Biblical Hope: Embracing and Proclaiming the Full Counsel of Godby Mamdouh Riad on October 25, 2022
Biblical Hope: Embracing and Proclaiming the Full Counsel of God By Mamdouh Riad
"But if they had stood in My council, they would have proclaimed My words to My people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds." (Jeremiah 23:22) In our times, we tend to classify thoughts and messages as either positive or negative. Good news is positive. Bad news is negative. Proclaiming biblical promises and blessings is considered positive. Preaching biblical warnings and requirements is considered unpleasant and largely perceived as negative. Thoughts and messages that are encouraging, affirming, or reassuring are considered positive. Those that are corrective, unpleasant, alarming, or threatening to our security are perceived as negative. In the Old Testament, the true prophets of God were mostly considered negative. King Ahab called the prophet Elijah "troubler of Israel": "When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, Is it you, troubler of Israel?" (1 King 18:17). The King of Israel in Jehoshaphat's time responded the same way to another prophet: "The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, 'There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophecies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlay'" (1 Kings 22:8). It is easy to embrace positive thoughts and messages because it feels good to do so. It is also easy to filter out negative ones because they are unsettling. Israel had a decisive and efficient way of filtering them out: They killed God's prophets: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you " (Luke 13:34), and with that, they killed the word of the Lord that could have saved them. In the Scriptures, things are not classified as positive or negative. They are classified as either truth or deception, light or darkness, righteous or unrighteous. What matters according to the Scriptures is discerning whether a message is of God or not, rather than whether it is positive or negative. God’s word is full of wonderful promises and blessings. Out of His abundant love, He also gives us warnings and corrections. If we value what is affirming and positive more than we value the truth in its entirety, we run the risk of filtering out part of what God is saying to us. At the time of Jeremiah there were two voices in the land, the voice of Jeremiah and the voice of the false prophets. Jeremiah called the people of God to repent and return to the Lord. He warned them that if they didn't, that the Lord would chastise them; that Jerusalem would be destroyed and they would be carried away as captives to Babylon. His message was unpleasant, unsettling, and alarming. It was a "negative" message, but it was the true word of the Lord. The false prophets had a different message to Israel, that all was well, that there was no threat of Babylonian captivity, and that peace is on the horizon. It was a comforting, affirming, pleasant message. It was a "positive" message, but it was not the word of the Lord. God charged the false prophets of Jeremiah’s time with deceiving Israel when they wrongly comforted them at a time that called for warning: “They dress the wound of My people as though it were not serious. Peace, peace, they say, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). By not preaching repentance at a time of impending judgment, the false prophets were described by God this way: “They also strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns back from his wickedness” (Jeremiah 23:14). God charged the false prophetess in Ezekiel’s time with the same thing: “Because with lies you have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and you have strengthened the hands of the wicked so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life” (Ezekiel 13:22). To embrace the full counsel of God is to embrace and proclaim both God's promises and blessings as well His warnings and requirements: "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching." (2 Timothy 4:2) "Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." (Acts 20:31) To embrace and proclaim God's wonderful biblical promises and blessings, but avoid other teachings of Jesus such as entering through the narrow gate, counting the cost, denying the flesh and carrying our cross, to walk in humility and holiness is to not fully do what Jesus commissioned us to do, "Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.." (Matthew 28:20). It is at best embracing and proclaiming an incomplete gospel, and in some cases the message can become too one sided that it amounts to proclaiming "another gospel" and "another Jesus" (2 Corinthians 11:4). The Scripture teach us that hope is a central tenet in our walk with Christ. "And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.." (1 Cor 13:13). It teaches us that God is "The God of hope.." (Rom 15:13). Even at the height of their despair, in the midst of their Babylonian captivity, God's word to Israel was one of hope: "For I know the thoughts that I have for you, says the Lord, thought of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jer 29:11) However, there is a difference between biblical hope and worldly positive thinking. Biblical hope remembers that God is greatly merciful and even in His wrath, He remembers mercy! (Hab. 3:2). Biblical hope does not live in denial, but cries out with David in times of discipline, “Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is very great” (1 Chron. 21: 13). It cries out in faith with the saints, in the midst of trouble, “True and righteous are your judgments Lord God Almighty” (Rev. 16:7). Let us renew our minds, embrace and proclaim the full counsel of God, and open our hearts and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying, not classifying thoughts as the world does - positive or negative - but as the Scriptures do: Truth or deception, what is of God and what is not.