Once I had a pen that I enjoyed writing with. It served me well for a long time, but eventually needed a refill. I had a choice to make – keep it as a token, throw it away or refill it so I could continue using it. I chose to get a refill. When I did, the power to “make its mark” returned.
Sometimes we forget we – the Church – are to be the hands, feet and voice of God in the earth. We have to be full of His Spirit to accomplish that. We are not here to serve our own purposes. Our nation is in trouble because God’s people need a refill. We can change that if we choose to. It begins with one individual, then another and another, until the Church rises up to be the Church.
God’s people are the key. We can see that clearly in 2 Chronicles 7:14. But we must heed the whole message. “If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Usually, we focus only on the part that says to pray, so we offer up a few prayers corporately or individually and that’s the end of it. God clearly requires more.
In Isaiah1:10-20 God likens His people to Sodom and Gomorrah. He says, “Hear [O Jerusalem] the word of the Lord, you rulers or judges of [another] Sodom! Give ear to the law and the teaching of our God, you people of [another] Gomorrah!”
Why did He liken them to Sodom and Gomorrah? They had become disconnected from offering their sacrifices. The procedures were correct, but the worship, repentance and obedience to His commandments were all missing. He said their incense (praise) and assemblies were an abomination. “They are an oppressive burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.”
Then He said something we don’t like to think about. “And when you spread forth your hands [in prayer, imploring help], I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood!” Their hearts were not right, and nothing they did had any meaning – not even their prayers - until they turned back with their whole heart. There is more required of us than saying a few words to God. First, we must turn back to Him.
We remember Sodom and Gomorrah for the wickedness and perversion that lead to their destruction, but it didn’t start there. We find the progression of sin in Ezekiel 16:46-50. Once again, God likens His people to Sodom. “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.” This scripture can shed some light on where we are today.
1. It begins with pride, an overly high opinion of oneself. Pride is the sin that caused Satan to be cast out of Heaven. When pride enters, we become the center of our world. Instead of Jesus being the center and everything else revolving around Him, we take that place and view everything by how it will affect us. Our focus is turned away from Jesus, away from others, and is turned on “me”. Life becomes all about “me” and we cultivate an independent spirit.
Proverbs 16:18 warns us of the consequences of pride. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” It is the forerunner of destruction, the first step on the way down.
There is a way to turn back from pride. Romans 12:3 says, “I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him.” We need to keep in mind that we are nothing without Jesus Christ, and have nothing of eternal value to give or gain without Him. While pride is a spirit of independence, humility is complete submission and dependence on God. If we will humble ourselves, pride cannot lead us to the next step on the way to destruction.
2. Fullness of bread may sound more like a blessing rather than something evil, but it can be deadly. Fullness of bread is enough food to satisfy completely. If we can be satisfied completely by material things, we are in trouble. Satisfaction with an abundance of food or any other material possession, is stoking the fire of pride. It causes us to become dependent on them instead of on God.
Proverbs 30:8-9 helps us see the problem caused by “things”. “Remove far from me falsehood and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, Lest I be full and deny You and say, Who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor and steal, and so profane the name of my God.” Fullness of bread meshes seamlessly with the next step.
3. Abundance of idleness is having a false sense of security that causes one to be at ease. The truth is we have no security outside the boundaries God has set. Abundance of idleness is characterized by apathy and a lack of interest in spiritual things. When we are satisfied with material wealth, we forget God and others. Jesus told a parable that illustrates this principle.
“The land of a rich man was fertile and yielded plentifully. And he considered and debated within himself, What shall I do? I have no place [in which] to gather together my harvest. And he said, I will do this: I will pull down my storehouses and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain or produce and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many good things laid up, [enough] for many years. Take your ease; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself merrily. But God said to him, You fool! This very night they [the messengers of God] will demand your soul of you; and all the things that you have prepared, whose will they be? So it is with the one who continues to lay up and hoard possessions for himself and is not rich [in his relation] to God [this is how he fares].” (Luke 12:16-21)
God told Abraham that He would bless him and make him a blessing. That is His plan for all of us. Whatever God has deposited in us is meant to be shared. We are to become a conduit of God’s blessings, not another Dead Sea. Whether it’s the deposit of God’s Word and Spirit in us, the gifts and abilities He has blessed us with, or material possessions; God blesses us so we can be a blessing. We are not to hoard what God freely gives us. “Freely ye have received, freely give.”
Our best course of action is to ask God to show us what to do with our “fullness of bread” so that it will not lead to “abundance of idleness”. Because, when fullness of bread combines with abundance of idleness, we are one step closer to destruction.
4. They didn’t strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. Those who reach this step are callous toward the needs of others and deaf to their cries. They become like the rich man who could think of nothing better to do with his overflow than to cushion his retirement portfolio so he could take his ease. We need to ask God to make us sensitive to the people around us. When we pray for the Lord of the harvest to send workers to the field, we should say like Isaiah – “Here am I; send me.”
Proverbs 21:13 says, “Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.” That sounds like an epitaph for the rich man’s tombstone.
5. They were haughty, considering themselves to be above others. When we get a “me” mentality, haughtiness is just around the corner. “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.” (Proverbs 18:12
6. Committed abomination. They finally crossed the line, and God brought judgment. God’s response was “therefore I took them away as I saw good.” But 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a promise for God’s people who have turned from His ways and are being punished for it. He clearly shows us the path back to Him. “If My people, which are called by My name, shall…
· “Humble themselves” – Turn our eyes on Jesus and abandon our own way (opinions, mind sets). Read God’s Word and submit to it as it is written. Don’t modify it to suit our purposes.
· “Pray” – Communicate with God. Quiet our own voice and listen to God’s Spirit, then He will reveal His way. We pray for things from our limited knowledge and don’t see results, so we become discouraged. When we take the time to know Him, we will begin to pray according to His will and see great results.
· “Seek My face” – Let Him consume us so that nothing is as important to us as His favor. Then we will know His heart, not just His ways.
· “Turn from their wicked ways” – Put into practice everything He reveals to us from His Word and by His Spirit. “Faith without works is dead.” Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”
Why did God give us this passage of Scripture? Because He longs for us to turn back to Him. If we do our part, He will hear us and “heal our land”. He cancels punishment when it has accomplished what He sent it to do – turn us back to Him in every area of our lives. He wants to bless, not destroy.
It is not hopeless. God calls us. “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said, Truly our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live? Say to them, As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” Ezekiel 33:10-11 (AMP) We don’t have to stay on the path to destruction. We can turn back. The choice is ours.
Once upon a time the will of God was done on earth through His Church. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and completely surrendered to Jesus Christ. Because the power of the Spirit was allowed to work through them, the Gospel spread throughout the then-known world. But the time came when they needed a refill. At first they didn’t notice it, but the world did. When they realized it, they chose to…???