“And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals.” Judges 2:11
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
Are any of you are literary geeks? Do you know from whence that phrase came? It is one of the more popular phrases of Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. It’s a good question though. “What’s in a name?” If you called a rose a pineapple, it wouldn’t change the aroma that it gives off, would it? It would still have the same fragrance.
Shakespeare was trying to make a point. He was trying to communicate that what you call something doesn’t really matter. What matters is what it is.
But Shakespeare is dead wrong. Biblically speaking, of course. Language IS important. The way you speak about something gets at the essence of something. Or at least gives the impression of what you think the essence of a thing is.
What do I mean? Well, let me read this Scripture passage again. “And the people of Israel did what was EVIL in the sight of the Lord.” You’ll notice that it did not say, “And the people of Israel had a slip up in the sight of the Lord.” It doesn’t say that the people of Israel goofed or made a miss judgment. It says that they did EVIL in the sight of the Lord.
What’s in a name? I would suggest to you that everything is in a name! This passage is giving us the divine perspective on Israel’s rebellion. God doesn’t see us as making blunders or mistakes. When we sin we do EVIL in the sight of the Lord.
Unfortunately we like to pad it and pretty it up. When it comes to our rebellious acts, we don’t put the same emphasis on it or attribute the same degree of heinousness to it. We’ll rename it and call it a foible, a bad habit, or (maybe if we are really holy) we’ll say we did something wrong. But typically we don’t want to admit that we do things that are evil.
Would a sin by any other name still smell so foul? Yes, at least to God. But we change what we call it because want to change the nature of it. We don’t want to tone it down and relieve some of its abhorrence. We don’t want to think that the things we do are as gross and vile as they really are. Do we really want to admit that our sins are so foul that they may be termed evil in the sight of God?
But if we want to be right with God, we must. The only way we can escape the wrath of God is through repentance. And repentance means having a true sense of our sin. It means owning up to the severity of our offenses and recognizing something of how truly revolting our acts have been.
Imagine your little girl coming in and holding up a big bouquet of green flowers she found while she was outside. She’s so proud and you know you are supposed to take them, make a big deal out of it and put them in a pot. But as she holds them up to you you can’t bring yourself to take hold of it. And you say to her, “Honey, that’s poison ivy.” Once that girl comes to that realization, what’s she going to do? She’s going to drop it and scream.
Well that’s what God wants us to do. He wants us to face up to the truth of our depravity. He wants us to see it as he does, so that we might cast them off and flee from them. And that is what we are going to do right now. Please join me in prayer.
You are the one who dwells in heaven, where perfection, purity and holiness exist in all their splendid brilliance. We are of the earth and cannot even attempt to ascend that height. For our deeds are evil. Our ways have been fraught with corruption. And we wish to confess that to you now. We grieve the way we make light of our sin. We joke about it and carry on like it is nothing. Instead of being filled with a holy revulsion at them, we frolic in them and enjoy them as if they were toys and flavorful delicacies. And that only compounds the loathsomeness of our actions. But we recognize now that, while in the sight of man they may be pleasantries and objects of adoration, in your sight they are contemptible and full of evil. They are crimes against the Most High God.
And we confess that to you now and declare our desire to turn away from them. And as we come to you we plead for your mercy, asking that you would blot out these iniquities and not count our vile acts against us. Moreover we pray that we would be washed by your Holy Spirit and so cleanse of them that we would not return to them. We desire that we would be given a new mind so that we would not even think of sin lightly any longer.
We remember the cross of Christ, O God. And there we behold the true nature of our sin. But we also behold the beauty of your grace in the sacrifice of your Son. And we come to you now only by virtue of his life and death, asking for the deliverance promised therein.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.