By Tom O’Neal
Six centuries before Christ, God caused the Jews to be carried away into Babylonian captivity. The reason for this was their repeated idolatry.
During the time of the judges, God’s people turned away from him to follow the gods of the nations about them.
In the time of the divided kingdom they were no better. Few of the kings in the Southern Kingdom were good and none of the kings of the Northern Kingdom were. They worshiped the gods of the nations about them. They set up their own high places and worshiped all manner of gods.
God had caused the Assyrians to take the Northern Kingdom into captivity because of their idolatry and now the Southern Kingdom was taken into captivity by the Babylonians.
The young man Daniel was among those taken into Babylon. His position was he “sat in the gate of the king” (Dan. 2:49). This would be comparable to being near the White House today. Being a prophet of God, he was near to and spoke with the king.
However, there was another prophet of God in Babylon. This prophet’s name was Ezekiel. He was not around the court of the king. He was God’s spokesman out in the province where the people were.
Ezekiel said, “Then I came to them of the captivity at Telabib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days. And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul” (Ezek. 3:15-19).
While in Babylon for their sins, Israel had the prophet Ezekiel sitting among them. He could see their plight and understand their feelings. He could more easily identify with the children of Israel than the prophet Daniel. Many times when people have problems, those about them cannot understand how they feel, why they act or react the way they do, nor even why they do wrong. Problems are no excuse to commit sin. Often people do not take the way of escape provided by the Lord (1 Cor. 10:13).
When one does not understand why someone does what he does, he often does more harm than good. When someone is wounded, we all understand that we want to get them the best medical attention possible. How often, though, when someone is wounded in the battle of life, instead of getting them some spiritual medical attention, we spiritually shoot to kill them. Someone has described the Lord’s people as being the only people they knew that shot their wounded. If we, like Ezekiel, had “sat where they sat” we would not be so quick to pull the trigger to kill. We would understand. If we did not understand, we could at least empathize with them.
Several years ago I came upon a piece that I clipped out and have kept. Perhaps if I share it, you can also profit from it. Its author is unknown to me.
Do Not Judge Others Too Hard
Pray don’t find fault with the man who limps,
Or stumbles along the road;
Unless you have worn the shoes he wears
Or struggled beneath his load.
There may be tacks in his shoes that hurt,
Though hidden away from view,
Or the burdens he bears, placed on your back,
Might cause you to stumble too.
Don’t sneer at the man who’s down today,
Unless you have felt the blow
That caused his fall, or felt the shame
That only the fallen know.
You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, if dealt to you
In the self-same way at the self-same time,
Might cause you to stagger too.
Don’t be too harsh with the man who sins,
Or pelt him with words or stones,
Unless you are sure, yes, doubly sure
That you have not sins of your own.
For, you know, perhaps if the tempter’s voice
should whisper as soft to you
As it did to him when he went astray,
‘Twould cause you to falter too.
If I have never sat where my brother or sister is sitting, how do I know what I would do under the same set of circumstances? I may know what is right and what I should do, but does that mean I would do it? Not necessarily.
(1) A number of years ago in a congregation where I was preaching, a brother was in business and through no fault of his own, so far as my information was concerned, he was forced into bankruptcy. What were the emotions that he and his family experienced. I do not know. What was the embarrassment that they went through? I do not know. At the time and since, I have been very slow to say anything about the situation, for you see, I never “sat where they sat.” What would you do in a set of circumstances like this? I tried to be as supportive and as understanding as I could at the time. Today, they are still close friends.
(2) Another brother where I preached was heavily involved in the contracting business. Things went from bad to worse in a hurry and he owed thousands of dollars. In the meantime he lost his wife, a regal lady in my eyes. Some brethren did not understand. Because he worked two or more jobs sometimes to pay his debts off, he would not be at some services of the church. This caused some that wanted to be more righteous than God to want to withdraw from him. You see, they had never “sat where he sat” and knew nothing of the problems he faced. In time, over a period of about twenty-five years, he paid all of his debts! He is in my book a great hero of faith. What would you have done had you “sat where he sat”?
(3) Several years ago, a long-time preacher friend of mine learned he had a severe medical problem, which in time took his life. During the time he was dealing with the problem, he began to take into his body a liquid form of grain after it has been through the distilling process. I never “sat where he sat.” What would I have done under the circumstances? What would you have done under the circumstances? I am glad he repented and found himself before death in a right relationship with God. I loved him like a brother, appreciated him for his work, benefitted as a young preacher from h s encouragement, honor his memory and will ignore any letter asking who he was.
(4) As a young boy I heard a young gospel preacher in several gospel meetings. The fact that he and I shared a common name was not what drew me to him. I liked the plain, simple, Bible preaching he did. He probably does not realize it, but he was one of my young heroes. He did a lot of good over the years, worked with some of the best of churches and stood firmly for the truth. In time it became evident he was experiencing some problems within his marriage. You see, his wife, like a lot of others, decided that she did not want to be the wife of a preacher. (When any preacher learns that his wife no longer wants to be a preacher’s wife, he is in for trouble.) It was up to him to care for the children. I doubt that even now his children realize how much they were neglected by their mother and how he took over being both mother and father to them. Soon they were divorced and she had someone to marry. My friend, have you ever sat where this preacher sat? What would you have done had you been in his shoes? He had put God first in his life and tried to get everyone he came in contact with to do the same.
Yes, I am sure that even he would look back and see things he might have done differently. Anybody and everybody can do that. But he did not deserve the treatment he received at the hands of a woman who had not put Christ first in her life. Any mistakes, shortcomings or sins he may have committed, would no doubt have been avoided if he had the support and encouragement of a wife dedicated to Christ. I ache for my friend of childhood days. If you have never sat where he sat, it probably would be wise to be a littler kinder and a little gentler to him. It could be that he would appreciate your friendship and a kind word.
(5) Another preacher friend of mine I learned was having some problems in his marriage. Being in the area he lived to spend some time with a relative who was ill, I looked him up. Having made several phone calls late at night, I was finally able to reach him. He seemed surprised at first to hear my voice. I explained that I had learned he and his wife were separated at the time and thought that he might need a friend, so I was calling. He expressed his appreciation for my concern and for my taking the time to call. Then, he said something that will burn in my heart forever. He said, “Tom, I appreciate your calling; of all the preachers you and I know, you are the only one so far that has been concerned enough to call me. ” In that area there were any number of gospel preachers that both of us knew and had known for a number of years. Had we all put our arms around him and helped him at the time, he might have been saved to the cause of Christ. Have you ever “sat where he sat”? If you had, what would you have wanted brethren to have done at the time?
When someone has a problem there are some brethren who cannot wait to spread it all over the country and some preachers are the worst offenders. One godly woman, the wife of an elder and respected gospel preacher, once told me she told a certain preacher that he was a bigger gossip than some old gossipy woman. A person with a problem, any problem, is not helped when they hear all kinds of lies, gossip, ugly rumors, and half truths floating back to them. Such tells them that those spreading such tales really have no concern for them or the truth.
Need for Patience
Brethren, we need to sometimes exercise a little patience. We are often too quick to want to settle something yesterday. Problems do not usually arise overnight and they will not be settled overnight.
Let me tell you a true thrilling story I recently learned. Mary, a friend of mine since childhood, saw her father leave her mother, her sister, her brother and her. Two or three wives and fifty plus years later, he called her from a distant town and said he had repented of his life of sin and wanted to be restored to his Lord. Ready to assist, she thought, “How will I get him to the services of the church?” When she and her husband arrived in town to take him to services, she learned his daughter-in-law also wanted to be restored that day. Thus, the problem of how to get her father to services was resolved. What a day that was around the Throne! The word of God still works. “There is power, wonder working power, in the precious blood of the Lamb.”
Dear reader, if you have not “sat where they sat” please don’t become more righteous than God. It would be well to remember that “except for the grace of God, go I.”
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 21, pp. 656-658
November 5, 1992