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!

___________________________________________________________

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.

 

 

And I Saw God’s Glory!

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  Isaiah 6:1-3 (NIV)

[1]  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

[2]  Above him were seraphim, each with six wings:  With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

[3]  And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;

the whole earth is full of his glory.”

It’s difficult to know when reading passages of Scripture in the Bible whether God’s GLORY refers to His actual glory or to human recognition of it.  This is true, for example, when Scripture speaks of the earth being full of the GLORY of the Lord.

In Isaiah 6, we see the call and commissioning of Isaiah, the prophet.

We don’t know for sure, but we assume that Isaiah was in the earthly temple.  However, the temple described in verse 1 is the Heavenly Temple.

In the year King Uzziah died it may be like saying the year Pearl Harbor was bombed, in the year JFK was shot, or in the year the Bomb was dropped.  This was a time in the nation of crisis and change that the prophet came face to face with the King of Kings.

HOLINESS tells us that Jesus is the exact representation or image of God.  What many have lost is the holiness of God.  God has become “the man upstairs”, or “the God next door”.  Max Lucado said it well:  “Immanuel, God with us.”

In Jesus Christ, God came near.  Something of the awesomeness and greatness– His GLORY has been forgotten.  The church culture has so allowed the culture around us to shape the way we do things.  The customer satisfaction mentality has invaded our churches we have to be sure not to offend anyone– WORSHIP is all about them.

Here in Isaiah, we see that WORSHIP is all about God.

When we see and sing the words on the Big Screen in church or out of a hymn book, we need to remember the songs are all about Him.  When you read History in the Bible, you need to remember, it’s His story.  What Isaiah got was probably more than he bargained for in a worship service.

God’s High Position (6:1) – Beholding His Glory

[1]  IN THE year that King Uzziah died, [in a vision] I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and the skirts of His train filled the [most holy part of the] temple.  [John 12:41]  (Amplified Bible).

Isaiah was reminded that God is sovereign.  When God showed up, Isaiah saw God high and lifted up.  He saw God in His greatness and holiness.  With everything that was happening, God was in complete control while sitting on His throne in heaven.

Here in Isaiah 6:1, looking at several different Bible translations, you can see Lord spelled in all caps–i.e., LORD; and others, Lord.  I just had to dig deeper here.

LORD (all caps or small caps) reflects the original term “YHWH”, while Lord (standard capitalization) is the English rendition of the Hebrew Adonai, meaning “to be”; “the Lord God Almighty, the sovereign or supreme one.”  It suggests that God simply is i.e., He possesses an underived existence; He is the eternal “I AM”.  This name became a special designation–emphasized in God’s relations ship to the nation of Israel.  [“LORD and Lord – What’s the Difference? by The Christian Courier] 

John 12:37-40 clearly tells us that Isaiah was seeing Jesus on the throne!

Isaiah saw God on the throne with His hand on the throttle in complete control.

  • When it says DISEASE–God is on the throne!
  • When the boss says you’re FIRED–God is on the throne!
  • When our children DISOBEY–God is on the throne!

Isaiah saw God high and lifted up, but he also heard the Seraphim cry “Holy, Holy, Holy”

THE HOLINESS OF GOD

The Holiness of God is, His being in a class by Himself with His perfection and greatness and worth.  All His perfection and greatness and worth are distinct and separate–we’ve been taught that HOLY means separate–His in a class by Himself.

HIS HOLINESS IS WHAT HE IS AS GOD THAT NOBODY ELSE IS –

His quality of perfection can’t be improved upon, can’t be imitated, and that determines that He is all of that and nothing is determined from outside Him.

Now when Isaiah 6:3 says that angels are crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty”–the next thing they say is this:  “The whole earth is full of His”…and you might think “holiness” would be the next word.

But he doesn’t say holiness, he says GLORY!

Essentially, “holy”, essentially holy, and the whole earth is full of His GLORY.

I stab a definition here by saying the GLORY OF GOD is the manifest beauty of His holiness.  It’s the going public of His Holiness.  It’s the way He puts His holiness on display for people to apprehend.

Read the words from Leviticus 10:3:  God says He will be shown to be HOLY among those who are near Him and before all the people He will be honored.

I will be shown to be holy,” He says.  “And among ALL the people” — say it another way–“I will be glorified.”

The Worship Connection of His Holiness and Glory –

What on earth does all this have to do with our worship?

EVERYTHING!!!

If you divorce or separate God’s holiness from worship, all you have is entertainment.  Why start on time, why do things in order, why not distract others during the song service and preaching?  Because we should be focusing on the greatness of God!!!

WHY THE CROSS?

The cross was ultimately the result of God’s Holiness.  Sinful man can’t stand in the presence of a Holy God.  God took care of the ‘sin problem.’

2 Corinthians 5:21 (AMP)

[21]  For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].

This God that’s HOLY and separate is the God we need to see in our worship–in our everyday living.

Isaiah’s Posture of Humility in God’s Glory and Holiness –

“Woe to me!  I am ruined and undone…”  (6:5)

To Isaiah’s peers, he was upright. a righteous man, a man of unmatched integrity.  AND then just one glimpse of God’s greatness changed his whole self-perception.

It took God to reveal his guilt, it took a picture of deity to reveal Isaiah’s filthiness–his sin.

Have you ever seen God in such a way that revealed who you really are?

Have you ever recognized that you are a sinner that’s separated from God without hope?

That’s what the VISION did for Isaiah.  It revealed reality to him–God sees us as we are, where we are in life right now!  He sees your heart!!

What happened when Isaiah saw this VISION of God?

CONVICTION –

“Woe is me!  I am undone and ruined.”

The Hebrew word for “undone”:  to come apart at the seams.  Isaiah was totally exposed for who he was before a holy God.

CONFESSION –

A vision of the holiness of God that brings true conviction of sin is always followed by the confession of sin.

I love Billy Ricks’ slant of this fact:  “Regardless of excuses, sin is a prison from which you can never be freed until you admit it’s your own fault that you were thrown in the slammer.”

CLEANSING –

Because Isaiah came clean he was made clean.  The cleansing power of God went to work on Isaiah’s behalf.

God is HOLY and also merciful.  When we confess our sins to Him, God goes to work.  He cleanses us with the Blood of Jesus (1 John 1:9).

What is the big deal about WORSHIP in Christian America today?

To me, it’s about seeing God in all of His manifested GLORY.  Let me break that down just a bit.  When someone says, “Look at the wind blowing outside,” and when you peer out the window you can’t actually see the wind.  What you see is the effect that the wind has on the objects it’s blowing on–the trees, a flag, a hat blown off one’s head.  So when God breathes, you can’t visibly see His breath, but you can see His GLORY manifested in your surroundings.  Just look around you!

In seeing God for who He is we can see ourselves as we truly are.  The church culture of today has so allowed the culture around us shape the way we do things.  The customer satisfaction mentality has infiltrated our churches.

Here is a heavenly worship service where Isaiah saw a fresh vision of God.  From this vision of God’s HOLINESS, Isaiah was inspired to pen words like Isaiah 40:8.

What churches and Christians in America desperately need is a fresh vision of God’s holiness and His Glory.  We don’t need a new revelation because all that God is and has for us is revealed in Christ Jesus.

We give God the GLORY!!!

___________________________________________________________

CREDITS

Commentary:  John Piper’s “What Is God’s Glory” at desiringGod.org.

Music Video:  “I SAW THE LORD” by Dallas Holmes – YouTube.

Images:  Google Image search.

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

Returning to One’s Own Vomit [Part One]

PROVERBS 26:11 (NIV)  

“AS A DOG RETURNS TO ITS VOMIT, SO A FOOL REPEATS HIS FOLLY.”


History Repeats Itself  [See Ecclesiastes 1:9].

I was reading an article the other day which prompted me to begin this study in Hebrews 6, believe it or not.  The article was entitled “Reasons why millennials are walking away from their faith,” by Stacia Hall.

The statistics show that 65% of them would not consider themselves to be religious.  This is a huge number, but when you’re talking about a cause-driven generation, who is very focused on community and are actually finding it both online and in person, you can see how the purpose of the church and God’s Word would be less necessary.  Being a grandparent, trust me, I’ve noticed.

But the statistics don’t end there. 

32% of them say they actually don’t believe in God’s existence.  1/3 of people between the ages of 18-30 don’t believe that God is, that He exists, that He started it all.  [See footnote [i] ]

Worse, many who at one time said they believed, and now don’t.  And let’s not just point fingers at the “millennials”.  Many people today from all generations are walking away from Christ.

Many are compliant but unconverted.  Some may come to Christ later.

Many of those are not denying that Jesus is the Son of God, they just don’t care!  Some have become enemies of the Gospel or embraced false religions.

Others just numb, deliberate rejection. 

That was the question the Messianic Jews had when they saw and heard their peers trashing Jesus and returning to mainstream Judaism.  We call this APOSTASY and shouldn’t be confused with falling into sin.  A lot of evangelical Christians, as many of us like to call ourselves, based on group dynamics, are a lot like the ancient Hebrews who followed Moses.  It was the thing to do.

Most of us agree I think, that someone whose FAITH & TRUST are not in Jesus is lost.

But what if they once professed the faith that they now deny?  What happened?  Were they SAVED then lost their salvation, or were they never really SAVED?  I believe the later.

In one sense, it doesn’t matter they are lost.  In another sense, it does matter, because if God ELECTS people to salvation, is God really in control here?  Is His SOVEREIGNTY broken?

We can anticipate knowing people who once claimed to be followers of Christ but later in life decided to disavow Him.

I’ve asked myself the question regarding a few members of my own family.  How could this have happened?

THE HISTORY LESSON ~

The lesson I’ve chosen for this study is built upon  The Rejection of the Promised Land (Numbers 13-14).

Most of the Hebrews were skeptics, even though they were ENLIGHTENED by God’s Word.  However, their commitment to Yahweh was flimsy, with reservation, not final, unreserved, and genuine.  It could have been a case of group dynamics and being overwhelmed.  Sound familiar?

They had seen God’s Power in miracle after miracle on their journey to the Promised Land.  Yet, in their hearts, they wanted to return to Egypt and worship the gods of Egypt.

The twelve spies were sent out to preview Canaan and then sorted out its challenges in two opposite ways.

They tasted the amazing produce of Canaan, including the giant grapes.

The people refused to believe God and honor His Word.

They couldn’t backtrack: too late.  So because of their ‘stiff-necks’ and their unbelief, they suffered God’s judgment [Numbers 14:32-37]:  Wandering 40 years in the wilderness until they dropped dead.

And their problem?

They didn’t actually Trust God’s character?

The same principle applies to those who have professed faith in Jesus to later reject Him.

Hebrews 6:4-12 (NIV Bible)

[4] If it is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  [5] who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the [powers of the coming age,  [6] if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.  

[7] Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  [8] But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed.  In the end, it will be burned.  

[9] Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case–things that accommodate salvation.  [10] God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  [11] We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.  [12] We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Applying this passage of Scripture to the people who professed their FAITH in Christ Jesus only to later REJECT Him is drawing parallels in some sense.

If you spend some time in the Book of Numbers account, it’s obvious that many or most of the Hebrews were not right with God, at least that first generation.  It’s not like they were ‘godly’ and then fell away.  They went along with Moses (sometimes), but did they take ownership of their relationship with the Lord?  No, they didn’t!  And this understanding is crucial.

Why has REPENTANCE become impossible?

It’s not that God won’t accept repentance, it’s, rather, that it’s impossible for these mentioned here to repent; they have crossed a boundary.  An expression I love to use in this regard is “You cannot put an impression on concrete once it’s dry.”

They had been ENLIGHTENED with the Gospel.

  • The Hebrews were enlightened by a pillar of fire/the Torah.
  • The Hebrews sampled the grapes, this sampled SALVATION.
  • They have tasted the produce of the HEAVENLY Canaan.  They haven’t entered the land and the rest that goes with it.

They have seen God’s POWER through the Holy Spirit in their lives and yet they desired to return to their previous religious status forsaking their inheritance that God had promised.  It’s one thing to doubt and it’s another thing to backslide.  And yet another to deny and reject Jesus!

They changed their INTERPRETATION of the Cross in unbelief and in their unbelief they’re agreeing with those who nailed Jesus to the cross.  If Jesus was a false teacher and a fake, then death was the appropriate penalty.

They cannot BACKTRACK and now accept the Messiah; too late!

Look closely at Peter’s words:

“wallowing in the mire” – Def. deep mud; wet, spongy earth.  To soil with mud or foul matter; to stick in a mire.

I was about 16 months in this old photo, but looking at my expression, I didn’t seem to be enjoying the “mire”.

At this point in the study, to correctly interpret any Scripture, we must know the basic rules of interpretation.

The FIRST RULE is to interpret Scripture in the context of the Entire Bible.

Secondly, we are to interpret in context with the Immediate Passage; we need to know the purpose of the letter or book that the text is written by looking at the verses immediately around our text, then interpret with the things as a backdrop for our interpretation.

And THIRDLY, we need to interpret Scripture using other Scripture.  Scripture isn’t going to contradict itself!

Finally, we want to interpret Scripture that is less clear with Scripture that is more clear.  So in this study, I have tried to use these principles in interpretation.

The verses in the first part of our passage of Scripture have been some of the most challenging for Christians throughout the centuries to interpret and taken by themselves, can seem to indicate that if you are a Christian and turn away from Christ, you can lose your salvation and there’s no hope of you ever being saved again.

THAT’S NOT WHAT IT’S SAYING AT ALL.

Verse 4 and 5 says it is impossible for those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become a sharer of the Holy Spirit, and have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come [AMP].

That certainly could be a Christian, but then the author goes on to say if they fall away, it would be impossible for them to be brought back to a place of repentance.

So, when trying to understand this in light of the context of the Bible, it would seem to contradict other Scriptures that say otherwise, because the Bible as a whole, teaches that Salvation is by Grace and Guaranteed to believers by God.

It teaches that a TRUE BELIEVER is eternally secure in their SALVATION when they have truly believed.  We’ll explore this in greater detail in Part Two of this study.

Ephesians 1:13-14

When a person has truly believed they are given the Holy Spirit–and God says through Paul that the indwelling Holy Spirit in a person’s life becomes a deposit that guarantees our salvation.

And other Bible verses give testimony to the same:  2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 2:8-9.

Additionally, I want us to be aware of what the author of Hebrews doesn’t say, that other writers of Scripture say when they are talking about someone who is actually saved.

He doesn’t say that the people he’s talking about have been sealed with the Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13, 4:30), or…

  • born again (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23), or…
  • chosen (Eph. 1:11; 1 Peter 1:12), or…
  • predestined (Roman. 8:29-32; Eph. 1:5, 11). or…
  • reconciled (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18; Col. 1:11), or…
  • forgiven (Luke 5:20, 7:48; 1 Jn. 2:12), or…
  • that they had never believed at all! (John 1:12; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9-10; Eph. 1:13).

Those phrases are each used in multiple places to describe a person who is SAVED.

Here is what the author does say about those he’s talking about:

  • They’ve been enlightened.
  • tasted the heavenly gift.
  • shared in the Holy Spirit.
  • tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age.

Now while those things would certainly be true of a Christian, the QUESTION is…

“could they be true of a person who hasn’t received Christ as Savior”?

To answer that question you will have to continue the study in Part Two, Returning to One’s Own Vomit

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Footnote [i] – everything.church, Jan. 5, 2016.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search.

Personal Photo:  “Muddy Mel” – Family Photo Album.  1943.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Flowers Among The Thorns

Amos 9:1-15 ~

After studying God’s Word in the book of Amos over the past few weeks, I finally arrived at the last chapter.  It’s been a long haul meditating on the many verses, taking notes, underlining certain phrases.  I shook my head at times, thinking “Is there any good news in this at all?”  It seemed that the MESSAGE is only about death and destruction.

So many ways Amos tried to get his message across to the Israelites–the talk, the sermons, and finally the personal visions he had.

In all this, Israel wouldn’t listen.

They had wandered so far away from God’s Truth that they couldn’t find their way back.

And they further deceived themselves thinking that because they were God’s people and so blessed, that God would threaten JUDGMENT…BUT not carry through the threat.  Sound like any nation you might know today?

They forgot that one of the recurring themes of the book, the Sovereignty of God.

That concerns me today about the churches in America more than anything else.  With a loss of REVERENCE to God’s POWER, comes a loss of dependency on Him.  We think we can do it all on our own.

JUDGMENT ISN’T JUST AN OLD TESTAMENT CONCLUSION –

If the people of Israel were to see JUDGMENT for their transgressions, their SINS, how can the Church today fail to expect that same JUDGMENT?

But doesn’t the New Testament SAY…God is LOVE?

And it absolutely does!  [Matthew 6:33; 1 Cor. 11:31; 1 John 4:8]

God’s Word in the New Testament also points out that the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God is synonymous with His JUSTICE.

So how then can we take so much negativity laid in front of our eyes and find the flowers among the thorns of JUDGMENT and PUNISHMENT?

Judgment and Punishment have traditionally been seen as negative words.  We want people NOT to do a certain activity and so we punish them if they do.  That’s JUSTICE.

Children may recognize that we LOVE them when we punish them, but their view of PUNISHMENT is still not to do a certain thing.

There’s an element of RESTORATION that happens as the result of punishment or judgment.

Just as parents, God disciplines or judges His people to bring them back to a good relationship with Him.

That’s what LOVE can do.  RESTORES RELATIONSHIP!

In AMOS, Chapter 9, I found three things that can develop RESTORATION.

When I’m studying the Scriptures I like to break down the chapters when I can into categories:

AMOS CHAPTER NINE –

  1.  The Sovereignty of God (Amos 9:1-10).
  2.   The PROMISE of restoration (Amos 9:11-15).
  3.   The AGENT of the restoration (Amos 9:11-15).

God’s Sovereignty –

Amos knows why God’s JUDGMENT is coming.  In a vision, God shows Amos the extent of the Judgment: the very foundations of Israel are to be destroyed.

ALL of the people are involved.  Their land, their buildings, ALL were involved and destroyed.

WHY?

One reason is that it establishes the SOVEREIGNTY of God.

It’s just as a child in testing a parent to find out who’s the boss.  The child challenges the parent’s AUTHORITY.

If the parent doesn’t answer the challenge by responding to discipline, then the child doesn’t fear the AUTHORITY of the parent.  How that parent exercises that discipline can affect the challenge.

With my oldest daughter, a good strong word from my wife and I or a time-out on a chair would be good enough.  With my other two children, that would do no good at all.

For some, nothing short of a spanking would do.

For DISCIPLINE to be effective it must present the parent in a sovereign position of authority over the child, not visa versa. 

The same is true of God.  He doesn’t send JUDGMENT just for the sake of judgment.  He sends it to exert His SOVEREIGNTY on a people who have challenged it, or no longer believes in it.

He allows us to know who is really in control of the world, creator, not the created.

AMOS begins this chapter by establishing God’s SOVEREIGNTY.

He shows this in a VISION of God’s judgment in the first four verses.

God is pictured by the altar with a sword in His hands.

There’s no defensive armor mentioned because He wouldn’t need a defense!

He was to attack as if the SWORD is the only offensive weapon.

After He destroys the temple, God then continues His judgment with the survivors.

They couldn’t hide in the mountains nor hide in the depths of the sea.  The Sovereign God would find them wherever they hide.

AMOS continues to describe the SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD (Verse 5, Amplified Bible) –

[5]  The Lord God of hosts, it is He Who touches the earth and it melts, and all who dwell in it mourn; it shall rise like the [river] Nile, all of it, and it shall sink again like the Nile of Egypt.

He identifies God as the LORD, the Lord Almighty.

God who can control the actions of the earth and the water:  Noah and the Flood; Moses and the Red Sea.

Having established His SOVEREIGNTY through the elements, look to VERSE 7:

[7]  “Are not you Israelites the same to Me as the Cushites?” declares the LORD.  “Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?”  (NIV)

In this verse, God establishes the fact that He considers ISRAEL to be the same as the Cushites.  God has in the past delivered that which were not His chosen people out of captivity.  They wouldn’t recognize it, but Amos does here.

But in VERSE 8, the first glimmer of HOPE appears–finding the flower among the thorns.

[8]  Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom [of Israel’s ten tribes] and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground…EXCEPT that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, says the Lord.  (Amplified)

God’s SOVEREIGNTY establishes His righteous JUDGMENT, but in His destruction, God makes a PROMISE not to totally destroy Israel or the house of Jacob.

In fact, the only time we can speak JUDGMENT without RESTORATION is the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).  

It is here we begin to see the budding of the flower start to develop.

THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL:

God has PROMISED (verse 8) that He will NOT destroy the house of Jacob.

Knowing what we know from verses 1-4, not all the Israelites will be destroyed.

This leads to two interesting questions: Who will be destroyed and who will be the remnant?  And why?

After the death of Solomon, a series of successive kings didn’t look to God for leadership, trusting rather their own power to lead Israel.

This is the foundation of the division of the 12 Tribes into countries.

  • The Northern Kingdom of Israel.
  • The Southern Kingdom of Judah.

Jeroboam, the king of the northern country, Israel, wanted to make it absolutely clear that the two countries stay divided.  To do this, he introduced IDOL WORSHIP to Israel, and the people wouldn’t go to Jerusalem to make SACRIFICE to God.

They went downhill after that began.

It’s also at this time they developed a false sense of independence.  Their WORSHIP became mechanical, not authentic.

They would go back and forth–they would make sacrifices to God, then turn to worshipping idols.

So EVIL had infested all aspects of Israel for literally hundreds of years.

God wouldn’t stay His JUDGMENTS forever in light of this.

It’s also important to realize that not ALL the Israelites bowed down to Baal.  They would ALL be part of the JUDGMENT but God would protect them.  That was a PROMISE!

God also left a gate of opportunity for individual REPENTANCE, even though the country would be JUDGED.

So with all this BACKGROUND in mind, we know who’s to be JUDGED:

  1. the religious leaders for their allowing IDOLATRY.
  2. to the political leaders whom wouldn’t look to God.
  3. to the wealthy for how they abused the poor.
  4. to the judicial leaders for abusing the system of justice.
  5. to the people who followed these leaders.

And the REMNANT?

  1. Those who REPENT of their wicked ways or have not turned their backs on God.
  2.  Those born while in captivity, although they go through the fire of JUDGMENT…they will be the REMNANT.

Verse Eleven and Twelve tells us that God will RESTORE the fallen tent of David and more!

“Raise, Repair, Rebuild”

God will REPAIR the broken pieces and RESTORE its ruins.

He will bring about a NEW NATION that’s stronger and more powerful than it was before.

This is a NEW DAY of the Lord.

One that’s brought forth JUDGMENT but in liberation.

Look at VERSE 13 and 14:

All the previous talk of JUDGMENT as now turned to RESTORATION and HOPE!!!

I find this next point invaluable on how this RESTORATION takes place.

THE AGENT OF RESTORATION:  Amos 9:11-15

It’s not enough to KNOW that restoration was to take place.  We must also know how.

Israel’s restoration would come in two ways.

One is immediate:

This would be their return from captivity under Nehemiah and Ezra.

The other is a future restoration when Christ comes back.

Let’s deal first with the immediate restoration:

What happened during Israel’s CAPTIVITY was several things.

  1. ALL OF THE BUILDINGS WERE DESTROYED.

This is important!

With the destruction of ALL THINGS…the places where IDOL WORSHIP was also destroyed.  Any place that could bring back any memory at all of any infection of their idol worship was gone.

Also with total destruction, any ill-gotten gains made by the rich were destroyed.

There would be a NEW START for God’s people with a NEW RELATIONSHIP with God.

Sacrifices and worship would be authentic and re-established under the Law.

But the FUTURE restoration God brought about was even more reconstructive than just the return to an existing form of WORSHIP.  The form of worship had to change, for, throughout Israel’s history, the people showed repeatedly that they turned AWAY from God under the Law.  They couldn’t keep ALL the Law, therefore, they could keep none of it!

For Israel’s RESTORATION to be complete, they would have to have a NEW WAY to worship.

The NEW WAY of worship would come with Christ. 

He came to COMPLETE the Law.

With Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God completed the RESTORATION of the Law with the Doctrine of Grace!

And that DOCTRINE OF GRACE wrestled the control of religion from the hands of mere mortals and placed God in control.  It was no longer a system, a bunch of rules and regulations that man could try to adhere to, like directions on a roadmap.

SALVATION was now a GIFT that was open to everyone!

It was based on what God can do for a man, a GIFT that only God could give!!

With Christ Jesus, the RESTORATION was complete.

CHRISTIANITY was to become the NEW ISRAEL.

One day, as believers in JESUS CHRIST we will never again be uprooted as we join Him in glory.

What a great day that will be for those who are a part of the RESTORED KINGDOM!

Years ago, John Peterson and Don Wyrtzen wrote together I LOVE AMERICA that was sung by many choirs in the land during Memorial Day.  Yes, it was a patriotic musical, but for me personally, it was even more.

It was A CALLING to us all!

“Oh, the voice we could hear…”

 

____________________________________________________________________

CREDITS –

Media:  You Tube video – Jesus Is Calling America.

Blog’s IMAGES:  Google Image Search – Settings, advanced.

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

Bible Commentary:  BibleStudyTools.com