In a couple of days is the "Ides of March." While most of us do not use the terms "ides", many of us have undoubtedly heard the expression, "Beware the ides of March."
William Shakespeare includes the following exchange in his play, Julius Ceasar.
Act 1, Scene 2Later, in Act 3, Scene 1
CAESAR Ha! who calls?
CASCA Bid every noise be still: peace yet again!
CAESAR : Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
Cry 'Caesar!' Speak; Caesar is turn'd to hear.
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: What man is that?
BRUTUS : A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.
CAESAR: Set him before me; let me see his face.
CASSIUS : Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
CAESAR What say'st thou to me now? speak once again.
Soothsayer Beware the ides of March.
CAESAR He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.
CAESAR [To the Soothsayer] The ides of March are come.
Soothsayer Ay, Caesar; but not gone.
While we generally think of the exchange as simply a story by Shakespeare, according to ancient Greek historian Plutarch in his "Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans", a similar exchange did exist - and it was this that Shakespeare later based his scene upon.
Plutarch - Life of Caesar
The following story, too, is told by many. A certain seer warned Caesar to be on his guard against a great peril on the day of the month of March which the Romans call the Ides; and when the day had come and Caesar was on his way to the senate-house, he greeted the seer with a jest and said: "Well, the Ides of March are come," and the seer said to him softly: "Ay, they are come, but they are not gone."If the story is true, Julius Caesar was warned to be on his guard and even warned what day it would be - but he refused to take the warning seriously.
Warnings are important. Warnings often make the difference between life and death and between success and failure. In Ezekiel chapter 3:16-21 and Ezekiel 33:1-9 we find some important instructions about warnings.
Eze 3:16 And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
17 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.
18 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.
19 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.
20 Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.
21 Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.
One of the things we notice in both of these passages is that there is a proper way that warnings are to be dealt with and there is an improper way. Our need to deal properly with warnings is evident whether we are the one giving the warning or the one receiving the warning. We must deal with warnings properly.
I. If we are going to deal properly with warnings we must understand the Nature of Warnings
One of the Leadership Principles from AACS: "Discipline is good, not bad." We could correctly paraphrase that as well to tell us that "Warnings are good, not bad."
When we view warnings as bad, we are hesitant to give the needed warning and when we view warnings as bad, we are angry when we have been given a warning.
A Biblical understanding of warnings, however, tells us that warnings are not a bad thing. Warnings are not given against the person, but are given for the person.
A. Warnings are designed to enlighten, not enrage.
B. Warnings are designed to protect, not punish
When you love someone, you want to protect them and so it is necessary to warn them.
C. Warnings are a depiction of concern, not condemnation
When Paul writes to the church of Corinth in 1 Corinthians 4:14, he mentions the relationship in connection with the warning.
I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.
Solomon reminds us of this truth, as well:
Proverbs 27:5 Open rebuke is better than secret love.
6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
Therefore, we need to understand it is the loving thing to do to warn others and that the person who is warning you is the one who is loving you. The one who is telling you it is okay to continue in your sin is the one who is hating you.
II. If We are Going to Deal Properly with Warnings, we must understand the Instruments of Warnings
There are some instruments that God uses to warn us. Two of those instruments are mentioned in this passage.
A. The Word of God - "hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me." (Ezek 3:17)
The Psalmist and Paul also remind us that the Word of God gives us warning and reproof.
Ps 19:11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That is one reason why it is so difficult to be faithful to your devotions when you are choosing sin - you don't want to hear the warnings from God's Word. It is also one of the reasons why it is easier to get involved in sin when you are not being faithful with your time in God's Word - you are missing out on the warnings from God's word.
Someone has said "This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book."
The second instrument that God has chosen to give warning is his people.
B. The People of God
This whole passage emphasizes the fact that God has chosen people to give warnings.
The reality is that we, as believers, are to be instruments of warnings to others.
Paul repeatedly emphasizes this point:
Ac 20:31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
1Th 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
Ro 15:14 And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
III. The Response to Warnings
One of the most important things to understand about warnings, is the response to warnings. In Ezekiel 33:3-5, we have a record of the two responses to warnings:
If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.
A. A Warning May Be Rejected
When legitimate warnings are rejected, the one rejecting the warning is heading for destruction.
Again Proverbs reminds of this:
Proverbs 29:1 ¶ He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
(See also Proverbs 1:24-31)
Repeatedly we see this in Scripture. Ahab & Jezebel rejected, rather than accepted the warnings of God through Elijah - and God destroyed them. Pharoah & the Egyptians rejected, rather than accepted the warnings of God through Moses - and God brought great destruction.
B. A Warning May Be Accepted
Ezek 33:5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.
David understood the proper response to a warning and he said in Psalm 141:5 "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities."
God in His great mercy and love offers you a different path. If you choose to heed His warnings, you shall be delivered rather than destroyed.
This is the desired response - by God and by the warner. (Matt 18:15 - "thou hast gained thy brother"; Gal 6:1 - "restore such a one")
Warnings are important and we must deal with warnings properly. When we understand the Biblical truth regarding warnings, we should be much more inclined to deal with warnings properly. We must understand the nature of warnings - that they are "Good, not bad" - that they are designed to enlighten, not enrage, they are designed to protect, not punish and they are a depiction of concern, not condemnation. We must understand the instruments of warning - that God has chosen to warn us through His Word and through His people. And we must make the right response to warning - accepting rather than rejecting the warnings.
The story of Harry Randall Truman from Mt. St. Helens is a great illustration of the danger of refusing to heed a warning. (You can read of Harry Truman at Wikipedia here.)
Harry Truman was warned again and again of the dangers, yet he refused to heed the warnings and destruction and death came.
What is God dealing with you about today? What warning has God brought up to you? Perhaps God is warning you about the danger of your eternal soul - will you heed his warning today? Perhaps God is warning you about a particular sin that you are allowing into your life - will you heed his warning today?
Will you deal properly with warnings today?
(The preceding reflection is based on this morning's sermon at Fellowship Baptist Church of Salisbury.)