Kindling Fires In Vain
As you know, fires were kindled to worship God in the Old Testament. In Exodus, we read, “You shall also take one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram; and you shall kill the ram, and you shall take its blood and sprinkle it all around on the altar. Then you shall cut the ram in pieces, wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and with its head. And you shall burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD; it is a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD. “You shall also take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram” (Exodus 29:15-19). However, sometimes fires were kindled in vain. In Malachi, we read, “Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the LORD of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands” (Mal. 1:10). Malachi gives us five reasons why they were kindling fires on the altar in vain.
First, they were kindling fires in vain because they were giving God the leftovers. They were offering the lame, the sick, the blind, the stolen, and the blemished to God. We read, “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, “In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, The table of the LORD is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 1:6-8). God is a great God. He deserves the first fruits of all that we have (Mt. 6:33).
Second, they were kindling fires in vain because their hearts were not in it. Malachi records, “You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the LORD of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the LORD” (Malachi 1:13). As you recall, Jesus dealt with the same thing in His day. We read, “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:’ 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 15:7-9). We must not merely go through the motions. We must worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
Third, they were kindling fires in vain because they were not listening to God’s word. We read, “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the LORD of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart” (Malachi 2:1-2). If we refuse to hear God, He will refuse to hear us. In Proverbs, we read, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9).
Fourth, they were kindling fires in vain because they were living hypocritical lives. We read, “Judah has dealt treacherously, And an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, For Judah has profaned The LORD’s holy institution which He loves: He has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob The man who does this, being awake and aware, Yet who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!” (Malachi 2:11-12). Malachi’s brethren were awake and aware of what God’s law said about marrying those of other nations, but they did it anyway. Although they sinned willfully, they continued bringing their sacrifices expecting God to receive them. He would not. To obey is better than to sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22). We cannot sin willfully and still worship acceptably.
Fifth, they were kindling fires in vain because they were mistreating their wives. We read, “And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, With weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.” For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.” (Malachi 2:13-16). In like manner, Peter wrote, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). Mistreating our mates will get us in trouble with the One who instituted marriage, witnessed the vows being exchanged, and made the couple one.
Although we don’t kindle a literal fire on a literal altar today, we must still avoid these five things. If we are guilty of one or all of these things, they will make our worship vain.
The Blood of Jesus Speaks Better Things
When Abel was murdered by his brother Cain, His righteous blood cried out to God (Gen. 4:10; cf. Mt. 23:35). Thousands of years later, when Jesus was murdered by His brethren (Acts 2:23), His righteous blood also cried out to God. Continuing his emphasis on better things (Heb. 7:19, 22; 8:6; 9:23), the Hebrew writer declared that the blood of Jesus speaks better things than the blood of Abel. “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Heb. 12:24). Of course, it should be noted that the blood of Jesus was better in every way. Abel’s blood didn’t have the power to redeem anyone. However, Jesus’ blood has the power to redeem all men. In this lesson, we want to compare the declarations of Abel’s blood with the declarations of Christ’s blood. It should be noted that we are not told exactly what the blood of Abel or the blood of Jesus declared. However, there are some conclusions that seem reasonable.
Abel’s Blood Cried For Punishment/Jesus’ Blood Cried For Forgiveness
Abel’s blood must have cried for Cain to be punished. Under the Old Testament, God prescribed punishment for those who shed innocent blood. We read, “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Gen. 9:6).
The blood of Jesus cried for forgiveness. As Jesus was dying on the cross, he declared, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots” (Lk. 23:34). This forgiveness was possible through His blood. In instituting His memorial supper, He declared, “For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt. 26:28). Later, Paul declared, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).
Abel’s Blood Cried For Separation/Jesus’ Blood Cried For Reconciliation
Abel’s blood must have cried for Cain to be cut off. As you know, a part of Cain’s punishment was for him to be a fugitive and a vagabond (Gen. 4:12).
The blood of Jesus cried for reconciliation. The Hebrew writer declared, “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17). In like manner, in Romans, we read, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:8-10; cf. Eph. 2:13; Col. 1:20).
Abel’s Blood Cried For A Curse/Jesus’ Blood Cried For A Blessing
Abel’s blood must have called for Cain to be cursed. A part of Cain’s punishment was for him to be cursed from the earth. “And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand” (Gen. 4:11).
The blood of Jesus cried for a blessing. On the cross, Jesus did not revile or threaten his persecutors. Peter wrote, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again ; when he suffered , he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: (1 Pet. 2:21-23). Jesus became a curse for us. Paul wrote, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).
Abel’s Blood Cried For Death/Jesus’ Blood Cried For Life
Abel’s blood must have called for Cain to be put to death. As already noted, those who shed innocent blood were to be put to death (Gen. 9:6).
The blood of Jesus cried for life. Jesus came to give man life. Jesus declared, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). John wrote, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12). Jesus tasted death for us. In Hebrews, we read, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
Abel’s Blood Cried For Justice/Jesus’ Blood Cried For Grace
Abel’s blood must have called for justice. Judgment and justice are the habitation of God’s throne (Psa. 89:14).
The blood of Jesus cried for grace. Paul wrote, “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:7-8). In Romans, he declared, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).
The blood of Abel spoke some good things. However, I believe that you will agree with the writer of Hebrews that the blood of Jesus speaks better things.
Who Are You Going To Believe—God Or The Devil?
The devil lies! You know that, right? You cannot believe or trust anything that the devil would have you to believe or trust! What he tries to convince you to do is completely contrary to whatever God wants you to do. Would you like some evidence?
In Genesis 2:17, God said, “…of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Then twelve verses later, the devil boldly proclaimed, “You will not surely die” (3:4). God said, “You shall surely die” and the devil said, “You shall not surely die.” Who are you going to believe?
In Matthew 3:17, God announced from heaven (for the benefit of the witnesses and Jesus Himself), “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” A voice boomed from heaven and declared, “THIS IS MY SON!” That’s not hard to understand. Who could miss it? Three verses later, the devil said to Jesus, “If You are the Son of God…” (Matt. 4:3). What do you mean “IF”? God just declared it to be so! Who are you going to believe?
Do you see? The devil lies! He always lies! Truly the devil “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). You cannot trust him, and yet how often do we fall for his lies?
God said that there are only two genders, which are permanently identifiable and distinguishable from birth—“male and female” (Gen. 1:27; 5:2; Matt. 19:4). But the devil says, “Don’t be so naïve and closed-minded! Be respectful of how someone feels and let them be true to themselves!” Who are you going to believe?
God said that marriage is only between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6; 1 Cor. 7:2). But the devil says, “Don’t be such a prude! Marriage is for those who love one another, regardless of whether they are the same or different genders!” Who are you going to believe?
God said that sex before marriage (i.e., fornication) or outside marriage (i.e., adultery) is sin (Heb. 13:4). But the devil says, “What’s the big deal? Don’t be so old-fashioned. There is nothing wrong with it!” Who are you going to believe?
God said that there is an eternal heaven for those who obey Him and an eternal hell for those who reject His will (Matt. 7:21-23; 25:46). But the devil says, “Who cares about heaven and hell? Nobody’s ever seen them! Just live the way that makes you happy!” Who are you going to believe?
God is truth! The devil is a liar! Who will you follow?
Jesus Spoke Faithfully
In last Sunday’s lesson, we examined how Jesus spoke that we might learn to speak like Him. We noticed that He spoke graciously (Lk. 4:22), boldly (John 7:26), plainly (John 10:24), authoritatively (Mt. 7:28-29), and wisely (Mt. 13:53-54). I intended to notice that Jesus spoke faithfully, but time and memory failed me. To complete the study, I am including it here.
Many verses in the gospel narratives reveal that Jesus faithfully delivered God’s word. Consider a few of them with me:
- “Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things”:(John 8:28).
- “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak” (John 12:49).
- “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).
- “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me” (John 17:8).
- “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14).
This specific characteristic - faithfully speaking God’s word - had been prophesied concerning Him. Through Moses, God declared, “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him” (Deuteronomy 18:18).
If we are going to speak like Christ, we must also speak faithfully. Jeremiah declared, “The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:28). In like manner, through Ezekiel, God declared, “When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul” (Ezekiel 3:18-21). Paul is a good example of one who spoke faithfully just like Jesus. To the Ephesian elders, He declared, “How I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house…Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:20, 26-27). Paul would encourage Timothy, his young son in the faith, to do the same. He wrote, “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed” (1 Timothy 4:6). Timothy was not to be like those who changed the message to fit the crowd. We read, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:2-5).
Jesus spoke faithfully. He delivered the message that God gave to Him. If we are going to speak like Him, then we must do the same.
The Brunt of Our Infidelity
Infidelity has long-lasting consequences. An interesting statement is found in the fourteenth chapter of the book of Numbers. “And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. Say to them, As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. I the LORD have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die’” (Numbers 14:26-35). The adults that failed to trust God and to take the land of Canaan felt the sting of their infidelity. They wandered in the wilderness for forty years or until they died, whichever came first. However, God said that their sons would bear the brunt of their infidelity. I couldn’t help but think of how true this is in multiple areas of life.
If we as Americans don’t remember the grace that God has shed on us, our children will bear the brunt of our infidelity. The Bible warns, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, And all the nations that forget God” (Psa. 9:17). If we fail to make good moral choices, our children will bear the brunt of our infidelity. Solomon declared, “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). If we fail to remember the tremendous price that has been paid for our freedom, then our children will again bear the brunt of our infidelity (Lam. 1:5).
If we as husbands and wives fail to honor our marriage vows, our children will bear the brunt of our infidelity. Malachi wrote, “And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, With weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, “For what reason?”Because the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. “For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously” (Mal. 2:13-16). Children that grow up in homes broken by infidelity often struggle in their own marriages. They often have trust issues and self-esteem issues. Parents, especially those guilty of infidelity, like to argue that their actions do not adversely affect their children. However, this is not the case. Sin shares its sorrows with the sinner and many more.
If we as Christians are not faithful in our relationship to God, our children will bear the brunt of our infidelity. If we don’t make time for worship, for prayer, and for Bible study, our children will bear the brunt of our infidelity. That is just one of many reasons why we must make these things a priority (Heb. 10:25; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Thess. 5:17). If we don’t seek God and His kingdom first, then our children will bear the brunt of our infidelity. Jesus declared, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mat. 6:33). If our affections are not on things above, then our children will bear the brunt of our infidelity. Paul wrote, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:1-5). Infidelity to God will cost us our souls and may cost our children theirs through our negative influence.
Each of us must carefully consider the cost of our infidelity. It will cost us, but it might cost those who follow us even more. Our children may bear the brunt of our infidelity.