Bless the Lord, O my soul,   
And all that is within me,   
bless His holy name.   
Bless the Lord, O my soul,   
And forget none of His benefits.   
- Psalms 103:1-2   
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Words To No Avail

            Man has employed various means to earn and make money for himself. As we can see in the world today, man is very diverse in developing money-making opportunities. And so it was in Bible times. In Acts 16:16 we find the slave girl making profits for her masters in fortunetelling. “And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:” In Acts 19:24,25 we find the silversmiths who made shrines of Diana for idol worship and were raking in the profits. “For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.”

            And there have always been men who have turned to religion in order to make a profit for themselves. We have seen the vast empires that have been built upon the back of religion, whether by governments or by individuals. I have seen men enter the profession of religion in order to make a handsome living. That is why I call it a profession because they will start a religious assembly (which I refuse to call a church) for the sole purpose of procuring monies to live a good life.

            Paul tells us in Philippians 1:15 that the word of God can be preached for both good and evil purposes. “ Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:”  Man has always had that ability to abuse and corrupt God’s Word to achieve his personal desires. To some men preaching the gospel is a living. To others it is a way of life.

            But this is nothing new in our lifetime. Micah states that this condition existed within Israel long before now. Micah 3:9-11 “Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us.” Notice in particular verse 11 where we read that the leaders pronounced judgment for a bribe and the priests instructed for a price and the prophets divined for money.

            Men were instructing concerning God’s Word under the religious pretense of being holy in order to gain money or for a profit. And the very sad part about this is that the people were trusting in deceptive words from these leaders to no avail. Let us read Jeremiah 7:1-8 “The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house and proclaim there this word and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship the Lord!’” Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin,7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever. “Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail.”

            Do we not see people today trusting the outcome of their soul to deceptive words to no avail? Men speak religious words today that God has never commanded nor did it ever enter His mind. Jeremiah 19:4,5 “ Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind;”

             We find that there is no benefit to these false words to those who hear it and follow the instructions. Jeremiah 23:31,32 “Behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the Lord, “who use their tongues and declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ Behold, I am against those who have prophesied false dreams,” declares the Lord, “and related them and led My people astray by their falsehoods and reckless boasting; yet I did not send them or command them, nor do they furnish this people the slightest benefit,” declares the Lord.” People will speak the deceptions of their own minds to pass them off as what God has said. Jeremiah 14:14 “Then the Lord said to me, “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.”

                                                                                                  - Larry Bumgardner