When we listen to some speak about Jehovah, we hear folks voice an opinion that says that the God described in the Old Testament is vengeful, petty, harmful, and seemed to have taken delight in looking for ways to punish His creation. In contrast, these same people seem to think that the God of the New Testament is a different person or different character. We are told that the New Testament God is patient, loving, kind, full of mercy, etc., and supposedly stands in contrast with the God of the first 39 books of the Bible.
Is this true? While it is undeniable that God exacted punishment against sinners at times. We also know that He called for His people to go to war with the wicked and other things because Israel lived under a theocracy for 1500 years. However, does this mean He was strictly a vengeful God? Did He never show mercy? While we can choose to focus on only one aspect of God’s character, this is not fair to God nor the text of Scripture!
One great example of God’s mercy is seen in Jeremiah 3. Notice the words spoken by God to His people, and see God’s patience and forgiveness! After naming the people’s sins and their consequences, God told them (through Jeremiah), “turn thou unto me” (Jer. 3:7). Again, God says, “Return, thou backsliding Israel … and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever” (Jer. 3:12). He called for the people to “turn” and He would bring them back to their former glory and more (Jer. 3:14-18). Add to this Psalm 136, and we see that, yes, God is gracious and forgiving. This nature has never changed (Mal. 3:6). Friends, these statements are not contradictory but agree with the image of God described in Acts 17:30-31, I Timothy 2:4, James 4:7-8, II Peter 3:9, John 3:16, and numerous other New Testament passages.
“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off” (Rom. 11:22). I believe this passage sums up God very well. There is severity, but there is also goodness. There is mercy, and there is also judgment (Matt. 7:21-23). Let us appreciate this truth about God. Let us be thankful we have a God who loves us, and at the same time, will not allow sin to go unpunished.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
From an early age, our youth lament about what is fair and what isn’t. I can remember things happening to me as a young child, and my response was, “That’s not fair!” Did you also say that in your youth? Maybe you have said those things even more recently? You’re probably right!
Solomon made this same observation about life in Ecclesiastes 7:15. He wrote, “All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.” Notice that Solomon observed what we have all seen, namely that life is not fair! A just man dies, while the wicked man lives, and we think it ought to be the other way around.
Asaph wrote a similar thing in Psalm 73. He said he was distressed over his observation of the wicked until he had almost given up altogether. “My feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped” (v. 2). He looked and saw the wicked, who, “are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men” (v. 5). Life is not fair!
Let us not despair, though. Though life is not fair to us, God is! It is God who praises the balanced scale (Prov. 11:1, 16:11, 20:23). It is God who looks on things fairly when men do not (Ezek. 18:20-32). It is God who knows how to judge us fairly, based upon our works and not merely our intentions (II Cor. 5:10; Ecc. 12:13-14; Matt. 25:31-45).
Looking again to Psalm 73, we see that Asaph’s distress and depression disappeared when he “went to the sanctuary of the Lord” and understood the “end” of the wicked (v. 17). He considered what God was doing and saw that even though life is not fair, God is! We may have hardships and unfairness to contend with in this life, but God sees and knows and will make all “fair” in the end.
The “prince of this world” favors those who hate God and despises those who love Him (Jn. 14:30, 15:18-20). This is why life on earth is not fair. God, however, brings balance and fairness to His children. The question is will we accept what the Lord has said? Will we be patient in an unfair world and realize that what is fair is on the way? “Let us not be weary in well-doing …” (Gal. 6:9).
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
I Samuel 16:7 tells us that God does not see things the way man does (Ps. 139:2). There is no denying this fact if we know anything about the Bible and what it reveals about the mind of God. Today, instead of writing a long article detailing the teaching in these verses, I thought I would make a chart that contrasts God’s wisdom with man’s wisdom.
Please study the chart below. Note the contrasts between God’s wisdom and man’s, and then decide who you will follow.
A good name is better than riches (v. 1).
Riches are the most important thing -- better than one’s reputation.
Our death day is better than our birthday (v. 1).
The day of death is the worst day of one’s life (with only a few exceptions, such as an incurable, painful disease).
The house of mourning is better than the house of feasting (v. 2).
Feasting is better than mourning.
Sorrow is better than laughter (v. 3).
Laughter is better than sorrow.
Wise men are in the house of mourning (v. 4).
Wise men are in the house of mirth.
It is better to hear the wise man’s rebuke (v. 5).
It is better to hear encouragement.
The laughter of fools is as vain as expecting thorns to provide heat (v. 6).
The laughter of fools is to be desired.
Accepting bribes will corrupt you (v. 7)
There is nothing wrong with getting money “under the table” from time to time.
The end of a thing is better than the beginning (v. 8).
The beginning is better than the end.
The patient is better than the proud (v. 8).
Being proud is better than being patient.
Be slow to anger. Anger rests with the fools (v. 9; Jas. 1:19).
Becoming angry and “cracking heads” gets things done.
Don’t live in the past (v. 10).
The “good ol’ days” are better than what we have today.
This list from Ecclesiastes 7 teaches us much. Notice how these Bible facts from Ecclesiastes show that man’s ideas stand polar opposite to God’s intent. I find it interesting that the apostle Paul taught a very similar thing in I Corinthians 1:18-31 when he spoke of the preaching of the cross.
The ultimate question we must answer is: To whom will we listen? Will we listen to the world and follow “conventional wisdom” or listen to God and turn man’s wisdom on its head? Remember what David said about God’s wisdom (Ps. 119:98-100)? Listen to him! At the end of the day, we must decide for ourselves, and must face the consequences of that decision. As for me and my house, we want to listen to God. Who will you follow, friend?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
As Peter ended his second letter, he commanded his readers to be involved in one of the most important things we can do - grow! We noted yesterday the importance of growing in grace. Now, we take note of something else we need to do. We need to also “grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18). Please note that when it comes to spiritual growth, this is a voluntary act. We are commanded to grow. This is not like physical growth, where we have no control over how tall or how short we are (Matt. 6:27; Lk. 12:25). This is a conscious decision we make daily.
Growth is necessary for physical life, as well as spiritual life. Without growth, we will stagnate and die! It is not enough for a Christian to simply “sit back” and wait for the Lord to return. We need to be active and grow so long as we are upon this earth (Heb. 5:14). In this text, Peter says we need to grow in knowledge, but not just any kind of knowledge! We must grow in the knowledge “of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”! It is this kind of knowledge that saves us (II Peter 2:20a)!
How do we grow “in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”? We do this the same way we grow in any other field of study. We need to take the time to learn! This means reading and studying God’s word (Eph. 3:4; II Tim. 2:15). I am hopeful that our journey this last month in the book of II Peter has been an encouragement to you to read II Peter for yourself. I pray the topics we have explored have motivated you to go and learn the truth for yourself and to dig deeper into the Text. This is a needed aspect of our growth. While I hope that writings like this are helpful to you, this is no substitute for putting your nose in the Book! We, as a people, have spent too much time reading about the Bible. It is time we read the Bible! This will feed our souls (II Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:14) and help us to grow!
We also grow when we take what we have learned and apply or use it daily (I Thess. 5:21). Knowledge is not very useful if it is merely something we “store up” in memory but never really apply in life. I am reminded of the memes that say, “I have gone ____ days and still haven’t used algebra.” The old saying is true that if we don’t use something, we lose it! How much are we using our knowledge of Scriptures?
Peter commanded us to grow in God’s knowledge because we use this knowledge …
- To withstand temptation (Ps. 119:101; Matt. 4:1-13; Eph. 6:16).
- To repent and be restored when I stumble (Ps. 119:9; Acts 8:22; I Jn. 1:9)
- To be clean (Jn. 15:3).
- To be wise (II Tim. 3:15; Ps. 119:98-100).
- To show others the Lord’s way (II Tim. 2:2).
- To treat others in a godly manner (Matt. 7:12; 22:37-39).
These and many other reasons can be brought to mind as advantages for knowing God’s word and growing in that knowledge. How are you doing along this line? If you have been failing, then I hope these words might serve as a reminder and as encouragement to get into God’s word! Read it, study it, live it, and see the blessings that will come as a result. This is not merely a suggestion from a friend, but remember, this is a command of God to grow (II Pet. 3:18)! Let’s get busy!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs