God spoke through many prophets for centuries to keep His people on track. What do these messages mean to us today?
DAY ONE – 2 Kings 14-15, 2 Chronicles 25-27
Kings came and kings went in Israel and Judah. They are not the principal figures in these stories, even though they play a major role. Yahweh God is always the foremost player in the lives of the divided kingdoms. Kings are rated as to their performance by how they kept the laws of God and how closely they walked in the ways of their forefathers. Jeroboam son of Nebat first led Israel into sinful idolatry with the two golden calves he set up to be Israel’s gods. David was the father of all the kings, a man after God’s own heart who became the default example of how kings should act. So one king and then another lived, ruled and died; they were expendable, and yet each one left his mark on the two nations respectively. God was always in charge. He was always determining the fortunes of the kings and their families as they went forward. And His words always prevailed over the future of the two nations. So we are able to look back and study the lives and outcomes of the kings of Israel and Judah as guides to how we should conduct politics and what place we should give the Lord in national matters.
Have we learned anything so far? Do the examples of the kings teach us anything about modern politics, about social justice, about national ethics and values? Who are the historical leaders we venerate? Which of our national fathers’ examples are held up to the public spotlight and given a respected place in our history? Are they names only, or do we gain wisdom from them? With barely two hundred fifty years of national government, where are we headed? What would Old Testament prophets say about us? What are our current prophets saying? Can we… will we learn from history? What do you think?
DAY TWO – Jonah 1-4
We have already described this period in divided Israel as that of the kings. But now we are thrust into the world of the prophets who arose and fulfilled God’s call to the nations, for that is what they did. Impelled by God’s Words in their spirit they brought their messages to the peoples as well as their kings, declaring whatever they were given. Jonah, by his own admission, was a Hebrew–a Jew. Yahweh God, Creator of all mankind, gave him a one-sentence message for Nineveh, the great capital of Assyria, expressing God’s pity for this city of more than one hundred thousand souls. “In forty days Nineveh will be overthrown!” It took three days for him to walk from one edge of the city to the other. During this time these pagan worshippers of false gods were stunned into realization that their gods were powerless before Yahweh God, and they fell into a state of national repentance, covering themselves with sackcloth and languishing in ashes. Merciful God was deeply impressed and relented of the judgment that had been determined on Nineveh. Now ecstatic with joy, Jonah celebrated and… wait… NOT! He did not celebrate; rather he was morose and felt like a failure. For now his prophetic word would not come true. His message would fail. Jonah thought He knew God, that God would do what He said, that He would destroy these pagans and give them what they deserved, for Assyria was the great oppressor of Israel. Instead, they were spared to live another day. How well do we know God? Confronted by Yahweh’s mercy, Jonah responded with “I knew it… I knew I would fail,” Jonah 4:2-3 for I knew that you are a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and you repent of the evil. 3 Therefore now, Yahweh, take, I beg you, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.” (WEB)
Should our Lord Jesus come already? Should the nations be judged for their lawlessness and rebellion? Should evil perish? Is it time now for the restoration of all things? We are hardly competent to make that call. We may know God, but we don’t know what God knows! 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (WEB) That’s why Nineveh was spared for a time. That’s why today is still a time of salvation, a time for compassion and intercessory prayers. That’s why our hearts should be broken for our world of violence and evil. And that’s why, though we rejoice in the saving grace of the Lord in heaven, we nonetheless plead in mercy for awakenings among the nations and turning from wickedness to God. To know Yahweh God is to discover His heart, His lovingkindness toward all peoples.
DAY THREE – Amos 1-5
Time to flip the coin… to see God’s other side. His love is obvious; kindness flows from His generous nature. He goes out of His way to persuade mankind to seek and serve Him… for our own good, no less! What does He get from all this? Grief. Like a father whose prodigal child has fled the nest, our Father God must carry the grief until his loved one has decided to return. The Creator God, maker of heavens and earth… all wise… all powerful… filled with grace and mercy… by His own sovereign will must wait until we humans decide to seek and serve Him. He waits with hope and love, sending every possible encouragement and reminder to us. Only when hope is lost and love is spurned does He permit justice to be carried out so that harmony will return to the universe. God’s plan to save the world, to return the creation to its original perfection and goodness, empowers every law and every action. Nothing is haphazard, random or capricious. It is intentional, ordered and wise. Only if we BEGIN with this premise will we understand the call of the prophet, the voice of the man of God. Who was Amos but a sheepherder? He had no vested interest in the message he proclaimed; yet he spoke definitely and clearly regarding eight different nations, ending with Judah and Israel. And his pronouncements on the first six nations was for their treatment of the people of God. Judah and Israel He treated as family–recounting their history and leading to their present destruction. Only a grief-stricken heart can speak to combined Israel as God does. Judgment is never a priority… it is a necessity! It’s at the end of a long road from which there seems to be no way back. But still the invitation remains: “Return to Me.”
So love’s other side–God’s other side–turns out to be justice. In order for the creation to be pristine once again, for the righteous to enjoy the gift of something like a restored Eden–let’s call that heaven, justice MUST fall against the ungodly and unrighteous to cleanse and purge creation of the evil that everyone knows is at work. In the END, creation will be as it was at the BEGINNING. That’s what the prophet proclaimed without understanding his own message. He said that wrong would be made right, God is vindicated, and salvation is open to the seeker… the returner. Let’s not stone the prophet; he is only a messenger; let’s thank him for leaving his job for a while to speak God’s love… and justice, to all of us!
DAY FOUR – Amos 6-9
What happens when we lose touch with heaven; when we become so enthralled with the tangible and visible that we lose our sense of the intangible and invisible? Describing Israel’s lifestyle, Amos nailed down the reality of a people who had forgotten God and heaven, choosing rather to luxuriate in their self-gotten spoils of earth. No matter that they trampled the rights of others; no matter that their gains were others’ losses. Religious apostasy ruined Israel’s chance of a future with Yahweh God and hope of continuing better days. They would be scattered among the nations, displaced from their God-given homes, and left to survive until the centuries leading to the end times. Even Judah was implicated, falling under the evil that was to come. But God put it into the prophet’s heart to stand up for Jacob (Judah) with intercession and pleadings that would soften the blows and delay outcomes. The king of Israel accosted Amos with demands that he take his prophesies elsewhere, that his voice no longer be heard in the capital city. When we lose sight of heaven, we certainly don’t want to be reminded that there is a God who might be totally aware of everything. And we definitely don’t want to be reminded that a day of reckoning lies before us. Amos reminded the king that his anger was misplaced–“Who am I?” was his comeback. “I’m only a sheepherder, as was my father before me. If you have a problem, it is not with me but with the Lord God.”
Does any of this sound familiar? Do we see any of these conditions being replicated within our own culture? How far can any people go to remove reminders of heaven; to silence voices from heaven? Can society get rid of God? What does it take to move the people of God back on center with heaven in full view? Do we who profess God as our center fill our lives with the tangible and visible as well? Or can we, moved by the times and circumstances, energized by the Spirit of God, challenge ourselves to seek the intangible and invisible–“seek first God’s government and righteousness,” knowing full well that there is an end to this earth as we know it? Must we wait until opportunities are lost to realign with heaven and seek the God of heaven to show Himself mighty again, in our behalf? Israel lost out. Judah escaped for a time by the skin of her teeth. God’s plan to save the world moved forward, but many who at first were chosen and included in the plan, lost their place and their future. Heaven help us!
DAY FIVE – Hosea 1-5
Most writers save the reveal until the last chapter of the book, but Hosea was moved by the Spirit to state the problem, the plot and the reveal all in the first chapter! And to illustrate the book he was instructed to marry a prostitute, who gave him three children whose names corresponded to the fortunes of Judah and Israel.
- Jezreel = an end to the kingdom of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.
- Lo-Ruhamah = means a withdrawal of mercy from the house of Israel.
- Lo-Ammi = you are not my people and I am not your God.
Immediately the prophet speaks of a people as numerous as the sand of the sea, once again called the people of God, and once again united with all of Israel under one Head. Wow! That was just the first chapter. So how do we get from here to there? God often appears to have a rod of correction in one hand and a kid glove in the other. Most parenting is like that, and most parents dream of children growing to adulthood as contributing participants in their generation. The Heavenly Father is like that. He plans for the day when all of His children will regather as a redeemed family and go forward with powerful and productive lives. In the meantime He has to deal with a posterity in rebellion, given over to idolatry with many pagan gods referred to as ‘lovers.’ As always, the aberrant lifestyle creates confusion, darkening memories of home and family, love and devotion. So went Hosea’s marriage to a prostitute whose behavior brought separation and grief more than once. But he found her and brought her home, reminiscent of God’s gracious love and redemption in Israel and Judah. He was even willing to pay for her release from her ways.
What do we learn from Hosea the man? What do we learn about God in his dealings with the prophet? Could any of us do what Hosea was asked to do? He was asked not just to give a message, but to BECOME the message! What message are you communicating through your life? If someone was asked to write down what he learns by who you are, what would it be? The life of the prophet was not wine and roses, but RUBBER ON THE ROAD of life! May we be alert to the messages the Lord is sending our way right now through the people we know and live with.