In Scripture God speaks with clarity, but those marred by sin have difficulty seeing the truth in its proper light. Sin separates, it muddies, it clouds the perception, it makes straight lines appear crooked and crooked lines straight. An overarching assumption that I believe, sometimes gains some headway among those who profess the name of Christ, is articulated in this fashion: “it is only sinners that truly struggle with the plainness of the biblical text, but not I, for I have the Spirit to guide me into all truth.”
And yet, and honest reading of the Bible reveals that even those who were considered people of the book, men and women of faith, erred in seeing the truth as God intended it.
One such example is found in the Gospels where the Lord Jesus warns His disciples to “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt 16.6; ESV).1 This statement is on the heels of Jesus interaction with the so-called leaders (false shepherds) of Israel, where He rebukes them for not seeing the clearness of the revelation before them. They wanted a sign from Jesus to prove who He was claiming to be. He had healed all sorts of illness. He had cast out demonic forces. He had fed multitudes with scraps. And, He had taught with undeniable authority from the Scriptures. But…they wanted more proof. Jesus tells them,
“You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”MattHEW 16:3
And, in similar fashion He says to His disciples,
“O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets were gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets were gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven [the doctrine] of the Pharisees and Sadducees” MattHEW 16:8-11
Jesus was warning His own to beware of false teaching (Matt 16.12). For the unwary allow it to stay and fester and grow, rather than throw out the lump that has been corrupted by it (e.g., 1Cor 5.1-7). The point I am making is that though biblical teaching has a perspicuity to it (a clarity/clearness), it is not just the wicked that fail to see the truth when it is smack dab in front of their face, but so too does the righteous wrestle with it.
Notice Jesus does not say to the disciples that they have “no faith,” but “little faith.” Unlike the so-called religious leaders of their generation they at least followed Jesus. They knew to some degree that hope rested in Jesus and no one else. But, they struggled with seeing things as clearly as they were revealed. Their vision was somewhat muddied.
Possible objection or excuse…
I suppose some might attempt to argue that this was before the Holy Spirit had been poured out. After which, they would be able to walk by the Spirit and not by the flesh. This type of response is given when one looks at the episode in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of Jesus arrest. Just as Jesus foretold, when “the Shepherd is struck the flock would be scattered” (Matt 26.31; Zech 13.7). They fled because they did not have the boldness of the Spirit yet (cf. Acts 2), it is offered. I disagree.
The Holy Spirit does lead us into truth as we follow His Word; with this sort of statement I will agree. The Holy Spirit also gives us boldness to testify before all that Jesus Christ is Lord and that salvation is found in no other but Him; with this statement I too find agreement. But the reception of the Holy Spirit into the lives of the believer does not make the person in question impervious to faults or frailties. Or else why do we still struggle from time-to-time with sin (cf. 1John 1.8-9)? Or else, why are we still sometimes prone to gross errors that in fact malign the clear teaching of Scripture (cf. Gal 2.11-14; 2Pet 3.16)? Why do believers at times, for a season, temporarily adopt teaching that has demonic roots: meaning, it is not rooted in the mind of God, but instead, is found, in the heart of the creature (e.g., Matt 16.23)?
As clear as the Scriptures are, our minds are so affected by the curse of the Fall, that it is a lifelong process of “rebuke, correction and teaching” that slowly trains us to think and live righteously (2Tim 3.14-17). And so, God rightly disciplines those whom He loves, like a good father will do to his own children, so that we might learn to live by every word that proceeds from His mouth rather than falling prey to leaning on our own understanding.
I have been studying the book of Daniel now for the better part of a year. Being an expositional preacher, I attempt, to the best of my ability, to teach accurately the Word of Truth as it is written. This requires much labor on my part, as it does any legitimate student of Scripture. Currently I am working through the 9th chapter of this book. Much has been spoken about this area of the Bible during the course of the societal/political upheaval we have been witnessing here in the United States (think 2020-2021). So-called prophecy experts are using their influence to muddy the waters further about our present circumstances.
Take our current cultural climate as a living example. Why are we seeing what we are seeing here in the West? Why are so many things so sharply divided? Why has panic found a comfortable seat in the heart of so many? Why is evil and wickedness promoted by those inside and outside of Christ’s Body (i.e., His congregation)? Why is the civil government flexing its metaphorical muscle against a large portion of the populace? Why is “Big-Eva’s” leadership (the so-called Evangelical arm of the Christian Church) so quick to adopt the language of today, to synchronize itself with current cultural trends (i.e., syncretism) so as to appear relevant, accepting, peaceful and fully woke? What is the root of the problem. Who is the desolater and who is bringing forth the desolation that we are now witnessing?
To the learning the term “desolate” can be taken in either its adjectival sense as an illustrative, describing word; or, “desolate” can be understood as the action (verb) of making desolate. From a biblical standpoint God is the author of the desolation.
He is the one that removes, or strips bare, the inhabitants of the land. Seen in various, interrelated forms of judgment: drought, famine, pestilence and war (this violence against life is either through beasts or the sword). This is a visual representation of what enslavement to sin (i.e., rebellion towards our Maker’s Law) looks like, and so, we should not be surprised that God in the past has used the enemies of His people to wage war, and to drag them off into captivity (cf. Book of Judges).
From the same viewpoint, mankind is the cause of the desolation. They are the ones responsible for bringing about God’s retributive action on this earth.2 As Nebuchadnezzar wisely opined,
“[God’s] dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’”Daniel 4:34b-35
Just as the king of Babylon said in his own heart, “Is not this greatness before me all that which I have built and established by my own power?” (Dan 4.30; paraphrased).3 Our current generation, here in the West, has assumed that our powers that be, our wealth, were wrought by ourselves without anything from God above. Moreover, this attitude the permeates unbelieving thought has infiltrated Christ’s covenantal body and has led those that bear the name of Jesus to withdrawal and abandon their high calling of loving Him in every area of life. They have played the role of the desolater, apostatizing from the faith along various veins of thought. How so? By adopting that which God hates and declaring it good. By not only being unaware of the leaven in our society, but eagerly setting down such leavened bread at the table, reserving those various lumps of dough in storage to be worked into more flour.
The prophet’s who cried for “peace, peace” in Jeremiah’s day find a kindred spirit with various Christian leaders in our own. They wanted peace as they married their hearts to the demagoguery of the political/societal forces that promoted every form of idolatry imaginable, and many of our own leaders are guilty of the same. But just as peace did not come when Daniel was a young man, neither will peace be given to our generation. Desolations are decreed. As our nation has moved further and further along the trail of abandoning the True God of All Creation, we have invited Him to wet His sword and sharpen His arrows, to train the string of His bow against us (Psa 7.12-13). And when our wealth is taken from us, when we lose all that is treasured above our Great God—who so many fail to acknowledge until it is too late—can anyone of us say, “How dare ye God? On what grounds? By what right have you waged war against us?”
The answer is this:
“It is you who have thought to strike at me by refusing to kiss the Son in whom I am well pleased. No mercy, no quarter is to be given until this rabble is done away with, and this that you have treasured is made desolate. For all My Son’s enemies shall be put beneath His feet, before the end, the final one being death!”4
Daniel, the Lord’s prophet, understood with clarity the reason for the state of things; in what brought them into being and what would bring them to their end:
“As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth. Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice…we have sinned, we have done wickedly.”Daniel 9:13-14, 15b; KJV
Our refusal to obey God’s voice has ushered in His wrathful judgment against a nation that slaughters her young, abuses them, perverts the doctrine of marriage and the family, has no respect for personal property and endorses theft at the national level, celebrates slander and hate based on superficial characteristics, promotes slothfulness, and every form of perversion that the human mind can imagine.
Now the prophecy speculators will tell you that this means that the writing is on the wall and that the end is near. This is true, in part. There is an end in sight and we are witnessing it with the increasing speed in which our cultural decay is made evident (the proverbial writing on the wall), but this is not the first end that has occurred. Neither will it be the last. Things are being shaken, so that what cannot be shaken will be left standing (Heb 12.27-28).
What we ought to be doing…
Rather than hope for an escape hatch to open up, let us with boldness and courage proclaim our Lord’s greatness. For He is in fact the one orchestrating this end that we are witnessing for His glory and for the benefit of the people whom He loves. Like Paul we need to learn what it means to rejoice in persecution. We need to be better students of the Word of God, so that we can see with clarity “what is good and acceptable and perfect” to Him (Rom 12.2), by applying them.
This means rather than abandoning the culture we being accepting the responsibility to change the culture from the bottom up. By leading godly family, training our children up in righteousness, giving them the means to stand against a culture that attempts to sway them towards lies, rather than the truth, and getting involved in our communities where we live. Understanding that when we declare Jesus Christ as Lord that we are saying His authority permeates every facet of life, in heaven and in earth, and so we seek to reform this world after His image; in politics, in science, in music, movies, as tradesmen, as businessmen, in education, in art, in architecture, etc., etc. If its on this earth, Christ owns it and we need to start making it known that all the earth is His, for He has made it for His glory.
We need clarity of thought, so that our works will properly reflect “our God, our Lord!” (John 20.28).
1All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).
2There is a sense where one can attribute the designation “desolater” to both God and mankind. The image bearer (mankind) who refuses to listen to the voice of His Maker obeying His Law-Word is the desolater in a causal sense. The sinner causes God to act in response to the desolater’s rebellion. In this fashion, then God is also a desolater, but one that serves as the effect. The apostle Paul writes that the “wages of sin is death.” Sin brings about the desolation of the desolater for God’s righteous judgment is against those acts of desolation (i.e., abandonment of God’s Holy standard). In acting God acts in removing the sinner from His life, which in an ultimate sense is the experience for destined to hell for their willful rebellion. Like God drove Adam and Eve from the garden, God drives the sinner from the wealth of His creation and ultimately from His presence, if the sinner continues in his or her rebellion. Thus, the cause and effect relationship between the two is intrinsically tied. Man’s sin (the cause of desolation) identifies the man as a desolater (the one who acts in rebellion against God), and yet, God’s retributive judgment of righteousness (the effectual act of desolation) against the reprobate identifies God as the desolater—i.e., the one who makes desolate. Knowing who is being referred to requires attention to the flow of thought given by the writer. Hopefully, you have been able to follow my own. If not, feel free to ask a question.
3Notice the warning that God gives to such thinking in Deuteronomy 8:17-20. Since all people are without excuse, one cannot claim that they were ignorant to the fact that they owed thankfulness to another besides themselves who made all things and gave to them the things which they now possess (see Rom 1.18-25).
4This statement is a smattering of verses that tie in a general concept revealed in Scripture. Either we submit to God so that His goodness might be poured out upon us, according to His Namesake and Glory—nothing of which is owed to us. Or, we rebel against Him, refusing to listen to His Word and enjoy the consequences of such tyranny on our part. See: Psalm 2; Matthew 17:5; Leviticus 26.31; 1Corinthians 15.26-27.