How important are the promises of the Lord to YOU personally? Obviously some people treat them like dirt, but to you they are much, much more. But are they like rubies and diamonds, or are they more like granite? There is a great deal of value in gold and diamonds, platinum and the trace minerals. But granite can be a very good thing as well. Granite is often quite beautiful stone, and, like the others, it can stand solid for a very long time. And, by the way, people are not as likely to try to steal granite, but they might diamonds and gold. Think about John 14. It is filled with wonderful promises from the Lord. We learn there about mansions in Heaven and about the second coming of the Saviour. We have promises in that chapter about prayer and about the ministry of the Comforter. There is a promise in John 14 about the abiding presence of the Lord. If John 14 was measured on your ten point Richter scale, what sort of reading would it give to you?
Let me put it this way: do the promises of Christ mean as much to you as the promises of your friend. The promises of a loved one can be precious indeed, but they are only human promises. When Judy and I left New Mexico and moved to Post Falls, I promised her that we’d sell our travel trailer and buy a house. Well, we sold our trailer the first year that we were here, and we bought a house ten years later. I kept my promise, but only barely, because I promised more than I could deliver at the time. That is because I am not God, and I can easily promise more than I should. But between God’s holiness, omniscience and omnipotence, God cannot – and does not ever – make a promise that He cannot or does not keep – perfectly. “God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent.” And so, among other things, I am “in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie promised before the world began.”
Now, if the promises of the Father and the Son are the greatest, most trustworthy and surest of all promises, where does that leave the curses and woes which the lips of the Lord have spoken? There is nothing more cursed than that which the Lord has cursed. There is nothing more woeful than that upon which the Lord has pronounced woe. The character of the Lord is unalterable, and the word of the Lord is unbreakable. The curse of Christ is merely a promise of God with a negative effect. To be cursed by the Lord Jesus is to have a guaranteed judgment and disaster.
So that means that when we study the Bible we cannot afford to overlook the Lord’s curses. “Lord, I’m not one of those whom thou hast cursed, am I?” Let’s see…. Matthew 23:13 – “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” When the Lord Jesus pronounces the word “woe” it is not actually a curse, but He refers to the emotional response to a curse which the Lord makes. “Woe unto you, ye blind guides.” “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” “The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.” Luke 6 – “Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” Luke 11:46 – “And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.” Woe mother with child who enters the Great tribulation because she is still in unbelief.
And here we read: “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” Wait a minute here, woe who? Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, Tyre and Sidon were cities – cities much like Spokane, Spokane Valley, Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene. And they were cursed by Christ. But why?
The Lord’s pronouncement of woe was based on the light which these cities had seen – and rejected.
According to the Bible, a very large percentage of the miracles performed by the Lord Jesus, during His life, were done in these three cities. Capernaum was the center of Jesus’ Galilean ministry; it was the place of many mighty works. There Jesus healed the servant of the Centurian; and the nobleman’s son. Peter lived there, and it was there that Jesus healed his mother-in-law; and a paralytic man. In Capernaum Christ had cast out demons. And that appears to have been the home of Jairus, whose daughter was raised from the dead. It was a town of considerable local importance. It was a commercial city, with customs houses and a Roman garrison. I learned recently that the major east-west trade route from Babylon to the Mediterranean didn’t go through Jerusalem, but through Galilee. This was a city and region filled with excitement, prosperity and at times, the blessing of the Lord. Bethsaida did not enjoy the same kind of prominence, but it was uniquely blessed as well. This had been the home town of Philip, Andrew and Peter. It was probably the home of John and James. It was just down the road, and down the beach, from Capernaum. And there were several more miracles performed in or near Bethsaida. Probably many of the 5,000 who had been miraculously fed by Christ came from this city. The town of Chorazin was small, but, again, was evidently quite familiar with the ministry of the Saviour.
One of the lessons that we have here is that the four gospels don’t tell us everything. Even put together, they are not a comprehensive biography of Christ. They don’t contain even an outline of life of Christ. In John 20:30, the writer editorialized by saying, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.” And then in his next chapter he closed the gospels by saying: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” It could very well be that Jesus performed ten times as many miracles in these cities – than those which have been reported to us.
And the point is this: Jesus contrasted the small cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida to the metropolises of Tyre and Sidon. He said that these had been more highly privileged than some of the greatest cities in the world. Then he took His own residence and compared it to Sodom, one of the most infamous cities in history. Why is it that Bethsaida, Chorazin and Capernaum were better off – and yet worse – than most others? Was it because they had Moses, the prophets, the law, synagogues and the priesthood? No, it was because they had Jesus.
In Christ we have the highest blessing and the clearest revelation of God possible. If you want to see the face of Jehovah, then look at the Saviour – Jesus Christ. If you want to see the apex of the power of Jehovah, look at Jesus’ resurrection. Do you want to see God’s love, then look to the Cross. “God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Do you want to see divine justice, then look at the Lamb of God. Are you looking for illustrations of mercy, then read the gospels of Christ.
But mark something here: As Capernaum is to Sodom; Coeur d’Alene is to Capernaum. What would the Lord Jesus’ opinion be of us and of where WE live? Spokane has, at its finger tips, more knowledge of Christ, than any of these cities in Matthew 11. What did those cities yet know about the cross, the resurrection or Pentecost? We have seen the world transformed by the gospel, but those cities had only begun to see it.
If Capernaum is worse than Sodom, because it had seen the Saviour, then where does that put us? If the heavens opened, and fire and brimstone descended on the cities of the old world, in how much jeopardy are the cities of the new World? The dead rich man of Luke 16 begged Abraham to send Lazarus or someone back from the grave to warn them about the judgment of Hell. But Patriarch said unto him, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” The people of Capernaum did see people arise from the dead, but it didn’t do much for them. And the people of the Spokane River Valley have the written Word of God, which testifies of an even greater resurrection than that of Jairus’ daughter. But what has that revelation done for us?
Coeur d’Alene is in trouble, along with all her neighboring cities. We are a cluster of over-ripe plums ready to fall from the tree. When the Son of Man returns, the tribes, cities and nations of the earth shall mourn – Matthew 24:30. “He shall come in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of truth.” He shall render to every man, and every city, according to their works.
And if Capernaum was in trouble, then Coeur d’Alenians are in even more trouble. We need some Jonah who will shout among us, “Yet forty days and Coeur d’Alene shall be overthrown.” “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
The reason why judgment was promised to these cities was BECAUSE THEY HAD REJECTED CHRIST.
The residents of these three communities were not sinners above the rest of the world. Their crime was not even as evil, scornful, diabolical or wicked as that of Jerusalem. And the truth is – they loved all the miracles of the Lord. Probably their economy was strengthened a little because the religious tourist trade had improved. The streets were delivered from crippled beggars, and the town hospital was much quieter. There weren’t as many addicts under the bridges, and the bars and pot-shops had all moved across the tracks. But there was still a great problem – their hearts were as stone. And when they saw the grace of God there was no response.
Again, what was the problem? There was no respect for the Word of the Lord. In Capernaum the Lord Jesus was the Word of God. “Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” Today – in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls – the BIBLE is the Word of the Lord. And the Bible can be found all over our cities. Even many of grocery stores sell different varieties and versions of the Bible. But in the midst of scriptural plenty, we live in cities which are apathetic to the revelation of God. I wouldn’t be surprised if not more than one in a hundred Bibles are used more than once a week. This apathy toward the Word of the Lord is seen the disregard for the Church of Christ. And its seen in the unbiblical behavior of our citizens, including those who profess to be Christians. It’s seen in the hatred of our neighbors for the commands of God.
The only thing worse that heathenistic disregard for the Word is the disregard of those who claim to be its friends. “Yes, I know what the Bible says, but I don’t need to listen to what it says.” “Yes, I know that I am commanded to do this and that, and I believe that I should, but I don’t care.” “Yes, I know that the doctor told me to take my medicine, but I will take my chances without it.” Ours is a city of waterproofed consciences. We are a nation of people whose ears are open – but whose hearts are closed. Our eyes are glued to our electronics, and our hearts are gummed up and gluey with the world. We have the Lord’s e-mail awaiting us, but our SPIRITUAL computers are not on. We are like the man living under the flight-path of the airport, but we no longer hear the planes. Our back yards are filled with birds and wild flowers, but we can’t bothered to look out the windows. What will it take to awaken people to their disastrous predicament? If the miracles of God won’t do it, then what will? And if the children of God are asleep, what will awaken the spiritually dead? The answer is in the omnipotence of the Almighty – fully displayed.
Sodom, Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum are ILLUSTRATIONS OF GOD’S JUDGMENT.
The destruction of Sodom is too well known to warrant repeating. Tyre and Sidon today are almost insignificant compared to the piles of ancient rubble which they were. Bro. Austin brought a message describing the destruction of the indestructible city of Tyre. The story is reminiscent of the sinking of the unsinkable Titanic. When it comes to Bethsaida scholars can only guess and argue about where exactly it lay. Chorazin is never heard of again, even in the pages of the Word of God. Capernaum was once the center of Galilee, but now it’s another point of debate between scholars. In other words, God virtually and practically vaporized those six cities. And according to Revelation “vaporized” may be a good word to use in describing our cities and the world at the time of the Lord’s return.
When the word of woe left the tongue of the Lord, they were shapen with quivering lips – full of emotion. Because Christ did not waste His breath when it came to words of prophecy and warning. The more light that a people receives, the more dangerous is its situation. And where does that put us who are so gospel drenched?
The danger flags are up – the two minute warning has been given to both benches. When I lived in Nebraska as a kid, where when tornados were in the area, sirens sounded all over the city – today the Lord’s sirens are screaming at the world. This valley of ours is one of the finest places in all the world in which to live. And the United States is one of the wealthiest country on the planet, with the most for its citizens to enjoy. In other words the Lord has been very, very good to us, just as He had been to Bethsaida and Capernaum.
And that puts us in a very dangerous position. We, who are Christians need to live in constant humility and submission to the Saviour. We need to pray for the salvation of our neighbors and our nation. We need to work toward that salvation through consistent evangelism. We need to beseech God not to turn our renaissance of Sodom into an image of the first Sodom.
And you who are still in your sins need to repent before God. You need to hear and heed the warning of Romans 2: “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds.”
“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Tomorrow that might not be true.