Week 33, 2018 – Imagine reading the whole Bible! We can do this…

Prophets, priests, and kings… things are about the same now as they were then… God’s love is still calling!

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.