Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“I will sing a new song unto Thee, O Lord.”
“I heard a bird at break of day
Sing from the autumn trees
A song so musical and calm,
So full of certainties;
No man, I think, could listen long
Except upon his knees.
Yet this was but a simple bird,
Alone among dead trees.”
William Alexander Percy
Today’s Study Text:
“So give Your servant an understanding mind and a hearing heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad, for who is able to judge and rule this Your great people.”
1 Kings 3: 9
“Knowing the Difference Between Good and Bad”
“We cannot love good if we do not hate evil.”
How do I know the difference between good and evil?
“A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil that good may come of it.”
“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between parties either – but right through every human heart – through all human hearts.”
I want to share with you the following words which I find to be blood-chilling: “Today, I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord” – Adolf Hitler. In the name of God? How could such murderous acts be perpetrated upon a group of innocent people in the name of the Creator of the universe? However, we find, that along with a host of evil co-horts, Adolf Hitler became synonymous with the definition of evil. What’s even more despicable, is that those who watched in silence, were just as guilty, for as Martin Luther King, Jr. so correctly pointed out: “He (she) who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he (she) who helps to perpetuate it. He (she) who accepts evil without protesting against it is really co-operating with it.”
The reason I begin our devotional today with such a dramatic example of what we call evil is that not everything which occurs in your life and mine has a line so decisively drawn that divides what is called good from what is called bad. This is also why, in the life of young Solomon, confront the fact that when God came to this young man, at the beginning of his kingship of Israel, and asked Solomon what gift he would like from heaven’s storehouse, Solomon was direct in his answer when he asked God for an understanding mind and a hearing heart. There was no question as to what Solomon wanted. And I asked myself, “Why?” “Why did Solomon want understanding, wisdom and a hearing heart?” Was it so he could have the bragging rights to being the sharpest knife in the drawer? Did he want to “outwit” everybody around him? “What exactly was the purpose for Solomon’s longing for understanding and wisdom?”
Our answer is found in Solomon’s own words as paraphrased by The Message Bible: “Here’s what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil.”
Solomon’s desire to be blessed with heavenly wisdom was not so that he could personally benefit from his “smartness.” Instead, looking at the job in front of him, Solomon told God he felt inadequate. He didn’t think that on his own he could be a “discerning judge.” In the King James Version of the Bible, in 1 Kings 3: 9, we find that the word “judge” is repeated twice, along with the word “discern.” It was after going to the Hebrew translation that I began to get the answer I needed to my “why?” question.
In the Hebrew, the word “judge,” used in 1 Kings 3: 9, is “shawfat.” Here are a few of the meanings which apply to this specific word – “to vindicate or punish. To govern. To litigate or avenge. To defend, execute, pass judgment, plead, reason and rule.”
We need to remember that historically, under the rulership of the kings, the king’s word was law. There wasn’t an Executive, Legislative and Judiciary level of government. The king was it – the total. He was the prosecutor and defender, so to speak. He listened and made the decision. To say he was the individual who held your life in his hands would be an understatement.
For Solomon, who was, as he called himself, just a “lad,” there was not a wealth of life’s experiences from which to draw on as he made weighty decisions regarding other’s lives.
As we all mature, there are mistakes we haven’t made again, simply because we have learned some vital lessons along the pathway, including some critical, distinguishing characteristics which help us sort out those elements that identify good from bad. But I know that in my younger years, there were times, when the lines of demarcation between good and evil got blurry. Whether it was my emotional response that gave me a “hazy” viewpoint or even if my inexperienced understanding of a situation led me to a faulty decision, I have found, that as time has passed, thankfully, there are mistakes I haven’t repeated. I learned along the way.
This is why Solomon showed a great deal of maturity, beyond his years, especially when he asked God for understanding that would help him “discern,” or as the Hebrew states, “separate and distinguish,” between good and bad.
This request from Solomon, and the reason why he made this request, got me to reflecting on my own life and what I ask God for everyday. While I freely admit, I’m no king or queen making decisions that affect the lives of my subjects, each day, you and I face decisions, that as author Jeremy Taylor so correctly observed, have eternal implications. “God hath given to man a short time here upon earth…yet upon this short time eternity depends.” This makes me think about how I use the time allotted to me on earth, for good or for evil. And if, like Solomon, I choose to ask my Father in heaven for His gift of discernment, so I will clearly understand the difference between good and evil, think of how many off-road excursions I can save myself from – because I will walk in my Father’s path and won’t be wandering, unguided into an unmarked path which may appear to be one of those shortcuts that gets me where I think I want to go but only leads to my destruction.”
The prophet Isaiah sounded the alarm when it comes to getting “good and evil” confused when he wrote, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5: 20, K.J.V.). Obviously, blurry lines between good and evil aren’t just a 21st century problem. Since the Garden of Eden, where in a perfect environment, the wily servant made evil look good to an unsuspecting pair, Adam and Eve, right down to April 23, 2012, the same technique is still used to trap all of us into believing the falsehood that evil and good are indistinguishable. This is why the Apostle Paul told his young Christian friends in Rome, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12: 9, K.J.V.).
May our prayer for wisdom and understanding be the same as Solomon’s. And the discernment sent from heaven helps us to distinguish between that which is good and that which is evil. As C. H. Spurgeon penned, “Every renewed heart is anxious to be free from even a speck of evil.” How grateful we can be that Jesus left us with these tremendous words of hope: “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33, K.J.V.).
“At the heart of the story stands the cross of Christ where evil did its worst and met its match.”
“O God the Holy Spirit, most loving Comforter, I pray that you will always turn what is evil in me into good and what is good into what is better; turn my mourning into joy, my wandering feet into the right path, my ignorance into knowledge of your truth, my lukewarmness into zeal, my fear into love, all my material good into a spiritual gift, all my earthly desires into heavenly desires, all that is transient into what lasts for ever, everything human into what is divine, everything created and finite into that sovereign and immeasurable good, which You Yourself are, O my God and Savior.”
Thomas á Kempis
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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