The Last Penny

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

-Ecclesiastes 1:1 (KJV)

 

   Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon, the wisest and most wealthy king who ever lived. In 1 Kings 3, Solomon was the new king, having succeeded his father David as king. Solomon made a treaty with Pharaoh and he married Pharaoh’s daughter. Solomon took his new wife to the City of David while he was building his palace, the house of the LORD and the wall around Jerusalem. Solomon loved the LORD and walked in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burnt incense at the high places, which were pagan places of worship where sacrifices were made to pagan gods. All the people sacrificed at the high places because there was no house built for the name of the LORD until Solomon built the temple. Solomon loved the LORD, keeping the first and greatest commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. (NLT) 

     In Matthew 22:36, a Pharisee, who was an expert in the Law, asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (NIV) In verses 37-40, Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (NKJV) This was repeated in 1 John 4:21, And we have this commandment from Him: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (BSB) John writes in 1 John 2:7, Brothers, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you have heard from the beginning. (AKJV) Furthermore, he writes in 1 John 3:11, For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. (NIV) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. (KJV)

     It is very difficult for a person to truly love God with all the person’s heart, with all the person’s soul, and with all the person’s mind if the person has any hatred or unforgiveness toward a brother or a neighbor, which can cause works of the flesh. Any lingering sin, without repentance, within a person can cause separation from God on some level. How a person is to love his or her brother and neighbor is explained in Leviticus 19:9-18, and ends at verses 17-18 with You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (NKJV) These laws are some of the statutes Solomon kept, passed down from David, his father, where the LORD said in Leviticus 19:37, “You must keep all My statutes and My ordinances and follow them. I am the LORD.” (NKJV)

     Nothing good usually comes out of hating a brother within a person’s heart. Genesis 25:28, And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (NKJV) Isaac and Rebekah were Esau and Jacob’s parents. In Genesis 27, at his mother’s request, Jacob fooled his blind dying father Isaac into believing Jacob was his brother Esau, causing Jacob to receive the blessing Isaac had planned to give Esau. This action caused Esau to harbor hatred in his heart against his brother Jacob. Esau bore a grudge and planned on seeking revenge. In Genesis 27:41, So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob,” (NKJV) 

     Hatred of any kind can eat away at a person, eventually consuming the person’s heart from within if let to fester. Forgiving anyone we think has done us wrong is necessary for us to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. Thinking about revenge or murder, even if believed to be justified, is an offense to God since He knows our thoughts, and, is enmity, or deep-rooted hatred, against God. Romans 8:5-8, For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (NKJV)

     Enmity against God is something a person needs to repent of to fully love God with all the person’s heart, with all the person’s soul, and with all the person’s mind. The repentant person must not only see the error of thought but must also be sorry for the thought and must change the person’s way of thinking to God’s way He wants us to think, with love, and not with hatred, blessing even those who curse us. Until internal issues within a person’s thoughts are dealt with and resolved with God, the person might not enjoy full communion with God. Jesus said, in Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘You shall not murder’ and ‘Whoever shall murder will be liable to the judgement.’ But I say to you that everyone being angry with his brother [without a cause] will be liable to the judgement, and whoever  shall say to his brother ‘Raca,’ will be liable to the Sanhedrin. But whoever shall say, ‘Fool!’ will be liable to the Gehenna of fire. (BLB)

     Without a cause is omitted in the oldest manuscripts and is thought to be inserted to soften the expression, but, even if there is cause to be angry, Christians are not supposed to be angry. Jesus taught us to love even our enemies. In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (NKJV)

     Brother, as Jesus said it in Matthew 5:22, is not referring to close family or even to a fellow Christian, but is referring to all people. Raca is a word, when used, that shows such a large amount of deep-rooted anger toward the person that word is directed, that the person is no longer viewed as a brother, but is viewed as a symbol of hatred and this is the type of temper Jesus was condemning. Saying, “You Fool!,” is calling someone wicked, the way King Solomon often used this word when judging people. Using the word Fool in this way is judging someone’s spiritual state and judging where the person will spend eternity and is saying the person is beyond grace, cannot be saved, and saying the person will spend eternity in hell. Jesus was saying be careful judging someone else’s salvation or your salvation may be in danger also.

     Just as Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” (NKJV) also he who hates his brother in his heart is a murderer of the heart. Jesus said, in Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (NKJV) This is referring to the internal state of a person offering a sacrifice to God. Though others may see a Christian tithing and volunteering at church and think the person is doing fine, there may be internal issues, unrepentant sin, lack of faith or unforgiveness within a person that might be hindering the person. God knows the heart of every person on earth and He knows what thoughts are present within a person’s mind, so, it is better to offer God something if the person first offers another person love. It is better to go and seek out those who we have problems with, deal with the problems at their source, and then return to worship God with a righteous heart before God.

     Jesus said, in Matthew 5:25-26, Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. (NKJV) The adversary is an adversary in court. The court is the heavenly court the person is on their way to be judged by God. The adversary could be God Himself, where a person has enmity against God, another person the person has a problem with, or both. Agreeing with the adversary is repentance for evil and turning from evil ways to godly ways before the person’s heart is hardened to a point where the person is delivered to the officer to be thrown into prison.

     The officer is like a sheriff and could be a tormenting spirit or even the person’s own mind, either one could turn the person’s life into a mental prison of anguish, where the person cannot escape until the debt is paid in full. Jesus paid our debt in full with His ultimate sacrifice on the cross, enabling every person on earth the ability to be forgiven of sin, so, the only way to pay the last penny is to come to Jesus in humility and repent. The alternative is to stay locked in a prison of sin and despair, a prison that no amount of sacrifice, offerings or good works could ever pay the debt in full. Jesus came to set the captives free. (Isaiah 61:1, Isaiah 42:7, Psalm 102:20) No amount of earthly riches gained could ever bring the joy we receive at true humility and repentance. We all sin, and the initial act of being born again is not enough to completely stop a believer from sinning, though it will save a person from eternal hell. Repentance is needed not once, but continually throughout a believer’s life. 1 John 1:8, If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (NKJV)

     1 Kings 3:4-5, Now the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place: Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?” (NKJV) Solomon was most likely 19 or 20 years old when he became king. This is the age when most of us have ambitions in life which help mold us into what we will become. Some who truly have worldly ambitions could prosper in ways that defile the person’s soul along a path of unrighteousness, yet, there is no one God cannot save. No matter how many evils are manifest within a person throughout a person’s life, God will still show His grace to any person through a person’s repentance, if the person will just realize God is the one who created the person and gave the person the talents to prosper in the first place. Pride is the first known sin, committed by Lucifer. Pride can cause any created being to become separated from God on some level if let to continue within a person’s heart without repentance. God already knew Solomon’s heart, which is why the LORD came to Solomon in a dream and told Solomon to ask for whatever he wanted and the LORD would give it to him. The LORD knew he could trust Solomon with whatever Solomon asked the LORD to give him. Jesus can give all believers the desires of their heart, and more, if their desires are righteous before the LORD.

     1 Kings 3:6-14, And Solomon said, “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore, give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil, For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” This speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. So, if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days. (NKJV)

     Ecclesiastes 1:2, “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” (NKJV) Solomon is saying all that we try to build on earth is but for a short time and is meaningless as compared to what a righteous heart will receive as a blessing from God’s grace. Happiness cannot be compared to true joy, which can only come as a blessing from God. Happiness is dependent upon emotion, which is part of biology, where joy is a spiritual gift from God. Vanity of vanities is a Hebrew term in the highest degree, as in servant of servants in Genesis 9:24-25, So Noah awoke from his drunkenness and learned what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! A servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” (BSB) The word translated as vanity is identical to the name Abel, or Hebel, from Genesis 4:1-2, Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD.” Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. (NKJV) Hebel primarily means “breath” or “vapor,” as in Psalm 144:3-4, LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him? Man is like a breath; His days are like a passing shadow. (NKJV)

     

And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.

So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”

He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.”

And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.”

And the Lord said to him, ”Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.

Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.

-Genesis 4:3-16 (NKJV)

 

     Abel was murdered in his youth by Cain, his life cut short as a result of jealousy and unforgiveness let to fester inside the mind of Cain. The LORD respected Abel’s offering but did not respect Cain’s offering. The LORD already knew both their hearts. Abel offered a sacrifice to God out of the best part of his talents, while Cain offered to God part of the fruit of his talents, but, Cain’s offering was not an offering from the heart, it was an offering made while in the flesh, lacking faith, not trusting God to take care of his needs. Cain’s offering was also based on Cain not wanting to part with the things of the earth he loved, so, it was not a sacrifice.

     Cain was unrepentant for the jealousy and unforgiveness he felt toward his younger brother Abel. Cain became more angry as his face told the story of his heart. The LORD noticed and asked Cain why he looked so angry. The LORD, knowing Cain’s heart already, knew what the outcome of Cain’s anger would become. The LORD warned Cain he would continue to sin if Cain did not do what was right, losing himself to sin, but Cain should rule over sin instead. How can we rule over sin? We can rule over sin by admitting to Jesus we have sinned, being truly sorry in our heart and repenting, which is changing our ways from our way to God’s way and experiencing true joy, thus changing our countenance. Cain still did not repent of his unforgiveness. Instead, Cain ends up murdering his brother Abel. It seems they talked about what happened with their offerings and what the LORD said to them, then they went out into the field. It is hard to determine if the murder was premeditated or not, but, whether premeditated or a crime of passion, the murder was still a result of an unrepentant heart.

     Later, the LORD asked Cain where his brother Abel was, even though the LORD already knew the answer. Cain was still unrepentant of the unforgiveness and hatred in his heart that led to murder, even being unrepentant of the murder itself. Cain lied to the LORD by saying he did not know where Abel was, even answering the LORD after the lie with a deceptive question, the type of thinking many led by the world today consider to be wisdom, but, it is vanity, only lasting for a short time until the truth comes out, either before men or before God.

     Cain was on his way to court, not agreeing with his adversary before he got to court, remaining unrepentant of his sin, committing more sin on his way to court. By the time Cain got to court, the overwhelming evidence was stacked against him for his brother Abel’s murder, and the LORD directly confronted Cain about his sin. Cain was so consumed by unrepentant sin that Cain’s heart was hardened and he received a harsh prison sentence from the LORD. Taken from the land Cain knew and away from the presence of the LORD, while also being under a curse from the very talent of farming the LORD had given Cain. No longer would Cain be blessed with abundance of crops, but would instead have no luck with farming, not even having a place to call home. Cain would not even have a chance to try his hand at farming because he would have no permanent home where he could start his own farm. Even after the LORD handed Cain the sentence, Cain was still unrepentant of his sin, complaining about the punishment and the suffering he would have to endure, instead of repenting of his sin.

     Like Cain, there are many people today who live in a harsh prison of their own making, sentenced due to unrepentant  sin, losing sight of their first love and the talents God gave them, wandering from place to place, from idea to idea, from church to church, from religion to religion, from job to job and so on. A person can be very talented in certain areas of life, even being more talented than others, yet, the person seems to never have any luck with prosperity, thinking the person is just unlucky, but, maybe all the person needs to do is take a deep breath, reflect with God, and see if there are any unresolved issues within the person’s heart. It is never too late for a person to have their heart in the right place, which might be why the LORD handed Cain the sentence He handed him, giving Cain time to repent of his sin and time find faith in relying on the LORD, instead of Cain trying to rely on his self.

     Through Jesus, every person on earth has the chance to repent of sin before the person leaves this world, letting the person out of prison because Jesus paid the ultimate price at the cross, paying the last penny for our sin so we can be free from the curse of sin. 

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