It’s beneficial for a society to promote the idea of looking out for your fellow man, but there are also instances, as we all know, where it’s best to look out for ourselves for self-preservation. If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you know the flight attendants will instruct you that if the cabin pressure is compromised and oxygen is needed, each adult must put on their oxygen mask first before they assist a child with getting oxygen.
When it comes to how God operates, he is pleased when we exercise self-preservation through obeying him. As he told us in Ezekiel 14:
13 Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:
14 Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.
15 If I cause noisome beasts to pass through the land, and they spoil it, so that it be desolate, that no man may pass through because of the beasts:
16 Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters; they only shall be delivered, but the land shall be desolate.
17 Or if I bring a sword upon that land, and say, Sword, go through the land; so that I cut off man and beast from it:
18 Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves.
19 Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my fury upon it in blood, to cut off from it man and beast:
20 Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness.
The righteousness the Lord spoke of was the “imputed” righteousness that believers receive from God only through grace by faith in him. The three men he used as examples of this righteousness–Noah, Daniel, and Job–lived in different time periods from each other, had different challenges, and different occupations but had several things in common, such as:
- They lived holy lives set apart for God.
- They all remained faithful to Jehovah when they were isolated and rejected by their peers.
- They were all seriously tested.
- They all prevailed over their harsh circumstances in the end by their faithfulness.
- They interceded on behalf of the lost and preached to them.
They cared for their fellow man out of love and desired for their peers to be saved, but in the end when God’s judgment was handed down, they had to be concerned with their own actions and lives in order to please God so they could be saved themselves. This theme will ring true until the Lord creates the new heavens and new earth. Just like Jesus cried over Jerusalem, the city was still destroyed a few decades later. Noah preached for 120 years, but the Earth and the majority of its population were still destroyed by water.
This in no way means that intercession and preaching to the lost are a waste of time. It just means that in the midst of interceding and sharing the gospel, especially in these last days, one must realize that ultimately each individual can only be responsible for their own deliverance from God’s judgments that have and will come. One must exercise spiritual self-preservation. The Lord repeats this message in several places in the Bible, including the parable of the 10 virgins where five virgins were wise to prepare enough oil to last them in a crucial time and they did not share with the five who were foolish [Matthew 25].
Harry A. Gaylord