"For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." 2 Tim 4:3
Does this portion of scripture from the Book of 2 Timothy sound familiar? Is this not what today's world has become? Wouldn't people prefer to listen to what they want to hear with their 'itching ears' as opposed to what God wants us to hear ... the Truth?
The Lord said to Israel through the prophet, Jeremiah: "Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.' " God was telling His disobedient children to come back to Him; to come back to what they were taught from the beginning as they began their journey to the 'promised Land'. God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai the Ten Commandments for the people to follow and for all generations after them. Moses wrote a compilation of God's laws known in the Jewish faith as the Torah. Christians know it as the Five Books of Moses, the first five books of the Old Testament. Remaining obedient to God's laws and having faith in His promises as written in scripture, the people would find rest for their souls. But, rather than returning to the old paths, the people preferred to follow the dictates of their own hearts ... their own ways, their own desires, their own thoughts and opinions. They did this, however, to their own peril. Each time Israel turned its back on God, God waited for them to come back to Him. He spoke to them time and again through the prophets, many of whom were killed when God's people did not like what they heard. Yet, instead of turning back to God, they grew worse by turning to false gods and idols whom the heathen worshiped and taught the Israelite's to pay homage. So, like the heathen, they turned to worshiping pagan gods like Baal, setting up idols in God's own House and on 'the high places' in the mountains of Israel. Some of the people even sacrificed their own children to the pagan god, Molech, a despicable act in the eyes of Almighty God. God, at the very beginning, instructed His people how they should live and behave. He described how they should walk on the 'old paths' to maintain righteousness and godliness. These were and still are the paths God desires each of us to walk. God specifically instructed His people to abstain from certain things that would lead to their destruction. Among these were the following:
Commandment #1: "You shall have no other gods before Me." Commandment #2: "You shall not make for yourselves a carved image - any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them ..."
Leviticus 18:21, "Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.
Jeremiah 7:30-34, "For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight, says the Lord. They have set their abominations (idols) in the house which is called by My name, to pollute it. And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart." The Old Testament is replete with examples of Israel's disobedience to God; turning their backs on Him, veering from the 'old paths' God instructed them to walk while foolishly following their own paths of evil desire. They grieved God's heart to the point where God says to them in Jer 3:14, "Return, O backsliding children, says the Lord, for I am married to you." And In verses 19 and 20: "You shall call Me, 'My Father', and not turn away from Me. Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, says the Lord." Then in Jer 4:14, "O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?" And in verse 22, "For My people are foolish, they have not known Me. They are silly children, and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. Due to their continued disobedience and after having received many admonishments from God, they were punished the way a loving parent would discipline a disobedient child. God's desire for His people was to bring them back to the 'old paths' by which He intended them to live. Sometimes God would send a plague, or sometimes He would send an army against Israel to defeat them in battle, subjugating them for a period of time. The Israelite's would then cry out to God for mercy, repenting of their sinful behavior. God, in His mercy and grace, would then deliver His people. Time after time, God's people would stray from the 'old paths' God ordained for them. They rejected correction from the prophets and other godly men whom God sent to rebuke. Yet, the people desired to pursue their own wicked ways and the dictates stored deep within their hearts. They did not want God involved in their lives telling them what to do or how to live. In Jer 7:24, we read: "Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward." So, God instructed Jeremiah to say to them in Jer 7:28, "This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the Lord their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth." And in Jer 8:5-6, "Thus says the Lord: ... They hold fast to deceit, they refuse to return. I listened and heard, but they do not speak aright. No man repented of his wickedness, saying, 'What have I done?' Everyone turned to his own course, as the horse rushes into the battle."
Eventually, God allowed the destruction of Jerusalem causing the deaths of many of His people. Some were taken by Nebuchadnezzar into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon to be used as slaves. Some may have asked, 'Why would God allow such a thing to happen to His people?' God Himself answers this question through the prophet Jeremiah.
Jer 44:2-11, "Thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel: 'You have seen all the calamity that I have brought on Jerusalem and on all the cities of Judah; and behold, this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them, because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke Me to anger, in that they went to burn incense and to serve other gods whom they did not know, they nor you nor your fathers.' 'However, I have sent to you all My servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, "Oh, do not do this abominable thing that I hate!" 'But they did not listen or incline their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense to other gods.' "Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves ... in that you provoke Me to wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense to other gods ... ?' 'They have not been humbled, to this day, nor have they feared; they have not walked in My law or in My statutes that I set before you and your fathers.' Therefore thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel: 'Behold, I will set My face against you for catastrophe and for cutting off all Judah.' So, then in Jer 44:22-23, the prophet says to them: "So the Lord could no longer bear it, because of the evil of your doings and because of the abominations which you committed." "Because you have burned incense and because you have sinned against the Lord, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord or walked in His law, in His statutes or in His testimonies, therefore this calamity has happened to you, as at this day."
The Bible clearly teaches that God never changes, nor do His rules for living a godly life which He commands us all to follow. Hebrews 13:8-9 says: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange (false) doctrines." The interpretation of this portion of scripture is clear - stay on the old paths we learned from scripture. Do not deviate if a false teacher or friend attempts to convince you there is a better way. No! Jesus is The Way, the only Way!
Having said that, are some of us living in these contemporary times 'carried about with various and strange doctrines' which run contrary to God's laws and statutes? Do we give credence to, or accept advice from Bible teachers and friends inconsistent with God's Word? For instance, if the Bible teaches us in 1Cor 6:18 to 'flee from sexual immorality,' do we listen 'with itching ears' to the advice of a friend who says, "It's OK to have sex with a person who isn't your spouse. God will forgive you!" Or, if we are taught not to profane the name of God, do we still curse using His Holy name? Do we deliberately sin against God knowing, by His mercy and love, He is quick to forgive? How many people today disobey God by disregarding what is written in His Word as did the ancient Israelites? Surely our behavior must be considered better than that of the ancients? Let's explore the answer to these questions by turning to 2 Tim chapter 3:1-4, where it says: "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God ..." And in 2 Tim 4:3-4, "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." Isn't this what is happening today on some college campuses? Aren't some professors teaching 'fables' to their students as they re-write American history? And still others are
professing false teachings stating there is no Creator but rather the universe evolved naturally without any deity involvement? Do they not teach evolution as 'fact' as opposed to 'theory'? The Bible, God's inerrant Word, tells us in Heb 3:4, "For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God." Aren't many people today spending much of their time chasing after money, setting their hearts on expensive automobiles and mansions to the exclusion of spending time with God? How many today covet his or her neighbor's spouse, leading to adultery or fornication? In Lev 18:20, God clearly tells us: "Moreover you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor's wife, to defile yourself with her." (This would also include your neighbor's husband.) And how many people today are involved in homosexual activity when in Lev 18:22, God says, "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination." How many people living in these times love pleasure more than they love God? How many love themselves to the exclusion of loving their neighbor, if even they know their neighbor? How many continue the ritual of sacrificing their unborn children to the false god, Molech? How many children today disrespect their parents, threatening to call the police if the parents do not agree to give the child what he or she is demanding? How many of these children reject the advice of their parents who should be wiser and more experienced with life, and instead follow the advice of friends to their detriment? In Matthew 19:19, Jesus tells us to "Honor your father and your mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Why do so many sleep in on Sunday rather than attend church, while paying homage every weekend to their idol of football? The church pews remain empty, yet the bleachers at stadiums are filled to capacity. And, why does obedience to the manufactured god of political correctness often supersede obedience to the Creator's Word? Finally, how many people today ridicule or even threaten those of us who desire to live a godly life remaining obedient to the Lord? In 2Tim 3:12-13, we read: "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." The words of 2 Tim chapter 3 cannot describe more accurately the depravity and immorality of the generation in which we live. We, as a society, are no better and perhaps worse than the Israelite's of the Old Testament. Each successive generation seems to move farther and farther from God. Yet, when God sends us adversity, many cannot comprehend the reason asking, 'Why would God do such a thing to us?' God allows things to occur, in His love and mercy, in an attempt to bring us back to the 'Old Paths' for our own good. From the beginning, man who is created by God, has had a problem with human pride and arrogance. This is the reason Satan fell from grace. Prov 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” We think we know better than God. We think our way is better than God's. But, in Ephesians 4:18-19, it is written: " ... having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." God loves each of us because we are His children. He calls us back to Himself to walk the 'Old Paths' just as He called to His ancient people Israel. He loves us too much to allow us to fall. He loves us more than many of us love ourselves. So, let us never forget that God's Way is always better than man's way. In fact, God's Way is the only Way ...