Some years ago I had an extremely sore foot, and had to walk with great pain. Many times during that period I was grateful for the person who invented the crutch (or cane)—something to lean on.
Isaiah the prophet tells about a cane—a cane that was splintered and broken. It was still hanging together, but it had been cracked—and if anyone put weight on it—it would break apart, and the sharp splintered end of the cane would pierce the hand that’s leaning on it. Isaiah 36:6 says, “Lo, [you are trusting] in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; [on which] if a man lean, it will go into his hand and pierce it; so is Pharaoh, king of Egypt to all that trust in him.”
An enemy nation (Assyria) was making plans to invade Israel. The Assyrian king had sent his chief army officer up to Jerusalem ahead of time, to make a speech to the people—hoping to get them to surrender.
The people of Israel had depended on Egypt for weapons and horses, and during the course of his speech, the Syrian army captain made reference to Israel’s reliance on Egypt for military assistance—and in essence said, “Folks—you are leaning on a broken staff!” In other words, if you keep on putting your trust in the Egyptians—it’s going to be like a man leaning on a cane—but the cane was splintered and cracked, so that when he leaned on it, the sharp end of the cane would go up through his hand! “If you go to Egypt for help, you’re leaning on a broken cane—and in the end you are going to suffer injury.”
The Lord himself says the same thing in Isaiah 31:1—He says, “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help.”
If you ask the average person in our communities what he wants above all else in life, a common answer will be something like this: “I want to be happy” or, “I want life to be meaningful.” Most of us might say the same thing: We wish our friends “a happy New Year.” We congratulate a newly married couple with the words, “May you have a long happy life together.”
The thing we must keep in mind however is that God has a plan for happiness—but Satan also has a counterfeit plan. And those folks who follow the devil’s suggestions for happiness will find that each of his suggestions is like leaning on a broken staff, and soon the sharp, splintered, broken cane will pierce the hand—and will let a trail of misery and sorrow and bitterness in their lives.
There are a number of splintered canes upon which people tend to put their weight—hoping to find support and to bring them happiness.
1. Riches and Material Things
In the realm of material things, many of us never had it so good. I was born in 1930, and grew up in America during the years of the Great Depression. Money was not plentiful (I was given one penny every Wednesday noon to stop at the store on the way back to school, and buy a piece of candy). Mother washed our clothes on a scrub-board. We didn’t have a refrigerator or an indoor bathroom. Our 1928 Chevrolet did not have a heater. We had to crank it to start it. We wrapped blankets over our feet and legs to keep warm in winter time, when making the 8-mile journey to church services on a Sunday morning.
Today, most families in America have freezers with food in them, clothes that are warm, and we have automobiles with heaters. Most people in the Western World have much more than the bare necessities of life. There are all kinds of gadgets and trinkets and vehicles—snowmobiles, mini-bikes, calculators, digital watches, laptop computers, and dozens of other toys.
If an abundance of things brings happiness and contentment—then our generation should be the most contented people in all of human history! But one of the most deceptive philosophies in all the world, is the idea that riches and things will bring everything your heart longs for.
Solomon (in Old Testament times) was a man of great material wealth: He purchased possessions, built houses, planted trees, constructed pools of water—and had servants and maidens. Ecclesiastes 2:4-10 describes all that—and then Solomon says in essence, “I had great possessions of cattle above all who were in Jerusalem; I gathered silver and gold, and bought musical instruments . . . and whatever my eyes desired, I did not withhold from them.”
- Solomon’s wealth was immense!
- his palace was magnificent!
- his household was huge!
- if he wanted to do anything, he did it!
- if he wanted to buy anything, he bought it!
Solomon’s wealth had become so great that it became headline news all over the world. The Queen of Sheba came up to Palestine (from down in Arabia), to verify the claims she had heard about this fabulous Jewish king. She heard about Solomon, but she thought that perhaps the reports were exaggerated (as reports often are)—but she was amazed when she came to see for herself.
The reports had actually been understated! Solomon was much wealthier than the reports had made him out to be—and when she saw all of Solomon’s riches (the houses, the trees, the pools of water, the magnificent palace)—she was so stunned by his achievements that she exclaimed, “The half has not been told me!”
Did all this material wealth make Solomon happy? Did it fill the emptiness of his human heart? Listen to his own words in Ecclesiastes 2:11—“Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on [what] I labored to do; and behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”
Some of the most miserable people we meet are those who have every luxury this life could offer. I talked with a man some years ago near the city of Philadelphia. He was wealthy. He showed the trophies he had received for all his accomplishments—and then as we were about to part, when confronted with the need to get ready for the life to come—he said: “I’m sick within, and I’m sick without.”
If you put the treasures of earth, and material things, before the things of God, you are going to wake up some day finding your life void and empty. The person whose happiness depends upon material things here on earth—is like a man who leans on a broken staff!
2. Foolishness and Illicit Pleasures
Today the affections of multitudes are on dancing and races and bowling and football and watching movies and playing with the computer. Some say, “I’m only going to live once, so I may as well have a good time while I’m living!”
Some expect happiness to come through feasting and reveling and card-playing—and in attending circuses and races—in crowds and laughter and noise and merry-making.
The little poem says:
I’m gonna live before I die,
I’m gonna laugh instead of cry,
I’m gonna have my fling, before the angels sing;
I’m not gonna miss a thing!
I’m gonna fill my cup, before my number’s up,
I’m gonna live like the devil, until I’m an angel;
I’m gonna live, live, live!!
But people who drink and dance and enjoy worldly pleasures, soon find that there is no real and lasting peace in those things at all. The end of that kind of foolishness—is heaviness. Proverbs 14:13 says, “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness.”
Perhaps the most common sinful pleasure in our society today centers on illicit sexual activity. Books and magazines—and most of all, the Internet—are filled with pornographic materials that tell all about the pleasures of sex—and how to have freedom without being bound by marriage and by biblical morals. Many consider marriage only a joke! There are fewer and fewer people who regard the sacredness of the marriage vows as God intended they should be regarded.
Multitudes seem to think that illicit relationships with persons of the opposite sex (or today, even of the same sex)—will bring happiness. But the Bible says that “the lips of a strange woman (lit. ‘of another man’s wife’) drop as honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil, but her end is bitter as wormwood, [and] sharp as a two-edged sword” (Proverbs 5:3-4).
The married woman who flirts with (and becomes familiar with) a man other than her own husband—is a dangerous woman. Any woman who can be enticed away from her husband (in the first place toward another man)—can also be enticed away from the foolish man who won her affection from her original husband! If the man who attracted the woman away from her true husband—really stopped to think seriously—he would conclude like this: “If I can get this woman away from her own husband, then certainly some other person can come along, and get her away from me!”
The man who becomes infatuated with another man’s wife, and runs away with her, will find himself eventually pierced through with many sorrows! Cheating on your spouse is a violation of God’s Law! Illicit affections never bring happiness. They are like a splintered cane—that will pierce your heart in the end!
There is pleasure in noise and laughter—and in illicit sexual activity. When the lights are on, and the music plays, and the alcoholic beverages flow—laughter comes easily—yet, when the frolic is over, and the lights go out, and the crowd goes home—life remains empty! Those who seek happiness in illicit pleasures are leaning on a broken staff, and the sharp points will pierce the hand in the end.
3. Alcohol and Harmful Drugs
Drugs are substances which by their nature have an affect on the mind and on the body. By the age of 17, seventy percent of all young people in the USA have sampled harmful drugs.
Drugs are primarily of two kinds:
- Amphetamines are stimulants—drugs which tend to give energy, wake a person up, and make the user feel like doing things!
- Barbiturates are sedatives—drugs that depress the mind and the action of the nerves, thus leading to sluggishness, difficulty in thinking, and faulty judgment.
One of the most powerful stimulant drugs is cocaine—and there are hundreds of kinds of barbiturates; the most commonly used barbiturate is marijuana. However, the number-one most dangerous drug in our communities today—is alcohol.
- it alters the mood.
- it depresses the central nervous system.
- it eventually causes physical dependence.
Those who become addicted to alcohol, find that it is difficult to relax in the evening without a glass of wine or a shot of whiskey. At first, a few ounces of wine help to reduce tensions, but as time goes on—additional quantities are required in order to ease the anxieties—and all too soon one can become addicted.
Liquor never brings permanent satisfaction. A friend told me one time that he drinks to drown his troubles—but you can’t drown troubles. Troubles know how to swim—and when the drinking is all over, you’re going to be facing the same old problems all over again. One who is under the influence of alcohol—for a short while is transported out of the land of hard reality into a land of make-believe—and there, for a while, he can laugh at his problems, and shrug his shoulders at life—but when the drug wears off, he (or she) is right back where he started!
Drinking is not the answer to happiness in life. It never drowns troubles—it only prolongs them—and then adds new problems to those that already exist.
Satan offers many attractions in alcoholic drink.
- people seem friendlier.
- life seems more cheerful.
- responsibilities lose their hold on the mind.
But where does it all end? Proverbs 23:21 says, “The drunkard . . . shall come to poverty”—and verses 31-32 instruct us not to gaze at wine . . . when it sparkles in the cup . . . for in the end it bites like a serpent and it poisons like a viper. The alcohol is soon absorbed into the blood stream, and it drugs the mind. The brain relaxes control over mental restrictions. Things that normally would sound profane—now sound funny. What would normally seem illicit—now seems proper.
Some of our youth (some of your grandchildren) are likely going to college to get training for a particular kind of work. Be aware that nearly all colleges allow drinking binges over the weekend! Please keep in mind that the person who drinks moderately (and carefully avoids excesses)—never really expects to become a drunkard.
Satan never says at the beginning:
- I’m going to take away your power to hold a job.
- I’m going to take away the love of your wife.
- I’m going to take away the respect of your children.
- I’m going to cause you to be buried in a pauper’s grave.
- I’m going to see that you wake up in a drunkard’s hell.
Satan never says those things at the beginning! Instead, he shows how care-free and gay the crowd becomes, and he offers excuses like:
- “I’m no worse than your church members.”
- “My father and grandfather drank beer, and they went to Heaven.”
- “The Lord makes the wheat grow, and lets it ferment; surely there can’t be anything wrong with it.”
But in all my experience I never heard anyone say, “I drink because drinking and boozing help me onward in my journey toward Heaven!” My friends — “wine is a mocker; strong drink is raging—and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1). If you start taking illicit drugs and drinking alcoholic beverages, you are leaning on a broken staff!
4. Morality and Good Deeds
We want to consider one additional way by which we can be leaning on a broken staff. Many Christians would fully agree that wine is a mocker and strong drink is raging, and whoever is deceived by them is not wise.
Some persons, however, count on church membership, and being a good neighbor, and hope that by these things alone—that they can make it to Heaven. The Pharisees (you may remember) fasted and tithed and made long prayers, but they still were outside the scope of God’s will.
Until an individual humbly acknowledges his sinful nature, and believes the message that Jesus Christ is the only Mediator between God and man—the only means by which we can become reconciled to a holy God—until one takes those steps there is no hope! It’s easy to attend Sunday morning church services—and even be actively engaged in the work of the church—but at the same time, proudly expect to be saved by the person’s own good deeds.
- I try to be a Good Samaritan
- I make an effort to live by the Golden Rule
- I’m not really a bad person
- I don’t abuse my wife
- I don’t booze and get drunk
Still others say—
- I’ve been baptized and confirmed when I was only a few weeks old
- I don’t need to hear all these words about repentance and the new birth
All this may sound impressive—but the fact is, that deep down within, there are times when you have drives and goals and attitudes which you know are not pleasing to God—and until you acknowledge your need of forgiveness, you’ll never find peace with God! Frankly—you are leaning on a broken staff!
Real peace and happiness do not come from wealth and material goods. They do not come from alcohol and drugs. Peace does not come from engaging in worldly pleasures, nor does it come from participating in religious formalism. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon tried all the things the world could offer, and concluded with the words, “Vanity of vanities . . . all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). However, when Solomon turned to the Lord (Ecclesiastes 8:12), he said, “Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God.”
Jesus is the one strong solid cane that we can safely lean upon. He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
- Jesus is the way—everything else is a dead-end street.
- Jesus is the truth—everything else is a lie (Buddha/Vishnu/Allah are imaginary gods).
- Jesus is the life—everything else is the way of eternal death.
Jesus will save you for eternity, and forgive every sin you’ve ever committed, if you will accept Him as the King of your life.