Fair Weather Friends

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Wealth has a way of cheapening our friendships.

Revelation(52) (Part of the Jesus Unveiled(51) series)
by Stuart Johns(68) on December 23, 2018 (Sunday Morning(85))

Compromise(3), Salvation(12), Wealth(1)

Jesus Unveiled

Fair Weather Friends

(Revelation 18:9-20)

 

INTRODUCTION

“In January 2013, a team of ‘dental hygiene experts’ and design gurus gathered in Germany and decided the modern toothbrush needed a makeover. The resulting product: a $3,200 Euro (about $4,300 USD), full-titanium toothbrush. The company's website offers a video that likens its creation to a world-class sports car:

 

Undulating curves of the sleek and slender body encompass elegance and sumptuousness. A unique design … German precision engineering … A decisively lightweight full-titanium body which has unparalleled durable strength. The accomplished silhouette captures elegance and timelessness where beauty, functionality and utility complement each other. A timeless luxury is now an option.

 

Their entry-level ‘Premium’ package price includes one ‘everlasting’ titanium toothbrush in a color of your choice, one titanium toothbrush holder (with ‘anti-slip pad’), a bumper, and what they call ‘Fresh Service’ for three years—every six months, they'll send you six bristle heads (choice of soft or medium) and a new bumper. You can also personalize it with an engraving for an extra $540. But keep in mind that after the three year ‘Premium’ plan runs out, you'll need to pay a few hundred bucks for another upgrade. Who said luxury was cheap?”

 

[Adapted from Zachary Crockett, “The $4,000 Toothbrush,” Priceonomics blog (8-7-14)].

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2014/august/6082514.html]

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Fair weather friend

        • My best friend in California worked for Sony PlayStation

        • He designed the menus for video games on the PlayStation Portable (PSP) system

        • He was able to get games, systems, and controllers at a deep employee discount

          • It was nice to be able to get games and a gaming system at a cheaper price than in the retail stores

          • If I only based my friendship with him on his employee discount with Sony, that would be really self-centered and shallow

          • We had already moved back to PA before he was laid off from Sony

          • Our friendship continues to this day, because our relationship wasn’t based on his employee discount

        • It was based on something much more significant

    • Discipleship and study of God’s Word

        • This friend of mine accepted the Lord while we were living in California

        • I wasn’t part of his salvation experience

        • His wife attended church with us and she had invited him to the beach baptism and cookout in Oceanside

        • While we were there, she and Judy encouraged me to talk with him

        • So, I started a conversation with him and we found out that we shared some common interests – one of those being video games

        • The rest is history

          • They hosted the small group Bible study that I facilitated

          • We would play video games together

          • We worked on cars together

          • We fished together

          • I enjoyed his incredible cooking abilities

          • I answered all the questions he had about Christianity as he grew in his faith

          • We still connect from time-to-time

          • We got to see he and his wife and two boys while we were on the mission trip in Spokane, WA – they drove up from Oregon, where they live now

  • WE

    • School

        • The desire to be part of the “in” crowd can cause us to develop friendships based on shallow things

          • Those friendships are cheapened, because they’re based on our own selfish desires, instead of a desire to really get to know someone

          • We may strive to befriend someone who plays sports, or is really talented with drama, or is a cheerleader, etc.

          • We may even do things that we would never think of doing in order to be accepted

        • When you find that true best friend, it’s completely different

          • Many times the relationship isn’t based on having to do anything specific to be accepted, but rather on shared interests

          • The relationship actually enriches your life instead of cheapening it

    • Work/Church/Neighborhood

        • The same is true for adults in the workplace, neighborhood, and even church

        • There may be times that we have tried to befriend someone because they have a boat, are successful at hunting and fishing, have a nice car, a nice house/property, or more money or connections than we have

        • The motive behind trying to befriend that person is to see what kind of benefit we can get from the relationship – it’s all self-centered

        • Think for a moment then of those we call our best friends

          • There is no pressure to act, talk, or be a certain way around them

          • We can be ourselves

          • We enjoy just being together with them whether or not we do anything special

          • We aren’t looking for how we can benefit, but rather how we can be a blessing to them

 

John hears the lament of three groups of people in Revelation 18:9-19. ​​ They are all upset that the great city has fallen. ​​ They’re not upset that the inhabitants of the great city are dead, but rather that they will no longer be able to benefit from her power and wealth. ​​ John wants us to understand that . . .

BIG IDEA – Wealth has a way of cheapening our friendships.

 

Now the opposite of that is also true – true friendships have a way of enriching our lives.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Revelation 18:9-20)

    • King’s Lament (vv. 9-10)

        • Who are the kings of the earth?

          • These are not the same kings that we were introduced to in Rev. 17:16 that joined with the beast to destroy the great city

          • These are “the governing heads of all nations who have entered into questionable trade with the commercial center of the ancient world.” ​​ [Mounce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 331]

          • We’ve already discussed what they did with the great city/prostitute, but it is mentioned here again

            • Committed adultery – they committed themselves to the false religion of the beast, which included sexual immorality and idolatry

            • Shared her luxury – they embraced the kind of over-the-top lifestyle that the great city afforded them

          • The kings of the earth loved what she could provide for them, but they never truly loved her [Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition: ​​ Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 277]

          • When the kings of the earth see the smoke of her burning, they do three things

        • Their reaction to the great city’s destruction

          • Weep – it’s not quietly crying alone, but rather crying out loud (others would hear the weeping of the kings)

          • Mourn – this is again not something that’s done quietly, but rather a beating of the chest

          • Stand far off

            • They are not standing far off out of respect for the dead, but rather out of fear for the great cities torment

            • They do not want to get caught up in the great judgment and punishment of their lover

            • Notice that they aren’t rushing in to help the great city that gave them power and wealth

            • PRINCIPLE – Judgment or difficult times reveal the motives of those who are close to us.

              • The kings of the earth only wanted to be close to the great city when it was prosperous and met their needs for sensual desires and luxurious living

              • When judgment came, they didn’t want anything to do with the great city

              • It’s reminiscent of the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32)

                • He took his portion of his inheritance and went to a far off land

                • He lived the high life and squandered his inheritance

                • While the passage doesn’t mention friends, it’s assumed that his “wild living” involved other people

                • Once the money was gone, so were his “friends”

                • He had to hire himself out to a citizen of the country where he was living

                • Even though he had invested in other people, no one was investing in him

              • The same is true for us today

                • We may have friendships that we maintain simply because of the benefits we receive from the friendship

                  • Some of us do this with God

                  • We maintain a surface/nominal relationship with Him, so we can go to Him when difficulties come

                  • During those times we make promises to God and we spend more time at church, in prayer, and in His Word, hoping that He will help us out

                  • What normally happens after He helps us out, is we return to maintaining the surface/nominal relationship with Him until the next difficult thing comes along

                  • God’s desire for us is to have a true relationship with Him

                  • When we have a true relationship with Him, it enriches our lives

                  • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Confess that my relationship with God is based on how He can benefit me.

                  • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Maintain a true relationship with God, so that my life will be enriched.

                • We may realize that some people only want to be our friends because they’re trying to receive some kind of benefit from us

                  • We hear stories all the time of those who win the lottery, realizing that they have long lost relatives that have finally found them

                  • The same can happen when a family member dies and leaves an inheritance for the survivors – everyone scrambles to claim a portion of the inheritance – they’re your best friend

                • Wealth has a way of cheapening our friendships and relationships – it reveals our true motives

          • The kings of the earth are weeping and mourning, because of the loss of power and luxury (it is self-serving sorrow they are experiencing)

        • Their lament

          • All three groups start their lament the same way, “‘Woe! ​​ Woe, O great city . . .’”

          • After that each group is more specific about what they have lost as a result of the great cities destruction

          • For the kings of the earth they are lamenting the loss of power – it was political power that caused them to be wealthy and influential

          • All three groups mention the swiftness with which destruction comes, In one hour . . .

            • This is probably not a literal hour of time, but rather a literary way of saying that her destruction did not take long

            • God’s judgment will be swift and complete and the world will recognize it as such

            • The kings of the earth are shocked at how quickly this city of power and strength was destroyed

          • John then hears about a second group that is lamenting the destruction of the great city – it’s the merchants

    • Merchant’s Lament (vv. 11-17a)

        • Their reaction to the great city’s destruction

          • Weep and mourn

            • Again it’s a loud crying mixed with the beating of the chest

            • They are not weeping and mourning for the dead, but because no one buys their merchandise any more

              • They grew wealthy because of the luxuries that the great city demanded from around the world

              • Nothing was beyond their financial ability to obtain

              • Money was of no concern

              • Again, we see the sorrow of a self-serving group of people

            • Their friendship with those in the great city is of less importance than the wealth they accumulated from them

            • Wealth has a way of cheapening our friendships and relationships

            • Had they developed true friendships with those in the city, they would have wept and mourned at the loss of a rich relationship

          • Recognize that riches and splendor are gone forever

            • The merchants will say what everyone of us realizes, the pleasures and possessions of this world will one day vanish, never to be recovered

            • PRINCIPLE – The riches of this world are temporary.

              • Every great kingdom of this world strives to accumulate wealth and possessions

              • The worldly belief system is that wealth and possessions prove success

                • King Solomon perhaps pursued every conceivable form of satisfaction in this world

                • He was wealthier than anyone had ever been

                • He had everything his heart desired

                • He had wisdom from God

                • And yet, the book of Ecclesiastes expresses his findings, that everything is meaningless (wisdom, pleasures, folly, toil, advancement, riches)

                • He recognizes that there is a time for everything

                • His conclusion at the end of the book is profound

                • Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: ​​ Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. ​​ For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

                • God is all-knowing, just, and sovereign

                • He desires for us to have true relationship with Him, so that He can enrich our lives

              • Application

                • Perhaps you’ve been pursuing the riches of this world at the expense of relationships

                • It’s a part of our culture today that we have to have what our parents have, although it took them many years to get to that point

                • We also live in a culture that desires to have everything, right now

                • We’re living above our means, which creates stress and lowers our life expectancy

                • We have to hold multiple jobs in order to maintain our lifestyle

                • Both parents have to work, leaving daycare, before and after school care to train and teach our children

                • Our non-verbal communication with our children is that they are not important

                • We take Sunday as our day off and fill it fun activities instead of going to church

                • We need to heed Solomon’s wisdom – everything is meaningless – the pleasures and possessions of this world are meaningless and temporary

                • We should be pursuing activities that will last into eternity

                  • Sharing the Gospel with those around us

                  • Praying on a regular basis

                  • Studying God’s Word

                  • Being in fellowship with other believers

                  • Serving the poor, the widow, and the orphan

                  • Worshiping the Lord corporately and individually

                  • Making disciples for Jesus

                  • Giving back to God a portion of what He has allowed us to steward

                  • Pursuing, Growing, and Multiplying Disciples (Matt. 28:18-20)

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Admit that I have been pursuing the riches of this world, and make the change to pursue activities that will last into eternity.

            • We see then that the merchants also stand far off

          • Stand far off

            • They are also terrified of her torment

            • They don’t want to be get caught up in her punishment

            • The motive behind their relationship with her is revealed

            • They were only interested in selling their wares to the people of the great city and gaining wealth as a result

            • Wealth has a way of cheapening our friendships and relationships.

        • The cargo they sold

          • Easley [Holman New Testament Commentary, Revelation, 332-33] and Osborne [Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Revelation, 648-50] provide more detailed information about all of the cargo and where it would have been shipped from, to Rome, in the 1st Century

          • Precious stones and metals (gold, silver, precious stones, pearls)

            • Gold was so prevalent in the first half of the 1st Century that the wealthy began to import and use silver as an expression of wealth

            • Pearls were considered the most luxurious of jewels (Julius Caesar gave Servilia one worth $18,000 in today’s currency)

            • Wealthy women would use multiple pearls to decorate their hair

          • Luxurious fabrics (fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth)

            • The dye used to make purple cloth came from the murex (a shellfish) and was extracted one drop at a time (labor intensive)

            • The dye for scarlet cloth came from certain berries

            • All of the fabrics were hand made with countless hours of work put into them, therefore they were very expensive

          • Expensive wood and building materials (citron wood, ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron, and marble)

            • Citron wood was highly prized for its beautiful grain patterns (show picture of citron wood cabinet)

              • Tables made from citron wood with ivory legs were very popular, especially with men [Osborne, 648]

              • Cicero paid what would be equivalent to $2.5 million for a single table and Gallus Asinius paid $5 million for one table [Osborne, 648]

            • The costly wood probably included cedar, maple, cyprus, and ebony

            • The bronze from Corinth was well known for its quality and highly valued

            • I believe if there was a $4,300 full-bronze toothbrush available in the 1st Century, the wealthy would have ordered it from Achaia.com (the region where Corinth was) and had it shipped, literally

          • Spices and perfumes (cinnamon and spice, incense, myrrh and frankincense)

            • It is not like the cinnamon we use today, but was for incense, perfume, and medicine

            • Spice (Amomum) was used primarily as a hair fragrance

            • Myrrh came from Somalia and was very expensive, because it was one of the most popular perfumes

            • Frankincense was half the cost of myrrh and also came from Somalia

            • It is not by coincidence that the Magi from the east gave baby Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh

              • Read Matthew 2:1-12

              • They recognized that He was a king worthy of such expensive gifts

              • Frankincense and myrrh were also used during the burial process, which could have been a foreshadowing of Jesus’ purpose in coming from heaven to earth to take our punishment for sin by dying on the cross, being buried, and coming alive again

                • That is what we celebrate during Christmas – the birth of Jesus

                • Our celebration shouldn’t stop at just His birth

                • His birth was just the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s plan to deal with humanity’s sin (Rom. 3:23; Rom. 6:23)

                • Jesus grew up to be a man and at the age of 33, He willingly gave His life on the cross to take our punishment for sin (1 Cor. 15:3b-4)

                • John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ​​ For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Believe in Jesus as my Savior and receive God’s gift of eternal life.

            • Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of lords, so the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were appropriate for him when the Magi came

            • Spices and perfumes were not the only thing that the Roman Empire purchased from the merchants, they also purchased food items

          • Food items (wine and olive oil, fine flour and wheat)

            • Pliny and Aristides expressed the extravagance that Rome was known for

            • “At one of Nero’s banquets the Egyptian roses alone cost nearly $100,000. ​​ Vitellius had a penchant for delicacies like peacocks’ brains and nightingales’ tongues. ​​ In his reign of less than one year he spent $20,000,000, mostly on food.” ​​ [Mounce, 332]

            • Another commentary lists the breasts of doves as another delicacy that Vitellius had a penchant for

              • I can believe that, because I know there is not much meat on a dove and they are not easy to hit with a shotgun

              • My brother is an avid dove hunter, but I’ve never gotten into that part of hunting

              • I say that dove meat is the most expensive wild game there is, because you have to use a lot of shotgun shells to get a little bit of meat

              • I enjoy shooting clay pigeons, but they don’t taste very good – they’re chalky and muddy tasting

          • Animals (cattle, sheep, horse, carriages)

            • The animals that were imported were not for eating

            • The cattle were beasts of burden used to pull carts and plow fields

            • The sheep were used as breeding stock to help with the wool production

            • Horses were used in chariot racing, riding, and for pulling carriages

          • Slave market (bodies and souls of men)

            • It has been estimated that there were 60,000,000 slaves in the Roman Empire in the 1st Century

            • These slaves were more than just bodies, they were created in the image of God

        • Their lament

          • As noted in the lament of the kings of the earth there are two elements that are repeated – the Woe! ​​ Woe, O great city and the swiftness of God’s punishment (one hour)

          • The merchants point out the items they had sold to the great city/prostitute (fine linen, purple and scarlet, gold, precious stones and pearls)

          • They are only concerned that her great wealth has been brought to ruin so quickly

          • They are lamenting their own loss

        • The merchants had to import many of the items that they sold to those in the great city, which required a transportation system

        • That group is the final one that laments the destruction of the great city

    • Maritime Worker’s Lament (v. 17b-19)

        • Who are the maritime workers?

          • Sea captain – not the owner of the ship, but the one who steered it

          • Passengers, which probably included the merchants (all who travel by ship)

          • Sailors, dock hands, fishermen, pearl divers, etc. (all who earn their living from the sea)

        • Their reaction to the great city’s destruction

          • They are weeping and mourning because they had become wealthy through providing transportation for all of the merchandise the great city wanted

          • They also threw dust on their heads

            • This was an outward expression of deep distress and mourning

            • “Their mourning is even more elaborate than that of the others, for throwing dust on their heads is intense grief.” ​​ [Easley, 335]

            • Perhaps they realized more than the kings of the earth and the merchants that the economic bubble had burst and they would had to return to scraping out a living on the sea

          • Stand far off

            • As with the other two groups, the maritime workers are not willing to help the great city in her distress

            • They only wanted to be associated with her when things were going well and money was flowing

            • Once the money stopped flowing they were not interested in being part of her destruction

            • Wealth has a way of cheapening our friendships and relationships.

          • Their exclamation

            • “Was there ever a city like this great city?”

            • They were caught up by the wealth, power, and splendor of the great city

            • This parallels the statement by the inhabitants of the earth concerning the beast in Revelation 13:4, Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? ​​ Who can make war against him?”

            • The expected answer to both of these questions is “no” and “no one”

              • Yet we know that there is a greater city coming down from heaven someday – the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:1-27)

              • We also know that there is someone greater than the beast, who did and will make war against him and be victorious – Jesus Christ!

          • This brings us to their lament

        • Their lament

          • Again we see the repeated elements at the beginning and end of their lament

            • Woe! ​​ Woe, O great city

            • The swiftness of their ruin

          • The center section focuses again on what they have lost since the city has been destroyed

          • They became rich from her desire for wealth and luxuries

    • Rejoicing (v. 20)

        • At first blush, we may bristle as the thought of rejoicing over the destruction of a great city, filled with people

          • We may feel like that is calloused and out of place

          • But, we have to understand the context here

          • The verb is in the imperative, meaning that those who are to rejoice are commanded to do it

        • Those who are to rejoice

          • This command is directed to heaven

          • Mounce points out that it is the church glorified that is being commanded to rejoice – the ones who remained faithful to the end and gave their lives for the Gospel [Mounce, 336]

          • Those in heaven include the saints, apostles, and prophets

        • The reason why they are to rejoice

          • The reason they are rejoicing is not because people have been destroyed, but because God has kept His promise to judge the inhabitants of the earth for the way they treated His people

          • God’s justice has finally been fulfilled

          • “The rejoicing does not arrive out of a selfish spirit of revenge but out of a fulfilled hope that God has defended the honor of his just name by not leaving sin unpunished and by showing his people to have been in the right and the verdict rendered by the ungodly world against his saints to be wrong.” ​​ [Beale cited by Osborne, 655]

          • PRINCIPLE – As God’s children, we can rejoice in His justice.

 

CONCLUSION

“It is easy for us to believe that life as we know it will go on forever. ​​ We are, of course, aware of the ebb and flow caused by wear and natural calamity. ​​ By and large, civilization as a whole seems to make progress. ​​ The Renaissance gave way to the Age of Reason. ​​ The Enlightenment paved the way for the Industrial Age. ​​ The twentieth century – interrupted by two world wars – ultimately reaped great harvest in areas such as medical and communications technology. ​​ Despite problems such as crime and terrorism, world civilization appears able to march on forever.

 

The message of Revelation 18 is that what is seen is temporary and subject to the judgment of Almighty God. ​​ On the other hand, Babylon the Great provides power, privilege, and prestige to those willing to be seduced by her spell. ​​ Monarchs, merchants, and mariners are among those who taste her pleasures and lament her demise. ​​ On the other hand, Babylon moves forward on the misery of human slavery, moving people away from true religion into impurity. ​​ She is always hostile to the things of God; in fact, the blood of all Christian martyrs drips from her hands.

 

If this is true, the Christians of every age need to evaluate the call to “Come out of her, my people.” ​​ Only those who refuse to share her sins will not receive any of her plagues. ​​ Two exclamations summarize the two opposing responses to Babylon’s death. ​​ On one hand are those who cry “woe,” because they, too, have been condemned. ​​ On the other hand are those who cry “hallelujah,” (19:1) because the martyrs have been avenged at last. ​​ The choices we make now will determine whether one day we cray “woe” or “hallelujah.” ​​ [Easley, 337]

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