AFFLICTION OR JUDGMENT? Is there a difference?


Study in AMOS 9:1-15

In my recent studies in Amos, I’ve seen how God used His prophet to warn the people of Israel.  Israel was going through an almost unprecedented period of prosperity and in the process, had forgotten God.

They certainly hadn’t forgotten about religion.  They were still a very religious society.  They still went to worship in their places of worship.  They still offered all their sacrifices, and they still tithed their money.  As a matter of fact, they went over and above what the Law required.

Today, we would say that churches with these qualities and directives would be a successful church.

But like so many times throughout their history, Israel still didn’t get it.  They thought they were OK.  They felt perfectly at ease and comfortable in Zion.

So God Promised A Horrible Affliction On The People.

He promised all the horrible events that would occur some 30 years later.  Assyria would invade and destroy Samaria.

All the woes,  All the promises of affliction.  All the heavy prophesies and messages given by Amos builds to a crescendo in this last chapter of the book.

The Differences Between Affliction and Judgment.

The differences are well worth noting at this point.  Up to now, Amos’ prophetic messages have pointed to Assyria’s invasion of Israel.  That was an example of God afflicting His people in bringing them to repentance.  Repoentance is more than saying, “Sorry, God.”  It’s changing the direction you’ve been heading–a 180 degree turn from sin.

You see, that’s how affliction is different than judgment.

In my charge as the Bible Detective, I find that there are only two times that God has or will JUDGE mankind.

  • The first was at the flood.
  • The next will be the final judgment.
  • One concluded with destruction by water.
  • The other will conclude in the destruction by fire, and NOT by Climate Change.

Anything in between those two judgments is affliction rather than judgment.

Affliction is for the purpose of showing God’s mercy and grace!

Judgment is for the purpose of showing God’s righteousness and holiness!

Up till now, Amos has spoken of God’s promised affliction.  These promises of God were fulfilled.

Then A Change in Focus Occurs – Amos 9:1-3

Amos starts off with a simple statement:  “I SAW THE LORD.”  It’s simple, but oh, how profound!  God revealed Himself to Amos.

THE LORD IS A SEEKING GOD!

Have you ever played peek-a-boo with a small child?  My wife and I sure did when our kids were little.  It sounds funny, but little children think that when you cover their eyes, you can’t see them.  That’s about as silly as we are when we try to hide from our heavenly Father.

God told Israel through Amos that there was no place they could run to.  No place they could hide from His judgment.

It brings to mind the scene unveiling in the Book of Revelation, chapter 6, the opening of the sixth seal:

When God pours out His JUDGMENT, there’s NO PLACE TO HIDE!

If you climbed to the top of Mount Everest or dive to the bottom of the sea in a nuclear submarine, GOD IS THERE!  There’s no hide and seek with God.  Wherever you may try to run, He will SEEK and FIND you with conviction.

David’s words in Psalm 139 remind me of Amos’ words here.

After all the sin in David’s life, God sought him out.  He knew David’s innermost ways and thoughts.  He sought him and convicted him.  And after reading these verses, look at how David reacted and responded to that conviction.

He responded with REPENTANCE!

But what happens if we don’t respond?

Then instead of afflicting us to bring about conviction, God judges us.

And when it comes time for JUDGMENT, there’s no place to hide!  We can’t hide, because the Lord is a seeking God.  He either seeks in conviction or seeks in judgment.

He’s not only a seeking God, But He’s also a sovereign God –  (Amos 9:3b.-8)

Definition:  SOVEREIGN – Greek 3841, pantokrator – Almighty, Omnipotent, the all-ruler… [Bible Hub].

God is sovereign over the circumstances of life.  

God commands the serpent.

He commands the sword.

I’ve got news for you.  There’s no such thing as coincidence! 

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, ever has or ever will happen to you that hasn’t passed through God’s hands.

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People”

This was a best-seller in the ’80s and still very influential in the populous.  It was authored by a Jewish Rabbi named Harold Kushner.

Several years ago, if you remember, a bridge collapsed over a  river in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Within days, the book’s author was on the radio trying to explain the tragedy to people.  He explained that bad things like a bridge collapse happened because God doesn’t control the laws of nature.  He is powerless to do anything about evil events.  Kushner, I’m sure, said these things to try to comfort the people.  What an empty comfort that is!  I just can’t imagine the God of Amos that he had seen on the ALTAR had been Kushner’s god.  A god who is powerless to stop evil, as you and I are.

My God of the Bible is a SOVEREIGN God!!!

The LORD that Amos saw is the same LORD that the apostle Paul wrote of in Colossians 1:15-18 (NIV)

[15]  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  [16] For by him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  [17]  He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.  [18]  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

In Him, ALL things consist.

He is sovereign overall.

He is in control overall.

He is Lord overall.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The LORD that Amos saw is sovereign over nations.

Iraq didn’t surprise Him.

Afghanistan didn’t surprise Him.

Vietnam didn’t surprise Him.

Hitler’s Germany didn’t surprise Him.

None of those surprised any more than Assyria surprised God when they destroyed Samaria and carried the Israelites into exile.

VERSES 7-8 tell us that God isn’t surprised by the actions of nations.

The Ethiopians (Cushites), the Philistines, the Syrians. 

God is SOVEREIGN over them all!

Although this is difficult teaching, most of us, I think, see God’s sovereignty over circumstances, and nations.

But here’s one that will stretch your thinking.  God is sovereign over our rebellious behavior.  See the last part of verse 8:

God said that He wouldn’t utterly destroy Israel; that He would preserve a remnant.

Not because they deserved it, but because He promised it!  He would preserve them for His namesake–not theirs.

As rebellious as they were, God had promised to preserve a remnant.  And he would keep His PROMISE because He’s sovereign.  Even over rebellious people.

The Lord is a seeking God and He is a sovereign God.  But there’s more.

The Lord is also a SIFTING God!

Look closely at Verses 9 and 10:

What Does It Mean to “SIFT” Something?

When I first looked at this passage, I pictured the process of separating the wheat from the chaff described in the Bible (Psalm 1:4; Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:16-17).  I thought that not one grain of ‘good stuff’ would fall to the ground,  But that’s not what it’s talking about here.

Separating the wheat from the chaff was called “winnowing.”  The “sifting” would follow the winnowing step.

During the winnowing, all the chaff was blown away.  Everything heavy fell to the ground.  That included the good grain, stones, and pebbles.  The stones and pebbles were separated from the grain using a sifter.

That’s the process this passage is talking about.

So instead of all of Israel sitting safely in the sifter of the Lord while the impurities pass from them,…ALL of Israel is the one that has to pass through the SIFTER.  They are the ones who will be sorted and sifted through affliction.

They are the ones who will pass through the affliction of God in order to be purified.  The stones and pebbles of SIN AND IMPURITY are the things left in the sifter.  And that’s a good thing…because everything that’s left in God’s sifter will be destroyed in JUDGMENT!

The SIFTER of God in Amos compares to the FIRE that Paul mentions in First Corinthians :

God purified His saints.  He sifts His saints.

Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked to sift him like wheat.  And guess what?  Jesus allowed Satan to sift Peter like wheat.  Even though Peter initially failed miserably when Jesus convicted him of his sin, he repented.  The sifting purified him.  Purified him to the point that he went from a coward to a bold witness of Christ in a few weeks time.

The promise of the New Testament says that if you’ve trusted Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be SAVED.  But Paul says,  “he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.”

God sifts you so you will let go of your sin.  So that even the smallest sin in your thinking, will be separated from you.

One day all the sifting that Israel has gone through over the past 6000 years will result in only the purest grain.  The LORD is a sifting God!

Finally, the LORD is a SAVING God!  (verses 11-15)

As I’ve already mentioned, this chapter in Amos is all about future promises to the nation of Israel.  God made a PROMISE to Abraham back in Genesis 15.

God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a nation.  A nation that God would choose to call His special people.  And God also promised Abraham that He would pour out His GRACE on those people and give them a land filled to overflowing rich blessings of God.

And He sealed that promise, A Covenant, by Himself.

In Genesis 15, God had Abraham set up a traditional ceremony, where both parties would contract together for something.  The ceremonies were often SEALED by the blood of a sacrificed animal.  In those contracts, if one party or the other broke the agreement, the contract would be null and void.

God had Abraham to set up that ceremony but He didn’t allow him to participate in it.  He put him off to the side and performed the ceremony Himself.

I don’t know about you, but I see God in the grace business.  He knows we fall short.  He knew that Israel couldn’t keep up their end of the bargain with Him.  So He graciously called them out anyway.  He made them His people.  And He will graciously pour out His blessings on them as His people.  Not because of who they are or how special they are, but because of who He is!

Look at the wording in verse 11-12:

“And all the nations who are called by My name.”

THAT’S US!  All the nations in the world who aren’t Israel.

In other words, Gentiles.  THAT’S US!!

By His GRACE, God promised the same blessings to the Gentiles who are called by His name as He will give to Israel. 

HOW? 

Through the BLOOD of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

Confirmed in Galatians 3:26-28

These wonderfull promises that God made to Israel are available to us today because the Lord as a SAVING God.

The entire book of Amos has been a warning.  It was a warning that Israel didn’t pay attention to.  But it serves as a warning to us all.

  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE SIN.
  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE FALSE WORSHIP.
  • GOD DOESN’T TOLERATE HYPOCRISY.
  • He doesn’t tolerate SIN and REBELLION in His house.

Among His people, He seeks out sin.  He’s SOVEREIGN over all things.  And He will sift us.

Maybe He’s been sifting us right now!

At times God sifted Israel with trouble and ar rimes, And at times, He sifted them with prosperity.  So whether we’re having trouble or having prosperity, it doesn’t tell the story where we are in God’s eyes.

Maybe the question we should ask ourselves is, “How does the Lord see us?”  “How does the Lord see our church?”

If we don’t see Him as He has revealed Himself as a seeking, sovereign and sifting God, He will show Himself as JUDGE.  And I don’t think any of us want that.

But if we do see Him as He’s revealed Himself, He will show Himself to us as Savior.

QUESTION:  Where do we all start to see God as He’s revealed Himself?

The same way David did. 

We have to corporately HUMBLE ourselves before God.

We have to corporately CONFESS our sins before God.

AND…We have to corporately REPENT before our God!

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CREDITS:

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); King Jmaes Bible (KJV); and other translations used in the photos/Images.

Photos/Images Used:  Google Image Search.

 

 

WHOSE YOUR FRIEND?

MY FRIEND’S NUMBERS KEEP GOING DOWN ON MY FACEBOOK PAGE

I wonder what Facebook’s definition or their idea of the word, FRIENDS?  So many times I read comments on social media of people who claim 100’s, or even thousands of friends.  So what do most us think of people we know, that are our FRIENDS?  A companion, our next door neighbor who we barely know, the person in the next cubicle at work, etc.?  Proverbs in the Bible is a good source of wisdom regarding friendship:  “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).  “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).  The issue here is that in order to have a friend, one must be a friend.  I’ve been reading in the Old Testament Book of Amos for the last few weeks and found a principle of friendship in Amos 3:3– “Do two walk together except they make an appointment and have agreed?” (AMP).   FRIENDS ARE OF A LIKE MIND!!  And then of course, one of my favorite Bible verses regarding true friendship is found in the Gospel of John:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”  (John 15:13).

Now that’s true friendship.

 

 

 

Everything In Life Has Terms Attached To It

Sometimes I think that lawyers have taken over the world.

It seems like everything we do today has some type of terms we have to agree to.   Just listen and watch the TV commercials that lawyers seem to continuously present.  All over the ad in big 2-inch letters tell me about all the money they’re going to give me when I’m in an accident.  Of course, you have to squint your eyes or use a magnifying glass to read the fine print below all the money I’,m going to receive.  The only reason they put the terms on the TV ad is that they’re lawyers!  But they still try to hide them as best as they can.

But you can’t hide the fact that nearly everything in life has terms attached to it.  Whether you’re buying anything on time, getting a job, or entering a contract–TERMS HAVE TO BE AGREED TO IT!

Did you know that God has “terms” as well?

Except God is no lawyer–He sets His terms up front!

SCRIPTURE STUDY – Amos 4:1-13

The problem comes, when we try to meet God on our own terms instead of His.

That’s what ISRAEL did.

Ever since God called up Abraham and promised to make him a nation, He had laid out His terms to them.  And in turn, they constantly refused God’s terms.  They wanted a relationship with God but on their terms.

In this passage of scripture, God speaks through Amos to review His case against Israel.

He reviews the way Israel tried to meet God on their own terms in spite of His continual persuasiveness.  Even though times have changed over the centuries, human nature has not,  Neither has God’s character.

There are still two ways we can prepare to meet God, and that fact is undeniable!

We can try to do it on our own terms or His.  And in order to do that, I want to look at some specific things found in this chapter of Amos.

  1. We will see how Israel tried to meet God on their terms,
  2. We will see how God persuaded Israel to meet Him on His terms.

And with the Holy Spirit’s assistance, we will take a look at how it all turned out.

FIRST, let’s see how Israel tried to meet God on their terms.

Verse 1:  “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”

In this picture, God uses the word “cows” to describe the Israelite women.

BASHAN was a hilly area overlooking Samaria and known for its cattle.  If Burger King fast-food restaurants had been around back then, they would have marketed Bashan Burgers instead of Balck Angus.

Throughout history, in every society, women are the main stabilizing forces.  You’ve probably heard the song, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Rules the World.  Well, it may not rule the world, but it certainly makes it stable.

The decline of any society can be seen in the way women act.  They are typically more stable, more moral, more obedient to the laws.  They are more kind and merciful to the poor and needy.

But when they begin to turn from those natural ways, society inevitably declines.  That’s what was happening in Israel.  The WOMEN had turned from their natural roles.  They had lost their mercy and kindness to the poor and needy.  They had usurped their roles in the home while demanding to be waited on.  This isn’t just a judgment on women, it’s a judgment on Israel as a whole.  Because women acting that way is an effect.  It’s not the cause.

The cause is from men and society, in general, turning away from God.

Now fast forward to today.

Women in America are no longer valued for their kindness and mercy.  We lift up cutthroat, catty corporate executives and political figures as role models.  From an early age, girls are encouraged to be tough and aggressive instead of kind and merciful.

Just like ancient Israel, just one of the final symptoms of the DISEASE that has been spreading throughout the ages.

The disease is called wanting to behave on our own terms.  We all want to meet God, but we don’t want to behave on His terms.  Just like Israel, we want to behave on our own terms.

But not only did Israel behave on their own terms, but they worshipped on their own terms,

VERSES 4-5

THEY WORSHIPPED ON THEIR OWN TERMS.

Both Bethel and Gilgal had originally been wonderful places to worship for God.  But over the years, the people corrupted it.  That’s where Jeroboam set up the golden calf.  That marked the beginning of a long history of idolatry and false worship there.  Gilgal was the original base-camp of Israel as they conquered much of the promised land.  That’s also where Samuel anointed David King.  Both places had historically been places of worship.  But over the years, WORSHIP had become empty, even repulsive to God.  They seemed to be going through all the right motions, even over and above what was expected.  They brought sacrifices much more often than expected.  They tithed much more often than was requested.  That should all be good things, right?  Well, not if their hearts were in the condition theirs was.  It all became a show.  The freewill offering was proclaimed and published as mandatory.  They were no longer “free.”  They were an obligation.  They were “worshipping,” but they were doing it on their own terms.  They didn’t worship with a changed heart.  They didn’t do it out of free love for God, they did it for SHOW!  They did it out of obligation!

Could this be Church today?

We want to meet God, but we want to WORSHIP Him on our own terms.  We want to come to church to make us feel good or get our batteries recharged.

Or we come to church out of some sort of obligation.  And if the music, the pastor’s message, doesn’t meet our expectations, our needs, our terms, we leave.

When we have that attitude, is that worship on God’s terms, or is it worship on our terms?

God doesn’t force is to change or to do anything.  Just like He didn’t force Israel to change.  He didn’t force them, but He persuaded them.

We’ve seen how Israel tried to meet God on their terms.  Now let’s take a look at how God persuaded Israel to meet Him on His terms.

God gives Israel a WARNING…warning them of His terms.

BACK TO VERSES 2-3 (AMP):  

[2]  The Lord God has sworn by His holiness that behold, the days shall come upon you when they shall take you away with hooks and the last of you with fishhooks.  [Ps. 89:35.]

[3]  And you shall go out through the breaches [made in the city’s wall], every [woman] straight before her, and you shall be cast forth into Harmon [an unknown place of exile], says the Lord.

WHAT OUR GOD’S TERMS?

Well, He tells us in verse 2:

His terms are HOLINESS.

His holiness is the terms He swears by.

Jesus summed up God’s terms on the Sermon on the Mount when He says,

That’s God’s terms.  That’s what He demands.  And Israel didn’t even come close.

But God in His GRACE warned them every step along the way.

Disobedience would bring JUDGMENT.

He changes His picture here.  He goes from picturing women of Israel as fat and happy cows to picturing them as fish on a hook.

God’s warning was literally fulfilled when the Assyrian armies led Israel into captivity just a few years later.

Archaeologists discovered Assyrian carvings showing how their captives were led away by ropes.  Ropes passed through hooks placed in their captives’ noses or lips.

Has God given us WARNINGS as well?

His terms of perfection are the same as they’ve always been.

But along with His terms of HOLINESS (Perfection), He has given us His provision of GRACE!  Grace that our imperfection is covered by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ.  He takes away our sin and gives us His perfection–His Holiness–His righteousness.  But He only does that when we trust Him as our Lord and Savior.

And the Bible is full of WARNINGS when we refuse His righteousness.

  • WARNINGS of weeping and gnashing (‘grinding’) of teeth.
  • WARNINGS of fire and brimstone.
  • WARNINGS of eternal punishment as God’s wrath is poured out on mankind.

These warnings are far worse than being dragged around with a hook in our lips.  When we behave on our terms, God warns on His terms.  When we worship on our terms, God warns on His terms.

But not only does God warn on His terms, but He also persuades on His terms.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August of 2005, I began to hear statements that really bothered me.  Statements that the hurricane was God’s judgment on New Orleans.

Now New Orleans’ reputation of being one of the most wicked city’s in America to visit, but just as many churches in the area were destroyed by Katrina as were “wicked places.”  As a matter of fact, Bourbon Street was virtually untouched.

God’s time of JUDGMENT will come!

And Katrina wasn’t it.  Just like 9/11 wasn’t it.  Or World War II wasn’t it.  Or the Civil War wasn’t it.  Or the great Chicago fire wasn’t it.  Or the Great Depression wasn’t it.  Or Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t it.  Or everything since the flood wasn’t it.

God judged the world in a flood and He will judge the world again with fire.

Everything in between is His persuasion.

Many of the things we consider as trials are given by God to persuade us to return to Him.  Look at our nation.  After the Civil War, there was national renewal.  After the Great Depression, national renewal followed.  After most great times of trouble and trial in America, there have been periods of return to the Lord.

UNTIL RECENTLY.

Even after 9/11, Bible sales skyrocketed!  Every marquee in every town said something like “God bless America.”  But there was a shift after 9/11 and Katrina.  When Katrina happened, there was a tremendous outpouring of support from churches.  But the people weren’t looking for God.  They were looking for the government.

God persuaded America to turn to Him through the awful tragedy of Katrina.  And as a whole, we didn’t.  Instead of falling on our knees and crying out to God to save us, we turned to FEMA.

We saw the same pattern on a smaller scale at Virginia Tech.  Instead of seeing the tragedy as an indictment on our sinful culture, we saw it as a political opportunity to either ban or support gun ownership.  Psychologists were looked to for answers rather than the Lord.

God is persuading us just like He persuaded Israel.

But are we listening?  Or are we like Israel?  Are we too busy with our comfortable lifestyle to pay attention?  Israel tried to meet God on their terms.  They behaved on their terms and they worshipped on their terms.

But God didn’t just let go.  He warned them on His terms,  And He persuaded them on His terms.

Finally, I want you to see what happened.

FIRST, look at the result of Israel’s terms.

Skimming through the above verses, zero in on the last phrase of each verse.  In each of the attempts that God made to get Israel to return to Him, the answer was the same:

“Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

Isreal had set their terms.  They were going to come to God on their terms.  They want to be FAT and comfortable.  And they didn’t want their service to God to get in the way of their lifestyle.  They wanted to put on “I Love Jesus” T-shirts and claim to be God’s children.  They wanted to worship Him in a way that pleased them.  They wanted to get the charge from going to church without the commitment.

Through all of that outward devotion, God laid down the same charge:  “you didn’t return to Me.”

Israel’s terms we selfish and insufficient to meet God in a relationship.  And because of that, they had to meet Him on His terms.

Amos 4:12-13 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

PREPARE TO MEET THE LORD!

Israel wasn’t prepared to meet God.  They rejected every offer of GRACE God had given them along the way.

When God persuaded them with tragedy and disaster, the rejected Him!

When God persuaded them with His only begotten Son, they crucified Him!

The question today for all is… what are you doing with the GRACE that God has extended to you?  He has offered His Son as a sacrifice for your sin.  He has offered His Holy Spirit to you like comfort and power to live like Jesus.

What are you doing with that GRACE?  Are you rejecting it by behaving on your own terms?  Are you rejecting it by worshipping on your own terms?  Or are you going to accept it?

Make no mistake about it.  Each one of us will one day meet God face to face.

Are you going to do it on your terms or His?

If you do it on your own terms Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

But if you meet Him on His terms, through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, we have the promise given by the Word of God:

How then, do you intend to meet God?

On your terms, or His?

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CREDITS:

Bible translations used:   BibleStudyTools.com – Holman Standard Bible; The New International Version (NIV); The Amplidied Bible (AMP); The English Standard Version (ESV).  And others referenced in Google Images.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, Merril Unger, William White Jr.

Video:  Youtube – Big Truck Lawyer TV Ads.

 

“HEAR NOW WHAT THE LORD SAYS”

BIBLE STUDY:

The Christian View Of Christian Spirituality –

For the entire past century and longer, the Christian view of spirituality has been on trial in my country.  Before Christ was born, Micah saw that his nation and every individual must find their real life, their spiritual life in trusting the Lord Jesus.

GALATIANS 5:16-26

16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentlenesses, self-control. Against such, there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. !

AND IN LUKE 17:11-19…

IMMEDIATELY, in our study, THE SCENE CHANGES –

And it’s no longer a nation that must answer, but the individual. Micah.  He asks, “What must I bring – what can I offer God to avert His wrath?”

The LORD’s Case Against Israel –

The LORD speaking through the prophet, Micah here:

Micah 6:1-8 (NLT)

[1]  “Stand up and state your case against me.  Let the mountains and hills be called to witness your complaints.  [2]  And now, O mountains, listen to the LORD’s complaint!  He has a case against his people.  He will bring charges against Israel.  

[3]  “Oh my people, what have I done to you?  How have I wearied you?  Answer me!  [4]  For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

[5]  Don’t you remember, my people, how King Balak of Moab tried to have you cursed and how Balaam son of Beor blessed you instead?  And remember your journey from Acacia Grove to Gilgal, when I, the LORD did everything I could to teach you about my faithfulness.”

[6]  What can we bring to the LORD?  Should we bring him burnt offerings?  Should we bow before God Most High with offerings of yearling calves?  [7]  Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?  Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins?

What then does the LORD Require?

It is a RELATIONSHIP, not rituals, not ‘things’ the LORD wants.

This is where TRUE WORSHIP begins.

  • True Worship obeys, and to obey is better than sacrifice!
  • True Worship impacts and it changes lives and influences others!

We worship God when we obey Him–when we honor God’s Name, that’s WORSHIP! 

Samuel told King Saul ( 1 Samuel 15:22), 

“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

as much as in obeying the LORD?

To obey is better than sacrifice 

and to heed is better than the fat of rams…”

Therefore, true worship can only come from a heart of obedience.

In true worship, we become and behave like the One we worship.  It’s not just an act (like bringing sacrifices or coming to church), it’s a LIFE!

I know, it’s not easy for us to remember, because we are so conditioned by the surroundings and by tradition, to think of WORSHIP as an event once a week.  We tend to compartmentalize our lives into different areas–church life, personal life, family life, corporate life, and social life.  That’s what we do!  And when we come through those church doors during the week, we decide…that’s WORSHIP!–an event where we are on our best behavior.  Well at least for some of us.

But WORSHIP is more than that.  Jesus tells the Samaritan woman by the well–it has nothing to do with the PLACE but the PERSON of God.

If WORSHIP is an encounter with Christ, then it happens every day and everywhere.

Each time I choose to OBEY God and do His will in my life…when His Name is honored by my words and behavior, I am worshipping Him!  I’m talking about worshipping Him every day,  It’s not just about songs we sing in the car, but our thoughts, words, and behavior.

My Christian faith isn’t an individualistic faith–it’s not just about me and God, and nothing else.

Israel was BLESSED to become a BLESSING to the nations that surrounded them.  God’s BLESSING isn’t an end in itself–it’s a witness to a lost and dying world.

It changes lives!

The question, in Micah 6:8, “What does the LORD require of you?” showed God’s expectations that God expects Israel’s faith to have changed their society, their surrounding communities.

It’s interesting to read and hear what God said to the prophet Ezekiel about SODOM & GOMORRAH:

The poor and needy are always on God’s radar screen.  People are God’s concern.

Forgetfulness:  It Can Be Hard to Remember Things.

Spanish philosopher Geroge Santayana famously stated the great truth that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

One of the greatest mistakes God’s people made in relatuionship was to forget who they were and lost their sense of identity as the covenant people of God, gradually drifting away from living their lives as God had intended for them.

God had said to them in Deuteronomy 6:12,  “be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

This happened not once, but time and time again.

The writer of Hebrews included a WARNING for New Testament believers not to make the same mistake.  But as I write this blog-study, I sense we are all in need of being continually reminded.  Only then can we fully appreciate the weight and relevance of the question presented by Micah”

“What does the LORD require of you?”

Micah sees a vivid picture of the destruction that will come about of the people beginning with their rulers and reaching unto the women and the children.

WHY?

Because JUDGEMENT was coming because the people of God were no longer living as the People Of God.  Instead, there was corruption, oppression, bribery, and injustice and all the while God’s people weren’t able to see that something had gone radically wrong.

WHAT HAD GONE WRONG?

The people of God neglected their relationship with the LORD–so much so that their hearts’ affections were overtaken by other things.  And this, in turn, was the explanation for the change in their attitudes, the way they were daily living and how they treated others.

AND THE CURE?

Not so much dealing with the symptoms but to deal with the cause.  A change in behavior would be the unavoidable outcome, returning to a meaningful relationship with the LORD.

It happens to Christians too!

We can drift away and as soon as we become cut off from the source of our life we no longer are motivated in the same way to be distinctive, nor do we have the passion anymore to do so.

Have you lost your passion?  Maybe your passion isn’t what it once was for the things of Christ!  Your relationship has grown cold; there are holes big enough in your relationship as if moth-eaten.

Micah Tells Them God’s Requirements For Getting Back On Track.  Repairing the Holes.

It’s as we are renewed in our relationship with God our Father, that we not only remember who we are in Christ Jesus, but we also take on His nature.

ACTING JUSTLY –

It wasn’t happening in Micah’s day (Micah 6:11) – “Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights?”

Here was a society that was cheating one another, not God’s way.

In Psalm 51:6, “Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.”

In Proverbs 4:23. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

LOVING MERCY –

This isn’t just ‘having mercy’, but “loving mercy.”

Mercy is a rich and strong word, meaning loving-kindness in action.  There’s an element of unexpectedness about it.

Mercy conveys a sense of LOVE and KINDNESS that’s not expected.  It’s doing acts of kindness to others out of love.  Like in the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, it was the one considered least likely to offer help who did so.  Or the story of the woman caught in adultery that teaches compassionate mercy scarcely revealed in Old Testament law.  Or the dying thief on a cross who believes.

It’s a way of life that reflects the LOVE of God for us.  It is taking on and living out Godly nature.

WALKING HUMBLY WITH GOD –

I love this quote I came across in my study this week:

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s just thinking of yourself less.” 

by Kris V.

HUMILITY is a theme of the entire Bible.  But God gives a ‘greater’ grace.  Therefore it says in James 4:6,  “But He gives us more grace.  That is why Scripture says:  “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

And in Zephaniah 2:3,  Seek the Lord [inquire for Him, inquire of Him, and require Him as the foremost necessity of your life], all you humble of the land who have acted in compliance with His revealed will and have kept His commandments; seek righteousness, seek humility [inquire form them, require them as vital].  It may be you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger.  (AMP)

Have this attitude within yourselves that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, He didn’t regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

We Walk (in the Spirit), HUMBLY when we come to Him in prayer.

I love the prayer that goes, “Dear Lord, so far today I am doing all right.  I have not gossiped, not cursed, lost my temper, and been greedy, nasty or self-indulgent.  However, I am about to get out of bed in a few minutes, and I will need a lot more help after that.”

To WALK HUMBLY with God is to “live carefully” to acknowledge that we don’t have it altogether, so we go to God for help.

1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.”

To sum it all up, it’s not all about giving “things” to God.

More than “things,” God requires us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before Him.  We can give all kinds of gifts to our church, but God is interested in the QUALITY of our lives.

We need to reconsider the way we are living our daily lives.

We need to first acknowledge our sins and then be willing to submit to God’s Mercy.  It’s only through a humbling of ourselves that we will be allowed to walk with God.

The response of a godly heart is outward (do justice), inward (love mercy), and upward (walk humbly) giving Him glory for it.

May the LORD enable us through Christ Jesus Who is our strength to live according to His Word.

AMEN

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CREDITS:

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Ols and New Testament Words.

Commentary:  Sermon Central – Micah 6:1-8 [various contributors].

Photo/Images:  Google Image Source.

Bible Translations:   New International Version (NIV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), Amplified Bible (AMP), New Living Translation (NLT).

 

“Prophesy,” “Preaching,” OR… Just “Tittle-Tattle”?

Scripture Study:  Micah 2:1-12 

*NOTE: You will need to read these 12 verses before diving into the context of this study.

To “tittle-tattle” or not to “tittle-tattle”, that’s the question.

Let’s face it, the word “tittle-tattle” seems over the years lost its meaning and use.  I haven’t heard the term used in years!  So I think it’s a good thing to inform my readers about the meaning and the reason I have connected it to our scripture study.

“tittle-tattle” or to “prattle”:  “If you say someone ‘prattle on about’ something, you are criticizing them because they are talking a lot without saying anything important.”  [Collins English Dictionary]  Synonym: Iddle babble.

In this Old Testament reading in the Book of Micah, we can readily categorize the message into two major parts.

The prophet Micah’s Warning:

  1. Covetous Materialism, and…
  2.  Idle Prattle.

“Covetous Materials” – Wanting to have the most and the best!

We see and hear a lot of this, don’t we?  “Keeping up with the Jone’s,” is still prevalent today, even in our churches.  Always driving a fancy car, dressed in the finest, even casual wear will be the ‘good stuff.’  Is it because of the quality, or is it to be viewed with envy?

Micah’s Second Warning, “Prattle”

Most of you probably haven’t heard this word or ever used it in a conversation.  I’m dating myself, but I haven’t heard the term “tittle-tattle” since my grade school days.  It means idle, silly, almost meaningless talk.  We all are probably quilty prattling from time to time and spouting off on one thing or another only to dominate a conversation to be the center of attention not to share anything meaningful.  It reminds me of a scene out of the 1987 movie, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a movie with much pathos, where Steve Martin’s character is reminding John Candy’s character of “meaningless talk.”

When God brought His people, the Israelites out of slavery to the Egyptians to the land of “milk and honey”. His plan was to give everyone special opportunities to prosper and live in peaceful concordance.

BUT, there are always a few that want more.

The Jubilee Year (Leviticus 25:8-12)

The shrewdly found ways to amass fortunes on the backs of these pilgrims.  We’ve got to understand that God had laid out this plan for His people.

So as to guard against land barons, slum lords and a quasi-type of enslavement, a type of “sharecropping” or “owing to the company store”, the practice of Jubilee Year was set up.

I could spend a lot of time here on “The Jubilee”.  The year of Jubilee rolled around every fifty years.

  1. ALL DEBTS were canceled;
  2. ALL LIENS were deemed null and void;
  3. Properties held by owners were returned to the original owner.

In other words, ALL indebtedness was erased, and everyone got a “do-over”.

If only that was a modern-day practice, there would be a great number of very happy folks, I included!

There is a significance for today’s Christian in understanding the Jubilee, and here’s why:

Romans 5:6-11

John 6:28-29 (AMP)

[28]  They then said, “What are we to do, that we may [habitually] be working the works of God?  [What are we to do to carry out what God requires?]

[29]  Jesus replied, “This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger].

Our INDEBTEDNESS is paid in full…

Rescued from slavery (to sin) in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Of course, there are some that have sold themselves into slavery by worshipping materialism over God.

As to the reference of “tittle-tattle”, there are two ways to view this.

FALSE PROPHECY – false prophets will claim what they declare as facts as from God.  It becomes our responsibility to test the prophecy that we hear against Scripture which is our only means of assurance of the TRUTH.

Micah 2:6 (AMP)

“Do not preach, say the prophesying false prophets, one should not babble and harp on such things; disgrace will not overtake 8s [the reviling has no end].”

It’s so easy to listen to any speakers sharing philosophical points or opinions and know right off that his/her purpose is drawing attention to himself/herself rather than for the good of the gospel.  It can’t be said enough, “guard the gospel truth.”

The second form of “tittle-tattle” within the church is that of “tickling ears”.

Micah 2:11 and 2 Timothy 4:3

AND…

If the church service is more about entertainment and less about the gospel, a huge WARNING SIGN emerges.

We all love good “Praise and Worship” music on Sunday’s and it can be a very good form of worship.

However, CHURCH is the place for corporate prayer, confession of sins, and sharing God’s Word.  And this practice isn’t for just monthly Communion services.

Outside of the church, we need to refrain from inane and meaningless and harmful conversations.  God has a whole lot to say about that.

Matthew 12:36-37 (NIV)

[36]  “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  [37]  For by your words you will be acquited, and by your words, you will be condemned.”

Ephesians 5:4 (AMP)

Let there be no filthiness (obscenity, indecency) nor foolish and sinful (silly and corrupt) talk, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting and proper among saints (God’s consecrated people).

Colossians 3:8 (NIV)

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these:  anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

Proverbs 10:13-14 (NIV)

[13]  Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.

[14]  The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.   Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

These passages are but just a few among the great passages of Scripture on this subject.  If it wasn’t important, then there wouldn’t be so many teachings and warning for the Church to observe.

I would invite you to conduct your own private study.  The WWW (world wide web) offers countless resources.  Just be wary unless the sources are reputable, and the information is verifiable.

So What Are We Coming Away With From Micah?

NUMBER 1.  Guard that mouth and the words that flow from it.  Avoid lies, gossip, vulgar, vain, profane, ungodly talk.

Communication is a two-way process.  The good practice is to walk away before listening to those types of conversation.  There is plenty of wholesome clean humor and entertainment available without being a part of any that isn’t acceptable to God!

NUMBER 2.  We really do need to guard against covetous materialism.

Notice that I said “WE”.  There’s nothing wrong with having nice things IF we don’t flaunt them (Facebook, included) or acquire them by taking advantage of any less fortunate than ourselves.

Ask yourself exactly what you would do with the money, won in the lottery.  Sure, you would be very generous with helping others, reaching out to the poor, the less fortunate.  I truly believe that…But what I’m asking is, what will you spend on yourself, and why?

The “WHY” here is more important than the “WHAT!”

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CREDITS:

Commentary:  Bible Hub – Micah 2:6; Studylight.org – Micah 2:11

Dictionary:  Collins English Dictionary.

Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Bible translations used in photos taken from other translations from the text and noted.

Video:  Youtube – Planes, Trains, And Automobiles – Chatty Cathy Scene. 

Just Because You Say It Enough Times Doesn’t Make It True

Scripture Study:  Matthew 7:21-23

A Powerful Jesus Straight Talk Moment:

“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

Saying that Jesus is LORD doesn’t make it so.

Let me say one thing very clear as I begin this study in Matthew,  Neither Jesus or I am talking about a works theology of earning His grace and salvation.  In fact, there may be some reading this who’ve tried that method.

Jesus indicates on the Day of Judgment…

Clearly, these are individuals who believe they’ve done a lot…

They believe that the stuff they’ve done is going to gain them entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  And it’s not little stuff either…it’s preaching…teaching…blogging…engaging in spiritual warfare with demons…it’s miracles!

Jesus isn’t talking to the crowd here, He’s talking to the Church.  He’s talking to people who defend themselves with these words:

  • “In Your name we prophesied!”
  • “In Your name, we cast out demons.”
  • “In Your name, we performed miracles!”

It sure seems to me that the problem here is the statement, “In Your name.” 

Jesus uses this statement 3 times in Verse 22.

My point is that doing stuff in “the name of Jesus” makes you feel good, but if you have no real relationship with Him…if He doesn’t really know you and you don’t really love Him…it’s worse than doing nothing at all, because it leaves you in a state of deception.  In my opinion, and it’s just ‘my opinion, it’s one of the most heretical and damning teachings of the Church today.  Its certainly one of the greatest tools that our enemy, Satan, uses to deceive people who have a loose association with Jesus in the Church today:

“Let the stuff you do become more important than the Leadership of Christ.”

“Let Him just be a name you speak and not a Savior you personally love and serve.”

David Platt, in his book “Follow Me” writes this:

I have a friend – let’s call him John – whose first experience to the concept of hell was during an episode of Tom and Jerry when he was young.

During one particularly vivid scene, Tom was sent to hell for something bad he had done to Jerry.  What was intended to be a humorous cartoon scared John to death, and he later found himself at church talking with an older man about what he had seen.

The churchman looked at John and said, “Well, you don’t want to go to hell, do you?”

“No,” he responded.

John paused.  After an awkward silence, he realized he was supposed to repeat after the man, and so he hesitantly responded, “Dear Jesus…”

“I know I’m a sinner and I know Jesus died on a cross for my sins,” the man said.

John followed suit.

“I ask you to come into my heart and to save me from my sin,” the man said.  John echoed what he had heard.

“AMEN,” the man concluded.

Then the nice, old gentleman looked at John and said, “Son, you are now saved from your sins, and you don’t ever have to worry about hell again!”

Surely what that man told my friend John in the church that day was not true.  Surely this isn’t what it means to respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him.

And yet, this story represents the deception that has spread like wildfire across the contemporary Christian landscape:  “Just ask Jesus into your heart and repeat this prayer after me and you will be saved!”

Should it alarm us that the Bible never mentions such a prayer?  Should it concern us that nowhere in Scripture is anyone ever told to “ask Jesus into their heart” or to “invite Christ into their life”?

Yet this is exactly what many professing Christians have been encouraged to do, and they’ve been assured that as long, as they say, certain words. recite a particular prayer, and with every head bowed, every eye closed, (‘no peaky’), told to raise their hand, check a box, sign a card, or walked an aisle, they are Christians and their salvation in eternity is secure.

IT’S NOT TRUE!

We’ve taken the lifeblood out of Christianity and put Kool-Aid in its place so it looks and tastes better to the masses, and the results…are catastrophic.

According to Jesus, “Many…” scores of men and women believe they are saved when they are not.

In Matthew 7, Jesus isn’t talking to atheists and pagans.

He’s talking to people who are associated with Himself and His ministry.  They assume their eternity is safe and will be shocked one day that it’s not.  Even though they professed their belief in Jesus…even did all kinds of works in His name, they never really knew Him…and He never really knew them.

I don’t know about you but His response is heartbreaking.  It sometimes keeps me awake at night and it burdens my soul.

“I never knew you…depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible uses the word “evildoer” for “lawlessness.”

Maybe this straight talk reveals the truth of real SALVATION…and the real issue.  Remember, Jesus is using the word “EVILDOER” toward people who thought they were “good”…because they did good things.

The word Greek word “kakos” [bad, evil, wicked] reveals the inner character of a person.  The iniquity, the sin, the wickedness lives in us all.

The inner wickedness and sin cannot be cured in a name association with Jesus or by doing “good works”, that would be like putting running shoes on a corpse.

In Luke’s gospel, someone asked Jesus. “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

And here’s His answer:

The narrow door (the gate) is the only way in, and once the owner of the house shuts it, it’s too late.

Here’s the picture:  The door’s shut, but people are knocking and pleading to get in.  But, it’s too late!

And the owner’s response to all the knocking…Luke 13:25 b.

“I don’t know you or where you come from.  Away from me all you evildoers.”

“We hung around you Jesus…we listened to your teaching…we ate and drank your meals.”

“Away from me…you never dealt with your sin…you never knew me…I never knew you.”

No wonder verse 28 records:

“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth.”

The heartbreak is basing your life on the false hope that “Hey, Jesus is my friend”…but you never died to your sin, you never surrendered your life to His ownership, you never accepted His grace, and now it’s too late!

It all comes down to the truth:  If your heart isn’t open to understanding how much we need God’s grace, you can say a thousand prayers, be baptized over and over again, work your fingers to the bone in Church and you’ll still be lost.

Remember this scripture that the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians:

What Jesus is addressing in His straight talk in Matthew is the difference between those who know about Him and those who live in Him.  It’s the difference between working for Jesus to earn His favor and walking with Jesus out of an overflow of faith.

When you or I…or anyone else is “in Christ”, we haven’t “received a get out of Jail free card.”  We haven’t been redeemed because we just believe in something.  We’ve died to self and we now have Christ “IN” us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If you are no different than you were before or you are no different than the rest of the world around you…

You’ve been DECEIVED and you are not a Christian.

The Barna Study Group Research, published on Agust 4, 2011 is revealing!

Almost half of all Americans claim to be “born again” Christians (I don’t know of any other kind! ).  Out of this group of “born again” Christians, researchers found that their beliefs and lifestyle weren’t indistinguishable from the rest of the world.  Many believe that “works” can earn them a place in heaven, others think that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, and an ever-increasing number describe themselves as only marginally committed to Jesus.

After reading the study, I think the one thing that’s abundantly clear from these statistics:

There are a whole lot of people in the world that think they are Christian but are not!  There are a whole lot of people who think they’ve been born again, but are dangerously deceived!!

Now I understand the concept of different levels of spiritual maturity…babes in Christ versus grown-up followers, but Jesus didn’t come to make good people better, He came to raise dead people to life, and that can’t happen in someone’s life and it not be noticeable in attitudes and actions.

Here’s is an illustration I came upon in my reading this week that I think really fits here:

Imagine you and I set up a meeting for lunch at a local restaurant, and you arrive before I do.

You wait, and wait, and wait, but 30 minutes later, I still haven’t arrived.  When I finally show up, completely out of breath, I say to you, “I’m so sorry I’m late.  When I was driving over here, my car had a flat tire, and I pulled over on the side of the highway to fix it.  While I was fixing it, I accidentally stepped into the road, and a Mack truck going about 70 mph, suddenly hit me head-on.  It hurt, but I picked myself up, finished putting the spare tire on the car, and drove over here.”

If this were the I shared, you would know I was either deliberately lying or completely deceived.  

WHY?  Because if someone gets hit by a Mack truck going seventy miles per hour, that person is going to look very different than they did before.

Jesus isn’t a pussy-cat…

He’s the Lion of Judah and if you come face to face with Him, the Word of Creation, the Sovereign Lord of the Universe and He reaches down into the depth of your heart, saves you from the slavery of sin and transforms you to follow Him…you are going to look different…very different!

So what happens when the Mack truck of God’s glory and forgiveness hits us?

There’s repentance and baptism and resurrection of new life by the Holy Spirit.  And, we begin to look like Jesus in this world, according to 1 John 3:1-10.

DON’T BE DECEIVED!

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CREDITS:

Sources:  Interlinear Bible; Vinne’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words by W.E. Vine.

Images/Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New American Standard (NAS); New King James Version (NKJV).