March 31, 2011

Minor Prophets LIII: Jonah And The Whine

"But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” But the LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Jonah 4:1-4

Surprisingly we see Jonah is rather displeased with the mercy and grace of God. Jonah knew that God would be gracious and compassionate and Jonah became indignant. In doing this he shows his heart and mimics the general attitude of Israel at large: self-centered and self-interested with little regard or total disregard of God and his mercies. What is truly ironic is Jonah’s anger. God commands Jonah to do something to abate God’s anger. In commanding Jonah to do something to make this happen, He in turn becomes irate. It is probable that Jonah knew from Hosea and Amos that Assyria’s success and survival meant Israel’s doom. To me, Jonah’s behavior is rather amazing. He is trifling with God. This is insane.

Jonah actually has the gall to make the question-statement, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish.” In essence, he was being overtly sarcastic with God. Jonah did not want the Ninevites to survive. If Jonah knew that God would forgive then he knew what type of God he was dealing with in terms of attributes. He pushed his luck and got away with his sarcasm and surly attitude only because God was indeed forgiving and slow to anger in view of Jonah’s capriciousness. Jonah is lucky he wasn’t vaporized on the spot or turned into a pile of cinders where he stood. Praise God for being forgiving.

Because God allowed Assyria to continue to exist because they did repent solicited a suicidal request from Jonah for God to kill him. Emotionally Jonah was in a downer because God relented of His intended path of punishment. He still wanted Assyria thrashed or to be given a “beat down” but it wasn’t going to happen…so he pouted like a child that is told no by his Father.

Minor Prophets LII: Even The Pagan's Believed

Jonah having been saved from the clutches (or stomach) of death now has a new attitude or gratitude towards God’s mercy and offers up sacrifice(s) to fulfill his vows to the Lord. Jonah finally does what the pagan sailors have already figured out…giving praise or a psalm of thanksgiving. He makes good on his word by making the very next statement that, “Salvation comes from the LORD”

We also see evidences of true repentance on the part of the Ninevites in Jonah 3:5-8.

"The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence." Jonah 3:5-8

As subtle as it is in verse 5 it should not be overlooked. As Christians this action is the core of our belief system. “

The Ninevites believed God. This needs to be understood two ways. They believed in Him. By doing this they would have also believed what He said. So there are two (2) “believed” here. One is inextricably linked to the other. Then an even more demanding and dedicated response that required them to put their bodies in subjugation to their will which was now in subjugation to the will of The One: They fasted and put on sackcloth as a sign/symbol of grief, penitence or mourning. By believing and fasting they are then also putting trust in God. What is ironic is that we are seeing pagan culture acting as if they are God’s own (Israel). We must remember that these are Assyrians…a brutal pagan regime. The other thing seen here is that “all” responded including the king who, “rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.” He subsequently issued a proclamation to not: “let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink, but rather, “ be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.” Pretty amazing considering that fact that before Jonah arrived, they probably didn’t even believe in Jonah’s God. They then end up being a better example of reverence than Jonah did in chapter 1.

I mean, think about what Jonah did here. This would be like a missionary going into Al Qaeda or Taliban infested areas of Afghanistan right now and saying that Jesus told them to repent...and actually have them repent! You'd be lucky to get out of there with your life let alone actually make a claim as a Christian that God's judgement was coming to your nation if you didn't get you act straight. Jonah's fear wasn't that he was going to be executed by the Ninevites but that they would be spared. It had absolutely no doubt that he would be safe when deliverring the message. This idea isn't even mentioned in the text. He worried they would be spared!!

We see the reasons for the Ninevites being spared judgment in Jonah 3:9

“Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” Jonah 3:9

We see an unmistakable example of God’s sovereignty here. God can do what He wants, when He wants, to whomever He wants (and they had better like it! :). I can picture/detect a slight hint of either sarcasm or elitism from Jonah when this line is delivered. What we realize is that even prayer, worship and penitence before a holy God does not guarantee a positive outcome. God is just and Nineveh has sinned. They are still due a counterbalance to the sin but it is also within God to forgive…as long as there is atonement.

God is under no obligation to forgive just because you ask for mercy but because men come to him in repentance and a contrite heart there is a chance. If you show up before God without this though you flirt with disaster and could quite literally be destroyed. We see this in all sinners. All sin and are worthy of death for the wages of sin is death. But Jesus removed that onus if we repent and accept the work that has already been done for us. If you come and cop and attitude to the One that offers forgiveness you get what you deserve for being so stupid.

March 30, 2011

Minor Prophets LI: Drowning Man

Jonah is sinking down. He is both solemn and “depressed”, both mentally and in terms of “physical” orientation. They parallel one another. Perhaps the experience of sinking in the water has affected him psychologically? He sinks in water and simultaneously sinks and drops away from God. There are also hints of Psalms 40 in the latter portions “But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit” A glimmer of hope in the end. A hand that reaches down when we think we are going under for the last time. Suffocating and drowning in our sin as it inundates and engulfs us in life. In this moment, the last before we lose consciousness...when life ebbs away, people reach too the last thing that matters and the only thing that matters…God.

In this epiphany (which I believe is from God himself) we have enough sense to reach our hands to the sky. In this nearly unconscious repentance and acknowledgement of God, God then reaches down into our overwhelming adversity and saves us. This I suppose is not ironic when we consider than some of people’s most teachable moments are in their suffering and adversity when they have “reached the bottom”

“In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.”

“From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.”

“But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit.”

“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.”

March 29, 2011

Minor Prophets L -Part II: Pagan Piety & A Prophet's Impropriety

Tarshish is at the southern tip of Spain near modern day Straits of Gibraltar. This location is amusing…because it is diametrically opposed to Nineveh which would’ve been in the absolute opposite direction in the area of modern day Iraq. (Jonah’s starting point was in Northern Israel near Nazareth). God told him to "arise, and go" instead Jonah "arose, and fled". Foolish man.

So, let us compare the "piety" (or should I say the impropriety) of Jonah to the true piety of the pagan seamen in Chapter 1.

The other sailors make better spiritual models than Jonah in a few episodes in this story. First we see in Jonah 1:6, that although they all call out to their own gods, they at least have enough sense to call on a power larger than themselves when confronted with what appears to be an insurmountable situation or obstacle. The captain even goes as far as to tell Jonah to “call on your God!” Inadvertently, the captain is telling Jonah EXACTLY what he should be doing: Calling on his God, Yahweh to get them out of this current predicament.

Interestingly, I must consider the “casting of lots” a biblical thing to do also. It was used by many in the Bible for important decisions including the selection of Judas’ replacement as an apostle. The idea is that a sovereign God controls all in His creation…and that includes the roll of the dice. In doing this it is not gambling if you are using it to call on God’s Will. "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." Proverbs 16:33. As would be expected, if every decisions is the Lord’s, the lot landed on Jonah the guilty party. In verse 8 and 9 we see the sailors asking the “who, what, and where from” questions which Jonah dutifully replies that, he is Hebrew and he worships the Lord or the God who is “the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Whatta dunce! "The God who made the sea....". The sailors then have the correct and Godly response, they fear God and are terrified. They then pop the rhetorical question which amounts to “Jonah! You dope, what did you do??? We’re doooooooooomed!”

Even after Jonah gives them a logical course of action when he suggests that he be jettisoned overboard they are aggrieved at the prospect knowing that he is a Hebrew and a man of the Hebrew God (renowned as being powerful at this point judging by their reaction) and opt to row towards shore. When this fails they again petition the Lord for prerequisite forgiveness in the event Jonah dies when they are forced to toss him in the water. These may not be believers in Yahweh but they could very easily have become believers in Him had they been raised in different environments.

The icing on the cake in terms of a spiritual model of these sailors is in verse 16. Once they see the sea has calmed their response is impeccable. They offered sacrifices to the Lord and made vows to Him. If some of these men didn’t eventually convert permanently to worship of Yahweh…I would be surprised. Jonah on the other hand is an embarrassment to Yahweh. In this entire story even the plants, weather and the sea obeys God’s will…but not Jonah. It takes until the end for him to bend to God’s will and even then it is a struggle. His natural bend is in the “other direction away from God”. A mediocre prophet at best.

March 28, 2011

Minor Prophets L-Part I: The Once Great (But Wicked) Nineveh

I will supply some background information about Nineveh before launching into the book of Jonah. The features of Nineveh are impressive even by today’s standards.

1) It was the greatest of the ancient Assyrian empire and its capital. It flourished between 800 and 612 BC.

2) It was located on the left bank of the Tigris River (modern Iraq). Its remains are even in existence today and are probably being seen by our troops in country and modern Iraqi even now.

3) The Book of Jonah itself calls it “an exceedingly great city” so even during Jonah’s time we know it was massive. It took three days on foot to traverse it.
Jonah 3:3 ~ Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth.
4) Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary has put the population of Nineveh at the time of Jonah at approximately 600,000. This is a massive ancient city. In perspective that would make it 6x the size of Allentown or 1/3 the size of Philadelphia. Within its city walls alone it is said that it could’ve housed 175,000 people (Allentown, Pennsylvania).

5) It last for quite a while in Biblical narrative. It was last mentioned in Nahum as it was prophesied that it would be overthrown by the Medes and Chaldeans in 612 BC. By 500 BC Nahum states that, “Nineveh is devastated”.

6) Sennacherib built and enormous palace at Quyundjig. The palace “had no equal” and covered 5 acres, had 71 rooms, two long halls 180 ft. long and 40 feet wide. The rooms were decorated with 9880 feet of sculptured reliefs depicting Assyrian victories over enemies that included the Judean city of Lachish in 701 BC.

7) Sennacherib’s city was enclosed in eight miles of walls with 15 gates and had gardens watered by 30 miles of aqueduct.

8) They had amassed library of 20,000 tablets.

The list goes on but we see via this city how great something can be and how quickly it is relegated to history books and memory. This city is also a great example of what happens to a haughty and arrogant city/nation that believes they can go their own course without the Alimighty. They are smited, crushed and ground to powder. A powder that then gets blown into the winds of history leaving only a hollow and empty echo.

Brand, Chad Owen, Charles W. Draper, and Archie W. England. "Nineve/Nineveh." Holman illustrated Bible dictionary . Nashville, Tenn.: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003. 1192-1193. Print.

March 27, 2011

The Nick In Time: Kairos / καιρός

And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." John 12:23-24

While reviewing Chapters 1 through 9 in the Gospel of John, I tried to pick a specific incident that appealed to me among all the others but to no avail. Dividing Jesus is an impossible feat. What I did find appealing and was convicted to write about was a concept pointed out in Chapters 7 and 8—καιρός. So I’ve settled on a concept rather than a specific story or event since this concept encompasses multiple events.

In Koine Greek there are two different designations of the idea of time. There is chronos / χρόνος and this word/concept is that of a time over a period or increment. It describes a period measured by passage of time and/or a succession of objects and events and shows a passing of moments. A mobile time over a possible stretch of time. Chronos embraces all possible Kairos. Chronos is denoted by the hour, kairos the seconds of the hour. Chronos the year, kairos the day of the year.

Kairos / καιρός on the other hand is the oppurtune time. It is not merely succession of minutes, hours or days like chronos / χρόνος but rather the perfect time. As such there is no equivelant word in English. It is an appointed time. It is the time referred to in Ecclesiastes when the teacher or Qohelet says there is a "time" for everything. This is the same type of time referred to when dealing with kairos. A punctiliar time. A moment in time. Static. The exact moment. The precise moment. God's perfect timing. The "nick" in time.

Chronos is quantitative, Kairos is qualitative.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die..." Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

We see in chapters 7 and 8 the culmination of something that has been coming since before the foundations of the world and will last long after into eternity. It is the supreme moment when the forces of light and dark confront one another head-on in a cosmic event. In these chapters we begin to hear Jesus expound vehemently and say, “My hour has not yet come” in some form but it is also here, in these chapters, that the shift begins and we see that the hour will soon be upon Him (Ch.12). It is for that moment that He has come. It is the purpose for His kenosis/self-emptying which was actually Him taking on an additional attribute of being human as mentioned in Philippians 2:5-11, and the whole point of being a Suffering Servant nailed to the cross at Golgotha. It is now the paradigm begins to shift.

Like Jesus Christ Himself had His punctiliar moment in history, we too as Christians also have our kairos moment and it hangs motionless in time where our eternal salvation will rest precariously until we take hold of it. We are presented intellectually with the Cross of Christ and His Resurrection (which ironically is what Chapters 7 and 8 eventually leads to) and we are presented with a choice - a divine ultimatum.

We are called to accept or to reject Jesus and His sacrificial gift of love. Although the decision is transient, the consequences are eternal. We have a choice to love and accept Jesus for who/what He is and what He has done –or- we can reject Him.

When that decision is made it is momentous- it is καιρός.

Even if we don’t do it now, we will at some point before we die make this decision. Even a failure to make this decision is in itself a decision. It is a choice to reject by not accepting Jesus Christ. It is that moment in time on which the outcome of our eternal existence pivots. It is in that moment that we realize that Jesus is not only the vehicle or means of salvation but that His work in time or history, like our decision in time and history are inextricably and inescapably linked. We realize that Jesus Christ is the linchpin of salvation and time. Without which neither could or would exist (Hebrews 1:1-3). For us time is linear but for God, time is always RIGHT NOW. It is man that needs to live in two distinct sets of time but for God it is always καιρός not χρόνος. God is καιρός. No matter where God is or when God is, He is Supreme. God gives time it’s very meaning.

When Jesus came incarnate he subjected Himself not only to the physical aspects of human existence but also to the linear and chronological aspects of human existence. As Abraham J. Heschel once said about time in his book “The Sabbath”: “We must never forget that it is not the thing that lends significance to the moment; it is the moment that lends significance to things”. Obviously, Christ’s work or the “thing” as Heschel alludes, is of supreme importance but even more so is its chronological/historical context. It is the fact that Jesus enters time and history in human form to suffer the humiliation of the cross and the things leading up to it that make His sacrifice so significant.

"But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law..." Galatians 4:4

He takes on an additional attribute of humanness so that He, “… shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death (the Devil).” It was done so that He could, “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death”. For this reason he had to be made like us, human in every way including being subject to suffering and time. He became High Priest to make a once-and-for-all, “atonement for the sins of the people”. Jesus did this at a specific point in time so that it was done permanently…forever. Having done this, Jesus freed all believers of another moment in time that holds them prisoner from the moment they’re born -Death.

The only way for God to become human as Jesus is to come into time. To show humanity without a doubt that He is the Messiah spoken of by the Prophets in the past and teach personally or first-hand the differences between right and wrong in His ministry so there would be no excuses for bad decision-making. Having done this he would then proffer His hand only to have a nail driven through it to save them from their sin and to die at “thee” perfect moment ordained- καιρός. He would then rise from the tomb at “thee” perfectly ordained moment in time- καιρός. If He is still rejected after all this, the people having been fully informed…are without excuse. Even better than the evidences of Creation, they will have their own Messiah stand right before them. If they then reject Him…they’re condemned.

This is exactly what we see in Chapters 7 & 8. Jesus goes to Jerusalem and makes His presence public for all to see. Some see Jesus and accept Him, others do not. We see a series of critical moments unfold in these chapters and this is the tension that begins to mount in Chapter 7. “At that point [in time]” John 7:25… people begin to ask questions about Jesus’ identity. Those that hate Jesus and what He has to say hate Him because He confronts them in time with the Kingdom and they do not know how to handle it (W. Smith). Those that reject Him, want Him dead. Regardless, it is as if time itself is too small for His presence. He makes people uncomfortable solely because of His presence and holiness in time and history. It is those that have made themselves their own authority, their own god through legalism that reject the Real Thing who is Jesus Christ. I for one have seen Jesus for whom He really is and my eternity beyond time is secure because of it.

I have encountered Jesus at my καιρός and accepted what He did at His καιρός.

What time is it for you? Has your perfect time come?

March 26, 2011

Minor Prophets XLIX: Altitude With Attitude

In Obadiah 1b the oracle from Obadiah is addressed to and against Edom who are the descendants of Esau. This oracle is very similar to Jeremiah 49 and Obadiah may be emphasizing earlier oracles against Israel’s foe. This is not a detraction from Obadiah so much as it strengthens his position because it corroborates and is corroborated by earlier and similar oracles also from God (Myers 153).

Obadiah 3 describes Edom's pride. Any precursory examination of Edom's location on a map is a vivid indicator of the source of their pride. Their altitude determined their attitude.

Edom is arrogant do to their geography and geology. They literally are looking down their nose at Israel. Edom enjoys the security of a strategic mountainous fortress in the area just below Moab on the east side of the Dead Sea. This would’ve been nearly impregnable militarily. But as we already know, nothing is impossible for God and because of the improbability of Edom falling it is all the more evident when they do that it is the hand of God working on Israel’s behalf. Edom would suffer a role reversal and be in the same position that Judah was currently in…small and impotent.
Obadiah 10-14

Judgment is coming due to “the violence done to your brother Jacob”. From days of Jacob and Esau until this point in time there has been feudal strife between these two. This carried on through the descendants of Jacob and Esau. Israel’s history is littered with incidents of infraction from Edom including: Numbers 20:14-21, Judges 11:17, Ezekiel 25:12 and so on. We see the flip side of this in Israel’s retaliations in 1 Samuel 14:47, 2 Samuel 8:13-14, 1 Kings 11:14-16 and so on. Call it bad blood. The crucial aspect that cannot be ignored in all of this is Obadiah’s use of the word אָחִ֙יךָ֙ / achik “brother” in verse 10 when mentioning the violence done to Israel. Edom was standing aloof and allowing their “sibling” to be violated and acted as one of Israel’s foreigners when in reality they were “kin”.

Myers, Jacob Martin. "Obadiah: An Oracle On The Doom of Edom." The Book of Hosea ; The Book of Joel ; The Book of Amos ; The Book of Obadiah ; The Book of Jonah . Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1978. 153. Print
Myers, Jacob Martin. "Obadiah: The Reasons For Edom’s Destruction." The Book of Hosea ; The Book of Joel ; The Book of Amos ; The Book of Obadiah ; The Book of Jonah . Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1978. 155. Print.

March 25, 2011

Disobedient Sleep and Hell's Carousel

You know you've done it. You claimed it was depression or that you were sick (and perhaps you were sick with sin). But you closed your eyes to hide from reality. Your life had become a wreck due to bad sinful choices. Please note I am not talking about a flight from or denial of reality because of tragedy or loss, but failure in life due to outright rebelliousness or disobedience to God or His statutes, precepts and/or laws. You have sinned or continue to commit a sin and you have a hard time living with it. It plagues you in your waking alert hours. It hovers like an omnious cloud and it brings storms and rough going in your life.

It only hurts when your eyes are open. It hurts when Truth is spoken. It even enters into the dreamtime, the reminder that something is broken. So you avoid life by sleeping all the time and even then the sin haunts you because you don't repent of it. Admit it, you've done it. It is the only place you feel you can avoid your guilt...avoid God. Of course that is no different than Jonah. Its a trick you learned about after you broke it off with your first boyfriend or girlfriend...or a broken marriage. Lies. Guilt of decieving. No consciousness, no grief or pain. Only your dreams, right? Wrong.

Eventually reality bleeds over and becomes part of your dreamstate also. Truth is, you cannot out run or hide from God here either. The one that made your mind and allows your dreams knows how to enter them and even use them. Even sleep is not a release from your conscience.

It wears you down. In a crippling remorse and an inability to deal with and confront the world. Guilt plagues your every waking moment. Anxieties paralyze your movements. Dread at the very core of your being immobilizes your life until you become dysfunctional. It rots your bones and you can feel its decay in your very soul. You feel like you are paddling upstream in a sea of wood. You are expending a ton of effort to move away from what plagues you but you are getting nowhere. Contantly moving in circles like a carousel horse but never actually getting anywhere. Always spinning around only to come face to face with the sin. All the while the cachophany and chaos of a confused life gone awry. The sound of strange laughter and a twisted music of your life that has become a circus and it is the soundtrack of a depraved mind.

It doesn't have to be like this. You need to turn to the One who can heal this wound of sin. The reason it plagues you is because you are in a spiritual warfare and the inability to let go of the guilt is a combination of your disobedience and persecuation by the powers and principalities that have managed to infest you and hang on like spiritual disease. You must call on the name of Christ to force this parasite to release it grip on you. You must call on Christ in repentance as He is the only one that can pull you out of this self-imposed mental and spiritual prison.

If you do not accept him and do not repent this hellish carnival can and will be your life, it will become your future and it will become your eternity. Will you repent or will the demonic chorting plague your dreams still? Round and round life goes in a dizzying and nauseating spin. Light blurs. Sin blurs. Good and bad cannot be differentiated. It all looks the same. Confusion or truth? How can you know?

Call on Him. Pray to Him. Read His Word. Accept His work and believe.

March 24, 2011

Minor Prophets XLVIII: The Fist of God

We are always led to believe Israel is special and are God's people. This is true. It is also true that these igorant stiff-necked people have been slowly accumulating God's wrath against them and this wrath will be spent somehow and somewhere. Israel’s special position as God’s “people” will not spare them punishment. God would treat all the nations the same. They would be the same as the Cushites.

God was and still is sovereign over ALL nations. God has guided Israel out of Egypt but He had also migrated the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir. God can and will do what He wants, when He wants, with whomever He chooses. He had hammered the nations of the Egyptians, Philistines and Arameans, so too would he exact a reversal of fortune on Israel. Israel had staked their survival and ability to get away with anything on the fact that they indeed were God’s chosen. But it is so much like humans to abuse and take advantage of the ones or the One who loves us most and is the most forgiving. Israel had banked too much on this and placed all their eggs in the wrong basket. Now the end was at their doorstep and knocking on, neh, knocking down the door. Israel would now be treated as all the others had been before them.

We then are drawn into the dramatic and quite startling narrative shift of Amos 9:11-15. It is so dramatic that any believer that understands its spiritual implication should be jarred into repentance. Is it totally unexpected? No. Is it a dramatic shift to annihilation? Of course it is.

This passage comes at the very end of a chapter proclaiming Israel’s absolute and utter demise. It is total contrast like flipping on a light switch in a dark room. We go from the very depths of darkness, depression and demise and then a promise is made of Israel’s Restoration “In that day I will restore David’s fallen shelter— I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins— and will rebuild it as it used to be. The end of the “cutting season” will come-reaping/death and there will be a renewal and the “plowman” will overtake the "reaper". Israel will prosper. A remnant of Israel will be placed back in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land God gave them. Again, as is often the case in the books of the Prophets, we see a dramatic reversal of fortune promised and restoration in the future.

We in this modern age should pay heed to this scenario in Amos. If God did not spare His own people who do we think we are thousands of years later and thousands of miles farther away that we are immune. We need to return to our God and stop this incessant stupid rebelling against the Almighty or the fist of His justice will crush us too. We will be driven to powder and blown into the winds of history.

March 23, 2011

Minor Prophets XLVII: Spiritual Starvation

A "famine" was coming to Israel in Amos 8:11-12 and it will be complete and absolute. This famine is arriving on the shores of the United States and many countries worldwide. In some has already arrived. The fact this famine has reached the shores of America is sad indeed. You would think that we would;ve learned from the past...but I suppose we have forgotten it?

The LORD was about to send a famine of His word. Israel would desperately inquire of God but He would remain silent. This silence would become so pronounced that they would not find the LORD even when they staggered from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for His word. No word, no guidance. Man will be left to his own devices and this has never bode well for them. They apostatized even when He was around breathing down their necks. When these stubbern stiff-necked people finally turn to look for their God…He will not be found.

Sadly, I again need to use the USA as an atrocious example of man being given away to their own sin. We have chosen to remove God from our schools, from out textbooks, from our courtrooms and from our government. We now effectively have a godless country of our own making. We also now have a nation that does the same horrid things to many of its people as Israel did in the time of Amos.

Having been a Quality Engineer for Mack Trucks, I know exactly what type of charade and farce the idea of adding “quality” to a product is. The idea is to streamline processes and make parts or items cheap to create a wider cost to income ratio for a corporation. We have an enormous infrastructure of industry now in the USA dialed into a manufacturing standard that tries to make parts cheaper, faster and we call it “quality”. Because we label it as a “quality” product we then charge more money for it even though we’ve done nothing but made it cheaper and flimsier. This sounds an awful lot like Amos 8:4-6 and the, “skimping on the measure, boosting the price, cheating with dishonest scales” and even…”selling even the sweepings with the wheat”

Are we really that different than Israel in Amos’ day? Hardly.

March 22, 2011

A Theological Jack-In-The-Box: 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort." 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

That's a lot of comfort in four verses.

I had to give a sermon on this passage. Here is the main gist of it.

2 Corinthians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul. This letter is profoundly theological but disorderly and marked by sudden breaks and digression. Due to its frequent departures into asides and brevity it is believed Paul was under a fair amount of stress and afflictions. The First Corinthian letter was written to address problems in the church including adultery, immorality, lawsuits. This is a follow-up to it and it may not be the only one. A second missing letter probably predates this one. Letter is extremely personal and highly autobiographical. Presents personal information about Paul’s pastoral work, supernatural experiences and list of suffering as an Apostle of Christ. Paul seeks to expose deceptiveness of his detractors in Corinth (Super Apostles) and discredit them. Paul had to address and rebuke his opponents in the church since they had been making inroads into church as false teachers and were undermining Paul’s apostolic authority. It is absolutely unclear exactly who these opponents were. They could’ve been Gnostics, Judaizers or what are referred to as Divine-men. Regardless, Paul writes and makes comparison of himself to the false teachers or so-called “peddlers of God’s word” or what I have dubbed the “Super Apostles”. This opposed to opponents/false teachers floating around in the Corinthians church stirring up trouble that could produce few or none of these evidences.

Paul also wants to show his delight in Corinth’s godly response to wickedness in their church. So what does that does Paul Write? Although there are other topics addressed in this letter such as collections, what is absolutely relevant to the greeting of thanksgiving above is Paul’s sufferings in his Apostleship for Christ. What we see in Paul in this latter is how a true apostle or disciples life parallels the Master’s in terms of self-sacrifice and love and for the well-being of others both physically and spiritually.

It is within this reasoning that we see the true core of a Christian whether they be Paul or you the reader.

What we will see over and over again in 2 Corinthians is the sufferings of Paul. Paul’s suffering dot the letter and include Chapter 4, Chapter 6 and the now infamous grocery list in Chapter 11 that included: (5) Five lashings of 39 lashes from the Jews. (3) Three times I was beaten with rods, (1) once I was stoned, (3) three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, etc. ,etc. Having endured these sufferings he did not mention them to bring glory to himself but rather to God. He saw his affliction as a method for furthering the message of the Gospel.

It appears that he adds this prayerful aside in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 to deliberately stand out in stark contrast to the brutality perpetrated on Paul that will follow. We see in Paul’s example: a man that is comforted by God the Father in his affliction and sufferings. A man who knows hardship and abuse as a Christian. A man that, having endured these hardships has seen God’s mercy that has got him through it and even allowed him to discuss the very afflictions he writes of in this passage and letter as a vehicle or method that glorifies God.

Why? So that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. But we also know from elsewhere in the Scripture that preseverence also builds character:

Romans 5:3 “…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

To really make this greeting "pop" and stand out we need to do a Greek word study of a particularly necessary word and its cognates:

"Comfort" - paraklesis / παράκλησις ... The "Linguistic Key to NT Greek" literally says: “The One who encourages and stands beside to comfort” , parakaleo / παρακαλέω "to call to one's side"
Comforted”- parakaloumetha / παρακαλούμεθα : indicates a Present Passive Indicative (PPI) which denotes a continual action.

In other words comfort is received every time a one is afflicted (Rienecker 450). The frequency of this word or concept is tenfold in the four quoted verses above. Ten times some form of paraklesis or parakalos is used in just these 4 verses (v.3-7) of the first chapter. Paul is clearly trying to drive home a point with this noun stem (Nestle-Aland, et al 472). It is obvious why this word and its cognates are used when juxtaposed with Paul’s sufferings in the book of 2 Corinthians. Which is actually a letter which reads like an autobiography of affliction in Paul’s life. When used as a noun adjacent to the idea of being “In Christ”, it quickly becomes evident that the nouns paraklesis or parakaleo are manifestations of the Paraklete/Holy Spirit and can be deemed synonymous or the same as the actions and the Source are the same: The Holy Spirit.

The idea that it is Jesus Christ is mentioned in verse 3 as a praise of Him and then again immediately following verses 3 & 4 in verse 5 where we are told that not only do we share in Jesus’ suffering but also our comfort abounds in Him. If another Christian suffers and is then comforted it is so other Christians can learn vicariously that God is faithful to provide and like the idea of Parakaleo…the Holy Spirit uses the person to convey the message in their actions. It is through the work of encouragement of the Holy Spirit that we are able to endure the affliction. As James says in James 1:3-4…”Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” It is only with the help of the Spirit of God that one could find joy in enduring affliction.

The overflow of the Holy Spirit is so pronounced in a believer’s life that not only does the believer being immediately aided in their affliction benefit but also those observing vicarious or secondary manner either through our actions or behavior or both. Or as (v.4) says He: “who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” As believers we will not only be aided by God directly through the Holy Spirit but we will also receive indirect or perhaps even direct encouragement and comfort seeing others comforted by the same power. We will see others going through the same afflictions and we will be able to observe the faithfulness of God to comfort them and others through the outward manifestations of work of the Holy Spirit. Not only that but we will have others to relate to as Christians with the same trials. It is like a double support system. It’s like having a safety net under the safety net in terms of comfort.

To beat this up some more I will add that the same word stem is used in parakletos...i.e.: The Paraklete...i.e.: The Holy Spirit or “The One who encourages and stands beside to comfort.”

If this needs to be flogged even further I will quote Jesus from John 16:7:

"But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” …Helper…parakletos.

Paul is clearly trying to drive home a point with this noun stem and its cognates (Nestle-Aland, et al 472). It is obvious why when juxtaposed with Paul’s sufferings. What does not become immediately evident in the English versions is that the noun stem used in the Greek word for “comfort” is the same exact stem used in the stem used in the Proper Noun of “Comforter” used in John 16:7 when referring to the Holy Spirit. Once this is realized, this passage explodes like a theological Jack-In-The-Box. Bang!

I posit that although these words are used in different case endings, we are dealing with the same exact thing…or should I say the same exact One: The Holy Spirit. Paul’s greeting doesn’t explicitly state this but it is nearly impossible to miss in the Greek when seeing the compound word stems of parakletos and its cognate parakaleo which are shown 10 times in 4 verses.The comfort derived from the Father through belief in Jesus Christ is in the Holy Spirit.

Analogy: The Holy Spirit is like fruit that has the seed already within itself to reproduce its own comfort. When people see the comfort He produces in a believer they themselves become comforted and reproduce the same fruit. Like fruit on a tree it attracts us and invites us to partake of it. What is fruit? It is an overabundance of life or a surplus of internal life!!!

I will conclude with the with the Comforter’s Paradox.

We, the believer, indwelt by the Holy Spirit end up being the very vehicle to comfort other believers…even in our affliction. ESPECIALLY IN OUR AFFLICTION! He (God) is not just the God of all comfort; God is the comfort. He comforts us effectively because through Christ, He understands our suffering and knows exactly how to comfort. The Paraklete/Comforter dwells in you as does his parakaleo/comfort which is a manifestation of the Paraklete’s presence. By the Holy Spirit dwelling within you, you are comforted. Since you couldn’t possible fully contain the Holy Spirit, His effects run over the brim and affect the other believers that are also in need of God’s mercy. This overflow is why we are called to go out into the world, through the good and even in suffering to bear witness to the truth-to Christ. Believers act as the vehicle for conveying God’s Spirit to others through God’s chosen method: Evangelism…even evangelism through our own affliction. Praise the Lord Jesus Christ.

March 21, 2011

Minor Prophets XLVI: Reaping Rotten Fruit

Amos in Chapter 8:1-3 is shown a basket of ripe fruit and is asked by God what he sees. Amos intelligently and observantly answers “A basket of ripe fruit”. Then LORD responds, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer” [In other words…the time has come]. God goes on to tell Amos that, “In that day,” …“the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies—flung everywhere! Silence!”
I do not believe it is much of a stretch to say God means business here. He’s going to kick some tail and He isn’t going to take names. Bodies will be flying and hitting the floor…like fruit falling off a tree...or being cut from a tree. The impact of this passage is the alliteration used when Amos uses the word “ripe fruit” in Hebrew [qayis] which meant “summer fruit or end-of-the-year fruit”. This fruit had a short shelf-life or edible period. This time was also known as “ripe time” in Hebrew [qes]. It was within this time that the “cutting” needed to take place to get the fruit off the vine or tree while it was still worth “saving” . A reaping time. Death. Israel was ripe for the harvest. Their end had come. They would be cut down…or perhaps cut off from God.

We see a case study of the specific fruits that need to be cut down as they are long past harvest time in Amos 8:4-6. The rich and powerful have actually crossed the line into rottoness. It is only through God's grace and mercy that this entire basket of fruit has not been spilt over and trampled under foot like disease and worm ridden fruit.

The affluent of this society trample and tread on the the needy and do away with the poor of the land. The businessmen and uppity-ups oppressed them through a single-minded pursuit of profit, a common theme in this portion of the Bible. The dead giveaway for this is the comment, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?” They were pretentiously mention the Sabbath and feast of the New Moon (probably not really paying much heed to it) because it was an interruption to their selling and conniving, while simultaneously chomping-at-the-bit to sell their goods. But they don’t just want to sell their goods and grain; they are mostly likely using either mismarked weights or dishonest scales to measure and purposely skimp on the total weight while inflating the price. These folks are real scumbags. They then take their silver and buy the poor into slavery and give their sandals (and insignificant sum) to acquire the needy. They were such chiselers that they even swept up the trampled grains, dirt and debris with the wheat to make it part of the overall measure or weight to sell to people. Totally dishonest cheating jerks.

Are we in this day in age really that much different from those in Amos' day? Things may look okay or normal from a distance but both these societies upon closer inspection are bruised, partially rotten or totally rotten from sin. Their society and sadly ours also.

Sunukjian, Donald B.. "The Results of Judgment ." The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition Of The Scriptures. Ed John Walvoord & Roy Zuck. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1985. 1447. Print.

March 20, 2011

Minor Prophets XLV: Engineering or Evangelism, Mechanical or Ministry

Amos 7:10-15 sheds some light on personal aspects of Amos' ministry. We can see from Amaziah, the priest of Bethel’s response that Amos was frowned upon and not well liked by the man. He is challenged by Amaziah. Bethel being one of the original sites for false worship set up by Jeroboam I tells us that this king’s sanctuary would’ve also been the a temple for the North. Having heard Amos’ harsh words it would’ve been implied that Amos was speaking out against the sanctuary and the monarchy of the North, he was accused of fermenting a conspiracy or causing a rebellion in or against the northern kingdom and against the king himself.

Amaziah tells the king that the land cannot bear the onslaught of all these negative messages. Amaziah then goes on to rail against Amos himself refusing to acknowledge that Amos is speaking as God’s prophet instead views him as a political insurgent, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”

From all this we can tell a few personal things about Amos. He did not self-generate his ministry. Perhaps he was not really thrilled about it, but he obeyed as he was instructed by the Lord. Sometimes the things God wants us to do are not the things we would chose  or the things we would want to do of our own accord. He did not come from a line of prophets. Amos’ prophetic ministry was initiated by God (obviously). Amos had not chosen this nor trained for it, he was a shepherd and grower of sycamore-fig trees. He was pulled away from his life and told to “prophesy to My [God’s] people in Israel”. I get the impression that if Amos had the choice he wouldn’t have done this…but no one refuses God (Sunukjian1446).

I my case it was walking away from a 23 year career in engineering as opposed to evangelism. To go from being mechanically inclined to being ministry inclined. To take all the tools I had acquired over two decades, return back to school at midlife and utilize these old tools and new education to pursue something I could not even see. Personally, it only made sense to obey God but making the actual decision to actually abandon what I knew, and to ignore comfort and ask others to do the same to chase a divine calling was a leap of faith that neither I nor my wife thought we had in us...

You can clearly see which path I chose. I would sooner be in front of a firing squad if that was the will of the One. My wife and I have no regrets. Walk on!!

Sunukjian, Donald B.. "The Results of Judgment ." The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition Of The Scriptures. Ed John Walvoord & Roy Zuck. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1985. 1446. Print.

March 19, 2011

Minor Prophets XLIV: Playing With A Deadly Fire

Amos 7 shows us a progression of thought and progressive actions in the three "visions" of verses (1-3), (4-6), and (7-9).

Vision 1
The LORD sends a swarm of locusts after the king’s share had been harvested. The locusts decimate the late crops. Amos being a shepherd knows the deadly outcome of this type of plague and screams for forgiveness. He knows this will mean “Jacob’s” demise. He asks the LORD to relent. The LORD relents.

Vision 2
LORD calls for judgment by fire; it dried up the great deep and devoured the land. I assume this is a literal fire perhaps after a really bad drought where grass and wood are turned into a tinderbox. Amos again cries out and asks the LORD to relent. The LORD relents again.

Vision 3
The third time around Amos sees the Lord standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. A measuring line or measuring stick is usually a symbol of judgment. The LORD asks Amos, “What do you see, Amos?” “A plumb line,” he replies. Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.” God has/will judge them. It is too late. The “high places of Isaac will be destroyed and the sanctuaries of Israel will be ruined; with my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam.” Israel is finished…no more reprieves (Hubbard 205-210).

Israel...always pushing their luck. Always driving the hand of God to slap them upside the head. Many that haven't really read the Old Testament and even some that have call God the God of wrath for what He did in the Old Testament. That's like saying parents are abusive for spanking their child for burning down the house after playing with matches. God's judgment reaches a flash point and then ignites. The fuel of sin must be consumed by a holy fire for God to live in relation to His human children, otherwise He cannot live in relation to them. His holiness must consume and eradicate the sin. There is just no other way since God is too holy to look upon the sin. Either it goes or He goes...and you know HE is going nowhere!!! Logic in this situation dictates the unrighteousness and wickedness, thereby the unrighteous and wicked will be destroyed and condemned to Hell and do not stand a chance in God's presence.

Hubbard, David Allan. "Five Judgment Visions Against Israel." Joel and Amos: an introduction and commentary. Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1989. 205-210. Print.

March 18, 2011

Minor Prophets XLIII: Good Times Absurd Times

In the beginning of Amos 6 we see good times and I am not talking about Jimmie "Dyn-o-mite!" Walker and Ester Rolle either. Israel is doing well or at least to outward appearances to other messed up human beings. This is a people/nation that have gotten to “high on their horse”. They have built a way of life on a foundation of shifting sand. Verse 1 starts right into Israel’s complacency:

“Woe to you who are complacent in Zion…you who feel secure on Mount Samaria…”

Complacency by its very nature is contentment and a smugness of mind that is generally not justified. It is a state of mind built on an illusion of reality or at least a misperception. This very heart/mind attitude doesn’t bode well for Israel and yet the verses go on in their damning tone. (v.4) they “lie on beds adorned with ivory and lounge on your couches”, “dine on choice lambs and fattened calves”, “strum away on your harps like David-improvise on musical instruments” and last but not least, “drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions”. Sadly, if we take this in the context of previous chapters, all of this is built on the backs of the poor and through deceit and injustice. This will never stand it God’s world.

This is followed in verse 12 by one seriously messed up question. At first appearances this question yields no clues but in context it can be picked apart to relate to Israel's fallen condition. [I’ve taken v.13 along with 12 to maintain continuity of thought].

Amos is rebuking Israel one last time for stubbornness and overtly stupid behavior. These rhetorical questions border on absurdity which clues us in that he is being bitingly sarcastic. Horses obviously do not run on rocky crag or they would break their legs. Also, oxen are not taken to the sea to plow waves (except in those occasional wacky dreams I have). This all builds into a literary or rhetorical trap created by Amos for the hearer/reader.

He then adds a scenario even more absurd than the previous two examples—the deliberate perversion of justice. The positive effects of justice for the poor have been turned into poison, righteousness has been turned into bitterness. To add insult to injury, they have taken total and complete credit for the conquest of Lo Debar and taking Karnaim “by our own strength”. Nowhere is God mentioned in this boast of arrogance. It is this boast and the heart condition behind it that spells the eventual demise of this nation. We continue to see the complacency alluded to in Amos 6:1-6. It is now compounding and gathering steam like a runaway train going downhill…or should a say a stampede of horses running off the edge of a rocky cliff? Even horses are smarter than that...

The Sin Checklist


(1) Check off all that apply
(2) Detach from blog post and hang on your refrigerator
(3) Use as a painful reminder of sinfulness
(4) Repent to the Lord
(5) Repeat as often as necessary

- - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - Detach At Dotted Line - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

[ __ ]  Pride: Excessive belief in one's own abilities that interferes with the individuals recognition of the grace of God. It has been called the sin from which all others arise. Pride is also known as vanity (Contrary Virtue: Humility)

[ __ ]  Envy: The Desire for others' traits, status, abilities or situation (Contrary Virtue: Kindness)

[ __ ]  Gluttony: An inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires (Contrary Virtue: Abstinence)

[ __ ]  Lust: An inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body (Contrary Virtue: Chastity)

[ __ ]  Anger: Manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury. Also known as wrath (Contrary Virtue: Patience)

[ __ ]  Greed: The Desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. Also called Avarice and Covetousness (Contrary Virtue: Generosity)

[ __ ]  Sloth: The Avoidance of physical or spiritual work (Contrary Virtue: Diligence)

[ __ ]  Other(s) ___________________________________

[ Disclaimer] Read Carefully: Do not attempt to circumvent this form. Your sin will find you out. Failure to report sin properly, repent and ask for forgiveness will incur the wrath of God and will solicit pending judgment against your account. Closed accounts are not redeemable. One account per customer. Eternal life guarantee on salvation.

March 17, 2011

Minor Prophet XLII: Zombies Ahead!

So what does God hate in Amos 5:21-24 and what does He want from Israel?

God hates their feast days and sacred assemblies. They offer God burnt offerings & grain offerings. He will not accept them or pay any regard to peace offerings. He doesn’t want their songs or music. God being perfectly just wants justice and righteous people. God doesn’t want their offerings and feasts because they are done with a dead or apostate heart. They go “through the motions” but they are meaningless, done for the action not the intent. They have become spiritual zombies. They move and behave like religious robots but what they do fails to have any meaning any more. No brain and no heart-only movement and insatiable need to “do” and/or “consume” mindlessly. "Brains!" or should I say "Brainless!" ??? We see this today also don't we? The folks just show up at church, sit and stand in unison with hands in their pockets that sit diagonally in front of you. They are easily spotted by their 1000 yard stares piercing holes through the floor or the backrest of the seat in front of them. They carry no Bible or the one they carry looks like it just came out of the cellophane wrapper. No scuffs on the gilded edges or on the pressed leather cover. When they open their Bible the pages are still sticking together because it has never been opened before today (yes, I'm stereotyping). Are you one of the spiritual undead? Dead to God but still moving, still animated?

We see this in people today that just attend church to “pay their dues”. They show up at their churches because they feel they are under some obligation of “works” and “dues” that they need to keep the “goodness tank” above 50% to be able to make it into heaven. Sadly, many of these people go back to living backsliding and decadent lives the other 6 days of the week and are not even recognizable as Christian except on Sundays (or Saturday nights). Unfortunately, this is rampant in the Christian culture and many denominations take advantage fiscally of the …”Ooooo!!! I have to go to church and pay dues so I don’t go to Hell,” mentality. God doesn't want your works. There is nothing you can do that is worthy enough to merit God's attention for forgiveness let alone actual forgiveness. He wants your heart, not your works. If your heart isn't in something, what good would your works be anyway? Everything you could do for God is but dirty rags. The work has been done for you already. Reach for it in faith. Now.

Salvation is by faith alone (Sola Fide) not works. What you do isn’t what gets you Heaven, what you believe in your heart does.

March 16, 2011

Minor Prophets XLI: Injustice Does Not Go Unpunished

In Amos 5:11-17 we see the sins God accuses Israel of committing.
(v.11a) They’ve oppressed and abused the poor and appear to have taken/stolen their grain (v.11b) (food, sustenance) as pay to allow tenants to stay on their land. The also manipulated the courts and justice systems to further oppress them (v.12, 15) through bribery (v.12). Because of their tactics intimidation is also apparent (v.13). They had violated the suzerain covenant with their God by suppressing the poor. By doing this they had invoked the suzerain treaty punishment for covenant disobedience.

In light of the sins committed some in Israel actually "long for the day of the LORD" in verse 18-20. Are they nuts or is something else going on here?

In this “Woe” passage we see two sides of life in Israel (and in our lives today too). For many this woe will mean death and destruction but for some the “Day of the Lord” will not incur God’s judgment and wrath. For some it will mean vengeance against their enemies or those that have perpetrated wrongs or evils. It would be a day when God would be on their side and support their “cause” after having been under oppression or threat of others. The misdeeds of the unrighteous would be returned on their own heads.

Those in Israel being hammered by others and threatened, longed for that day when they would be secured from danger. Unfortunately, some of these people did not understand from Amos’ prophecy that not only would this judgment befall many of the other nations…but it would also besiege and judge them also. They had mistakenly believed that god was “with them”. What Amos declares is: Not only would God annihilate Israel’s enemies…but Israel themselves had become the enemy of God.

So, yes, God does see what is going on in your life and the people that keep stepping on you in sin will eventually collect their due. Injustices do not go unpunished. If you are the one perpetrating the injustice to someone else...woe to you also, your day is coming.

March 15, 2011

Minor Prophets XL: Prophetic Funeral Dirge

Amos 5 sees us at a point of no return. We read Amos' prophetic lament or what is considered a prophetic funeral dirge. Doom is about to befall Israel.

"Hear this word, Israel, this lament I take up concerning you:“Fallen is Virgin Israel, never to rise again, deserted in her own land, with no one to lift her up.” Amos 5:1-2

“Fallen is Virgin Israel, never to rise again…with no one to lift her up.” This is definitely a funeral dirge. “Never to rise again” sounds pretty terminal to me. These laments are characterized by short, nearly sobbing lines of dramatic contrast and role reversals from strong to weak or strong to dead (Hubbard 165). Normally laments were over people but in the case of prophets they could often be about a city, people or even the nation (Walvoord, Zuck 1438)

We can find two other prophetic "laments" in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament.

We see the same sort of language in and pattern followed by Jeremiah in relation to Judah in Jeremiah 7: 27-34 [paraphrased] “the nation that has not obeyed the LORD its God or responded to correction… Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips…Cut off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for the LORD has rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath… The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the LORD. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it …I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, for the land will become desolate.”

We see the same thing in Ezekiel multiple times: Ezekiel 19:1 (the princes of Israel)-“Take up a lament concerning the princes of Israel…” and also Ezekiel 26:17-18, 27:2, 32, 28:12 & 32:2. The entire Book of Lamentations constitutes a prophetic lament (Walvoord, Zuck 1438).

To me the best New Testament reference is Matthew 23:37-39
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hubbard, David Allan. "Judgment Speech: Perversion of Worship and Justice." Joel and Amos: an introduction and commentary. Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1989. 165. Print.

Sunukjian, Donald B.. "Description of Certain Judgment ." The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition Of The Scriptures. Ed John Walvoord & Roy Zuck. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1985. 1438. Print.

Minor Prophets XXXIX: Refrain O' Pain

So along comes the refrain of pain in Amos 4:6-11 and it is like the needle skipping over the same spot on a warped record...God has to repeat Himself to no avail. Dead hearts and dead minds cannot hear.

(v.6)   Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.
(v.8)   Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.
(v.9)   Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.
(v.10) Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.
(v.11) Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.

It occurs frequently. It occurs frequently. It occurs frequently. Not because of God but because of man's foolish stupidity.

Its effect is profound and impactful like repeated slaps in the face, Israel was dissing God over and over and over and over.
The repeated refrain of pain: “yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.” Appears 5 times in 6 verses. It shows a repeated failure to do something. Repent and return to God, to stop breaking covenant and obey, to be holy and righteous not unrighteous. Fail, fail, fail, fail ,fail. This repeated stupidity and apostasy shows nothing more that spiritually ignorant or desensitized people or a willfully obstinate/ignorant behavior. Because of the failure to return to God we also see accumulated guilt and an accumulation of God’s wrath against them for breaking covenant and disobeying. As we understand all throughout Scripture about God’s wrath, once it is incurred, it must be vented. Judgment was inevitable and unavoidable for these folks.

The impacts of the previous verses then carryover to verse 12-13 and we see the bruised cheek of God due to Israels obstiance and inability to get their act rectify and repent.

"Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name! Amos 4:12-13

The “Therefore” in verse 12 points us back to the previous verses of Israel being stupid or obstinate and what happens to them because of their stupidity. We know what they have “not returned to the Lord” so He offers them one final chance through the Lords prophet. Events preceding Amos had done nothing to dull Israel’s apostasy. The giving of God’s word was given one last time before the judgment of God overtook them like a devastating wall of wrath. “I will do this to you”…something more devastating than Sodom and Gomorrah mentioned in verse 11. They will either face their true repentance or destruction when they “prepare to meet their God”. These verses are pregnant with absolutism.

March 14, 2011

Minor Prophet XXXVIII: In god's We Trust ?!?!

“Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings—boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do,” declares the Sovereign LORD." Amos 4:4-5

Why would God tell one of His prophets to tell the people to sin?
Amos is being cuttingly sarcastic to them or using sarcastic irony Amos was making a statement today that would’ve sound like, “Go to church and sin!”. What Amos is doing is a parody of the priests call to worship. But Amos calls them to Bethel… “Go to Bethel and sin”…the northern home of syncretism and false worship. Amos encourages them to bring the entire plethora of worship offerings including tithes. All of these offerings had become a ruse or a sham carried out by people performing “religious activities” but they were not being offered the True God but a God of their own making. They bragged of their religiousness but in light of what they worshipped…the self-back patting and accolades rang hollow and Amos knew it. Sarcasm indeed. What is even worse is some of the offers to this false God of theirs came in the form of goods from stolen land or land taken from the oppressed if we understand the nature of the previous three verses (1-3) which made these offerings twice as offensive to God and that much more hypocritical. Idiots.

March 13, 2011

Minor Prophets XXXVII: Fat Cows

"Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!” The Sovereign LORD has sworn by his holiness: “The time will surely come when you will be taken away with hooks, the last of you with fishhooks. You will each go straight out through breaches in the wall, and you will be cast out toward Harmon” declares the LORD." Amos 4:1-3

In Amos 4:1-3 we see a specific part of society under Amos' prophetic attack. What portion would that be?

It would be the fat cows of Bashan. The women of Samaria. Fat cows. Oh boy...I'm gonna be getting letters about this one.

The women of Samaria are in the center of this attack from Amos. The cows of Bashan which was a grassy area on the east side of the Jordon known for its fat and well groomed cows. Because of their incessant demands for comforts or luxuries of their husbands they continually oppressed and stepped on the backs of the poor to support these “cows”. The most interesting portion of these verses is the statement, “You will each go straight out through breaches in the wall, and you will be cast out toward Harmon…” There are some commentators who seem to believe that this is a reference to refuse or more specifically waste matter in the form of urine or feces and that the reference to Harmon is a reference to “compost” a “refuse pile” or “dung heap”. They will seep our through breaches in a wall like waste product flowing down to a cesspool. Yummy. (Myers 119)

In this narrative I must insist that we are closely paralleling our ancient sinful counterparts in our society so much so that it is also rampent in many marginally Christian churches. To some extent this sin has pervaded even some of our more biblically secure churches. You know the rallying cry. "We need to change to attract a large audience. We need to change with the times or we die." Image driven. More concerned with techiniques for drawing people in than winning them to Christ. Church is more often a place to show off people's "wares" not their servants mentality bred in years of prayer and relationship with Jesus.

Jacob's Cafe

He was the methodical type,
Stirring his red lentil stew
Steam that tasted of the future

Hand on the ladle
Lurks in a sinew and bone curve
This late baby
Born after his brother

The one that landed in front
Hunger simmering near the fire
Stew! Stew! For the starved man

My honor and birthright for a bowl!
of beans
A permanent result to solve
A temporary craving

The waiter serves the bowl
Gleam in his eye

March 12, 2011

Minor Prophets XXXVI: The Heart of Rebellion Is A Heart of Darkness

“On the day I punish Israel for her sins, I will destroy the altars of Bethel; the horns of the altar will be cut off and fall to the ground. I will tear down the winter house along with the summer house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished,” declares the LORD." Amos 3:14-15 

In Amos 3:14-15 which part of society is particularly under Amos' scrutiny and God's wrath?
As a result of disobedience, Bethel (site of original golden calf erected by Jeroboam I) is particularly focused on here because it is the heart of the rebellion and the impetus and source of the sin that precedes their eventual downfall. This verse is very clear: The ultimate cause of the downfall had its origin in spiritual apostasy…”I will destroy the altars of Bethel; the horns of the altar will be cut off and fall to the ground.” By cutting off the horns of the alter God would destroy their method of asylum (i.e.: Joab in 1 Kings 2:29). Israel’s entire man-made religious system will be brought to the ground which includes it’s religious leaders. We see this in the world system today also. People in their intellectual enlightened arrogance become their own God and gradually drift away from God into apostasy. As a matter of fact they openly "flip off" God expecting no punishment due for their spiritual rebellion. They trust in the power of man and ignore or even mock the existence of God shaking their fists to the sky. They drift so far that they don't even know God or recognize the things of God. They are so reprobate that they do not even realize they are reprobate.

Verse 15 goes on to state that the Lord will also, “tear down the winter house along with the summer house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished” God would also tear down and destroy the homes of the rich or royalty-or those that could afford mansions, summer and winter home or homes adorned with ivory. We are seeing Israel’s upper-class and religious elite come into sharp focus in God’s judgment. God was going to punish false religion and its acolytes and misuse of wealth and power. Even God’s own altar would not give them refuge from His wrath.

As a result of disobedience, Bethel (site of original golden calf erected by Jeroboam I) is particularly focused on here because it is the heart of the rebellion and the impetus and source of the sin that precedes their eventual downfall. This verse is very clear: The ultimate cause of the downfall had its origin in spiritual apostasy…”I will destroy the altars of Bethel; the horns of the altar will be cut off and fall to the ground.” By cutting off the horns of the alter God would destroy their method of asylum (i.e.: Joab in 1 Kings 2:29). Israel’s entire man-made religious system will be brought to the ground which includes it’s religious leaders.
Verse 15 goes on to state that the Lord will also, “tear down the winter house along with the summer house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished” God would also tear down and destroy the homes of the rich or royalty-or those that could afford mansions, summer and winter home or homes adorned with ivory. We are seeing Israel’s upper-class and religious elite come into sharp focus in God’s judgment. God was going to punish false religion and its acolytes and misuse of wealth and power. Even God’s own altar would not give them refuge from His wrath. In the end there will be no more fists being shaken at the sky, only a fist coming down on God's people to punish them for their spiritual rebellion.

March 11, 2011

Book Review: Seven Men Who Rule The World From The Grave - Dave Breese

These seven men have more control over your life dead than many today that are still alive. If you want to understand why western society is such a convoluted mess this book is a good place to start. It is a comprehensive biography and explanation of how these men successfully introduced unbiblical paradigm shifts in man's thinking and they have been perverting humanity's thinking processes since their introduction. The writing style is crisp and concise. Each chapter explains the idea and the damage these ideas have caused to mankind's thinking and souls.

The ideas and damage of Charles Darwin and Karl Marx are obvious but this book goes into more obscure names and ideas that have done just as much damage but are not on the tips of peoples tongues and do not always come to mind when you think of messed up, watered-down thinking. Three of these are as follows:

John Dewey who helped integrate schools for our children into a socialist pattern where the children as wards of the State either attend State mandated eduction or are removed from the household. He was also a secular humanist and was one of the original signers of the Humanist Manifesto of 1933. He is also now considered the epitome of liberalism. He believed that revealed truth does not exist and that anything that can be called truth must be determined experimentally. He was a pluralist and he was a methodological naturalist. If there is anything he wasn' was Christian. Not surprisingly he was directly inspired by Darwin and Hegel.

John Maynard Keynes boiled down to his constituent beliefs was pretty much a believer in anti-Christian economics (Keynesian Economics) and his theories are currently being implemented (wittingly or unwittingly) on a Federal scale by the current administration...and are failing miserably. It has turned the government into an economic manager with broad, open-ended powers (i.e.: The Government will come to your rescue, the Gov't is God...sound familiar?). Accordingly, to Keynes, Christianity represented "tradition, convention and hocus pocus."

Julius Wellhausen is one of many liberal theologians that posited or believe that Scripture is either not divinely inspired or not inerrant. What is worse is his premise for his theories is based in the idea that there are either contradictions or inconsistencies in the biblical text. The man probably shouldn't be considered a theologian nor a Christian because of his apostate beliefs.

Regardless, this book is filled with very important ideas that must be understood by every Christian as flawed and unbiblical and the people that were behind them.

Rating: 90 False Teachers out of 100
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