There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
But the LORD weighs the hearts.
The month of March is nearly over, and yet if you looked out my window right now, you would see freshly-fallen snow on the ground. Wait a second! Isn’t it supposed to be Spring? Yes, in our eyes, it should be Spring, the time of warmer days and blooming flowers. Yes, in human terms, there are a great many things that we label and try to control with our knowledge. We suppose that by simply naming a season and the date upon which it is to start, we somehow can hasten the course of the sun and wind. We suppose that by numbering our days according to calendars and schedules, we can take charge of our lives. We suppose that by learning the physical laws of the universe, we can somehow tame our environment. We even suppose that by claiming as a “right” every behavior under the sun, we can somehow change God’s mind about sin and salvation. But God and the world He created don’t operate according to man’s ways. In nature, if we look no further than snow on the ground in late March or the massive earthquake and tsunami that recently devastated Japan, we can plainly see that the world doesn’t work on our schedule nor according to our own ideas of safety and strength.
There are numerous examples in the Bible of men and women who didn’t do things as God wanted them done, and so they faced consequences for their actions:
Although Abraham was faithful in going where God led him, he twice lied about his wife Sarah being his sister, and in both cases death was the result. In Egypt, God sent a plague until Pharaoh had restored Sarai to Abram. (Genesis 12:10-20) And in Gerar, Abimelech was spared because the Lord spoke to him in a dream and told him of Abraham’s lie. (Genesis 20) Abraham thought he was protecting Sarah and himself from persecution, but instead he brought God’s wrath upon others.
Despite the confidence of Joshua and Caleb that the Lord would go before them to take the land of Canaan and give it to God’s chosen people, the Israelites refused to enter the Promised Land. The Israelites complained and rebelled, saying once again that they wished they had stayed in Egypt. God then sent them to wander forty years in the desert so that the whole generation of rebels would die and a new generation would be raised with confidence in the Lord. (Genesis 14:1-38)
Not relying upon God’s promise that He would make them as numerous as the stars of heaven, David was stirred to count the tribes of Israel. Even Joab, David’s right-hand man, warned him that it was a bad idea, but King David had his way. Before Joab had an opportunity to finish the census, the Lord sent word by the prophet Gad that He would punish Israel for David’s sin. Seventy thousand men died in just three days. (2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21)
Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal in a dramatic demonstration of the power of the living God, but, succumbing to fear after Jezebel’s threat to kill him, Elijah fled into the desert. Elijah survived in the wilderness because God sent an angel to feed him for forty days and nights, and then he hid in a cave on a mountain. There the Lord came to Elijah and asked him plainly, “What are you doing here?” In his haste to escape Jezebel’s wrath, Elijah had failed to take into account the power of the Lord to save His people, and as the Lord explained, there were SEVEN THOUSAND more folks like Elijah “whose knees have not bowed to Baal.” Elijah thought he was simply saving his own skin, but the Lord had other plans for His people. (1 Kings 19:1-18)
When Jeremiah was persecuted and he saw that God’s Word was ignored, he thought he would just shut his mouth and not speak anymore. Why bother, when no one seemed to be listening?
Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not.
God had other plans for Jeremiah.
Peter and several of the other apostles had assumed that the blessings of the Messiah were for the Jews alone, since the prophecies had come from Jewish prophets and the Lord Jesus Himself was born a Jew. But as the Lord showed to Peter both in vision and action, His plan was to do something different, bringing the power of the Holy Spirit to Jew and Gentile alike.
43 “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.
45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
As Solomon wrote in his Proverbs, there is a way that seems right to man, a way that seems prudent and safe and sensible. There is a way that seems loving in our own eyes, a way that seems fair and humanly just. But God’s ways are not our ways…
6 “Seek the LORD while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 “Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the LORD,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
The truly fortunate thing for all of us is that God long ago commanded that His Word be recorded for the ages to come, that the record of His commandments, statutes, testimonies, judgments, and law be written for all to read and study and teach to the next generation. (Deuteronomy 6:1-9) Here before us we have the Word of God, which is full of a wisdom that seems foolishness to the world, which teaches a righteousness that seems harsh and judgmental when compared to the ways of man. But our ways inevitably lead to sin and death. Just look at Adam and Eve! They went their own way, and they lost the blessing of knowing the constant presence of the Lord God in a place with no pain, no want, no death. Look at Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samson, David, Jeremiah, and so many others from God’s Word. When they followed God’s way, they flourished. When they went their own way, they failed and faced discipline or punishment.
We can number the days of the year, build where we want to build, seek our own ways in so many things, and yet no matter how we try to rewrite our view of the world, God still reigns. We may accept certain behaviors as moral and right despite the clear teaching of God’s Word, and yet that does not change what God has written, does not change His mind concerning sin and death. I do not write these things to judge others, because that is God’s province, not mine. However, if we cannot stand before the world as watchmen and declare the true Word of God, if we cannot heed the fire in our bones and speak the laws of God with boldness to Jew and Gentile alike, if we cannot lay aside our own notion of morality and take up God’s own moral code, then we will face the wrath of God as surely as the patriarchs of old. Moses acted in wrath and was denied entry into the Promised Land. In his pride and lust, Samson revealed his secret to Delilah, and so he was blinded and denied God’s strength. David broke all ten of the Commandments in his affair with Bathsheba, and their child died as a result. Despite being warned not to enter into battle, King Josiah of Judah went out to fight the king of Egypt, and he was fatally wounded by an arrow. There are consequences when we do not follow the ways of the Lord!
God does not look at things the way we do. Where we see someone’s actions and judge them by human standards of morals and ethics, the Lord judges them by the content of their heart, measuring them as only He can against the Word He has already given to us. We can do many good deeds, and yet if we do not love God with all our heart and mind and soul, it is all for naught. We cannot hasten the sun in the sky nor stop the falling of the rain without faith in the Lord our God who alone can give us the power to do those things. We cannot heal nor counsel without the Holy Spirit of God. We cannot be transformed into the image of the Son of God if we do not first yield the sovereignty of our hearts to that King of kings who alone is mighty to save us from sin and death. There is a way that is right to God, and its end is the way of life eternal.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Holy Lord God and Father, keep us from seeking our own ways. Lead us into Your righteousness and Your will, so that we stop going the way we are going. Help our unbelief, Father, and guide us with Your Spirit into the real truth that is the peace and love of Christ Jesus our Lord. And, Lord, help me to personally be a better witness of Your grace in the lives of sinners. Amen.