Pastoral Letter 24 May 2020
My dear readers,
Happy or Sad – A Choice?
Proverbs 15:15: “All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.”
In Old Testament times, the blessings of God toward Israel as He promised were both spiritual and physical. If Israel obeyed the Word of God their wives and animals would not be barren and their crops will be very fruitful. Conversely, if Israel disobeyed the Word of God, then curses would follow and their wives and animals would be barren and their land would suffer drought and famine. The Land of Promise had been promised by God with reciprocal blessings and curses for their obedience and disobedience respectively as a national witness (cf. Lev 26 and Deut 28). This is the background to understanding Proverbs 15:15.
Days of affliction because of sin -- Therefore when Israel fell into sin and refused to repent and remained in sin, she was afflicted by God. On top of the famine and drought, Israel experienced diseases, pestilence, including oppressors from Gentile nations who robbed and killed the Israelites for their sins. There was no accidental affliction in Israel’s existence. As the only witness for Christ to a world dying in sin, Israel was given the great responsibility to show that there is hope in Christ. But when Israel lived in idolatry and bore the fruits of idolatry, the witness for Christ was idolatry. Christ was reduced to one of the many gods of the Canaanites! After Israel’s years of idolatry and refusal to repent of her sins, the LORD judged Israel through the Babylonians. This was the stated reason in 2 Kings 21:1-9 for Jerusalem’s destruction: “Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother's name was Hephzibah. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD said, In Jerusalem will I put my name. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever: Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them. But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel.”
As long as Israel remained in sin, afflictions from God remained as well. Thus the days of these sinful Israelites were evil continually.
Days of feasting because of obedience -- However, if Israel repented of her sins, then her days would be blessings upon blessings. This is the meaning of the clause “he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” The Hebrew word for “merry” is the same word for “good.” The only ones in Israel who could have a good heart were the obedient ones. They could live in holiness before God and man and live by faith trusting in the LORD to keep His holy Word when they brought their sacrifices to Him by faith. They could have their sins forgiven and their hearts cleansed as they knew the animal sacrifices that God ordained in the Levitical system of worship were types of Christ. For example, whenever they offered a burnt-offering for the atonement of their sins, they knew that in the future God would send the Lamb of God to take away all their sins forever.
Hebrews 8:1-5: “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.”
There were periods of time (not many) when Israel did experience a continual feasting. When David was king of Israel, Israel enjoyed unprecedented blessings. There was peace all around Israel and the Israelites were prosperous and their relationship with the LORD was good. Those were very rare times. Sadly, more often than not, Israel lived in sin and idolatry and did what was right in her own eyes rather than in the eyes of God. When their hearts were good before God they truly enjoyed continual feasting.
Church’s blessings and curses – The application that we have from Proverbs 15:15 is that as a church witness the blessing is only spiritual and no longer physical. Children of God in today’s witness as a church are considered to be blessed by God even when they are suffering for Christ. They could be languishing in prison waiting to be executed and yet they are called by God to rejoice and to give thanks. There are numerous portions in Scriptures that teach this truth. One such passage is 1 Peter 3:14-15: “But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” The principle of reciprocal blessings and curses remain the same except that the nature of the blessings pertaining to the national and ecclesiastical witnesses must be biblically understood; otherwise wrong teaching will ensue. This is a very serious doctrine to bear in mind.
The Charismatics still fail or refuse to see and make this distinction and have led millions astray with their health-and-wealth gospel. Their followers are more condemned now than ever before. It would have been better for them if they have not heard of and believed in the “Christ” of the Charismatics. This is how the Bible in 2 Peter 2:17-21 describes them: “These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” [emphasis added]
Conclusion – Obedience brings blessings, disobedience brings curses.
Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew