David, the son of Jesse, who became the greatest ancient king of Israel, is someone I’ve always admired. While the Bible says, he was “a man after God’s own heart,” in a sense, David reflects the hearts of many of us. He was a man of great highs, but also deep lows; a man of extraordinary success, but also of overwhelming failures. In this respect, we can all likely relate to him.
For years, David faced great pressure and his life was threatened when Saul, the king of Israel, was seeking to capture and kill David. So David found himself constantly on the run, a fugitive from the country he loved.
When David’s period as a fugitive drew to an end, following the providential death of Saul, David assembled a vast army of warriors. The list of these men is found in 1 Chronicles 12, where we discover they numbered in excess of 337,000. As you read the list, it’s interesting that nearly all of the men were described as valiant warriors.
But in the midst of this long list of hundreds of thousands, there is reference to a small group of men totaling only 200. This band of brothers was referred to as “the sons of Issachar.” While they too were warriors, they were singled out as different than the other 337,000. Note what God purposely tells us about them:
“…the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do…” (I Chronicles 12:32)
These men were different. Sure they could fight. Yes, they were courageous. Of course they could wield a sword. But, they had something else. Their difference can be seen in two critical attributes.
First, the sons of Issachar “understood the times.” This suggests they were discerning. They did not simply jump to the default conclusions that everyone else did. They didn’t dabble in unproven conspiracies. They properly assessed the events around them. Apparently, while the preponderance of the other men were experts in fighting, the sons of Issachar were able to perceive and detect truths that the other men either couldn’t, or they chose not to.
The second truth we are told about the sons of Issachar is that they had the “knowledge of what Israel should do.” These men were not content simply sitting back, as Monday morning quarterbacks, critiquing the acts or decisions of others. Rather, the discernment of the sons of Issachar led them to the proper knowledge of what to do. The truth they understood drove them to take the proper steps to address the times within which they lived. Theirs was a proactive response, based on an accurate assessment.
As we think about these extraordinary men, the sons of Issachar, is there any application to our present day? As our world moves from one global crisis to the next almost as swiftly as the sun sets and rises, are there any lessons we can learn from the sons of Issachar? I think so.
First, are you and I discerning? We’d all like to say we are. But is our discernment based on a certain ideology, or select media, or underlying assumptions, or even our own bias? It’s highly possible some of these variables influence us to “discern” inaccurately. Why? Because they can all be subjective, approaching these times of crisis with a predisposition to arrive at our own preferred conclusions.
But there is one objective truth. This truth can help us discern accurately what is going on in our world today. The objective truth is God’s Word. Jesus said this about the Bible:
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
We also know this about the Word of God:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so the servant of God can be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
So, if we immerse ourselves into “the perfect law of liberty” (as the Bible describes itself), not only will God provide us with His supernatural discernment, but He will then equip us with the knowledge of what we should do, during these trying times. We can also know this because God promises it:
“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
This verse promises to show us not only what is up close, right at our feet, but also how to navigate the path as it extends further out, beyond our sight and understanding. That discernment will help us to know how to respond to the here and now, as well as what is coming down the road. Is this because we are supernatural? No, but God’s Word is, and that is the faithful source of our discernment.
I would encourage you to consider these thoughts. Think about the sons of Issachar. They too were warriors. But they were different. They discerned. They knew what to do. Then, because they in fact were warriors, they took deliberate action to properly address the facts around them. Finally, it’s not too far-fetched to believe that these men influenced the other thousands of warriors around them, because they allowed God to properly guide them in their own conclusions.
Are you a modern day “son of Issachar?” If so, then let God humbly use you to lead your family and your community, in whatever godly manner your Heavenly Father directs. But if you are not yet one, then do what we are instructed to do, when we are lacking in the attributes we’ve discussed:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing!”
True or False?
I’ve referenced this quote hundreds of times. And a poll concluded that the quote is the most popular one of modern times. Americans wholeheartedly embrace it.
But what if I told you the quote is neither Scriptural, nor inspired. Truthfully, it promotes a very humanistic view of the world.
Yes, this famous quote is anti-biblical for a number of reasons.
So am I suggesting good men should do nothing?
OF COURSE NOT!
But I am saying that we too often accept as “gospel truth” what our traditions teach us, our parents pass down, or our culture inculcates.
In this case, there is pressure from the statement itself because no one wants to be a bad man, so to be a “good man” we must do something. Then, our traditions, our peers, or our echo-chambers, are all there to tell us what we must do.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s dissect what’s wrong with the quote from a biblical standpoint.
1️⃣ First, evil at times does triumph (temporarily), even at God’s command or order, for His greater purposes. (Hold on… read on.)
2️⃣ Second, at times good men are told, by God, to stand down, to do nothing, and to let evil triumph (momentarily). In fact, we are told that at times, fighting evil is akin to fighting against God. (Keep reading…)
3️⃣ Third, the quote implies that “nothing” equals not doing something. So it is a call to “action.” One must do something. But “not acting” is not the same as “not doing.”
Now let me reiterate, THIS IS NOT A CALL TO DO NOTHING. But it is a challenge to go to God’s Word to see what God has to say about evil, what He might be doing, and what our role is in responding to it. So let’s look at the three points above in greater detail.
1️⃣ First, when we suggest “evil triumphs” we have a very short sighted understanding of triumph. We fail to understand that our ways and thoughts are not God’s ways and thoughts. We ignore the truth that for God, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day (2 Peter 3:8). There is no ultimate triumphing of evil. There is only what God sovereignly allows, or causes, momentarily. I will share a story from the Old Testament in just a bit, but let’s look at the second point from above.
2️⃣ At times, good men are told, by God, to stand down and to do nothing, as in take no action. As a result, evil will triumph (momentarily). What??? You mean God allows, or causes , what we call evil and then He asks us to not act? Yep. He absolutely does as Scripture reveals. While we will never fully understand God’s thoughts or ways (He Himself tells us this) we can study what He does and begin to conclude How He acts, at times.
The Old Testament is replete with stories that give us a peek into who God is and how He acts. I’ll cite just one. The southern kingdom of Israel, called Judah, had regularly strayed from God, throughout its existence. As a result, God ultimately punished it by bringing a foreign power to conquer it and take its citizens into captivity. The following passages tells us what was going to happen, why it would happen, and what Judah’s response should be:
“Now Zedekiah king of Judah had imprisoned him there, saying, “Why do you prophesy as you do? You say, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am about to give this city into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will capture it. Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape the Babylonians but will certainly be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and will speak with him face to face and see him with his own eyes. He will take Zedekiah to Babylon, where he will remain until I deal with him, declares the Lord. If you fight against the Babylonians, you will not succeed.’” Jeremiah 32:3-5
Continuing with this additional passage, the evil that was coming was described, and yet Judah was to not resist:
“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Therefore this is what the Lord says: I am about to give this city into the hands of the Babylonians and to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who will capture it. The Babylonians who are attacking this city will come in and set it on fire; they will burn it down, along with the houses where the people aroused my anger by burning incense on the roofs to Baal and by pouring out drink offerings to other gods. “The people of Israel and Judah have done nothing but evil in my sight from their youth; indeed, the people of Israel have done nothing but arouse my anger with what their hands have made, declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 32:27-30
So God tells His people that an evil power was going to triumph over them (which they brought on themselves). And they were told that if they fought against that power, they would not succeed. How does that reconcile with the famous quote above?
3️⃣ Our role is to listen to our Captain to determine what, if anything, we are to do. From Judah, we learn that there are times when TO ACT IS TO SIN. As Americans, this is a tough principle to accept. We are action oriented. So when God tells us to “be still” or to not act (do nothing), it goes against the grain of who we are as a people.
“Not acting” though is not the same as “not doing.” There is a time to act, and a time not to act. But there is one “do” that we should never cease from doing. It is the most powerful “doing” you can ever undertake, and it will guide and empower you when you are finally called to rise up and act. The do that is more important than any action is this: “Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Our first, and overriding, response to evil should always be prayer. This is the greatest weapon any believer can have when faced with evil. Yet how often do we either forget, or we don’t really consider this as “doing?” When was the last time you or I sweat drops of blood, or just shed tears of anguish, for the evil we were confronting? Jesus did.
Evil is spiritual. Prayer is spiritual. The battle is always spiritual. So we must start, and finish, there: Prayer!
At the end of the day, all evil is only vanquished spiritually. This is not to say that we cannot, or should not take practical, physical steps to address evil. But when doing so, it should only be as we are directly commanded or called to do such. And we should never believe the other false parallel quote that states, “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
When evil is defeated, it’s always a God thing. We see this in another famous story in the Old Testament, involving a man named Gideon. God pared Gideon’s army down from 32,000 men to only 300. God then took that band of men, equipped them with lamps and trumpets, and told them to just blow their instruments and shout. No swords, slingshots, or physical weapons. Just men who trusted and obeyed God. And God told them why He used such an unconventional manner to defeat the evil in their midst:
“The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’” Judges 7:2
Sadly, men are prideful beings. We love to take credit for good. But if there is any good that occurs, or if evil is defeated, it is only God. First, middle and last. We might be a tool to achieve that defeat, or we might not.
But to boil down evil and why it occurs and “triumphs” to a simple humanistic explanation of “good men doing nothing” ignores all of the Bible and tempts you and me to act first, and pray or consider God last, if at all. This quote would have you believe that to do less, or different, makes you a “bad man” and insures the defeat of good, which means God (since God is good).
God cannot be defeated. Nor is His future dependent on your strength or action. What He desires is for you and me to be so close to Him, that when He commands us to be still, we hear Him. And when He commands us to shout, we shout!
But in the meantime, those who call Jesus their Savior should start with “Pray without ceasing.”
2021 is here. Another year in a string of years that, when bookended together, represent your life, and mine. Just two days ago a friend of mine passed away. Unexpectedly. The final bookend to his life was 2020. I was profoundly saddened for him and his family.
But if you’re reading this, you made it through 2020, and have once again begun what you’ve done for a number of decades now. Another year. If your life were a song, 2021 could be just another verse in that song.
But, should it be? Should your life be characterized year after year with sameness? Should the tune others have come to recognize when they encounter you or me, continue to be the one we play as each new year creeps closer to our final one?
Resolutions are something many of us make when a new year rolls around. I suppose the reason we make them is because we want the new year to be different than the prior one. We make them because we think back over the verse of last year’s song and we recognize things we don’t like, or we don’t see things we wish had been there. And so, we rise up, for a day or two, with a feeble attempt to change the song, not merely add another verse to the same old tune.
As I considered these thoughts, and the many years I have struggled with simply repeating the same old song, decade after decade, I went to the actual definition of resolution. Of course the conventional definition of the word in the context of a new year is generally “the act of determining; firmness or resolve.” But there was another use of the word resolution that, in the context of our theme of a song, seemed to be right on point.
Resolution in a musical context means, “the progression of a chord from dissonance to consonance.” With music, when you have dissonance you have “a mingling of sounds that strike the ear harshly; a clashing or unresolved music chord.” But dissonance also means, “inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one’s actions and beliefs.”
The second word in the definition of a musical resolution though is “consonance” which simply means “harmony or agreement among components.” In music, “notes that sound good together when played at the same time are called consonant; one can listen to them for a long time without a feeling that the music needs to change.”
So a musical resolution is transitioning from sounds that are harsh and clash and suggest a need for change, to notes that are pleasant, stable and do not require change.”
What an interesting analogy of what so many of us do each new year. We look back at our lives in the previous year(s) and we see a life of dissonance. We recognize that many of the things we profess to believe, or we know to be true, are not evident in our lives. We see inconsistency in our example. And that inconsistency often strikes others harshly, even those we love.
So we “resolve” to move away from personal dissonance towards consonance. We thus seek a life in the new year where our lives are in harmony with those deep values and beliefs we say we hold to. Whether it’s something as simple as eating what we know to be healthy, to reconciling our outward actions with what we know to be true inwardly, we all seek to harmonize our lives.
But if your past decades will predict your future course, then it’s safe to say that whatever you resolve today, will soon be another dissonant conclusion. Even though the definition of “resolution” includes the word “firmness,” it’s likely that your life and mine will lack resolve in 2021.
So why is this? Fundamentally, because we are frail. I know I am. Over and over and over I say I will do “x” and then I don’t. At least not permanently.
The Apostle Paul, perhaps one of the most resolute Christians ever, had this to say about this struggle:
“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” Romans 7:18-19
In a sense, Paul was acknowledging the dissonance that existed in his own life. He too struggled with doing (actions) versing knowing, or his beliefs. But…
Yes, thankfully there is the word “but” to offer us Hope. Note what Paul said just a few verses later:
“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” Romans 7:21-25
I too struggle with the very things Paul was talking about. It can be something as simple as eating healthy. Or it can be something as serious as aligning my daily walk for Jesus, with what God’s Word says it should be.
But the greatest secret I have ever found to instilling “firmness and resolve” into my resolutions has been what Paul disclosed above. If I want to be “free” from the song of prior years, if I want to move from dissonance to consonance, and if I want my life to reflect a new song, “the answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It’s oh so simple, and oh so hard. My life’s ruts, the harsh, dissonant chords I’ve gotten used to playing, are such a part of my life that it’s impossible for me to permanently change them. But there is Jesus. And He can literally transform your life and mine from one that is harsh, unresolved, and clashing, to one that is pleasant, appealing, and others desire to listen to. And it’s not you or me. But Him. If I ever forget this, my life will once again be dissonant.
So as you consider your resolutions for 2021, why not begin with the one that is the foundation for every other one. Resolve to pursue a new song. Let Jesus be the conductor of your life. Let Him write the music. And let Him take total control of your life.
You might ask, “how do I do that?” 1 John 2:6 tells us how:
“Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”
“Live your life as Jesus did.” That’s the secret. And finding out how to do that requires, or I should say, it “demands” that I find out just how Jesus lived by daily investing time in God’s Word, since we are told that Jesus is the very “Word of God.” So to know Jesus means to know the Bible. That is the foundation.
If you will resolve to reading the Bible in 2021, then your life this year will take on a new song. The dissonance will become consonance. And regardless of what goes on in the world this year, it will be the absolute best year of your life, as 2020 was mine.
Below are some thoughts on how you can make the Bible the foundation of your life, which will in turn strengthen you in every other resolution you might make:
🔹Practical Reading Suggestions
Download the YouVersion Bible App on your phone. (With the Brown Holy Bible icon).
Go to “Plans” and click on “Find Plans”
Go to “Through the Bible”
Click on “Whole”
Find “Read Through the Bible” Plan (It’s a one year plan)
Click “Start Plan”
My favorite version is the New Living Translation (NLT). Not only is it in modern vocabulary, but it has a great Audio option.
I both read (with eyes) and listen (with my ears) via the Bible App. Even when I’m reading with my eyes, I have the audio playing, so I can see and hear simultaneously. It helps me to better understand and retain what I’m reading.
Regarding the “Audio” option, it’s pretty much all I listen to anymore when I’m driving, walking/exercising, etc. It connects well with any Bluetooth device. Also, the NLT audio is by far the most pleasant to listen to, in my opinion. It also includes dramatization where various voices are used to “act out” the stories in the Gospels and Acts.
I recommend you Register with “You Version” so you can track your Bible reading, interact with friends and so much more. If you do, please send me a friend request so we can encourage each other via the app.
If you start on this journey, and have any questions whatsoever, please reach out to me. There’s nothing more important to me than encouraging others to read the Bible. So if I can help in any way, including questions or problems with the Bible app, please let me know.
So I pray that these meager thoughts will in some way, encourage, inspire, or motivate you to pick up God’s Word and begin afresh in 2021. Let this particular resolution be the one that enables you to succeed beyond anything your heart can imagine.
Begin a new song… by reading God’s Word, everyday, for the rest of your life!
“When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies.” Jeremiah 15:16
For years now, many in our nation have been warning of the coming collapse of our nation’s economy. The signs were easy to see. But most were unaware, or didn’t take the time to understand them. I’ve written a lot over the last number of years about the coming economic collapse.
At the same time as many were warning about the economy, others were warning about the potential of a pandemic. History teaches us that pandemics are a reality of our fallen world. Sooner or later these global events appear, and when they do, many lives are lost and the entire world is disrupted.
Whether this pandemic and the associated disruptions are natural, or self-inflicted, is beyond my ability to know for certain. While I may have my own views, at the end of the day, my little place in this world is of such inconsequence to something as pervasive as the COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching effects, that my theories about it’s origination are meaningless. Furthermore, you and I have zero potential to redirect the path our nation and world are speeding down.
But that’s not what I wanted to discuss today. Rather, I wanted to address the principle that is taught in a verse from Proverbs, the book of wisdom in the Bible. Note what Solomon had to say:
💡”A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” Proverbs 22:4
Approximately 1,000 years after Solomon penned the above principle, one of Solomon’s descendants, the King who will ultimately sit and rule the world from the throne that Solomon occupied, had this to say about how we know when storms are threatening:
💡”Then Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “When you see clouds beginning to form in the west, you say, ‘Here comes a shower.’ And you are right.” Luke 12:54
When you look out your window and see dark clouds gathering, the wind picking up, animals scurrying about, and other such signs, you can normally predict that there is a storm coming. From the place where we live, up atop a hill that sees miles off into the horizon, we regularly see this happening. It’s quite easy to predict what will occur in the next few moments when we see the band of rain headed our direction.
In a way, I believe the responses that we take when we see a physical storm is coming, can be applied to the current COVID-19 crisis. Let me explain.
If you could go back 90 days, prior to the escalation of the COVID-19 crisis, and you knew then what you know now, would you do anything differently then? I have no doubt you would, just as I would. I’d be willing to speculate that you would have at least purchased more toilet tissue, or some other consumable. Right? But there are probably other steps you would have taken then, that today you are incapable of addressing.
So let’s look at where we are today and then try to fast forward a few weeks or months into the future. Are there any dark, ominous storm clouds on the horizon that warn of some difficult times ahead? Are there signals that the worst could still be yet to come? Do you believe that opening up the economy is just going to magically bring back to reality what we might have been enjoying just a few short months ago?
The answers for me to all of those question are resoundingly clear. Additionally though, my gut, along with so many of the reports I read, are warning that the clouds are bringing an even more ominous storm. Is it possible I could be wrong? Absolutely. But when your smartphone alerts you to a “Tornado Warning” and you take cover, are you angry afterwards if the tornado did not materialize? Or are you simply thankful that the plan you put in place was sufficient to protect you, had the tornado destroyed your home?
From an early age I was taught that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In this case, “a prudent person forsees danger and takes precaution.” There are strong indications that what is to come in the remaining chapters of this COVID-19 crisis, and beyond, could be worse. If so, what should you do?
Well, only you can decide what are the appropriate steps that you should take for you and your family. But at the very minimum, consider what you wish you would have done 90 days ago. If you have not yet addressed those steps, then what about starting there? Is it possible that over the next 30-60 days you could formulate a plan to check off those items?
Beyond that though, here are a few other ideas that I shared previously, in another article I penned four years ago. In this article, I offered a number of practical steps you and I can take and should be taking immediately, to respond to the storm clouds we all see.
If the last 60+ days should convince us of one thing, it should be that the unimaginable can in fact occur. To delay today is to be sorry tomorrow. Today you can act. Tomorrow may be too late.
As I was reading the story of Noah recently, a few verses jumped out at me as to why God used Noah to build the ark. Note what God had to say about this man, who would build the most famous boat ever, one that was much larger and more capable than the Titanic:
“This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.” Genesis 6:9
Imagine having the above said about you. But wait. There’s more:
“So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.” Genesis 6:22
When God saw all the evil that filled the earth, He gave Noah very specific instructions on what he should do to save his life, his family, and a remnant of God’s animal creation. Noah’s obedience was critical if they were all to be protected from the impending flood that would soon cover the entire earth.
Noah obeyed God. Period. But Noah’s obedience wasn’t just for a few weeks, or a year or two. Rather Noah’s obedience was for many decades, as Noah and his sons labored to build the vessel that would save their lives… and ultimately yours and mine. (Think about that for a minute. Aren’t you glad Noah was obedient?)
So you may be wondering, where does the rowboat come in to Noah’s story?
Well, God gave Noah an ark-sized mission, because the “master ship builder” had proven to God over time that he could be trusted, that he was “righteous and blameless.”
But what about you and me? Or maybe I should just say, what about me?
Is there a reason my mission hasn’t risen to the size of an ark, or even a yacht? Is it possible that God is still waiting for me to complete the mission of simply constructing a rowboat? I believe this may be true for many of us. Until we’ve proven ourselves as ready, reliable, or consistently obedient in the little things, we can only dream about building an ark.
God needs faithful servants first and foremost. And only then will He elevate the mission He has for us. The parable of the three servants that Jesus relays in the Gospels affirms the concept that connects increasing opportunities to faithful stewardship. The servant who proved he was capable to handle greater resources was given even more. Meanwhile, the servant who was unreliable was given less, and even had those resources eventually taken away altogether.
So, if you and I want to build an ark for God, we must first prove we can build the rowboat He’s asking us to tackle. And the only way we can build the rowboat is by simply obeying the Truth God has already revealed to us. When we do so, we will be given more.
So let’s go build a rowboat today. Who knows, maybe God will use our rowboat to simply save some folks who are struggling to keep from drowning in the lake of life. And if so, we will have served an eternal purpose for God.
“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities.’” Matthew 25:23