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What the Bible says about Satisfaction
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 20:17

We are not helpless against the evil desires of our human nature. We can do several things:

1. Recognize that human beings have an unstable, insatiable nature. Ecclesiastes 1:8 says, "All things are full of labor; man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing." Being aware of this biblical truth can give us a better grasp of what we are dealing with. Do not be deceived; happiness is a fruit of true spirituality. God has not put the power into anything material to satisfy man's spiritual needs.

2. Seek God first. Our Savior advises in Luke 12:15, 31: "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. . . . But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you." Paul adds in Colossians 3:1-2: "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."

We must purposely and deliberately study, pray, fast, and meditate. Further, we must consciously practice God's way of life. This takes sacrifice and discipline, but it fills the mind with the kind of thoughts that will eventually make it impossible to sin.

3. Hate covetousness, not things. Proverbs 28:15-16 states, "Like a roaring lion and a charging bear is a wicked ruler over poor people. A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor, but he who hates covetousness will prolong his days."

It is very helpful to observe what covetousness produces. Some sins are clearly understood, but covetousness is generally less easily observed, requiring careful attention to comprehend the very beginning of many sins. Making such observations is helpful in evaluating the self. We need to remember that coveting violates the basic principle of God's way of outgoing concern. It also keeps us from listening to God, so we must be attuned to detect its presence.

4. Learn to be cheerfully generous. Luke records Paul saying in Acts 20:35, "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" The apostle adds to this thought in II Corinthians 9:6-7: "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."

We need to keep in mind that we have such an abundance of self-concern mixed with a natural fear that, if we give things away, we will not have enough. God intends that we overcome these fears. Self-centeredness must be excised from our character. Working on it is an excellent discipline.

5. Learn thoroughly what grace teaches. Titus 2:11-14 tells us what this is:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Isaiah 1:16-17 adds, "Cease to do evil, learn to do good."

Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the power that motivates us to sin. He gives His power to those who strive to overcome the remnants of their old nature. Certainly, it is a tough and in many cases a long process, but with God's help, if we make the efforts, we can overcome it.

The dynamic of this new life is the coming of Jesus Christ first to us by His Spirit and then to this earth to rule it. When royalty is coming, everything is made spit-and-polish clean and decorated for the royal eyes to see. That is what we are doing: The Christian is one who is steadfastly making himself ready for the arrival of his King.

To this end, let us strive consistently and mightily to think the right thoughts that produce right conduct.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Tenth Commandment

Numbers 11:2-4

This passage expresses what motivates the rest of the story in chapter 11: They yielded to an intense craving. Have we ever had intense cravings? Was there a time when our taste buds were watering away for a piece of chocolate, a sundae, a piece of cake, pie ala mode, or maybe a nice filet mignon? Everybody has, but in most cases something stops us. We either do not have the money or the time or we are not in a place where we can fulfill our desire.

But we should not stop considering this with the desires that emanate from the stomach and taste buds. We desire a lot of things: nice clothing, nice homes, nice automobiles. We desire a husband or a wife. All sorts of desires can become so intense that they begin to drive our lives.

When we get into that kind of an attitude, we will begin to find that our desire is not only dominating our thinking, it is making us do what we do and say what we say. Chances are, if we fail to control it, we will begin to take advantage of situations to satisfy our overwhelming desire. We will take advantage of people, if need be, to satisfy it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10

Numbers 11:33-34

Kibroth Hattaavah means "the graves of greediness." Their sin was not just in giving in to their craving. Their sin was they doubted God's ability to supply and they doubted His concern for their welfare.

Understand that God's concern for us is just as great after His calling as it is before. He is still working out His purpose, and He will supply our need. Remember, though, when God gives us what we desire and pray for, it does not necessarily mean that it is a blessing, as in this situation when the "blessing" turned out to be the instrument of death. It is a sobering lesson to keep in the forefront of our minds. Our prayer should always be, "Not my will but Yours be done. God, please remember I am just human."

Human nature is never satisfied. It is filled with self-concern and does not know what is best for it. What it lusts for may even lead to that person's spiritual death. It makes us think that the grass is greener on the other side and that there is more and better in something else, something new and exciting. And when lust is involved, anticipation is always greater than realization. There is a law of diminishing returns at work in this universe that perversion lessens rewards. The Israelites had a perverse craving for tasty food, and their reward ended up being death. Human nature is something we are always going to have to deal with in this life.

God was not dealing with these people in terms of salvation as He is with us. The lesson for us is not to let these cravings—even desires for good things—take our eyes off the goal and the reality of what God is doing for us.

Jeremiah 10:23-24 says that the way of man is not in him to direct his steps. We have to understand that, when we come to God, we are admitting to Him through repentance that our salvation is not internal—it is not something we can produce. In the same vein, the right way to live is not within us. It must come from outside, and that "outside" is God. Thus, we ask God to direct our steps. At baptism, we are asking God to make us into the image of Christ and to rid us of the perversions of human nature that have produced this world.

The experience of the Israelites shows us that, when the going gets unexpectedly rough and hardships occur—say, in the area of tithing, that we have not been blessed to the extent we feel we deserve, or in the area of Sabbath, that we lose our job and cannot find another—and then we have an intense craving for something and begin to look back at our former situation, we can also begin to lust for the very things that not long before we considered to be expendable and holding us in bondage.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10

Psalm 23:6

This psalm began with the sheep, as it were, bragging across the fence to his neighbor. Through the course of the psalm, we went through the cycle of a year, and in this last verse, we find ourselves back again at the home ranch. The sheep is speaking about his shepherd's house, which is not up on the high tableland but down where the home ranch is.

The psalm began with a buoyant, "The LORD is my shepherd!" and it closes with an equally buoyant, positive note. The sheep is utterly satisfied. He is saying, "Boy, I love it here! Nothing will get me out of this outfit! You see, I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."

We have come full circle with the sheep giving a statement of composure and contentment. In Ephesians 2:19, the house is defined as the family of God, of which Jesus is the Head.

Do our neighbors see us as being contented, happy, at peace? Do they see the effects of our intimate relationships with God in our lives? Are we good witnesses for His way? That is the question we are to ask ourselves as the psalm ends.

The sheep proclaims, "I will dwell in the presence of the LORD forever," concluding this poem of praise and thanksgiving of the sheep for his shepherd. The sheep had experienced life in the shepherd's care, and he wanted more of it! That thought should be a guiding beacon for us the remainder of our lives, as long as they might be—that it is our fervent desire to dwell in the presence of the Lord always.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part 3)

Ecclesiastes 1:8

We must combine humility with a measure of distrust in our own thinking. We must recognize that human nature is unstable and insatiable in satisfying itself. Do not be deceived; happiness and contentment are fruits of true spirituality. God has not given material things the power to satisfy man's spiritual needs.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Tenth Commandment (1998)

Ecclesiastes 2:3-11

Solomon kept his wits about him through all of this, but verse 11 concedes that the morning after the night before finally arrived—the time he had to give sober thought to what he had accomplished in his life. "I looked on all the works that my hands had done" coincides with the English expression, "The time came to face the facts."

He finds that, though there had been pleasure in accomplishing, he concludes there had been no real gain in terms of meaning of life. By calling his accomplishments "vanity," he does not mean that nothing was gained from them. Certainly a measure of good came from them, but they were disillusioning. They did not give him lasting satisfaction.

Money and the pleasures it can buy do not lift us out of our earthbound frustration. What is going on under the sun has to be connected to something that is happening somewhere else—in the purpose of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 2)

Ecclesiastes 6:10-12

The meaning of these verses is mystifying. One commentator suggests this title: “Questions Without Answers.” This does not mean, though, that one should ignore God and His way and avoid receiving godly correction. Why? Because God does have the answers, and He reveals them individually within the relationship. We may need the answers very much.

The questions must be understood, at least somewhat, against the background of the context of the previous two chapters, in which he is showing that the roots of true satisfaction and contentment lie in God's gifting within a relationship with Him. In addition, we must understand them by evaluating the book's overall theme, in which he urges us to keep God's commandments, thus to live an above-the-sun life. We can also seek to grasp them by considering Solomon and what he reveals of himself.

Solomon presents a series of perplexing statements, but he gives no clear answers in the immediate context. Recall, however, that the overall subject of the chapter is about finding satisfaction in life, and he uses examples to illustrate circumstances about why life is puzzling and dissatisfying.

Let us consider Solomon himself. Did he know the answers? First, he probably knew the overall answer to satisfaction and contentment in life, but he did not necessarily experience it because he did not apply God's way well. It is difficult to see how, having a father like David, as well as the personal experiences he had with God early in his manhood, that he did not know the overall answer. However, did he truly believe it? Did he live it? Both are necessary.

God has not answered this in absolute terms as He does regarding David. We have no doubt that David will be in God's Kingdom. Based on what is in the Bible, the answer regarding Solomon is that he apparently fell short. Is he lost? We do not know.

Nevertheless, he knew intellectually what the missing link is. The answer to contentment in life hinges on whether one knows what God's overall purpose for his life is. It is another matter altogether whether we believe that purpose is true and make the effort to seek God and live as He commands by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Seven): Contentment

Isaiah 53:10

Isaiah 53 presents an entire chapter about the Lord's Servant sacrificing Himself. Notice verse 10: "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand."

The word "pleased" does not mean that God's mind was merely inclined in that direction. Rather, it carries as a strong undercurrent of a sense of satisfaction, even pleasure and delight. Why would one have a sense like this in relation to an excruciating and painful experience such as Christ experienced in His crucifixion? Because God foresaw the overwhelming good that it would produce.

Recall that the peace offering shows us that God is satisfied because man is in communion with Him. A man is satisfied because he knows he is accepted by God, that he is in fellowship with and sharing with Him. The Priest, Christ, is satisfied because, as the common friend of formerly estranged parties, He is happy to see them sharing due to His work. Each party encompassed by the peace offering is at peace with the others.

On the eve of His crucifixion, as He takes them through the New Testament Passover service, Jesus tells His apostles, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15). He is certainly not looking forward to the pain of sacrificing His life but to what would be accomplished as a result of His sacrifice. It would be the major means of producing peace between God and man. He knows His sacrifice would make possible a Family born of God.

God repeatedly shows that, whether in a family, business, nation, or in any aspect of God's creation, peace is a major fruit of sacrifice. Most specifically, for us it means sacrificing ourselves in keeping God's commandments and fighting human nature, holding it in check. It means being a living sacrifice by not conforming to this world or yielding to the base demands of human nature. The peace offering reveals the consequence of truly loving one another: Sacrifice is the very essence of love!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Five): The Peace Offering, Sacrifice, and Love

Luke 15:13-17

The question at this point is still, "How are we trying to find satisfaction in life?" We could reword it, "How are we trying to find love, joy, and peace?" The Parable of the Prodigal Son touches on this issue.

Like the young man, we yearn for a feeling of well-being, peace, security, fun, and happiness. Also like him, we pursue after them, attempting to produce them in virtually every way but the Father's way. We, like him, experience the same empty, hollow, something-is-missing feelings.

Some may remember a popular song of a few decades ago sung by Peggy Lee titled "Is That All There Is?" The lyrics dealt with this very subject. The singer recounts having tried so many supposedly exciting and fulfilling things in life yet having found no lasting satisfaction in any of them. Following each experience, she concludes by asking the question, "Is that all there is?" The song clearly expresses that such a life is not truly fulfilling.

What is missing from such a life is the true purpose of life combined with the effort of fulfilling it by living the required way. The three offerings in Leviticus 1-3—the burnt, meal, and peace offerings—broadly define God's way of life: doing all things within the context of His purpose in love. As we have seen, I John 5:3 defines love as keeping the commandments, and the essence of love is sacrificial giving.

Though without the Spirit of God, some people (psychologists, for instance) have figured out much of this. The part they have not determined through observing humanity is the true purpose of life because God has not revealed it to them. They have, however, found that the essence of love is sacrifice and that doing the right things produces a sense of well-being.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Four): The Peace Offering

2 Timothy 3:13

Men are not improving; they are growing increasingly worse! Here God is acknowledging that human nature is prone to progressive degeneration. There are two related reasons for this:

1. Sin has a drug-like addictive quality in that the sense of relief, satisfaction, or pleasure derived from it does not last. Thus, to receive the same amount of pleasure as before one has to sink deeper and deeper into the perversion.

2. Closely related is that a person must commit the sin more frequently because the duration of satisfaction decreases the longer one continues in a sin.

Because of this inclination toward increase, social and religious barriers to immorality within the individual and community gradually come down. Therefore, each new generation provides a more fertile breeding ground for sin because human nature provides no real impediment to it. As sin becomes more acceptable in a society, the people have more difficulty recognizing it.

To the Christian, this sets up a disturbing possibility. Suppose twenty years ago we were fifty percent more righteous than society, and today we are still fifty percent more righteous. But because standards in society have declined steeply, we have slipped far ourselves! People who do not understand sin call evil good and good evil until society reaches the point illustrated in Genesis 6:5: "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." In cultures all over this globe, mankind is rapidly approaching conditions that are just like the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!

1 John 2:15-16

These verses provide a basic guideline for avoiding entrapment by this alluring heart of the Babylonish system. Since this system has its basis in human nature, it feeds right into the desires for frequent change and variety of experience as the answers to fulfillment in life. The Bible, however, clearly reveals God drawing His children into His oneness, which is diametrically opposed to the world's system. It promotes fulfillment in material things, excitement, gratification of the flesh, and variety of religious experience. Its major fruits are easily seen in the world around us as confusion of purpose, competition, disharmony, disunity, separation from each other and God, and death.

The result is that this world is not a happy place to live in. None of these factors can give a lasting sense of peace, fulfillment, and abundant living because none of them harmonizes with the purpose of God. They can only produce a temporary burst of emotional well-being or satisfaction.

God instructed Israel often and in many ways against this proclivity. They were to seek only Him in His only habitation in Jerusalem. Israel, though, is disastrously curious and incautious and filled with discontented, unsettled, impatient, "grass is always greener" yearnings.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Seven): How Can Israel Be the Great Whore?


 




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