The Wrong Way
or the Story of WPB
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 24 March 2001
Last week we looked at one of Solomon's Proverbs and applied it to the life of King Nebuchaznezzar. We saw the fatal spiritual consequences of not keeping our eyes focussed on the invisible Kingdom and its ruler, Yah'shua (Jesus). We saw what Yahweh's attitude is to believers whose main focus is not on Him and His Kingdom but on pride, vanity, career, entertainment, spouse, or on anything else for that matter. We saw how God blocks the way of those who seek to take wrong turning whilst honestly still trying to do what is right. Today we're going to see what happens to those who not only take a wrong turning but who stop trying to do what is right. We are going to see from sacred history the crooked and painful paths that those who deliberately rebel from Yahweh must inevitably take. The stories I am going to tell you are not too pleasant. However, Yahweh has deliberately caused these stories to be kept in Scripture as a warning to future generations - a warning not only of the consequences of taking a wrong way but also a warning of how easy it is to do it if we once lose our Christ-focus. This will not, however, all be bad news - there is a happy ending for those who finally repent in spite of the horror that they must inevitably live through before that.
There is, in our fleshy make up, a pathological condition which I call WPB or "Wilful Passionate Blindness". A person is 'blind' when he cannot see where he is going in life, he is 'passionate' when he lets deep feelings override all common sense, and he is 'wilful' when he is determined, stubbornly digs his heels into the ground and allows stupidity to be the guiding star of his life.
Last Sunday our dog escaped for the umpteenth time and headed off towards what he thought was excitement, adventure, food, and possibly even a mate. Because he is such a disobedient dog, never having been properly trained before we got him, he has to be kept tied up all the time. Let loose, and he is a menace to himself, traffic and others. The number of angry people who have reported him messing around with their female dogs, disturbing farm animals, digging up their gardens, stealing food, and rushing across roads used by cars is too many to mention. In spite of our very best efforts, he nevertheless seems to manage to get free several times a year. Sometimes it's our fault for being careless. Most times he comes home he absolutely stinks, many times he has been very ill (once he had pneumonia), and often he creates bad will in the local community towards us. Though he is sweet-natured and wonderful with children, he is nevertheless a menace. And one day he may not only get killed but he may cause a serious traffic accident. So you can imagine how anxious we get when he gets loose. Our prayers ascend to heaven for his safe return and for the protection of the people he comes in contact with.
Dogs, like human beings, suffer from WPB - Wilful Passionate Blindness. Mostly they can't help it because they're not as intelligent as we are. They are a beautiful (or ugly - depending on your point-of-view) illustration of the mortal enemy that human nature is. And I am quite sure that the dog we own was not accidental - I am sure he was given to us by Yahweh to teach us - and our family in particular - of the things we need to watch out for in our own human make-up. I know that the dog has taught me many unpleasant things about myself and that others of my family have had similar experiences. I would even venture to suggest that he was tailor-made by the Lord to warn us of fatal weaknesses that we possess genetically. Members of our family are basically nice folk, we don't harm anyone, we love children, but we do suffer from WPB. It's a disease that we have inherited genetically all the way down from the Garden of Eden.
WPB is not, however, peculiar to our family. The whole human race are infected with this deadly virus. Even Yahweh's Chosen People in the Bible had it. Indeed, we can chart the progress of this disease not only in individual humans but in the nation of Israel itself. We do not need, however, to catch this disease. Just like taking basic medical precautions like vaccination, living hygienically, and keeping away from people who have serious infections, we are able to avoid catching this nasty bug. For the Christian, the vaccination against WPB is reading the Word of God, praying regularly, repenting when we sin, and serving others; living hygienically is living a clean and pure Christian life according to the commandments of Yahweh; and keeping away from people who have serious infections is keeping away from ungodly environments in career, marriage, and entertainment. Repenting is confessing when you're wrong, showing godly sorrow, and apologising to those who have been wronged. It's as simple as ABC.
As everyone who has a little knowledge about First Aid and medicine knows, if you want to protect your body against disease you must keep pepping up your immune system by eating a balanced diet. Getting the right vitamins, minerals, keeping warm and generally living sensibly are all vital ingredients in good health. Our spiritual life requires exactly the same sort of care. It's no use being sensible for one month and then neglecting yourself for the next one. Only an idiot would eat a balanced diet in January and then eat nothing but chocolate in February. To live a healthy life - physically and spiritually - requires CONSTANCY. I've met so many people in my life who have all these wonderful, brilliant ideas, who put them into practice but to at the same time do the most ridiculous things. I have met so many women who go onto fabulous diet programs but who simultaneously indulge themselves on the side. What would you call a person who ate fruit, cereal, and healthy products at breakfast, fasted at lunch time, and then at supper time stuffed themselves with big juicy beef stakes covered in fat, chocolate, ice cream, cream cakes, and beer? What do you call a person who eats sensibly in the morning and then eats like a raving idiot in the evening? Does the fact that he is so smart in the morning make him smart generally? Wouldn't you call such a person a fool? The Bible has many words to describe such a person - and 'double-minded' is one of them. Double-mindedness is a fruit of sinful living, of people who try to justify the sin in their life by "balancing it off" with the good they do. But you can't get rid of sin that way, anymore than a policeman will pardon you of a serious traffic offence just because at other times you drive sensibly. A sin is a sin and a crime is a crime, and there's a penalty for both no matter what else you may do.
The apostle James says that a double minded person is unstable in all his ways (Jas.1:8) and declares: "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (Jas.4:8, NIV). King David said: "I hate double-minded men, but I love your law" (Ps.119:113, NIV). All sin requires an act of purification to be rid of it, otherwise it will cling to you like a leech, making you sicker and sicker.
I have known many amazing people - people gifted with great intelligence and even love, who are double-minded. They make your head spin. You ask yourself: "How can they be so stupid?" And yet this double-minded condition is in EVERYONE, though admittedly to different degrees. One of the worst and most sickening examples of this double mindedness and hypocrisy that I have ever come across was of a Pakistani businessman who was a drug-runner in his home country. Not only was he destroying lives by manufacturing and distributing narcotics but he was actually financing a rehabilitation for drug addicts and people thought he was a hero! He widely publicised that he was helping the less fortunate in society and society loved him for it, yet all along he was the source of society's misery. That's double-mindedness.
Double-mindedness comes into being when we try to walk a double life and won't make our minds up one way or another. The reasons can be many. Fear, insecurity, lack of clear thinking, lack of proper education, peer pressure, demonic oppression, pride, or any mixture of these.
The history of the little nation of Israel is a living witness to us of what to do and what not to do. Yahweh created this nation to be a model of each individual's life, to guide us along the right path and to warn us of the terrible consequences of going down the wrong one. This morning I want to take a short journey down Israel's history to show you how kind the Lord has been in giving us such a detailed map of the way life is supposed to be lived, and how it is not to.
The nation of Israel begins with one man whom we know as Jacob. What many people who read the Bible don't realise is that the names of these people have symbolic meanings for us. The word "Jacob" means "supplanter" or "deceiver". That's right, the father of the of God's model nation was called "Deceiver". At least, that was his name in the beginning. Jacob was a tricky sort of character, Firstly he cheated his brother Esau of his birthright by deceiving his blind father Isaac into thinking he was Isaac. Worse, his mother, Rebekah, was in on the deception. And although Esau certainly did not deserve the birthright, the point God was making is that the end does not justify the means. We must do things in the right way and never assume that we are better than anyone else. Esau couldn't have cared less about religion and proved it by being willing to sell his birthright for a mere bowl of soup. Esau represents people who think that religion has no value whatsoever and who are willing to trade salvation for simple earthly pleasures. And because Jacob was a religiously-minded man who cared about salvation it is tempting to agree with everything he did, even though it was dishonest. In actual fact, Jacob broke a whole series of commandments in what he did.
Jacob represents the unsaved man or woman. That person is searching for God but is still living in sin, and the fact that that person resorts to deception is proof that he is unsaved. Jacob believed in God and was seeking to know Him but his life of deception was proof that he had a long way to go yet. And because he was a cheat and a liar, God punished him by allowing his father-in-law, Laban, to cheat him by giving him a wife he did not want. As you know, he was in love with Rachel and wanted to marry her, but Laban sent his eldest daughter Leah into the darkened marriage tent and forced Jacob to marry someone he didn't want to. You see, once he had slept with her he was bound for life to be her husband. As it happens, Leah was his true wife anyway, only Yahweh made sure Jacob got her in a less-than-happy way to teach him a lesson. He learned to love her eventually but only after his sin-nature was purged out of him.
I will not go through the long history of Jacob other than to mention that even after he had obtained wives and children that he continued to be deceptive. God continued to bless him, making Him rich, not because he deserved it, but because of His loving-kindness. Even so he was a deceiver. Finally he stole his father-in-law's idols and fled from Haran. The result of that was that Laban set in hot pursuit after him with a view to killing him. Jacob had put himself in a real mess, and even though God was blessing him out of love, he was still being punished for being evil. For we must never assume that sin is of no consequence - sin is evil and is punishable, no matter how great or small it may be. Any sin is enough to break fellowship with God.
Things eventually came to a head and Jacob had to face his sin-nature. He couldn't keep playing this double game all his life. Though God was merciful, blessing him and taking care of him, the time of reckoning had come. As you all know, Jacob wrestled with the Lord all night at a place called Peniel on the east side of the River Jordan. That wrestling match is a pictorial representation of the inner struggle we must all go through in our lives to finally be quit of sin. So many Christians delude themselves into thinking that all they have to do is believe in Christ and not commit any really serious sin like murder or adultery and everything will be fine. This story was inserted by God to completely deny that belief. Any kind of sin that is not immediately repented off breaks our fellowship with God is we are a believer and starts our slide to spiritual destruction. It makes our heart go heard, it numbs our conscience as we try to justify our wrong actions, makes us close our ears, and allows Satan to put his foot into the door of our life. Jacob had been deceiving so much - been sinning so much - that now he had an angry father-in-law to the north threatening him and what he supposed was an angry brother, Esau, to the south threatening him too. He felt trapped. There was no way of escape. Laban to the north, Esau to the south, the River Jordan to the west, and the Arabian desert to the east. He was cornered, and he knew it. The time for judgement had to come.
We do not, however, need to get trapped like Jacob did. We can recognise sin when we commit it, swallow our pride, confess, repent, and make restitution. Unfortunately, though, most human beings are too pride and stubborn, and usually end up like Jacob or Esau. The wise amongst them, however, realise the hopelessness and futility of running away as Jacob did - first to Haran and then away from Haran - and confront the truth face-to-face as he did at Peniel.
Jacob had a mighty struggle that night. He was determined that he would not leave that place until he had won his salvation. He wrestled with his conscience, with the truth, with his destiny, with his whole life. He faced the facts in the full light of God's truth. That takes courage and bravery. Only the cowards run away. But Jacob, you see, had greatness in him, and that greatness was his willingness to face the truth no matter what the consequences. True, he was forced into it to some extent, but he could have run away if he had wanted to. But he didn't. He recognised that his eternal salvation was at stake and so wrestled with his sinful nature and wouldn't let go of God until he received his pardon - his blessing.
And he got it - but only after his hip was dislocated, and from which he suffered a limp for the rest of his life. A sinful lifestyle does leave its scars. Make no mistake about that. The important thing, though, was that he overcame, and God changed his name. No longer was he Jacob the Deceiver, but Israel the Prince, the name meaning "Ruling with God".
Every Christian has, as his destination, rulership with God. He becomes a part of Israel. However, you do not become a ruler with God until you have the right qualifications of greatness, which comes from repentance and obedience.
Jacob's new name, Israel, was a sign from God that he was a new man too. He was no longer a deceiver because he saw the folly of living a deceptive life. No longer would he try to get by in life by cheating and lying but from now on would be completely open and honest trust God in everything. Whereas before his victory over sin he had divided his family into two, pretending to Esau that his family was half as big as it was, in case Esau should massacre the half he showed him, now he presented his family as one. By that we understand he was no longer double-minded. The Jacob who was half in the world and half in God was now Israel who was fully in God. So great was his trust in Yahweh that he was even willing to send his youngest son, Benjamin, into Egypt to ransom the other son who lay in Joseph's prison.
The history of Israel after this time is a long and chequered one. Famine drove the Israelites into Egypt under the protection of the country's Prime Minister, Joseph, and there they multiplied into a vast nation. The trouble was that the host nation, Egypt, was matriarchal and monogamous, which meant that the Israelites began to outnumber the Egyptians and as a result the Israelites' prosperity made them envious. You know what happened afterwards. The Israelites were turned into slaves. And what was the reason? Fear. Fear that they would outnumber the Egyptians and take the country over.
We find in this piece of history an important lesson about the relationship between man's spiritual nature (represented by Israel) and man's carnal nature (represented by Egypt). Do you understand why God wanted the Israelites to live in Egypt for a few hundred years? It was to teach us a lesson on the relationship between the spirit and the flesh.
We immediately see the cause of double-mindedness. Double-mindedness is results when neither the spiritual nature nor the carnal nature is really in control. At first the carnal nature is sympathetic and helpful because it is under the firm control of Joseph, who is the Prince of Spirituality. The wise Pharaoh recognised that having his carnal kingdom ruled by such a wise person as Prince Spirituality was good for him and his people. Keeping the carnal man under control and under obedience means prosperity. The spiritual man is wise, the carnal man foolish. Because Joseph ruled, the Egypt - representing the flesh - was saved from famine and starvation. In a similar way our bodies benefit from sound spiritual leadership.
The problems started when the flesh - Egypt - got scared. The flesh didn't mind being a benefactor under the leadership of one man but it didn't want to be taken over by a whole tribe. So what did it do? It put the tribe into slavery. And that's exactly what the carnal nature does when it feels threatened by the spiritual. When Egypt enslaves Israel - when the carnal man enslaves the spiritual man - then your life is controlled by sin. And when that happens, desperate measures are required to free the soul from the domination of the flesh. That is why God sent a deliverer, Moses, to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt and into their own land. That is why Yahweh send Yah'shua (Jesus) as our Deliverer and Saviour to take us out of the control of the flesh, which is Satan's Kingdom, and into a new world of spirit.
These may be new and deep thoughts for some of you but be patient with me, for understanding this spiritual pattern is very important. Moses was a type of Christ. Only Moses was able to free the Israelites just as Christ is only able to free the spirit from carnal bondage. You will, I am sure, remember that there were Ten Plagues on Egypt and that only the last plague finally persuaded the wicked Pharaoh to let Israel go free. These Ten Plagues are symbolically the fruits of disobeying the Ten Commandments. I shall not go into a comparison of the two today but would invite you to think about them. Notice, though, how important it is to obey ALL the Ten Commandments if you want to be free. Pharaoh was not persuaded to let the Hebrews go after the first nine plagues, but only after the last one. What this means is that every commandment is as important as the other. It is very dangerous when people say, "Oh, the ninth commandment isn't as important as the other nine, so I can break that. You can't compare lying to murder, or coveting someone else's property to adultery." Unfortunately for man that is not God's view. All Ten Commandments are equally as important, so much so that He summarised them through Yah'shua (Jesus) in Two Commandments: Love God and Love Your Neighbour as Yourself. Obviously, to disobey any one commandment is not to love your neighbour, and not to love your neighbour is not to love God. Please understand that the Ten Commandments are an integral whole. Just tell a concert pianist that he can manage just as well with 9 fingers instead of 10! Remove one commandment and you remove one entire hand - try playing Chopin with one hand.
The story of Israel's captivity in Egypt is the story of what happens to a double-minded person. Jacob, thank goodness, repented and struggled with God until he had overcome. But his descendants did not and were taken into slavery. God is merciful for a short period of time but there comes a crunch: what no-one can afford to do is delay, relying on God's mercy. You can't use or exploit God - He only shows mercy when we are ignorant. But when we know we are rebelling, then He brings out His whip. You can selfishly exploit another person's good will for only so long and after a while they will tire of you and not want to know you any more.
Next week I'm going to look deeper into Israel's later history and show you how compromise with the commandments led to double-mindedness - to two nations of Israel - and how double-mindedness led to WPB - wilful passionate blindness - and how WPB led finally to both nations' destruction. You will be surprised to see the same pattern repeating itself time and time again. Indeed, as you look through human history as a whole - which is why the study of history is so important - you will see the same basic processes at work.
I said that desperate situations require desperate measures. Israel didn't stand a chance in Egyptian slavery. If she had tried to escape, she would have been massacred. So Yahweh sent a Saviour - a Deliverer - Moses, to lead them out the land by mighty miracles. In the same way Christ is able to deliver the repentant sinner from sin and death by a mighty transformation of the soul - he is able to take is across our Red Sea and out of the slavery of sin.
But be warned: being delivered from slavery to sin isn't enough. Next comes the hardest part - getting that sin nature burned out. It took rebellious, complaining, and disobedient Israel 40 years in the desert to have that sin nature burned out. How did God do it? By killing that generation off, with the exception of two faithful men, and raising a new, pure generation. What this means symbolically for us is that our old sin nature has to be killed off too - you can't just push it into a corner and hope it will leave your spiritual nature alone. If a poisonous snake comes into your house it's no good shoving it into the larder - it might kill you at any time you go in there. You're asking for trouble if you do that. You have to kill it.
The apostle Paul gives us very clear rules for the new life in Christ that we are to pursue in his letter to the Ephesians. He summarises the Gospel in six words: "Honour Christ and put others first" (Eph.4:21, CEV). How do we honour Christ? By obeying His commandments, the greatest of which are to love Yahweh and to love other people. How do we do that? By obeying the Ten Commandments. Obeying the commandments shows that we care about others. It shows that we put them before ourselves. Disobeying them leads to carelessness, carelessness to double-mindedness, and double-mindedness to wilful, passionate blindness, and wilful, passionate blindness to spiritual death. It's really very, very simple: (1) Worship Yahweh-Elohim as the only True God; (2) Don't be idolatrous by worshipping yourself, others, or things; (3) Don't abuse the Name of God; (4) Keep the Sabbath Day - the Seventh Day - Holy; (5) Respect your father and mother in truth; (6) Don't murder; (7) Be faithful in marriage; (8) Don't steal; (9) Don't tell lies about others; and (10) Don't want anything that belongs to someone else (Ex.20:1-17).
Burn that list in your mind and heart. Once you have, and are obeying it naturally and joyfully, then you will know that you are honouring Christ and putting others first. Then you will know whether you are saved or not.
May His grace and peace bring you to all truth, and in finding that truth, may you find peace and happiness. Amen.
Click here for Part 2 of this sermon
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Last updated on 4 April 2001
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