Thinking on Scripture with Dr. Steven R. Cook
John 13:1-17

John 13:1-17

August 11, 2019

     Prior to this object lesson in John chapter 13, Jesus faced rejection by His people, Israel, and knew He was going to face illegal trials, beatings, and the crucifixion. In fact, Jesus was about eighteen hours away from the cross and was under great pressure (Matt. 26:37-38); yet, He kept focus and demonstrated love and humility toward the disciples. The Gospel of Luke reveals the disciples had been arguing amongst themselves “as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest” (Luke 22:24). It was at this time that Jesus laid aside His garments and put on the garments of a slave in order to teach humility. It is important to realize that no one forced Jesus into service, but rather, He humbled Himself and became the servant of others (see Mark 10:45; Philip. 2:3-8). By washing the disciple’s feet, Jesus provided an object lesson of forgiveness and humble service to the undeserving. Once He was finished, Jesus stated to His disciples, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). Here, the Lord instructed His disciples to forgive and humbly serve each other (cf. Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:12-13; 1 Pet. 5:5). There is a blessing to the one who knows and does this (John 13:17).

Micah 5:1-15

Micah 5:1-15

August 10, 2019

     In chapter five, Micah continues his message of near judgment and future hope; specifically, regarding the millennial kingdom. In his opening verse he describes an event that was about one hundred years into the future from his day, in which the Babylonians would lay siege against Jerusalem, and “with a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek” (Mic 5:1). This humiliation is likely a reference to king Zedekiah who was captured, and who witnessed the slaughter of his sons just before his eyes were gouged out and he was put in chains and led into captivity (2 Ki 25:1-7). In contrast to the failed leadership in Micah’s day, God promised to send a good Ruler who would be born in the village of Bethlehem (Mic 5:2). What follows in Micah 5:3-4 refers to the future rule of Messiah, who will, after the Tribulation, regather His people (Mic 5:3), and shepherd them in their own land, “and they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth” (Mic 5:4). Jesus’ universal and sovereign rule will guarantee Israel’s safety. Micah 5:2-4, like other biblical prophecies related to Jesus, combine the events of His first and second comings, such that they are seen, from the prophet’s perspective, as occurring immediately together (see Isa 9:6-7; 61:1-2; cf. Luke 4:13-21). However, looking back on the prophesies and the events described, we realize there are at least two thousand years between His first and second coming. At the time of Jesus’ second coming, at the end of the Tribulation, He will appoint rulers under Him, who will help put an end to Gentile oppression (Mic 5:5-6). During the millennial kingdom, the remnant—believing and obedient Israelites—will be among the nations of the world as a refreshing blessing to them. Micah states, “Then the remnant of Jacob will be among many peoples like dew from the LORD, like showers on vegetation which do not wait for man or delay for the sons of men” (Mic 5:7). In addition, they will rule with supremacy and strength, like a lion in the forest or among sheep (Mic 5:8-9). In that day, Christ will destroy all human dependencies that give His people a false sense of strength and security, such as horses and chariots (military might; Mic 5:10), cities and fortifications (places of refuge; Mic 5:11), and sorceries and fortune-tellers (seeking demonic forces to control others and predict the future; Mic 5:12). And, He will destroy both the objects of false worship—carved images, sacred pillars, and Asherim—as well as their cities of worship (Mic 5:13-14). Lastly, at Jesus’ second coming, He will execute divine vengeance on those Gentile nations that have not obeyed Him, saying, “And I will execute vengeance in anger and wrath on the nations which have not obeyed” (Mic 5:15). In all these events, the sovereignty of God is at work, for He not only declares what will come to pass, but He makes it happen in His time (Psa 115:3; 135:6; Isa 14:24, 27; 46:9-11; Dan 4:35).

Micah 4:1-13

Micah 4:1-13

August 10, 2019

     Micah chapter four presents a future hope to Judah in the last days when God will bring in the millennial kingdom and blessings. At that time, God’s kingdom—pictured as a mountain—will be established in Jerusalem (Mic 4:1). The Gentile nations of the world will go there, seeking God’s wisdom, saying, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths” (Mic 4:2). This is in contrast to the Israelites in Micah’s day who did not care about God and His word. Though there was judicial corruption in Micah’s day, Messiah will, in the future, “judge between many peoples and render decisions for mighty, distant nations” (Mic 4:3a). There will be no war during the millennial reign of Christ, as everyone “will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war” (Mic 4:3b). This will be a time of universal peace and prosperity, in which earthly resources are used for good and not evil purposes (Mic 4:4), and Israel will walk with the Lord forever (Mic 4:5). In Micah’s day the weak and vulnerable were exploited; however, in the millennial kingdom, Messiah “will assemble the lame and gather the outcasts, even those [rebels] whom I have afflicted. I will make the lame a remnant and the outcasts a strong nation, and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from now on and forever” (Mic 4:6-7). At that time God will establish His government in Jerusalem and sovereignty will be restored in Israel, as in the former days when David and Solomon were king (Mic 4:8). But Micah then pronounces near term prophesy concerning Judah, that the nation must go into captivity in Babylon. This will be a time when the nation has no king to govern or counselor to guide, and the unstoppable pain is likened to a woman in childbirth (Mic 4:9). Upon that generation, Micah states, “Writhe and labor to give birth, daughter of Zion, like a woman in childbirth; for now you will go out of the city, dwell in the field, and go to Babylon” (Mic 4:10a). At the time Micah prophesied, Babylon was under Assyria; but the nation would eventually rise to regional dominance and would serve as God’s instrument of judgment upon His rebellious people. Micah then jumps ahead and mentions the return of his people to Jerusalem, saying, “There you will be rescued; there the LORD will redeem you from the hand of your enemies” (Mic 4:10b). We know from Jeremiah, a prophet who lived a century after Micah, that the captivity of Judah would last seventy years (Jer 25:8-12; 29:1-14). The fulfillment of this short-term prophesy would validate Micah’s long-term predictions concerning the millennial kingdom. Micah mentions there were many nations in his day that desired Judah’s destruction, “Who say, ‘Let her be polluted, and let our eyes gloat over Zion’” (Mic 4:11). But these do not know God’s thoughts or purposes for them, that He will gather them for judgment because of their hostility toward His people (Mic 4:12). In the future, God will cause His people to rise again, saying, “For your horn I will make iron and your hoofs I will make bronze, that you may pulverize many peoples, that you may devote to the LORD their unjust gain and their wealth to the Lord of all the earth” (Mic 4:13). This will happen when God restores Jerusalem to prominence during the millennial reign of Christ.

The Role of Prophets, Priests, Judges and Kings in Israel

The Role of Prophets, Priests, Judges and Kings in Israel

August 3, 2019

     After God delivered the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage, He established Israel as a theocratic nation among the Gentile nations of the world. God Himself was their Ruler, and He gave them laws and leaders to direct their moral, religious, and civil life.[1] God’s laws (תּוֹרָה torahinstruction, direction) were intended to establish standards of what is right, to promote order, to advance justice, to resolve disputes, and to protect freedom. God’s leaders were to model what was right and influence the thoughts and actions of others to live in conformity to His will. Israel’s leaders consisted primarily of prophets, priests, judges and kings, who were to know His Word, live it, and teach it to others.

The Prophets

     Early in Israel’s history, God spoke directly to His prophets who were to communicate His message to others that they might live His will. The word prophet translates the Hebrew word נָבִיא nabi, which means speaker or spokesman, and refers to one who speaks on behalf of another. God’s prophets were both forthtellers and foretellers, always communicating what He revealed. Moses was called as a prophet-leader to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage (Ex 3:1-10), to mediate a bilateral covenant (Exo 19:1-8), and to communicate and inscripturate God’s laws (Exo 34:27; Lev 26:46). As God assigned other national leaders, His prophets functioned as guides and counselors to them, always directing them to live in conformity to His law. When Israel’s leaders and people turned away from Him, the prophet would function as a prosecuting attorney, pointing out their violation of the law (Hos 4:1-2; Mic 6:1-2), and the impending consequences if they did not turn back to the Lord (i.e. repent).

The Priests

     The word priest translates the Hebrew word כֹּהֵן kohen, which refers to those who drew near to God on behalf of others, usually in sacred matters of prayer and sacrifice. God originally intended the whole nation of Israel to be a kingdom of priests, saying, “and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exo 19:6).  However, because of the sin of worshipping the golden calf (Exo 32:1-35), God took that privilege from the nation and confined the priesthood to the descendants of Aaron, and the Levites were to be their assistants (Num 3:1-10; 18:1-7). According to God’s law, priests were to: 1) be holy in their behavior (Exo 19:6), 2) teach His law to others (Lev 10:11; Deu 33:10), 3) preserve the tabernacle and temple (Num 18:1-4), 4) perform official duties in the Holy of Holies once a year (Exo 30:6-10; Lev 16), 5) inspect people and fabrics for cleanliness (Lev 13-14), 6) receive tithes (Num 18:21, 26; cf. Heb 7:5), and 7) offer sacrifices for sin (Lev chapters 4, 9, 16). Israel’s priests were to educate and lead God’s people in religious ceremonial activities (Ezra 7:10; Neh 8:1-5, 8) .

The Judges

     Israel’s Judges (שָׁפַט shaphat) were to adjudicate legal matters and serve as leaders among God’s people. Moses was a judge (Exo 18:13-16), who instructed others in God’s law (Exo 18:17-26). Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, advised him to choose “men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain” (Exo 18:21a), and to appoint them “as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens” (Exo 18:21b). The word leader translates the Hebrew word שַׂר sar, which means chief, ruler, or governor. After the leadership of Moses and Joshua, there was the period of the Judges, which is generally described as a time when “there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg 17:6; 21:25). During this time, God raised up Judges who served as hero-leaders who defended the nation from enemy attacks and guided them into God’s law (Judg 2:16-19). When there was no Judge to lead, the people repeatedly degenerated into idolatry and disobedience. The period of the Judges lasted for about 300 years and ended with Samuel, who regularly prayed for God’s people and instructed them to seek and serve the Lord (1 Sam 12:20-24).

The Kings

     The word king translates the Hebrew word מֶלֶךְ melek, and was used of Israel’s leaders from 1050 to 586 B.C. God had promised Abraham—the progenitor of Israel—that he would be the father of many nations, saying, “kings will come forth from you” (Gen 17:6). When God established His theocratic kingdom under Moses, He anticipated Israel would have a king who would serve as His viceregent, and he gave specific instructions concerning the selection of the king, his behavior, and education (Deu 17:14-20). According to the Mosaic law, Israel’s king was to be a fellow Israelite of God’s choosing; not self-selected (Deu 17:14-15). Furthermore, he was not to accumulate horses for his army (Deu 17:16), nor multiply wives (Deu 17:17a), nor amass great wealth (Deu 17:17b), as these would all pull him away from his devotion to the Lord. In order to stay true to God, the king was required to write out a personal copy of the law in the presence of the Levitical priests (Deu 17:18), and to carry it with him and read it all the days of his life. By doing this, the king would learn to fear God, obey His word, and not be lifted up in pride, so that he and his sons may live long and be blessed (Deu 17:19-20). The king who did this would serve as the ideal Israelite, not relying on self or resources, but wholly devoted to God and guided by sacred Scripture. David was God’s ideal king who studied Scripture, walked with God, and led others to do the same (Psa 119:1-16, 33-35), and many of Israel’s kings were compared with him (1 Ki 15:1-5; 2 Ki 16:2; 18:1-3; 22:1-2). Though Solomon knew Scripture, he broke all three commands and this led to his ruin (1 Ki 10:14-15, 23, 26-28; 11:1-8).

 

[1] The Mosaic Law refers to the 613 laws “which the LORD established between Himself and the sons of Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai” (Lev 26:46). The Mosaic Law: 1) revealed the holy character of God (Ps 19:9; Rom 7:12), 2) was given specifically to Israel circa 1445 B.C. (Lev 26:46), and, 3) existed for nearly 1500 years before being rendered inoperative (2 Cor 3:7-11; Heb 8:13).

Micah 3:1-12

Micah 3:1-12

August 3, 2019

     Micah begins with a command for the nation’s leaders to hear his message from the Lord (Mic 3:1a). He opens with a rhetorical question, saying, “Is it not for you to know justice?” (Mic 3:1b). The answer, of course, is yes. Israel’s good leaders were marked by righteousness and justice (see 1 Ki 10:9; Psa 72:1-2, 12-14; Jer 22:1-3). However, the leaders in Micah’s day were so vicious, their behavior is likened to cannibalism, whereby they consumed the lives of those they were called to protect (Mic 3:2-3). The nation’s leaders were guilty of theft (Mic 2:1-2, 8-9), gross injustice (Mic 3:9), bloodshed (Mic 3:10; 7:2), and bribery (Mic 3:11). “By contrast faithful leaders protected their charges and looked out for their welfare. David, the epitome of a good leader for God, was taken from shepherding sheep (1 Sam. 17:15) to become a shepherd of the people (2 Sam. 5:2; 7:7). The people in Micah’s day were being betrayed by their leaders, for if they really cared about the people, they would have turned them back to the Lord.”[1] God’s judgment would eventually fall upon the nation, and because they refused to listen to His warnings, He would not hear their cries (Mic 3:4). God is omniscient and hears all prayers; however, He chooses not to answer the prayers of those who disregard Him and His Word (Deu 1:43-45; Pro 21:13; 28:9; Zec 7:11-13). Micah then addresses the false prophets who were leading God’s people astray (Mic 3:5a), whose messages of peace or calamity depended on the pay of the hearer (Mic 3:5b). For these false prophets, money was their master. Micah pronounces judgment upon them, describing their doom as a time of night and darkness (Mic 3:6), in which God will make them ashamed and embarrassed (Mic 3:7a), saying, “Indeed, they will all cover their mouths because there is no answer from God” (Mic 3:7b). The silence of God means the messages of the false prophets were not from Him, but merely the product of their own imaginations (cf. Jer 23:16-22). In contrast with the false prophets, Micah declared, “I am filled with power—with the Spirit of the LORD—and with justice and courage to make known to Jacob his rebellious act, even to Israel his sin” (Mic 3:8). Walking with God gave Micah the right perspective to see what was happening in the nation, as well as the moral fortitude to address their rebellion and sin. Being filled with the Spirit, Micah addressed the corrupt leaders of the nation, “Who abhor justice and twist everything that is straight, who build Zion with bloodshed and Jerusalem with violent injustice” (Mic 3:9-10). The leaders included the magistrates, priests and prophets, who pronounce judgment for a bribe, instruct for a price, and prophecy for money (Mic 3:11a). Then they falsely claim that they trust in God, saying, “Is not the Lord in our midst?” and reject Micah’s message, saying, “Calamity will not come upon us” (Mic 3:11b). Because of the failure of the nation’s leaders, prophets and priests, Micah declares, “on account of you Zion will be plowed as a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest” (Mic 3:12). This prophecy came to pass in 586 B.C. when the Babylonians destroyed the city and the temple. It occurred again by the Romans in A.D. 70.

 

[1] John A. Martin, “Micah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1482.

Social Justice from a Biblical Perspective

Social Justice from a Biblical Perspective

July 27, 2019
  • "Thus has the LORD of hosts said, 'Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.'" (Zec 7:9-10)

     The phrase social justice is commonly used in America today in connection with socialism; and though the term is good, socialism is not.[1] From a biblical perspective, social justice refers to the divinely bestowed rights that God legislates concerning vulnerable persons in society; specifically, the poor, widows, orphans, and sojourners. These rights were theirs by divine law in which God commanded those blessed with resources to provide for the needs, protection, and just treatment of the vulnerable. Blessed Israelites were theologically obligated by God to help the less fortunate. In God’s theocratic kingdom, the dependent could expect the powerful and wealthy to help meet their needs and defend their rights. Solomon wrote, “The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, the wicked does not understand such concern” (Pro 29:7).[2] The “righteous” are those who have regard for God and His laws and are “concerned for rights of the poor” (cf. Isa 10:1-2). Those who disregarded God’s laws concerning the vulnerable could expect to be judged by Him, as Moses wrote, “Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow” (Deu 27:19). God’s written law was the basis for “the justice due” to the vulnerable in society. According to God’s law:

  1. If a person became poor and had to sell his land, it could be purchased back by a near relative, or by himself if able. However, if there was no one to buy the land, it was automatically returned to the owner in the Year of Jubilee, which came once every fifty years (Lev 25:23-28).
  2. The poor could expect those whom God had blessed to be open-handed toward them and to give generously (Deu 15:7-11).
  3. If a poor person sold himself as a slave to a fellow Israelite, he was to be set free in the seventh year, and sent away with abundant resources. But if the slave chose, he could stay with his master forever (Deu 15:12-17; cf. Lev 25:39-42). Moreover, slaves were to be treated fairly, as God declared, “You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God” (Lev 25:43).
  4. If a poor person gave their cloak as a pledge, it was to be returned to him at sunset so that he would not get cold during the night (Deu 24:10-13).
  5. If one of God’s people hired a poor person to perform labor, he was to be paid the same day (Deu 24:14-15).[3] This is because the poor person relied on that money to eat.
  6. Sojourners, widows and orphans were free to eat the remnants of a crop after harvest (Deu 24:19-21).
  7. Levites, sojourners, widows and orphans were to enjoy the tithe of produce that came every third year (Deu 14:28-29).

     God called His people to be righteous, honest, truthful, protective and open-handed toward the less fortunate in society. Sadly, there were times when kings, princes, judges, wealthy, prophets and priests behaved wickedly and abused the poor.[4] For this reason, God raised up prophets such as Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Zechariah and others who called for His people to “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, [and] plead for the widow” (Isa 1:17). This call for obedience was rooted in the ethics of the Mosaic Law, which God’s people were to follow. Unfortunately, God’s prophets were ignored or mistreated and the vulnerable continued to be exploited. When God’s people would not turn back to Him, He administered retributive justice, which brought about national discipline and eventual destruction (see Ex 22:21-24; Deu 10:17-18; Jer 21:12; Mal 3:5). God used both the Assyrians and Babylonians as His disciplinary agents to dispense retributive justice in Israel.

     In the Church age, governmental leaders—both Christian and non-Christian—serve as conduits of His government and grace to help care for the needy in society. In this case, tax dollars are used for basic necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care. Scripture teaches us to think of government as a “minister of God” (Rom. 13:4), and to regard rulers as “servants of God” who do His will (Rom. 13:6), and to pray for them (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We realize there is a legitimate sense in which the governmental leaders of this world accomplish God’s purposes by keeping harmony and promoting justice (Rom. 13:2-4; 6-7). Christian leaders who have a healthy walk with the Lord are ultimately directed by His Word. Non-Christian leaders are influenced directly by God who controls their hearts (Pro 21:1), their consciences (Rom 2:14-15), and through the influence of godly believers in their periphery (Dan 3:28-29; 6:25-27).

     As Christians, we use the phrase social justice within the context of God’s moral absolutes. We agree with the laws of man when those laws reflect God’s laws. As a result, we are to advocate for the poor, widows, orphans, and all who are vulnerable to exploitation. In many cases, we are the proponents who affect that blessing as we open our hands to the destitute. This was true of the early church, “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:44-45). There is no model for socialism here, whereby the state acts as the mediator who takes from one and gives to another. Instead, these Christians willingly sold “their property and possession” to help others, and this was done freely in order to help “as anyone might have need.” James writes, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (Jam 1:27). Individual Christians are to be open-handed when helping the poor, widows and orphans.[5] This can be done directly, or through the agency of others, including organizations that help the needy and defend their rights. We are called to be good stewards of God’s resources, and this means compassion for others should be governed by wisdom from God’s Word.

     Simple ways to help the poor include: 1) spending personal time with them and treating them with respect, 2) sharing the gospel of Christ, 3) giving kind words and praying for them, 4) sharing Bible promises, 5) personally delivering freshly prepared meals or snacks, 6) giving clothes and blankets, 7) sharing information about local charities that might help them, 8) giving money, 9) volunteering at a homeless shelter, 10) offering gift cards that can be used at local restaurants such as McDonalds or Taco Bell, 11) giving to a local church that helps the poor, 12) or giving to a local charity such as Meals on Wheels or the Salvation Army.

     Lastly, there will be no utopian government until Jesus returns and establishes His government in the world. At that time, “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this” (Isa 9:7; cf. Jer 33:15). During that time “He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth” (Isa 11:4).

  • "When our Lord returns He will take the reins of government and rule the nations of this world as a benevolent dictator (Rev. 19:15). Then and only then will the world experience a time of righteousness, justice, social welfare, economic prosperity, and spiritual knowledge. He will show Himself to be King of kings and Lord of lords in the same arena where man’s rebellion against God took place."[6]

Summary:

     When Israel was a theocratic kingdom, God legislated certain benefits to the poor, widows, orphans and sojourners in order to meet their daily needs, and these were to be given by those whom He’d blessed with abundance. God instructed His leaders to uphold and defend the rights of the vulnerable, knowing there would be wicked persons who would seek to exploit them. Sadly, much of Israel’s history was marked by a breakdown among His people, as the leaders and wealthy in the land exploited the poor they were called to defend. Now, in the Church age, God provides care for the needy in society through human governments, as well as through individual Christians and local churches. Lastly, perfect government will come in the future when Jesus Christ returns and establishes His kingdom on earth and provides righteous reign and care for all.

 

[1] Socialism is little more than thievery, in which governmental leaders extract wealth from one class of citizens—often the honest and hardworking—and redistributes it to others in order to create outcomes of equality. Socialism has brought nothing but social and economic ruin wherever it has been implemented.

[2] Solomon’s mother planted seeds of righteousness in the garden of her young son’s mind, hoping someday the landscape of his thinking would beautifully display the richness of God’s Word. She instructed her young son, saying “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy” (Pro 31:8-9). Oh, that mothers would instruct their children in the ways of the Lord; that children would grow up with godly values that instruct them to care for others and to help the less fortunate. That children would grow up to represent the highest and best within society and not the lowest and worst.

[3] The Bible promotes a strong and honest work ethic. In fact, God’s expectation of compensation for work performed is so strong, it even extended to animals, as Moses wrote, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing” (Deu 25:4). The animal that works has the right to benefit from its labor. In contrast, “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat” (2 Th 3:10).

[4] The wicked are described as those who “slay the widow and the stranger and murder the orphans” (Psa 94:6), who “deprive the needy of justice and rob the poor of My people of their rights, so that widows may be their spoil and that they may plunder the orphans” (Isa 10:2). In addition, “They are fat, they are sleek, they also excel in deeds of wickedness; they do not plead the cause, the cause of the orphan, that they may prosper; and they do not defend the rights of the poor” (Jer 5:28).

[5] Not all widows were eligible for support from the church, but only those who met the age requirements and displayed a life of humility and service to others (1 Tim 5:9-10). And, if a widow has children, they are to care for her (1 Tim 5:4). Younger widows were to seek remarriage and a godly life (1 Tim 5:11-14). And if a young woman has a dependent widow, she must care for her and not expect the church to do it (1 Tim 5:16).

[6] Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 316.

Micah 2:1-13

Micah 2:1-13

July 27, 2019

     In Micah 2:1-5 the prophet sets forth God’s divine judgment upon the nation. It was the immoral behavior of God’s people who had no excuse for their criminal conduct. It was these who had been rescued from slavery in Egypt, brought into a special relationship with Him and given the light of His revelation. Those who should have modeled the highest and best behavior were, in fact, modeling the lowest and worst. Micah pronounced woe on those who scheme iniquity on their beds at night, then carry out their plans in the morning (Mic 2:1). This is likely a reference to the wealthy in Israel, since they had the means to execute their sinful schemes. They violated the eighth and tenth commandments, which forbid coveting and stealing (Ex 20:15, 17). More so, they violated the command to love their neighbors (Lev 19:18); sadly, it was the poor and their children who were being victimized (Mic 2:2). But God is Judge of all the earth, and He pronounces judgment upon these criminals, promising to bring calamity on those who have violated His covenant commands and to turn the land over to the Assyrians (Mic 2:3-5). Here, the Israelites were reaping what they had sown; for they had stolen the land of others, and God would bring the Assyrians to steal their land from them. Micah then turns his attention to false prophets in Israel who were leading God’s people astray and robbing citizens, soldiers, widows and children (Mic 2:6-11). These false prophets were trying to silence Micah (Mic 2:6a), as they had done his contemporaries (Isa 30:10; Amo 7:10-13). The false prophets did not like Micah’s message and wanted only to hear positive things related to God’s blessings, not His judgments. They were convinced God would not bring shame on them (Mic 2:6b). Micah then quotes his detractors, who say, “Is it being said, O house of Jacob: ‘Is the Spirit of the LORD impatient? Are these His doings?’” (Mic 2:7a). But Micah replied, “Do not my words do good to the one walking uprightly?” (Mic 2:7b). It was not Micah’s prophesies that were bringing judgment, but the people’s disobedience to God’s commands. By their choice, Micah’s audience was forfeiting the blessings that could be theirs, if they would only obey. Micah then names the sins that were being committed, namely robbing unsuspecting travelers, weary soldiers, and helpless widows and their children (Mic 2:8-9). Apparently, the majority of citizens were following the corrupt values of Israel’s leaders and embracing the feel-good messages of the false prophets. As a result, they would all go into exile because of the uncleanness of their sin which would bring on “a painful destruction” (Mic 2:10). Micah tells them if a preacher came preaching only positive messages of blessing, “he would be spokesman to this people” (Mic 2:11). Though Micah pronounces judgment to those who deserve it, he also provides a promise of future hope to the obedient remnant, that God will unite His dispersed people and be their good Shepherd Who will lead them into good pastures that they might enjoy the blessings of the land (Mic 2:12). Unlike the corrupt leaders of Micah’s day, God Himself will lead His people, saying, “So their king goes on before them, and the LORD at their head” (Mic 2:13). This will occur after Christ returns at His second coming and establishes His millennial kingdom on earth.

The Battle that Rages

The Battle that Rages

July 20, 2019

     God created His universe and all creatures in it (Gen 1:1), and He made all things good (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). Mankind was God’s crowning creation, made in His image (Gen 1:26-27), and assigned responsibility to rule over this world (Gen 1:26-30). In addition to mankind, God created an order of beings that are called angels, who, like people, have the capacity to think, feel and act. At some point in time—and no one knows for sure when—there was a rebellion in heaven in which a special angel named Lucifer, of the class of cherubim, who, because of pride (Eze 28:11-18), set his will against the will of God (Isa 14:12-14) and convinced many angels to follow him (Rev 12:4). “The desire of Satan was to move in and occupy the throne of God, exercise absolute independent authority over the angelic creation, bring the earth and all the universe under his authority, cover himself with the glory that belongs to God alone, and then be responsible to no one but himself.”[1] After his fall, Satan then tempted Adam and Eve to set their wills against God by eating the forbidden fruit (Gen 2:16-17; 3:1-7). When that happened, Adam handed his kingdom over to Satan, who has been ruling this world since then (Luke 4:5-6; Rev 11:15). Satan rules as a tyrant who has “weakened the nations” (Isa 14:12), currently “deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9), and has well developed strategies of warfare (Eph 6:10-12). Satan’s world-system touches all aspects of humanity, including politics, education, economics, music, art, literature, etc. It is this world-system that Christians are commanded not to love (1 Jo 2:15-16).

  • "The kosmos is a vast order or system that Satan has promoted which conforms to his ideals, aims, and methods. It is civilization now functioning apart from God-a civilization in which none of its promoters really expect God to share; who assign to God no consideration in respect to their projects, nor do they ascribe any causality to Him. This system embraces its godless governments, conflicts, armaments, jealousies; its education, culture, religions of morality, and pride. It is that sphere in which man lives. It is what he sees, what he employs. To the uncounted multitude it is all they ever know so long as they live on this earth. It is properly styled “The Satanic System” which phrase is in many instances a justified interpretation of the so-meaningful word, kosmos."[2]

     At the core of Satan’s world-system is a directive for mankind to function apart from God, and when obeyed, people produce all forms of evil, both moral and immoral. And, to Satan’s advantage, everyone born into this world is born in Adam (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:21-22) and possesses a fallen nature, called “the flesh”, which is inclined to operate independently of God and His will (Rom 6:6; Col 3:9; Gal 5:17, 19).

  • "Torn inside with desires to do that which we know is evil and new desires to please God, we experience the rage of the battle.  The internal conflict manifests itself in everyday life as the believer is tempted to sin.  The source of this conflict is the old sin nature, which is the root cause of the deeds of sin.  In the conflict the believer is not passive.  He has a vital role in determining to whom he will give allegiance—the old nature or the new nature.  From the moment a sinner trusts Christ, there is a conflict in his very being between the powers of darkness and those of light.  The one who has become a member of the family of God now faces conflicts and problems that he did not have before."[3]

     At the moment of faith in Christ, the believer is transferred from Satan’s kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Christ (Acts 26:18; Col 1:13). However, though saved, we still possess our sin nature, continue to reside in the devil’s world and face constant pressure from the enemy. The flesh, the world, and the devil make up the threefold enemy-front every Christian faces; a front that seeks to diminish or destroy her/his walk with God. But Christians are not defenseless. God has given us new life (John 10:28), placed His Holy Spirit within us (John 14:17; 1 Cor 6:19), and equipped us with the armor necessary to stand against our enemy and to accomplish His will (Eph 6:10-17).  Christians defy and disrupt Satan’s kingdom by submitting to God (Rom 12:1-2), learning Scripture (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18), living by faith (Rom 10:17; Col 2:6-7; Heb 10:38; 11:6; 1 Pet 5:9), being filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18), walking by means of the Spirit (Gal 5:16, 21), praying for others (Col 1:9; 2 Thess 1:11), and sharing the Gospel of Christ (1 Cor 15:3-4). The Christian who is advancing spiritually will influence the thoughts and lives of others through biblical discussion; and this is done in love and grace (Eph. 4:14-15; Col 4:6), not by argumentation (2 Tim 2:24-26). When we learn God’s Word, obey His commands, and show love to others, we are rebelling against Satan’s world-system and sowing the seeds of spiritual insurrection in the lives of those who live and walk in Satan’s kingdom. But Christians must always be on guard that we not fall into Satan’s snares and come to love the world (1 John 2:15; cf. Jam 4:4).

 

[1] J. Dwight Pentecost, Your Adversary the Devil (Grand Rapids, Mich., Zondervan Publishing, 1969), 25-26.

[2] Lewis S. Chafer, “Angelology Part 4” Bibliotheca Sacra 99 (1942): 282-283.

[3] Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich., Kregel Publications, 1995), 206.

Micah 1:1-16

Micah 1:1-16

July 13, 2019

     Micah reveals he is a prophet of God from the town of Moresheth, which was about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem and nearly 20 miles east of the Mediterranean Sea (see map). He prophesied under the reign of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, and gave prophecies both to Israel and Judah (Mic 1:1). Micah opens his message as though he were in a courtroom calling his fellow Israelites to hear the indictment that is coming against them from the Lord, saying, “Hear, O peoples, all of you; listen, O earth and all it contains, and let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, the Lord from His holy temple” (Mic 1:2; cf. 6:1-2). God is pictured as coming down from His throne in heaven, and He will “tread on the high places of the earth” (Mic 1:3), and the mountains and valleys will quake and melt away at His presence (Mic 1:4). God—Who is too great to be stopped—will intervene and disrupt the activities of His people because of “the rebellion of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel” (Mic 1:5a), both in Samaria and Jerusalem (Mic 1:5b). The Lord specifically promises to destroy Samaria, the capital of Israel, because it had become a place of idolatry for His people (Mic 1:6-7). “The Lord’s intervention was due to the Israelites’ sins and rebellion against their sovereign lord. Samaria personified the rebellion of the Israelites, and Jerusalem had become a high place for idolatry rather than for holy worship. These capital cities had become leaders in wickedness rather than in holiness.”[1] Due to Israel’s sin, which was an embarrassment to God’s people, Micah declared, “Because of this I must lament and wail, I must go barefoot and naked” (Mic 1:8a). His contemporary, Isaiah, was called to do the same (Isa 20:1-6). Jackals and ostriches were known for their howling, which Micah replicated as an expression of his grief (Mic 1:8b). Micah is disturbed that Israel’s sin has influenced and corrupted Judah, even the city of Jerusalem, which was to be marked by holiness rather than idolatry (Mic 1:9). Israel’s “wound” lead to her total destruction in 722 B.C., and the spiritual infection brought near destruction to Jerusalem in 701 B.C., as the Assyrian army besieged the capital of Judah and destroyed 46 of its surrounding towns. In verses 10-16, Micah uses words of destruction that are similar in sound to the names of the cities in the region, cities which would be destroyed by the invading Assyrian army. Micah makes a special comment in verse 13 when referring to the town of Lachish, saying, “She was the beginning of sin to the daughter of Zion—because in you were found the rebellious acts of Israel.” The destruction that God was bringing on Judah could be traced back to a particular place in which idolatry was introduced to God’s people. Once the Judahites turned away from God, they no longer felt compelled to worship Him or obey His Word. Without God’s moral absolutes to guide them, they felt free to live as they please, engaging in property theft (Mic 2:1-2), robbery (Mic 2:8), and stealing from widows and children (Mic 2:9). Departure from God and His Word leads to a decline in morals in which people put self-interest above God’s interests, or the interests of others.

 

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Mic 1:5.

Introduction to Micah

Introduction to Micah

July 13, 2019

Author:

     Micah is the author of this book. His name (Heb. מִיכָה Mikah) means “Who is like Yahweh?” His name implies the incomparability of God. Micah is referred to in the book of Jeremiah (Jer 26:18; cf. Mic 3:12).

Audience:

     Micah prophesies both to Israel and Judah (Mic 1:1, 5, 9; 5:2), but the primary audience is Israel (Mic 1:5, 13-15; 3:1, 8-9; 5:1-3; 6:2).

Date of ministry:

     Micah received His messages from the Lord during the reigns of Jotham (742-735 B.C.), Ahaz (735-715 B.C.), and Hezekiah (715-687 B.C.). This would place his ministry roughly between 740-700 B.C.

Historical Background:

     Micah was a contemporary of Hosea and Isaiah. “Like his contemporary Isaiah, Micah prophesied about the Assyrian destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the later defeat of the Southern Kingdom by the Babylonians.”[1] Micah would have witnessed the destruction of Israel by Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, in 722 B.C. (2 Ki 17:1-23). As well as the near destruction of Jerusalem by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, in 701 B.C. (2 Ki 18:13—19:36). Micah reveals the reasons his people were under attack was because of their sinful rebellion against God in violation of the Mosaic Covenant (Deu 28:15-68). Micah prophesied against idolatry (Mic 1:7; 5:12-14), the abuse of the helpless (Mic 2:1-2, 8-9), greed among the nation’s leaders (Mic 3:1-12; 7:3), and economic injustice and violence from the wealthy (Mic 6:11-12).

Message:

     Micah presents three messages to his fellow Israelites, and each begins with the call to “Hear” (Heb שָׁמַע shama; Mic 1:2; 3:1; 6:1). Micah sees much of the nation’s sin as originating among the nation’s leaders, namely: the princes, priests and prophets. He states, “Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe, her priests instruct for a price and her prophets divine for money” (Mic 3:11).

  • "Micah identified all three major types of Judahite rulers as corrupt: civil leaders (the princes), religious leaders (the priests), and moral leaders (the prophets). The judges were judging according to who paid them best. The priests were teaching the people but only for what they could get out of it. The prophets were not really prophesying messages from the Lord but were divining; they were practicing sorcery and witchcraft for money and passing these revelations off as the word of the Lord. In every case, ministry was being conducted, but for selfish motives, for what the ministers could get out of ministering."[2]

     The Mosaic Covenant was God’s standard of judgment for Israel in Micah’s day; specifically, the blessings and cursings God promised would come, depending on their obedience (Deu 28:1-14) or disobedience (Deu 28:15-68) to His commands. Though Micah pronounces judgment against Israel, leading to their captivity (Mic 1:16), he also provides messages of hope (Mic 4:1-8; 7:11-20), as God will send forth a Ruler who will shepherd the nation, which is Lord Jesus Christ (Mic 5:2-5; cf. Mat 2:1-12; Luke 2:1-20).

  • "Though the theme of judgment is prominent in each of Micah’s three messages, the prophet also stressed restoration. Micah mentioned the “remnant” in each of his three messages (Micah 2:12; 4:7; 5:7–8; 7:18). He was confident that someday the Lord would restore the people of Israel to a place of prominence in the world under the Messiah. This emphasis would have greatly encouraged the righteous remnant in Micah’s day."[3]

     For the nation and its citizens, Micah gives them God’s expectation, which is, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what the LORD requires of you: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic 6:8).

Outline:

  1. Israel and Judah’s judgment because of their sin (1-2).
  2. God promises future blessing after judgment (3-5).
  3. Indictment of sin and promise of future blessing (6-7).

 

[1] John A. Martin, “Micah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1474–1475.

[2] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Jon 4:10.

[3] John A. Martin, “Micah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 1474–1475.

Jonah 4:1-11

Jonah 4:1-11

July 6, 2019

     God’s mercy toward the Ninevites reflects His love for all people (see John 3:16-17), but Jonah became angry when God did not destroy the Ninevites (Jon 4:1). Jonah’s hatred was likely born out of a nationalistic pride that wanted to protect his fellow Israelites, since he would have known about God’s prophesies through Hosea and Amos, that the Lord was going to use the Assyrians to judge His disobedient people (Hos 9:3; 11:5; Amo 5:27). If this is his reason, then Jonah’s anger is unjustified, for it was Israel’s sin that was bringing God’s judgment, and destroying the Assyrians would not prevent it. Jonah then prays to God and reveals his original reason for fleeing to Tarshish, saying, “for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity” (Jon 4:2). Jonah knew God was this way (Exo 34:6; Psa 86:15; 103:8) and thought he could withhold God’s compassion, and bring only His judgment, by fleeing away from Nineveh. But God’s grace would not be withheld because of a disobedient prophet. When Nineveh did respond positively to the message, God extended grace and did not bring judgment. However, Jonah got angry, because in his heart he hated those to whom he preached, secretly desiring their destruction. It’s ironic that Jonah enjoyed God’s grace, even though his attitude is not in line with God’s attitude, and that he gets angry when God does not destroy his enemies, but has no problem when God does not destroy him for his sin. Jonah was so upset over the matter that he asked God to take his life (Jon 4:3), but the Lord challenges His prophet, asking, “Do you have good reason to be angry?” (Jon 4:4). Jonah is not the first prophet to ask God to kill him, for both Moses and Elijah asked for the same (Num 11:14-15; 1 Ki 19:4). When God asks questions, it’s not because He’s seeking information, but to get the person to introspect, and to think about their behavior, because sin often clouds judgment. He did this with Adam and Eve (Gen 3:9, 13), Hagar (Gen 16:8), and Elijah (1 Ki 19:9, 13). Jonah then went outside the city and waited to see what would happen (Jon 4:5), which might imply that the forty days were near. God tried to teach Jonah a lesson by causing a plant—likely a castor oil plant—to grow up “to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant” (Jon 4:6). But God destroyed the plant, so that it withered and died (Jon 4:7), and in the morning, when the sun came up, “God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, ‘Death is better to me than life.’” (Jon 4:8). This is the third time Jonah asked to die (cf. Jon 1:12; 4:3). God obviously controlled the circumstances which affected Jonah’s comfort and affliction (cf. Job 2:10; Isa 45:7; Amo 3:6). Again, God challenged His prophet’s attitude about the situation, asking, “Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?” (Jon 4:9a), and again, Jonah responded irrationally, saying, “I have good reason to be angry, even to death” (Jon 4:9b). Though Jonah says he has good reason to be angry, he provides none. God then tells Jonah, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” (Jon 4:10-11). God uses an a fortiori argument, which argues from the lesser to the greater, to help Jonah understand his thinking is irrational when compared with God’s reasoning; for if Jonah had compassion on the plant, a lesser and temporal thing in God’s creation, it stands with greater reason that he would have compassion on the Ninevites,  which are greater, and eternal creatures. Though Jonah preached God’s message, which implied an opportunity for repentance, inwardly, he hoped the Ninevites would not respond and that God would pour down His wrath. Overall, Jonah’s attitude was antithetical to God’s compassion, which reveals God’s child can do His will outwardly while rejecting it inwardly.

Jonah 3:1-10

Jonah 3:1-10

July 6, 2019

     After Jonah’s humbling experience in the stomach of the great fish (Jon 2:1-9), and being vomited onto the onto the dry land (Jon 2:10), God recommissioned His recalcitrant prophet to deliver a message to the Ninevites (Jon 3:1), saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you” (Jon 3:2). Jonah is obedient to God, “So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD” (Jon 3:3a). It is likely Jonah obeyed the Lord more from a fear of punishment than from a heart of compassion. Nineveh was located 550 miles from Samaria, the capital of Israel, and it would have taken Jonah nearly a month to get there, assuming he was dropped near there and traveled 20 miles per day. Once he arrived, it took him three days to walk through the city, delivering his message as he went. The population of Nineveh was at least 120,000 (see Jon 4:11); however, the number of residents could rise to over half a million, if the 120,000 refers only to children. Whatever the number, God cared about these people enough to send His prophet as an ambassador to warm them of His pending judgment. Jonah’s message was simple, as he cried out, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jon 3:4b). The message included an element of time, people, and divine action. The time was forty days, the people were the Ninevites, and the action was divine destruction (because of their wickedness and violence). It’s possible Jonah’s punishment by God served as a sign to the Ninevites that God was to be taken seriously. Luke tells us, “Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites” (Luke 11:30). This could imply either they knew about God’s judgment against Jonah because of his disobedience, or they saw Jonah with the physical marks of his discipline. Either way, they were moved to believe his message, as the text informs us, “Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them” (Jon 3:5). Here is simple faith in action, as they believed in God. They took the message of judgment seriously, and correctly reasoned that forty days were given as a probationary period in which they could reform their behavior and perhaps avoid God’s wrath. The act of fasting and wearing sackcloth were outward signs of inward affliction that reflected a humble heart. As the residents of the city fasted, word traveled up to the king himself, who “arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, [and] covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes” (Jon 3:6). The king then formalized the fast with a decree that encompassed everyone in the kingdom and forbade eating food or drinking water (Jon 3:7). The lack of water would have limited the fast to three days. During the time of fasting, he commanded them, saying, “let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands” (Jon 3:8). The word “violence” (חָמָס chamas) refers to evil-violence committed against the innocent and undeserving. This is consistent with what we know about the Assyrians, who were known for their great cruelty to those whom they’d conquered, not showing mercy to the poor, helpless or widows. The king acknowledged their sinfulness and reasoned that since God had not brought judgment already, that there was opportunity to turn from their violent ways and avoid it, stating, “Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish” (Jon 3:9). And we learn that God did spare them from His judgment, for “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.” (Jon 3:10). In the Bible, some of God’s pronouncements of judgment were conditional. That is, He would show mercy and spare them judgment if they changed their ways. However, there were times when God’s judgment was certain, and no amount of reform could stop it. God is slow to anger (Exo 34:6; Num 14:18; Psa 86:15; Jon 4:2), which refers to His great patience, but His patience does not go on forever, and eventually He brings judgment upon the arrogant who refuse to humble themselves. The Assyrians eventually returned to their evil practices and destroyed Israel nearly 37 years later in 722 B.C. This shows that the repentance of one generation is merely the repentance of one generation, and that believing and humble parents does not guarantee believing and humble children. Eventually, God would destroy the Assyrians in 612 B.C.

Steps to Spiritual Maturity

Steps to Spiritual Maturity

June 22, 2019

     The advance to spiritual maturity is a process that takes time as Christians learn and live God’s Word on a regular basis. But this is not an easy process, for we live in the devil’s world and are confronted with many obstacles and distractions that seek to push or pull us away from God. Though constant distractions are all around us, we are “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). Bringing our thoughts into captivity means focusing our minds on God and His Word (Isa 26:3; Pro 3:5-6; Col 3:1), and not allowing our thoughts to be bogged down and trapped with the cares of this world (Matt 6:25-34). This requires spiritual discipline to learn and live God’s Word on a regular basis as we advance to spiritual maturity. Biblically, there are several things believers must do to reach spiritual maturity:

  1. Be in submission to God. Scripture tells us to “Submit to God” (Jam 4:7), and “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom 12:1). Being in submission to God means we desire the Lord’s will above all else. When this happens, God’s Word opens up to us (Jo 7:17).
  2. Continually study God’s Word (Psa 1:1-2; 2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:2; 2 Pet 3:18). As Christians, we cannot live what we do not know, and learning God’s Word necessarily precedes living His will. Therefore, from regeneration onward, we study God’s Word in order to replace a lifetime of worldly viewpoint with divine viewpoint.
  3. Live by faith (Rom 10:17; Heb 10:38; 11:6). Learning God’s Word becomes effective when mixed with our faith as we apply Scripture to all aspects of our lives. Our faith is effective when God’s Word is more real than our experiences, feelings or circumstances. The writer to the Hebrews states, “But my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him” (Heb 10:38), for “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb 11:6).
  4. Accept God’s trials (Deu 8:2-3, 16; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 3:17; 4:12-13). God uses trials to strengthen our faith and develop us spiritually. Often, we don’t like hardship, but we must learn to accept it as necessary. For the Lord uses it to burn away the dross of our flawed character and to refine those golden qualities consistent with His character. The growing believer learns to praise God for the trials, knowing He uses them to advance us spiritually (Rom 5:3-5; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Heb 12:11; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pet 4:12-13).
  5. Be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). Being filled with the Holy Spirit means being controlled by Him. It means we follow where He guides, and His guidance is always according to Scripture.
  6. Walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:16-21). Walking in the Spirit means we depend on Him to sustain us as seek to do His will.
  7. Restore broken fellowship with God through confession of personal sin (1 Jo 1:5-9). The confessed sin is directed to God, which is faithfully forgiven every time (1 Jo 1:9).
  8. Fellowship with other believers (Act 2:42; Heb 10:24). Spiritual growth does not happen in isolation, as God expects us to exercise our spiritual gifts for the benefit of others.
  9. Serve others in love (Gal 5:13). We are part of the body of Christ and God calls us to love and serve each other. Peter states, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Pet 4:10).
  10. Take advantage of the time God gives (Eph 5:15-17; cf. Heb 5:12; 1 Pet 1:17; 4:1-2). The believer does not reach spiritual maturity overnight, and since we have only a measure of time allotted to us by God (Psa 139:16), we must make sure our days are not wasted on meaningless pursuits, but on learning God’s Word and living His will.

     As Christians, we will face ongoing worldly distractions in our lives which are designed by Satan to prevent spiritual growth. We have choices to make on a daily basis, for only we can choose to allow these distractions to stand between us and the Lord. As Christians, we experience our greatest blessings when we reach spiritual maturity and utilize the rich resources God has provided for us. However, learning takes time, as ignorance gives way to the light of God’s revelation. Frustration is often the handmaiden of ignorance, but spiritual success comes with knowledge of God and His Word.

 

Jonah 2:1-10

Jonah 2:1-10

June 22, 2019

     In the previous chapter, Jonah had turned away from God’s call to preach to the Ninevites, so the Lord hurled a great storm on the sea and pressured him through the ship’s captain and sailors, who eventually threw him overboard in order to save their own lives. Jonah would have died, except God sent a great fish to swallow him and keep him alive (Jon 1:17). God used the fish, both as a form of punishment and as the means of his salvation. It’s likely Jonah did not adjust his thinking immediately to the situation, but had to work through what was happening to him. After a brief amount of time within the stomach of the fish, Jonah realized he was being kept alive supernaturally by God. This supernatural rescue prompted God’s prophet to construct a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord (Jon 2:1). What follows in Jonah 2:2-9 reveals the prophet’s mind is saturated with a knowledge of God’s Word, as Jonah borrows heavily from various passages in the Psalms (see handout). While constructing his prayer, it cannot be determined if Jonah consciously drew excerpts from the various Psalms, or if they naturally percolated up in his thinking because his mind naturally thought this way from years of reading Scripture. Either way, Jonah thought and prayed biblically and the Lord heard his cry. Jonah said, “I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice” (Jon 2:2). Jonah recognized God’s sovereignty over what was happening to him; for though the sailors had physically tossed him into the sea (Jon 1:15), he credits God with their actions (Jon 2:3). The sailors acted out of desperation and were motivated by fear of death; however, their attitudes and actions were influenced by the circumstances God controlled, as they were driven to do His will. Jonah does not blame the sailors, but interprets their actions from the divine perspective, realizing God was the One who controlled them; therefore, he could say of the Lord, “You had cast me into the deep” (Jon 2:3a). Jonah saw the sailors’ action of tossing him overboard as God’s action of discipline. They were His agents of punishment, like the storm, waves and fish. Though Jonah realizes he’s under divine discipline (Jon 2:4a), he also knows he is being saved, and that he will see the Lord’s temple, and this encourages him (Jon 2:4b). He briefly describes his time in the ocean, before the fish swallowed him, as a time when he thought he was being laid to rest in a watery grave. He states, “Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, weeds were wrapped around my head. I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever. But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God” (Jon 2:5-6). Jonah thought he was going to die, so his mind turned to the Lord, and he said, “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple” (Jon 2:7). Jonah prayed to the only true God for salvation, and the Lord heard him. This stands in contrast to those who turn to idols and, by their own decision, forsake the mercy that could be theirs from the Lord (Jon 2:8). Jonah then vows to offer sacrifices to God with an attitude of thanksgiving (Jon 2:9a), and concludes his prayer, saying, “Salvation is from the LORD” (Jon 2:9b). Within this context, Jonah is speaking about his physical deliverance. The time Jonah spent in the fish was precisely what was needed to help him gain his spiritual sight; and once he had it, “Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land” (Jon 2:10). In this chapter, Jonah experienced both discipline and grace from the Lord, who “is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet 5:5b). The discipline came because the prophet was arrogant and disobedient to God’s call. The grace came when he humbled himself and turned back to the Lord with a willing heart. Jonah’s prayer of thanksgiving reflects his humility and grateful heart for God’s deliverance, for the prophet knows the Lord is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Exo 34:6).

Jonah 1:1-17

Jonah 1:1-17

June 17, 2019

     The first chapter of Jonah shows God’s prophet spiritually declining further and further away from God, as he went down to Joppa, down into the ship, down into the ocean, and down into the belly of the great fish. The chapter opens with God’s call to Jonah to go and preach in Nineveh, a great Assyrian city located on the eastern bank of the Tigris River (Jon 1:1). He was to preach against their wickedness and to warn them about God’s judgment (Jon 1:2). But Jonah ran in the opposite direction to Joppa, a coastal city on the Mediterranean Sea, located about 35 miles southwest of Samaria. The text informs us that Jonah was fleeing “from the presence of the Lord” (Jon 1:3), which meant he was avoiding God’s directive will to preach. The omniscient Lord knew Jonah would run away and chose him in spite of his rebellious and uncompassionate heart. Furthermore, Jonah’s rebellion did not cancel God’s call, for the sovereign Lord of the universe would have His way; rather, it introduced an element of divine discipline that could have been avoided had his prophet submitted rather than rebel. God began His discipline by sending a great storm against the ship so that it was about to be destroyed (Jon 1:4). The pagan sailors sought deliverance by praying to their gods, but Jonah did not want God to intervene, but to leave him alone; for this reason, he went down into the ship and fell asleep (Jon 1:5). The captain noticed Jonah’s strange behavior and approached him and asked him to pray, with the hope they would not perish (Jon 1:6). In the meantime, the sailors cast lots as a means of determining which of their polytheistic gods had been offended and sent the storm, and the lot fell on Jonah (Jon 1:7). In the OT God permitted the occasional use of lots among His people to determine His will. Lots were used by Aaron to determine the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:8), by Joshua to divide the land among the Israelites (Jos 18:10), and by the apostles to select Matthias as the twelfth apostle (Act 1:26). Though practiced by unbelievers (Jon 1:7; John 19:24), God sovereignly used this method with the sailors to identify Jonah as the reason for the storm (cf. Pro 16:33). Today, believers are guided by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, not the casting of lots. The sailors questioned Jonah (Jon 1:8), who told them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land” (Jon 1:9). Then they became afraid, for they knew he was fleeing from God’s call, for he’d told them (Jon 1:10). The sailors asked what they should do to make the storm cease (Jon 1:11), and Jonah said, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea. Then the sea will become calm for you, for I know that on account of me this great storm has come upon you” (Jon 1:12). The believer out of fellowship brings discipline upon himself and the lives of those around him; but the one who stays in God’s will proves to be a blessing. Jonah probably lacked the courage to jump into the sea himself, so he advised the sailors to do it; but they were repulsed at the idea of throwing him overboard and desperately tried to row to land, but could not (Jon 1:13). So, they prayed to God, recognizing His sovereignty over their situation and asked that He not hold them liable for Jonah’s death (Jon 1:14); then they threw the prophet overboard and the sea instantly became calm for them (Jon 1:15). The sailors feared the Lord and made sacrifices and vows (Jon 1:16), which could be an indication of their salvation. God then appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, which served both as a means of discipline and protection (Jon 1:17). In His infinite wisdom and sovereignty, God could have chosen a number of ways to save Jonah, but He chose the fish, intending to use it as a sign of the burial of Christ (Mat 12:39-41).

Introduction to the Book of Jonah

Introduction to the Book of Jonah

June 15, 2019

Author:

     The author of the book is Jonah. His name (יוֹנָה Yonah) means “dove.” Jesus regards Jonah, and the account of this book, as true history (Mat 12:39-41).

Audience:

     The book of Jonah was written to Israel to show that God’s grace and mercy extends to Gentiles, even those whom Israel regards as their evil enemies.

Date of ministry:

     Jonah lived during the reign of Jeroboam II (793-753 B.C.), and prophesied that some of Israel’s land would be restored (2 Ki 14:23-25).

Historical Background:

     Jeroboam II was king in Israel—the northern kingdom—and was following in the idolatrous practices of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Because of Israel’s repeated violation of the Mosaic Covenant, God decided to send His people into captivity in Assyria (Hos 9:3; 11:5; Amo 5:27). Assyria was known for its great cruelty to others. “Assurbanipal, one of its rulers, was accustomed to tear off the hands and the lips of his victims. Tiglathpileser flayed them alive and made great piles of their skulls…It was to this city whose accumulated wickedness had risen up as a vile stench in the nostrils of God, that Jonah was commanded to go. Nineveh was the enemy of Israel.”[1]

     It was to Israel’s enemy that Jonah was called to preach. “Before Jonah arrived at this seemingly impregnable fortress-city, two plagues had erupted there (in 765 and 759 b.c.) and a total eclipse of the sun occurred on June 15, 763. These were considered signs of divine anger and may help explain why the Ninevites responded so readily to Jonah’s message, around 759.”[2]

  • "Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, stood on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. It had walls 100 feet high and 50 feet thick, and the main one, punctuated by 15 gates, was over seven and one half miles long. The total population was probably about 600,000 including the people who lived in the suburbs outside the city walls (cf. 4:11). The residents were idolaters and worshipped Asur and Ishtar, the chief male and female deities, as did almost all the Assyrians."[3]

Message:

     Jonah had strong national pride and hated the Assyrians, and his attitude reflected that of Israel. Though God hated the evil of the Assyrians, He loved them and desired their salvation. For this reason, God called Jonah to preach to them (Jon 1:1-2), but His prophet declined and ran away (Jon 1:3). God began a series of judgments upon His disobedient prophet which included a storm (Jon 1:4), the pressure of Gentile sailors (Jon 1:5-16), and a great fish that swallowed him (Jon 1:17). From the belly of the great fish Jonah was humbled and cried out to the Lord, who saved him (Jon 2:1-10). The humbled prophet then obeyed the Lord and preached to the Ninevites (Jon 3:1-4), and the people of the city believed in God and the Lord changed His mind about the judgment He was going to bring on them (Jon 3:5-10). God’s mercy and grace greatly upset Jonah to the point where he wanted to die (Jon 4:1-3), but the grace God showed to Nineveh was shown to Jonah, which grace reflects the Lord’s sovereignty (Jon 4:4-11).

     The overall purpose of the book of Jonah is to reveal that God’s grace, compassion, and mercy extends to evil and hostile nations just as it does to His people.

Outline:

  1. God’s call and Jonah’s rejection (1:1-3)
  2. God’s pursuit of the fleeing prophet (1:4-17)
  3. God’s discipline and Jonah’s prayer (2:1-10)
  4. God’s recommission and Jonah’s obedience (3:1-10)
  5. God’s reply to Jonah’s anger (4:1-11)

 

[1] Gerald B. Stanton, “The prophet Jonah and His Message.” Bibliotheca Sacra 108 (April 1951) 240.

[2] John D. Hannah, “Jonah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1462.

[3] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Jonah.

Obadiah 1:1-21

Obadiah 1:1-21

June 1, 2019

     Obadiah opens with a message from God against the Edomites, Israel’s longstanding enemy since the days of Jacob and Esau. God had been patient with them for nearly 900 hundred years (1445 B.C. to 586 B.C.), but finally rendered retributive judgment upon them. The judgment upon Edom is a demonstration of God’s promise to curse those who curse Israel (Gen 12:3). The Edomites in Obadiah’s day were arrogant and thought they were untouchable, but God declares that He will bring the nation down in judgment (Oba 1:1-4). Unlike thieves and grape-gatherers who leave something behind, God will not leave any Edomites after He brings judgment (Oba 1:5-6). The Edomites enjoyed close relations with her allies, but those allies would become her enemies (Oba 1:7), and Edom could not rely on their wise men (Oba 1:8), nor their mighty soldiers to protect them from the Lord’s judgment (Oba 1:9). God gives the reason for His judgment on Edom, saying, “Because of violence to your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame, and you will be cut off forever” (Oba 1:10). Edom stood at a distance and watched the destruction of Judah, “On the day that strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem – you too were as one of them” (Oba 1:11). Not only did Edom do nothing to help Israel, they actually rejoiced at their destruction and apparently entered the city and helped plunder their wealth (Oba 1:12-13). Furthermore, they attacked and imprisoned fleeing Israelites and turned them over to the Babylonians (Oba 1:14). Obadiah then refers to the day of the Lord, which has both a historical and eschatological meaning in which God intervenes as a Warrior who judges Israel’s enemies. In the immediate sense, the Lord will judge Edom, declaring, “As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head” (Oba 1:15). In the future sense, God will judge all the nations of the world during the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ. Just as Edom had participated in a drunken celebration in Jerusalem, so they, and all the nations who are hostile toward Israel, will become drunk with God’s wrath and eventually be destroyed (Oba 1:16). But God promises to restore Israel and their blessings (Oba 1:17), and to destroy Edom (Oba 1:18). In the future, Israel will possess territories that had been promised to her (Oba 1:19-20), and “The deliverers will ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the kingdom will be the LORD’S” (Oba 1:21). In the future, Israel will be restored to her land, her enemies judged, and the kingdom established on earth. In all this, God is faithful to His Word and to His people, to judge and bless.

Introduction to Obadiah

Introduction to Obadiah

June 1, 2019

Author:

     The author of the book is Obadiah. His name means “Servant of the Lord.” References to the southern kingdom of Judah might suggest he was from that region (Oba 1:10-12, 17, 21). There are about a dozen men named Obadiah in the OT, and we cannot dogmatically identify the author with any of them. Obadiah is the shortest book in the OT.

Audience:

     Obadiah writes to Edomites, who were the offspring of Esau, the brother of Jacob (Gen 25:30). The land of Edom was south of Judah “in the hill country of Seir” (Gen 36:8-9; cf. Deu 2:4-5). It’s the location of modern day Petra.

Date of ministry:

     There are no historical markers in the book that allow us to date it. The two most commonly accepted periods are 1) during the reign of Jehoram, who reigned from 852-841 B.C. (2 Ki 8:20-22; 2 Ch 21:8-10), or 2) during the Babylonian exile in 586 B.C. (Ps 137:7-8; Lam 4:18-22; Eze 25:12-14; 35:1-15). Both times and situations describe Edom treating Judah with hostility; however, the latter date is preferred. The literary style of Obadiah 1:1-9 bears striking resemblance to Jeremiah 49:7-22, which might further argue for a date near 586 B.C.

Background:

     The message of Obadiah takes into account a long history of hostility between Edom and Israel. The struggle goes back to Esau who hated his brother, Jacob, and desired to kill him (Gen 27:41). Esau’s descendants, the Edomites, continued their hostility toward Israel from Moses down to the time of Israel’s captivity in Babylon (Num 20:14-21; Amo 1:11; Eze 25:12-14; 35:5, 11-12).

  • "Edomites were frequently at odds with Israel and her neighbors. They opposed Saul (ca. 1043–1011 BC; 1 Sam 14:47), but were later subdued under David (ca. 1011–971 BC; 2 Sam 8:13–14). They were also subjugated by Solomon (ca. 971–931 BC; 1 Kgs 11:14–25), allowing him to build a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber ‘in the land of Edom’ (1 Kgs 9:26). They fought against Jehoshaphat (ca. 873–848 BC; 1 Kgs 22:47; 2 Chron 20) and successfully rebelled against Jehoram (ca. 852–841 BC; 2 Kgs 8:20–22; 2 Chron 21:8–10). They were again conquered by Judah under Amaziah (ca. 796–767 BC; 2 Kgs 14:7), but they regained their freedom during the reign of Ahaz (ca. 735–715 BC). Edom was later controlled by Assyria and Babylon. In the fourth century BC the Edomites were forced by the Nabateans to leave their territory. They moved to the area of southern Palestine and became known as Idumeans."[1]

     At the time Obadiah wrote, the Edomites were guilty of assisting the Babylonians in their attack against Judah that led to their captivity. Herod the Great, who came to rule over Judea in 37 B.C. was an Idumean. “The Idumeans participated in the rebellion of Jerusalem against Rome and were defeated along with the Jews by Titus in AD 70. After that time they were never heard of again. As Obadiah predicted, they would be ‘cut off forever’ (v. 10), ‘and no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau’ (v. 18).”[2]

Message:

     God dispensed retributive judgment upon Edom because of their arrogance and hostility toward Judah (Oba 1:9, 15, 18). The book of Obadiah is an example of God cursing those who curse Israel (Gen 12:1-3). The Lord tells Edom, “As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head” (Oba 1:15).

Outline:

  1. God will judge Edom (Oba 1:1-9)
  2. Edom’s sins (Oba 1:10-14)
  3. Emphasis on Israel’s deliverance and promise of blessing (Oba 1:15-21)

 

[1] Irvin A. Busenitz, Commentary on Joel and Obadiah, Mentor Commentaries (Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2003), 237.

[2] Ibid., 238.

Satanology

Satanology

May 27, 2019

     Satan was originally created as a holy angel of the class of cherubim; however because of pride (Ezek. 28:11-18), he rebelled against God (Isa. 14:12-14), and convinced many angels to follow him (Rev. 12:4). The name Satan is derived from the Hebrew שָׂטָן Satan (Job 1:6) and the Greek Σατανᾶς Satanas (Matt. 4:10), and both words mean adversary. Other names for Satan include the shining one, or Lucifer (Isa. 14:12), the evil one (1 John 5:19), the tempter (1 Thess. 3:5), the devil (Matt. 4:1), the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10), the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), the serpent (Rev. 12:9), the great red dragon (Rev. 12:3), and the angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). Further, he is a murderer and liar (John 8:44), and is compared to a lion that prowls about, looking for someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8).

     Lucifer became Satan at the time of his rebellion when he declared, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”  (Isa. 14:13-14). These five “I will” statements by Satan reveal that it was his every intent to set his will against the will of God and to make himself lord of the universe. Satan seeks to operate independently of God’s plan for him, and he leads others, both saved and unsaved, to do the same. “The desire of Satan was to move in and occupy the throne of God, exercise absolute independent authority over the angelic creation, bring the earth and all the universe under his authority, cover himself with the glory that belongs to God alone, and then be responsible to no one but himself.”[1]

     Lucifer rebelled against God, convincing a third of the angels to rebel with him (Rev. 12:4), and through temptation he brought death to the first humans when he convinced them to turn from God and follow his advice to eat the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-7). At the time of the fall, Adam handed his kingdom over to Satan, who has been ruling this world since then (Luke 4:5-6; Rev. 11:15). Satan rules as a tyrant who has “weakened the nations” (Isa. 14:12), and currently “deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9). He personally attacked Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:1-7), Job (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-13), David, (2 Chr. 21:1), Jesus (Matt. 4:1-11), Judas (John 13:27), and Peter (Luke 22:31-32). He seeks to attack God’s people today (1 Pet. 5:8), practices deception (2 Cor. 11:13-15), and has well developed strategies of warfare (Eph. 6:10-12). As a creature, Satan is confined in his abilities and relies on numerous fallen angels to carry out his will. During the Tribulation, his demons will lead political and military rebellions to try to stop the second coming of Christ (Rev. 16:12-14).

     Satan was judged at the cross (John 12:31; 16:11; Col. 2:14-15), and awaits his future punishment. His judgment is very near when he is cast out of heaven to the earth during the Tribulation (Rev. 12:7-12). At this time his wrath is greatest against Israel, God’s chosen people. After the return of Christ (Rev. 19:11-16) and the establishment of His kingdom on earth (Rev. 20:1-6), Satan will be confined to the abyss for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3). After the thousand years, Satan is released for a brief time and will again deceive the nations and lead a rebellion against God (Rev. 20:7-8), but will be quickly defeated (Rev. 20:9), and cast into the Lake of Fire, where he will be, with his demons and all unbelievers forever (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10-15).

     Satan currently supervises a world-system that seeks to govern all people, both saved and lost. To his advantage, everyone born into this world (except Christ) is automatically born into the family of Adam (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22), is spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-3), an enemy of God (Rom. 5:8), and powerless to save themselves apart from God’s grace (Rom. 5:6; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5). At the moment of faith in Christ, the believer is transferred from Satan’s kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Christ (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). However, though saved, we still possess a sin nature, continue to reside in the devil’s world and face constant pressure from the enemy. Satan’s world-system touches all aspects of humanity, including politics, education, economics, music, art, literature, etc. At the core of Satan’s world-system is a directive for mankind to function apart from God, and when obeyed, people produce all forms of evil, both moral and immoral. Christians defy and disrupt Satan’s kingdom by submitting to God (Rom. 12:1-2), learning Scripture (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18), living by faith (Rom. 10:17; Col. 2:6-7; Heb. 10:38; 11:6; 1 Pet. 5:9), being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), walking by means of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 21), praying for others (Col. 1:9; 2 Thess. 1:11), and sharing the Gospel of Christ (1 Cor. 15:3-4). The Christian who is advancing spiritually will influence the thoughts and lives of others through biblical discussion; and this is done in love and grace (Eph. 4:14-15; Col. 4:6), not by argumentation (2 Tim. 2:24-26). When we learn God’s Word, obey His commands, and show love to others, we are rebelling against Satan’s world-system and sowing the seeds of spiritual insurrection in the lives of those who live and walk in Satan’s kingdom. But Christians must always be on guard that we not fall into Satan’s snares and come to love the world (1 John 2:15; cf. Jam 4:4).

 

[1] J. Dwight Pentecost, Your Adversary the Devil (Grand Rapids, Mich., Zondervan Publishing, 1969), 25-26.

Amos 9:1-15

Amos 9:1-15

May 13, 2019

     Amos chapter nine contains both cursing and blessing. Amos opens with His fifth vision from the Lord in which he saw God standing beside an altar in a temple and He commanded it be struck so that it will fall on the worshippers (Amo 1:1a). God would pursue all the guilty, and no matter where they flee, whether in grave or sky, in forest or sea, or by captivity in a foreign land, they cannot escape His presence or judgment, for He will find them and set His “eyes against them for evil and not for good” (Amo 9:2-4). It is God who controls all things, who touches the land so that it melts, or causes the Nile to rise and fall, who created the heavenly atmosphere and calls for oceanic waters to fall as rain upon the earth (Amo 9:5-6). Though Israel had a special relationship with God and enjoyed many privileges, they injured their relationship with Him by pursuing idols and acting like the pagan nations around them (cf. Amo 3:2). Because of their sinfulness, God declared, “Are you not as the sons of Ethiopia to Me, O sons of Israel?” (Amo 9:7a). The Ethiopians—or Cushites—lived in a remote region, yet they were under God’s watchful eye. More so, God controls the destiny of all nations, and He does this, in part, by directing their migration from one place to another, whether it is His own people, Israel (coming out of Egypt), or that of the Philistines or Arameans (Amo 9:7b). All kingdoms are under God’s scrutiny, and “the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth” (Amo 9:8a); yet, the Lord states, “Nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob” (Amo 9:8b). God had repeatedly promised to send the Israelites into captivity because of their sinful practices and violation of the Mosaic covenant (Amo 4:2-3; 5:27; 6:7; 7:11, 17); yet, He would spare those who responded to His call to righteousness (see Amo 5:4-6, 14-15, 23-24). God’s judgment would be precise and separate out the innocent from the guilty, as He will “shake the house of Israel among all nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, but not a kernel will fall to the ground” (Amo 9:9). His judgment would screen out the righteous and punish the wicked, as He declares, “All the sinners of My people will die by the sword” (Amo 9:10a), even those who think they are innocent and will be spared, who say, “The calamity will not overtake or confront us” (Amo 9:10b). Amos’ message turns to a hopeful future in which God promises to restore His people to their land and shower them with blessing. This will happen when Jesus, the Messiah, returns to the earth and establishes His kingdom. “In that day” God will “raise up the fallen booth of David” (Amo 9:11a), which will serve as a protective canopy over His people, and even Israel’s enemies will experience millennial blessings, even “the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name” (Amo 9:12). The future blessings would be so abundant that “the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed” (Amo 9:13a), and even the uncultivated mountains will offer produce (Amo 9:13b). And God declares, “I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them” (Amo 9:14-15). Here, God’s promise would nourish the souls of the faithful remnant and sustain them during difficult times. The promise of a future hope nourishes and sustains believers today (2 Pet 3:13).

Amos 8:1-14

Amos 8:1-14

May 11, 2019

     Amos chapter eight opens with a vision from God in which He shows Amos a picture of summer fruit (Amo 8:1). Just as fruit naturally ripens over time and becomes ready for harvest and consumption, so Israel—because of sin—has become ripe for God’s judgment, and God declares, “The end has come for My people Israel. I will spare them no longer” (Amo 8:2). God’s judgment would turn palace songs into mourning as an enemy force would come against them (Amo 8:3a), and “Many will be the corpses; in every place they will cast them forth in silence” (Amo 8:3b; cf. Deu 28:47-50). God then turns His attention to the corrupt merchants in Amos’ day, “who trample the needy, to do away with the humble of the land” (Amo 8:4). These abusers were a part of the community and even participated in the feasts and religious holidays; however, their hearts were elsewhere. God reveals their thoughts, saying, “When will the new moon be over, so that we may sell grain, and the sabbath, that we may open the wheat market, to make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger, and to cheat with dishonest scales, so as to buy the helpless for money and the needy for a pair of sandals, and that we may sell the refuse of the wheat?” (Amo 8:5-6). Feasts and holidays were merely interruptions to their financial activities and cruel practices. These wealthy merchants were unmoved by God’s Law, which promoted economic justice rather than abuse (Lev 19:35-36; Deu 25:13-16; Pro 11:1; 16:11). Valuing spiritual health more than material wealth would have prevented such inhumane abuses (Deu 15:7-11). In a statement of irony, God swore by the pride of Jacob, saying, “Indeed, I will never forget any of their deeds” (Amo 8:7). An oath was commonly made by something unchangeable (Heb 6:16-18), and the Lord had previously sworn by His unchanging holiness and character (Amo 4:2; 6:8), and here, ironically, swears by Israel’s unchanging pride. God’s judgment would come in the form of a military invasion that would cause the land to quake and be tossed about like the rising and falling of the Nile (Amo 8:8), and it will be a day of darkness upon the land (Amo 8:9), and festivals will cease and there will be deep mourning, like the mourning that comes when one loses an only son (Amo 8:10). In addition, God would send a famine upon the land, “Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD” (Amo 8:11). Because Israel had rejected God’s messages through His prophets (Amo 2:11-12; 7:10-13; cf. 1 Sam 3:1; 2 Ch 36:15-16; Jer 25:3-4), He now withdrew His word and left them to starve. Though people travel all across the land, they will not find His nourishing word (Amo 8:12), and the youth—noted for beauty and strength—will faint spiritually (Amo 8:13), and those who turn to their idols “will fall and not rise again” (Amo 8:14). “When the word of God is not believed, people will believe anything and the cults will grab the young, taking them by the hand in order to take them by the throat, till they fall and cannot rise again.”[1] God’s Word, daily consumed, results in spiritual health and inner strength, but the soul famished cannot weather the storms of life. God desires to give His Word to grow, guide, and strengthen us; but the word rejected becomes the word denied.

 

[1] J. A. Motyer, “Amos,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 805–806.

Amos 7:1-17

Amos 7:1-17

May 6, 2019

     Amos chapter seven contains three visions from God, as well as a dialogue between the prophet and a corrupt priest associated with the calf worship in Israel. The first vision was of a locust plague which God was intending to send upon Israel because of some unnamed sin. But Amos prayed for his people that God would not send the judgment and the Lord changed His mind (Amo 7:1-3). God revealed a second vision to Amos in which He intended to send fire upon Israel to judge them. However, the prophet prayed again, asking God to spare His people, and again, the Lord changed His mind and did not send the judgment (Amo 7:4-6). “Some things that God intends to do are not firmly determined by Him; He is open to changing His mind about these things. However, He has decreed other things and no amount of praying will change His mind about those things (cf. Acts 1:11; Rev 22:20). It is, therefore, important that we understand, from Scripture, what aspects of His will are fixed and which are negotiable.”[1] The third vision was of God standing next to a vertical wall holding a plumb line in His hand (Amo 7:7-8a). A plumb line was an external standard used to measure buildings for straightness. Here, the plumb line represents God’s righteous standards by which He would measure Israel’s conformity to His character and laws. Because Israel was so far out of line with God’s will, the Lord declared, “I will spare them no longer” (Amo 7:8b). God then specifies the judgment, saying, “The high places of Isaac will be desolated and the sanctuaries of Israel laid waste. Then I will rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword” (Amo 7:9). This occurred in 722 B.C. when God sent the Assyrians to destroy Israel and take them away into captivity. After God’s declaration against Israel, Amos was approached by Amaziah, an apostate priest at Bethel who was associated with pagan calf worship and who was directly connected with king Jeroboam II. Amaziah went to the king and told him that Amos had conspired against him (Amo 7:10), saying, “Jeroboam will die by the sword and Israel will certainly go from its land into exile” (Amo 7:11). Amaziah then turned on Amos, saying, “Go, you seer, flee away to the land of Judah and there eat bread and there do your prophesying! But no longer prophesy at Bethel, for it is a sanctuary of the king and a royal residence” (Amo 7:12-13). Amos replies to Amaziah and corrects his misunderstanding that Amos was part of a prophetic guild and that he earned his wages through his prophetic ministry. Amos informs Amaziah that he had a true calling from the Lord to prophesy to Israel and that his personal needs were met through his business as a herdsman and farmer (Amo 7:14-15). Amos then prophesies against Amaziah—who was telling him not to prophesy against Israel—and told him, “Your wife will become a harlot in the city, your sons and your daughters will fall by the sword, your land will be parceled up by a measuring line and you yourself will die upon unclean soil. Moreover, Israel will certainly go from its land into exile” (Amo 7:17). Part of the conflict between Amaziah and Amos arose from competing loyalties. Whereas Amaziah was loyal to Jeroboam II who had probably appointed him priest and paid his salary, Amos was loyal to God who had called him into ministry. In the end, Amaziah was judged for trying to stifle the word of God as it was being communicated by Amos, the Lord’s prophet.

 

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Am 7:3.

Amos 6:1-14

Amos 6:1-14

May 4, 2019

       Though Amos prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel, he included Jerusalem in the south, perhaps because they were guilty of the same sins as their relatives in the north. Samaria and Jerusalem were the capital cities of each nation, and were the places where the people came to their leaders for guidance and justice. Though Amos mentions Jerusalem, the focus of his message is toward Israel’s leaders, whose self-worth and self-interest led them to degrade and mistreat others. Apparently Israel’s leaders thought they were big stuff and too important to be destroyed (Amo 6:1). Arrogance blinds the mind to one’s own values, actions and vulnerability to downfall. But God directs Israel’s leaders to look at surrounding nations which once thought and lived like them and to notice that they’re now destroyed (Amo 6:2). Israel’s leaders ignored God’s warnings of judgment (Amo 6:3), by indulging in all the pleasures at their disposal. They lounged on luxurious beds and ate gourmet foods (Amo 6:4), composed songs and compared themselves with David (Amo 6:5), drank lots of wine from sacrificial bowls and covered their bodies with the finest oils (Amo 6:6a); yet they ignored the nation’s spiritual decay and “have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph” (Amo 6:6b). Just as Joseph’s older brothers were hostile toward him without compassion (cf. Gen 37:23-25; 42:21), so Israel’s leaders had not grieved over their brethren whom they’d ruined. Because Israel’s leaders were the first to sin, they would be the first to go into exile (Amo 6:7). God’s judgment upon His people was set forth as a solemn oath, in which He states, “The Lord GOD has sworn by Himself” (Amo 6:8a), declaring to His people, “I loathe the arrogance of Jacob, and detest his citadels; therefore I will deliver up the city and all it contains” (Amo 6:8b). The acquisition of wealth is not wrong, as long as it is by just means. However, God’s people accumulated wealth by sinful means that abused the helpless and was hoarded for selfish purposes (cf. 1 Tim 6:9-10; Jam 5:1-6). God’s judgment would be severe and normal places of refuge, such as a home, would not protect (Amo 6:9). Should one be left hiding in the corner of a house at the time when a close relative, or undertaker, comes to take away the bodies, he will be advised, “Keep quiet. For the name of the LORD is not to be mentioned” (Amo 6:10b). This might suggest a fear of mentioning God’s name, lest He return and bring more judgment upon those who are left. God will then complete His judgment by destroying all the houses of the city, “For behold, the LORD is going to command that the great house be smashed to pieces and the small house to fragments” (Amo 6:11). Amos cites the preposterous when asking, “Do horses run on rocks? Or does one plow them with oxen?” (Amo 6:12a). Even though one would not consider doing something so unnatural, yet Israel’s leadership had “turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood” (Amo 6:12b). The very qualities and practices that would naturally bring health to a nation were turned into poison and made bitter to its residents. Those leaders who rejoiced in their military accomplishments, assuming it was by their own power (Amo 6:13), would face a foreign nation God would send to destroy them, which will afflict all Israel (Amo 6:14). 

Amos 5:16-27

Amos 5:16-27

April 29, 2019

     God identifies Himself as the God of hosts, which is literally, the “God of the armies” (Amo 5:16a). He is the One who stands in judgment over His people and is poised to bring destruction upon them because of their disobedience. He describes the day of judgment as a day of wailing in all the plazas, streets, and vineyards (Amo 5:16b-17a). Israel is here being judged because of their disobedience to the Mosaic Law, specifically regarding their false religious practices, their abuses of the poor and judicial corruption (see Jam 1:27). Israel, who had once been poor and helpless and suffered under the abusive hand of the Egyptians, had now become the oppressive persecutors of the poor and helpless among their own people. God, who opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (Pro 3:34; 1 Pet 5:5), now took up the defense of the abused. Just as God had judged the Egyptians during the time of the exodus by passing through the land, so He would judge His own people, saying, “I will pass through the midst of you” (Amo 5:17b; cf. Ex 12:12-13; 22:21-24). Amos’ teaching challenged some of the false views that were prevalent in his day; specifically, their false view of “the day of the Lord”, in which many Israelites thought they would be spared from God’s wrath, believing it would be for Gentiles only. But Amos states it will be a day of “darkness and not light” (Amo 5:18), informing his audience it would include all who deserve God’s wrath. He declared it would be a time of inescapable judgment, “as when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him” (Amo 5:19). With this understanding, the Lord poses the question to His people, “Will not the day of the LORD be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?” (Amo 5:20). Why would God’s judgment come upon His people? Because of their false religious practices that led them into idolatry and immoral behavior. The Lord states, “I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies” (Amo 5:21). Religious festivals and solemn assemblies do not impress the Lord, as these were connected with the sinful practices which were instituted by Jeroboam. The Lord further states, “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings” (Amo 5:22). Sacrifices were to take place in Jerusalem, not in substituted centers of worship. Lastly, He will not accept their worship, stating, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps” (Amo 5:23). Religious festivals, sacrifices and worship are all meaningless unless they conform to God’s expectations and reveal a compassionate moral heart for others. Instead, there were more important matters God pressed upon His people, namely, they were to “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amo 5:24). This, of course, meant justice and righteousness as it related to dealing with the poor, who were being abused. There was to be morality with religious practice, not without it. Israel’s behavior did not occur in a vacuum, but was directly connected with their sinful idolatry which had infested the land. But this idolatry had a long history with Israel, as God reminds them of their time in the wilderness, in which they carried along other gods of worship (Amo 5:25), stating, “You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves” (Amo 5:26). This had been clearly spoken against by God (Deu 4:19; 17:3). Because they had thoroughly violated their covenant with the Lord, He declared, “I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus” (Amo 5:27). This occurred in 722 B.C. when God sent His people into Assyrian exile.

Amos 5:1-15

Amos 5:1-15

April 27, 2019

      Amos opens his message as a funeral dirge, a proleptic song concerning Israel’s future destruction (Amo 5:1). He describes Israel as a lonely virgin who has fallen with no one raise her up again (Amo 5:2). The prophet is speaking of Israel’s destruction, which will eventually come by the hand of the Assyrians who will defeat them militarily; and the casualty rate of their soldiers will be a devastating 90%, from which they will not be able to recover (Amo 5:3). Though Israel, as a nation, would face certain destruction, God calls individuals to turn to Him that they might live (Amo 5:4). They should not seek for God at false places of worship, such as Gilgal, Bethel, or Beersheba (Amo 5:5); rather, they were to seek the Lord directly (Amo 5:6a), or He would consume them like a fire (Amo 5:6b). Who were those who should seek the Lord? It is those who make justice bitter rather than sweet, and who cast righteousness down rather than elevate it up (Amo 5:7). God then describes Himself as the powerful Lord who created the stellar constellations, namely Pleiades and Orion, which were used to mark seasonal changes, which God controlled (Amo 5:8). This sovereign God is the One who will create disaster and bring His rebellious people in judgment, as Amos writes, “It is He who flashes forth with destruction upon the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress” (Amo 5:9). The unrighteous who abuse the poor came to despise judges who would not adjudicate in their favor, and they also hated the honest person who spoke in defense of the victim (Amo 5:10). The specific abuses included excessive rent on the poor, as well as additional payments of grain (Amo 5:11a). The idea here could be that the rich gained control of the poor person’s land—perhaps through unjust judges—and then demanded heavy rent and grain taxes from them to remain a tenant. God informs these abusers that their wealth will not bring lasting pleasure, for He will destroy their homes and vineyards (Amo 5:11b). God would frustrate those who acquire wealth through unjust means and who seek to perpetuate pleasure by abusing the helpless. Not only were their sins the abuse of the poor, but the corruption of justice in the courts by means of bribery. The Lord states, “For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate” (Amo 5:12). Because the evil is so advanced and systemic, the prudent person sees what’s happening and keeps silent (Amo 5:13). God calls individuals within the nation to “Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and thus may the LORD God of hosts be with you, just as you have said!” (Amo 5:14). Hating evil and loving good means His people will “establish justice in the gate!” (Amo 5:15a). If they would do this, then “Perhaps the LORD God of hosts May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph” (Amo 5:15b). That is, He would preserve the faithful few from going to total destruction. God expects His people to operate according to the moral lines He’s set forth in His word, and the obedient-to-the-word believer will care for the poor and helpless.  

Amos 4:1-13

Amos 4:1-13

April 15, 2019

     Amos opens his message to the fat wives of wealthy Israelite men, who demand of their husbands (lit. their lords), “bring now, that we may drink” (Amo 4:1). Here is a picture of self-indulgent women demanding their husbands accommodate their luxuriant lifestyles at the expense of the poor and needy. God assured these women, who were captive to their desires, that a day would come when an enemy would lead them away into captivity with hooks, much like dead cattle and fish are carried by means of meat hooks (Amo. 4:2-3). God sarcastically called these Israelites to enter their familiar places of worship and offer their sinful sacrifices, tithes, and freewill offerings (Amo 4:4-5a); which were really given to impress others, not God (Amo 4:5b). At this time, Israel was continuing in the sins of Jeroboam and their abuses of the poor and needy were the byproduct of their departure from God and their failure to follow His instructions in the Mosaic Law. Like many other Israelites, they were worshipping a god of their own creation, which allowed them to live for themselves and abuse others. The religious offerings were sinful, in part, because what was given was the stolen fruit of the poor and needy. Their rebellious ways brought God’s warning discipline upon the nation by famine, drought, scorching winds, locusts, plagues and military defeat (Amo 4:6-10; cf. Deut. 28:15-68), yet, on five separate occasions, they did not respond properly by returning to Him (Amo 4:6, 8-11). Their sinful rebellion would bring them into great judgment; not with another drought, famine, locust invasion, or nearby enemy; but rather, face to face with God, as the Lord tells them, “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel” (Amo 4:12). Amos then reveals the God Who will judge them is “He who forms mountains and creates the wind and declares to man what are his thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness and treads on the high places of the earth, the LORD God of hosts is His name” (Amo 4:13). This omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God shall come as an invading army to judge His people, and there shall be no escape.

The Sins of Jeroboam

The Sins of Jeroboam

April 13, 2019

     Israel became a theocratic kingdom when God delivered them from Egypt and entered into a covenant relationship with them (Ex 19:1-8). God directed them directly, as well as through His prophets and Judges. However, after nearly four centuries, Israel asked God to give them a king, which He did (1 Sam 8:1-22). The kingdom of Israel was united under their first three kings, which were Saul, David and Solomon. Saul started his kingship well by walking with the Lord, but then turned away from God and ended poorly. David walked with God and, though he had his failings, was an ideal king. Solomon did well throughout much of his kingship; however, his final days were given over to worshipping idols (1 Ki 11:1-8). As an act of divine discipline, the Lord promised to divide the kingdom after Solomon’s death (1 Ki 11:9-13). Just prior to splitting the kingdom, the Lord spoke to Jeroboam and promised him rulership over ten tribes, even blessing his house if he would rule well and lead the people into God’s will (1 Ki 11:28-38). The kingdom was divided into two parts after the death of Solomon, with Rehoboam ruling in the south and Jeroboam ruling in the north (1 Ki 12:1-24). However, Jeroboam rejected God’s offer and turned to idolatry, leading God’s people into sin (1 Ki 12:25-33).

     Though Jeroboam had opportunity to walk with God and establish his kingdom, he rejected divine viewpoint and let fear dominate his heart. Driven by fear, and functioning from a merely humanistic viewpoint, Jeroboam sought to control those under his rule by creating a new religion (a corruption of the worship of Yahweh), which included:

  1. Generating new gods of worship (1 Ki 12:28a).
  2. Revising Israel’s history (1 Ki 12:28b).
  3. Creating new places of worship in Dan and Bethel (1 Ki 12:29-30).
  4. Instituting a new priesthood (1 Ki 12:31).
  5. Establishing a new religious holiday (1 Ki 12:32).
  6. Personally participating in the new religion (1 Ki 12:32-33).

     Israel accepted Jeroboam’s new religion, which was adopted by subsequent kings, namely Nadab (1 Ki 15:25-30), Ahab (1 Ki 16:30-31), Jehoram (2 Ki 3:1-3), Jehu (2 Ki 10:28-29), Jehoahaz (2 Ki 13:1-2), Jehoash (2 Ki 13:10-11), Jeroboam (2 Ki 14:23-24), Zechariah (2 Ki 15:8-9), Menahem (2 Ki 15:17-18), Pekahiah (2 Ki 15:23-24), and Pekah (2 Ki 15:27-28). God repeatedly called Israel back to Him many times through His prophets, but the rulers and people would not turn back to Him and perpetuated their false religion. Israel continued for two centuries, from the time the kingdom was divided (ca. 930 B.C.) until He brought about their destruction by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. A snapshot of this is recorded in Scripture as follows:

  • "When He had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel away from following the LORD and made them commit a great sin. The sons of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them until the LORD removed Israel from His sight, as He spoke through all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day." (2 Ki 17:21-23)
Amos 3:1-15

Amos 3:1-15

April 7, 2019

     Amos chapter 3 opens with the first of three oracles against the ten northern tribes of Israel (Amo 3:1a; cf. 4:1; 5:1). God identifies Himself as the One who rescued them from Egypt and entered into a special relationship with them (Amo 3:1b; cf. Ex. 19:1-8). As a result of their special relationship with the Lord, Israel was held to a higher standard of behavior than the surrounding nations, and when they failed, He would punish them more severely (Amo 3:2). God sets forth a series of questions that point to an event that naturally follows a previous action, and the events move from the harmless (two men walking together) to the destructive (calamity on a city). Amos reveals two people do not walk together unless they have an agreement (Amo 3:3), a lion does not roar unless he’s seen his prey (Amo 3:4a), a young lion does not growl except he’s captured something (Amo 3:4b), a bird is not drawn to a trap unless there’s bait in it (Amo 3:5a), a trap does not spring without something to trigger it (Amo 3:5b), the people of a city are calm unless a warning trumpet is blown (Amo 3:6a), and calamity does not fall on a city unless the Lord does it (Amo 3:6b). But calamity does not happen to God’s people, Israel, without His warning them first through His servants, the prophets (Amo 3:7; 2 Ki 17:13; Jer. 7:25; 25:4). Amos reveals that God’s judgment is coming, for “A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” (Amo 3:8). As God’s people who possessed God’s special revelation, Israel should have walked with God and modeled excellent behavior among the Gentiles. But instead, God calls the pagan people of Ashdod and Egypt to come and look at the acts of violence and oppressive deeds going on in Israel (Amo 3:9), declaring of Israel, “they do not know how to do what is right…these who hoard up violence and devastation in their citadels” (Amo 3:10). God then pronounces judgment upon Israel, stating, “An enemy, even one surrounding the land, will pull down your strength from you and your citadels will be looted” (Amo 3:11). This most likely refers to the Assyrians, who would destroy the northern kingdom in 722 B.C. As an illustration of Israel’s destruction, God refers to the shepherd who retrieves limbs and pieces of a lamb that is attacked and consumed by a lion to Israel, who will “be snatched away—with the corner of a bed and the cover of a couch!” (Amo 3:12b). That is, Israel’s destruction will be so severe they will only be left with remnants of their former life of luxury. Describing their judgment in solemn language (Amo 3:13), God promises to destroy their places of pagan worship, which they regarded as places of refuge (Amo 3:14). Finally, the Lord declares, “I will also smite the winter house together with the summer house; the houses of ivory will also perish and the great houses will come to an end” (Amo 3:15). In this way, God would judge them for the wealth they’d obtained unjustly, which was used for extravagant and selfish living. Though America is not a theocratic nation, we are a country that has been blessed with God’s Word, which informs us of the nature and character of God, and the moral behavior He expects from those who know Him. Certainly, we would be remiss to ignore God’s message through Amos, that God’s people must be just, loving, gracious, and openhanded toward the poor and helpless in society.

Amos 2:4-16

Amos 2:4-16

April 6, 2019

     Unlike the six Gentile nations who were judged by the law of God in their hearts (Rom. 2:14-15), the Lord judged Judah, “because they rejected the law of the LORD and have not kept His statutes” (Amo 2:4a). Having rejected God’s Word they were governed by deception, as the Lord declared, “their lies also have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked” (Amo 2:4b). Apparently, their false ways had been handed down from parent to child for several generations; and though God displayed tremendous patience over the years (Ex 34:6), there came a time when grace gave way to judgment.

     After pronouncing judgment upon Judah, Amos turned his attention to Israel—the ten northern tribes—and listed several of the sins they were guilty of and the judgment that God would send upon them because of their perpetual disobedience. The wealthy within Israel—rather than showing compassion to the poor (Deut. 15:7-11)—were treating the innocent and needy as cheap commodities to be sold for things such as sandals (Amo 2:6). In addition to trampling on the helpless and humble (Amo 2:7a), a father and son were copulating with the same girl—either a temple prostitute or a family member—and profaning God’s holy name (Amo 2:7b). It’s possible the father and son were committing sexual immorality while lying on garments they’d received as pledges from the poor, in places of worship, while drinking wine that had been obtained from illegal fines (Amo 2:8). God recalls Israel’s history and reminds them of a time when they were enslaved, poor and helpless. The Lord, who is great and powerful, did not abuse them in their helpless state, but showed great compassion and rescued them from slavery in Egypt and led them into the Promised Land, defeating the enemy that was too powerful for Israel alone to defeat (Amo 2:9-10). Once in the land, God raised up prophets to reveal His will and Nazarites to model holiness to the Lord (Amo 2:11). However, rather than appreciate the Lord for His goodness, many within the Jewish community rebelled and forced Nazarites to break their vows and silenced the voice of the prophets (Amo 2:12). Over time they forgot their history and spurned the God who rescued them and began to oppress the humble and helpless. As a result, God promised to press them down, much like “a wagon is weighted down when filled with sheaves” (Amo 2:13). Just as God destroyed the powerful and arrogant Amorites (vss. 9-10), so He would bring judgment upon arrogant Israel and the people, no matter how strong, would not be able to protect themselves from His judgment (Amo 2:14-16).

Amos 1:1–2:3

Amos 1:1–2:3

April 2, 2019

     The book of Amos opens with the information concerning the prophet himself and the place where he resides. Amos is described as a sheepherder from Tekoa, a city ten miles south of Jerusalem. Amos received visions from the Lord concerning Israel to the north. He tells us he prophesied “in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel” (Amo 1:1a). Interestingly, he mentions that he received his visions “two years before the earthquake” (Amo 1:1b). There is no historical record about this earthquake, but apparently it was well known to his audience. Amos then presents God by His covenant name, “the Lord”, and pictures Him as a roaring lion who is about to attack His prey; this is a picture of divine judgment. This judgment will affect the land itself, as “the shepherds’ pasture grounds mourn, and the summit of Carmel dries up” (Amo 1:2b). In Amos 1:3—2:3, God reveals Himself as the sovereign Lord over all people and renders judgment upon six Gentile nations for their abuses against the people of surrounding nations. “For each nation the pronouncement of doom follows the same pattern: (a) a general declaration of irrevocable judgment, (b) a naming of the specific violation which caused the judgment, and (c) a description of God’s direct and thorough punishment.”[1] God does not mention each nation’s previous sins, only the one that crossed the line of grace and brought God’s judgment. The nations and their sins include:

  1. Damascus – practiced human torture (Amo 1:3).
  2. Gaza – enslaved and sold whole communities for commercial profit (Amo 1:6).
  3. Tyre – who practiced slavery and broke a promise (Amo 1:9)
  4. Edom – who failed to show mercy in war (Amo 1:11)
  5. Ammon – who killed innocent mothers (Amo 1:13)
  6. Moab – who desecrated the dead (Amo 2:1)

     Though Gentiles did not possess God’s special revelation in written form—like Judah and Israel—God still held them accountable for their behavior based on the divinely instilled moral code which is written on their hearts (Rom 2:14-15). This is still true today when God judges Gentile nations. Those nations who possess His Word are held to a higher standard than those who do not; for the principle is true, “everyone who has been given much, much will be required” (Luke 12:48).

 

[1] Donald R. Sunukjian, “Amos,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1428.

Introduction to Amos

Introduction to Amos

April 2, 2019

Author: The author of the book is Amos, a prophet from the city of Tekoa in the southern kingdom of Judah. By profession, Amos was a rancher and farmer (Amo 1:1; 7:14-15), whom the Lord called to be a prophet.

Audience: Amos writes to foreign nations (Amo 1:1—2:3), to the southern kingdom of Judah (2:4-5), and to the northern kingdom of Israel (2:6-16).

Date of ministry: Amos 1:1 tells us that the prophet prophesied “in the days of Uzziah king of Judah [792-740 B.C.], and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash [793-753 B.C.], king of Israel, two years before the earthquake” (Amo 1:1). The prophet Zechariah also mentions the earthquake that occurred during Uzziah’s reign (Zec 14:5). This would place his ministry about 760 B.C. His contemporaries included Hosea, Micah, Jonah and Isaiah.

Background: Israel was experiencing great prosperity (Amo 3:15; 6:4-6); however, they were practicing social and economic exploitation (Amo 2:6-7; 5:10-12; 8:5-6), and engaging in insincere religious activity (Amo 4:4-5; 5:21-23).

Message: In the first two chapters, Amos reveals God as the sovereign ruler over all nations and He judges them for how they treat the nations around them. Though Amos mentions six foreign nations (Amo 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1), and the kingdom of Judah (Amo 2:4-5), his primary message is to the northern kingdom of Israel (Amo 1:1; 2:6, 11; 3:1, 12; 4:5, 12; 5:1-4; 6:1, 14; 7:8-11, 15-17; 8:2; 9:7, 9, 14). The overall message of Amos is that God is going to judge His people because of their sin, but promises a future time of blessing to a repentant remnant.  

Outline:

  1. Oracles of judgment against six foreign nations (Amo 1:1—2:3), Judah (Amo 2:4-5), and Israel (Amo 2:6-16).
  2. Prophesies of judgment upon the northern kingdom of Israel (Amo 3:1-6:14).
  3. Five visions of judgment (Amo 7:1—9:10) followed by a promise of future blessing (Amo 9:10-15).
A Husband’s Love and a Wife’s Submission

A Husband’s Love and a Wife’s Submission

March 31, 2019

     Ephesians 5:22-33 is a continuation of the command to live wisely (Eph. 5:15), and to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18). This section begins the household codes in which Paul addresses the members of a local church, which include wives and husbands (Eph. 5:22-33), children and parents (Eph. 6:1-4), and household slaves and masters (Eph. 6:5-9).

  • "Wives, be subject [ὑποτάσσω hupotassoto submit, rank under – borrowed from vs. 21] to your own [ἴδιος idiosone’s own, distinct] husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head [κεφαλή kephalechief, head, leader] of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject [ὑποτάσσω hupotasso] to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything." (Eph. 5:22-24)

     The word submission comes from the Greek verb ὑποτάσσω hupotasso, which was first used as a military term meaning to rank under, submit, or obey. Submission does not imply inferiority, for Jesus submitted Himself to His parents (Luke 2:51) as well as to God the Father (1 Cor. 11:3; 15:28). Biblical submission is foremost to God and then to those who do His will. Angels are to submit to God (1 Pet. 3:22), the church to Christ (Eph. 1:22), church members to elders (Heb. 13:17), Christians to government (Rom. 13:1), slaves to masters (1 Pet. 2:18), and the wife to her husband (Eph. 5:22-24). The wife reveals her love for Jesus when she submits to her husband.

  • "Husbands, love [ἀγαπάω agapao – present/active/imperative – to love, cherish, commit] your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her [sacrificed Himself for her benefit], 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [ῥῆμα rhemathe spoken word, probably the gospel], 27 that He might present to Himself [ἑαυτοῦ heautou – reflexive pronoun] the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband." (Eph. 5:25-33)

     The Lord Jesus Christ stands as the ideal role model for the Christian husband; specifically His sacrificial love for the church, which is salvific, and concerned with the church’s glory, purity, and holiness. Christ’s love originates from eternity past, but manifested itself at a point in time, nearly two thousand years ago, when the eternal Son of God condescended and became a man (John 1:1, 14). During His time on earth He manifested grace and truth (John 1:17), lived a holy life (John 6:69; Heb. 7:26), faced adversity with Scripture (Matt. 4:1-11), and perpetually pleased His Father (John 8:29). He came not to be served, “but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He always spoke truth, both strong and gentle (Matt. 23:13-39; John 8:1-11), even in the face of hostility (John 8:40). He welcomed children (Matt. 19:13-14), cared for the sick (Matt. 8:14-16; 14:14), fed the hungry (Mark 6:35-44), and made the humble feel loved and welcome (Luke 7:36-50). The King of kings and Lord of lords manifested Himself as the Servant of servants when He humbled Himself and washed the feet of His disciples that they might learn humility (John 13:1-17). By the end of His earthly life He’d completed His Father’s work, saying, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4), then He faced the cross and laid down His life for others (John 10:11, 15, 17; 1 Cor. 15:3-4). The Giver of life had given His life that the church might know His Father’s love (1 John 3:16).

     A husband, in the biblical sense, is a man who models his life after Christ. This assumes he is, first and foremost, in a relationship with the Man, the Lord Jesus Christ and has been born again into a new life (1 Pet. 1:3). As the responsible leader in his home, he is to lead with a sacrificial attitude that is concerned about his wife’s wellbeing. Just as Christ leads, feeds, and protects His church, so the husband leads his wife into God’s will, nourishes her with God’s Word, and protects her spirit, body, emotions and reputation. In order to fulfill his divinely delegated role in the marriage, he devotes himself to the study of Scripture (2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18), and strives toward spiritual maturity (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Eph. 4:11-16). As a growing believer he lives by faith (Prov. 3:5-6; Heb. 10:38), is filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), walks in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), shows love to others (1 Thess. 4:9; 1 John 3:23), delights himself in the ways of the Lord (Ps. 1:1-3), walks humbly (Mic. 6:8), helps the needy, the widow and orphan (Prov. 14:31; Jam. 1:27), and pursues righteousness, justice and love (Ps. 132:9; Tit. 2:11-12). He does this so that his life will be transformed to become like the One who saved him (Rom. 8:29; 12:1-2). The husband makes his wife’s submissive role easy when he loves her as Christ loves the church, and he forfeits his right to lead if he abuses her or directs her to sin.

Joel 3:1-21

Joel 3:1-21

March 30, 2019

     At the end of the eschatological Day of the Lord (which Joel prophesied about in 2:28-32), God promised to restore the fortunes of Israel (Joe 3:1) and to judge the surrounding nations for the years of hostility to His people, specifically for scattering them and dividing up their land (Joe. 3:2). These nations treated God’s people so poorly they even traded a boy for a harlot and sold a girl for wine (Joe 3:3). God specifically names Tyre, Sidon and Philistia for their actions, and suggests their hostility is an act of unjustified revenge on their part (Joe 3:4a); however, God promises to repay them swiftly (Joe 3:4b, cf. 7). These Gentile nations stole God’s treasures (Joe 3:5) and “sold the sons of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks in order to remove them far from their territory” (Joe 3:6). But God promised to rouse His people and return them back to the Promised Land (Joe 3:7), and will recompense the nations by selling them into captivity (Joe 3:8). God then challenges the nations to war with Him, even calling farmers to turn their instruments of work into weapons of war (Joe 3:9-11a). The phrase, “Bring down, O LORD, Your mighty ones” (Joe 3:11b) could allude to angelic warriors who will battle during the time of the Tribulation. God calls these nations to assemble at the valley of Jehoshaphat, a broad plain where He will render judgment upon them and destroy them (Joe 3:12-14; cf. Rev. 19:11-21). This will be a time of darkness for the nations (Joe 3:15) as “The LORD roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth tremble” (Joe 3:16a). But Israel will not be afraid, for “the LORD is a refuge for His people and a stronghold to the sons of Israel” (Joe 3:16b). After His judgment upon the nations, Israel will know God is their Savior, and Jerusalem will become a place of holiness (Joe 3:17). The millennial blessings will begin to fall upon God’s people, for “in that day the mountains will drip with sweet wine, and the hills will flow with milk, and all the brooks of Judah will flow with water; and a spring will go out from the house of the LORD to water the valley of Shittim” (Joe 3:18). In contrast, Egypt and Edom will become waste lands, “because of the violence done to the sons of Judah, in whose land they have shed innocent blood” (Joe 3:19). But Judah and Jerusalem will be a safe dwelling forever (Joe 3:20), and God will avenge Israel’s enemies and will dwell in Zion (Joe 3:21). These future conditions will display God’s judgment upon His enemies as well as His blessings upon those He loves.

Joel 2:18-32

Joel 2:18-32

March 11, 2019

     The main idea of the passage is that God restores Israel’s prosperity after they return to Him and then pronounces a future day of the Lord scenario. The NASB translates Joel 2:18-19 in the future tense, but other translations render it in the past tense, as “He had compassion on his people” (Joe 2:18 NET) and “The LORD responded to his people” (Joe 2:19 NET; cf. ESV, CSB, NIV). “The Hebrew verb forms used here are preterites with vav consecutive and are most naturally understood as describing a past situation…It appears from the verbs of vv. 18–19 that at the time of Joel’s writing this book the events of successive waves of locust invasion and conditions of drought had almost run their course and the people had now begun to turn to the Lord.”[1] As a result of Israel’s returning to God, the Lord restored their agricultural blessings in accordance with His promise (Joe 2:18-19; cf. Deut. 28:12). Furthermore, He promised to remove the locusts which were destroying the crops (Joe 2:20). God even spoke kindly to the land and animals, assuring that green vegetation would return (Joe 2:21-22). To His people, God would send rain upon the land and they would again enjoy grain, wine and oil (Joe 2:23-24). The Lord would make up for the years of devastation produced by the locusts, which He calls “My great army which I sent among you” (Joe 2:25). From these events Israel was to know God was in their midst, and He controlled blessing and cursing, and that lifting the curse was a sign His relationship with His people had been restored (Joe 2:26-27). Joel 2:28-32 begins a new chapter in the Hebrew Bible and marks it 3:1-5 (BHS). This means Joel chapter 3 in the English translation is chapter 4 in the Hebrew Bible. Joel then prophesied about a distant future time in which God would pour out His Spirit upon all classes of people without regard to age, gender, or social classification (Joe 2:28-29). This bestowal of His Spirit and outpouring of divine revelation indicated God’s blessing upon believers. However, there is also a picture of judgment, in which God “will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes” (Joe 2:30-31). This judgment most likely describes the seven year Tribulation which falls upon unbelievers (see Rev. 6:12-13). Though God is judging unbelievers during the Tribulation, there is still grace, for “it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls” (Joe 2:32). Paul gave this verse spiritual meaning in Romans 10:13. Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32 when explaining the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21). Peter did not mean that Joel 2:28-32 was fulfilled on that day, but that what Joel described—especially concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit—was analogous to what God was doing among believers at the beginning of the dispensation of the church age.

 

[1] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Joe 2:18.

Joel 2:1-17

Joel 2:1-17

March 9, 2019

     Joel 2:1-11 is generally understood three ways: 1) an invasion of a human army from the north such as the Assyrians, 2) an eschatological event describing a future judgment, or 3) a threat of another locust invasion like the one described in chapter one. The last view makes the most sense because of the use of military similes in verses 4-7 and the specific reference to locusts in verse 25. This last view would understand the “day of the Lord” in Joel 2:1-2 as a threat of local judgment upon the generation of Joel’s day. Joel describes the swarm of locusts as a consuming fire (Joe 2:3), and as an invading army of war horses, chariots and people (Joe 2:4-5), who instill fear among the Israelites (Joe 2:6). This army of locusts crosses over the city walls, breaks through its defenses and enters homes (Joe 2:7-9). The swarm is so vast it causes the ground to tremble and even blocks out sunlight (Joe 2:10). This invading army is “His army”, sent by the Lord upon His people (Joe 2:11). It is proper to understand God’s judgment as a manifestation of His righteous character in which He punishes those who fail to conform to His good laws. However, God is never quick to judge, and His threat of punishment is temporarily suspended as He calls His people to national repentance, saying, “Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments” (Joe 2:12-13a). God’s offer to avoid judgment is born out of His good nature, as He declares, “Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil” (Joe 2:13b). Some argue that God cannot change and understand the offer to “relent” as an anthropopathism. Though it is true that God does not change with regard to His essential nature, He can change His course of judgment into blessing, if His people turn back to Him. In fact, the whole of Deuteronomy chapter 28 is predicated on a plain understanding that blessing and cursing is promised to Israel, His covenant people, dependent on their obedience or disobedience to His just laws. With the call to repent Joel states, “Who knows whether He will not turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him, even a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God?” (Joe 2:14). Agricultural prosperity would signify God’s blessing rather than judgment, and this blessing would allow them to resume normal religious functions. God’s call to national repentance was to be led by Israel’s priests (Joe 2:17), who were to “Blow a trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, and gather the children and the nursing infants”  (Joe 2:15-16a). Even newlyweds, who were normally exempt from public functions (Deu 24:5), are called to participate (Joe 2:16b). The priests were to “weep between the porch and the altar” at the temple, crying out to the Lord, saying, “Spare Your people, O LORD, and do not make Your inheritance a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they among the peoples say, ‘Where is their God?’” (Joe 2:17). The national cry not only displayed humility before God, but sought to protect His reputation among the nations who might see Israel’s destruction as an indication their God was too weak to protect them.

The Day of the Lord

The Day of the Lord

March 6, 2019

     The phrase “the day of the Lord” appears twenty three times in Scripture.[1]  It appears eighteen times in the Old Testament (Isa. 13:6, 9; 58:13; Ezek. 13:5; 30:3; Joe 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18, 20; Obad. 1:15; Zeph. 1:7, 14; Mal. 4:5)[2] and five times in the New Testament (Acts 2:20; 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:7-14).[3] In Scripture, the “day of the Lord” is used both in a local and future sense. The phrase was first presented by the prophet Joel (assuming he prophesied during the reign of Uzziah), who stated, “Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, and it will come as destruction from the Almighty” (Joe 1:15; cf. 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14). The argument that there is a “day of the Lord” relevant to Joel’s audience is rooted in the historical context of the book in which the prophet wrote to the elders, citizens and the priests in Israel (Joel 1:2, 9, 13). To them, Joel describes the “day of the Lord” within the context of local judgments his audience experienced upon their crops (Joel 1:15). However, there are other biblical passages that describe a future “day of the Lord” which is global and filled with wrath. Some Bible scholars see the “day of the Lord” both as a time of wrath and blessing (Constable & Phillips); whereas other scholars see it strictly as a time of wrath pertaining to the seven year Tribulation (Fruchtenbaum & Wiersbe). The following four quotes respectively demonstrate the view of both camps.

 

  • "The day of the Lord is a term that appears frequently in the Old Testament, especially in the Prophets. It refers to a day in which the Lord is working obviously, in contrast to other days, the day of man, in which man works without any apparent divine intervention…The eschatological day of the Lord that the prophets anticipated includes both judgment (in the Tribulation) and blessing (in the Millennium and beyond)."[4]

 

  • "The day of the Lord is a long period that begins right after the rapture, runs through the great tribulation and the battle of Armageddon, and continues into the millennium. This day, which embraces both judgment and glory, is the subject of extensive Old Testament prophecy, where it is also called “that day,” “a day of wrath,” “the day of vengeance,” and so on."[5]

 

  • "In the Old Testament, the most common name for the Great Tribulation is the Day of Jehovah or the Day of the Lord found in various passages…There are some who use the Day of the Lord to include the Millennium as well as the Tribulation period, based upon 2 Peter 3:10. But as will be shown later in this chapter, this verse is best seen as applying to the Tribulation only, rather than including the events following it. In every passage of the Scriptures that the term the Day of Jehovah or the Day of the Lord is found, it is always and without exception a reference to the Tribulation period. This is the most common name for this period in the Old Testament, and it is also found in various passages of the New Testament. While the phrase that day is used both negatively and positively and therefore many times it does apply to the Millennium, the phrase Day of Jehovah or Day of the Lord is always used negatively and never included the Millennial Kingdom."[6]

 

  • "The phrase “the day of the Lord” refers to that future time when God will pour out His wrath on the Gentile nations because of their sins against the Jews (see Joel 3:1–8). It will occur after the church has been taken to heaven (see 1 Thes. 1:10 and 5:9–10, and Rev. 3:10), during that period of seven years known as the Tribulation. It is described most fully in Rev. 6–19. This period will end with the Battle of Armageddon (Joel 3:9–17; Rev. 19:11–21) and Jesus Christ returning to the earth to establish His kingdom."[7]

 

     I tend to favor the latter view that the future “day of the Lord” refers strictly to the seven year Tribulation. From Scripture we can say with certainty that the future “day of the Lord” follows the first coming of Christ, (Mal. 4:5), will come upon the entire world (Joel 2:1-11; 30-31; 3:12-15; Isa. 13:6-11; Ezek. 30:2-4; Obad. 1:15), will be inescapable (Amos 5:18-20), is a day of wrath and destruction (Zeph. 1:14-18), will come unannounced (1 Thess. 5:1-2; 2 Pet. 3:10), and will follow the coming of the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:1-4). The church will not experience this time of God’s judgment, for we are waiting for the return of Christ from heaven, “who rescues us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10; cf. 5:9).

 

[1] Old Testament writers use the Hebrew phrase יוֹם־יְהוָה yom Yahweh, and New Testament writers use the Greek phrase ἡμέρα κυρίου hemera kuriou.

[2] The day of the Lord appears twice in Amos 5:18 and Zephaniah 1:14.

[3] Other references include (Isa. 2:11-21; 4:2; 11:10; 13:13; 19:23-24; 24:21; 27:12-13; 30:25; 61:2-4; Jer. 46:10; Ezek. 30:0; 36:33; 38:14-19; Hos. 2:16-21; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:11; Zeph. 1:8-10, 14-15; 2:2-3; 3:8; Mal. 3:2, 17; 4:1-3; Matt. 10:15; 11:22-24; 26:29; Luke 10:12; 17:30-31; Rom. 2:5; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; 1 Thess. 5:4; 2 Pet. 2:9; 1 John 4:17; Rev. 6:19).

[4] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Joe 1:15.

[5] John Phillips, Exploring the Minor Prophets: An Expository Commentary, The John Phillips Commentary Series (Kregel Publications; 2009), Joe 1:15–20.

[6] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah : A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events, Rev. ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 172–173.

[7] Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1993), Joe.

Joel 1:1-20

Joel 1:1-20

March 2, 2019

     The book of Joel opens with the prophetic statement, “The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel” (Joe 1:1). Joel’s audience includes the elders and inhabitants of Israel (Joe 1:2, 14), drunkards (vs. 5), priests (vs. 9, 13), farmers and vinedressers (vs. 11). Joel asks his audience if anyone can remember a plague of locusts like the one they’d just experienced (Joe 1:2), and instructs them to tell it to the generations that follow so that no one forgets (Joe 1:3). Joel describes four kinds of locusts that had ravaged the land and left it bare (Joe 1:4), and calls for the drunkards to weep because there’s no more wine for them to drink (Joe 1:5). The locusts are described as “a nation” that had invaded the land of Israel and wrought destruction upon the grapevines and fig trees (Joe 1:6-7). Other passages in Joel reveal that God had sent them for His purposes (Joe 2:11, 25). As a result of this damage, the people were to weep like a young bride who had lost her bridegroom (Joe 1:8). The priests mourn because the people have no grain or drink offerings to bring to them (Joe 1:9-10, 13). “The result was that the priests and the whole nation mourned. It was bad enough that the people did not have food and drink for their own enjoyment, but it was worse that they could not worship Yahweh.”[1] Because of the damage to the wheat, barley, vines, fig trees, pomegranate, palm and apple trees, “rejoicing dries up from the sons of men” (Joe 1:12-13). The joy of the Israelites was directly tied to the Lord’s blessings (Deut. 28:1-14), and judgment upon the land was an indication of their violation of the covenant agreement (Deut. 28:15, 38-40). Joel calls upon the inhabitants of the land to embark in national repentance, saying, “Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD” (Joe 1:14; cf. Neh. 9:1–2; Jer. 36:9; 2 Chron. 7:14). Joel compares the current locust plague of judgment to a future time of judgment, stating, “Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, and it will come as destruction from the Almighty” (Joe 1:15; cf. 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14). This future “day of the Lord” refers to a time when God intervenes in the world to judge mankind. Joel then switches back to address the destruction of his day and the damage of food crops which resulted in the loss of “Gladness and joy from the house of our God” (Joe 1:16-17). Apparently there was a drought that kept seeds from germinating, and eventually the storehouses were emptied. Even the cattle and sheep groaned because there was nothing to eat (Joel 1:18, 20). The prophet himself is impacted by what’s happening in his day, and he states, “To You, O LORD, I cry; for fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness and the flame has burned up all the trees of the field” (Joe 1:19). Though Joel was not personally guilty of the sin that led to the Lord’s judgment, he still suffered because of their actions and cried out to the Lord to intervene.

 

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Joe 1:8.

Introduction to Joel

Introduction to Joel

March 2, 2019

Author: Joel, whose name means “Yahweh is God” - Yahweh is Elohim. The same meaning can be derived from the name Elijah – Elohim is Yahweh.

Audience: Judah – Southern Kingdom (Joel 3:1, 6, 8) .

Date of ministry:

     Dating the book of Joel is difficult because, unlike Hosea and Amos, there’s no reference to rulers or historical events (Hos. 1:1; Amos 1:1). We know from Joel 1:13 and 2:17 that the temple was functional, but this could have been Solomon’s temple that was standing before the exile in 586 B.C. or Zerubbabel’s temple after the exile in 516 B.C. Four dates are possible:

  1. 872-796 B.C. – (Obadiah, Jonah)
  2. 792-740 B.C. – (Hosea, Amos, Micah, Isaiah)
  3. 597-587 B.C. – (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Zephaniah)
  4. 515-500 B.C. – (Zechariah, Haggai)

I’m content to place the book of Joel during the reign of Uzziah between 792-740 B.C.

Purpose & Message:

     Joel 1:1-2:17 presents God’s judgment upon Judah in the form of a drought and plague of locusts (Joel 2:25). Joel 2:18-3:21 focuses on the Lord’s restoration of Judah and the future judgment of her enemies. The prophet uses God’s judgment upon Israel to mention a future time of judgment which he calls “the day of the Lord” (Joe 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14). His message involves a national call to humility and repentance (Joel 1:13-16; 2:12-14).

Hosea 14:1-9

Hosea 14:1-9

February 12, 2019

     God calls Israel to return to Him (Hos. 14:1), even though He knows they won’t, and has already promised judgment (see Hos. 10:2, 6-8, 14; 11:6). If they were to return to Him, He tells them the words He wants to hear, specifically, “Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, that we may present the fruit of our lips” (Hos. 14:2). These words reflect a humble heart appealing to the grace of God, and once forgiven, there follows the fruit of praise. Furthermore, they are to say, “Assyria will not save us, we will not ride on horses; nor will we say again, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands; for in You the orphan finds mercy” (Hos. 14:3). These words display a dependence on God alone, as Israel will not rely on political alliances (Assyria), military strength (horses), or the work of their own hands (idols), but will regard themselves as helpless orphans who seek God’s mercy and care. When this happens, God will love them tenderly, for His anger will not be kindled against their sin (Hos. 14:4). Furthermore, he will send refreshment to them and they will flourish and become strong and beautiful to God and others (Hos. 14:5-6). When Israel is restored and blessed, they will again experience agricultural prosperity (Hos. 14:7). God is the One who looks after Israel, saying, “It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a luxuriant cypress; from Me comes your fruit” (Hos. 14:8).

  • "The Israelites have not yet met these conditions for restoration, and restoration has not yet come to them. Fulfillment awaits the return of Christ to the earth and His millennial reign that will follow. Then Israel will be blessed and will become a source of blessing for all the other nations of the world, as the prophet predicted."[1]

     Finally, the book of Hosea closes out with wisdom to those who will heed the words of the book, saying, “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them” (Hos. 14:9). The “ways of the Lord” refer to His covenant commands, the righteous are those who obey them, and transgressors are those who choose a faulty path and stumble.

 

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ho 14:8.

Hosea 13:1-16

Hosea 13:1-16

February 9, 2019

     Ephraim (Israel’s king and princes) exalted themselves and engaged in Baal worship (Hos. 13:1), and they “sin more and more, and make for themselves molten images, idols skillfully made from their silver, all of them the work of craftsmen” (Hos. 13:2a). The phrase “Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!” (Hos. 13:2b) could refer to an act of homage and devotion on the part of the idolaters. However, it might also refer to human sacrifice, as the NIV translates, “They offer human sacrifices! They kiss calf-idols!” and the ESV renders, “Those who offer human sacrifice kiss calves!” God declares these idolaters would perish quickly, “like the morning cloud and like dew which soon disappears, like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor and like smoke from a chimney” (Hos. 13:3). In contrast, God had been faithful from the beginning, when His people were called out of Egypt, and they were to be faithful to Him, for there is no other Savior besides God, who cared for them in the wilderness (Hos. 13:4-5). However, after entering the Promised Land and tasting of prosperity, “they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore they forgot Me” (Hos. 13:6). Because of Israel’s unfaithfulness, God would render fierce judgment upon the nation, as a lion, leopard or bear attacks and devours its prey (Hos. 13:7-8). God reveals that Israel was engaging in self-harm, saying, “It is your destruction, O Israel, that you are against Me, against your help” (Hos. 13:9), and He would remove Israel’s king, the person in which they trusted for salvation from their enemies (Hos. 13:10-11).  The iniquity of Israel had been storing up for many years and reached full capacity (Hos. 13:12), and, like a baby in its mother’s womb, the nation was unwilling to leave the familiar place of sin from which God had called them (Hos. 13:13). God would not redeem His people, Israel, from the short term judgment that was coming upon them (Hos. 13:14). Later, the apostle Paul quoted this verse and applied it to Christ who died for the sins of His people and will rescue us from death and the grave (1 Cor. 15:55). “Here in Hosea the promise is that Israel would indeed suffer death and the grave, not that she would escape it. Paul turned the passage around and showed that Jesus Christ’s resurrection overcame the judgment and death that are inevitable for sinners.”[1] In this regard, because Jesus overcame death and the grave, so those who trust in Him will eventually be resurrected and not held in the power of sin’s grip. Though Israel flourished for the moment like a reed in shallow water, God would send a scorching wind to dry them up. This refers to the Assyrians who would plunder their cities and engage in merciless acts of hostility, even against women and children (Hos. 13:15-16). All of this could have been avoided if Israel had humbled themselves and turned back to God and not broken the covenant promises.

 

[1] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ho 13:14.