God’s children come in all shapes and sizes, but, ultimately, they “settle” into one of two categories as defined by the following two verses.
“And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.”
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11
The Children of God in the Wilderness
First we have the children of Israel at the time when Moses was in the mountain receiving the Law from God. Moses had been gone from their sight so long that they feared that something might have happened to him, that he might not return to lead them on their journey. In their unbelief and fear, they did what is natural to the flesh: they followed the ways of the world they knew, the world with which they had somehow, despite its abuse of them, become “comfortable.” Imitating the way of the Egyptians from whom the Lord had delivered them, the people who had enslaved them, who were devout idol worshippers, they asked Aaron to make them an idol on which they could focus their worship.
This passage shows us very clearly the folly of mere external religion. The Holy Spirit through the pen of Moses describes the whole scene very succinctly: having “fulfilled” their sense of religious “need” by performing religious offerings “early on the morrow” (a seeming evidence of their sincerity and diligence), they “sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.” While this activity may have seemed to someone viewing their religious zeal to have been “righteous,” it was, in fact, both insincere and an offense to God, as is all idolatry (covetousness – Colossians 3:5) and man-centered religion. The truth of the matter was revealed when all the “show” of religious affection was over and, according to the true love of their hearts, they returned to the worship their true god: Self.
This divine description shows us that God, who alone knows what is truly in the hearts of His children (and all mankind), saw all of this religious activity as mere pretense, “lip service,” superficial hypocrisy. He knew that what they were really “serving” was their own desires. Their true intent was to get the "worship" finished as early and as quickly as possible so that they could get back to what really mattered to them: their “play.”
The Hebrew word translated “play” in this verse comes from a root which means “to laugh outright…by implication to sport.” In other words, their heart was set on returning to the games, fun, and the various “sports,” activities and relationships of their life that pleased them. They were not at all concerned with pleasing God. But like most men, they were religious, and being religious, they felt compelled to "worship" before overtly pursuing their own carnal lusts. They were self-deceived into believing that they “honored” God, that His “service” was “first place” in their life. Most likely, they were so blinded by their sins that they felt that they were truly sincere in their superficialties.
However, God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). He saw clearly that they worshipped only for their own convenience, that their real desire was to return as quickly as possible to their own self-defined pleasures. And He was not pleased. The remainder of the story describes His response. I’ll let you read it for yourself.
How many of us sit in God’s services with our minds somewhere else? How many of us maintain a “form of godliness” but, in fact, our life’s true focus is on the things of this, that is to say, our world, i.e., that which "follows" our "worship?" How many Lord's Days have been compromised by our "play?"
While the Lord warns us against such folly (1 John 2:15-17), how many of us take Him seriously? How many of us see God as some kind of all forgiving, cosmic "wink at sin grandfather" who can be “manipulated” with external religious form to get our own desires, i.e., our own way, when, in fact, He is the holy, omniscient, omnipotent God of glory, the heavenly Father and Judge before whom we all will one day stand to give account for “every idle word” (Matthew 12:36), and “the things done in [the] body” (2 Corinthians 5:10), i.e., every unprofitable activity that displaced sincere, selfless service to Him and His Body, the Church?
The Noble Bereans
On the other hand we have the Berean Christians who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” What a contrast!
Here were saints who truly cared about God’s Word and ways. They truly hungered and thirsted after righteousness. To these, God’s truth was “necessary food” (Job 23:12). Their love for God was evidenced by their love for His Word and their obedience to it, not superficial religious ceremonies.
Their love for God and His truth was shown in their life through their character. The wilderness saints were childish, self-centered, and consumed with “play.” These, however, were declared by the Holy Spirit to be “noble!” This Greek word means to be “well born…high in rank.” This will be the character of every sincere, truly faithful Christian for we are “born again” by the Spirit of God, becoming part of the “body of Christ,” the King of kings. Is this not to be “well born?” Can there be anything of higher rank than a son of the living God?
It is God’s purpose that His Word have such a place of prominence in our life that its presence and work permanently and glorious changes us.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.” John 1:1, 14
“…we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 3:18
No wonder the Lord instructs us through the apostle Paul to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Surely the Berean saints were an example of the blessing that obedience to this kind and wise exhortation will work in the Believer’s life. Surely it is this kind of saint that we all should aspire to be.
“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.
With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.
I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.
I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.
I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.”
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