Mount Carmel

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What Time Was It

On Mount Carmel?

1 Kings 18:20-40

Without question, this is one of the more dramatic events on the pages of the Old Testament. But it wasn’t given just to entertain or excite. In addition to natural human interests there is high value spiritual truth conveyed in this confrontation.

The background: There was this aggressive conflict between two men, Elijah and Ahab. It was not just a personal rivalry. Elijah is a chosen spokesman for God. Ahab is a raw, tightly wound paganists who “did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him,” (1 Kngs. 16:30). So – in one corner – Elijah, God’s servant. In the other corner, Ahab, who served his own interests and who had abandoned the commandments of the Lord to follow the carnal system of idolatry, to worship Baal.

That bring us to this powerful narrative:

1 Kings 18:20-40

So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.”  Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made.  And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there. Continue reading “Mount Carmel”

Let Us Fear

 “Let Us Fear!”

Hebrews 4:1-7 (ESV)

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this passage he said,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”

The first thing you may notice is – there are two historical rest events referred to here, documented in the Old Testament: The rest of God after His creative work, and the rest God promised to the nation of Israel, that only Joshua and Caleb received.

There is another rest promise. And, based on Psalms 95, this other rest promise comprehends the perfect work of the Messiah, which eventually enables God’s people to have fellowship with God eternally.

Now, what could keep a child of God from entering that ultimate rest? The same thing that kept Moses and the Israelites from entering their rest in Canaan – unbelief which results in disobedience.

Once that danger is discovered – when should the person change and get back on course? “Today, if you will hear His voice.”

What Shall We Do?

“What Then Shall We Do”

Luke 3:10

As Luke provides an orderly account of the life and work of Jesus Christ, there is a section early in the book about the preliminary work of John the Baptist. In Luke chapter three, right after Luke’s characteristic “time stamp” (in verses 1 & 2), he reports that “the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah, in the wilderness.” John, thus endowed, proclaimed “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” and this fulfilled what Isaiah had prophesied, about preparing the way of the Lord.

As John delivered the message God gave him, to prepare for Jesus’ ministry, people came to him and said, “what then shall we do?” This should interest us, because it exhibits something fundamental: When God’s word is delivered, it calls for a response! A response to God that changes your life.

Listen to this, from Luke 3:10-14.

And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?”  And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”  Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”  And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

The people knew something that many today miss: When God’s word is delivered, it calls for a response. There is something for the hearer to do, to receive what God offers.

With that thought in mind, consider what Luke also documents in Acts chapter two. After Jesus was raised and had ascended into heaven, God’s final message, the gospel of Christ, was delivered by the apostles. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached the gospel and guess what the people said? According to Acts 2:37, the people said: “What shall we do?”

TRUTH CONNECTION: Peter gave God’s answer: “Repent and be baptized,” (Acts 2:38). If you haven’t responded to the gospel, here is what your response ought to be. If you have obeyed the gospel, tell others what the Bible says they need to do.

From the Archives of Pressing On Magazine

Melchizedek & Christ

Synopsis – In both character and position, Christ is our High Priest, superior to the Levitical system; to this confession we hold fast (Heb. 4:14).

Melchizedek & Christ

Warren E. Berkley

It is hard for me to imagine a day in the life of Abraham. But as I read the Genesis account accompanied by all other biblical references to the patriarch, I am able to gain insight into his unique role in God’s plan. However, the account given by Moses in Genesis 14:17-24 is at first a mystery; a mystery solved by the writer of Hebrews. That “solution” or meaning relates directly to my assurance of access to God.

One day Abraham led 318 trained men in pursuit of adversaries who had taken Lot captive. After his defeat of the rebel forces, he returned home and “Melchizedek, king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.).” This man is not mentioned before this account, thus the reader’s immediate puzzle. No family connection is documented; no genealogy or history.

He spoke to Abraham: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed by God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” His favorable words to Abraham still leave the reader with a blank. Who is this man? What is this all about?

Abraham’s response doesn’t really answer our questions. “And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” If we had nothing but this brief narrative in Genesis, we would know nothing more of this today.

Much later in the literary sequence of the Old Testament, a hint that only adds to our curiosity. Psalm 110:4 – “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’.” The context of the 110th Psalm is Messianic, having to do with the Christ. But our questions are not fully answered. What is the connection between “the order of Melchizedek” and Christ? No clarity emerges from the psalm, not to bring us to any resolution.

Our curiosity remains into the New Testament. No answers come off the pages of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Finally, in Hebrews, the writer says he wants to speak to this mystery but is concerned that his readers are “dull of hearing,” (Heb. 5:5-11). The opening verses of Hebrews 6 take off in a different direction, having to do with the urgency of spiritual growth.

Our patience begins to pay off at the end of Hebrews six. The affirmation is that Jesus Christ “became a High Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Continue reading “Melchizedek & Christ”

Go and sin no more

(Sample script from my podcasts on the gospel of John. You can access them here.)

John 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Let me ask you. What do you think the motive and interests is, in the hearts of the scribes and Pharisees? Do you think they have a healthy interest in the soul of this woman, or the standards of the community? Other questions come up. Why are they not following the due process legislated by the law of Moses? And, where is the man who was with this woman?

Isn’t it clear, these men are not righteous defenders of the law! They are not leaders in maintaining holiness and moral purity! They are after Jesus. They want to get him out of the way. They see him as a threat. The woman and her sin – incidental to their primary interests; a tool in their efforts to damage Jesus.

Now, Jesus makes it clear that adultery is sinful. He told her to go and sin no more. But Jesus didn’t come to earth to carry out executions, certainly in a case like this with all the tactical blunders of these hypocrites. By the way, there was no qualified executioner, even if there had been due process.

So, another episode that shows the intensity of opposition toward Jesus, who is steadfast, perfectly composed and undefeatable. Now let’s go, and sin no more.

1 Jno. 2:22-29

John’s First Epistle

1 Jno. 2:22-29

Jesus Is The Christ

Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.  No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.  And this is the promise that he made to us —eternal life.

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. – 1 Jno. 2:22-29

Like many other New Testament writers, John is concerned that his readers might be deceived, buying into the lie that Jesus is not who He claims to be.

This goes to the very heart of who Christians are. Our allegiance is that Jesus “is the Christ!” No hesitation or compromise. John wanted his readers to be firm in this conviction, because there was the influence of unbelief (antichrist).

John doesn’t leave his readers along to sort this out according to situation, emotion or pressure. “Who is the liar, but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.”

John uses this word “abide,” which is far more than just intellectual belief with verbal confession. The truth about who Jesus is must live in us, motivate us, keep us safe and be resistant to any alternative view. The anointing of truth they had was graciously given to “abide” in them and they were to abide in Christ and “not shrink from Him.” This abiding would show up in the “practice of righteousness.”

“Ought To Pray”

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Why “Men Always Ought To Pray”

Luke 18:1-8

1 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3 Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4 And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5 yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” 6 Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. 7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

As this parable is introduced, we are specifically told the point: “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” When I look at that phrase I see a choice – either pray or lose heart. If I pray as Jesus taught I should, in His name and with an obedient faith that guides my life daily, I will not lose heart! To express the other end of this, if I lose heart I must not be praying in the manner taught by Christ. Which will it be? Will you pray or lose heart? In the story, Jesus gives a reason why we should always pray.

His story involves three parties: a judge, a widow and an adversary . There was this judge who “did not fear God nor regard man.” We know there were such men in Palestine then, and we believe there are such men in positions of judicial authority today. They have the position, but they do not have the godly character, compassion and sense of justice that should qualify a man to be a judge. Jesus says that this man “did not fear God nor regard man.”

The widow came to the judge to plea for relief from her adversary. The Lord said that “for a while” the judge would not respond; he would not do anything. Then the judge thought, “this widow really annoys me. Although I don’t fear God or respect people, I’ll have to give her justice. Otherwise, she’ll keep coming to me until she wears me out.”

Jesus calls attention to what the unjust judge said. Then He said, “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

Some who have read this parable get stuck on a supposed comparison between the evil judge and God. Jesus does not say that God is like the unjust judge. The point is, if an evil judge will eventually give relief to those who appeal to him, how much more will God (who is perfectly just) give relief to His own elect! This is like the teaching of Christ earlier (in Luke 11:1-13, note the expression “how much more”). God’s people should always pray and not “give up” or “lose heart” because we are appealing to a perfectly just and righteous Judge. One way faith expresses itself is in the persistent, fervent practice of prayer.

Prayer should not be like a “fire extinguisher.” This equipment hangs on the wall and you may pay little attention to it until there is an emergency. Then you want it! Some treat prayer the same way. If there is no “emergency” in life, they don’t use it. But in time of crisis they want God to listen and respond at once! The teaching of Christ is exceedingly plain – we ought to pray regularly, “always,” knowing that God is perfectly just and will answer according to His wisdom.

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 7.5; May 2000

What Is Heresy?

What is Heresy?

2 Peter 2:1; Galatians 5:20

In modern religion offerings there is a confusing concoction that needs to be sorted out. To many it is discouraging.

There are huge religious ministries raising millions of dollars, building big empires and putting their preachers into lives of luxury and their patrons in the poor house. The Bible is quoted and attractive promises were made, but without mature commitment to obey. There are denominations all around us, approved and applauded by the public; they’ve been around for hundreds of years but their organization, their system and their doctrines show no Biblical authority.

There are local churches we may “identify” with because the sign outside says, “church of Christ,” but some of those groups have departed from the New Testament pattern, slowly but surely. The sign on the outside may be familiar, but the worship and practice inside may be unfamiliar to devoted Christians! In the midst of all this, we need to hear again from John.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hearts them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error,” (1 Jno. 4:1-6).

What Is Heresy? When we face the challenge of testing the spirits we may use or hear this word, “heresy.” It is a Biblical term and perhaps through a simple study we can better face the issue of discernment that is crucial to our relationship with God.

The word is not HEARSAY, which means repeating something simply based on the fact that you heard it, or you heard that someone else heard it (that’s another sermon). No, the word we are using is heresy. Let’s look at the word in two settings. And I should like to apply a very simple definition.

2 Peter 2:1 (NKJ): “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.”

In this verse you see the phrase: “destructive heresies,” or in the King James: “damnable heresies.” In the NIV and ESV: “destructive heresies.” Whatever this is, it is destructive; or damnable.

Something that is destructive cannot be taken lightly. We cannot read in the Bible that something is destructive, and just mark that off or think it doesn’t matter. Peter speaks to the reality of false prophets and false teachers. Their work is destructive; they not only do not edify, they destroy, tear down.

And he says what the false teachers bring in! They bring it something that is destructive. The word “heresies,” is from a Greek word that means – to choose, or a choice at variance. It is about a choosing. {I’m aware of all the more complicated definitions, offering various nuances of use and meaning. Yet when I strip all that away and look into context, what I see is a simple choosing, almost like choosing up sides – but in this case, the wrong side! A choice at variance with the standard, the teachings of the apostles. See Gal. 1:6-12.} Heresies involve the choosing of teaching that is not true; is not the Word of God. When I choose to believe what a man says that isn’t in harmony with the Word of God, I have chosen something destructive: Heresy. {See the context of this, 2 Pet. 2:1-3}

False prophets and false teachers are introducing something that is destructive, bringing upon those involved swift destruction. It involves shame, exploitation and condemnation. This is not something you can just overlook. This is not a simple difference in opinion or judgment or some sincere soul who just hasn’t learned something yet. This is the bringing in of error, that is called “destructive heresies,” and that is deserving of “condemnation.”

We cannot take this lightly. We cannot believe just anything. We cannot pursue peace, at the cost of truth. And we cannot stand by while people are deceived and dominated by heretics. It is a serious matter. The other passage is . . .

Galatians 5:20

The context is simple: everything in this list is destructive and to be avoided. As a Christian it should be my aim to know about these evils and be certain I am not participating at any level.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21)

What is your reaction to the things in this list, these attitudes and behaviors? I’m relatively certain we are all opposed to adultery and fornication. We would not endorse “uncleanness,” or “licentiousness.” If we took a vote or survey of EF readers right now, I’m pretty sure everybody would state their opposition to idolatry, to murder and to hatred. What we need to see is, everything in this list; all that Paul includes is “the works of the flesh,” and one is heresies.

When I choose any teaching or practice that is not in keeping with God’s Word, I’m guilty of this. When I let some organization, system, man or men lead me away from the Word of God, into something that is preferred by men but condemned by God I’m guilty of this. When I make the choice to identify with a group that’s on the move away from God, I participate in this sin. It is a work of the flesh.

One man said, heresy is the choice to disunite yourself from God, by departing from His Word!! That’s a work of the flesh, and it says: “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” From this study I want to take us to these points:

1. Ecumenical Pluralism is attractive, but not God’s way. By “ecumenical pluralism” I simply mean the popular concept that every religion is equal; everybody is OK; regardless of their indifference to Scripture. “Ecumenical pluralism” is the policy that puts peace above truth and that seeks unity with men, at the cost of unity with God. Jesus addressed the matter of how will go to heaven in these words: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven’.” That’s Matt. 7:21, and the words of Jesus Christ, to whom the allegiance of our hearts is due. Whether this is attractive or popular or not, this is what Jesus said. It stands.

2. It is the responsibility of every Christian to practice discernment. What we’ve been talking about is not just the duty of preachers and elders, though they must be vigilant. You cannot turn this over to somebody. Each one must read the Word to gain his or her own faith – – know it yourself! It is the duty of every one of us, to submit to the authority of Christ. Jesus said to individuals: “Beware of false prophets…,” (Matt. 7:15).

3. Let us rededicate ourselves to training the next generation, for it may be they will be tempted more than we are. One of the dreadful mistakes we can make is the assumption that our children know all of this; and that they have well in mind the difference between truth and error. We need to have in mind, more than an assumption about the next generation. We need to take responsibility, and talk to our children and grandchildren about what the Bible says – – and the difference between the words of men and the Word of God. {Good reading on this subject, Psalm 78:1-6}.

Test the spirits. Heretics are not an ancient reference to men of old. They are still here.

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 14.6; June 2007

Heb. 4:8-16

“Strive To Enter”

Hebrews 4:8-16 (ESV)

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

I have marked in my Bible, one phrase that captures the main thought of this section: “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest.” Just as God rested after His creative work. Just as a rest was promised to the Israelites. There is a rest from the burden of sin in Christ. And that promised rest has a heavenly destination.

What could keep Christians from that rest? There is a single word back in Heb. 4:6 – DISOBEDIENCE. So, “let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.”

Do we struggle against temptation? Are there weakness in our earthly existence we must overcome? Do we need help while engaged in our works here, before the final rest? Yes. But listen to this:

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The Value of Funerals

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Sobriety is Better than Levity

Ecclesiastes  7:2-6

“Better to go to the house of mourning Than to go to the house of feasting, For that is the end of all men; And the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, For by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise Than for a man to hear the song of fools. For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, So is the laughter of the fool. This also is vanity.”

In this passage, Solomon is telling us that one thing is better, more valuable than another. It would not seem so among men in the world today — but it is better to go to a funeral than a party.

Solomon is not saying — you should never go to the house of feasting; this is not a wholesale condemnation of all parties (though those involving sin should be shunned). But there is more personal value for us — to attend a funeral!

The reason might be explained this way. I’ll express this through a question: Typically, when we attend a party, do we go home and think about our spiritual lives, God and eternity? No — typically, when we go to a party and have a good time; we come home tired, laughing and our stomachs are bloated.

However — when we attend a funeral, that event tends to generate sobriety, not levity. A funeral brings us face to face with the reality of death and it is good to think about death! And a funeral is one of the few occasions where there is this sober focus on death. Can you imagine – having a few friends over to eat sandwiches and talk about death?

That’s not what we do. It takes a funeral for us to take the time to con-template where we are all headed, and hopefully – think about whether we are ready to die. Solomon says here, “death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.” A funeral may leave us with a sad face – but the thoughts we must entertain about death MAY DO OUR HEARTS GOOD.

“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.” Now — along this same line – Solomon wants us to know – there is something else that may be unpleasant, but can do us good: It is better to heed a wise man’s rebuke than to listen to the song of fools!

At a funeral — ideally — you hear the rebuke of a wise man (take note, preachers!). At the party — you hear the song of fools. Obviously — the funeral is better for us than the party.

“Like the crackling of thorns under the pot, so is the laughter of fools. This too is meaningless.” I’m sure most of you will know what I mean, when I use the word “kindling.” When you start a fire — you gather up some dry twigs, and use them to get the fire going. What happens is, the kindling makes a loud popping noise or crackling sound… but it doesn’t last very long. That’s the way Solomon describes the laughter that is typical of parties — LOUD AND ENTERTAINING, but TEMPORARY. Of course, there is more permanence and value in the funeral — and the thoughts generated by the reality of death can do more for us than the laughter of fools. Let is take this to heart, and do what Solomon recommends at the end of this marvelous book: FEAR GOD, AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS.

By Warren E. Berkley
The Front Page
From Expository Files 5.11; November 1998