The biblical definition of despise is not the way we define the word despise. We often use the word despise in a way synonymous with the word hate, or detest. And you know what? That’s just the way the devil wants us to define and use that word. Because no serious minded Christian would say, “I hate (despise) God’s Word.” Yet in the biblical definition, we have probably all been guilty of despising God’s Word in one way or another…and here’s why…
The word despise in the Bible means to “make little of,” or “to minimize,” or “to take no thought for.” This is what it meant in Hebrews 12:2 when it is spoken of Christ that “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, DESPISING the shame...” This means that compared to the joy that Christ would enjoy by dying for our sins, He took little thought of the shame He was subjected to during His earthly ministry and subsequent crucifixion. The shame He felt paled in comparison for what He gained in the end.
So get this down…to despise means to lower something in comparison to anything else you feel is far more worth it in the end. Christ’s atonement allowing billions the opportunity to be saved was far more worth it in the end for Christ than the shame He endured…therefore He was said to have DESPISED the shame. He “made little of it.” He “minimized it” comparatively speaking. He “took no thought for it” but kept His eyes focused on what was more important.
In 2nd Chronicles 36:16, after a succession of terrible kings who “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord,” it was said of Israel: “But they mocked the messengers of God, and DESPISED His words, and misused the prophets…” So, at the very least, we have to agree, and go from the premise that it is well within the realm of possibility that God’s people can indeed “make little of,” “minimize,” and “take no thought for” God’s Word.
In Nehemiah chapter eight we find a people who have had a drought of the preaching and hearing of God’s Word. That is until they had enough and called for Ezra the prophet to read the Word of God. Chapter eight is a good study to see the opposite of despise as Israel in this account did anything but despise God’s Word.
In just the first eleven verses, we find truths regarding God’s Word and what it looks like when a people DON’T despise His Word. Over the next several postings, I will take each of the eleven lessons to be learned and expound on them. To do it all in one posting would be much too voluminous. I wouldn’t be able to give each point the attention it deserves, save for expounding on each one in an individual lesson.
But one thing is for sure, God will not be mocked. In Nehemiah 8:17, after NOT despising, minimizing, making little of, or taking no thought nor God’s Word, they applied what they were taught by Ezra and “There was very great gladness.” Contrast that statement with 2nd Chronicles 36:16 where we are told Israel DESPISED God’s Word and “…the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy.”