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Knowing what to do

        Hebrews 5:14

 “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."

Isaiah 7:15

                “ Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good.”

Why is it that we do what we do? How do we know which path to take, which option to choose? How can we change our behavior patterns and make our lives better? These questions of course do not have simple one-sided answers- even biblically speaking. However, these two study verses open a window into understanding human behavior that will help us if we apply what they teach. To begin with, there is a difference between “knowing” something and “discerning” something. Simply stated, to know something is to have enough evidence that whatever you “know” is firmly established in your mind - it is typically beyond contestation. To discern something is to have almost no data with which to make a proper choice and yet make the correct choice anyway based on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When I asked the Lord to teach me this theory more succinctly, He said that knowing what to do determines our behavior patterns  but discerning the correct path manifests those behavior patterns. In Isaiah 7:15 {above} the passage speaks prophetically of Jesus the Messiah. He was taught His entire life that the correct behavior pattern was to refuse evil and choose good. As an aside, to eat curds and honey takes patience because neither of these foods are readily accessible at all times. There is a proper time to harvest honey and one must wait until milk curdles in order to have curds, thus one of the nuggets we can glean is that what is evil is usually more easily attained. Because Jesus was raised this way, His behavior pattern- what He knew to do- was to refuse evil and choose good. This established how He would react in any given situation. Hebrews 5:14, however gives clear direction for how to act out the behavior of refusing evil and choosing good. There were several times when Jesus could have chosen to do evil if He did not discern good and evil just by the mere fact that He was functioning as a man. For instance, when the woman who was caught in adultery was brought to Him. Since He “knew” to refuse evil and choose the good, He could have chosen to condemn the woman according to the Law of Moses- after all, the Bible says the Law is perfect. However, in that moment, Jesus took a few minutes to consult his Father- to discern between good and evil in this very specific situation so that He could be sure that what He was doing was in accordance with what He “knew” to do. 

    Hebrews 5:14 states that solid food belongs to those who are of full age - those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. We are not going to deal with the first half of this verse but the second. In order to be able to discern good and evil, one must have their senses exercised by using them. This is different than “knowing” to choose good and refuse evil because “knowing” how to behave generally occurs prior to and up to adulthood. {Of course adults can be taught to do new things, but this is a general statement.} Think of it as an adult getting hit by a car because they failed to look both ways. Witnesses to the event might say “They should know better than to do that.” This is how you should think of this “knowing” to refuse evil and choose good. Discernment, however, occurs on a case by case, moment by moment, decision by decision basis that directs the person into which is the evil and which is the good. 

    The word “senses” in Hebrews 5:14 means to organs of understanding. basically it means your mind/intellect. The word “exercised” is explained by Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament words to mean to exercise naked. Metaphorically then, we can say that the ability to properly discern comes from stripping our own mind of all its natural intellect and relying solely on the Holy Spirit to tell us which choice is the good and which the evil. The bottom line is this; knowing what to do serves us generally while discerning serves us situationally.  

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