Esau’s Choices

I’ve heard it said that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who learn from others’ mistakes and those who have to learn from their own. Esau represents a third type: those who don’t learn from anyone’s mistakes and blame others when things go badly.

Esau had a number of character flaws, the most obvious of which was an inability to master his base urges. This is illustrated in Genesis’ characterization of him as a hunter, as opposed to his father, Isaac, who was a farmer, and his brother, Jacob, who was a herdsman. There’s nothing wrong with being a hunter, but it is emphasized in the narrative because it is an activity through which an impetuous, yet skilled, man can easily earn a living, at least for a time. If he wants meat, he can go out and get it. A herdsman, on the other hand, tends his animals today for next year’s meat. He plans many more moves in advance than does a hunter. A wise hunter also plans in advance to learn effective techniques and to ensure conditions favorable to game, but such wisdom isn’t absolutely necessary to be a successful hunter, while, without planning and preparation, a herdsman must shortly seek a new career.

However, this Torah reading (Genesis 25:19-28:9, called Toldot) reveals another of Esau’s flaws, one that isn’t discussed quite as much.

Esau never asked for advice and consistently made bad decisions.Esau hated asking for directions.

He was a lot like Cain in this respect. When Abel’s offering was accepted and Cain’s wasn’t, Cain’s response wasn’t to ask for help, but to attack Abel. Esau was especially bad at this when it came to women.

The custom in those days–and it was a very good custom–was for parents to a spouse for their child, or at the very least to be heavily involved in the vetting process. Esau, however, being a man of the “now” didn’t wait to ask his parents’ advice. He married not one, but two, Hittite women who “made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.” (Genesis 26:34)

Perhaps Esau misinterpreted the friendly commercial dealings between his family and the Hittites or perhaps he just fell prey to his impulsive nature. We aren’t told precisely why he chose these women. We are only told that his decision was deeply offensive to his parents.

About thirty-six years later, Jacob and Rebekah conspired to get Esau’s blessing from Isaac and seized on Jacob’s need for a wife as an excuse to send him away from Esau’s murderous rage. Rebekah told Isaac, “I loathe my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women like these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me?” (Genesis 27:46)

Esau learned of this and, in an attempt to regain his parents’ favor, decided to get another wife, this time from the family of Abraham. Unfortunately, he went to the wrong side of the family. Instead of going to Abraham’s nephew, Bethuel, for a wife, he went to Abraham’s half-Egyptian son, Ishmael.

Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-aram to take a wife from there, and that as he blessed him he directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women,” and that Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram. So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth.
(Genesis 28:6-9)

Instead of asking Isaac and Rebekah directly, he again tried to reason out for himself what he should do. Instead of resolving the problem, he merely added to it. He could have saved everyone trouble by asking for help in finding a good woman from the beginning. When his parents’ displeasure became obvious, again he could have saved even more trouble by asking for help. Unfortunately, Esau just wasn’t the type to ask for directions. With no map and only a hint at the proper bearing, he thought he could plot out the correct route for himself, and he failed at every turn.

I’ve been where he was. I thought I was smart enough to plot my own course. Marriage, parenthood, career… Billions of people manage these things. Surely I could figure them out too. What I failed to see is that nobody does it successfully without the active support of family and community and the advise of others who did it first. I didn’t have those things–didn’t know that I needed them–and I foundered.

The Scriptures are full of admonitions to listen to counsel.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
(Proverbs 12:15)

Better was a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who no longer knew how to take advice.
(Ecclesiastes 4:13)

But these verses leave out one important lesson that we should take away from Esau’s example: You can’t follow advice that you never received.

Esau didn’t do what his parents wanted, but it appears that he wanted to. For whatever reason, Isaac and Rebekah failed to teach Esau in a way that he understood, and he failed to ask. He was an intelligent and capable man who could learn the habits of wild game through observation and reason. Applying those skills to his relationships, he saw what his family did and heard what they said, but he drew the wrong conclusions because there were factors that he couldn’t see.

The world is full of wisdom. Some comes only by experience and some by listening, but there is wisdom that only comes by asking.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
(James 1:5)

If you find that your plans continue to end poorly no matter how hard you try to do the right thing, it’s time to ask for help. Ask your parents, brother, pastor, or rabbi. Ask God. If you ask honestly, very few will deny you, so ask them all. “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22) Nobody can figure everything out alone.

Wisdom is all around you, available for the asking, and you can’t follow advice that nobody gives you.

The Only Enduring Legacy

Abraham married three times, had at least eight children, traveled the known world, led an army, and accumulated fantastic wealth. He interacted with kings as an equal and was a personal friend of the Creator of heaven and earth. He lived a long and eventful life and half the world calls him father today.

Genesis has something very curious to say about what he did with all that he had acquired.

Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country.
(Gen 25:5-6)

If Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac, what gifts could he have given to his other sons?

There are three ways to understand this:

  1. Abraham gave gifts to his other sons and then bequeathed all that remained to Isaac. This is possible, but based on the order of the statements, I don’t think this is what is intended.
  2. Rashi wrote that these gifts might be the things that he had acquired from Pharaoh and Abimelech after the misunderstandings over Sarah. Abraham didn’t want to be associated with them, so didn’t really consider them his. For this to be true, he would have had to keep two completely different sets of books, including segregated flocks and servants, for more than 75 years with no confusion between the two. Why wouldn’t he have just given them away during that time? This explanation also seems unlikely to me.
  3. “All he had” didn’t include tangible things at all, but spiritual things. This, I believe, is the correct answer.

Everything belongs to God. Whatever we have is only held in trust for the day God requires it from us. “I own the cattle on a thousand hills,” God says. But Abraham did have a set of possessions that was completely his. God could never recall these things, could never demand that anyone to whom He has given them, return them:

  • Covenant
  • Promises
  • Knowledge
  • Wisdom

These are things that neither God nor man nor death can ever take from you. You can’t touch them or put them in a bank, but once yours, they are yours forever. Not only that, but you can share them. You can give them away as much as you want without ever running out. They can’t be inflated, deflated, or out of stock. When you die, your relationship with the Father, your knowledge of His character, and the wisdom of His righteousness are the only things that will still belong to you. Best of all, you can pass them on to your children.

I’m sure Abraham imparted wisdom and knowledge to his other sons–whether or not they accepted these gifts–but the Covenant and associated promises he only gave to Isaac. Not because he didn’t want to give them to all of his sons–he asked God as much when he had to send Ishmael away–but because Isaac was part of God’s redemption plan, while Zimran, Jokshan, et al, weren’t. The Covenant was Abraham’s single most important possession. It was only because of the Covenant, that he received God’s promises, that he learned of God’s character, and that he adopted the wisdom of God’s righteousness. The Covenant was truly all that Abraham had and he gave it to Isaac long before he died.

I would like to be able to pass on some material goods to my son when I die, but what I really want him to take from me is a covenant relationship with our Heavenly Father. When I die, when my son dies, when we are all dead and turned to dust, Abraham’s Covenant is the only thing we will still possess. It ensures our eternal salvation, our resurrection and reunion with our Creator. It is the most important thing in the world that a father could give to his son.

It’s important to teach our children to save, to invest, and to live productive lives. But it is infinitely more important to teach them to be a friend and a son of God and a productive citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. As you gather with family and friends this week, remember to thank God for the great gift He promised us through Abraham and delivered to us through Yeshua. Especially remember to let your children see your gratitude.

Abraham's one enduring possession was the Covenant God made with him.

The Roles and Fields of Righteous Men

Every laborer has his place in God's vineyard.Four of the great patriarchs of Torah were faced with the deserved destruction of unrighteous people, and the all reacted differently.

When God told Noah that he would destroy the entire world by a great flood, he spent his days building an ark to save his family according to God’s command, but also in preaching to the lost. Even though God had told him the world was beyond saving, he meant to try it anyway. God did not rebuke him for it, and the Apostles even praised Noah for his great work as a preacher. Even so, his efforts seem pointless. I doubt that he gained anything useful from them except for a greater understanding of the debased nature of man. God killed every living person on the planet outside of Noah’s small family.

A few hundred years later, God told Abraham that he was about to destroy Sodom. The people there had never done anything for Abraham, and in fact had caused him a considerable amount of trouble. Abraham knew that Sodom was a cesspit and didn’t want anything to do with it, yet he dared to bargain with God to save the people of Sodom anyway. The remarkable thing is that God entertained this negotiation. Like Noah before him, Abraham’s efforts went unrewarded beyond the personal gain of a greater understanding of God and man. God sterilized Sodom with fire, saving only Lot, his wife, and two daughters.

Lot too, tried to save more than were only in his house. He tried to save his married daughters and their families as the angels told him, but he couldn’t even convince those whom God had told him to save. He should have been working to save the people of Sodom all along, but he waited until it was too late, and then he couldn’t even save what was once his own. Even those family members who had escaped with him would be taken away, his wife by her own disobedience, and his daughters by his own poor judgment and the infectious wickedness of Sodom that they had brought with them. Lot, too, learned something of God and human nature, but he couldn’t save anyone.

Later, Moses would be given the opportunity to save others multiple times. He tried to save Pharaoh and the people of Egypt through preaching, but he already knew that they wouldn’t listen and would be crushed beneath God’s wrath. However, the outcome in Moses’ other opportunities was different than all those previous. He called Israel out of Egypt, and they followed him and the pillar across the Red Sea to safety. He interceded on Israel’s behalf several times in the wilderness, even offering his own life, and caused God to spare them each time.

I’m not sure that Moses was such a better man than Abraham or Noah. (A strong argument could be made concerning Lot, however.) They were all great men of God. So why did Moses succeed where his ancestors had failed?

The answer is the same that must be given to the man called to be a shepherd who would rather be a traveling evangelist, to a prophet who would rather be a king, and to a hand that would rather be an eye: It wasn’t their job.

Noah’s job was to clear the land. He uprooted trees, cut sod, and tilled the soil. It didn’t matter how long he preached to the blades of grass; they would never become wheat. Abraham planted seeds in the soil Noah had prepared. He weeded, watered, and fertilized. And Lot…well, Lot tried, but in the end, all he could do was transplant a few questionable tares from one garden to another.

But Moses harvested. He arrived in just the right season, and he reaped where he hadn’t sown. That was simply his role to play. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Moses was greater than Abraham. Where would the reaper be without the sower? Moses just had a different job to do.

(Originally written for Soil from Stone, January 22, 2013.)

The End of the Wicked

Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail!

David begins Psalm 9 with an outline:

  • I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
  • I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
  • I will be glad and exult in you;
  • I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

He proceeds to describe the victories and favoritism God has granted (and will grant) him, then to invite the people of Zion to join him in singing God’s praises, and finally to make several observations about the relationship of God to men that reveals the characters of both.

In the final segment, David focuses on the futile nature of mere men thumbing their noses at an omnipotent Creator.

Psalms 9:15-20 ESV
The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
     in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.
The LORD has made himself known;
     he has executed judgment;
The wicked are snared
     in the work of their own hands.

Meditation. Selah.

The wicked shall return to Sheol, 
     all the nations that forget God.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
     and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.
Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail; 
     let the nations be judged before you!
Put them in fear, O LORD! 
     Let the nations know that they are but men!

Selah.

Scheming for relative advantage is one of the favorite activities of the wicked, and they are often very good at hiding both their actions and their motives. They set traps for the unsuspecting, hoping to tear people down to make themselves look higher, or to take advantage of someone else’s fall in order to promote their own interests.

If you are ever unsure about the character of someone, watch how he treats people who are less capable or less “sophisticated.” Does he hide the flaws of a product in order to pass the expense of future repairs on to a future owner? Does he make loud promises of gains for everyone, but somehow only ever enriches himself?

No matter what a person says or appears to do, pay attention to the end result of his personal and business dealings. If people who trust him regularly lose, while he keeps going along as if the fault is always someone else’s, watch out. Eventually he’ll fall into a trap of his own making and take with him anyone who is standing too closely. (Remember Korah!)

Death is a great magnet, pulling on men’s souls. Like iron, the evil that infects us and drives us to work toward the destruction of others inevitably pulls us back to its point of origin. David says that the wicked “shall return to Sheol,” and how can they return to something from which they haven’t already come?

Don’t, however, confuse entrapment with giving someone enough rope to hang themselves. It’s one thing to set traps for the unsuspecting. It’s another thing altogether to stand back and let someone destroy themselves by their own blundering or scheming.

The difference between these two competitive strategies draws a clear line between the character of God and the character of mere men. God doesn’t set out to destroy us, but He knows our faults, and has designed the Universe in such a way that those who seek to destroy others will eventually be destroyed by the very weapons they use against others. He knows the End from the Beginning and can never lose a game that He designed for His own purposes.

He will never abandon his faithful who are oppressed by the wicked. He is a God of Life and He will not allow those who put their trust in Him to be swallowed up by Death.

Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you! Put them in fear, O LORD! Let the nations know that they are but men!

The Real Difference Between the Righteous and the Wicked

The Scriptures call Noah, Abraham, and David righteous men, but Paul said that “all our righteousness is as filthy rags.” The Biblical narratives of these men illustrates Paul’s point very well:

The second thing Noah did when he got off the boat was to plant a vineyard so he could get drunk. (You have to give him props for patience and long-term planning.) When push came to shove, Abraham lied and gave up his wife in order to save his own skin. And who can forget the story of David and Bathsheba? Over the preceding decades, he killed hundreds of men with his own hands and then topped it off by stealing a friend’s wife and having the friend killed to cover up his adultery.

After all that, how can Scripture call them righteous men, “a friend of God”, and “a man after God’s own heart”?

Psalm 32, written by David, is a chiastic song (see here for an explanation of chiasms) that helps us understand this seeming contradiction.

A chiasm in Psalm 32 illustrating the difference between the righteous and the wicked.

  • A – V1-2 Blessed is the forgiven who honestly repents
    • B – V3-4 Living in unrepented, unconfessed sin is oppressive to a righteous man
      • C – V5 I determined to confess (speech) and I will be forgiven.
        • D – V6-7 Let the righteous pray to God before it is too late. God will save them.
      • C – V8 Let me tell you (speech) how to find the peace that I have.
    • B – V9 Don’t cling stubbornly to sin. Don’t prompt God to reign you in forcibly.
  • A – V10-11 Steadfast love and joy are for the righteous and upright in heart

David began by describing the reaction of a righteous man to sin in his own life. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. Day and night your hand was heavy upon me. My strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” He vividly described a tormented, guilty conscience. He continued by describing the antidote to his shame: confession, forgiveness, repentance. He said the same will work for every righteous person: “Let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may still be found.”

Adopting the perspective of God speaking to the penitent David, he wrote, “I will teach you how to walk and will watch over you as you go.” The wicked, to the contrary, do not repent, but cling stubbornly to their sin. If they feel shame’s call to repent, they suppress it until they can no longer hear it. Longing to be free, they reject God’s Law of life and love, and replace it with another, harsher law of death and hatred. “Many are the sorrows of the wicked,” David said, “but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in Adonai.”

David was a righteous man, yet he sinned. The difference between a righteous and a wicked man, according to David’s testimony, isn’t sin itself, but the man’s response to it. The righteous man doesn’t want to sin. He wants to be perfect, to be obedient to God’s instructions. He listens to his conscience and to God’s words. The wicked man hears the same words, feels the same shame, but trains himself to ignore it, to submit instead to a yoke of sin that can only lead to death.

Be the righteous man by confessing your sins to God, asking His forgiveness, and by endeavoring not to repeat them. In Romans 1-2, Paul describes what will happen if you ignore God’s call for too long.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
(Romans 1:28 ESV)

Eventually, it will be too late. You won’t be able to turn back, either because God won’t let you or because you have just run out of time.

(This post is about what separates the heart of the righteous from the heart of the wicked. Later this week, I’ll talk about a few outward evidences of what’s going on inside.)

Cain’s Choice: Elevation by God or Subjection by Sin

When God rejected Cain’s offering and accepted Abel’s, Cain’s first reaction was anger. God told him he had no right to be angry; it was his own fault that the offering wasn’t suitable. There was no contest between the two brothers. If Cain would choose to do what was right, God would accept him also. If he surrendered to temptation, then sin was waiting to take control, subjecting him to the Law of Sin and Death. The choice to be mastered by sin or to be the master of it was Cain’s alone. He had no one to blame but himself.

And YHWH said to Cain, Why have you angrily glowed? And why did your face fall?  If you do well, shall you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at the door; and its desire is for you, and you shall rule over it. -Genesis 4:6-7

The word for “accepted” in verse 7 is שׂאת (saet), which means lifted up or exalted. In other words, if Cain swallowed his pride and chose to do what was right, he would be exalted by his humility. On the other hand, if he chose not to do what was right, nursing his wounded pride, he would become a slave to the sin that sought to conquer him.

The rest of the story is a pattern that everyone should be familiar with. We see it all around us every day. Cain hid that anger in his heart and it continued to warp his perspective, making his brother Abel into the bad guy even though he had done nothing at all against Cain. Cain valued his pride above his brother and even above God, so his heart followed his pride into deep resentment.

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Yeshua, Matthew 6:21

Eventually, whatever is in your heart will come out of your mouth.

Having filled his heart with anger, Cain spoke harsh words to his brother. The word for “talked” in verse 8 is אמר (amar) which, unlike other Hebrew words that carry the same basic meaning, seems to indicate a confrontation rather than a simple conversation. It is the same word used for God’s rebuke of Cain in verse 6.

“What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.” -Yeshua, Matthew 15:18

Eventually, what has found its way from your heart to your mouth will find its way to your hands.

And Cain talked with his brother Abel. And it happened when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. -Genesis 4:8

Indulging his pride, Cain brought himself low.Cain saw himself as greater than he was and so took offense when God didn’t agree. Rather than correct his error and be elevated by good deeds, he cultivated his resentment until it drove him to rise up against his brother. The consequence was that he was driven away from his family and made unable even to continue his chosen profession as a farmer. Through pursuing self-aggrandizement, Cain achieved nothing but self-degradation, subjugated by the very forces that drove his ambition. If only he had sought to elevate his brothers instead of himself, God would have exalted him too.

You Are the Tabernacle of God

Last week we celebrated Sukkot with our small community in Brenham, Texas. If you aren’t familiar with Sukkot, you might know it better by the name Feast of Tabernacles. (See Lev 23:34-43.) “Sukkot” is Hebrew for “tabernacles”. “Sukkah” is the singular form.

The themes of Sukkot appear over and over in the writings of the prophets. I suspect there might be more end-times prophecy surrounding Sukkot than any other single, biblical holy day.

  • The repentance, restoration, and reunification of the tribes of Israel (Isa 27, Jer 23:7-8, Zec 12:10-13:2, etc.)
  • The calling out of those from among the nations who have been grafted into Israel (Isa 27, Isa 54:1-3, etc.)
  • The destruction of the nations who attacked God’s people (Isa 27, Isa 54:4-17, Zec 12:1-9, etc.)
  • The establishment of the Messianic Era with God Himself tabernacling among His people (Isa 4:2-6, Zec 14:5-9, Eze 37:27, etc.)
  • The celebration of the feast by all nations (Zec 14:16-19)

All holidays come with their traditions. You’re probably familiar with the Thanksgiving turkey, but have you heard about the Sukkot gumbo? It’s actually a pretty recent innovation, but it’s one of my favorites. My wife is an outstanding cook and every year she puts together a giant pot of this amazing stuff–made with chicken and all beef sausage, of course. No shellfish or pork in our gumbo!

Another tradition–one more widespread and well established–is the building of a sukkah from tree branches, palm fronds, and other natural materials. A sukkah is a temporary dwelling place with three walls and a roof that is good enough to provide shade, but loose enough to be able to see the sky through it. This tradition goes back to at least the time of Nehemiah (Neh 8:13-18) and possibly all the way back to the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness.

Here’s the original command from Torah:

“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths [sukkot] for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths [sukkot], that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths [sukkot] when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
(Lev 23:39-43)

Technically, Torah only says to celebrate with the fruit and branches and also to live in sukkot for seven days, but Nehemiah interpreted this to mean they were to build their sukkot from the branches, and this is still how it’s done today.

A Sukkot etrog and lulav.

A Sukkot etrog and lulav.

By the first century AD, a completely different idea had taken root, that the fruit must be an etrog (also known as a citron) and the branches of three specific kinds of trees must be bound together in a “lulav” and waved a certain way. While it’s not strictly biblical, there’s nothing wrong with this practice, and the rabbis draw an interesting and valuable lesson from it. Each of the four species (etrog, palm, myrtle, and willow) represent a different kind of person, and all of them are bound together at Sukkot because it takes all kinds of individuals to make a whole nation.

It’s a little like our gumbo in that way. You put all of these different ingredients together in a pot, turn up the heat, and they make a single, magical dish that draws the whole community together. (And I do mean magical. You should try it sometime!)

You’ve probably read this passage before, but read it again now with the image of a divine Tabernacle made from the natural and wild branches of God’s people:

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant–these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
(Isa 56:3-7)

Maybe you’re a palm tree or maybe you’re a willow of the brook. Whatever your race or personality type or skill set, God has called you out to be a part of His people, to be one of the branches used to build the Tabernacle of Messiah.

The Tabernacle of Messiah is made up of branches from many different trees, both domestic and wild.

Who Can You Trust?

When faced with a choice between Assyria & Egypt, which one should you trust? Neither!

When faced with a choice between Assyria & Egypt, which one should you trust? Neither!

You can’t get on the Internet or turn on television without hearing the names Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. “Clinton is a liar and a traitor!” “Trump is a racist and misogynist!” Both candidates appear to be seriously flawed. Maybe all the accusations are true and maybe they aren’t, but we can be certain of one thing: This is the most important election ever!

Just like all the elections that came before it.

Don’t misunderstand me. I fully realize that the United States is in a precarious position due to multiple and prolonged errors, and the two major party candidates are saying (and might even do) very different things concerning some of those issues. There is a lot at stake.

And just like every other election, it still doesn’t matter. Here’s what I mean by that…

More than 2500 years ago, little Judah was caught between two powerful empires, Assyria to the north and Egypt to the south. They were bound to fight each other sooner or later, but the only road between them led right through Judah, and they weren’t simply going to pass through. They were going to conquer and pillage on the way. Israel had a long history with Egypt, so rather than try to fight two superpowers, the king tried to make an alliance with Pharaoh.

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses and chariots, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD! The Egyptians are mere men, and not gods, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and you will fall with him. You will all perish together. Return to Him from whom the people have rebelled! (Isaiah 31:1-6 Paraphrased)

That was written to Israel and not to America, but the principle still applies. If we are trusting in men, guns, or votes instead of in God, then our trust is misplaced. It didn’t matter if Israel made an alliance with Assyria or Egypt because they had abandoned their alliance with God. And it doesn’t matter today if we vote for Clinton or Trump if we aren’t trusting in God for the outcome.

By all means, vote your conscience. Support the candidate that you believe most represents the best interests of America. But if America’s interests don’t align with God’s, then America is doomed and there is nothing that anyone can do about it. Clinton won’t protect women because she can’t. Trump won’t save America because he can’t. God will decide our fate, not politicians, and as long as we fear men rather than God and hold our own law above God’s, we will never amount to anything more than Assyria and Egypt.

Where are Sennacherib of Assyria and Shebitku of Egypt today? Exactly where Trump and Clinton will be 2500 years from today.

The Trees, the Fields, and You

God's Word is never silent. He is always speaking to us even when we can't hear Him.The further we are from God, the more He hides Himself from us for our own protection.

Now and then, He sends revival, and everyone is excited and on fire for a few days or weeks–a few years at best. But the glow inevitably wanes. When the traveling evangelist has gone on his way and the nightly prayer meetings have ended, our desire for the things of God dies away too, like the flames of a fire with no air flow. This falling away is no surprise to God; after all, He knows us better than we do.

When Israel was standing at the edge of the Promised Land, God warned Moses about this phenomenon.

Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. (Deuteronomy 31:16)

He also told them what would happen when they stopped following God’s instructions.

Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods. (Deuteronomy 31:17-18)

Fortunately, God didn’t leave it at that. He also gave Moses & Israel a tool to bring them back again:

Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel…And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness… (Deuteronomy 31:19,21)

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

For our own protection, for the preservation of our nation and our families, God wants us to read His instructions aloud for everyone to hear. He wants us to teach them to our children, talk about them regularly, surround ourselves with reminders of them. He wants us to sing them, because there are few mnemonics as powerful as song.

Always remember that God is One. He is never divided, and His Word always speaks in unison with His Spirit. When you feel like God is too far away, like you can no longer hear His Spirit, return to His Word.

We don’t read, study, and sing together just for fun or camaraderie, but to ensure that when we are ready, His words will be all around us. At that time, we will find that His Spirit and His written Word have been speaking to us all along. God is never silent, even if we can’t always hear Him. Not only that, but His creation always responds to Him. When we aren’t listening, even the rocks and trees are singing His praise.

How much better is the world when all of God’s creation, man, animal, plant, and mineral, sing in unison!