A PASSION FOR A “HEART RELIGION”

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IN ROMANS 10:1, the apostle Paul says “Brethren, [with all] my heart’s desire and goodwill for [Israel], I long and pray to God that they may be saved” (AMP).

What is your heart’s desire?  

I think every person has desires in life, and often, intense desires.  I’m not sure its knowledge or wisdom, however, like Solomon asked for in 1 Kings 3:7-14.

My heart’s desire?

There are certain days when I want wisdom and knowledge, especially when reading God’s Word and preparing a bible study lesson.  But for the most part, it is probably not my greatest desire.  I seem to instead, get in my own way with selfishness.

THE “HEART” ( Hebrew lablab/lab, Greek cardia):

The word “heart” occurs over 1,000 times in the Bible, making it the most common anthropological term in Scripture.  It denotes a person’s center–physical and emotional-intellectual-moral activities (See footnote [i] ).

I want to focus here on the HEART as the Center of hidden emotional-intellectual-Moral Activity in this bible study.

  • In 1 Samuel 16:7, the LORD says to Samuel that the Lord looks at the heart.
  • The king’s heart is unsearchable (Proverbs 25:3), but the LORD searches all hearts to reward all according to their conduct (Jeremiah 17:10).
  • In the time of judgment, God will expose the hidden counsels of the heart (1 Corinthians 4:5).

JESUS says that the HEART’s secrets are betrayed by the MOUTH, even as a tree’s fruit reveals its nature (Matthew 12:33-34)–“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth,” says Solomon (Proverbs 16:23).

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS –

One deserved criticism tossed at me over the years in my ministering has been not being tactful at times.  But I saw how carefully thought out and tactfully worded Paul was in his letter to the church in Rome.  I’m still learning the lesson.

He spoke of UNITY in the body of Christ, and how we as members of that body belong to one another as he spoke of living in harmony. 

In the land of the Jews, it was the beginning of unrest and ultimately leading to rebellion, the destruction of Jerusalem.

Paul spoke of the different groupings within the Church, as the “weak” and the “strong.”  Some Jewish Christians had problems about what they might and might not eat.  Some kept particular solemn days in accordance with their Jewish traditions.  Paul encouraged the strong to be patient with the weaknesses–the spiritual immaturity of the weak.

Paul made it a point of the IMPARTIALITY of God and His dealings with JEWS and GENTILES.  ALL were under SIN, so what right had one group to feel superior to the other?

I found it amazing to see the passion of Paul in his words; the Apostle to the Gentiles, on behalf of his people Israel.  There was no doubt in his mind the HISTORY OF THE CHURCH bound up with the HISTORY OF ISRAEL.  It was “to the JEW first” that the gospel was preached.  As Jesus said, “salvation is of the Jews.”  

Paul’s own missionary procedure on arriving in a new city was to go first to the synagogue with the gospel and only after that to the gentiles.

However, the other nations would in time take part in the BLESSINGS of the GOSPEL MESSAGE.

Paul spoke of the UNITY of the Jew and Gentile within the church (Romans 15:8-9).

PROMISES WERE MADE –

The PROMISE to Abraham was…in him, ALL the families of the earth would be BLESSED!

In the meantime, Paul saddened by the fact that many Israelites had refused the GOSPEL.  He taught the Gentile Christians in Rome to bear with the infirmities–the shortcomings–of their Jewish brothers and sisters since the CHURCH wouldn’t exist without them.  Paul fervently prayed that ISRAEL might be SAVED!

The TRAGEDY of his people?  

They were seeking their own RIGHTEOUSNESS by the works of the Law.  Yet God’s LAW is impossible to keep; we are ALL sinners and fall short of the glory of God.

We cannot cancel out sin, our rebellion against God by multiplying our good deeds.

The ONLY WAY is….through Christ Jesus, who is “the end of the law” (Romans 10:4).

If we are to be made RIGHTEOUS before God, it’s only through RIGHTEOUSNESS of our LORD JESUS.  We RECEIVE righteousness by FAITH in Him alone!

Moses envisioned a place in time, that the children of Israel would have broken the LAW and been driven from their land.  Yet God still addresses His ancient people by calling them back to Himself, not through WORKS but in the spirit and in FAITH.

According to Paul, the OBJECT of the FAITH can only be the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10):

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No longer able to fulfill the LAW by works of righteousness, we are called to A HEART RELIGION.

WHOEVER BELIEVES in Christ JESUS will not be ashamed.  

WHOEVER CALLS upon His name will be SAVED!

I’ve never understood why, when pastors ask at the end of a church service for hands raised in accepting Christ, then asks that every head should bow (‘no peeking, please!’).  The bible says, “If you  CONFESS with your mouth”…THAT’S WORDS spoken with lips. 

Perhaps they don’t want the person to be embarrassed.  But if that is truly the explanation–the reasoning–then Romans 10:11 makes no sense:  “No man who believes in Him will ever be put to shame…”

HEART BELIEF –

Heart Belief is a sincere and personal acceptance of the TRUTH which God has revealed.

The WORD OF GOD near to us is in our mouth and in our heart; testifies to our inability to keep the LAW OF GOD; testifies our sinfulness; it testifies that the wages of sin IS DEATH–which is eternal separation from God.

It TESTIFIES of our NEED for a savior…

It TESTIFIES that Jesus Christ is the ONLY SAVIOR of sinners!  He laid down HIS LIFE for our SINS and God raised Him from the dead so that we might live in Him.

Thus FAITH is not merely an arrangement of facts of the Gospel.  Even the demons believe in the TRUTH of the Gospel–and tremble!

SINCERE FAITH leads to public confession of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It is not an easy CONFESSION to make, as the community in Rome during Paul’s stay can attest to.

On one hand, an opposition of those within the synagogue; on the other, the civil authorities and state religions feeling threatened by claims of Jesus’ Lordship.

CONFESSION OF FAITH strengthens the new believer.

It brings with it the ASSURANCE, the confidence that we are on the side of the Victor.  It’s a clear announcement of intent within the spiritual warfare and it is a challenge to those who hear!

BAPTISM–One way in which we CONFESS our FAITH.

With the waters of BAPTISM, we PUBLICALLY & OPENLY say farewell to our old way of life and initiated into the community of believers.

To be BAPTIZED into Christ Jesus is to DIE TO SIN, TO BE BURIED in His death, and to RISE again in the newness of life (Romans 6:3-5).  

“Behold, the fresh and new has come!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Paul was concerned that the GOSPEL–THE GOOD NEWS was heard by both Jew & Gentile.

FAITH comes by hearing, and hearing by the WORD of God, so it is necessary to proclaim the name of the LORD to the world.  His name is JESUS. (10:17)

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QUESTION:  How can one hear unless someone speaks or preaches?

That question certainly puts a lot of responsibility on us as believers–to make sure what we say in person or what we say on Social Media…is what JESUS would say!

The word translated “PREACH”, evangelizo, is a word with rich meaning.  The word can be translated, HERALD.

A HERALD acted as a public announcer, delivering a message from a King.  The MESSAGE was given to the HERALD from the King and the Herald took the message to the community–The HERALD spoke for the King!  When the HERALD was speaking, it was as though the KING himself was speaking.

But there’s a CATCH!

The Herald was simply to proclaim the MESSAGE he was given by the King. The HERALD couldn’t ADD, SUBTRACT, ALTER OR CHANGE the Message in ANYWAY!

So when we PREACH to others, we are speaking for JESUS, but ONLY when we speak HIS Message.

So are we willing, is it our HEART’S DESIRE to be seen as some’s BEAUTIFUL FEET?

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If no one goes, then there is no MESSAGE delivered.

We are living in a dying world that is depending on YOU to let them HEAR Jesus through YOU!  And that should be our HEART’S DESIRE…OUR PASSION!!!

 


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS:

Footnote [i]:  bible study tools.Dictionary

Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP).

Bible Dictionary:  VINE’S Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

More STUFF from the Minor Prophets: WHEN STUPID DECISIONS ARE MADE…WHAT THEN?

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF MICAH:

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Back in 2005, the FBI received reliable information about a sitting member of the U.S. Congress illegally using his official position to solicit bribes from American companies.

The congressman in question was William (Bill) J. Jefferson, who had been serving Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district since 1991.  In the FBI investigation, it was revealed from 2000 to 2005, Mr. Jefferson sought hundreds of millions of dollars for himself and other co-conspirators from companies whose success depended on the approval of certain U.S. and West African government agencies.  Mr. Jefferson ended up pocketing more than $478,000 but wasted significantly more in U.S. government resources to further his illegal claims.

During the investigation, the FBI–while serving a search warrant on his residence–found $90,000 in Jefferson’s freezer.

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In August of 2009, Mr. Jefferson was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison.   [See Footnote [i] for source.]

CORRUPTION IS STILL ALIVE AND WELL!!!

We hear similar stories to this of BRIBERY in other parts of the world all the time–India, China, and Russia all typically repeat offenders–but it’s not something we expect to happen in our own backyard.  We’re better than that, right?  I’d like to think so, but that doesn’t stop people from making STUPID DECISIONS!

When people make stupid decisions, they have to face the consequences–a trial in a courtroom perhaps–but in Bible times,  bad decisions meant something even harsher, like FIRE & BRIMSTONE, right?

Usually, YES; that is unless you count the time that GOD brings Israel to court for IMMORALITY.

LOOKING AT THE BOOK OF MICAH, Chapter 6:

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In Chapter 6, verses 1-8 are read like a courtroom drama: “Law and Order: Jerusalem Crimes”.

You start first with the PROSECUTION, in verses 1-5:  I can almost hear a southern lawyer, yelling this today–‘God is demanding that the people explain their actions!’  You see, at this point, the ISRAELITES were extremely corrupt and in self-denial.

In Micah 2:8-9 (NIV)–the EVIDENCE presented:

[8]  Lately My people have risen up like an enemy.  You strip off the rich robe from those who pass by without a care, like men returning from battle.  [9]  You drive the women of My people from their pleasant homes.  You take away My blessing from their children forever.

In Chapter 3, God calls out the LEADERSHIP specifically–verses 1-5 (Amplified Bible):

[1]  And I [Micah] said, Hear, I pray you, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel!  Is it not for you to know justice?–

[2]  You who hate the good and love the evil, who pluck and steal the skin from off [My people] and their flesh from off their bones;

[3]  Yes, you who eat the flesh of my people and strip their skin from off them, who break their bones and chop them in pieces as for the pot, like meat in a big kettle.

[4]  Then will they cry to the Lord, but He will not answer them; He will even hide His face from them at that time because they have made their deeds evil.

[5]  Thus says the Lord:  Concerning the false prophets who make My people err when they have anything good to bite with their teeth they cry, Peace; and whoever gives them nothing to chew, against him they declare a sanctified war.

In Chapter 7, God lists more specifics!

Micah 7:2-3 (NET):

[2] Faithful men have disappeared from the land; there are no godly men left.  They all wait in ambush so they can shed blood; they hunt their own brother with a net.

[3] They are determined to be experts at doing evil; government officials and judges take bribes, prominent men make demands, and they all do what is necessary to satisfy them.

Sounds a bit like William Jefferson did!

So in Micah 6:1-5, the JURY is selected…and, the PROSECUTION begins.

The LORD’S Case Against Israel

“Listen to what the LORD says;  “Stand up, plead My case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say.  Hear, you mountains, the LORD’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth.  For the LORD has a case against His people; He is lodging a charge against Israel.”  (Verses 1-2, NIV Bible).

The “mountains”, the “hills”, the foundations of the earth” are selected for the unshakable JURY.

In the Gospel of Luke (19:40), it says if we’re all silent, the “ROCKS” themselves will cry out in praise–is it then too much to think that mountains, hill’s and the foundations of the earth serve as a JURY if asked to by their Creator?

NEXT, God is asking the defense,  “Why are you doing this to me? What have I done to deserve this?”

He then begins to list off what He has done like it says in VERSE 5–God wants to make sure the Israelites “know the righteous acts of the LORD”–[Num. 23:7-24; 24:3-24; Josh. 3:1; 4:19].

What comes next is such a human reaction to the charges–

THE PEOPLE want to jump to the other extreme!  They go from not listening to God’s commandments at all–to wanting to go overboard with burnt offerings, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of olive oil…”TEN THOUSAND RIVERS”?  REALLY?  Perhaps a little dramatic?

But this was their thinking.  They were like the criminal who, overcome with GUILT, tells the cops to throw him in jail, throw away the key and let him starve to death in solitary confinement because he did something wrong.

And you know what?

The Israelites deserved every one of those things.  They disrespected the Creator of the universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  God would be well within His rights to point His finger and zap them all with lightning bolts!  BUT…as a loving Father, He doesn’t.

IN VERSE 8, God tells them what He wants; what He requires.

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That sums it up!

God doesn’t care about these huge, outward displays of GUILT–HE’S GOD!

He knows how you’re feeling, and whether your GUILT is legit or not.  All He wants is for you to follow Him.  That is the very definition of MERCY!

Let’s go back to the Courtroom Drama with the lawyers and the jury.

God says, It’s OK!  I will continue to BLESS you, and this is how.”  

Micah 7:11-12 (NIV):

[11]  “The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries.

[12]  In that day people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.”

So what does this all mean to us–today–right now?

It means that if we sin–if you do something to DISRESPECT God or to ANGER God, He doesn’t expect you to flip a little switch and become a SuperChristian to make up for it!

All God wants is for you to follow Him–the rest of it will take care of itself if you do that.  And when you do sin–and let’s face it, it will happen–don’t wallow in SELF-PITY and make absurd promises to God that you know you can’t keep:  

“God, I’m so sorry that I cheated on my math test that I’m going to eat nothing but bread and water for the rest of my life!”  I think you get the idea.

Instead, just be honest with God–admit that you’ve sinned–and go back to following Him.  THAT’S ALL HE WANTS!!!

 

 


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS –

Footnote [i]:  https://www.fbi.gov/news/…/a-look-back-at-the-william-j-jefferson-corrupotion-case/

Photos:  Google Image Search & Freezer Photo taken from Footnote [i] story.

Bible Translations Used:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

What’s the ‘FINAL STRAW’?

Well, it’s finally the end of football season except for the playoff games and of course…The Super Bowl.  We all have our favorite teams, and I’m no exception.  My Seattle Seahawks, again are in the playoffs, and the 12’s, the Seahawk Fans, are ‘Ready for some football’!

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The old Monday Night Football song featured Hank Williams Jr. singing, “Are you ready for some football?”, was something I looked forward to every week.  And for the most part, the games were absolutely worth waiting for.  They were PREMIER MATCHUPS of equally matched teams, bound to have some wonderful surprises with some extraordinary highlights.

In THE BOOK OF AMOS in the Old Testament, we can also see a premier matchup of teams NOT equally matched at all.  

BUT…there are still bound to be some probably NOT so wonderful surprises but some extraordinary highlights!

TEXT:  AMOS 5:18-24 (NIV)

The Day of the Lord

[18] Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord!  Why do you long for the day of the Lord?  That day will be darkness, not light.

[19]  It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.

[20]  Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light–pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

[21]  “I hate, I despise your religious festivals, your assemblies are a stench to me.

[22]  Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.  Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them.

[23]  Away with the noise of your songs!  I will not listen to the music of your harps.

[24]  But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

First, let’s look at the prophet Amos:

Contrary to what you might think, AMOS was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet to begin with(7:14).  He was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees…actually, a wild fig or mulberry fig tree.

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A DRESSER is better translated as a bruiser.  Sycamore trees had a fig-like fruit.  In order to make the fruit ripen and sugar content, he would take a long stick and tap them and bruise them.  AMOS picked these for a living and since the FRUIT wasn’t particularly good tasting, only the poor people ate it.  [See footnote [i] ]

So while AMOS was tending sheep and dressing trees…he became aware of the conditions of his day.

Today’s awareness of surrounding world conditions, might be around the water cooler.

Amos’ day conditions were discussed around a sycamore tree or while he was herding the sheep as caravans passed along a well-traveled highway.

WHAT WERE THE CONDITIONS?

Wealth abounded…actually, it was an either or situation.  On one hand there was luxury and self-indulgence, and on the other…there was absolutely miserable poverty.  I’m sure you have seen videos of the homeless camps fixed under overpasses in our cities today.

  • The GOVERNMENT was corrupt…there was evidence of extortion…there was riots and violence in the streets and CLASS was hated.
  • Dishonesty was the rule rather than the exception and there was also a gross indifference to the suffering.

The RELIGIOUS conditions followed the same pattern

Outwardly, it seemed that RELIGION was thriving in and around the center of population…attendance soared while the treasuries bulged…BUT…inside there was sickness.

The priests were professional leeches.  They would preach exactly what would tickle the ears of the people.

IMMORALITY was practiced in the name of Jehovah God…

There was so much hypocrisy and insincerity in the assemblies while real RIGHTEOUSNESS was hated and oppressed, sometimes violently.

In my study this past week, all this became painful for me to read and understand. This period of PEACE and God’s GRACE…instead of being grateful to God for their peace and prosperity He had given…they used this time to plunge into the pool of sin.

Much like America is today…outwardly it seems like things are going pretty well…BUT on the inside, decay and rottenness.

AMOS saw the JUDGMENT of God coming upon the nation but the greatest threat, then and now, lies in the religious community!!!

In Chapters 1 & 2…AMOS speaks of JUDGMENT on the surrounding nations. The people really like that part.  Notice that Amos repeats the phrase, “For three sins…even four” (vs. 4, 6).

He uses this formula to focus attention on the FINAL ITEM–GOD’S ‘FINAL STRAW’!

AMOS doesn’t list the first three sins, but moves directly to the fourth, bringing the JUDGMENT of God down to the actual audience to whom the message is directed–ISRAEL.

That brings me to the ‘Final Straw’ portion of this blog-study:

THE DAY OF THE LORD (Chapter 5):

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Israelites of Old Testament times looked for the day when God would intervene in the affairs of the world, righting the wrongs and establishing His rule on the earth.

For the first time in Scripture, the concept of the DAY OF THE LORD is introduced. The term appears only in the prophetic.

What do we think when we hear the term?  Do we think of the time when JESUS will come back for His bride, the church?  Or, that glorious time when we’ll leave this old world and go to heaven?  “Oh, what a glorious day that will be!”

AMOS gives us a clear picture of what the Day of the LORD would be like for the people.  1st it would be a time of DARKNESS–not light.  

People thought it would be a bright, happy time of celebration…tickertape parades…dancing in the streets, etc..  Instead, it would be a time of unparalleled hopelessness…There would be no place for them to escape the JUDGMENT OF GOD!

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He says it would be like a man who would run from a lion only to meet a bear; from something ferocious to something even worse!

In desperation this man manages to reach his house–a place of safety and shelter. He arrives breathless, leans his hand against the wall to catch his breath…and as he does, hidden in some crevice, a snake bites him.  The DEATH he thought he would escape awaited him at his own house.  NO SAFETY…NO ESCAPE anywhere!

Verse 20:  Not only DARKNESS…

[20] Don’t you realize the LORD’S day of judgment will bring darkness, not light–gloomy blackness, not bright light?  (NET Bible)

This is a far cry from the joyful expectations the people of Israel had.

In VERSES 21-24, AMOS gives details of some of the things that helped bring on this JUDGMENT…THE FINAL STRAW:

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Each of the ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS of their worship was examined and in each case…they were totally rejected by God.

What God required was not the RITUAL or the OFFERING, but rather RIGHTEOUSNESS in the courts, in the marketplace, in every aspect of their conduct, because this is what it takes to WORSHIP GOD…not the outward show.

But these “saints” all still performed their duty on occasion…and think it will be enough to cause God to overlook the SIN in their everyday life.

But their COMMITMENT to God is revealed in their lifestyles.

They pretended to REJOICE, to Praise the LORD…they had their solemn assembly for their worship.  ALL the right moves…ALL the right notions…

BUT God HATED and DESPISED it.  He said take it away…Get it out! (verse 22).

How About the WORSHIP MUSIC in the Congregation?

Vs. 23 – Away with the noise of your songs…

MUSIC was an important part of their worship, as it is today in our church services.  —HOW COULD THEY MESS THAT UP?

It had all the right words…the music was sweet to the ears, but it wasn’t offered to God…it was just the next step in the process.

–HOW ABOUT US?

When we sing, do we mean what we say?

Now, this has not been all too pleasant reading so far…it’s been pretty negative.  But when God deals harshly with His people, it’s always REDEMPTIVE in nature.

It’s never meant to beat you down…rather, it’s to help us get our focus back on Him.

That brings us to VERSE 24 – BUT…LET JUSTICE ROLL!

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What is AMOS referring to here?

He wants us to do a turn-around!  Act justly.  Be honest!  That means in our everyday life, in our dealings with others…whether business or social relationships.  Don’t take unfair advantage and treat everyone as God Himself would treat them.

It also means being HONEST before God…recognizing our true nature–who we are in Christ Jesus.

RIGHTEOUSNESS like a never-ending stream.

JESUS said, “He that drinks of the water that I give…out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters”  (John 7:38 – KJV).

That’s what is available for you and I today.  We need to examine ourselves where we are in life…examine our motives–honestly, and make whatever adjustments the Holy Spirit tells us to do.  And then, and only then, can we truly long for THE DAY OF THE LORD.

 


CREDITS –

Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

Footnote [i] :  Dr. Claude Mariottini – Professor of Old Testament, AMOS’ Occupation, June 17, 2014. 

 

 

IN THE UPCOMING NEW YEAR…Put On Your Seat Belts And Hold On!

SCRIPTURE, JOEL 2:21-27:

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Looking at JOEL, chapter 2 in this BLOG-STUDY, we read that an invasion had taken place in Israel; an invasion of “locusts” that stripped God’s people of everything, and I mean everything (Joel 1:4-20).

What those nasty swarming locusts did to the people, our persistent ‘nasty’ sins will do to us.  Our only HOPE is to recognize God’s CALL:

“Return to Me with ALL your heart” (Joel 2:12)

To those who turn to the LORD in REPENTANCE, regardless of the sins that envelope them, He promised…

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten–” (v. 25)

The Land That Suffered Under God’s Judgement Would Be BLESSED!

There is a “now, but not yet” taste to this passage of Scripture.

Eventually in the new heavens and the new earth, in the consummation of ALL THINGS, the Church will see the total fulfillment of God’s PROMISES here.

RESTORATION is the work of the LORD alone;  “Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things!”

JOEL maintains a “prophetic” observance forming part of the New Year ritual.

QUESTION:  So how will God RENEW us in 2017?

  • NO FEAR (vs. 21-22):

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FEAR is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.  It prepares us either to run from or fight against the presumed danger [ *See footnote [i] ].

The BIBLE uses words like fear, afraid, terror, dread, anxiety, tremble, shake and quake over 850 times to portray the center core of our emotions.

We are fragile beings, given to fears of every kind.  We have a built-in insecurity that no amount of ‘whistling in the dark’ can lessen the anxiety.

FEAR attacks the most precious parts of our life, keeping us from living the life God meant for us.  So God wants to help us overcome our insecurities; our fears as we learn to “FEAR NOT!”

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control”  (2 Timothy 1:7 – AMP).

With everything that’s going on in the world today, the SPIRIT OF FEAR seems to be working overtime!  BUT…the “spirit of fear” doesn’t come from God, crippling to anyone who holds on to it.  SATAN wants us to be overwhelmed so we cannot accomplish the things we need to do.  Remember, if God is for us, no one (including the devil) can be against us!

The Land Had Suffered…

The prophet Joel has vividly pointed out the impact from the drought connected with the locust devastation on the land; BUT NOW…the call is to JOY and GLADNESS.  Things are now reversed.  Instead of mourning, exaltation; instead of sadness, there’s joy and gladness; instead of ‘the day of the Lord’–the very great and terrible FEAR, there is “FEAR NOT”!

We can conquer our fears!

To admit that we are afraid is to admit that we are human.  But to admit being afraid and then trusting the Lord and going forward will take the FEAR out of FEAR.

FIRST MONTH OF FORMER/LATTER RAIN (vs. 23-24)

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ISRAEL has a Mediterranean climate with long, hot, rainless summers and relatively short, cool, rainy winters.  Rainfall is unevenly distributed, significantly lower in the south of the country [Wikipedia].

Bible history also shows that the patriarchs, like Abraham, dug wells wherever they went with quarrels of water.  Thus, RAIN was directly correlated with the livelihood of the people in Israel; their survival was threatened when it didn’t rain!

THE FORMER RAIN–

The FORMER RAIN should fall enough to yield a good harvest for the upcoming year.  

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Since there is no rain during the dry season, it’s impossible to cultivate farmland unless it rains.  That is why the FARMERS wait with anticipation for the FORMER RAIN while getting ready to farm for the year (James 5:7):

[7] Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn ans spring rains (NIV).

The former and latter rains, which comes at the right time for farming in Israel, is a BLESSING from God.  So most of the RAIN recorded in the Bible figuratively, represents God’s GRACE & BLESSINGS poured out on His people.

Physical farming in ISRAEL, controlled by RAIN, represents the GOSPEL work of God spiritually (Mt. 13:24-30; 36-40).

The two special rains in the farming season–the former and latter rain (Autumn & Spring rains)–represent the Holy Spirit that God gives us in spiritual farming.

THE PROPHECY OF THE LATTER RAIN–

The coming down of the “latter rain” at the HARVEST TIME is to be fulfilled through the work of the Holy Spirit, which in turn, God POURS OUT on us for the Gospel Work of gathering God’s people represented by the WHEAT, from the ends of the earth, in the SPIRITUAL HARVEST TIME.

Now is the age of the Feast of Tabernacles–

It is the spiritual fruiting season–when we should ask our Heavenly Father, who rules and manages ALL THINGS, to pour out on us the Holy Spirit of the latter rain.

As gospel workers, we are to accomplish the amazing work of the Holy Spirit by preaching the “good news”–the Gospel; boldly being clothed with the abundant GRACE of the Holy Spirit our Heavenly Father has poured out.

This is what we need church in our day!

  • WE NEED the Lord to open the windows of Heaven to erase the spiritual drought we’ve been living under of late.
  • WE NEED Him to send the heavenly RAINS upon us one more time.
  • WE NEED Him to give back everything the enemy has tried to take away from us.
  • WE NEED revival of His manifest presence among His people.
  • WE NEED power in our services.
  • WE NEED a revival of holiness in the church.

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WE NEED REVIVAL!!!

Oh that God’s people would SEEK His face and ask Him for the move of God we so desperately need in these last days.  This should be at the top of our prayers!

RESTORATION (vs. 25-26 a.):

Whatever the ENEMY has taken away from you, God wants to RESTORE IT!  God wants to make it better than before!!  That’s the kind of Father He is.

Every day we have CHOICES put before us.  We can be tempted to get hurt, wounded, or sometimes, depressed.  And believe me, I’ve been down this beaten path before over my lifetime.

We can complain and remain in the same awful condition, OR…we can PRAISE God and be raised up.

ISRAEL’S CROPS had been destroyed by a LOCUST INVASION

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AND, the impact lasted more than one year.  When locust destroyed the crop, they wiped out the SEED saved the previous year and the HARVEST of the current year and the SEED that would be used the next year.  It was a multi-year impact on the people.

JOEL 2:25 now complements the preceding verse, which says,

And I will restore or replace for you the years that the locust has eaten–the hopping locust, the stripping locust, and the crawling locust…”

Joel has used the LOCUST INVASION as an illustration of God’s judgment.  In His promise to “restore/replace” the years lost to the locust, God is pledging to RESTORE His repentant people with a place of BLESSING after judgment.

THE TEXT describes other positive things that would take place during this RESTORATION:

  • GREEN PASTURES for livestock in verse 22.
  • TREES & VINES that bear fruit–verse 22.
  • THE SPRING & SUMMER RAINS would come as needed for a good crop in verse 23.

And the RESULT of the RESTORATION would be physical and spiritual:

— THE PHYSICAL:  “You will have plenty to eat, until you are full” – verse 26.

— THE SPIRITUAL:  “You will praise the name of the Lord your God” – verse 26.

God’s ultimate desire is not to punish His children, but to RESTORE them!

He PROMISED to send new wine, grain and oil.

He PROMISED never to make them an object of scorn among the nations.

In addition, He PROMISED to drive the “army.”

NO DISGRACE HERE!  (vs. 26 b.-27).

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The prophet JOEL is talking about the FUTURE PROSPERITY of the church–the ABUNDANCE of spiritual food that the church will not be in shame or sorrow.

BUT…when much is given–much is required from us.  There is an EXPECTATION from God; ALL these plentiful provisions we enjoy are going to testify that there is only ONE God–the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who is also the ‘Great I AM.’  In no way or form will the body of Christ (the CHURCH) be disgraced.

In today’s headlines, we see many nations trying to DISGRACE Israel…but not entirely.  Their negligence of God, by cutting Him off from their lives, has escalated them to this position.

Our nation is walking down the same road that Israel took centuries ago and lost all their blessings.  So it becomes imperative that the church rises up and takes hold of their responsibility in leading the people in a godly way and direction so that they are RENEWED!

The PROMISE of ‘no shame’ to God’s people.

This PROMISE is mentioned twice in this passage of Scripture, solidifying the seriousness of God to bestow this on His people.

If we are going to call ourselves ‘children of God,’ we can’t take this lightly–but should hold tight to this assurance and allow God to RENEW us in the New Year.

Now the ROAD to get there at times may be rough–we may be deceived by the enemy; that we will not be granted with this BLESSING, but when God is with us, we will surely get there!

My desire is to be a ‘BARNABAS’ [*Bible Study Tools, Barnabas meaning] to my readers in the upcoming New Year by encouraging and articulating in the year of 2017, bringing RENEWAL and ABUNDANCE that God offers to all of our lives!

For that FIRST and FOREMOST, we must…

  • Fear not!
  • Enjoy the blessings of the latter and former rain.
  • Accept God’s restoration plan for our life.
  • You shall not be put to shame and know that He alone is God and there is no other!

So get ready, and buckle up, and hold on!!!

 


CREDITS & fOOTNOTE:

Footnote [i]:  Google Dictionary for FEAR.

Photos:  Google IMAGE Search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified bible (AMP), unless noted in the text.

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.