Posts Tagged ‘God’

Matthew 18

Matthew 18 is a chapter with a lot of important lessons, and promises.  Jesus begins with answering a deep question raised by His disciples. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”?  The answer they got was not what was expected.  Jesus tells them “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”.  He starts with the requirement to even enter heaven – to become like a child.  That means complete and full faith.  But Jesus adds some color to His answer:

  • humbles himself like this child is the  greatest in the kingdom of heaven
  • receives one such child in my name receives me
  • causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck
  • despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father”

Jesus is clear that it isn’t the biblical scholars who will be greatest in heaven.  It is those who truly put all their faith in Him.  Scripture points that out in Hebrews 11 with the faith hall of fame – it is those who put all their faith and trust in God that are called out as great.  But Jesus goes on to talk about the importance of a word our society doesn’t like to talk about today – sin.  “Woe to the world for temptations to sin”! Sin is a big deal in God’s eyes.  It isn’t some little mistake – sin is missing the mark – it is disobedience to a holy and righteous God.  And it comes with consequences. Jesus talks about those consequences this way:  “It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire”.

Sin matters to God. In fact, it is sin that will keep us from spending eternity with Him.  He can’t tolerate sin because of His nature of godliness, holiness and righteousness.  It will disqualify us from entering heaven.  Jesus came to this earth to address man’s greatest problem – the reality that every one of us is guilty of sin and will someday stand before a Holy and Righteous Judge who will have to deal with the sinful life we have all lived.  Standing before Him on our own, the outcome won’t go well.  We’ll be banished from heaven.  But if we’ve address the sin of our life – if we’ve received the gift of grace God provided through the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross and confessed and repented as we believed and received – our sin will be covered and we’ll stand before Him as righteous and worthy.  That’s what is at stake here and what Jesus is talking about.  Sin is real – and it has eternal consequences.

Jesus addresses a key challenge we face in the church today – what do we do with sin?  “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector”.  Does sin matter?  Enough God tells us we have to deal with it and purge it from the church.  But the method here is critical and clear.  It doesn’t begin by telling your friends and neighbors about someone elses transgressions.  It has to begin one on one.  Then one to a couple.  And if after all those efforts, finally it comes to a broader group in the church.  Too often it gets done incorrectly and causes destruction and division.  Jesus gave us the formula to address sin.  Failing to do it this way is sin itself.

He gives us a promise about the power of prayer and His Spirit we need to claim and cling to.  “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask,  it will be done for them by my Father in heaven”.  What are the limitations to prayer?  There aren’t any.  There is power in community and the fellowship of believers.  We need to spend time together.  He goes on to say “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”.  It doesn’t say He might show up.  God is where His people are.  We need to remember that and not only relish His presence, but act like He’s there with us!

He ends by answering a question Peter asks about forgiveness and how many times we should forgive someone.  Peter suggested maybe seven times was the limit.  But Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven”.  Forgiveness knows no limits.  That’s a good thing or we’d be in deep trouble before a Holy God.  But because of Jesus shed blood and the forgiveness of sin that He has provided, we’re forgiven as many times as it takes.  And we need to do the same to those in our patch. In fact, Jesus makes that clear. “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart”.  If we fail to forgive as God has forgiven us through Christ, we will have to answer to God for those choices.  If we know Jesus we’ve been forgiven, so we are required to do the same to those in our patch!

Haggai 1

Haggai 1 has this prophet getting after the remnant that has returned after their 70 year exile.  His prophecy begins in 520 b.c. and is under the rein of Zerubbabel who was governor of Judah and Joshua who was the high priest.  When Haggai speaks to God’s people, they have been back in Jerusalem for 18 years, but for the last 14 years, the work on God’s temple has come to a halt.  The people had convinced themselves it wasn’t time to rebuild the temple – the work was too hard.  “These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord’.

There was a shortage of manpower and money.  There were crop failures and their enemies resisted what they were doing.  Life had actually been easier in captivity.  But God speaks to them through Haggai.  “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while  this house lies in ruins”?  God expects them to focus and get after building His temple.  Haggai addresses the problem head on.  “Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little.  You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes”.

Life hasn’t been so good has it?  Haggai reminds them that their unwillingness to obey God’s desire is creating quite a mess in their life.  And if once wasn’t enough, he reminds them even more strongly.  “Consider your ways….You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house”.  In case they didn’t connect the dots, Haggai does it for them.  Their situation is because they have ignored God’s desire to rebuild His temple and put things back in place.  It is about God’s timing, not what they feel it should be.

We too need to consider our ways.  How we live matters.  Haggai calls out the people of Judah and they finally listen and “obeyed the voice of the Lord their God.”  But even more, “the people feared the Lord”.  Haggai was able to touch their hearts and help them realize the God they serve and how important the work was.  Through Haggai and his words, “the Lord stirred up….the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and  worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God”.  The stirring of their spirit wasn’t just a spiritual experience but resulted in a stirring of action that caused them to restart the hard work of rebuilding God’s House!

Habakkuk 3 has the prophet continuing to wait upon the Lord. In this chapter, he prays.  “I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear”.  While Habakkuk has been vocal about his disappointment in God’s slow response to the evil around him, he also understands that God alone is in control and the timing of His response is all His – not something He’s seeking Habakkuk or anyone else to provide input.  We sometimes forget who is in charge and try to tell God what to do too.  But God alone sits in authority over our universe.  He’s not necessarily looking for our input, just our obedience.

Habakkuk realizes that God has a plan for His people.  God is in the restoration business, but on His terms and His timeline. “You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck”.  And God will win, no matter who the adversary may be.  We can read the end of the book and know that God alone prevails.  He is the victor over all evil.  We need to cling to that and let Him be God.

While Habakkuk has been impatient about God’s response, he seems to be understanding that his pushing isn’t going to necessarily move God to do it sooner.  God has His own timeline.  So Habakkuk concedes saying “Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us”. He realizes that all things happen in God’s time and in God’s way.  His job is to wait upon the Lord and walk in obedience to Him.  Too often we want to dictate what we say and do and don’t necessarily seek God’s direction and walk in His ways.

But there is plenty to rejoice in.  God has prepared an amazing future for those of us who chose to deal with our sin and be set free for an eternity in His presence. “I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places”.  We have an amazing future ahead if we walk with God.  That means addressing the sin problem that we have because of the choices we make that are contrary to God’s will and ways.  But Jesus came to provide a way for us to overcome those things – a free gift of grace we have only to receive!

Habakkuk 2

Habakkuk 2 has the prophet a bit irritated with the speed at which God is dealing with the evil around him.  “I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint”. Habakkuk has an axe to grind with God – these evil people are not being dealt with as quickly as he things is appropriate, and he simply can’t stand on the sidelines and watch them ‘get away’ with how they are living.

God welcomes our questions and concerns.  He hears and responds to Habakkuk.  “And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay”.  So God wants His prophet to capture the answer and make it known to all the people.  But it happens in His time, in His way, not as we might wish it to be.  Habakkuk gets some clarity from God.

“The righteous shall live by his faith”.  The reality is that God’s plan has never changed.  From the Garden with Adam and Eve, until this very day, God has been all about a relationship with us.  He desires us to walk in obedience to His commandments and live a life worthy of His calling.  Unfortunately, when we take control of our lives and push Him aside, we go astray.  “You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life”.  We put self ahead of all else and cut ourselves off from His blessing.

But our choices don’t change God’s design and plan.  He is still in control, even when He lets us seemingly run our own lives for a time.  One day we’ll understand that reality. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”.  God is Creator and Author.  He is the Almighty and sits in a place of oversight and control.  He gives us free will, which if not lived well, gets us into all sorts of trouble.  The issue with choice is we often make the wrong one and pick sinful actions.  Those carry a price, and God’s righteousness will become ours if we don’t deal with our sin through Jesus sacrifice on the Cross.

Hosea 9

Hosea 9 has the prophet wailing against Israel who is exiled in judgment.  They are just entering the coming judgment, and haven’t quite figured out that some real change is on the way.  So Hosea warns them of the facts. “Do not rejoice….For you have played the harlot, forsaking your God”.  This is a serious issue and Hosea is setting the stage for what’s coming.  At the time Hosea brought this prophecy, things perhaps were not so bad in Israel. Maybe there was still plenty of fun and good times among the people. But he warns that they shouldn’t rejoice like other peoples, because judgment was on the way.

Sin always carries a price.  And what seems to be going well, is about to change.  Hosea lists out what lies ahead:

  • “They will not remain in the Lord’s land
  • They will not pour out drink offerings
  • Their sacrifices will not please Him
  • Their bread will be like mourners ‘ bread

They are going to be cast out of their homeland and at odds with the very God who has protected and provided for generations.  Sin carries a price and God is going to require them to pay it.  He doesn’t forget our sin.  There is always a day of reckoning.

The destruction is coming and Hosea makes it clear it will be severe.  “Weeds will take over their treasures of silver; thorns will be in their tentsThe days of punishment have come”.  The price is not just a little discomfort.  The price of sin is significant and life changing.  That’s why God sent His only Son to the Cross for us – because the cost of sin is so great.  It isn’t some little thing that just goes away over time.  “He will remember their iniquity, He will punish their sins”.  That was true in Hosea’s time – it’s still true today.  Sin carries a cost and we’ll pay it one way or another.

It’s why Jesus came – because the cost is so high.  God sent His Son to bear that cost if we’ll only receive Him as our Savior and Lord.  In Hosea’s time, the price was severe.  “They will bear no fruit….My God will cast them away because they have not listened to Him”.  For us it’s no different.  The cost today is eternal separation from God – a life spent in hell.  It’s a strong response by a loving God, but His nature requires it.  He gave us a free gift of grace through Christ that is ours for the taking.  But we have to take action.  We have to confess, repent and receive that gift.  He never forces it on us.  But without it, sin will cost us everything.  We too will be cast away.  It’s the reality of the price of sin!

Ezekiel 25

Ezekiel 25 has the prophet moving on to a new focus.  Once the exiles had been awakened, Ezekiel’s next task was to instruct them further about God’s future purposes for them. He shows how God will deal with Israel’s former oppressors. God is the controller not only of Israel’s destiny but also of the destinies of other nations. He will not allow sin to go unpunished, and he will especially deal with the four neighboring nations who supported Babylon at the fall of Jerusalem – those being Ammon, Moab, Edom and the Philistines.

Ezekiel begins with the details for the people of Ammon.  “Because you said, ‘Aha!’ against My sanctuary when it was profaned, and against the land of Israel when it was made desolate, and against the house of Judah when they went into exile, therefore, behold, I am going to give you to the sons of the east for a possession, and they will set their encampments among you and make their dwellings among you’.  God isn’t going to allow nations to go beyond His plan in punishing His people.  He now is dealing with the four nations who stepped over His line.

The Ammonites will be overrun by desert tribesmen from the east who will turn Ammon’s cities into pasture lands for their animals.  “Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the scorn of your soul against the land of Israel, therefore, behold, I have stretched out My hand against you and I will give you for spoil to the nations. And I will cut you off from the peoples and make you perish from the lands; I will destroy you. Thus you will know that I am the Lord”.  Moab will suffer the same fate as Ammon. Its sin was to despise God, by claiming that he was no different from the gods of other nations. They thought that he was powerless to protect His temple from devastation. He will now show his power by devastating Moab.

Edom had acted with unnecessary violence and treachery against Judah, and helped Babylon in the final destruction of Jerusalem. The Jews themselves will be God’s instrument in punishing Edom.  The Philistines, ancient enemies of Israel, had also acted in bitter revenge against Jerusalem when they saw the city about to fall. Therefore, they too will cease to be a nation.  In each case, God makes it clear that part of His retribution is to make sure they all know that He is the Lord.  God is about establishing Himself as the true King and Lord of all!  “I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes; and they will know that I am the Lord when I lay My vengeance on them”.

Ezekiel 19

Ezekiel 19 is a “lamentation for the princes of Israel”.  A lamentation is described as ‘the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping’.  Ezekiel knows that God’s judgment of the sinful people of Judah was just and right, yet he felt sorry for there situation.  So he goes through a series of remembering the different reigns of kings as he describes how “young lions….became a lion” and then became king.  They learned how to lead and fight and take on their enemies.  But in some cases, they also lost and were captured and carried away.

So Judah was like a mother lion whose young lions became kings to rule over nations. However, when Egypt gained control of the region, Judah’s king Jehoahaz was captured, bound and taken to Egypt, where he later died.  (2 Kings 23)  The next lion with all the fierce and aggressive characteristics was Jehoiakim. Unlike the kings before and after him, Jehoiakim died in Jerusalem, not in a foreign land.  His son and successor, Jehoiachin, was captured and taken prisoner to Babylon. Although Jehoiachin reigned only three months, he showed he had the same evil characteristics as his father.

Judah is pictured also as a strong healthy vine, and her kings as fruitful branches of that vine. “’Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard, planted by the waters; It was fruitful and full of branches because of abundant waters….And it had strong branches fit for scepters of rulers”. But the vine withered and was taken, along with its last rightful king, Jehoiachin, into the dry and thirsty land of Babylon.  These lions put on a quite a show at times of their rule, but in the end, were “plucked up in a fury”.

In Jerusalem the king appointed by Babylon proved to be a fire who destroyed the little that remained of the vine. Through Zedekiah both the nation and the line of kings from David came to an end.  “The east wind dried up its fruit. Its strong branch was torn off So that it withered; The fire consumed it.  And now it is planted in the wilderness, In a dry and thirsty land. And fire has gone out from its branch; It has consumed its shoots and fruit, So that there is not in it a strong branch, a scepter to rule”.  Ezekiel has plenty to lament over as he reviews the history of God’s people in Judah and their poor kings who led them badly.

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