Can God do anything He wants to do? Are there things that God cannot do? The answer to both questions is yes! You might think these statements contradict themselves, but I don’t think so. God does not want to act in opposition to His character, and as such, He cannot. So the question is if God can, is He willing? Will God forgive when someone continues to struggle with something He disapproves of? Can I lose my salvation?
In reviewing Solomon’s life, I believe we see our unchanging God’s covenant at work with great love, patience and resolve. I will demonstrate that when God makes a promise, it is a sure thing. So today’s review will distinguish between His oaths versus His promises contingent on our decisions. From the pages of the story of Solomon’s life, we see God keeping His promise in the:
- Blessing and discipline of free will’s exercise;
- Establishment of Messiah’s evidence;
- Restoration of those He chooses;
- Tests that train us; and
- Healing of besetting sins.
BERTHS are temporary resting places on a transport vehicle. The purpose is to accommodate the needs of travellers until they have reached their destination. Since we are all headed somewhere, what is your destination; have you made use of the berth provided; and do you have an anchor that secures the transport from drifting?
Background: The Prophetic Implementation of the Throne
My last blog, Covenant Love Overcomes All, portrayed: (1) the power of God’s covenant love for His chosen through the Scriptural account of the marriage of Hosea and Gomer; and, (2) the strategy and purpose of God’s protective “hedge of thorns” around His betrothed’s path. What I did not cover was whether His betrothed-one could push their way past the hedge of protection.
Solomon was described as having wisdom unlike any others and yet he had transgressed the covenant of the LORD. The LORD said to him, “… I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you (1st Kings 3:12). Imagine that.
As we learn about Solomon’s life, we must respect God’s call, purpose, and sovereign election. We should avoid casting judgement on the individuals in Scripture, just as we should avoid it with others today. Solomon’s life was part of God’s election that demonstrates God’s amazing grace. Despite our failures and limitations, God’s sovereign election stands. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29).
Solomon had heard God, for a time followed according to the Mosaic covenant, and then strayed by making compromises and decisions that were counter to what he knew to be correct. He did not become king over the tribes of Israel by mere royal succession. God had specifically directed David to give Solomon the throne despite the fact there were others in line. The LORD with His foreknowledge sovereignly chooses individuals to fulfill His plans and His plans start long before someone is born. So let’s take a step back and review how this came to be.
Abraham responded to God’s call to leave His homeland and to follow His directions. He promised Abraham and Sarah that their descendants would include kings. Circumcision became the sign of the Abrahamic covenant. The LORD said,
- “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. “I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. … Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. “And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.” (Reference Genesis 17).
Abraham’s son was Isaac, and Isaac’s sons were Esau and Jacob. Esau did not honour his birthright and traded it to Jacob. This of course was foretold to their mother Rebekah (the account is in Genesis 25 starting at verse 21).
Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel by the LORD, had 12 sons by 4 women; these sons became the tribes of Israel.
- Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.” … And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.” So He called his name Israel. Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. (Genesis 35:1 and verses 10 to 11).
For our purposes, let’s just focus on how Solomon’s kingship came to be and leave the other tribes for another time.
- Leah, the first wife, had 6 sons and 1 daughter. The male children were Ruben, followed by Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun in this birth order.
- Rachel, the second wife had 2 sons. Joseph was the first and then Benjamin.
Joseph was also destined to play a major role. To make a long story short, God gave Joseph a dream (Genesis 37:9) and his brothers despised him for it because it meant that Joseph would lead his family. It also did not help that their father favoured their baby brother. They sold him into slavery which served to prosper Joseph in the end since he rose to power in Egypt. It was God’s way of preserving and multiplying the children of Israel in a time of great distress. God was ensuring He kept His covenant with Abraham.
When Joseph was reunited with his brothers, he told them:
- “For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. “And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. “So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45 starting at verse 6 ).
Jacob brought his family to Egypt where they flourished. Before Jacob (now named Israel) died, he blessed all of his sons. He said specifically to his 4th son:
- “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise; Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; Your father’s children shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; From the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; And as a lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. (Genesis 49:8 to 10)
שִׁילֹה Shîylôh means tranquil; Shiloh is a designation of the Messiah. Refer to Numbers 24:17; Psalms 45:6; Hebrews 1:8
God had told Abraham that his descendants would serve their afflicters in a strange land for 4 generations or 4 centuries (Genesis 15:13 to 18). Once these tribes had grown numerous, there arose a Pharaoh that had no recollection of Joseph and therefore no loyalty to his descendants. Out of fear of their differences and the perceived risk of losing governmental control, the Pharaoh enslaved the tribes of Israel. He tried to reduce their numbers and ability to amass fighting men by ordering the execution of their male children (Exodus 1:8 to 12). I believe this was actually a scheme of the enemy who had been trying to prevent God’s Eden-prophecy of the Messiah (starting with Cain’s murder of Abel, through the flood, Pharaoh’s mass murders, and onward). While individuals are responsible for their actions, there are good and evil spiritual influences behind many human decisions (Ephesians 6:12).
Moses was a Levite who was the chosen deliverer for the oppressed Hebrews. Amazingly, God protected him in the very household of the leader who had commanded Hebrew infanticide (Exodus 2:10). God used Moses as a prophet leader to the nation. His brother Aaron became the High Priest. After the exodus out of Egypt, The LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel to keep His laws saying:
- ‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. ‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.‘ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him. Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD (Exodus 19:5 to 8).
Even after the children of Israel witnessed God’s supernatural parting of the Red Sea that freed them from the pursuing Egyptian army, they rebelled by entering into idolatrous worship of a golden calf they created (Exodus 32:4). Furious at the sight of the revelrous idol worship, Moses broke the tablets of stone containing the ten commandments that God had written for them (Deuteronomy 9:9 to 18). After Moses pleaded for the people, our merciful and gracious LORD instructed Moses to make new tablets containing the commandments (Deuteronomy 10:1 and 2). He had every intention of fulfilling His plan through His covenant people.
The LORD forewarned them not to worship the way other people groups did. He explained He was giving them an inheritance and a rest from all their enemies. They were to worship Him in the manner He prescribed in ‘the place’ He would place His name (Deuteronomy 12). Then the feasts were instituted as types and foreshadows. God also provided guidelines for the king. Think about that. Long before Israel would have a king, God had given them laws concerning their monarchy. Despite the people’s belief in their nation’s self-determination, God had already purposed they would have a king.
- “When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ “you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. ” (Deuteronomy 17:14 and 15).
Joshua was Moses’ successor and led the children of Israel into the promised land after many battles and lessons. One of the main lessons is critical to understanding our future as believers, but we will get to that in another point. After Joshua, the LORD raised up various local judges whose advice delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them.
The trouble they faced was a result of their apostasy. Since the word ‘apostasy’ has different meanings throughout Scripture based on context , it is very important to consider the character of the object of an activity in conjunction with the activity. We will examine this more as we go further. For simplicity, let’s liken this activity to backsliding or casting aside when it pertains to human beings.
When the children of Israel suffered the results of casting aside God’s laws, they cried in their misery to God who provided a way out.
Their falling down or backsliding cycle usually included 3 stages:
- compromise with sin (resulting in unholy worship);
- corrupted morals (resulting in terrible home-life); and then,
- confusion in the nation and rule of law (resulting in chaos).
This sounds very familiar in our times.
- In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6 and Judges 21:25).
Their getting back up usually included:
- contrition (realization and remorse);
- confession (a communicated declaration of acknowledgement);
- change (in direction and actions).
The backsliding and restoration cycles are not only applicable to Israel’s past, they apply to all individuals and societies.
About the word ‘Apostasy‘: There are two uses for the word apostasy: (1) falling away, and (2) divorce.
- Strong’s Number G646 matches the Greek word apostasia. It is translated as forsaking or falling away. This word occurs in 3 verses in the Septuagint which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Joshua 22:22; 2 Chronicles 29:19; Jeremiah 2:19). In the New Testament, this word occurs in 2 verses (Acts 21:21 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3).
- Strong’s Number G647 matches the Greek word apostasion. It is translated as a divorcement or a ‘writing of divorcement’. This word occurs in 4 verses in the Septuagint (Deuteronomy 24:1, 3; Isaiah 50:1; and Jeremiah 3:8). In the New Testament, this word occurs in 3 verses (Matthew 5:31; Matthew 19:7; and Mark 10:4).
Collectively, the English words used to describe the activity of apostasy include the following: casting aside; rebellion; backsliding; forsaking; falling away; and divorce. The action is considered righteous or unrighteous based on its object. For example, the LORD’s issuance of a temporary separation from Israel contrasts greatly to a human’s separation from fellowship with a spouse, church, doctrine, or faith).
The prophet Samuel also served as a judge. It was during his time that the Israelites no longer wanted judges; they ask for a king to rule over them just as the LORD had told Moses. The LORD told Samuel the rejection of the judges was actually a rejection of God, and He forewarned of the behaviour of the king(s). See 1st Samuel 8:4 to 9.
There is a warning here. Not every answered prayer is a blessing especially when the requestor is not walking appropriately with God. Nonetheless, God’s answers will serve His purposes.
The LORD directed Samuel to anoint a man from the land of Benjamin to be commander over Israel so that he could save them from them the Philistines ( refer to 1st Samuel 9:15 and 16). You see, in God’s timeline, His chosen king was not yet ready since he was a young boy. The LORD permitted Saul to reign until an appointed time. In the middle of Saul’s reign, God instructed Samuel to go to Jesse’s house to anoint the future king. Saul’s reign was coming to an end although it would be some time, in human terms, before it came to fruition. The LORD told Samuel:
- “For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.” … Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward… (1st Samuel 16:1b and 13)
David served Saul faithfully as a general after defeating Goliath, the giant who threatened their freedom. He received accolades from Saul’s subjects for being victorious in many battles which aroused jealousy in Saul. Saul descended into a spiritual madness. We see that God gave permission to a “distressing spirit” to bother Saul whose heart had turned against the LORD’s anointed. As it is written:
- So Saul eyed David from that day forward. And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there was a spear in Saul’s hand. And Saul cast the spear, for he said, “I will pin David to the wall!” But David escaped his presence twice. Now Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, but had departed from Saul. (1st Samuel 18:9 to 12)
Saul pursued David who hid from him. In the end, Saul took his own life as recorded in 1st Samuel 31:4 and David mourned his death.
- Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron … saying, … the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.’ ” Therefore all the elders of Israel … anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years…. he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah. (2nd Samuel 5 starting at verse 1).
Through these accounts in Scripture that spanned over 1000 years, we see that God kept His covenant. He sovereignly appointed the leaders needed to bring the chosen nation to a specific place, and time. While fellowship was broken from time to time due to the people’s apostasy, He never revoked His covenants. With this background in mind, let’s examine Solomon’s life to glean how the LORD deals with the individual who knows better but still disobeys. We will also see the serious consequence for any elect who persistently disregarding God’s commandments because just as God is gracious and merciful, He is also righteous and justice.
The Blessing and Discipline of Free Will’s Exercise
In a later time of peace, David wanted to build a temple for the LORD. Despite the fact that he was God’s chosen king (Acts 13:22 and Psalms 89:20), and that he was a man who ran after God’s heart with passionate worship, God had not chosen him to build the temple. The LORD spoke to David through Nathan the prophet saying:
- “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. “I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. “But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” (2nd Samuel 7:12 to 16).
Based on the Jewish patriarchal system, the firstborn sons were to be leaders, bear the responsibility, and reap the blessings. Even today, it is usually the firstborn that inherits the throne. This was not the case for David’s succession.
David first ruled in Hebron for 7 years before reigning in Jerusalem. In Hebron, David married 6 women and had 6 sons. Later David reigned in Jerusalem for 33 years. During this period he married again and had 13 additional sons and a daughter named Tamar. These 20 legitimate children are listed 1st Chronicles 3:1 to 8. There were also other children from his concubines.
The LORD selects a person for a role based on an intimate knowledge of their heart which can often be contrary to any human perspective or royal prerogative. (Read 1st Samuel 16:7b, Proverbs 21:2, and Romans 8:27).
In 2nd Samuel 7, God made a covenant with David. God promised David He would never take His mercy away from the son who would succeed him; he was chosen before he was born. We know this to be Solomon.
Later, Nathan was sent to confront David about the arranged assignation of the husband of the woman he impregnated. Uriah was the husband and Bathsheba was Uriah’s wife. Nathan prophesied saying David and Bathsheba’s child would die and so he became sick that day. (2nd Samuel 12:14 to 15).
Solomon was conceived when David was comforting Bathsheba over the death of the child of the affair their affair. Scripture states that the LORD loved Solomon from birth and that He sent Nathan to give him a second name which was Jedidiah. Jedidiah literally means “beloved of the LORD”. (Reference 2nd Samuel 12:21 to 25).
Before David’s death, David charged Solomon to serve the LORD faithfully by keeping the statutes and judgments that the LORD charged Moses concerning Israel. This demonstrates Solomon had conversations about his future responsibilities as king and that he would have understood what God required of him. This can be found in 1st Chronicles 22:7 to 14. In addition, Solomon’s love for the LORD is recorded in 1st Kings 3:3 in the early days of his reign. When Solomon took the throne prayed:
- “… I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. … “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil…. The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, “behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. “And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. “So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” Then Solomon awoke; and indeed it had been a dream…. (1st Kings 3: starting at verse 7).
Here is an instance where we can see the difference between a declared promise and a conditional promise. God had predestined Solomon to be king and gave him wisdom that exceeded any other man. That was God’s will for His purposes concerning Solomon and the kingdom. God had also declared that He would always be merciful to Solomon (2nd Samuel 7:15) before Solomon loved the LORD, or was even born. Nothing was going to change God’s declarations about Solomon because they were decisions made by God in His foreknowledge and by His sovereign election.
The conditional promises God made were subject to Solomon’s choices. The LORD promised Solomon a long life if he live according to His laws, and He had promised to discipline Solomon if he sinned.
God’s attributes are not influenced by our behaviour or abilities; rather, His attributes directly affects us and is what enables us to love Him and live righteously. Here are a few Scripture references on this: 1st John 4:10; John 15:16; Ephesians 2:4 to 5; and Titus 3:4 to 5.
Solomon was raised to know God’s laws and his role necessitated understanding them. The law had specific requirements for how the king was to live which are specified in Deuteronomy 17 starting at verse 16. First of all, by law, the king was to write a copy of the law into a book using one of the Levitical priest’s copies. He was to read it every day so that he would have the fear of the LORD. In addition, a king was to abide by these limitations:
- no mass acquisition of horses for personal use;
- not to send the children of Israel back to Egypt for acquisition (because the LORD had told them they would not return to Israel);
- not to have numerous wives; and,
- not to attempt to increase personal wealth.
These were protective limitations specifically because the LORD was providing great wealth and peace. The king was to be reliant on the LORD, but he was to do so willingly. Here we see the LORD’s wisdom in protecting the king’s heart from pride and idolatry while providing abundantly for him and the kingdom.
Four years into Solomon’s reign, the foundation of the temple was laid and it took 7 years to build it. (Refer to 1st Kings 6:37 to 38). It is interesting to note that Solomon took 13 years to build his own house (1st Kings 7:1 to 2). After the temple was finished, the LORD appeared to Solomon a second time to remind him to follow the LORD’s statutes. (1st Kings 9). Listen to what happened next.
- But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women … from the nations of whom the LORD had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD, as did his father David. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, … and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods…. Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. “Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. “However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.” (1st Kings 11:1 to 13).
God remained merciful to Solomon despite his unfaithfulness during that time. Solomon’s actions were met with discipline (including adversaries and rebellions), but I believe the greatest discipline that trained Solomon was his inability to be satisfied.
Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all of the tribes of Israel for 40 years. During this time, he wrote many proverbs, psalms and poems. The book of Ecclesiastes shares his account of his long journey back to God which I believe happened near the end of his life. Here are his words:
- … “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” What profit has a man from all his labor …? One generation passes away, and another generation comes;… I, the Preacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I set my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven…. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind. (Portions taken from Ecclesiastes 1).
By the end of the book, Solomon came to understand the duty of man:
- The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd…. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:11 to 14).
I believe the LORD foresaw everything about Solomon’s life. He chose him knowing his choices. He loved Solomon regardless. The LORD disciplined him with a series of life-long lessons. Nothing quenched the longing of Solomon’s heart until near the end of his days when he realized the purpose of his pursuit which he tried to pass on to his son. You see, the LORD doesn’t waste, and the training of Solomon produced Scripture for our training. He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five. (1st Kings 4:32).
- All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2nd Timothy 3:16).
Free will is indeed a blessing because within it we experience the liberty to love our LORD and others using qualities and giftings He has given us. It is also the tool the LORD uses to refine us. When we experience the sorrows of our choices, then we learn to make better choices. It is grand mercy and grace that the LORD knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold (Jobe 23:10). It’s all within the control of the One who died to pay for sin; in the One who rose from the dead and ever lives to make intercession for us! (see Hebrews 7:25).
Establishment of Messiah’s Evidence
The LORD’s election of Solomon for king had far-reaching implications. You see, to fulfill the Messianic prophecy, the promised Saviour would be born from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10) and born of a woman (Genesis 3:15) and a descendant of David (Isaiah 9:7).
As it providentially happens, Mary (the mother of Jesus) was a descendant of David through his son Nathan (see Luke 3:31). To ensure there was no issue with the legal line of royal succession, Joseph was a descendant of David through his son Solomon (see Matthew 1:13 and 14). Now, remember, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). Mary’s betrothal to Joseph was no coincidence and when Joseph wanted out of the relationship, the LORD intervened to compel him. Jesus will reign the world from Jerusalem as Scriptures tell us (Luke 1:32 to 33 and Revelation 19:15).
The everyday affairs of our lives are known to our LORD and in advance of our experiencing them. God is orchestrating His plan for (and through) those He has chosen for greater purposes than we can readily see. Our job is to trust him.
Restoration of Those He Chooses
Consider Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David and Solomon. These men were chosen by God and they were all imperfect. They did not experience mercy because of their righteous works. They experienced God’s mercy because it was His will, His eternal sovereign purposes, and His character. He cannot lie or change.
- For those God foreknows he predestines…. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:28 to 30).
So what do you do with scriptures like Hebrews 6:4 to 6 that speaks of the danger of falling away? I believe we ought to prayerfully review the context of the book and chapter and search the entire council of Scripture because God does not contradict Himself. This is what I’ve learned about a chosen, regenerated person’s ability to “fall away”.
Hebrews is sometimes referred to as the book of better things because the letter focuses on the superiority of Jesus Christ. The writer is encouraging believers (and anyone else they shared the letter with) to mature in the faith by producing the fruit that accompanies salvation. Much of the author’s references are to Old Testament Scripture from Psalms, Isaiah, Numbers, and 1st and 2nd Samuel. The writer specifically quotes Psalm 95:7 and 8 in Hebrews 3:15. For context, let’s review a broader section:
- For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:14 to 19).
Both Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3 refer to Numbers 14. The rebellion was that the children of Israel wanted to turn back to their life in Egypt because they were afraid of what would be required to enter the promised land. They felt it was easier to be enslaved by the Egyptians and they devalued the promised land just as Esau devalued his birthright. Despite the deliverance and all of the other miracles that the LORD had performed for them: (1) they did not believe they could take possession of the promised land; and, (2) doubted God’s ability to deliver the land to them. Consider the outcome of the desert wanderings of the Children of Israel:
- The children of Israel were saved from Egypt;
- That generation never returned to Egypt despite their poor behaviour.
- They died without inheriting the reward of the promised land because of disobedience to the covenant.
- There were only 2 (Joshua and Caleb) of the originally delivered children of Israel over the age of 20 who received their inheritance.
- Not even Moses received the inheritance in the land flowing with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 34:4 to 6). Yet we know Moses appeared with Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1 to 5).
We see that God kept His covenant; all of it. He delivered those who marked the doorpost with the blood of the lamb and chose to follow Moses out of Egypt. See Exodus 12. He individually disciplined their disobedience; and rewarded those who trusted obediently.
Please note that biblically, Egypt is used as a “type” for the “world” or “sin”, the promised land was a “type” of “reward”. It was not emblematic of heaven because, throughout history, the borders of the promised land have changed. The rest the LORD had promised was rest from their enemies (Deuteronomy 12:10, Deuteronomy 25:19, Joshua 23:1, 1st Chronicles 22:9).
It is where a person is no longer afraid of enemies or circumstances although they exist. It is peace with God where through faith in who He is, we rest from relying on ourselves and our works and trust God for everything. (Romans 5:1 to 2 and Hebrews 10:19 to 20).
This rest or peace is made possible in knowing the Saviour, Jesus Christ, as the LORD of your life because He is the One who grants us access to God and He does not condemn us. Lordship has jurisdiction over the freewill and necessitates willing obedience. His love in us through the Holy Spirit transforms our desire to yield.
The writer of the letter to the New Testament Hebrews spent much time developing the superiority of Christ as a High Priest, Saviour, and Messenger Prophet. The writer demonstrates throughout the book that believers ought to place full confidence in Jesus Christ for everything because He offers the new covenant that is better than the old covenant or the law. Those things were just types pointing to the Messiah (Hebrews 1:1 to 4 and Hebrews 10:1) and the new covenant which is a higher standard. Jesus Christ’s self-sacrifice was superior and made the final atonement for all sin.
Which of our sins did Christ not die for? He paid in advance for all of our sins. You see, some believers were returning to the Old Testament sacrificial system either because of persecution or ignorance. So the writer warns against:
- the apostles;
- not believing the “voice of God” or the Holy Spirit;
- losing firm footing in the foundational principles of Christ;
- despising the knowledge of the truth;
- devaluing “the grace of God”; and,
- ignoring or turning away from Him “who speaks”.
Because of the sufficiency of Christ’s perfect sacrifice, the believer is now capable through the empowerment of God’s indwelling Spirit to live a superior lifestyle and produce superior fruit. Scripture states: … you are God’s field, you are God’s building. (1st Corinthians 3:9).
In reading Hebrews 6:4 to 8, we notice that there was ground that produced fruit, and it was blessed by God. There was ground that yielded thorns instead of fruit; the thorns were burned up. This is where 1st Corinthians 3:14 to 15 is very insightful. It states:
- If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
It may be helpful to read Christ’s parable about the Word sown on different types of ground in Matthew 13:22 to 23.
So what happens if a believer willfully produces thorns? Does the LORD remove His vow? Or, does He train them? If the LORD promised to be merciful to Solomon before Solomon was born, would He not keep His promise to us after paying such a high price for our salvation? If Scripture is the authority by which we stand, and if Scripture is the Word of God, then we really ought to believe Jesus when He said:
- “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. (John 3:16).
- “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24).
- My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. (John 10:27 to 28).
Some still wonder how to reconcile the “fall away” type Scriptures with what Jesus taught. There are two concepts to grasp:
- Saving faith in Jesus Christ means putting one’s full confidence in Him which results in the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying working unto obedience. There are people who the LORD will say, “I never knew you”. Please note, He does not say: “I knew you once but you blew it”. The people who Jesus never knew never had a relationship with Him. They are not regenerated by the LORD. If they had been, their relationship with Him would cause them to organically produce good fruit. For more on this, please read Matthew 7:15 to 23.
- Understand the difference between not inheriting eternal rewards and being eternally separated from God in the lake of fire. If the LORD qualified you, you cannot disqualify yourself because you are not the judge. It is God who fills you “… with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” (Colossians 1:9 to 12 NIV).
As a believer, you are qualified to live eternally with Him because of Him. Your behaviour in this life determines what inheritance you will or will not receive in heaven. The inheritance is eternal and does not fade. Your exercise of free will determines how much you yield to the Holy Spirit. A study of the Judgement Seat of Christ can illuminate this more (and please note, this is not the same as the judgment of those who have not been regenerated). Also note that the bible says, if you are saved or regenerated by the LORD, you cannot continue to live a life of sin although you will continue to make mistakes here in there.
- Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. (1st John 3:9)
- If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1st John 1:8)
To conclude this concept, let’s review the certainty of God’s promise from that same chapter in Hebrews:
- For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” … Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:13 to 20).
Tests That Train Us
What are the tests that train us? Well, it can be wealth, poverty, strength, sickness, popularity, loneliness, happiness, sorrow, wisdom, ignorance. security, insecurity… just about anything that you allow yourself to use to deny, question, or devalue God’s Word. The point is to believe whatever God says because He is good. Everything He will ever say to us on this planet in this dispensation of grace will be consistent with Holy Scripture. He is not confused, nor does He contradict himself. He does not lie, nor change.
There is so much we have to learn, and He is so gracious to teach us when we open His Word and prayerfully ask Him to teach us. He sends us people and resources to assist when we can’t hear through all the noise. He directs the steps of those who trust in Him. I am so amazed that such an incredible intelligence would invite us to be loved by Him. Perhaps the main test is about surrendering ourselves to His love and grace even when we can’t understand it.
Healing of Besetting Sins
So how does one surrender it all when we have besetting sins that we can’t seem to get clear of? Let me ask this. Did God know what sins Solomon and his predecessors would have when He chose them? Absolutely. Does He know ours? What are they? What is it about those sins that are critical to our sanctification? What do we need to be healed from?
Solomon needed to be set free from the constant chasing after anything he thought would satisfy his soul. He needed to learn to rest in God for all of his needs and desires. He needed to learn to how exist to glorify God and enjoy the benefits of His goodness.
Later in Hebrews, we read this exhortation:
- Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. (Hebrews 12:1 to 3).
You see, the wisest man could not escape the traps or temptations of this life because he took his eyes off of God. He placed them on people and things that he surrounded himself with. And once surrounded, it is difficult to get loose. “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26).
Here is the thing, if God has entered into a covenant with you by drawing you into a relationship with Him through your trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour and LORD, then He will keep you ( we are preserved by Jesus, Jude 1). Our job is to take heed of warnings in His Word and by the Holy Spirit’s promptings so that we can lay aside every sin that tries to surround us. This gives us better rewards now and forever.
If we do find ourselves in a situation that the LORD needs to discipline, we can learn from the writer of Hebrews 12:5 to 6. Interestingly enough, the writer of Hebrews was quoting Solomon who wrote:
- My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights. Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding; For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold. (Proverbs 3:11 to 14).
It is my prayer that we each will surrender totally to His care. With total surrender to His embrace, we obey because we love our Saviour, not because of fear of reprisal. God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit have promised to hold us in Their hands while we voyage home to our eternal destination and receive whatever rewards are due. The journey can be long. We have been given daily bread, and we will never thirst. We have work to do to bring others with us. There will be storms, but we have the Anchor that holds. Our berths are their hands.
- “From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can snatch anyone out of my hand. No one can undo what I have done.” (Isaiah 43:13 NLT).
- I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. (John 10:28 to 29 NLT).
No one includes you and me! Praise God!
If you do not know the LORD this way; or do not have a personal relationship with the LORD and want to know Him intimately, you can ask God to reveal Himself to you in a way you can comprehend. His Word says: …without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6).
If you feel the Holy Spirit encouraging you to believe, you should evaluate the Scripture for yourself. Please visit desiringfruitfulness.ca/choices. There you can find 4 simple steps or concepts to help you ask the LORD to bring you into right standing with Him. The steps are designed to help you know why this prayer is necessary. It is as simple as acknowledging you are a sinner and believing that Jesus Christ is the risen Son of God. There are no “specific words”, but there is a process to coming to faith.
All Scripture used in this blog is from the New King James Version, unless otherwise specified.