AGCC Sun. a.m. 8/19/2001
#5 (Proverbs Series - "7 Things God Hates")
TEXT: Prov. 6:18b; II Chron. 36:11-21; Titus 1:15-16; I Tim. 4:1-2; Jer. 52:10-11
INTRO: Solomon tells us that God hates the idea of someone without a conscience, or as it is in our main text, "feet that are quick to rush into evil." They are quick because they don't care, they lack a conscience. Why does God hate this? Without a conscience man is reduced to a mere animal, hardly the intent of God for mankind.
Conscience is what the Spirit of God and the Word of God target in oder to move us toward the Lord, without a conscience there can be no relationship with God. God hates anything that prevents us from coming to Him.
Tragically, every indication in Scripture seems to suggest that as we come closer to the coming of Christ there will be a dulling and searing of conscience among mankind.
We are driven by our conscience, like the rudder of a ship ... and it is clear that we like to be happy as human beings ... this means one of two things:
ILLUS:There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball, and that is to have either a clear conscience or none at all. -- Ogden Nash, Leadership, Vol. 8, no. 2.
The quality and character of our life will be determined by the kind of conscience we develop ... our fate can literally depend on what we do with our conscience.
PROP. SENT: The Word of God teaches us to keep a sensitive conscience toward God, failure to do so condemns us and develops a hardened conscience by sin.
I. SELF WILLED! II Chron. 36:11-14; Titus 1:15-16
A. Stubborn Conceit II Chron. 36:11-13; Titus 1:15-16
1. Zedekiah was the last King of Judah, but in some senses he was hardly a king, more of a puppet ruler for Babylon.
a. He was the youngest son of the godly king Josiah.
b. He was nothing like his dad, he lacked a conscience, and thus a desire to do what was right.
c. Zedekiah like other ungodly kings had hardened his heart, just another way of saying he deadened his conscience.
2. Jeremiah the prophet lived and ministered during Zedekiah's reign, and Jeremiah attempted to help Zedekiah do what was right in God's eyes -- but Zedekiah was only concerned about doing what was right in his own eyes.
a. Self will is a sure way to shut down your conscience or dull it!
b. His stubborn self will refused to hear anything God or anyone else had to say, he even broke his promise to Nebuchadnezzar who placed him on the throne of Judah with the promise to be loyal to Babylon. (see 36:13)
c. He cared nothing about anyone else's wishes, only his own.
3. No matter how many times Jeremiah came to him to warn him about doing things God's way instead of his own he simply refused to obey, and in hardening his conscience against God he even repeatedly tormented Jeremiah.
a. He imprisoned Jeremiah several times, including having Jeremiah thrown into a muddy cistern for a spell.
b. Tragically, by doing this to Jeremiah he shut off the light of God's Word, and the results were tragic in his own life and in the life of Judah!
ILLUS:Many electronic fire alarms have an internal switch triggered by a beam of light. As long as light is received unbroken by the photo-sensitive receiver, the detector is quiet. But if smoke or moisture or an insect obstructs the beam for even a split second, the alarm sounds. Our conscience resembles such an alarm. When sin obstructs our connection with the light of God's Spirit, the conscience signals us that there's life-threatening danger. -- A.D. Sterner, Akron, Colorado. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 4.
4. A conscience that cannot be appealed to is destined to die! Stubbornness toward God and others is a tragic road to a dead conscience, and a dead conscience is a clear path to destruction.
B. Systematic Contamination 36:14
1. There is an interesting statement in this verse following the comments about Zedekiah's lack of conscience, "Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful..."
a. The king's dead conscience had an affect on all the other leaders ... they began to follow his lead toward a perverse conscience.
b. This is why it is critical who leads us, that they have a godly conscience, one that is NOT stubborn or cold.
c. The standards are set by leaders ... no wonder the Bible states that those in leadership will be held to a greater degree of accountability before God!
2. When we see leaders become insensitive it might at first startle us, but the more they continue to rule this way the more the society around them expresses the same coldness, this was clearly seen in Nazi Germany.
ILLUS:A young Englishman ... was in Germany when Nazis degraded the Jews in the streets. At first he was sick at the sight and rushed down a side street. The next time he felt he could look, and stopped for a full minute. The third time he watched. The fourth time, as he stood with the jeering crowd, the sight seemed less revolting. He was becoming, he told himself, "objective." And with this came realization of his peril. This was not a part of life, a social phenomenon for study. It was the breath of hell. -- E. M. Blaiklock, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 1.
a. AND ... it can happen anywhere, anytime the same process is allowed to happen!
b. It does make a difference where our leader's conscience is at!
3. It was for this same principle of transmitting a poor conscience by leaders that God took the action He did against Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts
they were struck dead after the opportunity to clear their conscience had failed.
a. Their example as leaders in lying about the giving of their monies to the Church would eventually be found out ... and the cold way in which they were able to do this would have no doubt affected others later.
b. Certainly God hasn't continued to strike dead all such deceivers since then, (If He did tithing records would sure be better today!) but this was at the start of the Church's life, and as apparently model leaders their influence could affect the way the entire Church developed in the beginning, so God makes an example out of their cold conscience.
4. We must guard our conscience from becoming corrupt by other sources, we must stay true to God's Word.
ILLUS:Conscience does not get its guidance from a Gallup poll. -- Croft M. Pentz, The Complete Book of Zingers (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1990).
a. Morality should not be the result of a poll ... yet this is often how lawmakers today decide what is right and wrong!
b. We need the guidance of God's Word to develop our conscience, not other people's examples or cultural opinions.
c. Unless based on a timeless truth like God's Word the sense of right and wrong will continually shift around ... usually to a lower and lower standard.
II. SCOFFED WORD II Chron. 36:15-21; I Tim. 4:1-2; Jer. 52:10-11
A. Seared Conscience 36:15-19; Jer. 52:10-11
1. God had pity on Judah and sent to them time and time again prophets with His Word to help them and keep them strong ...
a. But they consistently scoffed at the prophets and the Word of God they brought! ... guess some things never change!
b. This is the path of our society today ... scoffing at the Bible as infallible truth, seen as outdated and out of touch.
c. The longer the Word of God is scoffed the farther and farther from God's ideals man will travel.
d. The farther man travels from God's Word the more their conscience will become seared.
e. No one suddenly has a seared conscience, it is chosen by our constant rejection of God's truth.
ILLUS:A man consulted a psychiatrist. He complained, "I've been misbehaving, Doc, and my conscience is troubling me." The doctor asked, "And you want something that will strengthen your willpower?" The fellow replied, "Well, no, I was thinking of something that would weaken my conscience." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 122-123.
2. The tragedy of Zedekiah and Judah was avoidable ... had they had a conscience to appeal to they might have turned from their sin.
a. Most people without a conscience have no sense of guilt.
b. Zedekiah did not care about the God of his fathers ... or the Words of the prophet ... they were something to scorn and mock.
3. Such scoffing eventually arouses God's anger ... "But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy."
a. They traveled this road so long and so far that the Bible states that for them they had reached a point of "NO REMEDY."
b. This is the place of the seared conscience!
c. No longer capable of responding to correction or guidance, it is ripe for judgment.
4. Nebuchadnezzar had made Zedekiah pledge to be subservient to Babylon, which Zedekiah had done, (see 36:13) but Zedekiah kept no pledge to anyone except what his own wicked heart desired.
a. This not only became a tragedy for Zedekiah, it was also for Judah!
(1. Zedekiah was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar later on for his broken pledge and had to watch his own children be killed in front of his eyes as punishment! (Jer. 52:10a "There at Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes
(2. All the leaders of Judah were also killed! (Jer. 52:10b "
he also killed all the officials of Judah.")
(3. After Zedekiah watched his children die Nebuchadnezzar had Zedekiah's eyes poked out. (Jer. 52:11 "Then he put out Zedekiah's eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon, where he put him in prison till the day of his death.")
b. Zedekiah spent his last years in a prison cell in Babylon, a wretched man without a conscience, without a family, without a country to rule, without God!
5. A seared conscience is a terrible thing ... for everyone!
B. Sad Commentary! 36:20-21; I Tim. 4:1-2
1. Everyone lost when the conscience of a king and the people become hardened toward God.
a. It was the permanent end to the nation of Judah ... now both Israel and Judah were gone for good.
b. Such a hardened conscience cost them their very existence!
2. And in a weird twist of values ... this story ends by stating, "The land enjoyed its Sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah."
a. What a picture ... the land is able to receive God's rest while the people who lived in it end up in captivity!
b. It is a sad commentary that God's blessings end up on a plot of land instead of the people of the land!
c. Israel had failed to let the land rest for the Sabbath years ... since they were hardened to God's Word they didn't follow His plan for the land either ... but God who wanted to have compassion on the people is only able to give rest to the land.
3. It is tragic how upside down things can be when sin enters the picture!
ILLUS:The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. -- Omar Nelson Bradley (1893-1981) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 1705.
4. Zedekiah had plenty of voices of conscience around him, he had no excuse for his actions and sin.
a. God was not silent
He had Jeremiah and other prophets repeatedly speaking to Zedekiah and the others leaders of Judah.
b. There will always be the voice of God coming through
this doesn't guarantee a positive result but it does mean that there won't be an excuse!
ILLUS:The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. -- Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 1.
5. We must guard our conscience from going the way of the of the rest of the world, keep a sensitive conscience toward God, and keep speaking the truth of His Word
surely God wants to bless more than just the land!
a. So how is your conscience lately?
b. Do you find it easier and easier to commit sins today that you would have had a broken heart over yesterday?
c. Are you more concerned about the public's opinion on what is right or wrong than you are about how God feels about issues?
d. Is it easy for you to hear what God is saying?
CONCLUSION: The conscience is like the rudder of a boat
it controls the journey taken by our lives. God hates a lack of conscience because there is nothing to work with, no way to reach a person who has seared their conscience. Failure to have a conscience means a failure to experience God and His love. Satan has no conscience and look where he is!