JUDGMENT is Good! (Last in the series)

Micah 6-7

Corruption, it seems, is alive and well.  We hear stories of bribery in other parts of the world all the time–India, China, and Russia, typically repeat offenders–but it’s not something we expect to find here in the United States,  We’re better than that, right?  I’d like to think so, but that doesn’t stop people from making stupid decisions,  When people make stupid decisions, and over a lifetime of 76 years, I’ve made plenty–they have to face the consequences.

Nowadays, that typically means a trial in a courtroom, but in Bible times it meant something more harsh, like maybe fire and brimstone?

Usually, yes; that is unless you count the time that God brought Israel to court for immorality in the Book of Micah.

Let’s look now at the last two chapters in Micah.

Micah 6:1-8

These 8 verses read like a courtroom drama:  “Law and Order: Jerusalem Crimes”.

THE SCENE IS SET –

I can just hear a lawyer yelling this now–“God is demanding that the people explain their actions.”

At this point, the Israelites were extremely corrupt.

A REVIEW OF MICAH –

Chapter 2:8-9  (NIV)

[8] Lately my people have risen up like an enemy.  You strip off the rich robe from those who pass by without care, like men returning from battle.

[9] You drive the women of my people from their pleasant homes.  You take away my blessing from their children forever.

Chapter 3, God calls out the leadership specifically:  verses 1-3

In chapter 7, God lists more specifics!  verses 2-3

[2] The faithful have been swept from the land; no one upright person remains.  Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; they hunt each other with nets.

[3]  Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire–they all conspire together.

So in Micah 6:1-8, the prosecution starts by asking the mountains and hills to listen.  They are the JURY!

[1]  “Hear now what the Lord says:  Arise, contend and plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.  [2] Hear, O mountains, the Lord’s controversy, and you strong and enduring foundations…”

The book of Luke in the Bible says that if we’re all silent the rock themselves will cry out in praise–so I don’t think it’s a reach that they could serve as a jury if asked by their Creator.

He then begins to list off what he has done, when it says in verse 5, God wants to make sure that the Israelites “know the righteous and saving acts of the Lord” (AMP).

What comes next is such a human action!  The people want to jump to the extreme!

They got from not listening to God’s Word at all to wanting to go overboard with burnt offerings, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of olive oil and their first-born child (vs. 7)?

Really?  That’s a bit dramatic, don’t you think?  But this is how they thought!  They were like the criminal when, overcome with guilt, tells the cops to throw him in jail, and let him starve to death in a dark pit because he did something wrong.  And in my opinion, the Israelites deserved every one of those things.

They disrespected the creator of the universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  God would be well within His rights to simply point His finger and ZAP THEM with lightning bolts, or rain down fire and brimstone.

But He doesn’t.

In verse 8, God tells them what He wants:  That’s it!

Micah 6:8 (AMP)

“…to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God”

God doesn’t care about these huge outward displays of guilt.

He’s God!

He knows how you’re feeling, and whether your guilt is legit or not!

All He wants is for you to follow Him in all of His ways.  That’s the very definition of MERCY.

Going back to the courtroom for a moment…

This would be like the district attorney telling the judge, “We’ll drop all charges so long as the defendant comes back to us and does the right thing.”

What if in the military trials, with suspected terrorists, ended like that?  “Your honor, let this terrorist go free, so long as he promises not to do it again.”  That would never happen, right?

But God’s MERCY is so much greater than ours that we can’t really understand how far it really goes.

God promises that Israel will rise again!

That’s right–after all this, after the courtroom, the lawyers and the jury, God says, “It’s OK!  I’ll continue to bless you, and this is how.”

Micah 7:11-12 (NIV)

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

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

So what does this mean for us today?  It means if you sin, if you do anything to disrespect God, to anger God, He doesn’t expect you to flip a little switch and become a SuperChristian to make up for it!

All God wants is for you to follow Him–the rest of it will take care of itself if you do that.

When you do sin–and let’s face it, it will happen–don’t wallow in self-pity and make absurd promises to God that you know you can’t keep.

Just be honest with God–admit you’ve sinned–and go back to following Him.

THAT’S ALL HE WANTS!

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CREDITS –

Credit:  Law and Order (1990-1991) Theme – Youtube video

Images/Photos:  Google Image Search – settings, advance search.

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

 

 

 

JUDGMENT Is Good! (Part Two in Series)

In this continued study, we’ll look at Micah’s second message as presented in Micah 3:1-5:15

JUDGMENT HAPPENS BEFORE REVIVAL

Just a brief review of Micah, the man.

  • His name means, “Who is like Jehovah?”
  • He was from Moresheth-Gath, 20-25 miles SW of Jerusalem.
  • He was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah.

MICAH the book…

  • The prophecies that occurred in the book were around 735-700 B.C.
  •  The Prophecies were directed both to Israel and Judah.
  •  The general theme appears to be “present judgment, with the blessing that follows.
  •  The JUDGMENT pronounced by God through the Prophet upon Israel and Judah found in Micah 1:2-16; 2:1-13.

In Part Two of this series, we’ll look at Micah’s second message as presented in Micah 3:1-5:15.  This second message has much more to say about the future hope, especially regarding the Messiah–Jesus Christ.

But it begins with God’s condemnation of Israel’s leaders (Micah 3:1-3)

The INDICTMENT of Civil Leaders:

  • They HATE good and LOVE evil.
  •  They consume the people (i.e., ‘oppress them’).

The JUDGMENT to befall them in Micah 3:4:

[4]  Then they will cry out to the LORD, but He will not answer them.  At that time He will hide His face from them because of the evil they have done  (NIV).

This was one example of God’s judgment against corrupt leaders.  When they cried out for God’s help, the LORD would remain silent.  One aspect of The Blessing (different from ‘a blessing’) promised by the priests of Israel was asked the LORD to make His face shine upon you (Numbers 6:25).  Here, Micah promised the opposite of this Blessing–that God would even hide His face from them.

Israel’s Religious Leaders aren’t ignored either!

The judgment to come upon the false prophets (Micah 3:5-7) was to come because they lead God’s people off course and away from God’s Word.  With no vision, they shall be made ashamed!

This action by our religious leaders of today; from the pulpits across the land spewing false doctrine will receive judgment as well.

Micah’s Own Ministry contrasted to that of the False Prophets of his day (Micah 3:8).

Micah finds himself full of the power of the Spirit, justice, and might and declaring the transgressions and sin of Israel.  Without the empowerment, he just becomes another critical church member.

Micah gets specific in his indictment of Israel’s leaders and addresses once more the rulers of Israel, their sins being categorized (Micah 3:9-11).

  • They abhor justice and pervert equity (fairness).
  • They build up Jerusalem with bloodshed and iniquity.

Whether judges, priests, or prophets, they do what they do only for the money, ignoring their claim to trust in the LORD.

And because of their misguidance, judgment comes upon Israel because of them (Micah 3:12).

“Therefore shall Zion on your account be plowed like a field.  Jerusalem shall become heaps [of ruins], and the mountain of the house [of the Lord] like a densely wooded height.”  (AMP)

[This prophecy of Micah was fulfilled when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (c.f., 2 Chronicles 36:17-21).  But his message isn’t finished; as ominous as it was in proclaiming the coming judgment, Micah now continues with a glimpse into the future]

The Future of Zion and the Messianic Hope!

A GLIMPSE AT WHAT WILL HAPPEN “IN THE LAST DAYS”

  • The “mountain of the Lord’s temple” is established and many people will want to be there.  (Mic. 4:1-2)
  • The people will want to learn God’s ways, the word of the Lord will go forth from Jerusalem.  (Mic. 4:2)
  • The LORD will judge nations and there will be peace.  (Mic 4:3)
  • Everyone will be content, walking in the name of the LORD forever!  (Mic. 4:4-5)

Isaiah had a similar prophecy – (Isa. 2:1-4).

FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY –

Prophecy is much like peeling an onion; it comes with many layers.  In Micah’s prophecy, the fulfillment is layered.

Some believe it is all yet to come (e.g., premillennialists).

Some believe it is all past (e.g., some amillennialists).

Me personally?  I believe there is past, present, and future elements.

It began in Jerusalem preaching the gospel on Pentecost.  For Peter identifies the events of that day as beginning the fulfillment of what would occur in the “last days”  [cf. Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:16-17].

For Jesus said the gospel would go forth from Jerusalem as prophesied [Lk. 24:46-47; cf. Mic. 4:2; Isa. 2:3].

The “judging among many people” may be both in the present and in the future.

The book of Revelation reveals the Lord as judging the present and in the future – [cf. Re. 1:5; 2:26-27; 17:14; 20:11-15].

Peter viewed some of Isaiah’s prophecies as yet to be fulfilled – [ 2 Pe. 3:13; cf. Isa. 64:17-19; 66:22].

Therefore Micah 4:3-5 may find some of its fulfillment in the eternal destiny of the redeemed, part of the “New Jerusalem” of the “new heaven and new earth” as described in Revelation 21-22.

As Micah continues, he describes what will occur “in that day” – Mic. 4:6-8

The Lord will assemble a remnant of those He afflicted.

Romans 11:5 (AMP) – “So too at the present time there is a remnant (a small believing minority), selected (chosen) by grace (by God’s unmerited favor and graciousness).”

He will reign over them forever – [cf. Lk. 1:30-33].

The fulfillment of this prophecy, I understand, began with the first coming of Christ and that the church is a spiritual kingdom in which the “former dominion” of Israel has been restored and given to Jesus who reigns in heaven.  [Cf. Mt. 28:18; Ac. 1:6-8; 2:30-36; Re. 1:5; 2:26-27; 3:21].

The Coming Messiah

In Micah 5:2 we find the prophecy of the Messiah’s birthplace [cf. Mt. 2:1-6] some 700 years before the birth of Jesus in a small village called Bethlehem.

The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephrata–He would become the ruler of Israel [Cf. Isa. 9:6-7; Lk. 1:30-33].

His “goings forth have been from old, from everlasting” [Cf. John 1:1-3].

The Messiah will lead His people in peace [Micah 5:3-5 a.].

Though first, they (Israel) must be given up for a short time (Babylonian captivity).  Then a remnant shall return when the Ruler shall feed them in the strength of the Lord.

Further Judgment On Israel and Her Enemies

Some take this section to be Messianic.  I tend to take it as pertaining to Micah’s day and those who followed shortly after…

The Assyrian threat is proved to be no real threat for Judah – [Mic 5:5 b. -6; cf. Isa. 36-37].

When the remnant is scattered (as a result of Babylonian captivity), they shall be a lion among the flocks of sheep – [Mic. 5:7-9; (e.g., Daniel, Esther?).].

God would cut off her false strengths (such as horses and chariots), [Cf. Isa. 31:1]  and her idolatry – Mic. 5:10-15.

Future Blessings

With the recurrent theme of his messages (judgment now/future blessings), Micah’s purpose appears to be two-fold…to warn the people that they may repent as necessary…and to encourage the people that their HOPE for the future might help them to endure in the hard times to come.

A similar two-fold message is found in the New Testament as well…warnings to persevere lest we fall away – [Hebrews 4:1, 11].  Promises to encourage us for whatever lies ahead – [e.g., 2 Peter 3:13-14].

In Today’s World…

Today, we have an advantage over the Israelites of Micah’s day…we’ve already seen much of his prophecy fulfilled in the first coming of the Messiah.

As Peter wrote, “We also have the prophetic word made more sure”  (2 Peter 1:9).  Made surer by virtue of its fulfillment, it can serve to comfort us and strengthen our hope regarding any future promises of God – Cf. Rom. 15:4.

If God kept His promise concerning the first coming of His Son, we can have confidence He will keep His promise concerning His return!

By careful study and consideration of the prophets, both Old Testament and New Testament, our hope for the future is strengthened.

Revelation 22:20 (Contemporary English Version)

The one who has spoken these things says, “I am coming soon!”  So, Lord Jesus, please come soon!

AMEN!

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CREDITS

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP), or as noted in the text.

Photo/Images:  Google Image search–Settings, advanced search.

The Bible Almanac by J.J. Packer, – Merrill C. Tenney – William White Jr. [Thomas Nelson Publishers]

Everyone Has A Story To Tell

Many of Jesus’ teachings were in the form of stories.  There’s power in a story.  Everyone has a story.  And if given a chance, everyone likes to tell his/her story.

There are some words as I run across them that brings to mind an association:

“Texas” (family)

“Waco” (Mexican food)

“Vacation” (Fun and relaxation)

“Diet” (not fun)

“Politics” (anger, depression)

How about this description, “Born Again Christian”?

From the world’s point of view, some of these words may come to mind:  (rigid, narrow, uptight, self-righteous, fanatics).

I hope the answers given by individuals who have observed Christians for a long time is true for all of us.

Answers that are given from personal friends who know us:

“They are compassionate.  Just plain kind to others.”

“They tell the truth and talk straight with you.”

“They love God and they love people.”

My Story, and it’s a simple one.

I grew up in a modest, loving home in San Diego, California.  I thought going to church was synonymous with being a Christian.  As a young adult, I attended a church that didn’t have the goodness of the Gospel presented to me.  At the age of 22, I married the love of my life and at 23 became a dad.  And before the age of 28, two more children.  Then in August of 1972, at the age of 30, both my wife and I sat together on our couch with a pastor shared the Gospel message and we both accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior that night.

Everyone has a story.

PAUL, THE APOSTLE, TOLD HIS STORY OFTEN.

When the Apostle Paul wanted to give evidence for his belief in Jesus as the true Messiah, the Son of God, he told his story of meeting Jesus on the Road to Damascus.  Paul’s conversion story is the most compelling story in human history.

When Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, he spoke to the mob of legalistic Jews and told them of his conversion story (Acts 22:1-16).

When Paul stood on trial before King Agrippa, he again told his story of his conversion (Acts 26:12-18).

Saul was his given name.  Born in a Jewish home in Tarsus.  His father was a Roman citizen, so Paul was privileged to also be a Roman citizen.  He was fluent in both Aramaic and Greek languages.

Paul Told About His Life Before Christ.

Paul testified that his life before Christ was empty and dark.  Paul said that something happened to him on the Damascus road comparable to the creation of light (Genesis 1:2, 3):  “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.”  Paul said that same LIGHT that God created shined into his own soul.

The Risen Christ’s Confrontation with Saul On the Damascus Road.

Jesus, the Light of the World, appeared to Saul with the brilliance of LIGHT brighter than the desert sun of the Middle East.

Saul fell from his horse blinded, landing flat on the ground.

Jesus spoke to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  (Acts 9:4 b.)  

Paul murmurs out in a weak, shaky voice “Who are you, Lord?”  [The actual word used in translation for “Lord” is “Sir”.  Paul hasn’t a clue who he’s talking to at this point]

Paul hears the response:  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”.

Saul must have realized that he was being confronted by the very One he didn’t believe in as he laid flat on his face in the middle of nowhere.  Before the very one, he has hated.

Jesus is still hated by many people around the world today.  However many Jews and Gentiles have had their lives transformed and met Jesus.

Choices Have to Be Made…

Jesus gave Paul specific instructions and the next steps to take and Paul had the choice to OBEY or DISOBEY.

Saul became the clay and the Potter began to mold the man.  He surrendered to Jesus and asked the Lord what He wanted him to do.

He was OBEDIENT to the words of Jesus!

Saul/Paul who had been spiritually blinded and was now physically blind.

Jesus had touched his heart and gave him spiritual sight but for THREE DAYS in a tomb of darkness he was blind and had to be led around by someone else.

Ananias, A Disciple of Jesus.

Ananias, whose name means “Yahweh is generous”, was instructed to go to Saul and pray for him.  He argued with the Lord at first hearing because of Saul’s reputation of acts of terrorism against the Church; “the Way.”  Finally, Ananias took courage, went to Saul, and his first words were “Brother Saul…” (verse 17).  Ananias’ attitude, his misgivings had changed for he believed the Lord that this one man who had been against the Church was to be one of them in the new covenant of acceptance and forgiveness.

The SAUL’s of our life rise before us.

I must be the Lord’s bridge to the very people I’ve placed in the tight compartments of my righteous indignation.

Acts 9:17-18 (NIV)

[17] Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.  He got up and was baptized,  [18] and after taking some food, he regained his strength.”

The Theme of Paul’s Life After His Conversion Was “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” ~

When Saul first met Jesus he became a new man in Christ.  He believed what he had experienced could happen to anyone who became a follower of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!”

Paul believed and preached that anyone who came to Jesus could be made into a new person.  So the theme of Paul’s life can be summed up in the gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15:3-9

Paul could preach and teach from his heart and he had a story to tell that Jesus is alive and well because he had seen Him.

When Paul met Jesus on that hot and dusty road that day, he changed his view of what he knew of the Cross.  No true prophet or Rabbi would ever dare to envision a Messiah suffering death on a tree (Cross).  The Law declared, “He that is hanged is cursed” (Deuteronomy 21:23).

After meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, Paul saw the Cross of Christ in a new light.  Paul believed the Cross was the wisdom and glory of God.

Paul said his calling was not to preach with lofty, high falutin words but to simply tell God’s message:

1 Corinthians 2:2 (GNT)

[2] “For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross.”

Paul could say, “Since I met Jesus, my life has taken a 180-degree turn.  Jesus is alive just as the prophets had foretold.”

Countless others have said the same thing in different ways:

  • THE MAN WHO WAS BORN BLIND:  “Since I met Jesus, I once was blind, but not I see!”
  • LISTEN TO LAZARUS:  “I was dead in the grave for four days, but because Jesus called my name I’m now alive!”
  • LISTEN TO ZACCHAEUS:  “Before I met Jesus I gained my riches through dishonest taxes.  I soon learned that money isn’t everything.  When I met Jesus I was glad to repay all I cheated with interest.  All the money in the world can’t bring peace of mind and heart, but Jesus gave me peace.”

The question becomes that every person must answer:

“HAVE YOU MET JESUS?”

You Can Help People Meet Jesus.

The Scriptures teach us that Jesus is our BRIDGE to God and eternal life.

The BRIDGE illustration in the image above is a simple way for you to tell others about the importance of the Cross and their bridge to God.

We can use the “Bridge” illustration in sharing with people and helping them to come to Jesus.

Looking at two sides of a river without a BRIDGE:

  • The left side represents people.
  • The other side represents God.

The Bible says that without God people are lost

Romans 3:23  “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”

Romans 6:23  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The right side represents God.

People try all kinds of ways to reach God:

  • Good works.
  • Attend church.
  • Read the Bible.
  • Be a “good person”.

ALL FALL SHORT!

Ephesians 2:8-9 (AMP)

[8] For it is by grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith.  And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;  [9] Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast.  [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself].

Where might you be right now on the BRIDGE, on the left side or the right side?

JESUS BRIDGES THE GAP!

Romans 5:8  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

1 Peter 3:18  “For Christ [the Messiah Himself] died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous (the Just for the unjust, the Innocent for the guilty), that He might bring us to God.  In His human body He was put to death, but He was made alive in the spirit”  (AMP).

John 5:24 (NIV)

Jesus gives the invitation to cross over:  Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

“Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

To “open the door” to Jesus, THREE turns off the door to make in inviting Jesus in our heart and life…

  • CONFESS SIN – (1 John 1:9)
  • REPENT – (Acts 3:19)
  • RECEIVE – (John 1:11-12)

You can share the Bridge illustration on a napkin over lunch or on a sheet of paper in your office and you can tell your personal story.  Tell of your life before Christ and how you came to personally know Jesus and received Him as Savior and Lord.

EVERYONE HAS A STORY!  WHAT’S YOURS?

I encourage you this week to write out your brief story–your life before Christ.  How you came to Jesus and now what your life is like now.  The ups, the downs you have faced.

If you haven’t yet crossed the BRIDGE, I encourage you to take the first step and cross this bridge right where you are now.

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CREDITS

Music Video:  Hillsong Worship – Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace).  YouTube, Inc.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, Advance search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Good News Translation (GNT).

Our Need For REBUILDING – RESTORING

Scripture Passage:  Nehemiah 9:1-37; 10:28-39

I want to first take a quick glance at the setting in Nehemiah 9:

  • The Jewish people had been in captivity in Babylon.  Their Temple (place of worship) and the entire city of Jerusalem was destroyed.
  • Now, after 70 years, they’ve returned and rebuilt their city.

Although, when I say “returned” to Israel, most of them were first-time arrivals.  They were a newer generation, born in captivity.  They found the Law of Moses while working on the Temple.  And when the Prophet Ezra read it aloud to them, they vowed to return to God’s Law.  They were determined to get back to God’s ways.

Chapter 9 continues on this theme.

Then Ezra leads out with the beautiful PRAYER (vs. 6-37) and in that prayer, you can clearly see the nation making attempts to RECONNECT with God.

This is the longest recorded PRAYER in the Bible. 

It was a prayer of CONFESSION & REPENTANCE, recounting what God had done for them personally, as a nation, and man’s failure to honor Him.  This prompted me to read and re-read this prayer, making notes in my workbook while checking down the examples in the prayer with my own prayers.

How selfish we can be at times in our prayers.

There was this realization by the people just how far they had drifted from God and an honest CONFESSION of their sin. 

This is the first step for RESTORATION, for REVIVAL–a realization that we have drifted away from God and a desire to return to a Godly life in an ungodly culture.

This CONFESSION makes RENEWAL possible!

TRUE CHANGE OR RENEWAL –

This can only begin to happen when three things happen.

We need the 3 A’s to take place:

  1. Admit our wrongs,
  2. Acknowledge God’s ways, and…
  3. Act on it!

THE FIRST STEP…

CONFESSION is to admit that there’s a need for change!

James Montgomery Boice, a Christian theologian, Bible teacher, author, a speaker says, “There can be no genuine forward moral progress for either a nation or an individual without an acknowledgment of, sorrow for, and a true turning from sin.”  

It’s important that we all examine ourselves in reading God’s Word.

In Nehemiah 8, we can see where it began with the people – when they heard the Word they mourn and wept.

In Chapter 9 of Nehemiah, we see this again in corporate prayer.  If we’re not convinced that we need a CHANGE, we won’t.

This realization leads to REPENTANCE.

And by the way, it doesn’t help if we confess ‘just to confess’, or because ‘this is what everybody does’, or because ‘we have to do it’.

We should CONFESS because we are being prompted of the Holy Spirit when He brings to our mind the Word of God.

We want to CONFESS because we are moved by God’s Word or convicted by the Holy Spirit.

This is what happened to the prodigal son in Luke 15:17-18 (confession).

QUESTION:  Why does God want us to confess?  Surely not to inform Him of something He already knows about us.

First of all, God wants us to admit our sins so that we can take the steps toward CHANGE. 

Only when we agree with God of our faults, our trespasses, and our need to change can we find the commitment to do so.

Secondly, CONFESSION makes us real.

REAL, if we are honest with God, honest with SELF and honest towards people.

It’s being AUTHENTIC, being VULNERABLE and BEING REAL!

This is the way to happiness.  We’re not weighed down, burdened with GUILT or SHAME.  We experience God’s FORGIVENESS and the JOY of forgiveness.

REAL FELLOWSHIP with God can’t happen when unconfessed SIN is in our lives.

WHAT IS SIN?

I’ve had the question directed at me over the years to what I think “SIN” is.  And my response is always redirected to,  “What do you think “SIN” is?

In a nutshell, according to the classical definition, “hippo”, SIN is “a word, deed, or desire in opposition to God’s Word.”

The second thing that’s necessary for RESTORATION to take place is to acknowledge God’s way–or take God’s Word seriously.

It’s this deep conviction of His Word that’s the only blessed way!  This conviction is closely related to the first thing–CONFESSION.

GOD’S WORD LEADS TO CONFESSION!

The reading of the Law in Nehemiah and the subsequent DAILY reading of the Scriptures led to the people’s confession and repentance.  It wasn’t the preaching of Ezra, the Levites that brought about restoration.  It was God’s Word!

The realization that yes, we’ve sinned against God, comes through the reading of the Word of God and by the leading and conviction of the Holy Spirit. 

We will never acknowledge SIN to be SIN or grieve, weep over it unless we understand it’s an offense against God, and the only way to see that is to know God’s Word.

So what are we looking at in all of this?

If we want CHANGE to happen we’ve got to have an alternative:

  • What do we really want to change into?
  • What kind of a change are we looking at?

It can’t be your way against my way or his way against the world’s way.  It must be God’s WAY we’re looking at.  It must be God’s Word we’re fixed on.  That’s the standard.  God’s Word is the MIRROR of our soul. our character, and our conduct.

In the prayer of CONFESSION, the Levites directed the people’s thoughts–notice I didn’t say ‘manipulated’ their thoughts–to the goodness and grace of God.

NOTICE how many times“YOU” appeared throughout the PRAYER.

Despite their failures, they were to recognize God’s KINDNESS in their betrayal, that God remains FAITHFUL and continues to shower His blessing on them.

NEHEMIAH 9:17

“YOU” didn’t desert them in the desert; “YOU” gave your good Spirit to instruct them; “YOU” didn’t withhold your manna from their mouths, and “YOU” gave them water for their thirst; “YOU” made their sons a numerous as the stars in the sky.

NEHEMIAH 9:31

NEHEMIAH 9:33

THE PEOPLE’S PRAYER…

In the PRAYER, the people were led to see through their history a God who is great, good and gracious despite man’s SIN AND FAILURES.  This is the basis why we CONFESS our sin.  We have a forgiving God, a merciful and gracious God.  This is why the father waits for the prodigal son to return.  Not to judge or condemn him, but to embrace and forgive him (Luke 15:11-32).

Our PARDON today is not based on our MERIT or our WORTHINESS, but upon His goodness and grace. 

We shouldn’t base our appeal on our past accomplishments (how much I HAVE DONE for God), but simply upon His grace and mercy (Nehemiah9:17-b) –

[17-b]  But You are a God ready to PARDON, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great steadfast love; and You did not forsake them” (AMP).

The THIRD STEP in a CHANGED LIFE is to ACT ON IT!

When we know that we know, where we are and where we want to go, we need to take the necessary steps to bring about the CHANGE.

NEHEMIAH 9:38 –

The LEVITES led by Ezra ended the people’s prayer saying, 

THE COMMITMENT –

The ASSEMBLY, the gathered people are going to make a COVENANT (an agreement, COMMITMENT) before God that they are willing to do the following:

Nehemiah 10:30 – “We shall not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons,”

10:31 – “We shall forego raising crops the seventh year [letting the land lie fallow] and the compulsory payment of every debt” [Exod. 23:10, 11; Deut. 15:1, 2].

10:32, 35, 36, 37 – “And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites”

10:39-c  “We will not forsake or neglect the house of our God.”

The people were determined to make right what was wrong and so should we today.

OUR NEED FOR REBUILDING – RESTORING BEGINS NOW!

EXAMINING ourselves in light of the world that surrounds us is a great place to start if you are looking for REVIVAL.

David – Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

[23]  “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

[24]  “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Allow the Holy Spirit to take away the hindrances and obstacles we’ve placed in God’s way.  Be honest with yourself.

  • Tell Him what you did wrong.
  • Is there someone or something you love more than Him?
  • Is God’s Word a concern to you?  Can you really worship Him, or has something taking the place of God in your spirit?
  • Tell Him the attitudes you have that aren’t good – pride, arrogance, jealousy, lust, unwillingness to forgive, laziness…

Allow Jesus to minister His CLEANSING & HEALING to your spirit.

  • If we CONFESS OUR SINS, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness.      (1 John 1:9)

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CREDITS –

Christian views on SIN – Wikipedia.

Photos & Images:  Google Image Search – Settings advance, using referencing bible verses.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP);  New International Version (NIV), or where noted in the text.

 

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…”

 

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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

 

 

 

Our Perception of Divine Sovereignty

BIBLE STUDY:  AMOS 9:1-15

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY AND MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY

The FIRST question before getting into this study is to ask ourselves the question “What does it mean that God is sovereign?”

God is described in the Bible as ALL POWERFUL and ALL KNOWING (Psalm 147:5), outside of time (Exodus 3:14; Psalm 90:2), and responsible for the Creation of everything (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1).  These divine traits set the minimum boundary for God’s Sovereign control in the universe, which is to say that nothing in the universe occurs without God’s permission.  God has the POWER and KNOWLEDGE to prevent anything He chooses to prevent, so anything that does happen must, at the very least be allowed by Him. [From gotQuestions?org. ].

After studying in the Book of Amos, you might begin to wonder, “Is there any good news?”  It seems as if all Amos can talk about is death and destruction.  So many ways Amos tried to get his message to the Israelites, the talk, the sermons, and finally, the personal visions he had for himself.  In all of this Israel wouldn’t listen–in one ear and out the other ear.  The people of God had wandered so far away from God, they couldn’t find their way back.  And even worse…they had deceived themselves into thinking that because they were God’s people who He would threaten JUDGEMENT but not carry the threat through.  How mistaken they would be.

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

And frankly, over the last few years, I have the same fear about the churches in America than anything else.  With the loss of REVERENCE of the power of God, comes a loss of dependency on Him.

We think we can go about our lives and do it on our own.

We devise our own IDOLS, our own centers of worship.

We decide that on Sundays, instead of actually worshipping God, we’re going to go to a ball game instead.  And whats worse, we’re making a public witness that it’s all right to do.  The center of our WORSHIP ceases to be in church but rather at the ball field or wherever.

There are similarities between the people of Israel and the people in America today.

If the people of Israel were to see JUDGEMENT of their transgressions, how can the churches in America fail to expect the same judgment?

So how can taking a book that’s so negative and find the roses that are planted in it?

I believe we’ve forgotten the element of JUDGEMENT.

Judgement and punishment traditionally have been seen as negative.  We want people not to do a certain activity, so we PUNISH them for doing so.

Children may be able to recognize that we LOVE them when we punish them but their view of PUNISHMENT is still not to do a certain thing.  There is an element of restoration that happens as a result of the punishment and judgment.  Just as parents, God disciplines or judges His people to bring them back into a good relationship with Him.

So God’s Judgment in His SOVEREIGNTY can correct the political, the religious, the cultural conditions that allowed for the people to turn from God and shows that He still wants a RELATIONSHIP with His chosen people.

WE ARE THE CHURCH!

Amos knows why the judgment is to come.

It’s a vision that God shows Amos the extent of the JUDGEMENT,

The very foundations of Israel are to be destroyed.

All of the people were involved.

Their land, their buildings, all were involved and destroyed.

WHY?

One reason is that it establishes the sovereignty of God.

Just as a child challenges his parent’s authority.  When the PARENT doesn’t answer the challenge by discipline, then the CHILD doesn’t fear the AUTHORITY of the parents.  How the parent exercises that DISCIPLINE affects the challenge.

When my first-born daughter was a child, a good strong word or a timeout on the couch would be good enough.  For my other two children, that would do no good at all!

For some, nothing but a spanking will do.  They see that type of discipline as either a strength or weakness on the part of the parent.

If DISCIPLINE is to be effective it must present the PARENT in a sovereign position over the child, and 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 it.  He allows us to know who is really in control of this world; that it is the Creator, not the created.

Amos Chapter 9 begins by establishing the SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD in the first four verses.

AMOS begins to show God’s sovereignty as pictured by the altar with a sword in His hands.

There is no defensive armor mentioned.  He would not need it!  He was to attack as the sword is only an offensive weapon.

After He destroys the Temple, God then continues His JUDGMENT on the survivors.

  • They couldn’t hide in the center of the earth, or in caves.
  • They couldn’t hide in the mountains.
  • They couldn’t hide in the depths of the sea.

The SOVEREIGN GOD would find them wherever they hide.

AMOS continues to describe God’s SOVEREIGNTY in VERSE 5:

[5]  The Lord, the LORD Almighty–he touches the earth and it melts, and all who live in it mourn; the whole land rises like the Nile, then sinks like the river of Egypt;

Amos identifies God as the LORD, THE LORD ALMIGHTY.

God who can control the actions of the earth and the water.  We’ve seen this before with Noah and the flood and Moses and the Red Sea.

Having established His SOVEREIGNTY, we then look at VERSE 7:  “Are not you Israelites the same to me as the Cushites?” declares the LORD.

In this VERSE, God establishes the fact that He considers Israel to be the same as the idolatrous Cushites, the Philistines, and the Arameans.  God has in the past delivered countries not His chosen people out of captivity.  They wouldn’t recognize it, but AMOS does here.

But in VERSE 8, there seems to be a dimmer of HOPE for Israel.  God’s SOVEREIGNTY is established in His righteous JUDGEMENT.

[8]  “Surely the eyes of the Sovereign LORD are on the sinful kingdom.  I will destroy it from the face of the earth.  Yet I will not totally destroy the descendants of Jacob.”

God also is to destroy Israel from the face of the earth as Israel is recognized as EVIL by God.  The people also show no signs of REPENTANCE by the leaders.

But in His destruction, God makes a PROMISE not to totally destroy Israel or the house of Jacob.

You can’t just talk about the destruction of Israel without looking at its RESTORATION.  In fact, the only time we can speak of JUDGEMENT without restoration is the great white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).

It is here that I can see the ROSEBUD start to develop.

The RESTORATION of ISRAEL:

God had promised in VERSE 8 that He will not destroy the house of Jacob.  This means that while a great number will be destroyed, as we learn from verses 1-4, that not all the Israelites will be destroyed.

In my Bible investigation, this brought up some interesting questions:  Who will be destroyed and whom will be the remnant? And why?

To find some answers to understanding the reasons for destruction in JUDGEMENT I needed to turn back the pages of history at what led up to this JUDGEMENT.

It goes back to the death of Solomon and the division of the 12 Tribes into two countries.

Jeroboam, the king of the northern country, Israel, wanted to make sure that the countries stayed divided.  So he introduced IDOL WORSHIP to Israel so they wouldn’t go to Jerusalem to make sacrifices to God.

From then on, things went downhill.

The series of successive kings didn’t look to God for leadership but trusted rather in their own power to lead.  This was the foundation of their problems.  They challenged the SOVEREIGNTY of God and in essence, were saying that we can lead God’s people better than God can.

So all matters of EVIL enveloped Israel for literally hundreds of years.  God wouldn’t stay His JUDGEMENT forever in light of all this.

It’s important to note–not all the Israelites bowed to Baal.  They would all be a part of the JUDGEMENT, but God would protect them.

God also left an opportunity for individual repentance, even though the country would be judged.

With what we know, we can tell who is to be judged:

  1. The religious leaders for their allowing idolatry.
  2. To the political leaders who 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.

VERSES 11 and 12 tells us that God will RESTORE the fallen tent of David.

[11] “In that day I will restore David’s fallen shelter–I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins–and will rebuild it as it used to be,  [12] so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear My name.” declares the LORD, who will do these things  (NIV).

God will repair the broken places and restore its ruins.  He will bring out a NEW NATION that is stronger and more powerful than what was there before.

This is a NEW DAY of the LORD. 

One that isn’t a day of judgment but one of restoration.  A day when the people of the House can once again enjoy the goodness of the relationship with the Lord.

Looking at VERSES 13 and 14…

The reaper will overtake the plowman…

The planter with the one treading grapes…

New wine will flow from the mountains and hills…

They will rebuild their cities…

They will make gardens and eat their fruit.

All of the talk of JUDGEMENT at this point now turns to RESTORATION and HOPE!

The Agent of Restoration is Revealed –

It’s not enough to know that RESTORATION was to take place.  We must know HOW that restoration will take place.

The restoration for Israel came in TWO ways.

One is immediate:

This would be their return from captivity and the rebuilding and leadership headed by Nehemiah and Ezra.

The other is or future RESTORATION when Christ comes back:

The future restoration that God brought about was even more reconstructive than just returning to an existing form of worship.  The form of worship had to change for throughout Israel’s history, they showed that they repeatedly turned 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.

That NEW WAY OF WORSHIP would come with Jesus

He came to complete the Law.

With Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God completed the RESTORATION of the Law.  The restoration of the Law became the DOCTRINE of GRACE.

The doctrine of grace wrestled control of religion from the hands of men and placed God in control.  It was no longer a “system”, a bunch of rules and regulations that mere mortals could follow, like directions on a roadmap.

SALVATION was now a GIFT open to everyone.  It was based on what God in His SOVEREIGNTY can do for a man, a GIFT that God and God alone could give.

Whit Christ, the RESTORATION of Israel was complete!

CHRISTIANITY was to become the new Israel.

Israel was restored to worship under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

We are part of the RESTORED Israel.

One day we will be in the land never again to be uprooted as we join Christ in glory.  Oh, what a day that will be for those who are part of the RESTORED KINGDOM!

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CREDITS ~

Commentary:  “What does it mean that God is sovereign?”  gotQuestions?org.

Photos:  Google Image search.

Video:  YouTube time-lapse of a rosebud.

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

 

Let’s Start Listening to the WHOLE Story

POST’S SCRIPTURE:  HOSEA 5:1 – 6:3

I was feeling a bit nostalgic the other day while writing down thoughts towards my next blog.  I started THE WORD DETECTIVE blog-site over 5 years ago, relating many personal stories throughout my life.  But it struck me (that’s a funny choice of words) this morning that I hadn’t revealed the story about when I was once stabbed.

It was a regular work day in January 1999.  There were 7 of us in a room–myself, three other men, and three women.  One of the guys was talking about his upcoming vacation when one of the women handed him a knife and he stabbed me in the chest!  The last thing I remembered before I passed out was a woman working to control the bleeding.  I woke up in a 5th-floor hospital bed with an oxygen mask over my entire face at Tacoma General Hospital in Tacoma, Washington.

I GUESS I BETTER TELL YOU THE WHOLE STORY–

I wasn’t at work.  The room was a surgical room and the six other people in the room were my anesthesiologist, my surgeon, and his PA (Physician’s Assistant), and three nurses.  They were there to perform Heart Bypass Surgery, which is why the doctor stabbed me in the chest.

Fortunately, he had my best interest at heart (no pun intended) and nice enough to have his PA sew me up when he was finished.

You see if you don’t LISTEN to THE WHOLE STORY You May Get the Wrong Opinion. –

The ACT of a surgeon cutting into you with a knife sounds quite traumatic and who would opt for that?  But for someone who has cardiovascular disease and in need of relief in my breathing, a loss of energy, and everyday existence, it is a welcomed wound.

I’m telling this story as an introduction to God’s solution to the problem of UNFAITHFULNESS.

“HOW DOES GOD GET OUR ATTENTION?”

Those who don’t HEAR THE WHOLE STORY might only hear that the Lord will tear into us and go away, like a lion.

On that basis, people reject God, thinking of Him as a vengeful judge who wants to destroy all of us who don’t OBEY His commands.  But in my thinking, it is more appropriate to describe God as a divine Surgeon, who indeed cuts into us, but also binds up our wounds.

Job 5:18:  “For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.”

Lamentations 3:32:  “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”

Deuteronomy 32:39:  “See now that I am he!  There is no god besides me.  I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” 

HOSEA CHAPTER 5 ~

Hosea chapter 5 describes the surgical work of God in detail.  It describes how God gets our attention and removes the spiritual blockage left by our UNFAITHFULNESS.

The relief of the symptoms I acquired over time came through surgery, which was painful at the time, but critical for relieving my symptoms and ultimately my life.

Hosea 5:1-2 (Amplified bible):

[1]  HEAR THIS, O you priests!  And listen, O house of Israel!  And give ear, O house of the king!  For the judgment pronounced pertains to you and is meant for you, because you have been a snare at Mizpah and a net spread upon Tabor [military strongholds on either side of the Jordan River).  

[2] The revolters are deeply sunk in corruption and slaughter, but I [the Lord God] am a rebuke and a chastisement for them all.”

Hosea was called upon by God to get Israel’s attention so He could address the “rottenness”–the “decay” that came as a result of the nation’s sickness of SIN.

IN VERSE 3, God charges Ephraim [the northern ten tribes] with prostitution and corruption.

IN VERSE 4, the words reveal a HEART CONDITION of Unfaithfulness.

IN VERSE 5, the symptom is ARROGANCE–“pride and self-reliance”. 

VERSE 6 talks about going “with their flocks and with their herds to seek the Lord,” meaning these people were bringing their animals for Sacrifice, but it was empty worship.  Outwardly they were “worshipping,” but inwardly they had a heart condition and were far off from God.

These were a people, like us, who were sick with SIN of self-seeking and self-centeredness and assumed they were self-sufficient.

THEY SOLD OUT…their bodies as well as their moral and religious convictions like a prostitute.  They were UNFAITHFUL to God

They were UNFAITHFUL to God as Hosea’s wife Gomer was unfaithful to her husband.  Even their sad attempts at WORSHIP was empty and void of meaning.

So am I referring only to ISRAEL here, or am I pointing a finger at us–the CHURCH today?

Do you see your own sickness in ISRAEL half as clearly as I see my own?  I see signs of DECAY showing up in our BEHAVIOR.  At times I have to admit that even my own worship experience on Sunday morning is just an act–going through the motions which then leads to repentance.  Or should “lead to repentance.”

The DIAGNOSIS is clear, God goes to work as a SURGEON.

From verses 8-12, we find a series of pronouncements that cut at ISRAEL like the perspective wounds of a SURGEON’S knife:

  • “Sound the trumpet…”
  • “Raise the battle cry…”
  • “Ephraim will be laid waste on the day of reckoning.”
  • “I will pour out my wrath”
  • “I am like a moth…”
  • “I am like rot…”

These don’t sound like words from a loving-God, any more than a six-inch cut down the chest sounds like the wounds of a healer!  But that’s exactly what they are.

For even God can be like a LION; His presence is that of a RESTORER and HEALER.

Coming to an Understanding…

This interaction between God and Israel through His prophet HOSEA, we are given the ability to recognize how God is at work to RESTORE us as INDIVIDUALS, as the CHURCH, and even our NATION.

Recognizing the Ways God Comes To Us to Get Our Attention So He Can Heal Us ~

FIRST, He comes like A MOTH or We Rot!

IN VERSE 12 He says,  “I am like a moth to Ephraim, like rot to the people of Judah.”  ISRAEL, represented by the divided kingdoms of EPHRAIM and JUDAH, already were in a state of decay.

It was a slow decay much like the slow, natural damage a MOTH does when forgotten sweaters folded in the closet are noticed after slipping them over my head.  And then my wife would notice the damage and say, “Looks like we have MOTHS in  the closet!”

GOD had allowed the natural consequences of Israel’s UNFAITHFULNESS to ROT their NATION.

Next, GOD Would Come Like A LION (verse 14).

Courtesy of Photo Pin

If the people couldn’t see the signs of DECAY…or just ignored them, God was warning through His prophet Hosea, He was next going to come and tear them to pieces–carry them off in exile with no one to rescue them.

But notice there would be a PURPOSE in this.  God would do this until…until they would admit their GUILT.

He would become like a LION so they would seek His face:  “in their MISERY,” He said, “they will earnestly seek me”  (verse 15).

 THE RAIN, It’s a Comin’!  – (Hosea 6:1-3)

 

Ultimately, God LOVES us and He wants us to experience Him in the SPRING RAIN.  He will let you ROT in your choices for a time if you insist and if you’re stubborn He will come to you like a Lion.  But His ultimate purpose will always be to RESTORE you.  It will always be to PROSPER you and not harm you.

His PURPOSE is to give you HOPE and a FUTURE.

Today in our nation, God is like a MOTH and like RUST.  He’s allowing us to DECAY because in general, we’ve forsaken Him.  And if we refuse to turn to the gentle rain of Jesus, we may soon know Him as a Great Lion.

Our nation, your nation, will crumble as with any dynasty that has gone before us.  Unless we change, the Western church will be torn apart.

So the question arises before each one of us:  How do you see God at work in restoring you personally?

This very week, have you lived in HIS PRESENCE and experienced His GRACE-like a SPRING RAIN?

If the answer is “NO”, then look carefully to see if God has been like a MOTH to you in your life.

Consider that your spiritual desert might show that you’re in a slowly developing state of DECAY.  Like the folded sweater lying unnoticed in the closet–not seeing the things changing before your eyes, but before you know it, you realize that the clothing of righteousness you once wore has been eaten away by the natural consequences of your choices.

If you are not spending the necessary time in the presence of God each day you have in essence locked your spirituality in a closet infested with MOTHS.

My fear is that you may try to pull it out later and only find it has been eaten away.

BEWARE OF APATHY!  Because APATHY will ROT your spiritual life–like RUST on a nail.

Maybe some who are reading this Blog-study have felt Him tearing at you like a lion ripping at his prey.  Perhaps the consequences of your choices have you confused–a struggling marriage, the loss of a job, an addiction. Maybe the pain of sickness or the mourning of death has reminded you of sin’s curse.  It could be the activity of the Holy Spirit has you weighted down concerning your own SIN, and the weight of GUILT is more than you can bear.

If God has been like a GREAT LION to you this week, do not despair!  He will BIND up your wounds!! –

JESUS came to Peter like a roaring lion with the crow of a rooster.  He came to Paul like a roaring lion in the midst of a blinding light.  Yet He came to them both like a refreshing RAIN restoring them to places of great significance in His divine plan.

SPRING RAINS ARE A COMIN’

Knowing the WHOLE STORY, will you let Him wash you like the RAIN?

There is only ONE WAY to God’s presence and that’ through to the CROSS of JESUS CHRIST.  Let Him tear apart your self-seeking–self-sufficient ways and RESTORE your spirit.

REJOICE, THE GREAT SURGEON COMES!

He brings HEALING on His wings.

He RESTORES us.

He is JESUS, our SAVIOR…AND He wants to operate on you.  Will you let Him?

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CREDITS –

Photo Credits:  Google Advanced Image Search and Photo Pin.

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