Everything In Life Has Terms Attached to it

STUDY IN AMOS 4:11-13 –

Terms-and-Conditions

 

HAVE LAWYERS TAKEN OVER THE WORLD?

It seems like everything I do these days has some type of TERMS I have to agree to.  I just opened today’s mail and with no surprise, plenty of JUNK MAIL.

Somebody will send a credit card application and all over the front page, in big 2-inch letters–tells me about all the money they’re going to give me.

But then at the bottom or on the back, it gives the TERMS & CONDITIONS.  Of course, you have to have a magnifying glass to read the print.  The only reason they put the terms therein the first place is because the LAWYERS make them.  That said, they still try to hide them as best as they can.

Whether you’re buying anything, getting a job, or entering a contract–TERMS have to be agreed to.

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

Except, God isn’t a lawyer–He sets His terms up front.

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

That’s what ISRAEL did in our study in AMOS.  God’s chosen people wanted a RELATIONSHIP with God, but wanted it on their TERMS.

God speaks through AMOS and reviews His case against ISRAEL.

AMOS reviews the ways ISRAEL tried to meet God on their own TERMS, in spite of His continual persuasion.

Even though times have changed, human nature hasn’t and neither has God’s CHARACTER.

There are still TWO WAYS to prepare to meet God–

Either try to do it on our terms or His.  We’ll meet Him either way.  Either we’ll meet Him in JUDGMENT or in ETERNAL RELATIONSHIP.

MEETING GOD ON OUR TERMS –

ISRAEL tried to meet God on their terms because they BEHAVED on their own terms.

AMOS 4:1:

“HEAR THIS word, you cows of Bashan who are in the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands,  Bring and let us drink!”

GOD’S description called them “COWS”, not “BULLS.”

BASHAN is a hilly area overlooking Samaria and was known for its cattle.  If McDonald’s had been around back then, they would have marketed “Bashan burgers” and not “Black Angus.”

BASHAN COWS were well fed, spoiled and fat!

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THE IMAGE GOD USED TO DESCRIBE THE ISRAELITE WOMEN –

In the original Hebrew language, the feminine structure of the verse makes it clear, God is talking about the WOMEN OF ISRAEL.

Throughout history, in every society, WOMEN are the main stabilizing forces.  The decline of any society can be seen in the way the women act.

WOMEN are typically more stable, more moral, more obedient to laws, more kind and merciful to the poor and needy.

That was what was happening in ISRAEL.  The women had turned away from their values; they had usurped their roles in the home by now demanding to be waited on.

CAUSE & EFFECT–

The words in AMOS 4, are not just a JUDGMENT on the women.  It’s a JUDGMENT on Israel as a whole because women acting that way is an EFFECT– it’s not a CAUSE.

The cause is from men and society as a whole, turning away from God.

The Genie Is Out of The Bottle…

RADICAL FEMINISM will not go away until Christ returns, ushering in proper balance between men and women.

When JESUS sets up His government–“until the times of restoration of all things” will begin (Acts 3:21), then He will declare the eternal end to the “battle of the sexes.”  Then it will not be a woman’s world–but a God’s world!

Look what’s happening in my country…

AMERICA began to turn away from God in the mid 1800s.  The educated elite began to BELIEVE IN DARWINISM and began to question the Bible and tear it down.

THAT WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE DISEASE–

Now fast forward to today.  Women in America no longer value their KINDNESS and MERCY.  We lift up cutthroat, catty corporate executives and political figures as role models.  And, from an early age, girls are encouraged to be tough and aggressive instead of KIND AND MERCIFUL.

Just like ancient ISRAEL, that’s just one of the first symptoms of a disease that has been eating away at our society for a long time.  It is a DISEASE called… wanting to behave on our own terms.

But not only did ISRAEL BEHAVE on their own terms, they WORSHIPPED on their own terms.

AMOS 4:4-5 (NIV):

[4] “Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years.

[5] Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings–boast about them, you Israelites for this is what you love to do,” declares the Sovereign LORD.

BETHEL and GILGAL –

Both Bethel and Gilgal originally had been wonderful places of WORSHIP for God.

BETHEL was the place where Abraham set up and altar to God–Jacob saw the LORD there and also one of the places SAMUEL judged.

BUT over the years, the people corrupted the place of worship.  Jeroboam set up the golden calf and that marked the beginning of a long history of idolatry and false worship there.

Both BETHEL & GILGAL has historically been places of WORSHIP.  But over the years, the WORSHIP had become empty and even despicable to God.

The people were going through ALL the motions, even going over and above–bringing SACRIFICES much more than required.

They TITHED much more often than was required.

Their outward shows of RELIGION were over and above.

Most would say that would be a good thing.  Well, not if their heart was in the shape theirs was in.

Camouflage Heart/Google Images
Camouflage Heart/Google Images

Because they came to offer sacrifices just as a show, their SACRIFICE didn’t indicate a HEART CHANGE.

THE FREEWILL OFFERINGS were proclaimed and published as mandatory; they were no longer FREE!  They were under obligation.

They were worshipping, but on their own terms–they didn’t worship with a changed and contrite heart or out of a FREE LOVE of God.

They did it for show!

Doesn’t that sound like the church today?  We want to WORSHIP Him on our 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.

We look for a church that will meet our needs or will suit our personal tastes.

If the ‘musk’ isn’t the way we like it, we leave.  We have become consumers rather than worshippers.

And when everything falls in line of our needs, we smile and sing,  “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

ISRAEL tried to meet God on their terms…

They BEHAVED on their terms and they worshipped on their terms and NOT what God wanted of them.

And it’s not what God wants of us either.

But God doesn’t force us to do anything.  Just like He didn’t force ISRAEL to change.  He didn’t force them–He persuaded them to meet Him on His terms.

GOD’S WARNINGS ON HIS TERMS (AMOS 4:2-3):

GOD’S TERMS and ISRAEL’S TERMS–

What our God’s Terms?

051807CARPFISHjc10 Sports photo by Jim Commentucci 5/18/07 A common carp weighing in the mid teens fights at the surface against French teammates Numa Marengo and Frederic Labrousse during the second day of fishing Friday in the American Carp Society's Northeast Regionals tournament on the Seneca River in Baldwinsville. The fish was caught on a flavored dough bait called "boilies." FISHING DERBY

He tells us in VERSE 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 fish-hooks.”

His terms are HOLINESS–it’s TERMS He swears by.

JESUS summed up GOD’S TERMS in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:48):

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father

which is in heaven is perfect.”  ~ King James Bible

The AMPLIFIED bible adds brackets to end of this verse.  I believe it clarifies the verse even more:

[that is, grow into complete maturity of godliness

in mind and character, having reached the proper

height of virtue and integrity].

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 of the way.  He WARNED them that their disobedience would bring JUDGMENT.

God changes the picture here…

It goes from picturing the WOMAN OF ISRAEL as fat and happy cows…to picturing them as FISH ON A HOOK.

I know what happens when I’ve gone fishing to a nearby lake and caught fish.  I hooked it and drag it out of the place where it was comfortable (You place the fish in an environment that is harsh and hostile to it).

GOD’S WARNING–

stock-photo-mess-of-catfish-on-a-stringer-lying-on-the-bank-of-a-river-180460181His warning to the people were literally fulfilled by the Assyrians, who led ISRAEL into CAPTIVITY just a few years later.

In a few short years, ISRAEL went from unprecedented economic and military prosperity to being drug into captivity like FISH on a stringer.

Has GOD given us warnings?

GOD’S TERMS OF PERFECTION –

His terms of perfection are the same as they have always been.  Along with His TERMS OF PERFECTION, He has given His PROVISION OF GRACE.

GRACE that our IMPERFECTIONS are covered by the BLOOD of His Son JESUS CHRIST.

He takes away our SIN and gives us HIS PERFECTION–HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS.  But He only does that when we TRUST Him as our LORD & SAVIOR!

The Bible is full of WARNINGS when we refuse His warnings and rebel.

  • WHEN WE BEHAVE ON OUR TERMS…GOD WARNS ON HIS TERMS.
  • WHEN WE WORSHIP ON OUR TERMS…GOD WARNS ON HIS TERMS.

GOD ALSO PERSUADES ON HIS TERMS –

AMOS 4:6-11 (NAS bible):

[6] “But I gave you also cleanness of teeth in all your cities  And lack of bread in all your places,  Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.

[7] “And furthermore, I withheld the rain from you  While there were still three months until harvest.  Then I would send rain on one city  And on another city I would not send rain;  One part would be rained on,  While the part not rained on would dry up.

[8] “So two or three cities would stagger to another city to drink water;  But would not be satisfied;  Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.

[9] “I smote you with scorching wind and mildew;  And the caterpillar was devouring  Your many gardens and vineyards, fig trees and olive trees;  Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.

[10] “I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt;  I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses,  And I made the stench in your camp rise up in your nostrils;  Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.

[11] “I overthrew you as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,  And you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze;  Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.

GOD JUDGED the world in a flood and He will judge the world with fire.  Everything in between… is His PERSUASION.

In VERSE 6, He PERSUADED Israel with famine.

“CLEAN TEETH” wasn’t a compliment on their dental hygiene.  It meant they had no food to dirty their teeth with.

In VERSES 7-8, God gave them drought to try to PERSUADE them to turn to Him.

In VERSE 9, He gave them, as the Amplified Bible reads…”BLIGHT”.  

BLIGHT in Detroit, Michigan USA
BLIGHT in Detroit, Michigan USA

DEFINITION OF BLIGHT= [1] “Any of numerous plant diseases resulting in sudden conspicuous wilting and dying and the effects thereof…”  [2] “An agent or action that harms or ruins the VALUE or success of something”  (See footnote [i] ). 

In VERSE 10, He gave them PESTILENCE and WAR to persuade them…

AND in VERSE 11, A Supernatural DEFECT…

Many of the things we see as TRIALS as given to us persuades us, to return to Him.

Look at AMERICA as an example –  

  • After the Civil War there was a national REVIVAL.
  • After the Great Depression, there followed national REVIVAL.

After most great times of TROUBLE & TRIAL, there has been periods of a national return to the LORD.  Until recently.

Even after 9/11, Bible sales across America went through the roof!  But there was a shifting between 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

When Katrina happened, there was a tremendous outpouring from the churches at first. But the people weren’t looking to God–they were looking to government to supply their needs.

God PERSUADED AMERICA to turn to Him, and as a whole…we didn’t.

INSTEAD, we turned to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Assistance).

INSTEAD of REPENTANCE, we saw blame and cast it.

INSTEAD of falling on our knees and crying out for God to SAVE us as a country, the politicians cried out to the Casinos to save them.

God is persuading us today, just like He persuaded Israel in Amos.

GOD PERSUADES with clean teeth and tragedy.  

The question is, are we LISTENING? Or, are we like ISRAEL?

ISRAEL tried to meet God on their TERMS–and they BEHAVED on their TERMS.

But God didn’t just let them go.  He persuaded them on HIS TERMS…HE WARNED them on HIS TERMS.

FINALLY, We Can See the RESULTS of ISRAEL’S TERMS (AMOS 4:12-13):

[12] “Therefore thus will I do to you O Israel; and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!

[13] For behold, He Who forms the mountains and creates the wind and declares to man what is his thought,  Who makes the morning darkness and treads on the heights of the earth–the Lord, the God of hosts, is His name!”

After I first read those verses in study, I started skimming back through verses 6-11; looking at the last phrase of each verse; looking at each of the five attempts God made to get ISRAEL’S attention.

They were answered the same way,

“Yet you did not return to Me.”

The people were going to come to God on their own TERMS.

  • They wanted to be FAT & COMFORTABLE…
  • They wanted to BEHAVE as they saw fit…
  • They wanted to put an “I LOVE JESUS” T-shirt on and claim to be God’s children.
  • They wanted to WORSHIP God, but they wanted to worship Him in a way that pleased them.
  • They wanted to be ‘pumped up’; going to church, wearing the local professional team’s football jerseys and stocking caps, without any commitment to Christ.

Through ALL of that outward devotion, God leveled the same charge:  “you have not returned to Me.”

ISRAEL’S TERMS were selfish and insufficient to meet God in relationship.

So the question is presented to the Church today.

What are we doing with God’s Grace?

Are you in rejection of it, behaving on your TERMS?  Are you rejecting it by worshipping on your own terms?

Each one of us will meet God face to face one day.  Are you going to do it on YourTERMS or on His TERMS?

If you do it on YOUR TERMS, Hebrews 10:31 says,  “It is a fearful (formidable and terrible) thing to incur the divine penalties and be cast into the hands of the living God!”

BUT, if you meet Him on HIS TERMS, through the BLOOD of His Son Jesus Christ, this is the PROMISE found in Revelation 22:1-4:

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How do you intend to meet God this day, this week, this month, this year?

ON YOUR TERMS OR HIS?

 


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS:

Footnote [i] :  The Free Dictionary by Farlex.

PHOTOS:  Google Images.

Bible Translations Used:  Amplified bible except where noted.

Excerpts From Commentaries Used:  Second Covenant Lawsuit – Amos 4:1-13; Cows of Bashan (Forerunner Commentary) – Bible Tools.

 

 

 

 

 

IN THE MIDST–Disappointed, Perplexed and Disillusioned (part one)

What Do We Do With A False Sense Of Security?

The Story of Adrian Plass–

I want to begin this post with a story of a church youth worker–it could be any dedicated Christian worker involved in ministry:

A youth worker had been involved for years of zealous ministry, burning both ends of the candle in the needs of inner-city youth and he “burnt out”.  He had a complete emotional breakdown, became so depressed, he was admitted to a psychiatric ward to recover.

During his stay he started to keep a diary as part of therapy in reflecting on his past life and present.  At a certain time, he felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to seek out a certain man of God who lived in another city.  He made an appointment with the man and traveled there.

This man of God sat down with him to pray, then he paused in listening prayer,  “God has shown me a picture of a field overrun with weeds, thorns and brambles.  THIS FIELD REPRESENTS YOUR LIFE.”

This burnt out young man thought,  “Oh that’s great!  That’s my life alright.  Nothing but weeds.  That’s how God sees my life…a useless wasteland.”

Overrun with WEEDS and BRAMBLE
Overrun with WEEDS and BRAMBLE

A STUDY IN 1 KINGS 8:

Some Questions before the journey begins–

— Have you been perplexed and disillusioned, or even now, experiencing these feelings, of “being in the weeds”?

— Are you disappointed at God in the midst of pain and suffering?

— Are you thinking or have thought God is punishing you for something in your past?

Disappointed, Perplexed and Disillusioned?

You are not alone if you are asking yourself questions.  We have all, at one time or another, been stuck with the WHY’S...why is this happening to me?  I’ve read in my Bible almost every day–I go to church, even when I don’t feel like it–I pray and do good to others–so WHY NOW LORD?

An important exercise to begin–

Reflecting, remembering and looking back over your life can sometimes be trying–making sense of how you started with the promises, the dreams and ideals that God gave you.  Maybe you tried to make sense of  God’s promises in your given given situation, trying to remember how God revealed Himself,  in light of  where He was clearly leading in His promises.  So what went wrong along the way?

The Journey Begins–THE BIBLICAL BACKGROUND FIRST:

The referenced story in The First Book Of Kings, is written by someone who asked himself and his people the same question:  WHAT WENT WRONG?

They’re in EXILE looking back at their history, trying to make sense of where they find themselves.

Jerusalem, their Holy City, has been ransacked and in ruin.  Their Temple has been destroyed by foreign powers, they’ve all been taken captive, including the former King (David’s descendant) and now they are living in a foreign land with resident aliens.  This was oppression of an empire, who usually was not sympathetic to them, their values or their God.

AND NOW… they were trying to think back where God made some important promises of enduring Kingship of David’s descendants, a Temple that was to be the center of worship; where God’s name and Presence remain forever.

Background of The Temple–

DAVID wanted to build GOD a Temple worthy of worshiping Him.  Instead, God promised him a legacy of an enduring house or Kingly dynasty.

GOD also told DAVID that his son would build the Temple.  So David spent many years preparing for that glorious day, collecting materials and articles for this Temple to be.

Solomon comes to the throne–

In the midst of struggle, who among David’s sons would become King?  The aging King David (with God’s prompting), selects Solomon.  Solomon starts construction in the 4th year of his reign and it takes 7 1/2 years and thousands of laborers/artisans to complete the task; including being completely covered…in costly gold.

THE PASSAGE (1 Kings 8):

Finally finishing the task, King Solomon calls all of Israel’s leaders and ‘common folk‘ to join in celebration of the big national Autumn Feast of Tabernacles and the dedication of the Temple; asking God’s Presence to dwell with His people–symbolized especially by bringing up of the Ark of the Covenant–representing God’s Sinai covenant given with the Law to Moses (the Torah) to all the people delivered from Egyptian slavery.

Temple Dedication–

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Solomon’s Temple

This day was one of the most glorious days in the History of Israel.  The people finally have peace (David had conquered ALL their enemies in his 40 years of reign)…and, they had a consolidated kingdom with the pinnacle of success, power, wealth, and international renown.

First, the qualities of God–

Let’s look together at some qualities shown about God in this passage of Scripture.  I hope you have your Bible close by so we can look together.

Wrong images of and misbeliefs about God keep us from God presence, because FEAR CASTS OUT LOVE!

1.  GOD’S TRANSCENDENCE.

I used my ROGET’S THESAURUS for the above ‘fancy word’.  It means, God is way beyond us with all His qualities and attributes–ALL- KNOWING, ALL-POWERFUL, MAJESTIC, way beyond our limited understanding to grasp Him and who He is.  That said, in the time of the Old Testament, the acceptable means of worshiping was in sacrificing animals by fire.  The “how big” and “how much” to offer, was in order to express and give a sense of how powerful you imagined this Great God to be and what He is worth.

“King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel who had assembled before him were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, so many that they could not be reported or counted”  (1 Kings 8:5 AMP).

How much did it cost them in money and time to worship God?  How costly is our worship?

A Heavy Impenetrable Cloud and the Bright Shining Glory Filled the Temple–

God’s presence filled the house so much that the ministering priests could not enter to do any work (1 Kings 8:10-11).  In a parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 7:1-3  says, that after Solomon prayed, fire came down from heaven and consumed the offering and sacrifices.

Fire Came Down
Fire Came Down

How would you feel about God in your next week’s worship service or after your prayer time at home, God sent fire down in front of your eyes?

WHEN SOLOMON had finished praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house.  The priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house.  And when all the people of Israel saw how the fire came down and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed with their faces upon the pavement and worshiped and praised the Lord saying,  For He is good, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever”  (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).

I highlighted the people’s words, for the purpose of remembering in life’s journey, while…IN THE MIDST–Disappointed, Perplexed and Disillusioned.  HOLD THAT THOUGHT.

One way of becoming complacent in our lives–in the midst–is when we lose our reverence for God.  Can you bring to mind right now, specific times that moved you deeply in beauty and awe of wonderment over God and His works?  The bible says the natural created world and the heavens, declare and reveal the glory of the Creator–give revelation of His splendor of His character (Psalm 19:11; 5:11; 108:5; Isaiah 6:3; Romans 1:20).

One Starry Night…

Several years ago, my wife and I celebrated our Wedding Anniversary at a B & B (bed and breakfast inn) in Leavenworth, Washington USA.  After dinner in town, we drove back to this wonderful re-created Swiss Chalet, and when we got out of the car, Dianne said Look up into the sky and see what an awesome God we have.

A Stary Night
A Starry Night

In the night sky, looking up was millions of stars, galaxies…millions of light years away…in a vast Universe.  Maybe sometimes, we have lost sight of the awesomeness of God…who cannot be contained because we have so timed and domesticated our view of God.  Maybe we have lost our wonderment along the journey–in the midst of disappointments, perplexities and disillusionment’s.  Just maybe we need to ask God to help us to recover this wonderment.  Only when we realize God’s grandeur, do we realize the tremendous sacrifice He made to stoop to care about us in His vast Universe.  Do we think we can control or domesticate this awesome God, put Him into our own boxes; try to manipulate Him in our agendas, in our timing as if He had to do our bidding?

THE SCENE OF WORSHIP:

It’s hard to believe from that scene of worship presented in 1 Kings, that Solomon and God’s people would so deteriorate into that very same thing I just mentioned.

In Jeremiah, the people eroded to an illusion because they had the Temple; that their salvation was secure and God was somehow bound to bless them–keep them safe–nothing bad would happen–no matter what their behavior was.

The PRIDE of Being Chosen…

In the Hebrew, there are several words mentioned for the English word PRIDE.  One in particular is the Hebrew word ga’on: “arrogance, presumptuousness, haughtiness, conceit.”

There were several reasons the Israelites would give us if we were there for their PRIDE:

— Having the ‘Golden Temple’.

— God’s Presence.

— Kingdom power.

— SUCCESS.

— Well Fed.

— PROSPEROUS.

The people had been lulled into falsely thinking that ALL WAS WELL.  This was their False Security–they took all of God’s blessings and God for granted as a given–that could be demanded as a right.

WHAT IS OUR “FALSE SECURITY” IN THE MIDST?

Ronald Rolheiser in “The Shattered Lantern” states:

“To be a saint [or one of God’s people] is to be motivated by GRATITUDE, nothing more and nothing less.  In the end gratitude is the root of all virtue.  It lies at the base of love and charity…  Essentially the condition is this:  God tells Adam and Eve that they may receive life as a gift but they may never take life as if it were theirs by right…as long as you continue to receive and respect reality as gift, it will continue to give you life and goodness.  Conversely, as soon as you attempt actively to seize it, life will decrease and there will be shame, loss harmony, pain, death and loss of proper connection with God…LOVE can only be received as a gift.”

This mysterious God is GOD…

High above us, so Holy, He will not be domesticated with our agendas.  He wants us to RESPOND to Him, not with fear and distance, but in GRATITUDE and LOVE.

A Dog and Lion Story…

Years ago, I was an owner of an English Mastiff dog.  A dog at adulthood, who weighed 210 pounds and stood at 34 inches at his shoulders.  In coming up with a good name for him, I found in a dog breed book on English Mastiffs, that ‘as a Lion was to the cat family…English Mastiffs were to the dog family’.  So we named him ASLAN.  If you are acquainted with C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, you get the picture.

GOD is like the Lion, ASLAN:  the King of all Beasts.  He is not tame but He is good! 

“The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.  The Lord is GOOD TO ALL: and His tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145).

God’s MERCY is “over all His works”!  Everything He does is based on mercy.  When He heals you, it’s because of His mercy.  When He gives you the finances to pay a bill, it is because of mercy.  Even your salvation–the act of being born again–is based on mercy.  The apostle Paul said it this way:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:   Not of works, lest any man should boast”  (Ephesians 2:8, 9 KJV).

God’s character shows His goodness, but do we believe God cares that we can approach Him and actually have intimacy with Him?  God’s presence in creation doesn’t mean that He winds up creation like a watch and then sits back to watch it run.

I will continue this series in PART TWOGOD’S IMMANENCE.

Do We Actually “Trust In God” or Do We Just Say We Do? – [PART 2]

Do We Really TRUST?

PART TWO–Walking In The Divine Path or The Aimless Way:

In Part One, we saw illustrations given by the prophet Isaiah regarding 4- contrasts of  TRUST IN GOD:

1.  Between inhabiting the holy city  and “lofty” ruins (Isaiah 26:1-6).

2.  Between walking the divine path and the aimless way.

3.  Between working with supernatural ability and human inability.

4.  Between rising to eternal life and to judgement.

In PART TWO, I’ll pick up the conversation where I left off in Walking In the Divine Path or The Aimless Way.

“[7]  The way of the [consistently] righteous (those living in moral and spiritual rectitude in every area and relationship of their lives) is level and straight; You, O [Lord],  Who are upright, direct aright and make level the path of the [uncompromisingly] just and righteous.  [8] Yes, in the path of Your judgements, O Lord, we wait [expectantly] for You; our heartfelt desire is for Your name and for the remembrance of You.  [9] My soul yearns for You [O Lord] in the night, yes, my spirit within me seeks You earnestly; for [only] when Your judgments are in the earth will the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God).  [10] Though favor is shown to the wicked, yet, they do not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness they deal perversely and refuse to see the majesty of the Lord.  [11] Though Your hand is lifted high to strike, Lord, they do not see it.  Let them see Your zeal for Your people and be ashamed; yes, let the fire reserved for Your enemies consume them”  (Isaiah 26:7-11 AMP).

Look at verse 7, where it tells us that the way or path of righteousness is level and straight.  Then Isaiah calls God “You, O [Lord], Who are upright.”

The NIV translation of the same verse is a bit different in wording: “O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth”; this is actually the same word but because Hebrew and English phrasing are different.  The idea here is, God’s path is level because God is level; God’s path is straight because God is straight; God’s path is righteous…you get the picture.  In other words, we walk in God’s path by imitating the character of God.  Now I don’t think Isaiah is telling us God’s path is a stroll in the park, but he is saying that the path is easy to find.

–God Repeatedly Reveals His Character To Us.

First, He reveals His character via His WordSecondly, He reveals Himself through the incarnation of Jesus.  And thirdly, He reveals Himself via other Christians around us.  All God is asking us is to imitate Him!

–Every single command God has given us.

His commands are a reflection of some aspect of who He is.  Imitating God may not be easy, but the requirements are clear!  By contrast, the way of the world is aimless and…clueless.

Character Reflection

–Isaiah Gives Us Three Pictures of People Who Refuse to Follow God:

FIRST PICTURE given in verse 10–The Message Bible.

“If the wicked are shown grace, they don’t seem to get it”

SECOND PICTURE in verse 10 (b)–The Message Bible.

“In the land of right living, they persisted in wrong living, blind to the splendor of God”

THIRD PICTURE in verse 11–The Message Bible.

“You hold your hand up high God, but they don’t see it.”

Even though the proof of Jesus’ death and resurrection is evident, people are still refusing to come to terms with God.  The apostle Paul says the same thing in Romans 1:18-32.  People who you come in contact with daily know the righteous acts of God; they can see the divine path out in front of them but they willfully refuse to walk in it; then encourage others not to walk in it either.  They choose to walk the aimless way.  Which path are you walking?

THE THIRD CONTRAST: WORKING WITH SUPERNATURAL (divine) ABILITY or HUMAN INABILITY–

[READ Verses 12-18]

Everything that we accomplish in our lives has been done by God working in us.

City Bible Church-North Sound isn’t located here in Lynden, Washington because a small group of Christian believers established it.  God established His Church.  God used (names) to build this church, working through them, gifting them with talents and abilities.  And if this church continues to grow in number, it’s because God will continue to do His work in this place.  For that reason only, God’s name is honored!

–Our Power or God’s Power.

Are we as a church, in the 21st century working in our power, or relying, trusting in God’s power?  Are we as a church just ‘doing’ and our efforts are cast into the wind?   By contrast, Isaiah tells us what happens when we work in our own ability:

[17] As a woman with child drawing near the time of her delivery is in pain and writhes and cries out in her pangs, so we have been before You (at Your presence), O Lord.  [18] We have been with child, we have been writhing and in pain; we have, as it were, brought forth [only] wind.  We have not wrought any deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not yet been born”  (Isaiah 26:17-18 AMP).

–Giving Birth!

Isaiah is using the images of a woman giving birth and describing that it takes a lot of effort.  For nine months the child is growing inside the womb and after nine months, the day finally arrives.  Oh, how I remember those joyful days so long ago.  They will always be permanently imprinted on my mind.  The thrill, the joy of being a father, WOW!

Now husbands might think they understand what their wives are going through or went at the time, but not really–right ladies?  I once heard a woman describe what her childbirth experience was like: ‘Taking my upper lip and pull it over my head.” 

Seriously, this image of a woman struggling to give birth in verses 17-18 is the strongest image Isaiah could come up with.  But nothing comes of all that labor.  Imagine after going through labor ladies, this doctor tells you that you didn’t give birth to a baby–it was just gas!

That’s what Isaiah is trying to get across here.  When we work in our own strength we achieve nothing.  Even if we men were to work as hard as a woman giving birth (and that will never happen), our work accomplishes nothing.

3-Questions For The Church:

1.  Are we as a church in God’s supernatural ability or our own inability?

2.  Are ALL the programs we come up with and are doing just programs, making a ‘big splash’ for all to see, taking a lot of effort but accomplishing little?

3.  Are we laboring in God’s strength in accomplishing His plan for eternal salvation?

THE LAST CONTRAST IN ISAIAH 26:19-21:

[19]  Your dead shall live [O Lord]; the bodies of our dead [saints] shall rise.  You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!  For Your dew [O Lord] is a dew of [sparkling] light [heavenly, supernatural dew]; and the earth shall cast forth the dead [to life again; for on the land of the shades of the dead You will let Your dew fall].  [20] Come, my people, enter your chambers and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the [Lord’s] wrath is past.  [21] For behold, the Lord is coming out of His place [heaven] to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth also will disclose the blood shed upon her and will no longer cover her slain and conceal her guilt.”

–“Shut the Front Door”!

ISAIAH draws up on the blackboard for us the instructions for this last contrast:  Between the eternal destination of the righteous and the wicked.

God’s people will rise to eternal life in the middle of ‘shouts for joy’; to share in the festivities of God’s final triumph on earth.  The wicked; the lost souls, will rise to eternal punishment.

The previous three contrast:  Inhabiting the city of salvation vs. the lofty ruins;  Walking the divine path vs. wandering the aimless way;  Working in God’s strength vs. working in our own inability–all are choices we have to make.

Grabbing the Door

–ONE WAY, AND ONLY ONE!

In my investigation regarding “TRUST IN GOD” this past week, I uncovered an old children’s song “One Door and only one”.  It goes like this:

One door and only one

And yet its sides are two.

Inside and outside

On which side are you.

I’ll go on with more of the songs lyrics that fits in nicely with the choices that must be made, sooner than later:

One Door and Only One

And yet its sides are two

I’m on the inside

On which side are you?

One Lord and only one

And yet the ways are two,

Right way and wrong way

On which way are you?

And if the contrasts in the song are not enough to convince you by now, let me give you just a few more choices:

One strength and only one,

yet the works are two.

His strength or our strength,

which strength are you?

One eternity, and only one,

yet the results are two.

Eternal life with God or

eternal separation from God,

WHICH RESULT WILL BE YOURS?