Appearance

statue-17298_640Ezekiel 10:10: And as for their appearance, the four had the same likeness, as if a wheel were within a wheel. (ESV)

Appearance can be deceitful.  In the time of Jesus the Pharisees cut the picture of the righteous. They dressed a certain way, prayed certain way and in the hearing of others, to publicly demonstrate their supposed piety.

When they fasted they really appeared to be fasting (Matthew 4:1-11). Everything they did was to receive praise from men, they wanted human commendation and they did everything to get it, to force themselves down the throat of people that they were worthy of extra respect.

Jesus however referred to them as whitewashed sepulchres, white on the outside but full of dead men’s bones, the epitome of hypocrisy (Matthew 23:27). He taught that we should not be like them, rather, we should understand that behaviour is more important that appearance, that seeking to please God is much better than seeking to please men.

Paul said we are like earthen vessels with the treasure in us, the outside therefore does not tell the whole story (2Corinthians 4:7). What is seen is only part of the story. The bible says what is seen is passing away, but what is unseen, stands forever (Hebrews 11:3).

Because appearance is not the final statement on how things really are, that is why we have tests and temptation.

For example, Abraham looked like somebody who will do everything God asks him to. He obeyed God by leaving his family but later on, in a greater test, he was asked to sacrifice the son Isaac that he has been given (Genesis 22).

After he took steps to do what God said that now he knows he fears him. Whatever was in Abraham needed to come out in verifiable behaviour in obedience even in difficult situation. The question he needed to answer was: What would you prefer: the loss of God’s friendship or the loss of a son? When he chose God in obedience and stamped his name in gold as someone who loved God with unprecedented fervour.

Saul, on the surface, seemed like an humble person. He hid himself when Samuel came to publicly anoint him as king (1Samuel 10:21-23). But when he became king, he turned out to be a vicious king in Israel, who with impunity killed his own people while on the trail of David in the throes of jealousy. He was a man full of himself, defending his own prestige and not following God with integrity.

Even Moses was tested. God asked him to only speak to the rock to get water for the people, but he struck it in anger (Numbers 20:8-13). Rather than express his commitment to the word of God regardless of the pressure, he was moved to anger to do the wrong thing.

But Jesus stood head and shoulders above others because even under severe pressure, he refused to yield to the devil’s appeal to turn stone to bread, expressing great commitment to the word of God, saying that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

When the issue of Job came up between God and Satan, the devil said that he was sure that Job will insult God if he was made uncomfortable (Job 1:11, 2:5). God permitted the devil to harass Job through various means. His was physically, spiritually and emotionally harassed.

He got sores all over his body, he lost his children and businesses in controversial circumstances, all meant to bring him to one conclusion- to see God in the wrong light, feel rejected by him and blaspheme God after seeking him faithfully for years. His wife told him to deny God and die.

At the end he stood firm. He appeared faithful to God, and he was proved to be so. In the midst of that he said: after God has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Because something glitters does not mean it is gold. Peter calls the trial of our faith as being like gold which passes through fire, which will eventually showcase us (1Peter 1:7). When you pass gold through fire it does not destroy it, it adds to its value, by removing the impurities.

Tests serve to bring out the best in you, it is to showcase your preparedness. There may be 10 students who studied for the same number of hours for a particular examination, how well each have learned, is going to be seen in an examination condition.

Jesus was not spared of tests, though he is of pure origin. He was born without the input of the sinful man, conceived of the Holy Spirit. But this did not exempt him from test. He fasted for many days and the devil tempted him with various things. But with the word in him he passed the test, showing an example to all of us. We have to embrace the word fully, then we will overcome tests and temptations.

We read in Psalm 119: you word have I putting my mouth that I may not sin against you (Psalm 119:9, 11). A man like Demas followed Paul to a level, but greed was in him, and that caused him to fall by the wayside. He loved this present world, according to the record of Paul (2Timothy 4:10). Jesus said it is those who endure to the end that will be saved and anyone who lay his hands to the plough and look back is not worthy of him (Luke 9:62).

What about Judas? He started well but ended terribly. When you see him following Jesus, you will think he must be like Jesus, but he did not endure to the end and was not “saved.” Because of the deception of appearance Paul wrote that those who will be made deacons must first be tested (1Timothy 3:10).

Hezekiah seemed like a great guy, until he was tested by God (2Chronicles 32:31). It was discovered he was just as self-absorbed, focused on his own glory as many others. If it was just about appearance, the son of Jesse that would have been anointed king to replace Saul was Eliab, but God does not play like that. God said that man looks at appearance but he looks at the heart (1Samuel 16:7). The heart matter is the real matter.

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