Vol. 11 No. 10 October 2009
By Marilyn LaStrape
What happens to a person who was brought up in a godly family and who ends up “going in the way of Cain?” What happens to a person who was brought up in a family with siblings who remain faithful, but he or she does not remain faithful? What happens to a person who was brought up hearing the truth of the Gospel, but never becomes a child of God?
Look to the lives of the apostles. John 17 records how heavily they were on the mind of Christ as He faced the cross. As He prayed for them He said, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word” (John 17:6). “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are” (John 17:11).
Then there is Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed the Lord. What does Jesus say about him? “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12).
Jesus had prayed all night before He chose the twelve apostles (Luke 6:12-16). Verse 16 says Judas became a traitor. Notice the text says he became a traitor; he was not of that mindset from the beginning. He is a most fitting example of what Jesus taught regarding our responses to hearing the Word of God. One response is to hear the Word and then for it to be choked out by the deceitfulness of riches. Jesus said these hearers become unfruitful (Matthew 13:22; Mark 4:18-19; Luke 8:14). Judas sought dishonest gain through betrayal. The Word didn’t take!
Jesus knew from the beginning who would betray Him, and yet Judas was treated no differently than any of the other apostles. Jesus knew that Judas had no appreciation for who He was. In John Chapter 6, Peter acknowledges that Jesus had the words of eternal life and they had come to believe and know that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God. John 6:70-71 says, “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ He spoke of Judas Iscariot; the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.” The Word didn’t take!
Jesus knew Judas followed Him for the wrong reasons. When Judas made that pretentious public display about Mary using the costly fragrant oil to anoint the feet of Jesus, he in essence said it was wasteful on her part and should have been given to the poor. John 12:6 records, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.” The Word didn’t take!
Jesus knew that all He had taught Judas, all the miracles Judas had seen Jesus perform, everything He had shown Judas never made it to his heart! He saw and heard everything the other apostles did, but the Word didn’t take! The “Word that became flesh and dwelt among us” did not take with Judas! Judas betrayed the Lord for thirty pieces of silver because money was his god—not Jesus Christ! Judas could have followed Christ as the other apostles did, but he chose not to do so! The Word didn’t take!
The apostles had been given three years of on-the-job training in the school of the Master Teacher, but Judas failed the course miserably! Jesus had taught and trained them in order to transform their thinking, understanding and approach to God. He taught them how to deal with the rigorous demands of truth in being special messengers of the Gospel. Judas is the painful example of one who had the best teacher and trainer, but because of greed the Word didn’t take!
Elisha had a servant named Gehazi, and his greed was very akin to that of Judas. In 2 Kings 5 we have the account of God healing Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, of his leprosy through the prophet Elisha. After his healing, Naaman wanted to give Elisha a gift; he even urged him to take it, but Elisha refused. Naaman then wanted him to accept something for his servant; Elisha refused that as well, so Naaman told him to go in peace.
Gehazi’s self-serving, self-seeking, self-willed purpose drove him to lie to Naaman. Second Kings 5:20 says, “But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, ‘Look, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, while not receiving from his hands what he brought; but as the LORD lives, I will run after him and take something from him.” He tells Naaman that Elisha had sent him to ask for a talent of silver and two changes of garments for two young men of the sons of the prophets. Without hesitation Naaman not only gave the servants what Gehazi requested, but also gave them two talents of silver in two bags with the changes of garments.
Second Kings 5:24 says, “When he came to the citadel, he took them from their hand, and stored them away in the house; then he let the men go, and they departed.” When Elisha asked Gehazi where he had gone, he lied to him as well and said, “Your servant did not go anywhere” (vs. 25). However, Gehazi’s evil deeds came as no surprise to Elisha. Elisha said to him, “‘Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants? Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you, and your descendants forever.’ And he went from his presence leprous, as white as snow” (2 Kings 5:26-27). The Word of God through Elisha did not take in the life of his servant Gehazi because of greed.
Paul tells us in Romans 15:4, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” He was certainly an example of this eternal truth! As an apostle, Paul describes himself as one born out of due season, but he also said when he received the call of Christ, he was not disobedient. As he stood before King Agrippa and recounts his conversion he said, “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:19-20).
Paul declares to us in 1 Corinthians 15: 9 that he was the least of all the apostles and not worthy to be called an apostle because he had persecuted the church. He further states in verses 10-11, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” Paul believed and understood; the Word of God took, and he obeyed it!
We as Christians are to be ever mindful in making sure that the Word of God continues “to take” in our lives. It’s the only way we can “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). Because of the assurance, strength, comfort, peace, joy and love we get from God’s Word, it will always be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).