Posts Tagged ‘hidden sins’

Joshua 15:20-63
The Towns Allotted to Judah

There are certain memories from your early childhood that stick with you while others vanish into the mist of time. Many of our experiences from birth to around age 6 are like this. There are seemingly random, disjointed memories that stick while others do not. They say that our best retained memories are those that have emotions attached to them. One of my memories from age 6 (in the first grade) is like that. There must have been high emotion attached to it. I remember the sequence of events to this day.

I remember that there was this page of almost like comic strip rows of figures that we were supposed to take the time to color with our crayons. Somehow, that day, I had been paired up with a kid whom I do not remember his name but he influenced me that day. He must’ve been an angry sort of kid so he did not follow the instructions to tediously color the characters in the rows of action scenes on the printed paper. He just marked back and forth across the page on each row of characters until the row of characters was not recognizable. One row was a purple blob. The next red and so on. So, instead of being the good little student that I was, I allowed the influence of taking the easy way out take me over and I did the same thing. And I turned the paper in. I remember the next day the teacher gave us our papers back. Of course, she gave me a failing grade and had a note stapled to it that I had to get my parents to sign. I remember being fearful of the repercussions at home so I balled the papers into a small circular wad and stuck it behind my chest of drawers in the bedroom that my brother and I shared. My dad was pastoring three churches in this rural area south of Sumter and Camden, SC called Rembert, SC (yeah, try finding that on the map – even today!). I don’t remember how I kept avoiding the returned of parentally signed paper back to the teacher for I remember being more than a couple of days. It may have been a week! Only when my mom and dad did their major housecleaning on Saturday mornings was this wadded up set up papers found. I felt like Lucy on I Love Lucy when Ricky would say, “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin’ to do!” and she would go “ewwwwww!” as only Lucy could do. I had some splainin to do to my mom and dad about this shortcut I took at school and then the fact that I tried to cover it up.

There were so many things that my dad and mom were upset with me about. First, that they raised me better than that than to not respect authority and do what you were told. Second, that I was smarter than the work that I had produced. Third, I took the easy way out instead of doing the hard work necessary. And, finally, that I did not confess what I had done wrong and tried to cover it up. I was in deep doo-doo as a 6 year old. It was not like my parents did not invest in us when it came to school work when we were little. They actively participated in our studies when we were little kids. They invested much in us and it showed in how well we did in school. Much was given to us by our parents when it came to our schooling. So, much was expected. This early act of defiance was unexpected and it remains memorable to this day. I let some kid who I rarely sat beside in school influence me. I don’t even remember the kid’s name or his face. I do remember the influence I allowed him to have over me that day – to this day.

It was this idea of much being given and then not following through on expectations was what I thought of this morning as I read this rather mundane set of verses in Joshua 15:20-63:

20 This is the inheritance of the tribe of Judah, according to its clans:

21 The southernmost towns of the tribe of Judah in the Negev toward the boundary of Edom were:

Kabzeel, Eder, Jagur, 22 Kinah, Dimonah, Adadah, 23 Kedesh, Hazor, Ithnan, 24 Ziph, Telem, Bealoth, 25 Hazor Hadattah, Kerioth Hezron (that is, Hazor), 26 Amam, Shema, Moladah, 27 Hazar Gaddah, Heshmon, Beth Pelet, 28 Hazar Shual, Beersheba, Biziothiah, 29 Baalah, Iyim, Ezem, 30 Eltolad, Kesil, Hormah, 31 Ziklag, Madmannah, Sansannah, 32 Lebaoth, Shilhim, Ain and Rimmon—a total of twenty-nine towns and their villages.

33 In the western foothills:

Eshtaol, Zorah, Ashnah, 34 Zanoah, En Gannim, Tappuah, Enam, 35 Jarmuth, Adullam, Sokoh, Azekah, 36 Shaaraim, Adithaim and Gederah (or Gederothaim)[a]—fourteen towns and their villages.

37 Zenan, Hadashah, Migdal Gad, 38 Dilean, Mizpah, Joktheel, 39 Lachish, Bozkath, Eglon, 40 Kabbon, Lahmas, Kitlish, 41 Gederoth, Beth Dagon, Naamah and Makkedah—sixteen towns and their villages.

42 Libnah, Ether, Ashan, 43 Iphtah, Ashnah, Nezib, 44 Keilah, Akzib and Mareshah—nine towns and their villages.

45 Ekron, with its surrounding settlements and villages; 46 west of Ekron, all that were in the vicinity of Ashdod, together with their villages; 47 Ashdod, its surrounding settlements and villages; and Gaza, its settlements and villages, as far as the Wadi of Egypt and the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.

48 In the hill country:

Shamir, Jattir, Sokoh, 49 Dannah, Kiriath Sannah (that is, Debir), 50 Anab, Eshtemoh, Anim, 51 Goshen, Holon and Giloh—eleven towns and their villages.

52 Arab, Dumah, Eshan, 53 Janim, Beth Tappuah, Aphekah, 54 Humtah, Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) and Zior—nine towns and their villages.

55 Maon, Carmel, Ziph, Juttah, 56 Jezreel, Jokdeam, Zanoah, 57 Kain, Gibeah and Timnah—ten towns and their villages.

58 Halhul, Beth Zur, Gedor, 59 Maarath, Beth Anoth and Eltekon—six towns and their villages.[b]

60 Kiriath Baal (that is, Kiriath Jearim) and Rabbah—two towns and their villages.

61 In the wilderness:

Beth Arabah, Middin, Sekakah, 62 Nibshan, the City of Salt and En Gedi—six towns and their villages.

63 Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the people of Judah.

The first thing that you will notice here is that, compared to the inheritance of lands given to the other tribes, the list of cities and towns here is quite extensive. It takes 43 verses to list all the cities and towns. By comparison, the land given to the tribes of Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, Dan, and Benjamin are pretty small and take only about 7 verses each. The last thing you will notice here is that, in v. 63, there is the mention that the tribe of Judah was not able to drive out Jebusites from Jerusalem (and that the Jebusites were still living among them at the time of the writing of Joshua).

Here, we see that Judah was given much. This tribe was given the greatest allotment of land. This tribe was not only the largest of the tribes of Israel but they were the most influential throughout much of Jewish history. It is from this tribe that David, Solomon, and Jesus come from. So, to say that the tribe of Judah was the most important of the tribes would be an understatement. Much was given. Much should be expected.

However, we see here, in the last verse, that they did not drive out the Jebusites from Jerusalem. They did not complete the job. They took a shortcut. They then stuck the wad of paper behind the chest of drawers and tried to ignore that they did not do what had been assigned to them. God directed them to do the whole job, whatever it took. They were to completely destroy and drive out the pagan Jebusites from their land. But they did not do it. Even after they had been given the most land, they could not do what they had been assigned to do.

Aren’t we that way sometimes? We wad up our papers of sin and stick them behind the chest of drawers of our lives – hoping no one will see that we are not being obedient to God. Outwardly we are doing and saying the right things, but we have this hidden secret of our disobedience to God’s Word. He gives us the instructions for living our life in His Word. However, sometimes, we want to take shortcuts so that we do not have to do the hard work of becoming more Christ-like. We want to keep our pet sins and keep them hidden. We want to say one way of behavior is OK even though it is against God’s Word because we do not want to give that behavior up. We think it is OK to take shortcuts around God’s Word so that we can continue reveling in our favorite sins.

Is it time for the Saturday morning cleaning in your soul? Is it time to come clean about the shortcuts that you take around obedience to God? Are you tired of wondering when you wad of sin hidden behind your spiritual chest of drawers will be found out? Or will that shortcut you take become a cancer to your spirit and drive a wedge between you and God. Will you let your disobedience grow like a cancer such that you cannot enjoy what God has given you?

What is your wad of paper of unconfessed sins of shortcuts taken that is stuck behind your chest of drawers that you don’t want anybody to see? We must bring it out in the open. Confess it. Drive it out. And seek restoration through the forgiveness of Jesus Christ!

Amen and Amen.

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Matthew 16:5-12
The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

For those of us who are die-hard Clemson fans, the touchdown on the kickoff return by Alabama did not come entirely as a surprise. For all the good things that have happened on offense and defense during the Tigers run to the championship, special teams have been where we have held our breath, particularly kick-off coverage. Every time, Clemson kicked off this year, we fans prayed that the kickoff would go deep into the end zone so that there would be no return. Why? Because, if the Tigers had a fatal flaw this year it was kickoff coverage. Twice before the championship game, we had given up two touchdowns on kickoff returns and we had given up several high yardage returns during the year. Although they covered well for most of the kickoffs Monday night, the weakness was bound to be exposed. The Tigers could have survived all the other mistakes made in Monday night’s game, but this season-long weakness was the one thing that was the dagger to the heart. In championship games that are tightly contested as Monday’s game was, if you have a flaw as team if will come out and it will cause you to lose. Without that kickoff return for a touchdown, Clemson may have had the opportunity to climb back into the game the way they were moving the ball on offense. The kickoff return just made the mountain too big given the time remaining the game. The fatal flaw all season ultimately undoes a championship season. It is like back in the day in the 80’s and 90’s, University of Houston and University of Nevada-Las Vegas had some of the greatest college basketball teams ever assembled but they could have won more championships than they did because each had one fatal flaw to their games – foul shooting. Each of those teams could make you look like a little league basketball team when they played you, but if you could get them into a tight game where foul shots matters, they would lose. Fatal flaws of sports team. Blind spots that prevent us from being all that we can be. It is these minor things that can become major things when are allowed to go unchecked. If I fault the Tiger coaches for anything this year, it was the lack of improvement in kickoff coverage over the course of the season. All other areas of the team improved a great deal over the course of the season but not this one and it became the difference between 14-1 and 15-0.

The reason that I use my favorite college football team as an illustration again today because their weak spot got exposed and it caused them to lose. Are we often not the same way when it comes to sins that we enjoy and refuse to repent of? They did not have college football back in days of Jesus’ earthly ministry so he used the metaphor of yeast and dough, something we can still relate to today. Just a little bit of yeast changes dough into the basis for bread. Just a little bit of dough will permeate through the dough and make it into something that we can bake and call bread. Jesus seized the discussion of bread to make a point to us all. Let’s read Matthew 16:5-12 together:

 

5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

 
Clemson’s poor kickoff coverage and yeast in dough reminds of unchecked things that can turn into bigger things. Sin is that way for us. The religious elite of the first century Jewish society were more concerned with appearances of religious compliance than they were about seeking after God. They would rather keep a good public image than seek holiness. They were greedy men who lusted after power. Their faith became about what people see on the outside rather than what’s in the heart. They would shun people for not keeping in compliance with the letter of God’s law rather than seeking to teach people about holiness. This attitude thus permeated throughout society. If you broke the religious regulations, you were shunned. Once a sinner always a sinner. There was no forgiveness or compassion. It all started at the top with the religious leaders. They were not seeking after God’s heart so the Jewish faith became about rules and not about relationship with God. The law was intended to point us to our need for repentance before God and to seek his forgiveness for our flaws. It had become a mallet to beat people into despair with in the hands of the religious elite. Their sins of pride, arrogance, and greed became the yeast that permeated the dough of Jewish society.

Are not our own sins that way, especially the ones that we want to keep on participating in? We hide them in our dough. But our unrepented and active sins that go unchecked can become greater and greater problems to us that consume us. Just think of the person who entertains lust in his heart for a woman who is not his wife. He entertains it and enjoys the thoughts and fantasies. They become a preoccupation. The thoughts lead to flirting. Flirting leads to touching. Touching leads to kissing and you get the picture. It all started with entertaining the sin in the mind. The same is true with other sins as well. Greed starts out small. Say a salesmen starts becoming preoccupied with getting all he can get in life so it starts with fudging on an expense report. If that goes well, lying to a client is deemed ok. Until one day, this salesmen can’t remember what telling the truth feels like. Lying has become such a part of his life that he feels no remorse ever for telling a lie to make more money. And, then, there’s the just a little porn is ok guy. A little fantasy becomes an obsession over time and leads a man to think of women differently and even pursue immoral sexual relationships through porn-related websites and ultimately loses his wife and kids over porn. These are just a couple of examples of how a sin can start small and if you want to keep on participating in it, you keep it hidden. Who is it hurting anyway? But, the sin when unconfessed and worked on to overcome can become bigger and bigger parts of our lives until they consume our whole existence. The enjoyment of the sin and the covering it up become our reason for being. Sin is like yeast. It can start small but ultimately can consume us if it goes unchecked. It changes us from what we were into something totally different. It can cause our life to come crashing down when we allow it to fester and permeate our lives. The maintenance of the sin becomes the most important thing in our lives and ultimately becomes our god instead of God himself. Justification, concealment, preoccupation, all of it gets in the way of our relationship with God.

What is your pet sin? What is mine? What is that one thing that can potentially bring our world crashing down? What is that fatal flaw? What sins are we not confessing because we want to continue to enjoy them? What is getting in the way of your relationship with God through unrepentant sin? What is that fatal flaw that you refuse to admit? What is your Clemson special teams? That one thing that you are not working on because you don’t think it matters because the rest of your life is so good? The Tigers’ fatal flaw was discounting kickoff coverage teams as important because the offense and defense were as good as any out there. They never placed importance on analyzing the flaws in the kickoff coverage team even they were meticulous about details everywhere else. It was a blind spot. What is yours? What is going to prevent you from having a full and complete relationship with God? What is going to prevent you from being a champion of God? What is preventing you and me from being and seeking holiness before God? What are our pet sins that we do not want to give up?

Let us take some time over the next month or so to really examine who we are and the sins we entertain. Let us examine our areas of life that we do not pay attention to as being fatal flaws. I remember after the NC State game where Clemson gave up a touchdown on a kickoff return and had several returns that were bigger than they should’ve been, the message boards of Clemson football were full of comments that this kickoff coverage problem would come back to bite us one day and cause us to lose a ball game. It did and it was on the biggest stage – the national championship game. Yet, throughout the season, the Tigers seemed never to make any improvement in preventing one or more big returns each game. There was turning of a blind eye to the flaws. What sin do you justify? What sin do I ignore? What sin have we left unchecked? We are to seek holiness by being more like Christ each day. We cannot be holy when we have sins that we are not examining. We cannot be holy if we are not looking for each spiritual flaw we have and confessing it and working on it. Holiness is honesty about our flaws. Holiness is confession. Holiness is seeking God’s help in overcoming our flaws. Holiness is seeking to please God as the primary motivation of our lives and if that means looking at our flaws honestly and committing them to God and praying for His help in cleaning our closets out. Let us be willing to identify where we have unrepented sins and lay them before God in honesty and being the journey to holiness.

Amen and Amen.