Thinking on Scripture with Dr. Steven R. Cook
Steps to Spiritual Maturity

Steps to Spiritual Maturity

June 22, 2019

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

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

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

 

Jonah 2:1-10

Jonah 2:1-10

June 22, 2019

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

Jonah 1:1-17

Jonah 1:1-17

June 17, 2019

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

Introduction to the Book of Jonah

Introduction to the Book of Jonah

June 15, 2019

Author:

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

Audience:

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

Date of ministry:

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

Historical Background:

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

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

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

Message:

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

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

Outline:

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

 

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

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

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

Obadiah 1:1-21

Obadiah 1:1-21

June 1, 2019

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

Introduction to Obadiah

Introduction to Obadiah

June 1, 2019

Author:

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

Audience:

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

Date of ministry:

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

Background:

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

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

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

Message:

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

Outline:

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

 

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

[2] Ibid., 238.

Satanology

Satanology

May 27, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Amos 9:1-15

Amos 9:1-15

May 13, 2019

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

Amos 8:1-14

Amos 8:1-14

May 11, 2019

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

 

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

Amos 7:1-17

Amos 7:1-17

May 6, 2019

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

 

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

Amos 6:1-14

Amos 6:1-14

May 4, 2019

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

Amos 5:16-27

Amos 5:16-27

April 29, 2019

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

Amos 5:1-15

Amos 5:1-15

April 27, 2019

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

Amos 4:1-13

Amos 4:1-13

April 15, 2019

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

The Sins of Jeroboam

The Sins of Jeroboam

April 13, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Amos 3:1-15

April 7, 2019

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

Amos 2:4-16

Amos 2:4-16

April 6, 2019

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

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

Amos 1:1–2:3

Amos 1:1–2:3

April 2, 2019

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

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

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

 

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

Introduction to Amos

Introduction to Amos

April 2, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Outline:

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

A Husband’s Love and a Wife’s Submission

March 31, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joel 3:1-21

Joel 3:1-21

March 30, 2019

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

Joel 2:18-32

Joel 2:18-32

March 11, 2019

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

 

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

Joel 2:1-17

Joel 2:1-17

March 9, 2019

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

The Day of the Lord

The Day of the Lord

March 6, 2019

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joel 1:1-20

Joel 1:1-20

March 2, 2019

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

 

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

Introduction to Joel

Introduction to Joel

March 2, 2019

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

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

Date of ministry:

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

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

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

Purpose & Message:

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

Hosea 14:1-9

Hosea 14:1-9

February 12, 2019

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

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

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

 

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

Hosea 13:1-16

Hosea 13:1-16

February 9, 2019

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

 

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

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.