A Man of Honour
The Meaning of Integrity
in a Lawless World
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 14 December 2002
I know that some of you here are acquainted with C.S.Forester's The Adventures of Horatio Hornblower, the stories of a dashing young lieutenant in the British Royal Navy - the ultimate high-seas hero of unshakeable courage and unwavering principles, not to mention extraordinary skill. The DVD series is a part of my family's video library.
I mention Hornblower here to you today because the subject of my sermon this morning is HONOUR. A Christian man in the truest possible sense is a man of unimpeachable integrity and honour, and no less the Christian woman also. Such a man is propelled by only one thing in his life: TRUTH. Every thought, every feeling, every action will be subjected to this singular quest. From it flows all the other Christian virtues, and especially the Pauline trinity which consists of faith, hope, and the pure love of Christ, the greatest of these three being love (1 Cor.13:13).
C.S.Forester writes about the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, a time in history when a man's word or parole was still considered sacrosanct. If a man gave his word then he would keep it as a matter of honour, even if his feelings might at some point rebel against what he had promised. In one of the Hornblower adventures, the young officer is captured by the Spanish and in exchange for the freedom to take daily walks without supervision whilst in prison, he gives his solemn word that he will not try to escape. On one such walk a violent storm blows up along the coast and he witnesses a Spanish merchantman wrecked on some dangerous rocks. He gallantly offers the prison Commandant to take his men and rescue the hapless drowning Spanish seamen. This he does but the storm providentially takes his small boat out to sea and he finds himself reunited with his ship. But because of his word, the young lieutenant - with the agreement of all the ratings who had shared prison with him - returns to captivity in order to keep his word not to escape. Today, of course, such a thing would be unthinkable, because enemies and friends are no longer honourable men. Nevertheless, such conduct is expected of a Christian who under all circumstances is to remain unspotted from the world and conduct himself as a gentleman.
The Messiah Yah'shua (Christ Jesus) said: "let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one" (Matt.5:37, NKJV). The apostle James said the same thing: "above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your "Yes," be "Yes," and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgement" (James 5:12, NKJV). Absolute honesty and integrity in what we say is required of us. If you do not wish to commit yourself to something, remain silent, as Yah'shua (Jesus) did when Pilate asked Him questions He did not wish to answer. Sometimes people may try to force us to say things we do not want to say, or commit ourselves to things we do not want to commit ourselves too. We are not obliged to do what they want. Our obligation is only to integrity.
To be of such a moral disposition does, of course, require not only courage but also conviction. We must believe that it is the right thing to conduct ourselves in such a way, especially in our day and age where integrity and honesty are in such short supply. To be honest today is to stick out like a sore thumb because according to one recent survey I read, over three-quarters of the population lies habitually. To be an honest man or woman of principle means to have a high profile. It means to be ridiculed and at times to be put under enormous pressure to conform with the low values of contemporary society. So how does such a person stand firm in the face of a sea of overwhelming opposition? A wise man once said that if we fear God we will fear no man, and he was absolutely right. But to fear Yahweh does not mean to cower in terror or to be craven. The Book of Proverbs tells us:
"The fear of Yahweh is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverse mouth I hate.
Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom;
I am understanding, I have strength.
By me kings reign,
And rulers decree justice.
By me princes rule, and nobles,
All the judges of the earth.
I love those who love me,
And those who seek me diligently will find me"
(Prov 8:13-17, NKJV).
I have been told by Satanists that Christians fear and respect Yahweh in the same way that Satanists fear and respect Satan, but this is utterly false. The two types of fear aren't remotely similar. The apostle John writes:
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John 4:18-19, NKJV).
As the Proverb tells us, to fear Yahweh is to hate evil. If you hate evil, which is all the works of Satan, then you will love goodness. And if you love goodness, then you will love the author of goodness. Therefore to fear Yahweh is to love goodness and to hate evil. Notice that the writer of Proverbs specifically identifies "pride, arrogance, and the evil way", to which he adds, "and the perverse mouth I hate". There you have it. Yahweh hates it when a man does not tell the truth - when he does not keep his word or parole. And so do all honourable Christian men and women. Indeed I measure a man's character by the integrity of his word ... or lack of it.
There is an entire section in the Olive Branch on the principle of honour which begins by saying: "The honour of a man is his life" (36:1a), not some abstract intellectual principle, but something that he stakes his life on. "He that seeks to honour Yahweh all the days of his life shall receive honour of Yahweh and be honoured by the Household of Faith" (v.1b). People either love or hate honourable men - Hornblower's fellow seamen adored him and were willing to follow him everywhere because honour is blessed and sanctified by Yahweh in such a way that honest men's hearts are touched by it. The Hebrew words for honour (hadar, hadarah, hod, yeqar, tifireth) literally mean 'beauty', 'majesty', 'brilliancy', 'preciousness' and 'glory' Honour is not a minor virtue - indeed, it is exalted in Scripture as the crown of virtues because in a way it contains all the rest.
The Olive Branch tells us further:
"He who has no honour, but yields it in the weakness of his heart on account of his love for men and the praises thereof, shall lack in wisdom and have a poor understanding" (v.2).
Which is as one would expect for to be honourable invariably means being politically and socially incorrect for the sake of Torah. That an honourable soul is sanctified by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is shown by the fact that such a soul will possess divine wisdom, this being one of the Names of the Ruach (Spirit). Those who fear Yahweh more than men gain insights into the divine mind and can thus comprehend human nature from the right perspective - honourable men are able to pierce through other men's insincerity, pride, fear, jealousy, possessiveness, and every other sin.
Honourable men and women are a rare breed. Yahweh asks:
"Where is there an honourable man in the earth? Who will stand upright before the wickedness of men but remain on bended knees before His Elohim? Where is there a virtuous woman who honours her husband and stands by him on account of his righteousness? Behold, honour has fled the earth, and each man seeks his own, to consume it upon his lust" (vv.3-5).
The prophet Samuel was an honourable man. He loved the truth of Yahweh's Word before everything and anything else. He was uncompromising in his adherence to truth and exposed King Sauls lack of it. None of Saul's bravery could compensate for his lack of trustworthiness and obedience. He was not an honourable man and fell out of Yahweh's favour for his persistent rebellion. Instead of doing as his God told him, he tried to win popularity amongst both his own men and his enemies by showing what he thought was generosity and forgiveness. He fed his hungry soldiers with forbidden meat. He spared the life of a murderous heathen king when he had been told to kill him. We may think we are better than Yahweh, supposing that we are more ethical, loving, and forgiving, but we would be wrong. What Yahweh demands is always right unless you view Him as no more than a demigod on the same level as man much, only a little more powerful, int he same way as the pagan Greeks viewed their gods.
We are to honour Yahweh by being true to His commandments even if this means upsetting others and possibly even making enemies of them. We are to honour Him with our firstfruits (Prov.3:9), which means giving to Him the best that is we have. He has after all given us His best in Yah'shua (Jesus) and has the right to expect nothing less of us.
"Honour is as a rock, fast and immovable, which no man can tear down on account of its strength" (v.6). Hornblower would not be swayed by his Captain to remain - he preferred to lose his liberty and suffer in a squalid jail rather than break his word to the Commandant. He was rewarded by an early release and his integrity intact. Similarly, Samuel preferred the wrath and oppression of Saul to going against what His Heavenly Father had commanded. The Olive Branch says:
"It is better that a man have little understanding but much honour in fear of Yahweh, than to have much wisdom but little honour and no fear of the Elohim" (v.7). Or as it says in the Book of Job: "See, the fear of Yahweh, that is wisdom, and to turn from evil is understanding" (28:28, ISRV).
A wonderful theological knowledge does not make an honourable man, nor having many spiritual gifts like prophecy: what makes a person honourable is their obedience to Torah even if they do not fully understand it. It is only after our obedience has been given that divine wisdom results, because faith always precedes the miracle.
What characterised Yah'shua (Jesus) so was His unswerving love of, and obedience to, Yahweh. Isaiah saw the glory of the Son of Man when he prophetically declared:
"The Spirit of Yahweh shall rest upon Him - the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, and the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yahweh, and shall make Him breathe in the fear of Yahweh. And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of his ears, But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and shall decide with straightness for the meek ones of the earth, and shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and slay the wrong with the breath of His lips. And righteousness shall be the girdle of His loins, and trustworthiness the girdle of His waist" (Is.11:2-5, ISRV).
Christ is our model for integrity and honour. Especially note that He did not judge on the basis of sight and hearing, but on the basis of truth, which is righteousness. Accordingly, the Olive Branch admonishes us in this way:
"Therefore seek the honour of Yahweh and receive Him in the highest, for wisdom has two faces, the one to build up and the other to destroy (Ezek.41:18). If a man finds honour and wisdom it shall go well with him, but if he lacks honour, then great shall be his fall! I, Yahweh, love honest men and women, and will uphold them in the day of their trouble ... unless (a man) possesses honour and an upright heart, knowledge is of no profit, for even the devil and his angels have these things. Honour is as a cedar of Lebanon and the Mount of Ephraim that cannot be bent or moved by wind or storm. Therefore seek first the honour of righteousness that your steadfastness in Yahweh may be fixed and immovable, withstanding the darts of temptation and the craftiness of all evil men; And I will surely bless you, and keep you, that your days may be prolonged for the sake of the Kingdom" (vv.9-16).
The honour of which I speak is not, of course, our own, but belongs to Yahweh, as does all virtue. To be an honourable man does not mean we are seeking for honour ourselves but for Yahweh! It is the Most High - El Elyon - and His righteousness whom we are upholding. "Therefore if any man comes to you, saying, 'I have brought forth this truth: give me the honour,' you shall rebuke him and call him to repentance, and thus save his soul from a fall" (OB 116:14). To receive godly honour is not a bad thing provided it is done in humility and recognition of the Giver: "He who honours Yahweh shall himself be honoured, but He who despises Yahweh and His ordinances, shall not be held in high regard by the congregation of the elect" (OB 196:18-18). And what are His ordinances? All His commandments and statutes - His Torah, not a particle of which shall ever disappear until heaven and earth disappear ... which is never (Mt.5:18).
Now we must be very careful in our use of the word 'honour' because it has secondary meanings also. The 'honour' I am speaking of is integrity and allegiance to the high moral principles established by the Creator in Torah as well as the great respect or fear we give Him in worship. What I am not talking about is privilege or fame. Evil people receive all kinds of honours such as power, wealth, rank, prestige and fame. That is a different kind of honour. It is the world's counterfeit and is egocentric. The honour of Yahweh is not by might, power, or strength, but by His Ruach (Spirit). We are called to redistribute our wealth in order to bless the less blessed. We are to shun rank, prestige and fame by never expecting or wanting a spotlight to be shone on us. We are to remain humble, teachable and submissive to the Creator and to the truth in each other.
If your heart is nor moved or touched by honourable deeds then your conscience is defiled and in need of cleansing. If that is the reality of your situation, then it is time to approach the Most High in a spirit of repentance and to ask Him to give you a new heart, a new mind, and a new spirit. Yahweh said through the prophet Ezekiel:
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezek.36:26, NKJV).
I have seen in my life wonderful and glorious transformations in people's hearts when they have approached Yahweh through His Son Yah'shua (Jesus). Sometimes those transformations have been instant, sometimes gradual. Repulsive people can be changed in the twinkling of an eye into people of great spiritual beauty and attractiveness simply by trusting in Yah'shua (Jesus) and receiving His new birth ... His new life .. and then thereafter walking in obedience and integrity. That new life can be yours if you have never received it - and if you have lost it through carelessness or wanton transgression, you can obtain it once more. So my invitation to everyone is to be renewed through faith and repentance, to make right what is wrong in your hearts, and to stand before Yahweh as a man or woman of integrity and honour. Be blessed. Amen.
This page was created on 13 December 2002
Last updated on 13 December 2002
Copyright © 1987-2007 NCCG - All Rights Reserved