Volume 15 Issue 11
Suppose there was a formula that would virtually guarantee that a person could avoid poverty: any person, every person. Would you be interested?
Or suppose there was a principle that would win the battle against ignorance and would pass the torch of truth to the next generation. Would you take time to listen to such a proposition? In 1964, President Johnson announced his war on poverty; and over the past 44 years, Americans have spent 6.6 trillion dollars. Newspaper columnist George Will recently wrote that this 6.6 trillion is the amount “strictly defined” as antipoverty spending. Yet in spite of all this spending, Mr. Will notes in his article Rebuilding Collapsed Culture (Sept. 14, ’05) that the nation continues to ignore the “not-at-all recondite rules for avoiding poverty” which are: Graduate from high school, don’t have a baby until you are married, do not marry as a teenager. Mr. Will further states that, “Among people who obey those rules, poverty is minimal.” Perhaps he should have also mentioned that poverty continues to grow in our country and the civility and morals are at an all-time low, yet we keep spending more and more “antipoverty” money while making it political suicide to mention some the real factors that are destroying our country.
The principle is simple: live right, do right. Don’t get stuck on stupid and you can make it. Our grandmas knew this, our old pastors knew this, our teachers knew this; the whole of society knew this a few years back. What is complicated about it? Nothing.
Let’s briefly explore another matter much more serious than mere poverty, “a curse from God.” Once again, the solution is simple. First, note the Prophet Malachi’s warning and prophecy found interestingly in the last verse of the Old Testament: Mal. 4:5-6 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
It is generally accepted that this prophecy is about the coming of Jesus whose mission and purpose was declared by prophecy (preaching) beginning with John the Baptist. (Luke 1:17). Luke’s expression “In the spirit and power of Elias” (Elijah) may be rightly understood to mean “with conviction and fearless defense of the truth.” With Elijah and with John, preaching was not a professional vocation, nor religious posturing, but a fearless “all or nothing” approach to declaring the truth. To prince or pauper, the message was the same. In such a way, Jesus was to be presented to the world.
The curse in Malachi’s prophecy was that if certain conditions were not met, it would bring the loss of all things; or as the word “curse” suggests, “utter destruction.” (A. Clarke) Jewish thinkers will usually add that the utter destruction or curse is due to ignorance or loss from not knowing, loss caused by the failure to teach, or train. We might see this as the failure to preach, declare, make known, stand true, and thus, by this failure, causing ignorance. The curse is the ignorance of Christ (or redemption).
Note the simple solution for avoiding the curse. First, let the hearts of the fathers be turned to the children. The purpose of the preacher is to “turn” the hearts of the fathers. I think of this as the “turn of responsibility.” Let the fathers be responsible. Let the elders be responsible. Let them teach with boldness. Let them preach like Elijah, without compromise. Let them withstand Baal as Elijah did. Fathers, you must think of the children and maintain the true worship of Jehovah against all pagan gods! Turn your hearts to your children, take teaching seriously, prepare them, inspire them: not to be entertainers, but lovers of truth. This is a Bible formula. Simply “preach the word,” and avoid the curse. Avoid utter destruction that is caused by being ignorant of the holy.
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
The last part of this verse is seldom quoted – “I will also forget your children.” The failure here is the failure to preach the true word of God. Rejecters of truth are denied the title of priest, and rightly so? How could they be God’s representative if they did not preach God’s law? We will lose the cultural war, the theological war and the moral war if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God (goodness/severity…what God adds what God cuts off.
More specifically, we will lose the holiness message, the Jesus’ Name message, and the One God message if we fail to “present” the truth in love, passion, conviction and fearlessness, like Elijah. Elijah never sought the approval of the kings or the jingle of gold. How important is Acts 2:38? To answer, what kind of preacher is it who does not preach the New Testament’s or the New Covenant’s opening commandment?
To avoid the curse, the prophet is saying, make the turn of responsibility. Be a father. Pass the torch. This first thing sets up the second thing: the “preacher” shall turn the heart of the children to the fathers. I think of this as the “turn of trust.” Once the fathers make the full turn of responsibility to the children, once their hearts are interested in the children, once the fathers demonstrate a true desire for the children to know what they know, see what they see and have seen – then we get to something very powerful. The children’s hearts are turned to the father. No child will trust a father who has denied his own faith. He is a failure. No child will follow a father for long when that father has abused the child’s trust. No hearts are turned toward someone who has nothing to say or who has no conviction. No religion, no political movement, no business maintains momentum without passing its core values to the next generation. If there is no central belief or conviction behind one’s religion or business, it will soon be abandoned. It will die for lack of meaning.
We have a simple formula here, a simple principle. Fathers, do right by your children. Teach them the truth and their hearts will be turned to you and to God. Knowledge is the key to freedom. An atmosphere of trust is the key to teaching and mentoring. Avoid the curse. Avoid the emptiness and the nothingness of a religion without truth. Schemes, man-made programs, and numbers do not win the day. Passion, conviction, faith, certitude, confidence, truth, love, hope; these things win the day and win the war.