Is God an Egotistical Tyrant?

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Photo credit to unknown source.

“Then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen…” (Ezekiel 39:28)

 
It must be really important to God that we know that He is the Lord. Is that because He is an egotistical tyrant? Absolutely not! All one has to do is look at what happens to those who deny Him. Cain waters the seeds of hate and kills his brother. People build towers to heaven and neglect the weightier things of life, like family and moving forward. Parents offer their children to the fires of Molech. Others exchange the natural for unnatural. Ecstasy outweighs love and commitment. Power and prestige are more important than compassion. People devalue other people. Why does this happen? Because people don’t KNOW God and won’t acknowledge Him as their Lord.

 
It happens to heathen nations, those nations and people who follow the masses instead of God. I guess that’s basically what a heathen is. It’s a Gentile. It’s someone outside of Abram’s seed who didn’t answer the call to follow God. It’s someone who was outside of the family of God, outside of the nation of Israel, outside of the children of God.

 
I wonder why there are so many heathen nations? Do you stop to think about that? Do you go back to Abram’s beginning as a child of God? He was living in a heathen nation. Actually, I think it would be accurate to say that all people had become heathen at that point. There were none who followed God. But something started moving in Abram’s heart and he realized something wasn’t right. Jewish oral tradition has Abram realizing the inability of idols. And then God speaks to Abram. And Abram listens and obeys and leaves his people and nation. And God begins forming from his obedience a new nation, a nation in God, His own children, from one man who chose to listen to Him. From one man who walked by faith.

 
Now, maybe there were some others scattered somewhere around the earth, but if we look at the story, there weren’t many. And maybe there weren’t others. But compare the numbers. It’s daunting, isn’t it?

 
So we see that there are many among the non-God followers or heathen that don’t know God at all. But it’s God’s desire that they know Him. Only, if they won’t turn to Him like Abram and follow Him, the knowing at long last isn’t going to be a pleasant thing. The proof is going to come in judgement and not reward.

 
But the problem isn’t just one for the non-believer. Israel was suffering judgement too. Do I get that?  Israel, the nation of God, who were supposed to be God-fearers and God-knowers, had forgotten God and walked away from His ways. That means that this problem of not knowing and acknowledging God isn’t just a heathen problem. It effects believers too. It could wind up being my problem if I’m not careful.

 
There is a time that God sets his face against us, when He looks at us and judges us. And there is a time when God will hide his face from us as He allows the judgement to fall. But then there is also a time, when judgement has taught its lesson and God turns His face back in compassion. Is it egotistical for God to want us to learn to love rightly, to know Him and to know how to love others? Is it egotistical for a parent to punish the child who beats his siblings? Is correction wrong? Isn’t there a chance in correction that the harmful behavior and character might be corrected and changed? Or should Cain be allowed to slay his brother?

 
Imagine the patience and long-suffering of God as He waits and watches the travesties of our hearts where we mistreat and tear apart the lives of our fellow man. This is not His end goal. This is not His desire. This exists because of our choice and not His. He allows it but for a time. This is not His will. His will is far better. His will is love personified through and in Himself. His will is to know Him, our Creator and Benefactor. His will is to know Him intimately, by knowing His Character and His delights. His will is to know Him so intimately that we become like Him, that we are wholly influenced by His Spirit. His will is for Himself, His life, His love, His power to be spread from person to person throughout our planet.

 
Was that the heathen’s desire or goal? Was that Israel’s goal at this point? No. Their goal was to promote their own desires and themselves. Their goal was what they wanted. So God redirected them through situations they could not control. So God redirected them through times where they were confronted with the smallness of themselves so that they could see the bigness of God. God redirected them so that they could remember Him, and come to see their need for Him, and learn to rely on Him.

 
There is a time for everything. God will place a time in our lives that will be designed to be able to come to know Him. What we do with that time is up to us. I can fight the One who is wooing me to Himself. I can detest the One who puts the hard times in my life, who knows the egotism of my own heart. I can reflect it back on Him. It doesn’t matter if I’m a heathen or a Jew, my egotism can be the heart of my lack of knowing Him. But if I respond to Him, I can know Him and I can surrender to Him as my Lord. Because surrendering to Him as my Lord is the only way I can know Him. If anything else is lord of my life, I might as well prepare for judgement.

 
One way or another, I will know that God is Lord and God is God. I will either know it in the day of full judgement against me, or I will know it by my full surrender into His compassionate arms. The choice is mine. Even the heathen and the Jews had that choice. Look at Abram. He chose to know God. He chose to follow Him and obey Him. He escaped judgement because He attached Himself by faith to the Judge. What will I do? Whose side will I choose? I choose to stick to You God and wait for Your Spirit. I choose You, even through the tough times. You’re all there is.

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Ditching the Attitude

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“‘Son of man, because that Tyre has said against Jerusalem: ‘Aha, she is broken that was the gate of the peoples; she is turned unto me; I shall be filled with her that is laid waste…’” Ezekiel 26:2

 
Attitude matters. Promises are for real. Relationship counts. Integrity is more important than success. Loving our neighbors isn’t a suggestion, it’s a command.

 
Today, Ezekiel, that prophet of the Lord, brings up the strong city of Tyre. Tyre was a famous island city with a portion on the mainland. It’s king and his son covenanted with David and Solomon. That’s where the cedars of Lebanon came from. It was an important sea town and relied on Jerusalem for food. The men of Jerusalem and the men of Tyre ventured out together on sea trade. There was a relationship. It happened to be mutually beneficial.

 
Sometimes the king of Tyre acknowledged Jerusalem’s God. But they never left their own gods. As a matter of fact, at one point in history, the king switched over from temple worship of Baal and Asherah to Melqart who was more politically oriented and included the people more. They were very proud of their city and of their god and of their wealth. How hard was it to acknowledge another god if he helped them in their image? Only I guess they didn’t really realize who they were dealing with and that he wasn’t just some god, but God. And I guess they didn’t realize that there was more to life than self-exaltation, that our alliances are not just for our own benefit. Life is much bigger than us and our plans.

 
It’s so easy to be like Tyre and to think we’ve got it all together. It’s easy to be happy with other people when they help us obtain our desires, but it’s hard when they succeed more than us. It’s easy to become a friend, but it takes work and humility to stay a friend. It’s easy to lose sight of the real deal in the midst of it all and throw away the thing that was the real reason for our success.

 
The truth is that God has a purpose. It’s for You, God, to be glorified. You draw people to You to do that. Israel was Your very own people, born and raised for that purpose. And in that purpose, they would draw others to You, others like Tyre and Sidon, if they would come. I can’t help but think about that phrase in verse two that says of Jerusalem, the one that was “the gate of the peoples.” I can’t help but think that the phrase refers to more than a city of prosperity and trade but that Jerusalem was this source of light to others who came to her and got to know You, like the Queen of Sheba. I can’t help thinking about the magi that searched out the baby king of Jerusalem. This was a special city and a special people to God. This was Your own. This was Your chosen. Jerusalem was Your bride, Your light to the gentiles. And Tyre was more than a friend. Tyre was in covenant with Israel. That’s strong stuff. It’s supposed to be unbreakable.

 
Tyre’s life was wrapped up with Israel. By covenant they were bound together historically and as far as welfare goes. Understand that a covenant was an indissoluble commitment. Listen to what God’s word says in Deuteronomy 32:8-9, “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, When He separated the children of men, He set bounds of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel, for Jehovah’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.” But does Tyre want to hear or remember that? Does any other nation want to hear that Israel is chosen of God? I mean, who really wants to be humble? Who doesn’t want to be noticed and commended and famous and strong and powerful and beautiful and the best?

 
I suppose it is painful to think that someone else is the center of our universe and that everything revolves around them. That’s how it is with Israel. But it wasn’t like Israel said, “Hey, God, pick me because I’m the best and the most worthy!” Remember how God chose Israel? There was this man name Abram who listened to God and just followed Him even though all the people around him didn’t. That’s the credit Israel gets for being God’s bride. That’s the credit any of us get. We listen and we obey and we follow and we cling to a real and living God. And this is God’s design. This is the picture and the way that You want us to follow. This is what You wanted Tyre to see and do.

 
But they didn’t like the attention that Jerusalem got. Maybe they didn’t like Israel’s attitude. That could be, because she might have gotten a little puffed up in herself. But she was still Your bride. She was still and still is today “the hub of the nations and all things revolve around this people of destiny.” (David Cooper) God chose Israel for a reason and purpose. Don’t forget to look back at how it first happened because that’s the example of where faith begins.

 
Bu the story of Tyre is about something other than faith. Tyre didn’t choose to follow their brother in faith. Tyre didn’t choose to follow God. Tyre chose jealousy of their brother in covenant. Tyre chose to gloat over the calamity that befell their covenantal partner. Being that their animosity was toward Israel, that makes it anti-Semitism. And the problem with that is that it’s going against God. It’s like telling God, “You’re wrong in Your choice. I don’t agree with You.”

 
So, this nation Tyre, who should have been on Israel’s side, rejoiced about their downfall. “Hey, this is great! Now our opportunities will open wide. More riches for us. I get what was coming to her now. Thank goodness she’s laid waste so I can get it all!” And if the thought wasn’t bad enough, I’m pretty sure there was rejoicing over her downfall that went with it. That sad thing is that hate can well up out of jealousy. We can feel stiffed or slighted because we aren’t doing as well as someone else, even as a friend, and we can become jealous and bitter and gloating just like Tyre. Isn’t it sad when we would wish ill on someone else just for the benefit of goodness for ourselves?

 
But God cares about how we treat His bride and how we treat His people because He loves them. And another truth is that He is such a sympathetic God that He invites others into that relationship with Him and His people. He had invited Tyre in to that relationship, but it wasn’t the relationship they wanted most. They gave up on their sympathy toward others, for wealth and fame. And in doing so they brought on their own downfall.

 
Attitude matters. Integrity matters. Compassion matters. Love matters. And most of all, God’s will matters above all. Why? Because there is a Judge who has set the standard. And it’s not about being strong or wealthy or noticed or significant or whatever. It’s about listening and hearing and obeying and following and belonging and being Yours. Israel is represented in Abram. That’s how any of us come to God, just like Him.
Jesus came because God knew we would have trouble getting it. Jesus came for the Jew first. Oh, now I’m jealous, just like Tyre. But so what if Jesus came for the Jew first? Wouldn’t you want to rescue your own child first? But first doesn’t mean only. He’s reaching out for anyone else who wants to listen and come and follow and be His. I’d rescue my own child but I’d also rescue as many other children as would let me. And then, once rescued they could become my own. That’s how adoption works. It makes me a whole child that belongs wholly. Why would I need to be jealous? We are brothers and sisters together. We have the same Father.

 
I don’t want to be guilty of anti-Semitism or jealousy or hatred against Israel. I love Israel. Israel is my heritage in the Lord. Jesus came out of Israel. Abram is a spiritual father to me and example. They were my first light. I owe so much to them. Why should I be jealous or angry? God called them so I could hear Him calling me.

 
And what about someone who might be prospering in some way around me? Am I going to resent them because of their prosperity and my lack of prosperity? I hope not. Maybe I can just keep loving them and being faithful to them and their prosperity will bless my life, not because I’m using their prosperity but because I care about them more. Being less can hurt, but judgment hurts way more. And learning how to be less and be content and make more of others is the beginning to knowing God. After all, Jesus became a man so He could make much of God and something of us so that by becoming less, we can make much of God and something of others. I pray that I learn from Tyre to ditch the attitude and cling to gratitude instead.

Spitting Image

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“…youths in whom was no blemish, but fair to look on, and skillful in all wisdom, and skillful in knowledge, and discerning in thought, and such as had ability to stand in the king’s palace…” Daniel 1:4

 
A prophet who doesn’t start shouting at us. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t being taught and aren’t being warned. Here’s a prophet that we get to do a little growing up with. We get to see him in his youth. We know part of the story of his beginnings. And maybe that will help us relate to what’s going on in his life.

 
The kingdom of Judah was still in existence with King Jehoiakim ruling. In the third year of his reign, Your judgment came, and Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem. King Nebuchadnezzar ordered his chief officer to bring into his royal court select children and youth of Israel, offspring of the royal line and of the nobles. He wanted “youths in whom was no blemish, but fair to look on and skillful in all wisdom, and skillful in knowledge, and discerning in thought, and such as had ability to stand in the king’s palace.”

 
This makes me think about a lot of things. First, it made me think about bringing in the children of Israel. The first word for the children of Israel is the Hebrew word ben. That’s the word that says that you were born of someone, that you are an offspring. But then the word yeled is used for the children in whom is no blemish. What’s the difference? It can mean young child or even adults. Actually, Exodus 21:22 uses the same word to refer to an unborn fetus, acknowledging it as a child while still in it’s mother’s womb. Obviously, You are telling us that there is no distinction between a child in the womb or out of the womb in value as a living being. “A person is a person no matter where he or she happens to be.” (Skip Moen)  And here is this pagan king who happens to have at least understood that concerning the children and youth of this conquered people. Yes, he was selective, but he understood that there was worth in the offspring of this nation.

 
Now, where do you go to find children and youth with no physical or moral spots on them? Where do you find unblemished people at all? Well, you look at where they came from. You look at their appearance. You look at their character. Some have it “naturally.” Some have been raised in it. Some have been trained up in it. But still, you have to know it when you see it and you have to look throughout the land for it.

 
King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t just want any kids. He wanted well favored young people in his court. He wanted them beautiful in appearance and in their thinking. He wanted to be surrounded by well-shaped individuals on the inside and the outside. Why? Because these kids would one day help him to rule his kingdom well. He would benefit from their skill.

 
So here he was, asking his chief eunuch Ashkenazi to select young people who were circumspect and intelligent. He wanted advisors to be able to see things on all sides. He wanted people who were prudent, and would carefully examine all the “circumstances that might affect a determination, or a measure to be adopted.”(Webster) He was looking for young people who would be skillful and wise. The king wanted youth with “yada,” real knowing. They needed to be cunning.

 

Let’s stop here at cunning momentarily. Cunning isn’t used here like a crafty deceiver. Cunning is someone who had not just knowledge but skill to do and apply. They had the skill and dexterity of artificers or “artists” and knowledge acquired by experience. (Webster) They weren’t just talkers. They were doers who knew what they were doing. Having yada was being observant, careful, instruct-able, advisable, aware, comprehending, diligent, friendly, feeling, transparent, respectful, teachable, understanding-even of future events by present signs.

 
These were to be young people who used their knowledge, that cunning with wit. Does that mean they were wise guys? Were they class clowns? Wit means using the intellect, having real understanding. It’s being able to associate ideas the right way, the natural way, but also in an unusual and striking way, so that others are surprised and pleased. It’s about putting ideas together quickly and well. It’s about associating ideas in a new and unexpected manner. That’s what Nebuchadnezzar was looking for.

 
These youth were not only to distinguish and discern facts and life intelligently but they were to be firm, filled with vigor and strength. And I’m not thinking this is only physical stamina but stamina of character. And these youths had to be teachable.

 
So Ashpenaz made his choice and among those he chose was Daniel. So here is Daniel, snatched from his home and his land and most of his people and taken into another nation. This isn’t a certainty, but some people think he may have been castrated. Whether that was imposed upon him or not, he was placed in the king’s court to learn to serve this king for the king’s benefit and for the benefit of his kingdom, this kingdom who had conquered his people and thrown his world upside down. So how does he handle all this?

 
Daniel has three years to figure it out before he would stand before the king. He had three years of beginning training. But there was something special about Daniel. All those qualities that the king desired, were already at work in Daniel. As a matter of fact, the chief of the eunuchs, Ashpenaz, saw something precious in Daniel so that God had brought Daniel “into favor and tender love” with him. Ashpenaz delighted in who Daniel was and had true compassion toward him. I’m thinking that was because Daniel knew You, Lord, well enough that despite his circumstances, he showed favor and compassion to those around him, including Ashpenaz who was over him.

 
Yes, Daniel was strong, but that was because he was grounded in You, Lord. I know that because he “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, nor with the wine which he drank” and asked the chief of the officers that he might eat differently. And because of his favor with the officers, it was granted after a ten day test period. Now, here Daniel was, already favored, already chosen because of how he shone out among youths, and after this his countenance was even fairer, his flesh was fatter (a good thing here), than all the other youths eating the king’s food. But it didn’t stop there. His heart and actions found favor not only with man, but with You, Lord. And so You gave them even more knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom; and gave Daniel understanding in all, not some, in all visions and dreams.

 

And when the three years were finished, Daniel’s wisdom and understanding were unequalled (except for his three Hebrew “brothers”) in the court and he surpassed the others by ten times better!   As if that’s not extraordinary enough. This character exemplified his whole life through the reign of Nebuchadnezzar and into the reign of Cyrus! This was no one time deal. This is who Daniel was. Daniel knew his God so well, that he could remain personally united with Him even in a kingdom of many gods where there was no one to keep him “on task.” So, I have to ask, what’s my excuse?

 
When the world looks around for people with character like this, will they find it in me? When they look at me will they see a “child in whom is no blemish.” Am I full of the things that the people around me really need for their true welfare? Do I have favor and skill and wisdom and cunning and knowledge and understanding and ability from the Lord? Or am I just sharing my own? Am I teachable, by God first and then able to put all other learning in it’s correct perspective according to Him?

 
Would I stand up not only for God’s character but for upholding it in me no matter how much it singled me out or what the consequences might be? Do I have such a pleasant but strong spirit that non-believing people of high character would be drawn to me, that I would warm people’s hearts in love? Would I have advocates who were even outside my faith? I mean, I just can’t get over how respectfully and lovingly it appears that Daniel treated his captors, that they would feel this way about him. And I think, what a picture of Christ! What kind of picture am I painting in the world?

 
Thinking about all these things and whether my life looks like Daniel’s isn’t a far fetched idea. Paul talks about what our lives out to look like in Ephesians 5:27. He could have even been thinking about Daniel as he thought about the sacrifice given at the temple and as he thought about what You are doing in us, Lord. Here’s what he said that Christ did for us by His life and sacrifice and resurrection. It was all about presenting us to Himself, this glorious people that were called out of the world and unto Him, these individuals who listened and answered that call and responded. And in Him, He does what He does so that we are spot free, wrinkle free, and free of any such things. Why? So we are holy and without blemish, not just like Daniel but like Jesus Himself who is like God Himself. And we can do this and be this and allow God to do this in us and we live life out in Him because of the precious blood of Christ, “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Peter 1:19)

 
God, You are the original real deal. You are the origin of Character. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:1 “Be you therefore imitators of God, as beloved children.” This mimetes, this imitating, isn’t like a flat 1 dimension image in a mirror. We’re talking about the real deal here. We’re talking about a God who through His Spirit creates the real deal in us. I’m not a flat copy and neither was Daniel. Imitation here is a call to real live action. It’s not an idea or a theology or a concept. It means doing what our God does. It shows with my life, not just my thoughts, how I align with You, Lord. It’s about how much I am really like my Father. Is there even a family resemblance? How strong is it? I’ll never be God but do my actions, and does my life duplicate His behavior? Am I a living duplicate of Your character, God?

 
Daniel wasn’t conformed to his circumstances because he was busy daily being transformed by the reality of his relationship with You, Lord. Because You are real and tangibly respond in our lives, we respond in the same real and tangible ways. That’s what walking in love is all about, it’s all about walking and responding and living in those real, tangible ways that You have shown Yourself to us. And character remains despite every situation. Your character never changes so neither does mine have to either. Life is about continually exhibiting Your character in me. It’s exhibiting obedience from my heart, not just compliance, but willingness from the depths of my heart.
I wonder if Daniel ever had a powwow with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the beginning? I wonder if he might have said something like this, “Be imitators of me, just as I am of God”? I’ll never know. But I know that Paul said that this way, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) Does that seem awful prideful of him to say? Does that mean I’m not supposed to try to imitate Christ myself? Is Paul my example now? Paul’s an example just as much as Daniel is. I guess sometimes a copy is so good we can see the original almost perfectly represented by it. And the truth is that we are not called to be partial copies. We are called to be exact copies.

 
Now I was making a color copy of something that needed a signature. I like to sign official things in black. But my family made this point. It’s hard to tell that the black is original when the other copied words around it are black. So they suggested I sign in blue ink instead. But I see from that how much a copy can be like the original so that it’s so hard to tell what was copy and what was actual ink. That’s the kind of copies we are called to be of Christ.

 
We’re called to represent and reflect all the beauty of God’s character. He’s the One Original that is laying down on the copy machine for us to be represented from. I’m to reflect everything that comes from You, Lord, so much so that if we were placed next to each other, people shouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Wow! Really? Isn’t that a far order?

 
It would be if it were all up to me. But it’s not. God’s heart desire is to produce Himself in me. He does that through His Holy Spirit. Like Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27) We’re not just talking ability here, we’re talking power, power to do it. The power of the Spirit is strong enough to make us spitting images.

 
I pray that You would make my life that transparent, like Daniel and Paul who could make this kind of claim. “If you’ve forgotten what Jesus looks like, look at me and my life and you’ll see Him so clearly because my life is just like His. Watch me and you can see Him again and then, as you copy me, you’ll be copying Him.” Lord, may my heart be so tangibly tied to You that I become that transparent that people see You instead of me. May I make everything in my life about You, my eating and drinking and sleeping and thinking and doing. May my life be all about my Father’s business so that I am so filled with Your character that all I do looks like You. I’m not there yet, Lord, but bring me there. I know it’s doable because Paul and Daniel aren’t the only transparent images of You out there. I’ve seen others and I want to be one of them too. So my prayer today is , make me Your spitting image, Lord.

For Three Transgressions and Four

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Photo credit to Michael Dawson, http://www.facebook.com/I-Can-See-the-Shore

“Thus says the LORD: ‘For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off all pity, and his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever.’” (Amos 1:11)

Poor Edom.  More talk of their punishment.  But it’s not just Edom’s doom being told of here.  Judgment is pronounced on Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, and the Ammonites.   And the list continues in chapter two with Moab, Judah, and Israel.  And maybe it would be good to look at a couple of things here.  Maybe it would be a good idea to look a little bit at Amos, who God chose to share this news.  And then maybe it would be good to look at why these nations surrounding Israel were being judged.  And later we’ll get to why Judah and Israel were being judged.  Why?  Because I’m pretty sure it’s a warning not only to them, but to us today.  So it would behoove us to learn.

Amos lived during the reign of king Jeroboam of Israel.  In that time Amaziah the priest of Bethel had an issue with Amos’ words.  He went to Jeroboam and said, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel.  The land is not able to bear all his words.  For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’ And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘ O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.’ Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, ‘I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs.  But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now therefore hear the word of the LORD.’”(Amos 7: 10-16)  Isn’t that amazing how You raise up Your people to serve You from the unexpected?  I mean here was Amos, a nobody and a nothing by most people’s standards, a shepherd and tender of figs.  He hadn’t been born of a prophet, and he wasn’t a prophet from the start.  But when You told him to go prophesy, he went, and left it all.  Was there any thought in Amos’ head that lots of people wouldn’t care for what he was going to be saying?  I think so.  But he must have had some intense love and respect for You going on, Lord, to go anyways.  A number of commentators believe that he received ill treatment at the hands of those he was prophesying against.  And yet he obeyed. 

It reminds me of a facebook post I read yesterday by Gary Dawson who has lived in the jungles in Venezuela among the Yanamamo since he was a little boy.  He says, “Full time missionaries are now becoming obsolete.  Missions and churches are pulling out their people from all around the world because of danger and hardship.  When has it ever been no danger, no hardship?  The most frustrating thing for me, is to see the great need of so many hurting poverty stricken sin bound people and not have enough to minister to everyone.  I see my sisters with their tiny supply cooking for the old, the blind, and sick from their meager supplies.  I have witnessed us as a family give until we have no more to give.  The biggest challenge is who to give to?  Who needs it the most?  I was reading once again in Matthew 25:35-46 and it says this.  I am going to paraphrase it.”

“Jesus is speaking of the future when He separates people some to the right some to the left.  He says to them on the right side.  He tells them to enter into glory blessed by the Father into a place that was prepared for them since the beginning of time.  He says it is because when he was hungry they fed him, when he was thirsty they gave him drink, when he was a stranger they took him in.  When he was naked they clothed him, when he was sick they visited him, and when he was in prison they came to him.  The righteous will ask him, ‘When did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked?  When did we see you sick or in prison?’ He will answer and say, ‘Verily, I say unto you.  Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these you have done it unto me.’  Wow!  You just have to love that promise.  But now the scary promise.”

“He then turns to the ones on his left and says to them, ‘Depart form me, you are cursed into everlasting fire (sort of cools the jets of those that do not believe in hell) prepared for the devil and his angels.  I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not take me in, I was naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  They will reply, ‘But Lord, when did we see you hungry, when did we see you thirsty or a stranger, or naked or sick, or in prison and we failed to minister to you?’  He will answer, ‘Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as you did it not unto one of the least of these, you did it not unto me.’  Wow! do we all ever need to do a whole lot more.  We become so wrapped up in making our lives more easy and more comfortable that we lose the vision of the heart of God.”

But Amos held tightly to the vision that Israel, Judah, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Tyre, Gaza, and Damascus refused to see or grasp.   Of all the people that should have been lights, there were only a remnant and Amos was one of them by choice.  And Gentile or Jew, we have to determine if we are going to live under the Father’s blessing by choosing to obey and agree or we can choose our own way, which will meet judgment instead of blessing, no matter how much we think we were in the right. 

God is all about true compassion not just from a compassionate heart, but from His heart.  Lots of people can show a form of compassion and do good things, but without God, it’s not good, because only God is good.  A good deed without God in the midst of it is empty.  It leads to destruction.  Why?  Because only God offers life because He is life and that’s why He sent Jesus.  No one else could die and rise from the dead as Jesus did.  No one else could live a perfectly holy life by Your standards, without sin, and be fit as the sacrifice for all our sins.  Thank You, Lord, that Jesus didn’t choose comfort and ease instead of reaching out to us and meeting our needs.  That’s the heart of God for others and that’s what we are called to exhibit in You.

It’s not that those who met the needs of the poor and thirsty and imprisoned and naked around them weren’t sinners.  We’re all guilty of three transgressions and four, which means repeated, abundant, and in excess.  But those are they who choose to surrender for forgiveness and accept the heart and ways of God through Christ Jesus and let Him live it out in their lives.  Just like the grace they received, they let it flow out to others.  And it’s not like that other group didn’t have a chance.  It’s not like those eight nations couldn’t have chosen otherwise.  It’s not like people today don’t have a choice.  We all do and they all did, since the beginning of time.

Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament shared, “In this comprehensive pronouncement of God against sin in all these nations, there looms the tremendous fact that God is a God of all nations, and not merely of Israel, and that he will judge and punish sin wherever it exists.  Moreover, the sins denounced are not merely those of violence, cruelty, oppression, injustice, and social wrongs.  Violators of solemn covenants, innovators, and corrupters of the true worship are likewise guilty and will suffer the judgment of God.”  Truly the heart of the problem then and the heart of the problem now is with the heart.  And the heart is controlled by the mind.  And somehow we have this tendency to think too highly of ourselves and too little of the God who created us and holds everything together by His word.  Yes, nations, what holds everything together is not your thoughts or your actions, but the word of God who created us. 

Well, it’s still our choice.  We can choose to surrender to the hand who created us for a purpose and for His glory, or we can choose our own way.  I can be like Edom and despise my birthright.  I can desire something, anything more than You.  And then when I reap the consequences of that choice, I can choose to be angry and take it out on You and those who choose You.  But the truth is, we were all created to know You like that.  We were all created for a relationship with You.  Every nation.  We were created to be brothers and sisters from one Father, only we fell prey to the lies of another father, the father of lies.  One Father brings life, the other father brings death.  One Father only speaks and does truth, the other father only lies and lives those lies.  Amos is warning us about what happens when we lose sight of our real Father.  Instead of becoming like Him and living and leading others into life, we devour and are devoured, we exile and are exiled, we break covenants and are broken ourselves, we forsake pity and are eaten by our own anger, we forsake brotherly love and feel unloved ourselves, we despise the life inside of pregnant women and lose the value of our own.  But it doesn’t have to be.  Because there is a true Father who wants to restore us and our way of thinking back to HIs way of LIFE. 

We can choose life or we can choose death.  Moses said that this choice wasn’t so hard that we couldn’t do it, and it wasn’t so far off that it couldn’t be attained.  It’s not so far away that it’s in heaven and we can’t reach it.  It’s not someplace beyond the sea that we have no access to.  Well, for some it has been and some, it still is.  But for most of us, we have access to God’s word.  It’s near us, it’s in our house, or in the motel drawer, or next door, or around the corner.  I mean, for most of us, it’s even closer.  We’ve heard it.  It’s even in our mouths and hearts so we can actually do it and live by it.  It’s nothing new.  The choice has always been there.  From creation You have set before us life and good, death and evil.  Which I choose depends on what I do with Your words and Your commands.  To obey You, to love You, by walking in Your ways and keeping what You say by agreeing and doing and living it out, is to enter into a relationship with You and to reap those benefits.  To turn my heart away, to not listen and not obey, and to worship anything else or even myself is a death wish and emptiness.   Choose life that you may live in Him.  Choose life that your children may know Life and live.  Love God.  Obey His voice.  Hold fast to Him in Christ Jesus.  There is hope and it is only in You, God.  “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, Who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Poor Edom’s Not Alone

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Photo credit to soulsheparding.org

“Thus says the LORD: ‘For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off all pity, and his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever.’” (Amos 1:11)

Poor Edom.  More talk of their punishment.  But it’s not just Edom’s doom being told of here.  Judgment is pronounced on Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, and the Ammonites.   And the list continues in chapter two with Moab, Judah, and Israel.  And maybe it would be good to look at a couple things here.  Maybe it would be a good idea to look a little bit at Amos, who God chose to share this news.  And then maybe it would be good to look at why these nations surrounding Israel were being judged.  And later we’ll get to why Judah and Israel were being judged.  Why?  Because I’m pretty sure it’s a warning not only to them, but to us today.  So it would behoove us to learn.

Amos lived during the reign of king Jeroboam of Israel.  In that time Amaziah the priest of Bethel had an issue with Amos’ words.  He went to Jeroboam and said, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel.  The land is not able to bear all his words.  For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’ And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘ O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.’ Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, ‘I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs.  But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now therefore hear the word of the LORD.’”(Amos 7: 10-16)  Isn’t that amazing how You raise up Your people to serve You from the unexpected?  I mean here was Amos, a nobody and a nothing by most people’s standards, a shepherd and tender of figs.  He hadn’t been born of a prophet, and he wasn’t a prophet from the start.  But when You told him to go prophesy, he went, and left it all.  Was there any thought in Amos’ head that lots of people wouldn’t care for what he was going to be saying?  I think so.  But he must have had some intense love and respect for You going on, Lord, to go anyway.  A number of commentators believe that he received ill treatment at the hands of those he was prophesying against.  And yet he obeyed. 

It reminds me of a face book post I read yesterday by Gary Dawson who has lived in the jungles in Venezuela among the Yanamamo since he was a little boy.  He says, “Full time missionaries are now becoming obsolete.  Missions and churches are pulling out their people from all around the world because of danger and hardship.  When has it ever been no danger, no hardship?  The most frustrating thing for me, is to see the great need of so many hurting poverty stricken sin bound people and not have enough to minister to everyone.  I see my sisters with their tiny supply cooking for the old, the blind, and sick from their meager supplies.  I have witnessed us as a family give until we have no more to give.  The biggest challenge is who to give to?  Who needs it the most?  I was reading once again in Matthew 25:35-46 and it says this.  I am going to paraphrase it.”

“Jesus is speaking of the future when He separates people some to the right some to the left.  He says to them on the right side.  He tells them to enter into glory blessed by the Father into a place that was prepared for them since the beginning of time.  He says it is because when he was hungry they fed him, when he was thirsty they gave him drink, when he was a stranger they took him in.  When he was naked they clothed him, when he was sick they visited him, and when he was in prison they came to him.  The righteous will ask him, ‘When did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked?  When did we see you sick or in prison?’ He will answer and say, ‘Verily, I say unto you.  Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these you have done it unto me.’  Wow!  You just have to love that promise.  But now the scary promise.”

“He then turns to the ones on his left and says to them, ‘Depart form me, you are cursed into everlasting fire. (sort of cools the jets of those that do not believe in hell) prepared for the devil and his angels.  I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not take me in, I was naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  They will reply, ‘But Lord, when did we see you hungry, when did we see you thirsty or a stranger, or naked or sick, or in prison and we failed to minister to you?’  He will answer, ‘Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as you did it not unto one of the least of these, you did it not unto me.’  Wow! do we all ever need to do a whole lot more.  We become so wrapped up in making our lives more easy and more comfortable that we lose the vision of the heart of God.”

But Amos held tightly to the vision that Israel, Judah, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Tyre, Gaza, and Damascus refused to see or grasp.   Of all the people that should have been lights, there were only a remnant and Amos was one of them by choice.  And Gentile or Jew, we have to determine if we are going to live under the Father’s blessing by choosing to obey and agree or we can choose our own way, which will meet judgment instead of blessing, no matter how much we think we were in the right. 

God is all about true compassion not just from a compassionate heart, but from His heart.  Lots of people can show a form of compassion and do good things, but without God, it’s not good, because only God is good.  A good deed without God in the midst of it is empty.  It leads to destruction.  Why?  Because only God offers life because He is life and that’s why He sent Jesus.  No one else could die and rise from the dead as Jesus did.  No one else could live a perfectly holy life by Your standards, without sin, and be fit as the sacrifice for all our sins.  Thank You, Lord, that Jesus didn’t choose comfort and ease instead of reaching out to us and meeting our needs.  That’s the heart of God for others and that’s what we are called to exhibit in You.

It’s not that those who met the needs of the poor and thirsty and imprisoned and naked around them weren’t sinners.  We’re all guilty of three transgressions and four, which means repeated, abundant, and in excess.  But those are they who choose to surrender for forgiveness and accept the heart and ways of God through Christ Jesus and let Him live it out in their lives.  Just like the grace they received, they let it flow out to others.  And it’s not like that other group didn’t have a chance.  It’s not like those eight nations couldn’t have chosen otherwise.  It’s not like people today don’t have a choice.  We all do and they all did, since the beginning of time.

Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament shared, “In this comprehensive pronouncement of God against sin in all these nations, there looms the tremendous fact that God is a God of all nations, and not merely of Israel, and that he will judge and punish sin wherever it exists.  Moreover, the sins denounced are not merely those of violence, cruelty, oppression, injustice, and social wrongs.  Violators of solemn covenants, innovators, and corrupters of the true worship are likewise guilty and will suffer the judgment of God.”  Truly the heart of the problem then and the heart of the problem now is with the heart.  And the heart is controlled by the mind.  And somehow we have this tendency to think too highly of ourselves and too little of the God who created us and holds everything together by His word.  Yes, nations, what holds everything together is not your thoughts or your actions, but the word of God who created us. 

Well, it’s still our choice.  We can choose to surrender to the hand who created us for a purpose and for His glory, or we can choose our own way.  I can be like Edom and despise my birthright.  I can desire something, anything more than You.  And then when I reap the consequences of that choice, I can choose to be angry and take it out on You and those who choose You.  But the truth is, we were all created to know You like that.  We were all created for a relationship with You.  Every nation.  We were created to be brothers and sisters from one Father, only we fell prey to the lies of another father, the father of lies.  One Father brings life, the other father brings death.  One Father only speaks and does truth, the other father only lies and lives those lies.  Amos is warning us about what happens when we lose sight of our real Father.  Instead of becoming like Him and living and leading others into life, we devour and are devoured, we exile and are exiled, we break covenants and are broken ourselves, we forsake pity and are eaten by our own anger, we forsake brotherly love and feel unloved ourselves, we despise the life inside of pregnant women and lose the value of our own.  But it doesn’t have to be.  Because there is a true Father who wants to restore us and our way of thinking back to HIs way of LIFE. 

We can choose life or we can choose death.  Moses said that this choice wasn’t so hard that we couldn’t do it, and it wasn’t so far off that it couldn’t be attained.  It’s not so far away that it’s in heaven and we can’t reach it.  It’s not someplace beyond the sea that we have no access to.  Well, for some it has been and some, it still is.  But for most of us, we have access to God’s word.  It’s near us, it’s in our house, or in the motel drawer, or next door, or around the corner.  I mean, for most of us, it’s even closer.  We’ve heard it.  It’s even in our mouths and hearts so we can actually do it and live by it.  It’s nothing new.  The choice has always been there.  From creation You have set before us life and good, death and evil.  Which I choose depends on what I do with Your words and Your commands.  To obey You, to love You, by walking in Your ways and keeping what You say by agreeing and doing and living it out, is to enter into a relationship with You and to reap those benefits.  To turn my heart away, to not listen and not obey, and to worship anything else or even myself is a death wish and emptiness.   Choose life that you may live in Him.  Choose life that your children may know Life and live.  Love God.  Obey His voice.  Hold fast to Him in Christ Jesus.  There is hope and it is only in You, God.  “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, Who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

I’ve Been Judged

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Photo credit to someone on the internet.

“I said, ‘Please listen, leaders of Jacob, rulers of the house of Isra’el:  Shouldn’t you know what justice is?’” (Micah 3:1)

Here’s that warning again, shama, or hear and listen and do.  Micah is beseeching, not just asking.  Who is he speaking to?  He’s speaking to the leaders, both the government leaders and religious leaders of Jacob and Israel.  And we shouldn’t just think that this message is only good for Jacob and Israel and only good for those days back then.  This is need to know life information for today.  If we don’t learn from this life lesson of the past, it will unfold again right in front of us today, and again and again in the future.  Oh, wait!  It is unfolding in front of us from nation to nation today!

What do You, God, hold leaders responsible for?  “Is it not for you to know judgment?” (KJV)  “Shouldn’t you know what justice is?”  So I guess the question is, “What do You mean by that?  What do You consider justice or judgment?”  And how can we know it?  What does that mean?

Micah isn’t the only prophet helping us to understand this.  Zechariah shares, “Thus has the Lord of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.’” (Zechariah 7:8-10)  What did this mean in ancient societies?  Well, first, the word for justice in Hebrew is mishpat.  It’s real meaning is about the administration of government but not just by man.  It’s about the administration of government according to Your rulings, God.  And that administration is given by You not to a political body but to leaders, who in Israel were the tribal chiefs and the patriarch or the king.  Individuals personally administered justice.  In other words, these individuals carried forth Your will and saw that the people carried it forth in their lives.  Well, at least that’s what they were supposed to do.  But whether they did or they didn’t do that, You held and still hold each personally liable for whether they carry through their decisions according to Your directions or not. 

The standard for justice isn’t whatever floats a judge’s boat.  It’s not whatever society wants or thinks they need.  The standard for justice is God’s word.  That’s what our leaders are to live by and rule by.  That’s the example they are supposed to be setting for us.  So the personal involvement goes deeper than with the rules of God.  It’s a personal involvement with You, God.  Personal involvement with You leads to personal involvement with what You love and uphold and against what You abhor.  Take away the personal involvement, and who gives a hoot about the rules?

What’s happening in the world today when someone wants their rights so much that they strip someone else of their rights even to the extent of thinking it’s ok to rob them of their life?  Where are the leaders speaking out against this?  Micah accuses leaders of hating good, and loving evil, of plucking skin off the people and the flesh off their bones and eating it.  Yuck!  But what are our own leaders inciting others to do in our world or in our country?  And why is this happening?  Because we’ve lost the personal knowledge of the compassion of God.

God’s compassion is a real thing.  His mercies are truly new every morning.  In Zechariah, the leaders had forgotten compassion, raham.  Skip Moen says that raham is, “an intense, deep personal connection comparable to the feelings a mother has for her unborn child in the womb.  Very personal.”  Now think about this.  Why are our leaders supposed to feel this way about those they rule?  Because this is the way God feels for us.  Is this what our leaders practice today?  Are we in leadership positions in our homes or churches or communities?  Are we practicing this kind of leadership?  Am I?

Jeremiah continues this thinking, “‘but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:24)  So here is another word to think about.  It’s in Micah and Zechariah and Jeremiah here.  It’s that word know.  What does it really mean?  We think of knowledge today and we think of knowing a lot of information.  But that’s a Greek idea and not the Hebrew idea here.  This is the word yada and if you want to understand true religion, you need to understand yada.  True religion is sake, understanding and yada, knowing.  Without both, you can’t have a right relationship with God.  And without a right relationship with God, You can’t do it right in the world.  Understanding is about really thinking and grappling and getting down to the really deep stuff about following Him.  It’s serious questions that lead to serious answers.  But searching out the answers till you find them isn’t enough.  We have to know Him.  How do I do that?

It goes from knowing about Him, about the extent and facts of all He’s done, including coming to earth as man and God, teaching, living, being crucified for the glory of God and our sins and redemption, dying, rising again, and reigning over all.  And it extends to the closest intimacy of knowing Him like when a man and woman become one through sexual intimacy in the wholeness of marriage and unity.  It’s not enough to understand who God is.  We have to experience who He is too.  Skip Moen states again, “the intimacy of deep relationship, the friendship, the honesty, the confrontation, the instruction, the familial bonding, are all part of ‘yada YHVH.  He’s your best friend, your protective parent, your mentor, your examiner, your guide, your lover, your comforter, your doctor, your judge” and more.  Maybe the problem why our leaders are failing and the people are following is because of what they are missing out on, this real relationship with One who truly cares.

Without giving You complete sovereignty in our lives we can’t be full of what You are full of.  How can we exhibit qualities like faithfulness, justice, and righteousness in their true form without knowing what their true form really is like?  I can’t just know about faithfulness, I have to convert my knowledge into action.  I can’t just know about justice, I must convert it into action.  I can’t just know about what’s right, I must do it and convert it into action.  But who is going to show me what these all translate into in our lives?  The One who is each of these is the Only One who can show me. 

I can’t become a doer of the word unless I personally know the Word first.  Maybe our leaders don’t know all this.  But I think, living in this country, and living in a world where every day nature screams out the glory and presence of God, I’m not going to say they aren’t aware enough to be held accountable.  The fact is that the true Judge of all mankind will hold us all, every one of us, up to His measure of justice, not ours.  If my life and rulings don’t look like His, then they aren’t.  I’m the one who needs to re-examine my thinking and my ways and change my understanding, not You, Lord.

Judgment was coming for Israel.  And judgment will come for each of us too.  And I have a feeling that You hold leaders to a very high standard, you know, “to whom much is given, much will be required.”  John warned, “This is the judgment, that the Light [Jesus] has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”  You know, you don’t have to tear someone’s flesh off to be evil, poneros.  Poneros comes from “a group denoting poverty or need, has the senses 1. ‘sorrowful,’ ‘unhappy,’ ‘laden with care,’ 2. ‘bringing trouble,’ 3. ‘pitiable,’ ‘poor,’ ‘unfit,’ ‘unattractive,’ ‘bad,’ ‘unlucky,’ 4. ‘unsuccessful,’ 5. ‘plebeian,’ 6. ‘politically useless,’ ‘worthless,’ and finally 7. ‘morally reprehensible’ with the various nuances.” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament)  It’s everything that God knows is not good.  It’s what is “bad, unfavorable, worthless, unhappy, hurtful, futile, and evil.”  Later, Micah is going to share what God considers good.  “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Do you know that man here is every human being?  Every one can know and everyone can have a relationship with God.

When we do and say things that cause sorrow or dissension or unrest, it’s evil, short and simple.  When I set up people to fail, when I deliberately make someone else unhappy, when I cause someone to be unsuccessful, when I’m unattractive because of a wrong attitude, when I make life futile, or make people feel worthless, or when I’m disobedient, I’m guilty of evil.  What about when I’m all about being burdened about me and how I’m being treated instead of being burdened for others?  Wonder if that thinking leads to police brutality or to civilians shooting innocent policemen just like that? Self-pity can be a dark evil, can’t it?  Now the reprehensible isn’t so far away.  See what despising what God has created in His image can lead to?  It’s dangerous stuff that we’re overlooking here.  Maybe we ought to call evil what it is, evil.

It’s for all of us to know judgment.  It’s for all of us to understand and know You God and know Your ways and live by them because You are Light and anything outside of You and Your ways is darkness.  It’s really easy for us to turn to the dark side, just look at what happened to sweet little Anakin.  It tears me up throughout that whole movie where he keeps holding on to those dark thoughts and seeing where it takes him.  It’s so sad.  And that’s where many of us are turning today as we follow self-pity and our rights and our pride.  We’re entering a place of sadness and darkness and separation from God and separation from true fellowship with mankind.  Selfishness is much different than selflessness. 

God is inviting us to know and feel with Him.  He is actively concerned, He is pursuing inner engagement, true dedication to us, and attaching Himself to us.  He has genuine sympathy, pity, and affection for us.   He truly feels.  He feels hurt and humiliation and heaviness and hopelessness for us and with us.  With a heart that loves and clings and wants our greatest benefit, He watches as His beloved bride sleeps with others and doesn’t give a hoot about Him.  Man, that’s sad.  That’s awful, isn’t it?

See, Israel wasn’t giving a hoot about her faithful Husband.  She didn’t have any feelings for Him like He had for her.  All her sympathy had dried up because she was all about herself.  And isn’t that the way our culture has adapted?  Where is sympathy today?  Where is it for God?  Where is it for others when it’s so easy to shoot and kill or destroy people’s lives because they don’t agree with us?  Maybe we’ve become less human and more like corrupt animals the farther we walk away from You, God.  And yet You still cry for our loss. 

Well, I want to feel the way You feel and I want to feel the way You feel about me, about You.  I want to love intensely and faithfully like You.  I want to understand and exhibit true sympathy.  I want to be real and really care and really act upon that caring.  I want to be like Micah.  I want to be of power by the spirit of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might to not only declare sin as sin, but to live according to Your ways and according to You because I am Yours and You are mine.  And if the world chooses to walk another way, let me continue to stand for You, not because I’m a prophet or anything special, but simply because You are the only One worthy of standing and being Judge.  I just want to cling to You as tightly as You cling to me.  I truly can’t wait until the day that I become one with You because I’ve been judged as truly Yours in Jesus. 

Rivers of Living Water

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“And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.”   Zechariah 14:8

This is hope.  These are words of hope.  Because when this prophecy begins in chapter 14, it’s not a pretty thing.  It starts with the destruction of Jerusalem, rape of it’s women, and it’s people being carried off, with only a remnant remaining.  But David’s words in Psalm 103 ring true and prophetic in themselves, I suppose because David, imperfect as he was, was identified by You, God, as a man after Your own heart.  That means that he knew You, he got who You were.  He knew that “[t]he Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  He will not always chide, nor will He keep His anger forever.  He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear HIm.” (Psalm 103: 8-13)

You are such a compassionate Father, that there is coming this one day, Your day, when living water shall go out from Jerusalem, to the east and to the west, and nothing and no one will be the same.  Those left, of Israel, and of the other nations shall come to worship together and keep the feast of tabernacles together.  And not just some things, but everything from the horses to every pot will be made holy unto the Lord.

I can’t say I fully understand how You bring everything in Your word and everything in history together.  But I know that there are so many significant things we overlook that You are constantly weaving together.  Sometimes it’s just in remembering or seeing how certain words connect.  Like maybe there is significance in living waters, the feast of tabernacles, Jesus, and holiness.

What was the problem here in history?  Because I need to know.  Why?  Because I could have the same problem today.  I need to know so that I can agree with You God, be forgiven, and change direction.  Here’s what You said of Your people in Jeremiah 2:13, “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” Let’s not fool ourselves.  This isn’t just a problem of the past.  It’s a problem of today for both the Jew and the Gentile.  And it’s a problem where I can say I’m loving the Lord and living for Him, and be filling myself with everything but Him.  It’s so easy to interpret You as I want You to be and not as You are.  It’s so easy to only see what I want to see in Scripture and not see the truth.  Because it’s not up to my interpretation; it’s up to Your revelation to us.  And that’s not some magical thing.  It’s supernatural but it works through the natural.  It’s holding on to the whole story and not throwing away parts.

See, many of the Jews throw away the New Covenant teachings.  And many of the Gentiles throw away the Old Covenant teachings.  But it’s funny that Jesus, You who were a Jew and the Light to the Gentiles, said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  See, this stuff is all part of the Living Water.  And we, whether Jew or Gentile, can be like the Thessalonians and not even give any of this the time of day, not pay any attention because we are content with things the way they are and we don’t want our lives changed.  Or we can be like the more noble Berean’s, who happened to be Jews also, only they chose to receive Paul’s words of Christ eagerly, and go back and examine the Scriptures (and that’s the Old Covenant teachings) to see if Paul’s teachings agreed and were true.  And do you know what they found by the revelation of God’s word?  Many of them believed, and they were actually a light to the Gentiles, because a number of Greek women and men also believed.

So what does this have to do with Jesus and the feast of tabernacles?  We’ll get there.  In John 4:10, Jesus Himself states, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, ‘Give me to drink,’ you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water.’” Now Jesus is sitting with and sharing this with a Samaritan woman at a well.  And this woman isn’t one of good social standing, beside the fact that she was a Samaritan and that was taboo in itself.  But Jesus is about changed lives, changed back into God’s holy image like we were created to be.  So “the woman said unto him, ‘Sir you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from where then have you that living water?’” He is that Living Water that was foretold in Scripture. 

Later, Jesus reiterated this truth.  “He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38)  See, “as the scripture has said.”  But what if I can’t find an exact verse in scripture that says that?  Does that make it void?  Absolutely not.  But it’s written all over and throughout scripture in the heart of the word.  We see it in a little slave girl, stolen from her homeland, working under a great man named Naaman.  He gets leprosy and she could have cursed him and watched him die.  But why doesn’t she?  Because she understands somehow that there are living waters of healing in God.  So she sends Naaman to the man of God who can share those living waters with him.  And he washes in the water, the dirty water, in faith under the Living Water.  So if you look and you want to see, it’s there.  And that’s just one example.

In Nehemiah 9 we are reminded, “You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.”  Who can bring water out of a rock and meet all the needs of a people like that?  There is no life without food and water.  And one can last longer without food than without water.  God provides the Living Water that can satisfy our eternal thirst.  That living water is the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

And what does that have to do with the feast of Tabernacles?  “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37,38)  And Paul goes on to tie that in more firmly for us and to help us understand, “And all drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4)  This feast is a symbolic culmination of all the festivals.  This is seven days of rejoicing in the Lord for His provision.  It’s the reaping of the harvest and the rejoicing over it.  There is a ceremony of pouring out wine.  Is that just to rejoice in the grape harvest?  Or is that deeper, like the pouring out of the blood of Christ for Your glory and our redemption?  But it also became a tradition that’ was there during Jesus’ time on earth, to put out water. 

This feast of tabernacles or Sukkoth reflects the 40 years that the Israelites lived in the wilderness in tents.  It’s all about God’s provision, about that Rock that gave them their water.  That’s why Jesus stood there, as the wine and water were being poured out and spoke so that all could know that He was the fulfillment of that picture.  And the truth is we are all strangers and sojourners in this wilderness of a life, just like they were.  But Paul tells us that we can know “that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Corinthians 5:1)  There is a seven day feast.  Seven, because it symbolizes perfection and completeness and holiness of God’s redemptive plan in the time and place He chooses.  There is a day coming, when we will be altogether joyful.  (Deuteronomy 16:15)  There’s a day when God will pull it all together in Jesus.  Let us not be of those who are destroyed because of lack of belief.  Let us be among those who see because we searched out the truth and the truth has set us free to be joyful forever in You. 

I mean, if it’s true that “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety nine just persons, which need no repentance,” (Luke 15:7) then imagine this day that so many come together before the Living Waters!  Imagine that rejoicing!  If “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents,” imagine the rejoicing in this day.  I want to be a part of that rejoicing, Lord.  But I don’t want to wait to do all my rejoicing then.  I want rivers of Your living water to flow from me, from my belly so that others will be touched by those waters.  I want to rejoice in Your living waters starting now, so that I’ll have many brothers and sisters rejoicing beyond words with me on that future day.  I want to give the angels so much reason for rejoicing that they are more than ecstatically joyful!