The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” [Ezekiel 18:20 NKJV]
  • “3 For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” [1 Timothy 2:3-4 NKJV]
  • “The Lord is not slack concerning [His] promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” [2 Peter 3:9 NKJV]

However, as noted in the opening passage, our failures do not reduce God’s power to save. A little later in Isa. 59, there is hope in this statement, “‘The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,’ Says the LORD.” [Isaiah 59:20 NKJV] Jesus, the Redeemer, has indeed come and salvation is available to all as noted in the verses above. In future discussions we will look at what God expects for people to restore the relationship that they have broken by their sin.

Dan Fontenot

(editor’s note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

In The Beginning, God…

As I was thinking about where to start with my blogs, I had several ideas about a best “first” Bible Essay. Then, I thought about where the Bible starts … with God (Genesis 1:1). My intent is not to start in Genesis and go through the Bible book by book, but I couldn’t help but think of the importance of starting off in the right place. As I thought about this passage, other passages that emphasize the importance of this foundation came to mind:

  • Proverbs 1:7 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
  • Proverbs 9:10 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
  • Psalms 111:10 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”

Clearly, these verses could be multiplied. But then, I thought about how God emphasizes the importance of making Him the foundation of our lives through the stories of people in the Bible.

  • Enoch avoided death because he “walked with God” – Genesis 5:24.
  • Noah avoided destruction in the flood because he “walked with God” and therefore “found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” – Genesis 6:7-9ff.
  • Abraham’s willingness to understand this principle is demonstrated throughout his life. Two great examples of this are when God told him to leave his homeland (Genesis 12:1-4) and when God told him to offer Isaac (Genesis 22:1-3). Abraham didn’t question because he understood that all things begin with God and, therefore, following His commands.

With this in mind, is it any wonder that the first thing God tried to instill in minds of the nation of Israel when He brought them out of Egypt was who He is and the importance of making Him the foundation and center of their lives?

  • One of the purposes of the plagues was to teach the people of Israel about the Lord. Exodus 6:6-7:

6 “Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I [am] the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 ‘I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I [am] the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

  • The first three commandments given to the people emphasized that they must honor Him only and recognize that He is not some image created by man. Exodus 20:2-7:

2 “I [am] the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness [of anything] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth [generations] of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. 7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold [him] guiltless who takes His name in vain.

Other examples from the Old Testament could be observed, but once we see this emphasis, is it any wonder that when people tried to trap Jesus’ by asking what the greatest commandment was, that Jesus responded that loving God is the “first and great” commandment?

35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked [Him a question], testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which [is] the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 “This is [the] first and great commandment. [Matthew 22:35-38]

In every generation and dispensation since the foundation of the world, what has set people apart is whether they are willing to acknowledge God. Additional study will further demonstrate that just like the examples in this post this is more than just lip service (Saying, “I believe in God.”) but rather is reflected in a life of honoring God’s will. In another post we will examine together what the Bible says about what happens to those who fail to honor this principle in their lives. But, for now, I simply wish to consider this… Can it be said of the way that we live our lives and the focus of our lives that we represent the concept, “In the beginning, God…”

Dan Fontenot

(All passages quoted from New King James Version unless otherwise noted. Text copied from www.BlueLetterBible.org)

My First Blog

I am new to blogging. Let me clarify that. I have read quite a few blogs over the years, but have not been much for posting.

So, why start now? I need to study my Bible more than I do. But, when I study I would like to have some idea what I got out of it. This is an attempt to help myself quantify and express what I am learning.

I do not write the essays in this blog with the idea that I am somehow smarter than everyone else or that I will settle debates that have gone on for ages. These are primarily for my personal benefit and to encourage me to further study.

If I open a post up for comments the comments will be moderated and subject to removal solely at my discretion.

With all of that said, feel free to read along. At this point I have no set schedule that I intend to follow for posting.

I expect that from time to time I will post articles from other authors with their permission. Please seek their permission before posting anywhere else.

Thanks for reading and studying God’s wonderful word with me.

Dan Fontenot