Posts Tagged ‘old testament’

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.

Zechariah 14

Zechariah 14 has a view of what is to come at the end.  “I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle”.  Zechariah seems to have the very end times in view, when Jerusalem will be surrounded and attacked by some type of international force.  This attack against Jerusalem will be severe, but the city itself will not be overthrown (the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city).  People will be killed, mistreated and scattered.  But God is not going to allow them all to be destroyed.

Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him”.  Just when it seems that all hope is gone for Jerusalem and the people of Israel, then the Lord will fight for His people.  This was the type of arrival the Jews in Jesus’ day hoped for.  When Rome attacked the city in 70 a.d. God’s people were looking for Him to come to their aid but they were killed and captured by the Romans.  They could not see that the Messiah must first be rejected and the nation brought to repentance as Zechariah had prophesied earlier.

Zechariah continues talking about “on that day” continuing from the previous chapter on what will happen at the end times.  His prophecy tells us “the Lord will be king over all the earth.  On that day the Lord will be one and His name one”.  This is the reality of Jesus.  He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and will reign as such on that day.  His power will be manifest and “the Lord will strike all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem”.  He will step up and protect His people.

As Zechariah ends his prophecy, he makes it clear that everything will be “Holy to the Lord”.  In the glory of the Messiah’s kingdom, what was previously common is made holy; the holy is made holier; and that which was profane was corrected.  As Guzik points out, you can make everything holy (set apart to the Lord), or you can make everything profane (set apart to sin and self). Zechariah ends his prophecy making it clear that God’s way is the make everything that was once common or profane holy instead. At the end of it all, there is no longer any distinction between the holy and profane. It was all set apart to God and His purposes.

Zechariah 13

Zechariah 13 has the prophet talking about what happens as God brings His people back to restoration through the Messiah.  “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness”.  All people have a sin problem and need a Savior.  Flowing from their embrace of the Messiah, they now enjoy a fountain that brings cleansing for sin and for uncleanness. The cleansing comes after their mourning for the One whom they have pierced.  It is a fountain that never runs dry.

I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more….I will remove from the land the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness”.  Idolatry and false prophecy were the two principle ways Israel was led astray from God. God not only provides a fountain to cleanse, but He also promises to cut off the source of uncleanness – in this case, idolatry and false prophecy.  As God cleans up the primary causes leading people to sin, God promises ultimately to take away even the memory of our sin.

Zechariah prophesies about some things that will happen during Christ’s life.  “What are these wounds on your back….the wounds I received in the house of my friends”.  And then he writes “strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered”.  The first refers to the beating Christ took at the hands of the religious leaders before His crucifixion, and the second to the scattering of His disciples after Jesus went to the Cross.  These prophecies are written many centuries before Jesus came.

God has plans to clean up sin among His people.  “I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested”.  After the dispersion of Israel there will come a time of devastation and purification through fiery trials. Two-thirds will be destroyed and the remaining third will be put into the fire but preserved. And then as God always does, He will restore and redeem the remnant.  “I will say, They are my people; and they will say, The Lord is my God’.  God will redeem His people and bring them to Himself!

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