People Show Up In Unexpected Places Doing Unexpected Things!

Scripture Study:  Amos 1:1-2; 7:10-16

Have you ever noticed how sometimes people arise out of the strangest corners of society, making a great splash, getting involved in things you never expected, and doing quite well at it?

Take for example Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest men in the world, who in his 30’s, soft-spoken, came out of nowhere, a college drop out and started “Microsoft”.

It happens with political figures and it happens in sports.  When people like this show up on the scene making a big splash, and succeed, generally it’s a pleasure to watch it all unfold.  It also makes good fodder and coffee shop talk.

But sometimes, it can be quite annoying, as well.

People show up in unexpected places doing unexpected things, and we don’t like it.

They can be intimidating. They’re a nuisance.  It rubs us the wrong way; it goes against the grain.

Take AMOS, in the Bible –

A PROPHET who came out of nowhere into a Nation going along quite smoothly at the time, speaking a MESSAGE that was…quite disturbing?  And doing it rather effectively.

The people didn’t appreciate him!

The authorities certainly were irritated!!

Understanding Conditions In The Time of Amos –

HE PROPHECIED…

Amos 1:1-2 (AMP) –

[1] THE WORDS of Amos, who was among the herdsmen and sheep masters of Tekoa, which he saw [in divine revelation] concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.  [Zech. 14:5.]

[2] And he said, The Lord roars out of Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem; then the pastures of the shepherds mourn and the top of [Mount] Carmel dries up.  [Isa. 42:13; Jer. 25:30; Joel 3:16].

GOD’S WORD OARS LIKE A LION

AMOS began prophesying during the reigns of King Uzziah and Jeroboam II around 760-750 BC.

It was a time of great prosperity in the land.

If Israel and Judah had the Stock Market back then, it would have been breaking all previous records.

Economically, politically, and militarily, things were going well for both Israel and Judah.

However, all that said, it was also a time for IDOLATRY…extravagant indulgences in luxurious living, immorality, corruption, and oppression of the poor.

ISRAEL, God’s chosen people, were living high on the hog.  They knew it and were smug about it.

Now the GLORY was present alright and the Israelites figured by looking around at all their successes, God was on their side.

They deserved the BLESSINGS they got.  Nobody and nothing would ever take it away!

Into that kind of cesspool of SIN & ARROGANCE stepped Amos, one shepherd of Tekoa.

Don’t think of Amos in the same breath as the shepherds of Bethlehem–a lowly bunch of farm hands, rejected by the population at large.

The word used in chapter one for “shepherd” is also used with the reference to the King of Moab–2 Kings 3-4.  There its translated as “raiser of sheep”.  [footnote [1].]

Amos, like the King of Moab, was a sheep dealer or trader, one significantly more wealthy than a mere shepherd or hired hand.

Amos was a man of means.  That’s also verified in chapter 7 of Amos (Amos 7:12-14).  

He is not into it for the cash.  “I was a herdsman and took care of sycamore-fig trees.”

A Shepherd Gone ‘NUTS’? …

In study and putting things together about Amos…it appears that he was a man of diversity; rather a wealthy agriculturist of sorts.

Now it is this man, who knew his livestock, who had diversified his interests of fruit-growing, that was CALLED BY GOD and compelled by the Holy Spirit to speak to Israel.

Into a nation with a well-established system and hierarchy of prophets and priests and kings, a nation of wealth and power and terrific esteem wanders this merchant from Judah–an unlikely man with an unlikely MESSAGE in an unlikely way!

“Are you nuts, Amos?”

Why, do you think, he does it?

I had to ask the question myself.

Why lay aside a profitable business to head north and then rip a strip off of the people who could easily ruin him economically, or even kill him at the drop of a hat?

Let’s face it.  Being a PROPHET coming out with guns blazing on God’s behalf as Amos does, was no small matter.  It wasn’t without considerable risk!

Amos was quite aware and acquainted with the culture of the day from all his business trips within the borders of Israel and her surrounding heathen neighbors.  The practices and injustices of the day would have been seemingly obvious to him.

And then, as one unknown bible teacher remarked,  “One day the word of the Lord came to him.  Amos heard God speaking to him, just as clearly as one might hear a lion roaring in the wilderness of Judah.  God had a task for Amos; he was to speak to Israel.  He was commanded to bring a message from God as he made his trips to the markets.  In God’s name, he was to protest against the sins of Israel.  He was to announce God’s judgments.”  

Amos 7:15 (AMP)…

[15]  And the Lord took me as I followed the flock and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to My people Israel.”

As had happened before…

Happened again to other men and women in the history of God’s people.

God’s Holy Spirit spoke to Amos’ spirit giving him an unmistakable MESSAGE of what would happen if things didn’t change quick.

It came in the form of thoughts, strong compulsions, and vivid visions.

POWERFUL…Like the ROAR OF A LION!  (Amos 1:2)

And AMOS couldn’t–he just couldn’t–ignore and leave it alone!

If A LION ROARS…who doesn’t fear?

If GOD SPEAKS…who can BUT go out in OBEDIENCE & PROPHECY?

This was a rare occurrence.  Amos lived in the Old Testament era, where the movement of the Holy Spirit within someone was rare.  Only a select few were touched by the LORD.  Only a select few ever received guidance from Him.

Amos lived in the same covenantal age as did Moses, who cried out “Are you jealous for my sake?  I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit on them!”  (Num. 11:29 – NIV)

So this unlikely candidate–a farmer, not a PK (preacher’s kid), not a seminary student or a son of a priestly family, or someone with a prophetic lineage–this unlikely candidate heads out with a message of the Lord, a stern message!

THE LION ROARED through Amos…(verse 2)

Mount Carmel would wither.

CARMEL, was, by the way, an important mountain in Israel, a place of great fertility–strategic for agriculture, a symbol of the lands well-being.

Their  ‘well-being’, in other words, was about to come to a screeching halt.

So as you might suspect, Amos’ message wasn’t well received.  That is extremely clear when looking at Amaziah’s response to the MESSAGE in Chapter 7.

Amaziah represented the Israelite establishment, the power-brokers.  He was an office-bearer, anointed as PRIEST, representative of the King.

Here comes AMOS…

Amos’ message condemns the religious life of the people in which Amaziah was in charge of caring for that “religious life.”  Of course, he’d be upset.  I mean, who wants to hear negative things said about you and your people?  If God wanted to speak, let Him do it through the proper, designated channels.

Says Amaziah,  “Go home, Amos.  Take your silly games and pronouncements and go back to Judah.  Quit dabbling in what you don’t know anything about.”

Amos responds, “Sorry.  No can do.  When God says ‘Go’, you don’t say ‘No’.  Oh, and by the way…Your goose is cooked!”

AMOS, A Fellow Colleague of Ours –

Yes, I said that.  A fellow prophet, just as we are PROPHETS!

I mentioned that Amos lived in the time when the Spirit of God came only occasionally to people, the time when few were prophets.

That has all changed!

The CRY of Moses,  “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!”  has been answered.

PENTECOST has come.

The Holy Spirit has descended and indwells ALL who are BELIEVERS in Christ Jesus.

As Peter says in Acts 2:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, God declares, that I will pour out of My Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and your daughters shall PROPHESY [telling forth the divine counsels], and your young men shall see visions (divinely granted appearances), and your old men shall dream [divinely suggested] dreams”  (Acts 2:17 in the Amplified Bible).

WE ARE IN THAT AGE–every believer a PROPHET.  You and me too!

In many ways we are like Amaziah,  We like things neat and orderly.  If messages of a spiritual nature have to be spoken, let them come in the right way at the right time from only the right people.  Anything else is somewhat irksome…or, we shrug it off as irrelevant.  We read scripture that says, “Always be prepared to give an account of the hope that is within you”;

AND…

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though Christ were making His appeal through us”; and somehow we seem to always manage to discount that.

  • I’m no good at that.
  • That’s the job for the Pastor.
  • I don’t know anyone I could speak to.

We might even mutter under our breath, “Who do they think they are, anyway?  Who gave them the authorization?” — words that echo Amaziah’s words, “Who does this sheep-herder think he is, anyway?”

Do we stand as BELIEVERS more with Amos or Amaziah?

Are we willing to take up the mantel…to accept the fact that being a Christian in the New Testament age means to have the Holy Spirit, and to have the Holy Spirit means that we are Prophets and that we are PROPHETS means, WE MUST SPEAK!!!

We find ourselves in a day and age relatively complacent and comfortable in our beliefs.

In the midst of that COMFORT, there are people wandering in all manner of spiritual directions…

IN DARKNESS, away from a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  The end result of the wanderings is certain–DEATH.

Though they may not hear it themselves, THE WORD OF GOD ROARS LIKE A LION, searing the top of Carmel.

That WORD has been given to us!

So as Amos replies to Amaziah with a somewhat sarcastic retort,  “How can we BUT prophecy?”  

IT WON’T BE EASY…

The reaction from others is often similar to Amaziah’s reaction to Amos’ message.

And so the question for you and I as we stand in the tradition of AMOS is:

  • To whose DRUMBEAT will we march?
  • Whose CALL will we listen?
  •  For whom will we SPEAK?

It’s going to feel awkward, strange, even out-of-place at first. 

But then, it wasn’t much different with Amos.

And the God who called him, who spoke through him, who cared for him in the entire process, is the same Living Creator God who CALLS US, and who promises to care for us as we walk into our communities as PROPHETS of His, SPEAKING His Word…

– –  At the grocery store,

—  At the coffee shop,

—  In our neighborhoods.

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** CREDITS & FOOTNOTES **

Footnote [1]:  “Shepherd” – Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary – Old Testament words.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

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

“Giving $20 Explanations to a 50 Cent World” Is Difficult!

SCRIPTURE – 1 PETER 1:13-20

Be Holy…How is this even possible?

I have had difficulties over the years just being a decent husband and father to my three kids.  How am I supposed to be as HOLY as the One True Living God?  I’m just human.  I make mistakes, many of them.  So does HOLY mean I just need to follow a bunch of rules?  A list of things I’m supposed to do and things not to do?  Like, be nice to others?

I’m a good person, mostly, so does that make me HOLY?  Great questions!

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV)…

[15]  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  [16] for it is written: “Be holy because I am holy.” 

Peter isn’t introducing a new concept here.  He’s repeating a principle laid down by God in the Covenant [See footnote].

With all that in mind, let’s see what the Bible says in Psalm 14:2-3 (AMP)…

[2]  The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any who understood, dealt wisely, and sought after God, inquiring for and of Him and requiring Him [of vital necessity].

[3]  They are all gone aside, they have all together become filthy; there is none that does good or right, no, not one.

And in Isaiah 64:6 (NIV)…

[6]  All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind, our sins sweep us away.

Both Psalm 14 and Isaiah 64 are in the Old Testament from the time before Jesus’ birth. 

But even in the New Testament, after Jesus, the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:1-3 (AMP)…

“O YOU poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians!  Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom–right before your very eyes–Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified?  Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?].  Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly?  Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?”

There were believers in the early church who were trying to be HOLY; trying to be acceptable to God based on their human efforts.  They believed that they had to continue living up to all the rules; the list of all the “do’s” and “don’t’s” in the Old Testament Law.

The Apostle Paul’s Reminder…that HOLINESS is not just based on our OWN EFFORTS of being good–HOLINESS is WHO WE ARE, based on our RELATIONSHIP with Christ Jesus!

We CAN’T earn God’s favor…

We CAN’T earn His love and mercy…

We CAN’T earn HOLINESS through our own efforts, it’s a FREE GIFT being offered to you right now!

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

[8] For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–[9] not by works, so that no one can boast.

HOLINESS isn’t just who we are…it’s how we live.

1 Thessalonians 4:7 says…”For God did call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”

Let me go back to 1 Peter 1:17 again…

[17]  And if you call upon Him as [your] Father Who judges each one impartially according to what he does, [then] you should conduct yourselves with true reverence throughout the time of your temporary residence [on the earth, whether long or short].

2 Corinthians 5:9 explains it more plainly by saying…“So we make it our goal to please Him. whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”

I don’t want to confuse anybody on this point. This has nothing to do with whether or not you are accepted by God.  He offers you a position in His kingdom, in His family, as a “FREE GIFT”… you just need to place your faith, your acceptance, your commitment to His Son Jesus to become accepted by God.

For most of us, growing up in a loving family brings back memorable times.  Our parents loved us and we loved them not for what they did for us materialistically, but because of who they were in our lives.

In appreciation of that LOVE, we, in turn, wanted to please them, respect them, honor them by our actions in response to that LOVE by our obedience.

As a child of God, we should want to please our Heavenly Father on how we live out our daily lives.  But how do we do this?

I’ve already mentioned how being HOLY is not following a list of rules, a lost of do’s and don’t’s. What I did discover in reading and studying God’s Word in this passage of Scripture are THREE things that Peter gives us in helping us to live in HOLINESS:

#1.  PREPAREDNESS

First, we are to prepare our minds for action.  Look at 1 Peter 1:13 again:  “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming.”

I’ve been glued to my TV, watching every afternoon and evening of late the Winter Olympics in Pyongyang, South Korea.  I particularly noticed how the athletes prepared beforehand to compete.  The visualize what they are about to do…they prepare their minds to intently focus on what needs to be done.

As Christians, we are to do the same thing.  In fact, the Bible says in 1 Timothy 4:7 (b) “…train yourselves to be godly.”

A lazy athlete will never perform well…neither will a lazy Christian.

When we allow our minds and hearts to be filled with the world’s garbage, then we won’t be prepared to live in HOLINESS.

We MUST prepare our minds, folks!

#2.  IMITATION

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”  (Quote by Oscar Wilde).

I think a better way to phrase that quote would be is that God much rather us to resemble His Son, than “flatter” Him.

Then, in verse 14, Peter says…“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.”

So, the SECOND thing we are to do is to be OBEDIENT.

We are to IMITATE Christ: We turn away from the temptations the world presents to us and we live in OBEDIENCE to our Heavenly Father and His Word.  We won’t know how to IMITATE Jesus unless we do the first thing of preparing our minds.

When we study God’s Word (our bible), we will grow in understanding of Jesus Christ which makes the second thing possible, because the Holy Spirit develops us…makes us more mature…changes us to be more like Jesus.

But it’s still A CHOICE…

We must choose to turn away from temptation and instead turn to God.

Ephesians 5:1 says,  “Therefore be imitators of God (copy Him and follow His example), as well-beloved children [imitate their father]”  (AMP).

We should ask ourselves, “Is this something God would say?”  “Is this something that I would be comfortable in watching if Jesus was sitting next to me?”  “If I do this, will it PLEASE my Heavenly Father?”

We IMITATE Christ in everything we think…everything we do…everything we say.  And as we grow in maturity as “sanctified” (set apart, made HOLY) believers, then we will become better and better at imitating Christ and not the world.

This is the path of HOLINESS!

“you also be holy in all your conduct” – 1 Peter 1:15

KEYWORD is “ALL”- “in ALL your conduct.”  

NOT some of your conduct…

NOT when you feel like it…

NOT just on Sunday when you come to church…

ALL your conduct!

WHY?  Because as believers, we are CALLED TO BE LIKE HIM!

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

#3.  LOVING ONE ANOTHER IN CHRIST JESUS

And the THIRD thing…living our lives in HOLINESS we must LOVE each other…regardless!

Boy, that can be hard to do sometimes.  But you see, you alone can’t do it without the prompting of the Holy Spirit!!!

1 Peter 1:22 reads in the Amplified Bible…

[22]  Since by your obedience to the Truth through the [Holy] Spirit you have purified your hearts for the sincere affection of the brethren, [see that you] love one another fervently from a pure heart.

Jesus says it Himself in the Gospel of John…

John 13:34-35 NIV)

[34]  “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

[35]  By this [LOVE] everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Living our lives in HOLINESS isn’t easy.

There’s a story I read this week about an artist who was making a statue of an elephant out of a huge chunk of marble.  Someone asked him, “How do you do it?  How do you turn this piece of rock into a beautiful masterpiece?”  The artist answers him and says, “I just chip away, chisel the pieces that don’t look like an elephant.”

Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)

[10]  For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), created in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

LIVING THE “GOOD LIFE” IN HOLINESS!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

FOOTNOTE:  Note:  Also read Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2 and 1 Thess. 4:7-8.

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

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Sermon Notes:  “Sanctified Saints” by Jeff Strite on July 16, 2016 – Sermon Central.

A VISION of the ‘Little Big Horn’

SCRIPTURE READING – Daniel 8:1-27

So what is a VISION?

A “VISION” is a clear mental image of a preferable future, imparted by God to His chosen servants and is based on an accurate understanding of God, self, and circumstance.  [See Footnote [1] ]

Based on this definition, there become three aspects of having a VISION:

(1)  GOD – Your vision comes from God, it is not something you thought overnight;

(2)  SELF – Your priorities and spiritual gifts will help you focus on your vision;

(3)  CIRCUMSTANCES – Your vision begins where you are now; so you must face and solve your problem and then overcome all barriers to fulfill your dream.

For Daniel, this was one of his many visions and his most troubling, even after the angel Gabriel explained it to him.  Notice Daniels reaction in VERSE 27:

[27]  “I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”  (NIV Bible)

However, as we stand today on the other side of this PROPHECY, its one of the easiest for us to understand.  What Daniel prophesied in Chapter 8 was FUTURE for him, but much of it is HISTORY for us and we have ample historical evidence of the exact fulfillment of this VISION.

One reason I enjoy this section of Daniel is that I love to study history, and this is one of the best places in the Bible to compare history and prophecy.  When we see things predicted in the Bible that have already come true, it should give us great assurance that those things yet to happen in God’s Word will also come true.

The Basics of Daniel’s Dream –

Daniel dreamed of a mighty Ram with two massive horns, but one horn was bigger than the other.

The Ram was powerful and it charged with beating every other animal.

But then Daniel saw a strange-looking Goat approaching the Ram.  It had one horn growing out of its forehead (almost like a Unicorn, but probably more like a rhinoceros).

Well, this one-horned goat whipped the ram and trampled it down in the dirt.  But suddenly its horn was snapped off, and growing in its place was four other horns and growing out of one of those horns was another little horn.

Daniel 8:13-14 reads,  Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled–the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?  He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be constructed.”  (NIV Bible)

Daniel himself was troubled and confused, so VERSE 16 tells us that Gabriel comes to give him a clear interpretation.

Today, Christians have been given by God the Holy Spirit to bring wisdom and understanding to the spiritual mysteries.

Gabriel explains the dream to Daniel, v. 20-24

[20]  The ram you saw having two horns, they are the kings of Media and Persia.  [21]  And the shaggy and rough he-goat is the king of Greece, and the great horn between his eyes is the first king.  [22]  The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.  [23]  In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise.  [24]  He will become very strong, but not by his own power.  He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does.  He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people.

A VIOLENT RAM:  Medo-Persian Empire 

When Daniel received this VISION, the Babylonian Empire was still in place, but God showed him a new empire on the horizon, one that God would use to fulfill the PROPHECY to all the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple that had been destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar.

This Ram had one horn and was larger than the other.  This symbolizes the Persians, always the more powerful of the two nation coalition.

A UNI-HORN GOAT:  The Greek Empire under Alexander the Great –

The GOAT represents the Greek Empire, and the single horn, Alexander.

Alexander has always fascinated me.  When Alexander was a boy, his father enlisted Plato’s disciple Aristotle to be his personal tutor.  At the age of 18, Alexander was already leading armies into battle.  When he was only 20, his father was murdered (some say, Alexander, had a hand in it) and he became ruler of the Greeks.  His decisive battle against the Persians took place near modern Syria at the battle of Issus, which he won in 323 B.C. at the ripe old age of 23.  Within the next ten years, Alexander conquered the entire world from Italy to Egypt and to modern Pakistan.

Alexander and his army headed south towards Egypt after his victory at Issus.

As Alexander and his army approached Jerusalem, he was planning to destroy the city.  Remember, the city had just been rebuilt 100 years earlier by Ezra and Nehemiah.

Josephus writes that while Alexander was considering the destruction of the city, the High Priest went out from the Temple with a scroll of Daniel 8 saying that he and his army (the GOAT) were destined by God of the Hebrews to conquer the RAM (the Persians).  The account says Alexander was so impressed that instead of destroying the city, he enriched it and then bypassed it on his way to capture and control Egypt.

God is always active in His plans for mankind.

It always exciting to read the Bible and realize PROPHECY is being fulfilled at that moment.  That’s the way I’ve felt ever since the resettling of Israel in 1948 and the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967, both events examples of PROPHECY fulfillment in our times.

So Alexander is this UNI-HORN on the Goat.

But at the height of its power, this single horn is suddenly broken off.  Even so, Alexander the Great died suddenly at the age of 33.

THE FOUR HORNS:  The four generals who divided Alexander’s territory –

Alexander made no plans for the continuation of his kingdom.  He had children, but he cared little for them and never designated an heir to his empire.

When he died suddenly, a conflict between the leading generals finally arrived at a questionable agreement of dividing the empire.  This is merely history for us to take in, but remember Daniel predicted all of this almost 300 years before it happened.

This ‘Little Big Horn’:  Antiochus Epiphanes IV –

He is a forerunner, as a type of the Antichrist.

This man Antiochus Epiphanes (Epiphanes means “Great”) is a wicked and vicious ruler.  He hated the Jews and they hated him.  He demanded crowds of people honor him by crying out, “Epiphanes”, whenever he would pass by.  Instead, the Jews had nicknamed him, “Antiochus Epimanes”, a play on his name: Epimanes means “madman”, or “idiot”, and so they shouted “Epimanes”, when he passed by driving him even madder.

Here are just a few of the low-lights I found in the study of his treatment of God’s people.  He forbade circumcision, he outlawed the Sabbath observance and made it a criminal offense for anyone to possess or read the Jewish scriptures.

As you can imagine, Jews rebelled against him, and his punishment was quick and brutal.  On one occasion, Antiochus forced a Jewish mother to watch as her seven sons were fried to death, then her eyes were blinded so that would be her last thought.

He was cruel, vicious, and he was evil.  He slaughtered 80,000 Jews on a single occasion.

But the vilest thing he did from a Jewish standpoint was to set up an image of Zeus in the Jewish Temple (the statue had a striking resemblance to, who else? Antiochus).

He ordered the Jews to worship the image, and horror of horrors, he personally sacrificed a hog on the sacred altar and sprinkled the blood of the hog all around the holy place and this became a monthly ritual.  In doing this he defiled the Temple.

It is in VERSE 13, we read “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled–the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?”

That means the faithful Jews left or deserted the Temple, so it became “desolate”.

In this dream (VISION), Daniel predicted Antiochus would invade the Holy Land and desecrate the Temple and cause the sacrifices to cease.

Daniel 8:14 reads “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings, then the sanctuary will be reconstructed.”

Just as today, a morning and evening make one day, so if you divide 2,300 by two, you get 1,150 days.

History says that Judas Maccabees and his sons rose in revolt and led the people of Israel to retake Jerusalem, cleansed the sanctuary and restored the offerings at the end of 1,150 days, exactly as predicted!

The rededication of the Temple on December 14, 164 B.C. is the reason our Jewish friends celebrate Hanukkah each December.

Looking then at the TIMELINE:

  • Daniel (550 B.C.)
  • Antiochus (170-163 B.C.)
  • Jesus Came (4 B.C.)
  • TODAY

What does all this mean?

Here are but a few lessons that can be learned from this PROPHECY in Daniel 8.

Kingdoms of this world (and presidents) come and go but the Kingdom of God is forever!

Because we find God to be trustworthy in the middle of PROPHECY we can trust Him in the details in our lives right now.

Alexander is a picture of worldly greatness marked by personal failure.

Though conqueror of the world, he was unable to conquer his own passions.  He died of a combination of malaria and acute alcoholism.

Proverbs 16:32 says,  Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.

Some of you have conquered the kingdoms of your careers.  You fought and won battles but there’s one battle you haven’t won; the SIN BATTLE.  You can’t CONQUER your own sinful appetites and anger.

Alexander is a picture of plenty of people today who have gained worldly success, yet their personal and spiritual lives are running on empty.

Only Jesus can win the SIN BATTLE for you.

2,000 years ago, He carried our sins to the cross with Him and our SINS were nailed to the cross, covered by His BLOOD.

Jesus said,  “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life [in the eternal kingdom of God]?” ~ Mark 8:36 (AMP)

What does it profit a man or woman if they are known as Alexander the Great or John the great businessman or Mary the great salesperson or Tom the great community leader…and they never CONQUER their SIN PROBLEM?  It’s simply a tragic picture of a sad, wasted life.

Antiochus (past) is a prototype of the Antichrist (future).

A clear characteristic of prophetic literature in the Bible often has a dual fulfillment; like peeling the layers of an onion.

ONION LAYERS

That is, it may have a fulfillment in the near future (the outer onion layer), and then it may have another fulfillment in the distant future (the inner layer of the onion).  I believe that’s the case here in Daniel 8.

Without a doubt, the Little Horn in Daniel 8 was fulfilled in Antiochus, but he is also the preview of coming attractions of the future Antichrist.

There are many comparisons.  For instance, reviewing the TIMELINE of the future:  Today’s Antichrist (?? AD);  Jesus Returns (? AD).

RAPTURE –

I want to point out at this point of discussion how long Antiochus’ reign of terror was:  He murdered the Jewish High Priest, Onias III, in 170 B.C. and died in 163 B.C.; that’s SEVEN years.

The future Antichrist will rule for SEVEN years (Revelation 13:5).

Antiochus had an intense hatred for the Jews and so will the Antichrist.

These are all remarkable parallels with what the Antichrist will do in the FUTURE.  Here’s your link: Revelation 13:15.

  • He [the false prophet, the chief of staff for the Antichrist] was given the power to give breath to the IMAGE of the first BEAST [antichrist] so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
  • He also forced everyone to receive a MARK on the right hand or forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the MARK, which is the name of the BEAST or the number of his name.

He [the false prophet, the chief of staff for the Antichrist] was given the power to give breath to the image of the first BEAST [Antichrist] so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.

He also forced everyone, to receive a MARK on the right hand or forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the MARK, which is the name of the BEAST or the number of his name.

If you think I’m reading something into this that isn’t there; notice what Jesus Christ Himself said about this future desecration of the Temple in Matthew 24.

Just as Antiochus set up an image of Zeus in the Temple, and commanded the Jews to WORSHIP it, the Bible tells us in the Book of Revelation that the Antichrist will do the same thing in the future.

CONCLUSION:  Looking through A Camera’s Lens. 

Years ago, I saw a strange episode of the TV show, “The Twilight Zone”.  I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember that someone had a Polaroid camera.  When you took a picture, what developed wasn’t that given moment but 24 hours into the future.  It was like having a PROPHETIC CAMERA that revealed the future.

It seems in this episode, everyone who possessed the Camera, died a tragic death.  No one was willing to use their ability to forecast the future for good.

Some of you reading this may make the same tragic mistake.

We know Jesus is going to return (Acts 1:9-11).  We just don’t know when.

We know that those left behind after the Rapture will face a terrible time of tribulation.

We have this information but are we doing anything about it?

We need to get up, get out and do the King’s business!

What is the King’s business?

Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

A message like this shouldn’t turn you into a ‘star-gazer’; it should turn you into a ‘Soul Winner’!

A message of PROPHECY, on Dreams and Visions, shouldn’t make you smug in your salvation; it should make you a SERVANT of Jesus.

The King’s business is to tell the lost and dying world the only HOPE is Jesus!

My hope and prayer is that God will let Jesus speak to you as he has for me with these words from Mark 13:32-34:

We all have a job to do.  Our job is to keep watching, keep witnessing, and keep working until Jesus returns!!!  

AMEN.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES –

FOOTNOTE [i]:  The Power Of Biblical Vision by Rodelio Mallari.

SOURCES:  Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI; Daniel’s Prophecy of Antiochus Epiphanes by Jason Jackson;  The Book of the Maccabees.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); all other translations used in the study are so noted in the photos or text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stupidity Is Not A Virtue

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF DANIEL

One of the worst things about the English language is that too often we don’t really know how to use our own words.  DATA, for instance, is plural.  There’s no such thing as one data point.  Or, take the word CORPORATE.  When you see that word I suspect you’re thinking of Microsoft or Amazon as examples (I live in Washington State).  Well, originally it just used to mean any task undertaken together.  You know, lots of people corporately coming together for a single purpose.  It used to be that the *opposite* of corporate was an idiot–literally a solitary single person who didn’t go for the BENEFITS of being part of the group.  It used to be that AN IDIOT was just somebody who stuck to himself–in a peculiar way.

“Oh, oh.  I know where you’re going,” you might be thinking.

But I’ll tell you the word that’s been messed up the most and that’s the word ‘CHURCH’.  Christians aren’t idiots.  We know that a church is a group of people–it’s a CORPORATE GATHERING of the body of Christ.

But let’s face it: when you think of THE CHURCH, you’re probably thinking of a building.  The truth is, it’s so easy to think of THE CHURCH as a building because it’s easier for THE CHURCH to be a place more than a way of life.  We can visualize a place and identify with it better.  It’s safer when it’s a building we go to once a week more so than AN ATTITUDE which defines our lives.

Well, that might be what we think, but it’s too limited.  At times, I fear we may be in danger of losing our CORPORATE notion of CHURCH.  I believe the fellowship I’ve been gathering with for the past 5 years has a better understanding of CHURCH as a people, but we can always do better.  We do a pretty good job of carrying for each other, praying for one another in times of need.  But even we have friends and neighbors and colleagues that NEED us as well.  Too many isolated people are imprisoned voluntarily in the cells of their own homes when what simply they need most is companionship and friendship of a God-breathed individual more interested in serving God than himself.

Our God is a CORPORATE God.

Not in the sense of the way of doing things according to some rules laid down, but in the sense of togetherness that He desires for us.

WE WORSHIP HIM IN COMMUNITY.

It’s a community centered on Jesus to be sure, but it’s not, as we suppose, just a ‘Jesus and me‘ thing.

SCRIPTURE  Daniel 2:14-30

In my study this week and at first thought, I noticed a missing detail, but it is a detail that shows up time and time again centered on RELATIONSHIP. Think about the RELATIONSHIP that Daniel has with Arioch, the king’s captain.  Think about the RELATIONSHIP Daniel has with his young friends.  See how it is these relationships ultimately bring Daniel closer in relationship to God.

Well, okay, Arioch’s job was perhaps to bring Daniel a bit closer to God than Daniel was expecting, but I noticed here, how Daniel was able to talk with him so freely.  Clearly, Daniel and Arioch had a pre-existing RELATIONSHIP, so string that together that Daniel could ask Arioch to risk not only his job but his neck, in delaying the king’s order.  That doesn’t happen by accident.  I sure that they must have spent time together.  There’s nothing to suggest that Arioch could have cared a lick about Daniel’s god.  But he CARED about Daniel.  And through RELATIONSHIP he could learn to appreciate his god, I know it’s a cliché, but it’s so true.  We are often the only Bible our friends will ever read.

STUPIDITY ON DISPLAY!

One cold and rainy day while visiting my brother and his family in Texas, we had all decided to venture out to the family property, the Ranch, and see all the progress that had been made.  After arrival, we reluctantly got out the vehicles into the inclement weather, shivering, but trying to stay enthusiastic.  My dad, my wife, and my sister-in-law’s sister decided it was wiser to remain in the car.  My dad was in the front seat while the girls were in the back seat, unnoticed by dad.

After seeing the family out in the cold and wet elements he shouted, Stupid, Stupid, Stupid not noticing the ladies in the back seat grinning, knowing that he had no idea they were there..  My wife still muses at the event.

I noticed in this passage of Scripture the only STUPIDITY on display is the one who is acting by himself?

I mean, why is the KING so furious that he wants to kill off the entire government?  WHY?  Because he is acting foolhardy and alone.

This isn’t CORPORATE unless perhaps if you were a big accounting firm.  Corporate acts are slow and deliberate because they benefit from counsel.

More importantly, I specifically noticed the FELLOWSHIP of the believers present: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  They all came together to PRAY.

It just so happened the Word came to Daniel.  That’s a group in total HUMILITY to God and to each other.  I doubt they cared which one of them actually heard from God directly.  They were simply living out the commandments.

GOD IS COMMUNITY.

They didn’t go to Temple (Church) together–Temple was over 800 miles away, and it was in ruins.  They simply came together out of common LOVE for an uncommon God who had supernaturally reached out to them and chose them for His kingdom.  I’m sure sometimes they wondered about their ‘chosen people’ status. But they knew if they were going to be FAITHFUL, they needed each other.

Today, we’d call that an Accountability Group:  A group of people comes together for the sake of the GOSPEL.

They come together in HUMILITY…COMMON LOVE for God and for one another.  They extend that LOVE to the world around them and they lift each other up.  When one is hurting, they extend God’s love.  When one of them is missing, they’re there.  And when one of them is REJOICING, they’re each lifted up in praise.

Christians are called to be a COMMUNITY of Christ-like believers that realize as great as our individuality is, our CORPORATE presence is in the WORSHIP of our King is even greater than ourselves.

As Christians, we are CALLED to overcome the world (1 John 5:5).  We do that precisely by being greater in LOVE, COMPASSION, and FRIENDSHIP.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say, ‘They will know that we are Christians by our…doctrines, or our theology–even our potlucks.’  No, the world recognizes how we love one another, how we visit one another, and how we care for each other.

THE PRINCIPLE laid down in Daniel is CORPORATE WORSHIP–with Mishael, Hananiah, and Azariah.

It is a PRINCIPLE I see all across the Bible.  For every great hero in the Bible, there’s a companion:

  • Adam had Eve
  • Moses had Mirian
  • Aaron and Joshua
  • Joshua had Caleb
  • David had Jonathan
  • Ester had Mordecai
  • Paul had Barnabas, even Jesus had Peter.

When the Lord said that it was not good for man to live alone, I think He meant more than just males and more than just marriage.

Daniel had Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego.

In Daniel 1, Daniel was already in close communion with these fellows.  In Daniel 3, you are probably familiar with the fiery furnace story.  These three are never mentioned except in COMMUNITY with one another.  Daniel is chock full of stores of integrity and courage in the face of dire circumstances–standing up when everyone else bows to the culture.

How did they do it?  They did it together!

How would you have liked to be a part of that small group?  I’m sure they had their squabbles and disagreements.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Shadrack thought Abednego was always late for the prayer group, and I wouldn’t be surprised that perhaps Meshach needed to shower more often.  I’m sure that each of them was an individual who was great in his own right–after all, you don’t get to be princes by being a wallflower.

But it’s a testament to their sense of CORPORATE LOVE for God that we don’t know anything about of these guys except as part of a group.

These men were all great, but they were all equal before God.  You cannot acknowledge God’s complete, scale-altering greatness, not see that any comparison to your fellow man is but petty foolishness.  That would be stupidity!

After praying corporately, Daniel is given the answer to the secret of the king’s dream.

[19]  Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, and Daniel blessed the God of Heaven.

[20]  Daniel answered, Blessed, be the name of God forever and ever!  Doe WISDOM and MIGHT are His!

[21]  He changes the times and the seasons;  He removes kings and sets up kings.  He gives WISDOM to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding! 

I certainly don’t find stupidity in those who are blessed by God with “WISDOM” and “KNOWLEDGE” and “UNDERSTANDING”, do you?

We are all beings created for FELLOWSHIP with God and others.

WE ALL NEED EACH OTHER!

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CREDITS –

Photos:  Google Image Search, advanced settings.

Dictionary:  Webster’s Online Dictionary.

Bible used:  Amplified Bible (AMP).