Vol. 8-23 – 06-04-2023 – Deceptions and Disguises
The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?” —Obadiah 1:3
If you have not read Obadiah recently, it only takes a moment. The whole book is only 21 verses (sort of like Jude, or 2 John, or 3 John), shorter than the last book I wrote. All four books are worth reading.
The part of being deceived is that there is no intent to expose what the person is trying to do—and you do not know that you are being deceived.
I interviewed a young couple regarding their wish to get married. When they approached the priest of their church to make arrangements to get married; the priest looked at their giving record and told them that until they got caught up on their giving, there would be no marriage.
So, I continued to speak with them. In the conversation, my ear heard a remark, and I followed it up. They were living together. Neither thought that marriage was important to have a long-term commitment to their relationship. They were deceived and did not know it.
She attended church for years, kept up with the required sacraments, and then met the “love of her life.” He was not interested in church but was very interested in her. A hormonal thing. So, since they were “in love” it just made sense to live together. Right? Not.
Her mom told her if she did not get married, and just lived together, they were both going to hell. So, evidently, mom did not know what was required either. Life is odd. You go along with what you want to do, then God interferes. He does. God sent this couple to a preacher who was in seminary, a Baptist, serving as an interim in another denominational church. Her mom approved, because, after all, she wanted her daughter married, and a few grandchildren.
Well, I led them both to Christ. Then I instructed them to live apart and date and get to know one another outside of the hormonal arena. They did live apart. They wanted to get married right away. I required pre-marital/marriage counseling. Seven sessions. Six prior to the marriage, not less than two weeks apart for each session. The seventh session would be three months following their marriage.
I gave them books to work through (three of them, one for each of them individually, and one to do together). The assigned reading was discussed in the counseling sessions. They became active in a church close to where they lived, which was fine. I talked to the pastor and we were on the same page.
They both discovered they had been deceived by their friends.
There is never an accident with God. He never crosses your path with accidental crossings. He is so interested in those He creates He chases them with His love, grace, and mercy.
This small book of the OT challenges the reader. Interesting that when Obadiah gets to the third verse, he is already writing about the problem experienced by this young couple. Besides being unsaved, they are entrapped with pride—deceptive pride.
The tragedy is that it is a widespread deception that brings harm to lives over our nation—in great numbers. One parent told me that the problem with their young adult was something they would out-grow it. Really? When are they scheduling that to happen? Do we lay the important considerations for later, after we get our wants of life filled?
Or do we learn from the truths of God’s Word? I recommend option two.
None of us is exempt from pride. However, deception is the vehicle Satan uses to attempt to mask the voice of God. No one wins life with Satan.
Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. –Jonah 2:8
Not long ago I authored a small book using Jonah as the foundational document. Jonah is a book of three pages (in my Bible of choice). My book was titled: Echoes from the Belly of a Whale. While a small book, it is essentially 162 pages. So, it is not all about Jonah. It would have been easy to write more pages.
Have you considered what Jonah learned while in the belly of the whale (or extra-large fish—I opt for a whale)? He has some alone time. At least some time to contemplate how things have gone in his decisions. I suggested four areas/principles Jonah had to consider. Jonah is praying; there is a tendency to do that when nothing else seems to be working.
The first is honesty. His prayer includes stark honesty. Did you know that some people disguise their prayers with intentional dishonesty? That is especially true when we get into difficulty with our own choices, especially disobedient choices.
When we enter into sin, we need to repent (a foreign word in many churches today—and in the lives of individuals). Be honest, how many times have you attempted to have God just overlook some difficulty you have caused? Jonah did. It still did not work out for him. Jonah should have tried honesty; so, should we.
The second is confession. There is a novel idea. Confession expresses sorrow and repentance for sin committed. Confession is agreeing with God with regard to what He says about sin. It does not leave room for our excuses. Jonah quickly came to the place where he admitted to God that everything that happened was his own fault. There is a tendency to get to the point when you are mixed with digestive juices.
The third focus in Jonah’s prayer is thanksgiving. Right! He is hurled overboard. Swallowed by a whale and wanted to die. In his praying with thanks, he gets a spiritual rescue. That is priceless. The rescue is not available from the fish—it is only available through Almighty God who loves Jonah and rushes upon him with His grace and mercy. Isn’t that just like God?
The fourth part of Jonah’s prayer involves sacrifice and vows. This is not foxhole religion. Guess where Jonah learns this—from the changed lives of the pagan sailors. Sailors that are converted and learned how to approach a holy God. It is never too late to learn what God does in a newly generated heart, or in a revived heart of a believer.
God’s mercy toward Jonah is astounding. He moves forward through encapsulated swimming to evangelize the Ninevites. He tells people he does not even like how they can come to faith in Almighty God. Wonder what he looked like as that whale spit (vomited) him up on the beach at Nineveh. And was that seaweed hanging around his neck?
Obadiah helps us understand that when we come to a fork in the road or a place where we need to make a determination toward our choices, our character, and pride; battle it head-on with humility. If we are not careful pride will win. If Obadiah was asking us (and I believe he is), what are areas in our life that we struggle to believe what God says (or do not want to believe what He says), do we have a better answer than God.
When you re-read Jonah (not simply a children’s story), what do you see about yourself? Do you think that God is as interested in you as He is in Jonah? Yes, He is. In your reading, perhaps your question might be: These interruptions and blockages in my life, are they really God’s mercy and grace toward me? I need to listen. Pay attention. Respond.
What we think that looks like punishment may well be God’s mercy we do not immediately see.