Pastoral Letter 21 Jan 2024

My dear readers,

Are You Satisfied? 

Proverbs 12:11: “He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding.” 

To feel satisfied is a great blessing. The world runs on the fuel of dissatisfaction. The more dissatisfied one is, the more motivated he becomes. He presses forward and excels because he is never satisfied. He pushes himself till he runs out of energy and time. At the end of this dissatisfied race, he will realize: “As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand” (Eccles 5:15). His entire life had been a sham, for the accumulation of materialism is vanity of vanities! By then, it will be too late to relive his life. Once his life is spent, it is spent like spilt milk. Hxe will stand before his Creator God and receive the just condemnation for all the sins committed against Him. He will realize how just God is to consign him to hell and to face an unending life of pain, horror, shame and gnashing of teeth without end. 

The “satisfied” refers either to be completely or fully satisfied. There is nothing more that will satisfy him after this amazing satisfaction! Have you experienced complete satisfaction before in your life? If not, why not? 

If you have, is it the same or similar to the satisfaction described here in Proverbs 12:11? 

The context is the Land of Promise. The twelve tribes worked the Land as spiritual people of God knowing they were holy witnesses for God in Christ. The blessings of God in Old Testament times for Israel were spiritual and physical (cf. Lev 26 and Deut 28). The reason is the nature of the national witness. God’s people could not become a nation without the land. To bless the nation has to include blessing the land. This is not the case with a church witness. The church does not need a physical building to be a church. Therefore, the blessing of God for His people in the New Testament is only a spiritual blessing, without the material or physical.

When the people of God worked the Land, God would prosper the labour of their hands. The prosperity they received from the LORD must be understood as part of their obedience to God's Word. They were to live lives of holiness according to Scriptures. The satisfaction that Proverbs 12:11a refers to is not in the Israelites’ bumper harvest. We know that material wealth will not bring full satisfaction. Satisfaction from material things is temporal and very transient. For example, every new item we buy will lose its shine after a period of usage. We will most probably get a new one. Is this not the case with our handphone, shirt, furniture and computer? Once its usefulness is used up, it is worthless in the owner’s eyes. It is disposed of without an ounce of regret or emotion. 

But when the satisfaction is spiritual, it will last a lifetime, even beyond this life! The satisfaction is full because the blessings are eternal. Working hard for the LORD and His glory in holiness brings great satisfaction. The believer knows that the LORD is pleased with his life and witness for Christ. He is motivated to keep living in holiness. The joy is complete and unspeakable. He realizes that the harvest comes from the LORD as His promised blessings. His walk with God is enriched by His nearness and provision. The believer's trust in his LORD is deepened. God keeps His word when believers keep God’s Word. 

The bread he eats is received with heartfelt thanksgiving. Eating the bread and acknowledging its provision with thanksgiving is a spiritual experience. He perseveres in obedience as he has experienced how real God is and how true God's Word is in his life, and in Israel’s. Israel was God's people living in the Promised Land given to them as God's covenantal promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!

However, the ones who follow vain persons (i.e. those who are worthless), are void of understanding. The word “followeth” means “run after.” Following someone is a deliberate, voluntary act. If the person is forced to follow, the following will stop when the threats stop. However, when he keeps following with haste, it is an act of the will that lasts for some time. The longer he follows vain persons, the greater the calamity. For example, if a farmer follows vain persons who laze around town and waste their time away, thereby missing the fixed window of time for seedlings, he will suffer a significant loss. He will have nothing to harvest. His family will starve. He will have to borrow money from creditors to buy seeds to plant during the next season! The witness for God in Christ is harmed by his foolishness. Gentiles will see that following the LORD results in foolishness, laziness and debt.

Sometimes, following vain persons just once is enough to do great harm. It depends on the foolish act of the vain person. If a simpleton follows a thief and steals from his neighbour, and is caught, the shame and the penalty can be severe. 

“Vain” persons were not limited to lazy or wasteful people but also carnal hard-working Israelites; otherwise, God would not have used “vain” but “slothful.” “Worthless” must be understood spiritually, just like “satisfaction”. A hard-working Israelite who is consumed with labouring in his field and spends no time for God is worthless in the eyes of God. All Israelites had to be spiritual. They were not to amass wealth by sheer hard work and live in the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, which would certainly not be pleasing in God’s sight! God’s evaluation would be their sinful carnality, stumbling sinners, and abusing Scriptures by teaching fellow Israelites that living in sin can bring material rewards, that there is no need to seek God in Christ and live in holiness to please and be blessed by Him, that it is acceptable to live in idolatry because the material rewards are just the same! These are lies of the evil one. Barrenness in the Israelite wives due to idolatry and carnality was God’s punishment that no man could avert! He might overcome the barrenness of the land but not the womb! 

The foolish was “void of understanding” because he had the Word of God and lived in the Promised Land, where God’s dwelling was located. He had every means available to be saved and to draw nigh to God in holiness. He had God’s Word to guide him and to follow in the direction of righteousness. The way to heaven was near him. He lived and grew up in a culture ordained by God. Everything in his life taught him the reality of God and the right way to Him, primarily through the Levitical system of worship. But he turned his back on God to follow vain persons. 

The vain persons could be fellow Israelites or Gentiles living amongst them. If they were fellow Israelites, they could even be their loved ones and friends or the leaders in their community. To follow them would be so enticing because of the relationships developed. This subtle method of temptation to sin is so effective that many strong men have fallen. They measure their walk with God according to material wealth rather than the teaching of the Bible. 

The teaching of the Bible was to be the first evaluation of every Israelite’s life. After obedience to God’s Word, hard work should follow. The result would be God’s spiritual and physical blessing. In this way, the Israelites experienced complete satisfaction in their hard work for God in Christ. 

For New Testament believers, diligence is also needed as evidence of salvation. A spiritual believer will be very satisfied with his bread. Not everyone who is very satisfied with his bread is a spiritual believer. The Bible teaches that hard work for God in Christ will never be in vain! Galatians 6:8-10: “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” 

Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew
Advisory Pastor

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