John Gipson, a former preacher in Arkansas, likes to tell about his memories of trains, which seemed to pass endlessly through his childhood home of Midland, Texas, carrying petroleum products in every direction.
One of his stories is about the sound of the train whistle as it approaches a crossing. Just about all of us have heard those whistles; some have experienced close calls or even have been killed because they failed to hear or pay attention to the warnings.
My wife, Carole, also grew up hearing trains pass near her home in Montgomery, Ala. Like many others, she eventually became so used to the sound of the trains, she was no longer really conscious of them. As loud as those warnings can be, it’s amazing they simply can cease to register with us.
Although some don’t realize it, there is a spiritual parallel to these train whistles in the Bible. God’s word gives countless warnings against the danger of sin and its consequences. I’m sure that many, regardless of whether they read the Bible, have at least heard of some of them.
One example is a warning about the importance of understanding the difference between spiritual values and earthly standards. Jesus responded to a question about the kingdom of heaven, saying, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). She, of course, paid with her life for failing to obey the warning of God not to look back at the destruction of Sodom as she and her family fled (see Genesis 19).
Another warning from Jesus is found toward the end of His sermon on the Mount: “Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
This may be one of the most misunderstood warnings in Scripture. Many times the confusion comes because false teachers aren’t always easy to recognize due to their deceitful nature.
Tragically, Jesus’ word of warning is even ignored sometimes because of that deceitfulness. Few people want to believe that others would intentionally teach what is false, and some simply refuse to accept it.
In his final letter to his spiritual son, Timothy, the apostle Paul warned him to “flee the evil desires of youth” (2 Timothy 2:22). Of course, he understood that no age is free from the temptation to go against God’s will. But some desires seem to plague especially those who are relatively young. Paul did add the positive instruction for Timothy to “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
The Bible is literally full of spiritual train whistles intended to warn us of spiritual danger and death. We need to listen to those whistles and heed his loving warnings.