Archive for March, 2017

Micah 3

Micah 3 has the prophet wailing against the princes and prophets who were leading the people of Israel astray.  Micah has been talking to all God’s people prior to this chapter, but now he puts the leaders right in his sights.  Leaders have a special responsibility and accountability in God’s eyes.  They are held to a different standard.  And God wants them to understand what’s coming because of their leadership – bad as it was.  “Thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who lead my people astray….it shall be night to you, without vision, and darkness to you, without divination”.

Let’s face it – a prophet without any vision or any word from God is pretty much out of business.  However these false prophets haven’t been listening or following God’s leading anyway.  They have been pretenders for the most part, and Micah is calling them out.  “The sun shall go down on the prophets, and the day shall be black over them….for there is no answer from God”.  God is going to reveal their false and lying ways to His people.  They will be in complete confusion and fall into disrepute.  No more playing prophet for these guys.

Micah knows he is different.  “But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob  his transgression and to Israel his sin”.  He knew that his power was not his own, but from the Spirit of the Lord.  God was equipping him as a prophet – it wasn’t anything he was doing in his own strength.  The same is true for us today.  Without the Holy Spirit in our lives, we’re just treading water and peddling on our own without getting anywhere.  God is our source of truth and strength.

Micah gets detailed about why the leaders of the day were off course: “Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money”.  These leaders were corrupt and only concerned about using their power and position for their own good.  God’s not going to let this slide.  He holds leaders to a higher standard.  Micah was effective in what he shared.  He makes clear what is to come if some repentance and change didn’t happen.  “Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and  the mountain of the house a wooded height”.  The picture of the future was clear without some significant repentance and change of the leadership.

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Micah 2

Micah 2 has the prophet continuing to call out those who are guilty of sin.  “Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand”.  Micah is direct with those who are taking advantage of others because of their power and planning.  This evil didn’t just happen – it was premeditated and intentional.  And it was possible because of the power that these folks had.  They were able to take things away because of their power and position.  With that, God also expects accountability and obedience.

Sin is sin in every way.  But there are different kinds of sin that we commit.  Some sin is done with intention – a sin of commission, while others may be done because we fail to do something we are commanded or expected – a sin of omission.  They are equal in God’s eyes when it comes to judgment as we are falling short of the mark.  Another way to consider sin is that it may fall into one of four types (not different in it’s outcome, but helpful in us realizing just how broad sin really is – anytime we miss the mark of God’s expectation and commands we sin – and every sin carries a cost before God)

One way to look at types of sin is this:

  1. Sins of attitude – scripture calls out pride, envy, anger, malice and others
  2. Sins of action – things we do that violate God’s commands and laws
  3. Sins of neglect – failure to do things we know God has commanded us to do
  4. Sins of intent – things we commit in our head or heart but don’t follow through

Sin can take many forms.  It doesn’t have to be executed to be a sin.  In this case though, Micah makes it clear that these leaders are sinning and they won’t skate free.  “You cannot remove your necks, and you shall not walk haughtily for it will be a time of disaster”.  God sees all we do.  He will deal with the sin of our life through judgment some day. Micah warns them that their day is coming.

But as we find about God in every case, He is a God of restoration.  “I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob;  I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold”.  God is going to deal with sin.  His nature demands that.  But even though His people were guilty of all kinds of sin, and it was bad, God never gives up on them.  The reality is that we cannot ‘out-sin’ God’s grace and love.  No matter what we do, He is always ready to bring us to Himself and restore us.  His love covers all things.  We can be forgiven and set free from the penalty of sin.  That’s why Jesus came to earth – to die for our sin and give us the opportunity of eternal life with God.  We have to confess, repent and receive – but the offer is there for our taking!

Micah 1

Micah 1 has the word of the Lord coming to this prophet, Micah.  He was from Moresheth, a town about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem on the border between Judah and Philistine.  This means that Micah was a country boy much like Amos, and was being sent to the city to bring God’s truth to them.  Micah had a strong sense of calling and gladly went to deliver God’s message, unlike Jonah who had ran.  Micah was a prophet sometime between 739bc and 686bc which we know from the description of the kings that were around then in the first verse.

Micah had a strong message.  “For behold, the Lord is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth”.  Micah sees the Lord coming down from heaven to earth with judgment.  He says that mountains will melt and valleys split open, so what chance will the sinful people have when the Lord comes down.  God has to deal with sin.  And Micah makes it clear that sin is exactly the cause of what he has seen in his vision.  God is going to deal with it.

All this is for the transgression of Jacob and for the sins of the house of Israel”.  The people of Judah and Israel likely felt this was unfair.  They were surrounded by pagan nations who were far worse sinners than they were, at least in their own eyes.  That’s how we see sin – we can look around and say we’re not as bad as someone else.  But that isn’t how God sees it.  Sin is sin and always carries a cost.  Sin has no levels or distinction – sin is sin and brings judgment.  God is carrying that judgment out.

We face the same future.  We’re all guilty of sin – scripture is clear about that.  We can sit back and point to others who are guilty of ‘worse sin’ than we are, right?  We can try, but that logic won’t matter.  Sin will lead to judgment, and that judgment is eternal.  The only thing that can change that is to be forgiven of our sin, which happens one way and only one way, through the shed blood of Christ crucified.  Jesus alone can cover the penalty of sin in our life.  He is the only way for us to be redeemed and restored.  We have to confess and repent and receive the gift of grace God offers us through the blood of Christ.  That’s our only hope.  Otherwise, we’ll face judgment just like these folks did in Micah’s day!

Jonah 4

Jonah 4 shows us the true colors of our prophet.  He grudgingly did what God asked, after a detour through the belly of a fish, and now he is unhappy with the results.  Usually a prophet or preacher is ecstatic when people repent.  But not Jonah.  “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry”. He didn’t want the people of Nineveh to repent as they were his enemy.  This is an intense response.  So he goes to God with his complaints and anger.  He isn’t content to just be frustrated himself – he wants God to hear all about it.

O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country?  That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster”.  Jonah knew that God would forgive them.  That what why he fled in the first place.  And now it has happened, much to his dismay.  In fact, he is so dismayed he wants to end his own life rather than live with the outcome of their repentance.  “Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live”.  A bit dramatic, but it certainly makes the point that he doesn’t want to be saddled with this positive outcome for his enemies.

God challenges his attitude.  “Do you do well to be angry”?  God asks a question that reveals his heart.  Jonah is honest in expressing his feelings, but that doesn’t mean our feelings are right.  And in this case, they definitely were not.  Jonah is off base.  Jonah doesn’t understand what God is up to, but that doesn’t mean he gets to question God.  In fact, we need to realize that God’s ways are always right even when we don’t understand them.  When we are angry with God we also must realize we much repent before God for that anger.

Jonah goes off and pouts about what has happened.  He went out on a hill overlooking the city and sat there.  God brings a plant along to give him shade, but soon causes a worm to come destroy the plant so it withered.  Then God brings a strong sun and scorching east wind to make it unbearable for Jonah sitting there having his own little pity party.  He again tells God he wants to die.  Then God gives him an object lesson.  “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh”?  Touche.

Guzik points out three errors Jonah made which many angry people tend to make:

  • He quit
  • He separated himself from others
  • He became a spectator

These things put him in a worse place than he was before.

Jonah 3

Jonah 3 has our prophet out of the fish’s belly and getting a word from God a second time.  God hadn’t given up on him.  “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time”.  God doesn’t always pursue us with the same intensity He did Jonah, but God will deal with our rebellion and disobedience one way or another.  In this case, God’s heart was to have Jonah go into a city that Jonah personally hated and give them a message.  “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you”.

God didn’t give him any details with the instruction to go to Nineveh – just to head there and wait to hear what the message would be.  The first time, Jonah ran the other way and tried to flee God’s direction.  Not this time.  “So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord”. As much as he didn’t want to go, Jonah got the instruction and went, even without knowing the details.  He learned a lesson about running from God the first time and wasn’t about trying that approach again.

Nineveh was a large city – scripture tells us “Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth”.  This is a big assignment.  The message God gave Jonah was pretty simple: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”  There was likely more words, but the underlying theme was a need to repent and come to God.  In spite of Jonah’s lack of desire to see it happen, “the people of Nineveh believed God”.  This heathen city believed, all the way to the king who issued a decree to “call out mightily to God”.  Talk about effective impact by a prophet – Jonah was a case study in how to do it.

The king calls on his people to fast and wear sackcloth and “turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands”.  The Ninevites were known as a mean and violent people.  But the king calls them to repentance, which always means doing something.  In this case it was a change in how they lived – fasting, sackcloth, turning from evil and calling to God.  The king wasn’t sure God would turn from destruction of the city, but he leads the people to repent and cry for God’s mercy.  And it worked.  “God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it”.

That was Jonah’s fear.  He wanted God to destroy these evil people.  But his preaching had caused them to confess and repent, and God’s love for them extended to hearing their pleas, seeing their repentance and changing His plan of destruction.  God is always in the restoration business of bringing people back to Himself.  God’s change of heart did not make Jonah’s message false.  Destruction would have come, so Jonah’s word to them was a warning.  History shows us that God did judge Nineveh 150 years later, but for now, because of their action of confession and repentance, they were spared.

Jonah 2

Jonah 2 has the prophet in a bit of a situation.  He tried running from God, was thrown overboard, and now finds himself in the belly of a fish.  So what’s he come up with to do?  What all of us do when we are over our heads and beyond our own ability to control the situation – he cries out to God for help.  Finally, after running from God, now he calls for help.  “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish”.  Wouldn’t that have been more appropriate before taking off and trying to leave God behind?  We really get things messed up by taking them into our own hands.  Jonah should have started with prayer before ever contemplating a run for it.

But he didn’t, and finally turns to the only One who can save his sorry life.  “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and He answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice”.  And what does God do?  What He always does.  He hears and listens and is there to restore us to right relationship.  But He doesn’t immediately pluck Jonah out of his bad situation.  Jonah has some confessing and repenting to do first.  That’s part of restoration – we have to confess our sin and be willing to repent of it before God’s going to step in.

Jonah makes his case, acknowledging that God had “cast me into the deep” and that “the waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head”.  Jonah is confessing his situation and the reality that he was where he was because of his very bad choice to try and run from God and not do what he had been commanded to do.  Then he admits that God had intervened and saved him.  He knows he doesn’t deserve God’s grace, but “you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God”.  God’s grace is always sufficient if we will just turn to Him.  He’s ALWAYS waiting to welcome us back.

So Jonah has the confession made, and now he moves to repentance.  God had given him a very specific task to do – to preach to the hated people of Ninevah.  Jonah didn’t want to do it, and chose to run instead.  Obviously God wasn’t having any of his rebellion, so Jonah now commits and repents.  “I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay”.  Jonah was a prophet whose job it was to serve God as He wished.  He recommits to that mission.  Then what?  God restores.  He sets Jonah free and puts him back on mission.  “The Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land”. It’s what God wants to do for you and me too.  To restore us through grace and set us free to walk in obedience to Him for eternity!

Jonah 1

Jonah 1 has the prophet getting a word from God.  “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah….saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me”.  God wants him to go to Ninevah, a city that is wicked and definitely not people that Jonah cares about or wants to help.  God had two commands – to go to Ninevah, and to call out against them and show them their evil and sin.  God called Jonah to go to a pagan, Gentile city, the capital of the Assyrian empire, and call them to repentance.  It’s the last thing Jonah wanted to do.

So what does he do?  What every person trying to avoid God does – he ran.  “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord”.  Tarshish was a city as far from Ninevah as Jonah could get.  He has no intention of doing what God wanted.  So what does God do to the boat Jonah tries to run on?  “The Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up”.  God isn’t letting his prophet run from this assignment.  He pursues him.

The boat captain is overwhelmed by the storm and is beside himself in what to do.  They threw as much overboard as they could, and finally cast lots to see where this disaster is coming from.  “They cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah”. He’s the guilty party and God made sure the entire ship knew it was him.  So after doing everything they could to save the ship every way possible, they finally listen to Jonah’s direction and throw him into the sea that is out of control and swallows him up.  Jonah told them the sea would call after he was thrown overboard and that’s what happened.

God has a plan for the man overboard.  Those on board “feared the Lord exceedingly” as they realized this wasn’t a battle with nature, but with God.  So God impacted the crew with his pursuit of Jonah.  And while Jonah deserved to die for trying to run from God and disobey His direct command, God has another plan, a plan of restoration and completing the task he originally asked Jonah to do.  “The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah.  And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights”.  I’m sure Jonah believed his time had come and God was going to end his life, but that wasn’t God’s plan.  He intends to work on his attitude and then use him to accomplish the task.

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