Friday, July 31, 2009

The Safest Place

The sparrow has found a house,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
even your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my king and my God.
Psalm 84:3

Uncle Joe knew that if God had not stricken him with cancer in 1959, he would not have lived thirty-seven more years. His body was so full of cancer when the doctor operated on him that the doctor gave Uncle Joe six to nine months to live. But the cancer was the chastening of the Lord, and in his room in Veterans Hospital in Durham, NC, Uncle Joe humbled himself and turned from his own way, and God forgave him. Then, he was healed and lived that other thirty seven years.

My father, too, testified of being chastened by the Lord the same way. And after the chastisement of God served its purpose and he “set his house in order” as God demanded he do, he referred to his affliction as ‘that blessed cancer”for the next forty-plus years of his life. He was aware of the fact that, without that harsh discipline of God, he may not even have been saved in the end. God wanted him to be pure, and He made him that way.

We who have been severely chastened of the Lord know the feeling of gratitude for chastisement, even though “for the present, the chastening does not seem pleasant, but grievous. Nevertheless, afterward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.” The “peaceable fruit of righteousness” is what God is after when He puts us through the fire, and when we humble ourselves and yield to Him what He demands, we always end up happy and thankful for whatever process God used to get us there.

For several years, I had prayed and prayed about a certain thing that troubled my conscience, a situation I could not see a way out of. Lots of people are in the same situation, but Jesus was not pleased that I was one of them. It was always there, somewhere in the back of my mind, and it would pop up at any time and bother my thoughts. I wanted to fix it, but I did not know how. Then, out of the blue, a certain man sued me for things I was completely innocent of. Innocent or not, I knew that, in this world, evil sometimes wins, and so, I got alone with God and spread the lawsuit on the floor and asked God to be the Judge in this case and to judge me if I had done anything wrong. From the moment I asked God to judge me, I became focused on making certain that there was nothing in my life that displeased God, for I knew that He is “no respecter of persons”. And there it was; that situation that had troubled my heart for several years, demanding to be dealt with. Full of the fear of God, I went about resolving it as soon as possible, determined to please God. And I did.

The relief was immediate, and great. So much lighter was my conscience that I told the folk here that “God sued me”, and He did it in order to give me the inner strength I needed to take care of a situation that had irritated my spirit for years. He wanted me to have peace. How I love Him for that! It was, in one way, the worst time of my life. I had never been so publicly accused of anything, especially such evils as I was accused of then. But God transformed it, for me, into a most wonderful time of growth in godliness.

The fiery trial is the place where the swallow can safely build her nest and lay her young. David sang, “We are His people, the sheep of His pasture! Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise!” (Ps. 100:3). That sounds so poetic that we often overlook the point. Think about it. Why were sheep brought through the gates of the city of God and into His courts? To be fed? No, the sheep feed on the hillsides, not in the city. They were, and are, brought into God’s court to be slaughtered and laid on the flaming altar of God! Can you enter into God’s court with thanksgiving?

Paul exhorted us to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service” (Rom. 12:1). And I assume that he, too, would have wanted us to present ourselves with thanksgiving. James felt the same way. That’s why he wrote to the saints, “My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (Jas. 1:2).

It is the fiery altar of God which burns the dross out of our souls. It burns nothing but the things of earth that weigh us down and get in our way. God’s altar is a sacred place where the greatest love of God can be found, yet a place that cannot be found by man; one has to be taken to those flames by the tender mercies of God. It is “the secret place of the Almighty”, where sins are purged and wisdom is learned. It is a place for “the trial of faith”, which Peter said was “more precious than gold” (1Pet. 1:7).

To correct the vexing situation I found myself in proved to be very expensive, but then, what is it worth to have perfect peace with God? Looking at it the right way, we will ask, how expensive will it be in the Judgment to meet God with a conscience not purged by the fire? A great and simple secret of wisdom that I learned in the fire was this: the best way to deal with something that troubles the conscience is simply to do it. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? And yet, every one of us have suffered through periods (or, are now suffering through a period) of putting off the conviction of the Spirit, until God picked us up and tenderly placed us on His flaming altar.

Ah, the great relief that comes when we stay on the altar and let the fire of God’s holiness burn off the chains that have held us to something that displeased God! Uncle Joe once testified, decades after his healing of cancer, that he longed to be back in that place he was with God when he had cancer. He did not want cancer again; he just wanted to feel once more that wonderful sense of being overshadowed by God, of having (in his case) bitterness and an unforgiving spirit burned away from his heart. On the altar, no man can help you, no matter how much they love you. You are alone in the hands of God. But what better place to be, if we endure the brief chastening of the Lord?

Now, like all my fathers, from Abraham and David to Uncle Joe and my earthly father, I refer to the most painful time in my life as blessed, for the results were what God and I had both wanted for so long. The whole experience, painful as it was, came from the hand of my loving heavenly Father, for my good, and for the good of others. He saw both my desire for freedom and my weakness, and He brought about just the right series of events, measured to my faith and designed for my maximum benefit.

How can we lose, trusting a God like that?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Judging among the Gods

"God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods."
Psalm 82:1

The term “gods” in the verse above refers to God’s people, not to the idols of heathen nations. The Lord said to Israel, a few verses later, “I have said, ‘You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High’” (Ps. 82:6). Jesus, himself, even quoted that verse to show that God consider His children to be “gods” (Jn. 10:34-36).

Asaph wrote this Psalm. He was a prophet and he was a leader of the Levitical singers in David’s time. In saying that God is the One who judges among the gods, Asaph was saying that only God was capable of making judgments among His people. The world doesn’t understand God’s people. It doesn’t understand their experiences or their feelings, and so, it cannot rightly make judgments of controversies that arise in the family of God.

When Paul heard that a brother in Corinth had taken another brother to court, he was indignant. How could a judge in a human court reach a righteous conclusion concerning controversies within the family of God? He wrote (1Cor. 6:1-8):

1. Does any one of you, having a dispute with another, dare to go to court before the unjust and not before the saints?
2. Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you not competent to judge the smallest matters?
3. Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more then, mundane issues?
4. If then you do have mundane matters to be judged, appoint as judges men who are least esteemed by the congregation.
5. I am saying this to your shame. Is it really this way, that there is not a single wise man among you, one who is able to judge between his brothers?
6. Instead, brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?
7. But then, there is already a fatal flaw in you, for you are filing lawsuits against each other. Why do you not rather suffer an injustice? Why do you not rather allow yourself to be defrauded?
8. Instead, you do injustice and you defraud – and do that to your brothers.

Paul knew that any child of God who runs to the world to enlist its aid against another brother is doing evil. In everything we are to do things God’s way or not do them at all. The foolish run to the world because they know that if they run to God they’ll find true justice, and that is not what they want. They know that God alone is able to judge among His children because He alone truly knows them, and they turn to the world, hoping that the world never really finds them out.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


A few years ago, I received a phone call from our local newspaper. The reporter told me that she was writing an article about me that the paper would be running the following day, and she wanted some comments from me. She didn’t tell me exactly what was in the article, but she did let me know the names of two of the three people with whom she had spoken, and so I knew, generally, what to expect. But nothing could have prepared me for the shock of seeing the article in the newsstands the next morning – at the top of the front page! I suppose the editor had placed it “above the fold”, as they say, so as to attract as many buyers as possible with its spicy gossip.

When I read what the people in the article said about me, I could hardly believe such worthless gossip would be allowed in print. I knew that if I were an ordinary person reading that article, I probably would not believe all of it, but I would have to think that at least part of it was true. But there was no truth in it at all. And now that it was in the hands of tens of thousands of people, I was helpless to do anything about it. It was the worst day of my life.

Later in the day, I was on my face before God, asking Him how such things could be. Where was the sense of equity and balance that I had always assumed played a part in news reporting? I asked God how anyone could be so callous as to publish such false and humiliating material about somebody without first making sure those things were true. Did the editor of the paper have no feelings for my children or for the children of the wonderful, God-fearing parents associated with me? Those poor kids were now embarrassed to even show up at school. “God,” I pleaded, “How could one human do this to another human being?”

The Lord interrupted my prayer and said to me, kindly but firmly, “ How does it feel, son?”

I could not speak. I knew what the Lord meant. Just as those who would read the newspaper article that day would no doubt reach conclusions about me and the sweet and innocent people here, based on nothing but talk, so had I, in the past, judged others by the same measure. Even though He had just told me that I had done so, I cried out, “O God! Have I done that to others? Have I judged others based on nothing but talk?” Then, I earnestly repented for being influenced by talk, for forming opinions of others based on talk, for reaching conclusions about situations based on talk. It was an extremely humbling, but good, experience.

Still on my face before the Lord, I pleaded with him to help me never again let my heart be moved by talk. And I thanked him for having that slanderous newspaper article published so that I could feel the way I must have made others feel at times by making judgments without having real knowledge. I knew that God put that article in the paper to bring me to my face before Him. It felt at the time that I was reaping a thousandfold for my errors, but knowing the tenderness of God, He was probably being very merciful to limit it to just a few (there were a couple of others) degrading, lie-riddled articles.

But I received more than that from the experience.

When Jesus spoke to me, his words opened my heart to an understanding which I had never possessed. I saw how little anyone on earth really knows about anything, and how much the whole world is moved by talk. Talk-shows on TV, radio, or internet, are extremely influential with people, as are books, magazines, and the like – regardless of the veracity of their content. Men and women who have the ability to speak cleverly enough can earn millions over a lifetime with their mouth, regardless of what they are saying. Politicians who come up with clever, biting “zingers” against their opponents make the headlines, and those “zingers” are played and replayed on television because such crafty talk draws viewers. Eloquent talk sells. It may be that the policies of nations are formed more on the basis of talk than on genuine knowledge. Wars have been initiated on the basis of talk.

In response to this, I wondered to myself, “What does anyone know?” And the Lord showed me that no one knows anything unless the Spirit either reveals it to him or gives him the understanding of something he has seen or heard. No wonder Jesus warned us not to judge! We don’t know anything. Paul reminded his converts in Corinth and Thessalonica that when he came to them, he did not come to them with mere talk but with preaching that was with the power of the holy Ghost (1Cor. 1:4; 2Thess. 1:5). “For”, he told the Corinthians, “the kingdom of God is not in word but in power” (1Cor. 4:20).

The prophet Isaiah said that when Christ came, he would not judge anything by what he saw or heard with his physical eyes and ears (Isa. 11:3), and we are warned to follow Jesus’ example. This is why Paul taught that only those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God (Rom. 8:14). Wisdom and knowledge come from God alone, and until He gives us understanding, we don’t even know ourselves, much less anyone else. Without God’s help, none of us understands anything we see and hear in this world, but Jesus suffered and died to make that help, the holy Spirit, available to us. The Spirit is a dependable guide for our feelings; it is the perfect judge, and it will save us from the foolishness of reaching conclusions based on talk.

It is a precious gift to have true knowledge, a right understanding, about anyone or anything. But such knowledge comes only from the Spirit, not from ourselves. Jesus is full of that Spirit of truth, and he will freely give it to us if we trust him. And if we walk in the knowledge that Christ gives by the Spirit, we will be among the very few on this earth who are not moved by talk.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Looking for the Answer

There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish
And he had a son whose name was Saul.
And the asses of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost.
And Kish said to Saul his son,
"Take now one of the servants with you,
and arise, go seek the asses."
And he passed through Mount Ephraim,
and passed through the land of Shalisha,
but they found them not.
And [Saul’s servant[ said to him,
"Behold now, in the city there is a man of God,
and he is an honorable man;
all that he says surely comes to pass.
Let us now go there.
It may be that he can show us our way that we should go."
Excerpts from 1Samuel 9:1-4, 6

There is a reason Saul and his friend went to Samuel to find the answer to their question. One obvious reason that those two young men went to Samuel for the answer is because of Samuel’s great reputation as a prophet. They didn’t visit the village blacksmith or the local midwife because they didn’t need their services. They needed a prophet. But there is a more fundamental reason than that. It was not because Saul knew Samuel had the answer; rather, it was because Saul really wanted the answer. Those who are sincerely looking for the right answer are always drawn toward the place where the answer really is.

Jesus said that EVERY person whose heart God touched and, so, really wanted eternal life came to him. Every one. Those who are truly hungering and thirsting for God’s righteousness do not go to the Koran because it does not lead people to it. They do not seek to be like Buddha because something in their hearts tells them that to be like JESUS is the answer. They do not feel drawn to a study of philosophy because philosophy is vain. They go to Jesus.

But the same is true of matters other than eternal life. It is true of earthly life, as well. I have seen many people over the years go to the wrong person for counsel, and the reason they went to the wrong person is because they did not really want to hear the truth about their problem. It happens all the time. They may make a show of sincerity by asking for advice, but instead of seeking God’s answer, they are, in fact, running from it. I have seen parents with unruly children, husbands with unfaithful wives (and vice versa), and others with personal problems, visit someone with no anointing from God, for the very purpose of not receiving godly counsel, and yet, at the same time, they congratulate themselves for having done the wise thing in asking for advice. But, you tell me. What’s the point in asking directions from a blind man?

Many years ago, as a young man in Christ, I received an unexpected phone call from a brother who wanted advice, he said, on the purchase of a car. The truth was that he did not want God’s answer; he had already made up his mind to buy the car. He was looking for approval, not advice. In fact, that’s why he called me instead of someone older and wiser in the Lord than both of us. Those elders were available. Why didn’t he call them? You tell me.

This self-willed brother did not realize that Jesus had me under his wing and was teaching me his ways. So, when I gave him the same answer that our elders in the faith (or even sinners with common sense) would have given him, he exploded and yelled at me, "It’s my money, and its my life!", as if I were trying to impose my will on him. I was stunned. He had called me! I didn’t even know that he had been looking for a car. But that’s how it often is with people who are given God’s answer when they’re trying to avoid it. He despised my fellowship with the wisdom of our elders, and in years to come, he would despise me openly for telling him the truth, just as he despised them then, in his young heart.

Until that phone call, long ago now, I had never experienced someone asking for advice but not really wanting any. It was a very bad feeling. Since then, however, I have learned that it is a fairly common occurrence. Be wise, my friends. Do not fall for the flattery of being asked for advice. Always ask yourself, "Why is this person coming to me? Do I have this person’s answer from God?" Those who come to you looking for counsel, but who are in fact running from the truth, may hate you if you surprise them with the answer they are trying to avoid. They may become bitter with disappointment when they learn that you are not quite as foolish and blind as they thought you were.

Do you really want God’s answer? Saul did, and he found it. And he found it because his sincere desire for the right answer led him to the person who had it. And if you sincerely want to know the truth, God will lead you, too, to one of His servants who has it, just as He did young Saul.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It Has Always Been That . . . uh . . .This Way

“As for me, my steps were almost gone;
my steps had well nigh slipped.
For I was envious at the foolish,
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
. . . These are the ungodly who prosper in the world;
they increase in riches.
Verily, I have cleansed my heart in vain,
and washed my hands in innocency,
for all the day long have I been plagued,
and am chastened every morning.”
Asaph, in Psalm 73:2-3, 12-14

When we think of the reign of king David, we think of deliverance, righteousness and peace. David was a sort of second Moses to Israel. The previous king’s reign had been a tragic disaster. It had left the nation in shambles, spiritually , militarily, and socially. David restored the integrity of the faith to God’s people, and then God restored Israel’s integrity as a nation.

When we think about the time when Moses led Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness, we think of purity of faith, righteous judgment, and joyful revelation of the true God. Moses boldly led God’s chosen people out of slavery and to the very brink of the Promised Land, as free and holy nation.

I could go on. There are many men and women in the Old and New Testaments whose names stir up thoughts of miraculous events, righteous acts of faith, and feelings of peace and joy. But in the main, that was not the experience of those men and women themselves.

David’s fellow Israelite, Asaph, was a high-ranking Levitical singer, and a prophet. He composed at least eleven of the Psalms, and he, like David, was used by the Son of God to speak mysteries concerning himself before he came to earth (Ps. 78:1-3 with Mt. 13:34-35). It was Asaph, not David, whom God used to reveal that the tribe of Judah had replaced the tribe of Ephraim as the head of all the tribes (Ps. 78:60-72). But Asaph’s psalms also reveal that sin as well as righteousness was prospering in Israel in David’s time. Asaph saw God bless many wicked Israelites, making them rich and happy; consequently, Asaph was discouraged. God wouldn’t let him get by with anything, and He blessed the wicked in spite of anything they did! According to Asaph, God chastened him every morning!

Of course, Asaph recovered himself. He went to the house of God, and something he experienced there opened his eyes again to the reality of the Final Judgment. He sobered up then and considered the eternal destination of the wicked, and the eternal destination of those who humble themselves to receive the chastening of the Lord. But Asaph’s recovery from foolish envy of the wicked is not my point here. My point is that even in the times when the men of greatest faith, like king David, who ruled in Asaph’s time, there was wickedness in Israel.

God said through the prophet Amos that, in their hearts, Israel was not worshiping Him when they followed Moses in the wilderness, but the god Moloch instead (Amos 5:25-26). And even in the days of the apostles, great wickedness existed in the midst of the newly created body of Christ on earth (e.g., Acts 5:1-11 and 1Cor. 5). We understand that the upright have always been in the minority among the nations of earth, but what is often overlooked is the fact that, most of the time, the upright in heart have been the minority even among those who belong to God.

That knowledge will act as a shield for our faith. It should encourage us to make our fellowship with God very personal and gain strength from Him to persevere in righteousness and faith regardless of how others behave. The “wise virgins” are they who are not discouraged by the unfaithful; they understand that ungodliness is among us, seen or not seen, and it will at times raise its ugly head, even in our own midst. All of God’s faithful children have had to deal with it, and they will continue to deal with it until the final purging of the body of Christ which will take place shortly before the second coming of Jesus (Mt. 13:40-43).

Monday, July 13, 2009

“Stammering Lips and Another Language”

“For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people.
To whom He said, ‘This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest,
and this is the refreshing.’ Yet they would not hear.”
Isaiah 28:11-12

God’s prophets understood that no foreign nation could conquer Israel unless God gave those foreign nations the power to do it. But God repeatedly did chasten Israel by giving foreign nations power to subdue them, and God’s prophets always knew that, too. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and every other true prophet who lived during a time when Israel was attacked from beyond its borders warned Israel that those foreign soldiers were God’s messengers and that they were not to be resisted. For advocating surrender to the chastening hand of God, some of God’s prophets were executed. The ones who escaped death suffered great persecution.

The heathen armies God used to chasten His people did not know that they were being used by God to rescue the righteous poor in Israel from their oppressors. Nor did they understand that God was also using them to bring rest to the land, for after Israel was given the promised land of Canaan, they never obeyed the law of Moses as they should have. Moses’ law demanded that the land itself be given a sabbath every seven years, and every fiftieth year, but hardly any in Israel had the faith to refrain from plowing the land during those times. Therefore, the land was pushed hard for personal gain, just as the common people in Israel were abused by the rich and powerful. By God’s design, when foreign conquerors took captives from Israel, they desired most of all the rulers, the upper class, the highly educated, the craftsmen, and the scholars – the very ones who oppressed both the land and the poor for their own gain.

At the end of 2Chronicles, Jerusalem lay desolate and all those of any rank or highly trained in any skill had been carried away into captivity in Babylon. In his description of events, the writer reminds us that God had foretold that this Babylonian captivity would last for seventy years, and that God would do this “in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths, for as long as she lay desolate she kept the sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years.” God sent the vast majority of the Israelites away so that the land could at long last rest, as well as to give the poor of the land rest from the oppression of greedy rulers.

The foreigners whom God sent to invade Israel spoke languages that were foreign to the Israelites, and that is what God was referring to when He said through Isaiah, “For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people.” When Israel heard the words of the Assyrian soldiers, or the Babylonian soldiers, they could not understand what was being said. But it was God speaking to them! He Himself said so. And the consistent message of God’s prophets was that the sound of a language that God’s people could not understand was a warning sign that God was bringing rest to those few who truly loved Him: “To whom He said, ‘This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing.’” But Israel, in the main, refused to believe the prophets who spoke the truth, as God said: “Yet they would not hear.”

Paul said that Isaiah’s prophecy of “stammering lips and another tongue” was fulfilled on Pentecost morning when the baptism of the holy Spirit came and God’s chosen few in Israel began to speak in tongues. He told the saints in Corinth that “tongues are for a sign to those who do not believe” (1Cor. 14:22). But for the most part, those who do not believe will not heed the warning. On the other hand, Jesus told his disciples that “speaking in new tongues” is one of the signs that “follow” believers (Mk. 16:17). In other words, the sign of speaking in tongues comes through those who truly believe. So, Paul and Jesus make it clear what our two choices are.

Either you do not believe God and the signs that He gives, or you believe God and are used by Him to produce that chosen sign as a warning to those who do not believe. Which side are you on? Are you among the many who see speaking in tongues as foreign and confusing, an intrusion into your land, something suspicious to be condemned and resisted? Or are you one of the chosen who believe and receive the gift of God, and who are then used by God to produce the warning sound to those who are lost?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

“Line Upon Line”

“Whom shall He teach knowledge?
And whom shall he make to understand doctrine?
Them who are weaned from the milk and drawn from the breast.
For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, and there a little.”
Isa. 28:9-10

The apostle Paul told Timothy that sound doctrine is something to which Timothy had attained (1Tim. 4:6). This tells us that full knowledge of the truth does not come with conversion, but must be diligently sought after as treasure hunters seek for their treasures. Hebrews 5:14 tells us that true knowledge of good and evil belongs only to the saints of God who are “of full age, to those who by reason of use have exercised their senses to discern good and evil.” This is how Timothy attained to sound doctrine. This is how he escaped the many pitfalls of false teaching that were lying in wait for his soul.

We learn from the book of Acts and from Paul’s two letters to Timothy that Timothy started in the Lord as a young man, and continued to follow the Lord as he traveled with Paul. There is no question but that Timothy faced the same challenges any young man faces in this world, the same temptations, the same persecutions for loving the truth and choosing to do good instead of evil. There is no question but that Timothy paid a price in scorn for loving Paul and sticking close to him. So close to Paul did Timothy grow that Paul called Timothy “my own son in the faith”.

In his travels with Paul, through the labors and trials, the joys and sorrows of the work of God, the tragedies of seeing some make “shipwreck of their faith” and the triumphs of seeing souls won to Christ, Timothy learned, a little here and a little there. In his evening walks with Paul, or in their private conversations as they traveled, Timothy asked questions about this or that line of Scripture, and listened as they were patiently explained. Over time, bit by bit, a little here and a little there, Timothy attained to sound doctrine. His patient pursuit of the truth bore fruit, and he was at last grounded in the faith. In Paul’s old age, Paul judged Timothy worthy of the great responsibility of attempting to salvage the souls of Paul’s converts in Ephesus, souls who were in danger of being led astray by smooth-talking zealots teaching false doctrines. Paul sent Timothy into a fierce battle, unconcerned that false teachers would confuse Timothy because Paul had watched Timothy attain to sound doctrine, line upon line.

If you want a place in the kingdom of God, if you want the honor of being entrusted with responsibility among the saints, do as Timothy did and pursue the truth relentlessly. The knowledge of God will not be attained to in a day, nor even a year, or two. But the reward awaits those who long for it enough to pursue it and to embrace it, regardless of the cost.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Destroyed From

But there were false prophets also among the people,
even as there shall be false teachers among you,
. . . .and they will bring upon themselves swift destruction.
2Peter 2:1

As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things,
in which are some things hard to be understood,
which they that are unlearned and unstable twist,
as they do also the other scriptures,
unto their own destruction.
2Peter 3:16

There is more than one kind of destruction found in the Bible. Of course, physical destruction is mentioned often in regard to cities and nations that were conquered, as well as in regard to this heaven and earth, which will be destroyed and replaced with “a new heaven and a new earth”. That is a physical destruction, by which things cease to exist. But the other kind of destruction is spiritual, and it is a fearful and sobering reality. It is a state of being destroyed, and yet continuing to live.

We all know that to be chosen and given a place in God’s kingdom is a precious blessing. Such a gift is not to be taken lightly, but to be nurtured by giving diligent attention to the word of God. But if a child of God, especially an anointed servant of God, becomes so unruly that the Lord removes him from his place in God’s kingdom, that person has, in a very real and fearsome way, been destroyed. This happened to the creature called Satan. He was “destroyed from” his place in God’s kingdom, which means, of course, he has no hope of recovering his place, his gifts and his anointing. The young prophet Ezekiel told us about that awful event (28:13-16).

First, Ezekiel spoke of the blessings God had freely given to Satan:

You have been in Eden the garden of God. Every precious stone was your covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and of your pipes was prepared in you in the day you were created.
"You are the anointed cherub who covers, and I have set you so. You were upon the holy mountain of God. You have walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.”

So, Satan was created with a gift for music (timbrels and pipes), and as Ezekiel would later say, “perfect in beauty and full of wisdom”. He was also anointed to “cover” something in heaven of great importance. He had access to some of the most holy places of God. What precious gifts! But Ezekiel continues:

"You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, until iniquity was found in you. By the multitude of your merchandise, they have filled the midst of you with violence, and you have sinned. Therefore, I will cast you, as profane, out of the mountain of God, and I will destroy you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.”

We are never told what those “stones of fire” are. In his Revelation, John was caught up into heaven and described much of what he saw, but he never mentioned the stones of fire. But whatever the “stones of fire” refers to, it was a special place where Satan often walked, and it was a blessing for Satan to be allowed there. Ezekiel described Satan as “walking up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.” Not everybody in heaven would have been anointed to do that. It was one of Lucifer’s gifts from God. But Satan became proud and lost it all:

"Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom by reason of thy brightness. . . . You have defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your traffic. . . . All they that know you among the people shall be astonished at you. You will be a terror, and never shall you be any more.”

Ezekiel was right. Every one of God’s people who see what God has done to Satan, see it as “a terror”. They are instructed in the fear of God, for they know that once someone has been destroyed from his place, he can never regain it. What a tragedy, to be created to stand in holy places, to be created with understanding, beauty, and an anointing from God, and then to lightly esteem those things and lose it all! That is Satan’s story. He was a fool. But it is not only Satan’s story. Jude warned the saints to remember the example of others who were destroyed from their places in God’s kingdom:

Now, I want to remind you (though you know this), that the Lord, having once delivered a people out of the land Egypt, later destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep to their place but forsook their dwelling place, He has kept in eternal chains under darkness until the Judgment of the great day” (vv. 5-6).

Much of the Bible is a record of those who lightly esteemed their calling and their gifts from God, as well as of those who cherished their gifts from God. Jesus referred to the first group as “foolish” and to the second as “wise”. Peter said that the first group were to be destroyed from their place in God’s kingdom (2Pet. 2:12), but Paul described the second group as being “appointed to salvation” (1Thess. 5:9).


After we are converted, if we continue in the Word of God and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, it is unavoidable that we witness some who esteem their gifts lightly and who will be destroyed from their place. It is gut-wrenching to see precious children of God honored with a special place in His kingdom, and then to watch them destroyed from it. On the other hand, what a rich blessing it is to see others value the wonderful grace bestowed on them and who guard their gifts as one would guard “a pearl of great price”. Those who are “destroyed” from their place in God’s kingdom may continue to live in this world, and be content, just as the elders as Israel continued living among men after they unjustly condemned and crucified the Lord Jesus. In spite of their continued earthly successes, however, Paul said of them, “wrath has come on them to the uttermost” (1Thess. 2:16). They are destroyed, even though they may be blind to it. They may not come to realize what God has done to them until the moment they die, when their spirits leave their bodies and go down into hell instead of up to be with Christ.

Paul exhorted young Timothy to “lay hold on eternal life”, even though Timothy already had eternal life dwelling in him. But the wise apostle told his beloved Timothy to “lay hold” on the life that he already had because Paul understood that if Timothy lightly esteemed his place in God’s kingdom, he could be destroyed from it. Paul remembered that Lucifer, the fallen angels, Balaam, Esau, Ahithophel, Joash, Judas, and a multitude of other unwise children of God had been destroyed from their places. All of God’s wise children remember this, and tremble. In Psalm 65:4, David said to God, “Blessed is the man whom you choose and cause to approach you, that he may dwell in your courts!” David esteemed God’s call on his life as the most precious thing on earth, and the reward for David loving God’s blessings on his life is that his blessings increased, and he was allowed to keep his blessings and his joys forever.

Have you been called? Have you been chosen to draw near to God through the blood of Jesus Christ? Have you been given wisdom from God? Have you been given a gift, or do you occupy a special place in God’s family? Cherish your blessings. The very worst thing that could happen to you in this life is for you to be destroyed from the place you have been given.