The Bible, being an accurate account of what really happened, is often filled with intrigue and treachery. Take for example the events which lead up to Joash becoming king in Jerusalem. Athaliah, when she saw that her son Ahaziah the king was dead, arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah; then seized the throne for herself. But one young baby, Joash, was hidden from her. Then when Joash was seven years old, a priest named Jehoiada was able to lead a revolt against Athaliah and place Joash – the rightful heir – on the throne. He reigned for forty years. (2 Kings 11)
Okay, other than being a sordid bit of ancient history, what is so important about this story? Just this: God about two-hundred years earlier had made a promise to King David that his royal blood line would continue – it was to continue until the Messiah would come. (2 Samuel 7:11b-16) If Joash had perished along with his brothers, the royal line leading up to Christ would have ceased and God’s promise would have failed.
About eight hundred years after Athaliah, King Herod, in another attempt to destroy the royal heir, ordered his soldiers to kill all the babes of Bethlehem. He too failed. (Matthew 2) And like Athaliah and Herod, all other attempts to destroy the royal line failed because God had made a promise to His servant David.
Only God can do that. Only God can make a promise concerning a particular bloodline then so control the events of human history for a thousand years in order to set the promised descendant on the throne.
One of the most recent lottery winners, Jesus Davila, Jr., has an interesting backstory. He once spent 12 years behind bars for the manufacturing and selling of cocaine, a felony. This week, he claimed $127 million after taxes. Sounds like a rags to riches kind of story, doesn’t it? It is interesting, and not a little sad, to read about some past winners of the lottery:
- Ibi Roncaioli was murdered by her husband after giving $2 million of her $5 million dollar prize to a secret child she’d had with another man (businessinsider.com).
- Evelyn Adams won twice, in 1985 and 1986, winning a total of $5.4 million. She gambled it away in Atlantic City and lives in a trailer park today (ibid.).
- Willie Hurt won $3.1 million in 1989, but spent it all on a horrible crack addiction, divorced his wife, lost custody of his children, and was charged with attempted murder (ibid.).
- Victoria Zell won $11 million in 2001, but went to prison convicted of a drug and alcohol-induced car collision that killed one and paralyzed another (theatlantic.com).
- Abraham Shakespeare won $31 million in 2006. He disappeared in 2009, after having spent most of his fortune. He was found under a concrete slab in 2010, a woman accused of fleecing him for nearly $2 million charged with his murder (ibid.).
- Jack Whittaker, already wealthy when he won $314 million in 2002, suffered too many calamities to mention here, but they include the death of his granddaughter and daughter and being sued for writing bounced checks to casinos. He was quoted as saying, “I wish I’d torn that ticket up” (ibid.).
- Bud Post won $16.2 million, but squandered it. His brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to try and kill him. He died of respiratory failure in 2006, living on $450 a month and food stamps. He once said, “I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare” (cleveland.com).
- Jeffrey Dampier won $20 million in 1996. In 2005, he was kidnapped, robbed and murdered by his sister-in-law and her boyfriend (ibid.).
To say there are mountains of additional, equally pitiful stories is to understate the matter. Certainly, not every one who wins the lottery winds up on skid row or in the morgue because of it. Yet, neither is it the panacea one might believe it to be. How many others, who can ill afford to play, squander money on a regular basis in the hopes of striking it rich? The overwhelming majority will never achieve that, but even many that do wind up worse than before they won.
In the ever-elusive search for happiness and satisfaction, mankind will come up empty when looking to material things for the answer. Jesus taught that it’s a hollow pursuit (Mat. 6:19). Paul says not “to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). Jesus warned that your life does not consist of your possessions, even if you have an abundance of them (Lk. 12:15). The good news is that there is a true treasure, one that never disappoints, that never depletes, and will never go away. Peter calls it “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…” (1 Pet. 1:4). Strive to “win” that!
No, I’m not talking about that segment of the population that cannot read nor those who have limited education. Rather I’m talking about an illiteracy that runs through every educational level of our nation reaching from the least to the most highly educated of our people. I’m talking about Bible illiteracy.
The Winston-Salem Journal, dated October 1, 2010, carried a news article entitled “Religious survey finds few knowledgeable.” The lead paragraph read: “Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion.” While the survey was not exclusively about biblical knowledge but rather covered religion in general, it nevertheless points to a lack of Bible knowledge within our nation.
When a people no longer have a good working knowledge of the Bible, one of two things happens. Either they reject Christianity altogether, as many in our nation have done, or else they are misled by some perverted form of it. In either case the fundamental problem is a lack of knowledge. Whenever one is lacking in Bible knowledge he becomes easy prey for whatever religious charlatan comes along.
The prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” It was true then, it is true today.
What is history? We all know that it is a record of the past. The history of our nation goes back to its beginning and chronicles the events up to the present day. World history goes back even further to the very earliest records of mankind.
But what about divine history as recorded in the Bible? While it too gives us a record of past events, it adds something more – something never found in secular history. Divine history goes something like this: First, God says what is going to happen before it occurs. Second, God makes it happen. Then after having said what was going to happen before it occurred and having brought it to pass, the event is recorded. Only God could do this.
The gods of heathenism could not do what God has done. Isaiah challenged the pagan gods in these words: “Let them bring forth and show us what shall happen…Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods.” (Isaiah 41:22-23)
Not only were the heathen gods unable to write history before it happened, neither can modern science. We have a great appreciation for the marvels of our scientific world – it has certainly improved human life. But science and technology are not able to do what God has done in the Bible. Only God can write history before it happens and then bring it to pass.
The apostle Paul wrote: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” (1 Corinthians 10:23) What exactly does this mean?
First, I guess we should note what it does not mean. Paul is not talking about things like murder, adultery, etc. But rather he is discussing things which, in and of themselves, are not wrong. What exactly then does he mean? He means that there are things which, in and of themselves, are not sinful but, nevertheless, they are not the right thing to do. They are not the right thing to do because they are not expedient.
This raises another question: What are the criteria for determining if an action is expedient or not? Webster defines expedient this way: “Suitable for achieving a particular end.” This fits perfectly with what Paul wrote in the last half of the verse: “All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” So we should always ask the question: “How will the path I have chosen affect me and others spiritually? Will it edify or not? Will it help or hinder?” Our words and deeds must always be measured by whether or not they contribute to the spiritual welfare of our fellow Christians as well as ourselves.
Jesus also helps us by His statement: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) So we should ask: “What will what I’m doing look like to others?” Along this very line Paul wrote: “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22) We should never forget that we Christians are called to a very high standard. Claude