Thinking on Scripture with Dr. Steven R. Cook
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.

Hosea 12:1-14

Hosea 12:1-14

February 2, 2019

     Hosea opens with a continued charge against Israel in the north, in which they multiply “lies and violence” (Hos. 12:1a), and pursue diplomatic alliances with Assyria and trade with Egypt (Hos. 12:1b). Such actions are born out of human viewpoint that exclude God. Hosea then declares, “The LORD also has a dispute[1] with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; He will repay him according to his deeds” (Hos. 12:2). Whereas God had previously brought legal charges against the ten northern tribes of Israel (Hos. 4:1), here He addresses the two southern tribes of Judah. The threat of punishment directed at Judah is in keeping with the terms of blessing and cursing as stated in the Mosaic Covenant (Deut. 28:1-68). The Lord spoke to Judah, comparing their present attitudes and circumstances with their progenitor, Jacob, who, from infancy to adulthood fought with others and God (Hos. 12:3-5). God instructs Judah, “Therefore, return to your God, observe kindness and justice, and wait for your God continually” (Hos. 12:6). The word wait translates the Hebrew verb קָוָה qavah which means to wait for, or eagerly look. The form of the verb is intensive (Piel imperative) which communicates the idea of concentrated expectant waiting. The idea is that Judah should seek God, pursue kindness and justice, and wait for the Lord to fulfill His promises to them. God then addresses Israel (the ten northern tribes) and compares their behavior to Jacob, who, like his uncle Laban, practiced deceit for personal gain (Hos. 12:7). Hosea challenged the nation of Israel with a false perception that prosperity was a sign of God’s approval. They’d been telling themselves, “Surely I have become rich, I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they will find in me no iniquity, which would be sin” (Hos. 12:8). Yet they were guilty of idolatry and atrocious sins that warranted God’s judgment. Though they’d been unfaithful to God, He’d remained faithful to them, since the days of their exodus from Egypt (Hos. 12:9a). And God promised to humble them, saying, “I will make you live in tents again, as in the days of the appointed festival” (Hos. 12:9b). God has spoken to Israel repeatedly through His prophets (Hos. 12:10), yet they rejected His messages, declaring, “Surely they are worthless. In Gilgal they sacrifice bulls, yes, their altars are like the stone heaps beside the furrows of the field” (Hos. 12:11). Hosea draws a parallel between Israel’s progenitor, Jacob, who fled to Aram and “kept” sheep to acquire Rachel, the woman he loved (Hos. 12:12). Likewise, God loved Israel and rescued her from Egyptian captivity, and “kept” her by means of a prophet (Hos. 12:13). However, though God loved Israel, He could not abandon His righteousness, or the promises He’d made through His covenant. Therefore, He told them, “Ephraim has provoked to bitter anger; so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him and bring back his reproach to him” (Hos. 12:14). Though God had repeatedly called His people back to a life of righteousness, they’d continually chosen to rebel against Him, and so would reap the consequences of their actions.

 

[1] The word dispute translates the Hebrew verb רִיב rib which is used some places in Scripture in a non-legal sense of people who fight with each other (Gen. 13:7; Ex. 17:7; Jer. 15:10), as well as a legal sense in which one person takes up a lawsuit or legal case against another (Deut. 17:8; 19:17; 21:5). In Hosea, the term is used of a legal charge that God is bringing against His people who are in violation of the Mosaic Covenant.

Hosea 11:1-12

Hosea 11:1-12

February 2, 2019

     God is pictured as a Father who had called His son, Israel, out of Egyptian bondage (Hos. 11:1), but even though He sent prophets to guide them, they rejected His messengers and kept pursuing idols (Hos. 11:2). Their behavior was contrary to what God had taught them, for He’d instructed them in His ways, carried them in His arms as little children and healed their wounds (Hos. 11:3). Using an analogy of caring for an animal, the Lord guided them with bonds of love, lifting the burden of their yoke and bending down to their level to feed them (Hos. 11:4). “In Hosea 11:4 Israel is compared to a work animal (cf. 10:11). The Lord is likened to a master who gently (in kindness and love; cf. 11:1) leads his animal and removes (or perhaps repositions) its yoke so that it might eat with greater ease the food he kindly provides. The Lord treated Israel with compassion and love.”[1] But God declared they’d go into captivity in Assyria (Hos. 11:5), which nation would destroy their cities (Hos. 11:6), because of their continual rebellion in turning away from God and refusing to hear the messages of His prophets (Hos. 11:7). “In other messages Hosea identified Egypt as the place of Israel’s future exile (cf. 8:13; 9:3, 6), but here it becomes clear that He was only using Egypt as a metaphor for a place of captivity. Assyria would be the geographical location of Israel’s exile.”[2] Then, we see a passionate outburst of God’s love for His people as He reflected on the judgment He intended for them, saying, “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled” (Hos. 11:8). Though His righteousness demanded that He judge them because of their gross sin, His love guaranteed that they would never be totally destroyed like Admah and Zeboim. Because He is God, He will not behave with unrestrained anger like a man who lacks such control (Hos. 11:9). In addition, He promises that Israel will have a future and that there will be a time when they will walk after the Lord, when He roars like a lion, and “His sons will come trembling from the west” (Hos. 11:10). In the future, “They will come trembling like birds from Egypt and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will settle them in their houses, declares the LORD” (Hos. 11:11). This will happen in the millennial kingdom. However, in Hosea’s day, God must deal with them in judgment declaring, “Ephraim surrounds Me with lies and the house of Israel with deceit; Judah is also unruly against God, even against the Holy One who is faithful” (Hos. 11:12). It appears the NASB translates this verse correctly in light of Hosea 12:2.

 

[1] Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., “Hosea,” 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), 1402.

[2] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ho 11:5.

Hosea 10:1-15

Hosea 10:1-15

January 27, 2019

     Hosea describes Israel as a luxuriant vine that produces fruit for itself, and then uses that fruit for promoting idolatry (Hos. 10:1); but their unfaithfulness results in guilt, and God promises to break down their pagan altars and pillars (Hos. 10:2). Like other times, Israel will utter insincere words, saying, “We have no king, for we do not revere the LORD. As for the king, what can he do for us?” (Hos. 10:3; cf. 6:1-3; 7:14; 8:2); but Hosea tells us, “They speak mere words, with worthless oaths they make covenants; and judgment sprouts like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field” (Hos. 10:4). The truth is that Israel will mourn and cry over their idols, when they are taken away into captivity by the Assyrians (Hos. 10:5-6), and the king of Israel will prove helpless to stop these events (Hos. 10:7). In addition, God will destroy the high places of worship and weeds will consume their altars (Hos. 10:8a); then, in a state of spiritual irrationality, “they will say to the mountains, ‘Cover us!’ and to the hills, ‘Fall on us!’” (Hos. 10:8b). Israel’s sin is not merely the failure of the moment, but the sin of many years, reaching back to the days of bisexual perversion and rape as occurred in Gibeah (Hos. 10:9; cf. Judg. 19:1-30). God promises to chastise Israel for their “double guilt” (Hos. 10:10), which likely refers to the two places of calf worship that had previously been set up in Bethel and Dan (see 1 Ki. 12:26-30). Israel is then described as a heifer that enjoyed easy threshing, unmuzzled and able to eat when they wanted (Hos. 10:11a), but God would change their condition by placing a yoke over their neck and giving them the more difficult task of plowing a field (Hos. 10:11b). Though judgment is certain for Israel, He still calls for them to “Sow with a view to righteousness, [and] reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you” (Hos. 10:12). Sadly, Israel’s history was that of rebellion and sin, for God states, “You have plowed wickedness, you have reaped injustice, you have eaten the fruit of lies” (Hos 10:13a). Because Israel had trusted in their own way and relied on the strength of human warriors (Hos. 10:13b), God would bring destruction upon their fortresses (Hos. 10:4a), and compares their devastation to an assault by a contemporary king named Shalman, who “destroyed Beth-arbel on the day of battle, when mothers were dashed in pieces with their children” (Hos. 10:14b). God then explains this judgment is the result of their sin, saying, “Thus it will be done to you at Bethel because of your great wickedness. At dawn the king of Israel will be completely cut off” (Hos. 10:15). So Hosea continues to level charges against Israel because of their unfaithfulness to the Mosaic Covenant.

Hosea 9:1-17

Hosea 9:1-17

January 27, 2019

     God rebuked Israel for their idolatry and for falsely thinking their prosperity came from Baal (Hos. 9:1-2). God promised Israel would go into captivity for their gross violation of the covenant (Hos. 9:3). Once in captivity, they will be perpetually defiled and not able to offer true sacrifices to God (Hos. 9:4-5). Being in captivity, weeds will overrun their treasures and home (Hos. 9:6). God pronounces, “The days of punishment have come, the days of retribution have come; let Israel know this!” (Hos 9:7a). Because of Israel’s sin, God’s prophet was regarded as a fool and demented. Another rendering reads, “Because your sins are so many and your hostility so great, the prophet is considered a fool, the inspired person a maniac” (Hos. 9:7b NIV). In reality, God’s prophet was to serve as a watchman over His people, warning them of approaching danger. However, God’s people turned on the prophet and laid traps for him and treated him with hostility (Hos. 9:8). Another rendering reads, “The prophet is a watchman over Ephraim on behalf of God, yet traps are laid for him along all of his paths; animosity rages against him in the land of his God” (Hos. 9:8 NET). The phrase, “They have gone deep in depravity as in the days of Gibeah” (Hos. 9:9) refers to an event in the book of Judges where bisexual Benjamites raped a Levite’s concubine (Judg. 19:1-30). This moral depravity spoke of Israel’s spiritual condition. Early in Israel’s history, God delighted in them, as one might be delighted in finding grapes and figs in a desert land (Hos. 9:10a). However, their glory turned to shame when they engaged in idol worship at Baal-peor (Hos. 9:10b; cf. Num. 25:1-3). The act of idolatry became a normal pattern for Israel, and God promised to execute the curses of the Mosaic Covenant by bringing infertility, death, and exile into a foreign land (Hos. 9:11-14). Because of their evil, God would drive them out of His land, giving special mention of Israel’s leaders, saying, “All their princes are rebels” (Hos. 9:15). God promised that Israel would no longer advance as a nation, saying the fruit of their wombs would be destroyed (Hos. 9:16). God would cast them away “because they have not listened to Him; and they will be wanderers among the nations” (Hos. 9:17).

Hosea 8:1-14

Hosea 8:1-14

January 19, 2019

     God instructs Israel to sound the trumpet because an enemy is coming, “Because they have transgressed My covenant and rebelled against My law” (Hos. 8:1). Israel cried out to the Lord, claiming they knew Him (Hos. 8:2), but their actions betrayed their claim. In fact, God declares “Israel has rejected the good” by refusing to follow His commands, and so He would judge them by sending an enemy (Hos. 8:3). Israel’s rejection of God was seen in their independent selection of kings (Hos. 8:4a) as well as their idolatrous practices (Hos. 8:4b). Because they’d rejected Him, He rejected their idols in which they’d trusted (Hos. 8:5); idols that could not even protect themselves, as God declares, “Surely the calf of Samaria will be broken to pieces” (Hos. 8:6). Israel had brought judgment upon themselves, and God declares, “For they sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind” (Hos. 8:7a). As a result of their rebellion against God, He would also bring about agricultural devastation (Hos. 8:7b). Having forfeited their own blessing from God, Israel had become common, like the nations around them, and had become “like a vessel in which no one delights” (Hos. 8:8). And like an unreasoning animal—a wild donkey—Israel sought an alliance with Assyria, and so became intimate with them, like a hired lover (Hos. 8:9). However, their political alliances could not stay the hand of God who would “gather them up” for judgment (Hos. 8:10). Israel’s practices had become nationwide, for they’d constructed pagan altars across the land, and so multiplied their sin (Hos. 8:11). This was contrary to how they should have lived, for God had clearly given them His Word, yet His guidance was “regarded as a strange thing” (Hos. 8:12). Though they offered many sacrifices, “the LORD has taken no delight in them” (Hos. 8:13a). Judgment was coming, as Hosea declared, “Now He will remember their iniquity, and punish them for their sins; they will return to Egypt” (Hos. 8:13b). The sad thing is that “Israel has forgotten His Maker” (Hos. 8:14a), and lived as though He did not exist; and Judah behaved similarly, in that they’d focused on their human projects and “multiplied fortified cities” (Hos. 8:14b). However, Judah would not escape God’s judgment if they followed in Israel’s footsteps, as God announces, “I will send a fire on its cities that it may consume its palatial dwellings” (Hos. 8:14c). Human cities and fortresses cannot protect in the day of God’s judgment, and this became evident when God sent the Assyrians against Israel and Judah.

Hosea 7:1-16

Hosea 7:1-16

January 19, 2019

     Though God desired to heal Israel, their sins kept being uncovered (Hos. 7:1). Israel did not consider that God remembered their sins, but they were continually before His face (Hos. 7:2). The wickedness and lies of the people made the king and princes glad, as their behavior was consistent with the Israel’s leadership (Hos. 7:3). “Their political leaders rejoiced in the wickedness of the people because that made it easier for them to get away with sinning.”[1] All the people of Israel were adulterers, both physically and spiritually, and their passion is likened to an oven that smolders overnight while the dough rises (Hos. 7:4). Israel’s king and princes lived for themselves (Hos. 7:5), and the princes seething passion is compared to a burning oven that is dormant for a time, but erupts in fire as they plot to kill their king (Hos. 7:6-7). “Hosea saw this happen four times. Shallum assassinated Zechariah, Menahem assassinated Shallum, Pekah assassinated Pekahiah, and Hoshea assassinated Pekah (2 Kings 15:10, 14, 25, 30).”[2] Israel’s political practices excluded the Lord as they mingled with pagan nations. They became like a cake not turned, which meant they were burned on one side and raw on the other, which made them of no benefit to others (Hos. 7:8). As a result of their foolish international practices, foreigners consumed their strength, but they were ignorant of what was happening to them (Hos. 7:9), and the pride of Israel kept them from turning to the Lord (Hos. 7:10). God then compares Israel to a silly dove that flutters back and forth between Egypt and Assyria (Hos. 7:11), but the Lord will cast His net over them and put an end to their birdbrained practices (Hos. 7:12). Their destruction is because they have become hostile toward God, in which He declares, “they have strayed from Me!...they have rebelled against Me!...they speak lies against Me…they turn away from Me…[and] they devise evil against Me” (Hos 7:13-15). Israel had become like a crooked bow that is useless in battle and worthless to the Lord (Hos. 7:16). Israel’s turning away from God made them worthless to others, silly in everyday practices, and useless to the Lord.

 

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

[2] Ibid., Ho 7:6.

Hosea 6:1-11

Hosea 6:1-11

January 5, 2019

     Hosea 6:1-3 opens with words of repentance toward God, which, on the surface, appear sincere. However, considering the Lord’s reply in Hosea 6:4-11, it seems their cry is superficial, as the Lord charges them with ephemeral loyalty (vss. 4-6), breaking the Mosaic covenant (vs. 7), murder by citizens and priests (vss. 8-9), and idolatry (vs. 10). The theme of the chapter is God’s disappointment over Israel’s ephemeral loyalty (Hos. 6:4).

     Hosea opens with words of repentance from the people of Israel in which they said, “Come, let us return to the LORD” (Hos. 6:1), believing He will restore and revive them within a few days (Hos. 6:2). They also said, “So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hos. 6:3). It would seem on the surface that their cry is sincere; however, the Lord knows them better than they know Him, and expresses His frustration with them (Hos. 6:4a), and reveals they lack the humility and integrity necessary to sustain their words. The Lord declared of them, “Your loyalty is like a morning cloud and like the dew which goes away early” (Hos. 6:4b). God declares His judgment upon them is certain, saying, “Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth; and the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth” (Hos. 6:5). Having revealed their faults and His pending judgment, the Lord then reveals what He values, saying, “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6). But Israel had failed to be loyally obedient to God, and, like Adam, were guilty of breaking His commands and violating the Mosaic Covenant (Hos. 6:7). Citing specific violations, the Lord references the cities of Gilead and Shechem, which were supposed to be cities of refuge (Josh. 20:1-2, 7-8), but had been turned into places of murder and sexual immorality, not only by its citizens, but by the priests, who should have been promoting God’s Word and holy living rather than being guilty of murder (Hos. 6:8-9). All this sinful behavior was born out of Israel’s spiritual harlotry, having turned to idols rather than God (Hos. 6:10). God promised a harvest of judgment for Judah as well (Hos. 6:11), but this would come nearly two centuries later (586 B.C.). God’s judgment on Israel (and Judah) could have been avoided if they’d been loyal to keep fellowship with Him and obey His Word; for God wanted their obedience above all else.

Hosea 5:1-15

Hosea 5:1-15

January 5, 2019

     God continues to focus primarily on Israel, the Northern Kingdom, but also addresses Judah, the Southern Kingdom, who is following their example of idolatry (See Hos. 4:15). Now, Judah is warned of God’s judgment which will come upon them because of their sin (see Hos. 5:5, 10, 12-15). The theme of the chapter is God’s withdrawal because of their sin (Hos. 5:6, 15).

     Hosea accuses the priests, people, and king of Israel of being an idolatrous trap to others (Hos. 5:1). Those who have revolted against God will be chastised (Hos. 5:2), for God knows their spiritual harlotry (Hos. 5:3). They have become so steeped in their deeds that they cannot return to God, for they are governed by a spiritual of harlotry and no longer know the Lord (Hos. 5:4). Israel has stumbled in their idolatry, and Hosea tells us that Judah has stumbled with them (Hos. 5:5). Though they will seek the Lord through ritual sacrifices (Hos. 5:6a), they will not find Him, because “He has withdrawn from them” (Hos. 5:6b). By withdrawing from them, the Lord had removed His guidance, provision, and protection. The charge against Israel was “They have dealt treacherously against the LORD, for they have borne illegitimate children” (Hos. 5:7). This is likely a reference to the children who were born out of Israel’s adulterous relationships with pagan fertility prostitutes (see Hos. 4:13-15). God calls Israel to blow their trumpets and sound an alarm (Hos. 5:8) because judgment is coming and Israel “will become a desolation in the day of rebuke” (Hos. 5:9). A judgment is pronounced against Judah’s princes, for they “have become like those who move a boundary; on them I will pour out My wrath like water” (Hos. 5:10). Moving boundary markers refers to stealing land from another and was forbidden under the Law (Deut. 19:14; 27:17). Here the boundary was spiritual as Judah’s leadership redefined worship and stole people away from God. Israel (and Judah) was judged for following worthless advice rather than listening to God (Hos. 5:11), therefore, the Lord would destroy both Israel and Judah (Hos. 5:12). Israel then turned to Assyria for help, but the Assyrians were unable to cure them of the Lord’s disease (Hos. 5:13). God then likens Himself to a lion, even a young lion, that will tear Israel and Judah to pieces and lead them away into captivity (Hos. 5:14). God then declares, “I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me” (Hos 5:15). God is extremely patient, but His patience does not go forever (Ex. 34:6-7; Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17-19), and after many centuries of rebellion, the Lord’s judgment was coming.

Hosea 4:1-19

Hosea 4:1-19

December 29, 2018

     God brought legal charges against Israel for violating the Mosaic Covenant, and some of the charges included “no faithfulness or kindness or knowledge of God in the land” (Hos. 4:1). In addition, there was “swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery [and] they employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed” (Hos. 4:2). As a result, there was judgment upon the whole land, such that people and animals suffered (Hos. 4:3). God’s people were not to accuse each other, for the Lord’s main charge was against the priests (Hos. 4:4), who, along with the false prophets, were stumbling into sin (Hos. 4:5). Israel was being destroyed because of a lack of knowledge of God’s Word (Hos. 4:6a), and because the priests had rejected knowledge, God was going to reject them (Hos. 4:6b); and because of multiplied sin, He would turn their glory into shame (Hos. 4:7). The priests should have been teaching Scripture (Deut. 33:8-10; Mal. 2:7), but instead, were capitalizing on Israel’s sins, because it brought them more sacrifices and food to eat (Hos. 4:8). God promised to punish people and priest (Hos. 4:9), and to deprive them of the food they desired, because they had abandoned God (Hos. 4:10). Idolatry and drinking destroyed their understanding of God (Hos. 4:11), as the people consulted their idols rather than God (Hos. 4:12). Idolatry had become a family affair, as men, women and children gathered on mountains and hilltops, and under the trees for pleasant shade to worship idols and engage in sexual fertility practices, assuming it would please their pagan gods who would make the land productive (Hos. 4:13). Wives and daughters, as well as husbands and fathers, were all guilty of idolatry and sexual sins (Hos. 4:14a), demonstrating the point that ignorance of Scripture leads to ruin (Hos. 14b). Ignorance of God’s Word, rather than alleviating their guilt, actually added to it, as God charged Israel with not having knowledge of Him (vs. 1), forgetting His law (vs. 6), not heeding Him (vs. 10), and departing from Him (vs. 12), which ignorance and disobedience eventuated in their ruin (vs. 14). The tragedy is that God’s people had access to His Word, but they willfully rejected His light for darkness. Because people are influenced by the actions of others, Hosea warned Judah not to associate with Israel, who had abandoned God and was committed to idolatry (Hos. 4:15-17). Hosea revealed that the idolatry included everyone in Israel, including their rulers, who are described as those who “dearly love shame” (Hos. 4:18). As a result of their idolatry, Israel would experience the wind of God’s judgment, and “be ashamed because of their sacrifices” (Hos. 4:19).

Hosea 3:1-5

Hosea 3:1-5

December 29, 2018

     Hosea was called by God to love Gomer, though she was actively in an adulterous relationship with another man (Hos. 3:1a). Hosea’s love toward unfaithful Gomer is analogous to God’s relationship with Israel (the ten northern tribes), though she is actively engaged in idolatry (Hos. 3:1b). It is likely that Gomer had sold herself as a slave to one of her paramours, perhaps because she thought he would provide for her material needs (i.e. food, shelter, clothing, etc.); however, when given the opportunity, he was willing to sell her to another man. In this instance, the buyer was Hosea, her former husband.

  • "Wretched Gomer had come down in the world. Presumably she had sold herself as a slave to the man with whom she was living. He must not have cared that much about her, for he was quite willing to sell her back to Hosea. Evidently the man did not value her highly either, for he sold her for a paltry fifteen pieces of silver (half the price of a common slave; see Exodus 21:32) and a month’s supply of barley (the food of the poor, the food usually given to animals)."[1]

     It is likely that the fifteen pieces of silver, coupled with the homer and a half of barely, equaled thirty pieces of silver, the normal price of a slave (cf. Ex. 21:32). Obedient Hosea paid the price for her redemption and she was set free to be in a relationship with him (Hos. 3:2). Hosea then commanded Gomer to remain faithful to him, and he promised to be faithful to her (Hos. 3:3). God then gave a prophetic statement that just as Gomer was to experience a period of time of committed separateness to Hosea, so Israel would experience a time where they would be “without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols” (Hos. 3:4). This period of time started with the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. God then revealed that after His appointed period of time, “the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days” (Hos. 3:5). This most likely refers to Israel’s restoration to God at the Second Coming of Christ, Israel’s Messiah, and to the establishment of His Millennial Kingdom.

 

[1] John Phillips, Exploring the Minor Prophets: An Expository Commentary, The John Phillips Commentary Series (Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp., 2009), Ho 3:1–5.

Hosea 2:1-23

Hosea 2:1-23

December 8, 2018

     Hosea 2:1 continues the promised blessing begun in 1:10-11. Then, in Hosea 2:2-13, God describes Israel’s unfaithfulness to her covenant relationship with God and the punishment He would bring on her. Israel is called to put away her unfaithfulness (Hos. 2:2), or God will humiliate her (Hos. 2:3-4). Israel wrongly assumed her prosperity had come from Baal (Hos. 2:5), but God would cut off her resources (Hos. 2:6), and though Israel will continue in familiar paths of idolatry for a while, she will eventually seek the Lord (Hos. 2:7). God reveals it was He Who provided blessing, but Israel took what was given and gave it to Baal (Hos. 2:8). God promises to remove His provisions, humiliate Israel, and bring her festivities to an end (Hos. 2:9-13). Afterwards, the Lord will allure Israel back to Himself “and speak kindly to her” (Hos. 2:14). He will provide blessing, like that which was given at the beginning of their relationship (Hos. 2:15), and the language of mutual love will be renewed (Hos. 2:16), and the names of foreign lovers will not be mentioned again (Hos. 2:17). God promises to provide blessing to His people, which includes no more hostility and war (Hos. 2:18). Then using language of renewed marital vows, God declares, “I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in compassion, and I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD” (Hos. 2:19-20). God will then bring agricultural prosperity upon His bride, providing nourishment and pleasure (Hos. 2:21-22). The Lord concludes, “I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ and they will say, ‘You are my God!’” (Hos. 2:23). There are times when God’s people are unfaithful to Him and turn to other sources for things only He can provide. When this happens, the Lord will cut off our supply and bring us to the place of humility, where we have no place to look but to Him; then, when humility comes, He restores our walk with Him, which includes His blessings. 

Hosea 1:1-11

Hosea 1:1-11

December 8, 2018

     God called Hosea to marry a woman who would be unfaithful to him (Hos. 1:1-2), and the prophet chose to marry Gomer (Hos. 1:3). It is not known whether Gomer was a prostitute at the time of the marriage (perhaps she was a temple prostitute), or whether she became one afterward. “The expression ‘adulterous wife’ (lit., ‘wife of adultery’) does not describe her condition at the time of marriage, but anticipates what she proved to be, a wife characterized by unfaithfulness.”[1] Gomer bore three children to Hosea during the time of her infidelity (Hos. 1:3-9). This unusual command of God was intended to make Hosea’s life a pedagogical analogy of God and Israel. Negatively speaking, Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea, and Israel was unfaithful to God. Positively speaking, Hosea loved Gomer and was faithful to her, and God loved and was faithful to Israel. It should be noted that God has called other prophets to behavior that pedagogically pictures His relationship with His people, such as when Isaiah was called to go naked and barefoot for three years (Isa. 20:1-4), or when He called Ezekiel to lay on his left side for three hundred and ninety days (Ezek. 4:1-5), then to lay on his right side for forty days (Ezek. 4:6), and to eat a barely cake that had been cooked over human excrement (Ezek. 4:12). Gomer’s first child was a son named Jezreel (Hos. 1:3b-5), a place noted for its bloodshed, where Jehu overthrew king Joram, as God commanded (2 Ki. 9:1-26), but went too far and killed Ahaziah and his family, as God had not commanded (2 Ki. 9:27-28; 10:12-14). Gomer then conceived and gave birth to a daughter named Lo-Ruhamah, which means “no compassion” (Hos. 1:6-7). This meant that God’s compassion for His people was now replaced by His demand for justice. Lastly, Gomer conceived and bore another son named Lo-Ammi, which means “not my people” (Hos. 1:8-9). This meant that Israel would no longer experience the blessings associated with being close to God and walking with Him.

  • "The Lord no longer regarded the kingdom of Israel as His people or Himself as their God. He did not mean, of course, that He would break His unconditional promises to His people (e.g., Exod. 6:7; Lev. 26:12; Deut. 26:17–18), but that the relationship that they had enjoyed so far would come to an end. The last phrase of verse 9 literally is “I [am] not I AM [‘ehyeh] to you” (cf. Exod. 3:14). He would withdraw the covenant He had so dramatically made with the revelation of this same name. He would remove protection that He had formerly provided and allow another nation to invade and discipline His people."[2]

     The message of judgment is followed by one of salvation, where God reaffirmed His unconditional covenant promise that Israel would be numerous and would be called “sons of the living God” (Hos. 1:10). He also stated there would come a time when the kingdom would be united, and Israel and Judah would be one people, with one leader (Hos. 1:11).

 

[1] Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., “Hosea,” 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), 1379.

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

Introduction to Hosea

Introduction to Hosea

December 8, 2018

     Hosea prophesied to Israel, the northern kingdom, about their spiritual and moral decline as they trusted in foreign alliances rather than God and repeatedly worshiped idols (spiritual adultery). He prophesied in a politically hostile climate in which several kings were murdered by their successors (753-723 B.C.). Zechariah had reigned as king for six months and was murdered by Shallum (2 Ki. 15:8-10), and Shallum reigned one month and was murdered by Menahem, who reigned for ten years and died of unknown causes (2 Ki. 15:13-22). Menahem’s son, Pekahiah, reigned two years and was murdered by Pekah (2 Ki. 15:22-25), and Pekah reigned twenty years and was murdered by Hoshea (2 Ki. 15:27-30), who reigned for nine years and was defeated by Shalmaneser, king of Assyria (2 Ki. 17:1-6). This behavior is symptomatic of the spiritual decline that started with Israel’s leadership and influenced the thoughts, values, and behaviors of the nation.

     Sin, judgment, and salvation are at the core of Hosea’s message to Israel. Israel was guilty of idolatry, particularly the worship of Baal, the Canaanite fertility god (Hosea 4:17; 8:4-6; 11:2; 13:2). Israel’s covenant relationship with the Lord was likened to a marriage; therefore, when she went after other gods, it was regarded as spiritual adultery (Hosea 1:2; 2:2-5; 3:1; 4:11-15; 5:4; 6:10). In the midst of these historical events, God called Hosea to marry a woman who would become unfaithful to him, yet he was to love her in spite of her infidelity, and in this sense, his marriage serves as a pedagogical analogy of God’s covenant love for Israel.

     The prophet’s message is understood according to the background of the Mosaic covenant and the Deuteronomic blessings (Deut. 28:1-14) and cursings (Deut. 28:15-68). Israel had reached zero hour and there was no offer of repentance, only a message that judgment was coming (Hosea 1:2-9; 2:2-13; 4:1-5:15; 6:4-11:7; 11:12-13:16). However, according to the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:1-3), God’s people would never be completely destroyed, and so there was also a message of salvation and hope (Hosea 1:10-2:1; 2:14-3:5; 6:1-3; 11:8-11: 14:1-9).

Introduction to the Minor Prophets Part 2

Introduction to the Minor Prophets Part 2

December 1, 2018

The Purpose and Function of the Prophets

     The OT prophets often served as guides and counselors to Israel’s monarchical leaders, always directing them to live in conformity to God’s law. When God’s leaders and people turned away from Him, the prophet functioned as a prosecuting attorney, pointing out their violation of the law and the pending consequences if they did not turn back to the Lord (i.e. repent). If Israel persisted in sin, God would execute His judgments in ever increasing severity, until they were eventually destroyed and removed from the land. However, if God’s people, while in captivity, would humble themselves and turn back to Him, He would forgive their sin and restore their blessings (Deut. 30:1-5; cf. Isa. 1:9).

     It can be said of God’s prophets: 1) they were individually called from all walks of life (unlike kings and priests who were to follow a strict lineage), 2) they were God’s voice of revelation to His covenant people, 3) they were forthtellers and foretellers, 4) they served as God’s prosecuting attorneys against those who violated His laws, 5) and they were reformers, calling God’s people back to orthodoxy and obedience from the heart.

  • "The voice of the prophet was heard in Israel only in times of national apostasy. God normally communicated with His people through kings and priests, but when these channels failed, He spoke through prophets. When a prophet was chosen and anointed, he took precedence over both king and priest. There was no prophetic succession like that of Israel’s kings and priests, but in time a prophetic order did emerge. The prophets were God’s “ministers without portfolio.” Drawn from all ranks and from all regions of the country, they owed allegiance to no one but God. They spoke with a divine authority and occasionally their words were reinforced by miracles. Speaking for God, the prophets addressed the moral depravities, social injustices, and spiritual apostasies of their times. Many of them were political statesmen of the highest order who understood the world of their day and had a wide view of the future."[1]

     The twelve minor prophets of Israel and Judah are concerned with the behavior of God’s people, who had turned away from a life of obedience to the Lord and continually slipped into moral decline. Though there are some future prophecies given in their writings, they are primarily prophesying direct revelation from God, who is concerned with their departure from His commands set forth in the Mosaic Law. Much of what the prophets preached to their audience is summarized in the words of Micah, who said, “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).

     Much of the language of the prophets is judgmental and assumes their hearers know they are in a covenant relationship with God which clearly pronounced promises of blessing and cursing dependent on whether they obey or disobey His Word (read Deut. 28:1-68; 30:15-20). The word blessing translates the Hebrew noun בְּרָכָה berakah, which occurs sixty seven times in the OT. In Deuteronomy 28, the word refers to the tangible goodness that makes life enjoyable and rich, which is promised to His covenant people, Israel, if they would simply obey His commands. Areas of blessing include:

  1. All locations at all times (Deut. 28:3, 6).
  2. Healthy offspring, crops, and livestock (Deut. 28:4-5, 8, 11).
  3. Military success (Deut. 28:7).
  4. Fruitful labor (Deut. 28:8, 12a).
  5. International recognition and respect (Deut. 28:9-10).
  6. Financial prosperity (Deut. 28:12b).
  7. Serving as an international leader to other nations (Deut. 28:13).

     God also promised to bring curses, which would undo all the blessings and bring Israel down, if they disobeyed (Deut. 28:15-68). The Hebrew noun קְלָלָה qelalah is translated curse in Deuteronomy 28:15 & 45. “The basic meaning of this root sets forth the quality of ‘slightness’ as to provision, speed, or circumstance…this root is used of intending a lowered position, technically, to curse.”[2] In Deuteronomy 28:16-19, Moses uses the Hebrew verb אָרָר arar six times, which means, “to bind with a curse.”[3] The form of the verb is passive, which means a curse is received by the nation of Israel if they turn away from God. The cursing could be avoided if God’s people would simply obey the Lord (Deut. 28:15, 20, 45-47, 58-59, 62; 29:25-28; 30:17-18).

     Israel repeatedly pursued idols and human alliances to satisfy their desires and solve their problems, and thus they entered into a prolonged period of rebellion. God eventually brought destruction, as He’d promised, and He used the Assyrians and Babylonians as His disciplinary agents. The Assyrians were aggressive in their efforts to conquer surrounding kingdoms, and God used them to destroy the 10 northern tribes known as Israel. This destruction occurred in 722 B.C. Later, God used the Babylonians to destroy the 2 southern tribes known as Judah, and this happened in 586 B.C. Eventually, God released His people from Babylonian captivity and many returned to repatriate the land from which they’d come, and God called several prophets to help them adjust, and to remind them about their obligation to keep the Mosaic Law and remain faithful.

     In summary, the study of the Minor Prophets considers the lives and ministries of men who were called from all walks of life to serve as God’s messengers to His disobedient people. The prophets were forthtellers and foretellers, addressing issues such as monarchical pride, national idolatry, and socio-economic injustice on the poor; pronouncing judgment if God’s people would not turn back to Him. In addition to the promise of judgment, God also spoke positively of future blessings that He would bring upon His people; and this is based upon His merciful character, and His integrity to be faithful to His unconditional covenant promises through Abraham and David.

 

[1] John Phillips, Exploring the Minor Prophets: An Expository Commentary, The John Phillips Commentary Series (Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp., 2009).

[2] Leonard J. Coppes, “2028 קָלַל,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 800.

[3] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 91.

Introduction to the Minor Prophets Part 1

Introduction to the Minor Prophets Part 1

December 1, 2018

     The word prophet translates the Hebrew word נָבִיא nabi (Grk. προφήτης prophetes), which means “speaker, herald, preacher,”[1] and refers to one who was called to be the spokesman for another; for example, it was used of Aaron who was the spokesman for Moses (Ex.7:1-2). The prophets were primarily men, but did include women such as Miriam (Ex. 15:20), Deborah (Jdg. 4:4), Huldah (2 Ki. 22:14), and Anna (Luke 2:36). They were channels of communication who received God’s revelation directly and then communicated it to others (Ex. 4:12; Jer. 1:9; Amos 1:3), and sometimes they served as intercessors to God (Gen. 20:7; Ex. 32:10-14; 1 Sam. 12:17, 19). There were true prophets to be obeyed (Deut. 18:18; 34:10-11; 1 Sam. 3:20; 2 Chron. 25:15; 28:9; Hag. 1:13; Acts 11:27-28; 21:10-11) and false prophets to be ignored (Deut. 13:1-5; 18:21-22; Neh. 6:12-13; Jer. 23:25-28; Matt. 7:15; 24:24; Acts 13:6; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1-3; Rev. 2:20). In the NT, the gift of prophecy was for the edification of others (1 Cor. 14:3).

     We know about specific prophets such as Elijah and Elisha because they’re mentioned in the writings of others (1 Ki. 17:1-2; 19:15-21), but there were numerous unnamed prophets mentioned as well (1 Sam. 10:5; 19:20; 1 Ki. 18:4). Of all the prophets mentioned in Scripture, only sixteen wrote books, and these are classified into two groups known as the Major Prophets and Minor Prophets. This distinction is based on the overall size of their writings and not their importance. The Major Prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.[2] The Minor Prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Some of the Minor Prophets were called to preach to the ten northern tribes of Israel and others to the two southern tribes of Judah, and their ministries span a period of roughly four hundred years.

     In Jewish tradition the Minor Prophets are referred to as the Book of the Twelve because they were all written on a single scroll. The English Bible follows the order set forth in the Hebrew Bible, but this order is not chronological. The following charts provide an overview of prophet, audience, approximate date of ministry, his contemporaries, and the world power that was often the prevailing threat upon God’s people.

 

Overview of the Twelve Minor Prophets[3]

 

Prophet

Audience

Date

B.C.

Contemporaries

World Power

Hosea

Israel

756-725

Isaiah, Amos, Micah

Assyria

Joel

Judah Pre-exilic

830-810

Elisha

Assyria

Amos

Israel

760-757

Hosea

Assyria

Obadiah

Judah (Edom)

848

Elijah

Assyria

Jonah

Nineveh

ca. 800

None

Assyria

Micah

Judah Pre-exilic

735-690

Isaiah, Hosea

Assyria

Nahum

Judah Pre-exilic

ca. 640

Zephaniah

Assyria

Habakkuk

Judah Pre-exilic

608-597

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel

Babylonia

Zephaniah

Judah Pre-exilic

640-630

Nahum, Jeremiah

Assyria

Haggai

Judah Post-exilic

520

Zechariah

Medo-Persia

Zechariah

Judah Post-exilic

520-475

Haggai, Esther

Medo-Persia

Malachi

Judah Post-exilic

ca. 435

Nehemiah

Medo-Persia

 

Chronological Order of the Twelve Minor Prophets

 

Prophet

Audience

Date

B.C.

Contemporaries

World Power

Obadiah

Judah (Edom)

848

Elijah

Assyria

Joel

Judah Pre-exilic

830-810

Elisha

Assyria

Jonah

Nineveh

ca. 800

None

Assyria

Amos

Israel

760-757

Hosea

Assyria

Hosea

Israel

756-725

Isaiah, Amos, Micah

Assyria

Micah

Judah Pre-exilic

735-690

Isaiah, Hosea

Assyria

Nahum

Judah Pre-exilic

ca. 640

Zephaniah

Assyria

Zephaniah

Judah Pre-exilic

640-630

Nahum, Jeremiah

Assyria

Habakkuk

Judah Pre-exilic

608-597

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel

Babylonia

Haggai

Judah Post-exilic

520

Zechariah

Medo-Persia

Zechariah

Judah Post-exilic

520-475

Haggai, Esther

Medo-Persia

Malachi

Judah Post-exilic

ca. 435

Nehemiah

Medo-Persia

 

A Brief History of Israel

      Israel—as the special people of God—began with a unilateral covenant which God made with Abraham, promising “I will make you a great nation” (Gen. 12:2). Though Abraham had children by different women (Sarah, Hagar, and Keturah), the Abrahamic promises were restated only through Isaac (Gen. 17:19-21) and Jacob (Gen. 28:10-15). Because of a crippling encounter with God, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, which means “he who wrestles with God” (Gen. 32:24-30). The sons of Israel (i.e. Jacob) went into captivity in Egypt for four hundred years as God had foretold (Gen. 15:13), and remained there until He called them out through His servants Moses and Aaron (Ex. 3:1-10). God delivered Israel from Egyptian bondage through a series of ten plagues that destroyed Pharaoh and the nation (Exodus chapters 5-14). Then God entered into a bilateral covenant relationship with Israel at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:1-8), and gave them 613 commands—which comprise the Mosaic Law—and these commands are commonly divided into moral, civil, and ceremonial codes. Israel would know blessing if they obeyed God’s commands (Deut. 28:1-15), and cursing if they did not (Deut. 28:16-68). The nation of Israel remained in the wilderness for forty years while God tested and humbled them (Deut. 8:2-5). After Moses died, God brought the Israelites into the land of Canaan (i.e. the land promised to Abraham) under the leadership of Joshua (Deut. 31:23; Josh. 1:1-9), and there the land was divided, giving a portion to each of the descendants of Jacob. After Joshua died (Josh. 24:29-31), Israel repeatedly fell into idolatry and suffered divine discipline for their rebellion (read Judges). This went on for nearly three hundred years as Israel fell into a pattern of idolatry, after which God would send punishment, then the people would cry out to God, Who would relent of His judgment and send a judge to deliver them, then the people would serve God for a time, and then fall back into idolatry. The period of the Judges is marked by people who did not obey the Lord, but “did what was right in their own eyes” (Judg. 17:6; 21:25). Samuel was the last of Israel’s judges, and then the people cried for a king because they wanted to be like the other nations (1 Sam. 8:4-5). God gave them their request (1 Sam. 8:22), and Saul became the first king in Israel (1 Sam. 10:1). Though Saul started well, he quickly turned away from the Lord and would not obey God’s commands. Saul reigned for approximately 40 years and his leadership was basically a failure (1 Sam. 13:1; cf. Acts 13:21). Later, God raised up David to be king in Israel (1 Sam. 16:1-13), and David reigned for 40 years and was an ideal king who followed God and encouraged others to do the same (1 Ki. 2:10-11). God decreed David’s throne would be established forever through one of his descendants (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:3-4), and this is Jesus (Luke 1:31-33). Solomon reigned for 40 years after David (1 Ki. 2:12; 11:42-43), and though He was wise and did many good things (ruled well, built the temple, wrote Scripture, etc.), he eventually turned away from God and worshiped idols (1 Ki. 11:1-10). The nation was united under Saul, David, and Solomon.

     Because of Solomon’s idolatry (1 Ki. 11:1-10), God divided the kingdom into two parts (1 Ki. 11:11-41; 12:1-33). Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, ruled over the two southern tribes (Judah) and Jeroboam ruled over the ten northern tribes (Israel). Israel—the northern kingdom—had 19 kings throughout its history and all were bad, as they led God’s people into idolatry (i.e. the “sins of Jeroboam” 1 Ki. 16:31; 2 Ki. 3:3; 10:31; 13:2). The ten northern tribes came under divine discipline because of their idolatry and were destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. Judah—the southern kingdom—had 20 kings throughout its history and 8 were good (some more than others), as they obeyed God and led others to do the same (they were committed to the Lord like David, 1 Ki. 15:11). However, Judah repeatedly fell into idolatry—as the 10 northern tribes had done—and were eventually destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The dispersion of Israel was promised by God if they turned away from Him and served other gods (Deut. 28:63-68).

 

[1] Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 661–662.

[2] English translations of the Bible place Daniel among the prophets, and there is good cause for this, since Daniel received direct revelation from God and was called a prophet by Jesus (Matt. 24:15). Daniel is also listed among the prophets in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament). However, the Hebrew Bible—called the Tanakh, an acronym for the Torah (Law), Nebi’im (Prophets), and Kethuvim (Writings)—places Daniel among the Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, etc.). It’s possible that the book of Daniel was listed under the Writings in the Hebrew Bible because his words and life modeled the wisdom one needed to live successfully in a pagan culture. Also, unlike the other prophets, Daniel was not called to deliver a message to others which demanded behavioral and social reform.

[3] Some this material, including dates and audience, is derived from Gleason Archer Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 3rd. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 346.

Revelation 22:1-21

Revelation 22:1-21

November 10, 2018

Revelation 22 provides a further description of the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22:1-5), as well as a closing epilogue to the book (Rev. 22:6-21). The chapter opens with a scene in which John is shown “a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Rev. 22:1). On either side of the river is the tree of life, which bears “twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2). There will not be any curse upon the creation, for “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads” (Rev. 22:3-4). And there will be no need of the light of a lamp, or of the sun, “because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). The angel then tells John, “these words are faithful and true” (Rev. 22:6), which means they can be accepted as fact. The theme of the book is reiterated in verse 7, where we are told that Jesus is coming quickly (cf. 12, 20), and there is a blessing pronounced upon those who take seriously the words of this prophecy (Rev. 22:7). In a moment of emotional fervor, John then falls at the feet of the angel and worships him, and for a second time is rebuked and told to “worship God” (Rev. 22:8-9; cf. 19:10). John is instructed not to seal up the words of this prophecy (Rev. 22:10), and is informed that people, both the wicked and the righteous, will continue as they are (Rev. 22:11). Jesus then states that He is “coming quickly” and will reward each person according to his deeds (Rev. 22:12; cf. 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10-11). As the “Alpha and Omega” (Rev. 22:13), the eternal One, He can promise and fulfill His word. He then contrasts the righteous with the wicked. The former have the right to eat from the “tree of life” (Rev. 22:14), whereas the wicked are those “outside” of God’s blessing (Rev. 22:15). Jesus’ word is confirmed through His messenger to the churches. He then describes Himself as “the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Rev 22:16; cf. Matt. 1:1). The Holy Spirit and the church (called a “bride”) extend an offer of salvation to any who will heed, saying, “let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (Rev 22:17). The book closes with a pronouncement of cursing to anyone who adds or subtracts from the words of this prophecy (Rev. 22:18-19), and a final word that Jesus is “coming quickly” (Rev. 22:20). John then writes, “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev. 22:21).

Revelation 21:1-27

Revelation 21:1-27

November 10, 2018

John witnessed the destruction of the current heavens and earth and the creation of a new heaven and earth (Rev. 21:1; cf. 2 Pet. 3:10-13), and this included the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven (Rev. 21:2). The new Jerusalem could be what Jesus mentioned in John 14:1-3. The new creation will be free from any sin, sickness, pain, tears, or death, and will be a perfect environment where people will live and commune with God (Rev. 21:3-4). Jesus is the one who will accomplish these things, and the one who overcomes will inherit these blessings (Rev. 21:5-7), but unbelievers will be rejected (Rev. 21:8). An angel then showed John the beauty of Jerusalem which descends upon the new earth (Rev. 21:9-14), which city is fifteen hundred miles square (Rev. 21:15-16), with walls that are 72 yards thick (Rev. 21:17). It’s possible the city could be shaped either like a pyramid or a cube. The material of the city consists of precious stones and jewels (Rev. 21:18-21). There will be no temple in the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:22), and the presence of God the Father and the Son will illumine the city (Rev. 21:23). The nations of the world will walk by the light of Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24-25), and will bring their glory into it (Rev. 21:26), and nothing unclean will ever appear in it (Rev. 21:27).

Revelation 20:1-15

Revelation 20:1-15

November 3, 2018

Revelation 20 reveals that Satan will be imprisoned and Jesus will reign on the earth for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-6), and afterward will judge the devil (Rev. 20:7-10), as well as all unbelievers (Rev. 20:11-15). The chapter opens with Satan being bound in the abyss—a spiritual prison—where he is confined for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3a), but afterward is released for a short time (Rev. 20:3b). Tribulational saints, who were martyred for their faith, are resurrected and will reign with Christ for a thousand years (Rev. 20:4). Unbelievers will be resurrected at the end of the millennial reign of Christ, and these are not participants in the “first resurrection” (Rev. 20:5). Concerning this, John wrote, “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6). After the thousand years, Satan is released from his spiritual prison and will immediately gather unbelievers to lead them in revolt against Christ and His saints (Rev. 20:7-8); however, he and is army are quickly defeated (Rev. 20:9). It is assumed that these who revolt against Christ at the end of His millennial reign are among the many children born to those who survived the Tribulation and entered the millennium with earthly bodies. Though these descendants will grow up under the reign of Christ and will outwardly submit to Him, they will harbor resentment and unbelief, and when given the opportunity to revolt, will rise up with Satan at his release and will seek to unseat Christ from His throne. “The Millennium will prove, among other things, that a nearly perfect earthly environment (Isa. 35) and universal knowledge of the Lord (Isa. 11:9) will not change human hearts. This must be done personally and voluntarily, and multitudes will never do that during this long period.”[1] Satan is then thrown alive into the lake of fire, where the antichrist and false prophet have been during the thousand year reign of Christ, and there he remains forever (Rev. 20:10). Finally, John witnesses a great white throne, upon which Jesus sits, and “from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them” (Rev. 20:11). John saw “the dead”—all unbelievers—standing before the throne, and books were opened, and “the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds” (Rev. 20:12). These are all people who have died throughout human history, whether on land or sea, and who have been held captive by “death and Hades” (Rev. 20:13). Then, death and Hades, as well as all unbelievers, are thrown into the lake of fire, where they will remain forever (Rev. 20:14-15). Since those who stand before the throne do not have God’s righteousness within them, they are judged according to their human good works, which are not sufficient to gain them entrance into heaven (Isa. 64:6; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5), and the fact that their names are not written in the book of life will ensure their assignment to the Lake of Fire forever (Rev. 20:14-15). The great white throne judgment, as well as the lake of fire, can be avoided if one will simply trust in Christ as Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 16:31; Eph. 2:8-9), receive forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:13-14), and the gifts of eternal life (John 3:16; 10:28) and righteousness (Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9).

 

[1]Charles C. Ryrie, Revelation: Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, Ill., Moody Press, 1996), 133-134.

Overview of the Millennial Kingdom - Revelation 20

Overview of the Millennial Kingdom - Revelation 20

November 3, 2018

The Bible reveals two aspects of God’s rule over His creation. The first is His universal rule in which He sovereignly decrees whatsoever comes to pass and “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). There are times when God accomplishes His will immediately without the assistance of others (such as in the creation), and other times He chooses to work mediately through creatures, both intelligent (angels and people), and simple (Balaam’s donkey). Concerning God’s universal rule, Scripture reveals, “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all” (Ps. 103:19), and “Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps. 135:6). Daniel writes, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth” (Dan 4:34b-35a; cf. 5:21; 1 Chron. 29:11-12).

The second is God’s earthly rule in which He governs through a human mediatorial administrator. The first account of such a rule is found in Genesis where the Lord assigned Adam and Eve to rule over the whole world (Gen. 1:26-28). Theirs was a mediatorial kingdom, which may be defined as “the rule of God through a divinely chosen representative who not only speaks and acts for God but also represents the people before God; a rule which has especial reference to the earth; and having as its mediatorial ruler one who is always a member of the human race.”[1] However, through an act of disobedience (Gen. 3:1-7), Adam and Eve forfeited their rulership to Satan, a fallen angelic creature, who rules through deception (2 Cor. 11:3, 14; Rev 12:9; 20:3, 8) , blindness (2 Cor. 4:3-4), and enslavement (Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). Since the fall of Adam and Eve, Satan has had dominion over this world and is called “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30; 16:1), “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), and “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). When tempting Jesus, Satan offered Him “the kingdoms of the world” (Matt. 4:8-9), and they were his to give. However, the Bible also reveals that Satan has been judged (Gen. 3:15; John 16:11), and in the future will be cast out of heaven (Rev. 12:7-9), confined for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3), and eventually cast into the Lake of Fire forever (Rev. 20:10). It must always be remembered that God sovereignly permits Satan a limited form of rulership for a limited period of time, always restraining him and his demonic forces, if they seek to transgress the boundaries He’s established for them (Job. 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Mark 15:1-13; 2 Pet. 2:4).

Subsequent to Adam and Eve, God has worked to reestablish His kingdom on earth through the promises and covenants offered to Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3), the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), the nation Israel (Ex. 19:5-6; Deut. 29:1-29; 30:1-10; Jer. 31:31-33), and king David (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:3-4, 34-37). When Jesus came, He repeatedly offered the earthly kingdom to Israel (Matt. 3:1-2; Matt. 4:17; 10:5-7), a literal kingdom they could physically enter into (Matt. 5:20; 6:10; Luke 19:11; Acts 1:3-6). But they rejected Him and His offer (Matt. 11:20; Matt. 12:14; Mark 15:12-15; John 19:15); therefore, the earthly kingdom was postponed for a future time (Matt. 21:43; cf. Matt. 19:28; 25:31; Luke 22:28-30; Acts 1:3-6; Rev. 20:4-6).

We are currently living in the church age, which will come to an end when the church is raptured to heaven (1 Cor. 15:51-52; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Afterward, there will be a period of time known as the Tribulation, which will begin when the Antichrist signs a seven year peace treaty with Israel (Dan. 9:24-27; cf. Revelation chapters 6-18). The time of Tribulation will come to an end when Jesus returns to earth to put down rebellion (Rev. 19:11-21) and establish His millennial kingdom (Matt. 25:31; Rev. 11:15; 20:1-6). The word millennium is derived from the Latin words mille which means “thousand” and annum which means “year”. The word millennium translates the Greek word χίλιοι chilioi, which occurs six times in Revelation 20:2-7. After His second coming, Jesus will rule the whole earth, from Jerusalem, on the throne of David (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:3-4, 34-37; Jer. 23:5-6; 33:14-15; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14, 27; Matt. 6:10; Luke 1:30-33; cf. Mark 11:9-10), He will rule absolutely with “a rod of iron” (Ps. 2:9; Rev. 19:15), and afterward His kingdom will become an eternal kingdom (Dan. 2:44; 7:27; 1 Cor. 15:24). King David himself will be resurrected to rule with Christ (Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23-24). Jesus will rule the nations in righteousness, advocating for the poor and weak, as well as suppressing wickedness and rebellion (Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-9; Jer. 23:5-6; 33:14-18). People will have good health (Isa. 35:5-6), live long lives, and experience improvements in social and economic life (Isa. 65:19-25; Amos 9:13-14), and a new worship system will be implemented (see Ezekiel chapters 40-46). There will be no more war (Isa. 2:2-4; 32:17-18; Mic. 4:1-4), and harmful animals will no longer be a threat (Isa. 11:6-9; Ezek. 34:25). Israel will possess all the Promised Land (Ezek. 36:24; 39:25-29; Amos 9:15; cf. Gen. 15:18-21), and will be exalted over the Gentiles (Isa. 14:1-2; 49:22-23; 60:14-17; 61:6-7). The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord (Isa. 11:9; Jer. 31:33-34), and the Holy Spirit will indwell all believers (Ezek. 36:27; 37:14; cf. Jer. 31:33). The Gentiles will participate in the Jewish feasts and sacrificial system (Zech. 14:16). Satan will be bound during the reign of Christ (Rev. 20:1-3), but sadly, this will not change his rebellious nature, or the nature of those who follow him (Rev. 20:7-10).

 

[1] Alva McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom (Winona Lake, Ind. BMH Books, 2009), 41.

Revelation 19:1-21

Revelation 19:1-21

October 20, 2018

In Revelation 19 Jesus Christ fulfills all the prophecy of Scripture regarding His Second Coming to earth in anticipation of the establishment of His Millennial reign in righteousness. The chapter opens with a fourfold praise of God in which martyred believers and angels shout “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous; for He has judged the great harlot who was corrupting the earth with her immorality, and He has avenged the blood of His bond-servants on her” (Rev. 19:1-2; cf. 3-6). The next scene is the marriage of the Lamb, which presents Jesus as the Bridegroom and the church as His bride (Rev. 19:7-9; cf. 2 Cor. 11:2). All Christians are positionally righteous in God’s sight because of His imputed righteousness (Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21); however, the beauty of the church is here connected with her righteous acts, for she “has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). John explains, “It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean” (Rev. 19:8a), which seems to refer to the good works God prepares for us to walk in (Eph. 2:10). But we must choose that righteous life, and in doing so, we adorn ourselves with beautiful attire, “for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Rev 19:8b). Concerning this, Dr. Charles Ryrie states:

  • The delicate balance between the sovereignty of God and human responsibility is maintained in the two phrases “has made herself ready” (she did it) and “it was given to her” (God did it). The bride’s array is “fine linen,” which is explained as “the righteous acts of the saints.” In other words, the bride’s wedding garment will be made up of the righteous deeds done in life. The bride is the bride because of the righteousness of Christ; the bride is clothed for the wedding because of her acts. Righteous acts flow from a righteous character, which is entirely of the grace of God.[1]

John then records the first of two incidents in which he is rebuked for bowing and worshipping an angel (Rev. 19:10; cf. 22:8). Jesus then descends from heaven on a white horse (Rev. 19:11-13), with the armies of heaven (Rev. 19:14), and defeats His enemies with a word (Rev. 19:15-16). An angel invites the birds of heaven to feast upon the corpses of those who are killed (Rev. 19:17-18). Jesus defeats the Antichrist and his armies in a moment (Rev. 19:19), and seizes the Antichrist and his false prophet and throws them alive into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20; cf. Rev. 20:10). And all the birds were filled with the flesh of those defeated by Christ (Rev. 19:21). The return of Christ is praiseworthy news to those who are in heaven and on the earth who love Him and look forward to His coming. However, it is bad news to those who hate him and resist His will (2 Thess. 1:3-10; Rev. 19:11-21).

 

[1] Charles C. Ryrie, Revelation: Everyman’s Bible Commentary (Chicago, Ill. Moody Press, 1996), 128.

The Second Coming of Jesus

The Second Coming of Jesus

October 20, 2018

 

The Old Testament revealed the coming of the Jewish Messiah, both as a Suffering Servant (Ps. 22:6, 12-18; Isa. 50:6-7; 53:1-12; Dan. 9:26; Zech. 13:7), and as a reigning descendant of David (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:3-4, 34-37), who would establish an earthly kingdom in Israel (Ps. 2:1-12; Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-5; Jer. 23:5; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14). The New Testament clearly identifies Jesus as the promised Messiah (Matt. 1:1, 16; Luke 1:31-33; John 1:41-42). At His first coming, Jesus repeatedly offered the earthly Davidic kingdom to Israel (Matt. 4:17, 23; 9:35; 10:7), but His offer was rejected by the Jewish leadership and the majority of people (Matt. 11:20; Matt. 12:14; 27:22-23), so the kingdom was postponed for a future time (Matt. 21:43).

After the kingdom was rejected, Jesus began to explain to His disciples that he would be crucified, buried, and resurrected after three days (Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19). He then died for our sins (John 19:1-30; cf. Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:6-8; 1 Pet. 3:18), was buried (John 19:31-42), and rose again on the third day as He’d prophesied (John 20:1-31; cf. 1 Cor. 15:3-4).

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to numerous persons, namely, Mary Magdalene and other women (John 20:10-18; Matt. 28:8-9), two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32), the disciples without Thomas (John 20:19-25), the disciples with Thomas (John 20:26-29), the disciples by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23), Peter, James, and more than 500 brethren at one time (1 Cor. 15:5-7), and the disciples at Jerusalem before His ascension (Acts 1:3-9). After His ascension, Jesus also appeared to Stephen (Acts 7:56), Paul (Acts 9:1-6; 1 Cor. 15:8), and John on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9-18).

Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus prophesied He would return again (Matt. 16:27; 19:28; 25:31). After His resurrection and ascension, an angel confirmed to Jesus’ disciples that He would come back (Acts 1:11), and this will happen after the time of Tribulation (Matt. 24:29-30; Rev. 1:7; 19:11-16; 20:1-6).

The Second Coming is distinguished from the Rapture of the Church where Christ takes all Christians to heaven (John 14:1-3; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; cf. 1 Cor. 15:51-53). The Rapture of the Church occurs just prior to the seven year Tribulation.

Revelation 18:1-24

Revelation 18:1-24

October 13, 2018

In Revelation 18, Babylon is pictured as a commercial center that is destroyed by God, because it promotes the glorification of self and pleasure above Him. An angel informs John that Babylon—which is noted for its uncleanness—has fallen (Rev. 18:1-2), and that the kings and merchants of earth have participated in her spiritual immorality (Rev. 18:3). God then calls for His people to “come out of her”, so they will not participate in her sin and judgments, for her sins have reached heaven, and God is about to render judgment against her (Rev. 18:4-6). Babylon is pictured as a woman who sees herself as a complacent queen who will never experience hardship, but God will judge her in one day (Rev. 18:7-8). And the kings and merchants of the earth who enjoyed her pleasures and capitalized on her practices will weep over her destruction (Rev. 18:9-10), for all her luxurious commodities and products are destroyed (Rev. 18:12-19). But heaven, and God’s people, will rejoice because of God’s righteous judgment on her, that she is forever destroyed (Rev. 18:20-23), because she was responsible for the murder of “prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth” (Rev. 18:24).

Revelation 17:1-18

Revelation 17:1-18

October 13, 2018

Babylon is called the “great harlot” (Rev. 17:1), and who entices and intoxicates the rulers and the masses of humanity “with the wine of her immorality” (Rev. 17:2). She is seen astride a scarlet beast (i.e. Antichrist), which has seven heads and ten horns (Rev. 17:3). The woman is pictured in regal attire, wearing precious jewels, holding a gold cup full of abominations and immoralities (Rev. 17:4), and on her forehead was written, “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth” (Rev. 17:5), and she is drunk with the blood of the saints (Rev. 17:6). Religious harlotry is the seductive promotion of false religions, ecumenicalism, and immorality that draws people away from faithfulness and obedience to God (Jer. 3:6-10; Ezek. 16:30-34; Jas. 4:4). An angel then explains the vision of the woman and the beast that carries her (Rev. 17:7). John learns the beast is the Antichrist who was wounded and revived (Rev. 17:8; cf. 13:3), and the seven heads are seven mountains (Rev. 17:9), which refer to seven kings/kingdoms (Rev. 17:10). The beast is himself an eighth king who eventually goes to destruction (Rev. 17:11). The ten horns refer to ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but will receive authority to rule with the beast for a short time, and they give their power and authority to Antichrist (Rev. 17:12-13). These rulers, led by Antichrist, wage war against the Lamb of God and are defeated by Him (Rev. 17:14). The angel then explains that the waters refer to “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” which are dominated by Babylonianism (Rev. 17:15). Eventually, the mutual arrangement between the great harlot, the kings of the earth and beast is dissolved, and the latter will “will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire” (Rev. 17:16). This will happen according to God’s sovereign control, “For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God should be fulfilled” (Rev. 17:17). From this verse we learn about primary and secondary causes. God never causes nor condones evil; however, He can and does control the evil actions of people to accomplish His will (cf. Gen. 45:4-5; Acts 4:26-28). The sovereignty of God in controlling people and circumstances does not abnegate the responsibility of people who act contrary to His will. The mature believer learns to see the sovereign hand of God that lies behind all people and circumstances, and lives by faith, trusting God is in control of all events (Rom. 8:28). Finally, Babylon is described as the woman who “reigns over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 17:18).

Revelation 17:1 - Babylonianism

Revelation 17:1 - Babylonianism

October 13, 2018

Babylon is named after the city of Babel, which was founded by a descendant of Noah named Nimrod, who is described as a “mighty hunter before the Lord” (Gen. 10:9). Moses tells us that Nimrod founded several cities, namely, “Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar” (Gen. 10:10). Shinar is in the region of what is today known as Iraq. Moses wrote about the origin of Babylon, with its values and practices.

  • Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Gen 11:1-4)

In this passage we observe these early descendants of Noah all spoke the same language and chose to settle in the land of Shinar contrary to God’s previous command to “fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). After settling, they began to use God’s resources of volition, intelligence, language, and building materials to build a city for themselves, as well as a tower into heaven. All of this was done to make a name for themselves, rather than to obey and glorify God. Their big plans and big tower were small in the sight of God, who “came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built” (Gen. 11:5). No matter how big their tower, it would never reach heaven, and the Lord condescended to see their production. Of course, the Lord knew all along what they were doing, and this satirical language helps us understand the work of men from the divine perspective. Because it was God’s will for them to fill the earth, He confused their language and scattered them over the earth (gen. 11:6-9).

  • The Bible teaches that those who exalt themselves shall be abased (Matt. 23:12). In this little story the proud rebellion was met by God in talionic judgment. What they feared the most came upon them, and the fame they craved came in the form of notoriety. By such justice God demonstrates his sovereignty over the foolish plans of mortals, turning their rebellion into submission to his will.[1]

Babylon is identified as the birthplace of organized rebellion against God, in which people used the Lord’s resources in defiance of His will. Babylon is mentioned over three hundred times in Scripture, and in several places is identified for her pride (Isa. 13:19), idolatry (Isa. 21:9; Jer. 51:44), and sorceries (Isa. 47:13). When Daniel was taken into Babylonian Captivity in 605 B.C., he and his friends were forced into a Chaldean reeducation program which was intended to assimilate him into the Babylonian culture which forced upon him “the literature and language of the Chaldeans” (Dan. 1:4), accepting a new name (Dan. 1:7), and serving as a governmental administrator (Dan. 1:17-21; 6:1-3).  By the time we get to the book of Revelation, it is seen both as a city and a system that promotes religious, political, and economic agendas that are antithetical to God. Babylon is also described as a great harlot who influences all of humanity (Rev. 17:1-5), is guilty of persecuting and murdering prophets and saints (Rev. 17:6), is a dwelling place of demons and unclean spirits (Rev. 18:2), and with whom “the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality” (Rev. 18:3). Eventually, Babylon is completely destroyed just prior to the Second Coming of Christ (Rev. 18:2, 10, 21).

Babylonianism is a philosophy of human autonomy that permeates all aspects of society including literature, music, art, politics, economics, business, academic institutions, and culture at large. It is a system of values that start and end with man, and is embraced by the vast majority of people who assign no serious thought of God to their discussions, plans, or projects, but who seek to use His resources independently of His wishes. Babylonianism is also the mother of all world religions, which provide people a system of beliefs and rituals whereby they can work their way to heaven by human effort. There is even a Babylonian form of Christianity, which undermines the grace of God and convinces people they are saved by good works.

Biblical Christianity is not a religion, whereby people bring themselves to God through ritual practices or good works. Rather, it presents the truth that God is holy and can have nothing whatsoever to do with sin (Hab. 1:13; 1 John 1:5), that people are helpless to save themselves (Rom. 4:1-5; 5:6-10; Gal. 2:16; Tit. 3:5), and are under His wrath (John 3:18; 36). The gospel message is that God provided a way for helpless sinners to be saved, and this is through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:3-4), who died in our place on the cross and paid the penalty for our sins (Rom. 5:6-8; Heb. 10:10-14; 1 Pet. 3:18). The simple truth of Scripture is that we are saved by grace alone (Eph. 2:8-9), through faith alone (John 3:16), in Christ alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), whose substitutionary death provides forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:13-14), eternal life (John 3:16; 10:28), and the gift of righteousness (Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9).

Biblical Christianity is more than just a way to be saved. It also provides a structured philosophical framework that tells us why everything exists (i.e. the universe, mankind, evil, etc.) and helps us to see God sovereignly at work in everything, providing purpose for our lives, and directing history toward the return of Christ. This gives us hope for the future; for “according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). When properly understood and applied, Scripture guards us from harmful cultural influences (Phil. 4:6-8), and directs and enriches our lives (Ps. 119:14, 111). Jeremiah wrote, “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts” (Jer. 15:16). It sets us free to enjoy God’s world and to pursue righteousness and goodness (Rom. 6:11-13; Tit. 2:11-14).

As Christians, must be careful that we do not fall into Babylonianism, either by following the lead of those who seek to silence or pervert the voice God, or be enticed by pleasures or activities that lead us to trust in people or things instead of Him. Rather, we must consciously place God at the center of our lives and pursue His glory, and humbly serve others above our own self-interests (Phil. 2:4-8).

 

[1] Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 244.

The Wrath of God

The Wrath of God

October 7, 2018

The subject of God’s wrath is mentioned throughout Scripture. A few examples of God’s wrath in the OT include the worldwide flood (Genesis 6-9), the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19), suppressing the rebellion of Korah (Num. 16:1-50), judging Solomon because of his idolatry (1 Ki. 11:9-11), and the Assyrian destruction of the ten tribes of Israel (2 Ki. 17:1-23). A few examples in the NT include Jesus’ anger at the hard-heartedness of religious leaders (Mark 3:1-6), His anger at the money changers in the Temple (John 2:13-16), God’s wrath during the Tribulation (Rev. 6:16-17; 14:9-10; 15:7; 16:1), at the second coming of Jesus (Rev. 19:15), and at the Great White throne judgments where unbelievers are cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

God’s wrath refers to His intense hatred of sin. God’s hatred of sin assumes the qualities of righteousness and holiness. Scripture states, “Righteous are You, O LORD, and upright are Your judgments” (Ps. 119:137), and “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; for all the nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed” (Rev. 15:4). Divine righteousness is that intrinsic, immutable, moral perfection of God, from which He commands all things, in heaven and earth, and declares as good that which conforms to His righteousness and as evil that which deviates. God’s holiness means that He is morally pure and set apart from all that is sinful. God’s wrath is the natural response to that which is contrary to His righteousness and holiness. When people behave contrary to God’s righteous and holy character, the Lord becomes angry. His anger is motivated by a desire to protect that which He loves. God loves righteousness and He loves His people. To perpetually act contrary to God’s righteousness will eventually bring a response of anger, and to attack that which God loves—His people—will bring about divine retribution.

God’s anger is never rash. In fact, many biblical passages reveal God is very patient with us and slow to anger. Scripture reveals, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Ex. 34:6), and “You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth” (Ps. 86:15; cf. Ps. 103:8; Jon. 4:2; Neh. 9:17). God’s patience allows people time to humble themselves and turn to Him before judgment comes. Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). Though God is patient, He is not patient forever, and there eventually comes a time when His judgment comes, both in time and in eternity.

God’s righteousness demands punishment for sin, but God’s love desires to save the sinner. We produce sin, but are helpless to deal with it. God alone solves our sin-problem, and the cross of Christ is that solution. At the cross God judged our sin as His righteousness requires, and extends grace to the sinner as His love desires. At the cross God satisfied every demand of His righteousness by judging our sin in the substitute of His Son, Jesus, who bore the wrath that rightfully belongs to us (Isa. 53:6-12; Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:8-9; 1 Pet. 2:21-24; 3:18). As a result, God is propitiated by the blood of Christ (Rom. 3:21-26; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10), and extends grace and love to undeserving sinners (John 3:16-18; Rom. 5:6-10; Eph. 2:1-9; Tit. 3:5). Those who reject Christ as Savior continue under God’s wrath (John 3:18, 36; Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Thess. 2:14-16; 5:9-10). Those who trust Jesus as their Savior receive forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:13-14), the imputation of God’s righteousness (Rom. 5:17-18; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9), are reconciled with God and are on friendly terms (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-19), have relational peace with Him (Rom. 5:1; Col. 1:20), will never know eternal condemnation (Rom. 8:1, 31-39), and will be spared from the wrath to come (Rom. 5:8-9; Eph. 2:1-7; 5:1-10; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 5:9-10). It should be noted there is a difference between wrath and discipline. The Christian who falls into a lifestyle of perpetual sin may know God’s discipline (Heb. 12:5-11), even to the point of death (1 Cor. 11:30; 1 John 5:16). But discipline is born out of God’s love for the believer, not His anger, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines” (Heb. 12:6), and “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline” (Rev. 3:19).

Is it alright for God’s people to get angry? The answer is yes and no. There is a sinful anger that God’s people must avoid (Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; Titus 1:7); however, there are times when we will experience injustice, and it is natural and valid to be angry when this happens. When writing to Christians at Ephesus, Paul stated, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Eph. 4:26-27). Anger is wrong when it leads us to sin (i.e. revenge, murder, etc.). As Christians, we must be careful with anger, for sin crouches near the one who harbors it, tempting that person to retaliate and exact revenge upon the offending party. Personal revenge is not the Christian way, for Scripture directs us, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). More so, we are to love and pray for our enemies (Luke 6:27-29), and to bless them (Rom. 12:14; 1 Pet. 3:8-9), if perhaps God may grant them saving grace (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Though God promises to avenge the innocent (2 Thess. 1:6-7; Rev. 6:9-11; 19:1-2); there may be times when He surprises us by showing grace and mercy to those who don’t deserve it, such as the grace shown to Paul when he was persecuting the church (Acts 9:1-6; Gal. 1:15-16), or the grace shown to us while we were sinners (Rom. 5:6-10).