Depart From Evil
Most people think to depart from evil means not to break the commandment of God. But firstly, what does evil mean according to the Bible?
What kind of person does God consider to be evil? How can one depart from evil or fall into evil?
Pr. FF Chong—London, UK
In the name of Lord Jesus I speak, once again I give thanks to God for assembling us on this blessed day. Being able to put aside our work on this blessed day is indeed a great blessing. I pray that all of us can enter into the rest of God.
For this sermon I’m going to share with you the topic “Depart from Evil.” In fact, this is a theme in the book of Psalms and Proverbs. We know that for one to depart from evil, one must learn to fear God. The Bible tells us that the foolish person does not follow the words of God. So that whatever he does it actually amounts to a form of evil.
What is evil?
When we talk about evil there are at least two points we can bear in mind:
$1(1) Evil refers to wicked deeds.
$1(2) Evil can refer to the evil ones, e.g. the devil.
When we read the English versions, the wicked can also refer to evil deeds or Satan himself.
What is “Departing from Evil”?
When we depart from evil, what comes to mind is to not break the commandments of God. I think this is our normal understanding of departing from evil, but actually departing from evil is actually a state of mind. For example a person can be very good but because of the situation he is in, he can be provoked into doing evil. Today, we’re going to look at some examples from the Scripture.
(1) Evil Refers to a State of Mind - Leaning on Your Own Understanding
Here is a piece of advice given from a father to his son. Perhaps this piece of advice is given from a teacher to a student: that he must fear the Lord and depart from evil.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
Now we need to ask ourselves this question here, what does this evil refer to? From verse 5 onwards to verse 7, the evil here is not referring to the breaking of the commandments or to sin against another person.
Here evil refers to a state of mind. If you read verse 5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Verse 6 “In all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths.” Meaning if anyone fails to count on the Lord and trust in him, it is like committing evil in the eyes of the Lord. He has committed an evil.
We know that we are God’s children, and our Lord Jesus is our master. He should be the one to give us directions in life.
Since he is the master, therefore we must consult him in everything that we do. So if we only lean on our own way, then in the eyes of God this is an evil.
Makes Own Decisions Without Acknowledging or Consulting God
13“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 16But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”
Here James gives us a very simple real life example. Here it talks about a person who plans for his future. He has decided to go to such and such a city to do business. Obviously this is required of him because he has to earn a living for himself. Just like everyone one of us here has to work hard for our livelihood. We have to work hard to sustain ourselves and our family. But here what James tells us is that this person has committed a very serious wrong.
The plan for his future is just for himself. Why is it like an evil in the eyes of God? From verse 13-16 it is quite clear that God was never included in part of his equation. According to James, this is a kind of boasting because God is not included. That’s why such boasting is evil.
So we must ask ourselves this question, when we go about living our life, do we include or consult God over the things we’re going to do? We can plan to have many businesses. I believe this is absolutely right.But since we are the children of God and God is our master, we must not forget to consult God first. We must not lean on our own smartness or cleverness. This is a form of evil in the eyes of God.
Focus Covetously on Worldly Abundance Instead of God
Luke 12:13-21. 13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ 21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
This is probably a very familiar parable. It talks about a rich man who only plans for himself. Before we properly talk about the parable I want to read verse 15 first. And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
It seems the main focus of this parable is on covetousness. Meaning that we must not fall into the trap of being covetousness. From verse 16-21 we can see no signs of covetousness here because whatever is done is proper. Because he didn’t have enough barns to store his crops. It makes sense to tear down existing one to build new bigger ones. If you read verse 19: “And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” He was planning for himself. To all of us he was doing the right thing.
But why did Jesus say this was a form of covetousness? We know in the Bible we are told, especially in Colossians and Ephesians, that covetousness is a form of idolatry; it is equal to worshipping to idols. So we can see that God is not included if he is only focused on his own business and wealth. If a person fails to focus on God, that is a form of idolatry (Col 3:5).
Actually that is the work of covetousness because God is not considered here. That’s why in whatever we do, we must make sure to consult God first. Lower ourselves by saying to God, God if you are willing, Let this be done. This is being God fearing. Sometimes we even find that our mind can commit evil by not acknowledging God. Now we look at another point.
(2) Evil Refers to A STATE OF MIND - DEEDS and WORDS Of Pride
Pride Group: Pride, Arrogance, Evil Way, Perverse Mouth
“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way
And the perverse mouth I hate.”
Once again we are told to fear the Lord. Not only must we depart from evil, we must also hate evil. Now the question again is what evil is this? If you look at the second part of verse 13 carefully, here it mentions pride, arrogance, evil way, and perverse mouth. We find these 4 things are classified as one group.
We know that pride is something in the heart and it can lead to evil ways. So the Lord says we must hate evil, including what was just listed. As what we said before, pride leads to evil ways. We find that if pride in a person’s heart isn’t curbed or removed, it is very likely he will do a lot of wicked things against God. Let’s look at an example.
Psalms 10:2 “The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor.”
We know this persecution is a form of evil way. Where does this come from? It comes from pride. So pride leads to evil ways. Even when we talk about rendering our services to God, we find that if we allow this pride to take control, then we will find for ourselves a lot of conflict and problems in the community of faith. This is the work of pride. That’s why we must hate pride, remove pride. The whole chapter here is talking about the deeds and works of the wicked who were proud. We can look at this passage to see what proud people do.
8 He sits in the lurking places of the villages;
In the secret places he murders the innocent;
His eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless.
9 He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den;
He lies in wait to catch the poor;
He catches the poor when he draws him into his net.
10 So he crouches, he lies low,
That the helpless may fall by his strength.
These evil deeds have been the practice of Israel since the olden times. Especially if you read the books of Isaiah and Micah. You can see how God’s people oppressed his own fellow people. According to Psalms 10:2, this is the work of pride. So we can see how dangerous it is for us to keep pride in the heart. If you want to turn our family into a happy one, a blissful one; if you want to witness harmony in the church, then we need to hate this evil. We need to depart from it. Then we will find that the entire church shall be filled with people of great humility and meekness. This is how we can pursue peace and humility in the church.
Speaks Evil of Others
Psalms 34:14“Depart from evil and do good, seek peace, and pursue it.”
Let’s look at another example from Scriptures.This Psalms was written by David when he was on the run from Saul. The background of this psalm can be found in 1 Samuel 21. We know at that time David was on the run. We are told that many people followed David. Initially there were about 400. We know those that followed David were those with troubles. The number eventually increased to 600. We find that this Psalms tells us about how David supervised these people.
11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
Can you imagine at that time David was pursued after by Saul? It was a very difficult situation to be in. So you know to remain truthful before God is not easy at all. So here David says to them, depart from evil. What evil is this? That is to speak evil. But that is in verse 13. But to depart from evil here is to not speak evil against others.
Sometimes we find that we are very careless with our words. We know that our words can either build up a person or can destroy a soul altogether. We can also see that careless words can break down a marriage. So we must be very careful with our tongues. We cannot allow our tongues become an instrument of evil.
I want you to read Psalms 17:3. This Psalms was written by David. We focus on the last part of verse 3.
You have tested my heart;
You have visited me in the night;
You have tried me and have found nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.
David was very determined not to sin against God with his mouth because a perverse mouth is an evil. Turn to the following passage to see how he controlled himself.
I said, “I will guard my ways,
Lest I sin with my tongue;
I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle,
While the wicked are before me.”
2 I was mute with silence,
I held my peace even from good;
And my sorrow was stirred up.
3 My heart was hot within me;
While I was musing, the fire burned.
Then I spoke with my tongue:
Psalm 39, if you read from verse 1 to verse 3, this section talks about how he guards his way and his tongue so that he does not sin against God when he is before the wicked. That’s why in verse 2 he says “I was mute with silence. I held my peace even from good.” So he did his very best to not utter words which are evil in God’s eyes.
But because he was in front of the wicked, that’s the sorrow from within that was stirred up. It’s like a fire being ablaze within him. But thankfully, he did not speak against men, but first spoke to God. Rather he first spoke to God. Here we can see how he controlled himself, his tongue. The Bible tells us, when God comes again, He will judge us on the words we have spoken. On the account of our words we are justified or condemned. We will see if we are justified or condemned. David gave us a very good example here.
Now we move to Psalms 40:9 This psalm was also written by David.
I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness
In the great assembly;
Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,
O Lord, You Yourself know.
However, in proclaiming the message of the Lord, David has never restrained his mouth. When speaking against others, David did whatever he could to stop himself of speaking ill against others. This is David. He was very determined and resolute because to speak ill of others is an evil, especially when we speak with malicious intent. That is an evil in the eyes of God. Let’s look at one final example.
- Depart from evil, and do good;
And dwell forevermore.
28 For the Lord loves justice,
And does not forsake His saints;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.
Fret Over Evil Things, Not Trust God
Here is another account asking us to depart from evil. The reason it gives us is in verse 28 “for the Lord loves justice.” In this chapter David talks about a certain situation. We first read Psalms 37:1 “Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
You know some time when evil things are done. This thing can grieve our hearts and can actually upset the balance of peace in our hearts. And sometimes even cause us to sin as a result. Here David says, do not fret because of evil doers.
There was a person in the Bible who was affected by evil people.
We can turn to Psalm 73:1-2
Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.
3For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
We know this person was a godly person initially because of a certain situation which almost caused him to stumble as in verse 3. So we find that the peace within his heart was upset. Even to the point where he wanted to leave God. So that is an evil when you become upset over evil things. Or to be caused to stumble because of evil is also an evil thing. That’s why we must not fret because of evil things of others.
We turn back to Psalms 37:3. How should we depart from this kind of evil? “Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.”
I’ll give you a very simple example. If someone in the church is not treating you well, sometimes it can really hurt you. What must you do? Continue to do good. Continue to do good on this person. This is how we can depart from evil.
For without cause they have hidden their net for me in a pit,
Which they have dug without cause for my life.
So we find that our focus must be on God all the time. Whether we are in peace or in trouble or whether we are well treated or ill-treated by others.
We focus on God. We trust in the Lord. This is how we can depart from evil.