A Kingdom Parable

 

Introduction and Background

 

We have traveled together so far this year together, studying the bible chronologically.   From the creation of man and the fall from Eden, to God’s promises to Abraham to make him a great nation.   Jacob moved his family to Egypt after a famine, then the Israelites grew to over 2 million people and then escaped from Egypt through the Red Sea to the promised land. From the first king of Israel to the many kings that led to the divided kingdom.

Through it all, God is faithful. When God brought the Israelites into the Promised Land like God promised He would, God gave warned them not to get complacent. God tells them in Deuteronomy 6:10-19 and 8:11-20 about the dangers of ingratitude and taking credit for their own prosperity. God has provided a land of milk and honey, and the Israelites are not to say, “we did this ourselves; we don’t need God.”

God’s next promises to the Israelites are conditional – if you do these good things, I will bless you. If you do those bad things, I will curse you. Through these blessings and curses, God will guide Israel. But the most dire curse God gives to the Israelites is in Deuteronomy 28:58 & 63 –

If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the Lord your God …

…Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.

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God is not to be trifled with. He provides blessings, and He is owed thanks and praise. All too often, His gifts are met with a dismissal from us – as if we don’t need God. And in every instance I could think of in the bible, God provides His blessings first, and then only removes those blessings when His people say they don’t need Him.

God’s Kingdom was supposed to consist of His covenant people, the nation of Israel, following Him as God and King. But the people of Israel basically told God they didn’t need Him, and each generation repeated the blasphemy.

In 722 BC, the Assyrians arrive in Israel and drive the Israelites out. Then a few decades later, King Hezekiah, one of the good kings of Judah, brought the people back to worship the Lord, and God rescued Judah by killing 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in 2 Kings 19:35.

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The Assyrian empire began to weaken and retreated from Jerusalem. Their strongest rival was the Babylonian empire, and King Hezekiah foolishly invited the Babylonians to come and visit, to see King Hezekiah’s weaponry and wealth in Jerusalem. Perhaps Hezekiah wanted to show off, or perhaps he was trying to gain favor with the Babylonians and make an alliance with them. Either way, God was unhappy with Hezekiah for making political alliances based on his own wisdom. God’s expectation was that a king in Israel or Judah would follow the Lord and rely on Him for protection.

1 Kings 20 tells us that God sent the prophet Isaiah to explain to Hezekiah that at some time in the future, his descendants would be taken into Babylonian exile along with all the valuable items from the temple. Years later when Jehoiakim was the king of Judah, the Babylonians forced Judah to make an alliance with Babylon, and the Babylonians took hostages from the nobility of Judah. In 598 BC, Jehoiakim tried to rebel against the Babylonians, but he was killed and his son Jehoiachin became king of Judah.

I pause here for a moment to remind all of you that pronouncing bible names isn’t easy, and Hebrew is not my native language. Here is how the name of Jehoiakim’s son is spelled:

Jehoachin

And here is how it is pronounced apparently:

https://biblespeak.org/jehoiachin-pronunciation/

I don’t get it, but I’ll pronounce it “Jeh HO ash” even if it doesn’t look like that to me.   Which is confusing, because there is a completely different king in the kingdom of Israel named Jehoash who has nothing to do with our study today.

Where was I?   Oh yes.

So Jehoiachin, “sorry Jeh HO ash”, did not listen to the prophet Jeremiah nor trust in the Lord, so he tried to make an alliance with Egypt to fight against the Babylonians.   That alliance did not work, and after three months Jehoiachin and many other people from Judah were taken into exile to Babylon along with many of the treasures of the temple. Within 10 years, the city of Jerusalem was torn down and burned, and almost all of Judah’s remaining inhabitants were taken into exile to Babylon in accordance with Isaiah’s prophecies.

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So now in our scripture for today, it’s 605 BC, and what’s left of Judah has been banished to the banks of the Kebar River in Babylon. A young priest named Ezekiel who was taken in the second wave of exiles under king Jehoiachin, “sorry Jeh HO ash”, is preaching the word.

This young priest, Ezekiel, who has obviously a much easier name to pronounce, sees a vision of God and all His glory. He sees clouds of lightning, living creatures with four faces and four wings, he sees wheels within wheels. And God called Ezekiel to be a prophet and speak the word of God.

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And so he did.   And the elders of what remained of Jerusalem found Ezekiel’s message to be religious entertainment and paid no heed.

Which brings us to today’s scriptures. The Lord God gave Ezekiel parables of actions to motivate Jerusalem to think about God’s truth. In 3 messages, Ezekiel speaks about a vine, an unfaithful wife, and a tree to convey God’s truth to those who truly wanted to understand. The people, sitting in banishment on the shores of a river in Babylon, were claiming that God had rejected His own people and God was breaking His own covenant. But through God’s parables, Ezekiel tells the people of Jerusalem how God sees them, and we’re going to focus just on the second parable, God sees Judah as God’s own adulterous wife.   Here’s our outline for today –

        • Helpless, Ezekiel 16:3-5
        • Honor, Ezekiel 16:6-14
        • Harlotry, Ezekiel 16:15-52
        • Hope, Ezekiel 16:53-63

 

Helpless, Ezekiel 16:3-5

 

In God’s eyes, He sees the people of Israel as helpless, Ezekiel 16:3-5 –

‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Jerusalem: Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.

(Ezekiel 16:3-5, Chronological Bible, August 19, p.1088)

Ezekiel reminds Jerusalem where they came from. Their history is ugly. Instead of being God’s pure people after the flood, Noah’s son Ham intermingled and became father of the Canaanites. Intermarrying with the Canaanites and worshiping their gods has corrupted Israel.   Israel has proved, by their immorality and idol worship, that they are no different from the Canaanites.   Nothing about Jerusalem as a city or the people that live there is attractive to God.

If I am going to be honest, nothing about me was attractive to God before I came to know Christ. I was the product of a broken home when my parents divorced when I was 17. Later, despite my good intentions, I myself went through divorce. In my college years I was maybe agnostic, thinking that if God existed he probably gave the world a spin and then sat back to watch what happened. It wasn’t until I was 40 that I realized how involved God had always been in my life.

Even before I was born, my family history isn’t pretty. I grew up as a Roman Catholic, yet I have a German last name. Germans aren’t Catholic, why was my family?   Turns out my Great Grandmother is Irish and a Roman Catholic. She married a German boy who may have been Lutheran, and I don’t know because his brother was so mad that his brother had married a Roman Catholic that he killed my Great Grandfather. So my Great Grandmother emigrated to the United States as a pregnant Irish widow and gave birth to my grandfather with the German surname.

My history is ugly.   I don’t know each and every one of you, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t sordid stories in your family.   It’s just who we are. We are helpless, and we are ugly in God’s eye.   Our umbilical cord with our family history was not cut, there was no reason to show us compassion, and if we are honest, because we were born with a sin nature that traces all the way back to Adam and Eve, on the day that we were born, we, too, were helpless and despised.

 

Honor, Ezekiel 16:6-14

 

And yet, God loved us anyway. Not because we were free of blemish, or because we were such great people, or had great potential. Not because of anything we did or anything we were. God loved us because of who He is. He loved us, despite the fact we were unlovable. God felt the same way about Jerusalem.

Jerusalem had soiled herself with disobedience, yet God loved her and put her in a position of honor. Verse 6-8 –

“‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew and developed and entered puberty. Your breasts had formed and your hair had grown, yet you were stark naked.

 “‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.’”

God chose her.   God cared for her, dressed her, adorned her, loved her. Look at all the ways God describes Jerusalem and her people in Ezekiel 16:6-14 –

      • Vs. 7, “I made you thrive like a plant of the field.”
      • Vs. 8, “Yes, I … entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine,”
      • Vs. 9, “I washed you with water, washed off the blood from you and I anointed you with oil.”
      • Vs. 10, “I also clothed you….wrapped you….covered you….”
      • Vs. 11, “I adorned you with ornaments and jewelry.”
      • Vs. 12, “I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head,”
      • Vs. 13, “You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen.”
      • Vs. 14, “Because of the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect.”

God saw the good in Jerusalem despite her helplessness. He removed her helplessness and replaced it with honor.   Jerusalem was blessed and lacked nothing.

Ezekiel preaches that the people of Israel and Judah were completely dependent on God for their protection and provision. Every good and perfect thing that they experienced was the result of God’s generosity.

And I look at our great nation where we live in more comfort, prosperity, and wealth than any other population in the history of the world. And yet, we as a nation assume that our success and our comfort comes from our hard work, our intelligence, our character. But James 1:17 reminds us that

“every good and perfect gift is from above”

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Our very lives are dependent upon the generosity of God. We are called to live in a state of thankfulness and reverent worship toward God because He has provided us with every good thing in our lives. On top of that, every one of us was in the same situation as the baby in Ezekiel’s metaphor. We were left on the side of the road, cared for by no one, wallowing in our own blood and filth because of our sin.

And despite my family history and sordid generations, God gave me everything because He loved me. And I thought He didn’t care, I thought God was absent. Going to college, I relied on my intellect and wisdom to get a degree and a job, never once considering that God had given me the intellect in the first place. All God asked of me was to glorify Him for the gifts He had given, but I thanked myself for where I was in life.

 

Harlotry, Ezekiel 16:15-52

 

Jerusalem did no less. Wallowing on the banks of the river, taking credit for every good thing and blaming God for every bad thing, Jerusalem turned from God, despite all the beautiful ways God felt about her. Jerusalem worshipped other gods, engaged in spiritual idolatry and adultery. Look at verse 15-17, this is how Jerusalem treated God after all His goodness –

“‘But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute. You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his. You took some of your garments to make gaudy high places, where you carried on your prostitution. You went to him, and he possessed your beauty. You also took the fine jewelry I gave you, the jewelry made of my gold and silver, and you made for yourself male idols and engaged in prostitution with them.

I think there are some words bible study teachers shouldn’t say in bible study class, and if there was a list of such words, I’m pretty sure “prostitute” and “whore” would be on that list. I’m double sure I’m also not supposed to use any illustrations for this PowerPoint either. But there’s no easy way to avoid these words, and they are, in fact, God’s words, so just bear with me for this section while we discuss the harlotry of Jerusalem.

God is the source of all things good. When we give credit to ourselves or to somebody else other than God, we are not acknowledging God’s provisions. Our entire purpose in life is to know God and make God known. And any credit we give to anything or anyone else but God is spiritual adultery. Here is how Jerusalem treated God after all He had done for her –

      • Vs. 15-19. She takes all that God has given to her and uses those things to make images to other gods for worship.

When I think back at the Ten Commandments with it’s “Thou shall not murder” and “Thou shall not steal,” I think it’s too easy to skip over rule number 1 from Exodus 20:1-6 –

And God spoke all these words:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. 

      • Vs. 20-22. She offers the fruit of her womb to the deities of pagan nations.

In other words, she raises her children without regard to God. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard in movies or in person from a young couple, “oh, we don’t raise him/her in any particular religion, we want them to be open-minded and to make their own choice.” I think that’s a form of child abuse, not to tell them that everything they have and everything they are comes from the Lord.

      • Vs. 23-30. She builds idols throughout her land and beckons the nations around her to enter her land.

God responds to this by describing her heart as ‘degenerate’. Jerusalem wasn’t following God’s laws, and she invited nations to bring their gods and their cultures into God’s land, and God considered this another form of adultery.

      • Vs. 31-35. Not only does she give herself away cheaply to the nations around her, but she hires them to come to her as lovers.

In Ezekiel’s metaphor, the young woman, Jerusalem, enjoyed the fame and attention that she received from the rest of the world, and she decided to make herself a prostitute to all the men who gave her attention. God had saved Israel from a life of death and prostitution, He provided for her, He made her beautiful, He chose her as His bride, but she responded by making herself a prostitute. God says that Israel prostituted herself to the Canaanites, Egyptians, Assyrians, and the Babylonians. And not only is she prostituting herself, unlike most prostitutes, Jerusalem is paying her lovers and not the other way around.

What is God talking about in this metaphor? He is talking about the worship of other gods.   God made Himself clear to the people of Israel, but they effectively prostituted themselves to the other nations of the world by worshiping their gods and asking for their approval and protection. The people of Israel showed that they were insecure, impressionable, and unfaithful by rejecting the Lord and worshiping these other gods.   They would pay lip service to the Lord, but then they would completely ignore His commandments and turn their backs on Him by indulging in the worship and recognition of false idols and gods of other nations. Ezekiel’s metaphor tells us that Israel, the dying baby rescued by the Lord, turned into a beautiful woman and then rejected her husband for the favors of much lesser men.

      • Vs. 36-41. She is abused by those whom she paid to protect her.

Jerusalem entered into agreements with other nations for protection instead of relying on the Lord.   Now those nations are abusing Jerusalem which would have never happened if Jerusalem had trusted in the Lord in the first place.

      • Vs. 42-43. She experiences the outpouring of anger from the One who had previously poured out love and blessing.

God’s love for Jerusalem has been taken for granted. Like any jealous lover, God’s patience for His adulterous wife leads to anger. God permits the Assyrians to take Israel into captivity, Judah is taken captive by the Babylonians, and still, Jerusalem participates in sexual sin, idol worship, and alliances with the nations around her. There is a limit to God’s patience and love before God’s wrath is revealed.

      • Vs. 51. The LORD reveals the root of Samaria and Sodom’s sin, and finds Jerusalem’s sin twice as bad: “Samaria did not commit half of your sins; but you have multiplied your abominations more than they.”

Ezekiel lists the sins of Samaria and Sodom illustrating that sexual sin and idol worship are symptoms of a root problem. Sodom had sexual immorality and pride and idleness, but Jerusalem piled on adultery and idol worship on top of that. The Lord God has every right to be angry. And if the Lord would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, should He not destroy Jerusalem also?

 

Hope, Ezekiel 16:53-63

 

And that’s where all of us find ourselves.   Despite all of God’s gifts, His blessings, His love, His patience, we all turn to sin.   We all prostitute ourselves to manmade gods of our own making. John 8:44, Jesus says,

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

We oppose God, and any opposition to God is the same as worshipping the devil. Despite God’s love, we choose pride. And like Jerusalem the prostitute, God’s wrath burns against our sin.

But there is hope anyway. God, despite our failings, has plans for us, plans to give us hope and a future.   Though Jerusalem and her people broke their covenant with the Lord and were living in gross sin, sexual immorality and idol worship, God promises to make atonement for their sins. Ezekiel 16:59-60,63 –

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you. …

Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”

God is gracious, even when we are not. It’s humbling to know how bad I have sinned against the Lord, yet there is no sin that can keep me from His love.

In spite of Judah’s prostitution and idolatry against God, and in spite of their exile into Babylon, God still promises that He will restore an everlasting covenant with His people. This covenant would help them forget their shame and pain, and it would lead them into a new era with their God.

Fortunately for the people of Judah, this exile in Babylon was temporary. In about 70 years, they would return to their homeland because of the Persian empire. While they were in exile, the people held on to the hope that if they followed God’s laws and stayed faithful to Him, that He would keep His promise and restore them to the covenant.

 

Conclusion

 

And fortunately for you and me, our exile, our relationship with our father the devil, is also only temporary, if we just accept the atonement God provided for us.   Not because we are great, but because God is.

Here’s our outline for today –

      • Helpless, Ezekiel 16:3-5
      • Honor, Ezekiel 16:6-14
      • Harlotry, Ezekiel 16:15-52
      • Hope, Ezekiel 16:53-63

But maybe we should be looking at Ezekiel’s message this way –

      • Helpless – when we are without God
      • Honor – we are made in God’s image
      • Harlotry – in our sin nature, we follow the devil
      • Hope – Christ died for us while we were still sinners

I want to finish with a message of hope for you and me. Despite my unbelief, despite by unworthy generational history, despite my sexual immorality and pride, God loves me and gave His son that I may live.   He no longer sees my adultery against Him; He sees the atonement in Jesus that He provided for me. All I have to do is accept it and believe that Jesus died for me. Ephesians 2:1-9 is probably the most beautiful message of hope for believers in Christ,

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

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It is amazing to me how much God loves us. To God be the glory.

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A King Experiences Revival

Introduction

Fifty years ago seems like a very long time ago. Probably because fifty years ago is a long time ago.

Fifty years ago, I was 8 years old and had hobbies like eating green apples from our tree in the back yard in Wheaton Illinois, and collecting frogs from the nearby pond to keep in our bathroom tub because hey, I was an eight year old boy and the bathroom tub is one of the few places inside where one can start a frog farm.

I remember my father calling to me on one day to come watch television with him for a news special. Eight year old boys detest news specials, but my dad told me this one would be important and that I should remember where I was when I watched it. And I saw Neil Armstrong step on the moon.   Absolutely historical, and I do remember it. And then I remember going back to my frog farm because those frogs were quite the escape artists.

I’m certain there’s some sort of connection to our scripture today, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it is. Oh wait, here it is, 2 Chronicles 34:1-2 –

Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem.   And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. (Chronological Bible, pg. 960, July 29th)

No mention of frog farms in the family bathtub. So far.   At eight years old, Josiah was king of Judah.

We are nearing the end of the Divided Kingdom Era in our Chronological study of the bible, and Josiah is one of the few good kings that reigned in Judah.

Josiah became King of Judah at eight years old. He was not elected to be King, he was merely born into the bloodline of David, the bloodline of the Kingdom.

Israel had become a monarchy like all the other nations with the first three kings being Saul, David, and Solomon. Israel was united under these three kings, though with the death of Solomon, everything changed. The kingdom that was once united, became divided into the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom.

The northern kingdom retained the name Israel and had 10 of the 12 tribes of Abraham. The capital was Samaria. The southern kingdom was had the remaining 2 tribes and was called Judah, and the capital was Jerusalem.

Josiah was the King of Judah (the southern kingdom) at the age of eight years old. Judah had 20 different rulers, only eight of which were considered to be “good”. Josiah was the last of the eight “good” kings.

In looking at the summary of his life we see that Josiah was not just good, he was very special.

If you think about an eight-year-old boy becoming king and being known for doing “what was right in the sight of the Lord,” you might guess that he came from a great family background. That is not the case at all.

Josiah’s father and grandfather were some of the worst kings Judah had. Both were involved in child sacrifice as well as turning God’s people against God. His grandfather Manasseh who served as king for 55 years, did have a change of heart, but as it pertained to his influence as a king; it was too little, too late. His father, Amon served only two years before he was killed and never did have a change of heart. 2 Chronicles 33:23 –

And he (Amon) did not humble himself before the LORD, as his father Manasseh had humbled himself; but Amon trespassed more and more. Then his servants conspired against him and killed him in his own house.   (Chronological Bible, pg. 959-960, July 29th)

There was nothing about the leadership of Josiah’s father or grandfather that would have prepared Josiah to be a “good” king. Neither his father or grandfather were obedient to God; neither were humble in their role as king; neither embraced the Word and truth of God; neither led the people in worship or prayer towards God. Both were described as “evil in the sight of the Lord” in Scripture. And yet, Josiah somehow broke the cycle, even as a young boy king.

The scripture tells us of Josiah’s goodness, and his goodness came as a result of a desire to know God at a young age and by hearing the Word of God. There is power in the Word of God that should be embraced.   And one life, like yours or mine, committed to God can change a family, a neighborhood, a city and even a nation.

 

Realizing the Responsibility

The story of Josiah is a story of hope for all people of all ages. Even at a young age, Josiah realized the responsibility of being king. There was an opportunity to be different from those who had gone before him.   Even an 8-year-old boy knows the difference between right and wrong.

I’m certain that several in this this room could give testimony of what it is like to be brought up in a family that is not good or healthy or happy. Others may not have grown up in a Christ-centered family or home. And I can say almost positively without exception that each and every one of us, even well beyond the age of eight, made choices that were not in line with God’s Word and truth.

The hope of this story today is that our past does not define who we are in the present or who we will be in the future. If Josiah had let his past define him, he would have followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. If Josiah had let his past define him, he would have continued the sad tradition of leading God’s people away from God.   If Josiah had let his past define him, he would have settled for sad tradition rather than realizing the responsibility of change.

But Josiah realized the responsibility of being king. He wanted to be different from past generations. Though we don’t know much about his first several years of being king, we do know that at the age of 16 there was a radical change of direction.   2 Chronicles 34:3 –

For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images. (Chronological Bible, pg. 960, July 29th)

The first part of verse 3 tells us that in his eighth year of being a king at the age of 16, Josiah did something that his father and grandfather never did.   Josiah began to seek the God of his father David. Of course, David was his great, great, great, multiple generations past grandfather.

But Josiah knew two things about David.   One, that David was a blood relative; two, David sought Yahweh, the one true God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of the Covenant.

Josiah realized the responsibility as a descendant of David; the responsibility that he had as King of Judah and he broke the cycle of rebellion against God on a personal level. As a teenager, he sought God and began the process, as evidenced in the phrasing, “began to seek the God of his father David.”

Breaking the cycle did not happen overnight. Even though he was young, there was a stronghold in his family of radical rebellion against God to the point of sacrificing children and actively building altars to idols. Josiah wanted something different. He obviously had heard stories about David as King. But more importantly, he had heard stories about David’s relationship with God.

Josiah wanted a personal relationship with God, and it started with him choosing to seek God.   We do not know exactly how long that discovery process lasted or what he did in the process. More than likely the time was spent in prayer, seeking counsel from priests and from prophets of the day. We do know that four years later his relationship with God was so strong he acted very differently from his father and grandfather. He made choices as King that the people had not seen for generations.

 

Removing the Evil

2 Chronicles 34:3b –

“….and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images. (Chronological Bible, pg. 960, July 29th)

At the age of 20, Josiah had been king for 12 years and his relationship with God was so strong and personal that he could no longer accept the false idols that his father and grandfather had built. He wanted to remove that which led the people away from God.

Purging Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images are the first acts recorded of his kingship. Over this 12-year period there were certainly other things as well, but what is significant is that his desire to seek God at the age of 16 and the relationship that ensued led to this first true act as king. This was no easy task. The following verses go on to tell us he traveled as far north as Naphtali (North of Galilee) and as far south as Simeon and everywhere in between.     2 Chronicles 34:6-7 –

And so he did in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, as far as Naphtali and all around, with axes. When he had broken down the altars and the wooden images, had beaten the carved images into powder, and cut down all the incense altars throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem. (Chronological Bible, pg. 960, July 29th)

Removing the evil of his heritage was not easy, fast or popular. If you just take the leadership of his father and grandfather, you are looking at 57 years of evil in the sight of the Lord. 57 years of God’s people being led astray. Josiah felt so strongly about his relationship with God that he was willing to do whatever it took to “clean house”.

This process was intense and purposeful, going step by step to destroy each and every kind of altar regardless of what it was made of or how it was crafted.   2 Chronicles 34:4b –

“….he broke in pieces, and made dust of them and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them.”

He broke them down to powder, making it completely impossible for anyone to put them back together. Josiah did not want to compromise at all. In modern-day terms, we would say he was “all in” with his relationship with God.

Josiah was not concerned about popularity as king, rather he was first and foremost concerned with his personal relationship with God and doing what would bring honor and glory to God. For Josiah that meant removing all evil from the land which God had entrusted to him.

Destroying the altars to the point of powder dust was a visual way of cleaning house and not leaving any sort of visual temptation to go back to the false gods and compromised leadership of his father and grandfather.   Josiah broke the chains of his past to set forth hope for his future and for the future of Israel.

His journey led him to rediscover the truth.

 

Rediscovering the Truth

2 Chronicles 34:8 –

In the eighteenth year of his reign (Josiah was 26 years old), when he had purged the land and the temple, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of the LORD his God. (Chronological Bible pg. 976, July 31st)

It had been 57 years since God’s people had been led by a godly leader. King Hezekiah was the last good King the southern kingdom of Judah had. The house of the Lord was in shambles. The feasts and festivals were ignored. The offerings and sacrifices were neglected. Josiah knew that it wasn’t enough to just remove the evil of the land, he knew that he had the responsibility to direct people to the Lord.   And that began with rediscovering the truth.

In the process of repairing the house of the Lord, they discovered the Book of the Law written by Moses. 2 Chronicles 34:15 –

Then Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan.   (Chronological Bible pg. 977, July 31st)

This was probably the Torah; the first five books of the Bible. This discovery of God’s Word was, in fact, the discovery of life-changing truth. The “book” had been completely and utterly buried beneath that which was intended to be a place of worship.

This discovery not only changed Josiah on a personal level, but it also changed a nation.   Notice what happened when Josiah heard the Word of God, 2 Chronicles 34:18 –

Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. Thus it happened, when the king heard the words of the Law, that he tore his clothes. (Chronological Bible pg. 977, July 31st)

The Word of God has always been a revelation of God. When King Josiah at the age of 26 heard the words of the Law he tore his clothes. In that culture tearing your clothes was a sign of humility and grieving. The King was the most powerful individual in all of Judah, but he was showing the ultimate humility by tearing his clothes.

Josiah realized what he had been missing. Josiah realized what the people of the nation had been missing. Josiah realized that in finding the Law, he had rediscovered the truth. Josiah realized that God was not only a God of mercy but also a God of justice. 2 Chronicles 34:21 –

“Go, inquire of the LORD for me, and for those who are left in Israel and Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book.” (Chronological Bible pg. 977, July 31st)

God’s Word brings comfort but also conviction because there are consequences to choices. Josiah realized how far the nation had been led away from God’s Word. He was in a position to change what had been handed down to him. He had already broken the chains on a personal level, now it was time to break the chains of a nation, and it all began when he heard the Word of God.   Hebrews 4:12 –

For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The Word of God is the truth that penetrates the heart, even the heart of a king. Josiah would never be the same. This is a reminder of why we, as a church, have been challenged this year to read through the Bible chronologically; to rediscover God’s truth.

In no other time in history has the Word of God been more accessible than today, and yet we have buried it in our busyness. Biblical literacy in America is dwindling. People now prefer soundbites and snippets that can be absorbed in 10 seconds or less, but the bible cannot be understood in soundbites.

It may be hard for us to understand how the people in Josiah’s time could have lost the Law of Moses and then forgotten it in just two generations. However, written copies were scarce. Parents and the Levites conducted most biblical instruction orally. Only one generation separated the people from ignorance of God’s will. This has been true throughout history, and we see it becoming true again today.

The reading of God’s Word humbled Josiah to the point of repentance and revival. This discovery of God’s Word changed Josiah on a personal level, but it also changed a nation.

 

Reviving the People

Josiah did not want to keep the truth of God’s Word to himself.   He had a responsibility as King to share this truth with the nation.   2 Chronicles 34:29-33 –

Then the king sent and gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. The king went up to the house of the LORD, with all the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem – the priests and the Levites, and all the people, great and small. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the LORD.   Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD, to follow the LORD, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book.   And he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin take a stand. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. Thus Josiah removed all the abominations from all the country that belonged to the children of Israel and made all who were present in Israel diligently serve the LORD their God. All his days they did not depart from following the LORD God of their fathers. (Chronological Bible pg. 980, August 1st)

Josiah led by example. Notice they were not merely following the words of an earthly king.   They were to follow the Word of God.   They were not ultimately following an earthly king. They were to “diligently serve” the LORD their God.

This revival both personally for Josiah and for the nation was not going to “just happen.”   There had to be purpose and determination. There was going to have to be sacrifices made both literally and figuratively. When Josiah became King, it had been 57 years since anyone had been challenged and led to observe a feast such as the Passover.   It had been 57 years since the Word of God had been read aloud. It had been 57 years since the people worshiped God publicly.

One man changed all of that. Josiah had been revived in his spirit by the reading of God’s Word to the point of action.   In 2 Chronicles 35:18-19 we are told of Josiah leading the nation to observe the Passover beyond what the people had ever experienced before.

There had been no Passover kept in Israel like that since the days of Samuel the prophet; and none of the kings of Israel had kept such a Passover as Josiah kept, with the priests and the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josiah this Passover was kept. (Chronological Bible pg. 981, August 1st)

The Passover was to be kept each year by each generation. In the Book of the Law that Josiah had read, it says in Exodus 12:14 –

So this day shall be to you a memorial, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.

The Passover had been neglected as had the Word of God, as had the temple, as had worship, prayer, offerings, and sacrifices. But Josiah reinstituted all of these things in accordance with Scripture.

Josiah led the nation of Israel into revival, starting with the reading of Scripture and continuing with putting into action what they had read, diligently serving the LORD God.

It all started when an eight-year-old boy became King. You never know how God is going to work in someone’s life.

 

Conclusion

This summer our church has seen young people make decisions to follow Christ at Beach Retreats and Vacation Bible School.

The benchmarks of Josiah’s life happened when he was 8 years old, 16 years old, 20 years old and 26 years old.

The benchmarks in the life of Moses and Abraham happened when they were 80 years old, 90 years old and 100 years old.   At any point in our life, we can either turn to God and make Him known to others, or we can spend our days doing the equivalent of wasting our time putting our metaphorical frogs in the bathtub.

Turn to God.   We are never too young or too old to trust in God, follow God, make a difference for God and lead others in doing the same.

Because of the leadership of Josiah, a nation was challenged to put God first without compromise. A nation was challenged to worship God unapologetically. A nation was challenged to diligently serve God regardless of circumstances.

God speaks through the written Word and communicates His character, man’s sin and the message of redemption and judgment. God acts to preserve the Word of God so that it is found by those who seek Him. God reveals the power of His Word to revive His People.

Whatever is in your past, whatever is in my past, don’t let it define our future. God’s Word is life-changing if we take the time to read, listen and apply the truth that is revealed. Every morning, put on the whole armor of God, and be a warrior for the Word and Truth.

To God be the glory.

Halleluiah, Praise the Lord!

Introduction

The last time I taught, it was from the Book of Jonah. I really enjoyed studying it, there is a plot, a life lesson, historical significance, miracles, and fishing lessons.

But Psalms is usually hard for me. I read today’s scripture and thought, “It’s a book about praise.  How am I going to find a complete lesson here?  There’s no plot, no life lesson, just praise.”

As usual, though, when I sit down to truly study the Word, I find out it’s not all about me.  I have to learn that lesson almost every week, and you’d think I’d catch on.  It’s never about me. It’s always about the Lord.

Today’s scripture is only 6 verses long. Not a single person is mentioned, no historical cities, no leaders or kings, no narrative, no character conflict. Let’s begin with a simple reading, and then, during our study today, we will see where we are led. Psalm 150, and let’s read it together:

1 Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
   praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
   praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
   praise him with the harp and lyre,

4 praise him with timbrel and dancing,
   praise him with the strings and pipe,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
   praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

This Psalm is the final Psalm in the book of Psalms. Psalms addresses our joys and our sorrows, our tears and our trials, our pains and our pleasures. Our life is full of difficulties that our Lord knows full well. Just like in the book of Revelation that tells us at the end of time we will all be praising the Lord, the book of Psalms ends with praise, because of and despite our joys and sorrows. Psalm 150 is the final Psalm, full of praise and hallelujahs, and inspires to mobilizes us and all of creation to praise the Lord God. It’s a crescendo, a peak, the final Psalm that implores us to give unreserved adoration, praise, gratitude, and awe.   There are no reasons given.   There are no reasons needed.

We have some luxury of time to spend in our chapter today since it’s only 6 verses, so we’re going to study each verse one by one, because I believe we have much to learn about praise from Psalm 150.

Psalm 150:1a, Praise the Lord

Let’s start with the verse 1, “Praise the Lord,” but let’s switch to Hebrew for a moment, because oddly enough we’re going to spend a lot of time just on the first word of this Psalm. The first word is “הַלְלוּ יָהּ”and I understand if you don’t recognize it at first, but you will. It’s made up of two parts –

      • הָלַל, pronounced “halal.” This is a verb which means “praise”, but it has several other meanings that illustrate what praise is. It also means to shine, to flash forth light, to be boastful, and to act madly like a fool. In other words, go all out, give it everything you have.
      • יָהּ, pronounced “Yahh.”       This is a contraction, a shortened version of “Jehovah,” the proper name of the one true God, the name revealed to Moses at the burning bush.

If we put these two words together, it means “praise the Lord,” just like we read from Psalm 150:1.   But let’s pronounce the Hebrew words and see if you recognize it. “Halal Yahh”. That’s right, the word is Halleluiah.

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Halleluiah, praise the Lord madly with all abandon, with everything we have. Halleluiah, for the Lord God is on His throne.   Halleluiah, for the Lord God reigns forever and ever. This phrase “Halleluiah” is used only 24 times in the Old Testament and they are all in the book of Psalms 104-150, and two of those Halleluiahs are in our study verses for today. And “halleluiah” is used three times in the New Testament, all in Revelation 19, and we’ll get to that in a little while. And “halleluiah” is used 145 times in Handel’s Messiah.

One of those translations of “halal” was to shine, to flash forth light. When Diane and I were first married, we took a honeymoon trip that included a day trip to an unusual place. My outfit that day was a swimsuit, hiking boots, a hardhat, an inner tube, and a flashlight. Sadly, I have no pictures of that outfit.

We put the hiking boots and flashlight in a plastic bag, then sat in the innertube and floated down a river that entered the mouth of a cave. We exited the river, put on our hiking boots, hardhat and flashlight, and hiked into the cave.

Deep in the cave, we entered a large cavern, and the guide had all of us turn our flashlights off.   I’ve never been in such pitch-black darkness. The phrase “can’t see my hand in front of my face” was literally true. There was nothing.

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Genesis 1, “And God said, ‘Let there be light’”. The guide turned on his flashlight and it was blinding. And wherever the flashlight shone, that’s where you looked, because you could not see if you looked anywhere else.

Halleluiah, shine a light on the Lord, fix our eyes on our Creator, for He alone is worthy.   Halleluiah, praise the Lord.   Even if our circumstances are pitch-black, praise the Lord and shine our light on Him. Shine a light on the One who created light. Shine a light on the One who will never leave you or forsake you. Shine a light on the One who knew you in your mother’s womb. Halleluiah, praise the Lord.

So here I am, thinking I’m going to have trouble putting together a lesson from the book of Psalms, and 10 minutes into the lesson and we’re not even past the first word.   Halleluiah, the Lord God provides according to His mercies. Let us move on to the second word because at this rate this is a 2 hour lesson.

Psalm 150:1b, Praise Him in His Sanctuary

Verse 1,

Praise God in his sanctuary;

   praise him in his mighty heavens.

After the “Halleluiah,” each verse begins with a command, an imperative, to “Praise Him” for very specific things, beginning with His sanctuary and His mighty heavens.

His sanctuary then (and now!) was a specific place of worship that people could go to praise the LORD with other people. It was a corporate place of worship. They would hear scripture read from the scrolls, they would offer sacrifices and offerings. They would sing songs and pray. They came together as a community of believers to worship and praise God, not unlike what we do today in churches around the world.

The church is a place where we shine a light on the LORD. Sometimes I hear people might complain about a church, “Oh, I didn’t get anything from that sermon,” and we’re missing the point. It’s not about us. We gather to shine our light on the Lord.

We do it through bible study classes, we do it through worship services with choirs and orchestras and praise teams leading us in songs. We do it through the preaching of the bible. We do it through the giving of tithes and offerings.   We do it through baptism. We do it through prayer. We do it through coming forward to join the church to be part of this particular community of believers at this church. Each weekend when we come to this place for worship and bible study, we are living out Psalm 150:1.

But the next verse says to Praise the LORD in “His mighty heavens.” Other translations say “mighty expanse” or “mighty firmament.”   When we started this journey this year of studying the bible chronologically, we started with Genesis 1:1,

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

God created everything we see when you look up into the sky. The sun, the moon, the stars; the vastness of the universe. God also created what you see when you look around and down at the earth. The mountains, the trees, the flowers, the plants, the animals, the oceans, the ground, the vastness of planet earth.   We are to shine a light on the LORD both in His sanctuary and in the vastness of creation.

David said it best in Psalm 8:1-3,

Lord, our Lord,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
   in the heavens.

When I consider your heavens,
   the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
   which you have set in place.

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I love the ocean and the beach, it is spectacular. The vastness of the water, the unrelenting waves, the movement of ocean as it comes up to the sand on the beach and then recedes.

I also love the mountains, how they reach up to the heavens as far as I can see.

I love the plains of Texas, the flatness merging into the hill country. I love summer nights in west Texas where the sky is so black and you can see the milky way and the billions of stars and the moon and even some planets that can be seen with the naked eye. David knew this was a great opportunity for us to consider the Heavens of God, the work of His fingers that He has set in place.

Psalm 150:2, Praise Him for His Power

The first verse of Psalm 150 tells us where to Praise Him – in church and everywhere – and then the second verse tells us what to praise Him for.

Praise him for his acts of power;

   praise him for his surpassing greatness.

Praise Him for His mighty acts, which we saw over and over in the Old Testament. His mighty acts go far beyond just speaking the world into existence.

The mighty acts of God are not based on size or spectacular grandeur. The flood was definitely a mighty act. But the mighty act of the water receding and a rainbow in the sky to mark a covenant never to flood the earth again was a mighty act greater than the flood itself.

Taking a man named Abram who could not have a child with his wife Sara and making a covenant with him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars was the beginning of a mighty act. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham and He became not only a Father of a Nation, but the Patriarch of all Patriarchs. God would forever be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; 3 generations that began with a mighty act of God.

The 10 plagues of the Exodus Era were mighty acts of God that even Pharaoh couldn’t deny.   The parting of the Red Sea was a mighty act. The Lord broke down the walls of Jericho, gave water from the rock through Moses, delivered Daniel from the lion’s den, brought down fire on Elijah’s sacrifice, and sent chariots of fire to protect Elisha. And God provides rain from heaven and our daily bread and even the very air we breathe.

But we know the mightiest act of all was God sending His only Son, Jesus Christ to live a perfect, sinless life on this earth as a human being. Jesus gave His life on the cross, crucified to death for our sin, buried in a tomb. And then three days later Jesus rises from the dead, conquering sin and death. And He did this so that all who believe in Him would have eternal life. The death and resurrection of Jesus was the mighty act of God based on His love for us. It is a mighty act when God takes sinful, rebellious, complacent people and saves them unto Himself.

Beyond the mighty acts of what God has done, we are to Praise Him for His “excellent greatness.”

Sometimes we can be so focused on the acts of God, we forget about the character of God.

The excellent greatness of God is unsurpassed. We Praise Him for His sovereignty, His unchanging nature, His omniscience, His omnipotence, His omnipresence, His power, His grace, His mercy, His goodness, His kindness, His holiness, His faithfulness, His justice, His wisdom, and on and on and on.

He is great because He rules as sovereign over the universe. He is so sovereign that He can give people free choices and still retain full sovereignty. He is good; in fact, He is the good of the universe.   He is wise; His wisdom is so high that no one can even grasp His thoughts. He is merciful and just, kind and loving, gracious and tender, yet at the same time holy, just, and the judge of all humanity. His “excellent greatness” deserves praise from all His creation. There is nothing and no one that compares to God’s greatness.   David summed it up this way in Psalm 40:5 –

Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, they would be too numerous to count.

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Sometimes in our lives, our prayers, our thoughts we tend to focus on what God wants us to do and what we want God to do. Psalm 150 calls us to praise Him regardless, just because of who He is.

We have looked at where to praise, what to Praise, and now let’s look at how to praise in verse 3.

Psalm 150:3-5, Praise Him with Music

Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,

   praise him with the harp and lyre,

praise him with timbrel and dancing,

   praise him with the strings and pipe,

praise him with the clash of cymbals,

   praise him with resounding cymbals.

Throughout scripture, music is an integral part of praise and worship. When Moses and the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, the first thing that they did was sing a song, Exodus 15:1-2 –

Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying: “I will sing to the LORD, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

 

Slide15.JPGMany times, in the Psalms it says to sing to the Lord, though in Psalm 150 it is all about the instruments. Trumpet, lute, harp, tambourine, stringed instruments, flutes, and cymbals. I like to think the euphonium would be included.

The musical instruments listed also had historical significance and carried memories, devotion and purpose. For instance, trumpets announced sacrifices in Jerusalem. Trumpets called people to worship. Trumpets announced the entrance of a King.

The tambourine and dance were a celebration of joy. Dancing to the tambourine was a way to celebrate the freedom, joy and happiness of who the Lord is and what He has done.

The cymbals are a sign of exaltation. It is like an exclamation point. The cymbals are even listed twice in verse 5.

Ultimately, praise is not about the instruments, it is about the heart. It is an expression of what is going on in your heart, mind, soul and spirit. Some people praise the Lord through song, through instruments, through writing, through artwork, through serving others, through prayer; there are countless ways to Praise the LORD.

Psalm 150:6, Let Everyone Praise Him

So far, we have seen where to Praise, what to Praise, how to Praise and finally, now we are going to see who does the praising in verse 6.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.

If you are breathing, praise the LORD.

Regardless of circumstances, relationships, achievements, bank accounts, or anything else that would be temporary, praise the Lord.

Praise is the attribute of God’s people, but praise is the responsibility of every created being in the universe. God is seeking worshipers who will “worship Him in spirit and in truth.” God calls all nations to praise Him and to look to Him for their salvation. He is worthy of the praises of all people everywhere. When the apostle Paul defends his missionary ministry to the Gentiles in Romans 15:11, he quotes Psalm 117:1 to demonstrate that God is seeking praise from all nations.

“And again: ‘Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles Laud Him, all you peoples,’”

One motive for missionary trips is to bring praise to God from all the nations. Praise from every nation will come to pass; John’s vision in the book of the Revelation 5:9 reveals a song sung by people redeemed “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” They join with the angels and the elders in Revelation 5:12 to sing heaven’s sweetest song:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”

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God created everything to bring Him praise and commands everything that has breath to praise Him. One day Balaam’s donkey will praise the LORD; one day the great fish who swallowed Jonah will praise the LORD; one day the lions who refused to eat Daniel will praise the LORD. In fact, in Revelation 5:13, John writes,

“And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever’.”

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Conclusion

Psalm 150 ends just as it began: “Hallelujah.” Praise the Lord. Ten times we are commanded to praise Him who sits upon the throne. Praise Him all the time and everywhere and with all we have.   God alone is worthy of this praise.

I learned a lot from Psalm 150 today. I’ve learned to embrace the beauty and the imperative of praising my Creator.   There is beauty found in this simplicity. This Psalm is absolutely timeless and a great reminder that whatever we are going through today, this Psalm comes at the right time. Whatever challenges we might have personally or with a family member, this Psalm comes at the right time. If we are having difficulty at work or perhaps finding a job, this Psalm comes at the right time. If we are one of the few where everything is going exactly right in your life on every level without a care in the world, this Psalm comes at the right time.   Halleluiah, praise the Lord.

We end today’s study in Revelation 19:6-7a, the only place in the New Testament that uses the word Halleluiah:

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah!
   For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
   and give him glory!

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Amen and Halleluiah, praise the Lord almighty.

To God be the glory.

The Story of Jonah

I. Introduction

The Book of Jonah is one of the most famous bible stories. Children learn it, atheists scoff at it.  The basic story is well-known – Jonah is on a ship, gets tossed overboard, then he is swallowed by a whale where Jonah lives for 3 days, then the whale spits him out. Lots of lessons can be learned from the book of Jonah, including obedience… and fishing, but after spending the week studying the book of Jonah, I came away with a different lesson I’d like to share with you.

But first, we’re going to correct whatever misconceptions you may have about Jonah and the Whale because we’re not going to study the children’s fairy tale, we’re going to study scripture.

II. Jonah

Jonah is the fifth minor prophet in our bible and the book is almost completely a narrative, a story. Jonah lived after Elijah and Elisha and we are first introduced to him in 2 Kings 14:25. King Jeraboam did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and Jonah was his prophet.

Slide2.JPGThen we get to the book of Jonah that’s unique because, even though Jonah was a prophet, there are no prophecies in the book of Jonah. Just a story. But an important story, because Lord Jesus affirms that Jonah was a prophet and spent 3 days in the belly of a great fish.

And then…

III. Jonah 1 – Running from God

Jonah 1:1-3,

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

In Jonah chapter 1, Jonah attempts to flee from the Lord. I thought it odd that he’s physically fleeing from the Lord, as though Jehovah is only the God of Israel and not the rest of the world.

Jonah is comfortably at home when God speaks in his hometown of Gath Hepher in the region of Galilee. The LORD speaks to Jonah abruptly – the book opens with the Hebrew word for “Now” even though many translations omit it. God wants Jonah to go 550 miles to Nineveh preach “against” some of the most vicious people on earth. How vicious?

There are historical records from the kings of Nineveh that kings boasted of their atrocities – I pulled up an ancient stone relief from the British museum showing two Ninevite soldiers erecting a stake with an impaled, naked man on it. And here’s some translations from Ninevite records from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and I’m not even going to read the worst –

“I flayed as many nobles as had rebelled against me and draped their skins over the pile of corpses; some I spread out within the pile, some I erected on stakes upon the pile … I captured soldiers alive erected them on stakes before their cities. … I flayed many right through my land and draped their skins over the walls.” … I cut off the heads of their fighters and built with them a tower before their city. I burnt their adolescent boys and girls.”

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So Nineveh was beyond nasty. It was evil. And Jonah wasn’t being asked just to go down to Nineveh and start a ministry, the Lord told Jonah to preach “against” them.

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Jonah immediately arose as the Lord commanded, but that’s about as far as his obedience went. Jonah went to the nearby town of Joppa and found a ship headed 2500 miles in the opposite direction. Jonah purchased his ticket and sailed away from the Lord’s direction.

I’m not exactly sure what Jonah was thinking here, running away from God. Certainly he was scared, but maybe he thought God lived in Israel and he could sail away. But maybe you and I have the same thoughts sometime, that maybe God won’t notice our sin. Maybe we can hide it. Maybe we can run away from it. Maybe God only sees us when we’re outside of our house or apartment. Let’s see in verses 4-6 how that worked out for Jonah –

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.
But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

But God’s power is not limited to Israel’s borders. God sends Hurricane Harvey directly at the ship, terrifying the sailors. The sailors start dumping cargo to make the ship lighter and they start praying to *other* gods.

Talk about a witnessing opportunity here. A prophet on the ship full of sailors that are looking for God. But Jonah is sleeping, oblivious to the tragedy going on around him. And I cannot help but draw a parallel – we live in a world that is being torn apart by cultural storm and we, the adopted children of God, have a perfect opportunity to share the message of God’s love, but instead, so many of us are asleep while those around us are perishing.

I know my own actions this month are not enough. All month long I’ve been seeing “gay pride” advertisements, as if either sexual deviancy or lack of humility was something to be proud of. And every time I see a product that sports that deviant rainbow in blatant disregard for God’s promises from Noah, I cross another product or company off my list of places I’ll do business with. But it’s not nearly enough.

Jonah 1:7-9,

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”
He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

So the sailors have prayed to every god they know of, and Jonah just stands there silent. The sailors are like, “Who is responsible for all this calamity?” And Jonah just stands there. The sailors are like, “Let’s throw lots to find out who is responsible!” And Jonah just stands there. Then they all cast their lots, and it points to Jonah. And Jonah is like, “,,,, [pause] … Ok, it was me.”

The sailors discover that the LORD is not just a local god or the god of the sea or even just the God of Israel, but the God. The God who made the sea. Their fear is real; even today, many peoples of the world hold the idea that all misfortune comes from some offense to some god. Jonah tells them the truth and tells them about Jehovah God.

Verse 10-12,

This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)
The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”
“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

When the sailors try to make things right, Jonah tells them to pick him up and throw him overboard. The next verses show the sailors instead try to return to land, but God whipped up the waves even more. So the sailors tossed Jonah over, the sea grew calm, and the sailors praised Jehovah God.

And Jonah? Verse 17,

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

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If this was a made for television movie, we would break for a commercial here. Maybe for a seafood restaurant.

IV. Jonah 2 – Repenting toward God

In Jonah chapter 2, Jonah has a lot of time on his hands. Probably a lot of fish, too. Before being tossed overboard, the captain of the ship told Jonah to call on his God, but nowhere in chapter 1 does it say Jonah called on God. He acknowledged God, but didn’t pray to God. In the belly of the great fish, however, Jonah’s finally hit rock bottom. Well, not rock bottom. Ocean bottom. You know what I mean.

Jonah finally calls out to God in chapter 2 because Jonah is in trouble. When the Ninevites were in trouble, Jonah was silent. When the crew of the ship was in trouble, Jonah was silent. When Jonah’s in trouble oh man does Jonah remember to pray.

Jonah realizes how serious his condition is; he is in deep water. Physically and spiritually, and Jonah tells God that he feels far away from God. Jonah is in trouble, yet he also feels banished from God’s presence.

Jonah remembers the promise of God through Solomon in 1 Kings 8:46-49a,

“When [Your people] sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, . . . and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul . . . and pray to You toward the land which You gave to their fathers, and the city which You have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name; then hear.”

Slide10.JPGJonah turns toward the temple of God and prays, claiming God’s promise. In the belly of the fish, Jonah comes right up to the precipice of death, but God answers him in time, hearing his prayer and sparing his life. Why did God allow Jonah to experience the fear of death and the sensation of drowning? So that Jonah may empathize with the people of Nineveh.

Then at the end of Jonah chapter 2, Jonah realizes that God is showing him mercy and grace, Jonah promises to fulfill his calling from the LORD in verse 9 –

But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’

And the Lord’s response in verse 10 –

And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Jonah declares that salvation is of the LORD, and God speaks to the great fish to spit Jonah up on the shore.

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Two things here – one, the Lord spoke to Jonah, and the Lord spoke to the fish. Only the fish was obedient. And second, the Lord’s will be done, despite Jonah’s disobedience. But if Jonah had been obedient, he wouldn’t smell so much like fish.

V. Jonah 3 – Revival from God

So, laying on the shore, smelling like fish, what is the command from the Lord? Jonah 3:1-2.

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

The word of the Lord that Jonah hears in Chapter 3 is almost identical to the word Jonah heard in Chapter 1. God gives a second chance to Jonah. God often gives second chances, amen and amen. No person can ever live fully in God’s will. We all fail, we all fall down. And God provides all of us that second chance. God is not obligated to use Jonah; this second chance is a precious gift.

So Jonah finally begins his mission trip. He arrives at Nineveh and begins preaching against the city for 3 days and proclaiming the message of the LORD to every area of the city. The city of Nineveh was laid out in a great square with twelve gates that was used for town meetings. It’s likely Jonah went to each gate and proclaimed the word at each gate and each marketplace.

His message is harsh and brief:

“In forty days Nineveh will be overthrown.”

Jonah offers no grace, he promises no deliverance, he proclaims swift and impending judgment.

Slide14.JPGAnd Jonah’s message is effective. The entire city believes this message from God and repents in sackcloth and ashes. Even the king of Nineveh got up off his throne, put on sackcloth and sat down in the dust.

God has been probably preparing the city for a long time, working in the hearts of the people. God just wanted Jonah to go to Ninevah and give the final word. Some scholars believe that just prior to Jonah’s arrival were two famines plus a total solar eclipse that occurred on June 15, 763 BC.

Whatever circumstances God used, their hearts were ready to hear this message of judgment.

And while Jonah’s message promised no mercy, the king of Nineveh looked to the God of heaven for mercy in Jonah 3:9, the king said,

“Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

And then in verse 10, God provides second chances:

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Nineveh is spared from destruction until the time of the prophet Nahum around 612 BC. This repentance also spares Israel, for this entire generation of Ninevites does not invade Israel again for many years.

VI. Jonah 4 – Resentment toward God

And how does Jonah feel about the city being spared? You would think Jonah would say God’s will had been done and offer thanks for saving the lives of so many people. Jonah 4:1-3,

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

The story of Jonah closes in a surprising way. Jonah isn’t joyful. Jonah confesses to the Lord that the real reason Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh was because Jonah wanted the town to be destroyed, and he’s frustrated that God showed mercy to them.

Jonah 4:5 says Jonah had gone east of the city and sat down to wait for the fireworks to start, and then, when the Lord turned out to be a forgiving God, Jonah expresses resentment toward God.

And God then provides a lesson to Jonah. While Jonah is sitting on the hill to watch the fireworks, God provided some sort of leafy plant to grow and give Jonah shade so he’d be comfortable.

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The next day, God provided a worm to eat the plant, and then God provided a heat wave to beat down on Jonah so hard Jonah wanted to faint. Jonah was bitter and said, “Ok, God, just kill me now.” In Jonah 4 verses 9 and 10,

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

God responds with a question to Jonah to illustrate God’s lesson. Verse 6 said Jonah was very happy about the plant. But then, when the plant was gone, Jonah says, “just kill me now.” And God exposes Jonah’s self-pity for a plant that grows up and dies in a single day, even though Jonah didn’t plant it, water it, or cared for it in any way. God asks Jonah if you can pity a plant, why can’t you pity a city of 120,000 souls in Nineveh? God used a fish to teach Jonah obedience, and God used a worm to teach Jonah compassion.

God cares about the children of Nineveh – He counts their number and He sent Jonah to bring His Word to their door. He pities the cruel people of Nineveh because all of them belong to God by virtue of creation, and He is a God of love and grace and second chances. God is slow to anger, slow to judgement, and rich in mercy.

VII. Conclusion

So today we studied a wee bit more depth the story of Jonah, and it turns out to be much more than deep sea fishing tips. There are lessons in the book of Jonah about obedience, God’s will, God’s judgment and God’s mercy.

But I think it’s more than that. Jonah learns what God wants all of His children to learn. God loves people. He knows where they live, He knows how many there are, He knows their spiritual emptiness.
God calls each and every one of us to share His message, but I think too often we’re too scared to share God’s message to those we love. We all have friends and family we love that, let’s be honest, we are not brave enough to tell them how much God loves them. And we will sleep in the bottom of the boat like Jonah did while the Day of the Lord and the Trumpet Judgements get closer every day.

And that’s for those we love. What about those we hate, and those that hate us? The Ninevites in our lives? If we don’t see God’s hand of judgement on our enemies, do we resent God for not making things right today?

So who are the Ninevites today? John 8:44, Jesus said,

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.

You were once a Ninevite, an enemy of God. I was once a Ninevite, an enemy of God. And yet, God didn’t hate us. In fact, Romans 5:8,

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

And those that are Ninevites to us? God loves them, too. God wants nothing more than to be reconciled with His children. God is calling you and me to bring God’s message of love and forgiveness to a dying world, not just to those we love, but to those we do not like and those that hate us.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 

Slide22.JPGTurns out the book of Jonah isn’t just about obedience or fishing.

The book of Jonah is about love.

To God be the glory.

Kingdom Wisdom

Introduction

Two weeks ago, Jim Armstrong visited our class and taught about Solomon’s wisdom.  I loved his story about his wife’s dress; when she asked if it made her look fat, his answer showed he lacked wisdom.

So you’ll excuse me if I was a little confused when I started looking into my bible study assignment for this week and realized it was about Solomon’s wisdom.  Again.  I saw Jim Armstrong in the elevator a couple of weeks back and asked to just borrow his notes and teach the same lesson again.  It would save me a lot of time.

So recently my wife bought a new dress….

No, I’m just kidding.  Jim’s lesson was excellent, but we are going to have a very different lesson on wisdom.  Whereas Jim taught us the difference between knowledge and wisdom and focused on 1 Kings 3, today we’re going to talk about how the best wisdom also depends on knowledge, how the bible provides both wisdom and knowledge, and that the wisdom in the bible provides not only spiritual wisdom, but also worldly wisdom.  As we continue our study of what makes a Godly leader, we include Godly wisdom as a key attribute of a Godly leader.  We are going to spend some time on the proverbs that Solomon wrote.

God has placed each and every one of us on this world for a purpose.  To love God with all our heart, our soul, our strength, our mind, and also to love one another.  That means we must learn to live in this world and live with one another in a way that brings glory to God, letting our light shine so others may see the truth and light that dwells within us.  But navigating this world can be hard.  While we know the source of all truth begins with God’s word, applying those truths to a fallen world or around people that have rejected God aren’t always so easy to do.  We need wisdom.

What is Wisdom?

So what is wisdom?  Is it the same as education?  I have a short educational video that examines the importance of education.

Or maybe it’s a college diploma?  Having a diploma is definitely an indicator of wisdom.

So maybe a diploma isn’t what makes somebody smart.  Nope, a godly leader exhibits wisdom, and wisdom is composed of three parts –

  • Knowledge
  • Understanding
  • Application

Knowledge

This world is a dangerous place, not just spiritually but mentally and physically and every way you can imagine.  We need wisdom to live and we need wisdom to thrive, and we need this wisdom every day and in every aspect of our life, in relationships, in finances, in sex, in work, in discipline, in parenting, and more.  Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs to give his people, and us, guidance we need for life, because our lives are complex.  Not every decision has a clear black and white answer.

Lets start be offering a definition of wisdom:

Wisdom is the ability to skillfully navigate the world God created.

And as long as we are studying definitions, let’s examine the definition of the word “Proverb.”

A proverb is a verb that has lost its amateur status.

Most of the book of Proverbs is written by King Solomon. Solomon was considered the wisest man of all time.   And when Solomon ascended to the throne of David, God offered Solomon anything he wanted.  Solomon could have asked for gold, power, fame, long life, anything at all.  The treasury of heaven was opened wide and Solomon went shopping with a credit card that had no limit.  Anything.

But Solomon did not ask for gold, or power, or fame, or long life.  Solomon knew he could not rule Israel without God.  Instead of asking for gold or power or fame, Solomon asked for the ability to skillfully navigate being the king of Israel.

In 1 Kings 3:7-9, Solomon said,

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David.  But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.  Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number.  So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

In other words, Solomon asked for Wisdom.

The Lord’s response in 1 Kings 3:10-14,

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.  So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.  Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for – both wealth and honor – so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.  And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”

This response reminds me of God’s promises to us.  Are we to seek fame or fortune, wealth or power?  In Matthew 6, Jesus provides a lot of information on how to live our lives – without worry, don’t brag, give to the needy, don’t store up treasures on earth – but then in Matthew 6:33, Jesus says,

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Whatever our desires are, don’t chase after our desires.  Chase after Jesus, and He will give us our desires.

So Solomon received Wisdom and all of God’s other blessings, and then Solomon with his God-given wisdom wrote down the Proverbs so that we, too, may learn to become wise.  The Proverbs are lessons and principles given to us by God to help up navigate His world successfully.  Wisdom is the foundation for successful living.  Solomon tells us in Proverbs 8:35-36,

For those who find me [wisdom] find life
and receive favor from the Lord.
But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
all who hate me love death.”

So if we want to find life and receive favor from the Lord, then we must follow God’s wisdom.  If we want to walk in pain, disappointment, and continuous frustration in life, then all we have to do is ignore God’s wisdom.

To gain wisdom, we start with a good foundation of knowledge.  Solomon wrote Proverbs to the people of Israel so that they could sail the sea of life without crashing into the rocks and sink.  Many of the young Israelites were establishing their independence, moving out of adolescence and into adulthood.  They were and age where they’d get married and begin their careers.  They needed a handbook to navigate the world.

The book of Proverbs provides many simple truths like Proverbs 12:22 –

The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.

Simple to understand.  Thou shalt not lie, and keep your promises.

Proverbs 10:4 –

A slack hand causes poverty but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

In other words, work hard.  You cannot succeed if you don’t work.

Proverbs 12:4 –

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

I’m not sure if this is advice given to the men or the women.  Let’s say it’s for both.  Men, your wife is a crown, like precious jewelry, so take care of them.  Women, you can either be a crown or you can be rotten, your choice.  Either way, I’ve met some singles over the years that are so desperate to find a spouse, they’ll marry anybody without first asking God if it’s God’s plan.  Marrying a godly spouse doesn’t eliminate marital strife, but it makes solutions to arguments so much easier.

Proverbs 18:6 –

A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.

In other words, just watch your mouth.

And Proverbs 22:11,

He who loves purity of heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king as his friend.

None of these truths are difficult to understand.  They are not secrets to cheat at the game of life. They are simply truths, rules that God has established for us to have success in life.  Honesty is better than lying. Work is better than laziness.  Select a spouse based on their heart.  Don’t keep talking when you don’t know what you’re saying.  If you’re kind and gracious you will befriend influential people.

But knowledge alone doesn’t make us wise.  Over the years, I’ve met some very educated people that don’t seem to have a lick of common sense.  God didn’t just lay out a bunch of rules and say, “Do this and don’t do that.”  If we look at the people Jesus had the most difficulty with, it was the Pharisees who could quote all 613 mitzvots in the Torah but didn’t understand *why* God established all those mitzvots.  Knowledge without understanding is foolishness.

Understanding

What good is knowledge unless you have understanding?  Proverbs doesn’t teach us to be an engineer, a painter, or an accountant.  Proverbs teaches us to master life.

Superficial knowledge produces a shallow life and foolish living.   God’s goal in the book of Proverbs is not for us to just possess the facts, but for us to grasp the reality of what lays beneath the surface of the facts. To comprehend that below the surface of reality, God created His world with the understanding that wisdom works. Wisdom is woven into the very fabric of our reality. Life operates best when we live wisely.

Solomon writes about Wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-31,

“I [Wisdom] was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.

Understanding helps us to push past the “what” and peer into the “why.” Understanding helps the information and the informed work together for good.

Choosing God’s path of wisdom means that we don’t endure the heartaches of sin now.  The person who chooses the world’s path may enjoy temporary pleasures, but these pleasures often have consequences that follow.  When a Christian chooses what is right, he has no shame, no heartache, and no fear that the consequences will catch up and overtake him, Proverbs 3:13-14 –

Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.

Application

So the book of Proverbs has so much wisdom to teach us, but also how to apply it to our lives –

  • A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.  (Proverbs 25:28)
  • It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.  (Proverbs 21:9)
  • The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.  (Proverbs 22:7)
  • Do not toil to acquire wealth be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.  (Proverbs 23:4-5)
  • Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.  (Proverbs 11:28)
  • When a man walks in integrity and justice, happy are his children after him.  (Proverbs 20:7)
  • Truthful lips endure forever, the lying tongue, for only a moment.  (Proverbs 12:19)
  • A mild answer calms wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  (Proverbs 15:1)
  • He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.  (Proverbs 14:31)
  • Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.  (Proverbs 10:12)
  • The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.  (Proverbs 18:10)
  • Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
  • A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.  (Proverbs 11:17)
  • A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.  (Proverbs 14:30)
    When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.  (Proverbs 29:2)
  • In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  (Proverbs 3:6)
  • The whole point of Proverbs is to make us wise. Wisdom is evident in our lives when we exhibit knowledge, understanding, and application.

Tony said something last week – remember the aunt that was in heaven on her own little tiny cloud?  Tony also said he met somebody that told him, “you don’t know what the bible says, let me give you this pamphlet that will help.”  That is blatantly untrue.  The bible explains itself and provides all the wisdom anybody needs to understand the bible as well as life, love, work, finances, everything.  It’s all in there.

How Do I Get Wisdom?

1. Recognize where wisdom comes from.   Listen to Proverbs 1:7 –

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Ultimately, the fear of the Lord means that believers understand that they shall stand before the Lord Jesus one day and give an account; those who choose the way of death will be ashamed, while those who choose life will rejoice.

All throughout Proverbs we see the repeated phrase “The fear of the LORD”.

The fear of the Lord is not a terrifying fear that God is going to punish me if I disobey. The fear of the LORD that Solomon mentions throughout Proverbs is a reverence for God and a respect for His power.

Remember wisdom is the ability to skillfully navigate the world God created. We become wise when we recognize this is God’s world and His approach to life works best.  We are not naturally wise people. Wisdom comes supernaturally through our response to God.

2. Listen, Keep, and Do Not Neglect

Then, in Proverbs 8:32-33, Solomon writes –

And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.

A three step process:  Listen, Keep, and Do Not Neglect

Listen – Solomon wants us to be aware that wisdom will only come through active listening for God’s instruction.  We must study what God says about living a wise life.  Proverbs is 31 chapters long, one for every day of the month.  It’s almost as if God is telling us that we have a need for wisdom every day and an opportunity to receive wisdom every day.

Keep – Wise living only occurs when we keep His ways. The word “keep” here means to obey.  Foolish living occurs when we recognize God’s wisdom but reject it.  But those who are truly wise will keep the principles of a wise life laid out in the book of Proverbs.

Do not neglect – Wisdom is a lot like physical fitness. A lot of us start the fitness journey in the same way, we realize our current health isn’t what it used to be.  We are more winded going up the stairs, our pants don’t fit as well as they used to, and the scale keeps climbing up and up.  So, what we do is we begin to research. We look up plans to improve our fitness. We look at all the benefits of various healthy diets.  We talk to people who are in better shape than us, possibly a trainer. We get an app to track our fitness progress and goals.  We even buy a new pair of shoes.

But that isn’t enough to make us physically fit.  All the research and planning isn’t enough if we have neglect to, you know, actually work out.  We have to apply what we learned.

At any point in time in our physical fitness journey, we can become unfit.  We can neglect the gym.  We can neglect stretching.  We can neglect healthy eating.  A life of fitness can start and stop at any time.  Most of us have started a diet, broken our diet, and restarted our diet, sometimes in the same day.

A life of wisdom is a life of persistence. It takes continual discipline and hard work to build a wise life.  If we want to possess the skills, we need for navigating the complexities of life, then we can’t afford to neglect wisdom.

It comes down to our choice to put into practice that which is revealed.

Conclusion

Wisdom helps us steward our lives well and provides a life that may influence others in order to bring glory to God.

Do you want wisdom?  James 1:5,

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

So be smart.  S-M-R-T.  Ask God for His wisdom.

To God be the glory.

The King’s Prophecy

I. Introduction

We’re continuing our chronological study of the bible; last week, Chris brought us into the time of David and the end of King David’s life.  Throughout David’s life, he was a man after God’s own heart, even though David was an adulterer, murderer, deceiver.  Yet, God rescued David, just as He rescues you and me.
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Man is corrupt; we have a fallen nature.  God gives us free will to choose Him, and also gives us an opportunity not to choose Him.  Beginning in the Garden of Eden, Adam was in God’s perfect will, and Adam still chose to rebel.  And each one of us have had an opportunity to be in God’s perfect will, and yet we can all look at aspects of our lives and say, you know, I made choices contrary to God’s plan, and those poor choices led me here.
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There is an opportunity for each person to be righteous in the eyes of the Lord.  If we are perfect, as He is perfect, God says we qualify to be in His presence in heaven.  And that’s what heaven is, isn’t it?  Perfection with the Lord?  Heaven isn’t a place of “good enough.”  That wouldn’t be heaven.  That’s hardly an improvement over this world.  No, heaven is perfection, and God’s perfect justice will destroy all evil and sin and “good enough”.  All it takes to enter heaven is to be free of sin.  And throughout history, do you know how many men and women have succeeded in living a life free of sin?
David’s son Solomon tells us centuries ago in Ecclesiastes 7:20,
Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous,
no one who does what is right and never sins.
And centuries later, Paul repeats in Romans 3:10,
As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one.
That’s right.  Nobody.  No one is righteous, no not one.
And King David, a man after God’s own heart?  He wasn’t perfect.  Oh no, he set all sorts of bad examples of how to fail spectacularly.
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But God didn’t wind up this planet, stick a bunch of people on it, give the world a spin and say, “well, Good luck.  Hope to see you again sometime.”  God’s justice is perfect, sure, and perfection is required to enter into His presence, but God also has perfect love for us and He doesn’t condemn us to destruction with no hope.
All the way back in the garden of Eden, God tells of a coming Seed who will redeem man.  God amplifies this promise to following generations by promising Abraham that his descendants will be a blessing to the nations, and by providing a substitute for Abraham’s son Isaac.  He continues to layer that promise with clearer pictures of redemption by accepting the blood of the lambs on the doorposts in the Passover, by establishing the Day of Atonement, and by giving Israel the sacrificial system.
In the book of Numbers, 24:17-19. Balaam blesses Israel,
“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel…
Out of Jacob One shall have dominion.
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And Isaiah writes full chapters of prophecy about the coming redemption of man through a Messiah who will win the victory for us sinners, including the entire chapter of Isaiah 53 which reads in part, verses 2-6,
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 mankind,
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.
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.
Because King David was a man after God’s own heart, God blesses David with details about the King and Messiah yet to come: the Messiah’s life, His death, His Resurrection and His Reign forever.
David wrote in Psalm 25:14,
“The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, and He shall show them His covenant.”

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II. The Messiah’s Life

God reveals details of the Messiah to David.  In Psalm 69:8-9, David describes the life of his future savior like this –
I am a foreigner to my own family,
a stranger to my own mother’s children;
for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
This prophecy is fulfilled many times in the life of Jesus, such as in John 7:1-9.  Jesus’ brothers taunt Him and try to get him to go up to the Feast of Tabernacles, where the Jews want to kill Him.  Verse 5, John writes,
For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
In Mark 3, Jesus gathers His disciples and gives them power to drive out demons, but in verse 21-22, his family thinks he’s lost His mind and the rulers think Jesus serves the devil –
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

III. The Messiah’s Death

David also writes about the death of Jesus on the cross.  In Mark 15:34 as Jesus was being crucified,
And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Jesus is specifically directing us to read David’s words in Psalm 22, which begins,
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
Psalm 22 is incredibly specific in describing the suffering and death of Jesus, including ridicule, abandonment by His friends, being surrounded by enemies, even His thirst, Psalm 22:15,
My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
One of the soldiers gave Jesus vinegar to drink, a rag tied to a stick, but Jesus refuses it.  And David even prophecies the soldiers gambling for His clothing in Psalm 22:16-18,
Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.
In John 19, Jesus’ own executioners end up wearing His clothing, His righteousness clothing sinners.

IV. The Messiah’s Resurrection

David write about the Messiah’s resurrection in Psalm 16:9-11
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Both Peter and Paul cite this Psalm as a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection, noting that not only did Jesus rise from the dead, but He would rise before any bodily decay.

V. The Messiah’s Reign

Then the triumph of Jesus shines through the last part of Psalm 22, verse 27-28,
All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the Lord
and he rules over the nations.
Israel’s unique relationship with the Lord will expand to all nations and opens God’s grace to the gentiles.

VI. The Messiah’s Prophecies Fulfilled

God has built a careful plan of both prophecy and fulfillment of His prophecy to demonstrate His truthfulness, and yet, many Christians are unaware of the great lengths God went through to demonstrate His fulfilled promises.  And if Christians aren’t confident in the truth about salvation through Jesus, how can nonbelievers be confident in the truth?
This is important – to know that Jesus lived and died, rose again on the third day, and sits at the right hand of the Father.  In 1 Corinthians 15:14, Paul reminds us that our entire faith rests on this point –
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
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In a recent study only 92% of Americans believe that Jesus Christ was a real.  Less than half of Millennials believe that Jesus was God, preferring to think of Jesus as either a spiritual leader or something else, or not sure.
Like many of you, my wife and I pray for family members who do not know Jesus.  My wife’s family can be very ugly when she talks about her faith.  Imagine her joy when her sister called one Easter morning and left a voicemail that said she believed in Jesus!  But when my wife called her back, her sister hadn’t come to faith.  She was only agreeing that Jesus was a real person.
This shouldn’t even be a question – of course He existed.  There is more documentation about the life of Jesus than about any other historical person.  But when a non-Christian asks this question, they usually mean “not counting the bible”.
But there are multiple secular historians that wrote about an amazing man in a relatively unimportant small corner of the Roman Empire.  Roman Tacitus, considered one of the most accurate historians of the first century, wrote about Jesus.  So did Suetonius, chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian.  Julius Africanus.  Pliny the Younger.  Lucian of Samosata.  Mara Bar-Serapion.  We can nearly reconstruct the life and ministry of Jesus from non-biblical sources.  Of course Jesus existed.
One of the most important external sources about the life of Jesus is Flavius Josephus, a famous Jewish historian for the Roman Empire.  Now, as a Jew and a Roman, Josephus would have been strongly opposed to the ministry of Jesus, but instead, Josephus wrote in Antiquities –
“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats….He was [the] Christ…he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.”
And –
“At this time there was a wise man named Jesus. His conduct was good and [he] was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who became his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.”
Yeah, but was Jesus the son of God?  Certainly King David Isaiah wrote prophecies about the coming Messiah, and prophecies were written hundreds of years before Jesus –
OT Prophecies About Christ
Prophecy Scripture Years in Advance
Manner of Birth Isaiah 7:14 700 years
Place of Birth Micah 5:2 700 years
Nationality Numbers 24:17 1400 years
Tribe Genesis 49:10 1800 years
Time of & Response to His Messiahship Dan. 9:25-26 600 years
Crucified Between Thieves Isaiah 53:9 700 years
Pierced Isaiah 53:5 700 years
No Broken Bones Psalm 22:17 1000 years
Gamble for His Clothing Psalm 22:18 1000 years
Buried in Rich Man’s Tomb Isaiah 53:9 1000 years
I read a list of 355 separate prophecies in the bible about Jesus, and Jesus fulfilled every one.  A mathematical impossibility.  In a book called “Science Speaks,” they calculated that the odds of one man fulfilling all the prophecies was one in 10^17 power.  To put it in perspective, imagine the entire state of Texas covered in silver dollars two feet thick, and only 1 of those silver dollars is marked.  Now imagine a blindfolded man, heading out of Dallas by foot, would manage to pick out that silver dollar on his first try.  That’s the equivalent odds of one in 10^17th power.
I read that in a debate with an atheist, the atheist claimed that the only reason Jesus fulfilled those prophecies was because Jesus set out intentionally to fulfill those prophecies in order to deceive people.  So the Christian asked him, “So how did Jesus choose to be born in Bethlehem?”
If that wasn’t enough proof, Jesus made His own short term prophecies that were fulfilled –
Christ’s Short-Term Predictions
Prophecy Scripture
Betrayal by a Friend John 13:21
Three-fold Denial by Peter Matthew 26:34, 75
Manner of His Own Death Matthew 20:18-19
Manner of Disciples’ Deaths John 21:18-22
AD 70 Events Luke 19:41-44
When Jesus said in Matthew 24:2 that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed,
Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
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The Jews looked at the massive temple and scoffed.  But the temple in Jerusalem had a fortune in gold and silver inside for safekeeping, but during 70 AD the Romans set fire to the temple and the gold and silver melted and ran between the stones.  The Roman soldiers tore each and every stone out and threw it over the temple mount wall trying to retrieve the gold and silver.
Well, ok, so there’s proof Jesus existed and fulfilled prophecy, but maybe Jesus was just a great spiritual leader.
Well, Jesus was indeed a great spiritual teacher.  He never claimed to be God, did He?
That’s a narrow minded view of the life of Jesus.  Jesus never used the words, “I am God,” but He claimed to be God nonetheless.  In John 10:30, Jesus says,
I and the Father are One.
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The Jewish leaders understood that to mean Jesus and God were the same.  And when Jesus said to the Jews in John 8:58,
“I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I am!”
The Jews then took up stones to kill Jesus for blasphemy as the Mosaic Law commanded.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is quite unlike the Ten Commandments, it is the most amazing spiritual and prophetic sermon, and absolutely impossible for us to fulfill unless we allow Christ to remake us in His image.  So could Christ both claim to be God and teach this Sermon and be wrong?  C.S. Lewis grappled with this very subject and developed the Tri-Lemma.
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If Jesus claimed to be God and knew it to be false, then he was a liar.  But His teachings are those of compassion and love and truth.  Or maybe Jesus claimed to be God and didn’t know, which means He was a lunatic.  Hard to square that with the Sermon on the mount.
Or Jesus claimed to be God and knew it to be true.  Then the choice becomes ours on whether to accept Jesus as Lord.
But great spiritual leader that wasn’t God?  Jesus did not intend to leave us that option.  Liar, lunatic, or Lord are the only options.
Well, ok, he fulfilled prophecy and was the Son of God.  That doesn’t mean He was raised from the dead, does it?
Again, we have to look at the facts.  In 1 Corinthians 15:6-7, Paul says,
“After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles…”
Paul is telling the church of Corinth something they had seen for themselves, Jesus walking among them after His death on the cross.  They had eyewitnesses living among them.  It could not have just been a lie, because the witnesses still were around.
Let’s say I told you that I remember when Hillary Clinton won the Presidential election in 2016, or Hurricane Harvey slamming California, or the Texans winning with Superbowl.  You know those statements aren’t true – you remember the news.  And even if you weren’t in Houston, you can ask witnesses who remember.  In other words, there are people still alive who remember the truth.  A story like a dead man rising from the grave was believable precisely because so many saw Him, and Paul said those witnesses are still alive and you can question them about the life and resurrection of Jesus.
Some skeptics might then admit all of this was true so far, but maybe Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross, maybe He was only wounded, or perhaps somebody stole the body.  There are lots of theories, but none of them make sense, especially in light of all the witnesses that saw Jesus.  Here are some of the theories –
  • Swoon theory.  This theory suggests Jesus didn’t actually die, he survived the crucifixion.  They put Him in a tomb, wrapped Him in linens like He was dead, but then He recovered and got up and walked around.  But the Roman guards who crucified Jesus were very good at their jobs of torture and death, and their own lives depended on it if they failed.  The Romans pieced him through the side with a spear and blood and water came out indicating hypovolemic shock followed by pleural effusion, the water from the lungs settling into the heart area, something that only occurs after death.  Jesus was most certainly dead.  And after having his skin flogged and beaten and tortured and hypovolemic shock and crucified, it’s not possible that being stored in a tomb for 3 days without food or water that a nearly dead Jesus could get up, untangle the linens that wrapped His body in a cocoon, and then walk around and mingle with His disciples and nobody notice that He was near death.  If He had survived – which He couldn’t and didn’t – then He would have been in ICU for months.
  • Ok, so He died on the cross.  Maybe his body was placed in the wrong tomb.  But that doesn’t make sense – there was again a Roman guard stationed outside the tomb.  Both the Sanhedrin and the Romans were trying to destroy early Christianity, and Romans making a mistake like that would have been punishable by death.  Besides, when the Christians claimed Jesus lived, the Jews or the Romans could just present the body to prove He was dead.
  • Maybe somebody stole the body.  But who would have done that?  The Romans?  No, that was punishable by death and they wanted Jesus dead.  The Jews?  They also wanted Jesus dead.  Besides, when the disciples and the 500 started walking around the streets and word got around that Jesus was alive, again, all the Jews or Romans had to do was produce the body.  That would have killed Christianity instantly.
  • That only leaves the disciples themselves who had motive to steal Jesus’ body.  But that doesn’t hold up, either – every one of Jesus’ disciples were tortured and killed for proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus.  Maybe one person could survive torture and maintain a lie, but all twelve, enduring torture and prosecution and still proclaiming Christ lives?  They all died proclaiming Christ, and I just can’t imagine they would all do that for a lie.  No, they believe Christ died and rose again.
  • Mass Hallucination.  No really, that’s a theory.  Not a good theory, but hey, I included it on the list.

VII. Conclusion

Every person must make this decision about Jesus.  Did Jesus live?  Did He die?  Did He rise from the grave?  Is He a Liar, a Lunatic, or Lord?  The evidence is overwhelming, from a biblical view, a logical view, an historical view.

In John 20, Jesus has been crucified and raised to life, but Doubting Thomas won’t believe it unless he puts his hands in the holes left by the nails in Jesus.  And Jesus appears and lets Thomas do exactly that, telling Thomas to stop doubting and to believe.  Thomas’s reaction in John 20:28-29,

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

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God has given us hundreds of fulfilled prophecies so that we may believe.  Those of us that have already placed our trust in Jesus probably also have a personal testimony of Jesus in our lives to help eliminate all doubt.  Jesus is real, our Messiah, our salvation, our rock and our fortress, and our redeemer.   As King David writes in Psalm 22:29-31 –
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!
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To God be the glory.