“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Living in an ever-changing, fast-paced world makes it difficult to communicate the idea that some things never change—but scriptures teach that Jesus Christ and the basic principles of Christianity laid out in the New Testament have not changed since the beginning of the Christian Age.
Great kingdoms of the world have come and gone, cultures have changed, and social mores have been altered, but Jesus remains our unchanging Christ. He is the same in His love for us, in the authority He has over us, and in His supreme position as our Savior and redeemer.
In view of His unchanging nature, it behooves us to remain constant in our devotion to Him and in our dedication to follow His word in every aspect of our lives. May we never forget Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
“These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9).
Having just severely rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for inconsistencies in their religious practices and for having their priorities upside down, Jesus here addresses them as hypocrites, using this quotation from the prophet Isaiah to communicate God’s attitude toward them.
The Lord emphasizes two points in poignantly describing how God feels: heart and doctrine. The scribes and Pharisees failed in these two areas. Jesus’ implication is that His followers cannot be like them. Acceptable service to God cannot be just lip service.
Heart refers to commitment and sincerity. While God wants us to follow the commands given, He wants more. He wants heart—that is, depth and sincerity. He wants total commitment from us.
Doctrine refers to the teaching God has given about how He wants us to conduct ourselves, both in worship and in our everyday lives. To please God. those people of old had to follow God’s commands. The same is truth for us today. We cannot follow commandments laid down by men. God remains our Creator and Guide; so, His commandments are the ones that will keep us in a covenant relationship with Him.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6).
A saying goes that our best friend is the one who will tell us the truth, even if it hurts. This verse illustrates that principle as the preacher employs contrast and even irony to paint the verbal picture he wants to paint.
Disguised love or deceit is really at the center of this proverb. Solomon uses the words “faithful” and “wounds” in juxtaposition to one another as well as the word “kisses,” “enemy,” and “deceitful.”
One does not expect wounds to be a positive act coming from a friend nor does he expect those wounds to be described as faithful, that is, until we realize the word means “directed by truth and discriminating affection.” Likewise, one does not expect kisses to come from an enemy, even though if they do, he knows they are a deceitful act.
The message is that it is more blessed to have a friend who will always tell us the painful truth about everything than it is to have a deceitful phony “friend” who will lavish glowing praise upon us in our presence, even though we know he will have quite different words in our absence.
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:16-17).
Even in the days of old, when Isaiah wrote these profound words, the idea of true repentance was put before the people. The prophet says repentance is ceasing to evil and learning to do good—that is, it is a change of mind resulting in a change of behavior.
Some mistakenly confuse being sorry for a sin with the idea of repenting of that sin. The Apostle Paul was happy, not because the Corinthians were made sorry for their sins, but because they allowed their sorry to lead them to repentance.
Here Isaiah makes it clear that God wants “the evil of your doings” taken from before His eyes. To make that happen, we must become aware of our sins, be sorrowful for having committed them and verbalize that sorrow, make a decision to turn from them, and then actually turn away from them and do our best not commit them again. This is the process of repenting.
“I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish”
Jesus’ purpose in this discussion with a group of Jews seems to be primarily that all are equal in the eyes of God and that the degree of sin does not affect the need for repentance. All sinners need to repent, and all sins require repentance on the part of the sinner.
If the Jews have an ulterior motive in bringing up the time when Pilate mingled Galilean blood with Jewish sacrifices, they fail miserably. Not only does Jesus defuse that situation, but He brings up another occasion on which eighteen were crushed when the tower in Siloam fell.
These situations did not occur because the people were excessive sinners—they were just occurrences and were not caused because the people were worse sinners than others.
To have a right relationship with God, all disciples must be willing to repent—that is, to forsake their sins and turn to God. Repentance, then, is a change of mind, resulting in a change of behavior.
Second of a two-part study of Ecclesiastes 9:4-5
“For the living know that they will die;
But the dead know nothing,
And they have no more reward,
For the memory of them is forgotten” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
Continuing his philosophical statement about life “under the sun,” Solomon states the obvious in this passage. All hope is not lost as long as a person is alive—he or she knows there are opportunities remaining—at least, the opportunity of making changes before death.
The dead do not have that advantage. All hope for experiencing life—all hope for improvement—all hope for enjoying the benefits and rewards of living a good life every day—all hope for changing our eternal destination—all of these are gone.
In death, not only have the opportunities of life vanished, but even the memory of us fades quickly—we disappear as a vapor that appears for a time and then vanishes away, as the preacher says.
What is Solomon’s point? As he amplifies later in this chapter, he advises taking full advantage of the life God has given, finding joy, working diligently, exercising wisdom, and living righteously.
First of a two-part study of Ecclesiastes 9:4-5
“But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion” (Ecclesiastes 9:4).
Solomon here gives a new perspective to the adage ‘Where there’s life, there’s hope.’ His statement may sound like a given, but he is in the midst of expressing a bit of philosophy about how life is “under the sun.”
In these Jewish times, dogs ranked among the lowest of animals and they were not considered a pet or companion, unlike today; but the lion, on the other hand, was considered among the noblest of beasts, full of grace, majesty, and power.
Even so, a dead lion, as princely as it once was, has lost all hope and possibility of performing what it once could. As lowly as it is, a living dog at least still has hope. In this proverb, the Preacher seems to be setting forth a positive attitude about hope for a better tomorrow.
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).
Implications flow from this gem by the writer James as he promotes faithfulness to the Lord. He confirms the fact that temptations are part of the life of every Christian and that we have a choice—we may choose to “endure” by not giving in to Satan’s enticements or we may choose to indulge and lose the reward.
Being tempted, however, does not automatically mean we are “approved.” Patiently remaining faithful to the “calling to which we have been called” during times of temptation—that is, staying on course with our commitment to Jesus—gives us the spiritual victory we desire.
James calls this victory the “crown of life,” promised to all who “love” the Lord. Because of the teaching James does in this book, we know he is using this word in a comprehensive sense—loving the Lord includes both a firm belief in God’s existence and actions that demonstrate our love.
“I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich ” (Genesis 14:22-23).
Abram speaks to the king of Sodom when he makes this declaration. He has just returned from a highly successful battle, including the reclaiming of many material goods that others have stolen. The king offers him the spoils of the battle, eliciting this response.
What Abraham is doing here is avoiding “the appearance of evil,” a scriptural concept that sometimes gets overlooked in our “I’ll do what I want to” world. He wants no one to be able to have the slightest idea that he has gone into this battle for his own selfish gain.
It does make a difference what other people think, and sometimes we must go out of our way to avoid giving someone the wrong impression about us or about our actions. Sometimes it is even necessary for us to make sacrifices so that others will not misunderstand who we are and what we stand for. Scriptures teach we are to “avoid the appearance of evil.”
“To do evil is like sport to a fool,
But a man of understanding has wisdom” (Proverbs 10:23).
Set in the context of religious behavior, Solomon presents an extreme contrast between the person who lives foolishly and the one who lives wisely. The Revised Version makes the second line clearer: “And so is wisdom to a man of understanding.”
A foolish person makes doing evil a habit: he does it so much that it becomes an ordinary course of action for him—it is his entertainment. The wise person, on the other hand, makes “wisdom” his “sport”—that is, he has made it a habit to use wisdom when making choices about his behavior.
Not only does the implied message come through loud and clear from a scriptural standpoint, but it shows common sense—doing evil brings unwelcome consequences here and also in the life to come. In contrast, acting wisely results in fewer problems in this life and puts us in a good position for the life to come