What to get rid of…

The second half of Ezra, chapter three beginning in verse seven, is the account of the laying of the foundation for the second temple in Jerusalem.  The altar had been completed; burnt offerings and sacrifices had been made so it was time to get down to business.  It began early in the second year after their arrival and is described as a family affair, with the sons and brothers of prominent family members, who had reached the age of twenty, supervising the project.  Once the foundation was laid it was time for celebration and much like it was when the first temple was completed under Solomon, as prescribed by David, there was music, singing and dancing all for the purpose of praising God.  Perhaps it was premature since the building process would not be without problems and controversy, takeing several more years to complete, but it was a glorious day in the history of God’s people.  Ezra recounts that “the sound was heard far away (vs.13), so it must had been quite a party.  But not everyone was shouting for joy in the crowd.

Verse twelve says, “But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while others shouted for joy.”  Although they were few in number, the elders were distraught at what they saw, for even this early in the building process, it was obvious that this temple would be a mere shadow of the original.  The glory of both the building and what it represented had been destroyed and the memories were painful.  Yet, their wailing voices were drowned out by the joy of a new generation who knew nothing of the past and were filled with hope and optimism.

There is an old saying, “Don’t cry over spilled milk.”  I guess the meaning is that once it’s spilled you’ll never get it back in the bottle, so clean it up, stop crying about it and move forward.  I think this is the attitude the elder’s in Jerusalem needed to adopt and is the mind-set that husbands and wives should have when they at odds and crying about the way things are and wish it was as before.  More than likely, they way it was before had its problems or you wouldn’t be in the fix you’re in today.  You can’t take back the hurtful words or the reprehensible behavior but you can say you are sorry and “cleanup your act.”

In his first letter, chapter one, verse 13, Peter gives this instruction, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled.”  This is precisely what we need to do if we hope to repair or rebuild whatever damage we have caused in our marriage. First, prepare your mind by looking to God’s word for guidance, seeking His intervention in prayer, and then rely on the Holy Spirit to empower you to fix whatever needs fixing. If we earnestly do these three things, we will be able to practice the self-control that has eluded us in the past.  Paul then gets to the very root of most of our problems when he said, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind (2:1).”  Any of these sound familiar…could you possibly have been guilty of any of these with your spouse?  I know I have, so let’s take a closer look at all five.

Malice is one of those things that if we have it for someone, we usually try to hide or keep it a secret.  Not that we don’t want the other person to feel some pain, but we would never want to be accused of showing it.  Especially in front of a third-party!  Malice usually begins with a simple disagreement or misunderstanding and if we don’t get our way, usually leads to spiteful thoughts, and a desire to get back at your spouse in some way.  If we don’t get satisfaction, our spite blossoms into evil intent and when in full bloom motivates a desire to do real emotional or physical harm.  The most remarkable part of this progression is our willingness to defend our actions as justified and proclaim to others, “It’s not my fault.”  In many cases, it was not more than a few days or hours before, that you were telling your spouse that you loved them.  This is first on the list of things that Peter tells us to get rid of.  Throw it away and don’t waste your time, energy or emotional well-being with it ever again.

The second item on Peter’s list is deceit and it usually goes hand in hand with malice.  Why you ask?  Because if want to win and claim victory over your spouse, then the plan will necessarily be made up of lies, or “fabrications” we like to call them.  Maybe not bold lies, but just clever enough and sharp enough to draw blood.  The goal is not only to win, but to win at your spouse’s expense, so you have to do what you have to do. Here’s what Jesus has to say regarding such behavior and it should give us all pause, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.  He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks in his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).” Who do you claim as your father and what language is your native tongue?

There are three items remaining on Peter’s list and we’ll explore them tomorrow. I don’t know about you, but Jesus’ words in John 8:44 are more than enough for me to think about for now.  

Tool #275  Whatever malice you have refused to get rid of, is a lie and will eventually be revealed.  In the end, it is you that will be the loser!    

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