"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Raising the Standard: Alertness Is Visualizing The Consequences Of Subtle Dangers

"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." ~ Proverbs 16:18
"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." ~ 1 Corinthians 10:12
Idolatry is a sin that many of us do not believe we commit because we fail to understand what it really is. If we allow a secret desire in our heart for something which God has forbidden, we begin to worship a false god. When we expect that falce god to give us whatonly God can give, we commit idolatry. Idolatry is the illusion that lasting happiness and true fulfillment can be experienced in the things which God has forbidden. A certain ruler began to lust after something which was contrary to God's Word. His deceptive heart convinced him that God's laws were designed to restrict his happiness, but their real purpose was to spare him from the destruction of unseen danger.
A birthday should be the mark of growing maturity and wisdom, but for one man it was a memory of moral weakness and spiritual foolishness. Who was the man whose birthday celebration haunted him for the rest of his life?? Herod Antipas
History records this man as the ablest of several ruling brothers, but the security of his reign was constantly threatened. Riots and rebellions had toppled many other leaders. He recognized that there were seeds of insurrection within his own realm. A host of aides, lords, captains, and soldiers were trained to watch for any sign of danger. He worked hard and long to maintain peace and establish his rule. Thing seemed to go well, but inwardly the ruler was waging an even greater struggle. He desired to marry another man's wife. Holding himself above the law, he did as he pleased. But his wrong action provoked sharp rebuke from one man who boldly proclaimed God's holy standard. This godly man was held in great reverence by the people. The ruler's illegal new wife wanted to kill him, but her husband knew that such an action might trigger a bloody rebellion. Instead, he imprisoned him in a formidable dungeon. Once again the political situation seemed to be in control. The day came for this ruler to celebrate his birthday. He made a great feast for his lords, high captains, and the chief leaders of his province. What was to be the highlight of this occasion became instead his moment of infamy. This powerful ruler whose servants obeyed his every whim now sat at the feet of one who skillfully subdued him. The man who trained the eyes of many others to watch for signs of trouble, now allowed his own eyes to be dimmed to greater danger by the seductive charms of one who stood before him. Confident in his physical prowess, he was lulled into a spiritual stupor. He and his guests gaped in sensual pleasure at the lewd dancing of a young girl. In a burst of proud revelry, he said to the girl, "Ask of me what you want and I will give it to you, even to half of my kingdom." The girl, directed by her mother, gave her answer. When the ruler heard her request, he was shocked back to reality. He had been caught in the trap of his own ways. This girl was the daughter of his new wife, and her request was the death of that great man of God who spoke against her marriage. The ruler did not want to carry out this request and regretted that it had been made;but for the sake of his oath to the girl and to maintain the respect of his guests, he sent a messenger to the dungeon. The head of John the Baptist was brought back on a platter. In a moment of moral weakness, Herod Antipas had added yet another scar to his seared conscience. This scar was to haunt him for the rest of his life because he failed to visualize the consequences of subtle danger. Shortly after this event, he heard of the miraculous works of Christ. His troubled conscience caused him to conclude that it was the return of this righteous man whom he had murdered. ~ From Matthew 14:1-14 and Mark 6:14-29
Why Did Herod Imprison John But Not Want To Kill Him?
Herod Antipas was a tetarch, not a king. He ruled under the authority of the Caesar. He had seen his brother removed by a popular appeal to Rome. His marraige to Herodias was not well received by the powerful group of religious leaders called the Pharasees. The Mosiac Law forbade the marriage of a brother's wife (Leviticus 18:16; 20:21) with the exception of raising children of a deceased, childless brother by levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5; Mark 12:19). But Herodias was not barren, and Antipas' brother was still alive. The fact that his mother was a Samaritan did not increase his acceptance with the Jews (John 4:9; 8:48). Herod could not tolerate open criticism of himself. He imprisoned John to keep him quiet. On the other hand, he feared to kill him. His conscience had not yet completely deadened, and he knew that John was a righteous and holy man. Moreover, John had made such a powerful impression on the people that he feared an unjust murder would create a riot. (cf. Matthew 4:15), or even worse, cost him his career.
Why Did Christ Never Speak To Herod?
Only three contacts between Jesus and Herod Antipas are recorded in the New Testament. First, when Herod heard of the miracles Jesus was performing, he feared that He was John raised from the dead and desired to see Him (Luke 9:7-9). Second, the Pharisees reported to Jesus that Herod wanted to kill Him. Christ knew that he was afraid to use force for fear of stirring up the people as he had done with the murder of John ans so resorted to this cowardly intimidation to force Jesus to leave this domain. Jesus called him a fox--- the animal which is weak and uses cunning deceit to achieve its aims --- hence, a crafty coward (Luke 13:31-11). The third contact occurred when Jesus was tried before his death. Herod "questioned him in many words; but he answered him nothing." (Luke 23:9) The same Jesus who patiently talked to the despised Samaritan woman and the woman taken in adultery refused to utter a sound before Herod. Jesus knew that Herod's conscience was now completely seared and he would no longer listen to the words of truth. Jesus refused to give that which is holy unto the dogs or cast his pearls before swine, lest Herod trample them under his feet (Matthew 7:6). Humiliated by the Lord's silence, the pitiable "Herod, with his men of war, set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate." (Luke 23:11)
How Did God Judge Herod For Failing To Visualize Subtle Dangers?
In A.D. 36, the upset father of Herod's divorced wife attacked and defeated Herod's army. The Jews viewed this defeat as divine judgement for his execution of John the Baptist. In A>D> 37 the new emperor, Caligula, began his rule. He gave the brother of Herod's wife the prestigious title of king. Herodias convinced Antipas to go to Rome to request this long-coveted title. Herodias' brother, suspicious of Herod's aspirations, sent word to the emperor that Herod was planning a revolt from the empire. When Herod arrived in Rome, his wealth and tetrarchy were given to his scheming brother-in-law. Herod was banished to France where he lived out his life in obscurity with his disappointed wife. Many insects which bear the name "fly" --- the dragonfly, mayfly, and damselfly --- are not really true flies. A true fly has only two wings and from the Greek, Dipitera (two wings), it includes approximately 100,000 different species. The best known is probably the common housefly. The wings of the fly are so thin and transparent that its veins show through. These veins serve at least two purposes. One purpose is to carry blood to the wing, and the other is to give the wing support and stiffness. The housefly is capable of beating its wings 200 times per second and can fly an average speed of 4 and a half miles an hour. Faster speeds are possible for short distances in order to escape its enemies --- the chiefest of which are birds and man.
How Does the Housefly Illustrate the Need to Recognize Subtle Dangers? Gorged on a meal of decaying flesh and filth, the sluggish creature basked under the warm rays of the sun. An overhanging branch offered some degree of protection and seclusion, and the insect rested peacefully that beautiful mid-summer morning.
The housefly had little to fear. It is well equipped to protect itself against enemies. For one thing, it has the ability of quick take-off. The moment its wings began to beat it can be in the air, racing away and evading the clutches of any would-be assailant. Another and even more remarkable defense is the housefly's keen vision. The insect has approximately 4,000 eyes! These tiny, individual eyes --- each equipped with its own lense --- are connected together to form one large or "compound eye." This large eye does not move but really doesn't need to because no two eyes see exactly the same thing. At each eye's strategic position the lens points in a different direction and works independently. The result is 180 degree, mosaic-type vision as each piece fits together to form the whole picture. The arrangement and structure of its eyes are of particular advantage to the fly because they enable it to detect instantly any quick movement. The fly is alert to danger and its sensitive eyes and swift flight serve as strong allies in its struggle to survive. But this particular morning its meal and the warm sun lulled the fly into a lazy rest. Suddenly, the fly was swept skyward. Flashing pain darted throughout its tiny body as sharp spines pierced it through. It was held tightly in a vice-like grip. The attack had come quickly and the insect was in the unyielding claws of a preying mantis. With long patience and cunning the mantis had stalked its prey. Its movements were almost negligible. The hunter's coloration and structure blended perfectly with the surroinding vegetation. Slowly and deliberately, taking one step at a time, the praying manits had approached the fly. When it came within striking range, the victim still failed to recognize its presence. The predator had so perfectly executed its surprise attack that even the quick take-off and the 4,000 eyes of the fly could not help now. It had not seen the lightening swift movement of the outstretched claw until it was too late. Because it had failed to be alert to the subtle changes which had taken place around it, the fly lost its life.
Scriptural References to the Fly
"And there came a grievous swarm of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and ... the land was corrupted by reason of the swarms of flies." ~ Exodus 8:24
The "swarms of flies" could have included several species. Among them the flies that thrive on filth and waste and reproduce at a phenomenal rate. They breed on decay and vermin, harbor millions of bacteria, and carry many diseases. They would have corrupted the land in a number of destructive ways. This plague, as well as the other nine plagues of Egypt, was miraculous in its intensity. violence and precise timing. God chose to use natural phenomena for the plagues because the Egyptians worshipped such things as the frog, the river, the fly, etc. This was God's way of mocking their false gods and demonstrating His supremacy over every part of His creation. Baal-zebub, a god which the Philistines worshiped, was "god of the flies."
"Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour, so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor." ~ Ecclesiastes 10:1
The "ointment" which the druggist mixes is designed for helthful purposes, but the fly breeds death and decay. A dead fly can be removed from the ointment but its eggs will become maggots. The spoiling mixture gives off a warning of danger by a foul smell. A little folly is like the eggs of a fly in the ointment. It is out of character for a wise man and causes his good reputation to stink.

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