Chapter 21 Meanings
I’m No Murderer
The chapter opens with Adam terrified of the Ruler’s justice and striving to justify himself on the basis that he hadn’t acted on his murderous thoughts. Yet his guilt remained.
This illustrates Jesus’ teaching that sins of the heart are just as sinful as the actions they produce (Matthew 5:22,28).
A shining figure in white robes who calls himself Michael appears to Adam and tells him what he wants to hear. This illustrates Satan appearing as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
I Have to Do It My Own Way
When Adam decides to become a cottage person (a Christian), he still refuses to go to the high country because he wants to do it his own way. Abigail acquiesces, which leads to their downfall.
This illustrates that no one can come to God in his own way. There is only one narrow road that leads to God (Matthew 7:14). God destroys those who try to approach him in any unauthorized way (for example, Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10).
Abigail is apprehensive in the lowlands at first because she senses an oncoming battle with temptation.
“I’ve missed several banquets now, and I’m hungry. And I can feel part of me hoping to stumble across some fruit.”
When we drift from intimacy with God, our souls become dry and empty. This makes us susceptible to sin, which masquerades as real food and drink to satisfy our cravings.
Conversely, the more we feast on the true food that God offers, the less vulnerable we are to temptation.
Chapter 22 Meanings
The King of the Lowlands
Adam discovers that shining angel in his vision is the king of the lowlands. This illustrates that Satan is the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4), “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), and “the prince of this world” (John 14:30).
What is Freedom?
“Twice that day he had felt trapped—deprived of freedom. Once when he emerged from the pond and couldn’t find his way home, and again in the city when the gates closed behind him. … too many options had terrified him just as much as too few. The strange thought lodged itself in his mind—What is freedom?”
This illustrates that freedom has nothing to do with the presence or absence of restrictions. Rather, it is the ability to be what one was created to be.
Unbelievers imagine themselves to be free when they throw off all God’s laws and follow the impulses of the flesh. But they soon find that the flesh is the cruelest of all slave drivers (John 8:34). True freedom is to love the good and be unrestrained in pursuit of it.
A train “freed” of its tracks is not free at all, because it cannot function as a train. Though train tracks are very confining, only allowing travel in the direction they lay, they free the machine to fulfill its purpose. In the same way, God’s laws, rather than taking our freedom, set us free (James 1:25, 2:12).
The Belt of Truth
Abigail’s belt, which is to remind her of her experiences in the cottage (God’s Word), was given to protect her from danger. She removes it because of the discomfort it causes in the lowlands, and because she doesn’t sense any danger.
This represents the belt of truth, which is part of the spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:14), without which we cannot stand. Truth chafes against our flesh when we wander from the Lord’s way, and we are prone to set it aside when we don’t sense danger.
After letting down her guard, Abigail is then mesmerized by the birds (the world’s entertainment) and falls asleep.
This illustrates a believer falling into a spiritual stupor rather than remaining alert.
“You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet” (1 Thessalonians 5:5-8).
Go Get Her!
Charles exhortation to Watson, “Go get her!” illustrates the command that we energetically strive to rescue brothers and sisters in Christ when they wander.
“Snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear— hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 1:23).
“Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).
I Will Be with You
As Watson trembles in fear of his mission, the Ruler assures him, “I will be with you.”
This illustrates Jesus’ words after sending us on the most difficult of all missions.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
It is awareness of this promise that enables us to carry out such a mission, especially in times of fear.
It’s More Serious Than That
When Abigail becomes ill, Adam asks if it could be the fact that she has gone without banquet food.
“She shook her head. ‘It’s more serious than that. I need a doct—’ a fit of coughing interrupted her words.”
This illustrates Christians who go without fellowship at church, prayer, or time in God’s Word and develop various spiritual maladies (depression, anger, fear, discouragement, apathy, etc.). Such people often believe that Scripture, prayer, and fellowship would be superficial remedies. They need something “deeper,” such as psychotherapy.
Chapter 23 Meanings
Abigail wanted a remedy other than the banquet, and she got one. Alexander gives her medicine made from fruit. This illustrates the counsel of the ungodly (Psalms 1:1). The world’s wisdom, astonishingly, can empty the gospel of its power (1 Corinthians 1:17).
As a result, Abigail became more open to the idea of eating fruit. Worldly counsel points to the ways of the world, not God’s way.
Loss of Joy
When Abigail begins eating fruit, she loses her joy. This illustrates the loss of joy that comes from indulging in sin. It was for restoration of that joy that David pleaded when he repented (Psalm 51:12).
As time goes on, Abigail becomes incapable of enjoying anything other than fruit. When we drift from God, we lose our access to the one who enables enjoyment of earthly pleasures (Ecclesiastes 5:19). When this happens, we can find ourselves unable to enjoy good food, marriage, the creation, or anything else.
When Adam suggests returning to the hall, Abigail resists because her friends are judgmental. Often it is when we are clinging to a sin that we find others judgmental. In reality, it is our own conscience judging us (Romans 2:15).
“’I’ll stop. Okay?’
Morning arrived with a chill that awakened Abigail to a world of misery. She sat up in a bed of watermelon rinds, banana peels, and apple cores.”
This illustrates the weakness of mere resolve. When a person is in the clutches of enslaving sin, they may resolve never to do it again. Hours later, resolve crumbles and they indulge with abandon.
The Damage of Sin
Abigail’s beauty gives way to hideous disfigurement. This illustrates the damage sin does to the inner man and the resulting ugliness and filthiness in the eyes of God. More than anything else, when David repented, he pleaded for cleansing. He knew he had become disgusting in God’s eyes, yet only God could make him clean (Psalms 51:2,7).
And not only does sin make us dirty, it damages us. It diminishes spiritual sensitivities, sears the conscience, clouds our understanding, weakens our faith, and puts distance between us and God.
The Wind Was Against Her
When Abigail tries to escape, no matter which direction she runs, the wind is against her. The meaning of this portion is revealed in the sequel, At War with the Wind: the Fight for Abigail.
Chapter 21 Study Questions
|But then why did he feel so guilty? He imagined himself in the Ruler’s courtroom and shuddered. Did he deserve what Levi got just for having murderous thoughts he never even acted on? It was a prospect he refused to accept … but couldn’t deny.|
In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus equated murderous thoughts with murderous actions. But if angry thoughts don’t hurt anyone, why do we still deserve punishment for them?
Sin is not mainly about breaking rules. It’s about unfaithfulness to God. If a man tells his wife, “I fantasize about the woman next door all day every day, but don’t worry. I won’t act on it,” she won’t say, “Oh good. I’m so glad to hear of your faithfulness.” She will be distressed because it’s not just his body that belongs to her, it’s also his heart. And the same is true of our relationship with God. He has an even greater claim on our hearts—our affections, our desires, our longings, our whole inner man—than a wife has on her husband.
Someday Jesus will pass judgment on every soul ever born (John 5:22). How should this information affect believers and unbelievers? See Acts 17:30-31; Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11.
It should cause all people to fear God.
Acts 17 – It should cause unbelievers to repent and turn to Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
Ro.14 – It should cause believers to avoid sin, lest we incur consequences on judgment day.
2 Cor.5 – It should motivate believers to try to persuade unbelievers to repent and be saved.
Christians have money, possessions, family, and friends. So in what sense have we given up everything to follow Christ?
We give them up in the sense that they no longer belong to us. We acknowledge they all belong to Christ. And instead of using them for our own benefit, we now use them for kingdom purposes. We manage them as stewards for as long as the Lord is pleased for us to manage them, but we are managing them for the purpose of Christ’s glory, not our own.
|Spellbound, Adam rose in awe of the glorious creature, yet at the same time, something about him set Adam at ease. The great being exuded benevolence and goodness.|
Satan masquerades as an angel of light, and his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Knowing his, if Satan appeared to you, what characteristics would you expect him to have?
I would expect him to seem very righteous and holy, morally pure, and to quote a lot of Scripture. I would expect him to speak highly of Christ.
|Adam considered this. “I feel like the answer is somewhere in the middle. … I think I want to be a cottage person. But I don’t want to take it to the extremes of people like Kailyn or Watson. Moderation in all things, right?”|
Our society tolerates religion, but not religious extremism. Is it possible to be a Christian without being an extremist? See Luke 14:25-33.
No, it is not. It’s impossible to imagine a commitment more extreme than the one described in this passage.
What does Scripture teach about moderation in following Christ? See Romans 12:11; Revelation 2:10.
A moderate Christian is not saved. Christ calls for zealous, whole-hearted commitment to the point of death.
|I’ve decided I want to be a cottage person. … But I have to do it my own way, here, in the lowlands. This is my home.|
What would you tell a person who wants to become a Christian, but on his own terms, keeping the world as his home? See James 4:4. Is it possible to be a Christian without a willingness to turn your back on the world? Why does James call them adulteresses?
No, it is not possible. Loving the world is adultery against God because just as a woman’s heart belongs to her husband alone, so our heart belong to God alone. Loving the world is unfaithfulness to God. I would tell such a person that he has to make a choice between Christ or the world, just as you wouldn’t marry a woman until she broke up with her other boyfriend.
|I’ve missed several banquets now, and I’m hungry. And I can feel part of me hoping to stumble across some fruit.|
What should you do if you feel yourself secretly hoping an opportunity to commit a certain sin presents itself? See Isaiah 55:1-2.
I need to remind myself that the sin I’m hoping to stumble into seems like “bread” (something that would satisfy) but it isn’t. And it will cost me that which will satisfy.
Chapter 22 Study Questions
|Abigail removed her belt … “It’s supposed to be a reminder of my experiences in those rooms. He told me to wear it in times of danger and it would protect me. … I don’t sense any danger here.”|
Give a practical example of how one might lose a spiritual battle because of failure to utilize the spiritual armor in Ephesians 6:11-17.
An example of a loss because of failure to use the shield of faith: I face a powerful temptation and it feels impossible for me to resist. I feel like I can’t handle it. The Bible tells me I will never be tempted beyond what I can withstand. Instead of using the shield of faith, I don’t believe that promise, so I become convinced that I can’t resist in this instance. Once I think that, resisting become impossible, and I fall.
Or I fail to believe God when he assures me that the sin will not satisfy and his presence would.
Example of failure due to failure to fit my feet with the readiness of the gospel of peace: I have such a foggy understanding of the gospel that the enemy tries to confuse me or deceive me, I’m not quick enough on my feet with the truth to withstand his efforts. So I become confused or deceived.
|“Watson, go get her!”|
What does Scripture teach about rescuing a wandering brother or sister? See James 5:19–20; Galatians 6:1; Jude 1:23; Matthew 7:3–5; Luke 22:31–32.
James 5 – If the wanderer isn’t rescued, the result is a multitude of sins and ultimately, death. And it is our responsibility to rescue one another.
Gal.6 & Jude 1 – Rescuing a wanderer is dangerous to the rescuer. We must be on guard so we don’t fall into the same sin. And we must also be gentle about it.
Mt.7 – We must remove unrepentant sin from our own lives before calling someone else to repentance.
Lk.22 – When Satan comes after a saint, we should pray for that person. Working us over is easy for Satan (like sifting wheat) and there is the real possibility of our faith failing. When we recover, we should seek to strengthen others.
Read 1 Timothy 4:16. What are the implications for those you attempt to rescue if you fail to watch your life and doctrine closely?
The implication is that if I don’t watch my life and doctrine closely, it’s less likely I’ll be able to save others. My neglect of my spiritual life could cost someone else his spiritual life.
|“I will be with you.”|
Jesus is not with us physically. And God exists everywhere. So in what sense is Jesus with his people? See Matthew 28:20, John 14:18, 2 Timothy 4:17.
God exists everywhere, but he is not “with” everyone in this sense. Being with us means he turns his face toward us to show us favor. And when Jesus does that, blessings flow from him. They can take countless different forms. And they usually take a form other than the form we might have chosen. For example, in 2 Timothy 4:17, most people would want blessing to come in the form of being released from custody. But instead, it came in the form of strength to endure the ordeal. But God’s way of blessing us is always better than our own ideas of blessing. It’s better to be in prison and have joy and strength then to be free without joy and strength.
CHAPTER 23 Study Questions
|“She glanced again at the grapes. “May I ask—what is in the medicine?”
“It’s a complex recipe, but the sweetness you taste is from those little grapes. They have wonderful healing properties.”
For problems such as depression, anxiety, fear, and other problems of the soul, many Christians go to secular psychologists for healing. What does Psalm 1:1-2 teach us about this practice?
It strictly forbids it.
The world’s solutions to spiritual problems are deadly. The problem is, our culture has been convinced that the problems of the soul are illnesses, like diseases (this is due in large measure to Freud, who coined medical-sounding jargon for problems of the soul). And so many believe that just as treatments like surgery or prescribing medication must only be done by doctors, so the “diseases” of the soul are best handled by professional psychologists. This attitude has influenced the church, so that most Christian counselors teach the principles of secular psychology in their counseling. This isa violation of Psalm 1.
|“You used to smile so much there. And I never once heard you complain about anything. Now …”|
What kinds of spiritual problems are indicated by the symptom of complaining? See Jude 1:16.
Faultfinding, being driven by impulses and feelings, pride, and manipulation of others. I would also add ingratitude. It is impossible to complain and be grateful at the same time.
What is the difference between calling out sin as we should and sinful judgmentalism? See James 4:11-12; Romans 14:3-4,10.
Sinful judgmentalism looks down on the person with an attitude that says, “I’m the judge; you’re the sinner. And I’m making an evaluation of you as a person as if I were your master.” The efforts to expose the sin are not those of a teammate, trying to help, but as an opponent who is against the person.
The proper approach is to view the person as a brother and expose the sin with one goal in mind: that person’s restoration. There will be as little shaming as possible. The approach will be crafted by whatever is most likely to win the person’s heart and bring him to repentance.
She tried to think about something else—the past, the future, friends, family, a favorite song, the beautiful scenery. None of it brought comfort. She felt incapable of enjoying anything … except, maybe, another grape.-
The ability to enjoy life is not inherent in human life. It is a special gift granted by God. And that gift is withdrawn in great measure when we continue in sin.
I’ve already blown it. Might as well get it out of my system. I’ll try harder tomorrow.
What biblical principles might help us when we are tempted with the rationalization, “I’ve already blown it now. Might as well get it out of my system and try to do better tomorrow”? See John 5:14; Galatians 6:7-8.
Sin does damage. More sin does more damage. Continuing in the sin plants even more seeds that will bear even more damaging fruit.
Adam, I don’t eat any other fruit. I’m nothing like all the lowlanders, pigging out on everything in sight. It’s just an occasional grape.
Respond to the rationalization, “It’s only once in a while” or “I only commit this sin in moderation”? See 1 John 2:15-16.
Sin and righteousness are a matter of what we love—the world or God. If my desire is to sin once in a while or to sin moderately, that shows a heart that loves the world. The goal is not to simply moderate our expressions of love for the world, but rather to love God instead of the world.
She sat up in a bed of watermelon rinds, banana peels, and apple cores. Nausea racked her body like a black death devouring her insides, and she lay back down.
Temptation’s “hands are chains.” No sooner does she touch you than you find yourself locked in bondage. Nobody dabbles and just walks away. “Her slain are a mighty throng. The strongest, most spiritually powerful men and women of history, including King David, have gone up against her and fell. What makes me think I would be any different?
She hardly recognized her own face. It was hideously contorted and much of her hair had fallen out.
The Bible uses these metaphors for sin to teach us how ugly, distasteful, disgusting, and repugnant sin is to God. When we see something that makes us nauseous, that’s what it’s like for God to look at sin.
|Averting her eyes from the fruit, she … broke into a run. … Every step escalated her desperation. Get me out of this place!|
What are some examples of what Scripture means by looking to the right or left? See Proverbs 4:25-27; Romans 13:14.
The image is that we are on the path of righteousness and sin is on the right and left of the path. Stepping off the path means to commit the sin. Looking to the right or left means taking a glance in sin’s direction. It’s when the heart opens the door a crack. This is mainly done by thinking about the sin, imagining it, or letting down one’s defenses against it.
Ch. 23, Q. 10 – if you look for temptation, you’ll find it.
Ch. 23, Q. 7 – It’s the little foxes that destroy the vineyard.
Ch. 23, Q. 6 – When I’m in this category, one of the passages that has personally helped me the most is Hebrews 4:14-16.
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
A couple of things in particular I find helpful:
First, I’m reminded to hold fast to my confession of faith. Jesus rose from the dead! Thus validating and proving everything he said and did. This is and was sufficient for me to confess in faith. When I’m tempted to give in, I’m making a choice to abandon my confession of faith in that moment. So consciously remembering this verse puts everything back in perspective and the sin I’m tempted to pursue is exposed as the ridiculous and worthless thing it is.
Second, I’m reminded that, *in my very moment of need,* I can draw near with confidence to God’s throne, so I can get the grace and mercy I need *at that very moment.* I love this verse! I don’t have to wait until I’ve already failed, and then crawl back a few hours or days later to seek forgiveness and mercy. No! Even *in my moment of failure* I can boldly cry out and draw near to God and he will help me!
Ch. 23, Q. 5 – Because even the ability to enjoy good things is itself a gift from God.
God won’t cooperate with us in our sin, so he partially withdraws his blessings as long as we remain apart from him.
Ch. 23, Q. 3 – I think the difference must be humility. We can only call out sin as we should if we’re in the right place, positionally, relative to God and our fellow believers.
Judgmentalism comes in when we lose sight of our place. We think we can somehow see the whole providential picture and read hearts, minds and motives. If we think we can do that, of course we’re going to get it wrong and make tragic, hurtful, and foolish mistakes.
Ch. 23, Q. 1 – Depression, anxiety, fear, etc. are symptoms of a lack of peace, comfort, satisfaction, contentment, joy, rest, fulfillment, etc. The soul was created by God to crave these things, and by design, only God can fulfill them.
Scripture is clear that it is *God* that fills the soul with the good things it craves:
Peace – John 14:27
Joy – Psalm 4:7, John 15:11
Satisfaction – Psalm 63:5, 107:9, Jeremiah 31:25
Fulfillment – Col 2:10
Contentment – Prov 19:23, Psalm 34:10
Comfort – 2 Cor 1:3, Ps 34:18
Rest – Matt 11:28
So by definition, these things that satisfy the soul are outside of ourselves. Psychology doesn’t have the tools and isn’t designed to look outside of ourselves for anything. It can only look within, which is a dry well.
This is why Psalm 1 continues in verses 3 to compare the righteous man to a tree planted by a river – it’s constantly being fed fresh water from outside itself. Then verse 4 says the man of the flesh withers up and dries out and is blown away like chaff because he’s not receiving any of this water.
This is why Jesus says in John 4:14 that the water he gives will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.
It’s *only* when we look outside of ourselves and put our faith in Jesus Christ that we get access to this water that pours into us and brings with it the satisfaction our soul craves.
Ch. 22, Q. 1- I can think of several, but I’ll focus on a big one for me, and that’s lack of prayer (Eph 6:18). (btw, is v. 18 typically included in the “armor of God” passage?)
Jesus says in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
When I’m in the flesh, I am so weak, but when I pray, I’m relying on the Spirit within me for power.
Every time I fight with my wife, or get frustrated at work, or give in to anger or gossip or lust, it’s *always* because I’m operating in the flesh.
When I have the wherewithal to go to God in prayer either before those moments or immediately after, he always speaks to me in a way that brings both comfort and conviction, usually by bringing a verse or Biblical principle to mind.
As soon as I repent, peace and strength return.
Also, I’ll say that every Bible study I’ve ever done has come to me through prayer. God typically points me to a scripture, then based on that scripture, gives me the theme of the study and shows me the basic outline.
Finally, I remember at least one time very clearly that, while preparing a specific study, I came across one verse I just didn’t understand at all. I did all the “usual” things – read and study the grammar, context, commentaries, study notes, sermons, etc. Nothing was working. I spent days and days on this one verse and I just wasn’t getting it. I knew if I didn’t understand it myself, there was no way I could try to explain it to others. So finally I gave up on all my efforts for the afternoon and just prayed. I spent hours in prayer just asking God for insight. No great revelation came to me during that time, but I said amen and simply went back to work, doing the same things I was doing previously. Not too long after, I reread a commentary that I had read prior, and suddenly I just got it. For some reason the turn of phrase the author used to describe it struck a chord with me that it hadn’t before and I just got it. I could see it all – what it meant, how it fit and tied in to the message, the spiritual lesson, everything! It was awesome!
Anyway, I say all that to say that there is *real* power and strength and spiritual insight (which is the greatest strength) that *only* comes to us through prayer… oh man, why don’t I tap into that more?!
Wow, great story. And yes, I do think Paul intends for us to take the section on prayer as part of the armor to be used in spiritual warfare. And that element gets more emphasis than any other piece of armor.
Q. 6 – I’ve had this exact conversation a number of times. I usually just ask how their own way has been working out for them.
Then the conversation varies depending on their answer, but almost always they’re only kicking the tires of Chritianity because their way hasn’t been working out at all, and they know there’s something more.
Typically, those that choose to follow Christ only do so because they *want* to! That is, they see that Christ’s way is better than their way, so giving up their way is easy (in one sense).
Also, and using a new car as an example, I think we have a tendency to kick the tires the hardest just before we’re ready to buy. That is, before I drop my thousands of dollars, I want to be *really* sure that thing will hold up.
So until I’m really convinced Christ’s way is better, I’ll continue holding on to my own way.
I think ultimately the human heart *always* pursues its greatest desire. So unless and until Christ is my greatest desire, my heart will never follow him.
So I think that’s where it falls on us as Christians to be salt and light to really show how and why Christ is superiorly desirable.
Kind of a rambling answer, sorry.
That’s a great insight–about kicking the tires hardest just before buying. Really interesting. I’ll have to give that some thought. Seems like something that might have applications in lots of different situations.
Q. 1 – Your answer is much better of course, but I would say because the standard is not whether something “hurts” someone or not.
The standard is holiness, God’s very own character. We are to be holy as he is holy.
God doesn’t have murderous thoughts, so we’re forbidden from having them.
Q. 2B – What a great question!
For me personally, I do have money, possessions, family and friends. But *all* of these are utterly different than before I was saved.
I can honestly say I gave up *everything* regarding what I used to spend my money on, the possessions I used to own, the friends I used to have, and how I used to interact with my family.
If you had asked me before I was saved if was willing to give that all up, I would have said no way.
But as soon as I met Jesus, it was a no-brainer to forsake all that stuff because I knew I was trading them in for something better.