A study of Habakkuk 3.
Last week, in Habakkuk 1 & 2, we heard a difficult message of how God can use evil people to accomplish His will. When Habakkuk asked God to correct and admonish the Jewish people, God responded that it was all under control. God would rise up the evil Chaldeans to crush the Jewish people.
I imagine Habakkuk suddenly sitting down, stunned at the message. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
We’ve been studying the Minor Prophets for a while, and the message each week has been the same. Is the lesson Zephaniah? Answer: Wrath of God. Is the lesson Nahum? Wrath of God. Is the lesson Obadiah? Wrath of God.
If last week’s study of Habakkuk 1&2 was classroom instruction, then Habakkuk 3 today is a study of how to apply hard lessons. When we know the wrath of God is coming, like Habakkuk knew the Chaldeans were coming to conquer the Jews, how do we maintain our hope, our faith, our spirit?
Or closer to home, I couldn’t help but imagine a parallel in today’s times. Like we are praying to God that America seems to be losing its way, and please bring America back into God’s will. And God responds that he’s raising a mighty evil Islamic army called ISIS. How do we maintain our hope, our faith, our spirit?
In one sense, I guess we should expect that God uses evil people for His purposes. Romans 8:28 says “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” If evil exists, and God is in control, then it is only logical that the only evil that exists is that which God allows to exist for His purpose. Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess at the name of Jesus, and that includes evil knees and tongues.
Among all of God’s beautiful attributes, like love, compassion, peace, and joy, our fear of the Lord should recognize God’s ways are above our ways, and in our temporary lives on earth we may not fully appreciate all of God’s ways. God is in control of everything, not just the good, and he will use *everything* in order to purify His people. God’s plan for you and me is not our happiness, but our righteousness. And he tells us that if we are righteous, then we will also be happy. Win-win.
So if you or I feel that God’s plans seem to be working against us, we feel hurt or pain or disappointment, how do we come to terms with God? We want to always think of Him as our kindly heavenly father who gives us great gifts, but we don’t like the discipline and God’s justice. How do we maintain our joy when we know God is raising up evil Chaldeans against us?
II. Reassured by What We Hear, Habakkuk 3:1-2
Let’s look first at Habakkuk 3:1-2 –
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth.
Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
There’s an unfamiliar word there in verse 1, “On shigionoth.” I thought it was some sort of Klingon word, good thing I studied. Most scholars believe it’s a literary or maybe musical term, but one source I read believes it is a highly emotional poetic form. On shigionoth, Habakkuk is pouring out His heart in prayer to the Lord.
In verse 2, who has a translation that says “I fear” or “I was afraid?” This is not fear of the outcome, for our lesson today is how to have comfort that the Lord is in control. He says “I fear” which is standing in awe, not fear of the outcome. Habakkuk says he has heard of God’s most incredible power and might, and acknowledges that God’s power will destroy all that displeases the Lord. And Habakkuk says, Lord, in your wrath, remember mercy.
Habakkuk is likely referring to earlier books that tell of God’s great power. The book of Genesis, the book of Exodus. Habakkuk knows about the parting of the sea. The parting of the Red Sea wasn’t low tide or other some nonsense presented on one of those secular history shows. Let’s hear of God’s power in Exodus 14:21 following, and I’m going to shorten the story some in the interest of time –
Then the Lord said to Moses, “[…]Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. As for you, lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land. As for Me, behold, […] I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord […].”
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit […]. the Lord looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and […] overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained.”
It’s interesting to me that the Egyptians were the evil ones in the book of Exodus, and God used them to display his awesome power. Habakkuk says, “I have heard of your fame.” What Habakkuk is saying to us modern day Christians is… read the bible. God’s awesome might and power and wrath and love is in the Good Book for each of us to discover. We will be comforted. Yes, we stand in awe of God’s mighty power. Yes, we fear the wrath of God that is coming. But God will remember His mercy for those who have placed their faith in Him.
III. Reassured by What We See, Habakkuk 3:3-19
If reading our bible about God’s mighty power isn’t enough, we can see his power with our own eyes. Habakkuk 3:3-4 –
God comes from Teman,
And the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah.
His splendor covers the heavens,
And the earth is full of His praise.
His radiance is like the sunlight;
He has rays flashing from His hand,
And there is the hiding of His power.
We view the majesty of the Almighty moving across the earth. Teman was a city east of Israel, and Mount Paran was a mountain opposite of Teman, so Habakkuk is saying God’s majesty awakens from the east each day and covers the heaven.
God displays the beauty of His creation to us so that we may know he is a God of love and beauty. Romans 1:20 says
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
So that we do not wake up each morning and says, “wow, what a spectacular sunrise. I guess that just happened accidentally again this morning.” No, it’s so that we clearly see that God’s glory is like the sunrise, with rays of brilliant light flashing from his hands.
As I was preparing this lesson, and Chris Tomlin’s “Indescribable” came on the radio and I was struck by how perfect the lyrics fit this lesson. Can I ask the choir members in this class to sing this for us?
From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation’s revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
You placed the stars in the sky
And You know them by name
You are amazing, God
All powerful, untameable
Awestruck we fall to our knees
As we humbly proclaim
You are amazing, God
And if God’s splendor and majesty is evident each morning, then so is his strength. Habakkuk 3:5-12 –
Before Him goes pestilence,
And plague comes after Him.
He stood and surveyed the earth;
He looked and startled the nations.
Yes, the perpetual mountains were shattered,
The ancient hills collapsed.
His ways are everlasting.
I saw the tents of Cushan under distress,
The tent curtains of the land of Midian were trembling.
Did the Lord rage against the rivers,
Or was Your anger against the rivers,
Or was Your wrath against the sea,
That You rode on Your horses,
On Your chariots of salvation?
Your bow was made bare,
The rods of chastisement were sworn. Selah.
You cleaved the earth with rivers.
The mountains saw You and quaked;
The downpour of waters swept by.
The deep uttered forth its voice,
It lifted high its hands.
Sun and moon stood in their places;
They went away at the light of Your arrows,
At the radiance of Your gleaming spear.
In indignation You marched through the earth;
In anger You trampled the nations.
God makes mountains. God destroys mountains. He judges with pestilence and plague. He shakes the nations and crushes His enemies. There is nothing that can withstand the power of God.
Let’s go big. Let’s see if we can imagine the power of God. How big is the earth that God created? Let’s stipulate that the earth is big, really big. It is so big that for thousands of years, man believed the earth was flat. Man couldn’t see the horizon curve, there was no reason to believe they were living on a giant round rock. Here’s a picture from a low orbit where you can see at the edges that the earth is indeed round. Even though it’s low orbit, it’s still pretty high. I can’t seem to find a camera shot that is close enough to see people and yet also see the curvature of the earth. The earth is so big, over 7 billion people live on it now.
But as big as the earth is, it’s not the biggest planet in our solar system. We’re a small blue marble.
But even the largest planet, Jupiter, is small next to the size of the sun. The sun is huge. Imagine the sun the size of a basketball, then the earth is about the size of one of the dimples.
Our sun is considered to be a medium size star. There are stars in our galaxy that make our sun look tiny.
But even the largest stars get lost next to the size of our galaxy, the Milky Way.
The Milky Way isn’t the only galaxy. Scientists estimate between 100 billion and 200 billion galaxies, but that’s only because we can’t see any further than that.
Genesis 1:1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. God spoke the universe into existence by saying, “Let there be light.” From the morning rays of sunshine to the countless stars by night, God has demonstrated His glory to all so that we may be without excuse.
But maybe facing outward doesn’t give us a good perspective of God. Is God too big and distant? If this is God’s view, can He see me?
Let’s go small. Who am I, and what did God create? I’m one of those 7 billion people are the earth, so I thought I’d show you the complexity of the human body.
I admit I underestimated trying to describe human anatomy in the time available for our class. Our bodies are complex. We have a circulatory system that moves oxygen and antibodies, powered by a heart that will beat over 3 billion times in our lifetime. We have a nervous system that communicates heat and cold and pain and causes muscles to move and is powered by a brain that holds memories and process thought and makes sense of the world around us. A respiratory system that brings in oxygen, expels carbon dioxide that the blood cells from the circulatory system brought in. A digestive system that extracts nutrients from outside our bodies and turns them into fuel. A skeletal system to support our weight, and a muscular system to provide movement.
It was too complex. I thought, I’ll simplify this, I’ll just focus on one piece. How about the heart. Just one organ, part of the circulatory system.
I’m an engineer, and I don’t know how all this contraption works. There are valves and muscles and aortas and stuff. And it beats 3 billion times in a lifetime? This is a miracle gadget. Let’s simplify it even further, How about just the teensiest part. How about… a single human cell. If I can’t understand the machinery, maybe I can understand a nut and washer, right?
Goodness. There are 5 million human cells in a cubic millimeter, about a drop of water. They’re specialized, too. Liver cells, brain cells, blood cells, each one knows exactly what to do.
God is in the small stuff. God is in the big stuff. God is everywhere and in everything. There is no place we can go that God isn’t there. And we haven’t even talked about plants and photosynthesis or insects or rocks or how he created oxygen. Psalm 139:13 says,
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
We are created by God for a purpose. We have meaning. God knows us, has a plan for us, and he knows the name of every single hair on our head. From our DNA to the hairs on our head to the creation of the universe itself, God loves us. Like Habakkuk, I can see with my own eyes God’s hand in every single part of my being, my life, my walk, and my purpose.
And I can see God’s love for me.
IV. Reassured by His Deliverance, Habakkuk 3:13
Habakkuk 3:13 –
You went forth for the salvation of Your people,
For the salvation of Your anointed.
You struck the head of the house of the evil
To lay him open from thigh to neck. Selah.
This God of beauty, this God of power, this God of creation, is also this God of love. He knew, given free choice, that not everyone would choose good. It’s not choice if we’re forced to choose good. So, through the choice of Adam and Eve, sin entered the world. Rebellion. Disobedience. His holiness will not tolerate our evil, our sins. God will destroy sin. God will raise Chaldeans and plagues and locusts to destroy the evil we do and the evil we think and the evil we are. His justice demands His wrath. The minor prophets we’ve been studying, like Habakkuk, have warned us of God’s hatred of sin.
But God loves the sinner who seeks Him. But more than God hates sin, God loves us. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16).
Out of His abundance of love, has given us His son. I don’t know how much it hurt God to sacrifice His own son for us. To watch Christ scourged and crucified under Pontius Pilot while the crowds of people called for the death of His son. And I don’t know any bigger gift that God could give than to offer forgiveness to us through the sacrifice of His son, so that we may be reconciled to God and be called Children of God. And through the death of Jesus, He then sent a comforter, the Holy Spirit, to live in us. To pray and groan on our behalf, to move us to obedience. Even as his perfect justice and discipline may cause pain and suffering as He teaches us spiritual truths, and even as He raises us Chaldeans against us to purify us as a people, we know that He has prepared a place for us, a place without tears.
We may not understand the Chaldeans in our own lives, but God has a purpose for everything. C.S. Lewis, in the book “Mere Christianity,” put it this way:
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
When God allows Chaldeans to run roughshod over us with destruction and pain, the Chaldeans are fulfilling God’s purpose. Even if, and perhaps especially if, the Chaldeans are evil, for the evil cannot exist without God allowing it. Three verses can give us peace during these times –
- 2 Corinthians 4:17
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13, God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, and
- Romans 8:28 all things work together for good.
Praise and worship our mighty God. It is right to praise Him. Does God need our praise? No, it pleases Him to think that those who created acknowledge the Creator. How awesome it is to please Him.
V. Reassured by His Security, Habakkuk 3:16-19
Abundant life. Purpose. A God who loves us. An eternity without tears.
Because of all we have heard, because of all we have seen, because of all we have experienced, we can trust God in time of fear.
I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
Habakkuk knows God’s wrath is coming. The Jewish people have turned their backs on the Lord, and Habakkuk has prayed for the Lord’s will be done. The Lord responded that He will purify his people by allowing evil Chaldeans to conquer and rule over Israel. And Habakkuk, though so fearful that decay is in his bones and his legs are trembling, will wait patiently on the Lord to fulfill His word.
Did Habakkuk’s circumstances change? Calamity is on the horizon. Soon there will be destruction. Sometimes we believe that if we change our attitude, trust in the Lord, pray fervent prayers, then our circumstances will change. Not so – it is not the circumstances that change. Nor is it God who changes. No, it is us who change. We trust that God is in control. The same God that created an amazingly huge universe and the tiniest DNA stands in our cells and dwells within us, has provided the redemptive power through His son, is in control. We can wait patiently. It is us who changes.
So don’t worry. God’s got this.
What have you heard about God that reassures you? What have you seen from God that assures you of his awesome power? Our God is wrath, true. Wrath that destroys the wicked. But our God is love. He has created a splendor for us to see Him in our broken world. A little taste of heaven, here and now.
You may not know the name of Carl Gustav Boberg, a Swedish poet who was born in 1859. One day when Boberg was walking home from church and listening to church bells. Suddenly, a tremendous storm, with violent winds and pounding rains. The church rang madly. Lightning pealed across the sky in massive thunderclaps. Broberg and his friends had to take shelter.
Then, almost as suddenly as it arrived, the storm passed. Winds blew over the nearby meadows, the pounding rains gave way to cool fresh showers, and then clear skies with a rainbow.
Broberg was in awe of the storm, the lightning, that demonstrated God’s power, and the peace and beauty after the wrath had passed. That night, Carl Broberg wrote a poem called, ‘O Store Gud,’ or as we know it today, ‘How Great Thou Art.’
O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hand hath made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Invading Chaldeans are coming. Habakkuk has to wait – terror at what is to come, but trust in the outcome. Habakkuk 3 is a prayer to Yahweh to let the world again see the redemptive work of the Lord. Regardless of our circumstances, we stand in awe of our God!
To God be the glory.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Today’s lesson is going to hurt me more than it hurts you. Who enjoys discipline, raise your hands. Hold on; give me a second to count all the hands of the people that love discipline. Looks like… None. Just what I expected.
There are two types of discipline. There’s the positive type of discipline. Discipline that improves a skill or behavior. Practicing the piano, staying within a budget, exercising, these are positive types of disciplines. And primarily, these are disciplines that we impose upon ourselves.
Then there’s the negative kind of discipline. Correction. Rebuking. Admonishment. Punishment.
We’re studying the minor prophet Hosea, the Prophet of Doom, today. Hosea’s had a tough life so far; God told him to marry a prostitute, and Hosea was faithful to the Lord, even if Hosea’s wife Gomer wasn’t faithful to him. Homer’s wife was very intimate with other men, but it eventually led to her downfall. As she hit bottom in her life, she was eventually sold as a slave. Despite Hosea’s love for her, Hosea’s wife had strayed, she sowed the seeds of her own destruction, and then she reaped the consequences of those choices.
Hosea never gave up on his love for her. It was necessary for Hosea’s wife to hit bottom, to be sold as a slave, before she could realize the depth and discipline of Hosea’s love.
Hosea draws upon this understanding when he preaches to the Northern Kingdom of Israel that Israel would soon hit rock bottom before they could fully realize God’s love for them. And sometimes it takes us to hit rock bottom before we fully realize God’s love for us. He’s there when there is nothing else.
I have no doubt that the Israelites knew they were God’s chosen people. God promised it to them. In 2 Samuel 7:12-16, God’s made a covenant with David. Through the prophet Nathan, God told David –
The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
I guess they liked that part that said, “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” and just overlooked the part that said, “When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men.” But that’s exactly the situation in Hosea’s time.
II. Check Your Relationship, Hosea 8:1-4
So let’s open to Hosea 8 and read 1-4…
Put the trumpet to your lips!
An eagle is over the house of the Lord
because the people have broken my covenant
and rebelled against my law.
Israel cries out to me,
‘Our God, we acknowledge you!’
But Israel has rejected what is good;
an enemy will pursue him.
They set up kings without my consent;
they choose princes without my approval.
With their silver and gold
they make idols for themselves
to their own destruction.
This announcement by Hosea begins, “Put a horn against your lips.” This signals the beginning of war against an enemy. It has a twofold meaning here. One, there would soon be an attack against the Northern Kingdom and the main worship center at Bethel. This would come from the blistering invasion from the Assyrian army. The Assyrians were located in what is now modern day Iraq, and in 8 BC were the world’s most powerful army. Death and destruction were imminent. But that wasn’t the worse part. The Israelites, through their duplicitous lives, were at war against the Lord. . Sound the horn, Israel, you’re not only facing the Assyrians, you are also facing the Lord in battle. The Israelites, by their disobedience, had declared war.
What had the Israelites done that was so bad? The Israelites were a messy bunch. On one hand, they were bound to the Lord by covenant promises since the days of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and Solomon. On the other hand, the Israelites were also very much involved at the time in the pagan deities of the Caananites. So they’d offer gifts to the Lord, then they’d offer gifts to Baal. They installed new kings without God’s direction, worshipped calf-idols all while standing at Bethel, a place to worship God.
One can’t do both. Our God is a jealous God, who does not settle for part time adoration. Trying to do both is the same as worshipping only pagans deities and turning their backs on God.
Once, talking to a missionary, he told me of a story of a man he met in India. This man was familiar with worshipping the many gods of India, it is said that there are 330 million gods in the Hindu religion. This man, after several visits, eventually gave his life to Christ and acknowledged Jesus as Lord. Several months go by, and the missionary checks on his Indian brother and visits him at his house. One wall is completely lined with little statues of Indian gods. The missionary said, “But didn’t you acknowledge Jesus as Lord?” And the Indian man said excitedly, “I did! Look, here He is at the end of the second shelf!”
Our God is a jealous God. God and God alone. God promised Israel in Deuteronomy 6:18 that they would prosper and enjoy the holy land if they did what is good and righteous. But between the selection of kings and the unholy alliances and the worshipping of pagan gods, Israel didn’t do that. They sought their own desires, and accordingly the promise made to them in Leviticus 26:17 would be fulfilled, an enemy would pursue them.
A couple of things struck me about the rest of these verses. When times got tough, who did Israel cry out to? They cried out to the Lord. Not to Baal or pagan deities. That suggests that the Israelites knew who was Lord, but when times were good they felt it was ok to do things their own way and to dabble in other religions. Sort of like the days after 9/11. People knew the Lord was God and they came to churches by the hundreds and the thousands. And in the good times they’re off doing their own thing and dabbling in other religions.
And another thing – the Israelites knew scripture. They knew the Word of the Lord because they knew they were God’s chosen. So here’s a question: if we, as believers, have memorized lots of scripture but we do not do what it teaches, do we really know the Lord? Is knowing God a matter of mastering information we have read, or doing God’s will? O both?
III. You Reap What You Sow, Hosea 8:7-10
Our actions have consequences, and Israel is taught this by the Lord in the next few verses –
They sow the wind
and reap the whirlwind.
The stalk has no head;
it will produce no flour.
Were it to yield grain,
foreigners would swallow it up.
Israel is swallowed up;
now she is among the nations
like something no one wants.
For they have gone up to Assyria
like a wild donkey wandering alone.
Ephraim has sold herself to lovers.
Although they have sold themselves among the nations,
I will now gather them together.
They will begin to waste away
under the oppression of the mighty king.
In Charles Stanley’s, “Life Principles to Live By”, one of the principles is: You reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow.
Actions have consequences. Physical actions have physical consequences. If you jump off a bridge, there is a physical consequence. Mental actions have mental consequences. And emotions have emotional consequences. People forget that spiritual actions have consequences. We reap what we sow – if we sow watermelon seeds, we reap watermelons. If we sow anger, we reap anger. Sometimes I think we sow our wild oats all week long – and then when Sunday comes around, we pray for crop failure.
The Israelites had crop failure. The work they did was not aligned with God’s will, and so there was no field of standing grain to show for all their hard labor. Nonexistent crop yields point to a reality that if they do not follow God’s will, then they do not reap His blessings. When we throw foolishness into the wind, we reap a whirlwind of folly and destruction. Empty words and idol worship will yield an unstoppable whirlwind of destruction. They finally reached the end of God’s loving patience and were about to receive His discipline.
Ephraim – the Northern Kingdom – paid their enemy to love them. They gave money to the Assyrians to persuade them not to attack. They were hiring lovers among nations. At the same time the Northern Kingdom was paying the Assyrians not to attack them, the Israelites
were also paying surrounding kingdoms to be their allies against the Assyrians. They were paying friends and enemies. The crushing financial burden of this must have been great.
Did you know that most large corporations pay both Democrats and Republicans large sums of money during an election? They want to be on the side of whoever wins. No parallels. Just an observation.
But I digress, let’s go back to Israel. Soon every able bodied man was conscripted into military service, every household was heavily taxed to pay tribute to the enemy, gifts for the friendly nation, and payment for the military buildup.
The punishment was upon them.
The interesting thing about punishment is that, while we hate it, we would rather receive it from someone we know and love than a stranger. Children probably never appreciate discipline when they’re young, but I can guarantee that they would much rather receive punishment from their father than from a next door neighbor. What’s the difference? The difference is clear – accepting punishment from someone we love is easier because, while we may hate the punishment, we know that the person dealing the punishment has our best interests at heart.
So the best way for the Israelites to accept and understand discipline– and it’s true for Christians as well – is to get to know God. The more we know Him and understand Him, the more we can understand His purposes.
I think the Israelites had grown lazy in their faith. Did they really know God? They knew who God is… but that is not the same thing as knowing God. We often quote the verse that even the demons know who God is and they shudder. Think of this – if the Israelites really knew God with all of His perfect love and protection and patience and kindness, then why were they seeking prosperity and security in something else? Why were they paying friends and enemies instead of relying on the Lord for protection?
Bad Israelites. But you know we Christians still do the same thing today. We treat church as a social club instead of a place to worship and grow and serve. We cut back on tithing because we need a new car. We secretly check our iPhones during the worship services to see what’s happening on Facebook instead of giving ourselves to our Creator for an hour. We pursue these worldly things, and then these worldly things seem to pursue us. We cannot seem to get away. It’s what we so, so it’s no surprise it’s also what we reap.
But that’s ok. Someday, God will discipline us to make sure we are paying attention to Him. We can either discipline ourselves, or God will do it for us. One way or another, every knee will bow.
God disciplines us on an individual level, but He also disciplines us as a nation. God used violent international conflicts and heavy taxes to discipline Israel. Right now, our culture is sowing persistent cultural sinfulness. We once were a moral nation, but we’ve moved away from that. First we were morally tolerant, then morally permissive. And now it’s demanded of us that we accept immoral behavior as the basis of American life. Do you believe God is please with us for our decision? Do you think it’s possible God will decide He needs to discipline us for our own good before we destroy ourselves? I shudder to think how and when God will one day do this.
IV. Heed a Warning When You Hear It, Hosea 9:7-9
God’s judgment didn’t just suddenly arrive with no warning. Hosea preached for years about God’s patience with Israel was wearing thin.
The days of punishment are coming,
the days of reckoning are at hand.
Let Israel know this.
Because your sins are so many
and your hostility so great,
the prophet is considered a fool,
the inspired person a maniac.
The prophet, along with my God,
is the watchman over Ephraim,
yet snares await him on all his paths,
and hostility in the house of his God.
They have sunk deep into corruption,
as in the days of Gibeah.
God will remember their wickedness
and punish them for their sins.
Did you hear how I pronounced Gibeah? How are you supposed to pronounce it? I learned a secret that if I don’t know how to pronounce one of the Old Testament names or places, I just say it with confidence. I say it with so much confidence, if Dr. Young was hear and heard me, even he’d start wondering if he’s the one pronouncing it wrong.
But we’re talking about Hosea and his message to Israel. How do people sometimes respond when they don’t want to hear an unwelcome message about God’s judgment? Sometimes they close their ears, change the subject, even get mad. When I study for lessons like this, God’s word speaks to me. The message sticks in my head messages like “do what is right, leave the consequences to God,” “your body is a temple, not a megachurch, maybe it’s time to lose weight”. And you know, I can’t tell you that I ever receive these messages with joy. They bother me because they’re true, and if I know they’re true, then I must act on the truth. I don’t want to live with my own hypocrisy.
When has God used the preaching of His Word to warn you about your behavior?
Hosea then delivered this message to Israel, that the end was near, the tone was urgent, the threats were severe. The prophet kept preaching that the days of God’s judgment on the house of Israel had arrived. The people of the Northern Kingdom knew this by now, there was no mistake. By this time, the Assyrians had probably conquered all of the Northern Kingdom with the exception of the capital city of Sumaria.
Why was God so harsh? Do you believe the people would have listened to a quiet, gentle message? I don’t think so – we have a loving God that we often ignore, and sometimes His discipline is harsh to get our attention that something must change. Who do you think this harsh discipline hurt more, God or the people?
I ask myself this, and you should ask yourself, too. Has God been speaking to me? And am I listening? Am I postponing action on God’s call in my life? If I continue to delay, what will God will do to get my attention?
V. Realize What Time It Is, Hosea 10:10-12
The last time I was here, I taught from Second Peter. I was like, whoa, there are two Peters! There’s one Peter, and then there’s a Re-Peter. In that lesson, we talked about the confidence we can have about the Second Coming of Jesus and what we should do while waiting for the Day of the Lord, we must work at being a pure people, guarding against erroneous ideas. For the Northern Kingdom, the Day of the Lord has arrived. And God will use Israel’s time of punishment to renew His people and give them a new heart that yearns only for the Lord.
When I please, I will punish them;
nations will be gathered against them
to put them in bonds for their double sin.
Ephraim is a trained heifer
that loves to thresh;
so I will put a yoke
on her fair neck.
I will drive Ephraim,
Judah must plow,
and Jacob must break up the ground.
Sow righteousness for yourselves,
reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
for it is time to seek the Lord,
until he comes
and showers his righteousness on you.
Is God’s discipline and expression of His justice? Or is it an expression of His love? Or is it both?
How can you begin seeking the Lord more seriously? Hint: it’s verse 12.
God said, “When I please, I will punish them.” In some translations, “discipline them.” His judgement would come, at the time of God’s choosing. The two crimes of Israel were mostly likely worshiping other gods and placing their trust in human kings and alliances instead of the only faithful source, the Lord.
Hosea says the people of Israel wanted the cushy job in the threshing floor, but God’s discipline would put a yoke around her neck like a young cow and send her to the field with a yoke around her neck. The easy days of happiness would be behind them and days of labor in front. But even now, though, the people had a chance to repent. Hosea lists three things they must do:
1 – Sow righteousness for themselves. We cannot make ourselves righteous, but we can live a life of faithful love and righteousness.
2 – When one sows grain, one reaps wheat. When one sows righteousness and love, one reaps a character of godly righteousness. The righteousness they reap would have everlasting effects on the nation of Israel.
3 – They were to break up the untilled ground. In other words, in every part of their life where they had excluded God, they were to break it up and till it with God’s word. In all areas of personal life, in all areas of their life as a nation.
And to do these three things with persistence and God would rain down righteousness like rain.
I hear people say all the time, “God wants me to be happy.” That’s not God’s number one desire for us. God doesn’t want us to be unhappy, of course. What father would want His children to be unhappy! But happiness is not the goal. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If you want to be happy, be righteous first. That’s what pleases the Lord. If we seek happiness and we’re willing to give up righteousness to get it, God will correct us. And in the process of seeking happiness, we will lose it.
Today, some believers seek an easier church with an easier message. One that teaches freedom and tolerance and happiness. There’s nothing wrong with such a message, but it’s incomplete and it’s in the wrong order. A church that teaches righteousness and then freedom and happiness has their priorities in order.
I don’t know about you about you, but I’d rather decide my own discipline. In seeking His righteousness, I want to exercise discipline in my life that brings me closer to Him. The positive kind of discipline. That kind of discipline is rewarding, but if I wait and let God discipline me, it’s harder. God will give me a heavy load and hard work until I understand that God’s yoke is easy and His burden is light, but when I go my own way, I’m sowing the wind and will reap a whirlwind.
Discipline, as a rule, is not something we enjoy. But sometimes discipline is exactly what we need.
As a child, you probably didn’t appreciate the discipline from your parents. As we grow older and more mature, then we see that the discipline when we were younger leads to life that reaps good things. And just like when we were young, sometimes now it’s difficult to accept God’s discipline. It’s hard. But as we grow and mature spiritually, then we will see that God is preparing us for an eternity of trusting in Him. There are tremendous benefits to come if we only start sowing now so that we may reap later.
Hosea was one of the earliest writing prophets, and he used his own experience as a symbolic representation of God and Israel: God the husband, Israel the wife. Hosea’s wife left him to go with other men; Israel left the Lord to go with other gods. Hosea searched for his wife, found her and brought her back; God would not abandon Israel and brought them back even though they had forsaken him. God does the same for us. His love is perfect and He will never leave us.
The book of Hosea was a severe warning to the northern kingdom against the growing idolatry being practiced there; the book was a dramatic call to repentance. Christians can extend the analogy of Hosea to Christ and the church: Christ the husband, his church the bride. Hosea teaches us that God calls the church not to forsake the Lord Jesus Christ. Eventually, Homer bought is wife Gomer back, just as Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross brings us back to Him.
To God be the glory. Amen.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 5 so far )
From time to time, we all come to a big decision in our lives. I’ve lost my job; what should I do now? I have a medical issue; how should I treat it? Is this person right for me? Should I compromise, or should I stand my ground?
We are faced with decisions often. Yearly, monthly, daily. Some of the decisions we face are very mundane. Should I wear this tie today? Some are more serious. Should I go to church and bible study today? And some are serious indeed: job, family, friends, moral choices. Many times, the choice affects not just you, but several or many people.
Several years ago, I had made a decision to get Lasik surgery to get rid of my very thick glasses. I read up the procedure, became familiar with the different types, selected a doctor and had the examinations and evaluations. And then the day finally came for me to have the operation. It was only a 10 minute operation, max, to treat both eyes.
There was a small hiccup. Apparently I have small pupils, but they had to be very dilated before the surgery could begin. So while it took 3 different treatments of those drops they put into your eyes, so they kept slipping my treatment later and later waiting for my eyes to dilate. I had time to walk around the doctor’s office.
Now, this doctor had a glass-walled operating table. I could see a patient laying on the table, bit computerize contraption over their head as the doctor began to work. And he also had a television monitor outside so you could see the surgery up close. And I watched an extreme close-up of an eye sliced open and lasered. And my appointment was next.
I don’t recommend that for anybody. I had been calm, cool, collected up until this point, but watching an eye sliced opened and lasered ten minutes before this butcher, Dr. Frankenstein, would do his science experiment on me filled me with anxiety. What was I thinking? What if something went wrong? Would this hurt? What if I was blinded? Can I change my mind? Can I get a refund? You know, now that I think of it, coke bottle glasses aren’t so bad after all. I mean, I had a lot of anxiety about this decision.
I can hardly imagine the anxiety Jesus faced with His most important decision. Jesus’ decision would make would affect the world and he would suffer serious pain, humiliation, and then death. How did Jesus get through this decision? That’s what we’re going to study today in Mark 14.
II. Mark 14, The Ministry of Jesus
First, let’s summarize where we are in history. Jesus has been teaching us parables, teaching us behaviors, and teaching us scripture and prophecy. But the end of the chapter of Mark is coming, and with that is the climax, the purpose for Jesus Himself. Soon, to fulfill prophecy, Jesus will suffer and die on the cross.
Mark 14 has a series of disappointments for Jesus. His ministry is nearly complete, and those closest to Him let Him down. Let’s look at a couple of quick verses –
Verse 1. “Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him.” These are the pastors, the deacons, the bible study teachers of Jesus’ time. They studied God’s Word looking for His purpose, and instead of recognizing Jesus for who He is, they plotted to kill Him. There are two very serious problems here – one, despite all their studying, they don’t accept the Messiah that fulfills prophecy. Were they really studying, seeking God’s purpose? I think one could answer that by the second problem, they sought to deal with Jesus by trying to kill Him.
How many commandments are there? Do one of the commandments deal with killing people you don’t like? So these leaders either weren’t really studying and didn’t know, or they were so full of their own self-righteousness that they believed the law didn’t apply to them.
And in verse 17, the disciples are all eating supper together, the Passover meal. And Jesus knows He is having supper with Judas Iscariot, His betrayer. A man who has spent the last 3 years studying and traveling with Jesus. Verse 43, Judas leads a mob from the Sanhedrin to arrest Jesus.
And in verse 53, the Sanhedrin put on a sham trial in order to convict Jesus who was innocent of any sin. And between the mob and the trial, one of His closest disciples who promised never to deny Jesus did exactly that in verse 68. And Mark 14 closes with Jesus alone, abandoned by His friends and convicted by those who wanted to kill Him.
Jesus knew all these things would happen. How do you think Jesus felt? Knowing all these things were to happen, Jesus was hurt, troubled, distressed, and even scared. Jesus is God, but Jesus is also man. He was about to suffer for who He was.
So the night before Judas leads the soldiers of the High Priests to Jesus to arrest Him, Jesus has to make a decision. What steps did Jesus take to make sure He was making the right decision?
III. The Prayer of Jesus
Mark 14:32-35 –
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.
How would you describe Jesus’ emotions this night?
Why do you think it was important for Jesus to take some disciples to the garden for prayer?
When people face a difficult decision, what type of person do they turn to?
What’s the first thing Jesus did when faced with a difficult decision?
The garden of Gethsemane was most probably an olive garden on the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Other scripture indicates that Jesus came here more than once with His disciples; it was probably a peaceful, quiet place. Jesus took His closes friends – Peter, James, and John – with Him for support.
The NIV says Jesus was troubled; the NASB version translates this word as “horrified.” His human self and sense of self-preservation was now at battle with His spiritual side. It had all come down to this. Three years of walking among the people, healing them and teaching them, offering a chance to know and accept Him and knowing that they would reject him. Before the next 24 hours were complete, Jesus would offer himself up for the world and for you and for me. The worst part must have been the anticipation, the anxiety of knowing that tomorrow He would die, and die painfully. Julius Caesar once said, “It is easier to find men who will volunteer to die than it is to find those willing to endure pain with patience.
And with those thoughts in His mind, Jesus fell to His knees and began to pray.
It is easy to forget the power of prayer. Our prayers are shallow. Somebody tells us about their pain or their anxiety, and we put our hand on their shoulder and say, “I’ll pray for you.” And I suspect most of the time we don’t. We return to our own life and forget our promise to pray. What are some of the reasons we don’t pray? (No immediate gratification, we’re too busy, we doubt the prayer will be answered.)
Let’s look at Jesus’ prayer in Mark 14:36 –
“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Once more he went away and prayed the same thing.
a. Prayer Depends on Our Relationship
The normal method of prayer for Jews is a standing position with palms up and open to address God. Jesus’ prayer is radical for the time; first, he’s not standing. He fell to the ground. He is in a position of pleading, making an urgent request. And His first word is…. Abba. This is not the musical group Abba of the 70’s. Abba is a term of endearment, a child’s word. Children in our culture might say “Dada;” the Jewish children said “Abba.”
And the first thing we know about Jesus’ prayer is that He knew who He was praying to. He had a relationship with God, a close, personal relationship. “Abba” is used three times in the New Testament. The second time is Romans 8:15 by Paul –
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
And the third time in Galatians 4:6, And because you Gentiles have become his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and now you can call God your dear Father, Abba.
When you pray, who do you pray to? A concept? A belief? The Force, like in Star Wars? Some vague deity somewhere in the sky? God wants more from you. He wants you to know Him as He knows you already. He wants an intimate, personal relationship. That sounds great. How do I do that?
If we are going to pray to God “the” Father then it better be to God “our” Father. He only becomes our Father when we become his children. How do we become a child of God? John 1:12, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.”
And as His Children, do we have any chores to do? Philippians 2:15, “You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them.” This relationship should be evident to others; 1 John 3:10, “So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the Devil. Anyone who does not obey God’s commands and does not love other Christians does not belong to God.”
You are a child of God if you have believed in Jesus and accept him and you live clean innocent lives and obey God’s commands. Then you can call out to Him, Abba.
b. Prayer Depends on Trusting God’s Power
Jesus also knew the power of God. Everything is possible for you. What’s the point of praying if you don’t believe God has the power to answer your prayers? We have to understand and have faith that with God, everything and anything is possible. The biggest stumbling block to believing that is everyone who prays has unanswered prayers. I prayed and God didn’t answer.
What we need to understand is that God does not always answer prayers the way we expect. In my experience, most but not all my prayers are answered in ways I didn’t expect. God doesn’t always answer our prayers; I don’t know why. Some of my prayers I’m glad He didn’t answer. Some of my prayers I didn’t wait for an answer and took matters into my own hands. Some of my prayers, well, I prayed for God to make somebody else do something.
It’s like this – I can pray that God make everybody I know be sweet and loveable. But God doesn’t force His will on anybody. But it’s not because God is not able. The angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.”
c. Prayer Depends on Asking
So Jesus prayed to His daddy, believing that God can do anything and everything, and then… Jesus prayed for himself. I struggle with this, I don’t know why. I feel guilty, praying for myself. I should be praying for others, and I’m selfish if I pray for myself. But we shouldn’t feel guilty; if we can call God “Abba,” what father doesn’t want His children to be happy? And wouldn’t it make a father happy to give His children what they ask for?
Think for a second about the Lord’s prayer. How much of that prayer is for us? Our father, give us our daily bread, forgive us, keep us from temptation. It’s not wrong to pray for ourselves, to ask God to take care of us and provide for us and protect us. Jesus once asked in Matthew 7:9-11, “What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?”
d. Prayer Depends on Surrendering
So it’s ok to ask for things for ourselves. But here’s the hard part – letting God decide what is right. The fourth part Jesus’ prayer is the hardest. “Yet not what I will, but what you will.” How do you know the will of God? To me, the most incredible part is that God’s will for me has, for the most part, already been written in the bible. It’s already been revealed, I just have to seek it out.
The key, I believe to seeking it out, goes back to Jesus’ example. Troubled and anxious and in need of God, Jesus went to a quiet place to pray, to be alone with God. I confess I don’t always have the best quiet time with God. I tend to shortchange prayer in my life, I pray when I’m driving or showering or studying or something. Setting aside prayer for the sake of prayer is something I need to work on. I study often, especially when it’s time to teach, but that’s only half of what it takes to understand God’s will. Jesus set an example that prayer is needed, it is necessary, and it is comforting to pray to our most powerful heavenly Father.
Jesus didn’t want to suffer, and Jesus prayed for release from the events about to occur. But He added a “yet.” Yet not my will, but your will. Our prayers are most effective when we are not seeking to change God’s will, but by asking God to change us.
What does Jesus’ prayer reveal about His trust in God?
How can our prayers reveal our trust in God?
Why was it important for Jesus to declare His commitment to God’s will?
How can a person’s actions demonstrate a commitment to follow God’s will?
The best way we can begin dealing with a difficult decision is in prayer. Pray. Focus on God’s will. Choose God’s will. Then do God’s will.
Jesus gave us a four part prayer example for when we are faced with a difficult decision. Know who you are praying to, know that He has the power to answer prayers, ask specifically what you need, and surrender your will to the Creator of the Stars.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 5 so far )
I visited a coworker in the hospital this weekend. He told me he was at home watching tv when the doorbell rang. When he opened the door, there was a 6 foot cockroach standing there. Before he could say anything, the cockroach punched in the stomach and ran off.
The next night, he was sitting at home again. The doorbell rang. There was the 6 foot cockroach again. This time it punched him in the stomach and the karate-kicked him before running off.
The third night when the doorbell rang, my friend was a little more cautious. He cracked the door to peek out, and there was the six foot cockroach again. The cockroach kicked the door into his face so hard he saw stars. Then the cockroach came in and jumped on him and kicked several times so hard he nearly lost consciousness. He dragged himself over to the phone and called 9-1-1.
The 9-1-1 operator asked him what the emergency was. In a weak voice, my friend answered, “there’s a nasty bug going around…”
There are a lot of nasty bugs going around, from the H1N1 swine flu to job losses to the price of gas. It shouldn’t surprise you that “nasty bugs” have been part of our existence for thousands of years. Today, we’re going to look at Psalm 62 and see how David deals with one of life’s turn of events.
II. Psalm 62:1-2, Security in God Alone
My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Let me give you some background on what is going on in David’s life at this point in time. David is much older now; his affair with Bathsheba is long in the past, and David has long since confessed his sins and placed his trust in the Lord. But if you recall during our studies the last few weeks, confessing your sins to Lord frees you from sin and gives you reason to rejoice. It does not, however, free you from the repercussions of your sins. When Nathan said, “You are that man,” in 2 Samuel 12, David finally ceased his self-deception and acknowledged his sin against the Lord. The Lord offers mercy and grace, but also tells David “Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you.”
David has several more children over the years, but the sword never leaves his house. As his children grow, David has to deal with children that are disrespectful to him. His son, Absalom, claims the throne for himself. David, not willing to fight his own son for the throne, flees to the desert. A very stressful time in David’s life, losing your job to your son who’s trying to killing you. My day doesn’t seem so bad.
And it is this time in David’s life that he pens Psalm 62 and gives us instruction for how to deal with life’s nasty bugs. David’s strength comes not from his position as king or from wealth or from power, but in the Lord.
My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
We should have a single source of security, in God and God alone. David gives us three pictures of security in God –
• God is my rock. What images does this bring to mind? What qualities of a rock provide security?
• God is my salvation. If God is our salvation, why does that give us security?
• God is my fortress. What images of security does a fortress bring?
III. Psalm 62:3-4, Security that Withstands Attacks
How long will you assault a man?
Would all of you throw him down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
They fully intend to topple him
from his lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.
Our security is attacked many ways. Job loss, personal conflicts with others, sometimes with many others. Satan does not want you to have security and will deceive you that your security is misplaced. He wants to topple you. And he will keep this up for an unfairly long time – “How long” will he assault a man.
• What sort of things threaten our security and make us feel unsafe?
If our security is based on our circumstances, in people, in ourselves, in wealth or relationship, our security is fragile. But David repeats himself – we do not find security in anything but God and God alone. Verse 5-8 –
IV. Psalm 62:5-8, Security in God Alone, Still
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God [a] ;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
The Lord God is still our rock, our salvation, and fortress. The Lord is also described as a refuge. Like a fortress, we can run to the Lord for safety when we feel threatened.
David reminds the people of Israel that the Lord is not just a fortress of safety for him, but for all people. We can trust in Him. More than that, verse 8 says that I can also pour out my heart to God. God knows our thoughts and feelings, he knows our pain, our hopes and desires. When we are in need, in trouble, in fear, trust in Him at all times and pour out your fears to Him.
I change my wallpaper on my laptop monthly with various Christian wallpaper, usually with a calendar on it, always with a Christian saying or a piece of scripture. One of them by Charles Spurgeon a few months back was very thought-provoking. “If we cannot believe God when circumstances seem to be against us, we do not believe Him at all.”
We have security in God because He tells us so. And if God is for us, who can be against us?
V. Psalm 62:8-10, Security Nowhere Else
Lowborn men are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie;
if weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
Do not trust in extortion
or take pride in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.
Where else can we possibly put our faith, we else can we find security but in the Lord? David lists several places where we look for false security –
• In relationships. What sort of relationships do we try to find security in?
• In what ways can these relationships fail us?
• David also cautions us against placing our faith in things, especially ill-gotten gains. What sort of things do we use to seek security?
• In what ways can things fail us?
• Why are we tempted to add other forms of security like wealth or relationships, rather than rely on Christ alone?
In Psalm 44:6, “For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me.” Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” And in the exact middle of the bible is Psalm 118:8, “It is better to trust in the Lord
than to put confidence in man.”
Jesus, of course, knew all this. There is no security anywhere but God. Matthew 6:19, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal.” Instead, we can trust in God because of who He is. He is unique, one of a kind. Let’s look at the final two verses of Psalm 62.
VI. Psalm 62:11-12, Security in God Because He is Unique
One thing God has spoken,
two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,
and that you, O Lord, are loving.
Surely you will reward each person
according to what he has done.
• What are some of the attributes of God that give us security in Him?
o His Power
o His Love
o His Goodness
o His Mercy
o His Justice
o Fulfilled prophecy
God knows we have fears and concerns about our security. He is training us for something better, something that requires us to learn to trust in Him. If God is so powerful, why is it that we are scared? Is God really in control? That’s what we ask ourselves, and what God wants us to know, even when we don’t see Him at work. It’s precisely at those times God is at work in us.
C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 7 so far )
My wife showed me an article this week; I *think* it was from the Museum of Natural History, but I can’t be sure. The article was mostly well-written and talked about how by a very early age, 6 months, humans begin rational thinking. Babies know that hidden objects haven’t disappeared but are still there, that sort of thing.
Then the author went into how some knowledge is influenced by our environment and is wrong, though it takes critical thinking to see the flaws. Children know that object fall down, but trying to picture us on a spherical planet is harder, and children want to know why people on the other side of the planet don’t fall off.
Then the author discussed how also at a very early age we learn to trust adults over other children and some adults more than others, and how we trust our parents over scientists.
Then came the twist. Most Americans believe Darwinism has flaws, and God created the world. Children believe God created animals, even if they are the children of atheists.
The conclusion was that humans that doubt Darwin must be flat-earthers and must be trained to trust scientists over their parents. Obviously I have a problem with that.
Dr. Young has a wonderful essay today in the Houston Chronicle about the intolerance of the psuedo-tolerant and how we can stand by our convictions and yet be tolerant of those intolerant toward us. But part of his essay lists scientists who doubt Darwin.
Darwinian evolution is a major doctrine in the humanist religion at whose altars so many of America’s supplicants of political correctness bow. The keepers of the high PC religion apparently don’t want students to know that scientists like Henry Schaefer (nominated five times for the Nobel Prize), Fred Sigworth, Robert Kaita, Dean Kenyon, Carl Koval, William Dembski, Siegfried Scherer, David DeWitt, Theodore Liss, William Pelletier, Muzaffar Iqbal, Walter Bradley, Theodore Saito, Marvin Fritzler, Keith Delaplane, Clarence Fouche, Hugh Nutley, Fazal Rana, and 82 others signed a statement reading, “I am skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”
I would suppose, if the museum article had read this, that the author would then suggests that not all scientists are trustworthy and must be vetted against Political Correctness first. Which is also Dr. Young’s point, that those with convictions are systematically being excluded from the secular debate because people with convictions infuriate those that call themselves “tolerant.”
This is why I am not only against government intrusion in my life but I also want a realistic alternative to government funded public schooling. The government will choose what our children are taught, regardless of whether the parents care for that teaching. *And* we’re forced to pay for it through our taxes. I want to redirect my taxes toward schools that reflect the morals and values I hold.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 16 so far )
Welcome to the CLXXVIII edition of the Christian Carnival. Whoa, CLXXVIII. That’s a lot of Roman letters just to say it’s the 278th edition.
My apologies for the late edition. Real life, as always, got in the way. No excuses, I’m just late.
This week’s best Christian writing is presented for your intellectual perusement and enjoyment.
Yolanda Lehman presents I RECOMMEND JESUS posted at Ain’ta That Good News?!, saying, “Yolanda Lehman shares an evangelical tool that will help you share Jesus with those you love. In simple, plain language she explains the GOOD NEWS found in scripture! Only God can fill the hole in your heart friends–I recommend Jesus!”
Rosalind P. Denson presents Let It Go posted at A Fruitful Life, saying, “Dr. Denson encourages readers to remember that Jesus taught us to pray, “and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” She encourages people struggling with an unforgiving heart to simply “let it go” following the example of Christ.”
NtJS presents Book Review: 7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free posted at not the jet set, saying, “I recently received the book 7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free by Phil Lenahan from the Catholic Company. I was not sure what I would think about this book since I have read so many personal finance books. Could I really learn something new?”
Cecille Carmela presents How Does God Talk To You? posted at Rightful Living, saying, “How does God talk to you? Find out by searching through His deepest desires, through meditation, Bible scriptures and forgiveness.”
Jim DeSantis presents Christian Dating: Four Ways To Find Your Spiritual Match. posted at On Line Tribune | Spiritual Matters, saying, “The Christian faith, most faiths for that matter, teach that we are not to be unequally yoked. In lay terms this simply means we are to be wise when seeking a relationship to avoid future spiritual conflicts that can result in heart break. Here are four ways to find the mate matched to your beliefs.”
ChristianPF presents Extravagant Giving posted at Money in the Bible | Christian Personal Finance Blog, saying, “This is a story of some extravagant giving that I have recently been the recipient of…”
Keith Tusing presents How to Partner with Parents and Protect Kids in Our Culture posted at CM Buzz, saying, “CM Buzz is a site dedicated to encouraging, and providing resources for Children’s and Family Ministers.”
michelle presents Isaiah 55:8-11 posted at Thoughts and Confessions of a Girl Who Loves Jesus….
Shannon Christman presents Why Don’t More Faith Communities Emphasize Simple Living? posted at The Minority Thinker.
Barry Wallace presents ?Angels and Demons? ? Fact, Fiction, Reviews, Questions posted at who am i?, saying, “I ask some questions about the new movie “Angels and Demons” and receive some thoughtful replies.”
Weekend Fisher presents The gospel: how central is Jesus’ death and resurrection? posted at Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength, saying, “Weekend Fisher continues a series on what the gospel is and isn’t.”
Rey of The Bible Archive asks serious questions about the method of Christ’s atonement in Theological
Necessity for a Physical Resurrection.
Barry Wallace presents ?Angels and Demons? ? Fact, Fiction, Reviews, Questions posted at who am i?.
Weekend Fisher presents The gospel: how central is Jesus’ death and resurrection? posted at Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength.
Sue has several articles; technically, that’s against the rules, but I’m listing all three anyway –
Sue Roth presents “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives…” posted at IN HIM WE LIVE AND MOVE AND HAVE OUR BEING, saying, “A reflection on abandoning self to God.”
Sue Roth presents If he hadn’t risen from the dead, he’d be turning over in his grave. posted at IN HIM WE LIVE AND MOVE AND HAVE OUR BEING, saying, “On the need for Christian unity”
Sue Roth presents Gianna Jessen: she survived “choice” and lived to tell about it. posted at IN HIM WE LIVE AND MOVE AND HAVE OUR BEING, saying, “Read the amazing story of Gianna Jessen, a young woman who survived her abortion. She is an eloquent spokesman for life. And be sure to click the link for her home page. You’ll be able to hear her sing… with the voice of an angel.”
NC Sue presents The unforgivable sin? Or the unanswerable question? posted at IN HIM WE LIVE AND MOVE AND HAVE OUR BEING.
That concludes the CLXXVIII edition of the Christian Carnival. Want to participate? Submit your blog article to the next edition of christian carnival ii using our
carnival submission form.
Past posts and future hosts can be found on our
blog carnival index page.
We’ve been studying Isaiah and fulfilled prophecy; today we reach the exclamation point of the entire Old Testament.
I once recently read that the entire bible points to Jesus. I had a hard time grasping that concept. I knew the New Testament told the story of Jesus, and I knew the Old Testament told the story of God’s relationship with Israel. But until the last few weeks, I never understood how much the Old Testament also points to Jesus. The passages we’re studying this week, Isaiah 49 through 53, are the heart of this prophecy. They are beautiful stanzas, beautiful poetry; they are descriptions of the Christ to come.
Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan for us. We have an egocentric, a “man-centric” view of this plan. God sent His son to die for *me* so that *I* may have a relationship with God. And that’s true, God did that for you and for me. For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But God has a “God-centric” view. Everything in God’s creation gives glory to God. That includes His son. That includes us. God sent His son to die for us so that we may bring glory to Him. God glorifies Himself by flooding our lives with mercy found in Christ.
Jewish scholars understood that Isaiah 40-53 were the messianic prophecies, a Messiah to come that would deliver Jews and Gentiles to the Lord. As Christians, we understand that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Jews did not accept Jesus as the Christ, but continued to believe that a messiah was to come. Jewish scholars continued to hold this view well at least until the twelfth century. They altered their interpretation then; Jewish scholars now interpret these passages as a description of the suffering of Israel. That view has problems, for Isaiah 53:8 says that the Servant will die for the sins of Israel. How can Israel die as a sacrifice for Israel? And verse 9 says the Servant was innocent of sin and suffered unjustly, but who will claim that Israel is innocent of sin?
The original interpretation by Jewish scholars was correct; these passages point to an innocent individual who would take away the sins of the world. Today, Jews that study both Isaiah and Jesus come away convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Servant.
Jay Sekulow grew up Jewish kid in New York. When he went to college, a friend named Glenn. This is from Jay Sekulow’s testimony –
Glenn suggested I read Isaiah 53. My mind was boggled by the description of the “suffering servant” who sounded so much like Jesus. I had to be misreading the text. I realized with relief that I was reading from a “King James” Bible, and after all, that’s a “Christian” translation. So the first thing I said to Glenn after I read it was “Okay, now give me a real Bible.” I grabbed the Jewish text, but the description seemed just as clear. Even though this caught my attention, I wasn’t too worried. It still sounded like Jesus in the “Jewish Bible,” but there had to be a logical explanation.
I began to research the passage and I started to look for rabbinic interpretations. That’s when I began to worry. If I read the passage once, I’m sure I read it 500 times. I looked for as many traditional Jewish interpretations as I could find. A number of them, especially the earlier ones, described the text as a messianic prophecy. Other interpretations claimed the suffering servant was Isaiah himself, or even the nation of Israel, but those explanations were an embarrassment to me. The details in the text obviously don’t add up to the prophet Isaiah or the nation of Israel.
Jay could not explain these scriptures as anything other than the sacrifice Christ as made and today is a member of “Jews for Jesus.” He is also a prominent lawyer and Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice.
God’s plan has been evident from the beginning. Century by century, generation by generation, God gave men a promise of a blessing through the bloodlines of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Jesse, and David. Through Abraham’s seed, all nations of the world would be blessed, and the ruler’s scepter would never leave the tribe of Judah. Through David, his throne would be established forever. These were the earliest messianic prophecies.
Through Isaiah 7, we learn that the Messiah would be born of a virgin mother. Isaiah 9 tells us that the Messiah would be God incarnate, in the flesh.
The Servant is introduced in Isaiah 49; the Servant is the prophetic name for the future Messiah, Jesus Christ. The scripture here says the Servant of the Lord will summon Judah to return to the Lord and be a light for all peoples on the earth. All of Israel will be restored. You and I will be restored.
How can this be? How can imperfect people have a restored relationship with the powerful, perfect, and Holy God? We should fear even to look upon Him because of our character and who we are. I confess my pride yet again; sometimes I look at the blessings in my life and thank God. I have a beautiful and servant-focused wife that loves me with a depth that I am in awe of. Because of my service and faith in the Lord, I am truly blessed with deep friendships. And I look at the lives of other people and think that I am not like them. In the news I see horrors I cannot fathom, and know that it’s because I’ve devoted my heart to the Lord that I do not experience the same things in my life.
It’s as though my life was laid out on a beautiful green rolling hills. I am a lamb, enjoying the pastures God has given me. Picture such a hillside, with the bright morning sun shining on the grass and the blue lakes. And as I imagine myself as a lamb, what color is the lamb?
But now imagine a crisp, clear day after a snowfall. The same lamb on the same hillside covered in snow? Now what color is the lamb?
Am I a righteous person? Is there no blame in me? Are you a righteous person? We understand intuitively that we are not righteous, that somehow we should be a better person. Yet, when there is disagreement among ourselves, we never find the fault in ourselves. We find fault in others. When we cling to our own righteousness, we don’t realize that we are in fact clinging to our own guilt. We just need a scapegoat, someone else to take the blame for why we aren’t righteous. We have no righteousness apart from God. When we cling to our own righteousness, we cling to the sin of pride. All of our guilt and pride and sin must be given to Christ, and we must realize that if we have any righteousness at all, it doesn’t come from us. It comes only from Christ.
My life is but filthy rags, and the best I can hope for is a dingy gray next to the perfect life and sacrifice of our Lord. Isaiah 50 makes this distinction very clear. There is a strong contrast between the Servant’s perfect obedience and Israel’s sin. The disobedient, the spiritually adulterous, are temporarily divorced from the Lord. Isaiah 50 makes it clear this is precisely our problem; it’s because of our sins that we cannot be in the presence of the Lord. The Lord asks rhetorically in verse 2, “was my arm too short to deliver you? Do I lack the strength to deliver you?” The Lord God will send His Servant to Israel and we will mistreat Him, but the Servant will be vindicated by the Lord.
Isaiah 51 provides encouragement to the faithful, and the Lord promises joy and salvation that would be known throughout the ends of the earth. And then Isaiah 52-53 foretells the Servant of the Lord who would suffer, be rejected by His own people and die for their sins. He would be buried with the rich and then raised to life, then be exalted according to the will of God. The Servant Jesus would provide forgiveness of sins for all who put their faith in Him.
And then in Isaiah 53 we see God’s gracious plan to offer His son, the Servant, as a willing sacrifice as a means for us to restore the relationship with Him that we had lost through our sins. Isaiah 53:1 begins with, “Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?”
The question is clear. The message spoken through the prophets is clear. Yet the message reaches blind eyes and deaf ears. Most do not respond to God’s call, yet for those who do respond, unimaginable blessings await.
The Suffering Leads to Glory and Exaltation
Isaiah 53 is the pinnacle of the Old Testament; many scholars believe the beginning of the Chapter should start at Isaiah 52:13, so we’re going to start there. The New Testament quotes Isaiah 53 more than any other Old Testament chapter; there are at least 41 references. This is the fourth Servant Song, five stanzas of three verses each. I encourage you to go read the entire Servant Songs beginning in Isaiah 49, but we’ll focus today just on this last one beginning in Isaiah 52:13-15. First stanza –
See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him —
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.
Verse 52:13 says the Servant will be exalted, and verses 14 and 15 say the exaltation will contrast the humiliation.
When Jesus was arrested and brought before Annas, he was spat upon, slapped and beaten on the head with fists. Brought before Pilate, Jesus was scourged with a instrument of torture with metal hooks that literally ripped the skin off the body. Prisoners often died just from the scourging. The graphic details are not found in the New Testament, though Psalm 22 tells of the horror the Son of God endured.
Many have asked why Jesus had to die for our sins. Jesus did not deserve this kind of death. But you and I do. When we study the details of the life of Jesus, we can find ourselves in the lives of the people around Him. In the judgmental Caiaphas, whose self-righteousness says he is above those he judges. Or the Roman soldiers who mocked Him and tortured Him. I once found myself in Peter, a self-proclaimed follower of Jesus who denied Him in order to fit in better with those around me. Only when I was in church did I claim publically to be a Christian. I was a coward for Christ.
Jesus knew this about me, and He knew it before I was knit together in my mother’s womb. Yet He loved me anyway, and willingly had the flesh stripped from His body as the punishment for my sins that I deserved.
We may read about the death of a person that arouses fear or sympathy or abhorrence. I once saw a video that was seared into my head forever during the early days of the Iraq war, where terrorists tortured an American until he confessed to something, anything, and during his confession, the terrorists slit his throat. But Christ’s death is more than just his scourging, his flesh ripped off, the nails pounded through his hands and then strung up on a tree. The gospel message is not that Christ died. The gospel message is that Christ died for our sins. You and I are just as guilty as Annas, Caiaphas, Herod Antipas, and Pilate.
Jesus laid down His life for me. Jesus laid down His life for you. He paid the price for our sin. He deserved life, yet we gave Him death. The wages of sin are death which we so very much deserve, yet He gave us life.
Verse 15 says kings will shut their mouths because of Him. Now we see why people are astonished when they understand the message of the gospel. The man we condemned to die has declared us condemned unless we turn from sin and trust Him. We condemn Him who is innocent, but it is we who are already condemned. And the one we tortured to death is our willing savior. We cannot rejoice in the good news until we first understand that we are condemned. Jesus did not suffer and die because He was guilty, but because we are guilty. It shuts our mouths.
The Suffering is Humiliating and Offensive
The second stanza, Isaiah 53:1-3 –
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Verse 53:1 says the people did not believe the message. Verses 2 and 3 day the Servant was humble and rejected.
This is the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, a humble life, a rejected servant. Two primary themes in Isaiah are that the “arm of the Lord” is mighty to judge and also mighty to save. He is a God of perfect judgment and we stand condemned, yet He is also a God of perfect mercy. People regard the Servant as a nobody, a loser, despised and unwanted. He had no grand beginnings; he was born in a manger. In his adult ministry, they said, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” They put a cheap price of thirty pieces of silver on Him. Yet people still reject Christ because Christ does not represent things that people value, things like wealth, social prestige, reputation, power, personal comfort. We reject what God values. Yet God regards the Servant as a tender plant that He will care for.
The Suffering is Punishment and Redemption
Stanza three, Isaiah 53:4-6 –
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
Verse 4 says the Servant’s suffering is punishment, and verses 5 and 6 say the punishment was redemptive.
This is the heart of the entire gospel. The innocent Servant dies as a sacrifice for sin. Expiation is the removal of guilt through the payment of the penalty. The heart of Israel’s religious system is the innocent animal that dies in place of the guilty sinner. While the wages of sin are death, God permits the blood of the innocent to be shed as a sacrifice for the guilty.
God’s amazing wisdom provides a method of redemption for all eternity. While the blood of one innocent creature can pay for the sins of one guilty person, who can wash away the sins of the entire world? A mere man cannot provide such redemption. The sacrifice must be omnipotent; only God is omnipotent. The sacrifice must be God.
But how can a perfect and holy God identify with our sins? Jesus not only bore our sins, but also identified with the consequences of Adam’s sins. The emphasis on these verses is on plural pronouns. Our griefs and sorrows, our iniquities, our sins. We have gone astray; we have turned to our own way. Jesus died, not for what He had done, but for what we had done. Jesus identified with us because He was also man.
And so he was pierced for our transgressions. The Jewish form of execution was stoning, but Jesus was pierced. His hands and feet were pierced with nails, His side pierced by a spear. And he was crushed for our iniquities; the word “crushed” means to be broken, bruised, shattered by a burden. Psalm 38:4 says that sin is burden that grows heavier the longer we resist. The burden of sin crushed our Lord and Savior.
Sin is serious. Isaiah calls it “transgression,” which means rebellion against God. We dare to cross the line that God draws. Isaiah also calls it “iniquity,” which refers to our crooked nature. In other words, we are sinners by nature, but also sinners by choice. By nature, we are born children of wrath, and by choice, we are children of disobedience. And Christ, though He kept the Law perfectly, took our punishment so that we may have peace with God. We are no longer condemned. How great is the grace of God to give us forgiveness instead of the condemnation we deserve!
The Suffering is Accepted
Stanza Four, Isaiah 53:7-9 –
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Verse 7 says the suffering Servant is silent. Verse 8 and 9 say the suffering Servant was innocent.
A servant is not permitted to talk back. A servant submits to the will of the master. When Christ was accused by Caiaphas, He was silent. He was silent before the chief priests and elders, before Pilate, before Herod Antipas. And when the soldiers mocked Him and beat Him, He did not speak. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading this passage when the apostle Philip walked up to his chariot. The silence of the suffering Servant impressed the eunuch to want to know more about this Servant, and he was led to Christ by Philip.
Christ was silent in His suffering; Christ was silent in His trial and condemnation. But Christ was innocent of the charges. Everything about His trial was illegal. Yet Christ was silent, for to speak would proclaim His innocence. Christ did not come to be freed, but to free us.
And so Christ was killed for us. As a criminal, His body would have been left unburied, but God had other plans. His body was placed in the grave of the wealthy man Joseph so that all may witness the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Suffering Satisfies and is Effective
Stanza Five, Isaiah 53:10-12
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Verse 10 says the suffering was God’s will. Verse 10b and 11 says the suffering was for our justification. Verse 11 and 12 say the suffering will lead to His exaltation.
In this stanza, the prophet Isaiah explains the Cross from God’s point of view. Even though wicked men crucified Jesus, the death of Jesus for foreseen and determined by God. The death of Jesus was not an accident, nor did the death of Jesus make Him a martyr. Jesus was a willing sacrifice for the sins of the world.
And in triumph over evil, He did not remain dead. There is nothing that the wicked can accomplish that God cannot overcome. Jesus triumphed in His resurrection, He triumphed over every enemy, and He claims the spoils of victory. He was obedient unto death, and God highly exalted Him.
This obedience of the Servant satisfied the heart of the Father. God did not enjoyment in death, let alone the death of His son. But the obedience of the Son provided the redemption that God wanted for His people, redemption that God had planned from the beginning. The death of the Servant also satisfied the Law. God hates sin. It offends Him. It violates His Holy Law. In His holiness, God will judge sin, and the punishment is death. He cannot ignore sin, He cannot diminish it, He cannot compromise with it. His holiness is perfect. Yet His love, too, is perfect, and he desires to forgive us for our sins.
So how did God solve the problem of perfect judgment and perfect love? God is the judge and God is the prosecutor. In His amazing love, God also takes the place of the criminal. The Law is satisfied, and God can graciously forgive all who receive His Servant.
What did I do to deserve this love? What did you do? The answer is nothing. There is nothing we can do; we deserve the wages of our sin. Grace poured out for the sinners who will accept it. God will no longer keep a record of our sins. We are justified; we are sinners declared righteous before God. Romans 4:5 says that God has justified the ungodly.
He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our sins. The punishment that brought us peace was now upon Him. By His wounds we are healed. In five days, Good Friday is upon us. Reflect this week that if it wasn’t for the sacrifice of our savior, it should be us on the cross, paying the price for our sins. Christ died for you and for me, though we do not deserve this mercy.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
May we all truly appreciate what God has done for us this Easter.
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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!
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If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God. – Saint Patrick
Last week, Michelle taught from Isaiah 6. This week, the lesson covers Isaiah 7-23. When I first started studying, I though, whoa, we’re supposed to cover 16 chapters?
I spoke to Fred about this last Saturday; he said there was no problem covering all 16 chapters, he would enjoy a thorough lesson. So I thought we’d cover chapters 7-10 first, then break for lunch. Come back and read chapters 11-20 and then break for dinner. That would leave us plenty of time to cover 21-23 this evening.
Actually, I’ve noticed that the bible is an amazing book in that the closer or further away you get, there are different lessons. Isaiah 7-23 has many, many lessons for us. Isaiah 7-12 is a warning to political leaders; chapter 7 talks about hope, chapter 8 is a warning of judgment, 9 is a promise of mercy, and so on. Chapters 13-23 are prophecy and fulfilled prophecy, showing that the Lord is in control. Yet we can also focus on a single sentence and get a life-changing lesson from it, the Word of God is that powerful.
We’re just going to focus on Chapter 7 this morning. In Chapter 7, Isaiah reminds us that we are to trust in God in times of stress. We are God’s people, and we are to do things God way. God’s will be done; we can participate, or God will do His will without us. Yet, stubborn as we are, we often choose to be controlled by our circumstances rather than listen to the Lord. And that’s the lesson from the Lord today – to have faith in Him and not things of the world.
It’s time to make a decision. You can go one way, or you can go another. You can ask for help, you can go it alone. You can help a friend, but it means breaking a confidence. You can accept a new job, but it means moving away from church. What are some difficult decisions we face today, as a nation, as a church, as a class, or as a family?
Here’s a story from Los Angeles City College. In a class teaching public speaking, students were given an open assignment in public speaking. Here’s an excerpt from the news article –
On Nov. 24, 2008, Los Angeles City College speech professor John Matteson reportedly interrupted and ended Jonathan Lopez’s presentation mid-speech and called the student a derogatory name in front of the class for speaking about his faith, which included reading the dictionary definition of marriage and reciting two Bible verses.
Instead of allowing Lopez to finish, Matteson reportedly told the other students they could leave if they were offended. When no one left, Matteson dismissed the class. Refusing to grade the assigned speech, Matteson wrote on Lopez’s evaluation, “Ask God what your grade is.”
One week later, after seeing Lopez talking to the college’s dean of academic affairs, Matteson told Lopez that he would make sure he’d be expelled from school.
What are Mr. Lopez’s options? How would you respond?
Obviously anti-Christian, the teacher inadvertently asked a very appropriate question. “Ask God what your grade is.”
In Isaiah 7, King Ahaz is faced with a similar dilemma. He’s faced with a threat and has to make a decision. David’s kingdom had long since split in two after the death of Solomon. Israel to the north had routinely strayed from the lord. Judah to the south, sometimes followed the Lord and sometimes they didn’t, depending on the king at the time. Northeast of Israel was the nation of Aram (also called Syria), and north of that was the rising Assyrian Empire.
Under King Uzziah, Judah flourished. Aram and Israel had wanted to form an alliance with Judah, but Uzziah had resisted. Isaiah preached that the Lord would save, and Judah should remain neutral. Uzziah was dealing with raids from the Philistines from the west and the Edomites to the south, and if Uzziah moved troops to face the Assyrians, the southern attacks would succeed. Uzziah stayed neutral, and under King Uzziah, Judah flourished.
Uzziah died, and his son Jotham took over. Jotham was also a strong leader and kept Judah neutral, but died young. And Ahaz, 20 years old, took over. It’s now about 735 B.C.
Isaiah also spoke to Ahaz about relying on the Lord to save, but Ahaz didn’t listen. Ahaz was not a righteous king; in 2 Kings 16:2-3 we’re told Ahaz offered sacrifices to Baal and pagan idols. As a weak king, Israel and Aram gave up on the alliance idea and decided to attack Judah. Their goal was turn Judah into a puppet kingdom and become large enough to defend themselves against the Assyrians. Isaiah brings Ahaz a message to depend on the Lord and remain neutral. Isaiah tells Ahaz that Israel and Aram are too weak to be a threat, and that the Lord will protect Judah. Instead, 2 Kings 16:8 says Ahaz gave away treasure from the temple of the Lord to the Assyrians as a bribe to protect him from Aram and Israel.
Instead of listening to Isaiah’s word from the Lord, Ahaz tried to appease evil. How well did this work out? Assyria used the treasure to finance the war to conquer Aram and Israel, and then in 2 Chronicles 28 we’re told the Assyrians continued their march and conquered Judah, too, with the help of the Edomites from the south.
Isaiah told Ahaz to trust in the Lord. As Christians, we’re also taught to trust in the Lord. Like Ahaz, though, we attempt to resolve problems using our own human strength. Ahaz made several mistakes we can learn from.
I. Misplaced Focus
Let’s look at Isaiah 7:1-2.
When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.
Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.
Ephraim was the largest of the ten northern kingdom, and is used here to represent all of Israel being united. Ahaz gets word that Israel and Aram have become allies, and Ahaz is scared, shaken by the wind. Ahaz has been given the word of the Lord, but he fears men. He has misplaced focus.
Oswald Chamber wrote, “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else.” We face many fears in a world of sin and uncertainty. Finances, disease, natural disasters. We may face danger. We may face fear that someone we love will be hurt. Something may challenge our emotional or spiritual strength. We are tempted to give in to fear, to find a worldly solution.
Our focus should be on the Lord. What would the Lord have me do in this situation? How do I obey His commands in this time of trouble? When we turn to the Lord, fear of the world is replaced by faith in a faithful God. Our God is a powerful God. Why should we fear anything else? In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus teaches us to remember that the Lord knows our needs, that He will take care of us. Do not worry about what we eat or drink, or what we should wear. Put the Lord first, and He will provide what we need.
What was Ahaz’s fear? Was his fear justified? Have you ever been in a circumstance where you were afraid? Have you ever asked for someone’s advice and wish you hadn’t? At what point did you turn from your fears and turn toward the Lord for strength?
II. Misplaced Confidence
Isaiah 7:3-9 –
Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field. Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood — because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says:
“‘It will not take place,
it will not happen,
for the head of Aram is Damascus,
and the head of Damascus is only Rezin.
Within sixty-five years
Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.
The head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son.
If you do not stand firm in your faith,
you will not stand at all.'”
The Lord says to Ahaz that the attack from the north will be unsuccessful. The leaders of those countries are only men, and He is the Lord God. The Lord knows the plans of evil men, and the Lord tells Ahaz that He is in control. The Lord says that these two countries are like sticks that have burned up, and there’s nothing left of them. Their flame may have once been bright, but now they’re dying. Both kings would be dead within two years.
Isaiah’s specific prophecy was that within 65 years, Israel would be too shattered to be a people. In 722 BC, Assyria conquered Israel and deported the people. 2 Kings 17:24 says foreigners came into the land to replace them, and Ezra 4:10 says later even more foreigners arrived.
Ahaz had misplaced confidence. His confidence is in himself. Ahaz puts his trust in a political alliance with Assyria. God is with Judah, but only if Judah is with God. Ahaz is trusting in the strength of an enemy to save him from other enemies. Where is Ahaz’s faith in God?
If we do not place our faith in the Lord when times are tough, then we have no faith at all. That’s what the Lord says – if you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all. But God is infinitely stronger than any problem we face. He is aware of our needs, and He is aware of those that plot against us. And God will help, but we must place our faith in Him first. Our primary confidence must be in Him, not ourselves, not other people, not worldly wisdom. God allows us to be tested in order to increase our faith in Him, and we demonstrate that faith when we give Him control and do not worry.
I notice also that Isaiah the prophet is faithful to share God’s word. But I also note fulfillment of prophecy that Michelle taught last week in Isaiah 6. Isaiah’s message falls on deaf ears, and Isaiah’s vision is unintelligible to blind eyes.
III. Missing Integrity
Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.”
In Matthew 4, Satan tempts Jesus. Satan takes Jesus to the highest point of the temple of Jerusalem and tells Jesus to throw himself off. Satan says this will prove Jesus is the Son of God because scripture says angels will protect Jesus from any harm. And Jesus answers, “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
Why is Ahaz’s response wrong, but Jesus’ response was right? Ahaz was exhibiting false religiousity. Ahaz wasn’t testing the Lord; the Lord was testing Ahaz.
Both Ahaz and Jesus quote Deuteronomy 6:13. There’s a difference though – God wants to protect Judah, and all Ahaz has to do is place his faith in the Lord. Here is the kind of man Ahaz was, from 2 Chronicle 28:1-4 –
Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD. He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and also made cast idols for worshiping the Baals. He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his sons in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.
The Lord commanded Ahaz to ask for a sign. Ahaz refused. Ironically, Ahaz probably had been asking for signs from Baal and other deities; the Lord God says, “ask for a sign from me.” When Ahaz said he wasn’t going to test the Lord, what he was really saying was that he wasn’t going to trust the Lord. Ahaz used scripture to keep from obeying the Lord; he had missing integrity. While calling for Isaiah’s counsel, Ahaz had no faith in the Lord. To ask for such a sign from God required a faith from Ahaz that he didn’t have. He gave the appearance of being a religious person, but he was willing to sacrifice to idols, sacrifice his sons, make political alliances with enemies, anything at all. He had no integrity.
Integrity is the opposite of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is saying you believe or feel one thing, but then do something else. You are two different people; you do not practice what you preach. Integrity is being one person. You are the same person on the outside as you are on the inside. When we are a hypocrite, we are not being honest with God. We’re not even being honest with ourselves.
IV. Misplaced Faith
Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Through Isaiah, God challenged Ahaz to ask for a sign, but Ahaz refused. Pious, fake religiosity; Ahaz refused to test God. In truth, Ahaz didn’t want a sign from God, because then Ahaz would have to be obedient to God or expose his own hypocrisy. Ahaz had already decided to place his faith in men; Ahaz had already requested help from Assyria.
God’s answer is to the entire house of David. Notice also that Isaiah refers to “my God,” perhaps recognizing that Isaiah’s God is not Ahaz’s god. God provided a sign anyway, even though Ahaz would not ask. God’s ultimate sign of His authority will be His Son, Jesus. The Hebrew word for virgin is complex; for Isaiah’s time, it probably means, “young woman of marriageable age.” In the next chapter, Isaiah chapter 8, Isaiah is talking about his own child, Maher Shalal Hash Baz, which meant “Quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.” Partial fulfillment of this prophecy meant that Assyria would plunder the Aram and Israel before the child was old enough to know right from wrong.
We know there’s more to the prophecy, though. There is partial immediate fulfillment, but there is eventually ultimate fulfillment. Isaiah’s wife, the prophetess, was probably a real nice lady, but she wasn’t a virgin. She and Isaiah already had one child together. Also, Isaiah’s prophecy is not given to Ahaz, but the House of David, and he uses the plural “you”. The literal and ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy is in our Lord Jesus in Bethlehem. The apostle Matthew 1:22 says that “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call his name Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.”” The Greek word used here is not ambiguous; it means virgin, a woman who has never had sexual relations.
Our faith should be in the Lord, not in people, places or things. In 2 Samuel 7:16, the house of David was assured that David’s house and kingdom would endure forever, yet Ahaz placed no faith in that promise. God teaches us through trials to trust in Him and Him alone.
God will work out His plan, whether we participate in His plan or not. Ahaz certainly didn’t; Ahaz had faith in himself and in the world, and placed no faith in the Lord. As a result, Judah eventually fell and was plundered by the Assyrians. But look at Matthew 1:9 at the genealogy of our savior. The lineage of Jesus begins with Abraham through the line of David, then through Uzziah, Jotham, and Ahaz. God provided a savior; God fulfilled prophecy. God is faithful, even when we are not.
When a crisis comes, don’t misplace your faith; learn to place your faith in God. Don’t misplace your confidence; our God is bigger than any crisis that comes. Be honest with the Lord, ourselves, and other; when we respond in faith, it pleases the Lord and encourages others when they see how the Lord responds in our lives. If we do not stand firm in our faith, we will not stand at all.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 6 so far )
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