Posted in encouragement, exhortation, God, hosea, moth, S. Lewis Johnson

Sometimes judgment comes not as brimstone or earthquake, but as a moth

When you read the bible, stop frequently to ponder. Think about what you’re reading. Also, frequently ask yourself, “What does this mean?”

We read about different metaphors in the bible, and we read about different insects and animals sometimes as a part of those metaphors. In Psalm 59:14 we read that enemies return at evening, howling “like a dog”. In Proverbs 6:6, we are advised to be like the ant. Psalm 18:33 says, “He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.”

Sometimes God uses a metaphor to ascribe a quality to Himself. In Matthew 23:37 God says tenderly,

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” See also Ruth 2:12.

Wiki creative commons

Insects mentioned quite often include the moth. Moths are mentioned several times.

but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20)

“For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool; but my righteousness will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.” (Isaiah 51:8)

But see this verse from Hosea where God pronounces judgment on Israel, God says HE will be like the moth!

I am like a moth to Ephraim, like rot to the people of Judah.” (Hosea 5:12)

So in reading Hosea 5 when you come across a verse like this, stop and ponder, ask, what does it mean? What do moths do, how do they act, so we can better understand what God is saying here.

When we think of God working, we often think of Him powerfully and noisily working great things, such as in the scene from 1 Kings 19:11-12

And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.”

But God works quietly too, as the low whisper showed. (NOT that God speaks to us today in a still, small voice, that was not the point of the verse). It’s that He works loudly and demonstrably but also quietly.

It is the same with the moth. Though we think of judgments like brimstone and earthquakes, a judgment is also what the moth can do, and in a way, it is worse.

Moths (or moth larvae) work secretly, stealthily. You put away your clothes for the summer and when winter comes again you take out that sweater and it has been rendered useless because of all the holes in until it is good for nothing. It will not cover your nakedness anymore. Pulpit Commentary quotes Calvin:

“The meaning of the prophet is by no means obscure, and that is, that the Lord would by a slow corrosion consume both the people; and that, though he would not by one onset destroy them, yet they would pine away until they became wholly rotten.”

Gill’s Exposition says,

“Therefore will I be unto Ephraim as a moth,…. Which eats garments, penetrates into them, feeds on them privately, secretly, without any noise, and gradually and slowly consumes them; but at last utterly, that they are of no use and profit:”

Can there be a worse judgment? To awaken finding yourself one day wholly rotten? A slow but sure destruction that had come upon you? Not even having rated a loud showy judgment of brimstone, but a lowly worm having done you in.

S. Lewis Johnson ended his exposition of Hosea 5, a sermon titled “God Withdrawn“, this way-

The perils of apostasy! When we apostatize from the faith, when we depart from the faith, when lethargy and indifference grips us, the real enemy is the Lord God Himself!

If you have believed in Jesus and your life is in a shambles because of indifference and because of  lethargy, the Lord God may be working like a moth in your life. May God help you to recognize what is really happening, and may He stir you by His Holy Spirit to come back to Him. Confess your sin, seek to put Him first in your life. Use the time He has given you for the glorification of His name. The remedy as Hosea puts it so plainly is, ‘know the Lord.’ ” (Hosea 5:4)

Take protective measures against the moth’s destructive capabilities by keeping your faith living and active. Study the word, know the Lord. Pray ceaselessly. Serve lovingly. Submit constantly. There will be no need to mothball your holy garment if you never put it away for a season!

Posted in bible study, encouragement, exhortation

Shallow vs deep bible study: do you want to really see?

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what do you see? And I said, I see a branch of an almond tree. Then said the LORD unto me, You have seen well: for I am ready to perform My word.” (Jeremiah 1:11, 12.)

Charles Spurgeon said in sermon #2678, “Lesson of the Almond Tree”,

OBSERVE, first, dear Friends, that before Jeremiah becomes a speaker for God, he must be a seer . The name for a Prophet, in the olden time, was a “seer”—a man who could see—one who could see with his mind’s eye, one who could also see with spiritual insight, so as vividly to realize the Truth of God which he had to deliver in the name of the Lord.

Learn that simple lesson well, O you who try to speak for God! You must be seers before you can be speakers. The question with which God usually begins His conversation with each of His true servants is the one He addressed to Jeremiah, “What do you see?” I am afraid that there are so me ministers, nowadays, who do not see much. Judging by what they preach, their vision must be all in cloudland, where all they see is smoke, mist and fog. I often meet with persons who have attended the same ministry for years—and when I have asked them even very simple questions about the things of God, I have found that they do not know anything.

It was not because they were not able to comprehend quickly when the Truth was set forth plainly before them, but I fear that it was, in most cases, because there was nothing that they could learn from the minister to whom they had been accustomed to listen. The preacher had seen nothing and, therefore, when he described what he saw, of course it all amounted to nothing.

No, my Brother, before you can make an impression upon another person’s heart , you must have an impression made upon your own soul. You must be able to say, concerning the Truth of God, “I see it,” before you can speak it so that your hearers shall also see it. It must be clear to your own mind, by the spiritual perception which accompanies true faith, or else you will not be able to say with the Psalmist, “I believed, therefore have I spoken.” Let me say again that sentence which I uttered a minute ago—the speaker for God must first be a seer in the Light of God.

I often cry out to the Lord that I want to see. I want to plumb the depths of His word and learn more about Him all the time. I want to go deeper, see more, understand Him. I know I see through a glass darkly now, and it will only be later that I fully know, but still, can I know You more today than yesterday, please? (1 Corinthians 13:12).

It’s a double edged sword though. Knowing Him better through His word means I get to know myself better, also. In reading Who He is, we get to know ourselves better to, positionally. I get convicted, repentant, and sorrowful over my own sin and the sin of the world.

This is the analogy.

If you know the size of RI, the ocean is never very far, since RI is so small. Moreover, my grandparents had a house on the bayfront, and we kids and all the cousins would visit constantly. Weekly, just about daily in summer. And we always had a boat.

Lubec Harbor, ME. Murky Atlantic waters hide rocks & great hazards.
EPrata photo

In the book The Wind in the Willows, Water Rat is extolling the virtues of being on the water to Mole, who has never been in a boat. Mole wants to know if it’s nice.

“Nice? It’s the only thing,” said the Water Rat solemnly as he leant forward for his stroke. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

The bay or the ocean has many charms, and all of them are interesting to a child. We splashed on the water, swam, messed around on the boat, played at the water’s edge. We collected shells and we dove off the dock and we raced to the mooring buoy and we lazed on the grass. We loved the water.

Snorkeling is the practice of swimming on or through a body of water while equipped with a diving mask, a shaped tube called a snorkel, and usually fins. Use of this equipment allows the snorkeler to observe underwater attractions for extended periods of time with relatively little effort.

As we grew older, we became fascinated with what was under the water. We’d fight for the masks and snorkel gear and paddle along, looking in fascination below the surface at the pretty pebbles the small waves were rolling along the sand. Or a hermit crab curling into his house shell as we swam over him, darkening his shallow water sky. Sometimes we’d forget we were in such shallow water and scrape our knees as we kicked along the beach’s edge, heeding our grandmother’s warning to stay close to shore.

As we grew even older, we wanted to see what was under the surface, really deep. Could we see horseshoe crabs? Fish? The anchor of the boat as it bobbed in the calm waves under a sunny sky? What was under there!? It was frustrating, the waters were not clear and even with a mask and flippers, we couldn’t get down far enough to see the bottom. Under the surface was still a mystery to us.

Then I sailed in The Bahamas. The waters are clear there. It was both fascinating and disconcerting to say the least! Suddenly I could see all the way down, but what the clear water revealed was another world, and one fraught with dangers, toils, and snares. Our keel passing over a coral head, we didn’t know if the coral was inches below the surface and ready to open the underside of our boat like a sardine can, or was in fact as deep below as the charts said. Predator barracudas were everywhere. And actually seeing the bottom was sometimes not a blessing, because it gave us an aquatic vertigo, always unsteady in thinking the boat as about to run aground in what looked like mere inches of water but was in fact fathoms.

In this photo, it was so clear that we could see our own anchor,
in 30 feet of water. In the moonlight. EPrata photo

Being able to see the depths under the surface of the waters revealed another world. It was as if the surface of the ocean was simply a thin veil, covering a vast and mysterious and beautiful world, hidden until now. It was a world that existed with ours, was immediately adjacent, and in this bit of Bahamian clarity, was in equal parts scary, dangerous, and destabilizing.

Do you want to go deeper? Do you want to see? Really see, as Spurgeon described? I hope you do. As we grow in sanctification we do not stay in the shallow water for long. We should desire to peer into the depths of the ocean of truth and see what the Lord will reveal.

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation…” (1 Peter 2:2)

The milk here is the spiritual food good for building up. When we’re born-again as babes we begin feeding on the pure spiritual milk. We crave it with intensity like a baby cries for his bottle! We need it every few hours! When we have capacity to understand more, we still thirst, and we go deeper into the Living Waters.

But we must be ready to withstand its glories. We remember who we are and in taking in all truth, we see our depravity compared to His holiness. We cry out, as Isaiah did,

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)

Reading the bible deeply, coming so close to His glory as revealed in the bible, some days I might as well say something similar, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a woman of unclean lips, and unholy heart, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have read the words of the King that the Spirit has delivered to us and revealed in His word!”

And yet we desire more, deeper, to see. Or we should.

The word is to be desired with appetite as the cause of life, to be swallowed in the hearing, to be chewed as cud is by rumination with the understanding, and to be digested by faith” [Tertullian].

Or…stay in the shallow end. It’s up to you.

Posted in bible, encouragement, exhortation, worship

Worship Jesus

Worship Jesus and Jesus alone. Worship this same Jesus as God revealed Him to the world.

Do not worship Prophets, past or present.

“And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:4-5).

Jesus stopped Peter from making three tabernacles. It is acceptable to worship ONLY Jesus. This is such a strong truth that the Spirit stopped Peter from proclaiming worship of Moses and Elijah while he was still saying it.

Do not worship Angels.

“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” (Revelation 22:8-9).

Again we read, ‘Worship God.’ Angels are fellow servants with us of the Most High God.

Do not worship men.

“And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” (Acts 14:11-15).

Worship Jesus. Listen to Him.