Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A prophet proclaiming the character of the Lord...


At the church where I serve we are in the middle of a sermon series entitled when God speaks. During this series we are spending our time together looking at these letters that we often have a tendency to skip over, which are referred to as the prophets. We are discovering who these letters that we have a tendency to skip over were written to. We are discovering what these letters that we have a tendency to skip over reveal about who we are. We are discovering what these letters that we have a tendency to skip over reveal about the nature of God and God’s activity in history. And as we go through this series, our hope and prayer is that God would move by the power of the Holy Spirit in our heads, hearts and hands so that we understand and embrace the timeless and timely truths that these letters that we often skip over have for our lives.

This week, I would like for us to spend our time together looking at a letter that is recorded for us in the Old Testament of the Bible called the book of Nahum, which is the next letter that was written by prophet chronologically, which is not necessarily the order that they are found in the Bible, where they are organized by size. So let’s look at the man and the message of the Book of Nahum, beginning in Nahum 1:1:

The oracle of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.

Here we are introduced to the prophet Nahum, who most scholars believe wrote this letter between 650-642 B.C. Nahum wrote this letter to the city of Nineveh, which was the capital city of the Assyrian Empire. Nahum was sent to Nineveh to proclaim an oracle, or announce a judicial sentence, against the Assyrian Empire from the Lord.

Earlier in this series, we looked at another letter that was written to the Assyrian Empire by a prophet named Jonah. Upon hearing the message of Jonah, the Assyrian Empire repented and were converted to the worship of the Lord. However, it had been 120 years since Jonah’s time and approximately 70 years since the time of the prophet Hosea. And over the successive three generations, the Assyrian Empire had not passed down their knowledge of the Lord to their children.

As a result, the nation quickly returned to their cruel practices and to worshipping false gods. After conquering the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C., the Assyrian Empire began the threaten the Southern Kingdom of Judea. After the Lord protected the Southern Kingdom from an Assyrian attack during the reign of King Hezekiah, a new king, named Manasseh ruled over the Jewish people. However, King Manasseh’s reign left Judah in spiritual shambles as a result of his rebellion against the Lord, and the Assyrian Empire conquered much of the Southern Kingdom. And it is in this context that Nahum wrote this letter of judgment from the Lord to the Assyrian Empire. We see the Lord’s message to the Assyrian Empire revealed in verse 2-6:

A jealous and avenging God is the LORD; The LORD is avenging and wrathful. The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies. 3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet. 4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; He dries up all the rivers. Bashan and Carmel wither; The blossoms of Lebanon wither. 5 Mountains quake because of Him And the hills dissolve; Indeed the earth is upheaved by His presence, The world and all the inhabitants in it. 6 Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire And the rocks are broken up by Him.

Nahum begins his letter of judicial sentence against the Assyrian Empire by proclaiming the character of the Lord. As we have talked about in the past, when we read about the wrath of God in the letters that make up the Bible, this is not God blowing a head gasket. God’s wrath is not a selfish passionate emotional response. Instead, it is God’s perfect justice resulting in a rightful response to the wrongdoing and injustice of others.

Nahum is proclaiming that the Lord, in His very nature and character, is righteous and avenges those who have been wronged as a result of wrongdoing and injustice. Nahum is proclaiming that the Lord, in His very nature and character, is both longsuffering and all-powerful. Nahum is proclaiming that the Lord, in His very nature and character, is just and executes justice.

Nahum then asks a rhetorical question to hammer home this reality: “Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger?” Now the reason why this question is rhetorical is due to the fact that the answer to this question was so obvious it did not require an answer. The answer to this question, is no one. No one who has engaged in wrongdoing and injustice will be able to stand before the Lord as He executes His right and just response to wrongdoing and injustice. Nahum then continued to proclaim the character of the Lord in verse 7-11:

The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him. 8 But with an overflowing flood He will make a complete end of its site, And will pursue His enemies into darkness. 9 Whatever you devise against the LORD, He will make a complete end of it. Distress will not rise up twice. 10 Like tangled thorns, And like those who are drunken with their drink, They are consumed As stubble completely withered. 11 From you has gone forth One who plotted evil against the LORD, A wicked counselor.

Here we Nahum proclaim the absolute justice of the Lord who is just. Nahum is proclaiming that the Lord, in His very nature and character, is morally good. Nahum is proclaiming that the Lord, in His very nature and character, is a stronghold of strength in the face of trouble and difficulty for those who trust and take refuge in Him. Nahum is proclaiming that the Lord, in His very nature and character, is knows and cares for those who trust and take refuge in Him.

By contrast, for those who place themselves in opposition to the Lord, the Lord will overwhelm them with a flood of justice and judgment.  Nahum is proclaiming that the Lord, in His very nature and character, is able to destroy the plans of those who oppose Him in rebellion against Him.

And because of that reality Nahum proclaimed “Distress will not rise up twice”. In other words, the Lord’s judgment of the Assyrian Empire would be so complete that it would not have to happen twice. In spite of the Assyrian Emperor’s attempts to destroy the Southern Kingdom of the Jewish people, the Lord would make a complete end of the Empire in His good and just judgment of their wrongdoing and injustice that flowed from their rebellion and rejection of the Lord.

After proclaiming the nature and character of the Lord, Tomorrow we will see Nahum proceed to proclaim the Lord’s judicial sentence against the Assyrian Empire…

Friday, October 12, 2018

There is a day coming when the Lord will execute justice upon the wrongdoing and injustice of those who rebel against Him as He establishes justice for those who trust in Him...


This week we have been looking at a letter that is recorded for us in the Old Testament of the Bible called the book of Joel. Joel called the Jewish people to a time of mourning as a result of experiencing a locust plague that was an instrument of God’s judgment on the Jewish people as a result of their selfishness and rebellion against Him. 


Joel, proclaimed to the Jewish people "Yet even now," declares the LORD, "Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments." You see, the Lord desired that the Jewish people change the trajectory of their life that was moving away from God back toward God. And in order to return to the Lord, the Lord wanted the Jewish people to tear their heart, not their garments. In other words, the Lord desired that the Jewish people have broken hearts over their rebellion, not just external actions that covered a heart that was not broken over their rebellion.

The Lord called the Jewish people to gather together for a special time of national confession and repentance. No one was to be excluded. Regardless of age or stage of life; regardless of relational status; regardless of whatever special plans that they had made; the Jewish people were to stop everything in their life to demonstrate their grief and remorse and their desire to turn from their rebellion and turn back to the Lord.

And if the Jewish people responded to the Lord by changing the trajectory of their life that was moving away from the Lord back to the Lord: If the Jewish people had broken hearts over their rebellion, not just external actions that covered a heart that was not broken over their rebellion, the Lord would respond by removing the army of locusts and by restoring and making up for what the locusts had destroyed. And as Joel continued proclaiming the Lord’s message to the Jewish people, we see Joel shift from the short-term circumstances of the Jewish people to describe a long term, and far more significant event, beginning in verse 28:

28 "It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. 29 "Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. 30 ¶ "I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire and columns of smoke. 31 "The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 32 "And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Will be delivered; For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem There will be those who escape, As the LORD has said, Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls. 3:1 ¶ "For behold, in those days and at that time, When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 2 I will gather all the nations And bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there On behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; And they have divided up My land. 3 "They have also cast lots for My people, Traded a boy for a harlot And sold a girl for wine that they may drink.

Joel proclaimed to the Jewish people of his day that there would be a day in the future where the Lord would do the extraordinary. There would be a day in the future where the Lord would pour out His Spirit on all mankind. Regardless of race or ethnicity, all humanity would have the opportunity for the Spirit of God to dwell within them. There would be a day in the future where God would not dwell in the Temple at Jerusalem. Instead God would make everyone of His followers a Temple where He would dwell within them. And in that day, there would be signs that would be proclaimed by mankind and by the creation that would reveal that this promise had been fulfilled. And in that day, whoever called upon the Lord would be rescued from God’s right and just response to selfishness and rebellion that would occur on that day when the Lord would come to exercise His right and just response to selfishness and rebellion.

And some 700 years after Joel proclaimed God’s message to the Jewish people, in a letter that is recorded for us in the New Testament of the Bible, called the book of Acts, we see the beginning of the fulfillment of this promise. In Acts 2, we see the God give His followers His Spirit so that they would declare God’s message of rescue through the claims of Christ and the message of the gospel. You see, just seven weeks earlier, on the Good Friday when Jesus was crucified, the sun was darkened, and there occurred an earthquake in the city of Jerusalem.

The “Day of the Lord” began with Jesus entering into humanity to live the life that we were created to live but refused to live and to die the death that we deserved to die. And the “Day of the Lord” will conclude when Jesus returns to earth to exercise God’s right and just response to selfishness and rebellion. God was doing something new in the world; Just as God did something entirely new by sending His Son Jesus into the world in order to reveal Himself and to provide the opportunity to rescue the world from selfishness and rebellion,

God was now sending His Spirit in order that followers of Jesus would be united together by His Spirit as a part of a new community called the church. And this new community called the church would be the vehicle that He used to reveal Himself and His message of rescue through the gospel to the world. And everyone who responded to the message of the gospel would be rescued from selfishness and rebellion and experience the relationship with God that they were created for. Thus, in a very real sense, we are living in the “Day of the Lord” right now.

Now a natural question that could arise at this point is “Well Dave, if what Joel proclaimed in Joel 2:28-29 has occurred and we are living in those times, how are we supposed to understand what Joel says in Joel 2:30-31? Because obviously we haven’t experienced the fullness of a worldwide judgment from God. So was Peter wrong in Acts 2 when he proclaimed that what Joel predicated and proclaimed had been fulfilled in his time?”

If that question is running through your mind, here would be my response: You see, in Joel chapter 1 and 2, the Lord provided the Jewish people with a “near” event of the locust plague in order that they might better understand a far more significant event in the future, which would be the arrival of the Messiah. However, in Peter’s day, the Jewish people, as a whole, did not turn back to the Messiah.

And because of that reality, those who have responded to Jesus by believing, trusting, and following Jesus as Lord and Leader are living in what is referred to in church mumbo jumbo talk as “the church age”. During this time in history, as part of God’s story, the church is presently enjoying the spiritual blessings of the kingdom of God in advance of what God is going to do at the end of His story with the Jewish people.

However, at the end of God’s story, the spiritual and the earthly blessing of the kingdom will yet be fulfilled for the Jewish people as well, which is referred to in church mumbo jumbo talk as the Millennial Kingdom. We see Joel give us a glimpse of this reality just a few verses later in 3:9:

9 Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men! Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up! 10 Beat your plowshares into swords And your pruning hooks into spears; Let the weak say, "I am a mighty man." 11 Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, And gather yourselves there. Bring down, O LORD, Your mighty ones. 12 Let the nations be aroused And come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat, For there I will sit to judge All the surrounding nations. 13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread, for the wine press is full; The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great. 14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 15 The sun and moon grow dark And the stars lose their brightness. 16 The LORD roars from Zion And utters His voice from Jerusalem, And the heavens and the earth tremble. But the LORD is a refuge for His people And a stronghold to the sons of Israel.

Here we see Joel proclaim that, at the end of God’s story here on earth, God will express His right and just response to the selfishness and rebellion of humanity. God’s perfect justice will be expressed in a rightful response to the wrongdoing and injustice of others. In addition, the “Day of the Lord” will be the doorway of refuge by which those who are in right relationship with God as a result of responding to all that God has done to rescue them from their selfishness and rebellion through Jesus life, death, and resurrection, by believing, trusting, and following Jesus as Lord and Leader will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. We see this reality in verse 17:

 17 Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, Dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain. So Jerusalem will be holy, And strangers will pass through it no more. 18 And in that day The mountains will drip with sweet wine, And the hills will flow with milk, And all the brooks of Judah will flow with water; And a spring will go out from the house of the LORD To water the valley of Shittim. 19 Egypt will become a waste, And Edom will become a desolate wilderness, Because of the violence done to the sons of Judah, In whose land they have shed innocent blood. 20 But Judah will be inhabited forever And Jerusalem for all generations. 21 And I will avenge their blood which I have not avenged, For the LORD dwells in Zion.

During the time of the Millennial Kingdom, the Lord will dwell with the Jewish people who placed their confident trust in Jesus, and who will experience the fulfillment of the promises that the Lord made to the Jewish people earlier in Joel 2. And, it is here, when God speaks, that we discover a timeless truth about the nature and character of God and God’s activity in history. And that timeless truth is this: There is a day coming when the Lord will execute justice upon the wrongdoing and injustice of those who rebel against Him as He establishes justice for those who trust in Him.

You see, the point of the book of Joel is that the Lord is just and will execute justice upon the wrongdoing and injustice of those who rebel and reject Him. Just like the Jewish people, all of humanity has done things that hurt and wronged God and others as a result of our rebellion and rejection of God. And just like the Jewish people, at the end of God’s story here on earth, Jesus will return to earth to defeat selfishness, sin, and death, and to exercise God’s right and just response to the wrongdoing and injustice of humanity against God and others that flows from their selfishness and rebellion against God and others.

Yet in the midst of the wrongdoing and injustice of those who rebel against Him, the Lord faithfully pursues His people in an attempt to persuade them to return to Him. In the midst of our wrongdoing and injustice, the Lord desires that we have broken hearts over our rebellion, not just external actions that covered a heart that was not broken over our rebellion.

In the midst of our wrongdoing and injustice, the Lord promised that whoever called upon the Lord by responding to the claims of Christ and the message of the gospel by believing, trusting, and following Jesus as Lord and Leader would be rescued from God’s right and just response to selfishness and rebellion that would occur on that day when the Lord would come to exercise His right and just response to selfishness and rebellion. And, in that day, the Lord will establish justice in its fullest sense for everyone who placed their confident trust in Jesus in the face of their wrongdoing and injustice against others and in the face of the wrongdoing and injustice that was done to them. 

So here is a question to consider: How will you respond to the reality that there is a day coming when the Lord will execute justice upon the wrongdoing and injustice of those who rebel against Him?  How will you respond to the reality that there is a day coming when the Lord will establish justice for those who trust in Him?

When you stand before the Lord at the end of your life, will the Lord execute justice upon you as a result of the wrongdoing and injustice that you committed against Him and others because you chose to live in rebellion against Him? When you stand before the Lord at the end of your life, will the Lord establish justice for you as a result of your confident trust in Him?

Because there is a day coming when the Lord will execute justice upon the wrongdoing and injustice of those who rebel against Him as He establishes justice for those who trust in Him…

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Broken Hearts vs. External Actions When it Comes to our Rebellion...


This week we are looking at a letter that is recorded for us in the Old Testament of the Bible called the book of Joel. Yesterday, we looked on Joel called the Jewish people to a time of mourning as a result of experiencing a locust plague. Joel used poetic language and metaphor to describe the swarm of locust and the damage that these locusts brought upon the Jewish people. The devastation affected every sector of agriculture, nothing was spared, no citizen escaped the plague.

We discussed the reality that a natural question that often arises in the wake of such a disaster is “Why? Why did this happen?” And in most instances throughout history, we never fully receive an answer to that question. However, in this case, the Lord, through the prophet Joel, reveal the reality that this swarm of locusts was an instrument of God’s judgment on the Jewish people as a result of their selfishness and rebellion against Him. 

Joel used the imagery of a mighty army attacking an enemy and a raging wildfire to describe the force and destruction of the plague of locusts. Just like a raging wildfire, the locust consumed everything in their path, leaving nothing but desolation in their wake. The sound of the army of locust feeding on the vegetation of the land sounded like the cracking of a roaring fire as it consumes a bush.

Like a well-trained army, the plague of locusts remained in formation to attack and conquer everything in their path; there is no way to stop them and there is no way of escape. They found their way into every crack and crevice of the Southern Kingdom. Their sheer size and scope blocked out the light of the sun by day and the moon by night. Joel then asked a rhetorical question that was probably running through the mind of every Jewish person who experienced this plague: “The day of the LORD is indeed great and very awesome, And who can endure it?" Joel then provided the answer to this question in what he says next in Joel 2:12-27:

 12 "Yet even now," declares the LORD, "Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; 13 And rend your heart and not your garments." Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil. 14 Who knows whether He will not turn and relent And leave a blessing behind Him, Even a grain offering and a drink offering For the LORD your God? 15 Blow a trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, 16 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, Assemble the elders, Gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of his room And the bride out of her bridal chamber. 17 Let the priests, the LORD'S ministers, Weep between the porch and the altar, And let them say, "Spare Your people, O LORD, And do not make Your inheritance a reproach, A byword among the nations. Why should they among the peoples say, 'Where is their God?'" 18 Then the LORD will be zealous for His land And will have pity on His people. 19 The LORD will answer and say to His people, "Behold, I am going to send you grain, new wine and oil, And you will be satisfied in full with them; And I will never again make you a reproach among the nations. 20 "But I will remove the northern army far from you, And I will drive it into a parched and desolate land, And its vanguard into the eastern sea, And its rear guard into the western sea. And its stench will arise and its foul smell will come up, For it has done great things." 21 Do not fear, O land, rejoice and be glad, For the LORD has done great things. 22 Do not fear, beasts of the field, For the pastures of the wilderness have turned green, For the tree has borne its fruit, The fig tree and the vine have yielded in full. 23 So rejoice, O sons of Zion, And be glad in the LORD your God; For He has given you the early rain for your vindication. And He has poured down for you the rain, The early and latter rain as before. 24 The threshing floors will be full of grain, And the vats will overflow with the new wine and oil. 25 "Then I will make up to you for the years That the swarming locust has eaten, The creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you. 26 "You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; Then My people will never be put to shame. 27 "Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, And that I am the LORD your God, And there is no other; And My people will never be put to shame.

Just as we saw two weeks ago when we looked at the message of the book of Amos, the Lord, through Joel, proclaimed to the Jewish people "Yet even now," declares the LORD, "Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments." You see, the Lord desired that the Jewish people change the trajectory of their life that was moving away from God back toward God.

And in order to return to the Lord, the Lord wanted the Jewish people to tear their heart, not their garments. In other words, the Lord desired that the Jewish people have broken hearts over their rebellion, not just external actions that covered a heart that was not broken over their rebellion. The Lord called the Jewish people to gather together for a special time of national confession and repentance. No one was to be excluded. Regardless of age or stage of life; regardless of relational status; regardless of whatever special plans that they had made; the Jewish people were to stop everything in their life to demonstrate their grief and remorse and their desire to turn from their rebellion and turn back to the Lord.

And if the Jewish people responded to the Lord by changing the trajectory of their life that was moving away from the Lord back to the Lord: If the Jewish people had broken hearts over their rebellion, not just external actions that covered a heart that was not broken over their rebellion, the Lord would respond by removing the army of locusts and by restoring and making up for what the locusts had destroyed.

And as Joel continued proclaiming the Lord’s message to the Jewish people, we see Joel shift from the short-term circumstances of the Jewish people to describe a long term, and far more significant event. A significant event that we will look at on Friday…

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A Prophet Proclaiming a Message from the Lord in the Face of a National Crisis...


At the church where I serve we are in the middle of a sermon series entitled "When God speaks". During this series we are looking at these letters that we often have a tendency to skip over, which are referred to as the prophets. We are going to discover who these letters that we have a tendency to skip over were written to. We are going to discover what these letters that we have a tendency to skip over reveal about who we are. We are going to discover what these letters that we have a tendency to skip over reveal about the nature of God and God’s activity in history. And as we go through this series, our hope and prayer is that God would move by the power of the Holy Spirit in our heads, hearts and hands so that we understand and embrace the timeless and timely truths that these letters that we often skip over have for our lives.

This week, I would like for us to look at a letter that is recorded for us in the Old Testament of the Bible called the book of Joel, which is the next letter that was written by prophet chronologically, which is not necessarily the order that they are found in the Bible, where they are organized by size. So let’s look at the man and the message of the Book of Joel, beginning in Joel 1:1:

The word of the LORD that came to Joel, the son of Pethuel:

Here we are introduced to the prophet Joel, who lived during the reign of King Uzziah, who was the king of the Southern Kingdom of Judea from 790-753 B.C. This letter was written during the times described in a section of another letter in the Old Testament of the Bible, called the book of 2 Chronicles, in 2 Chronicles 26. Joel was a contemporary of both Jonah, Amos, and Hosea.

During this time in history, the southern kingdom of Judea experienced a severe crisis. And it was into this state of crisis that the Lord called Joel to be a messenger to proclaim His message to the Jewish people of the Southern Kingdom. We are introduced to this crisis in Joel 1:2-12:

 2 Hear this, O elders, And listen, all inhabitants of the land. Has anything like this happened in your days Or in your fathers' days? 3 Tell your sons about it, And let your sons tell their sons, And their sons the next generation. 4 What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten; And what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten; And what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten. 5 Awake, drunkards, and weep; And wail, all you wine drinkers, On account of the sweet wine That is cut off from your mouth. 6 For a nation has invaded my land, Mighty and without number; Its teeth are the teeth of a lion, And it has the fangs of a lioness. 7 It has made my vine a waste And my fig tree splinters. It has stripped them bare and cast them away; Their branches have become white. 8 Wail like a virgin girded with sackcloth For the bridegroom of her youth. 9 The grain offering and the drink offering are cut off From the house of the LORD. The priests mourn, The ministers of the LORD. 10 The field is ruined, The land mourns; For the grain is ruined, The new wine dries up, Fresh oil fails. 11 Be ashamed, O farmers, Wail, O vinedressers, For the wheat and the barley; Because the harvest of the field is destroyed. 12 The vine dries up And the fig tree fails; The pomegranate, the palm also, and the apple tree, All the trees of the field dry up. Indeed, rejoicing dries up From the sons of men.

Here we see Joel call the Jewish people to a time of mourning as a result of experiencing a locust plague. However, to fully understand the power of a locust plague, we first need to understand some facts about a locust plague. An average swarm of locusts will cover an area of 4 square miles and weigh 800,000 lbs. Often several swarms would move together, covering as much as 400 square miles and would darken the sky. Locusts can fly as high as 5,000 feet and when they settle down in an area they may lie in blankets up to two inches deep. Locusts devour as much as 400 tons of vegetation per acre. As a matter of fact, in 125 B.C. a locust plague swept through North Africa, causing the death of 800,000 people.

And in these verses, we see Joel use poetic language and metaphor to describe the swarm of locust and the damage that these locusts brought upon the Jewish people. Joel called those who so loved wine that they would have been considered alcoholics to weep and mourn, because the grape plants had been destroyed. Joel painted a powerful word picture of a lion tearing through its prey, to leave only its bones, to describe the destructive power of the swarm of locusts.

Joel called the Jewish people to mourn like a woman who was engaged would mourn the sudden loss of her future husband just before their wedding day. Joel revealed the reality that the devastation from the locusts was so complete that there was no grain and wine for worship. The devastation affected every sector of agriculture, nothing was spared, no citizen escaped the plague.

Now a natural question that often arises in the wake of such a disaster is “Why? Why did this happen?” And in most instances throughout history, we never fully receive an answer to that question. However, in this case, the Lord, through the prophet Joel, provides the answer to this question in what he says next. So let’s look at what is said next, in Joel 1:13-20:

 13 Gird yourselves with sackcloth And lament, O priests; Wail, O ministers of the altar! Come, spend the night in sackcloth O ministers of my God, For the grain offering and the drink offering Are withheld from the house of your God. 14 Consecrate a fast, Proclaim a solemn assembly; Gather the elders And all the inhabitants of the land To the house of the LORD your God, And cry out to the LORD. 15 Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, And it will come as destruction from the Almighty. 16 Has not food been cut off before our eyes, Gladness and joy from the house of our God? 17 The seeds shrivel under their clods; The storehouses are desolate, The barns are torn down, For the grain is dried up. 18 How the beasts groan! The herds of cattle wander aimlessly Because there is no pasture for them; Even the flocks of sheep suffer. 19 To You, O LORD, I cry; For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness And the flame has burned up all the trees of the field. 20 Even the beasts of the field pant for You; For the water brooks are dried up And fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness.

Now to fully understand what Joel is communicating here, we first need to understand what Joel means when he uses the phrase “The Day of the Lord”. In the letters that make up the Bible, the “Day of the Lord” is used in two different ways. In most places in the letters that make up the Bible, this phrase refers to the time at the end of God’s story here on earth, Jesus will return to earth to defeat selfishness, sin, and death, and to exercise God’s right and just response to the wrongdoing and injustice of humanity against God and others that flowed from their selfishness and rebellion against God and others.  In addition, the “Day of the Lord” is also the doorway through which those who are in right relationship with God as a result of responding to all that God has done to rescue them from their selfishness and rebellion through Jesus life, death, and resurrection, by believing, trusting, and following Jesus as Lord and Leader will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

However, in a few places in the letters that make up the Bible, the “Day of the Lord” refers to a localized judgment of God against selfishness and rebellion at that time in history. This is how Joel uses this phrase in these verses.  Joel is revealing the reality that this swarm of locusts was an instrument of God’s judgment on the Jewish people as a result of their selfishness and rebellion against Him. 

Joel then begins to describe the depths of God’s right and just response to the selfishness and rebellion of the Jewish people through the plague of locusts, beginning in the second chapter of the book of Joel. We will look at those verses tomorrow...

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Lord faithfully pursues and rightly punishes those who choose to engage in spiritual adultery...


This week we have been looking at a letter that is recorded for us in the Old Testament of the Bible called the book of Hosea. We looked on as the Lord commanded Hosea to marry a woman who would end up committing adultery against him by becoming a prostitute. The Lord had Hosea do this so that his marriage would be a picture to the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel of the spiritual adultery that they are committing against  the Lord by worshipping other gods instead of the Lord.

 Hosea responded to the calling of the Lord to be His spokesman to the Northern Kingdom of Israel by obeying the Lord. Hosea married a woman named Gomer and proceeded to have three children. With the birth of each child, the Lord commanded Hosea to give each child a specific name that was designed to communicate a specific message to the Jewish people. The Lord wanted to Jewish people to clearly understand that their selfishness and rebellion against Him would result in His rejection of the Jewish people.

However, in the midst of this word picture of rebellion and rejection, the Lord, through Hosea, predicted and proclaimed that there would be a day in the future when the Jewish people would be restored both numerically and spiritually; The Lord promised the Jewish people that, as individuals and as a nation, there would be a return and restoration to the Lord.

We looked on as the Lord used the powerful imagery of adultery to reveal the depths of the selfishness and rebellion of the Jewish people against the Lord. The Lord painted this powerful word picture of the adultery that Gomer committed against Hosea to reveal the reality that, just like Gomer, the Jewish people, in their unfaithfulness, had severed their relationship with the Lord. Just as Gomer pursued other lovers that would pay her for sex, the Jewish people chose to pursue her lovers, which were the false gods of physical nourishment and material possessions, comfort and protection, and pleasure to pay her.

And just like Gomer and her physical adultery, the spiritual adultery of the Northern Kingdom of Israel would have consequences. The Lord would respond to the spiritual adultery of the Jewish people by eliminating all access to her lovers of physical nourishment and material possessions, comfort and protection, and pleasure that the nation had been pursuing through the worship of false gods instead of the Lord.

And again, after predicting judgment for their spiritual adultery, The Lord, through Hosea, predicted and proclaimed that there would be a day in the future when the Jewish people would experience restoration to the Lord. The Lord would pursue the Jewish people and persuade them to return to the covenant relationship that they had entered into with the Lord. The Lord proclaimed that only through the trouble of judgment for their spiritual adultery would they have the opportunity and hope of restoration of their covenant relationship with the Lord that they had broken. On that future day of restoration, the Jewish people would be devoted to the Lord as a result of the Lord’s steadfast love and faithful devotion.

Today, we see the Lord then point the Jewish people back to the powerful word picture that He was painting through Hosea’s relationship with Gomer in Hosea 3:1-5:

Then the LORD said to me, "Go again, love a woman who is loved by her husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes." 2 So I bought her for myself for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a half of barley. 3 Then I said to her, "You shall stay with me for many days. You shall not play the harlot, nor shall you have a man; so I will also be toward you." 4 For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. 5 Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days.

Here we see the Lord command Hosea to pursue and love his wife Gomer, even though she had left him to live as a prostitute that pursued other lovers that would pay her for sex. However, Gomer found herself in a place in life where she was no longer free. Instead, Gomer found herself at a place in life where she was a slave. And because Gomer was now a slave, in order to restore their relationship, Hosea would have to redeem, or purchase her freedom.

In the culture of the day, a slave was usually purchased for 30 shekels of silver. Hosea proceeded to pay the price to purchase, or redeem, her from slavery by paying half in money and half in grain. After redeeming her from slavery, Hosea placed Gomer in forced seclusion in his home. Now a natural question that could arise here is “Why would Hosea do that?”

You see, Gomer was placed in forced seclusion as a word picture to the Jewish people of the exile that they would soon experience at the hands of the Assyrian Empire. The Lord was painting a word picture to the Jewish people to reveal the reality that, upon being conquered by the Assyrian Empire, the Jewish people would be stripped of their kingdom and their tools for idol worship.

However, after their time in exile, sometime in the distant future, in the last days of God’s story here on earth, the Jewish people would return to seek to experience the covenant relationship with the Lord that had been entered into through their most famous king, a man named King David. The Lord used the relationship between Hosea and his wife Gomer as a word picture to reveal the reality that, in the future, the Lord would keep the covenant commitment that He made to the Jewish people, but that the Jewish people had broken, by redeeming them from slavery to their selfishness and rebellion so that they could experience the restoration of the relationship with Him that they were created for. 

And through the rest of the book of Hosea, the prophet continued to reveal how the Jewish people were acting like spiritual sluts as they pursued physical nourishment and material possessions, comfort and protection, and pleasure to pay them in a way that would satisfy their deepest desires.  Hosea continued to reveal how the Jewish people were acting like spiritual sluts as they pursued the worship of false gods, while the corrupt religious leaders of the day led the Jewish people to have a lack of knowledge of the Lord.

However, in the midst of their spiritual adultery that led them to behave like spiritual sluts, the Lord continued to pursue the Jewish people in an attempt to persuade them to return to the covenant relationship with the Lord that they had broken. However, while Hosea called the people to return to the Lord, he did not expect a positive response. Yet, in spite of their spiritual adultery, the Lord refused to totally abandon His people. For many Jewish people in Hosea’s day, just as it is today, they were given a chance to return to the Lord after rebelling against the Lord. However, just like today, when one chooses to rebel against or suppress the truth about the Lord, there is a “point of no return” at which time God will rightly and justly punish such selfishness and rebellion. We see Hosea reveal this reality in Hosea 14:9:

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; Whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, And the righteous will walk in them, But transgressors will stumble in them.

And, it is here, when God speaks, that we discover a timeless truth about the nature and character of God and God’s activity in history. And that timeless truth is this: The Lord faithfully pursues and rightly punishes those who choose to engage in spiritual adultery. You see, the point of the book of Hosea is that the Lord is faithfully committed to His covenant commitment in the face of our spiritual adultery.

Just like the Jewish people, all of humanity, in our unfaithfulness, severed the relationship with the Lord that we were created for to instead pursue other lovers. Instead of loving the Lord, humanity chooses to pursue the love of false gods such as physical nourishment and material possessions, comfort and protection, and pleasure to pay us in a way that would satisfy our deepest desires. And just like the Jewish people, our spiritual adultery has consequences. Just like the Jewish people, the Lord responds to the spiritual adultery of those who reject and suppress the truth about God to pursue the love of false gods by rightly punishing that adultery.

Yet in the midst of this spiritual adultery and judgment, the Lord faithfully pursues His people in an attempt to persuade them to return to the covenant relationship with the Lord that they had broken. In the midst of our spiritual adultery, the Lord keeps the covenant commitment that He made, but that we have broken, by providing all humanity the opportunity to be redeemed from slavery to our selfishness and rebellion so that we could experience the relationship with Him that they were created for through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus.  

So here is a question to consider: Are you acting like a spiritual slut? Are you committing spiritual adultery? Are you claiming to be a Christian but, in reality, are pursuing physical nourishment and material possessions, protection and comfort, and pleasure so that they would pay you in a way that would satisfy your deepest desires?  Do you profess your love for Jesus on Sunday only to give out your love to things other than Jesus the rest of the week?

And how are you responding to the reality that the Lord faithfully is pursuing you in an attempt to persuade you to live in the relationship with Him that you were created for? Because, as we have discovered, the Lord faithfully pursues and rightly punishes those who choose to engage in spiritual adultery.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The cost and consequences of spiritual adultery...


This week we are looking at a letter that is recorded for us in the Old Testament of the Bible called the book of Hosea. Yesterday we looked on as the Lord called  to marry a woman who would later commit adultery against you by becoming a prostitute. Hosea responded to the calling of the Lord to be His spokesman to the Northern Kingdom of Israel by obeying the Lord. Hosea married a woman named Gomer and proceeded to have three children.

With the birth of each child, the Lord commanded Hosea to give each child a specific name that was designed to communicate a specific message to the Jewish people. The Lord used the marriage of Hosea and Gomer to proclaim to the Jewish people to that their selfishness and rebellion against Him would result in His rejection of the Jewish people. However, in the midst of this word picture of rebellion and rejection, we see the Lord provide words of hope.

After predicting judgment, The Lord, through Hosea, predicted and proclaimed that there would be a day in the future when the Jewish people would be restored both numerically and spiritually; The Lord promised the Jewish people that, as individuals and as a nation, there would be a return and restoration to the Lord.

Today we will see that after these words of hope, we see Hosea return to communicating the Lord’s message of judgment against the Jewish people for their spiritual adultery in Hosea 2:2-13:

Contend with your mother, contend, For she is not my wife, and I am not her husband; And let her put away her harlotry from her face And her adultery from between her breasts, 3 Or I will strip her naked And expose her as on the day when she was born. I will also make her like a wilderness, Make her like desert land And slay her with thirst. 4 "Also, I will have no compassion on her children, Because they are children of harlotry. 5 "For their mother has played the harlot; She who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, 'I will go after my lovers, Who give me my bread and my water, My wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.' 6 "Therefore, behold, I will hedge up her way with thorns, And I will build a wall against her so that she cannot find her paths. 7 "She will pursue her lovers, but she will not overtake them; And she will seek them, but will not find them. Then she will say, 'I will go back to my first husband, For it was better for me then than now!' 8 "For she does not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the new wine and the oil, And lavished on her silver and gold, Which they used for Baal. 9 "Therefore, I will take back My grain at harvest time And My new wine in its season. I will also take away My wool and My flax Given to cover her nakedness. 10 "And then I will uncover her lewdness In the sight of her lovers, And no one will rescue her out of My hand. 11 "I will also put an end to all her gaiety, Her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths And all her festal assemblies. 12 "I will destroy her vines and fig trees, Of which she said, 'These are my wages Which my lovers have given me.' And I will make them a forest, And the beasts of the field will devour them. 13 "I will punish her for the days of the Baals When she used to offer sacrifices to them And adorn herself with her earrings and jewelry, And follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me," declares the LORD.”?

Here we see the Lord use the powerful imagery of adultery to reveal the depths of the selfishness and rebellion of the Jewish people against the Lord. However, to fully understand what Hosea is communicating here, we first need to understand a few things. When Hosea uses the words to brothers and sisters, he is referring to individual Jewish people. By contrast, when Hosea uses the word mother, he is referring to the nation of the Northern Kingdom of Israel as a whole.

The Lord painted this powerful word picture of the adultery that Gomer committed against Hosea to reveal the reality that, just like Gomer, the Jewish people, in their unfaithfulness, had severed their relationship with the Lord. Just as Gomer pursued other lovers that would pay her for sex, the Jewish people chose to pursue her lovers, which were the false gods of physical nourishment and material possessions, comfort and protection, and pleasure to pay her.

And just like Gomer and her physical adultery, the spiritual adultery of the Northern Kingdom of Israel would have consequences. The Lord would respond to the spiritual adultery of the Jewish people by eliminating all access to her lovers of physical nourishment and material possessions, comfort and protection, and pleasure that the nation had been pursuing through the worship of false gods instead of the Lord.

Yet in the midst of this word picture of spiritual adultery and judgment, the Lord once again provided words of hope. So let’s look at those words of hope together, beginning in verse 14-23:

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Bring her into the wilderness And speak kindly to her. 15 "Then I will give her her vineyards from there, And the valley of Achor as a door of hope. And she will sing there as in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. 16 "It will come about in that day," declares the LORD, "That you will call Me Ishi And will no longer call Me Baali. 17 "For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, So that they will be mentioned by their names no more. 18 "In that day I will also make a covenant for them With the beasts of the field, The birds of the sky And the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword and war from the land, And will make them lie down in safety. 19 "I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, In lovingkindness and in compassion, 20 And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD. 21 "It will come about in that day that I will respond," declares the LORD. "I will respond to the heavens, and they will respond to the earth, 22 And the earth will respond to the grain, to the new wine and to the oil, And they will respond to Jezreel. 23 "I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they will say, 'You are my God!’

Once again, after predicting judgment for their spiritual adultery, The Lord, through Hosea, predicted and proclaimed that there would be a day in the future when the Jewish people would experience restoration to the Lord. The Lord would pursue the Jewish people and persuade them to return to the covenant relationship that they had entered into with the Lord. The Lord reminded the Jewish people of an event in history that is recorded for us in a letter in the Old Testament, called the book of Joshua.

In Joshua chapter 7, we read of an event from history where the Jewish people experienced trouble as they entered into the Promised Land as a result of the covetousness of a man named Achan. The Lord pointed the Jewish people to this event from history to remind them that only through the trouble of judgment for their spiritual adultery would they have the opportunity and hope of restoration of their covenant relationship with the Lord that they had broken.

On that future day of restoration, the Jewish people would be devoted to the Lord as a result of the Lord’s steadfast love and faithful devotion. We see the Lord then point the Jewish people back to the powerful word picture that He was painting through Hosea’s relationship with Gomer.

Friday, we will look at a timeless truth that the Lord communicated to the Jewish people through Hosea...

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A shocking "ask" by God to a messenger of God...


At the church where I server, we are in the middle of a sermon series entitled “When God speaks”. During this series we are looking at these letters that we often have a tendency to skip over, which are referred to as the prophets. We are going to discover who these letters that we have a tendency to skip over were written to. We are going to discover what these letters that we have a tendency to skip over reveal about who we are. We are going to discover what these letters that we have a tendency to skip over reveal about the nature of God and God’s activity in history.

And as we go through this series, our hope and prayer is that God would move by the power of the Holy Spirit in our heads, hearts and hands so that we understand and embrace the timeless and timely truths that these letters that we often skip over have for our lives. This week, I would like for us to look at a letter that is recorded for us in the Old Testament of the Bible called the book of Hosea, which is the next letter that was written by prophet chronologically, which is not necessarily the order that they are found in the Bible, where they are organized by size. So let’s look at the man and the message of the Book of Hosea, beginning in Hosea 1:1:

The word of the LORD which came to Hosea the son of Beeri, during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.

Here we see that Hosea lived during the reigns of Jeroboam, who was the king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, who ruled and reigned from 790-753 B.C. Hosea also lived during the reigns of King Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, who ruled over the southern kingdom of Judea. This letter was written during the times described in a section of another letter in the Old Testament of the Bible, called the book of 2 Kings, in 2 Kings 15:8-31. Thus, Hosea was a contemporary of both Jonah and Amos.

During this time in history, the northern kingdom of Israel was in a state of anarchy. And it was into this state of anarchy that the Lord called Hosea to be a messenger to proclaim His message to the Jewish people of the Northern Kingdom. And as we are going to discover, Hosea was a very special man. As a matter of fact, scarcely any other prophet was asked by God to serve Him in a way that would result in such deep personal anguish as Hosea was. And as we will discover, Hosea was a man who remained obedient to the Lord in spite of a life that was marked by suffering that few of us can even imagine. We see this reality in Hosea 1:2:

When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, "Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.

Now imagine yourself as Hosea. Imagine the Lord saying to you “I want you to get married. And I am letting you know in advance that the person you are going to marry will end up leaving you to be a prostitute. Yes, Hosea, you heard Me right. Hosea, I want you to marry a woman who would later commit adultery against you by becoming a prostitute. While your marriage will start off well, while you will have children with this woman who you love, eventually she is going to leave you to sleep around with others for pay. Hosea, I am asking you to do this because your marriage is going to be a picture to the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel of the spiritual adultery that they are committing against Me by worshiping other gods instead of Me.”

Now I want us to take a minute and imagine ourselves in the event from history as Hosea. Place yourself in the shoes of Hosea. Imagine knowing, in advance, that while your young bride held within herself all the reasonable prospects of the joys of marriage, it would not- it could not last. Imagine knowing in advance that the woman you were going to marry would break your heart in a most devastating way. You are Hosea. What would you be thinking? What would you be feeling? How would you respond? We see Hosea’s response in verse 3-9:

So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. 4 And the LORD said to him, "Name him Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 "On that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel." 6 Then she conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. And the LORD said to him, "Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them. 7 "But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them by the LORD their God, and will not deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses or horsemen." 8 When she had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she conceived and gave birth to a son. 9 And the LORD said, "Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.

Hosea responded to the calling of the Lord to be His spokesman to the Northern Kingdom of Israel by obeying the Lord. Hosea married a woman named Gomer and proceeded to have three children. With the birth of each child, the Lord commanded Hosea to give each child a specific name that was designed to communicate a specific message to the Jewish people.

The first child was named Jezreel, which means “God scatters”. You see the Lord wanted to Jewish people to clearly understand that He was about put an end to the northern kingdom of Israel by scattering them far away. And in 722 B.C., this prophetic message was fulfilled by the Assyrian Empire, who scatted the Jewish people into the Assyrian Empire.

The second child was named Lo-Ruhamah, which means “unloved” or “unpitied” or “no compassion”. The Lord wanted to Jewish people to clearly understand that this would be God’s attitude toward His rebellious people as He turned them over to judgment by the Assyrians. The third child was named Lo-ammi, which means “not my people”. The Lord wanted to Jewish people to clearly understand that their selfishness and rebellion against Him would result in His rejection of the Jewish people.

However, in the midst of this word picture of rebellion and rejection, we see the Lord provide words of hope. So let’s look at those words of hope together, beginning in verse 1:10-2:1:

Yet the number of the sons of Israel Will be like the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered; And in the place Where it is said to them, "You are not My people," It will be said to them, "You are the sons of the living God." 11 And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, And they will appoint for themselves one leader, And they will go up from the land, For great will be the day of Jezreel. 2:1 “Say to your brothers, "Ammi," and to your sisters, "Ruhamah.

After predicting judgment, The Lord, through Hosea, predicted and proclaimed that there would be a day in the future when the Jewish people would be restored both numerically and spiritually. By dropping the “Lo” from “Lo-ammi”, this would change the name to a positive idea as “one who is loved or shown compassion”. By dropping the “Lo” from “Lo-Ruhamah”, this would change the name to a positive idea as “my people”. The Lord promised the Jewish people that, as individuals and as a nation, there would be a return and restoration to the Lord.

After these words of hope, we see Hosea return to communicating the Lord’s message of judgment against the Jewish people for their spiritual adultery. Tomorrow we will look at these words…