Posts Tagged ‘old testament’

2 Corinthians 8

2 Corinthians 8, Paul continues teaching the church in Corinth about walking with Christ in obedience.  His focus in this chapter is around giving.  He describes what it really looks like to be a cheerful giver.  “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us”.  The faithful were not just givers of money, even beyond what they really could give, but they also gave themselves to the work of the ministry.

When we think of tithing we can get hung up on what that truly means.  For some, it means 10% of our money – that’s what we owe God.  But is it?  Tithing really should address all of what God has entrusted to us.  First of all, everything we have already belongs to Him.  We are stewards of God’s blessing and don’t own any of it ourselves.  But tithing should not be just a financial measurement.  It is about our time, our energy, our gifts and all that God has bestowed on us.  And we should give until it hurts.  It shouldn’t just be from our excess.  Giving should be driven by the heart and should cost us something.

Paul’s desire for the Corinthian church was that they excel in how they give.  “But as  you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you — see that you excel in this act of grace also”.  Giving is not something we have to do. It should be something we want to do.  Jesus set the example of what true giving is all about.  Not just money, but even our life, all of it.  “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich”.  Jesus traded all He had and was that we might experience all that God is and has for us.

But Paul also makes it clear that giving has to be accompanied by transparency and accountability.  “We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man”.  Anyone who handles money for ministry must be accountable in how they manage those funds, and must do it in a way that meets God’s standards and is transparent to man.  There is much responsibility with handling money that is given for God’s ministry.  Paul wanted to be very clear that he and his team were handling it in a way pleasing to the Lord and man.


Acts 11

Acts 11 has Peter going before the church in Jerusalem where he got a grilling about why he took the gospel to the gentiles. “Peter began and explained it to them in order:

  • I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision
  • three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea
  • Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household
  • I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them”

Peter just gave them the facts in the order they happened.  God showed up to him.  Then to Cornelius, and God gave him the message of salvation which was received by the large crowd gathered there.  Then the Holy Spirit came upon them.

He didn’t make a big deal out of it – just shared the facts. “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God”.  Their first response was to be in amazement – this was not exactly what they expected to hear.  But as they processed what God had done they realized it wasn’t Peter’s doing, but God at work through him, and they then went from questioning and challenging Peter’s actions to glorifying God for what He had done.  God has opened the doors of the gospel to all people in all nations.  It was a big surprise to many, but once they heard the story they embraced it.

The same thing was happening in other places the disciples had scattered after Stephen’s stoning.  They went to places all over the area and as they shared the Good News, people received it and believed.  The church heard about this too and sent “Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw  the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose”.  Same kind of response Peter had when he witnessed God’s power in the lives of those in Caesarea.  God was at work and it was obvious salvation was not only for the Jews.

A great many people were added to the Lord. The gospel was reaching people far and wide.  Barnabas was in Antioch and witnessed many come to the Lord. “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians”.  That’s where the name changed from “The Way” to Christians.  God used His scattered followers of Christ to share their faith and the message of salvation through Jesus.  It was gladly received and people came to follow Jesus in large numbers.  It happened because the disciples shared the story.  That same message will work today – it hasn’t changed – the question is whether or not we’re telling it.  Unfortunately the ‘cat has our tongue’ when it comes to sharing the gospel to those in our patch.

Matthew 17

Matthew 17 has Jesus spending special time with three of His disciples.  This is when we begin to see the inner circle of the Twelve.  “Jesus took with him  Peter and James, and John his brother”.  He takes them up on a high mountain and is transfigured before their eyes and meets with Moses and Elijah.  That had to be quite an unexpected event.  Peter states the obvious and says “Lord, it is good that we are here”.  We can always expect Peter to be the first to speak, even if his words or actions are a bit off base.

As they are there, God shows up and in a  loud voice from above says “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him”.  Here is one of the simplest instructions in all of scripture that can help us live our life well.  We merely need to listen, and then obviously obey.  The disciples were a bit overwhelmed.  “When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified”.  It’s not every day the clouds speak to you.  Jesus isn’t out of touch with their reality.  He may have been meeting with a couple of the key people from history, but “Jesus came and touched them, saying, Rise, and have no fear”.  He never leaves us.  And we can always trust Him.

After them came down the mountain, a man came up to Jesus and gets on his knees pleading for healing for his son.  He was desperate.  “I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him”. Jesus didn’t have the same limitation and asked the father to bring his son to Him.  “Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly”.  That didn’t take long, or require a lot from Jesus other than speaking the words.  The disciples came to Jesus confused and ask “Why could we not cast it out”? They’d seen Him do it many times, but for some reason were unable on their own.

The answer Jesus gave is so important for us to hear clearly.  He said to them,  “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting”.  It’s all about faith – believing in the power of God that can be manifest in us and through us.  It is not our power though.  It is God’s and it comes alive in us through faith in God through a relationship with His Son Jesus Christ.  It is limitless – Jesus was clear about that – to the degree we learn to use it through faith.  He makes it clear that spiritual disciplines like prayer and fasting are part of receiving that power.  But it is ours if we learn to live real faith!

Jesus begins to bring the disciples into the reality that His life was going to take a change.  He lays some pretty deep stuff on them.  “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day”.  Jesus has just met with Moses and Elijah on the mountaintop, and cast out a demon from a young boy.  And now, He’s talking about being killed.  That had to get their heads spinning.  And to top it off the chapter ends with Jesus answering Peter’s question about paying tax.  He basically tells Peter to submit and pay it to keep things from escalating.  “However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself”.  He could have just spoken the shekel into Peter’s hand.  But He chooses to use a fish to deliver it and to simply pay the tax rather than stir the situation at this time.  Jesus is tuned into God’s story and follows that lead!

Malachi 4

Malachi 4 has the prophet reminding God’s people that there is a day of reckoning coming.  “For behold, the day is coming…. shall set them ablaze…. will leave them neither root nor branch”.  God’s people needed to be reminded that the day is coming. God still has eternity to right all wrongs and reward all good.  It’s hard to be patient when it seems like bad people get away with things while good people suffer.  But God has it under control.  He absolutely will make things right in His time.

God promises a fire but there is a big difference between the refining fire applied to God’s people and the burning fire against the ungodly. Does it matter, how we respond and relate to God?  “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall”.  It absolutely does.  If we fear God and walk in obedience in His presence, we’ll walk in the sunshine of righteousness and experience His blessing and joy.

Malachi paints a picture of what that walk will look like:

  • They shall go out – they will be free and enjoy their liberty
  • They shall leap – growing strong and prosperous in the Lord
  • They shall tread down the wicked – enjoying the Lord’s victory in their life

God promises a great life for those who will walk in obedience to Him.  It is a walk, day by day, moment by moment, that will lead us to experience all God’s goodness and blessing.

God wants us to come back to Him.  And when we do, good things happen.  “He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers”.  This promise speaks of more than the reconciliation of families. When God turns the hearts of the children to their fathers, it also has in mind turning back all our focus to the God of their fathers, to the faith of the patriarchs.  Life is all about relationships.  It begins with our relationship with God, but that extends to marriages and families.  God cares about all those relationships.  He has been clear about that through His prophet Malachi!

Malachi 3

Malachi 3 has the prophet responding to the whining of God’s people.  Israel complained that God seemed to reward the wicked and did not exercise His justice in the world. God responds to their complaint by saying, I will set things right with My Messiah, and before Him will come My messenger”. “Who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap”.  Both the launderer and the refiner work to clean, not to destroy.  God is in the restoration business.  But He has to clean up sin for us to come back to Him.

God reminds us that He never changes and His love and desire for us is always the same.  “I the Lord do not change”.  God is always there, always waiting, always willing to restore and redeem us.  But mankind has always had an issue – sin.  And as such, we are facing the reality of that sin.  “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them.  Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts”. God makes it clear.  There is a path back to Him.  But we have to take a step and come back to Him.

One area where we get on the wrong side of God is around money.  Scripture tells us that ‘money is the root of all evil’.  God does have some expectations about money.  First and foremost, we must never forget that all of what we have is not ours, but God’s. And we need to be sure that we are returning to Him what is already rightfully His.  In the case of Malachi – it is about tithing.  God says “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me.  But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’  In your tithes and contributions”.  God is paying attention.  He expects us to return a portion of what He has entrusted to us to Him.

Some of us really struggle with that idea that we have to give some of our hard earned money to God.  But it actually isn’t ours.  And God does have a promise for those of us who take Him at His word. “And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need”.  We can’t outgive God.  I’ve been tithing for decades and He is faithful – always.  We can trust God and what He promises.  If we are faithful to give to Him, He’ll reward us with His ongoing blessing.  Our life and marriage is living proof of that faithfulness!

Malachi 2

Malachi 2 has the prophet addressing his own.  “O priests, this command is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings”.  Malachi confronts the priests because their work was not from the heart.  They were going through the motions and putting on a show, but were not walking in obedience with the One who can give them truth.

Malachi reminds them of the covenant between God and Levi.  “My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him.  It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction, was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity”.  The relationship between Levi and God was a good one – based on a covenant of fear.  He walked with God and did God’s work well.

But things are different now with this group of priests.  “But you have turned aside from the way.  You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction”.  These priests were not following God nor the covenant.  They were spewing lies and leading people astray.  These priests did what was good for them without regard for God’s truth.

Malachi ends the chapter talking about something near and dear to God’s heart – marriage.  When we sin against our marriage or our marriage vows, we sin against an institution that God has established. Marriage is God’s idea, not man’s; He formed and established the first marriage as a pattern for every one afterwards. Because it is an institution, we are not allowed to define marriage any way that pleases us; God has established it and we must conform to what He has established.

Malachi delivers God’s view on marriage.  “The Lord, the God of Israel, says that He hates divorce”.  It doesn’t get much clearer than that.  Specifically, we can say that God hates divorce for at least three reasons:

  • God hates divorce because it breaks a solemn vow
  • God hates divorce because it is harmful
  • God hates divorce because it illustrates turning away from our belief

There is no doubt that God allows divorce in particular circumstances, though divorce is never commanded. God’s heart is always for repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation in marriage.

Malachi 1

Malachi 1 has the prophet gearing up to dump God’s correction on His people.  But before he does, he reminds them that God truly loves them.  “I have loved you, says the Lord”.  Before God corrects His people, He assures them of His love. This lays a foundation for their obedience, because if they love Him, they will keep His commandments.  Obedience is definitely a sign that we love and are true followers of God.  If we insist on our own ways and doing our own things, we will never truly walk with Him.

Guzik lays out the story of Malachi.  His prophecy is built around seven questions the people asked God. These questions revealed their doubting, discouraged, sinful heart.

  1. In what way have You loved us? (Malachi 1:2)
  2. In what way have we despised Your name? (Malachi 1:6)
  3. In what way have we polluted You? (Malachi 1:7)
  4. In what way have we wearied Him? (Malachi 2:17)
  5. In what way shall we return? (Malachi 3:7)
  6. In what way have we robbed You? (Malachi 3:8)
  7. In what way have we spoken against You? (Malachi 3:13)

And God answers them all.

God asks Israel to find assurance in His election. He wants them to understand that they are chosen and remain His chosen and favored people. But there is an issue with God – how they have followed.  “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am  a master, where is my fear”?  The people were talking out of both sides of their mouth. They expect God to treat them as His own, but they refuse to honor and obey Him as they lived.  It was how they despised and defiled Him.

Here is the reality of God then, and our God now.  “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts”.  God alone is worthy of our praise.  He has set Himself apart from everything else and He alone will be glorified and praised.  It won’t just be His people that figure that out.  God will make His name great to all people in all lands.

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