Week 36, 2018 – Five more days reading thru the Bible. It’s all about knowing our heavenly Father…

The worst king who ever lived did a one-eighty and was restored! Believe it or not…

DAY ONE – Isaiah 50-53

Why Israel, you ask? Remember that back in the Garden of Eden, God spoke to the first couple and the serpent of ‘seed’? It would be the seed of Adam and Eve that would eventually take out the serpent. Throughout the millennia following, that seed was created, nurtured and watched over by Yahweh God Himself, who called Abraham, then his son Isaac, and finally Jacob and all his posterity, whom we know today as the Jews, or Israel. That seed was preserved for such a time as “a virgin will conceive and bear a son.” So Isaiah brings forth this volume of prophetic revelation concerning God’s ‘servant,’ birthed and raised as if out of dry ground that has no life left in it. And that Servant will be Good News to Zion (Israel). Further His work will accomplish a mighty salvation and deliverance not seen before, until the Good News has reached earth’s furthest reaches. Over and over, God says to comfort His people with the news that He still reigns, that He is still sovereign over the nations, that the future is like the present to Him; and He can see the ending of it all, even as we are living in the present moment. No wonder that He asks us to believe in Him, to trust Him, to not fear the oppression of mankind. Finally we have an entire chapter devoted to the description and fortunes of His ‘servant.’ It’s not pretty. It’s filled with pathos and human suffering, yet there is a wonder about this ‘servant’ who is doing God’s will and radically changing the future of all who will believe in Him. A time will come when the ‘servant,’ crushed under the oppression, will rise to highest prominence and justify many. No one has, like Isaiah, explored the highs and lows of humanity under the dealings of Yahweh God, only to return with a report of total victory and accomplishment.

“Comfort my people,” God says. So we keep looking up, we keep looking forward. We hold each other, we laugh and cry, we attend births and funerals, we sleep, we go to work, then we do it all over again. Does it ever end? Or does it persist ad infinitum? The greatest comfort is knowing that God is there, that He loves us, that our faith in Him does and will overcome all because He overcame all. Having born our sin, having become our salvation, He is reaching to us, inviting us, watching over us, for good. “So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Isaiah 51:10

DAY TWO – Isaiah 54-58

I had a friend in Argentina years ago whose ministry was named Vision of the Future. From his vision came a plan, and from his plan came a great deal of hard work and tiring travel. Yet out of that grew a ministry that reached 50,000 people a month. Seeing, envisioning, reaching, working–this is how God’s work gets done on earth. It’s not easy, as the Lord explained to Adam when he was driven from the Garden of Eden. We get it ‘by the sweat of our brow.’ Why is life difficult?  When we finish listing all the things that make life harder, it really comes back to us–God has to get almost everything done through us! While He holds the final word on all things, He has chosen to partner with humankind so that we appreciate His Divine work among us. Here are steps that God takes in dealing with people in the real world:

  • INVITATION. We are always invited into God’s world and works. The number of times we hear ‘Come to Me,’ or ‘Return to Me’ begin to mount up as we go through scripture. Why? What does He want? He wants us, His creation, His people, His worshippers to be the carriers of His Presence and life in the cosmos.
  • CONFRONTATION. When we are disconnected and away from His Presence as a result of our transgressions and sins, He confronts our basic appetites, attitudes and actions to see if we will relent and renounce our waywardness.
  • INTENTION. Through the prophets the Lord always made clear what He was up to, what He wanted and how  we are a part of His Divine plans. He clearly revealed the present issues, the outcomes, and visions of the future. Ah, visions of the future. Some of what was penned and spoken by Isaiah still lies before us as God’s vision of the future. Glorious promises are held in reserve for the faithful; so no matter how difficult things appear to be, Yahweh God is working toward the accomplishment of His plans and fulfillment of His covenants.

Regardless our present level of comfort, or lack of it, God is at work. From His dwelling in Eternity He is looking for those who serve Him humbly and with a contrite spirit, insisting that He lives with us. Through God’s vision and His tireless efforts, we are being saved in a mighty way into a glorious and explosively marvelous future.

DAY THREE – Isaiah 59-63

Looking back on my preaching years, it is obvious that any message I gave was just that–a message. If one wanted to know what I believed and what I knew, he would have had to sit under my preaching for extended periods of time. Certain core truths and themes were repeated often for emphasis, but eventually I covered all the truth that I understood from God’s word. Isaiah’s messages were given during the reign of four separate kings–a long time. Are they repetitive? Certainly. Again and again Israel was reminded that God is sovereign, righteous, and holy. He was their Creator, their God by right of redemption and salvation. He required devotion, proper worship and right living.  And Israel BECAME OUR EXAMPLE. We learn from them to have reverence for God, to receive instruction, to conduct ourselves humbly and contritely in His Presence, and to discover His great plans for His people and the world. It also becomes apparent that idolatry and rebellion have grave consequences, as we watched the northern tribes of Israel carried away by the king of Assyria, taken from their homeland to never return. Now our reading is revealing the tenuous relationship Yahweh has with Judah and Jerusalem, the City of the Great King. Isaiah’s messages have turned toward a glorious future, visions of a restored land whose impact and influence are felt around the world; and we are reading words spoken over 2,700 years ago! Yet his messages could have been given recently and would be an accurate description of yesterday’s news! How does THAT work?

First, God lives in ETERNITY–that means that yesterday, today and tomorrow are alike to Him. Given only the past and present, we cannot comprehend that; to us there is an unknown future, but not to God. He has for the entire scope of human history repeated His instructions, promises, warnings and outcomes. He has revealed His purposes, plans and priorities. He has demonstrated His love, mercy and grace upon and through Israel over multiplied centuries, right up until today. Each generation of humans has to interface with God’s mercy and grace, deciding whether to live in loving relationship or go their own way. Then it becomes PERSONAL–I have to decide. Having read through the entire Word of God more than two dozen times, and now writing about it, I want all my friends, family and others to DISCOVER what I know–GOD HAS ALWAYS HAD A PLAN TO SAVE THE WORLD, AND WE ARE ALL WATCHING IT UNFOLD BEFORE OUR VERY EYES. The whole Bible confirms and explains what we need to know. What a great time to draw near to God, to live and move in the atmosphere of His love and salvation.

DAY FOUR – Isaiah 64-66

The more we read into the Word of God, the Bible, the more we understand that something is fundamentally wrong with our world, and with us. Though Yahweh God is everything we wish to be and continuously invites us to be His children, to belong to Him, we keep our distance when we have something to hide from Him. Israel chose pagan idols and followed pagan ways whenever they walked away from the Lord God. Yet the Creator of heaven and earth, not willing to abandon His creation, has met us with mercy and grace, has moved heaven and earth to bring salvation, and has intervened when all hope was lost. Our extremity is always God’s opportunity, especially if we have come to the end of our self. God is not offering a Band-aid to cover over a massive injury. He is speaking of a new heaven and a new earth–not a renovation but a new creation. Why then, would we want a quick fix for something in us that requires total restoration and renewal? Isaiah 64:1 Oh that you would tear the heavens, that you would come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence… Yahweh, You alone can repair the broken places, can heal the human disease, can recreate that which is fatally flawed! Come, O Lord, help us as soon as You can. Come, restore and revive us. Come with your Mighty salvation and eternal kingdom. We abandoned you and went our own way, only to discover that our way is the wrong way. Now we are broken and contrite, confessing our sins and transgressions. We are hungry and thirsty and ashamed of what our world has become. We turn to You because our options are played out and nothing has worked. You are Creator and Lord; You know our very thoughts. We believe your Good News, so do your work in us now.

Isaiah 66:22-23  For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, says Yahweh, so shall your seed and your name remain. 23 It shall happen, that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, says Yahweh. So we turn to God and are saved. We release all to Him in order that we may gain His eternal kingdom and the future He so wants us to have.

DAY FIVE – 2 Kings 21, 2 Chronicles 33

How amazing is it that a king reigns in Jerusalem for 55 years, and yet his scriptural biography is only one chapter in each of these accounts? Is it enough to say that he sinned worse than Ahab of Israel and all the kings before him? Is it enough to report that he seduced his nation to practice every form of idolatry, sorcery and witchcraft, becoming even worse than the nations who occupied the land before Israel? Is it enough to reveal how he angered Yahweh God by erecting idols in God’s house in Jerusalem, to the point that he was bound in chains and deported to Babylon as a prisoner? The shocking truth is that, once in Babylon, Manasseh did a one-eighty, totally humbling himself before the Lord and repenting of his idolatrous ways. He entreated the mercy of God and was forgiven and restored. Back in Jerusalem Manasseh removed all the idols, restored the Lord’s altars of worship and sacrifice, and persuaded the people to cease their idolatry. It was not perfect, but it was dramatic! The evil he had practiced had caused Yahweh to declare terrible calamity over Jerusalem and Judah. Now the reform appeared to delay judgment until sometime in the future. Manasseh died in a better place than he lived. But what would become of Jerusalem?

God has His ways and means. Since He lives in the eternities, unbound by the time which restricts us, He eternally works toward His plan of saving the world from ultimate destruction. From His vantage point, knowing the hearts of humankind, the Lord also responds with an other-worldly kind of mercy which triumphs over human sin and rebellion. Always calling and inviting us to the place of repentance; always operating in a heavenly kind of love; and always willing to restore, the Father Creator deserves our utmost reverence and respect. Though we cannot see Him, we know Him by His created works and His loving influence in our world. Without Him the world would quickly be swallowed up in the blackness of evil. It was a brutal lesson, but Manasseh came to his senses. He had sense enough to cast all his idols out of God’s house and the city, restoring worship to Yahweh. Bringing offerings of peace and thanksgiving to the Lord, he returned the land to Him. How many ways can you think of today to give thanks to God and to make your life a worship to Him? Should we not explore every blessing we are receiving and then remember to thank the Lord?

Week 35, 2018 – Seasons change, but God’s Word remains the same…let’s READ!

Rocket science? No.. relationship with God is a matter of worship and gratitude!

DAY ONE – Isaiah 36-37, 2 Kings 18:9-19:37, 2 Chronicles 32:1-23, Psalm 23

We should rejoice to read the same story told by three different authors at different times. It definitely confirms that God’s Word validates itself as the truth! And the truth is, Yahweh God is sovereign over the nations, shaping history so that it accomplishes His plans. If a person knows the bridge over the hill is out and warns passing motorists, it is up to the drivers to decide whether to continue. Those who do, do so at their own risk–literally at risk of their life. So is the prophetic word of THE God who knows the future of things and warns from heaven how we should respond. The King of Assyria and his generals were VERY frank and very confident about what they would do to Israel and Judah. Samaria readily fell, suggesting that Jerusalem would be easy prey as well. But Hezekiah was a godly king who, though weak, nevertheless trusted Yahweh God. With Isaiah to inform him of heaven’s wishes, Hezekiah humbled himself, asked help from God, and waited. Help came in a strange and wonderful display–a mighty angel from God went into the Assyrian camp and overnight killed one hundred eighty-five thousand men, including generals and officers! The next day, the Assyrian king withdrew from his siege and returned home, only to be killed by two of his own sons. What part of GOD HAS THIS do we not seem to understand?

If you’re paying attention, by now you know that Israel ceased as a nation, having been removed from her land by the Assyrian king and resettled far from home. The northern tribes were mixed in with Assyrians sent to occupy their land and to live among the remnant Israelis left behind. In the future the mixed breed will be known as Samaritans. Judah is receiving help for the present because of her return to Yahweh. What a letdown from the glory days of David and Solomon when all the tribes were together and abundantly blessed! So history is replete with oscillations–highs and lows–brought about by humans who decide how they will respond to the Creator God, to whom the earth belongs, and Who has plans to RESTORE ALL THINGS to His own Will at a set time. How sensible is it to hold the Ten Commandments in front of EVERY GENERATION as a reminder that, in the end, Heaven wins and earthlings will rejoice to the extent that they have BELIEVED God and trusted Him with their very life?

DAY TWO – Isaiah 38-39, 2 Kings 20, 2 Chronicles 32:24-33

This is a story of sickness, near death and miraculous recovery. Hezekiah could not accept that his life was over, even when given the message from Yahweh God by Isaiah. Told to set his house in order, Hezekiah instead turned to the wall and wept before God with great human passion. His argument made sense, but was that God’s will? Nonetheless Isaiah was instructed to turn back and assure the king that he would live after all, given an extension of fifteen years. When a poultice was applied, he gained a miraculous recovery, which was accompanied by a miraculous sign. Shouldn’t we rejoice at his good fortune? Isn’t the Lord wonderful to respond to a passionate plea from a good king? It should seem that way, but the coin has a flip side. Here are two salient points to ponder:

  1. Having received a gift and a visit from the household of the king of Babylon to celebrate his recovery, Hezekiah–allowing his healing to lift up his pride–gave the grand tour of his kingdom to the Babylonian envoy, displaying all his wealth. No doubt that stirred up envy in the envoy. Well, God didn’t think that was so great, for Isaiah reappeared to announce that ALL OF THAT WEALTH would one day be carried to Babylon, stripped away from Judah.
  2. When Hezekiah died, his son Manasseh stepped up to the throne in his father’s place and became king, to reign for fifty-five years over Judah. A wonderful picture, yes? It should be, yes; but actually, NO. You see, Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king. Do the math… when was he born? AFTER HEZEKIAH’S HEALING! The son was born during the 15-year extension given Hezekiah by a compassionate God. I want to say more, but the results appear in our next reading section, so hold that thought.

When is it appropriate to question the Lord’s will for our life? What is a correct response to God when His will seems to contradict our natural and human feelings and desires? If it turns out that God is gracious and responds to us favorably, what is our responsibility after that? What can be learned from this great story?

DAY THREE – Isaiah 40-42, Psalm 46

Are there chapters in the Bible that should be memorized? If so, Isaiah 40 is one of them. It is so powerful, so redemptive, so declarative, that to gain mastery of these words can aid your walk with God FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE! It certainly has mine. Why… what is so wonderful about it? Count the ways…

  • First of all, it is YOUR GOD speaking. Remember David’s confidence–“My God”?
  • Second, everything He is saying He is relating back to those of us who live in this world.
  • Third, He is bringing assurance that the evil around us is controlled and will be extinguished.
  • Fourth, He says that all of this is GOOD NEWS.
  • He goes on to announce the WISDOM of trusting in Him and the FOLLY of practicing idolatry.  “To whom then will you liken me? Who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Isaiah 40:25
  • “Haven’t you known? Haven’t you heard? The everlasting God, Yahweh, The Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn’t faint. He isn’t weary. His understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the weak. He increases the strength of him who has no might. 30 Even the youths faint and get weary, And the young men utterly fall; 31 But those who wait for Yahweh will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run, and not be weary. They will walk, and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:28-31

It is futile to try to understand the workings of God, since He is the ONLY ONE who sees the future alongside the past! Living in time–moment to moment–is a disadvantage to us ONLY IF we are not trusting God’s eternal words and intentions. The rest of what is happening and what is coming is really NONE OF OUR BUSINESS. It is God’s business, and He is extremely capable of managing the nations and forcing them into a final confrontation with Him and His heavenly armies. History proves that God has wonderfully fulfilled promise after promise and insists that He will continue to do so. The prophets spoke what they were given without understanding the ‘how’ and ‘when’ of their own words. They trusted the message because they trusted their God. And that is what our Heavenly Father is asking of us in these inscrutable times. If you are following these writings you know by now that I BELIEVE GOD HAS PLANS TO SAVE THE WORLD. I also believe He will accomplish all that He intends, while saving me as well.

DAY FOUR – Isaiah 42-45, Psalm 80

Someone has called Isaiah’s prophecy ‘the Gospel of the Old Testament.’ Knowing that gospel means good news, then it is truly so. It’s good because Yahweh God repeatedly affirms His Name, nature and attributes. It’s good because He stubbornly continues to forgive Israel’s national sin of idolatry. It’s good because He declares, again and again, His intentions to restore and save Israel for His own name’s sake. And it’s good because the Lord is expanding His territory, claiming jurisdiction over and salvation for all nations in times to come. God even explains how He will use a pagan king several centuries down the way, to execute His plan to return the Jews to their homeland. He goes so far as to name the king and deliver a message to him some five hundred years before his birth! “Who is like Me?” asks Yahweh. Find any god who declares, predicts and delivers, as I do. You simply cannot, and you won’t. “I am the First, and I am the Last,” says our God. And to Israel He offers this reminder: I created, formed and redeemed you; I called you by name. No matter what happens, I will be there; it you are taken, I will bring you back. Fire and flood will not overcome you. I’m there, too. So, with all of this GOOD NEWS,  why would Israel ever make and worship idols? One of the most foolish occupations ever devised is the making of idols–carved and molded images that depict ‘god’ in some physical form. Isaiah 44 graphically demonstrates the folly of idolatry–” Those who make an image, all of them are useless, And their precious things shall not profit; They are their own witnesses; They neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed. 10 Who would form a god or mold an image That profits him nothing? Isaiah 44:9-10 (NKJV) Then it creates this scenario of a man who cuts a tree, uses half of it to cook food and build a fire so that he is satisfied and warm; then takes the other half and carves the image of a god which he sets up in his own house so he can bow down to it and ask for help! He made it, and now he worships it? He asks it for help? What’s wrong with this scene?

Indeed, what is wrong? But we know the answer. A dead god produces dead results–eyes that can’t see, ears that can’t hear, and a heart that cannot connect with the real God. So the masses go on their way, continuing to worship at manmade shrines of commercialism and materialism, trusting in a life fashioned after this world, totally missing all that is eternal and immediately invisible. No, it doesn’t make sense. But the GOOD NEWS does. It makes good sense to humble ourselves and bow before our Maker; to worship Him and seek His eternal kingdom. Those who seek find; those who ask, receive; those who knock find the open door. This is GOOD NEWS.

DAY FIVE – Isaiah 45-49, Psalm 135

“May I see your ID, please?” We do expect anyone representing an official entity to be able to produce proof of his claim–a badge, certificate or other means of confirmation. Imagine Almighty God, Yahweh, having to furnish proof of His identity to Israel or anyone else! Israel was so ready to accept the imposter gods, to fashion idols which they then set up as a connection with heaven… or as the case may be, hell! As I read through the Bible I am amazed that the Creator God has given us these 66 books of Witness to His own words and actions, offering volumes of evidence of His identity. Not stopping there He has performed innumerable supernatural acts in behalf of His people to undergird His identity and His great Name. Through the prophets and apostles He has called to our memory the entire history of mankind, demonstrating His own flawless works of creation, redemption, deliverance and restoration. So the question must be asked: Why are people so prone to accept imposters and false gods while forcing Yahweh, the True God, to keep proving Himself? And why, when we make a mess of things, are we first inclined to blame this wonderful God for the evil that persists around us? If we have such abundance of written and demonstrable proof of God’s identity and intention toward us, why won’t we trust and believe? If we struggle to believe in the God who was, is and will be, then the evil one will insist that we believe in NO GOD and will slander the very idea that God is our Savior.

There are two KEY ACTIONS that will overcome the evil that keeps us from God.

  1. WORSHIP. The first commandment God gave Moses was, “You shall have no other god before me.” Worship is not optional; we all bow to an impulse at some point in this life, even if that impulse evinces from our own ego. If we don’t worship God we will worship nonetheless. Better to bow our knee to God humbly and with contrition.
  2. THANKSGIVING. To give thanks is a natural impulse that shows appreciation. When we believe that we are entitled to more than we have or more of what we want, our thanksgiving is stifled by our self-centered ways. Life has never been easy; so learning to be thankful and show appreciation for what we have is the only way to repel the self-centeredness arising from our ego. We shall then be able to give thanks to God for everything.

This is not rocket-science. Little things will bring us closer to God, and little things will create distance from Him. Israel always had the opportunity to draw near to Yahweh, to appreciate Him and praise Him, to love Him and respond to His claims. That they did not is to their shame. That God had to bring stiff discipline is regrettable. But that He still has His eye on them for good is nothing short of miraculous! Are we getting the picture?

Week 34, 2018 – Reading thru the Bible, our Project this year! We can do this!

As summer wanes, our desire to know the Lord grows thru the INSIGHTS we find in His word.

DAY ONE – Isaiah 18-22

“Nero fiddled, while Rome burned.” And on the Titanic in 1912, as the gargantuan, unsinkable ship listed badly before plunging into the depths of the sea, its euphoric passengers continued to drink wine and dance to the orchestra that played, unbelieving even in the face of death.  Isaiah 22:12-13  At that time the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, called you to weep and mourn. He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins and to wear clothes of burlap to show your remorse. 13 But instead, you dance and play; you slaughter cattle and kill sheep. You feast on meat and drink wine. You say, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (NIV) There is, it seems, an element of insanity that accompanies great danger, especially when a people believe that they are invincible, impregnable. A nation’s counselors and advisers will offer complete nonsense to their leaders when they have lost their spiritual and moral compass. It was so in every nation spoken of in our reading today. Egypt gave way to such civil disruption that the people destroyed themselves and each other! We must conclude that an orderly society is blessed of God even if they don’t know it; and when that blessing is removed, nothing can prevent a deterioration that may be fatal. The Lord God watches over the affairs of men in every nation, looking for those who do what is right and good. He can see the end from the beginning, as He is truly Lord over Heaven’s Armies. And He will act in a manner consistent with His plans to save mankind as stated at the inception of the Original Sin. Who is God’s friend? Moses was God’s friend. Isaiah obeyed God, even when he was instructed to walk naked and barefoot for three years! God’s friends take their cues from Him as to times and seasons, responding in an appropriate manner.

What is an appropriate response to our current season? What season do we believe we are in? What do we think the Lord is saying right now? Describe our current societal order as best you can; where does it lead? What do you hope and pray will happen? What do you think we should do?

DAY TWO – Isaiah 23-26

In the late 80’s I stopped for lunch at a café on the I-5, on my way to southern California. A picture over the counter caught my attention, and I can still see it in my mind’s eye. A lone figure is standing in a sea of rubble, looking over what must have been a nuclear landscape, not a single other soul visible. The message seemed clear enough: I am left standing; I will begin again, I will rebuild. So is the image of God within us; we are created to work together with Him to build a kingdom, to have sovereignty and to rule. But something terrible has happened. We have broken our connection with Him, we have gone our own way, and now the earth is not a glorious kingdom. Instead it is, as Isaiah predicted, reeling to and fro like a drunkard! It is shaking like a leaf in the wind. Is there a glorious kingdom? Is there hope of a world that is righteous and good? O yes, there is. At one time God intended that Israel would demonstrate the glorious kingdom on earth, but Israel rebelled against Him and came to naught. Modern Israel was raised out of the ashes by Almighty God in a series of miracles that continue to defy the proud and haughty rulers of earth. Israel is regathered in her ancient land to await the final countdown to earth’s demise. All this, in order for the Eternal Kingdom of God to come in, in order for all mankind to be saved, in order for all of our dreams to finally come true! And yet, we are hard-pressed to see real evidence of people living as if this dramatic and even cataclysmic change must come about. Do we really believe that God has declared an end to human government in favor of government in which He is again Exalted Ruler? The time referred to by this and other prophets is called “the day of the Lord,” or “the day of God.” We are having our day; surely the Creator God will yet have His day. The question is, where will we be in that day?

What do you think of these chapters? What level of credibility do you believe Isaiah has? To what degree do you accept his statements about what is obviously still to come? Israel and the modern church have some shared components; what do you think they are? What do you think the church in America should be about in our time?

DAY THREE – 2 Kings 18:1-8, 2 Chronicles 29-31, Psalm 48

Occasionally men have risen in history to accomplish astounding feats. Hezekiah became king in Judah at age 25 and served for 29 years. Within his first year he led a revival in Judah that turned back judgment and brought renewal and longevity to the endangered nation. In a step-by-step campaign he reopened the temple, Yahweh’s house, and began a cleansing process. Summoning the Levites and priests and demanding they sanctify themselves according to Moses’ law, he reinstituted the sacrifices and rituals that had supported Israel’s relationship with God. By the time the process was complete, the religious system was restored to the extent that spiritual life, prosperity and blessings were once again normalized in Judah. Worship of Yahweh God replaced the idolatry and wickedness that had troubled several generations and left them desolate. Why Hezekiah? Why now? Was it because of the prophets and their messages? Was it because he had a godly mother? Was it because God simply was merciful to him? Probably all of these and more. Yet we must consider that Yahweh God always has a plan that will lead to the salvation of mankind, of all who will heed Him and respond to His loving ways. Hezekiah was a YOUNG man when he became king. His father was evil, yet he sought the Lord. His father worshipped idols, yet he was true to Yahweh. His father brought judgment on the nation, but he brought blessing. He restored godliness in the land, gaining the respect and admiration of the people. Those who DO GOOD bring blessing to others. Those who are courageous and stand forward in the crowd are the real change agents. Those who RISK EVERYTHING lead revivals that change history for the better.

Can we be persuaded that there are many YOUNG men and women coming up around us who are tired of wickedness, weary of rebellion, resistant to modern brainwashing of a generation at risk? Can we believe that God is calling out a new wave of young men and women to be prophets, apostles and leaders? Will we be a nation of complainers or prayer warriors? Will we criticize and reject or will we encourage and mentor? Will we hold fast to our ‘churchy’ traditions or will we seek God for dynamic and organic solutions to this nation’s ills? Will we be part of the problem or the solution? God has answers to today’s questions. Hezekiah seems to have arisen suddenly and without warning. But he led a life changing revival in his nation. God helped him. It can happen again.

DAY FOUR – Isaiah 27-30

Have you ever struggled with one of your children until you almost tire of hearing your own voice, and the question involuntarily arises in your mind, “What’s the use?” Nonetheless in the heart of a normal parent there is a love that is unqualified. Your child can do nothing to earn that love or to destroy it. You will always deeply love your own, even when you are angry or at the end of your rope. Your child may bring you grief, and you will still love him and yearn over him. You will eventually ask yourself questions: Am I being too hard on him; am I being too easy on him? And you won’t know. You will in time deliver up all the wisdom and knowledge you have in dealing with that son or daughter but it won’t fix anything. You may even turn your back and walk away for a season, but THAT child will still tug at your heartstrings and consume many of your prayerful moments. If you can identify with this, then you can understand these chapters you are reading of Isaiah’s prophecy. Yahweh God, Father of all Creation, yearns to finish what was started in the Garden of Eden: to have a worldwide family of beloved children, all in relationship with Him, all enjoying the blessings of heaven without the evil that inundates our lives and messes with our peace and hope. His dealings with Israel through the prophets reveals deep love, anger, grief and all of the emotions we experience in our relationships. You see, we are made in His image, and the problems we deal with are the same problems that He has to deal with. It’s not that God is like us; WE are like HIM… except for sin; sin is the destroyer of all God’s wonderful plans. We need to deal with our sin, for our Father must deal with our sin, as He did with that of Israel. One day we will understand. We know what it is like to have a difficult child who eventually grows up and finds his way home, and we are grateful that we continued to love and support him during the hard times.

The great blessing for us is knowing that God IS God; that He controls history without controlling us; that He moves even nations into position to accomplish His plans, so that His eternal kingdom will rise until it overtakes and destroys the evil; until the knowledge of the Lord covers the whole earth and has finished His work; until His salvation is complete and we are with Him forever. Take courage and be thankful to Him. No… go a step further; worship and serve Him with all that you are.

DAY FIVE – Isaiah 31-35

Mining treasures from the scriptures first requires finding them. Here are some specific ‘valuables’ discovered by reading and rereading volumes of prophetic revelation spoken by men of God, among whom Isaiah stands out.

  • God is always working toward the accomplishment of the noblest and grandest of plans to save mankind.
  • Our Lord chose to begin with one man–Abraham–to lay out His eternal program on earth.
  • That plan began with covenant–God’s promises–to Abraham and his descendants.
  • These promises hold everything together, in spite of human faithlessness and rebellion toward God.
  • With the past and future always in view, God shapes the outcomes of human endeavor, so that His plans stand forever. And Israel, as descendants of Abraham, must always deal directly with God, especially since the days of Egypt and Sinai.
  • Every nation eventually and in some way becomes aware of or involved with Israel, choosing whether to be an ally or enemy of these people God chose to be the instrument of His eternal plans.
  • In principle, Egypt always represents a forbidden past. Idolatry always represents a hidden snare to the present and future. And Israel fails more often than she succeeds to be faithful to her God.
  • With the present judgment on Israel, and the fragile future of Judah, God begins to lay out grander plans as He speaks of a ‘day’ yet to come, in which restoration will be for all the peoples who are gathered to Him in spirit and truth. Ultimate judgment awaits those who continue to act as if mankind are in charge of their own destiny and can live without God.

To those familiar with the New Testament of the Bible, many of Isaiah’s sayings will be immediately recognizable as quotations of Jesus and the apostles in NT writings. Prophetic pictures from Isaiah, 700 years before Jesus, will be retold by Jesus and his apostles to verify God’s plans and give greater understanding of times and seasons both present and future. The inescapable reality is that ALL OF THIS IS DECIDEDLY REAL! God is real, His dealings with Israel and Judah are true history, and the times in which we live are accurately foretold in the prophecies of Isaiah and others–all of which forces us to conclude that HOW WE LIVE in our present generation is a TEST OF FAITH we cannot afford to botch. We are accountable to Yahweh, Creator and Almighty God, for where we place our heart and how we live our life. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength.”

 

Week 33, 2018 – We are reading through the whole chronological Bible…wow!

Prophets, priests and kings…nations rise and fall before God Almighty…the great test continues to this day.

DAY ONE – Micah 1-4

Another day, another prophet? Not so. God’s special messengers were carefully chosen and appointed to their tasks by Yahweh God Himself. They became part of national life, woven into the fabric of society like special thread that stood out because of their message and their nature. These men were not extraordinary but did stand fearlessly before their listeners to expose those attitudes and behaviors that were in defiance of God. They condemned all forms of idolatry and evil, especially implied permissions that tolerated oppression of widows and the poor. Exploitation and greed were especially targeted in their outcries. We MUST once again give deep consideration to God Himself as He struggles with Jerusalem and Samaria, capital cities of the divided Jewish kingdom, seeking to preserve a righteous remnant through which THE KING OF THE WORLD would eventually come. Every effort to keep His people true to their calling and exalted position among the nations was met with basic human resistance and rebellion. Yet scattered among the peoples of Ephraim (Israel) and Judah were always those of good heart and simple faith, those who trusted Yahweh and were true to their God-given religion as practiced by their fathers.

God in heaven, what can you do that you have not already done? How can you persuade us to swallow our own human pride and admit that we live in constant danger of corruption? How can we be made to see that the past, present and future are always before you, that your plans will be carried out fully, with or without us? What can we demand of You without being petty or petulant, like spoiled children? Instead of stoning our prophets, may we truly humble ourselves and RETURN to You with gratitude and thanksgiving. May we acknowledge who You are and the gifts You have freely given us. Matthew 6:9-13  Pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. 10 Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. 13 Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.’

DAY TWO – Micah 4

Locked into time, we humans endure the fact that we cannot see the future. We can read about the future, we can speculate, even predict our ideas of the future, but we cannot SEE IT. For us the future always has an element of mystery and intrigue. No wonder then, that we have difficulty connecting the present with what lies ahead. Even if we imagine a future and then work to create it, the unknown is always present. For instance, at the infamous tower of Babel, when God looked down on the works of men, He saw that their evil plans would succeed if He did nothing, so the next morning the humans discovered they were speaking a number of different languages and could no longer communicate with each other; so they dispersed and their work ceased. God KNOWS the future, SEES the future and even CREATES the future so that His wonderful plans for humankind will succeed. We know this to be true because the Bible often predicts the future and then hundreds of years later records the events as they unfold. It then continues to demonstrate the continuity from past, to present, to future.  Micah 4:1-2  But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. 2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth out of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem (KJV). So when Micah says that, we can ‘take it to the bank’!

Tens of thousands of books have been written, reporting, parsing, dissecting and explaining the history of humans and nations that have walked the face of the earth for a season. The only SURE words have come from the Bible, God’s sacred revelation to mankind. Not only do they accurately predict, they accurately report human history. We do well then, to mark THIS prediction that a day is coming when God will rule the whole earth from Jerusalem, and that international relations and government will issue forth from there. Wars will have ceased, giving way to international peace. Isaiah’s prediction will be true that Jesus Christ, the resurrected God/Man, will be totally and irrevocably in charge of earth’s affairs until God’s plan to save the world is finished! If you have a problem with that, then you have a problem. We should believe what we have NOT seen, if indeed God’s Word has spoken it. That is called FAITH, and mankind desperately needs THAT kind of faith in our day.

DAY THREE – Micah 5-7

Understanding a story requires knowing the characters. In our current story there is the prophet, the people and the Lord. We must also catch the story line, which, in this case, involves the peoples’ relationship to Yahweh, and the prophet’s message concerning that relationship. Then we have the prophet himself, trying to accurately give the message while also trying to understand it. What complicates the story is the timeline. The prophet is talking to the people about their present behavior and the dire consequences that will result. But almost without taking a breath he introduces another character and another time, apparently in the future. Then he takes up his current narrative at last to finish the story. Micah 5:2  But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Being small among the clans of Judah, Out of you one will come forth to me that is to be ruler in Israel; Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. This is a declaration of a yet unnamed Ruler who will be born in Bethlehem in the future and serve Yahweh God as ruler of His people. While dealing with our present issues, God always has His eye on the future of things, which things He sees clearly, as if they were right now. To cast even more mystery, this ruler to be born has existed from the everlasting past! Such it is with the Lord. At this point, perhaps we should BECOME VERY ALERT to the real truth about God–HE WAS, HE IS, AND HE WILL BE. Not so with us. We came into being at a particular time and place. We are, so long as we live. And as far as we understand, when we pass we are no more, at least in earthly terms. While we live we are loved and regarded by the Lord Himself, who is eternal and self-existent, and we have a responsibility to Him.  Micah 6:6-8  How shall I come before Yahweh, And bow myself before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old? 7 Will Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams? With tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my disobedience? The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 HE HAS SHOWN YOU, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, To love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?  It sounds so simple… doesn’t it?

DAY FOUR – 2 Kings 16-17, 2 Chronicles 28

The day of reckoning comes, but the unprepared say, “I reckon I didn’t see it coming!” In my opinion Ahaz, King of Judah, comes as close to being an idiot as any of Judah’s kings. His egregious behavior against God was unmatched by the kings before him. The trip to Damascus, the military losses, appeals to Syria and Assyria, erecting a foreign altar at the temple in Jerusalem, sacrificing and burning incense to every pagan god imaginable, and finally shutting up the Lord’s temple and forcing the people to worship all over the place, precipitated his untimely death. Israel invaded Judah, killed 120 thousand soldiers, and captured 200 thousand women and children! Thankfully there was a man of God in Samaria who warned them to return the captives to their homes, for the sins of Samaria were piled high before the Lord and disaster was imminent. In fact, Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria besieged Samaria for three years and overthrew the government. Those left in Israel were exported to cities all over the Assyrian kingdom, never to return. In their place Assyrians of all stripes were sent to populate the now empty cities of Israel. The DAY OF RECKONING had arrived. Israel would not return to their homeland. This was the beginning of the ten northern tribes becoming scattered among the other nations of the world and the reason why ‘Jews’ are found in communities around the globe.  2 Kings 17:7-9  All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods 8 and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. 9 The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. NIV

What should we learn from Israel’s and Judah’s experiences? What parallels, if any, can we see in our time and culture? What do you think is going to happen as we go forward? What could we be doing that might make a difference? By now, what are we understanding about Yahweh God and the nature of judgments against the nations?

DAY FIVE – Isaiah 13-17

The mighty cities of the ancient world, including Babylon and Nineveh, were referred to as “The Gates of the Gods.” Yet Isaiah took up a lament against them, hundreds of years in advance of their destruction, to dispel any myths about the prowess of kings and rulers when compared with the Almighty God. The kings of Babylon and Assyria were powerful, creative men who trampled nations and held entire populations hostage to their imperialism. Yet as our prophet has stated in cryptic detail, their rise and fall were mere incidents in the hands of Yahweh God. And as always, the true God, the Lord of heaven’s armies, weighed the mightiest nations against little Israel, the people of His choosing, because of His covenants with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Jews are perhaps the most misunderstood people of all time, and traditionally the most despised among the nations; and therefore a true riddle in the world of governments and politics. Their place in history is entwined in God’s plans to save the world and have a new heavens and earth without evil. To that end, Israel was selected to be a carrier of a Divine Seed which would result in a King and Deliverer the likes of which the world had not seen. In earlier chapters this prophet Isaiah spoke of such a person and would again as we continue our reading. We all wish our world could be at peace, could end violence and wars, and could have a future and a hope. For such we must wait until God’s timetable is complete. But while we wait we need the encouragement of another prophet whom we will read soon.  Jeremiah 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (NLT) Those words were spoken to Israel, and as goes Israel, so goes the world.

We do well to see our world in the hands of Almighty God, to humble ourselves before Him, and to ask for His salvation. No other means of salvation offers a future and a hope as that of the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who is presently working His plan and will finish what He has started. We do well to pray to Him always, imploring His grace and mercy over our family and community.

Week 32, 2018 – Homesick for heaven yet? Keep reading God’s Word!

Sepsis throughout, or total healing? Sometimes it becomes an either / or, with nothing in between. 

DAY ONE – Hosea 6-9

“Come…” dad’s hand is extended to his little girl who is crying over the fresh boo-boo on her knee. “Come on, let me have a look; there now… it’s not so bad… see?” And as she curls on his lap he holds her in comforting arms until the crisis has passed. Years have gone by, and she is no longer a little girl; she is a young adult, and she has been gone for a long time, and she is in deep trouble, having mixed into her life destructive companions and lifestyle. Now she stands looking at her dad as he tries to cover his pained expression with the love he feels in his heart. “Come…” he says. Only this time her ‘boo-boo’ won’t be healed in a few minutes; there is a road ahead. “Come…” says Hosea.

Hosea 6:1-2  “Come, and let us return to Yahweh; For he has torn us to pieces, And he will heal us; He has injured us, And he will bind up our wounds. 2 After two days he will revive us. On the third day he will raise us up, And we will live before him. We don’t know why a child goes prodigal, but the self-destruction is predictable. We can only wait to see if our invitations and pleadings will make a difference. Though we send repeated warnings about what lies ahead if there is not a turning, we cannot make it happen. Yahweh could not, either. Israel was a wandering child; Judah strayed as well, and Yahweh God sent invitations, warnings and pleadings. The entire nation was at risk, and the danger was real; would wandering Israel return? Or would she choose to lose her identity among the nations, cast out of her own land? Would this end God’s grand design to save the world, or would there be another way? Centuries later another voice would be heard, and it would have a familiar ring…

Matthew 11:28-30  “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Father God, we come to you, we return to you, we learn from you. Our own way has proved vain and empty. Heal us, restore us as a nation, that we may live before you. Thank you.

DAY TWO – Hosea 10-14

Parents struggling with a prodigal have to face the most anguished of decisions: do I keep the door open with more pleadings, invitations and support? Or do I cut off my own flesh until there is willingness to return under our family covering? The prodigal holds the key but may find himself unable to take the first step toward restoration. Israel (Ephraim) was the prodigal, and Yahweh God was the parent. God’s angst is heard in chapter 11–“I loved you when you were a child… I brought you up out of Egypt… I taught you to walk… I drew you with gentle cords… O, Israel, how can I give you up?” The Father’s grief and suffering are clearly understood by any parent who has had a prodigal in his life. When does God surrender the child to his own inclinations? When does He pull the plug? When does He initiate the restoration process? Will Israel return, or MUST I allow him to go into an extended time of captivity and scattering? O, Israel, won’t you return? Just return, and we can work this out, but you must divorce your pagan lovers and put away your foreign gods. Our family cannot coexist with them. O, Israel, what will it be?

History writes the continuing story. From our vantage point we pretty well know what happened. But… LOOK HARD at the Father in Heaven, LISTEN to His pleadings, His promises, His HEART! What does it tell us… about His love, His forgiveness, His grace and mercy? And what does it tell us about the process of consequences and judgments? From our readings of Hosea, can you discover HOW and WHY the Father dealt with Israel as He did? What do you think our life lesson is as we finish these messages from the  pleading prophet?

DAY THREE – Isaiah 1-4

Modern dragsters go over 300 miles per hour in 1000 feet in just under four seconds! That is spooky fast. The prophet Isaiah, contemporary with Hosea, came out swinging and with no lost words. God’s message: My children are rebellious. And from there he paints the dismal picture of a nation that has become septic on their own sins. If it were medical it would be called sepsis–“Systemic infection by pathogenic microorganisms, especially bacteria, that have invaded the bloodstream, usually from a local source. Sepsis is characterized by fever, increased number of white blood cells, increased heart rate, and other signs of widespread infection.” Sepsis of the soul–that’s what Yahweh God must have diagnosed as the problem with especially Israel, and also Judah. The sins of corruption had invaded Israel and touched every area of life, from religion to justice and even social life. It was a no-holds-barred match between Yahweh and a corrupted people. It was so systemic that the entire nation was at risk. As with all the prophets, Isaiah was only a messenger, disadvantaged by the scope of his understanding. While Yahweh God saw the larger picture with both ends spread before his vision, the prophet had to deal with the immediate and the unknowable future. So he pounded away at the symptoms of spiritual disease, calling for radical change of behavior and return to the ways of God as revealed in His plan from the days of Moses and onward. But would it do any good? In the advanced stages of sepsis the patient may succumb even after massive and repeated doses of the strongest antibiotics. Would Israel survive? Could God do anything at this point? It’s fascinating that pronouncements of even the most dreaded judgments were almost always tempered with visions of a blessed future; would it be so for Israel? Isaiah spoke of a ‘remnant.’ Would God leave a remnant if His rebellious nation had to be removed? Would there be future blessings for a destroyed people? The prophet’s work continued through the administrations of four successive kings. The years rolled on; the problems mounted. God’s patience became threadbare.

How should we react to the messages of the prophets? What parallels might we draw from the descriptions of their times? What ‘symptoms’ can we see that might be systemic? What options are open for us? How might we respond to God?

DAY FOUR – Isaiah 5-8

Yahweh is a great story-teller, as was His Son Yeshua. Israel is a vineyard, and God is a vineyard maker and grower. After a lot of time and energy invested in the vineyard, it produces wild grapes, not fit for consumption. So, says Isaiah, you judge, Israel; and you, Judah, what should be done with this vineyard? What would be OUR answer to that question? How would you answer God about His vineyard? Should it be saved, destroyed… or what? Before you answer, make sure you read Isaiah’s vision of God in chapter 6. I have been reading that story my whole life and I have trembled under its weight of glory. Who can answer Yahweh once His glory is seen and His words are heard? Nations are nothing… kings are weighed on His scales… armies are flies to be swatted. Yet the kings and nations rise up proud and angry to aggrandize themselves and take what they want. Syria and Israel arise together against Judah, intending to increase their own holdings and take more spoil. No matter that Yahweh holds their destiny in His hands. A whistle is heard, and Assyria prepares to amass against smaller nations and carry out God’s plan for judgment. A time is set; the countdown has started. Woe to those who transgress God’s plans, who call good evil and evil good; who set themselves against the Almighty. The clock is ticking.

At what point does mankind reject and ignore the Creator and His plan? How does the world fall prey to such evil and hardly take notice that God even exists, let alone that He is sovereign over all the comings and goings of the nations? With each new day, hope springs anew; but it must be a hope rooted in eternity. There must be a moral and spiritual foundation on which everything is built, or else it is just more of the same old thing! Israel and Judah turned their back on God and lost sight of His plan to save the world of mankind through them. Only grace and mercy marked out a remnant that would endure until the coming of Messiah. God always has the last word. What part of “love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength” do we lose sight of? And why? What if WE are now our Beloved’s vineyard? How are our grapes this season?

DAY FIVE – Isaiah 9-12

There is a distinct turning in these chapters, a compressing of history into a short span that includes days that are beyond even our own. For instance, Isaiah tells of a Child who is to be born–a Son–on whose shoulders the government will be established. His Name? “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.” NO END. So right in the middle of threats of destruction is inserted this glorious promise of future blessings for the peoples of God. And that future stretches beyond our lifetimes and those yet to come. It connects to another piece of the story–“a rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” He is just like God… actually He IS God. And He ushers in the day of God for earth and all of mankind. In THAT day a calm has engulfed the whole world that allows man and beast to dwell together in peace. And in that day the remnants of Judah and Ephraim (Israel) are regathered from the four corners of the earth wherein they have been scattered by Yahweh God. From this we understand that God DOES have a plan to save the world; and it encompasses the ages of human endeavor, ALL of which have failed to bring a lasting peace and salvation to earth’s inhabitants. While peace and safety have eluded mankind throughout the millennia of his existence, leaving the world weary and ravaged, God causes a bright hope to shine into the future.

Isaiah 12   In that day you will say, “I will give thanks to you, Yahweh; for though you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you comfort me. 2 Behold, God is my salvation. I will trust, and will not be afraid; for Yah, Yahweh, is my strength and song; and he has become my salvation.” 3 Therefore with joy you will draw water out of the wells of salvation. 4 In that day you will say, “Give thanks to Yahweh! Call on his name. Declare his doings among the peoples. Proclaim that his name is exalted! 5 Sing to Yahweh, for he has done excellent things! Let this be known in all the earth! 6 Cry aloud and shout, you inhabitant of Zion; for the Holy One of Israel is great in the midst of you!”

Our Discussion Group has resumed on Wednesday evenings at First Assembly, Chico, 6:30 p.m. Room E1. First time? Join us, U R welcome!

Week 31, 2018.. Our march through God’s word continues this week!

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.

Week 30, 2018 – We open our hearts to God’s Word as we read thru the Bible..

This week we are assured of God’s faithfulness to His own promises, even if He has to work miracles to keep His word!

DAY ONE – 2 Kings 1-4

A season of Miracles. Israel lived in a spirit of poverty. Things were getting desperate when King Ahaziah had an accident and sent servants to inquire of Baal-Zebub, god of Ekron, to see if he would recover. God’s prophet Elijah interrupted their trip with a stern rebuke, followed by a miracle of fire. But it was time for Elijah to go to heaven. Into this malaise came Elisha, the young prophet who had picked up Elijah’s mantle and became his successor. His fame was immediate, for he crossed the Jordan River on dry ground, using the mantle. And at Jericho he healed the water supply with salt! So he returned to Samaria to live. Miracles multiplied, garnering the attention of the kings of both Israel and Judah, who turned to the prophet for help. A valley of ditches filled with water without any rain. A small jar of oil became a fountain of oil which filled pot after borrowed pot until there was enough oil to sell and live off the proceeds. A woman whose husband was old became pregnant. Her beloved son died in her arms but was brought back to life. A few barley loaves of bread were used to feed a large gathering of men, and there was some left over! Such was the life of Elisha. He spoke God’s words and received miracles to validate God’s authority in the land. Israel’s fortunes plummeted to the extent that idolatry ruled over the hearts of the people. The prophets did what they could as God’s Spirit used them.

Things can get tough; life can become difficult when God is no longer in charge of a nation’s outlook and activities. As it was in Israel, so is it now across our land. Rife with division, our culture staggers through another day as God’s people wonder, “Where is the God of Elijah?”  It’s a good question. A season of miracles would be a good way to reestablish the authority of God’s words in the land. Intercession IS intervention. Would you invest a few minutes every day asking for Divine intervention? Would you risk being identified with those who actually BELIEVE that God is real, that HIS WORD is the TRUTH? Would you go on record if asked by the opposition that you are now and forever a person of FAITH in God? And will you talk about the miracles you know about, even if they didn’t happen to you? Stand, people of God; and having done all, remain standing!

DAY TWO – 2 Kings 5:1 – 8:15

If we focus only on the miracles we miss the big picture. These chapters are filled with miraculous events of Elisha’s prophetic life, from the healing of Naaman the Syrian’s leprosy to the prophecy over the successor king of Syria. Exciting and awe-inspiring, they could be read over and over as we wish to high heaven we were seeing the same things in our day. But lurking in the background is the REAL story of Israel’s apostasy from Yahweh God and their perpetually hard life resulting from their rebellion. From the siege of Samaria to Elisha’s visit to the Syrian king life rolls on, God apparently nowhere around. Branded by Elisha as the ‘son of a murderer,’ the king of Israel is constantly at odds with the prophet, at one point even seeking his life. And then there was the famine–seven years of famine in the land. Israel was so destitute that Elisha encouraged the woman who provided him a special roadside chamber and whose son was raised from the dead, to find another place to live for the time. From these stories we can extract powerful and potent lessons: 1) God is always at work on His plan to save the world. 2) God is never at a loss no matter what people and their kings do. 3) The Lord always features the miracles to keep the spotlight focused on eternal matters. 4) We must always know that Yahweh God is INVOLVED in the national affairs of His people and the nations around them.

Because we cannot always ‘see’ the Lord at work, we may be tempted to believe that life DOES just go on and on, with technology and growing intelligence leading the way. Generations come and generations go. The young get old and the old die. The newborn enter the world and the process starts over again. Until what… when? Jesus’ disciples asked Him the same question–Matthew 24:3  As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?”

(WEB) The rest of chapter 24 explains that there is a definite END, and it has visible signs to be noted and properly interpreted. While we don’t know the exact time of these events, we are nevertheless WARNED to always be ready for them. God’s plan WILL SAVE the world–that is, the world of the FAITHFUL, the followers of Christ Jesus. His plan will also condemn the world–that is, the world of the scoffers and unbelievers. We do have a choice in the matter–not a choice of what God does… only of what we do. Miracles are exciting, but they are no substitute for obedience to the eternal Word of God Who was born into this world to save us.

DAY THREE – 2 Kings 8:16-29, 2 Chronicles 21:1 – 22:6

Although this reading is somewhat abbreviated, it places a magnifying glass over the behavior of these kings, revealing the detailed evil in which they lived and which they practiced. Jehoram was the king of Judah for only eight years. The lens reveals that his marriage to Ahab’s (king of Israel) daughter was a significant factor in his idolatry, bringing Judah under condemnation. His fortunes were extremely negative. That’s bad… but look what is said of him: 2 Chronicles 21:18-20  After all this, the Lord struck Jehoram with the severe intestinal disease. 19 The disease grew worse and worse, and at the end of two years it caused his bowels to come out, and he died in agony. His people did not build a great funeral fire to honor him as they had done for his ancestors. 20 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. No one was sorry when he died. They buried him in the City of David, but not in the royal cemetery. (New Living Translation) NO ONE WAS SORRY WHEN HE DIED. The nation uttered a collective sigh of relief! Now perhaps they could move on to something more promising. But do we have any idea how long it takes to bring about a shift in culture and overcome habits set in place by bad leaders? Inertia is the tendency for an object to keep moving in the direction it is traveling. The only thing that will halt that motion or alter that direction is force. And the only force strong enough to bring the kind of correction often needed is the POWER OF GOD.

The God we are getting to know more profoundly through Israel’s history is the Creator God, Yahweh, maker of heaven and earth and Originator of the Plan to Save the World! He is also known now to us as ‘Father in Heaven,’ so revealed by His Son Yeshua (Jesus) in the implementing of His wonderful plan. To Him we must continually make our appeal. Earlier He said in the days of King Solomon: 2 Chronicles 7:14-15  Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (New Living Translation)  This is the only way to bring God’s power to bear on the inertia of government and culture. If we want heaven in our land, we must make a continuous appeal to heaven. If we want the Lord to help us, we must continually ask for His help. It’s called PRAYER, and this is the time!

DAY FOUR – 2 Kings 9-11, 2 Chronicles 22:7 – 23:21

I remember hearing the late Billy Graham comment on the death rate that is frequently cited as a statistic. He said, in essence, “The death rate always remains the same; it doesn’t rise and it doesn’t fall. War, murder, sickness and all the other causes of death don’t affect it. The ratio has always been the same: one to one.” As the scripture has so crisply stated, “It is appointed unto man once to die; and after this, judgment.” A lot of people died in our reading today. Their deaths, and the reasons for them, were clearly stated by Yahweh God. It was due to kings, their families and followers who abandoned Yahweh and worshipped and served the Baal-gods, pagan deities who deceived and ruled over the goyim (Hebrew for Gentiles). God’s prophets declared that they, their households and followers would perish. So our reading describes the demise of the kings of both Israel and Judah for their personal and national sins. If it seems so autocratic, so unfeeling, so… so… well, just ask yourself: If I had a plan to save the world, what would I do to see that the Plan was successful? How would I deal with open rebellion and personal refusal to carry out my instructions designed so that people would be saved eternally? How often would I plead with the lawbreakers to change their ways so that my lovingkindness supporting my Plan could be extended to them and their families? And at last, when all that failed, what would I do? Is death better now or later? If eternal life has been offered and rejected, when is the best time to die? Yahweh’s problem was that He needed a remnant of people to carry the righteous bloodline until a Messiah (Savior, Deliverer) could be born into the world and finally finish the Plan. Therefore He purged the ones responsible for self-destructive practices that undermined His loving Plan. How many lives would become involved? How many generations would it take? How much grace and mercy would have to be extended, and for how long? The world is still waiting for the final answer.

Our response must be simple at this point… Deuteronomy 6:1-5  Now this is the commandment, the statutes, and the ordinances, which Yahweh your God commanded to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you go over to possess it; 2 that you might fear Yahweh your God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, you, and your son, and your son’s son, all the days of your life; and that your days may be prolonged. 3 Hear therefore, Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with you, and that you may increase mightily, as Yahweh, the God of your fathers, has promised to you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. 4 Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one: 5 and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. If God’s great Plan depends on me, how will it turn out?

DAY FIVE – 2 Kings 12-13, 2 Chronicles 24

It’s very easy to see only the negative when we read the stories of the kings. But there were some very bright spots and some good people along the way. Jehoash (Joash) was only seven years old when he became king of Judah, but because of his mentor Jehoiada the priest, he did some really good things. He served Yahweh God, mostly. He saw to it that the house of the Lord was repaired to its original condition, as much as possible. During that process some honest men of good reputation, builders and masons, took all the money given into their care and gave back labor of equal value. It’s difficult to determine how widespread idol worship became, but ‘the people’ continued to burn incense on the high places (shrines to false gods). Only after Jehoiada died did Jehoash turn his back on God. Things went downhill then. And it was during this period that the prophet Elisha became sick and died; but not before bringing a hopeful message to Joash, King of Israel. As a result Israel rebuffed repeated advances of Syria when they attacked. And should we fail to NOTE that a dead man revived when he was tossed into the tomb where the bones of Elisha lay? I’d say that God was still somewhere nearby!

Trying to understand the Lord’s interaction with these two wayward nations is a little easier if we consider WHY He did as He did: 2 Kings 13:22-23  King Hazael of Aram had oppressed Israel during the entire reign of King Jehoahaz. 23 But the Lord was gracious and merciful to the people of Israel, and they were not totally destroyed. He pitied them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And to this day he still has not completely destroyed them or banished them from his presence. (NLT)  One of God’s character traits is FAITHFUL; He remains loyal to His own promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the ancient fathers of Israel. The Lord has never abandoned His promises to Israel, nor will He ever, until all of His plans to save the world are complete. FAITHFUL GOD… thank you for remembering your promises to us as well.