Articles

Christian Education Devotionals (98)

These devotionals were originally written by Hope PR Christian School (Walker, MI) teacher Brian D. Dykstra for his fellow teachers. They are posted here for their broader significance and for broader use by Christian parents and other Christian school teachers.

The Fountain of Life (2)

The Fountain of Life (2)

by Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (Prov. 14:27).

We must not be casual in our relationship with God. We must fear God because He warned us that the way we live bears fruit. When Moses was about to die, he spoke to Israel before they entered Canaan. He instructed them that faithful obedience to God would result in one of them chasing a hundred of the enemy. Their flocks and fields would produce an abundance of food, and their wives would bear children. However, Moses also warned Israel that should they forsake God, the opposite would be true. One enemy would chase a hundred of them. Their fields and flocks would not produce much food, and their wives would not bear many children. Should they not repent, God would take the drastic step of removing them out of the pleasant promised land and sending them into captivity.

Yes, we should have a fear of the Lord based on awe for Him and a love for Him Who has done so much for us. Yet, we should not fail to have a type of fear for the Lord because He will chastise us for our sins, perhaps even severely. Because we are His precious sons and daughters, God will not allow us to live in sin.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, a source of spiritual life. Fearing God, obeying Him and fighting against our sinful nature shows we have spiritual life. The wicked do not fear or obey God. They do not fight temptation. God put His Spirit in us to make us, who were once dead in sin, alive in Christ. When we fear God, we know Him as our friend, just as when we live in sin for a time, we know God is not pleased with us and we have a guilty conscience. When we see the fear of God in our hearts, we know God is working in our hearts by His Spirit, and we have true life.

The fear of God helps us with the snares of death. A snare is a trap. People use traps to catch animals. Usually traps are used to kill animals. Satan sets snares, traps, for us. Satan wants us, not because he loves us, but because he deeply hates God and His people. Satan wants to do as much harm to the church as he can. A Christian knows the world is spiritually dangerous. We may not live as though this world is a place of fun and games. A deadly spiritual war rages about our souls every day. These are snares of death after all, not slight discomfort or nagging illness.

That brings us to the verses about Peter when he denied Christ. Satan set snares for Peter. Peter expected Christ would become king of a glorious earthly kingdom and lead Israel back the heights of power and wealth just as the days of David and Solomon. When Christ allowed Himself to be arrested, it was clear that this was not the way to begin a great earthly kingdom. Peter, who had just boasted that he was willing to die for Christ, and backed up his talk with the action of taking up a sword even though Christ’s followers were greatly outnumbered, heard Christ tell him to put his sword away. He must have felt humiliated that Christ rebuked his willingness to fight. Peter was so humiliated by Jesus allowing Himself to be taken, that he later lied and said he did not even know Christ. Satan snared Peter who then went out and wept bitterly.

It can be hard to recognize the dangers of the snares of death. Traps are not always put out in the open. Snares may be hidden, unseen. There are times when Satan is very open and brazen in his temptations. We are faced with the opportunity to do something which is obviously sinful. Yet, because sin appeals to our flesh, even these temptations can be hard to resist.

Sometimes Satan’s snares are subtle. Snares may appear to be harmless fun. Many people appear to do things, say things and live in a way that is sinful, yet we do not see anything bad happen to them. The world seems to be having a really good time. Their consciences do not even bother them. Then we think, “Why can’t we have a little fun too?” Why must we always hear, “Thou shalt not,” and have so few things which we can do? Our lives are so limited. If we give in to these temptations and are snared by the Devil, we are on the path of sin and death.

It is striking that God tells us here that the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life which causes us to depart from the snares of death. We do not have to depart from a place unless we are already there. We were in our homes this morning, so we had to depart in order to come to school and take up our work here. We are already in a world filled with snares, temptations. As we grow spiritually and understand God’s Word better, we learn just how many temptations we face every day. These snares are not distant. They are right around us all the time.

Mom asks us to help her around the house, but we want to play. Did we obey her cheerfully, in the fear of the Lord? Were we sinfully jealous of the brothers and sisters who did not have to help, so they could play? Did dad discipline us for something sinful we had done, but at the time we felt dad was being really unfair so we did not take correction thankfully in the fear of the Lord? Did we speak an unkind or careless word to a classmate because we felt we could make others laugh? Did we fail to love the neighbour as ourselves in the fear of the Lord? These are examples of the snares of death in which we already find ourselves. We must depart from them.

To recognize these snares and depart from them requires wisdom. Wisdom allows us to see the world for what it really is according to God’s Word. The world does not love God or His Word. The wicked are not striving to walk in fellowship with Christ or obey His commandments. The world is not our friend. Wisdom shows us we need God, not the things of this world. Wisdom shows us that a Christian life, though difficult, gives the happiness of knowing God as our Saviour and friend.

God promises to give wisdom to those who seek diligently for it. We have many opportunities to learn God’s wisdom. We attend church and hear good preaching. We have catechism and Sunday school. We have our own Christian schools. God has placed you children in covenant homes where your fathers and mothers care enough about you to instruct you in the fear of the Lord which is a fountain of life so we depart from the snares of death. Make the best of the opportunities you have, and drink deeply from the fountain of life.

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The Fountain of Life (1)

The Fountain of Life (1)

by Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PRCS in Walker, MI

“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (Prov. 14:27).

“And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake” (II Kings 2:19-22).

The verse in Proverbs speaks of a fountain, a good source of water. I quoted the verses from II Kings because they remind us of the importance of water to people. These men had found what would have been a pleasant place to live. Perhaps the location helped them to do their work and the fertile soil would allow them to grow some of their own food. However, they faced a big problem. No matter how many factors were favourable, they could not live there if the water was bad. The bad water made it impossible for them to grow food. The ground was barren, producing no fruit. They needed Elisha’s help. Elisha healed the waters, and the men had a fruitful place to live. People need water.

When people don’t drink enough water, they suffer dehydration. The brain will not function well, and our internal organs can not do their work to maintain health. During times of emergencies, some people have managed to live for quite a while without food as long as they had a good supply of water.

We also see the importance of a fountain of water for life when we read about communities where the water became polluted, contaminated. Contaminated water is a major problem for communities hit by hurricanes. Flood water picks up all kinds of dirty, unhealthy things and that water sneaks into the water supply. Bringing in good water is one of the first jobs to do when trying to help a hurricane-damaged community.

We have sometimes heard in the news about the effects of bad water. When lead is in the drinking water, people’s brains are damaged. Some people suffered a higher risk of cancer because a shoe making company dumped on the ground chemicals which were used to treat leather. Governments spend great amounts of money to provide clean water, and companies which pollute water are fined. Clean water is very important.

Those of you who like geography and studying maps might want to notice how many cities are found by sources of fresh water. We see that here in our own community. Grand Rapids is located on a bend in the Grand River. Muskegon, Grand Haven and Holland are all found where rivers empty into Lake Michigan. The availability of water also shaped our nation’s history. Much of our population is east of the Mississippi River where there are more rivers. The western part of the Great Plains does not have as many cities because there isn’t as much water readily available. Again, people need water.

Plants also need water in the right amount. When we have a hot summer and a few weeks of no rain, lawns are parched and brown. A brown lawn is not a big deal to us, but think of the farmer who needs a harvest so he can provide for the needs of a family. Some crops need plenty of water, and some need just a little. Farmers decide what crops to grow based upon how much rain their area usually receives.

Earthly water is so important to life, God uses it to teach us a spiritual lesson. Just as our bodies need water, our souls need spiritual water. Spiritual water is the Word of God. We must drink enough water so we don’t suffer dehydration, and we need spiritual water to avoid spiritual dehydration. How are we going to have a healthy knowledge of God, the way of salvation and the way of thankful living if we do not read the Bible or go to church? We must drink God’s Word.

The spiritual water we drink must be good, clean water. We do not drink polluted water because it does our bodies harm. When God’s word of grace is polluted with Arminianism, it does our souls harm. If we believe we must contribute some of our works, even in the smallest way, to our salvation, we steal glory from God. All the glory of salvation must go to Him. When we drink freely from a clean source of water, we enjoy a major benefit to our physical health. When we read God’s Word and hear the pure preaching of the gospel, our spiritual lives thrive and all glory is given to God.

When we read the Bible and hear good preaching, we learn that we are to fear the Lord. The fear of the Lord means we have great respect and reverent awe for God. God has been so gracious to us and given us so many blessings, we fear to offend Him. It is foolish to offend a person who has done so much for you, but it’s even worse to offend such a gracious God.

There is also a fear of the Lord which involves some fright. God is very strong. He can bring what we call evil into our lives. God is perfectly righteous. He is very angry with sin. Yes, Christ suffered the punishment for our sins and paid for all of them. However, God will make us suffer the consequences of our sins, not as a punishment or payment for our sins, but so we do not live a careless life of worldliness. God chastises us for our disobedience to bring us back to the way of His law.

We live in a very casual age. The fashion in which people dress gives evidence of this. Personal relationships and the manner we speak with friends is also very casual. This casual aspect of our society is also seen in that people do not worry about the results of their actions. Even our justice system gives sentences which are quite minimal, unless one is guilty of crimes which have attracted a great amount of public attention. Quite often, not much seems to happen to criminals. The world, then, believing that God is similar to themselves, also believes they can live in whatever way they please, and either God will not notice because He is far away, or that He will not punish them for their sins because God has changed. He is no longer the Old Testament God of vengeance. After all, He has not rained fire and brimstone on any cities for a long time. The claim today is that God is love, so now He loves everybody just the way they are. Actions are believed to have no consequences.  to be continued …

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The Power of the Tongue (2)

The Power of the Tongue (2)

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Prov. 18:21).

Now we turn to two examples of the power of life being in the tongue, Joseph and Daniel.

When Joseph was young, his brothers had not been kind to him. In fact, they hated him. Jacob loved Rachel which caused Jacob to treat Joseph, Rachel’s son, as his favourite. Joseph’s brothers resented this favouritism, and Joseph’s dreams, which revealed that in the future they would bow to Joseph because he would be greater than they, made matters even worse. In their bitterness and hatred, they sold Joseph into slavery, not caring whether Joseph survived the experience or not.

When Jacob died, the brothers were afraid Joseph would finally have his revenge and make them suffer. Joseph certainly had the power to do so. How did Joseph use his tongue? He could have called for some soldiers, told them to arrest Joseph’s brothers and put them in prison. Joseph could make his brothers suffer the way they had caused him to suffer. He could even have had them executed. He could have used his tongue for death.

Joseph did not do that. He showed there was the power of life in his tongue. Joseph confessed that God used those terrible sins of his brothers to save the lives of many people. He promised to care for his brothers and their children by nourishing them. He comforted his brothers concerning their guilty consciences and spoke kindly to them.

Our last example of the power of life in the tongue is Daniel. Many young Jewish boys had been taken captive to Babylon. Daniel and his three friends were among them. The king provided these boys with the best education possible at that time. He even gave these captives excellent food. However, Daniel and his friends would break God’s law if they ate this food. It was unclean.

How did Daniel use his tongue? He did not give a list of excuses for eating the unclean food. He did not remind his friends there were no priests around who would be upset with them for eating unclean food. He did not show the power of death in his tongue by disobeying God’s law. With his tongue, Daniel made request for food which would not violate God’s law. Daniel and his friends would walk in the way of life. They even showed concern for the Babylonian man who took care of them, Melzar. Melzar was afraid he would be in trouble, if the boys he was supposed to nourish looked unhealthy. Instead of using his tongue in a strong, harsh manner, Daniel carefully proposed a ten-day trial period. There was the power of life in Daniel’s tongue.

The real power of life in the tongue is in the gospel. Think of someone who is becoming aware of the seriousness of sin. He or she feels guilty. This guilt becomes a tremendous burden which they seek to escape. What are they supposed to do? Who can help?

What happens if such a person turns to someone who does not know the truth of salvation? There are two possibilities. Today most Christians would say one has to open one’s heart to let Jesus come in. Accept Christ’s offer of salvation! Make the decision to have Jesus be your personal Lord and Saviour! The one suffering with guilt could also be told to do good works. Obey the commandments to show God you are worthy to be saved! Go out into the sinful world and win your little part of it for Christ! You could do your part to help establish the kingdom of Christ here on earth! Taking this type of advice would leave the guilty sufferer laden with a great burden. These tongues with their false gospel have the power of death.

The truth of the gospel is that by the gift of faith we are to believe in Christ. By faith, we trust God’s Word that Christ has taken all of our sins upon Himself and paid for them in His whole life of suffering, especially in what He endured on the cross. This would only leave us spiritually neutral, having no guilt. But God also takes the perfect obedience of Christ and puts that on our account. Now not only are we no longer guilty, we can appear before God as those who are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. Those who believe this message are relieved of their burden and have hope for what God has in store for them. Tongues which speak the truth of the gospel have the power of life.

God tells us there are consequences for how we use the power of the tongue. We are told, “and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

Notice, we will “eat” this fruit. We are not merely to look at this fruit, either near or distant so its effects on ourselves can be limited. No, we will “eat” it. It will be in our mouths. We will swallow it and it will become part of us. What will be in our mouths as a result of the fruit of our words? Will we eat something disgusting, which tastes awful and feels terrible in our mouths and stomachs, and make us sick, or will we taste something delicious, having a pleasing texture and give us health and strength?

Think of the fruits of the speech in the examples we examined. The fruit Jezebel tasted was not good. She still suffers and will continue to do so everlastingly. Jehoshaphat, though saved, experienced bitter fruit as well. He didn’t quite learn his lesson. He arranged a marriage between his son and a daughter of Ahab, Athaliah. This wicked woman nearly destroyed David’s line, but God graciously preserved it and kept His promise to give His people their Messiah.

We also saw examples of the fruit of life. Joseph and Daniel are still examples to us of living in the fear of God. They experienced God’s blessing, the fullness of His love and the hope of everlasting life in heaven.

May God give us His grace that we show the power of life in our tongues that we may eat the fruit of everlasting life with His church in glory.

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The Carefully Weighed Step

The Carefully Weighed Step

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

“Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil” (Prov. 4:26-27).

Because out of the heart are the issues of life, Solomon has warned his children to keep it with all diligence. To do that, he has instructed us to put away a froward mouth and keep our eyes looking right on the goal of serving God. He finishes his admonitions on how to keep the heart by telling us that we must ponder the path of our feet.

Scripture often compares our lives to walking a path. We do not walk any random path, nor is God pleased when we walk a path because we believe this way will provide us with earthly pleasures. God has clearly told us the goal of our path is to love Him and the neighbour. Our path is not easy; however, we walk this path to show our gratitude to our Saviour.

Having this goal before our eyes, we may now ponder the best path of achieving the goal. It does not do us any good to weigh which would be the best path after the journey is finished. God also warns us there are dangers to the right and left of this path; therefore, we must be vigilant.

My wife and I camped in northern Arizona recently. We had rented a Ford Expedition which a clever handyman had converted to have a bed in the back. We took public transportation from the airport to pick up the vehicle. We were conspicuous to the locals as we were the only passengers with luggage. Once a fellow passenger discovered our plans to camp at the Grand Canyon, he warned us that in the past months two tourists had fallen to their deaths from the canyon’s rim. Clearly, while hiking the rim of the Grand Canyon, we would do well to ponder the path of our feet.

During my years of summer employment, there were times I served as the road inspector when a new subdivision was built. Excavators removed trees, rocks and other obstacles. They scraped away the high places and used the removed dirt to fill in the low places. Workers compacted the subsurface. Finally, after the blacktop was laid, a steamroller smoothed and compacted the surface. Knowing something of all the planning and work which went into those newly-finished roads, I thought they were beautiful.

We have many obstacles in our spiritual path. Our pastors send us away from God’s house each Sunday with the benediction of our Lord’s peace. Are we then anxious about the cares of daily living? Do we desire the things of this earth to the extent we have our treasures here instead of in heaven? Does our faith waver? Yes, God has given us great promises and we love them, but, you know, there are all of these factors to consider which seem to make these promises impossible to fulfil! We must remove these trees of anxiousness and rocks of doubt. God’s grace rolls smooth the way of faith. The way of faith, marked out by God, is truly beautiful, and we must not forget that God blessed us with peace through Christ crucified when we left His presence in public worship.

We now come to the word, “let.” It is a command. This is not to allow something to happen, as in “Let me help you.” This “let” will cause some action, as in “Let there be light!” When we ponder our path, our ways will be established, that is, erect, upright in the eyes of God. We will have no doubt about the end of the path. We are assured that just as God’s effectual Word created light, the path we walk leads to everlasting fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ. This will be true of all our ways.

We have thought about our path and it is established. Now we must not turn from it to the right or the left. God has given His Word to us. We may not take away nor add anything to it. Which way is more dangerous? Ignoring portions of God’s Word leads us to careless, ungodly living. Adding to God’s law leads us to Pharisaism. We see the dangers of both in our first parents. We can almost see this beautiful, young couple at the dawn of life. They had one commandment, do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So, they thought, just to be safe, let us make a rule for ourselves that we will not even touch the tree. Then eating it will not be a problem. However, at the instigation of Satan, Eve soon ignored the rule about touching the tree. Experiencing no punishment for breaking their rule, she soon advanced to disobeying the one prohibition God had given and the punishment was great.

Finally, we are commanded to “remove thy foot from evil.” Foot is singular. We must not take even the first step off the good path which God marks out for us. We must not ever underestimate the power of sin. How often has that first step into evil proven to be more disastrous than the last misstep which led to the plunge off the edge of the Grand Canyon? The first taste of the forbidden fruit, the first touch of the coveted Babylonian garment, the first hearing of the flattering lie from the wicked woman on her street corner, the first lustful look at Bathsheba and the first smell of the sacrifice offered to the golden calves have led to great spiritual consequences. The danger to us, and especially our young people, is constant. Satan never gives us a day off, so we must always be pondering the path of our feet.

May God be pleased to use our Christian schools to give His covenant children the wisdom they need to ponder the path of their feet and remove their foot from evil. God will establish their ways, ways which lead to everlasting fellowship with Christ in heaven, where the paths are paved with gold.

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House Curses or Blessings? (2)

House Cursings or Blessings? (2)

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PRCS in Walker, MI

“The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just” (Prov. 3:33).

Now let us look at some examples in Scripture. How does this apply to the people in II Kings 9:30-37 and I Kings 17.

Think of Jezebel and Elijah during the days of dreadful famine in Israel. We all know Jezebel. Jezebel does not strike us a one who would say, “The dear common people of my nation are suffering and sliding into poverty. Many of them are even having a hard time finding enough to eat. I should give up some of my luxuries to show my willingness to take up my part of this burden.” Jezebel is not that kind of person. She would maintain her wealth and luxury.

Jezebel was born a princess and is now a queen and would live her life as such. She lived in wealth and had everything she could hope to have. She was rich. She was royalty. There is no way for us to know this from the Bible’s description of her but tradition has it that she was beautiful too. She had what so many people of the world would love to have. Despite all of these earthly things, which might make many jealous of her, her household, no matter how fine or beautiful, was cursed by God through and through. As a princess and a queen she had lived in a palace all of her life, right up until she was thrown from the window. We know that at her death she went to a place which was not so nice. God’s curse is in the house of the wicked.

Now let us look at an example of the just. How was Elijah doing at this same time? For a time he lived by the brook Cherith. I don’t suppose he had what we would normally call a house. He certainly wasn’t living in luxury. Yet God blessed him for obediently doing His will and gave him his daily bread.

Then Elijah went to the widow of Zaraphath. There was no fine living here either. Widows often were not rich. When Elijah met her, she was down to her last handful of meal and a bit of oil, and had a couple of sticks to prepare her last meal. We would not volunteer to live with a widow woman who was this poor. From an earthly point of view, we would prefer to live in luxury with Jezebel.

The widow would prepare one final meal, and then she and her son would begin the slow process of starving to death. These were not bright days for her and her household. Because she was a widow, she does not have a husband who works hard every day to earn the money the family would need to buy their daily bread. She wouldn’t be able to earn much money to continue to purchase the food she needed.

Yet the widow’s household knew the blessing of God. The barrel of meal did not fail. This barrel was not always full being refilled to the brim each time the widow took out the needed meal. She emptied it only to find that, when it was time to eat again, there was just enough at the bottom of the barrel once more. The barrel was never full but every time she opened it to prepare the daily meal, God saw to it that there was just enough there for everybody in the house. The same was true for the oil.

Elijah and the widow’s house knew the blessing of God to be more than mere earthly meal and oil. Elijah did not spend his days during the famine quietly sitting under a shady tree waiting for the widow to bring his daily portion of food. He must have taught her about God and how He must be worshipped. When her son died, she asked, “What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?” This means she had learned about sin and how sin offends God. She learned God is just and punishes sin. However, she had learned to put aside her old ways of sin. She says her sins were called to remembrance. These were not sins in which she continued to live. She also learned that what Elijah said was true when her son was brought back to life. God is able to call for life where once there was only death. The physical return to life of her son pictures the giving of spiritual life where once there was only death. The widow would not know this if all Elijah did was sit around the house and do nothing. He instructed the widow and she believed by faith. God’s blessed the house of the just. They shared the joy of knowing that some day God would send the Messiah to save His people from their sin.

There is no middle ground. There is a curse in the house of the wicked and God blesses the dwelling of the just. God does not curse the house of the wicked some of the time and bless them at other times. God does not bless the just, but then allow His curse to come on them now and then. It is always one or the other. God does not change either. Those who are under His curse shall always be under God’s curse. Those whom God has justified will always be blessed by Him. God will be faithful to us. God is good to the just, the just who have had their sins taken away by Christ. We, in gratitude for His blessings, must now live in thankful obedience to Him.

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House Curses or Blessings? (1)

House Cursings or Blessings? (1)

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PRCS in Walker, MI

“The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just” (Prov. 3:33).

Solomon teaches us a spiritual lesson in this proverb by having us look at the dwelling places of two men. One of the men is wicked and the other man is just.

Let’s think first about the man whom the Bible calls wicked. This wicked man is one who does wrong. He sins. Although this man is wicked, he is not what the world would call evil. We are Calvinists, so we would say this man is totally depraved. However, being totally depraved does not mean that we would find this man sneaking around the neighbourhood smashing windows or breaking in doors in order to steal. He does not prowl around the city with a gun or knife murdering people because he loves violence. The wrongs this wicked man commits do not result in his coming before a judge waiting for the judge to give him time in jail.

We believe the Bible’s teaching which says that man is totally depraved by nature. However, total depravity does not mean that the reprobate, the wicked, are always violent all of the time. They are not mean, rotten, and nasty all day every day. The reprobate even do things which appear very helpful, nice and kind. What makes everything they do sinful is that they do not do anything because they love God. They do not do anything from faith. No matter how “kind” an act may be, no matter how helpful the wicked might be in someone’s time of need, because they do not act out of love for God or out of faith, the wicked sin.

Now let us notice where the wicked live. Solomon notes that this wicked man lives in a house. He is not living in a tent or some temporary shelter made of tree branches and palm fronds. Perhaps this house is a bit nicer than average since he seems to know how to make a dollar go just a little farther for him than most other people do. Because of his little tricks in business deals, he has the extra money he needs to make his house just a little nicer than the other houses in his neighbourhood. He is doing well for himself and is comfortable. From an earthly point of view, he has no complaints.

Despite the way in which this wicked man lives, which might cause us to feel a touch of envy since he seems to be well-off, God’s curse is in his house. Solomon writes that God’s curse is not just on the house of the wicked, this curse is in the house of the wicked.

We need to take a careful look at the difference between “on” and “in.” It is an important difference. I will give you an illustration about the difference between ON and IN.

One reason why I do not like to work on cars is that my hands become covered with that film of dirty oil. Some of you might not enjoy eating certain foods because they make your hands a sticky mess. This curse from God is not as a layer of something nasty on your hands. When the filth is merely on your hands, one can wash it off and you are done with it. No, this curse is not just on this house, but God’s curse is in this house through and through. This is more like a poison which has worked its way into your body. No matter how clean you make the outside of your body by using plenty of soap, you can’t wash away the poison which is deep inside of you. In the house of the wicked, there is no little corner or closet where one could escape this curse. God’s curse fills every room there. God’s curse cannot be wiped away. This curse is just rottenness all the way through to every little space in the house.

Solomon contrasts this with the just man. This just man is not just because he has reached perfect obedience through a supreme effort of his own will. He would not be pointed out by others as a man who has never done any offence to another. You would not point out that man after church and say that he is one of the few people you know who never sins or does anything wrong. Although the Bible calls him just, he too has his sins. He does sin and he would admit his sins to you too. He is just in the eyes of God. God has cleansed him from his sin. The sins of which he is guilty have been taken away. Christ has paid for his sins. God sees him as though he has never committed any sin, because Christ has taken every sin away and Christ’s perfect obedience is placed on him.

This just man, however, has only a habitation, not a nice house. The Bible is speaking of a mere temporary shelter, more of what was called a sheep-cote than a permanent house. A sheep-cote was not built to last years and years. It was merely a carefully arranged pile of branches which would protect the sheep but it wasn’t anything like the cosy houses we live in. This just man isn’t rich. His dwelling is not the nicest place in the neighbourhood.

What he does have and experience, however, is very valuable. He wouldn’t sell it to you for any amount of money. He wouldn’t trade this possession for a palace because what he has is the blessing of his heavenly Father. He can live his life in spiritual joy, even when God brings him through times of hardship or sorrow. He knows the blessing of his Father is with him.

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The Wise Shall Inherit Glory (2)

The Wise Shall Inherit Glory (2)

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

Proverbs 3:35: “The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.”

Now we will examine the fools. Fools will not have it so good. The fool says that there is no God. A fool lives life as though there is no sovereign Judge who knows all that the fool does and thinks. This denial of God is made despite the fact of the clear testimony of all of creation. Creation tells everybody that there is a God. Only fools refuse to hear what creation tells them.

The greatest height which can be attained by fools is shame. That is their promotion, the highest rank they can achieve, shame. A promotion is something a person has worked for long and hard. This is what they have earned, unlike an inheritance which is something that is given. Fools exerted themselves and made sacrifices to earn their promotion. In school, students are promoted, move higher, to the next grade when they have done their school work well enough. You did the work your teacher gave you. You did not have too many mistakes in the work you did. You did the work and were promoted to the next grade. You worked hard to earn the right to move up to a higher level.

However, these fools worked hard to achieve shame. Shame makes us want to hide our faces and not be seen by anyone again. You just want to creep away and disappear because now people have come to realize what you really are. There will be no more proud lifting up of the head because someone feels that they are so special and wonderful. Fools will know the shame pronounced upon them by God is the sad condition which they have so richly earned. It takes a fool to work so hard and long to reach the level of shame. Working that hard for shame just doesn’t make sense. It’s foolish.

The fool lives in a way which leads to the shame of hell and God’s anger always being upon someone. It’s the shame of rejecting God when you should have known better. It’s the shame of knowing that you didn’t think you needed Christ to save you from your sins. You foolishly either didn’t care about your sins or felt that you were a pretty good person and would be able to go to heaven anyway.

That is quite a contrast. The fool has earned his terrible destiny. The fools’ everlasting shame has been won through hard work. It takes much hard work to convince one’s self that there is no God. Many smart people have earned high-powered engineering degrees to design and build very expensive equipment to try to learn the basic principles of the universe, when all the while they deny the most fundamental truth of everything they can see, the fact that God made everything.

The fool earned the shame of God’s punishment. The truly wise, those who take God and His Word as truth, receive glory, a glory they inherited because of the hard, sacrificial work of their Saviour on the cross.

How foolish to think God would be satisfied with the fruit and vegetables Cain grew. There was no blood in Cain’s sacrifice. There had to be the blood of an animal as a picture of what Christ had to do on the cross to save His people from their sins. Cain was sinfully foolish.

Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God. Abel served God the way God said He wanted to be served, with the sacrifice of an animal and the shedding of blood. Abel would not rely on his own work to earn something from God. Abel was humble. Abel knew what God wanted and obediently did it. Rather than try to impress God with his own works, Abel would depend on the blood which would be shed for his sins. Abel was wise.

Cain now has the shame of being known as the first murderer. He has the shame of having this written about him in the Bible in I John 3:12: “Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” Cain now must suffer the punishment of God’s everlasting anger against his sin.

Abel inherited glory. Abel is in heaven. Abel is mentioned in Hebrews 11 as a great example of faith. Abel was righteous. Hebrews 11:4 says that Abel “obtained witness that he was righteous.” Abel was just in doing what was right in God’s eyes. Abel was lowly. When he knew Cain was jealous of him and hated him, Abel did not sneak around and plan to kill Cain first. The meaning of Abel’s name is lowly, for his name means, “weakling.” Abel is not a name which would remind him to be proud of himself because he was so great.

Now we have the prayers of the Pharisee and the publican in the parable told by Christ in Luke 18. The people of Christ’s day looked up to the Pharisees because they were really good in the eyes of men. Not only did they keep God’s law, they even added their own laws to God’s and obeyed those laws too. It’s similar to doing extra credit work in school even if your teacher didn’t say that you could. If you were to ask a Pharisee to give you an example of a sin they had committed, they would have a hard time finding one because they were so good. Because they felt they were so good, if not perfect, they were very proud of themselves. In his prayer, the Pharisee mentions how bad other people are and lists his good works. They did not need Christ to save them from their sins because they did not have any sins they needed to have forgiven. They relied on themselves for salvation, not Christ and the cross. Pharisees were so foolish they did not even see how sinful they were. Christ says the Pharisee would be made abased, made low, shameful. The Pharisee was a fool and would rise no higher than shame.

The publicans of Christ’s day were hated. They were tax collectors. People do not like tax collectors. Publicans were often cheaters who looked for sneaky ways to take people’s money which they would keep for themselves so they could become rich. The publican in this parable is humble. He was wise and saw his sin. He was wise enough to know he could not save himself. He could be saved from sin only because God is merciful. Christ says the publican was justified. His sins were taken away. He would inherit glory.

Are we wise so we will inherit glory or are we fools, promoted to shame? God works in the hearts of His people to make them wise. We must be thankful for our inheritance.

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The Wise Shall Inherit Glory (1)

The Wise Shall Inherit Glory (1)

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

Proverbs 3:35: “The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.”

First in this article, we will learn about the meaning of what Solomon wrote in Proverbs, “The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.” Then we will look at two examples which will show us the difference between what happens to the wise and what happens to fools. Our first example will be Cain and Abel, the well-known story from Genesis 4. The second example will be of the parable of the Pharisee and the publican which we read in Luke 18.

We start with what Solomon wrote, “The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.” In this verse, Solomon presents us with contrast, two things which are very different one from another. The contrast is great. In this verse, we do not face a wide range of possibilities. We face an either/or situation. There is one thing or there is the other. There cannot be anything else. Glory and shame are the only possibilities and there is no going from one to the other. The wise inherit glory. Fools ascend no higher than shame.

Who are the wise who will inherit glory? They are not the famous men and women in the world. Although God has given some of His people great talent and ability, and although some have even risen to positions of prominence and wealth, such is not the general condition of God’s people. Being wise has nothing to do with one’s standardized test scores, such as the Iowa Basic Tests, which we take every other year, or IQ. Wisdom is not the intellect so valued in the world of how to ascend to the higher rungs of the social ladder through the dedicated use of one’s wits and cunning. Wisdom is the fear of God which leads to faithful, diligent study of His Word which the wise recognize as the standard of all truth.

The glory that the wise inherit is not the kind of glory the world has in mind. It’s not the glory of a lifestyle where a person has a large beautiful house which only a few people could afford. It’s not the glory of driving the best and most expensive sports car or SUV. It’s not the glory of a lot of money, great looking, stylish clothes, and glittering diamond and gold jewellery.

The wise inherit glory. This glory is not a perishable good, something that wears out as you use it. This glory is not subject to the ravages of time. Moths cannot damage it and make it useless. Rust cannot take away its shine. This is the glory of being with God and experiencing His fellowship without the fear of it ever being lost again because of sin. This is the glory of being a living member of the church of Christ. This is the glory of being perfectly suited for the work which God will give to each of His redeemed children in His everlasting heavenly kingdom. It is the glory of knowing that we will see the beauty of God’s kingdom in heaven with all of His other people.

Now we need to take a closer look at who these wise people are. Solomon tells us about who these wise people are in the earlier verses in Proverbs 3, where he has given us instruction by means of other contrasts. The wise are the righteous. When God’s people confidently affirm their righteousness, there are spiritual confessions to make. Our righteousness is not ours. It’s Christ’s. Just as our sins have all been laid upon Him, His perfect obedience is laid upon us through faith. Because of Christ, we can stand before our heavenly Father as those who have kept His law perfectly. God does not see one sin in His people because Christ has taken away all of our sins from us, and our Lord now imputes to us the perfect obedience of Christ.

The wise are also just. Being just isn’t about being fair. Those who are just do what is right in God’s eyes. The just strive to deal with their neighbours as Christ instructs them. The just try to keep God’s law throughout all the interactions of their day to day personal relationships. They will not take advantage of people and figure that, as long as their behaviour is legal in the eyes of men, everything is fair game. The just live by the higher standard of God’s perfect law and work hard to treat people the way God tells us.

The wise are also lowly. People who are lowly know what they are of themselves. They cannot be proud of themselves when they examine their innermost hearts in the light of God’s perfect law. There is no boasting from those who know what it means to be the corrupt fruit of a fallen Adam. When we hear God’s law read to us each Sunday morning, we know that we are sinners. We are not good of ourselves. We are low.

The wise know to live according to the great reality which is denied, often very strongly, by the wicked. The great reality is that there is a God in heaven who is just and who will not be mocked. The wise know they cannot get away with sin. There is a God who, when He speaks of the consequences of sin, He means it. The wise also confess the reality about themselves, their need of a Saviour and their obligation to live thankfully before their merciful heavenly Father. That is wisdom.

Solomon tells us the wise inherit glory. When you inherit something, you are given it. Nobody inherits the fruit of their own labour. Someone else has done the work and, in their love for those dear to them, give others the benefits of what they have earned. That is true regarding the glory we inherit as the children of God. We do not earn glory. God gives glory to us as our inheritance because Christ died for us. ... to be continued

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Much Increase with the Ox (2)

Much Increase With the Ox (2)

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School

Proverbs 14:4: “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.”

The farmer who was not willing to do the work required to keep oxen, a lazy farmer, would experience the poverty of small harvests. Oxen are strong and increase the size of the harvest, but having them requires work, a lot of work. Some of the work required in keeping oxen isn’t pleasant either. A wise farmer understands that the trouble of keeping oxen is amply rewarded by the increased harvest.

Solomon wrote about the increase provided by the strength of the ox. This increase was a bountiful harvest. In Scripture, a harvest is a spiritual picture of growth in God’s church. This growth can be in the number of church members, as God uses the call of the gospel to bring people into active membership in the body of Christ. This growth can also be the spiritual growth of individual church members, as they learn more about God by listening to the preaching of the gospel, learning their catechism and reading the Bible at home. Scripture uses harvests and fruit as pictures of His whole church and of the godly lives of individual believers.

In Matthew 9 and Luke 10, Christ speaks of a large harvest and tells us to pray that the Lord will provide labourers for this harvest. The harvest is large but the labourers are few. Christ was not speaking of grain or grapes. He was speaking of gathering His elect through preaching. In Matthew 3, Christ speaks of bringing forth fruits meet, or fitting, for repentance. In Matthew 7, part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses the example of good and evil trees, and their fruit to teach us that the godly will bring forth the fruit of good works. This fruit is a harvest, an increase.

In this verse from Proverbs, Solomon is not interested in merely giving advice to the Israelites about how to have farms which yield a large harvest. He does not want farmers to take his advice about using oxen so the nation can experience wealth, prosperity and happiness. Solomon saw a spiritual truth taught in the physical world.

This growth, this spiritual harvest, takes work. If we are lazy, there will be no spiritual growth. We must realize that in order to have the increased harvest, we must be willing to do the hard work of having a dirty crib, caring for oxen, as Solomon has taught us.

Read II Corinthians 11:18-33. The Apostle Paul knew God had His people in the nations around the Mediterranean Sea. Jehovah had His elect ready for harvest, and Paul was the labourer sent by God to gather that harvest. This was not easy work for Paul. Unbelieving Jews whipped him five times. Did Paul bear scars on his back from these whippings for the rest of his life? Paul was beaten with rods three times. Unbelievers stoned him. He suffered three shipwrecks. He led a dangerous life for the sake of bringing the gospel to God’s people. He faced many physical dangers.

Paul also speaks of the burden he experienced because of his care for the churches. Not everything was as it should have been in the early New Testament church. We can see this in the letters he wrote. Some church members had fallen into terrible sins. Paul had to write some harsh things to the churches to encourage godly living. Does Paul’s work sound easy to us? Does Paul sound lazy? If Paul were a farmer, would his crib be clean?

Some of your fathers are officebearers in the church. God takes care of His people through these ministers, elders and deacons. None of these office-bearers may be lazy. They must work hard. Ministers do not download their sermons from the internet. Sermons require hours of study and preparation. Elders must prepare for meetings. They have to study so they can lead family visitation. They must work diligently when a church member falls into sin. Deacons do not simply mail a check to a family who is struggling to pay the bills. They meet with needy families and bring the comfort of God’s Word.

You also have work to do as members of the church. Don’t think the work God has given you is unimportant because you are young. You have the work of loving God and your neighbour. Just how Christian our Christian school is depends in a greater way than you realize on how you treat each other. Is this a school where God is honoured? That will show in your kindness. Do we honour each other as brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we understand not only how much God loved us in sending His Son to die for our sins and do we also realize that God loved our classmates in the same way? Do we treat others in a way that shows we know that each of us has an important place in the church which nobody else could fill?

It is hard work to fight against sinful pride which causes us to think that we are better than others or that others are not worth treating with Christian respect. It is hard to watch our tongues so we do not speak harsh words to or about one another.

God promises a great increase for diligent labour. We will have a harvest of good works which honour Him and show our gratitude for the salvation He has graciously given us in Jesus Christ. We will have Christian friends whom we can trust. We can enjoy the company of our friends and fight temptation together.

It was hard work for the farmer to care for his oxen but their strength provided a great harvest. It is hard work for us to live a Christian life but we can bear fruit for the praise and honour of the Triune God.

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Much Increase With the Ox (1)

Much Increase With the Ox (1)

Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School

Proverbs 14:4: “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.”

Proverbs is a book of wisdom. God blessed the author of Proverbs, Solomon, with more wisdom than He had given to any other man. Proverbs is not a short book. The instruction Solomon gives us covers many topics. Where did Solomon get his many ideas for writing Proverbs? Of course, God inspired Solomon but that does not mean that Solomon wrote Proverbs as though he were unconscious or a robot. God uses means.

There are times while reading Proverbs when I think Solomon travelled through different parts of his kingdom, and observed the people and the land around him. Because God gave Solomon wisdom, Solomon was able to see things an ordinary person simply passed over. Many would see things but not understand them. Solomon could observe the world and the people around him and understand spiritual truth. This is an aspect of the creation around us. When we view creation with the eyes of faith, we can learn about God and His truth. Creation teaches us about its Creator.

Many Israelites in Solomon’s day were farmers. The king had the opportunity to see many farms during his life. Solomon could tell which farms were fruitful and well run, and which farms were not. We also can walk through our neighbourhoods and pick out the houses which are maintained better than others. Perhaps there are houses in your neighbourhood which have nobody living in them. After a while, you can tell that the house is vacant and nobody is there to take care of the property. The lawn doesn’t look nice. The plants in the landscaping look overgrown. The property would benefit from some cleaning, raking or painting. Solomon could notice the same things about farms. Solomon could notice which farms were more productive than others.

When Solomon tells us, “Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox,” he is using a visible fact to teach us a spiritual truth. Let’s notice some things about the farm Solomon observed.

Solomon saw a farm with a clean crib. Most of us are of Dutch heritage, so we can certainly appreciate something that is clean. A crib in a farmyard is not something a baby sleeps in. A crib is a container for the farm animals’ food. Cribs could come in different sizes depending on the number and size of the animals which needed to be fed. Most often the crib would be filled with straw or grain. When the farmer noticed that the crib was growing empty, he would fill it with more food for his animals.

A crib filled with animal feed could appear messy. It isn’t clean. There might be straw sticking out of it at some crazy angles. Little piles of loose grain would be littered around on the ground as the animals pulled at it with their mouths. Animals would visit the crib often. Animals that feed by grazing, such as oxen, spend much of their day eating. Farm animals are not neat and tidy. We would notice droppings in the area of the crib which would be somewhat unpleasant to the eye and even more unpleasant for the nose. A crib on a busy, fruitful farm would not be clean.

However, Solomon saw a crib which was clean. There wasn’t any feed in it. There weren’t stray clumps of straw littering the ground. The area around the crib was not messy looking or bad smelling. It was clean.

Solomon continued to observe this farm until he understood why the crib was clean. He realized this farm had no oxen on it. Oxen were very important for the farmers of biblical days. They used oxen for many of the same purposes today’s farmers use tractors. Just as it is difficult for us to imagine a modern farmer without a tractor, farmers of long ago had oxen. Farmers ploughed their fields using oxen as they prepared to sow their seed. Oxen pulled wagons or carried heavy things as the farmers cleaned and maintained their fields. When it was time for harvest, the oxen would tread the grain.

Solomon saw a farmer who believed his life would be easier without oxen. He wouldn’t have the hassle of constantly seeing to it that the crib had feed in it. Having no oxen meant so unpleasant smell insulted his nose. He wouldn’t have to devote a certain portion of his grain to feed oxen. Whatever grain he harvested could be used solely for himself and his family. This “ox-less” farmer would find his chores decreased and experience an easier life. This farmer did not have the burden of taking care of oxen.

At least that is what this farmer thought. Solomon, however, being blessed with wisdom, realized something else. A farmer with no oxen to tend might have an easier life but, as Solomon instructs us, “much increase is by the strength of the ox.” Having oxen increases the farmer’s work but the oxen pay him back with an increased harvest. An increased harvest meant more food on the family table or, if there were enough crops left over, extra cash brought in because of increased sales of the surplus. Yes, part of the harvest would have to go to feeding the oxen but the strength of the oxen provided a much larger harvest. Oxen were worth it.

Who can plough and use more land for raising crops, the farmer with a hoe in his hands or the farmer with a plough and a team of oxen? Who could clean up more rocks and other debris from the field, a farmer with his own two hands and a small basket or a farmer with oxen which could pull a large, loaded wagon? Who would have a larger harvest, the farmer who would have to roll the ears of grain in his own hands or the farmer who used oxen and a threshing floor? to be continued ...

 
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