The Eyes Of The Lord

by Tom Wacaster

Second Chronicles may be one of the most neglected of the inspired books by otherwise good Bible students. I must admit that my yearly trek through the genealogies in 1 and 2 Chronicles takes some patience. Much of what we read in the Chronicles is a repeat of the material in 1 and 2 Kings with but little difference. It is interesting, therefore, that on my journey through 2 Chronicles some years ago my eyes happened to light upon a little phrase that I had read a number of times, though only in passing. But first, some background information. It was the 36th year of the reign of Asa, king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Asa was instrumental in maintaining pure worship before God. He removed his own mother from being queen because she had made an idol unto false gods (2 Chron. 15:16). In addition, he brought into the house of God the things that his father Abijah had restored to the temple. When the 16th chapter of 2 Chronicles opens we learn that Baasha, king of the Northern Kingdom, rose up against Judah. Rather than depend upon God for protection, Asa turned to Benhadad, the king of Syria, and sought an alliance with that idolatrous nation. The union was successful and Benhadad retreated from his aggression. Asa may have won the battle, but he lost what might have otherwise been a blessing from God in the final overthrow and defeat of Syria itself. Hanani the prophet was sent to Asa: “Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thy hand” (2 Chron. 16:7). Hanani then makes this interesting statement: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect before him. Herein has thou done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars” (2 Chron. 16:9). Please note these lessons from this record.

First, God has searching eyes. Here it is said that He is looking for those “whose heart is perfect toward him” (16:9). During the last days of the southern kingdom, Jeremiah was once instructed to “run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it” (Jer. 5:1). Those must have been trying times in the nation of Israel, when a righteous man was hard to find. The northern kingdom had already been destroyed because of the absence of the “righteous few” that might have preserved that nation. Jeremiah was instructed to take an inventory and see if “a man” could be found in the streets of Jerusalem. Wickedness was rampant. For the most part Israel had become corrupt. But God would give them another opportunity. “Jeremiah, see if you can find a man!” To be sure, God already knew the answer! The question was for Jeremiah’s benefit, not God’s. The hammer of judgment was about to be lowered on the city and the nation, and God wanted Jeremiah to know that the divine judgment was justified. Oh, the searching eyes of Jehovah God. Like the prodigal son whose father must have never ceased to look, our Father in heaven keeps searching for one more soul that is “perfect toward him.”

Second, God has far reaching eyes. His eyes are said to run “to and fro throughout the whole earth” (2 Chron. 16:9).  There is no hamlet, no small village, no isolated corner of this globe that can escape the penetrating look of the eyes of God. Surely the New Testament equivalent of this Old Testament passage are expressed in the words of the Hebrews writer: “And there is no creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). One wonders by the timing of Hanani’s statement from God whether or not Asa may have attempted to make this “league” with Benhadad in secret. Men may perpetrate and perform their crimes in the dark of night where they THINK they can escape detection. Law makers and politicians may receive a bribe “under the table” in an effort to conceal their wicked deeds. The abortion industry may succeed in hiding the horrible nature of their crimes, and the thief who breaks through and steals in the dead of night might be successful in hiding their misdeeds from men. But our God sees all, and all will answer to the Almighty for their ungodly deeds.

Third, God has urgent eyes. It is said that His eyes “run” (2 Chron. 16:9). When it comes to judgment and salvation, time is of the essence. “The King’s business requires haste” (1 Sam. 21:8). We must preach the word, “be urgent in season out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). But what it is that makes the search so urgent? It is the limited time constraint that faces each one of us. Life is but a vapor (James 4:14). There is no certainty of tomorrow. God knows this; and so His eyes are said to ‘run.’ If God’s eyes are urgently seeking those who are lost, should we not have urgent eyes as well? A world lost in sin, standing on the very brink of eternal ruin, calls for the eyes of every servant of our Lord Jesus Christ to be urgently seeking the lost.

Fourth, God has revealing eyes. God is said to “shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect” (2 Chron. 16:9). I, for one, am glad that God is a revealing God and that He WANTS to make Himself known. How grateful we should be that not only has He made “one of every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth,” but that He desires that all men “should seek God, if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27). Some years ago it was declared that “God is dead.” No, God is not dead. He is alive, and He has made Himself known. For those who fail to find Him, the fault is solely theirs, for God is looking for them, and He is ready and willing to show Himself to those who earnestly seek after Him (Heb. 11:6).

Finally, God has demanding eyes. While His love is unconditional, His blessings are for a limited few. He is strong in behalf of “them whose heart is perfect toward him.” The context of those words helps me understand what God means by a “heart that is perfect toward him.”  Asa failed to trust God. He doubted the power of God to fulfill the promises given. While Asa may have proven himself noteworthy by seeking to eradicate idolatry and return to true worship of Jehovah, he failed in this one area.  He failed to seek God’s advice, and then to follow it when it came to him. God demands that we bow in submission in every single aspect and area of our life. Failure to do so will be catastrophic.

May we never forget that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth, and may we live soberly in view of that wonderful truth!

Viktor Navorski

by Tom Wacaster

Based upon a true story, ‘The Terminal’ is an amusing tale of an imaginary man, Viktor Navorski, who arrives at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport only to discover that his passport is suddenly no longer valid due to an outbreak of a civil war in Krakozhia, his homeland. As a result, the United States no longer recognizes Krakozhia as a sovereign nation, and Mr. Navorski is not permitted to either enter the United States or return home, as he is now stateless. Due to his inability to communicate in proper English, US Customs and Border Protection seizes his passport and airline ticket. As the story unfolds, the movie viewer is pulled into the emotional turmoil that Mr. Navorski finds himself in as he struggles with issues that arise from his taking up residence in the airport. In the opening ten minutes of the movie, Viktor Navorski finds himself sitting at a the desk of Frank Dixon, senior US Customs official for the airport. Every effort is made by Dixon to communicate with Navorski, and explain to him the predicament he now faces. He cannot enter the United States, nor can he return to the his now non-existent country. Finally, Mr. Dixon attempts to illustrate Navorski’s situation with a bag of chips siting on the desk. Hitting the bag of chips with his hand, he likens Navorski’s home country of Krakozhia to that now, shattered bag of chips. I have watched the film two or three times, and each time I come to that scene, I laugh, and I think to myself, “An imaginary story that simply would not happen in real life.” 

I arrived in the Philippines late last night after a grueling 17 hour, non-stop flight from DFW to Hong Cong, and then a two hour connecting flight from Hong Cong to Manila. The customs hall was full, the result of four international flights arriving at the same time. There must have been 2,000 people standing in various lines awaiting clearance into the Philippines (I didn’t count them; that’s only an estimate; what we call ‘a preachers count’). Curiously, as the hoards of people poured out of the airplanes into the corridor that would eventually lead to the huge customs hall, I found myself thinking about the opening scene in ‘The Terminal’ with the hundreds of people pouring into that customs hall at JFK. I joined the masses and selected one of the shorter lines (keep in mind that ‘short’ is relative; a line with 65 is short compared to a line with 80), and awaited my turn to clear customs, pick up my luggage, and meet my daughter who was, hopefully, awaiting my arrival downstairs. Murphy’s law says that if you pick a short line, it will always move the slowest; and it did. With only about 12 people remaining in front of me there were issues with three or four of them, and it seems the process was painstakingly slow. So I waited; and I read; and I waited. My time finally came, and I placed my passport in the hands of the customs agent, only to hear him say, “Invalid passport! You have only three months left before expiration, and you must have six months or more remaining to enter our country!” All of a sudden I had visions of Viktor Navorski being refused entrance into the country. Would I now spend the next year or so in the terminal of Manila International Airport with its dozens of shops, duty free ‘bargains’ and fast food eating establishments? Was Burger King going to be a basic staple of my diet from now for the foreseeable future, and chasing down baggage carts for instant refunds my only source of income? I was shuffled into the hands of a second, and then a third customs agent, each one expressing my predicament in precisely the same words: “No valid passport!” Each time one custom official passed me off to another, I became a little more anxious about what would be the final outcome. It was becoming apparent to me that I could very easily find myself in the same predicament as Viktor Navorski; stranded in the airport, or on my way back home at tremendous expense to myself.

Eventually I arrived at the desk of someone who seemed a little more sympathetic to my plight. I was immediately relieved that he was not eating a bag of chips (you’ll have to watch the ‘The Terminal’ to understand the importance this). He asked what I would be doing while in the Philippines, how long I would stay, and to see my return ticket home. Maybe they thought I was somehow connected with ISIS, or that I had some kind of secret plot to infect all of Manila with the Ebola virus. Thankfully he was a little more congenial than the others before him, and, after examination of all the facts in the case, he gave the authority to stamp my passport and proceed to the baggage claim area, and then out into the streets of Manila—45 minutes after my having stepped of the plane.

There are some lessons to be learned from this incident, not the least of which is, don’t ever take anything for granted when you are travelling internationally. The authorities at DFW should have immediately realized I did not have a valid passport and told me so. That is part of checking documents before printing a boarding pass for any international flight. Be that as it may, here are some observations surrounding this entire episode.

First, the problem with the custom agents here in Manila was not their problem; it was mine. It was a matter of authority, the law, and regulations. Each one of those men were simply doing their job. They recognized all that is involved in what I have often called ‘the authority principle.’ More often than not, men in positions of authority are aware of this principle. But when it comes to religion, it seems that respect for authority among most of those proclaiming allegiance to the Lord is either ignored, nor treated as if non-existent. Under the huge umbrella of ‘Christendom’ it is the proverbial ‘Burger King’ mentality: “Hold the pickle; hold the lettuce! Special orders don’t upset us!” I read in the online edition of the Fort Worth Star Telegram that one church in the Fort Worth area now offers “drive by blessings” for those who want to grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks, pick up a quick do-nut at the pastry shop, and then swing by for a blessing from a so-called priest.  The complete disrespect for the words of Paul in Colossians 3:17 (or any other sacred writer for that matter) in the various areas of life is manifested in a morality that is not “moral,” marriages that are not God-ordained “marriages,” and religion that is not true religion.

Second, I learned the shame of being a law-breaker. When I was “arrested” and dragged off by a custom agent, I had no doubt that those in line were wondering what I had done! I could feel the eyes peering at the back of my neck. Two or three custom agents gathered around me, and although I was not put in cuffs, the embarrassment was no less than had I been thrown to the ground, my arms twisted behind me and my wrists placed in chains (OK! So I exaggerate a little!). Yes, I was ashamed and embarrassed that I had not followed normal protocol, checked all my documents, and investigated before I left for the Philippines. I find it sad that our society has reached the point where, like Israel of old, we are rapidly losing our ability to blush! In fact, we have gone one step further; we have folks who actually glory in their sin. Do you doubt that? What about ‘gay pride month’ - something that comes around every June! Beloved, when we sin, we ought to be ashamed! When we violate God’s law, and tread upon His love for us, and the wonderful sacrifice of our Lord, we ought to be ashamed!

Finally, I learned the wonderful value of mercy! I did not want justice that day. I did not want the custom agent sitting behind that desk to drag out the law book and quote law to me. I wanted—and I needed—mercy! When I was informed that my passport was not valid, by heart sank; but when I was told I could pass through customs, my heart was lifted, and my hope restored. Therein, beloved, is the great value of mercy. Sin destroys; mercy restores.  Sin removes hope; mercy gives it back to us. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit; mercy brings delight to the Father, for it is said He “delighteth in mercy” (Micah 7:18-19). Thank God for His lovingkindness; without it how dreary and hopeless would life be.

Oh, one more thing; I am resolved not to repeat my mistake. I will make sure that, should I ever have opportunity to return to the Philippines, before doing so  I will have my papers in order. To tread upon the mercy of the custom agents at Ninoy Aquino International Airport would be a slap at their compassion and mercy. Perhaps all of us could learn an important lesson here when it comes to our response to God’s wonderful compassion and mercy. To tread upon His grace would be an act of utmost arrogance. I am grateful that heaven will be my home because of that grace and mercy of the Father. And for now I am grateful that I do not have to wander the corridors of a foreign airport as did Viktor Nivorski!

Growing Older

by Tom Wacaster
A news item a few years ago pointed out that Americans spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 billion on beauty aids every year. A large portion of these beauty aids are designed to specifically target signs of aging. Unfortunately, our modern society glorifies youth and age is something you try to hide. A separate item pointed out that female Hollywood actors can pretty well expect to be out of a job at about age 40. Hollywood is not the only industry that ignores the talents and skills of the elderly. I once read that when Ty Cobb was 70, a reporter asked him, “What do you think you’d hit if you were playing these days?” Cobb, who was a life-time .367 hitter, said, “About .290, maybe .300.” The reporter said, “That’s because of the travel, the night games, the artificial turf, and all the new pitches like the slider, right?”  “No,” said Cobb, “it’s because I’m 70.” There is a certain fearful expectation of growing old. It frightens us. Perhaps that is why David prayed, “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails” (Psa. 71:9). Jonathan Swift put it like this: “Every man desires to live long, but no man wants to be old.” With old age comes a number of infirmities. Heath fails, the mind becomes forgetful, and our life in general slows down, either voluntarily or of necessity. How should the Christian view the aging process? And what should be our attitude toward those who have attained unto three-score years of age and beyond? When God gave Israel her law, one of the things the Almighty stressed was respect for the aged: “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man” (Lev. 19:32). “The hoary head is a crown of glory; It shall be found in the way of righteousness.” (Pro. 16:32). “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head.” (Pro. 20:29, KJV). Seeing that I originally wrote this article while doing mission work in Kathmandu, Nepal, I found the following item somewhat interesting:

When ABC’s 20/20 cohost, Hugh Downs visited Nepal, he discovered it is “polite” to ask a person’s age and to call someone old is a compliment in Nepal. Someone in their mid fifties typically seems embarrassed about their immature age, but they are usually comforted if the inquirer encouragingly says, “Don’t feel bad, you’re getting there.” In Nepal they take heed to Proverbs 16:31, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor.”

In January 2014 I made my first trip to the Philippines to preach God’s word. Like their neighbor across the Indian Ocean, the Philippines have great respect for those who have reached the point in their life where there are more years behind them than before them. There are certain social benefits that go with getting older. But most of all, there seems to be a deep respect on the part those who are younger for the older people in their society.

As we grow older there is the great danger that we consider ourselves no longer useful to the church or society. Let us never forget that Noah was six hundred years old before God called him to be the preserver of the human race. Moses was eighty before he returned to Egypt to lead Israel out of bondage. History has shown us that many an artist, poet, or composer was just reaching their apex in life in their sixties, seventies, and even their eighties or nineties. There are too many godly men and women who, upon retirement from their lifelong careers, retire from the Lord’s work as well. God did not tell us to remain faithful until we retire, but “unto death” (Rev. 2:10).  

We need you now more than ever. Your energy may not be what it used to be, and your thinking process may be a little slower. But, as one aptly stated, “It is true that youth is faster, but it is also true that age is more accurate.”  Please, do not become idle. Do not give in to the “rocking chair syndrome.” My generation needs your wisdom to help us through many of the same struggles you faced when you were our age. Meanwhile, “Thank You” for showing us the way. Only eternity will reveal the good that so many of you have done in the sunset years of your life. For those who keep on keeping on in spite of your aches and pains; for those who have set an example for us in faithful attendance and godly living; for those who continue to tell others the sweet, sweet story of Jesus even if those to whom you speak think your words are the ranting of an old man or old woman.  To you we express our thanksgiving.  May your number increase!

In connection with this week’s article, brother Hugh Fulford sent me this essay, author unknown:

And Then It Is Winter

I wonder where all the years went!  I know that I lived them all.  You know, time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years.  It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams. But here it is, the winter of my life and it catches me by surprise.

How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go? I remember through the years seeing older people and thinking that they were years away from me and that winter was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.
But here it is! My friends are retired and getting gray.  They move slower and I see in them an older person.  Some are in better shape and some are in worse shape than am I, but I see the great change-they no longer are like the ones I remember who were young and vibrant-but  like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we would be. Each day now I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat anymore-it is mandatory!-because if I don’t on my own freewill I just fall asleep where I sit!

And so now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did. But, at least I know that though the winter has come, and I’m not sure how long it will last, that when it’s over on this earth it’s over.  A new adventure will begin!

Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done and things I should have done. But there are many things I am happy to have done.  It’s all in a lifetime.

If you are not yet in your winter let me remind you that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, please do it quickly! Don’t put things off too long! Life goes by so quickly.  Do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not. You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of life. Live for today and say all the things that you want your friends and loved ones to remember. And hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past (and that they will forgive you for the things you should have done but didn’t).

Life is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after.  Make it a fantastic one.